18th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m..
Ina read prayers.
Broadcasting of PROCEEDINGS.
– I desire to inform the Senate that on Wednesday, the 13th October, a report appeared in the Melbourne Herald purporting to give details of the proceedings of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee. The matter has been discussed by the committee, which considered that the unauthorized publication of its proceedings was undesirable and contrary to parliamentary practice. Accordingly the committee, in pursuance of its statutory powers, has declared that, unless otherwise determined, its proceedings will nor be open to the public and are not to be published without the authority of the chairman. In regard to decisions reached by the committee, the chairman has been empowered to authorize” their publication unless a specific determination to the” contrary is made at any meeting of the committee. In view of these declarations, any unauthorized publication of the proceedings of the committee will be a matter which may be considered by the Senate ae constituting a breach of privilege.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether there is any truth in the report that wire . netting is being imported into Australis from Japan. If so, can the Minister inform the Senate of the purpose for which it is being used and the names of the users ? Have any arrangements been made by the Government to ensure that primary producers in South Australia shall receive a fair share of that wire netting?
– I understand that there is a quantity of wire netting for gale in Japan. The price, of course, is at least 100 per cent, more than the price of Australian wire netting. I cannot say how much wire netting has been bought from Japan because the business is transacted on a merchant-to-merchant basis. However, I shall ascertain- who is purchasing wire netting in Japan and what is being done with it, and will inform the honorable senator.
Household Requirements - Annual Pilgrimage of School Children
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Fuel whether the Government will call a conference between representatives of the Australian Capita) Territory Trades and Labour Council, the Canberra Co-operative Society and the Government to consider ways and means: of providing an adequate service of household requirements to the people of Canberra and reducing the cost of living.
-Ishall bring the question to the notice of the Prime Minister and will furnish a reply to the honor able senator.
– Will the Minister for
Shipping and Fuel place before the Prime Minister a’ suggestion that, in order to cultivate a national sentiment among the younger generation, an annual pilgrimage of school children from the States to the National Capital be discussed at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers? I suggest that at least two children should be chosen from each State by competitive examination, and that the visit to Canberrashould be financed by agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. The State. Departments of Education should select the children, the subject of the examination being the historical and political development of Australia.
– I shall convey the honorable senator’s request to the Prime Minister and inform the honorable senator of the right honorable gentleman’s decision on the matter.
– Is the Minister for Shipping and Fuel aware of the very serious potato shortage in Sydney, which has reached such proportions that working people are unable to obtain supplies of one of the staple commodities of Life? Does the Minister know that there is an extensive black market in potatoes in Sydney and that ridiculous prices are being asked for them? Will he go thoroughly into the matter of dehydrating Tasmanian potatoes and flying them to Sydney, if shipping is not available, in order to relieve this serious shortage of a commodity that it is an essential part of almost everybody’s diet ? Will he also do his best to arrange for the shipment of all available potatoes from Tasmania to Sydney as soon as possible?
– I know that there has been a shortage of potatoes in Sydney. I understand that a seasonal shortage occurs there at this periodof every year. I do not know to what extent black marketing is being carried on. As the honorable senator will appreciate, this Government has no control over potatoes, it having relinquished control to the
States some time ago. I understand that the. acute shortage is the result of action taken by the Government of New South Wales, which refused topermit an increase of the wholesale price, contending that the fixed price of £.18 a ton paid to the producers was fair, and would not allow an increase of the retail price above11/2d. a pound. The growers requested an increase of the wholesale price to approximately £25 a ton and the proposed new retail price was 21/2d or 3d. a lb. The State Government did not consider the proposals to be just, and resisted any increase. Consideration will be given to the honorable senator’s suggestion for the shipment of Tasmanian potatoes to New South Wales in order to ease the shortage. I understand that some negotiations have taken place even with a view to importing potatoes’ from New Zealand.
– On the 20th
October, SenatorRankin asked the following question: -
I ask the Postmaster-General whether itis a fact that the Australian Federation of Com merical Broadcasting Stations submitteda proposal that it be permitted to install and operate two experimental frequency modula tion broadcasting stations through Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. If so, what happened with regard to this proposal?
The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
An application was made to the Postal Department in January, 1947,by the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations for permission to erect a station each in Sydney and Melbourne for the purpose of conducting experiments in frequency modulation broadcasting, and certain discussions then took place with representatives of the federn tion in regard to the proposal. Consideration was given to the matterby the Government. which decided that the experimental frequency modulation stations in Australiashould be confined to those provided by the Post Office in each capital city, it being felt that the results of the tests from those stations, supplemented by information showing the latest developments in overseas countries, should be sufficient to enable a well-informed decision to be reached. Advice to this effect was forwarded to the federation on the 19th May. 1947. As the honorable senator is aware. the Government has decided that frequency modulation broadcasting should be introduced gradually into the national broadcasting service in Australia, and plans are being prepared accordingly.
Alleged Leakages from Official Quarters.
– Has the attention of the Acting Attorney-Genera] been drawn to an article which appeared this week in the Sunday Sun, headed “Clue of the extra’g’ “, and which purports to show how the alleged source of the leakage of a document relating to tobacco was discovered? As this article claims to outline the operations of the detectives Wilks and McDermott in connexion with the document, and the subsequent action taken against a typist, will the Acting Attorney-General inform the Senate to what Ministers or Commonwealth officials this information was known, and whether any instructions were given to officers of the Commonwealth Investigation Service to ascertain how the leakage to the Sunday Sun occurred? If the Minister cannot give this informaton now, will he have inquiries made and inform the Senate of the result?
– I have not seen the newspaper report to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has referred, nor am I prepared to comment on the “ clue of the extra ‘ g ‘ “. I do not know to whom knowledge of this matter was available, nor do I propose to inquire. Instructions have been given to security officers from time to time. They do not act on their own initiative on matter’s of importance. On occasions, of course, the head of the Commonwealth Investigation Service has issued instructions. On other occasions, I have done so. Further than this, I am not prepared to embark on a discussion of this matter.
– In view of the reported statement of the South Australian Minister ofWorks, published in the Adelaide Advertiser on the 22nd October, that “ although the South Australian Government desired to make water available to pastoralists from the Port Augusta-Woomera pipeline, the matter was in the hands of the Commonwealth “, can the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior say whether any approach has been made to theAustralian Government by either the South Australian Government or the pastoralists concerned? If so, what is the present position? If not, will the Minister have inquiries made into the possibility of water being made available at an early date to pastoralists living in the vicinity of this proposed pipeline?
– I undertake to bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for the Interior, and to obtain a reply as early as possible.
Play “ Secret Assassin
– I ask the Minister for Health whether the projected broadcast of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s documentary feature entitled “ Secret Assassin “ was banned because of its criticism of departmental administration. If not, will the Minister state the reason for the ban?
– So far as I am aware, the enforcement of a ban on a broadcast is not a matter for” the Department of Health. The incident has not been brought before me officially. I understand that it would be a matter, in the first instance, for consideration by the Director-General of Health, who would make a recommendation to the Postmaster-General. I have no knowledge of the reasons that actuated the Director-General of Health in any recommendation that he made, nor have I any knowledge of any such recommendation. I assure the honorable senator, however, that the Director-General would not recommend the banning of a broadcast dealing with tuberculosis merely because it contained criticism of the administration of the Department of Health. He would be concerned solely with the medical aspects of the broadcast. I venture the opinion that it would be difficult for any well-informed person to makea just criticism of the administration of the Department of Health in regard to tuberculosis. The Division of Tuberculosis is new. Its director is Dr. Wonderley, who has been responsible for preparing a plan which the Australian Government has broadly accepted. The plan provides for a most determined attack on tuberculosis in the years that lie immediately ahead, and I say quite frankly that I doubt whether there is any proper basis for criticism of anything that has been done by the Commonwealth in that field. Accordingly, I believe that that would not be a ground that would have influenced the Director-General of Health.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The Australian Broadcasting Commission has advised me that the news item broadcast at 1.30 p.m. on Sunday, 17th October, 1948, contained a statement attributed to Mr. W. S. Hanson, a member of the Norwood Liberal Country League committee, that Don Bradman may be invited to enter South Australian politics. The source of this item was the commission’s Adelaide news room. The commission has stated that it did not report that Mr. Bradman was a likely candidate.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The Minisber for Works and Housing has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
The above figures of Commonwealth income tax collections do not include the proportion of central office collections paid by residents of Western Australia. A dissection of central office collections according to State of residence is not available. Entertainments tax collections by the Western Australian Government amounted to £98,061 in 1939-40, £95,491 in 1940-41 and £98.186 in 1941-42.
The tax reimbursement grunts paid to Western Australia in respect of each financial year since 1942-43 (when the uniform taxation 1’ 1 u ,1 caine into operation) are shown below -
The above figures include grants paid to Western Australia in respect of entertainments taxation. These entertainments tax reimbursement grants amounted to £73,640 in 1942-43 and £98,186 in each of the three subsequent financial years. Since 1946-47 the reimbursement to each State in respect of both income tax and entertainments tax has been covered each year by the one grant. The grant nf £3,506,901 in respect of 1945-46 includes an amount of £912,559 paid to Western Australia by way of additional financial assistance under section 6 of the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Act 1942. The above figures exclude arrears of State income taxation collected by or on behalf of the Government of Western Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following information : - 1, 2 and 3. The Economic Co-operation Administration is an agency of the United States Government set up to administer American aid to Europe under the European Recovery Programme and other American foreign assistance programmes, e.g., aid to China. The central office of the Economic Cooperation Administration is in Washington, but a special Economic Co-operation Administration mission has been established in Paris accredited to the organization for European economic co-operation. Economic Cooperation Administration missions have also been set up in the main countries participating in the European Recovery Programme. The Economic Co-operation Administration is responsible for authorizing dollar grants and dollar loans from the funds voted by Congress for aid to Europe and China and for ensuring that such funds are expended in accordance with the terms of the United States Economic Cooperation Act and other related legislation. Under this legislation the scope of United States aid is confined to - (a) the .participating European countries and their dependent territories; and (6) China. The Economic Co-operation Administration does not function in Australia and Australia is only indirectly affected by its operations.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice - (») Is it a fact that Parliament approved on the 4th December, 1947, of the construction of a building at Perth for the Repatriation Department; and (6) if so, what progress has been made in the provision of this essential service ?
– The following answer has been supplied by the Minister for Works and Housing: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following information: -
Motion (by Senator Cameron) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to taring in a bill for an act to amend the Australian Broadcasting Act 1942-1046, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) put-
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the bill he now read a second time.
I believe that the bill will commend itself to all honorable senators. It deals with the setting up of machinery to providefor more efficient and co-ordinated control of the broadcasting services in Australia, the strengthening of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and the introduction of a different system of financingthe national broadcasting service. As honorable senators are aware, broadcasting in Australia has developed to a remarkable degree since its inception . 25 years ago, but, fundamentally, there has been little or no change in the manner in which it has been controlled. I do not think that it is necessary to outline thehistory of broadcasting in the Commonwealth, but I should like to mention a few outstanding features.
The first broadcasting station in Australia commenced operations in Sydney in November, 1923, operating under regulations which provided for what was known as the “ sealed set “ scheme, socalled because listeners’ receivers were sealed so as to prevent the reception of stations other than those to which they paid a subscription. The scheme did not appeal to the public and it was replaced in 19.24 by , a new system, under which class A and class B stations were to be licensed to provide a service, the former obtaining their income from listeners’ licences and the latter from advertising..
There was an important development in July, 1928, when the Bruce-Page Government announced its intention toestablish , a national broadcasting service whereby the technical services of all class A stations would be owned and operated by the Government and the provision of programmes left to experienced entrepreneurs under contract. Accordingly, the Post Office took over the class A stations as their licences expired, the erection of new regional stations in provincial centres was commenced and, after calling for tenders, a contract to supply programmes was given to a new organization, the Australian Broadcasting Company, for a period of three years ending onthe 30th June, 1932. In . 1932, the-
Lyons Government decided to establish a service still more national in character and, to that end, the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act was passed. It provided for the appointment of five commissioners. The commission was required to take over the existing studios of the class A stations, but the whole of the technical services were to continue to be the responsibility of the Post Office, which was also called upon to provide, without cost to the commission, the interconnecting programme transmission lines needed for simultaneous broadcasting by two or more stations. Concurrently with the development of the national broadcasting service, substantial progress was made with the expansion of the service provided by class B stations, which are now known as commercial broadcasting stations. Licences for these stations continued to’ be issued by the PostmasterGeneral in accordance with the conditions prescribed by the wireless telegraphy regulations and by the end of 1932 43 class B stations had been opened.
Arising out of recommendations made by a joint parliamentary committee which had been appointed by the Menzios Government to inquire into and report upon broadcasting in Australia, the Australian Broadcasting Act was passed in June, 1942. Responsibility for administering this act was imposed on the PostmasterGeneral and the act incorporated provisions covering the operations of national and commercial broadcasting services in the Commonwealth and the setting up of a parliamentary standing committee on broadcasting to consider such matters as were referred to it by Parliament or the Minister. The Australian Broadcasting Act, after amendment in some minor respects in 1946, is still in operation, and it is this act that the bill now before the Senate is intended to amend.
The main purposes of the bill are to establish a special board, which will bear the title, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board ; to strengthen the Australian Broadcasting Commission by the appointment of representatives of the Department of the Treasury and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department ; and to provide for the whole of the expenditure of the commission to be met from Consolidated Revenue. Consequential amendments to the present act are proposed and, in addition, provision is made in the bill to cover other matters which are considered desirable by the Government.
Honorable senators will note that the proposed board is to consist of three members who will be appointed by the Governor-General on a full-time basis and whose period of appointment and remuneration will be determined by him. If the board is to function impartially and effectively, it is essentia] that no member shall have any financial interest in broadcasting or in the manufacture or distribution of broadcasting equipment. The development of broadcasting along sound lines will demand the full-time services of the members of the board, and care will be exercised by the Government to ensure that men of the right type who possess outstanding qualifications shall be chosen. In order that the functions and powers proposed to be conferred upon the board by this bill may be exercised properly it will be necessary for the board to employ staff with technical and other requisite qualifications; and since the board is intended to become a permanent part of the broadcasting machinery of Australia, it is proposed that the staff shall be employed under the Commonwealth Public Service Act. In this way, the personnel will enjoy the benefits available to other members of the public service in regard to hours of duty, recreation and sick leave, superannuation and furlough, and their salaries will be subject to relevant arbitration awards. The staff of the board will also be subject to the overall authority of the Public Service Board, which will be able to check any undue expansion.
The functions of the board are set out clearly in the bill. Briefly, they are designed to ensure the provision of services in accordance with plans approved by the Government, the installation and operation of technical equipment in conformity with appropriate standards, and the broadcasting of adequate and comprehensive programmes to serve the best interests of the general public.
It is not the wish of the Government that the board should exercise its powers in an autocratic maimer in regard to programme matters, and the bill provides for both the Australian Broadcasting Commission and commercial broadcasting stations to be consulted regarding aspects of special concern to them. In particular, the board will take such action as is necessary to ensure that programmes shall be of reasonable extent and variety, that adequate and appropriate times are set apart for broadcasts of divine worship or other matter of a religious nature, that equitable facilities are afforded for the broadcasting of political and controversial matter, and that the advertising content of any programme is not excessive. Experience has shown that, despite the safeguards which have already been laid down, the programmes of some broadcasting stations have not reached the standard which listeners in a progressive democracy are entitled to expect. Moreover, some stations have not endeavoured to provide adequate and equitable facilities for the broadcasting of political and controversial subjects. Although the board will have wide powers and sufficient autonomy to carry out its functions effectively, it is important, because of the far-reaching aspects of certain of its functions, to ensure that in the final analysis its policies shall be in harmony with the intentions of the Parliament. It is proposed, therefore, that the grant, renewal, suspension and revocation of licenses for commercial broadcasting stations . shall continue to be vested in the Minister, who will, however, be required to consider any recommendations made by the board.
Provision is made in the bill for the board, subject to the directions of the Minister, to determine conditions upon which a commercial broadcasting station may broadcast a programme of the national broadcasting service. In this respect it may be in the interest of listeners, in certain circumstances, to make suitable arrangements, after consultation, of course, with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. That practice is followed in Canada, where both national and privately-owned stations are operating. Some commercial stations, particularly those in outback areas, have experienced extreme difficulty in maintaining a satisfactory service, and many stations have been prevented, because of financial difficulties, from providing other than a restricted type of service. It is, therefore, proposed that the board should, with the approval of the Minister and the Treasurer, make available to any such station financial or other assistance if the need arises.
There is no intention on the part of the Government to divorce the hoard from parliamentary control, and orders made by the board in pursuance of its powers and functions will be placed on the table of both Houses of Parliament. The activities of the board will be financed up to the total amount authorized by Parliament in respect of each financial year. The board will be required to submit estimates of expenditure for consideration by the Minister and the Treasurer, and the sum approved will be included in the ordinary annual estimates’ presented to the Parliament. As soon as possible after the close of each financial year the board will furnish to the Minister a report of its operations and accounts, duly certified by the Auditor-General. This report will be laid before both Houses of Parliament by the Minister.
At the present time, in accordance with section 87 of the Australian Broadcasting Act, a broadcasting advisory committee is functioning in each State under the chairmanship of the local Deputy Director, Posts and Telegraphs, and each committee, which includes representatives of the national and commercial broadcasting interests and the general listening public, is expected to advise the Minister in relation to all or any matters connected with the operation of broadcasting stations. It is intended that those committees shall continue to function, but, in view of the establishment of an independent board, that their functions shall be confined to advising the board with respect to matters relating to programmes.
Turning now to the reasons which underlie the proposal of the Government to appoint a special board to control and develop broadcasting in Australia, it is important, in the first place, to bear in mind the remarkable growth of broadcasting in Australia and the rapid strides being made in other countries in developing and extending techniques. The frequency modulation system has progressed beyond the experimental stage. Television, although still in the embryo stage, has proved itself capable of providing a satisfactory service and facsimile and has definite possibilities. The present broadcasting system in Australia covers two distinct services - the national broadcasting service, operated by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in association with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, which supplies technical facilities and relay lines, and the commercial service, embracing stations operated by private enterprise under licence from the PostmasterGeneral, which derive their revenues from sponsored programmes and advertising matter. Since its introduction to Australia in 1923 broadcasting has been under the general control and oversight of the Postmaster-General, and has grown tremendously. There are now 34 national stations and 102 commercial stations operating in the medium-wave frequency band, and the number of licensed listeners exceeds 1,730,000.
I am confident that honorable senators will agree that the national broadcasting service has been established and expanded on sound lines. The programmes of the Australian Broadcasting Commission are designed to meet all tastes, and they provide city and country listeners alike with well-balanced programmes of cultural, educational, entertainment and news value. The technical services, too, have been developed in an efficient manner, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department having established an organization with trained engineering and technical personnel whose qualifications are outstanding and who do not suffer in comparison with, broadcasting experts in other countries. In developing the national service, the department, which has maintained close and cooperative association with the commission, has not overlooked the interests of residents in country districts, with the result that, in addition to twelve metropolitan stations, there are 22 regional stations, serving listeners in the less densely populated areas of this great continent. There are also five short wave stations providing services to remotely situated listeners.
As I have said, the commission’s programmes, including a news service which is not influenced by political or newspaper interests, have reached a high standard. However, there is one weakness in the existing system, in that there is no co-ordination between the programmes of the national and the commercial stations. In the interests of the general public the Government considers that some authority should be vested in an independent body to require a reasonable measure of correlation between the national and the commercial broadcasting services. In the early stages of broadcasting in Australia there was a reluctance on the part of private enterprise to enter a field which had doubtful revenue possibilities. Almost any one of good repute could obtain a licence to operate a station, and the applicants naturally wanted to establish services in the capital cities and important provincial centres where the bulk of listeners resided. The inevitable result has been thai, commercial stations have been concentrated in the larger centres at the expense of country districts, many rural areas having no commercial service at all. As a result of the concentration of stations in populous centres the situation has developed that, although it is necessary to extend the coverage of both the national and the commercial services in less densely populated areas, frequency channels are not available for the purpose in. the medium wave band, The only solution will be to review the allocation -of frequency channels in order to ensure that they shall be used to the best possible advantage in the public interest.
Advertising represents the only source of revenue for commercial stations and is, therefore, an indispensable part of the present system of broadcasting. No one who has taken an interest in broadcasting or who listens to the commercial stations can deny that advertisers have a live interest in broadcasting and that sponsors influence the programmes. The fact that the commercial stations must depend upon advertising revenue does not mean, however, that programmes should be arranged primarily in the interests of advertisers rather than those of listeners. It must be borne in mind that the essential qualities of radio give it a form of natural monopoly or a series of partial monopolies. All countries recognize the principle of the public domain of the air waves and, as there is only a limited number of frequency channels available under International Radio Regulations, it is essential that they shall be used to the best advantage in the interests of the general community.
Broadcasting does not exist for sectional purposes, but is essentially a public utility service which should make its appeal in one form or another’ to every member of the community. For this service to retain its value as a great national asset, it must be controlled effectively to ensure the use of available frequencies in a manner best suited to provide adequate service to the whole nation, the equitable presentation of political and other controversial matters, and the broadcasting of programmes of acceptable quality. It is scarcely necessary to stress the need for machinery to be available to ensure that the broadcasting services, both national and commercial, shall be established, developed and operated along sound lines and with proper regard for the public interests. Furthermore, it is most important that the licencees of commercial stations should carry out their obligations to the community by providing different forms of entertainment and information which the public, or different sections of it, require. It should be a fundamental consideration that the grant of a broadcasting licence is a charter to perform a public service and that the profit motive must be subordinated at all times .to that primary responsibility.
Another important feature of the present broadcasting system is that commercial stations are showing an increasing tendency to form themselves into networks or groups with the result that they come under the control of, or are influenced by, monomolistic groups. As a consequence, some stations operating in country districts which because they are not in networks are forced to rely mainly upon revenue from local advertisers are suffering badly in comparison with those which are linked with other stations. Their revenue is very low in comparison with that available from larger sponsors, and the result is that listeners to those stations do not receive programmes of adequate extent, standard and variety. I have already mentioned the lack of coordination between national and commercial programmes, but I impress upon honorable senators that this absence of co-ordination is even more marked within the sphere of the commercial stations themselves. At popular listening times, there is frequently a lack of “variety between stations operating in the same localities, a notable example of which occurs on Saturday afternoons when several stations undertake sporting sessions and provide little entertainment for the many i steners who are not interested in such programmes. This state of affairs disclo tes a lack of consideration for the interest i of listeners as a whole and justifies ti ) action of the Government in prop(. /ing the proposed Australian Broadcasting Control Board with power to ensure reasonable variety in programmes. Before leaving this subject, I invite the attention of honorable senators to the fact that the Broadcasting Committee in its fifteenth report, stated, that “ it is undeniable that there is much economic waste in the multiplication of the same types of sessions by various stations serving the same listeners “.
As honorable senators know, since its introduction into Australia, broadcasting has been controlled by the Post Office and under the leadership of prudent and able administrators, this arrangement has served the purpose very well in the past. However, the Government considers that the time has been reached when it is essential that the overall control and direction of broadcasting matters should be vested in a competent body which would devote itself exclusively to this important activity, as is the position in most other countries. One significant and common feature of the broadcasting machinery in other countries is that control is exercised by a specialized body. An outstanding case is the Federal Communications Commission in the United States of America, which has been given wide powers by Congress and is responsible for the overall development and control of broadcasting in that country. I have mentioned this fact in order to emphasize that, in proceeding to set up a special board in Australia, the Government is not pioneering but is following well-established custom in overseas countries where broadcasting enters into the life of almost every member of the community. Having explained the reasons for the formation of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the broad functions which will be entrusted to it, I shall now mention briefly the other main provisions of the bill.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission, which comprises five commissioners, has performed a difficult task with distinction, and the Government is satisfied that this method of directing the programme activities of the national broadcasting service is best suited to our requirements. However, it is considered that the commission should be strengthened by the addition of representatives of the Department of the Treasury and the Postmaster-General’s Department, because the Treasury is vitally concerned with the financial operations of the national broadcasting service and the Post Office is responsible, to an increasing degree, for providing and maintaining the technical facilities. Departmental representatives have already been appointed to other commissions, on a part-time basis, with satisfactory results. Section 35 of the Australian Broadcasting Act at present stipulates that the operations of the commission should be financially self-supporting, and section 27 allots to that body a proportion of the revenue received from broadcast listeners’ licence-fees. During the past three years, due to the expansion of the national broadcasting service and rising costs, it has not been practicable for the commission to operate within its normal income and it has been found necessary to make grants from Consolidated Revenue. In these circumstances, and as the fee charged to listeners does not necessarily have relationship to the services provided by the commission, it is proposed to adopt a system whereby the commission will be financed on the basis of the amount voted by the Parliament after consideration of the annual Estimates. “With the progressive expansion and development of the national broadcasting service, and in view of the prospects relating to television and frequency modulation, it is natural that the expenditure of the commission will increase from year to year and it is considered that the financial activities of the commission, as a public undertaking, should be subject to the same control by the Parliament as exists in connexion with other government instrumentalities. An important adjunct to the new method of financing the commission’s activities will be the preparation of a three-year financial plan. A similar arrangement is already operating with marked success in connexion with the planning of the capital works of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The new plan will cover not only the estimated financial requirements of the commission in providing programmes over a three-year period, but also the finance required by the Post Office to operate and develop the technical services it supplies for the commission which will thus be in a position to plan its activities in advance. Although the funds needed to implement the three-year plan will, in the normal way, be subject to annual appropriation by the Parliament, the commission will be able to operate in the knowledge that it can anticipate, with a reasonable degree of certainty, the provision of moneys according to a programme. This arrangement will also ensure that the technical services provided by the Post Office shall develop in an efficient and orderly manner.
As honorable senators are aware, Part IV. of the Australian Broadcasting Act provides for a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting to consider and report to Parliament upon every matter affecting broadcasting in Australia or the territories of the Commonwealth which either House of the Parliament by resolution refers to the committee and upon every other such matter referred to the committee by the Minister. The act also prescribes that the Minister shall refer to the committee any such matter which the Australian Broadcasting Commission or the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations requests him to refer to that body. In view of the proposal! to set up an independent authority to control broadcasting, it is proposed to relieve the Minister of the obligation to refer to the standing committee any matter which the commission or the federation requests him to refer to that body. At present, the dramatization of political broadcasts is prohibited between the issue of the writs and the close of the poll for any Federal or State elections. It is proposed to extend this ban to all broadcasts of political matter which is current at the time of a broadcast or was current in the preceding five years. The Government considers that such subjects should be presented to the people without any theatrical effects and, in proposing the relevant amendment, it is acting in conformity with a unanimous recommendation of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Broadcasting frequency referred to as the Gibson Committee.
I have endeavoured to give to honorable senators a broad outline of the proposals contained in the bill. There is no doubt that action along the lines proposed is vital to the proper control and development of broadcasting services in the Commonwealth, and I am confident that honorable senators will accept the billas a measure which has been brought forward for the sole purpose of providing machinery which will ensure that the broadcasting services of this country shall be developed efficiently and economically, with proper regard to technical standards, satisfactory and co-ordinated programmes, and the most advantageous use of the limited number of frequency channels which have been set apart by international radio regulations for broadcasting purposes. As honorable senators are aware, the PostmasterGeneral is responsible at present for providing and operating all technical services associated with the transmission of programmes of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and it is not proposed to disturb this arrangement, as the Post Office has the necessary facilities and skilled technical staff to undertake and perform these duties more efficiently and economically than can any other body. However, in addition to the facilities which are now supplied free of cost to the commission, supplementary services are provided from time to time, and it is thought that they should not be debited to the commission but should be borne by the Post Office. It is for this reason that the bill proposes to amend section 38 of the existing act by including a new provision to cover such services associated with the production of programmes as are approved by the Minister. I submit the bill for consideration, confident that honorable senators will examine it closely on its merits.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Sullivan) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator McKenna) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Social Services Consolidation Act 1947, as amended by the Social Services Consolidation Act 1948.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I lay on the table the following papers : -
Commonwealth Electoral Act - Reports, with maps, of the commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the States of New South Wales and Queensland into electoral divisions.
Ordered to be printed.
Motions (by Senator Courtice) agreed to- .
That the Senate approves of the distribution of the State of South Australia into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs. A. G. Davis, C. M. Hambidge and K. V. McEntee, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of distributing the said State into Divisions, in their report laid before the Senate on the 13th day of October, 1948, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the “maps referred to therein, be adopted, except that the name “ Sturt “ be substituted for the name “ Bonython”.
That the Senate approves of the distribution of the State of Tasmania into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs. A. B. Smith, C. M. Pitt and C. A. Blakney, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of distributing the said State into Divisions, in their report laid before the Senate on the 13th day of October, 1948, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the map referred to therein, be adopted.
That the Senate approves of the distribution of the State of Victoria into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs. E. C. Nance and O. G. Pearson, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of distributing the said State into Divisions, in their report laid before the Senate on the 20th day of October, 1948, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the maps referred to therein, be adopted, except that the name “Balaclava” be substituted for “Gordon”; the name “ Burke “ for “ Bourke “ ; the name “ Chisholm “ for “ Lonsdale “ ; the name “ Higginbotham “ for “Bridges”; the name “ Higgins “ for “ Hotham “ ; the name “Isaacs” for “Balaclava”; the name “Lalor” for “Phillip”; and the name “ Murray “ for “ Barkly “.
Debate resumed from the 21st October (vide page 1950), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
. The slight reductions that the Government is making in the sales tax are indeed disappointing. I regret also that the opportunity has not been taken to remove the many anomalies which have become apparent in the application of this tax. I am reminded of a caption that appeared in last week’s Smith’s Weekly - “Babies Not Given a Dog’s Chance”. It is remarkable that whereas lotions and soaps used for animals are exempt from sales tax, baby powders and other requisites for children are subject to this tax. In general principle, the imposition of this tax upon non-essentials is fair, but it is an act of grave injustice when the tax is levied upon necessary commodities. For instance, many housing requirements are subject to the sales tax, and that necessarily results in a substantial increase of the cost of homes. Also, most essential furnishings are subject to the tax. It is levied also upon engagement rings and wedding rings, and, strangely enough, at a higher rate than that applicable to luxury items such as diamond bracelets and diamond watches. Those anomalies could be removed very easily and, even at this late stage, I urge the Government to take some action to remove them. On the industrial side, goggles, respirators and metal helmets are excluded from the definition of “clothing” and have been ruled not to be aids to manufacture. Therefore, they remain taxable, while other industrial clothing is free of the sales tax.Representations have been made about this matter, but the articles that I have mentioned are still subject to the tax. Blinds are excluded from the list of furnishings exempted from the sales tax, but curtains are free of this imposition. That is ridiculous, because frequently blinds are more important in a house than are curtains. The Government is to spend a considerable sum of money on its so-called “ free medicine “ scheme. People who suffer pains as the result of eating food which, because of lack of refrigeration, has become contaminated, may receive free medicine to cure them of their “ tummy aches “, yet ice, a refrigerant, is subject to the sales tax. That is an injustice to people in the lower income brackets who cannot afford mechanical refrigeration. In Queensland, refrigeration, whether by mechanical means or by ice, is not a luxury but an absolute necessity in the summer. There is grave danger of food becoming contaminated or poisoned unless it is kept cold. The electrical energy which provides mechanical refrigeration is not subject to the sales tax, yet, as I have said, ice, which is used by the poorer people, is subject to the tax. I urge that this anomaly be removed. In general terms, I ask that the whole matter of exemptions be reconsidered, and that items which can reasonably be regarded as essential to life, including foodstuffs and household requirements, be excluded from the operation of the sales tax. If there must be a sales tax, let it apply only to luxuries.
– I consider that the sales tax mostly affects people in the lower income groups, particularly housewives. Reduction of sales tax and the exemption from it of certain articles vital to ordinary life would be one way in which the Government, if it were sincere in its desire to assist the people of Australia, could help less well-to-do families. Sales tax should not be payable on things necessary for the better standard of living and a healthy life. Because of present high prices the housewife has to make here income go as far as possible. Yet she has to pay sales tax on essential articles such as tooth-past, soap powders, washing soap and dusters. Surely nobody could call those articles luxury lines. They are necessaries in every home, yet they bear this iniquitous tax. Mattresses and pillows and furniture are taxed, yet they are essential to the making of a home. I urge the Government to consider this aspect of the sales tax and to realize what housewives must contend with. If the Government were sincere it would appreciate the need to make life easier for housewives and for young couples endeavouring to set up homes. During the last few days the chamber has discussed the subject of age and war pensions, which all honorable senators desire to see placed on the best possible basis. But why stop there? Why not also do something about a tax which must be paid on everyday essentials and that affects the people in the lower income groups very much indeed? The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan) mentioned the fact that sales tax is levied on ice. As ice is a vitally necessary commodity for households in Queensland and also in many country centres throughout Australia, I urge the Government to consider removing sales tax from it. When one considers the long Australian, summer and the necessity for preserving food, especially in households where there are children, the fact that ice is a vitally necessary commodity is obvious. Children are affected by summer complaints when food becomes contaminated through lack of sufficient ice - a lack which exists in many households because the application of the sales tax to ice increases its price.
A box of matches is subject to two taxes - excise duty and sales tax. Is a match used for the lighting of a stove or fire to cook a meal, considered a luxury? I repeat that if the Government is sincere it will remove the sales tax from commodities which are necessary for the establishment of happy and healthy households. Even baby powder and baby soap are included among the commodities subject to sales tax. I urge the Government also to remove sales tax. from the sale of wild flowers. Children gather wild flowers to earn some pocket money for themselves from their sale, and it seems unjust that sales tax should be levied on those flowers and not on the more expensive cultured flowers.
– I should not have risen to speak except for the statements made by Senator Rankin. During her speech she frequently used the phrase, “if the Government were sincere”, and as the proceedings of the chamber are “on the aiT “ I consider that I should present the Government’s side of the case to people listening on the radio. Whilst in some instances a measure of hardship remains, particularly in respect of ice and certain soaps, it would be as well for honorable senators to refresh their minds as te the provisions of the bill regarding the release of certain items from sales tax. Whilst the bill does not go as far as some members of the Government, and perhaps the Minister himself, would like to go, it does provide relief from sales tax on a variety of items that are in daily use and are absolute necessities in every household. Among the items exempted by the bill are clothing, footwear, drapery, piece goods, soft furnishings and yarns, clothes for human wear made of any material whatsover aprons, baby bags, baby napkins, belts, and many other items down to footwear, sole leather and boot and shoe uppers, rubber soles, rubber heels, Kromhyd, synthetic leather rubber, household drapery, bedsheets, bedspreads, cot covers, pram covers, bolster cases, bolster shams and bolster slips, chair back covers, counterpanes, curtains, cushion covers, laundry bags, loose furniture covers, mattress cases, mattress covers, and mattress protectors, pudding cloths, tablecloths, tablecovers, table mats, table napkins, tea towels, towels, face cloths, face washers, yarns, car covers and so on.
There may be a few items of vital necessity overlooked, and the Government might well consider removing the sales tax on ice because of the risk of contamination of foods in localities where refrigerators are unprocurable for two reasons - the lack of finance of an everyday working family to buy a refrigerator, and the shortage of. supplies- of refrigerators. I rose only, to give the necessary publicity to the Government’s’ honesty, of purpose-, in releasing as. many items as possible from sales tax: I commend the Government . f ct its> actions.
. - m reply - The Deputy Leader of the Opposition’ (Senator O’sullivan) and his colleague- (Senator1 Rankin) have raised virtually no opposition to the Government’s action in exempting certain commodities from sales tax. I remind1 the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the imposition of sales tax’ is a legacy that the present Government inherited from antiLabour governments of’ the past. Despite the fact that the Government proposes to reduce the sales tax from 25’ per cent, te 10 per’ cent: the honorable senator has no word of commendation for the bill. On the contrary, he and his colleague, have criticized the Government for the retention of the tax on commodities such as . ice notwithstanding- that it was a government, of their political colour which in the first place imposed the sales ta-x on- ice. It. was also a government of the same political colour that extended the sales tax. so that it affected £42,000,000 worth of products in common use by ordinary people. The Government now proposes to reduce the sales tax to 10 per cent. Sales tax upon ice amounts to less than Id. a. household a week and yet here, in the National Parliament, we have honorable senators heatedly discussing it. I refer to that aspect only to show how ridiculous and weak are the arguments raised by the Opposition. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition spoke about refrigeration, but I remind him that refrigeration is needed not only in Queensland but also in other parts of Australia. I noticed that every time the honorable senator speaks he has some complaint or grudge to air concerning* Queensland. He is parochial in his outlook, and to listen to him one would think that Queensland was the only State in Australia or the only one’ that suffers from heat: No wonder the honorable senator becomes heated in this chamber. The Government has’ reduced sales tax wherever” possible, and: further reductions will be made as the opportunity arises. It is impossible to remove the tax from, all items.- at once. The Government has commitments to meet, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is well aware. Those commitments which include commitments to ex-servicemen will be met.. I know that many of these, taxes were imposed during the recent war, but they have- been* and. are being, steadily and progressively reduced as the present, bill shows. The submissions regarding refrigerators and other matters mentioned by honorable senators opposite will be noted and consideration given to them on a future occasion.
Question, resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a- second time, and. passed through its; remaining stages without amendment* or. debate.
Debate resumed: from the 20th October (vide, page I860),, on motion by Senator Ashley -
That, the bill be- now read a. first time-.
– r rise to continue my remarks with some trepidation and a- feeling of nervousness because of the acts of some pressmen who have misconstrued, and deliberately misrepresented, what I said’ when speaking to the measure on Thursday last. A report which was- published originally, in the Sydney. Morning Herald has been taken by. other- newspapers and through the news services with which they are associated has been published all over, the world. The report was a lie in the first place;, it. was a deliberate misrepresentation of the statements I made. In my opinion, only some cue with a very salacious mind, a moron, could construe what I said to the form in which my remarks were reported. This incident bears out. the point I made in my earlier remarks. Honorable senators will recall that I commenced my speech by telling them that the press deliberately misconstrued statements and upon such lies, founded subsequent reports in. order to damage the Government. I went on to show how, having published a lie in the first place, the various newspapers through their news services - I mentioned the Associated Press and Reuter agencies - extended publication of the lie in all countries of the world in an attempt to discredit the Labour Government of Australia. Because of the fact that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan) had mentioned some girls in employment in other spheres whom he termed “ Manila girls “-
– I never used the words “ Manila girls “.
– Yes, the honorable senator did. However, the point is that in answering the honorable senator’s arguments I dealt with another phase of the matter altogether - that statements published in the press were being used by the Opposition parties for all sorts of ulterior purposes ; they sought to discredit the Labour Government. We find the same thing occurring in this instance. Proceedings in this chamber last Thursday were broadcast. I do not intend to repeat what I then said. The report that appeared originally in the Sydney Morning Herald has had the affect. of course, of somewhat enlarging my mail. Many people who heard my speech over the air have since been rather persistent in telling me that the Sydney Morning Herald is a liar, and some of them have used extreme language to convey their views of that newspaper to me.
– Is the Hansard report correct ?
– I have not seen the Hansard report. Consequently, no one can accuse me of altering the Ilansard proof of my speech. However, 7 have seen a statement purporting to be a copy of the Hansard report, but whether it is right or wrong, 1 do not know. That statement appeared in this morning’s press. I think that it was published in the Sydney Morning Herald; but that is by the way. Only a salacious mind could make out from my remarks that I cast any slur upon any girl working in a foreign country whether in the Philippines or anywhere else. My point is that because that lie was printed and emphasized particularly in headlines in the Sydney Morning Herald, we now have, statements coming from everywhere which all other newspapers have printed, although those newspapers did not print the headlines or the report originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald. Because of the ramifications of news services telegrams are being published in all sections of the press condemning “ one Senator O’Flaherty”. The whole incident merely proves what I said about the press in the first place. The newspapers print a lie and on that lie base all sorts of arguments and misrepresentations with the object of discrediting the Government of this country. Then, we have the members of the Opposition in the House of Representatives who did not even look at. the Hansard proof of my statements and did not hear my speech over the air, taking for gospel what the Sydney Morning Herald printed and getting up in the House of Representatives and demanding an apology from me for saying something that I had never said.
– I heard what the honorable senator said.
– Those honorable members, of course, made a mouthful of the statements which I was alleged to have made, but the report on which they relied was a lie. I have been too long in politics to try to chase a lie.
– Clear the air. What did the honorable senator say?
– The honorable senator can read what I said in the Hansard report of my speech. I shall not chase a lie. I do not propose to go over the ground again. Suffice it to say that throughout the whole of my speech I did not, by one word, impugn the moral character of any girls working overseas, nor did I impugn the character of any Australian girl anywhere. That is the whole position. I shall not attempt to chase the Sydney Morning Herald or take part in its heresy hunt in an endeavour to upset the Government of this country. I know that the people of this country are getting absolutely “ fed up “ with statements that are printed from time to time in the press and are alleged to have been made by members or supporters of the Government and on which the press then seeks to build some case against the Government. That practice has been going on for some considerable time. That was the theme with which I was dealing when I turned my attention to the contract under which these girls have gone to the United States of America and other countries. I am not a bit concerned about the publicity which the Sydney Morning Herald has given me in this matter. That journal also published a sub-leader on the subject. I do not know who wrote it, but I thank the gentleman who was responsible for it. There was some degree of honesty in it, although it also contained some untruthful statements. However, the person who wrote it apparently based it upon the report supplied to the Sydney Morning Herald in the first place. He did not see the Hansard proof of my speech, because that proof was not available at 11.30 p.m. last Thursday. However, I give him credit for drawing attention to the fact that “ your humble servant “ was a backwoodsman. South Australians who elected me to the Senate will do so again, and the same backwoodsman will continue to say what he thinks is right regardless of what other people think or whether they happen to have sadistic minds or not.
I now propose to deal with other matters arising out of the budget. I draw attention to the position of persons who were employed by the Government in a temporary capacity during the war. I have in mind particularly employees of the Prices Branch. Some of them have now been transferred to the States, whilst, apparently, some permanent Commonwealth employees have also been lent to the States in connexion with prices control. The Government should let those employees know exactly where they stand. The positions of permanent employees so transferred have been gazetted, and thus they will not lose any advantage upon their return to other departments in the Commonwealth Public Service. However, I have in mind the case of a man in South Australia who worked with the Prices Branch throughout the war, he having been transferred to that branch from, the Trade and Customs Department in which, in normal circumstances, he would now have the status of a deputycontroller of customs. However, had he gone back to the Department of Trade and Customs when prices control was transferred to the States, he would have lost £300 in salary. I believe that that gentleman has been made a DeputyCommissioner of Prices and, therefore, he has not actually suffered. Many temporary employees who were employed in the Prices Branch during the war do not know whether they are now employed by the States or by the Commonwealth. Although they were originally guaranteed employment for three years, they have now been told unofficially that the Government’s former undertaking has gone by the board and they have been transferred to the employ of the State authorities. I point out that they were not even given an opportunity to voice their opinion of the transfer, and I consider that the Government should investigate their complaint, and inform them exactly where they stand.
Provision is made in the Estimates for funds for the Australian National Airlines Commission to operate TransAustralia Airlines. Although that is a highly successful government undertaking, which is providing a magnificent service, the Commonwealth department which controls the rationing of tea has refused to supply sufficient tea to enable those who travel on the airline service between Adelaide and Canberra to obtain a cup of tea. The Trans-Australia Airlines aircraft leaves Adelaide at 6 a.m. and does not arrive in Canberra until approximately 1.15 p.m., and a similar period is occupied on the return journey. Alternate services call at Narrandera and Mildura one day, and at Griffith and Mildura on the next. Honorable senators will realize, therefore, that some refreshment is required during the long period of travel, and, although a choice of tea, coffee or cocoa is provided by commercial airlines on that route, no tea is available on the Trans-Australia Airlines service, [do not know whether passengers on the Melbourne-Canberra service suffer a similar disability, because I have not had occasion to use that service for some time, but although I have made eleven trips between Adelaide and Canberra by the Trans-Australia Airlines service I have not received a single cup of tea. Australians are a tea-drinking people and they do not drink (Coffee when they can obtain tea. If it were not for the excellent service provided by Trans-Australia Airlines, and the fact that I am a SUD’porter of the Government which established that airline, I would patronize a commercial airline. I know that many people who formerly patronized TransAustralia Airlines have withdrawn their patronage because they object to being denied tea on the trip. When I inquired as to the reason why tea is not supplied I was informed that because TransAustralia Airlines did not commence , opera. tions in the “ base ‘’ year the rationing authorities would not allow it to serve tea on the Adelaide-Canberra service, lt is a crying shame that because, of some technicality, a government department should refrain from assisting a government undertaking which has to compete with private enterprise, and I ask the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Sena?tor Ashley) to investigate the matter.
– The Appropriation Bill, which is now before the Senate, affords us an opportunity to review the activities of the Government and to consider its policy for the future, For that reason, I should think that members of the Opposition would welcome the opportunity which the debate presents to make constructive suggestions for the improvement and development of the country. However, t have been most disappointed with their speeches. Instead of seizing the opportunity to make constructive criticism of the Government’s policy and to advance useful suggestions, for the development of the country, they have confined themselves to the usual hackneyed arguments. Most of their remarks was concerned with communism, and that is obviously the theme that they intend to exploit during the general election campaign to he held next year. By continued repetition of specious arguments they hope to persuade the people of this country that Australia is honeycombed by disloyalists. Of course, they are the real disloyalists because they are deliberately doing this country a great disservice by creating a false impression in the minds of people abroad. They continually malign not only the present Government, but also the Australian people, and particularly the Australian workers. They do not confine their damaging criticism of this country to utterances in the Parliament, but also express themselves at great length in the press and over the radio. They are determined to bring down the Government regardless of the harm they are doing the country. As one who appreciates the system of government which we enjoy - a system based upon traditional British parliamentary institutions evolved after many centuries of struggle by the people-I deplore the activities of the anti-Labour forces. Our parliamentary system is one of which we should be proud, but our opponents, in their efforts to discredit Labour, are doing their utmost to bring even the parliamentary system into disrepute. In support of my contention, I remind honorable senators of the part played by the anti-Labour forces in the controversy which developed a few months ago when the present Government obtained the concurrence of the Parliament, to seek the approval of the electors to confer on the Commonwealth the power to control prices and rents. The Government’s purpose was to safeguard the interests of the people by continuing the controls of the cost of living which it had instituted during the war. Of course, in the light of the increases of the cost of living which have taken place since the people were misled into rejecting the Government’s proposals, I have no doubt that a different story would be told if another referendum could be taken now. Experience is proverbially a hard, school in which to learn, and it is tragic that so many people who receive only small incomes should have to learn their lesson in that way. In their anxiety to defeat that proposal our opponents seized every opportunity in the Parliament, in the press, and over the radio to attack not only the Government but also the parliamentary institution itself. Whilst they were quite entitled to attack the merits of the proposal, I was astounded that public men, some of whom had led the country in earlier years and who aspire again to do so, should indulge in’ a tirade of abuse of the National Parliament. Their conduct on that occasion leads me to doubt whether they are fit to represent the people in the Parliament. Belittlement of the National Parliament must do incalculable harm to our efforts -to attract migrants to Australia from other countries. Ordinarily citizens of -those countries welcome the opportunity to migrate to Australia if only because it is a “ new “ country which provides democratic .opportunities for all. For generations Australia has been looked upon in older . countries as the land of opportunity, and our prestige abroad has been high because of the great Australians who brought so much credit to us in earlier years. They taught not only our own people, but also the people of other nations to believe that a great destiny lies before Australia, a destiny in which I firmly believe. Imagine, therefore, the harm that has been done to our national reputation by the irresponsible utterances of antiLabour partisans, who are given so much publicity abroad. I deprecate the fact that men of culture and intellect, including Australian journalists, should participate in a campaign of abuse of Australian parliamentary institutions in an attempt to snatch an ephemeral political victory.
I believe that the Senate can with confidence grant to the Government the appropriation which it seeks. The history of the present Government is one of which we should be proud. In saying that I have in mind the increase of the standard of living, including the provision of all kinds of social amenities, for which the present Government has been responsible. The Government has certainly done a great deal to improve the lot of the common people - a term which is frequently employed, I suppose, for want of something more expressive. Conditions in Australia to-day are better than in any other part of the world. In no other country has so much progress been made in such a short span of years. Members of this Parliament who have been associated with the industrial and political Labour movements are proud of the fact that the educational programme which we began only a few years ago in order to teach the community to see things as we saw them has borne fruit within our lifetime. We have every reason to be proud of what the Labour party has done for Australia. Our opponents often make specious pleas on behalf of various sections of the community and urge the -Government to do more for them. For instance, not long ago I heard a member of the House of Representatives, almost with a sob in his voice, pleading the cause of a group of workers. He urged the Government to increase their wages and improve their conditions. I thought to myself, “ What sheer hypocrisy ! “ In giving vent to such sentiments, the member hoped to gull some of the people into believing that he sincerely stood for increased wages and better working conditions, but we know that, throughout its history, the Labour party has had a continuous struggle with such people in its efforts to improve the lot of the workers.
To-day, the opponents of the Government extol the arbitration system. Did they support arbitration in the days when they controlled the affairs of this country ? Certainly not ! They then suggested that the employers had a right to determine the rates of pay and the conditions under which their employees should labour. The acknowledgment of the right of workers to engage in arbitration and have some influence upon the determination of their conditions of labour was wrung from those people only after a hard fight. Nevertheless, now that they are in opposition, they frequently appeal for improvements of working conditions and for increased pensions and other social amenities. Have such people ever willingly acquiesced in the granting of pension increases and better conditions of labour? Certainly not! To-day, because such things are accepted and have been put into practice by the Labour movement, they endeavour to “ cash in “ on the situation. But they render only lip-service to the people. We know that, had they been in power, the improvements which have been effected by this Government would never have been even contemplated.
– They have an application before the Arbitration Court for a return to the 48-hour week.
– That is true. Years ago they fought the introduction of the eight-hour day and the 48-hour week.
– “Who are “they”?
– The people whom the honorable senator represents in this chamber.
– I represent the majority of the people of Queensland.
– I am reminded that the introduction of the 48-hour week was opposed by people like those who now oppose this Government. They said . that the 48-hour week would ruin Australia and that the time was “ not opportune for the introduction of a shorter working week “. All sorts of subterfuges were resorted to in an effort to prevent that change. The same sort of thing happened when the working week was reduced to 44 hours, and again, recently, when the 40-hour week was brought into effect.
When I was travelling to Canberra last night, I read an article in a Melbourne newspaper dealing with conditions in Australia to-day. The policy of that newspaper is not favorable to the Labour party. In fact, it is the chief “ knocker “ of the Labour movement. I refer to the Melbourne Herald. Nevertheless, it published a very interesting article entitled “ Industry is on the March in Australia “, written by Mr. Keith Dunstan. Mr. Dunstan drew attention to the fact that Australia is no longer the land of the “ squattocracy “, of shearers and jackeroos. His comments about progress in Australia in recent years contrasted vividly with the usual misrepresentations of the truth published in newspapers which wish to discredit the legislation that has been enacted by Labour governments. It is gratifying to find that at least once, in a brief period of sanity, the Murdoch press can find space to print something to the credit of Australia. Amongst other things, the article stated -
Last year the value of the goods produced by our factories was 17 per cent, higher than all those of our primary industries. One in every four of our employees now works in a factory and from being Britain’s largest supplier of food, we have dropped to fifth place
The writer was drawing attention to the fact that our secondary industries are expanding as the result of the drift of population to the cities. Those facts are very interesting in the light of the charge that is made from time to time to the effect that the Australian worker is a slacker, that he is not producing as much as he produced previously, and that the 40-hour week has caused a falling-off of production. The article continued -
In the 160 years of its history Australia has established a factory output of £1,000,000,000 a year. No other nation in the world can equal this rapid growth. We now make everything from 12,000-ton ships to instruments that measure to a millionth nl an inch.
Does that indicate that the Australian worker is a slacker, as our friends in opposition - I use the word “ friends “ advisedly - would lead the people of Australia to believe ? The article continued -
Even so, this growth of industry is only just starting. New projects or planned expansion since September, 1945, will involve an eventual capital expenditure of £150,000.000.
The study of secondary industries and the responsibility of advising large concerns is done by the Commonwealth Government’s Division of Industrial Development which has its head-quarters in Melbourne.
I am reminded of the propaganda directed against expansion of the Public Service. That is one of the stockintrade arguments used by Opposition members to influence the views of people who do not take particular notice of what is happening in the country. They point out that the Public Service is growing and say to the people, “ This i<» where your money is going “. The para graph which I have just quoted gives credit to one of the new Commonwealth departments that is doing a great job. Another interesting part of the article has a. bearing on the criticism repeatedly directed at the Government in relation to the hick of building materials. Referring to the £4,500,000 former munitions factory at St. Marys, it stated -
This has 200 buildings and houses 84 private firms, which produce such things as cooking appliances, chocolates, aluminium, Venetian blinds, artificial jewellery, tiles and cosmetics.
That factory was built at the order of the Government during the war. Imagine the great quantities of building materials that must have been used in it. Many other factories were built throughout Australia during the war with building materials which, had there not been a war, would have been available for the construction of homes. The article pointed out that, since 1939, the number of factories in Australia had increased by 29 per cent., the number of factors workers had increased by 50 per cent.. and that production had been doubled. The following passage is very significant : -
Oversea firms have been responsible for much of this. In the period between the end o.f the war and December, 1947, new capital investments with which overseas firms were associated, totalled £40,000,000.
Apart from bringing money to Australia, these firms bring new dollar-saving industries. They bring their trained technicians and technical “ know how “, which Australians could only learn by years of costly trial and error.
In quick time they go into production and, using a large percentage of Australian managerial staff and capital, they produce goods already accepted as among the world’s best.
Ls that not in marked contradistinction to some other articles that we read in the Melbourne Herald and other anti-Labour newspapers throughout Australia? Those articles would have the people of this country believe that, by its taxation policy, this Government is hindering production, because workers and employers alike will not put forward their best efforts. Here is the answer to that argument. We realize that our political opponents hope, by continually drumming that propaganda into the ears of the people, that Australian citizens generally will begin to believe it.
– That was Hitler’s technique.
– Yes, it was used by Hitler, and by others in their efforts to destroy the morale of their people. As I said in my opening remarks, supporters of the Opposition parties in their efforts to defeat this Government, are prepared to go even to the length of destroying the morale of the Australian people. It is within the knowledge of members of all Australian parliaments that there is not one industrial organization in this country which would not gladly engage more employees and expand its premises to earn more profits. We are enjoying an era of prosperity. Even with a 40-hour week, the Australian worker is producing the goods. Is that not a complete answer to the allegation that captains of industry in other parts of the world are afraid to invest their money in this country because a Labour Government is in office? Is it not also a complete answer to the suggestion that the socialistic policy of this Government will destroy incentive? It is also an answer to those who condemn the financial controls that are exercised by the Government. When the banking measure which is now being discussed in another part of the world was before this Parliament, we were told that its effects would be ruinous. Yet, in spite of all this criticism, both inside and outside the Parliament, we find that businessmen in other parts of the world are prepared to extend their activities to this country. Most of them only wish that they could obtain more Australian workers to help them develop their undertakings. We of the Labour movement believe in the destiny of this country. We are confident that under sane and wise government Australia can fill a very important place in the world. We believe that it is our duty to refute the canards around which the propaganda of our political opponents is so often built. Unfortunately, in this country we have not a favorable press, nor have we extensive radio facilities through which we may convey” our message to the Australian people. Only by speaking in this Parliament can we place before the community our firm belief in the future of this country. The specious arguments of the Opposition parties are voiced solely for political purposes. Every day, in the House of Representatives, questions which are calculated to destroy friendly relations between Australia and other countries are asked. Statements by Labour supporters are taken from their context, broadcast and published in the newspapers, in an endeavour to discredit Labour’s administration; yet we find members of the Opposition parties deploring the fact that in other parts of the world there is not the amity between nations that there should be. Are not the tactics that are being adopted by Labour’s political opponents in this country the very methods that have led to discord in other parts of the world? Honorable senators opposite deplore the growth of communism; but what have they done so to improve the standards of living of the working people of this country that communism would find difficulty in securing a foothold in Australia? Their repeated demand that communism should be outlawed is just sc. much, shouting; and is.- completely without a constructive, foundation. They blind, their, eyes to the things around them amd live in. a world of” make-believe. If this country” is- to resist communism, the Australian people- must be assured that under a democratic- form of government, there will be- a brighter future for them, and’ that they will be able to enjoy a fuller life- than they have experienced in the past: So long as there is in office in this- country a1 government which believes that” the Australian people are entitled to more- of the- good’ things in life, we shall avoid’ the- violent upheavels that have occurred in other parts of the- world.
– We” shall not avoid them if the “ Nats””’ get’ iff.
– It would be a sorry day for Australia if the reactionary forces opposed, to Labour were once again to occupy the treasury tench in this Parliament. I assure: those members of the community who will only learn by expertence - and experience keeps a dear, school - that should’ a. change of government occur,, they will very soon appreciate, what has been done, by this Administration, because there might B&a violent attempt to alter existing conditions. When we examine the Government’s programme, and its accomplishments over the years, and. remember that in our own lifetime the working people, of this, country have been lifted from almost abject poverty, to comparative affluence, we can feel that we have something “of which to be proud.
I have no- wish to take from an early Victorian government and. the late- Mr. Alfred Deakin the credit for espousing the cause of the aged. and introducing pensions, legislation. I have never suggested that Labour was entirely responsible for that development, although it’ is true that whilst not strong enough politically to gain control of the administration, Labour strongly urged the introduction of that progressive legislation.. Since that time, as the Labour, movement has gone from strength to strength, it has- continually improved the original scheme. It is most regrettable that we read often in our newspapers- that “ an old-age pensioner “ was knocked over by- a tram, or met with some other misfortune. It is time that the press, of this country and the Aus tralian- people: generally recognized, that there are in the. community many other people receiving; retiring allowances: who are- not called “ old-age pensioners “. Every person who has served in a- government administration in this country, from the most highly paid public servant io the basic wage-earner, is entitled to a retiring allowance which is referred to as superannuation. Manyl people to-day are entirely dependent, upon the age pension, for a living, not through any fault of their own, but because during their working life, they were unable to amass sufficient wealth to ensure security in their old age. In some instances, the savings of a lifetime have been swept, away through some, misfortune such as ill health, or some other adversity encountered, by members of their family. Some time, ago, our pensions legislation-, was. amended to substitute the term “ age pension “ for “ old-age pen, sion.”.. I should like to see an. even more acceptable term, applied. However, despite the- frequent slighting references in the press to- pensioners, I believe that this Government has- done a splendid job in- improving the conditions’ of that most deserving- section of the community. I believe- that the Government, with the support- of the people that it will obtain when it again faces the country in a general election^ will be able so to improve conditions that Australia will be the envy of the. rest of the- world-. In view of the programme placed, before the country in the Treasurer’s budget speech, I consider that the Senate would be justified in acclaiming the good work that has been done by the Government since it took office, and that it proposes to do in the future.. Honorable senators on the Government side have no cause to fear the “ calamity howlers “ who try to discredit the Government. They need have no fear that the people will not see through the arguments being adduced by honorable senators opposite or that they will not estimate at’ their true worth, certain broadcasts that have been the objects of complaint from time to. time. Those broadcasts are merely political propaganda. The people will, without a doubt, remember that in the past, even as far back, as prior to World War I., when antiLabour governments- ruled Australia and had the opportunity to develop the country, they failed in their job. In the period between the two world wars and for two years after the beginning of World War II., those governments fell down on their jobs. When’ the people consider the splendid record of the present Governmentin respect to the improvements that have been made, and also that no person physically capable of performing work is unemployed at present, they will give to the Government the credit it deserves. Social conditions to-day are such as would never have been believed possible by many honorable senators years ago when they were engaged in industry: I commend the Government for what it has done and shall have great pleasurein supporting the measure in the belief that the money that will be entrusted to the Government willbe expended in a wise mannerand that Australia will benefit as a result.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time:
– I move -
That the hill be now read a second time.
This measure provides for the appropriation of revenue for the ordinary services of the various departments. The bill provides for an appropriation of £101,986,000 for the services of the year 1948-49 to which should’ be added the amount already granted under Supply Act No. 32 of 1948, namely £74,7.28,000 making the total amount £176,714,000, which is the estimated expenditure from annual appropriations for ordinary services for the year 1948-49, as set out in detail in the second schedule to the bill. The expenditure proposals of the Government have already been covered in the budget debate and it is not proposed to deal now with the various items in detail. Any explanations that may he desired by honorable senators will be furnished at the committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read. a. second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
First Schedule agreed to.
Proposed vote, £314,100.
– I desire to refer to Division 7 of the second schedule, which relates to the Broadcasting Committee. I am a member of that committee, and I consider that it should be a very valuable body if given an opportunity. I consider that nothing could indicate more clearly the Government’s poor opinion of the committee than the fact that the Government has decided to create a new board to control broadcasting without having referred the matter to the committee.
– The honorable senator must not anticipate the debate on. a measure now before the Senate.
– I am not anticipating a debate. That matter has been referred to in the press.
– A measure was introduced in the chamber to-day.
– The honorable senator is not discussing the contents of the bill, but is merely referring to the fact of the bill.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I presumed the honorable senator was proceeding to discuss its contents. The honorable senator may proceed, and I shall call her to order if necessary.
– The Broadcasting Committee has been completely ignored on two important matters, one of which was the proposal for the establishment of a board to control broadcasting ; the other was the question of whether frequency modulation broadcasting should be a Government monopoly. As a conscientious member of the committee, with which I have travelled around the country taking evidence, I believe it could be of considerable value to Australia. I consider that the two matters I have mentioned should have been placed before it and evidence should have been heard upon them. The committee should then have given decisions based on the evidence it bad heard. By hearing evidence from all sections of the people the committee could ensure that the greatest good was done for the greatest number.
Senator Rankin’s remarks with respect to the Government’s attitude towards the Broadcasting Committee. The instances that she has mentioned, when the Government ignored the committee, are only two of many such instances in which the Government has persistently flouted the Parliament, thereby damaging the prestige and dignity of the Parliament.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Department.
Proposed vote, £2,878,400.
– Division No. 16 refers to the activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in relation to animal health and plant industry. I urge that everything that can possibly be done in connexion with those matters, particularly regarding assistance for the growing of tea in Queensland, should be. done. I consider that tea can be grown successfully in Queensland where a number of successful experiments have already been made. Coffee can also be grown successfully, as well as tobacco and cotton. All those products are vital necessities at the pre. sent time. Everything possible should also be done to assist in the improvement of herds, which would involve pasture improvement. Improvement of herds would mean better milk and meat for the people. E should also like to draw attention to the item : food preservation and transport. The transport of food for long distances throughout the vast State of Queensland calls for efficient refrigeration. Matters affecting the transport of food should be examined very carefully. I should also like to see something done about the preserving of tropical fruits such as the papaw.
– I take it that the hon orable senator was referring to the detailsof investigations conducted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Those investigations are being pursued’ by officers of the council and involve appropriations amounting to about £2,000,000. The honorable senator has referred to herd improvement. I do not know whether that is an activity of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research but unquestionably it is a very important aspect of the Australian-, economy. I know that State governments have given some attention to it, but I do not know how far it concerns the Commonwealth. I shall draw the attention of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) and alsoof the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) to what the honorable senator has said on that point. I join with the honorable senator in her unstinted praise of the papaw which grows in northern Queensland. Any method that would enable that fruit to be preserved in all its pristine freshness and flavour for all Australians would be very useful. I should like all Australians to be introduced to the black pepsin seeds which form the heart of the pawpaw. I relish those seeds very much. I shall bring the honorable senator’s suggestion to the notice of the appropriate Minister. ] point out that the Commonwealth has made available to the States the sum. of £20,000 annually for herd testing, and that this year that contribution will be increased to £28,000.
– Under the proposed vote for the Audit Office the sum of £20,133 is being allocated in respect of officers occupying unclassified positions. Expenditure under that heading last financial year was £14,062. Can the Minister explain the reason for that increased expenditure, and also inform me what action, if any, has been taken to classify the officers concerned.
– The increased provision to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan) has referred covers mainly cost-of-living adjustments, salary adjustment consequent upon determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator, normal increments to staff, allowances to officers under prescribed conditions while performing duties of a higher class and provision for payment to officers upon retirement.
. -Whilst the sum of £106,600 was voted last year for the Public Service Board, actual expenditure under that heading was £144,435, and it is now proposed to increase that vote for the current financial year to £177,200. A possible explanation for the increase is that whilst the sum of £10,083 was provided last year for salaries for Public Service inspectors and assistant inspectors, the proposed expenditure under that heading for the current financial year is £22,153. 1 should like to know what are the functions of these additional inspectors, and whether there is any prospect of a thorough overhaul being made of the Public Service generally in order to ensure that no departments established during the war will be unnecessarily continued. As I have said on previous occasions, ample opportunity exists at present for all available workers to be absorbed in private enterprise and there is no need at all to throw upon the taxpayers the cost of maintaining unnecessary departments. When people can easily obtain employment in private enterprise, the present would be an opportune time to reduce this burden. Can the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) indicate whether appropriate action is being taken from time to time to ensure that temporary war-time departments are being eliminated as the need for them ceases.
– The additional responsibilities allotted to the Public Service Board have necessitated an increase of staff to supervise efficiently the organization and conduct of procedures and systems in departments generally. The proposed vote under this heading includes .provision for a permanent establishment of 245 officers compared with 180 officers during the previous year. Thus, this increase is being made available for the very purpose mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan). Some of the proposed increase is in respect of cost-of-living adjustments, normal increments to staff, reclassification of certain officers consequent upon additional responsibilities, and salary adjustments payable in accordance with the determinations made by the Public Service Arbitrator.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
– I notice that the Estimates of Expenditure for the Prime Minister’s Department have increased from £2,335,200 last financial year to £2,878,400 for the coming financial year, which represents an increase of approximately £500,000. Later, I should like the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) to furnish some explanation of the reasons for such a substantial increase.
The Prime Minister’s Department is responsible for the general administration of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, about which a great deal has been said in this chamber and in the House of Representatives. The accusation has been made that members of the Opposition have criticized the efficiency and loyalty of the members and staff of the council. That is not correct. When I referred to this matter on a previous occasion I merely repeated the suggestion made by the chairman of the council, Sir David Rivett, who pointed out that he was a scientist and not a security officer. The people of Queensland, whom I represent in the Senate, have particular reason to appreciate, and express their gratitude for, the splendid work done by the council in that State, and I trust that the Government will give the council every encouragement to continue its good work, particularly in the improvement of our tobacco and cotton-growing industries.
Doubts have been expressed as to the suitability of the council to be entrusted with matters connected with the defence of the country, and it has been suggested that the national security might be endangered because of the nature of the research on which some of its members are engaged. The charge has been made that the whole of the criticism uttered by members of the Opposition in the House of Representatives and in this chamber was founded upon a lie which appeared in a newspaper. I want to bring the matter to a head now by making it quite clear that newspaper reports which appeared as long ago as June last indicated the possibility of leakage and stated that that was the reason why top secret information was being withheld from Australia.
– I rise to order. The committee is now debating the estimates of expenditure for the Prime Minister’s Department, and I do not think that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan) is entitled to discuss; the matter which he has mentioned.
– The estimates of expenditure for the Prime Minister’s Department include the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, to which I am at present addressing myself.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition may continue.
– I do not propose to labour the matter, and I content myself with pointing out that we have not yet been told specifically whether or not it is true that top-secret information is being withheld from Australia. A great deal has been said about the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) having revealed matters which are alleged to relate to the defence of the country, but the documents quoted by the right honorable gentleman did not concern the security of the country, but dealt rather with the lack of security. That aspect of the matter has not yet been satisfactorily disposed of by either the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) or the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman), and I consider that the country is entitled to be told expressly whether or not it is true that top-secret information is being withheld from us because of lack of confidence in our administration by the Governments of Great Britain and the United States of America.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan) desires an explanation of the increase of expenditure shown in the estimates of the Prime Minister’s Department. If the honorable senator will take the trouble to look at Divisions 10 to 17 of the estimates of receipts and expenditure for the forthcoming financial year,, he will see the precise amounts by which it is proposed to increase the expenditure of the various departments and instrumentalities for which finance is provided in the vote of the Prime Minister’s Department. The largest increase is in respect of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which amounts to £349,755. The honorable senator is as aware as is any member of the Senate of the nature of the work carried out by the council, which is increasing all the time. The council is engaging particularly in work which is necessary for the defence of the country, and that explains the increased amount proposed to be allocated to it.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, like certain members of the House of Representatives, is most inquisitive in regard to the contents of the missing documents. The fact is that certain documents are alleged to have been stolen or forged, but whether they were stolen or forged I do not know, and I do not propose to inquire. To my mind the matter is-
– reported contents of the document accurate?
– I am not able to say what are the contents of the documents, but if they were produced we should be able to tell the honorable senator whether their contents are true or not. Apart from the accuracy or otherwise of the documents, we are confronted with the fact that an important member of the Parliament is supposed to have received certain documents, and whether those documents were stolen or forged he had a clear responsibility to disclose their contents to the Government. If the honorable senator wants to know what is contained in the documents, I suggest that he go to the individual who is alleged to have stolen or forged them.
– Are their contents true?
– The honorable senator will be able to ascertain that for himself when he interviews the person who stole the documents.
.- I am amazed that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) should raise such a matter because I thought sufficient dirty linen had already been washed in another place. This afternoon I referred to the tactics adopted by certain gentlemen who hold high and. responsible positions in the Parliament, and I pointed out that such a course must inevitably damage the good name of Australia abroad. Assuming, for the purpose of argument, that the documents referred to are genuine, can any one tell me of what benefit it would be to Australia to brand ourselves as people unworthy of trust? One would imagine that when a document of the kind referred to came into the possession of the right honorable gentleman, who is a former Prime Minister of this country and a member of His Majesty’s Privy Council, he would, at least not have embarked on a heresy hunt designed to suggest that the Australian people are not worthy of trust. Any one who has taken any interest in world affairs knows that the security of any nation is constantly menaced by the espionage of its enemies and potential enemies, and that its safety depends upon the effectiveness of its security measures. The world is full of spies, some of whom occupy high places in the community, whilst some individuals who masquerade as patriots are prepared to sell their country. One would imagine that immediately on receiving even a slight inkling that something was amiss with the country’s security precautions and any one with a sense of responsibility would seek to have the leakage blocked, and would certainly refrain from telling the world what he had discovered. Although the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has assured the Parliament, the nation and the world that our security service is as safe as it is humanly possible to make it, certain inquisitive individuals in the National Parliament are persisting in their efforts to drag our name down. I am amazed that the matter of the missing documents should have again been mentioned, because such action can be intended to achieve a purpose which is purely party political. If the
Deputy Leader of the Opposition could defeat the Government no doubt he would be satisfied; but I point out to him that, if the rest of the world thought that Australia was not to be trusted, and because of that want of confidence Australia went down, it certainly would not profit the honorable senator, his party or the press of this country, which has embarked on a heresy hunt in this matter. Does the honorable senator suggest that the Prime Minister, the members of this Government, and their Labour supporters in the Parliament are traitors to this country? Their record, which is unblemished, rebuts any such suggestion. The part played by a Labour government, with the enthusiastic support of the Labour movement throughout Australia, during the greatest crisis which ever confronted this country, should convince any reasonable person that while Labour is in power the country is in safe hands. I trust that we shall hear no more of this matter, and I deprecate the fact that members of the Opposition should again mention it in the hope of gaining some party political advantage by doing so. I thought that members of the Parliament had a wider outlook and that they would exhibit more love for their country. If any minor leakage which might imperil the security of the country comes to the notice of any member of the Parliament in the future I trust that, irrespective of the political party to which he belongs, he will take proper action to see that the leakage is closed. It is only by sinking our political differences and pulling together as Australians that we can emerge from the crisis which at present confronts this country and the rest of the world.
.- The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, to which reference has been made in this debate, has carried out some magnificent experimental research in improving the carrying capacity of land. Throughout Australia generally there is a tremendous shortage of timber, which is badly needed for building materials, paper pulp and a number of other important purposes. Is it possible, with the co-operation of the State authorities, to refer to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the task of making a widespread examination of soils throughout Australia with the object of ascertaining whether a greater variety of timber can be planted, and whether some of our former hardwood forests which have been burnt out can be resuscitated? In addition, will it be possible for the Council for Scientific an.l Industrial Research to engage in a policy of raising seedling trees for the purpose of aiding afforestation ?
. -I regret very much that the subject of secret documents has been raised in the Senate, and my remarks on the matter will be brief. I consider that the irresponsible plot by the Leader of the Australian Country party in the House of Representatives (Mr. Fadden) was designed to trap the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) into repeating a statement which could be quoted as having been made at his conference with British Ministers in London. I am sure that every thoughtful person in Australia doubts the authenticity of the documents quoted by the Leader of the Australian Country party. The right honorable gentleman lacks the courage and the good sense to admit that he has made an enormous mistake. The weapon which he tried to use was turned against him, and the whole scheme was a miserable failure. For that reason, the subject should not be discussed further.
– I notice that the Government is still frying to cloud the issue. My point was that-
– Order! I point out that Standing Order 416 is definite in stating that -
No Senator shall allude to any Debate of the current Session in the House of Representatives, or to any Measure impending therein.
Most of the honorable senator’s remarks have related to events in the House of Representatives.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Chairman, but I repeat that the issle is still being clouded.
. -I point out to Senator O’Flaherty that provision is made in Division 16 of the proposed vote for the Prime Minister’s
Department, for an amount of £114,960 for soils and irrigation and for an amount of £117,770 for forest products. Reafforestation is also being dealt with by the Forestry Bureau at Canberra.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of External Affairs.
Proposed vote, £977,000.
– Consideration of the estimates for this department affords the Senate an opportunity to express its grave concern at the lack of information concerning the Government’s precise policy in relation to international affairs. We know that the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) is away from Australia a great deal and that he has brought distinction upon himself and his country by his recent appointment as President of the General Assembly of the United Nations. However, that does not give us any information about the commitments that he is making on our behalf. We hear a lot about the Western Union. To what responsibilities have we been committed in that connexion? Of what assistance are we assured by virtue of the formation of the union? I presume that we are expected to play a part in association with it which will be very important, if not vital, to us. Why are not we, the representatives of the people, informed of wl at is being done in relation to this important development in international affairs? Another matter which affects our foreign policy is the possibility of the admittance of Spain to the United Nations organization. American opinion has softened very considerably in favour of Spain, according to press reports. Apparently the strategic and moral importance of Spain in the world is appreciated by the United States Army and State Department, and it appears from reports that this question will soon come before the General Assembly of the United Nations. What is Australia’s attitude to the proposal? What view will the Minister for External Affairs express?
– We can trust him.
– I can trust him to pursue his personal vanity. 1 admit that he is a man of extreme ability, but be is also a man of extreme vanity, and, as far as the Australian people are concerned, a man of the utmost reticence with regard to our , commitments on international affairs. I have my own views in regard to Spain. I should not like to live under any dictatorship, but E should much prefer the Spanish form to that of Russia. Spain is an important country. There are people of Spanish blood and influence throughout the whole of the new world. According to United States military experts, with the exception of Great Britain, Spain would be the only .reliable non-Red part of Europe and the only possible bastion from which any attack or defence could be directed in the event of war breaking out with the only country with which we could possibly go to war. The people are entitled to know the attitude of our Minister for External Affairs on the subject.
I notice that a reduction of expenditure on our embassy in the United States of America and our High Commissioner’s office in Canada is proposed by the Government. Probably there are no countries other than Great Britain itself with which we are, and should be, in closer contact. Therefore it is most important that our representatives at Washington and Ottawa should be in a position, in the matter of allowances and amenities, to represent Australia on the very highest level. I do not believe in wasting money, but it would be a grave mistake to put our representatives in a position iri which they would feel at any disadvantage in comparison with the representatives of other nations. I should like to hear some explanation of the proposed reductions. There is one item of expenditure which I should be quite happy to see completely wiped out. Last year, an amount of £39,200 was appropriated for the purposes of our embassy in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The estimate for the current year is £56,000. The Minister who represents the Minister for External Affairs in the Senate might be able to tell us what advantage, if any, there is in having such representation. Australia maintains legations in Brazil, Chile, and the Netherlands. I consider that consular representation would be quite sufficient in those countries because, from the size of the proposed votes, it is obvious that we must be represented on a very meagre basis, and I should prefer to have consular representation rather than representation on the higher level in such a way that the proper dignity and prestige of Australia could not be maintained.
– I was indeed surprised to hear the Deputy Leader of. the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan) say ‘that he would like to see the proposed vote for our embassy in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics wiped out.
– that 1 should not object to it being wiped out.
– I have a note of the honorable senator’s statement that he would like to see it wiped out.
– Very well. That will suit me.
– I was amazed by that statement because it suggests to me that the honorable senator must be biased. Otherwise, he would have given some sound reason in support of his opinion. We are broadcasting to the world our desire for peace and are using films and other means of publicity to draw attention to the fact that the United Nations is doing a vast amount of good in the world. But, side by side with that, there is a type of propaganda designed to create in the minds of the peoples of the world a belief that war is looming on the near horizon. That line of argument must be seriously studied. We know that there have been difficulties in Europe and that great differences of opinion separate the Soviet Union and the Western Allies, but surely to goodness we are not going to take the line that, because of such differences, war is inevitable. The whole idea of international co-operation, which has developed in recent years, is to obviate any attempt in the future to determine differences of opinion by the arbitrament of war. It appears to me that Senator O’ Sullivan’s statement emanated from a very biased mind and that he had not closely examined our relationships with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I do not want to have the issue confused by the use of the word “ communism “. “We have heard so much about communism that, in my opinion, the very sound of it tends to warp people’s judgments. After all, it is not long since the Soviet Union was fighting valiantly to preserve the democracies of the world.
– It lost 8,000,000 dead.
– A country that sacrificed 8,000,000 lives and was devastated as Russia was devastated by the Germans in the recent holocaust surely deserves some consideration for its accomplishments. Nobody should talk lightly of another war and declare that the next aggressor will most likely be the Soviet Union. I firmly believe that a strong fascist element is endeavouring to rear its bead in Australia with the object of creating war between certain countries. Before we express opinions on such subjects we should heed the advice and information given to us by a man of such outstanding ability and such wide knowledge of international affairs as our Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt). He is capable of directing us on to the path which should be followed in the best interests of Australia. I do not agree that insufficient information is made available to the Parliament on international affairs. “We have had voluminous reports placed before us by the Minister for External Affairs. Our main difficulty is to know what policy is being adopted by the Australian Government and there may be some foundation for the claim that that policy is not being enunciated in the manner in which many people believe that it should be. Not long ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) visited Great Britain and discussed with members of the Mother of Parliaments various aspects of international relations. The right honorable gentleman also visited Germany and expressed certain views as the result of that visit. A conference of Empire Prime Ministers in London has just concluded. At that meeting consideration was given to international developments affecting the British Commonwealth of Nations. Australia’s foreign policy is based primarily on the principles of the United Nations organization. If all the nations of the world were to observe the concepts of that organization about non- aggression, the maintenance of peace, and economic security, there would be no need to fear a future holocaust. I felt that I should make some reply to the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I am sure that he spoke more without thinking than with any direct bias against the country to which he referred.
– It ill becomes any honorable senator to speak of reticence on the part of the Government on foreign policy and international affairs because in no other sphere of governmental activity has so much information been fed to the Parliament. Repeatedly in this chamber I, as the representative of the Acting Minister for External Affairs, have provided the fullest information, running into scores, and on some occasions hundreds of pages. During the last session, a motion that I myself moved for the printing of certain papers so that the Senate might have an opportunity to discuss foreign affairs and the Government’s foreign policy at length, remained on the notice-paper almost throughout the entire session. Finally it lapsed with the prorogation of the Parliament. A full opportunity was given to debate that motion, but there was plain disinterest on the part of honorable senators opposite, and not a great deal of interest amongst members of the Senate generally. Certainly a great deal of study, considerable knowledge, and much personal hard work was required even to assimilate, let alone analyse, the information that the papers contained. I repeat, however, that the motion lapsed through lack of interest on the part of members in this chamber.
– The M cannot blame the Opposition for that.
– I remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that, if he had a quick interest in external affairs, he has had two excellent opportunities - the Address-in-Reply, and the debate on the Estimates and Budget Papers - to deal with that subject. He has had another opportunity tonight. The honorable senator raised two -points. He inquired whether Australia was a party to the Western Union in Europe. The answer is very simple: Australia is not :a party to the Western Union. One might have expected that the honorable senator would be aware of that.
– My complaint was about the Government’s reticence on the subject.
– With regard to reticence, I remind the honorable senator that time after time the complaint has been that too much information has been placed before honorable senators by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), and that they have been unable to assimilate it. Certainly, most of them have not addressed themselves to the subject on the numerous occasions ‘on which I have seen .matter placed before this chamber. The charge -that the Minister has been reticent on the Government’s policy cannot be justified. The Deputy Leader Of the Opposition was generous enough to -pay a tribute to the position that has been achieved in the international sphere by the Minister for External Affairs. ‘I believe that I may properly say not only that the ‘Federal Parliamentary Labour party and the Government are proud of him, but also that he has brought -to this country the most resounding credit because of “the major part that he has played in the move for the world peace and in ‘an -endeavour to reconcile the great -conflicts and differences between nations. It is a remarkable tribute to Australia’s efforts, through its Minister for External Affairs, that that right honorable gentleman has been elevated to the highest position in the world to-day in the sphere of international relations, namely the presidency of the United Nations General Assembly. I am confident ‘that Australians -generally are very -sensible of the great honour that -that appointment brings to this country, as -well as the great credit that it -reflects upon the Minister himself. I regret that -Senator O’sullivan, in the course of his remarks, spoke of vanity on the part of the Minister. It is unfortunate that the honorable senator permitted -a personal :note ito -intrude into upon -what otherwise -might have been ra very objective speech.
Senator O’Sullivan has inquired about Australian representation in Canada and in the United -States of America. The reason for the reduction of expenditure hi the United States of America is the necessity to conserve dollars. Certain positions have not been filled. The honorable senator will appreciate, of course, the vast importance to the economy of this country and, may I add, to the economy of the ‘United Kingdom. of the conservation of dollars. That policy has been followed in all foreign legations which involve the -expenditure of dollars. The increased expenditure in Soviet Russia is not ‘great, and ‘the ‘explanation is simple. There has been a Te-adjustment of the exchange ‘rate, and the number of roubles to the English .£1 has been reduced ‘by approximately one-third. Without any increase of the establishment, that readjustment -has .necessitated -the increased’ expenditure.
– We are somewhat indebted tothe Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) for having brought before the Committee the subject of Australia’s policy in international affairs,, although I ‘do not agree entirely with what the honorable -senator has said. I believe that the trouble arises mainly from the fact that the world is revolving, evolving, or perhaps devolving,, so quickly that .it is quite impossible for us to keep abreast -of events. The result is that, usually we receive a great deal df information on overseas events long after those events ‘have taken -place. I believethat the press is to a large degree responsible for the lack of knowledge of international relations that exist to-day. During the last three months in particular, the press and the Opposition partiesin this Parliament have played a very poor part in the affairs of this country. Much time has been wasted in dealing with matters that are of no consequence at all. Recently I read in a newspaper 30 or -40 lines about a man named Healy, who is supposed to -be a Communist, having his car parked in the grounds of theState Parliament House in Macquariestreet, Sydney. “In view of the world situation, it .is remarkable that .an item- of such little consequence can receive so much publicity. We are hopelessly illinformed on foreign affairs, and to me at least, Australia’s part in the world is becoming more and more uncertain. I do not blame the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) for that. Before that right honorable gentleman became our Minister for External Affairs, we had no foreign policy at all. The Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) has implied that, although Australia is not part of the Western Union, it may some day join that union. When I spoke last in this chamber I dealt with the possible consequences of the formation of the Western Union, and I think that I can say, without egotism, that subsequent events have justified my remarks. I said that all the talk that would take place at the United Nations about Berlin would not get us very far, and that the discussion of the matter by the Security Council would be equally fruitless, because Russia would veto it. Although the union is of vast importance to us. economically, militarily, and financially, after all, Europe is a long way off. I believe that we do not get nearly enough information about Asia. Certain remarks attributed to the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator Armstrong) drew adverse criticism in some quarters, but so far as I can see, what the honorable gentleman said was very much to the point. To me, the Western Union is not nearly so important as how we fit into the Asian scene. We are led to believe that the uprising in Malaya is the work of a few terrorists. I shall not go into the economic aspect of that matter now. A revolt occurred in Korea, and we were told that’ it would be all over in two or three days. Soon afterwards, however, we read that one of the most important towns in southern Korea had been captured by the rebels. The press has told us for months that the so-called rebels in Greece are finished, but only yesterday it was reported that the rebels were so strong that even in southern Greece martial law has had to be proclaimed. I am very much concerned about the Labour movement throughout the world. I am opposed to what has been happening in Russia, but whilst I am implacably opposed to Stalinism, I see the
Labour movement of the world to-day united behind American imperialism. So far as 1 can see, if the Russian and American groups remain adamant, war is inevitable.
I assume that some of the money provided in this vote for Australian representation overseas will be expended in Germany. We receive very little information about that country, which, I believe,- is the key to the world ‘ situation to-day. The Russians might pull out of Germany as they have pulled out of Korea, but they would leave behind them a Communist organization and, in all probability, the new position would be worse than the old. I do not believe that all the black is on the side of Russia, and all the white on the other side. I believe that if we could regard the Berlin situation without (prejudice, we could reach an amicable solution of the problem. This Senate does not get the publicity that it deserves. I consider that the debates on foreign matters that take place in this chamber are on a much higher level than those in another place, where the degree to which the honorable members have indulged in personalities, particularly during the last few months, is a disgrace to our so-called democracy.
I stated some time ago that honorable senators opposite and their supporters blamed the Labour party, and particularly the British Labour party, for the present position in various parts of the world. I ask honorable senators to bear in mind the fact that members of the Labour party are often misrepresented by the press. Just as last week the press misrepresented Senator O’flaherty in respect of a statement alleged to have been made by him in this Senate, so also it misrepresented an honorable member in another place who had criticized Mr. Winston Churchill. While honorable senators opposite and others of their political colour outside are criticizing the Labour party, let them remember that the Potsdam, Yalta and other agreements entered into by Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill, gave much more to Stalinism than the Labour party ever gave. For years I have pointed out that the great tragedy of the last war was unconditional surrender. Any one who saw the film, depicting conditions in Germany, which was shown to honorable senators to-night could easily appreciate what has taken place there. Thirty years ago [ thought I new everything. Now I realize that I know very little. 1! have pointed out for years that unconditional surrender, and the killing of 2,000,000 Germans after the war was over, ha9 resulted in what MajorGeneral Fuller, in his latest book entitled The Second World War, has called the “ Mongolizing “ of Germany. I assume that by that he means that Germany has been left in a condition similar to those countries that were overrun by Genghis Khan during medieval times. There was nothing left in those countries to build on, and that is the position in Germany to-day. Australia, under the guiding hand of the Minister for External Affairs, has done mere in proportion to its population, resources, and geographical situation than has any other country to try to lift the world out of the chaos in which it is to-day. Any one who has studied the attitude of Dr. Evatt during the last few months would congratulate him on being so careful. R<j did not commit himself or Australia on some things because, I believe, he thought that in certain questions there was some truth on both sides. He has been severely criticized regarding the situation in Palestine. Personally I think his attitude to the Palestine problem is a credit to him. There is no use in asseverating that on one side we have pure democracy and on the other side pure dictatorship as Senator O’Sullivan so often terms it. [ am not one of those who believe that war is entirely due to economic causes, although I do believe that if we eradicated all other causes, but left the economic cause, wars would still occur. To-day, in spite of democracy, the nations are still fighting for oil, markets, rubber, tin, and in fact for imperialism. It is tuy opinion, and I have never failed to state it, that while the imperialist system of society exists war is inevitable, and” the reason why it has not already broken out again is because there is a tremendous boom at present with markets available for all. The imperialist nations are united against the Soviet Union. It is an axiom that when conditions are booming the causes of war vanish, but let a crisis take place as it probably will in the United States of America, and then see what happens. I admit that America’s actions are prompted by some degree of idealism. I do not say that the Marshall plan exists for the sole purpose of making America richer, but I do say that it exists for the purpose of keeping American imperialism dominant. Any one who has studied the operation of the Marshall plan knows that where American money goes American economicimperialism follows. America will have the say as to what shall be produced by various countries, and what shall bebought and sold by them.
The Australian Government has done all that any government possibly could, and, as the Minister for Health has pointed out, Dr. Eatt has been appointed to the presidency of the United Nations General Assembly. As one who has been overseasand has seen him at work I can say that there are very few men more able than Dr. Evatt in the sphere of foreign affairs. He has done a great job overseas and in Australia. I am a member of a committee that examines young men and women who desire to become diplomatic cadets.. No such committee existed before Dr. Evatt became Minister for External Affairs. On it there are such men as Dr. Letters of Armidale, Dr. GrenvillePrice of Adelaide, and Dr. Curtin of the Department of External Affairs. I have been on that committee for fiveyears and there has not been the slightest suggestion of political or religious biasin connexion with the choice of cadets. In choosing applicants the committee hasnot even considered such words as Labour, nationalism, Protestantism, Catholicism or any other ism. Everyone on the committee has been imbued’ with one aim only - to select the best young men and women for those jobs that will be so important to Australia in thefuture.
It would be very satisfactory if the Government could oblige the DeputyLeader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) and produce a document and’ say, “ Here is Australia’s attitude on the’ Western Union “ or, “ Here is Australia’sattitude on whether Eire should remain- in the British Commonwealth of Nations “ or, “ Here is- Australia’s attitude regarding statements, made by the Prime Minister of” India, Pandit Nehru “, or, on this, that or the other subject. Diplomacy does not. work in. that way. I as very pleased to hear the honorable senator compliment Dr. Evatt. I personally have often criticized the right honorable gentleman and shall do so again whenever I think that criticism is warranted. In the Labour party we do not worship individuals, because we know that they are products of conditions and that in every crisis that has taken place in. Australia in the last 50 years the Labour party, or people trained by it, have had’ to step into the Breach. That- is also true in the industrial’ sphere and the” Labour party, by its connexion with the trade union movement and its association with working people in general, is the only party which can rally the nation in time of trouble.
– The honorable, senator’s time has expired.
– I do not wish, to give- a long dissertation on foreign affairs-, but” in practically’ every section of the estimates concerning the Department” of External Affairs we find mention of charges- for the renting of premises for embassies and consulates overseas. I suggest’ to the Government that in countries where Australia intends- to have consular and diplomatic representation on a permanent basis, it should secure suitable sites- for residences and offices for staffs. I think it would ultimately be economic to do so, and that the longer such action is delayed the more difficult it will be to obtain the satisfactory sites and accommodation which Australia as’ a young’ nation entering international affairs should consider obtaining.
The Opposition has” asked what Australia’s views are in respect of certain current world matters. I cannot give an” answer to that, but’ I can say from my experience overseas,- that whatever the views of the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) have been on any international matter, they have been held in high regard by- people associated with
Australia as allies and by others who in some degree have been opposed to Australia. It appears to me that many honorable senators and other people would like to be foreign ministers themselves and make and dictate policy, despite the fact that honorable senators opposite showed by their remarks to-night that they know nothing at all about such matters. I assure the Senate that the Minister for External Affairs knows- a great deal about foreign affairs.
– Then why does he. keep it secret ?
– He does- not keep it secret. The question of whether Australia is associated with the Western Union,, coming from the honorable senator who says he knows something about international affairs, is proof positive of my view that some honorable senators know nothing at all. about such matters:
– I am not the only one- who knows nothing about them’.
– The policy being followed by the Government’ is one that has been agreed upon by the nations with which Australia is associated: The basis of’ that policy is the achievement of international unity and the spirit of cooperation. Yet, whenever the subject of foreign affairs is debated in this chamber honorable senators opposite feel that they must attack some- aspect of Australia’s policy or the- attitude of the Government to this- or that problem or nation. I suggest to them and their friends in another place and outside, that’ for just a little time they become pro-Australian and pro-humanitarian in their approach to the- problems of nations. The manner in which the Minister for’ External Affairs- has placed the country’s policy before the world’ is sound, and in accordance with the requirements of the Australian people and of humanity. 1 suggest that if the Minister can throw any light upon the possibility of the Government establishing its own residences and offices in countries where Australia is- to be permanently represented he should do so. I am sure- that the Government will, as:in the past, keep Australia’s representation at a high standard which will permit our representatives to meet diplomats of” other countries’ on a plane of “which the country-can be proud.-
– In reply to Senator Cooke, I point out that it is the policy of the Government to obtain freehold properties in countries where Australia is likely to establish permanent embassies or consulates. In another part of the estimates that the Senate is now considering, the honorable senator will find the sum of £59,000 set aside for the purpose of a chancellery in Paris. The Senate will realize that some countries in which Australia is represented have even greater difficulties regarding the supply of building materials than has Australia itself. In some other countries we must consider the dollar cost of making permanent establishments, and the Government naturally hesitates to incur a large expenditure which would accentuate our dollar shortage. The honorable senator can rest assured that in providing for its representation abroad the Government has full regard to the need for preserving the nation’s prestige by giving Ministers and Ambassadors the proper setting for their activities. That will be general policy, and the honorable senator can rest assured that it will be followed.
.- The Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) was rather ungenerous and somewhat inaccurate when he referred to omissions on the part of Opposition senators to avail themselves of opportunities to debate external affairs. Perhaps, owing to pressure of ministerial duties he has been absent from the chamber when this subject has been raised. I have pleaded that the Opposition be given an opportunity to debate external affairs, and to debate them in advance and not after events have happened. The last occasion on which the Senate was given an opportunity to deal with external affairs was in April of this year, when a statement on the subject was tabled. On that occasion, I said that the document was a record which went back for twelve months previously and for all practical purposes was as useful as last year’s calendar. As a guide to racing form, such a document would be as helpful for racing on a
Saturday as the results of such races published on the following Monday. The Senate should be given an opportunity to learn the Government’s mind with respect to Australia’s alinements. The greatest corrective and directive is a wellinformed public opinion, and public opinion can be enlightened only as a result of discussions on matters in the Parliament duly reported in the press. I again urge that the Senate be given an opportunity to discuss in advance our prospective line-ups and alinements
In reply to Senator Nash’s comments on my statements, I point out that I have no fight whatever with the Russian people. They fought valiantly for Mother Russia on Russian soil. They did not fight for us, hut for themselves, and in doing so they rendered tremendous assistance to the Allies. On the field they fought valiantly and died bravely. The point which I do not like about Russia is its form of Government. I understand that Australia’s representative at Moscow in common with the representatives of other countries there, is virtually on bail. His movements are restricted, and I regard such a restriction as a gross affront to the dignity of our country.
– Can the honorable senator prove that that is so?
– I believe that to be so. I have not been in Russia. I also regard as an affront to us Russia’s disregard of the basis of the United Nations Charter in so far as it deals with the dignity and rights of human beings. It has been authoritatively stated that in the Soviet Union there are over 12,000,000 slaves ; and I hate slave states.
.- Matters with which the Department of External Affairs is concerned are always worthy of thorough consideration. The department’s activities reveal the important part that Australia is now playing in world affairs. Those who have been members of the Parliament for some time will note that expenditure incurred on our representation abroad has increased in recent years. Australia is now represented in many countries where previously we were not represented at all.
It has been suggested by Senator O’Sullivan and in the press that Australia is not in possession of all the facts. The Opposition parties deplore the failure of the Parliament to discuss foreign affairs more frequently. How is it possible for the Parliament to do so unless we have placed at our disposal the fullest information from our representatives abroad? The purpose of diplomatic representation, on whatever plane it may exist, is to enable the nations to learn all they can about each other. The Opposition parties deplore the position that exists in the world today. The explanation for that position is the distrust that exists in many nations. Following World War I. similar distrust existed between former allies. Honorable senators will recall that at that time France was very suspicious of the attitude that Great Britain adopted towards Germany in an effort to rehabilitate the German nation. There were conflicts of opinion at that time between former allies. We recall the many conferences that were held from time to time between our former allies. Much the same position exists to-day with respect to the trouble in Berlin and the allocation of territories. Those problems are causing suspicion among former allies in the recent war. But if we are not adequately represented in other countries, that mistrust will tend to increase, and each nation which fails to maintain representatives in other countries will be more and more misunderstood. It has been suggested that Australia should withdraw its representative in Russia. The recall of one country’s representative from another is the last and final act before a declaration of war. A member of the House of Representatives has suggested that Russia’s representatives in this country should be restricted in the same way as Australia’s representative at Moscow is restricted. Surely enough mistrust and suspicion exists already without Australia doing anything that would increase it. Australia is playing no mean part in world affairs and I believe that the voice of this country is being heard to greater effect to-day than ever before. I have a feeling, however, that there is a good deal of jealousy with regard to the person through whom Australia’s voice is being heard in the councils of the world. In the eyes of a certain section of the community he happens to be of the wrong political colour. In their view, some one else would be all right, even should such a person be a less eminent mortal than our present Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt). However, because he happens to come from the Labour side of politics in this country, the Opposition parties spare no effort to belittle his work. As I said earlier, the Opposition parties are prepared to drag down the name of Australia as low as possible if by so doing they can gain some party advantage.
The proposed vote in respect of the Department of External Affairs is more than justified in order to ensure that Australia shall be adequately represented abroad not only diplomatically but also as regards world trade. Australia is an exporting country with markets in many parts of the world. I am pleased that we have representatives in India and Pakistan, the two new members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. We have heard some talk lately about dropping the term “ British “ from the title “ the British Commonwealth of Nations “. However, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has stated that such reports are conjecture at the moment. Our various representatives and officers of the Department of External Affairs who are stationed abroad are grappling with big problems. They want to keep the great British Commonwealth of Nations together and to weld it into a closer unit so that it will play a still more important part in world affairs, and as a democratic bloc of nations between the capitalism of the United States of America on the One hand and the communism of Russia on the other, perhaps, be the means of saving civilization.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed vole, £3,898,100.
– I direct the attention of the committee to the sums voted annually in respect of wages and salaries of temporary and casual employees in the
Public Service. I know from .actual experience that these officers cannot be dispensed with. The point I make is that many of them have been members of the Public Service for from ten to fifteen years. In view of that fact, the Government might well examine the possibility of making such officers permanent. The employment of numerous temporary and casual employees tends to reduce the status of permanent officers. Indeed, I cannot understand why the latter, through their associations, have not made a fuss about this matter. Having regard to the increasing activities of the Government in the promotion of the welfare of the community, we cannot expect any reduction of the numbers of employees in either the Commonwealth or State public services. That is another reason why the Government could with advantage from the point of view of improving the efficiency of the service and of giving temporary employees greater peace of mind make such employees permanent.
I also notice that the vote in respect of “ Office requisites, equipment, stationery and printing” is being increased. In view of the increased volume of work of government departments, that increase is understandable. I emphasize, however, that expenditure in respect of that item and “ Compensation to State Governments for the use of accommodation, furniture and equipment” is increasing year by year. In South Australia, the whole of the first floor of the Adelaide railway station is occupied by officers of the Commonwealth Taxation Department, and in ‘ recent years that department has been obliged to use the old Legislative Council chambers at North Terrace. I assure the committee that conditions at that building are not conducive to efficiency on the part of the employees obliged to work there. lt is important that various government departments should be segregated in separate buildings as soon as possible. I know the difficulty which confronts the Government at the present time in endeavouring to obtain modern office equipment, and I know that during the war, and even since it ended, a great deal of man-power and money had to be expended on the preparation of statistics which could have been achieved by the use of machines if they had been available. The estimated expenditure of the Bureau of Census and Statistics shows a slight increase over last year, and item 5 of division No. 40 shows that the sum of £10,600 is to be expended for the “ hire, service and maintenance Of machines for tabulation of statistics “. Since it will be necessary to equip various government offices, particularly the Bureau of Census arid Statistics and the Taxation Branch with accounting and statistical machines, I suggest that the Government might make some effort to purchase the machines which it has on hire at present and, if possible, to obtain the services of mechanics to service those machines.
Senator ASHLEY f New South WalesMinister for Shipping and Fuel) [9.17]. - Senator Critchley referred to the estimated expenditure for the salaries of temporary officers and employees, and in reply I point out that many departments require the services of temporary employees. As an example, the Taxation Branch has had to engage the services of a large number of temporary employees in order to overtake arrears. In regard to the accommodation of government departments and undertakings to which the honorable senator referred, the Government intends to proceed with the erection of buildings for the Taxation Branch and other important departments and undertakings as soon as sufficient labour and material are available. However, the urgent necessity to provide proper housing accommodation precludes us from proceeding with any plans for the construction of government buildings at present.
– The explanation furnished by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) deals substantially with the point which I intended to raise. The estimated expenditure for salaries of casual and temporary employees of the Taxation Branch has increased by approximately £107,000, and apparently the staff has been increased in every State. The estimate for salaries of staff in Queensland amounts to £412,3S1, which, is. an increase o£ approximately £59,000. Can the Minister state whether the increase is likely to continue ?
– The biggest factor in increasing the salaries referred to is the increases of salaries granted to the employees during the past year.
.- The amount proposed to be provided for the salaries of temporary and casual employees amounts to nearly one-third of the salaries and allowances of permanent employees, and I suggest that the Government should consider appointing many of the present temporary employees to the permanent staff of the Public Service. I suggest that exservicemen who have worked for the department in the Public Service for two years should be appointed to the permanent staff, and that temporary officers who are not ex-servicemen but ha.ve had four years’ service in the Public Service should be appointed to the permanent staff. Some years ago the Navy Department employed at Cockatoo Dockyard as temporary clerks- a number of men who had been there for over 28 years. I think that now is an appropriate time to confer some protection on exservicemen amongst the permanent -*and casual employees of the Public Service. I recall that after World War I., I appeared before the Public Service Board, on behalf of a number of ex-servicemen who were employed as temporary and casual officers, and that as the result of my representations the Parliament appointed a special committee to investigate their cases. At that time we advocated strongly that ex-servicemen who had two years’ service should be appointed to the permanent staff of the Public Service.
Another matter which I desire to bring to the notice of the Minister is that employees who are taken over from private establishments receive 10s. a week less because the award of the Public Service Arbitrator provides that much less than the rates fixed by the State tribunal. The employees affected are cleaners and lift attendants. Seme consideration should be given to rectifying that anomaly.
– In answer to the. appeal made bySenator Katz on behalf of temporary and casual employees- in the Public Service, I point out that the passing of acompetitive examination is the qualification for the appointment to most Commonwealthdepartments. A special concession is- made to ex-servicemen whodesire to be appointed to the permanent staff because the standard of examination provided for them is lower than that provided for other persons. Althoughthere is a large number of temporaryemployees in the Public Service they enjoy almost all the conditions and privileges of permanent officers, except, of course, permanency of tenure. Although I shall bring the honorable senator’s request to the notice of the Government, I point out to him that the passing of a competitive examination has always been insisted upon by previous governments as the qualification for admission to the permanent staff of the Public Service by the Government.
.- Can the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) say whether the Government has any plans for the extension of the Government Printing Office in Canberra? That undertaking is housed in a temporary and inadequate building, and the employees cannot be expected to perform their duties efficiently under such conditions. From personal experience, I know that much of the printing is in arrears by twelve months,’ and that a lot of the work has had to be undertaken by State government printing offices and other printing establishments. That i9 not right. The Government Printing Office in Canberra should be located in a permanent building, sufficiently large and equipped to enable it to carry out all government printing, including the printing of publications of government departments and instrumentalities. As an example, I contend that the A.B.C. Weekly should be printed at the Government Printing Office in Canberra. Furthermore, from the point of view of the development of the National Capital, the establishment of the government printing industry on a proper basis would be an asset, because no dust, dirt or noise is associated with it. It would also provide additional employment for the youth of both sexes who do not desire to enter the clerical service. Has the Government any plans in mind to establish the Government Printing Office on a proper basis?
– The Government intends to enlarge the Government Printing Office as soon as possible, but it is confronted with special problems associated with the shortage of labour which affect not only the Government Printing Office but other undertakings in Canberra and throughout the Commonwealth generally. Young men who went to the recent war were not able to be trained in skilled trades, and until the lack of skilled tradesmen is overtaken there is little prospect of the Government obtaining sufficient skilled employees for undertakings in Canberra or elsewhere. However, I assure the honorable senator that the Government intends to concentrate on developing Canberra as a truly national capital, and as part of its general plan it will enlarge the Government Printing Office.
– I mentioned previously my appreciation of the splendid service performed by the Parliamentary Reporting Staff, and I desire now to congratulate the Government Printer on the excellent work performed by the Government Printing Office. I think that the Parliament is remarkably well served by that office and the. Hansard staff.
I refer now to Division 39, Superannuation Board. I notice that the estimate of salaries and allowances for the forthcoming year represents an increase of approximately £5,000 over the preceding year, and that the total estimated expenditure for the division has increased from approximately £17,000 to approximately £22,000. The increase seems rather extraordinary, and I should appreciate an explanation from the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley).
– In an endeavour to overtake arrears of work the Superannuation Board has been re-organized, and that explains the increase of expenditure.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £590,700.
– I urge again that provision be made under our system of conciliation and arbitration for the conduct of matters affecting the constitution of trade unions and the rights of their members to be brought more into conformity with company law, which protects the rights of members of companies. Union elections should be conducted by secret ballot, the names and addresses of members should be lodged with the Registrar of the Industrial Court, and all ballots in connexion with strikes and other important matters should be conducted under the presidency of the Registrar.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Interior.
Proposed vote, £1,449,000.
– Now that the strain of war has been removed from the responsibility of government, there should be a realinement of the duties of the Government with a view to reducing the number of departments. The functions of the Department of the Interior could very easily be discharged effectively and efficiently by the Department of Works and Housing. I see no reason for the continuance of both departments, with the attendant heavy expense of maintaining two large staffs. The proposed administrative vote for the Department of the Interior this year is nearly £100,000 more than was provided in 1947-48. As many former activities of that department have been taken over by other departments, it is difficult to understand why there should be such an increase. The schedule of salaries and allowances discloses, for instance, that the staff of the Canberra Fire Brigade has been considerably increased. Where there were seven firemen, there are now sixteen. I realize that it is necessary to have an adequate and competent fire brigade to protect assets valued at many millions of pounds in our National Capital, but provision should be made only in terms of requirements. The total amount proposed to be appropriated for the Canberra Services Branch is £31,676, as compared with £20,469 last year. The proposed vote for the staff of the Civic Branch of the Australian Capital Territory is more than double the amount of £4,678 expended last year. The figure is £13,699. Sports ovals in Canberra, which are under the control of the Department of the Interior, are in very bad order. At many of them, no provision is made for conveniences. Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior ensure that the reasonable requirements of both participants and spectators shall be catered for and that the grounds generally shall be kept in better condition?
– I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for the Interior and ascertain the Government’s policy.
.- Members of Parliament who travel from Melbourne to Canberra by train are very ill-treated. They change to a New South Wales train at Albury in the evening, travel all night, and arrive at Canberra at 11 a.m. the following day. Before Trans-Australia Airlines inaugurated an air service from Melbourne to Canberra, we had a special fast train that reached Canberra at 9 a.m. That was reasonable. Eight or niue members of this Parliament still travel consistently by train, but they are obliged to put up with the slow goods train service which reaches Canberra at 11 a.m. That is not good enough for members of Parliament. We are entitled to something better than that. I ask the Government to give serious consideration to the provision of a car or bus service for senators and members of the House of Representatives to bring them direct to Canberra from Yass, Goulburn or Queanbeyan at a reasonable hour. I protest very strongly against the shabby manner in which those of us who travel by train are now being treated.
. -I support Senator Lamp’s remarks. I raised this matter in the Senate by question on the 15th June, and I was very surprised to learn from the answer supplied by the Minister for the Interior, that the New South Wales Railways Department demanded a subsidy of £1,000 a year from the Commonwealth for operating a train service to reach Canberra about 9 a.m. I understand that, some years ago, a train arrived in this city before that hour. I urge the provision of a better train service for Canberra, not because I happen to be one of those members of Parliament who travel regularly by train, but because I believe that this city, as the National Capital, is entitled to a faster and more convenient service. Representatives of the business community as well as members of Parliament travel regularly to our capital. Not all of them are air-minded, and, in any event, I believe that it would often be impossible for business men who have to come here at short notice to obtain passages by air. Railways are still a very important feature of transport services in Australia. In this instance, it appears to me that the NewSouth Wales Railways Department, rather than the Commonwealth Department of the Interior, is guilty. Surely the State department is anxious to render good service to the community. It complains about the inroads of road services and airlines,, yet it is doing all that it can to drive people away from the railways. The facilities which it provides are disgraceful. The sleeping carriage provided for Canberra passengers when they change trains at Albury is usually one of the oldest in the State service, and J have the greatest sympathy for passengers who have to sit up all night. During the severe coal shortage, when sleeping cars were not provided, members of this Parliament were very badly served. After sitting up all night in the train, they had to go direct to party meetings and attend to other important duties without having an opportunity to rest. I am not anxious that buses should be placed in service again to meet trains arriving at Yass in the early hours of the morning, thus using valuable fuel. In the interests of the National Capital, the Government should insist upon the State Railways Department rendering a better service.
Under the present system, we arrive at Queanbeyan, only a few miles away from the - Canberra station, shortly after 10 a.m., and the train remains there for anything up to 45 minutes. It does not leave until an outward train from Canberra arrives there. Surely the Canberra railway yards have sufficient facilities to enable the incoming train to proceed and discharge its passengers before the other train departs. I speak with considerable experience of railway matters, having been associated with the Railways Department in Victoria for many years, lt is disgraceful that citizens who travel to the ^National Capital on business and other affairs should be obliged either to go by air or to spend many hours in uncomfortable trains. The Minister for the Interior should insist upon the provision of a satisfactory service.
– I refer to the privilege of free train travel afforded to members of this Parliament. This privilege is of very little value to honorable senators and members of the House of Representatives who come from Tasmania, and I should like the Government to make gold passes valid for air travel for Tasmanian parliamentarians. I have grown up in the air age, and I do not like travelling by train. I should greatly appreciate the privilege of using my gold pass for free air travel between my home State and the mainland. I hope that the Government will give serious consideration to my suggestion.
I refer now to the proposal for the provision of corner shops in Canberra suburbs. I hope that these shops will become part of a general co-operative organization which will assist in reducing the high cost of living in this city. The design of Canberra has unfortunately fostered the development of area monopolies. That was not the purpose for which the shopping centres were planned. Because of the cost of travelling by bus or taxi, Canberra people are forced to confine their shopping to restricted areas and shopkeepers would be slow if they did not take advantage of that fact. I suggest that the co-operative organization should be given an opportunity to take over the corner shops when they are completed, and that, if possible, they should employ exservicemen as managers. I am confident that this would be of great benefit to Canberra people, and would assist the development of the co-operative movement. I urge that consideration be given to my suggestion.
– I should like some information about the Item “ Commonwealth forestry scholarships, university fees and sustenance payments “. Are those scholarships available in every State of the Commonwealth, and are they tenable at the State universities? I should like to know how the sum of £7,000 is to be expended.
– T shall bring the matters that have been raised by Senator Lamp and Senator Sheehan to the notice of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson). With regard to train travel, I understand that the Minister has made representations to the New South Wales Government. An improved service is being sought, not only for the convenience of members of the Parliament, but also of the residents of Canberra. I shall inform the Minister that the matter has again been raised in this chamber.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) advocated that the Department of the Interior should be placed under the control of the Department of Works and Housing. That raises a difficult problem. Many of the undertakings administered by the Department of the Interior could not properly be brought within the province of the Department of Works and Housing. They include the Electoral Branch, the Meteorological Branch, the Commonwealth Solar Observatory, the Forestry Branch and the Governor-General’s establishment. It is unlikely, therefore, that the Government will give favorable consideration to the honorable senator’s suggestion. However, I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). I shall also convey Senator O’Byrne’s representations regarding corner shops at Canberra to the Minister for the Interior.
asked whether forestry scholarships were tenable at any university in the Commonwealth. I understand that certain preliminary studies during the first year or two of the course can be undertaken at the State universities, but that the course must be finished at the Forestry Branch in Canberra.
– The cultivation and ‘ preservation of our timber resources is of vital importance to Australia. I notice that the number of forestry research officers has been decreased from seven to five, and that the total salary for those men is £3,676 or approximately £15 a week each. I assume that those officers have university degrees and some years of experience. In these circumstances, their remuneration seems rather small particularly when one remembers that many unskilled workers to-day receive about £10 a week. Is the reduction of the number of those men from seven te five due to the comparatively low rate of pay?
I should like the Minister to indicate also the degree of collaboration that exists between the Commonwealth Forestry Bureau and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the Forestry Departments of the various States. In Queensland, for instance, there is a very efficient forestry organization. My attention has been drawn to a statement which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 30th September, by Lord Robinson, the chairman of the British Forestry Commission, who visited Australia recently. He said that it was a matter of. urgency that Britain and Australia should look to their timber resources. He said, that during the war, Britain had cut from one-half to two-thirds of its softwoods and half of its hardwoods and that that great depletion of Britain’s forests had to be stopped or the bottom of the barrel would be reached in from eight to ten years. Britain could no longer get softwoods from Russia and the Baltic States, or hardwoods from Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, and dollars were not available to import hardwoods from America. Lord Robinson then indicated that more Australian hardwoods should be exported to Britain. I should like to know whether anything is being done to supply Britain’s requirements of those timbers.
.- I, too, should like to say something about Canberra’s railway services. Residents of this city at present’ do not have a vote, but they shortly will have one. It is amazing that in the year 1948, although passengers travelling from Melbourne to Canberra reach Goulburn at approximately 6 a.m., they do not arrive at the Capital City until after 11 a.m., although the distance is only 58 miles. I venture to say that there are at least 100 schoolboys in Canberra who could ride the distance on bicycles in less than that time. In fact, I am sure that they could give the train a start of one hour. An improvement of this service is long overdue. This is the Capital City of the Commonwealth, and its inhabitants are entitled at least to a service comparable with that provided for large country centres. I point out also that, at present, there is no train from Canberra to Melbourne on Thursday nights. It is time that something was done to rectify this deplorable state of affairs in the interests, of not only members of Parliament, but also the residents of Canberra. Senator O’Byrne is, of course, air-minded, but I am rail-minded and prefer to travel by train.
.– The vote for the Department of the Interior includes £467,000 for the rental of Commonwealth offices. This is a condemnation of statesmen of bygone years, particularly in view of the fact that in those days there was no shortage of labour and materials. This £467,000 is not the total sum that is expended annually On rent for Commonwealth offices. The real expenditure is more like £1,000,000, and, during the war, even that figure was exceeded. I take it that the rest of the expenditure on rents is provided for in votes for other departments. It is disgraceful that we should have an annual bill of this size for rents. Approval has been given by the Public Works Committee to the erection of several concrete and steel buildings in Melbourne, and I see no reason why they should not he proceeded with immediately. Their effect upon the housing programme would be negligible. Similarly, the immediate construction of the proposed new repatriation building in Perth would have little effect upon the housing programme. The provision of new office accommodation in Brisbane is also urgent, and should be undertaken as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth has not pressed its own claims for labour and materials against those of the States. The Commonwealth is entitled to its fair share so that we can get on with the job of providing essential buildings. The payment of rents for accommodation should not continue for one day longer than is absolutely necessary. I ask the Minister also what is being done to provide office accommodation at Hobart and Launceston. In Hobart, the Commonwealth Bank occupies premises which belong to, and are urgently required by, the Postmaster General’s Department. Action should be taken now to erect buildings in Hobart and Launceston for general office accommodation, federal members rooms, telephone exchanges, and so on. I should like to know what the Government proposes to do about this matter.
– I believe that all honorable senators appreciate the seriousness of the accommodation problem to which Senator Lamp has referred. It is very real in Canberra itself. Congestion in Canberra is caused by the great difficulty of providing accommodation for public servants, which is the result of the department’s inability, because of labour and other shortages, to build all the accommodation required. The policy of the Government and the department is to build more accommodation whenever possible. A comprehensive building programme has been laid down and the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) is very active in the matter. Every endeavour is being made to provide the necessary accommodation. This important matter has been continually raised in Cabinet and I know that the whole question is receiving the most serious attention.
I do not believe that any one will object to what Senator Katz has said about railway facilities and accommodation in Canberra. I can assure the honorable senator that the importance of improving rail facilities is appreciated by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), who has made recommendations in certain quarters with a view to improving the railway service to Canberra. I understand he is in contact with the New South Wales Government with a view to having the service improved.
– What about the Launceston and Hobart offices ?
– I do not know the position regarding them at the moment. The Minister for Works and Housing is doing everything possible to meet the very heavy demands of housing in this country, not only for people already here but also for immigrants.
In reply to Senator O’Sullivan’s remarks regarding the association of the Commonwealth Forestry Bureau with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and in respect of hardwoods and conservation of timber, I know personally that the utmost co-operation exists between the States and the Commonwealth in the matter of reafforestation.
. -I appreciate that owing to many difficulties we must expect to have temporary buildings in Canberra for some time to come, but I urge the Minister to keep the number of temporary buildings down to a minimum, and where such buildings are unsightly, I request that they be placed in a position where they shall not constitute an eyesore as some of them do now. They could be placed in an out of the way position other than the site that the’ permanent buildings will occupy when they are erected.
I shall refer to another item which concerns the renting of buildings by the Commonwealth for use as accommodation for departmental staff. Nearly £500,000 is being provided for that purpose. I request the Government to release as quickly as possible private buildings being rented by it. In some places, .and I refer to Brisbane in particular, Commonwealth. departments which are not very important are occupying rented private buildings in the centre of the city. Such departments could do their work just as efficiently in accommodation away from the centre of the city, thus making the premises they now occupy available for private interests whose activities require a central location.
– I am quite sure the Government has a full appreciation of the matters raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) and I know that as far as Brisbane is concerned elaborate plans have been made for the accommodation of government offices.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Works and Housing.
Proposed vote, £2,200,000.
.-I congratulate the Government on commencing work on the construction of the first administrative building in the new government block in Canberra. I understand that the building will be one of the best in the southern hemisphere, and that American and English journals have very favorably commented upon it. I consider that the Department of Works and Housing should take into consideration the necessity for planning the second administrative block to be erected opposite the one being built at the present time, and I ask the Government to give some consideration to that suggestion. With respect to the furnishing of the new building, I suggest that the Government adopt the plan used in the Australian Natives Association building, in Melbourne, where each floor is dedicated to a State and the timber used for the various floors comes from the State represented. I believe the Government might well follow a similar scheme in the new administrative block.
– Nothing is as important as the provision of houses for our own people and for immigrants. I appreciate that the Government has done much in that connexion but the efforts it has made have not been as fruitful as honorable senators would like. Of the 19,000 houses commenced under the State-Commonwealth housing scheme since its inception only 10,400 have been completed, whereas in the same period private builders have completed over 48,000. I request the Government to give every possible encouragement and facility to private enterprise so that homes may be made available for those who so urgently need them.
– I shall convey the excellent suggestionof Senator Lamp regarding the furnishing of the new administrative block to the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) and I am certain that something will come of it. I appreciate that the problem of solving the housing shortage is foremost in the mind of Senator O’Sullivan as in the minds of other honorable senators, and I believe that not only have the Commonwealth and State governments co-operated in attempting to solve the problem but that private builders also have pulled their weight. I believe that, together, they have done a really magnificent job in helping towards a solution of the problem, and that within the next twelve or eighteen months the urgency of the problem will have diminished considerably. However, I hope that the problem will always remain with us because it is a sign of virility. By that, I mean that I hope that the influx of large numbersof people from overseas will require the continued construction of homes and that the influx will be sufficient to cause a housing shortage. There will also be a shortage while young people continue to get married and desire to set up homes of their own.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Civil Aviation.
Proposed vote, £4,568,000.
– Division 65 concerns international air services. Under “ AustraliaPacific Islands and Other Services “, there is provision for £32,000 as payment to the contractor, and under “ Australia-United Kingdom Service “ there is provision for the expenditure of £S60,000 for the same purpose. The name of the contractor is not mentioned, and I ask whether the contractor is Trans-Australia Airlines or Qantas Empire Airways Limited, what is the size of the contract, and whether tenders were called?
.- t would appreciate information as to whether anything has been done to establish the manufacture of aircraft in Australia suitable for the carriage of freight and passengers. I see no reason why Australia should not use government workshops and factories for the manufacture of such aircraft. I consider that the Government would be taking a good step if it maintained factories for that purpose because they might be required later for other purposes. I understand that Australia has a good aircraft in the Lincoln bomber and I cannot see why such aircraft could not be converted for the carriage of freight and also be manufactured in this country.
– The contractor for the Australia-Pacific Islands service is Qantas Empire Airways Limited. I agree entirely with what Senator Lamp has said. I was Minister for Aircraft Production during the recent war and I know that Australia has the workshops the machines and, the trained personnel capable of constructing as well as converting aircraft. I trust that the workshops and factories will be kept in commission and I am certain that the Government will, as far as possible, keep up to date in the provision of aircraft required for civil purposes as well as for defence.
– The Minister has not answered my question regarding the Australia-United Kingdom service.
– Qantas Empire Airways Limited is also the contractor for that service.
– Were tenders called or was the contract just given out by the Government?
– Qantas Empire Airways Limited is a government company.
– I notice that the vote for this department is £719,434 in excess of the expenditure last year. In a statement recently the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) said that the objective of Trans-Australia Airlines was to provide a service of national importance sustained by its own earnings and that the commission felt that it was well on the way to achieving that purpose. That would be a happy position if it were true, but the Government advance to Trans-Australia Airlines last year was £3,670,000 and Trans-Australia Airlines incurred a loss of £296,801, while during the preceding ten months it incurred a loss of £505,927. I have great respect for the ability, efficiency and courtesy of the staff of Trans-Australia Airlines, and my criticism is not levelled against them but against the unfair competition with private enterprise in which the present Government has indulged. The Government is riding absolutely rough-shod over the pioneers of aviation. Despite the sacrifices, ingenuity and daring by which they have put Australia in the forefront of world aviation, the Government has given them scant consideration. In many instances, ex-servicemen who invested their all in the operation of small airlines have been wiped out aa the result of the unfair infiltration of government-operated lines into their routes. Those operators have been put out of business without receiving any compensation whatever. The courtesy extended to passengers who travel by Trans-Australia Airlines is of a high order, but courtesy does not cost money. What is unfair is the Government’s competition through Trans-Australia Airlines with private operators, because the latter have to meet heavy taxation and substantial charges which are not a charge against government-operated lines. If the Government intends to persist in the conduct of airlines, I appeal to it to operate on a fair competitive basis and not by unfair competition throw out of business private operators who have done so much to pioneer civil aviation in this country.
.- Will the Postmaster-General (Senator
Cameron) inform the committee of the amount outstanding by private airline operators to the Government in respect of the provision of ground services and other facilities?
– I am informed that private airline operators owe to the Government the sum of £533,000 in respect of air route charges. Those charges are based on current charges and March, 1948, airline schedules. However, that indebtedness is subject to the result of writs which have been issued out of the High Court against certain airline operators, and also to variations of airline schedules. The Government has been forced to take legal proceedings in order to recover the amount due.
In reply to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan), I say that the achievements of private airline operators have been made possible only as the result of the very great and sustained assistance which they have received from the Government. Had that assistance not been forthcoming, such operators would not have been able to continue; and the time did arrive when the services they provided did not meet the demands or requirements of the people. Consequently, the Government had to step into the breach and provide not only up-to-date but also the safest possible air services. I remind the honorable senator that no concern can provide the maximum service and, at the same time, pay high dividends. The Government is not under any obligation to pay dividends-
– It has not much chance of paying dividends out of the losses Trans-Australia Airlines is incurring.
– The deficit resulting from Trans-Australia Airlines’ operations is- not a loss; it is actually a gain. Every so-called loss incurred by the Government is really a gain to the people. It is merely a paper loss, and not an actual or material loss. The Government could charge higher fares, and thua balance the ledger. It is problematical at the moment whether the deficit shown by Trans-Australia Airlines is a loss, because, if, within two years, revenue has not been sufficient to cover both the capital cost and the cost of operations it does, not necessarily follow that any deficit is a loss. Trans-Australia Airlines has improved its service almost beyond recognition. That organization has dispensed with DC2’s, and has acquired DC3’s. I doubt very much whether DC4’s would be operating in Australia had it not been for the initiative of the Government in acquiring them, or whether Convairs would be in service in this country if airline services had been left wholly and solely to private enterprise. Considering all the circumstances, Trans-Australia Airlines has more than justified its existence. It has not had an accident, and it has maintained its schedules as far as it has been physically possible to do so.
– The Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) has referred to the Convair aircraft which have been purchased by the Government for TransAustralia Airlines. I understand that over 2,500,000 dollars was involved in that transaction. I am not an expert on aircraft of different types, but the opinion is generally held that no better aircraft is built than British aircraft. In view of the fact that Australia was so short of dollars, why did not the Government purchase British aircraft instead of Convairs, and thus save an expenditure of 2,500,000 dollars?
– Speaking from memory, the contract for the purchase of the Convair aeroplanes was entered into by the Government before the shortage of dollars became as acute as it is to-day. Furthermore, the price paid under the contract was about onethird of the price being charged for those machines at present. Therefore, the Government made a very good bargain in purchasing those aeroplanes.
– Their price has gone up since?
– I am informed that the price of the Convair has risen considerably since the Government bought aeroplanes of that type.
– Provision is being made for grants to aero clubs. I understand that all aero clubs approved by the department receive considerable subsidies.I am informed that it is .the practice of such clubs to charge young pupils about ?120 for training sufficient to enable them to gain their wings. Such pupils are obliged to be at the aerodrome at 6 a.m. and many of them sacrifice their weekend sport and recreation in order to gain instruction in flying. Some of them undergo that instruction purely for exhilaration, but many do so out of a sense of service and with a desire to equip themselves as aviators in the event of their services being required by the nation in an emergency. It is regrettable that these young lads should have to bear so great an expense in order to qualify as pilots. Some encouragement should be given to them. I suggest that when a pupil gains his wings, the cost of his instruction should be refunded to him. The Government would be not only generous but also wise in showing its appreciation in that way of the calibre and character of boys who undergo such training. The Government should say to them, in effect, “You have done very well. We will reimburse you for the expense you have incurred in acquiring your wings”.
.- Off hand, I cannot give the exact amount which the Government now pays in grants to aero clubs. I agree entirely with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) that we should do all we can to assist young men who, at their own expense, undergo training to qualify as competent airmen. I shall bring the honorable senator’s representations to the notice of the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford).
.- The sum of ?606,000 is being provided in respect of domestic air services for the conveyance of mails. Can the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) inform me who are the contractors for such services? I suggest that in future the names of contractors in all cases of this kind should be shown in the Estimates. At present, the names are given in some instances only.
– There are about a dozen contractors engaged in the conveyance of mails under the heading of domestic air services. They include Trans-Australia Airlines, Aircrafts Proprietary Limited, Airlines (Western Australia) Limited, Ansett Airways Limited, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, Butler Air Transport Proprietary Limited and New England Airways, but Trans-Australia Airlines is the main contractor.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vole - Department of Trade and Customs, ?1,513,000 - agreed to.
DEPARTMENT of Health.
Proposed vote, ?477,600.
– I wish to deal with the item “ Serum laboratories “. I understand that supplies of serum are being made availal.12 free of cost to some municipalities only. I urge the Government to make such supplies available to all municipalities. As the Government claims that it is so concerned about the health of the community and insists upon providing free medicine, surely it will do so.
– I have mentioned the two types of products which are made available free to municipal authorities through State governments, namely, antidiphtheric serum and anti-whooping cough serum or vaccine. It is important that immunization should be conducted under certain specified conditions which :. i designed to protect the Commonwealth against waste and to ensure the observance of proper hygienic conditions in the interests of the patients. The Government has prescribed a. number of conditions which must be observed before it will make free supplies available. When the pharmaceutical benefits scheme is in operation the vaccine and sera and other products of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories will be made available free to people on prescription by a medical practitioner. Included in those products are a number of important specifics and therapeutic preparations. The correct dosages of those therapeutics, which have great therapeutic and preventive value, are determined by those who prepare them. It is a matter of great regret to the Government that although it is prepared to make them available to the public free not many medical practitioners are prepared to co-operate. The policy of the Government in regard to mass immunization, which is quite clear, is that where such immunization can. be undertaken safely and without waste the Government is prepared to make available vaccines and sera without charge to those who receive them.
– Is the Government prepared to make them available to municipal councils?
– J point out to the honorable senator that the Government does not deal with individuals, and in order to prevent any misconception by local authorities we make supplies available through the appropriate State Health Departments.
– Division 80a, Pharmaceutical Services, shows that the sum of £25,772 was expended last financial year. If a citizen who desires to obtain free pharmaceutical services for himself and his family submits himself to examination by a medical practitioner and obtains a prescription, not on the prescribed form, but on some other form, to which is added a written request that the service be provided free, can the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) inform me whether ho is entitled to obtain free pharmaceutical service? An instance of this kind occurred recently in Western Australia when a man who was receiving only the basic wage required free pharmaceutical service for his child.
Item 5 of Division 80 shows that it is proposed to expend £9,200 for “ Hospital Benefits Administration - Payments to States “. Does that estimate indicate that the Commonwealth bears the whole administrative cost of the scheme or that the States contribute towards it?
Senator McKENNA (Tasmania - Minister for Health and Minister for Social
Services) [10.33].- The item of £9,200 mentioned by the honorable senator represents part of the general expenditure of the Department of Health at the official level, and covers postages and payments to the States. However, that sum represents only a small moiety of the national administrative expenditure, and the total amount involved in the payment of hospital benefits is far greater. The total amount paid by the Commonwealth for hospital benefits last year amounted to £4,448,000, and this year it is estimated that the total will amount to approximately £5,S00,000. However, whereas hospital benefits were paid last year at a rate of 6s. a day, the rate which has been paid since the 1st July last to public hospitals is 8s. a day. That payment is made to State governments on condition that they ensure that no charge is made by hospitals for treatment, accommodation and medicines supplied to any patient in a public ward in any part of an hospital. From the 1st November next, the Commonwealth will also contribute 8s. a day towards the cost incurred by a patient in an intermediate ward of a public hospital or in a private hospital. Those payments represent a substantial contribution by the Commonwealth, and form part of the Government’s policy to eliminate the economic barrier which exists between many patients and access to the best possible treatment.
The honorable senator postulated the case of a person to whom a medical practitioner gave a prescription which was not on the prescribed form and would not therefore be dispensed free by a pharmacist. An essential element of the whole scheme is that any prescription for pharmaceutical benefits must be written on a particular form. On several occasions, I have given detailed reasons to the Senate why it is impossible to depart from that principle. In regard to cases of the kind mentioned by the honorable senator, I advise him that patients are not entitled to obtain free medicine in such circumstances but must pay for it, irrespective of their economic status.
.- I thank the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) for the information which he supplied in reply to tuy inquiry concerning hospital ‘benefits. However, I did not confuse the amount shown on the estimates with the payment of 8s. a day which is now made by the Government. I wanted to know whether the amount of £9,200 shown in the Estimates refers at all to an arrangement between the Commonwealth and State governments to share the cost of administration, or whether it relates to some special concession provided by the Commonwealth for the States.
.- -In five States the State Departments of Health act as the agents of the Commonwealth Government in administering the hospital benefits scheme, and at the end of a period the Commonwealth reimburses them for the expenditure which they have incurred. New South Wales is the only State in which the Commonwealth Department of Health directly administers the distribution of hospital ‘benefits. The estimate of £9,200 represents the cost of reimbursing the other States, which administer the distribution of hospital benefits administration on behalf of the Commonwealth.
– Will the Government consider establishing its own organization to administer hospital benefits throughout Australia ?
– The Department of Health is on the eve of vast developments. Its activities have increased considerably in recent years, but at present the Government is experiencing considerable difficulty in its efforts to obtain accommodation and qualified staff. Circumstances compel us to avail ourselves of the services and organizations established by State governments. I think that when the Commonwealth proposes to embark on any new scheme of administration it is advisable in the initial stages for it to avail itself of existing State organizations. However, I envisage considerable development of the department in the near future, and as accommodation and other facilities become available to the Commonwealth in the States I think that it is likely that the Commonwealth will itself undertake the task of administering the distribution of hospital benefits. At the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers the States requested that when the Commonwealth contemplated embarking upon some new activity it should first confer with the States in order to ascertain whether it could utilise existing State facilities instead of establishing new organizations, and in administering the present scheme the Government has borne that request in mind.
Senator O’SULLIVAN (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Opposition) 1 10.41]. - Some time ago the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) explained the state of the negotiations between the Government and the British Medical Association, but I understand that since then he has had further discussions with that body. Is the Minister disposed to make any statement of the present state of the negotiations?
– I cannot carry the matter any further at present. Whilst I have received a further communication from the Federal Council of the British Medical Association, I do not think that it would be politic or desirable to embark upon any further discussion of the matter at the present stage.
– Division 80a, Pharmaceutical Services, shows that during the financial year 1947-48 £25,772 was expended for that purpose, but no sum is shown in the column provided for the estimates for 1948-49. A footnote to the item refers the reader to Division 83, Health Services, which indicates that “ Incidental and other- expenditure “ last year amounted to £23,000. Can the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) indicate the estimated expenditure for the current financial year?
– I assume that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) has before him the general summary set out in Division 83.
Health Services. Division 80a, Pharmaceutical Services, contains a note which refers to Division 83, Health Services. If the honorable senator will again refer to the summary of estimated expenditure contained in Division 83 he will see that the total estimated expenditure for that division amounts to £239,000. That division is divided into two categories, which are as follows: -
Those two categories contain the estimated expenditure for salaries and general expenses covered by the items referred to in the preceding estimates. The sum of £23,000 allocated for “incidental and other expenditure “ in Division 83 is provided for the current financial year. The sums estimated to cover salaries for officers of the various undertakings are set out in the schedule of salaries and allowances, and include payments to the Director-General of Health and Senior Medical Officers, Director of Division of Veterinary Hygiene, Director of Division of Plant Quarantine, Director of Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, Director of School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and the Director of the Australian Institute of Anatomy. All the administrative expenses of salaries and office administration are grouped under Division 83, Health Services, instead of being detailed separately, which is a new arrangement.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department oe COMMERCE and Agriculture.
Proposed vote, £846,000.
– I notice that the Government has estimated that expenditure by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture will be £103,200 more this year than the vote for 1947-48. The department is responsible for matters which vitally affect men on the land. At present, over a great area of Queensland, graziers and farmers are suffering severely from drought. They are caused a considerable amount of extra worry and financial loss by the acute shortage of wire and wire netting. We earn a lot of dollars from the sale of rabbit skins, and it would be only poetic justice if the dollars which rabbits earn for us were converted into wire netting in order to preserve rural properties from the ravages of rabbits. In many parts of Queensland, high losses are also caused by the depredations of dogs and dingoes, which will continue until adequate stocks of wire netting become available. I urge the Government to give serious consideration to releasing additional dollars for the purchase of urgently needed wire and wire netting by our primary producers.
– I draw attention to the necessity for the Department of Commerce and Agriculture to concentrate upon the improvement of the quality of Australian stock. Our economy is based on primary production, but the average quality of our stock does not compare favorably with that of stock in other parts of the world, such as Argentina and even the United Kingdom. That is because we have not paid sufficient attention to the standard of the stud animals that have been made available to our farmers. The standard of animals bred on stud farms is high, but farmers generally are not able to afford to pay for the best quality stock. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is experimenting constantly with the improvement of seed wheat and other grains, and I suggest that the Go-1 vernment, through the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, should pay subsidies on stud bulls and rams so that they can be made available at the cheapest possible rates to primary producers. Our flocks should be built up from the best animals in our studs, which are undoubtedly of high quality. This would enable us to compete on favorable terms with countries like Argentina, when world markets become more competitive. We have a ready sale for everything that we can produce at present, but competition will become keener and, unless we deal with this basic problem, we shall find ourselves at a disadvantage later. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture should encourage the breeding of the highest quality stock in large numbers so that dairy-farmers, fatlamb raisers, wool-growers and beefgrowers may benefit. I have heard experts say that, if we sent stud bulls to the Northern Territory, the “ mickies :’ would kill them, but that is an old-fashioned idea. We should have pure-bred bulls in the most distant parts of the continent just as we should have them in our rich southern dairy areas. I urge the Government to improve the general standard of our stock by subsidizing the breeding of first-class animals. I am certain that the national economy would benefit considerably if it pursued such a policy.
– Does Senator O’Byrne want the Government to provide stud stock to enable the general standard of our flocks and herds to be improved, or to educate producers so that they will realize the importance of maintaining the highest possible standards?
– Our merino sheep, of course, are of a particularly high standard.
– The best animals are very good, but the quality tails off.
– I agree that it is a responsibility of governments to impress upon primary producers the necessity for improving their strains of stock as much as possible. I appreciate Senator O’Byrne’s suggestion, but I believe, that primary producers generally are aware of the importance of maintaining high standards. I shall bring the honorable senator’s suggestion to the notice of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard).
The shortage of wire and wire netting mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) is very serious and considerable pressure has been brought to bear upon the Government with a view to obtaining increased supplies. The allocation of dollar funds receives the constant close attention of the Government, and it has established special authorities to deal with the distribution of available resources to the best advantage of our industries. The Government has done everything possible to increase local production of wire and wire netting. The local products are better and cheaper than any that can be imported. The cost of wire netting manufactured overseas is so high as to be almost prohibitive to many primary producers who are badly in need of it. The Government fully appreciates the importance of this problem and realizes that the destruction of pastures by rabbits will have very serious consequences. It is giving earnest consideration to the subject.
– I notice that provision is made for the expenditure of considerable sums for the general expenses of the department’s commercial intelligence service abroad. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture indicate the nature of that service? The item refers to representation in Canada, New Zealand, Egypt and the Middle East, the United States of America, Brazil and Chile, among other places. Will the Minister say whether the posts are occupied by officials who are resident in these countries permanently, or whether officers of different departments fill them from time to time? I should also like to know whether the Minister sends experienced officers to other parts of the world to keep them in touch with the latest developments in countries which have problems similar to or comparable with those with which the Department of Commerce and Agriculture is likely to be faced.
.- I understand that the British Government is prepared to spend £25,000,000 in Australia for the purpose of increasing the production of beef for shipment to the United Kingdom. Will the Minister say what stage the negotiations have reached ?
– Discussions have taken place between representatives of the British Government and the Australian Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) regarding the production of beef in Australia for shipment to Great Britain. I am unable to say what arrangements have been made. I shall ascertain the position and inform the honorable senator accordingly.
With regard to Australian trade representation in other countries, I inform the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) that the trade commissioner’s posts are permanent ones. The staffs of several of the commissioners were recently’ increased. Competent officers have been sent by the Australian Government to other countries to inform themselves of conditions there.
– What is the volume of trade between Australia and Chile and Brazil ?
– It is not substantial. I cannot supply the honorable senator with precise information now, but I shall do so later.
– The following two items, appear in the Estimates: -
Payments to States for services in connexion with inspections of fresh fruit, seeds, plants, vegetables and other items. - £2.000.
Payments to Australian Wheat Board for services in connexion with inspections of flour mills. - £2,500.
Does the Australian Government send inspectors to every State of the Commonwealth to inspect fresh fruit, seeds and the like, and also flour mills, or are some of the inspections carried out by officials of the State governments? The State governments have some responsibility in this matter. Are they under an obligation to bear part of the cost of the inspections ?
– A sum of £7,000 is required for payment to the States for services rendered in connexion with the inspection services and analysis of samples. Expenditure is expected to increase during 1948-49. The sum of £2,500 payable to the Australian Wheat Board represents funds required in connexion with the inspection of flour mills under the Exports (Flour, Regulations, the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act 1905-1933, and the Customs Act. The inspections are carried out on behalf of this department by the. Australian Wheat Board.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Social Services.
Proposed vote, £892,000.
– A widow who is aged, say, 44 years and is no longer entitled to a widow’s pension because her youngest child has reached the age of sixteen years, is at a great disadvantage in endeavouring to obtain employment owing to the fact that she has been engaged in household duties and caring for her children for a long time. She must seek employment because there is what is known, I understand, as a work test. Although employment may be available, she may not be competent to do the work required of her. Such women are faced with grave difficulties, and I urge the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) to give sympathetic consideration to these eases.
– I realize that the widows to whom Senator Rankin has referred are in a difficult position. Our social service pattern enables us to approach their problems in several ways. If a widow is unable to work by reason of invalidity, an invalid pension is available r,o her. If she is fit to work and cannot obtain work, unemployment benefit or sickness benefit, if it is appropriate, is paid. If one of her children is undergoing full-time education and is not in employment, her widow’s pension will be continued for two years after the date when the child attains the age of sixteen years. A further benefit is available to cover exceptional cases. A widow may have a grown-up family and be forced to stay at home to prepare their meals and look after them generally. We can always have regard to her plight and meet it with a special benefit, but it will be recognized that in those circumstances we take into consideration the total income of the family and the surrounding circumstances. In fact, the Commonwealth cannot make payments merely because a particular condition exists, unless, in addition, there is a need which requires relief. . The honorable senator may rest assured that there would be, from my department, a most sympathetic approach to the problems presented in any such case.
.- The sum of ?60,000 is provided for rehabilitation benefits and I should like the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) to supply some information on the manner in which that money is to be expended;
– I notice that in relation to the unemployment and sickness benefit the number of inquiry officers in each State has been increased. Will the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) give some indication of the nature of the duties of those officers?
– Senator Cooke has inquired about item 95, which, as he pointed out, provides ?60,000 for rehabilitation purposes. That sum is made up of ?10,000 for administrative salaries, ?5,000 for general expenses, and ?45,000 for certain dental, medical, and therapeutic treatment. The story behind the rehabilitation scheme is that, following the war period, a number of exservicemen were found to be suffering from certain disabilities which were not warcaused. My department was asked by the Department of Post-war Reconstruction to look upon that set of problems with particular care. Cabinet approved the setting up of rehabilitation centres to enable those disabled servicemen to be rehabilitated to their own satisfaction, and to the relief of the country’s revenue. That scheme was particularly successful, tt was watched most carefully, and the Government has now decided that it should be expanded to include certain selected classes of civilians. The hope is entertained that soon the scheme will be extended to embrace all disabled persons in the community. The Government regards that work as of supreme importance to the individuals concerned, as well as from the economic viewpoint of the nation. I shall leave the matter there at present because a bill which I introduced into the Senate this morning relates to this very subject of rehabilitation, and it may well be that I shall deliver my second-reading speech on the measure in this chamber to-morrow.
Senator Sheehan has asked why the number of inquiry officers has been increased. In all cases of applications for benefits, inquiries, very often of a sympathetic nature, have to be made. Sometimes a person who has applied for a sickness benefit should, in fact, have sought an invalid pension which would give a greater return. Returns have to be made by employers when people submit applications and occasionally employers neglect to provide the information that is sought. An inquiry officer has to be sent out to obtain the necessary information for the department. Not only are those officers called upon to make a sympathetic approach in some instances, but also on occasions they have to investigate cases of fraud. Their efforts are supplemented by another service that is being extended. Social workers, mostly women, who are specially trained in social welfare work, pay periodical visits to problem cases and assist them financially, psychologically, and socially. The idea is to evaluate the benefit of the services, and the payments that are being made in the various categories, and also to help people to re-establish themselves in life with self-respect. The department’s object is to encourage people to believe that their personal dignity should be preserved, and their usefulness to the community fostered.
– One is loath to direct any criticism to this excellent department, and I have no wish to do that. The department is staffed by most efficient officers. I was most interested to hear the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) describe the duties performed by inspectors. I believe that those officers do a good job, but there is one phase of the unemployment and sickness benefit which I believe requires some examination, and possibly it may come within the jurisdiction of the inspectors. Some people, both male and female, who are stricken with illness, are deprived of the sickness benefit because, upon discharge from hospital, they forget, or are too ill to make an application within the prescribed period of six weeks. I have had two or three such cases through my hands recently. One has not yet reached finality. I stress the fact that the sickness benefit is not a charity. The social services contribution is paid by people on quite low incomes. I believe that some arrangement could be made whereby a person who had suffered from some illness, and had received medical and hospital attention, would be automatically entitled to the sickness benefit whether or not an application had been made within the prescribed period. To deprive a person of this benefit merely because an application is made perhaps two or three days after the six weeks have elapsed, is wrong. If a person has been ill, he or she should receive the sickness benefit. In most cases, the recipient would have been a contributor to the National Welfare Fund for a number of years, and would be entitled to the benefits for which his contributions had been made. I know that the officers of the department are sympathetic, but they are bound by the regulation, and if they adhere strictly to the regulation the claimant must lose the benefit of the provision. The hospital in which the person is treated is entitled to be paid 8s. a day for the period for which he was an inmate. I take it that the hospital, when claiming payment, must state the name of the person treated. so that the claim by the hospital could be regarded as corroboration of the claim by the patient. I have no general complaint against the way in which the department is administered. Officers go out of their way to help those with whom they deal, but the regulations in some instances need to be amended.
– An invalid child under the age of sixteen is not eligible to draw a pension, a fact which sometimes leads to real hardship. Will the Minister say whether such a child could be cared for under the special benefits provision?
– No, it could not. I come now to the point raised by Senator Sheehan. Before the Social Services Consolidation Act became effective on the 1st July, 1947, stringent provisions were enforced in connexion with sickness benefits. The act incorporated 50 separate acts, and many of the provisions in those acts were relaxed. The law now provides that, in the circumstances outlined by the honorable senator, a person may make a claim at any time within six weeks of the beginning of his illness, or at any later time if the delay arose out of causes connected with his incapacity, or if it arose out of any other sufficient cause.
– Ignorance of the law is not regarded as an excuse.
– No, and that is a well-known principle of law. If the prescribed period were six years instead of six weeks there would still be some people who would go over the limit. As the provision is now drawn, there is almost as much latitude allowed as if there were no provision at all. However honorable senators will recognize the need for imposing conditions. In every community there are persons who will perpetrate fraud if they can, people who will claim that they are ill when, in fact, they are fit to go to work. Therefore, the department requires the production of medical certificates at stated intervals. If claims were allowed to be presented months after the beginning of an illness it would be impossible to impose the necessary check.
– In the case to which I referred, the evidence of the claimant was well corroborated. The facts were not in dispute.
– While a patient remains in hospital, no difficulty can arise, but it is a different matter when the claimant allows a long period to elapse after leaving the hospital before he submits his claim. If a person is stricken with illness, and cannot give notice to the department, or forgets to do so, notification by a third party is regarded as sufficient, and the necessary formalities can be completed later. If the honorable senator will supply me with particulars of individual cases he has in mind I shall investigate them.
– In the case I have mentioned, the claim was lodged only four days late.
– Perhaps some features associated with the case have slipped the memory of the honorable senator. The department has made every endeavour to publicize the provisions of the act so that people may know to what they are entitled, and the obligations which the law imposes. We have circularized hospitals asking thom to inform patients of their rights, and we keep the hospitals supplied with application forms upon which patients may enter claims. Mere ignorance of rights under the law cannot be regarded as an excuse. If it were, we should have to abandon all tests designed to establish whether or not a person was incapacitated, and then it would be impossible to do what is necessary in order to guard the public revenue.
– In view of the distress sometimes caused by the refusal to pay a pension in respect of invalid children under sixteen years of age, will the Minister reconsider this provision?
– No special benefit applies to such children, but they are eligible for child endowment.
– Not the first child.
– That is so. One reason for the Commonwealth not entering that field is that the States are very active in it. Their child welfare departments make reasonable provisions for such cases. Before committing myself to a statement that the Commonwealth should enter the field, I should need to be convinced that the States were not covering it adequately. Even then, it would be necessary to consider whether the Commonwealth should merely supplement the action of States, or whether it should oust them from the field. Apart from what the honorable senator has said, I have received no representations on the subject.
– Does the Commonwealth make a grant to the States to meet expenditure by them on the relief of invalid children?
– I know of no instance of any such grant being made, but assistance has been given to wives whose husbands have been imprisoned for six months or more. In its approach to the problem the Department of Social Services must take into consideration all the agencies in the field. For instance. I was confirmed in my approach to the matter of providing a pension for widows whose husbands were in prison for a period of six months. I discovered that the States looked after the widow to an appreciable extent during that period, and that there was no need for the Commonwealth to enter that field. There was another consideration which is not pertinent to the issue the chamber is now discussing. I am not suggesting that the Commonwealth should base its approach on the basis of merely supplementing what others are doing. The Commonwealth has led in many fields such as unemployment and sickness benefits.
– I understand, with respect to age pensions, that a so called de facto wife is a female dependant for the purposes Of receiving a pension. Is it necessary that such an illicit relationship must exist before a housekeeper can receive a pension as a female dependant of a person for whom she is caring?
.- The term “de facto wife “ is not used by the Social Services Department or the legislation. It does not appear anywhere in the legislation.
– The legislation says “ reputed wife “.
– The term employed is “ dependent female “. There is no reference to a reputed wife or a de facto wife in the whole of the legislation. A woman keeping house for a man would stand entirely on her own merits regarding her eligibility for social service benefits. One would imagine that where a woman was acting as a housekeeper on an entirely platonic basis she would be a paid employee and her problem would be approached from the viewpoint that she had board, accommodation and an income. I do not consider that such a person would be eligible for social service benefits, but assuming that she were entitled to some benefits, she would be considered a ” femme sole” and not a dependant.
– I have the definition now before me which I did not have before. The definition in the bill states that a dependent female - means, in relation to the operation of any provision of this Act, a woman who has lived with a man (in this Part referred to as her husband) as his wife on a permanent and bona fide domestic basis, although not legally married to him, for not less than three years immediately preceding the operation of that provision in relation to that #oman or man.
Cs it necessary for the female involved to be reputedly the wife or have actively lived as the wife of a man in order to come within the definition of “dependent female “?
– We are dealing with the position that, where a matrimonial relationship exists, whether it is blessed by the- church or not, after a certain period a woman who has acted as a dependent female has put herself in the position where she cannot be regarded as an employee and must be dealt with as a special case. For the purposes of benefits such a woman would be treated as a wife if she had lived on a matrimonial basis for a period of three years. The period of three years is the test.
– She must comply with the means test.
– She must comply with all the other disabilities, and there are many, because there may be children.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Supply and Development.
Proposed vote, £1,115,500.
– I compliment the department on its shipping construction programme both past and future, and on behalf of Tasmania I should like to urge that this particular activity bo extended as widely as possible. Tasmania is in the unfortunate position that its people are in the hands of monopolists who are not giving them as good a service as they should be getting, and they hope that the Commonwealth will be able to extend shipping construction and establish a Commonwealthowned line of ships during the coming year. Ships being constructed by the department are good ships with all facilities for the crews. We repeatedly hear criticism of the Commonwealth line of ships that was established after the last war. I believe that that line was deliberately sabotaged and that its failure has been used ever since as a stick with which the Opposition flogs the political dog. The sale of the ships themselves was not a very good business venture and’, in fact, they have never been paid for. I believe that in the light of experience the Commonwealth would be well able to run a line of ships of the standard and quality being constructed by the department. The provision of ships is a matter of national importance, and is particularly important for Tasmania, which is isolated from the rest of Australia. Other States have rail links, but Tasmania is entirely dependent on ships.
– Under Division 101, provision is made for the conversion of the Western Australian electric power supply to 50-cycle frequency. Will the Minister explain what is meant by that item?
– I inform Senator O’Byrne that no shipbuilding work is being undertaken by the Shipbuilding Board in Tasmania. During the war, wooden ships were constructed in that State solely for war purposes. Since the termination of hostilities, no shipbuilding has been undertaken in Tasmania.
– I intended my remarks to refer to shipbuilding being carried out at Whyalla, in South Australia, and by Evans Deakin Limited, in Queensland.
– The proposal for the establishment of a Commonwealth line of steamers will be dealt with by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) to-morrow.
Senator Lamp has referred to the conversion of the Western Australian electric supply system to 50-cycle frequency. The Government has made grants to the Western Australian Government, originally for a period of three years, and lately for longer periods, towards the cost of the conversion of the Western Australian electric supply system from. 40. to 50-cycle frequency.
– The Western Australian Government is on a good wicket.
– All States need assistance of some kind. The conversion of the Western Australian system to the standard 50-cycle frequency is important from the stand-point of Australia’s defence.
– I refer to Division 100, Essential Industries and Production. I assume that under that item assistance will be, given to the Australian Aluminium Production Commission for the establishment of the aluminium industry in Australia.
– Provision is not made under that division.
– I understand that an agreement was entered into between the Australian Government and the Government of Tasmania in 1944 for the establishment of the aluminium industry in that State but that no great progress has been made. Although Tasmania has a cheap and plentiful power supply, the largest deposits of high-grade bauxite are located on the mainland, principally in the Inverell district. 1 ask’ the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator Armstrong) to give consideration to the establishment of an aluminium plant at a site nearer the source of supply of bauxite. A site should be selected as near as possible to Inverell, but with convenient access to a port. If that were done, an important area in northern New South Wales could be adequately developed and there would be no necessity to transport bauxite from its source across Bass Strait to Tasmania, and bring the finished product back to the mainland.
– A factor in the production of aluminium, which is even more important than the source of the bauxite, is the location of the factory for processing bauxite and alumina in an area in which cheap electric power in great volume is available. For that reason, a site has been selected for the establishment of the aluminium factory on the- Tamar River, north of Launceston. An excellent port is available there. Tasmania has ample sources of electric power, which can be provided at the cheapest cost in the Commonwealth. Indeed, the charges for electricity .in Tasmania are only one-half of those on the mainland. The small initial plant envisaged will utilize 35,000 kilowatts per annum, which means that it must be located in an area where ample supplies of power are available. No final decision has yet been made in regard to this industry. It will be established in two phases. First, a plant will be established for the reduction of bauxite to alumina; and, secondly, a plant will be established for the reduction of alumina, or aluminium oxide, to aluminium. In the latter stage of manufacture, great power is needed. Tasmania is eminently suited for the establishment of this industry because of its vast resources of electric power.
– Have any of the buildings yet been erected in Tas- mania ?
– Complete surveys have been made, and substantia] sums of money have been paid to overseas companies, in the United States of America, Great Britain and Norway for technical advice. We are starting this industry in Australia absolutely from “ scratch “. .The Australian Aluminium Production Commission was established towards the end of 1943 or early in 1944. It has carried out a great deal of work, but because of the magnitude of this undertaking, there is little tangible evidence of the work to be seen. The Government is very fortunate in securing the services of men of such high calibre as those appointed to the commission. They would compare more than favorably with the directors of any company in Australia. The Government is closely examining all known deposits of bauxite in Australia. It has been ascertained that bauxite deposits exist in Tasmania as well as at Inverell.
– And at Tamborine, in Queensland.-
– Tests arc still being conducted in order that we may obtain the fullest information about known deposits before a final decision is made in relation to this industry. A modern laboratory has been established in Tasmania at which bauxite is tested, the probable deposits are estimated, and complete surveys are conducted. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition may rest assured that before a final decision is made, every factor associated with the industry will be given the fullest consideration.
Proposed vote agreed to.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Broadcasting Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1948, No. 134. Commonwealth Public Service Act- Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation - A. J. Bowler, K. G. H. Burr, C. L. Callaghan, J. D. Campbell, J. M. Carey, M. Cherny, N. D. Hagarty, J. V. Manley, D. R. McKinlay, W. R. Miles. Shipping and Fuel - J. C. Needham. Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1D48, No. 131.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Council for Scientific and Industrial Research purposes - Kojonup, Western Australia.
Department of Civil Aviation purposes -
Geraldton, Western Australia.
Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.
Western Junction, Tasmania. Postal purposes - .
North Strathfield, New South Wales.
Parkes, New South Wales.
West Maitland, New South Wales. Navigation Act - Regulations - Statutory
Rules 1048, No. 132. Quarantine Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1948, No. 133.
Senate adjourned at 11.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 October 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1948/19481027_senate_18_199/>.