18th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Australian Capital Territory Representation Bill (No. 2) 1948.
United Kingdom Grant Bill 1948.
States Grants Bill 1948.
Audit Bill 1948.
Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill 1948.
Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Bill 1948.
Egg Export Control Bill 1948.
Australian Broadcasting Bill 1948.
– Has the
Minister for Shipping and Fuel seen the article published in this morning’s “ Granny “ Herald which states that the Australian Government proposes to enter into an agreement with Japan for the supply of iron ore to that country from Yampi Sound? Does any agreement made in recent years with Japan for the exchange of commodities include any provision for the supply of iron ore from any part of the Commonwealth?
-I have not seen the report to which the honorable senator has referred. However, in answer to a similar question in the House of Representatives the Prime Minister said definitely that there was no prospect of iron ore fromYampi Sound being supplied to Japan.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction in a position to give any indication of the progress being made with the scheme in South Australia for the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land ? In particular, has he any information regarding a proposal to acquire what is known as the H. and H. S. Overton Estate, near Naracoorte?
– Some time ago, in reply to a question asked, I think, by Senator Critchley, I gave some details of the progress made with the scheme mentioned by the honorable senator. I shall refer to the answer I supplied on that occasion to see whether it is sufficiently comprehensive to supply the information sought by the honorable senator. If not, I shall have that reply brought up to date and will supply such information. As the honorable senator will appreciate, I have no particular knowledge of the Overton Estate which he suggests might be included in the scheme. I shall ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to supply me with information upon that point.
-On the 9th November, Senator Lamp asked whether the Government intended obtaining a report from the British town-planning authority, Sir Patrick Abercrombie, who recently visited Australia under the auspices of the British Council in association with the Commonwealth and. State Governments. I am informed that it was agreed by the Commonwealth authorities, in response to representations by the British Council, on. behalf of Sir Patrick
Abercrombie, that any work which might be undertaken by Sir Patrick during his visit should not be of a nature that would require him to prepare reports or drawings after his departure from Australia.
The following bills were returned from the House of Representatives without amendment : -
Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration
Trade Marks Bill 1948.
Mental Institution Benefits Bill 1948.
Acts Interpretation Bill (No. 2) 1948.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McKenna) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Honorable senators will notice that although this bill is very similar in form to that presented to the Senate twelve months ago, there is a very big change in substance. In form the bill is familiar to honorable senators because its purpose is simply to continue in operation for a further period of up to twelve months certain of the National Security Regulations originally retained by the principal act of 1946. A closer examination of the substance of the schedules of this bill, however, will reveal that whole major sections of the economic controls in operation in past years have either been dropped altogether or have been transferred in a modified form to State administration. Most of this modification of the economic controls, which affected everybody in Australia so closely, was effected after the prices and rents referendum. The Government no longer requires, therefore, any extension of the life of some of our former basic economic controls, except insofar as they apply to Commonwealth territories or insofar as the State authorities may have requested us to continue our regulations in force until such time as they inform us that their own arrangements are fully and satisfactorily operative. I remind honorable senators that the Government has now done a very considerable amount of work in discontinuance, transference and relaxation of the regulations originally appearing in the schedules to the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act 1946. By the time this bill has been passed ten sets of regulations, fifteen general and five supplementary regulations and three orders, so appearing, will have been totally discontinued since the 1st January, 1947, whilst another twelve sets of regulations and nine general and supplementary regulations will have been transferred to permanent legislation in the same period. Relaxation of controls does not lend itself to statistical assessment, but I also draw attention to the ending of all clothing, sugar and meat rationing, the easing of wage-pegging requirements and of the motor-car and vehicle permit system, the discontinuance for soldier settlement purposes of the land freezing clause in the Economic Organization Regulations and the repeal of the acquisition clauses in various marketing regulations.
But for the continuing unsettled state of the post-war world, the continuing need for assisting the British economy in particular, and the chronic shortage of dollars from which all British Commonwealth and sterling bloc members are suffering, the Government might have been able to discontinue most, if not all, of the economic side of transitional provision powers. For these reasons, however, economic controls have to be continued to ensure stability or proper priority in meeting national needs. There are also other non-economic regulations, though a diminishing number, which cannot yet be dispensed with. I feel, therefore, that it would behelpful here to say a word or two about each of the main sets of regulations still remaining.
First, we have the three sets which were taken over recently by State governments - Prices, Economic Organization, Parts III. andIIIa, and Landlord and Tenant - but which have to be kept in operation by the Commonwealth so far as they apply to its various territories. I do not think that I need comment upon the decision to retain these regulations. They will continue to operate within the territories, and some will have a limited operation within the States to enable a smooth transfer of control to he effected.
Incidental to the continuance of land sales control by the States, the Commonwealth will continue to assess land tax upon pegged values. This will be achieved by clause 7 of the bill. Land values are fixed for a period of three years, known as the “ triennial period “, under the Land Tax Assessment Act. The 30th June, 1948, was the date of commencement of a new triennial period and the values adopted as at that date for assessment purposes would automatically apply as at the 30th June, 1949, and 1950. However, if the control of rents and land sales be lifted by the States before the expiration of the triennial period, it might be advisable then to amend the Land Tax Assessment Act to provide that a new triennial period should commence at the 30th June, immediately succeeding the lifting of those controls. I desire, therefore to make it clear that the continuation of the pegging of values by this bill does not necessarily mean that such values will also apply for land held at the 30th June, 1950.
Secondly, we have the small group of regulations in the same category whose function is to preserve the economic stability of the community and to protect it from the unchecked working of the present abnormal conditions of - demand. These are the National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations. Part TV., regulating interest rates, and Part V., regulating wages. The wage-pegging provisions have already been considerably relaxed. The industrial authorities are now free to deal with wage applications as they deem fit in accordance with the limitations of their respective jurisdictions. The chief remaining effect of the provisions is to make it unlawful for employers to pay or workers to receive rates of pay in excess of the rates determined by the industrial authorities and to require industrial authorities to consider national interests before making a consent award ‘ or authorizing an industrial agreement.
Thirdly, we have many regulations directed to the rationing of those consumer goods which are in short supply for a variety of reasons. Foodstuffs in short supply are governed by the Food Control, Rationing and Tea Control Regulations, by General Regulations 73 and 84, and by Supplementary Regulations 100, 116 and 133, the last two sets being general in application but essential in the administration of any remaining rationing. Butter rationing, requiring normal consumer rationing, together with a restriction upon the use of cream, has been retained chiefly to make available sufficient supplies of butter to send to Great Britain. The Government has retained tea rationing in connexion with its continued attempt by subsidy to keep down the cost of living. Production from the sources upon which Australia relies is still inadequate, and the price of tea to the public, if the subsidy were lifted, would approach 6s. per lb. The Government, as a matter of sound finance, continues to pay a subsidy upon a commodity of this sort only while it continues to be rationed.
Whilst petrol rationing by Australia helps to ease the ultimate problem of world shortage, its principal aim is to conserve dollars and thus play the game by the sterling Hoc. The sterling area as a whole consumes more petrol than it produces, and the gap has to be covered from dollar sources. Any increase of Australian consumption, from whatever source it happened to come, would cause an added drain on the dollar reserves of the bloc. The necessity for permits to purchase new motor cars and new commercial motor vehicles may perhaps be regarded as a part of the Government’s system of consumer rationing. Honorable senators will be aware of the relaxation of this control recently announced by the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward). The control does not now apply to any motor vehicles under 12 horse-power, and, from the 1st December of this year, the control of the distribution of all motor vehicles from the United Kingdom, Italy and France ceased to operate. The necessity to allocate the inadequate supplies which we can afford to buy from North America was amply proved by the recently published figures of applications lodged and imports available.
A further group of regulations and orders designed to prevent the effects of the unregulated movements of articles in short supply treats of essential materials of several types, both raw and manufactured. To this group belong the Minerals and Tinplate Control Regulations, and orders relating to essential materials, tinplate, cordage and fibre, and jute goods. They have in common the object of ensuring that the materials shall go to the uses of highest priority from the viewpoint of national welfare. This means not only the restriction of inessential use of the materials in Australia, but also that the materials we can get must not be exported to fetch the much higher prices ruling overseas. Some materials such as tinplate, which have to be imported, raise also problems of procurement. Supplies are difficult to obtain, especially under present international methods of allocation, and governments are often in stronger and more favorable positions than are private buyers. The Essential Materials Order is the basis for the control of most materials necessary for housing programmes. The same function, that of allocation to best use of limited resources, is served indirectly also by the Capital Issues Regulations. Directly, the regulations control the floating of new enterprises involving the use of large amounts of capital, but the purpose of this is, of course, to prevent the use of men, capital equipment and raw materials for speculative or less essential purposes. Under present conditions, there is great competition to start ventures of all kinds. This control has been relaxed considerably since the end of the war, but it enables the exercise of a selective function between ventures and should be continued. It has, I am not surprised to find, much support in business circles as well as in t1 - general community.
Next t-ould be mentioned the very many regulations which are concerned with the armed services and defence in its narrow sense. The clearance of this group from the schedules would, more than the removal of any other single cate gory, lighten their appearance. It includes the Internment Camps, Naval Charter Rates, Naval Forces, Prisoners of “War, War Deaths, and “Women’s Services Regulations, four general and eight supplementary regulations and one order. Virtually within the classification are also the Disposals, Food Control and Salvage Regulations, and three further supplementary regulations. The armed services still require the powers conferred by these regulations for their present administration, and in nearly every case the provisions are also such as would be needed for defence purposes in any future emergency. The task of preparing legislation to give permanent legislative effect to many of this group of provisions is well in hand.
The nest distinct group of regulations are the so-called Marketing Regulations, comprising Apple and Pear Acquisition, Australian Barley Board, Hide and Leather Industries, Rabbit Skins, and Wheat Acquisition, and, in the nature of a machinery provision for most of these, the Staff of “War-time Authorities Regulations. The aim of these regulations generally was to perform the services of marketing for the growers concerned, by the agency of boards. Under its normal peace-time powers there are distinct limitations on the Commonwealth’s powers to do this for primary producers, and it is exercising its present defence power only until alternative provision is made by growers and States. In fact, we are now cutting acquisition powers out of most of these regulations, which will, however, serve to cover the liquidation of all operations and transactions by the Commonwealth in respect of the output of past crops handled by the Commonwealth.
Another category of provisions deserving mention is that concerned with working conditions in various industries. There are four items in this group, Coal Mining Industry Employment, Female Minimum Rates, Industrial Peace and Maritime Industry Regulations. A final decision on the coal-mining regulations, covering chiefly regulation of conditions and the settlement of disputes in the craft unions, has not yet been made. The Female Minimum Rates Regulations, establishing a minimum rate for employees in vital industries, are being retained pending a decision of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, which may supersede their protection. The Industrial Peace Regulations, extending the powers of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and the conciliation commissioners, will be retained pending the making by the commisisoners of certain adjustments necessary for their future operation upon more limited powers. The Government will shortly be in a position to decide upon the permanent establishment of a maritime industry commission to continue the work of that operating under the present regulations.
Finally, there is a miscellaneous group of regulations. Three important sets are awaiting the introduction of permanent legislation to replace them, and this should be ready to place before the Parliament early next year. They are the Shipping Co-ordination, Medical Benefits for Seamen and External Territories Regulations. Again it is intended to see whether or not the provisions of the Industrial Property Regulations and Supplementary Regulation 62 can be incorporated in the Patents Act. I have covered the most important of the regulations and orders which it is proposed to continue, and can supply any further information to honorable senators at the committee stage of the bill. As for the bill itself, its provisions are simple. It continues in operation until the 31st December., 1949, all the regulations and orders appearing in the first and second schedules to the act of 1946, with the exception of those which have since been discontinued or transferred. Two lists have been prepared setting out the items which have been so dealt with. With the permission of the Senate, I shall have them incorporated in Hansard.
Regulations and Orders Removed From Schedules of Defence ( Transitional Provisions) Act 1940, since the 1st January, 1947.
Regulations and orders removed upon subjectmatter of regulations being provided for in permanent legislation -
Boot Trades Dilution.
Control of Animal Diseases.
Dairy Produce Acquisition.
War Damage of Property.
General 11 (3a).
Regulations and Orders Discontinued since 1st January, 1947.
Australian Tobacco Leaf.
Board of Business Administration.
Claims against Commonwealth in relation to Visiting Forces.
Wheat Industry Stabilization.
Agricultural Machinery Order.
Control of Footwear (Styles and Quality) Order.
Shirt, Collars and Pyjamas Order.
Clause 7, as I have mentioned, continues the amendment of the Land Tax Assessment Act 1910-1947, by which land values for taxation purposes are pegged at the values for 1939. The first and third schedules to the bill enumerate the regulations which are to be discontinued by the bill. I commend the measure to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Sullivan) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to shipping.
Debate resumed from the 7th Decem ber (vide page 3990), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the hill be now read a second time.
SenatorO’SULLIVAN (Queensland- Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [3.31]. - The bill is a necessary corollary of our emergence from war to peace, and there is little in it to which I take exception. However, as the production of coal is of such vital importance to the whole community I regret greatly that the measure deals principally with the distribution of coal which has been produced rather than with methods to increase the production of coal. I was rather surprised to hear the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) say in the course of his second-reading speech that all States import coal from New South Wales.
– I do not doubt that, but I happen to know that negotiations are in train for two opencut mines in Queensland to export coal to another State. In his reply, I should like the Minister to give some indication of the volume of coal which is imported by Queensland.
I was also surprised to learn from the second-reading speech made by the Minister that the Queensland Labour Government, which is led by Mr. Hanlon, refused to enter the scheme for the distribution of coal advanced by the present Australian Government. The reason for that refusal, in which, incidentally, most of the people of Queensland concur, is that, whilst they have no objection to cooperating in any national scheme for the production and distribution of coal, they object to the pitifully weak attitude displayed by the present Government in its dealings with the coal miners’ federation. That union has defied the Government and has set itself above the law of the land, and has, time and again, flagrantly ignored the welfare of the community. On every occasion on which the Government has been confronted with a show of open hostility it has proved recreant to its duty and has succumbed in most cowardly fashion to the threats of the union. If the present measure, as well as dealing with the distribution of coal, had been devised to encourage the production of more coal, it would receive a most cordial reception from all sections of the community. Probably the basic reason for the general scarcity of goods lies in the acute shortage of coal. I am sure that the National Government could reach agreement with the Government of Queensland and the other States to establish an authority that would put the coal industry on a proper working basis. As I indicated earlier, the only reason why the Queensland Government held out previously is that it had some respect for the mandate which it has received from its people. Because it was not recreant to its duty it insisted on governing, and was not prepared to throw the reins of government to a militant union. If the Government gave an assurance-
-Is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan.) speaking for the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Hanlon?
– I do not happen to belong to his political party.
– I was wondering what authority the honorable senator had to make such a statement.
– The Queensland Government has shown up the present Australian Government in a bad light. The Queensland Government did not surrender to the Communists when it was challenged, but insisted on ruling. I can quite understand the Minister being peeved at my remarks because the Government of which he is a member has a shocking record of retreat before every threat made by the coal-miners, the waterside workers, the ironworkers and any other militant union which has taken direct action. It will do anything but stand up and govern, and it has proved most adept in falling over backwards. If it could assure the States that it intended to adopt a proper attitude towards the miners’ federation, there is no reason why an agreement could not be reached which would improve the general efficiency of the industry and improve the conditions of those engaged in it. The first necessity for successful and prosperous industry isthat those engaged in it should be satisfied with the conditions of their employment and reasonably contented.
From time to time the Australian Government and various State governments have conducted investigations of the coal-mining industry, but we appear to be groping in the dark because the quantity of coal produced is still far short of our requirements. If such an authority as I suggest were appointed it could, if necessary, make a further investigation, and all reasonable complaints of the miners and causes of irritation which might result in a stoppage of work could be removed. Such an authority would ensure that before any strike or lockout occurred a decision of the miners concerned would be taken by a secret, compulsory ballot, conducted under the supervision of an officer of the court. If a strike were held in spite of an adverse decision of a secret ballot, appropriate punitive measures would be taken by the authorities. Similarly, if the employer concerned had without reasonable cause locked out his employees he would be suitably punished. In the meantime such an authority could investigate ways and means to increase the efficiency of the industry. It is highly probable that output could be increased try the employment of mechanical aids and contrivances, and that appropriate alternative employment could be found for miners thrown out of employment in consequence of the introduction of mechanization. If the employees in the industry have a proper sense of security they are reluctant to bring about a state of affairs which might result in their own unemployment. For that reason a guarantee should be given to miners who are likely to be displaced by the introduction of mechanical devices that alternative employment will be found for them. Before youths are permitted to work as coal-miners, they should be given, say, twelve months’ technical training at a school of mines. This would add considerably to the efficiency of the industry. Again I emphasize that there must be peace in the coal-mining industry if the many other industries which depend upon coal are to enjoy any degree of prosperity. I regret that this measure does not deal with coal production. It deals - and quite properly I have no doubt - with the distribution of coal, control of which will be necessary as long as demand so greatly exceeds supplies. The provision of separate coal industry tribunals is unwise. In the final result, those tribunals constitute an assault upon our system of arbitration. Control of employment and discipline in the coal-mining industry should be in the hands of the properly constituted arbitration courts, Commonwealth or State. A substantial contribution would be made to peace and improved production in the coal-mining industry if all those engaged in it were made to understand that whilst every consideration would be given to their just demands by the Arbitration Court, once a determination had been made, it would have to be observed by employers and employees alike, and that open defiance of the law would be punished. A cessation of transport and other essential services is not a matter purely between employers and employees. A strike on the coal-fields has repercussions on every section of the community, because there is no phase of our economic life that is not directly or indirectly dependent upon an assured supply of coal. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has said that he himself finds it most difficult to understand some of the piffling, petty, trifling reasons given by coalminers for refusing to work. Such strikes are not strikes against employers.
– I rise to order. I point out, Mr. President, that this measure has nothing whatever to do with strikes. The objects of the bill are briefly stated in the first two paragraphs of my second-reading speech. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is referring to industrial disputation.
– It is my practice to permit considerable latitude in second-reading speeches. However, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is wandering rather far afield. In his secondreading speech, the Minister for Shipping and Fuel said that the objects of the bill were first, to enable the Coal Production (War-time) Act of 1944, which now applies to all States except New South Wales, to be repealed State by State by proclamation, and, secondly, to empower the Joint Coal Board, constituted by the Coal Industry Act of 1946, to collect statistics relating to the production, distribution, and use of coal throughout Australia. The honorable senator is entitled to refer to other matters only in passing, and I ask him to confine his remarks to the objects of the bill.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. President. I point out, however, that the short title of this measure includes the words “ Coal Production “. I was endeavouring to direct my remarks to the lag in production.
– It is a repeal bill.
– I was going hy the title, which includes the words, “ and for other purposes “. However, I have said all that I want to say on the matter. I have no doubt that the collection of statistics relating to distribution is a necessary undertaking as long as there is a shortage of coal, but I am extremely regretful that the bill does not go further, and give some hope of greater coal production which would render control of distribution unnecessary. There is .ample coal in this country. It is merely a matter of getting that coal. The present shortage affects the whole of Australia, and I trust that it will be possible to make some arrangement whereby we shall be able to secure peace in this vital industry.
– in reply - I am amazed at the arguments that have been advanced by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) on this measure. They are entirely foreign to the bill. As [ pointed out in. my second-reading speech, the objects of the bill are to enable the Coal Production (War-time) Act of 1944 which now applies to all States excepting New South Wales to be repealed State by State by proclamation, and to empower the Joint Coal Board, constituted under the Coal Industry Act of 1946, to collect statistics relating to the production, distribution and use of coal throughout Australia. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has asked for certain information about the supply of coal by New South Wales to Queensland. It is true that quantities of gas coal are sent from New South Wales to Queensland.
– Large quantities ?
– I have not the exact figures, but I shall obtain them for the honorable senator. The quantities are not large. The total would be only a couple of thousand tons a month. Every State in the Commonwealth receives coal from New South Wales. The honorable senator said that the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Hanlon, objected to the control of Queensland’s coal supplies by the Joint Coal Board, and the New South Wales coal authority. That is quite so, but he did not oppose it, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition alleges, merely in opposition to the militant section of the miners’ federation. The Premier of Queensland, like the Premiers of all States, has the responsibility of preserving the sovereign rights of his Government and control of the industries in that State. That is only natural. Next to New South Wales, Queensland is the largest coal-producing State, and the industry in Queensland has great possibilities. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, the development of the industry in that State is being planned on a large scale. However, that expansion will take a considerable time. The honorable senator also referred to what he termed the lack of production of coal in New South Wales. Like the members of the Opposition parties in the House of Representatives he never misses an opportunity to malign the coal-miners or the workers in heavy industries in this country. Because no fault can be found with production in recent weeks, he has taken this opportunity to criticize the miners on general grounds. He has suggested that greater amenities should be provided in the industry in order to encourage the miners to increase production. Coming from the Opposition the suggestion is rather novel, because that line of approach tv” the industry is entirely foreign to the anti-Labour parties. At all events, that is exactly why the Coal Board has been established and that body has been carrying out that task. The coal barons whom Opposition parties represent exploited the coal-mining industry over the years, and anti-Labour governments during the long period in which they were in office did nothing to provide amenities for the miners or to improve working conditions in the industry. This Government is now providing such amenities, but that task must be carried out on a long-range basis. The miners have no objection to mechanization, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition alleged. However, they object to machinery being installed solely at the coal face to enable coal to be hewn more quickly, whilst, at the same time, no attempt is made to mechanize other activities in the mines, such as the provision of transport to convey miners from the entrance to the coal face and the installation of machinery to eliminate the dust nuisance and other causes of illness peculiar to the industry. “When those improvements are effected we shall have no cause to complain about coal production.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 7th December (vide page 3990), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the hill be now read’ a second time.
– .This measure is rather unfortunately conceived. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley), in his second-reading speech, indicated that it will give power to the Minister to transfer certain employees of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research engaged on projects of a defence nature to another department. However, the bill goes much further than that. Proposed new section 81zi provides - 81zi. The Governor-General may. from time to time, by notice published in the Gazette, declare that any work or class of work specified in the notice which is being performed under the control of the Council is work which, should, on and from a date specified in the notice, be performed under the control of such
Department of State of the Commonwealth asis specified in the notice and, on and from that date, that work shall accordingly be performed under the control of the Department sospecified.
That provision refers to work of a topsecret defence nature which was not contemplated when the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was established in 1920. The purpose for which the council was established was to undertakescientific research in relation to primary and secondary industries. It was only during World War II. that its activities were directed towards defence projects and matters in respect of which the maintenance of secrecy was essential. When dealing with the estimates in respect of the Council for ‘Scientific and Industrial Research, I referred to certain remarks made by Sir David Rivett, the chairman of the council, in the course of an address at the Canberra University College,, when he took occasion to deplore, the interruption of what he called free trade between the scientists of the world in accordance with the system which had* been in practice for hundreds of years. He pointed out that the. impact of scienceupon war was not very great until World War II., and that up to that time a. happy fraternity of scientists existed throughout the. world, whereby scientific knowledgecould be freely exchanged, but, in that exchange, there was no risk to thesecurity of any nation. In March,. 1947,. Sir David Rivett pointed out that circumstances had changed considerably and that the previous happy system had gone for all time by virtue of the impact of science upon war of either an offensive,, or a defensive,, nature. He said that, ia view of the changed circumstances, information about top-secret scientific defencework must be prevented from leaking out to a potential enemy, and he added that conditions in the world to-day were such that everybody is a potential enemy. Therefore, it has become necessary tocarry out work of a defence nature now being undertaken by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in strict secrecy. I do not want it to be said, as happened on a previous occasion when I spoke about the Council for Scientificand Industrial Research, that I am attacking the council. Nothing is farther from my mind. Any honorable senator who wishes to know what I really did say with regard to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and its chairman can read’ the report of my remarks in Hansard.
– The honorable senator is not the only one who is trying to “ get out from under “.
– That is a despicable remark. It indicates the frame of mind in which the Government approaches the subject. If any one is trying to “ get out from under “ it is the Government. That is clear from statements made recently by both the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who, however, have not actually reached the stage of confirming, or denying, the accuracy of certain documents which were read in the House of Representatives. The Government is trying to “ get out from under “. In March, 1947, nearly two years ago, Sir David Rivett pleaded with it to remove from the council works on projects of a top-secret defence nature, but the Government did nothing about the matter. The publication of certain information in the press in July last culminated in a lot of noise, with the Acting Attorney-General (Senator McKenna) dashing around making investigations and officers of the Commonwealth Investigation Service interviewing the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) in the House of Representatives. Parliamentary tradition and privilege was thrown to the winds. But what happened? A harmless little girl typist got the sack. The Opposition parties have no reason to “ get out from under “. The Leader of the Australian Country party revealed that things were not as they should be. In taking such action he merely emphasized the wisdom of Sir David Rivett’s request to the Government to remove from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research work which was not of a strictly scientific nature. The members of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and its employees are not security officers ; they are scientists, and they want to get on with their scientific work. The Government acted improperly in saddling the council with the weightier responsibilities of defence work. Those employees are scientists, and every State of the Commonwealth is deeply indebted to the council for the magnificent work it has done. When I referred to the activities of the council when the Estimates were before the .Senate in October last, I expressed clearly my high opinion of the council, and I can only regard the interjection made by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) as contemptible. He implied that I was trying to hedge on the remarks I made on that occasion. Honorable senators will recall that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, as originally constituted by the act of 1920 which was amended by the 1926 act, was what is known in law as a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal, and so was in a position where it was free, and in fact remote, from party political control. At that time Sir David Rivett was appointed chairman. Sir George Julius and Professor Richardson were, with him, the first councillors. It was necessary, of course, and proper that a certain amount of direction and control on the financial side alone should be exercised by the Treasurer. Scientific research by the council was however entirely free, and it was due to that freedom from political control that its employees were not regarded as public servants. I have no complaint against public servants, but they have a sphere of their own just as scientists also have a sphere of their own. I consider that it is completely inpractical that the Public Service Board, one of whose duties is assessing the value of the work done by members of the Public Service, should use the same yardstick to appreciate the work done by scientists.
– It is not proposed to give the board that power.
– Scientists may work for years on certain problems and yet have no tangible results to show. A scientist being interviewed by a Public Service Board inspector could not answer queries about what he was doing. He might be able to say only, “ I am experimenting”. How could the Public Service Board handle, for instance, the question of promotion based on the extent to which a particular scientist’s research had advanced ? In nine cases out of ten an explanation of that research would be entirely bewildering to the board’s officials.. The work done by scientists can be appreciated and understood only by people of scientific mind who are well versed in the particular kind of investigation being carried out. The proposed section to which I refer contemplates the transference of prescribed work to a department of state. I have no complaint against that, but subsequent sections provide for the transference of personnel also. Once transferred, those employees would become subject to the Public Service Act. Under the existing legislation the employees of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research are expressly excluded from the provisions of that act and, for the reasons that I have stated, very properly so. There may be no argument about the desirability of transferring a specific kind of work to the Defence Department or the Navy or the Air Force, but it is unfortunate that those associated with that work may have to transfer also and lose their status as employees of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research by becoming members of the Public Service. Scientists are migratory. They like to see how their particular branch of science is developing in other countries. Because of their special scientific knowledge there is a niche for scientists in any part of the world where scientific knowledge is appreciated and scientists of note and quality are sought. It is possible that that migratory passion of scientists is one of the reasons why the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has attracted some very fine scientists who came here so that they could enjoy a degree of freedom in a scientific atmosphere.
– The measure does not interfere with that.
-Under this bill there is danger that these men may be associated with, or directed to, a proclaimed work, and that they will thereby immediately become subject to the Public Service Act. I am prepared to believe that that was not intended by the Minister. Nevertheless, whether it was intended or not, that is the effect of the amendment we are considering. Scientists could, by virtue of their being direc ted to, or associated with, a particular project, lose their independence and become subject to the Public Service Board. In my opinion that would be a very strong factor militating against Australia’s obtaining the best available scientists. If scientists had wanted to become public servants they would have become public servants, but it is because they did not want that particular life that they became scientists. Now, whether they like it or not, the Minister can say, “You are a public servant now, and you are attached to such and such a department”. That is a most unfortunate state of affairs.
– What does the honorable senator suggest as a way out?
– The work itself should be proclaimed by all means but the scientists attached to that work should be merely on loan to the department and should not lose their status as employees of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
– They can still migrate.
-I refer now to the address made in Canberra in March, 1947, by Sir David Rivett. After his introductory remarks he said -
If national sovereignty demands the right to prepare secretly for the destruction of other sovereignties, let those who take the responsibility of making a decision to that effect (and it is surely a ghastly responsibility to put upon any thinking men) keep their projects clear of these national scientific institutions in which the traditional freedom of science must be maintained.
The effect of that opinion is that if any research were undertaken that could in any way affect the security of the country, it should be dealt with by some special means and not left in the hands of the council. That request came from the chairman himself. To give some indication of the splendid work that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has accomplished, chiefly by virtue of the fact that it has been free from departmental and party political control, I remind honorable senators of some of its achievements in agriculture. In Queensland, after many years of research into the prickly pear menace not only had no advance been made in the control of the pest but thousands of acres had been lost through its encroachment. When the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research took over the problem, not only was its progress arrested but the pest has now been completely eradicated and more than 55,000,000 acres of fertile land have been restored to production. The work that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has done in the eradication of the blowfly, the buffalo-fly and the cattle tick has caused it to be gratefully admired by those engaged in the grazing industry. It has also eliminated the mould in tobacco and the pest which caused bunchy-top in bananas and practically destroyed the banana industry. That pest has been eradicated by the persistent and patient expert study of scientists of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Tasmanians are grateful to the council for the eradication of the pest which caused bitter pit in apples and was costing the applegrowers of Tasmania about £100,000 a year in the loss of export trade. Tn South Australia more than 1,000,000 acres in the Ninety Mile Desert have been made productive as a result of the council’s investigations which ascertained the nature of the mineral shortages in the soil. The whole foundation of our chilled-beef export trade is due to the results of investigations by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Practically nothing had been done in Australia regarding the preservation of our forests and the utilization of forest timbers for the manufacture of paper until the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research experts provided the “ know-how “. All these results were achieved while the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was engaged in performing the duties for which it was established by the Bruce-Page Government - “ to lend its expert research knowledge to the development and progress of our primary industries “.
– Does the measure interfere with that?
– This bill interferes with that work because all the council’s employees can be proclaimed tomorrow morning and made public servants. If the Minister does not wish the bill to go as far as that I suggest that further consideration be given to the amendment moved by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) in another place. It is not denied on this side of the chamber that work in connexion with specialized matters relating to defence, where the security of the country might be affected, should be carried out in special places under special control where any possibility of outside access to information could be eliminated. The members of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research executive want that themselves. As long ago as 1947 they begged the Government to take such action. They did not want to be charged with the responsibility of secret work. As scientists they want to be free to exchange knowledge, because it is on the exchange of knowledge that scientists in various parts of the world achieve their results. They want to continue as they were originally, and in the same way as the Agricultural Research Council in Britain, the National Research Council in Canada, and in South Africa the similarly named body the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research function. It is because they have been free to pursue, untrammelled by departmental regulations, their scientific bent and to consult the sources of scientific knowledge, that we have received such excellent results from these gifted people, and I believe that the peace and harmony of the employees of the council will be certain if an assurance is given by the Government that it is only in connexion with strictly defence projects that this bill is likely to have any impact upon them at all. Honorable senators have probably received letters from employees of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research criticizing this measure. I do not know whether there is a great deal of substance in those letters, because I do not know whether they represent the average opinion of the 5,000 or more officers of the council. However, the writers declare that the application of the bill will cause a certain amount of unrest and discontent and that officers of the council will have an overhanging fear that they will lose the freedom and independence which they now enjoy merely because they may happen to be associated with a class of work that may be relegated to a public service department. The speeches made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in the House of Representatives and by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) indicated that the bill would only apply to officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research engaged upon work of a defence character. That being so, it should have been very simple for the Government to accept the amendment moved in the House of Representatives by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) with” the object of stipulating that any work transferred from the council to a department must have some relation to defence. However, the amendment was rejected. I now urge the Minister for Shipping and Fuel to resubmit the proposal to the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research with a view to providing that no undertaking shall be transferred in that way unless it is definitely associated with defence and national security. If such an amendment were made, I should have no objection to the bill, but as it now stands I think that it will impair very seriously the happy conditions under which employees of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research now work so efficiently.
– I have carefully read the bill and a copy of the second-reading speech delivered by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley). As I see it, the bill provides machinery by which certain researches now being undertaken by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research may be transferred from the council to an appropriate department of the Commonwealth Public Service. But, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) sees it, there are many hidden and potential dangers in it. His speech was full of conjectures about what might happen or could happen. In considering this measure, we have to decide the nature of any scientific research that is being carried out by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. We must decide whether its objects are offensive, defensive, peaceful, or warlike. There must be some discrimination between the various types of research, and some control must be applied to those undertakings which affect our security. The people of Australia provide large sums of money by way of taxes for the establishment of laboratories and the remuneration of scientists. If the Government pays the scientists, surely it has the right to direct the manner in which their research shall be carried out. I can see nothing wrong with the Government’s decision, in the interests of the country, to transfer certain work now under the control of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to a public service department.
The fears of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition are entirely without foundation. The honorable gentleman spoke of secret documents. This matter depends upon what we have in mind when we use the word “ secret “. Some people have developed a state of mind in which everything appears to them to be secret. I have seen considerable numbers of allegedly secret documents classified in all sorts of ways. Some have been marked “top secret”, others “most secret”, “ secret “, “ confidential “, or “ restricted “. Some people have acquired the habit of classifying everything about which they are doubtful as “ secret “ lest it prove to be of use to somebody else perhaps in the manufacture of a new kind of boot polish or tooth paste. They have a complex about secrecy. Scientific discoveries are constantly being made, but not necessarily by scientists. Some of the most important developments in the fields of science, which have been of tremendous value to the community, have been made by laymen. Great discoveries in connexion with agriculture have been made by mechanics who have invented new methods of reaping harvests. Such things have an important bearing upon the war potential of a country, because war potential depends in one way or another upon everything that the country or its workers can produce. This bill provides for the transfer of the Division of Aeronautics from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to a government department so that its activities can be more effectively supervised.
– The bill does not mention the Division of Aeronautics.
– It was mentioned in the Minister’s explanatory secondreading speech. There is nothing wrong with such a proposal. I assume that recent visits to this country by such world-renowned scientists as Sir Henry Tizard have an important relation to this bill. I have a very shrewd suspicion as to the real purpose of the measure, but, having some regard for secrecy, I shall not discuss it. My attitude towards the bill is that the Government is entitled to do everything possible to ensure that whatever it undertakes to do shall be done in the most effective way. I wholeheartedly support the bill.
– I listened with great interest to the speech by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) because I, too, have received hundreds of letters from persons engaged in research, some of whom are employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. All except three of the letters which I received were identical, word for word. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition supported the case presented by the authors of those circulars. They contained a tremendous lot of nonsense and some gross inaccuracies, which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has repeated. For instance, the honorable gentleman said that, if scientists employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research had wanted to enter the Public Service, they would not have taken jobs with the council. The fact is that no Public Service department deals with the kind of scientific research that is handledby the council. Therefore, those men did not have an opportunity to enter the Public Service as scientists. The restrictions that have always been imposed upon scientific research have not been directed at the activities of individuals. Usually, they are due to lack of finance. That complaint is general throughout the world. Scientists have often been forced to discontinue inquiries because of the shortage of money.
The effectiveness of government control of scientific research was brought home to us by the success of the atomic energy project carried out in the United
States of America during World War II. That work was done under government direction and was financed by governments. Success was achieved as the result of nations pooling both their financial resources and the work of scientists who volunteered for the project. I emphasize the fact that the scientists were not conscripted ; they volunteered for the work. The reports that we have received in Australia indicate that the United States of America could not have proceeded very far with atomic research without the assistance of British scientists, who worked under government control in Great Britain and voluntarily transferred to a government-supervised project in the United States of America.. The lesson to be learned from that combined operation can be applied in Australia. Scientific research in this country was starved for funds until the Labour party came intopower. Industries employed only a few scientists for commercial purposes, and they kept the results of their researches to themselves. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was established, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, to make the results of its scientific researches available for the benefit of industries, and its activities were financed in the first instance by grants from industries and a small government grant. Its scope was extremely limited until the Labour Government provided it with adequate funds. Scientists employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research have done magnificent work. Now, as the result of propaganda, they fear that they will be drafted into the Public Service, willynilly. I am sure that nobody will be forced into the Public Service against his will. There is nothing in the bill to prevent a man from saying “ No “.
– Buthe would be sacked if he did not go.
– If I were working for any employer and did not do just what he told me to do, he would say, “You can finish up and get your pay”.
– That is the point that I am making.
– That is the position. However, a man who refused to transfer from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to a Public Service department would not necessarily be discharged from the employ of the council. That would depend upon the kind of research in which he was engaged. A biochemist, of course, would not be transferred to research connected with the steel industry. Having made a life study of a branch of science affecting primary industries, he would not be transferred without warning to another class of research. Most of the officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will not be required to enter the Public Service. Their work will not be regarded as secret or related in any way to the security of the country. I believe that the Opposition gained an inkling of the Government’s intentions in connexion with this measure some time ago and that that led to all the talk that we have heard in this Parliament about secret documents. I am not concerned with that aspect of the matter, but I am concerned that the men and women who are engaged on scientific research for the council should have been agitated by the propaganda that they are to be conscripted into the Public Service against their wish. The present members of the staff of the council were not drafted into that organization; they were appointed to it either because they voluntarily sought appointment or were requested to join the organization on account of some special knowledge or ability they possessed. As an illustration of the anxiety experienced by some members of the staff of the council, I shall read portion of a letter that was written by an employee recently. It is as follows: -
Section 81 1ze of the above bill, if enacted, does allow the transfer of any section of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to Public Service control at any time, for any reason, at the discretion of the Minister. Further, the work in that section of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research so transferred will be performed under the control of the department to which it is transferred, and, consequently, will be under the control of the head of that department, and he will probably be one with no scientific training whatever. I emphasize that the uncertainty overshadowing all sections of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research before any transfer is effected, the resultant dismemberment, and the change in organization consequent on transfer will be disastrous to the sections transferred, to the residual sections left within the jurisdiction of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and the scientific research carried on in this country.
The writer has, in a most concise fashion, conveyed the impression that if sections of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research are transferred to the control of a Commonwealth department they will pass under the control of some navvy who may not possess any scientific knowledge at all. Of course, most of us are aware that when Commonwealth departments are established an expert is usually appointed to control them, and when a government requires a department to investigate scientific matters it is usual for it to appoint an expert to the charge of that department. The impression gained by the writer of the letter, portion of which I have read, is that because some sections of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research are to be transferred to the control of a Commonwealth department, some one who possesses no scientific knowledge whatever will be placed in charge of the work carried out by the sections. Like others who have watched scientists engaged on research, I realize that it is impossible to impose any time limit on their investigations, or to evaluate the importance of the particular task on which they may happen to be engaged. Naturally, the scientists concerned fear that some one who is not qualified scientifically will interfere with their researches when the control of their particular section passes to a Commonwealth department. I realize that the ramifications of the council are extremely wide, but, in my opinion, it would be as well for the Government to make it abundantly clear to the staff of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research that, although it may be necessary in future to transfer certain sections because of special circumstances which may arise, it is not intended at present to interfere in any way with any of the sections that are concerned with matters that do not relate to defence. 1 know that it is the intention to transfer the section that is engaged on the investigation of aeronautics, and that it is contemplated that some other sections may be transferred in the future, but the research conducted by those sections that are concerned with problems associated with the soil and industry generally will not be disturbed. If the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (Mr. Dedman) could give an official assurance of the kind I have indicated to the employees of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, many of whom have been considerably agitated by suggestions that they will be deprived of their livelihood, that the scientific investigations which they have been pursuing may be interfered with, and that individuals who have no scientific knowledge may be placed in control of them, it would do a great deal to ease their minds.
– The discussion which has taken place on the measure, and particularly the contribution made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan), is rather remarkable. The honorable senator first of all condemned the Government for having introduced the measure, and suggested that it was actuated by some sinister motive in doing so. However, he then proceeded to adduce evidence to demonstrate that the action taken by the Government was entirely in accordance with the wishes of the chairman of the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It is clear, therefore, that in his view any action taken by the Government must be wrong. It was stated by members of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, and the assertion was repeated in this chamber by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, that the bill was introduced to cover up an alleged shortcoming of the Government that was the subject of discussion in recent weeks. The honorable senator referred to the fact that after a good deal of investigation on the part of the Government all that happened was that a girl was dismissed from the Public Service. That remark aptly indicates the frame of mind in which the honorable senator has approached consideration of this measure. If I thought for a moment that the bill would destroy the efficiency of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, I should not hesitate to oppose it; indeed, I would have opposed the grant of leave to introduce the measure. How ever, it is perfectly plain that the bill is intended to provide that the security of certain important matters, particularly those concerned with research relating to defence, shall be amply safeguarded.
Sitting suspended from4.45 to 8 p.m.
SenatorSHEEHAN. -The criticism of the bill made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was illogical. He said that he believed that the bill had been introduced as the result of certain statements that were made in this Parliament some weeks ago. Honorable senators will recall that on that occasion it was alleged that certain secret documents had come into the possession of unauthorized persons as the result of a lack of security precautious at the establishments of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. But then the honorable senator said that for some time past, the chairman of the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Sir David Rivett, had been anxious that the section of the council which was engaged on defence scientific research should be transferred to the Commonwealth PublicService. Clearly, the Government is giving effect to the wishes of the chairman by introducing this bill which provides for the transfer of various branches of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to the Commonwealth Public Service. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition claimed that the passage of this measure might mean the disintegration of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. His ground for that fear was that the bill provided that, from time to time, the Minister could, by proclamation published in the Commonwealth Gazette, transfer to the PublicService certain sections of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research engaged on industrial research. The honorable senator endeavoured to discredit the Government. That is the usual method of attack employed by the Opposition. It hopes thereby to induce the people of the Commonwealth, at some future date, to turn against the Labour Government and to elect to office, an anti-Labour administration. Honorable senators opposite may gain some political advantage in that way, but at least they should be logical when addressing members of the Parliament, and the people of Australia generally. In his second-reading speech, the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) stated that the immediate intention was to transfer to the Commonwealth Public Service about 250 officers of the aeronautical division of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Unforeseen circumstances may make it desirable at some time in the future to transfer other sections of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to the Public Service. The bill leaves the way open for such transfers.
– That is one of my complaints.
-I assume that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition wants Australia to have an efficient fighting machine. He wants the Government to do all the things that are necessary for the protection of this country, including the establishment of an efficient organization for the production of defence equipment. Of course, the honorable senator is a member of a new generation of Labour’s political opponents. In the early days of federation, when Labour administrations, notably that led by Andrew Fisher, sought to safeguard this Commonwealth by establishing an Australian Navy, and an Australian Army, they were criticized as being unpatriotic and unworthy to control the destinies of this country. It was alleged that Labour was seeking to “ cut the painter” and abandon Australia’s ties with the Mother Country. Incidentally, in later years, the advocacy by the Labour party of a strong Australian Air Force met with similar hostile criticism. As time went on and Australiafaced the perils of war, Labour’s far-sighted defence policy in earlier years bore fruit. Australia’s darkest hour occurred during World War II. when an invasion seemed imminent. The efficiency of Australia’s fighting machine saved this land, and made it possible for us to meet to-night as a free Parliament. Members of the present Opposition parties forget these things. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, representing the newest generation of the anti-Labour forces in this country, believes that Australia should have an efficient fighting machine, but he makes certain reservations. We have before us to-day a bill which is aimed at facilitating the work of those who are trained in the task of perfecting our war machine. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition suggests that there are some sinister influences at work; that the Government has something to hide and that it is seeking to destroy a valuable institution which has contributed so much to the development of this country.
– It would not be the first institution that Labour has tried to destroy.
– It is easy to make an implication by way of interjection ; but, in all the time that the honorable senator had at his disposal to speak on this measure to-day, he failed to give the Senate one specific instance of the Labour Government having done anything that was contrary to the interests of Australia. He deals only in suggestions and innuendoes. That is typical of the Opposition both in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. In the press and radio publicity of the Liberal and Australian Country parties there are many subtle suggestions, but never is there an attempt to point one specific instance of failure on the part of the Government. This is a simple measure. Its purpose is to give to highly qualified officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research who have had funds placed at their disposal by the Labour Government, an opportunity to exercise their talent for exploration and delving into the realm of science. Having acquired considerable knowledge as the result of the support that they have received from the Labour Government, why should they not be directed to certain Government departments where they can apply that knowledge? That is what happens in all walks of life. Once a student has acquired a fund of knowledge, he is under an obligation to apply that knowledge to the advantage of the community generally. Provision is made in this bill for the utilization by the Government of the services of trained officers, in the interests of Australia. If I believed that this bill would destroy the Council for Scientific and Industrial
Research, I should, not support it, but because I know that behind this measure is. the desire to use the services of the officers, concerned in the best interests of Australia, I support 1;he proposal. The other sections of this great institution which are engaged on research into various forms of primary production, and in other fields of Australia’s economy,, will not be asked to transfer to the Public Service. But who know? what scientific research way produce in the future ? Who would have thought five or six years ago that atomic energy would be an accomplished fact to-day?’ We knew that for generations scientists had been endeavouring to split the atom, but few of us dreamt that that would, be achieved so soon. Who knows what further- research by such organizations as the Council for- Scientific and Industrial Research will produce ? Further important discoveries may necessitate the transfer of other sections of that institution to our defence departments. Nobody, knows what the future holds for us and the Government would be falling down on its job if the provisions of this measure were not- made flexible. I believe that we should all support the bill. The fears that have been expressed by Opposition members in this- chamber and in the House, of: Representatives are unfounded. T,he.. passage of the bill will be in the best, interests, of Australia.
– I rise to speak on this measure believing, after, considerable soul-searching, that before passing, our judgment on the bill, we should decide how far politics and economics can intrude into the field of science. The measure is simple. It contains no sinister implications. The Government’s motive in: introducing it. is quite. clear. It is. an enabling’ bill. From a. defence point- of view conditions existing throughout the world impel us to put our house in order. Under this measure thequestion of the degree to which . restrictions shall be placed upon scientific research involving defence considerations, arises. That is the issue before the* Senate. The bill will enable the Gov eminent to.- transfer the Division of. Aeronautics- of the Council for Scientific- and Industries. Research, to the- Department of Supply. and Develop ment. That is the clear and simple purpose, of the measure. The activities of that division are so closely associated with defence scientific research that in the interests of security the strictest secrecy must be maintained in respect of its activities. When that division is transferred to the Department of Supply and Development, the members of its staff will be subject to the control’s which apply to all members of the Commonwealth Public Service. Any employee who commits a breach of Public Service regulations will be subject to certain penalties. I am sure that the transfer of that division will not adversely affect the general activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research or retard the council in the work for which it was primarily established. The employees of the council will not be restricted in any way whatever in their research which is: absolutely beyond politics. As time: goes on, it may be necessary for defence reasons to transfer other activities now. being carried on- by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to the control of the Department of. Supply and Development but the council, will continue its normal researches. Under, the measure- the Government, will in. no way restrict scientific research, which properly comes within the sphere of an institution like- the- Council for. Scientific and Industrial Research. I can understand the opposition to’ this proposal expressed by certain people; including some scientists-, on the ground that, departmental control- will restrict scientific endeavour and deny to- scientists the complete freedom- essential to scientific development. However, some confusion has arisen on* that point. I believe- that what I have said proves that such- contentions are unfounded:-
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’-Sullivan)/ implied, that this measure had been- introduced as- the’ result: of. what has become- known as the- “ secret documents case “ and because of the pressure- exerted by the Opposition parties upon the. Government with respect to the disclosure of confidential’ information. That is mere conceit on the. part of members of those parties. The ‘ measure has been introduced- following the unfolding, of events generally, throughout” the1 world. It is now recognized that certain specific spheres of scientific research impinge directly upon defence organization. Those who oppose this measure do so, apparently, on the assumption that the Government intends to place scientific research generally under departmental control. However, in the light of recent developments the paths of science and defence meet at certain points, and in such instances steps must he taken to coordinate scientific research and defence preparations. I repeat that the Government has no desire at all to restrict scientific research; indeed, under this measure it draws a distinct line of demarcation between general scientific research and scientific research of a defence nature.
. -I support the bill. I wholeheartedly agree with the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) in his criticism of the measure is attempting to “get out from under “. The Opposition parties have endeavoured to damage the prestige of this country. They did not hesitate even to defame leading Australian scientists. They made serious charges against employees of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, but they have not substantiated any of those charges. Ignoring the real object of this measure they contend that the Government has introduced it because of their criticism of it. However, we know that the Government has the wholehearted support of the employees of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research whose sole object is to serve the interests of this country to the best of their ability. There is not the slightest foundation for the suggestion that under the measure the Government proposes to transfer the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research lock, stock and barrel to the Commonwealth Public Service. The bill is purely a machinery measure to enable the Government, should changing circumstances justify such action. to transfer sections of the activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to departmental control in the interests of the defence of the nation. As usual, the Opposition parties have indulged in much innuendo as to the intention of the Government in introducing this measure. Its intention is quite clear. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, informed us that under the bill 250 officers and employees of the Division of Aeronautics of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will be transferred to the Department of Supply and Development. The Opposition parties say that they do not object to that.
– That is not binding upon anybody.
– The trouble with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is that he wishes to bind everybody. He contends that departmental control will destroy the initiative of scientific research workers. Proposed new section33a reads - 33a. A person shall not be transferred from employment under the Commonwealth to which this Act does not apply to an office in the Common wealth Service unless -
That oath is as follows: -
I … do swear, that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the King, and will loyally as in duty bound uphold the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia established under the Crown of the United’ Kingdom. So help me, God!
Is there any objection to that from the Opposition? These employees must take the oath of allegiance or an affirmation just as we in this chamber have taken it.. We do not object to it, but are proud of it.. The affirmation is -
I do solemnly and sincerely affirm and declare that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the King, and will loyally as in duty bound uphold the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia established under the Crown of the United Kingdom.
Yet the Opposition in another place produced secret documents under the privilege of Parliament.
– They did not have such documents. It was a mean political trick.
– They now suggest that the charges they have made will be vindicated by their opposition to a measure such as the present one. .
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has been very honorable in his approach to this measure, but has been poorly advised. The bill is a machinery measure. If the Opposition is afraid of the administration of the measure, then I give them the assurance that we on this side of the chamber have never maligned any of the executive members of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, but, on the contrary, have defended them. If scientists object to taking the oath of allegiance we do not want them to carry out work of a nature that would require them to take that oath. When the Opposition raises the bogy of communism, with or without a specific intent, it is using the most vicious weapon of the Communists themselves. It is trying to destroy the prestige of democratic government. Through innuendoes it is attempting to malign the leaders of this nation, who have served their country honorably in war and in peace. Anything that can damage those leaders is seized upon by the rotten Communist organization and is also reiterated by the press. The main weapon used by the Communists abroad in their attacks on democracy is, as I discovered when I travelled overseas, the destruction of popular confidence in democratic government.
– It is a long time since we have had democratic government here.
– In this chamber only recently the Opposition referred to the fact that the term “GovernorGeneral “ did not really refer to the Governor-General but to his advisers. That point was used in the State Parliament of Western Australia some years ago. Every well-informed person knows that the Governor-General acts on the advice of his Ministers. Any one who destroys the confidence of the people in democratic government is doing the work of communism. Should that confidence be broken, democratic government will be broken with it. This bill has been put forward with an honorable purpose, in a democratic way, to serve a democratic purpose, and it will be administered democratically by this Government. That cannot be “said about the acts of Parliament passed in this country during the time when the present Opposition parties were in office. While this Government is in office I have no fear that this legislation will not be properly administered and, when properly administered, it will be another step towards the full democracy which characterizes the British Commonwealth of Nations.
– I am impelled to speak on this measure by the colossal effrontery of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan), who had the audacity to mention the secret documents case. During an earlier . debate in this chamber on the Nationality and Citizenship Bill 1948 he also mentioned that there were certain sections of the Labour movement that were prepared to sabotage the British Empire. That i9 an old and despicable practice of the Opposition.
– What about the statement by Sir Stafford Cripps?
– The Australian Labour movement and Labour Government in Australia have done more to preserve the British Empire and the British way of life than have all the anti-Labour political rabble put together. The colossal effrontery of mentioning the secret documents case is evidence of the extent to which the Opposition will go in an endeavour to discredit this Government, because, if ever there was anything discreditable on the part of the so-called leader of a prominent political party in this country, it was shown in the secret documents case. The action taken in another place by a member of the Opposition when he quoted from documents that he claimed were authentic was one that the anti-Labour parties have been condemning as something that would be done by the Communist party if it gained control in Australia. Yet we have the spectacle of the leader of one of the main political parties in this Parliament “ putting over “ not only to the Parliament but also to the radio listeners, something that he claimed to be authentic, and which, if it were authentic, would be damaging to the security of this country. The question of the reason for the introduction of the present measure has been raised. It it perfectly obvious that if we are to avoid a repetition of the conditions that obtained during the pre-war years, and in the first two years of the war, we must take the measures that the anti-Labour government which had control during those years neglected to take. We do not want a repetition of what happened in 1939, when this country, which had been under anti-Labour governments for many years, and was still under an anti-Labour government, found itself absolutely ill-equipped for war. We then saw the anti-Labour political rabble at its worst. Even when this country waa faced with the imminent danger of invasion, the anti-Labour parties could not even achieve unanimity among, themselves. With the world situation as it is, we must have the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research under proper supervision, and if any authority is to be responsible to the people of this country for its safety then nobody can deny that that authority must be the Parliament elected by the people. It is proposed in this measure to bring under the control of the Public Service Board only certain sections of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, as and when required. For instance, the aeronautical research division of that council is to be brought under such control. It is perfectly obvious that what the Government is doing is in the interests of Australia as a whole. We intend that the work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research shall be directed along the best lines possible, under the final control of the Government, which, in turn, is responsible to the people of Australia. That work will be both for the purposes of peace and for the defence of this country. A previous speaker asked how anybody could know what would be required in scientific research in the near future. The only answer to that from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was that “nobody knows”. That was a perfect answer to the question asked, because if we do not know what will happen in the future in the field of scientific research it is perfectly obvious that the council responsible for that research should be finally under the control of the Government which, after all, is responsible for the defence of this country, and for its good government. No logical argument can be advanced against this measure, which proposes to bring under the control of the Public Service Board such sections of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research as shall be decided upon from time to time. All the talk about patriotism that is continually indulged in by the Opposition, both here and in another place, and also by members of the same political parties in the State parliaments, is sheer hypocrisy. I shall give the Senate one illustration of that hypocrisy to show how the Opposition parties are prepared to climb on to any old band wagon for the sake of publicity. In 1944, in Victoria, when the Labour party submitted to the Legislative Council - an undemocratic body as it is elected by only one-third of the people - a proposal to extend the franchise of that chamber to include exservice personnel, the members of it were so patriotic that they refused to do so. Yet, at every opportunity, the anti-Labour parties of this country drag out the old patriotic band wagon and try to climb on to it. It makes one absolutely sick to witness the insincerity and rank ‘political hypocrisy of the Opposition parties. Let us cast off this veneer and be true Australians. This bill proposes the only proper democratic procedure. It will place scientific experts of the country under the control of the authorities who are responsible to the people. If we want the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to work along the most effective lines, we must guide it into the proper channels. I have very much pleasure in supporting the bill.
– Some time ago in this chamber I discussed the foundation pf the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and pointed out that the original act passed many years ago provided that the organization should carry out scientific work in the interests of Australian primary and secondary industries. That law still exists. The principal function of the council is still to investigate scientific developments in relation to industry. However, certain events have affected the work of the council since its establishment. During the recent war, scientific research related to defence had to be undertaken urgently, and the Government had to find an organization at short notice to do the work. The only instrumentality available at the time, of course, waa the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Consequently, scientists associated with the organization were employed on research work of various kinds connected both directly and indirectly with defence. Not long ago I visited one of the council’s establishments in company with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan). Officers employed there were pursuing scientific inquiries into problems closely related to Australia’s security as well as into engineering projects of importance to secondary industry. Recent developments and the danger of another world conflict have made it necessary for the Government to safeguard any scientific knowledge of defence value that we have in Australia. Therefore, it has had to provide for certain changes in its scientific investigation services.
Unfortunately, members of the Opposition in both Houses of this Parliament have used this measure, which provides for those necessary changes, as a vehicle for propaganda merely for the purpose of trying to injure the Government. The campaign was launched some time ago, probably because members of the Opposition gained an inkling that this legislation was about to be introduced. In order to get in first with their attack upon the Government, they made all sorts of insinuations against persons associated with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and accused some of them of being traitors to their country. The outstanding fact of this campaign is that nobody has yet been able to point a finger at any individual officer of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research who is guilty of any of the charges that have been made. Members of Parliament who make suggestions of such a heinous character should at least have the courage to name any persons whom they suspect. Then a thorough investigation could be made and the whole matter clarified. But that has not happened.
– That would kill their propaganda.
– Of course, it would. That proves that it is only propaganda. Because of developments which have occurred since the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was established, the Government is obliged either to extend the activities of the council to include work involving national security or to create a new organization to undertake such secret research. Had the Government decided to establish a new department to carry out scientific research, there would have been an immediate outcry from the Opposition. We should have been told, “ Here is another example of wasteful bureaucracy at the expense of the taxpayers “.
In its wisdom, the Government has decided that there is a genuine necessity for the promotion of scientific investigation of certain matters not related to primary or secondary industries. I submit that it would have contravened the terms of the Science and Industry Research Act if it had directed the council to undertake such work. In such circumstances, the Auditor-General might have declared that the Government had no right to expend public money through the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research upon such undertakings. That is a “ long shot “, but such a situation might have arisen. The Government introduced the plan for which this bill provides because of the plain necessity for the promotion of defence scientific research and because there have been suggestions that experts engaged upon such work might not preserve proper secrecy. The Government has declared,. “We shall obviate as far as is humanly possible any risk of a betrayal of secret defence information “. Therefore it has drafted the bill so as to provide that theGovernorGeneral may direct certain officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to be employed in connexion with work of defence significance under the jurisdiction of a PublicService department. Officers so employed will be required to make an affirmation or swear an oath of allegiance to theCrown. By making provision for that procedure, the Government is doingeverything humanly possible to prevent. leakages of defence information. The Opposition has accused the Government of attempting to interfere with the entire organization of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The hill provides for the insertion in the Commonwealth PublicService Act of the following new section: - 81zi. The Governor-General may, from time to time, by notice published in the Gazette, declare that any work or class of work specified in the notice which is being performed under the control of the Council is work which should, on and from a date specified in the notice, be performed under the control of such Department of State of the Commonwealth as is specified in the notice and, on and from that date, that work shall accordingly be performed under the control of the Department so specified.
In my opinion, that means that, if the Government wished, it could transfer all officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to the Public Service and distribute them amongst various departments. However, I do not believe that that is the intention of the Government. If it had any such intention, I, like Senator Sheehan, would oppose the bill and would do everything within my power to prevent the Government from enacting it. I am confident that every honorable senator on this side of the chamber would do likewise in those circumstances.
The Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) made it abundantly clear in his second-reading speech that the Government’s only intention at the moment is to transfer to the Public Service, presumably to the Department of Supply and Development, about 250 officers and employees of the Division of Aeronautics of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
SenatorO’Sullivan. - Second-reading speeches are not acts of Parliament.
– I know that. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has made such interjections frequently during this debate, declaring that anything said in a. second-reading speech which is not contained in the bill to which it relates is not legal and therefore has no effect. The honorable gentleman’s argument may be sound. But of what advantage would it be to this Government, or any government, to smash the existing organization of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and spread it amongst a number of Public Service departments? The suggestion is too ridiculous for words. It is insensate.I repeat that the original act governing the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which provides that the council shall carry out work related only to primary and secondary industry, has not been altered in that respect. However, it has become necessary for the Government to find some modus operandi by which scientific defence research can be carried out. That is the reason for the introduction of this bill. The Government is obliged to protect the interests of the nation by ensuring that officers employed upon such work shall be loyal and that there shall be no leakage of scientific information. The difficulties will be overcome by removing divisions engaged upon defence work from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to a Public Service department. We must be honest. In its present form the relevant clause suggests, to my mind, that the present organization can be disbanded, and the second-reading speech of the Minister indicated that other sections in addition to the Division of Aeronautics might be transferred to a Commonwealth department. However, it is manifestly not the intention of the Government to disband the present organization. In reply to the criticism of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I suggest that the real reason for the inclusion in the bill of power to disband the present organization is that in the present uncertain state of affairs overseas it is impossible to foresee what may occur from day to day, and the clause, like the bill itself, is merely an enabling provision. It proposes to confer on the Government - not necessarily the present Administration - authority to make certain changes if the safety of the country should be menaced by the continuation of the present control of research into matters associated with the national defence. Quite a lot that was said by members of the Opposition about the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research should not have been said at all, but, of course, the main purpose of members of the Opposition in making certain statements was to injure the Government.
When the bill reaches the committee stage I should appreciate some information from the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) concerning the effect of the application of proposed new section 81m, which deals with research workers transferred from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to a department of the Commonwealth Public Service. I understand that (i ve ry reasonable protection of the rates of pay and conditions of employment of the staff who will be transferred is provided. However, I am concerned to know what will happen to the members of a section that is transferred from the council to a Commonwealth department after the purpose for which the section was transferred has been fulfilled. Will they be permitted to return to the employment of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research? The present act makes no reference to such a contingency. However, the matter I have mentioned is nothing more than an administrative detail, and I am confident that the Government is doing the right thing by introducing this measure, and is, at the same time, endeavouring to protect the interests of the people.
.- In submitting this measure the Government has been actuated not only by consideration of the welfare of Australians but also by the desire to bring Australia into line with the other members of the British Commonwealth. Before dealing with that aspect of the matter, I propose to examine briefly the reasons for the establishment of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It was only because of the failure of private enterprise to provide properly for scientific investigation of matters connected with our primary and secondary industries that the Australian Government felt constrained to establish such a body. At the time of its establishment it was intended that the council should concentrate on research into problems connected with agriculture and grazing. I am not concerned with the political colour of the government which established the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research; the important fact is that the council has done invaluable work for Australia. In addition to carrying out large-scale investigations of matters concerning the pastoral and agricultural industries, it has issued many hundreds of special pamphlets dealing with the problems pf small farmers throughout Australia. It has accomplished magnificent work in combating diseases which affect stock; its researches in that field alone have not only saved the rural producers of Australia millions of pounds but have also contributed substantially to the enrichment of Australia’s economy. The present Government is most appreciative of the work done by the council. However, in view of its substantial commitments under the scheme of Empire defence, it has decided that 250 employees of the council, who are engaged on research into matters associated with defence, shall be transferred to the control of a Commonwealth department. Although under the present constitution of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the Government is the nominal employer of those people, it will be able, when they are transferred to a Commonwealth department, to exercise more adequate supervision over them. They will come under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Board, and for their part, they will be eligible to approach the Public Service Arbitrator in respect of any complaints or suggested improvements in their conditions. As pointed out by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) in the course of his second-reading speech, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) intimated that, in addition to the longrange weapons project and associated activities, research and development projects included works dealing with the development and design of aircraft and a large number of other proposals relating to armament and other war material which, on account of security requirements, could not be described in detail. It is clear, therefore, that the Government merely proposes to segregate that section, or those sections, of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research which are conducting research into matters associated with defence from the other sections of the council which are conducting general research into matters affecting the primary and secondary industries of Australia.
Any one who has paid any attention to the criticism of the. chairman of the Council for Scientific; and Industrial Research, Dr. Rivett, must deplore the unfairness and viciousness of muchof that criticism. I was astounded to discover that there were in the community individuals who were only too anxious to attack Dr. Rivett, regardless of the damage which their attacks might do to his prestige and to his future prospects. To the credit of the democratic members in thischamber and in the House of Representatives they ably vindicated his reputation as a patriot and a man of integrity. Furthermore, the scientists of Australia passed a special resolution ex.pressing their confidence in him and recording their appreciation of the splendid work that he has done for Australia.
The present Government has availed itself freely of the advice and assistance of scientists in its efforts to improve, not only the material production of Australia, but also the social standard of the community. To that end it has engaged for Australia the services of the eminent scientist who played such a large part in the discovery of penicillin. Through the assistance of local scientists engaged at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in Melbourne the Government has made available to the people supplies of rare drugs, many of which are in extremely short supply in other parts of the world. But for the enterprise of the present Government and the co-operation of local scientists many of those lifesaving drugs would not be available in Australia. The present Government is also concerned with the need to utilize the services of scientists to organize the defence of the country. To that end it has decided to segregate those sections of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research which are concerned with research into matters associated with the national defence, and that is the reason for the introduction of the present measure. I commend the bill to honorablesenators.
SenatorASHLEY (New South Wales - Minister for Shipping and Fuel) [9.14]. - in reply- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (SenatorO’Sullivan) made only two real criticisms of thebill. He is concerned about the welfare of members of the staff of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research who are to be transferred to the Public Service., and he is also concerned about the future of members of the staff of other sections of thecouncil that are not specifically mentioned in thebill. I draw the attention of the Deputy LeaderoftheOpposition to the definition of” transf erred work” in proposed new section 81?.h. It isas follows:- “ transferred work “ means any work or class ofwork specified by the GovernorGeneral in a notice by himunder section eighty-onezi of this Act.
Surely the honorable senator will not suggest that the sections of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research that are tobe transferred to the Public Service should be named in the bill. That would be impossible because noone can foresee the directions in which the work of the council will develop. Whether or not certain sections should be transferred in the future, is a matter to be determined by the Government in the light of all circumstances. It would not be wise to proclaim to the world the nature of the defence Activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research by specifying them in the bill.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition expressed great concern about the welfare of the employees who are to be transferred. His references to the chairman of the council, Sir David Rivett, were obviously cautious. He said that he did not wish to be misunderstood.
– I said that I did not wish to be misquoted.
– The honorable senator almost apolpgized for making any reference to Sir David Rivett atall. He quoted from certain documents to prove that Sir David had made certain statements some time previously. It was the honorable senator’sobvious caution that prompted me to interject, “ You are trying to get out from under”. I assume that the honorablesenator’s caution was prompted bycertain recent happenings in this Parliament I recall that when the Council for Scientific and Industrial
Research was under discussion in the House of Representatives, the honorable senator asked a couple of questions in this chamber. Perhaps the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has also read the following statement by Sir Henry Tizard:-
I have been somewhat distressed in Australia to And that a little of the gossip which reached me in England has been confirmed by what I have read and heard here. There seems to he an impression, at least in parts of Australia, that the United Kingdom has doubts of the integrity of Australian scientists and engineers and is not seeking their co-operation in matters of a particularly confidential mature. One never knows what gossip is trying to do, but I am in a very good position to report to you the highest official opinion in the United Kingdom on this matter, and I may say there is not the slightest bit of truth in it. We have complete trust in the integrity and carefulness of our Australian colleagues in the realms of science and engineering. We, inthe United Kingdom have the very highest opinion of Australian scientists and engineers. We seek their co-operation as much as we can.
Probably it was a statement such as that which awakened the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to his responsibilities. My interjection was not intended to be offensive to the honorable senator. As I have said, it was prompted by his obvious caution.
One might have thought, after listening to the Acting Leader of the Opposition speaking on this measure, that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research existed solely for the benefit of its scientists and other employees. Nothing was said about the national importance of the work of the council. The honorable senator spoke as if the welfare of employees would be imperilled by their transfer to the Commonwealth Public Service. I remind the Senate that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is a government instrumentality, although it enjoys a wider measure of autonomy than does an ordinary government department which is responsible to a Minister. That does not mean, however, that the obligations of the council are any less. The only section of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research which, so far, has been mentioned as one of those to be transferred is the Division of Aeronautics, to which reference has been made in the course of this debate. There is no reason why that division should be named in the bill. I am sure that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, after hearing what I have had to say on the matter, will agree that it would be impossible to specify in the bill all the sections which are to be transferred.
The bill provides adequate safeguards for the rights and conditions of transferred employees. Proposed new section 81zk states - 81zk. - Service of an employee -
Then proposed new section 81zl states - 81 zl. - An employee shall preserve his eligibility for the grant of leave of absence for recreation or during illness which had accrued immediately prior to his transfer to the Commonwealth Service.
Therefore, all the rights now enjoyed by employees of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will be retained by them in the Public Service.
– Except their freedom.
– I am glad of that interjection. The honorable senator appears to be very concerned about the freedom of the employees. In fact, he is so much concerned, that in his secondreading speech, he mentioned “ migratory movements”. I point out that under section 71 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act an officer may be granted leave of absence of up to twelve months or longer, if it is considered necessary. Therefore, there will be no restriction on the movement of transferred officers. If it is necessary for an officer to go to another country, he will not be impeded as a member of the Public Service any more than he would have been as an employee of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I have before me an interesting article which was published recently in the Melbourne Age, which, by no stretch of the imagination, can he regarded as a Labour newspaper. Under the heading “ End of a Discreditable PoliticalIncident “, the Age, on the 22nd November, stated -
By their spirited and appropriate report, members of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research have revealed the truth and brought into proper perspective one of the most lamentable incidents in the recent political life of Australia - the so-called “ secret documents” case. The names of the signatories to the report, the good repute and high standing of each of them in a particular field of impartial public service, guarantee the report and give it cumulative force.
A sharp and well-merited rebuke has been administered to those politicians who “did not seek, and apparently did not care greatly, for truth and accuracy “ when making reckless, unsubstantiated allegations concerning the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, its members, its staff and the character of its work. A wholesome final note has been added to a deplorable and unnecessary political controversy. If, as a result, more restraint and a greater sense of responsibility are introduced into debates, the visible decline in the standard of parliamentary life may be checked.
It would be difficult to assess the measure of harm which has been done to the reputation of Australia by the transmission abroad of reports of this incident as it progressed. An assertion was made and frequently reiterated that scientific information from America was denied to Australia because of vague, insidious suspicions involving the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, a body which had been expressly exempt from political interference in order that it might pursue its investigations with scientific detachment. The truth which has been vindicated is that the United States authorities did not divulge their defence secrets concerning atomic research to any country, with the exception of certain details of mutual interest vouchsafed to Canada and Great Britain. The real secrets were not communicated by America to any other country. Australia never sought them.
Now that the unsullied honour and unimpeachable integrity of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and most particularly of its chairman,have been upheld, and a just rebuke administered to the politicians concerned, it is to be hoped that the acerbity and blind partisanship which characterized the incident will abate. The reputationof Australia should not again be impaired, nor the good name of leading citizens wantonly impugned, in the roughness of party politics. The nation’s devoted scientists and loyal public servants should be immune from mudbespattering comments associated with political brawling.
The provisions of this bill relating to the transfer of employees of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will not impair their welfare in any way, nor will their conditions of employment be altered. Also, as I have said, there will be no restriction upon whatever overseas travel may be considered to be desirable. One honorable senator asked whether an employee who refused to transfer to the Public Service when required to do so would be allowed to continue in his employment with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Such an employee would not be allowed to remain in the employ of the council. In that respect, he would be under the same obligation as an employee of any other department or of private enterprise. Senator Nash asked whether, in the event of a section having been transferred, say, to the Department of Supply and Development, and having completed its work, members of the staff of that section would be permitted to return to the employ of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. In that instance, such employees would be obliged to remain in the Public Service.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Definitions).
SenatorO’SULLIVAN (Queensland- Deputy Leader of the Opposition)[9.33]. -I revert to the point that I raisedin my second-reading speech. I was most interested to hear honorable senators opposite say that they agree with me that the measure is purely one dealing with defence.Who am I to stand between a Labour government and the defence of the country ? That is not my idea. However, if, under the measure, the Government has contemplated, as the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) indicated in his second-reading speech, only defence projects or matters relating to the defence or security of the country, let us in the name of parliamentary decency express that intention in the bill. Honorable senators know that the courts interpret acts of Parliament as acts of Parliament, and not through the secondreading speech of the Minister who introduces them. As a matter of fact, in a court of law parliamentary debates tendered for the purpose of endeavouring to- establish what an act of Parliament means, are not admissible. A court interprets the words of a statute as having the meaning ordinarily attributed to them, and if in any time, place or circumstance somebody felt aggrieved that this measure was being applied in a manner quite inconsistent with the sentiments expressed by the Minister in his second-reading speech and attempted to introduce that speech as evidence, the court would not admit it as evidence. I agree with honorable senators opposite that this is a measure purely for the purposes of defence and security. I do not propose to move an amendment, but I shall suggest one andI challenge the Minister to accept it. Relying upon the assurances which he has given, I shall leave it to the good sense of honorable senators to accept or reject my suggestion. The proclaimed object of the measure as stated by the Minister and the sentiments expressed by honorable senators opposite will be incorporated in the measure by making a slight alteration of proposed new section 81zi, which reads - 81zi. The Governor-General may, from time to time, by notice published in theGazeltc, declare that any work or class of work specified in the notice which is being performed under the control of the Council is work which should, on and from a date specified in the notice, be performed under the control of such Department of State of the Commonwealth as is specified in the notice and. on and from that date, that work shall accordingly be performed under the control of the Department so specified.
I suggest that after the words “ any work or class of work” the words “having defence significance “ be added. I shall not tie myself down to those precise words. Perhaps such words as “ any work relating to defence “, or “ any work involving the security or defence of the country “, could be inserted at that point. Such an amendment would put a lot of people completely at their ease; and if the assurances of the Minister are to be accepted it will cost the Government not a thing to accept any suggestion, because the Minister has assured us to-night that the only motive that actuates the Government in introducing this measure is to ensure the defence and security of our country.
It is quite true, as the Minister indicated, that when the functions and powers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research were amended in 1926 the country had only recovered from World War I., and it was then the universal hope of mankind that that war had really been fought to end war. Accordingly, it was natural that the government of the day should provide that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research should direct its investigations towards the benefit, not the destruction, of mankind. Thus, the council directed its efforts towards making some contribution to the betterment of our primary and secondary industries. The manufacture of diabolical weapons which the ingenuity of mankind has since devised for the destruction of mankind was, fortunately, very far removed from the thoughts and conception of those who were responsible for the direction of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. In 1926, the powers and functions of the council were defined in section 11 of the Science and Industry Research Act as follows: -
The powers and functions of the Council shall, subject to the regulations and to the approval of the Minister, be -
the initiation and carrying out of scientific researches in connexion with, or for the promotion of, primary or secondary industries in the Commonwealth;
the training of research workers and the establishment and awarding of industrial research studentships and fellowships;
the making of grants in aid of pure scientific research
the recognition or establishment of associations of persons engaged in any industry or industries for the purpose of carrying out industrial scientific research and the cooperation with and the making of grants to such associations when recognized or established ;
the testing and standardization of scientific apparatus and instruments, and the carrying out of scientific investigations connected with standardization of apparatus machinery, materials and instru ments used in industry;
the establishment of a Bureau of Information for the collection and dissemination of information relating to scientific and technical matters; and also that of acting as a means of liaison between the Commonwealth and other countries in matters of scientific research.
Having regard to the splendid achievements of the council let us continue the basis on which it has operated since its inception, untrammelled and completely free from departmental control and remove to specific departments, such as the Department of Defence, or the Department of Supply and Development, work which particularly appertains to their activities. That can easily be accomplished if the Minister will so limit and define the class of work contemplated in proposed new section 81zi. Why accept a provision under which the complete structure and personnel of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research could be arbitrarily transferred to the Public Service? I assure the Government that if it persists in its proposal a feeling of uneasiness will permeate the magnificent staffs of the council, and thus the splendid work which they have been doing will be hampered. The Government has a duty to make its decision clear by specifically setting out its intention within the framework of “the bill, and not merely expressing it in the second-reading speech of the Minister in charge of the measure.
– For the reasons stated in my second-reading speech and in my reply to the debate on the motion for the second reading, the Government cannot accept the suggestion made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan). I again point out that developments are taking place so rapidly, literally from day to day, that it is not possible to make specific provisions of the kind suggested in a measure of this kind.
– Would not “ for purposes of defence “ be sufficiently wide?
– These developments do not necessarily concern defence directly. It may become necessary to transfer a section carrying out investigations with respect to agricultural production. Almost anything could become related to defence organization. There fore, it is not possible to enumerate specifically the sections which it might become necessary to transfer from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to some other department. I thought that I made that point perfectly clear in my reply to the second-reading: debate.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 7th December (vide page 4008), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
_ - I appreciate the necessity for legislation to deal with this subject, but I am disappointed as, I am sure, areother honorable senators from cattlegrowing States, at the lack of a guaranteed price for hides and leather. Cattle-growing is a hard-working, poorlypaid and very precarious industry. The honorable senator who introduced themeasure likened it in some respects to the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill. Theonly likeness that I can see between the measures is that both provide- for a fixed price but without, in. this present measure, any guaranteed price to the producer. The producers of hides and skins at the present time are getting the worst of two worlds. They are forbidden to sell their producein the open market and receive the very high prices available overseas, which areconsiderably higher than the price that can be obtained locally. It is quite proper that the Government should see that Australia’s requirements are met before hides and leather are exported. I understand’ that Australia’s requirements in hides and leather account for approximately 90 per cent, of the production. The balance, after appraisement, is exported, and the whole of the industry participates in the financial return from overseas. But the difficulty is that the local price that is fixed by appraisers is considerably below the world price. Even after the local price has been fixed by appraisal there is no guarantee that producers will receive even the appraised price. There is a limitation on the price that the producer may receive, but there is no limitation upon what the merchants and other necessary intermediaries shall get. The unfortunate producer is in a very poor position compared with the merchants and other intermediaries and is getting the worst of both worlds, as I have said. He is now denied the benefit of the excellent prices prevailing overseas, yet has no guaranteed local price. I do not condemn the Government’s desire to ensure that local requirements are met first, as otherwise the prices of leather goods on the home market would sky-rocket. Most other primary producers, however, have a guaranteed price. The whole community benefits from the lower local price for hides and leather, and it is most unfair that the burden of that lower price should be borne by a particular section of the community, the producers themselves. At the expense of the producers the Australian Government is guaranteeing to the people of Australia that articles made from hides and leather shall be available to them at reasonable prices. That guarantee should be implemented at the expense of the whole community. The growers should be given a guaranteed price, not only for to-day, but for a period of at least five years. That would be only a reasonable solatium for their being deprived of the opportunity to avail themselves of the higher prices available in overseas markets. That guaranteed price, as I have stated, should be borne by the whole people, because restriction of the sale of hides and leather overseas is imposed upon the producers for the benefit of the whole community. I have no other serious complaint about the bill.
– I was interested to hear the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan). He said that the people of Australia should pay for the protection they are given against high prices for commodities made from hides and leather. I fear that the people of
Australia are paying for their indiscretion
– In having a Labour government.
– They are paying for their indiscretion of a few months ago when they heeded the specious arguments put to them by members of Parliament representing the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, and by the press and radio, during the recent referendum campaign. The people are indeed paying for their lack of foresight and for allowing themselves to be misled by our honorable friends opposite. This measure is designed to protect the people against further exploitation. It is a measure that can be operated within the existing constitutional power of the Commonwealth Parliament. The action to be taken under it is a result of cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States. Had the people of Australia, when they were given the opportunity to do so a few months ago, clothed the Commonwealth Parliament with the power to fix prices, we would have had an efficient price-fixing system in Australia now. It may be noted that this scheme is very similar to that which is now in operation regarding the wheat industry.
– There is no guaranteed price under this scheme.
– There is no guaranteed price, but there is a very important provision for the establishment of an acquisition scheme.
– We will all go broke together.
– A certain quantity of hides will be sold in Australia to meet the requirement of the local market, and the balance will be exported. The prices received will be pooled and divided among the growers, and therefore the grower will receive a proper equalized price. The Australian people will be guaranteed footwear and other commodities made from leather at fair and reasonable prices. Already great fears have been expressed in the press about what is likely to be the result of the pasing out of existence of Commonwealth controls that have been in operation under the National Security Regulations since the outbreak of the war, whereby we were able to control the price of leather. Large sections of the community already fear that there will be a considerable rise in the price of footwear. Such an increase would be of grave moment to a man with a family. The Government has stepped into the breach. Because its power is now receding it proposes, under this legislation, to obtain the co-operation of the States to implement the necessary control. Would it not have been a grand thing for the Australian people if our State Parliaments had co-operated with us in price-fixing instead of attempting to belittle this Government? We had the sorry spectacle in Victoria, where Mr. Hollway, the leader of the Liberal party and Mr. McDonald, the leader of the Country party went throughout the length and breadth of the State and spoke of the Australian Government as a government that could not be trusted with certain powers. But now we find that there is nothing too bad that these two party leaders can say about each other. On the one hand we have the Leader of the Liberal party describing the Leader of the Country party as a “ humbug “ and on the other the Leader of the Country party describing the Leader of the Liberal party as a “ contemptible political ratbag “. That “ political ratbag “ went throughout Victoria advising the people to vote against the continuance of prices control by this Government. Now that these two leaders have fallen out we witness this great exposure of their true feelings about each other, and the people begin to realize what they can expect from such hypocrites. Only a week ago Mr. McDonald was still prepared to follow a “contemptible political ratbag”, but when a dispute arose between them about portfolios, that was a horse of a different colour and they fell out. As I have stated, the Government has introduced this measure to protect the people against further exploitation, which could occur because the people heeded “ political ratbags “, as described by Mr. McDonald, and political “humbugs”, as described by Mr. Hollway. Those individuals have derided this Parliament and responsible Ministers who are entrusted with the destinies of Australia. It is very fortunate that we have this measure before us. It will help the people to retrieve themselves from the situation that they created when they blindly followed the advice of those politicians and voted against the Government’s proposal at the prices referendum.
– in reply - The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan), in his criticism of the bill, which was very mild, declared that the Government was imposing some disability upon the cattleraisers of Australia. He omitted to state that this legislation had been introduced at the express request of the State governments, three of which are anti-Labour in character. The Governments of Western Australia and South Australia are composed of Liberal-Country party coalitions and the Government of Victoria is temporarily Liberal. The revenue of the Hide and Leather Industries Board is derived from the sale of hides exported as leather, as well as raw hides. That is why the board to-day can afford to pay 25 per cent, above the home-consumption price to the producers. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition did not mention that fact. One would think, after listening to him, that the Government was robbing the cattle-raisers of something to which they were entitled. There is a disparity between the home-consumption price and the world parity price. That state of affairs applies to many products, which are controlled in a similar fashion. As Senator Sheehan has reminded us, not only does the cattle-raiser get the guaranteed price, but also he enjoys the benefit of the reduced prices of shoes and other leather goods, the cost of which is a big item on every cattle station. The producers also enjoy the benefit of relatively low prices for tea and other products in respect of which this Government pays subsidies. Lead, for instance, is sold in Australia at a price much below the world parity. That item, too, is used in the cattle-rasing industry. In fact, the cattleraisers are not penalized to the degree that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would have us believe. The very fact that this legislation has been introduced at the request of State governments is, I think, sufficient justification for the unanimous support of the Senate:.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Australian Wool Board - Twelfth Annual Report, for year 1947-48.
Coal Industry Act-First Report of the Joint Coal Board, for period let March, 1947, to 30th June, 1948.
Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act - First Annual Report by the Chief Judge and the Chief Conciliation Commissioner, for period ended 7th October, 1948.
Commonwealth Public Service Act- Appointment - Department of Civil Aviation - J. E. Schofield.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Twentythird Annual Report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, for year 1947-48, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Department of Labour and National Service purposes - Stafford, Queensland,
Overseas Telecommunications Commission purposes -Broome, Western Australia.
Postal purposes - Gulnare, South Australia.
Sugar Agreement Act- Seventeenth Annual Report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, for year ended 31st August, 1948.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act- Twentieth Annual Report of the Australian Wine Board, for year 1947-48, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Senate adjourned at 10.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 December 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1948/19481208_senate_18_200/>.