18th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the PostmasterGenera], whose department is providing a most valuable service to the community, particularly in country areas, what progress is being made in the installation of rural automatic exchanges, which are a great boon to country residents. I should also like to know at what rate the new equipment is being installed and whether any undue delay has occurred.
– Rural automatic exchanges are being installed as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, the new equipment has not arrived as soon as we had expected, but I can assure the honorable senator that as the equipment is landed in Australia it is installed almost immediately.
– Is the Minister for Shipping and Fuel aware that three mines in the Newcastle district are idle because of an industrial dispute concerning an engine-driver which threatens to close the entire Newcastle works of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited by the week-end ? Did the Prime Minister say yesterday, when commenting on the dispute, that it was deplorable that one petty industrial dispute should cause a stoppage of an industry so vital as the production of steel ? What action is being taken by the Government in this grave industrial crisis, which threatens to cripple the entire economy of Australia?
– I understand that it is correct that three Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited mines in the Newcastle area are idle as the result of some industrial dispute. The Government is not taking any action in the matter because that is the function of the Joint Coal Board, whose principal
objective is to stimulate the production of coal not only for New .South Wales but also for the other States. Associated with that board is a tribunal for the settlement of industrial disputes, and I understand that the chairman of that tribunal is in Newcastle to-day conferring with the parties to the dispute. For that reason I think that the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition, and any further comment which I might make on that matter, would not conduce to a settlement of the dispute.
– Some months ago I asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General a question relative to the desirability of insanity being regarded by all States of the Commonwealth as a good and sufficient ground for divorce. Although it is a valid ground in some States, that is not so in New South Wales. At that time the Minister said that the Attorney-General, who was then absent from Australia, was particularly interested in this matter, and that it would not be dealt with in his absence. Now that his colleague has returned to Australia, will the Minister make representations to him with a. view to some finality being reached ?
– The AttorneyGeneral was himself working on the question of divorce laws in Australia being made uniform. Certain of his departmental officers have been collating information relating to the application of divorce laws in the States. The Constitution permits the Commonwealth to legislate in respect of divorce. As honorable members are aware, that power was invoked recently for the purpose of avoiding difficulty with relation to domicile by reason of husbands and wives moving from one State to another. Arrangements were made which favoured the wives of ex-servicemen of other countries who subsequently deserted them. Those are the only two laws that the Commonwealth has made under the Constitution. The complexity of this task will be appreciated when it is remembered that the divorce laws of the six States are different, and that there are further divorce laws operating in the Australian Capital Territory and in the Northern Territory under Commonwealth aegis. I assure the Senate that the drawing-up of uniform legislation in this matter is a very difficult task if even-handed justice is to be meted out and if the conflicting points of view of people in this country are to be reconciled. As the honorable senator has said, where insanity persists for a lengthy period, in some instances for seven years, and where it has been certified that that condition cannot be cured, that is a ground for divorce in some States. Even that has to be looked at from many aspects. When insanity has not persisted for a definite time, and is remediable, it would not be an adequate ground for divorce. That field in itself is difficult. I assure the Senate that the whole of the divorce laws in this country are being fully examined.
– Is the Minister for Shipping and Fuel aware that, as a result of a breakdown at the East Perth power station, serious dislocation of industry has occurred in Western Australia? Is he also aware that on the 12th February a report was published in the West Australian to the effect that the supply of liquid fuel for auxiliary plants, with the exception of public utilities and a few industries, had ceased completely from the 11th February? The newspaper report also stated that an instruction to that effect had been issued by the Director of Rationing, Mr. J. B. Cuming, after consultation with the Prime Minister. If that report is correct, will the Minister reconsider his decision, with a view to making fuel available to Western Australia to enable industry to be carried on to the fullest extent possible?
– I am aware that there has been dislocation of industry in Western Australia as a result of the breakdown of the power plant in Perth. On Saturday morning last I conferred with the Prime Minister respecting this matter, and, as a result, certain arrangements were made between the Prime Minister and the Premier of Western Australia. The Prime Minister approved the Premier’s application for 35,000 gallons of petrol to be provided for the generation of power, and a further 15,000 gallons of petrol for purposes associated with refrigeration. I have not seen the article in the West Australian to which the honorable senator has referred. I should think that any statement which Mr. Cuming, the Director of Rationing, would make would be in accordance with the decision arrived at by the Prime Minister and myself for the provision of substitute fuel for Western Australia. The honorable senator has requested that the position be reviewed. I point out that a similar position exists in New South Wales, where what are known as “ blackouts” occur very frequently. I do not mean to be critical of the Sydney County Council. Frankly, I believe that its difficulties in this respect are a legacy from the last war, when, because of war conditions, plant which had been ordered for the Bunnerong power station and other power plants could not be delivered. Consequently, such organizations do not possess adequate plant to meet the increased demands arising from the expansion of industry generally. However, if substitute fuel were to be provided whenever a black-out threatened in New South Wales, very limited supplies of such fuel could be made available outside that State.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs seen a statement in the press to the effect that foreign policy spokesmen for both the Republican and Democratic parties in the United States of America will not accept the obligation to go to war under the proposed North Atlantic Pact? Has the Australian Government given consideration to becoming a signatory to the North Atlantic Pact? Is that pact considered to be an alternative to the United Nations organization?
– I have seen the statement to which the honorable senator has referred. I do not think that it is in contemplation that Australia will be a signatory to the North Atlantic Pact. The North
Atlantic Pact is not intended to be an alternative to the United Nations organization. The nations that are contemplating entry into the pact include those which are the strongest supporters of the United Nations. It is not intended that the pact should be something by way of an alternative, but something of the nature of a regional pact which is permitted under the Charter of the United Nations.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Fuel whether it is a fact that the 3,000 members of the Federated Storemen and Packers Union in Sydney have imposed a ban upon the removal of wool, skins, hides and tallow from all stores in Sydney. Did the members of that union apply to have their grievances heard by a conciliation commissioner before imposing the ban? If so, is it a fact that the ban is delaying the loading and departure of at least six overseas ships? What effect will the delay have upon the turn-round of other ships awaiting berths? What action, if any, is the Government taking to settle the dispute?
– I have read in the press that there is a dispute between the storemen and packers and the firms responsible for the despatch of wool from Australia. From that, report I also gleaned the fact, which was not mentioned by the honorable senator, that the matter was under consideration by one of the conciliation commissioners, who had decided not to deal with the dispute until the men returned to work. Again I say that action by myself or by the Government would not be conducive to an early ‘ settlement of the dispute. The matter is in the hands of an arbitration official and, in the circumstances, I am sure that the honorable senator, if he were fortunate enough to be occupying the Government bench, would do what I am doing and would not interfere with the arbitration system that has been established to handle such matters. I do not think that interference would secure any political advantage for him. Questions that are so frequently asked in this chamber about industrial disturbances do not help in any way to settle the disputes. If I thought that they could achieve any good purpose, I should encourage debate on the subject of industrial disputes every day.
– I asked only for information.
– The honorable senator was broadcasting political propaganda.
Tusmore Post Office - Lineyards in Tasmania - King Island Air Mail Service - Brisbane Telephone Services - Rural Automatic Exchange Units - Trunk Lines - Invermay Post Office.
– Has the Postmaster-General noticed a report published in yesterday’s Advertiser, in South Australia, which states that the Tusmore post office, which is housed in the Burnside town hall building, was so congested that letters had to be sorted in a nearby shop? If that report be true, what does the department intend to do to overcome the conditions at that post office?
– My attention has been drawn to the report to which the honorable member has referred. The position is that the Tusmore post office, which is of official status, is conducted in premises leased from the Burnside Municipal Council. The accommodation available is insufficient for postmen employed at that office, and they are housed in a portion of another rented building, approximately 300 yards distant. It is proposed to erect an official building at Tusmore, and plans for such a building were prepared two or three years ago by the Department of Works and Housing, in anticipation of the requisite building permit being forthcoming from the State authorities. However, due to the acute housing shortage in South Australia the necessary permission has only recently been obtained. Also, owing to local developments in the meantime, the original plans need some modification, an aspect which is receiving urgent attention. The whole matter is being expedited as much as possible and the department hopes to be in a position to proceed with the work in the very near future.
asked the Postmaster-General. upon notice -
What progress is being made with the establishment of a lineyard for the Postmaster - General’s staff at Burnie and Wynyard, Tasmania *
– The following are the replies to the honorable senator’s questions : -
The present position in regard to the provision of adequate lineyard facilities at Burn ie and Wynyard is that -
At Burnie a suitable property on which a large building is erected is in course of acquisition and it is proposed to effect alterations to the building to make it suitable for line depot purposes until such time as a. new structure can be provided. Negotiations are proceeding with the former owners to give the department possession of the property on a rental basis prior to gazettal of acquisition.
At Wynyard the establishment of a. lineyard is contingent upon the acquisition of a suitable site to permit of the erection of line depot buildings. Action in this direction is proceeding and gazettal of the acquisition is expected within six to eight weeks. When the site has been acquired, the preparation “f plans for the new line depot building will be undertaken. I would like to add. however, that my department is faced with a very large programme of building works and some little time must necessarily elapse before the work at Wynyard can he undertaken. Every effort will be made to have the projects completed as early as practicable.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The following are the replies to the honorable senator’s questions : -
The present tri-weekly air service to King Island is carried out by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. I. am advised that the formal contract between the company and the Department of Civil Aviation for this service has expired, but that the service is continuing to be operated on the basis of a four-weekly agreement between the parties. However, my information does not indicate any present intention to discontinue the present arrangements.
asked the Post. master-General, upon notice -
– The following are the replies to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
In view of the statement in the thirtyseventh annual report of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for the year 1946-47 that, during the year covered by the report, a 40-line rural automatic exchange unit was designed by the department to meet the peculiar conditions applying to a great number of small centres throughout the Commonwealth and that, following upon successful tests, it was proposed to purchase a substantial number of these units for installation at suitable locations, will the Postmaster-General state how many of these units have been installed to date, and where?
– The following is the reply to the honorable senator’s question: -
Following on the successful teste of the 40-line rural automatic exchange which was designed by the department, orders were placed in the United Kingdom for 500 such units hut, owing to economic conditions in Great Britain, delay has occurred in obtaining the equipment. It is expected that deliveries of the units will commence towards the end oi this year, and steps will be taken to install I hem as soon as possible. Sixty of the 50/200-line type rural automatic exchanges arrived in Australia recently, and the work of installing these units has commenced.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
In view of the statement in the thirtyseventh annual report of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for the year 1940-47 that, with a view to assisting the development of rural areas which are not connected with tin- trunk line system, approval was given fur the construction of SI new lines during the year covered by the report, will the Postmaster-General inform the Senate what number of these lines was in operation during the year ended 31st December, 194S?
– The following is the reply to the honorable senator’s question : -
Of the 81 new lines which were approved during 1946-47. CO were in operation at the 31st December, 194S, and four have been completed since that date. Work is now in hand on 15 of the other lines and the remaining two will he undertaken when negotiations for the conduct of the telephone offices concerned have been completed.
Senator LAMP (through Senator Murray) asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
What steps are being taken to provide an official post office in the suburb of Invermay, Launceston Tasmania?
– The following is the reply to the honora’ble senator’s question : -
The department intends, when practicable, to introduce official conditions at the Invermay Post Office but it has been necessary to defer the proposal because suitable accommodation, either of a temporary or permanent nature, is not available. A suitable site to permit the erection of a post office building is in course of acquisition and I understand that gazettal of the acquisition is awaiting survey information. An item has been included in the rehabilitation programme of building works for Tasmania for this project but, in view of the great amount of building work to be Undertaken for my department, some little time must necessarily elapse before the Invermay project can be undertaken. Every effort will be made to have the work put in hand with the least possible delay.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 16th February (vide page 341).
Clause 1 -
This Act ma v be cited as the Shipping Act 1.048.
Amendment (by Senator Ashley) agreed to -
That the figure “ 1!H8” he left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the figure “ 1!14!> “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to. Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to. Clause 4 (Definitions).
, - I should like to be satisfied beyond doubt concerning the scope of the proposed definition of “merchant ship “. I understand that attempts are being made to place in service passenger steamers that were used years ago on the River Murray. What control will the Government be able to exercise over vessels of that kind? Will such vessels come within the proposed definition of “ merchant ship “ ?
[3.331.- The definition of “merchant ship “ is very wide. It embraces all vessels except naval vessels, and includes not only intra-state and interstate ships but also harbour craft, ferries, lighters and all other craft.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Transfer of certain ships to board).
.- Will the effect of the implementation of the clause be that all ships leased by shipping companies that are now operating on the Australian coast will be withdrawn from the companies and taken over by the authority proposed to be constituted under the bill, or will the companies be permitted to continue to operate the vessels that they have leased on charter from the Australian Shipping Board?
– I think that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) must be confused concerning the vessels owned by the Australian Shipping Board that are being operated by the shipping companies because those vessels have not been leased to the companies. When the time is opportune all ships belonging to the Commonwealth that are now under the control of the Australian Shipping Board will bo taken over by the new authority proposed to be established. Any vessel held on charter which has not elapsed by effluxion of time will also be taken over by the new authority. I should say that immediately accommodation and other factors governing the taking over of the ships have been overcome, those ships will come under the authority of the Australian Shipping Board.
– Can the Minister indicate how many ships that are owned or chartered by the Australian Shipping Board, and in which work is being carried out by Australian ship workers, are involved?
– There are approximately 25 ships owned by the Commonwealth and about fifteen chartered by the Australian Shipping Board.
– Making a total of 40?
– That is approximately correct.
Clause agreed to. Clause 6 agreed to. Clause 7 (Constitution of board).
– I should like the Minister in charge of the bill to inform the Senate what qualifications are to be required of candidates to render them eligible for appointment to the board. It is not unusual in matters such as this for an indication of the type of person who would be chosen for appointment to be included in the measure.
– I am not in a position to indicate the qualifications required, but 1 assure the honorable senator that the qualifications of those engaged will bp the highest possible. If needs be, suitable men will be sought outside Australia.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses S to 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 (Powers of board).
– Sub-clause 1 (b) provides - ( 1 . ) The Board shall have power -
I should like the Minister to indicate whether that paragraph includes any intra-state ship connecting with interstate services established pursuant to paragraph a
– Sub-clause 1 (a) reads - (1.) The Board shall have power - (o) to establish . . . -
Sub-clause 2 empowers the Minister, where in his opinion a shipping service is necessary to meet the requirements of a particular area and it is desirable in the public interest that a shipping service should be provided for that area, to direct the board to establish, maintain and operate or to continue to maintain and operate, a shipping service for the purpose of meeting those requirements. When I addressed the Senate during the second-reading debate on this measure, I referred to out-ports in Western Australia, such as Albany, Busselton and
Bunbury, which are intermediate ports between Esperance and Fremantle. I presume that those ports would be covered by the words “ a place in a State “. I have in mind the position that obtained in Queensland with relation to air services that were instituted by TransAustralia Airlines, and that under the Constitution the Parliament has no power to control intrastate trade. In the instance that I have mentioned, in order to meet the requirements of people living in the north of Queensland, an agreement had to be made with Queensland to continue intra-state services. I wish to be quite clear that the words “between a place in a State and a place in another State” will be sufficient to enable the Minister, should he consider that it is necessary, to cause a service to be inaugurated in a particular area in a State. Would it be necessary, under the provisions of the sub-clause, for the Government to negotiate with Western Australia to maintain services to connect these particular out-ports with the en route services, or is it desirable that this provision should be amended?
– I should like some information as to whether coastal vessels operating on the west coast of South Australia would be covered by any clause. [ point out that despite many difficulties these vessels have been able to continue running only because of assistance rendered by the State Government. I desire to know whether provision is made in this bill for a continuation of the services at present being maintained to distant ports on the coast of South Australia.
– The purpose of these provisions is to enable the board to carry intra-state passengers or cargo which is incidental to interstate or overseas voyages. This power is necessary to enable the board to carry on economically. It would not be an economical proposition for a vessel to pass by a State to take cargo elsewhere. This provision applies particularly to north Queensland ports and those referred to by Senator Nash. This provision is de signed to enable cargo to be dealt with between the starting point of the voyage and the destination.
. out that in Queensland most of the transport by sea falls within the intra-state category. There is little interstate traffic. Without vessels travelling interstate at all, there is considerable carriage by sea of goods and passengers. Would it not be preferable to prevent the possibility of litigation by obtaining the consent of the States?
– I believe that the remedy can be applied as a matter of mechanics in the operation of the line. Probably, several agreements would need to be made, and I have no doubt that the Premier of any State concerned would readily enter into such an agreement having regard to the fact that a better shipping service would thus be provided for that State.
.- In respect of the powers and functions of the proposed board, is conflict likely to arise with overseas companies which at present operate under the Navigation Act? I refer to the position which will arise when vessels engaged in the overseas trade under the control of the proposed board engage in the interstate trade also.
– It is proposed that only ships that have been built in Australia shall be permitted to engage in the coastal trade.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 16 agreed to.
Clause 17 (Appointment of officers).
– Is it the intention of the Government that officers required by the board shall be public servants, or that the board may engage its officers directly on its own account?
– Under this clause the board is empowered to appoint such staff as may be necessary to carry out its powers and functions subject to certain exceptions approved by the Minister. It is provided that officers of the board must be British subjects, of sound health, and that they must take the oath, or make an affirmation, of allegiance. The Minister may approve the appointment to certain positions of persons who do not comply with all of the provisions specified. Those exceptions may be necessary in certain isolated instances, for example, where the board may wish to appoint temporary staff in its offices in foreign countries. In such instances the provision that officers must be British subjects and take the oath of allegiance could not be applied. The staff of the board will not be brought directly under the control of the Public Service Board, but sub-clause 5 provides that the terms and conditions of employment of the board’s officers shall be subject to the approval of the Public Service Board.
Senator SANDFORD (Victoria) 1 3.49]. - Sub-clause 1 provides that the board may appoint such officers as it thinks necessary for the purposes of this legislation. Does that provision give complete freedom to the board to make such appointments, or will it be under any influence of the Minister when it is doing so?
– The board will have complete freedom in appointing its officers.
– It is provided that a person shall not be admitted to the service of the board unless he is a British subject. Having regard to the Nationality and Citizenship Act passed last session, is any anomaly likely to arise under this provision ?
– Appointees must be British subjects except in the instances I have already indicated.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 18 (Temporary and casual employees).
– The clause reads -
The Board may employ such temporary or casual employees as it thinks fit, on such terms and conditions as the Board determines.
I take it that the board, in making such appointments, will ensure that the terms and conditions of employment will be in accordance with determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator.
– The board, will be empowered to employ temporary, or casual, employees on such terms and conditions as it determines. Officers and seamen engaged on the board’s ships will normally be engaged under this clause. After the proposed shipping line commences to operate, the board may find it to be desirable at a later stage to engage ships’ officers and, perhaps, petty officers on some basis of permanent service. That will represent a new departure in the industry. In the early stages, however, at least officers and seamen will be employed in accordance with articles according to the usual practice on the Australian coast.
.- Under this provision, the board itself will be empowered to fix rates and conditions in respect of temporary and casual employees. Would it not be better to provide that such employees shall be employed at not less than award rates and conditions? I recall that many employees of the Australian Broadcasting Commission were paid rates and worked under conditions which were determined by the commission itself, hut many of those employees received less than award rates of wages, with the result that there was much discontent. Those employees were engaged in several callings. It is quite possible that a similar position may arise in this instance. Therefore, we should provide that employees of the proposed shipping board shall he employed at rates of wages and under conditions not less favorable than those provided under corresponding awards.
– The point raised by the honorable senator is covered by clause 40, which reads -
Nothing in this Act shall be deemed to prevent the making of an industrial award, order, determination or agreement under any Act in relation to persons appointed or employed under this Act or affect the operation of any such award, order, determination or agreement in relation to persons so employed.
.- That provision does not exactly answer the point that I raised. It is quite possible that while employees are endeavouring to obtain an award they may be employed for a considerable period at wages and under conditions less favorable than those provided under corresponding awards. That happened in respect of employees of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in the instance I have already given. Take the position of temporary clerks. I know of a case which arose a little while ago involving clerks employed by the Australian Wheat Board. Tt is quite possible that while an award is being finalized clerks employed by the proposed shipping board could be paid wages less than those provided under corresponding award*. Those rates could he fixed by the board in exactly the same way as rates were fixed by the Australian Wheat Board, and if they were less than award rates the employees would be at: a disadvantage until they could be brought under some award. A safeguarding proviso such as I have suggested would protect the interests not only of one group of employees but also of all other persons employed by the board. I have especially in mind the interests of less skilled classes of employees, such as office cleaners. Different awards apply to office cleaners in different States. In Victoria, the Australian Government pays the State award rates for those workers. But the Australian Shipping Board would be able to pay any rates that it liked to fix for them.
– Clause 17 (5) states -
Subject to the next succeeding sub-section, the terms and conditions of employment of officers appointed by the Board shall be such ns arc, subject to the approval of the Public Service Board, determined by the Board.
I do not know whether there is a definition of the word “ officer “, but T assume that it refers to any officer in charge of any section and also to seamen, cooks, stewards and other employees who may be engaged in the service of the board. Those employees, under the terms of clause 17, may be engaged upon terms and conditions determined by the board, but sub ject to the approval of the Public Service Board. Clause IS merely provides that temporary or casual employees may be employed on such terms and conditions as the Australian Shipping Board may determine. If that clause were made to conform to clause 17 so that the board’s power would be subject to the approval of the Public Service Board, or if the words “at not less than award rates “ were included, my objections would be removed. I agree with Senator Katz that it is necessary to have some safeguard in the clause.
Senator ASHLEY (New South Wales -Minister for Shipping and Fuel) 3. 57]. - This matter has been carefully examined by officers of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, who assure me that clause 40 will preserve the rights of employees according to industrial awards.
– The point is that awards may not be applied until long after the creation of the board and the engagement of its employees.
– The board is not yet in existence, and awards or determinations cannot be made before it is formed.
– It that be so, why is it necessary to include a clause which will give the board power to fix terms and conditions of employment?
Clause agreed to.
Clause 19 (Power to borrow money).
– This clause is very slip-shod. Honorable senators who were familiar with the legislation of 1923 will recall that the power vested in the Australian Shipping Board to raise money then was very carefully safeguarded and limited. I notice in this clause that the amount that the proposed Australian Shipping Board may raise by way of bank overdraft, without the consent or even the knowledge of the Parliament, will be entirely unlimited. Section 16 of the previous act provided that a bank overdraft or an advance from the Treasurer could be obtained by the Australian Shipping Board for working capital. I notice also that this clause 19 does not provide for security to be given to the Treasury for any ‘advance that may be made from time to time. It is conceivable that the proposed board, being a corporation and a trading concern, could incur very heavy obligations. Damages for negligence might be awarded against it as the result of an accident, yet some huge amount of money that might have been advanced by the Treasurer would be completely unsecured. The previous legislation provided for debentures to be given by the board to the Government for any advances made from time to time. Furthermore, there was a limitation upon the total amount of advances that could be made. The total amount advanced to the board could not exceed 25 per cent, of the debentures already issued and still unredeemed. If at any time the board wanted to raise further capital, it had to do so by the issue of debentures, but only with the consent of .both Houses of Parliament. In other words, parliamentary control and contact were closely maintained. That was a very sound procedure, and I urge the Minister to accept my suggestion that limits be placed upon the amount that may be borrowed by the proposed board by way of bank overdraft and the amount that may be advanced to it by the Treasurer out of appropriations. I also urge that the board he required to provide security to the Commonwealth for any advances made either by way of overdraft or from appropriations.
– There are ample safeguards in the clause, the purpose of which is to enable the proposed board to finance its operations. The board will be empowered to borrow money on overdraft subject to the guarantee of the Treasurer.
– But the Treasury will have no security.
– The Treasurer may also make advances to the board out of funds appropriated by the Parliament for the purpose. The Parliament will have control of the appropriations, and that will be a safeguard. The clause also provides that the board may not borrow money in any other manner except with the consent of the Treasurer. Those safeguards are ample to protect both the Treasury and the Commonwealth Bank.
– The Minister has completely misunderstood my argument. There is not the slightest doubt that the bill contains ample power to enable the Treasurer to make advances. My point is that there is no provision for the protection of the Treasury in respect of any advances that the Treasurer may make. Earlier legislation of this character provided that any advances made by the Treasurer must be immediately secured by debentures in favour of the Treasury.
– But the Treasurer will make any advances out of moneys appropriated by the Parliament.
– And if the shipping line should “ go broke “, the Treasury will be an unsecured creditor. The previous legislation provided that, in the event of the hoard controlling the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers getting into financial difficulties, the Treasury would be protected by debenture for the assets of the board in respect of any advances made to it. The clause that we are now considering provides that the. Treasurer may make an unsecured advance of public money to the proposed board. This light-hearted Government may consider that to be a completely satisfactory procedure, but it is shockingly bad business.
– The advances for which the clause provides will be made upon the principles (hat apply to other advances, such as the one that was made last year to the Joint Coal Board.
– The Minister did not expect that to he paid hack did he?
– It was made on account of the fact that the board showed a profit of £121,000. Senator O’Sullivan is contemplating the possibility of a repetition of the drastic results that occurred years ago when an anti-Labour government was in power and the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was ruined. I can assure the Senate that there is no need to fear the financial result of the venture envisaged in this bill.
The money that will be advanced by the Commonwealth will be quite safe. All the precautions and safeguards necessary to protect public money are provided in the measure. First, the money borrowed has to be guaranteed by the Treasurer and, secondly, the money guaranteed by the Treasurer has to be appropriated by the Parliament.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 20 to 23 agreed to.
Clause 24 (Liability to taxation).
– Without specifically mentioning the clause, I stressed in my second-reading speech the unfairness of this provision. As the proposed Commonwealth shipping line is to compete with private shipping companies, it is only fair that it should be on even terms with those companies. Section 20 of the 1923 act provided -
The income, property and operations of the board shall be subject to the like rates, taxes and charges that would be payable under the laws of the Commonwealth or a State if the board were carrying on business as a trading corporation formed by private individuals.
That was a fair provision, which ensured that competition between the Government line and the private shipping lines would be on an equitable basis. But let us have a look at the corresponding clause of this measure. It states -
The income, property and operations of the hoard shall be subject to taxation (other than income tax) under the laws of the Commonwealth but shall not be subject to taxation under any law of a State to which the Commonwealth is not subject.
That clause has a high and mighty and noble appearance; but I ask the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) to indicate just what type of tax the Commonwealth line will be called upon to pay. I urge that consideration be given to bringing this clause at least into line with the provisions of the 1923 act. If the proposed Commonwealth shipping line is to be operated on sound, sane business lines, as honorable senators opposite have claimed, it should not have any difficulty in competing with private enterprise on equal terms. The profits made by the line will be paid into Consolidated Revenue and no grave injustice will be done to private companies.
– I should like to be sure of the meaning of the concluding words of the clause, which read - . . . but shall not be subject to taxation under any law of a State to which the Commonwealth is not subject.
I remind the Senate that when the earlier legislation to which Senator O’Sullivan referred was in force, there was no uniform tax. It is disturbing to find obvious inconsistencies in the arguments of Opposition speakers, particularly Senator O’Sullivan. We should examine proposals such as that now before the Senate in a rational spirit.
– That is quite irrelevant to my remarks.
– No. The honorable senator mentioned competition between the proposed Commonwealth line and private enterprise. What constitutes private enterprise in the eyes of the Liberal party? The Liberal Premier of South Australia socialized the Adelaide electricity supply, and brought the Leigh Creek coal deposits under Government control. Where is the consistency in the arguments advanced by Senator O’Sullivan ? One is at a loss to find any. The Liberal party apparently favours nationalization sometimes, but not always. With the Labour party, of course, nationalization is always in favour, because we believe it to be in the best interests of the country. I should like to know whether my explanation of the concluding portion of the clause is correct, namely, that it relates to uniform taxation which was not in operation in 1923.
– What Senator Critchley has said is quite correct. The clause now before the Committee makes the same provision for the Commonwealth shipping line as is made for other Commonwealth trading concerns. Surely the Opposition would not suggest that there should be an alteration of the taxation principles applied to the Post Office, or the Commonwealth Railways. The object of the clause is to place the proposed Commonwealth shipping line on the same basis as other similar governmental authorities carrying on trading operations.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 25 to 27 agreed to.
Clause 28 (Interpretation).
– I am in some doubt about the exact meaning of this clause and of the earlier provision concerning vessels trading on rivers. When this measure becomes law, I assume that some control will e exercised over vessels trading either as passenger craft or cargo boats on our rivers. Not long ago, in South Australia, a river boat which was older than I am, and, so far as I know had been subject only to boiler inspections, struck a snag in the Murray River and capsized. Fortunately, no lives were lost. In other parts of the State similar old vessels are still in use. I should like to know whether the bill .makes any provision to ensure the safety of human life in river traffic.
1 4.13]. - This clause defines a “ship” as - . . . a merchant ship, the “gross tonnage of which exceeds 200 tons.
– The vessels about which I am concerned would be of less than 200 tons.
– The clause now under consideration is related to clause 4. The reason for the imposition of a limitation of 200 tons is that it is not considered that the control of licences for shipbuilding and for trading vessels shall apply to very small vessels, which have little significance from the trading or shipbuilding point of view. The interpretation of the phrase “ to engage in trade” will he determined by reference to the provisions of clause 30.
– Several types of craft that are not selfpropelled but are towed, and which are used in the unloading of overseas vessels, and are known as Philippine lighters, exceed 200 tons in weight. Vessels of that type are sometimes towed from Melbourne to Geelong, and, in Tasmania, up the Derwent River to Hobart. Will the clause apply to all vessels whether or not they possess engines and are selfpropelling, or have to be towed?
– I understand that the clause relates to any merchant vessel of more than 200 tons weight.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 29 (Ships not to be built except under licence).
– Do the licensing provisions of the clause apply only to vessels constructed for the proposed board, or do they also apply to vessels built independently of the board for other operations?
– The clause will apply also to vessels constructed for private enterprise. The two vessels that were recently sold to private enterprise by the Government were designed and constructed after consultation with the purchasers as to what they required. It is believed that the shipping companies, which will, of course, compete with the proposed Commonwealth line, will be able to comply with the conditions prescribed. Those conditions are intended to ensure that all vessels engaged in the Australian coastal trade shall be built in Australia.
– The clause seems to me to be an exceptionally dangerous provision to include in the measure, and although the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) assured us, in the course of his secondreading speech, that the bill was not designed to nationalize the shipping industry, it is obvious that the clause will enable a Minister who is so minded to nationalize the entire industry. Of course, we accept the present Minister’s assurance that such a. thought has not entered his mind, but it may be that in the future an administration which is even more socialistic than the present Government will avail itself of this clause to eliminate all private shipping lines. The clause makes it quite clear that no vessel may be constructed or operated without a licence from the Minister, and it follows that a company that is unable to obtain such a licence may be forced out of business. In that way a socialist administration could acquire every vessel in Australia.
Senator O’SULLIVAN (Queensland) [4.19 1 . - I support the remarks of the Lea der of the Opposition (Senator Cooper). Read in conjunction with clause 30, it is apparent that the present clause is designed to confer tremendous power on the Minister. A future minister may decide quite capriciously, or, for that matter, for good reason, to put out of action a particular shipping line, and all that he would need to do to effect his purpose would be to withhold a licence from the line. Of course, my criticism of the provision Li not intended to apply to the present sound Administration, but to some unreasonable, irresponsible, socialist-minded administration of the future! The clause will enable such an administration completely to destroy private shipping lines. As a protection against such a ghastly happening I think that we should include provision for an appeal against the arbitrary power proposed to be conferred on the Minister. If no provision for appeal is made, it means that the Minister will be enabled to withhold his favours from those shipping companies which do not “ play ball “ with him or his administration.
– I am astonished that Senator O’Sullivan, who is a lawyer of some repute, apparently does not realize that the limitations placed on the power of the Parliament or the Government by the Constitution are a sufficient guarantee against the occurrence of such an abuse as he suggested.
– That is not the point. An act may be grossly unfair and unethical, and yet be quite constitutional.
– The clause has been included in the bill for a very good purpose, not for the reason suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) and Senator O’Sullivan. The Government does not contemplate any arbitrary use of the power simply for the purpose of nationalizing the shipping industry. I should imagine that the decision of the High Court, which authorizes the Government to engage in trade and commerce, provided that it does not set itself up as a monopoly, would be sufficient justification for the inclusion of the provision. However, I surmise that the real reason why the clause has been included, in the measure is that it is vitally necessary in order to develop the Australian shipbuilding industry, to insist on vessels being constructed to certain specifications, and for ships to operate in accordance with the requirements of the community. Suppose that a shipping company deliberately determined to defy the Government. Do not honorable senators opposite consider that in those circumstances the Government would require to be armed with certain powers of compulsion?
– The honorable senator means that the Government should be equipped with a nice big stick?
– A big stick, is sometimes needed to bring overbearing individuals and organizations to a realization of their duties and responsibilities. Force is the only thing that some people understand. When the seamen were weakly organized, the shipping companies virtually ignored their repeated requests for an amelioration of their conditions. Time brought changes, and now the seamen, who have a powerful industrial organization, might be said to wield the big stick. To-day shipping companies listen attentively to their demands for improvement of conditions. I think that that fact demonstrates clearly that we need a pretty heavy stick in order to deal with some of the individuals and organizations with which the Government will be concerned. The effect of the clause is that the Government will be empowered, in the event of it encountering serious opposition from a shipping line, to withhold from that line licences to operate its vessels, and also to prevent it, from constructing additional vessels. However, I am satisfied that the shipping companies that are already engaged in this lucrative trade will be only too pleased to comply with the demands made upon them by the authority proposed to be established.
. ‘ - The bill provides that ships shall not be constructed, except under licence granted by the Minister, and that the licence will be subject to such conditions relating to tonnage, design, time, place and method of construction as the Minister may determine. Licences may also be revoked or varied at the request of the licensee. The purpose of the bill is to enable a planned programme of shipconstruction to he arranged for the various Australian shipyards. It is proposed that the construction of vessels shall he distributed amongst the available shipyards, according to the type of vessel to be constructed and the work on hand in the various yards. Orders will be allocated so as to enable vessels of the type that is most needed in the Australian coastal trade to be constructed first. The total volume of shipbuilding will also be regulated, and orders will be spread over a period of years. The Government has already commenced to implement that policy. The reason is that it is necessary to ensure the establishment of the industry on a permanent basis, and the shipyards must he guaranteed continuity of work. One of the main reasons why the industry languished between the two world wars was that whilst there was an unseemly rush to construct vessels immediately after World War I., no provision was made to defer any of that construction so as to keep the shipyards going when the boom had passed. The Government intends that in the initial period of the resurrection of the shipbuilding industry in this country, some work will be postponed to a later period in order to avoid a repetition of the situation that confronted this country on the outbreak of World War II. Whilst we realize the need to replace old shipping tonnage, it is even more necessary to protect the industry, as far as possible, ;i gainst a slump in a few years’ time. A ,-pvere slump in the industry would result in the dispersal of plant, skilled manpower and shipbuilding resources. Furthermore, the Government proposes to institute a degree of standardization of design. The requirements of certain classes of trade require the construction of vessels of a particular design and equipment, and that need will be kept in mind. However, it is intended, as far as possible, to insist upon standardization, for example, of size, tonnage, hull design,, power units and other important components. The reason for the Government’s decision to insist upon a degree of standardization is the necessity to reduce the costs of production. My remarks are intended to apply not so much to marine engines as to hulls, internal fittings, gear for the handling of cargo and other special fittings. I have previously mentioned that the two vessels recently constructed by the Commonwealth that were sold to private shipping interests were designed largely in accordance with the wishes of those interests. The provisions of the measure will he administered by the Department of Shipping and Fuel, in close collaboration with the Australian Shipping Board, and the board will be responsible for advising the department concerning the allocation of shipyard’s and plant. It should be noted that the provisions concerning licences for shipbuilding apply to the construction of all vessels of over 200 tons, whether they are to be employed in intra-state or interstate’ trade, and are not confined to vessels engaging in any particular class of trade. It is not confined to vessels engaging in trade. A penalty of ?1,000 or, if the offence is a continuing one, ?1,000 for each day during which the offence continues, is provided for offences against this clause. Although the penalty may appear to be excessive, it is not regarded as “disproportionate to the price of building a ship, which may amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds.
– Although the Minister has given a very lengthy explanation and an indication of the intentions of the Government, I am perturbed about how these licences will be allocated. Many of the ships that the private shipping lines are operating on the coast of Australia are out of date. Under this measure the Australian Shipping Board will be inaugurated. I desire to know whether that board will have first priority for all of the ships to be built in the shipyards in Australia, or whether it is proposed that the shipping companies also will receive an allocation of those vessels. If they are to get little or no allocation I contend that that would place the Australian Shipping Board in a very favorable position compared with the private companies which are carryon with the older ship3, because they would not be able to expand their fleets. [ should be glad if the Minister would indicate whether there is to be any division or priority, and what is proposed to be done in this connexion with relation to the issue of licences to the private shipping companies operating on the Australian seaboard.
– As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) is well aware, the shipping interests in Australia fall within two categories, those operating in connexion with the overseas trade and those handling the coastal shipping trade.
– I am concerned about the coastal shipping.
– I remind the Loader of the Opposition that when Barrigun and Balarr were built they were tendered for. It would be a matter for decision by the coastal shipping companies which company would secure a ship. If no arrangements were made between themselves about the allocation, the ship would be tendered for. Provision has been made for the payment of a 25 per cent, subsidy, to discourage the shipping companies from purchasing ships abroad. By buying ships built in Australia they will help to keep our shipbuilders in employment.
– Bearing in mind the long coastline of Queensland and the amount of intra-state shipping traffic, I assume that this provision does not apply to vessels which will be engaged solely in the intra-state traffic, and will not be subject to Commonwealth law?
– It does not apply to vessels engaged solely in intra-state traffic, because the Commonwealth can only operate intrastate shipping incidental to interstate shipping. A ship leaving from Sydney to go to the north of Queensland could pick up. and discharge cargo at any Queensland port.
that mean that a licence would be required for the building of a ship that Was to be engaged on intrastate work only?
– Now that the Commonwealth shipping line is to come into operation, will the Minister say whether it is intended that the present companies operating on the Australian coast will be “ starved “ for new ships to enable the Commonwealth shipping line to gain an advantage? Will licences be granted to the Commonwealth shipping line at the expense of the shipping companies ?
– I have already indicated that although the contemplated Commonwealth line of steamers will be operating as soon as possible, quite recently two vessels were sold. That indicates that it is not the policy of the Government to “ starve “ the shipping companies. Of course that depends upon the interpretation to be placed on the meaning of that word. 1 do not say that the authority to be established under this measure will grant, any preference to private enterprise or any one else. Naturally, the first ships built will be for the Commonwealth shipping line.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 30 (Licensing of certain ships).
– The effect of sub-clause 3 (a) is that upon application the Minister shall grant a licence in respect of a ship which is less than 24 years old at the date of the application. I point out that there are in service many ships up to 30 years of age which are still in excellent condition. 1. should like to know what will be the position in relation to those vessels. As honorable senators are aware, in the past, for certain reasons, ships have been built cheaply by various shipbuilding yards in the world. As a result they deteriorated quickly, particularly when their maintenance wa3 not as good as it could have been. In many other instances in which vessels were built in good shipbuilding yards, to high standards, and where their maintenance has been regular and good, they are every bit as good after 40 years of service as are other ships 22 or 23 years old. 1 point out that during the war Liberty ships were built to low standards; in many instances it was only intended that they should make one or two voyages and would then be expendable. Many of the better class vessels which are older than 24 years could continue for years to give excellent service on the Australian coast. In view of the fact that we are very short of shipping I assume that the Minister will exercise discretion in the allocation of licences, and that when a ship is a little over 24 years old and is still required, consideration will be given to maintaining it and keeping it in service.
– Exemption has already been given to ships older than 24 years, for the reasons outlined by Senator Murray. Some of them are still capable of carrying passengers and cargo and rendering efficient service. I point out that the object of limiting the life of ships officially to 24 years was to provide for a continuity of work in the shipbuilding yards of Australia. A further reason was ro ensure that up-to-date transport for both passengers and cargo would be maintained. 1 think that all honorable senators will agree that those are very worthy objectives. Another important aspect of the matter is that in many of the ships that have been trading on the Australian coast for years, adequate accommodation is not provided for the seamen, firemen, and others employed on them. In the ships recently built in Australia, the accommodation provided for the crew is vastly superior to that in some of the older ships that I have mentioned. This is in conformity with the general trend to-day for advancement in every sphere of Australian life.
– i. thank the Minister for the worthwhile reasons that he has given in support of this clause, and I accept them. However, I draw attention to the fact that in many instances where the hulls of old ships are sound and seaworthy after 25 or 30 years of service, the ships are often re-engined and reconstructed, and when they leave the shipbuilding yards, in many instances they are better than they were originally. I assume that this aspect of the matter has received the attention of the Minister and that when applications are made for licences in such circumstances, the applications will be favorably considered.
Senator ASHLEY (New South Wales - Minister for Shipping and Fuel) [4.45 1. - While the shortage of ships continues, special licences will be issued, in appropriate cases, for terms not exceeding four years, after which the matter will be again reviewed. However, when there is ample opportunity to replace ships, the policy determined upon by the Government, that the life of ships operating on the Australian coast shall be not more than 24 years, will apply.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 31 to 3S agreed to.
Clause 39 - (1.) Subject to the next succeeding subsection, the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930-1948 shall apply to officers and employees of the Board (not being masters, mates or engineers of a ship) as if they were employees within the meaning of that Act.
Amendment (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That, in sub-clause (1.). after the word ‘‘mates”, the following words be inserted: - “, radio officers “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to. Clauses 40 and 41 agreed to. Schedule agreed to. Preamble and Title agreed to. Bill reported with amendments ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday, the 2nd March next, at 3 p.m.
The following papers were presented : -
Air Navigation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1940. No. 0.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, Sc. - 1949 - No. 1 - Commonwealth Public Service
Clerical Association. No. 2 - Association of Architects, Engineers, Surveyors and Draughtsmen of Australia.
No. 3 - Australian Journalists’ Association.
No. 4 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 5 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 6 - Postal Telecommunication Technicians’ Association (Australia).
No. T - Amalgamated Engineering Union.
No. 8 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia. No. 9 - Australian Theatrical and Amusement Employees’ Association. Nos. 10 and 11 - Hospital Employees’
Federation of Australasia. No. 12 - Commonwealth Public Service
Artisans’ Association. Nos. 13 and 14 - Federated Clerks’ Union of Australia.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department - Repatriation - B. H. Newbery. Works and Housing - H. D. Sammells. Customs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1949, No. 8. Insurance Act - Regulations - Statutory
Rules 1949, No. 5. Passports Act - Regulations - Statutory
Rules 194’J, No. 7. River Murray Waters Act - River Murray
Commission - Report for year 1947-48. War Service Homes Act - Report of Director of War Service Homes for year 1947-48, together with statements and balancesheet
Senate adjourned at 4.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 February 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1949/19490217_senate_18_201/>.