20th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. A. M. MaMnllin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Last week I asked the Minister for National Development several questions, relating to the inordinate delay in building war service homes. The Minister did not answer those questions to my satisfaction. Since thenI have had further correspondence from people who are suffering because they are unable to get their homes built. In order to make the position clear, I shall read an excerpt from a letter sent to me by
Mr. A. Balmer, of Annerly, Brisbane. On the 3rd June last Mr. Bell of the War Service Homes Division, about whom I have no complaint, and who has been very courteous in this matter, wrote to Mr. Balmer in the following terms: -
I desire to advise you that your priority has been reached and the division is now ready to proceed with your application.
On the 30th September, a further letter was sent to Mr. Balmer. It stated -
I desire to advise you that a loan of £2,750 has been approved and tenders will be called in approximately May 1954. You are warned, however, that this cannot be taken as a commitment. In addition to other considerations, it depends on the number of applicants with higher claims, who withdraw their applications in the meantime. You are further advised that it is not permissible to enter into or sign any contracts or commence building.
Can the Minister say whether the loan money is really in hand? If it is, why should not the applicant be allowed to get on with the job of building his home? Can the Minister hold out any real hope of a change in the Government’s approach to the housing problem, so that the provision of homes for the hundreds of applicants concerned might be expedited?
– Loan funds for housing are in hand, and a bill dealing with the subject of housing will be brought before the Senate within the next few clays. In reply to the second question asked by the honorable senator, applications for Avar service homes must be dealt with according to. the priority determined by the War Service Homes Division. I have not the slightest doubt that the individual to whom the honorable senator has referred will receive his turn in the order in which he is entitled to receive it. In reply to the honorable senator’s third question whether there is any real hope of applicants getting houses built, that hope has been realized by thousands of applicants. During the three years that the Government has been in office it has constructed more houses than were constructed by the preceding Labour Government during the eight years that it was in office.
– I address a question to the Minister for National Development with respect to a project advanced by the Western Australian Government for the erection of a large block of flats at Subiaco, a suburb of
Perth. I understand that the State Minister for Housing, Mr. Graham, recently discussed this matter with the Minister who rejected it on behalf of the Commonwealth as a party to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. May the Senate interpret that attitude as reflecting Government policy in respect of any future projects that may be submitted by State governments for the construction of large blocks of flats ?
– I saw Mr. Graham yesterday, and last night I released a statement to the press which, I think, answers the honorable senator’s question. Briefly, the project to which he has referred provides for the construction of a large block of flats at an estimated cost of £540.000. Of the total of 242 flats proposed to be provided, 169 would ‘be single-bedroom flats.
– I rise to order. I submit that the matter to which the Minister is now dealing is covered by a measure that is under discussion in another place and that, therefore, he is not in order in dealing with the subject at this stage.
– The bill to which the honorable senator has referred is not under discussion in another place. It has already been dealt with in the other chamber. The purpose of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is to provide accommodation for families at reasonable rentals. I do not think that the proposition put forward by the Western Australian Government properly comes within that agreement. For that reason I informed the State Minister for Housing that the Commonwealth would not be prepared to find funds for that project. As to whether that attitude may be interpreted as a statement of policy on the subject, the answer is that I believe it is. The object of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is to provide houses particularly for persons in the lower-income groups and to ensure that such accommodation is distributed equitably between city and country areas. I do not believe that the construction of large blocks of flats would be consistent with those objectives.
SenatorROBERTSON. - Will the Minister for National Development inform the Senate whether it isa fact that the rental for Commonwealth-State homes at Wittenoom Gorge has been raised from. £1 16s. a week to £2 12s. a week? If that is so, at whose direction was the increase made? Is the Minister aware that great difficulty is experienced in securing workers for the north-western towns of Western Australia and that increased rentals for houses are likely to have a detrimental effect upon the population in that district?
– I have no knowledge of an increase of rentals for the homes to which the honorable senator has referred. That is not surprising because the matter does not come within the province of the Australian Government. The fixing of rentals under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is entirely a matter for the State government concerned. The Australian Government has no influence in the matter nor has it any knowledge of the details. Whatever has happened at Wittenoom Gorge is entirely the responsibility of the Western Australian Government. It is well known that one of the obstacles to the development of north-western Australia is the difficulty of getting people to work under the conditions that obtain there, and I agree that high rentals would tie a further discouragement.
– Is it not a fact that a formulary is appended to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to provide for the fixation of rentals for houses completed and rented under the agreement, and that there can be no departure from that formulary by any State government without breaking the agreement?
– Tt is true that a formulary is attached to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement under which rents are fixed. That does not alter in any way the reply that I gave to Senator Robertson. The formulary is set down but the’ State government alone has to administer it. The State government concerned must determine the cost of erecting a house and considerable latitude is given in that connexion. The cost of a house can be taken alone, or the dwelling can be considered as one of a dozen houses. An average may be taken over, the whole State or for a par ticular housing settlement. The economic circumstances of a family may also le taken into account. Obviously, the Australian Government has no part in obtaining that information and fixing the rentals. Such matters are entirely within the province of the State governments.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General aware that shortages of cables, galvanized iron pipes, copper wire, and No. 6 pits are slowing down the installation’ of telephone services in Queensland? Will the Minister investigate the reason for the shortages ?
– I shall be pleased to direct the attention of the PostmasterGeneral to the honorable senator’s question and obtain a considered reply for him.
– On the 22nd September, I asked the Minister for National Development a question in relation to the northern coal-fields in New South Wales, in reply to which he stated that he was sympathetic towards the dampening down of open-cut mining in order to preserve full employment in the pits. Will the Minister inform me whether any progress has been made in this matter? Has he received any suggestions about the dampening down of open-cut mining? Will he assure the Senate that full employment will be maintained in pit mining?
– I have no information on this subject additional to what I said in reply to the honorable senator’s previous question. He will recollect that I said that I had been advised that it would be impracticable to close down any more open-cut mines because coal of the kind produced by them is needed. In effect, I issued an invitation to both the miners’ federation and the colliery proprietors to show that the advice that T had received was incorrect. I repeat that invitation now, because I am eager to find a solution of the problem. Due to the magnitude of each of the open-cut mining ventures, I am not prepared to say that we will close down open-cut mining. However, I shall be happy to receive any suggestions on the matter from persons who claim that open-cut mining is being continued to the detriment of employment in underground mining. I shall be very happy to receive any information about that assertion from either side of the industry.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Treasurer been directed to a public statement that was made by the Labour Premier of Western Australia about ten weeks ago, on his return from England, to the effect that he had interviewed a financial group in London with a view to ‘raising a loan for Western Australian governmental purposes? Would the unanimous approval of the Australian Loan Council for the raising of such a loan be required, both as to amount and rate of interest? Would the raising of such a loan without the unanimous approval of the Australian Loan Council constitute a breach of the financial agreement? Has the Premier of Western Australia made known to the Commonwealth, which is represented on the Loan Council, his intention to borrow money in England? Has the Premier of Western Australia sought the approval of the Australian Loan Council for the proposed loan ? If so, can the Minister inform me of the amount of the proposed loan and the rate of interest that will be payable?
– I shall attempt to answer the honorable senator’s lengthy series of questions. I have not seen the statement by the Premier of Western Australia, to which he has referred. I have no doubt that the State governments are not authorized to raise loans without the prior approval of the Australian Loan Council, which determines the rates and conditions of such loans. The very basis of the financial agreement is that there shall be only one borrowing authority in this country, and that the States shall not borrow independently. T do not know whether Western Australia has applied to the Australian Loan Council for permission to engage in separate borrowing.
– 13 it not a fact that provision is made in the Financial Agreement to enable the States to secure the approval of the Australian Loan Council to the raising of loans outside Australia, and that the States who wish to do so must be guaranteed by the Commonwealth? Is it not also a fact that State governments are being forced to seek finance for public works, particularly schools, hospitals and housing projects, because of the limited financial provision available to them as a result of decisions of this Government, despite the unanimous approval of the Australian Loan Council?
– If it is true that the States may borrow outside Australia under guarantee by the Commonwealth, all I can say is that I did not know of the position. The honorable senator has been in the Senate a good deal longer than I have, and perhaps the position is that he is right and I am wrong. However, the matter can be decided if he places that part of his question on the notice-paper. I shall then obtain from the Treasurer an answer which will edify all honorable senators. The second part of his question concerns the old, old story.
– I rise to order. I asked a question and the Minister instructed me to place a certain portion of it on the notice-paper. He proceeds to answer the portion which he thinks will be of political advantage to him and which will enable him to disseminate political propaganda.
– Order ! The Minister for National Development has asked that that part of the question which he is not able to answer at the moment be placed on the notice-paper. He has explained that he will obtain the necessary information. I rule that he is entitled to answer the remainder of the question, in view of the way in which the honorable senator framed it.
– In those circumstances, I have no compunction for again commencing with the phrase, “ The old, old story”, which apparently riled Senator Ashley. That story is wearing out a little. The honorable’ senator and T both come from New South Wales. and apparentlyhehas in mind the fact that, in this morning’s newspapers, the New South Wales Government has proudly flaunted its progressive works programme, which, of course, has been made possible only because of the substantial amount of money made available by the Australian Government. The real answer to the honorable senator’s question is that never in the history of Australia has so much money been made available to the States for developmental work as has been provided by the Menzies Government.
– I wish to address a question to you, Mr. President. In view of the failure of the Minister for National Development to answer the first portion of my question, I suggest that if I read the relevant portion of the Financial Agreement, he may be able to answer the question fully and thus save the work which will result if it is placed on the notice-paper.
– I rise to order. Since the honorable senator has the Financial Agreement in front of him, it might have been better had he passed across to me the relevant legislation at the time he asked his question so that I might have been as well equipped to answer it as he was to ask it.
– My question was prompted by a propaganda question which emanated from the Government side of the chamber. I refer to the question asked by Senator Paltridge, in relation to the Western Australian Government. I wished to ascertain the facts. If the Minister is not in possession of themI think I am entitled to enlighten him.
– Order ! The Estimates will be before the Senate within the next few days, and the honorable senator will then have ample opportunity to discuss this matter. It seems to me that there is perhaps no need for the Minister to ask that the question be placed on the notice-paper, because the relevant information will be available shortly during the debate on the Estimates.
– In view of the policy of the Government in connexion with the disposal of government instru mentalities and the reported contemplated sale of the Commonwealth shipping line, will the Minister for Shipping and Transport inform the Senate what negotiations have taken place between the Australian Government and the Government of Western Australia for the transfer of a vessel to the trade offering on the north-west coast of Western Australia ?
– Two ships that are under charter to the Western Australian shipping services have been offered to the Government of Western Australia. That Government is making inquiries also about the possibility of obtaining more ships. Negotiations are proceeding but they have not been completed. I assure the honorable senator that everything possible will be done to maintain the service to which he has referred in the interests of the settlers in the remote area concerned.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the Senate whether it is a fact that a number of publications which are permitted entry into Australia contain advertisements which feature articles the importation of which is prohibited. If this is so, will the Minister correct the position by prohibiting the entry of publications containing such advertisements? Will the Minister also recoup persons who have paid moneys for any of such advertised goods and have subsequently had the goods confiscated under customs regulations?
– I am not aware of the circumstances that the honorable senator has outlined, but I shall have the matter examined and give him a reply to his question in due course.
– I desire to preface a question which I address to the Minister for National Development by stating that I was recently informed that the Minister for Air was contemplating the construction of certain landing strips in the Kimberley region of Western Australia for use by the Royal Australian Air Force. Will the Minister consider co-ordinating the plan of his department for the development of the Kimberleys with the plans of the Minister for Air so as to ensure that, if possible, the proposed strips are placed in positions which will facilitate the development of that large region?
– The vexed question of the development of the Kimberleys is, of course, primarily a matter for attention by the Western Australian Government, because the area is a part of Western Australia. I have not heard of the intentions of the Minister for Air in relation to the construction of landing strips in the Kimberleys. I had a fairly lengthy discussion recently with Mr. Strickland, the Minister for the Northwest in the Western Australian Government, in the course of which he asked for the co-operation of the Australian Government in organizing an exploratory expedition into an area of the northern Kimberleys which, I understand, has not yet been properly explored and surveyed. I told him that I would do what I could. He suggested that the Commonwealth might provide plant and scientific staff. I thank Senator Vincent for the suggestion that he has made. I shall consult the Minister for Air on the subject and ascertain whether he considers the suggestion to be practicable. If he does consider it to be practicable, I shall communicate with Mr. Strickland.
SenatorTANGNEY. - In view of the need for the development not only of the north-west of Western Australia, but of the entire northern regions of Australia for both defence and economic reasons, will the Minister consider appointing an all-party committee to investigate the potentialities of that area, and the measures that can be taken to ensure that its development, which is beyond the capacity or State governments, shall be carried out in full?
– The suggestion made by the honorable senator is too momentous to be dealt with in reply to a question without notice. At the present time, my department is considering representations which recently were made to me and other Ministers by a committee known as theRehabilitation Committee, which asked for certain tax concessions. That proposal is being examined. The proposal made by Mr.
Strickland concerning the exploration of the northern Kimberleys is also being examined. As the honorable senator is no doubt aware, in the past many committees have been concerned with the development of northern Australia. The best I can do is to bring her suggestion before the Government at the time when I bring forward the other proposals to which I have referred, which at least will enable it to receive consideration at the highest level.
– I understood the Minister for National Development to say a few moments ago that recently he received a deputation from persons interested in the development of the northwest of Western Australia. Will the Minister make available to those Western Australian senators who were not asked to participate in that deputation the nature of the proposals submitted to him on that occasion ?
– No senators were associated with the deputation. From memory, Mr. Strickland, the Western Australian Minister for the North-west, introduced the gentlemen to me. Apart from myself, there was no member of this Parliament present. I have no objection to making available details of the representations that were made to me. The honorable senator may obtain that information, if he so desires, from my private secretary.
SenatorHendrickson having asked a question,
The PRE SIDENT. - Order! The question is objectionable, and must not be recorded.
– Some time ago Sir Winston Churchill appealed for a meeting of the Big Four powers to ease international tension. At that time, I wrote a letter to a newspaper suggesting that Australia should support Sir Winston Churchill’s appeal and I asked that Australia’s views should be made clear. I received no reply to that letter. Since then some remarkable developments have taken place.Russia has developed the hydrogen bomb. Indeed, according to yesterday’s newspapers, Mr. Cole, the president of the Congressional Committee for Atomic Energy in the United States of America, said that he would not be surprised if the Russians were ahead of the United States of America in this field. As Sir Winston Churchill’s appeal has been endorsed by the Canadian Minister for Defence, Mr. Pearson, the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Nehru, and the Leader of the Australian Labour party, Dr. Evatt, will the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs say whether this Government also is prepared to endorse the appeal? Does the Government favour a conference of the Big Four powers? Is it opposed to such a conference; or has it not considered the matter at all?
– I assure the honorable senator that this Government will readily support any move directed towards ensuring that the world will be saved from another catastrophe.
– It has been reported in the press that Dr. Jonas E. Salk, of New York, has found a poliomyelitis vaccine and has developed it to such a stage that mass tests are to be made in America in a few months. It is also reported that Dr. Salk’s colleagues have said that they are almost sure that Dr. Salk has the answer to poliomyelitis. In view of the tragic results of poliomyelitis outbreaks in this country, will the Minister representing the Minister for Health urge that immediate steps be taken to investigate the effectiveness of Dr. Salk’s vaccine? Should such an investigation show the vaccine to be effective, will every effort be made to have supplies of it made available in Australia, as a vaccine would be of much more lasting benefit to the individual.
– I am sure that the Minister for Health will be prepared to do all he possibly can to assist in the provision of a vaccine that will give relief to sufferers from poliomyelitis. I shall direct the Minister’s attention to the honorable senator’s question and obtain it reply as soon as possible.
– In view of the fact that Dr. Frances Moran, Regius Professor of Law, Dublin University, will be visiting Canberra next week as the guest of this Government, can the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the Senate whether arrangements are being made to allow this distinguished woman to address members of the Parliament?
– I understand that the programme of Professor Moran is rather a complete one, but the suggestion made by the honorable senator is worthy of consideration, and I shall take up the matter with the hospitality officer in order to ascertain whether such an arrangement can be made.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has supplied the following answer : - 1 and 2. Accommodation at the Canberra Community Hospital is in process of very substantial increase by the addition of 51 beds in the obstetric block, together with 50 beds in a temporary ward which is almost ready for occupation. Consideration has been given to an overall plan to meet the growing needs of the Australian Capital Territory and adequate hospital accommodation will be provided at all times.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize loan raisings totalling £37,200,000 to finance further advances to the States under the Commonwealth and State
Housing Agreement Act 1945. The borrowing programme approved by the Loan Council in May last included the amount of £37,200,000 for housing under the agreement, representing an increase of £7,200,000 on the allocation of £30,000,000 for this purpose in 1952-53. This increase is absorbed by an allocation of £4,500,000 to South Australia, which is operating under the agreement for the first time in the current financial year, and by an increase of £2,700,000 of the total amount distributed among the other operating States, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. Tasmania does not share in the distribution of agreement advances, as that State ceased building houses under the agreement in August, 1950.
Total advances to the States had reached £141,000,000 at the 30th June, 1953. Annual advances have risen from £6,795,000 in 1945-46 to the sum of £37,200,000 proposed for 1953-54. To the 30th June, 1953, 57,220 dwellings had been completed under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Of these, 10,264 houses were completed during 1952-53. Conditions in the building industry are now more favorable to State housing authorities than they have been hitherto. Competitive tenders are being received, tender prices are better, construction times are shorter, rise and fall clauses are no longer necessary and special terms are again being offered by some distributors of building materials. The Commonwealth expects that the combination of these factors and the increased agreement advances during the currentfinancial year will result in a greater number of houses being completed under the agreement during 1953-54.
Honorable senators are aware that the agreement was designed primarily for the erection of homes of reasonable standard for persons with small or moderate incomes. Persons in the lower income groups have been assisted by the system of rental rebates, which is based on the principle that a family whose income equals the basic wage should not pay more than one-fifth of that income in rent. As at the 31st December, 1952, rental rebates to the value of £473,000 had been granted by the operating States. It is estimated that this figure had risen to almost £600,000 at the 30th June, 1953. Houses erected under the agreement may be sold to the tenant in occupation. Up to the 30th June, 1953, the number of houses sold totalled 2,974.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cooke) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 13th October (vide page 476), on motion by Senator McLeay -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The object of this measure is to bring rates of war pension and allowances payable in respect of seamen and their wives and dependants into line with benefits provided under the repatriation legislation. As members of the Opposition pointed out when dealing with war pensions, the proposed increases of rates of pension under this measure also are totally inadequate in relation to the present high cost of living. The ratio of the rates of pension to the basic wage, although the basic wage is only a subsistence wage, has decreased substantially. Persons in receipt of the basic wage are obliged to supplement that wage by working overtime or engaging in other employment in their spare time. They are obliged to earn as much as they can in addition to the basic wage in order to maintain their wives and families in moderate comfort. As many persons in receipt of repatriation benefits and many of the persons to whom this measure will apply are unable to supplement their pension, the Government merely baulks the facts when it claims that it has made several increases of rates of pensions since it assumed office. Many merchant seamen and ex-servicemen are suffering from the effects of wounds that they sustained during the war period which, although not always visible, cause them continuous pain. As costs have risen tremendously, the Government should keep this matter under continuous review in order to ensure that the pensions paid to them will enable them to live in the degree of comfort to which they are justly entitled. Many merchant seamen suffering from warcaused disabilities are experiencing considerable difficulty in buying the necessities of life with their meagre pensions.
I endorse wholeheartedly the remarks that were made by honorable senators on this side of the chamber yesterday when a repatriation measure was under consideration. The pensions of exservicemen and seamen who sustained injuries during the war period should be increased by at least 25 per cent. It is futile for supporters of the Government to say that pensions can be increased only to the limit of the budget resources. This Government accepted the responsibility of making adequate provision for the persons to whom I have referred, and whilst the Opposition desires a speedy passage of this measure, so that the merchant seamen who have suffered from disabilities as a result of their services during the war period will receive the proposed increases as soon as possible, I wish to record my protest at the inadequacy of those increases. I hope that the Government will heed the representations that have been made by ex-servicemen’s organizations in this country, and that it will undertake a further review of repatriation pensions and pensions payable to merchant seamen with a view to granting further increases, so that the recipients will have sufficient purchasing power to enable them to enjoy a reasonable degree of comfort. This is the least that a grateful country should do for men whose health and strength were undermined while on war service.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 13th October (vide page 510).
War and Repatriation Services.
Proposed vote, £18,162,000.
– I wish to refer to the proposed vote for “ Technical Training - Tuition, Text-books and Equipment - under Division No. 216. The proposed vote is £255,000, compared with an expenditure of £548,733 in the last financial year. I am very concerned that the proposed vote for this financial year is only slightly more than half of the expenditure under this heading in the last financial year. The reason may be that there has been a considerable decline of technical training being undertaken by ex-servicemen. However, I should like the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) to explain the reason for the considerably lower financial provision now proposed.
– Many ex-servicemen students of World War II. have now completed their technical training, but ex-members of the Korea-Malaya forces are now undertaking such training. I point out that the proposed vote for living allowances to trainees under the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Training Scheme is £58,000, compared with an expenditure of £22,535 under this heading in the last financial year. At the 30th June last, only 65 ex-servicemen were still undergoing professional training, and of 1,202 ex-servicemen who were receiving vocational training at that date, only 39 were attending technical schools and colleges. The other 1,173 have finished their education and are now in subsidized employment, so that the numbers who are catered for by way of living allowance total only 104.
– In addressing myself to details of the Appropriation Bill. I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) to give close attention to several matters that have caused me great sorrow and concern. I can find no direct reference in the measure to war graves in Australia. Tinder Division No. 218 - Department of the Interior there is provision for a contribution to the Imperial War Graves Commission for the care and maintenance of war graves. The proposed vote is £380,500. I believe that that amount is for the maintenance and care of cemeteries outside Australia. I can find no reference to war graves in Australia in this division under the heading of repatriation, and I consider the omission to be a blot upon the Parliament. Ihave previously referred to this matter in the Parliament, and I have been promised a reply after the Minister has investigated the matter. I wish to emphasize again the necessity for maintaining in good order the war cemeteries in the capital cities and the Australian Capital Territory. I have in mind in particular the care of graves of servicemen in Adelaide. An appeal for subscriptions for the purpose has been launched in Adelaide and the South Australian people have been most generous in their response. The fund now exceeds £13,000. I believe, however, that this should be a national responsibility. The graves are the last resting places of men who gave their lives for Australia, and the maintenance of them should not be a matter of public charity. I believe that because of the growth of Adelaide, the authorities propose to make provision for new cemeteries in the southern and northern parts of Adelaide and to reserve portions of them for ex-servicemen. The care and maintenance of those portions of the cemeteries should be a responsibility of this Government. The Australian people do not, expect generous private subscribers to shoulder the responsibility. The fact that this matter has progressed so far is a disgrace. I call upon the Government to take the necessary steps to provide the comparatively small amount of money that would be required for the purpose in the Estimates for next year, since it is apparently too late to do so now for this financial year. I ask the Minister to give the matter serious consideration.
– Following upon the comments that have been made by Senator Critchley, I wish to make a brief reference to the war cemeteries in Papua, New Britain and New Guinea, which I visited this year as a member of a parliamentary delegation. I saw the war cemeteries at Bomana in Papua, Bitupaka in New Britain and Lae in New Guinea. Every member of the delegation who stood in those blessed gardens of memory was saddened, but was also proud of the magnificent resting places that the Australian Government has provided for those who died in the service of
Australia in those theatres of war. I say with pride that I believe those cemeteries would not be excelled in any part of the world. It would be invidious to make comparisons, but they are lovely indeed and those who have the privilege of visiting the Territory of Papua and New Guinea shortly on a similar mission will return with feeling of great pride in the way that the war cemeteries have been designed and maintained.
– I support the statements that have been made by Senator Critchley in his reference to the graves of servicemen in Australia. I agree with Senator Maher that no fault can be found with the cemeteries overseas. That applies not only to the South-west Pacific but also to the continent of Europe. We can be justly proud of the care that is given to the war graves there, but I agree with Senator Critchley that the same pride cannot be felt when we view the graves in the capital cities of Australia. It is customary to pay full tribute to those who have died in battle. I do not wish to be misunderstood when I state that the public generally do not appreciate fully all that was suffered by the men who fought throughout the war and came home. Many men who returned and died years afterwards have been buried in poor circumstances. Surely a grateful country could place a suitable headstone above their graves as it does in the case of those who died while on active service. I have discussed this matter with Senator Critchley and I am. pleased that he has made such ‘ a strong appeal in this chamber. I am appalled by the fact that the care and maintenance of war graves in Australia should be made the subject of public charity. I am not sure under which department such a vote should come, but, I believe that this is a matter of national responsibility. How can we expect young men to volunteer for the service of their country when they see how those who preceded them have been treated? Many ex-service men and women believe that they have been neglected in this respect. The Government will spend £200,000,000 on defence. The small amount involved in this item of expenditure should be charged against the defence vote. I hope that some means will be found to meet the wishes that have been so admirably expressed by Senator Critchley.
– I support what Senator Critchley and Senator Mattner have said in relation to this matter and I also support the remarks of Senator Maher. I think that what these honorable senators have said is very true. I have seen the war graves in Europe, and when I came back from Europe I paid a tribute to the War Graves Commission and the citizens of towns in the north of France and Belgium for the way in which they had looked after these graves.
A few weeks ago in this Senate I mentioned the graves of ex-servicemen which were ‘ not in war cemeteries, but in general cemeteries. I referred to the graves of soldiers who had died from the effects of war service since the war ended. Since then I have received a very sympathetic hearing from the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes), whose department is responsible for this matter. It is rather bewildering to some of us to find that this matter is not dealt with by the Department of Repatriation or the Department of Defence, but by the Department of the Interior. When I complained in this chamber of the different kind of the head-stones that had been erected and the poor quality of the workmanship I was told that no change had been made in the type of head-stone used during the last 30 years. When I produced photographs of head-stones as proof of my contention, the Minister agreed to inquire into the matter as soon as General Brown returned from his trip to New Guinea. The activities of the War Graves Commission within Australia should be investigated. In Western Australia the position is not very satisfactory. Within the last two years the commission has had two commissioners in Western Australia. The position is an honorary one and both of these commissioners, finding themselves frustrated, resigned. There is now no resident commissioner in Western Australia. Nobody in Western Australia could tell me anything about the War Graves Commission. An official of the Repatriation Department told me that if I could find out anything about the War Graves Commission he would be very pleased if I would tell him about it. Delays of up to five years occur from the time a man dies to the time that the headstone is erected. A head-stone of a meagre type has only recently been erected on the grave of a brother-in-law of mine who died more than four years ago.
Earlier in this session, I asked a question in this chamber concerning funeral expenses payable to widows and the next of kin of deceased exservicemen. When the death of an ex-serviceman has been established as due to war service the widow is given a list of the benefits that she may receive. I am pleased that those benefits are quite comprehensive. But there is one benefit to which a widow is entitled and to which her attention is not directed. Unless she is fortunate enough to have somebody tell her within six months that she is entitled to a refund of £25 in respect of funeral expenses she loses that amount by default. When I mentioned this matter to an official of the Department of Repatriation he said that widows were not told that this benefit was available. He said that if a widow found out that the benefit was available, that was her good luck and if she did not find out, that was the department’s good luck. That is a terrible position. I do not think that it should be necessary for widows to make an application for this benefit. In a time of stress and sorrow, when there is a great re-organization of the life of her family, a widow should not be expected to have to make sure that she will not be deprived of a benefit to which she is entitled. The sum of £25 is not much in a budget of £1,000,000,000. As soon as the appropriate tribunal has accepted the death of an ex-serviceman as being due to war service, the Repatriation Department should automatically pay the widow the amount that she is entitled to receive in respect of funeral expenses. This would save a good deal of embarrassment and injustice.
As I said before, I agree with the remarks that were passed by Senator Critchley. I do not think that it should be necessary to take up collections for the maintenance of war graves in Western
Australia. I was amazedto find that this was a practice anywhere in Australia because the war cemetery in Perth is very well maintained. My special plea is for the graves of ex-servicemen who are buried in Our general cemeteries and for whom a headstone is provided. But what a headstone ! And at what a cost !
– I was pleased to hear the remarks of Senator Maher in relation to the cemeteries that he saw in Papua, New Britain and New Guinea. In the course of this discussion honorable senators have spoken about headstones. I suggest that when establishing new cemeteries or extending existing cemeteries the department should consider the practice of sinking headstones level with the ground which is now adopted in various countries. By placing headstones in this position the beauty of the cemetery can be enhanced and the cost of upkeep reduced. Although the upright type of headstone has been used for many years I cannot see the necessity to continue its use. Cemeteries should be made as beautiful as possible in order to console people in time of great trouble. I suggest that the Minister consider using the new type of tombstone in accordance with the trend that is developing in many countries and in some parts of Queensland.
– I do not want to be misunderstood in speaking on this rather morbid subject and I regret to bring the necessity before the committee. I was interested in the remarks of Senator Maher regarding overseas cemeteries, but my concern, which is evidently shared by Senator Mattner, is the cemeteries in Australian cities and towns. The war cemetery in Adelaide has been maintained with a uniform type of headstone. I wish that design to be continued. In the centre of that cemetery is the Cross of Sacrifice which is floodlit and, as far as finances have permitted, that cemetery has been maintained very well. But hundreds of diggers lie in other cemeteries with no stone to mark their resting place, and because of lack of finance, maintenance of some cemeteries has not been sufficient even to preserve a neat appearance. Indeed, so bad has the position become that recently permission was sought under the Charities Act of South Australia to inaugurate a. public appeal to provide funds so that the graves of men and women who had died largely as the result of their war service may be suitably marked. I protest strongly against that state of affairs. It is a national responsibility. There should be no need to depend on charity. Senator Mattner was quite right. The practice of providing uniform headstones should be continued, and adequate money should be made available for the proper care for these hallowed grounds.
– I appreciate Senator Critchley’s representations. The Repatriation Department provides the finance for the burial of exservicemen who die as the result of war-caused disabilities and for the provision of headstones, but the erection of headstones and the care of war graves is the responsibility of the War Graves Commission which is under the control of the Department of the Interior. Most war graves that I have seen have been a credit to the commission. Recently when this matter was first raised in this chamber, I took the opportunity to inspect war graves at the Canberra cemetery, and I found them to be well cared for. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in Canberra has assumed the responsibility of providing headstones and looking after the graves of ex-service men and women who die from causes not attributable to their war service. The headstones are similar to those erected by the War Graves Commission but the lettering is much clearer. Altogether the headstones are better than those provided by the War Graves Commission. However, the commission has assured me that as the headstones which it provides become weathered the lettering on them will become more prominent. Both Senator Mattner and Senator Critchley have said that the graves of ex-service men and women whose death has not been due to war service, should be the responsibility of the Australian Government. I question very much whether the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and other organizations of ex-service men and women would wish that to be done. The impression I gathered in my contact with members of such organizations is that they are proud to have the honour to look after the graves of their fallen comrades. Whether that is the general opinion throughout the Commonwealth I do not know, but I think I am right in saying that the Australian Capital Territory branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia takes great pride in the work that it is doing at the Canberra cemetery. Its members may resent any move to relieve them of what they consider to be their duty to fallen colleagues. However, I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) who, as honorable senators are aware, is most sympathetic towards ex-servicemen.
Senator Tangney has complained that war widows are not notified of their entitlement to the funeral benefit of £25 in respect of the burial of their husbands. I am not aware of what the Western Australian authorities are doing, but I am certain that sympathetic treatment is afforded to widows and that notification of their entitlement to benefits is given as early as possible. Perhaps it is not given immediately an ex-serviceman dies, but I am sure that it is given at an early date. However, I am pleased to inform the honorable senator that I am now having a booklet compiled showing all the benefits to which a widow is entitled. That publication should be most helpful.
– Will it be issued in time for the elections ?
– I shall ignore the honorable senator’s unworthy interjection. This matter surely is above party politics. A copy of the booklet to which I have referred will be issued to every war widow.
Senator Critchley mentioned the contribution of £380,500 to the Imperial War Graves Commission for care and maintenance of war graves. That sum includes £251,000 towards the cost of constructing war cemeteries and erecting headstones over the graves of servicemen of the 1939-45 war, and £92,000 towards the construction and erection of headstones, grave covers, cremation memorials, bronze plaques and brass plates. A further £23,270 is included for the maintenance of and repairs to graves in civil cemeteries throughout Australia.
– I gather from the remarks of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) that he believes that ex-servicemen’s organizations consider it to be their responsibility to care for the graves of former members of the forces. It is true that such work has been done voluntarily by various sub-branches of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, but however willing those organizations may be to carry on that task, the responsibility rests primarily upon this Parliament to provide the finance necessary for the erection of headstones and for the care and maintenance of cemeteries.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £745,000.
– I wish to refer first to Division No. 1. - Senate. Under C. Other Services - will be seen the item “ Standing and Select Committees - Expenses “. I notice that last year £2,500 was voted for this purpose, but expenditure during the year amounted to only £891. Nevertheless,, the proposed vote this year is again £2,500. By way of contrast, I refer the committee to Division 2, House of Representatives, under which it will be seen that only £200 is to be provided for this purpose, that figure being the same as it was last year. It is traditional that a substantial sum should be placed on the Estimates in respect of Senate select committees, the reason being obvious. There is no need for great provision to be made for that purpose in the votes of the House of Representatives, because if the Treasurer concurs in the appointment of a select committee, the necessary funds are readily made available. It is a protection to the Senate that moneys for select committees should be readily available at the beginning of the year, whether those moneys are subsequently used or not. I am not complaining about the provision in the Estimates, but I should like information concerning the committees in respect of which the sum of £891 was expended last year. I am under the impression that it was used to cover the expenses of a joint parliamentary committee. I notice, in Division 6, which refers to the proposed vote for the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, that a specific allocation has been made to meet the expenses of that committee. The same comment applies to the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Public Accounts. However, I have not been able to locate, under any heading, provision for the joint committee of both Houses on foreign affairs. It is my impression that the expenses of that committee arc met from the allocation for select committees of the Senate. If that is so, I query the propriety of debiting these charges against the Senate vote, which is intended to relate solely to select committees of the Senate. I should be obliged if the Minister for Trade and Customs (SenatorO’ Sullivan) would give me some information on this point.
I regret that the Senate does not take the opportunity to refer to select committees more of the various measures that come before it. Prom time to time, honorable senators on the other side of the chamber verbally approve of the principle of select committees on the ground that this is a house of review. They argue strenuously in favour of the principle that the Senate should exercise its functions through the medium of such committees. But when the opportunity occurs to refer matters to select committees, it is not availed of by the Government. I refer, particularly, to a recent instance in which reference to a select committee was sought by members of the Opposition in connexion with a matter which had been debated objectively in this chamber.
– To which incident is the honorable senator referring?
– I am referring to the Customs Bill, which was before the Senate recently. I think the committee will agree that the debate concerning that legislation was objective and conducted at a high level. It seemed to me that all honorable senators were interested in the subject. However, when a request was made to refer the bill to a select committee, although its passage was not of vital urgency, honorable senators opposite voted against the proposal. In circumstances such as those, I despair of the system of select committees ever functioning properly.
The second matter to which I wish to refer is the proposed vote for the Parliamentary Reporting Staff - Division 3. I think that all honorable senators will have, noticed that a division of Hansard has occurred. Separate Hansard volumes are now produced for the Senate and the House of Representatives. I understand, from something that was said in this chamber not long ago, that that involves a great deal of additional cost. The sum of £10,000 was mentioned. I understand also that the division of Hansard will cause much delay in circulating the volumes to members of the Parliament, and also in printing. I ask the Minister to inform the committee, if he can, by whose direction that arrangement was made.
SenatorBrown. - The President proposes to make a report on this matter.
– I recollect that Senator Brown asked a question about this matter recently, and that the President undertook to investigate it. However, honorable senators may have no’ opportunity to debate the matter other than during the debate on the Parliamentary Estimates. If we leave the matter to a mere statemen t by the President,I suggest that there will not be much opportunity for discussion and expressions of opinion about it. I should like the Minister to inform me how the division came about and whether it occurred with the concurrence of the Senate or its officers. Was it by direction of the Government? Can he also inform me of the additional costs which will be involved, and whether the new procedure will cause delay at the Government Printing Office and also in the circulation of Hansard to members of the Parliament. He might also say what will be the position regarding the distribution lists of members of the Parliament. Will the debates in respect of both Houses be forwarded to the persons named on those lists, or will a specific request have to be made for both volumes of Hansard to be forwarded? Will a request for Hansard to be sent to a certain person invariably lead to both sets of reports going out? I shall not offer any further comment on this matter until I obtain the information for which I have asked.
No doubt the attention of all honorable senators has been drawn to the fact that a contract was made in 1947 for the air-conditioning of this Parliament at a cost of approximately £30,000. That contract has never been completed. Since the time it was entered into, the Department of Works has had to come into the picture and expend considerable sums of money in addition to the contract price. The facts appear to be that a total of approximately £40,000 has already been expended. I imagine this matter comes within the jurisdiction of the Joint House Department. I wish to know what action has been taken to ensure that the contractor completes the contract and, if he does not complete it, whether the Government proposes to sue with a view to recovering from the contractor the additional costs involved. This is a matter of considerable importance to all honorable senators and members of the House of Representatives. It is important, from the point of view of their convenience, that this system should work properly.
– It never has worked properly since I have been here.
– I am inclined to agree with the honorable senator. Under the present conditions, it is exceedingly difficult to remain awake in this chamber, a fact which I think is partly due to the air-conditioning, or the lack of it. and partly to the debates.
– There is not sufficient fresh air.
– I think that the Senate itself has a soporific effect. One has only to observe visitors in the galleries for proof of that contention. It does not matter what is happening in the chamber, after a little while their heads nod and they go to sleep. I think the reason is to be found in a combination of the air-conditioning, the debates, and the rather hypnotic effect of the light ing. It seems to me that those are the main factors which combine to make this chamber unsatisfactory. I should like the Government to consider this matter.
I pass now to Division 5, B, the proposed vote in respect of general expenses of the Joint House Department. Although the vote last year was £25,500, £34,391 was actually expended. The proposed vote in respect of expenditure on postage, telegrams, telephone and fire services is £6,000 more this year than it was last year. I wish to know what authority the Joint House Department had to expend more than its vote. I also wish to know whether there were any additional Estimates and whether the surplus appeared in those Estimates. Wrapped up in this matter is the whole question raised by the first report of the Public Accounts Committee. Incidentally, I comment favorably upon the approach of that committee to the matters with which it has dealt. Its approach has been objective, and its reports have been couched in temperate language. In the third last paragraph of its first, report, the committee stated -
In recent years there has been a growing number of political observers who have been warning us against regarding our Parliamentary procedures as mere ritual. The practice of spending sums, large or small, without prior approval of the Parliament, undermines its control of the purse and, in so doing, tends to destroy ite control over Ministers and public servants. Consequently, the committee has been at pains to impress upon officials that the use of Supplementary Estimates should be closely scrutinized in relation to the principle of Parliamentary control of the purse, and that in their attitude to public finance, departments should incline to that system which facilitates rather than limits parliamentary control.
I think that that is an exceedingly good statement of the principle involved. I conclude with the comment that of all the departments that should be particular about this kind of thing, the Joint House Department is the pre-eminent one. I consider that that department should set an example. I appreciate that unexpected expenditure occurs in the course of the year, but at the same time it seems to me that the need to obtain promptly parliamentary approval for departures from the votes laid down by the Parliament should be strictly observed.
– Consideration of the proposed vote for the Parliament affords to honorable senators an opportunity to consider the work that is being performed by the various committees for which provision is made from this vote. .1 believe that Government supporters will agree with the view of the Opposition that the committees now operating are doing a very good job. From the viewpoint of the Senate particularly, the committee system should be strongly developed. At the outbreak of World War II. a number of parliamentary committees were set up and members of those bodies gained valuable experience and knowledge with respect to administrative matters generally. Committees were appointed to deal with various subjects, including general expenditure, prices and profits, social services, repatriation and other subjects. All parties were represented on those committees, the members of which established a high degree of co-operation. Indeed, it was rare for a committee to fail to bring in a unanimous report, and in the great majority of instances legislation was introduced to implement the recommendations of the committees and such legislation was supported by all parties in the Parliament. Although the Senate is the States House and is supposed to act solely as a house of review, the only opportunity that is afforded to the Senate to fulfil that role is when the Opposition has a majority in this chamber. But in such circumstances the Senate is automatically regarded by many people as being purely a party political chamber which is a hindrance to the Government. On the other hand, when the Government parties are in a majority in the Senate, this chamber is regarded as being “merely an instrument for stamping legislation that is initiated in another place. I suggest that the Senate can be enabled to perform more practical functions by the development of the committee system. A committee should bo appointed for the purpose of examining the Estimates before they are submitted to the Parliament. Possibly this Government and future governments might not approve of that procedure. However, it is followed in the United States of America where all departmental estimates are examined by a special committee before they are presented to Congress. If we are honest in this matter, we must admit that the present method of dealing with the Estimates achieves little beyond affording an opportunity to members of the Parliament to gain a little more education with respect to departmental activities. The Senate cannot alter any of the proposed votes. Yet, from my own experience, I say at once that some of the Estimates now before us could not have been very carefully scrutinized. After all, no private member has an opportunity to look at the Estimates before they are presented to the Parliament; and I should say that no member of the Government has an opportunity to do so either. When the Estimates are submitted to Cabinet, Ministers invariably are concerned with general overall questions of policy and do not consider the Estimates individually. Consequently, the Estimates are not really scrutinized before they are committed to paper except by the departmental officers who prepare them. There should be a preliminary examination of the Estimates not only on the departmental level but also on the political level. Even if the Government is not prepared to set up an all-party committee to examine the Estimates before they are presented to the Parliament, it might be prepared to set up a committee consisting of members of the Government parties to perform that function. Such a preliminary examination would have a good effect upon departmental administration, and should result in substantial savings to the taxpayers. Under such a system, the Parliament would be enabled to scrutinize every penny of proposed expenditure. In this respect, I cite as a minor instance the extravagant use of teleprinter services inter-departmentally. Over the years I have seen messages exchanged on the teleprinter the length of which reminded one of love letters, and the matters dealt with in such messages could in most instances be adequately dealt with in by correspondence. After all, installation and maintenance of teleprinter services is an expensive item. Consequently, such services should be used only for the transmission of urgent Government business. I mention that instance in passing. The cost of all these things should be carefully considered, : but departmental heads do not always approach these matters from the view-point of expense. A committee of the kind that I suggest should be set up would effect many savings. The Public Accounts Committee has already done excellent work, and it is only proper that the representatives of the people should be given an opportunity to examine departmental expenditure as closely as possible. However, as I have said, under the present system it is impossible for the Senate to alter any proposed item of expenditure, and the most that honorable senators gain from consideration of the Estimates is, perhaps, a little additional knowledge about departmental activities. I again urge the Government to set up a parliamentary committee to examine the Estimates before they are presented to the Parliament.
. Since the sitting was suspended, I have taken the opportunity to discuss with the President the position of the contract in respect of the lighting and air conditioning of this chamber and I am now able to inform the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), who raised this matter, that it is expected to reach finality very soon. Before final action is taken his remarks will be fully considered by those responsible for the carrying out of the contract. I cannot say precisely at what stage the matter now rests, but the President has informed me that he is pursuing it with a view to having the contract completed satisfactorily.
Reference was made to the amount of £891 that was expended last year from the Senate vote in respect of select committees. That expenditure consisted of a payment of the sum of £262 10s as a fee to the legal adviser to the Committee on Regulations and Ordinances and a sum of £628 10s. in respect of travelling fares and allowances incurred by members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. I understand that it was with the consent of the members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, including representatives of the Senate on that body, that the activities of the committee wore financed from the Senate vote. It is true that a portion of that amount might have been charged against the vote for the House of Representatives but for convenience of administration, as the committee is staffed by Senate officers, the Senate vote was drawn on for that purpose. If the amount on the Senate vote had been insufficient, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) would have been asked to provide additional funds.
With respect to the publication in separate volumes of Hansard reports of proceedings in the Senate and the House of Representatives, honorable senators will understand that the Senate cannot control or direct the House of Representatives in the conduct of its affairs. Over the years, as a matter of convenience, it has been the practice to combine the publication of reports of proceedings in both chambers. This matter was raised during March last with Senator Mattner, who was then President of the Senate. He wrote to me directing my attention to the proposal made by Mr. Speaker that reports of each chamber should be published separately. Senator Mattner opposed that suggestion and sought my views on the subject. I supported the stand that he had taken. However, we could not take action to prevent the change from being made, as we had no authority to do so. Nevertheless, it is competent for honorable senators to express their views about whether the additional expenditure involved in the separate publication of proceedings in each chamber is warranted. After Mr. Speaker had given instructions that the reports of proceedings in each chamber were to be published separately, Senator Mattner saw me again on the subject, and information was obtained to the effect that the additional expenditure involved would amount to approximately £10,000 in respect of labour, printing, binding and wrapping and postage and also in respect of the printing and binding of permanent volumes of Hansard. I have made certain representations on the matter to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and I believe that it is under consideration. As soon as finality is reached, the President will be able to give a complete answer to the question that Senator Brown asked on this subject some time ago.
With respect to further points that were raised by the Leader of the Opposition, I point out that the amount by which expenditure actually exceeded the amount voted last year “was covered by supplementary estimates. That practice is usually followed in such circumstances. The Leader of the Opposition also referred to expenses in respect of postages, telegrams, telephone and fire services. The additional amount of £6,000 was due mainly to increases of telephone charges, the greater proportion of which was in respect of trunk-line calls. The Presiding Officers are taking immediate steps to investigate the cause of this increase, and action will be taken to reduce the amount of expenditure for the current financial year. The additional expenditure incurred in respect of fuel arose as a result of the use of coke instead of low-grade black coal, which was detrimental to the operation of the air-conditioning plant and, in addition, caused disfigurement of the building and covered chairs on the verandahs with fine layers of coal dust. The use of coke eliminates these objections. Coke is more efficient asheating fuel than the low-grade coal previously supplied. The. item “ Repairs and Maintenance “ is linked up with the proposed vote of £60,200 for the item “ Temporary and Casual Employees”. It is £6,784 more than the expenditure on. this item in the last financial year. The additional expenditure will be incurred by the employment of nine additional temporary officers, five of whom are tradesmen employed by the Department of Works on additional maintenance work. If that work were handled otherwise, there would be a corresponding reduction in the proposed vote for the Parliament under Division 69, Repairs and Maintenance. However, this work will be carried out by the Joint House Department as difficulty has been experienced in obtaining prompt attention to requisitions that have been submitted to the Department of Works by the Joint House Department.
I come now to the item “Incidental and Other Expenditure “, the proposed vote for which is £2,750, or £650 more than the vote for 1952-53. The additional provision has been necessitated by the general increase of the cost of mis cellaneous services such as printing and stationery, laundry, paper towels and toilet rolls, overalls and staff uniforms, &c. Senator Armstrong has suggested that these items should be subject to constant review by a parliamentary committee. However, I am sure that the honorable senator, who was a Minister in the previous Labour Government, realizes from his own experience that there are practical difficulties in the matter. If, in the distant future, the party that he supports regains control of the treasury bench, I shall remind him of the suggestions that he has made.
– I am happy to support the remarks that have been made by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) about the introduction of separate volumes of Hansard reports of debates in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Following receipt of a hint that the reports were to be separated, I discussed this matter, unofficially, with the Principal Parliamentary Reporter. Subsequently, as I considered that such a matter should be discussed at the ministerial level, I raised it with the Minister for Trade and Customs, who supported the views that I expressed. The Parliamentary Papers Amendment Act 1935. which contains only one section, provided the authority for what has now happened. As I have been blamed for the separation of the reports, I take this opportunity to inform honorable senators that in March last, when I was President of the Senate, I took some steps to protect the Senate. At that time I expressed my own personal opinion, which is, that the Hansard reports of the proceedings in both Houses should not be published separately. I pay a tribute to the Minister for Trade and Customs for his support in this matter. Before any change was made, the Government itself should have discussed this matter and made the decision. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has referred to several other matters. I should like to say that I am very pleased that he and other honorable senators are taking such an interest in the running of the Parliament. At times there have been clashes between the Department of Works and the Joint House Department.
Some honorable senators will be astonished to learn that the Department of Works has charged the Joint House Department 15 per cent. more than the cost price for the coke used in this building. That is a nice little rake-off.
– And it is not always of good quality.
– Although I do not possess such keen business acumen as Senator Ashley, and I do not profess to be a shrewd businessman, it is evident to me that the present arrangement in relation to the supply of fuel and power to Parliament House could be improved. The cost of maintenance in this building is extraordinarily high. The present method under which repairs are effected should be scrapped. Many complaints have been made about the air-conditioning system in this building. I remind honorable senators that in 1947 a contract was let to Robert Plackett and Company Proprietary Limited to install new apparatus at a cost of £30,127, but engineers have been tinkering with the original installationever since. I pay tribute to our chief engineer for the very efficient manner in whichhe has carried out his duties since he took over his present job. Asa result of his efforts, and the efforts of his staff, we have been able to effect economies. I shall mention a few more facts about this building. There are two electric generators working on direct current, which supply a certain amount of power for the lifts in West Block. They are obsolete. If we switched to alternating current to drive the lifts and dumb-waiters, we would save £3,000 a year in fuel alone. I have advocated the change for a long time.
SenatorGrant. - Why was it not done?
– Because we have not sufficient control. The Department of Works enters into the matter. It is time that honorable senators realized how the affairs of* Parliament House are conducted. Most of them are babes in the wood in matters of this kind. In the Estimates, £20,000 was set aside for works in Parliament House last year. Only £8,000 was expended and I have been asked why. The action that was taken may not be in strict accordance with parliamentary practice, but it was sound busi ness and I take the responsibility for it. I have some knowledge of running an ordinary business and I believe that it is better for Parliament House to have its own staff of carpenters and painters. Any honorable senator who cares to inspect Parliament House will be able to note the good work that has been done by the painters in keeping the building in order. The work was done much more cheaply in that way.
– Is that not socialistic practice ?
– No, it is an example of private enterprise.
– What do the tradesmen outside think about it?
– They should be pleased because we have saved them a lot of money. I take pride in the fact that we have given good wages to the staff and amenities that they did not enjoy before. Much has been accomplished in that direction in the past two years. I am not speaking in an egotistical way. I believe that the staff should have proper amenities. The fire risk in Parliament House is rather serious. Unfortunately the sanction of some other authority has to be obtained before anything can be done. As President of the Senate, I took the necessary steps to protect Parliament House against the hazard of fire. Honorable senators should understand the Gilbertian situation that exists. Thermal fire units have been installed above the ceilings of this chamber and other rooms and they are connected to a panel, but we could go no farther. The connexion between the panel and the fire station must be done by the Department of Works. On the 12th May last, that department was given details of the work that was to be done, but the panel has not yet been connected to the fire station. The ventilation of Parliament House has also caused some thought and worry. In the Prime Minister’s suite in the building there is an obsolete ventilation system that is not working in conjunction with the rest of the system. An endeavour was made eighteen months ago to get the system into operation properly. When something goes wrong questions are asked, but in the meantime it is difficult to accomplish anything.
– ¥e should run Parliament House like a ship.
– Yes. A risk was taken when the House of Representatives’ billiard-room was changed. The matter was given full consideration and the alteration was made so that the Parliament would be saved a large sum of money. Whenever the billiard tables were shifted, a good deal of expense was involved. By transferring the tables and making use of the old billiard-room as a visitors’ dining-room, we have achieved beneficial results. Honorable members of another place seem to be well satisfied with the new arrangement.
I believe that I have answered the Leader of the Opposition adequately. I pay a tribute to the staff of Parliament House. All of them, including the engineers and tradesmen, are interested in their work and have done everything that has been asked of them very well. The work that has been done by the staff, including furnishings and the supply of tables, has been accomplished more cheaply and the work is of good quality.
– I am astonished by the revelations of the former President of the Senate, Senator Mattner. He has explained the reasons for much of the mismanagement that has been apparent in
Parliament House. It is evident that much money has been spent to keep somebody in the Department of Works employed, but apparently those concerned merely inspect and make excuses. The. delays that have occurred are dreadful. Something should be done to secure efficiency. The Parliament should have the right to control everything within the precincts of Parliament House and the officers of the Senate should have supervision over matters within this chamber. Reference has been made to the division of Hansard and other matters, but apparently the President of the Senate is helpless. He can only ask somebody why something was not done by somebody else. The members of the Parliament should be the heads of the land because we pass the laws and it is preposterous to think that we have not the right to administer our own affairs.
I am reminded of broadcasting apparatus that was installed in this chamber. Honorable senators were told that it would operate from every desk. The apparatus has been installed, but it is never working. Presumably some other authority, possibly the Department of Works, has to be asked to connect the apparatus to the broadcasting system. It is a rotten state of affairs. I am highly indignant when I realize that thousands of pounds have been expended every year and there is little to show for the expenditure. All that honorable senators know is that money is being expended. Apparently the Parliament has no authority over the parking arrangements in the vicinity of Parliament House. Members of the Parliament who drive motor 0cars have to park them wherever they can find space. If anybody else has arrived first, there may be no room for the members of the Parliament. They may have driven 1,000 miles to reach here and then have to walk 4 or 5 miles backwards and forwards to their cars in a day. I suggest that Ministers should confer with the President and the* Speaker of the House of Representatives in an endeavour to devise a system under which the Parliament controls the money that is expended upon the working of the Parliament and to ensure that it is not wasted in the way that it has been in the past, according to the disclosures of Senator Mattner.
.- I wish to direct the attention of the committee to the working of Parliament itself. I urge the Government to give further consideration to a proposal that will facilitate the working of the Parliament and enable its members to carry out the nation’s business in a more efficient manner. I refer to a matter that I brought to the notice of. the Senate earlier this year when I proposed that Ministers in one House should be able to give information to the members of the other chamber. Honorable senators know how difficult it is to secure information on bills from a Minister who is acting only in a representative capacity. Under the present outmoded system of parliamentary procedure, Ministers in one House act for a Minister in another chamber. The Minister in either House who is acting as a representative of a Minister in another House is not always able to give information that is requested when piloting bills through the Parliament. Indeed, he could not be expected to give such information. This does not conduce to the efficient working of the Parliament. In other countries a system is in operation under which Ministers can go from one House to another to explain their bills and answer the questions of honorable members.
SenatorCurtis. - The Minister would need an escalator.
– I shall try to disabuse the mind of Senator Courtice. I have here a booklet entitled the Journal of the Society of the Clerks at the Table in Empire Parliaments, by Mr. Owen Clough, C.M.G., an eminent authority on parliamentary procedure. In this book Mr. Clough has made the following statement : -
The right of a Minister of the Crown to sit and speak in both Houses of Parliament, but only to vote in that House of which he is a Member, has never been adopted in the Imperial Parliament.
Union of South Africa. - As a matter of fact, South Africa can perhaps claim to have given birth to this practice in the British Empire, for it was allowed under the “ Responsible Government “ Constitutions of the Cape of Good Hope and Natal as well as under those of the other two South African Colonies now also Provinces of the Union. Since their unification, under the Dominion Constitution of 1910, the practice has also been followed in both Houses of the Union Parliament with conspicuous success and without any incident to break its record of smooth and useful working. The section of the South Africa Act. 1909 under which this right is exercised, reads -
Mr. Clough continued
The provision is an excellent one, for it enables a Minister to answer his Departmental questions in whichever Housethey are asked, as well as pilot his own bills through both Houses, a most useful and time-saving procedure.
Concerning Australia, Mr. Clough said. -
Australia. - The right of a Minister to sit and speak in both Houses of Parliament has never been conceded either in Canada or New Zealand, and it is only in the State Parliament of Victoria that it has been in practice in Australia. The Joint Standing Order ofthat Parliament reads - 7a. Any responsible Minister of the Crown who, under the provisions of section nine of the Constitution Act, 1903, may sit in the House of Parliament of which he is not a member, shall while doing so be subject to the Standing Orders of. that House and to the law and practice of Parliament which is applicable to it.
Attempts have been made to introduce this practice into other Parliaments in the Commonwealth, namely into the Federal Parliament as well as into the State Parliaments of Tasmania and New South Wales. On the 13th May, 1920, the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives announced the receipt of the following Message from the Senate: -
Mr. Speaker. Message No. 21.
The Senate transmits to the House of Representatives the. following Resolution which has been agreed to by the Senate, and requests the concurrence of the House of Representatives therein, viz.: - “That the Standing Orders Committees of the. Senate and the House of Representatives be requested to consider the. question of preparing Standing Orders providing that a Minister in either House may attend and explain and pilot through the other House any Bill of which he has had charge in his own House.”
The Senate, Melbourne, 13th May, 1920.
– What was the outcome of that message?
– The House of Representatives did not consider it because a genera] election intervened and the opportunity to deal with the matter was lost.
SenatorO’Flaherty. - The honorable senator should be careful or he may lose his seat in the same way.
– I am looking forward to the next general election. I hope that I will see the smiling face of Senator O’Flaherty in this chamber for some time, but I have my doubts.
– If honorable senators opposite continue in the way they are going at present none of them will be left in this chamber.
– Senator Grant reminds me of a little pekinese barking at a Saint Bernard. When I was so rudely interrupted by the honorable senator I was about to say that the same principle applied in Malta. Section 54 of the Constitution of Malta provides as follows : -
Every Minister shall have the right to sit andspeak both in the Senate and the Legislative Assembly, but shall vote only in the House of which he is a member.
The Irish Free State has also adopted this principle. Mr. Clough has made the following comment : -
Speaking with the experience of a Clerk of an Upper House for 23 years where the principle of a Minister sitting and speaking in the “ other “ House has been made full use of, the writer can testify that it has, upon all occasions, worked smoothly and well, and also that it has been the means of an Upper House obtaining, first hand, the fullest information upon the provisions of the particular Bill sent up to the reviewing Chamber.
The same principle applies in Southern Rhodesia and in India. It applies in a number of countries and according to Mr. Clough it works with conspicuous success. Why can this principle not be adopted by this Parliament? I do not want to have it adopted to-morrow. But surely during the recess or in the near future it could be considered. If we put that principle into operation a Minister could go into either House in order to explain the object of proposed legislation. He could fully elucidate his propositions and supply all the informa tion that may be sought by members of both Houses. Of course, a Minister would not be entitled to vote in the House of which he was not a member. But how often have honorable senators been unable to secure information that they wanted concerning bills? They often cannot question the Minister responsible for a bill because of the out-of-date system. Very often, instead of the Minister being in charge of the bill it may be said that the bill is in charge of the Minister. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) said that he thought that this proposalhad merit. No one will deny that. But he said that certain difficulties made it impracticable. In other words, he said that it would be desirable to implement it, if it were practicable. He said that it was impossible for a Minister to be in both Houses at the one time. That is elementary. I shall not argue against it. But it is not necessary to attempt to bring a Minister into both Houses at the one time. There is no insurmountable difficulty in the way of this proposal. Other countries have adopted the system with great success and I know of no reason why it cannot be adopted here. I do not agree that the difficulties that have been envisaged by the Minister for Trade and Customs are real. I am sure that if we gave this system a trial we would quickly overcome any difficulties.
If it would assist the introduction of this system, perhaps we could adopt a practice whereby a representative Minister could introduce a bill as at present. Then, at the committee stage, the responsible Minister could be brought into the chamber in order to give information, perhaps for a limited time. The length of time for which his presence would be necessary would be governed by thesize and importance of the measure. The Minister for Trade and Customs said that it was impracticable for Ministers to be. out of their places in their own chambers. I suggest that that is not so, because Ministers are frequently absent from their places, through no fault of their own, on public business for hours and even for days at a time. I suggest that the objections of the Minister are not valid. I suggest that he should at least examine the proposal further and submit it to Cabinet. It has facilitated the working of Parliament in other countries and could do so in this country.
– I think that the purposes of the Senate would best be served if honorable senators were to concentrate on the expenditure of moneys. I ask the Minister to assure the Senate that the additional expenditure of £10,000 arising from the separation of the Hansard report of Senate debates from the report of the debates of the House of Representatives is not provided for in the Estimates which we are discussing or that he will agree to defer that item. I was interested to hear that this proposal emanated from Mr. Speaker. If it were made by Mr. Speaker with the consciousness that the expenditure on printing Hansard would be increased by £10,000, it seems to me to be a proposal which this Senate should question, and in my state of mind, I should say that we should contest the proposal.
– Is the honorable senator in a normal state of mind ?
– I wonder what standard of abnormality Senator Ashley would confess to. Senator Mattner suggested that this item had been authorized by an act of Parliament which was passed in 1935. I have examined that act and read the speech with which Senator A. J. McLachlan introduced the legislation and after perusal of those documents I deny that that bill justifies the proposition in the slightest respect. It amended the Parliamentary Papers Act, and its purpose was to provide in the law of defamation absolute privilege for Hansard. Section 3 of the principal, act provided -
When either House of the Parliament has ordered a document to be printed, that House shall he deemed, unless the contrary intention appears in the order, to have authorized the Government Printer to publish the document.
The 1935 act added the following subsection : -
Thus, parliamentary papers and Hansard reports were put in the same category. The sole purpose was to give to Hansard reports the privilege provided by section 4 of the principal act. The 1935 legislation had nothing whatever to do with authorizing expenditure on the printing of separate reports of Senate and House of Representatives debates. However, there is considerable merit in the proposal, and when I first heard of it, I welcomed it with open arms because separate reports would enable readers to follow debates in both chambers much more readily. When I heard that the cost would be £10,000 a year, I was unable to believe it, but apparently that estimate must be accepted, and I believe that the committee should not be asked to authorize this unnecessary expenditure.
I am interested also in what the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has said about the charging of the cost of the Foreign Affairs Committee, which is a joint committee, to the Senate vote for standing and select committees. Surely that must be a slip. It cannot be justified. The expenses of any joint committee should, I consider, be chargeable to the vote for each House. We in this chamber should be most zealous in our endeavours to guard the funds that are voted to us for select committees.
.- I am sure that every honorable senator was greatly interested in the information supplied by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) and Senator Mattner about the expense of separating the Hansard reports of the Senate and the House of Representatives debates. If we had not been told of the estimated cost of this scheme, we might have been inclined to let the matter pass. My own view of it is that, whereas prior to the separation of the reports there was only one copy of the Parliamentary Debates, which was not read, now there are two copies which are not read. I am informed by some of my colleagues that Hansard is widely read. I have visited many schools of arts and public libraries in country districts, and there I have seen bundles of unopened copies of Hansard. The probability is that, with the division of the reports of the two Houses, the bundles of unopened volumes will be greater than ever. While Senator Mattner was telling us of the problem of fuel, I thought of one way in which that problem could be solved, at least in some measure. Would it be possible to have copies of Hansard burned as fuel? The decision to publish separate reports is just another instance of what some people will do when they are given a little authority. From the information that has been supplied this afternoon,’ it is apparently within, the province of one person to decide that there shall be separate Hansard reports. That authority has been exercised without any regard to cost or to administrative difficulties. Whether the people of Australia want it or not, they are to have separate issues of Hansard, one containing the speeches of members of the House or Representatives, and the other containing the wise speeches of members of this chamber. But if there is any merit at all in dividing Hansard, why stop there? Why not have a Hansard covering speeches made by members of the Opposition, and another covering speeches made by Government supporters? Indeed, as the present Government is a composite administration, why not have the speeches of members of the Australian Country party printed in one volume, and those of members of the Liberal party printed in another? Then, if there happens to be an independent honorable senator, he could be given a Hansard of his own.
– What about a H Hansard for interjections ?
– We could go even further and have the speeches of women senators published separately. There seems to be no limit to the possibilities of this scheme. If the division of the reports is a good thing, why stop at two reports? We cannot have too much of a good thing. Let us go to the limit and have as many Hansards as possible. As I have said, if fuel is required, let us use Hansard for that purpose, too. It could be a continuous process. We make our speeches in our chamber and members of the House of Representatives make their speeches in theirs. Hansard is published and is taken directly to the places where fuel is needed. It would be just like a sa w-mill, where saw dust is used to fire the boilers.
I shall now be serious for a moment. If we have any control over our expenditure, let us exercise it. If we have power to make a request in relation to this proposal, let us make it. Probably such a request would have to be made to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). Not very long ago, 10,000 public servants were dismissed to lighten the cost of government. How can that action be reconciled with the expenditure of an additional £10,000 on the printing of separate H Hansard, reports for the Senate and House of Representatives? This £10,000 is not “ peanuts “. It would settle one exserviceman on the land. It would build three war service homes. It would relieve some of the unemployment that exists in Australia at present.
I expected Senator Mattner to carry his theme much further. He made a valuable contribution to the debate. He opened my eyes to the incessant conflict of interests in Parliament House. He told us also of the conflict with the Department of Works. Apparently we cannot switch on a light without the approval of that department and something else cannot be done because it is under the control of some other committee. If Ave are to be absent for a couple of weeks when the Parliament is prorogued shortly, we may find on our return that there is no Parliament House. It may have been shifted by the Department of Works or some other authority. I recall a rather lively discussion in some quarters last year about the authority of the Auditor-General to inspect the accounts of the Parliament. At the time I regarded the- dispute as a mere quibble which would eventually resolve itself. I thought it preposterous that the Auditor-General, with all his wide powers could not come into any Commonwealth institution and examine its accounts. I thought, too, that if the Auditor-General did not have that authority, it was time we gave it to him. I shall not labour that point. I say again if we have any authority at all over Commonwealth expenditure, let us do something definite about the proposal to spend an additional £10,000 a year on the separation of the Hansard reports.
.- I wish to refer briefly to the vote for the Foreign Affairs Committee about which Senator Wright has spoken. I understand that the subject was first raised, not in any
Critical way, by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). Unfortunately I had tobe absent from the chamber while the honorable senator was speaking. However, I did hear Senator Wright mention it, and I should like to place the facts before honorable senators.. The decision to charge the expenses of the Foreign Affairs Committee to the Senate vote was not taken in consultation with parliamentary members of that committee, but there wasno reason why it should have been, and there is nothing unusual in the facts as they have been disclosed. During World War II., there were four joint parliamentary committees. The War Expenditure Committee and the Profits Committee were financed by the Senate and the Rural Industries Committee and the Social Security Committee were financed by the House of Representatives. Those things are decided on an administrative level between thetwo departments concerned. That procedure was followed in relation to the Foreign Affairs Committee, and the arrangement was approved by the then President of the Senate. By and large, I understand that the practice is to charge the expenses of a joint committee to the department which staffs that committee. I should say that the department which covered that expenditure also had given to it a vote which it would not otherwise have had.
– The committee is indebted to Senator Mattner for his referenceto matters of interest to honorable senators generally. It seems to me that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) must answer some of the criticism that has been made. I was particularly alarmed to learn that in this building, which is recognized as a great firehazard, although certain equipment has been installed, the work of connecting wires from the House to fire brigade head-quarters has been delayed for approximately six months. That means, in effect, that the whole of the money which has been expended to protect this building from fire has been wasted. The position is an extraordinary one. This building houses many thousands of pounds worth of records and items of great historical interest.
SenatorVincent. - They are irreplaceable.
– That is correct. As we would expect, the parliamentary officers have done all in their power to protect the building and its contents from fire, and it is incredible that the final phase of the protective measures’ should have been delayed for so long. An honorable senator has said that the situationis Gilbertian. In my opinion, it is far too serious to be regarded humorously. Should a disastrous fire occur here, the parliamentary officers responsible for the carrying out of the protective measures, and also the responsible officers of the Department of Works, would probably be required to face the consequences of their misdeeds. I ask the Minister, and also the President of the Senate, whois the custodian of this side of the building, to ensure that there is no further delay in the installation of adequate fire prevention measures. In my opinion we have a perfect right to demand from the Minister for Works (Mr. Kent Hughes) an explanation of this delay. Frequent references to red tape are heard, and, as a general rule, members of Parliament deprecate those references, but an incident such as this somewhat shocks one into doubting whether red tape is in fact disappearing from the public scene. I appeal to the Minister to give an assurance to the committee that this work will be carried out immediately.
– I support the remarks that have been made concerning the proposed vote for the Joint House Department. I am sure that the exposures made by Senator Mattner have given honorable senators much food for thought. I wish also to refer to the matter mentioned by Senator Arnold. It was with considerable satisfaction that I read in the newspapers, during the recent parliamentary recess, that a contract had been let for the installation of fireprevention appliances throughout this building. However, it now appears that nothing further has been done-. Climatic conditions in Canberra could well render this building extremely inflammable, and it would be; a tragedy if it went up in flames. It seems’ to me to be. the height of folly that suck appliances should be installed, and yet not be usable. I, too, would appreciate information from the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) in this matter.
I wish to refer now to Division 7, Parliamentary Printing. A great deal of discussion concerning this matter has occurred from time to time, not always on the level of debate in this Parliament, but frequently in the party room and in other places. Reference has often been made to the tremendous amount of wasteful government printing that goes
On. I suggest that if some one Were to set up as a wastepaper-monger in Canberra he could make a very good thing Out of it. I do not doubt that the ingenuity of the rubbish collector in this city must be taxed in dealing with all the wastepaper that emanates from this building. When members’ of the Parliament go to their lockers in the party room after returning from their homes, they find them cluttered up with printed matter which they are only too glad to consign to the wastepaper-basket. It is almost impossible for them to deal with all the material with which they are burdened. Of course, not all of it comes from the Government Printing Office; a good deal of it comes from outside sources. Nevertheless, economy could be exercised by those who have charge of this matter. For instance, notices of motion and orders of the day, addressed to each member of the Parliament, are placed in each locker. Similarly, papers relating to regulations and ordinances are distributed to individual members’. I wish to know whether the necessity to provide this amenity, if it can be so called, could be obviated. Surely the purpose would be served if these papers were placed in a convenient position for the members of the Parliament to read if they wished to do so. f am reminded that when honorable senators come into this chamber they find further’ copies of these papers on their desks. I suggest that if one copy only were m’ade available;, honorable senators could bring it into the chamber if they felt so inclined. It is ridiculous that so much printing should be undertaken in view of the fact that most of it finds its way to the wastepaper-basket.
I 1 support the remarks of honorable senator’s on both sides of the committee concerning the printing, of Hansard. Why is it necessary to incur additional expense of approximately £10,000 a year in printing and distributing Hansard? Surely the division of the record is not justified.- I should like the Minister to inform me how many copies of Hansard are sold to individuals throughout Australia. I know that each member of the Parliament is entitled to a certain.- number of free copies, which are distributed to a select circle of people who are interested in .Hansard and follow the debates. In many instances, those people are engaged in occupations which preclude them from listening to the broadcasts of the debates, and they appreciate the opportunity to read them in Hansard.. I have yet to hear a complaint from any of the people to whom I have had the privilege of sending Hansard concerning the fact that the debates of the House of Representatives’ and those of the Senate were printed in the same volume. The previous’ method of printing Hansard was adequate. The printing of separate volumes has never been considered by this chamber. Iri view of the statement made by Senator Wright concerning the’ 193’5 legislation, there is grave doubt in my mind whether legal .-justification exists for the’ adoption of this procedure
I come now to the Printing Committee, of which I am a member. That committee, of course, is a comparatively unimportant one, but’ I have attended its meetings regularly since I have been a member of the Parliament. Honorable senators may appreciate that it is not always easy, for the committee to determine whether reports should or should not be printed. However, its members carefully scrutinize all reports presented to the Parliament. W e know that the resources of the Government Printing Office are severely taxed in handling all the printing that is required to be done by the Parliament and the various government departments. In certain instances, it is necessary for outside contract’s to be let for government printing. I assure honorable senators that printing is a costly business at the present time. Because that is so, the Printing Committee shoulders’ considerable responsibility in deciding whether reports shall be printed for distribution throughout Australia and, in some instances, throughout the world.
– My interest has been aroused by Division 6 K, which refers to the proposed vote for the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Public Accounts. I notice that although only £707 was expended in the past year in respect of salaries and allowances, the proposed vote for this year is £1,540, and whereas the expenditure on account of salaries of temporary and casual employees was only £292 last year, the proposed vote this year is £1,360. In respect of general expenses, however, although the expenditure last year was £819, the proposed vote for this year is only £600. I should have thought that, in view of the great amount of detailed work that has been performed by the committee, that amount would be increased instead of being decreased. It is apparent from the Estimates of expenditure on account of salaries and payments in the nature of salary, however, that is the intention of the committee to continue to investigate the public accounts of this country. I believe that that committee has received more general approbation than has any other parliamentary committee. Consequently, it seems to me to be curious that we should be reducing expenditure in respect of that committee.
– The proposed vote for the conveyance of members of Parliament and others is £160,000 which is £13,000 less than the amount that was voted for this purpose last year. I commend the Government for re-organizing its transport services to be able to effect that reduction. Much criticism is levelled at all governments in respect of expenditure on items of this kind. A good deal of such criticism is warranted. Therefore, when the Government has taken steps to effect savings in this way, attention should be directed to that fact.
Reference has been made to the cost of printing and distribution of parliamentary papers to honorable members and honorable senators. I have been a member of the Senate for only three years, but I have received notices from various departments asking me to cross off my list any documents that I do not desire to have supplied to me. I went to the trouble of going through my list and, as a result, my mail has been substantially reduced because I do not receive any document that I do not require. Any honorable senator who is perturbed about the number of documents that -may be despatched to him can remedy the matter by complying with the request of departments to advise them not to forward documents which they do not require.
I agree with the criticism that has been voiced of the separate publication of Hansard reports of proceedings in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. However, many honorable senators have overlooked the point that the real reason for the change was that the Senate had no authority to prevent the change from being made. The printing of Hansard reports of proceedings in the House of Representatives is entirely the responsibility of Mr. Speaker and, in this matter, he has said to the Senate, in effect, “ You can print your own Hansard, or do without it, if you so desire “. The Senate has no control over the printing of documents for the House of Representatives and, conversely, the House of Representatives has no control over the printing of Senate documents. In these circumstances, the Senate has the choice of protesting against the change, as we are now doing or of discontinuing the publication of Hansard reports of proceedings in this chamber. I do not know that that would be any great loss to the country. At the same time, we should do our utmost to rectify the present absurd position that has arisen as a. result of which an additional expenditure of approximately £10,000 will be incurred in the printing and distribution of Hansard. I am sure that every honorable senator desires to obviate such additional expenditure.
– I thank the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) for the complete replies that he gave in respect of matters that I raised earlier. I desire to refer again to two of those matters. The Minister, in explaining the allocation of expenses incurred by the Joint
Committee on Foreign Affairs to the Senate vote said that that course had been followed with the concurrence of all members of that committee including senators on that committee. However, Senator Gorton, who is chairman of that committee, has rather indicated that the contrary is the case. He has indicated that the allocation was arranged between the Department of the House of Representatives and the Department of the Senate and that senators who are members of the committee were not consulted on the matter.
– The action taken was quite irregular.
– When the Treasurer of the day refused to make money available for a select committee that was appointed by the Senate, the Senate took the precaution to make provision for an amount of £2,500 on the Estimates in order that the Senate could go ahead with the work of such committees as it appointed, regardless of the wishes of the government, or of the Treasurer, of the day. That provision is a regular safeguard for this chamber. As I indicated earlier, the reason why the House of Representatives makes provision for an amount of only £200 in respect of committees which it appoints is that the Treasurer is a member of that chamber and, consequently, is subject to immediate criticism and control in that chamber. To charge the expenses of a joint committee against the Senate vote is bad enough, but when such action is taken on the initiative of departments or of senators who are members of a particular committee it is completely wrong in principle. The Parliament made provision for the sum of £2,500 solely for the purpose of meeting the expenses of select committees of the Senate, and no authority but the Parliament has the right to authorize the use of that money for any other purpose.
– I wonder what the Auditor-General would say about the matter.
– The Public Accounts Committee has been critical of action of this kind, the free transfer of funds and has made an excellent report on that subject. On behalf of the Opposition, I strongly protest against any portion of that money being used for activities of a joint committee whether it be the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs or any other joint committee. It is no answer to the position that I am putting to say that in the past the expenses of joint committees have been charged to the House of Representatives’ vote. That is a different matter altogether, because such action is taken by the House of Representatives, which is the home of the Treasurer. I make the strongest protest on behalf of the Opposition against the action that has been taken in this instance and I protest also in support of the Senate’s position against the vote of £2,500 being used for any purpose other than to meet the expenses of select committees appointed by this chamber. Senator Guy, in an interesting and informative speech, gave a good example of the way in which the Senate might function. He directed attention to procedures that are followed in the parliaments of other countries in which Ministers attend in both houses. This is peculiarly a problem that affects the Senate in this Parliament. Fifteen of the total number of Ministers are members of the House of Representatives. I suggest that the Senate might appoint a committee to examine the facts and to see how the system to which Senator Guy referred works in other countries. A committee could do useful work in that direction and any report that it presented might be a precursor of a new system in this Parliament. If money were required to be allocated to a live committee, such as the Foreign Affairs Committee, which must necessarily incur considerable expenses in travelling and in other ways, the fund that the Senate has provided for select committees could be exhausted within a few months. In that event, select committees of the Senate could function only at the will of the Treasurer of the day. The Senate should not be placed in such a position.
The second matter to which I desire to refer is the additional expenditure of £10,000 that will be involved in the separate publication of Hansard reports of proceedings in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. It would seem that that expenditure has not been contemplated in the Estimates now before us. I notice that the proposed vote of £53,000 for the printing of Hansard, including cost of distribution, is the same amount as was voted for this item last year. Obviously, that amount does not include the additional expenditure of £10,000 that will be incurred as a result of the publication separately of Hansard reports of proceedings in either chamber. It is also completely clear that that additional expenditure has been imposed as a monetary commitment upon the taxpayers without the knowledge, and maybe without the consent, of the government of the day. I thank the Minister for making available the information regarding the additional costs that will be involved in this matter and also for undertaking to make representations upon the subject to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). If those representations are to be made in protest against this additional expenditure, the Minister may, if he cares to do so, assure the Prime Minister that the protest has the backing of the Opposition. The Minister, inadvertently, failed, to inform me whether in the new set-up Hansard will be circulated in both forms to persons on the Hansard list or whether Senate reports only will be supplied to senators and persons on a senator’s list. I should like an assurance that while the new system continues both the Senate and House of Representatives numbers of Hansard will be made available whenever Hansard is called for.
– I agree with the Leader ofthe Opposition (Senator McKenna) that any moneys that are voted for select committees of the Senate should be expended in respect of such committees only. I am completely at a loss to know how and why the expenses in respect of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs was allocated to the Senate vote. Certainly, such action was not taken with my consent.
– I desire to refer to the separate publication of Hansard reports of proceedings in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. Whilst that change has been commended in some quarters, it has been the subject of much public criticism. Some persons have taken the opportunity provided by this alteration to deride the Senate. Attention has been directed particularly to the slimness of the Senate Hansard. The fact is, of course, that the number of honorable senators is only half the number of members of the House of Representatives. I should like to know what proportion of the additional expenditure of approximately £10,000 will be attributable to distribution apart from the printing of Hansard. If the present system is to continue, will the Senate and the House of Representatives numbers of Hansard be posted in the one wrapper ? Obviously, separate posting will double the cost of postage.
.- First, Mr. Chairman, I should warn you that what I am going to say may possibly be out of order. I shall leave it entirely to you to decide. One of the reasons why I say that is that I wish to speak about something which I think comes under the proposed vote. Another reason is that I wish to speak, not about something that is actually mentioned and provided for under the proposed vote, but something which should be so provided for.
– The honorable senator will be in order in doing so.
– I believe that there should be established in each capital city of Australia a place where it would be possible for citizens to obtain copies of all Government publications, including the Estimates, so that a person who is keenly interested in public affairs could easily obtain in his place of domicile, at the appropriate charge, copies of the budget, the Estimates, Commonwealth scientific reports, reports furnished by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, fisheries reports, and reports on such major projects as the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric undertaking. Members of the public should be able to obtain from a central depot the latest official information on various subjects. Such a facility might well help to provide an informed general public. In the Government publications shop in London, copies of White Papers may be purchased by interested citizens. I should like to see a similar service provided in Australia. I believe that it would be of benefit to the people of this country, and that that service could be provided without losing money, which would thereby set an example to both Commonwealth and State departments.
– I have not all figures before me in relation to the additional cost that will be involved by separating the Hansard reports. However, there are taken into account the costs of labour, printing and binding, wrappers, postage, and printing and binding of the permanent volumes. Irrespective of whether the separate Hansard reports are posted individually, I assume that honorable senators will still be entitled to receive all issues of Hansard. I imagine that the use of one or two wrappers would depend on the synchronization of completion of the volumes. Presumably the Government Printer will exercise his discretion in the matter. If completed volumes of Hansard reports of debates in both Houses were ready for posting at the same time, I can see no reason why they should not be sent in the one wrapper. On the other hand, if, at the time that a House of Representatives volume is ready for posting the Senate volume is incomplete, I do not think that the posting of the House of Representatives volume should be delayed until the’ Senate volume has been completed. This is purely a matter of management.
I think that the matter that was raised by Senator Hannaford was answered effectively by Senator Henty. Some time ago honorable senators were asked to indicate the parliamentary papers that they desired to be f orwarded to them, in order to avoid the postage of papers that some honorable senators do not want. I understand that members of this chamber are now receiving from the Government Printer only the publications and papers in which they are interested.
I come now to the matter of select committees. Honorable senators will observe that, apart from the Public Accounts Committee and the Public Works Committee provision has not been made in the proposed vote for any other Joint Parliamentary Committee. Provision is made for select committees in the proposed votes for the Senate and the House of Representatives. I was under the impression that that arrangement had resulted from an agreement between the Houses, but I have been informed that for some time past the practice has been to charge the cost of joint committees to the department whose officers man and service them. Of course, this practice is as broad as it is long, because allocations to the House of Representatives or to the Senate for select committees can be used only for that purpose. It is solely a matter of bookkeeping. Before the Foreign Affairs Committee was appointed, there was an allocation of £900 for that purpose, but the cost has since increased.
I have already taken up with the Prime Minister specifically, along the lines that have been expressed here this afternoon, the extra cost of Hansard involved by the separation of the reports of both Houses. We cannot take the matter any further at present, because I doubt very much whether the Senate could insist that the Hansard report of the debates in the House of Representatives should be bound with the reports of the debates in this chamber. Probably the House of Representatives is as jealous of its rights in the matter as we are of ours.
– Have not the reports of the proceedings in both Houses been published together since federation?
– I understand that, prior to this sessional period, they had never been separated.
– What necessity has arisen to alter the established practice?
– There is a precedent in the British Parliament. 1 understand that Hansard reports of the debates in the House of Lords and the House of Commons are issued in separate publications.
– I do not mind the separation, provided that no additional cost is involved.
– Representations have been made to the Prime Minister on substantially the same lines as the criticism that has been offered by honorable senators to-day. I shall be happy to inform the right honorable gentleman that the Opposition in this chamber associates itself with the protests that have been made about the extra expense that will be involved by the separation of the reports. As I have mentioned before, it has been estimated that the additional cost in this financial year will be £10,000. Opinions have been expressed in various quarters that that estimate is an exaggeration.
– Did not the Minister himself mention that figure?
-Yes, it was supplied by the Government Printer. However, it has been challenged. Some persons have stated that the increased cost could not possibly amount to that figure.
SenatorWright. - Does the proposed vote contemplate provision for the extra expense ?
– There is an increase of about £4,000. I point out that the sessional periods in this particular financial year willbe relatively short, because of the forthcoming Royal visit and the general election. A part of the increased cost of £4,000 will be incurred as a result of increased costs of labour and paper.
– But there has been no increase on last year’s vote.
– No, but there has been an increase compared with actual expenditure last year.
– Would we, by agreeing to the proposed vote, imply our approval of the separation of the reports?
– No. Agreement to the proposed vote does not mean that we are irrevocably committed to the expenditure.
– That is a very important point;
– Provision has been made for the expenditure, but we will not be obliged to incur it.
– It is only an estimate ?
– Yes. I come now to the matter of fire protection in this building, which was raised by Senator Arnold and Senator Mattner. That matter does not come within the province of a particular department, but it is within the purview of the President of the Senate and Mr. Speaker, to whom I shall refer the observations that have been made by honorable senators. A survey of this building was made during the last recess by the Deputy Eire Officer of the Board of Eire Brigades of New South Wales, and his recommendations are in course of implementation. Requisitions have been submitted to the Department of Works for certain work to be carried out, and it is expected that that work will be commenced at an early date. I shall refer to the Minister for Works the suggestion that the fire control panel in Parliament House should be linked with the Canberra Eire Station, and request him to expedite the matter.
– Of what use is it to refer the matter to the Minister for Works?
– I am not at all satisfied with the present position in relation to protection against fire in this building. I have directed the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) specifically to the necessity for an additional link to be provided in order to gain the full benefit from certain work that has been carried out recently. Surely, the Minister realizes the necessity to provide the additional link. It is not sufficient for him to say that the matter will be referred to some one else. He should assure the Senate that he appreciates the importance of the matter, and that he will take action immediately to have the work carried out. He has a very serious responsibility in the matter.
– I can only pass it on to the responsible authorities.
– Are we in the position that we belong to nobody?
– Just waifs in the storm ?
– As we agree to proposed votes for certain work to be carried out, surely there is some one to whom the Senate can look in this matter.
– I will convey the honorable senator’s remarks to the President, who presides over the Joint House Committee.
– The Minister now proposes to turn the matter over to the President.
– He is the responsible authority.
– And I suppose the President will refer it to the Department ofWorks.
– My colleague considers that we are going on the roundabout again. I take this opportunity to register my protest that a most important building in this Commonwealth, which houses very valuable relics, has been left unprotected against fire because of the dilatory attitude of certain of our officers.
I disagree with the opinion that has been expressed by the Minister for Trade and Customs about moneys voted for select committees. As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has clearly stated, we agree to proposed votes which include provision for select committees so that if at any time we wish to appoint a select committee we cannot be fobbed off by the Treasurer in another place. The Minister said that the practice in relation to money that we expend on standing committees is as broad as it is long.
SenatorO’Sullivan. - I referred to committees on which the Senate is represented.
– Such a committee is an entirely different body from a select committee of the Senate. It is a standing committee set up by both Houses of the Parliament and is not the kind of committee covered by this vote, which is for the purpose of select committees that are appointed by the Senate. The Senate should be able to appoint a select committee at any time and it should function without being prevented from doing so by the Treasurer in another place. A select committee is entirely different from a joint standing committee set up by both Houses of the Parliament. I hope that the Minister recognizes the importance of preserving for the Senate its right to set aside a certain sum of money to carry out this function.
– All honorable senators have experienced the feeling of frustration to which Senator Arnold has referred. The Parliament is under the joint control of the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Joint House Committee. Those authorities may decide to take certain action but they have to ask the Department of Works to sanction the proposals.
– Is not the department responsible to the Minister ?
– Yes. The conflict arises between the Joint House Committee and the Department of Works. In order to short circuit some of the proposals, the Presiding Officers of the Parliament, with the sanction of the Joint House Committee, sometimes take the initiative in having work done. On occasions the Presiding Officers have taken work to a certain stage and then have notified the Department of Works to that effect. As I have said previously, the Department of Works was notified last May that certain improvements to Parliament House had to be completed. Representations were made, but the matter went no farther. That is the present state of affairs as to the control of Parliament House and the arrangements with the Department of Works. I do not know how the situation can be altered. With due deference to the Leader of the Senate, I remind honorable senators that he is allowed only to make recommendations to the President of the Senate. No doubt the President pays close attention to the recommendations of the Leader of the Senate, and endeavours to meet his wishes, but that Minister has no more control over the President than has any other honorable senator. He can make recommendations and then the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Joint House Committee have to approach the Department of Works.
– I should like to have a ruling upon certain matters that are associated with the item that is being discussed. Apparently honorable senators cannot question the appropriate Minister because he is the representative of the Minister for Works. So far as I can ascertain, there is no reference to this subject in the proposed vote relating to the Department of Works. When honorable senators are discussing the proposed vote for the Department of Works, will they be permitted to question the Minister concerned upon this matter?
Senator O’SULLIVAN (QueenslandMinister for Trade and Customs) [4.20 J. - Under the Department of Works, Division No. 69 - Repairs and Maintenance, the Parliament is specifically mentioned. The matter can be discussed then.
– I was interested in the suggestion that was made by Senator Guy as to the improvement of the parliamentary system. Nothing ds perfect and the Parliament has been evolved from something less perfect than it is now. There is room for improvement. I believe that the suggestion is worthy of consideration. I have a further suggestion that I commend to the attention. of honorable senators-. I believe that the basis of the Parliament should be altered so that the representation would be occupational and not territorial. If that system were adopted, the members of the Parliament would be those who were doing the work of industry.. They would represent essential1 services and production. I believe that such a- change would bring about an improvement and would, help to eliminate, the waste to which reference has been made. Every Minister knows’ that he should not make an arbitrary decision. Before deciding upon” an action-,, he should consult the men who will be responsible for. doing the work that he has” in mind. A government can adopt a proposal, when there is unanimousapproval for it, provided that it is consistent with the Government’s’ policy. During, the years that I was Minister for Aircraft Production and PostmasterGeneral, I gave credit to- the men who had to do the actual work, particularly the senior technicians of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. In the final analysis, members of the Parliament and Ministers’ depend upon the trained persons in various departments. If members of the Parliament consisted of representatives of occupations: instead of persons like ourselves* who repre-‘ sent territorial’ areas, the Parliament could be a much more effective and competent institution than it is now. Honorable senators cannot be expected to know everything. Certainly I would not pose as an authority on all the subjects that are discussed in this chamber. We depend upon the men who are trained in their jobs.
– Order! The committee is discussing the Estimates and the debate must be related to some item of the Estimates. Therefore, the honorable senator’s remarks are out of order.
– I was referring to- the suggestion that was put forward by Senator Guy, which I believe- to be thoroughly workable. I thought that 1 might help him to improve upon his proposals. However,. I leave it at that. I turn my attention now to the much discussed expenditure upon Hansard. I believe that the division of Hansard into two volumes is a marked improvement for the reasons that have been advanced by Senator Wright.. ‘ It will result in continuity in the reports of the debates. I do- not regard the expenditure as a waste of money. I have in mind many matters associated with the work- of the’ Parliament involving colossal waste, but very little is said about them. Actually, wastage by governments is a safety valve of the capitalist system. If waste and duplications were eliminated, economic troubles’ would result.. I believe that Hansard- has been improved1 by the insnovation and I speak as one who has worked as a printer’ and compositor. The expenditure of £10;,000 as> a- result of the operation is not waste because1 it has improved Hansard.
– The change is no’t worth £10,000.
– When improvement is achieved, money is not wasted. In my opinion the change from one volume to two volumes’ is a good one-, and I. hope that the. item will not- be challenged. Whoever is responsible for the decision is to be commended. I agree with Senator Hannaford that much unnecessary waste is involved in the distribution of papers. Much saving could be eff ected’. Most of the papers that- are distributed! to honorable senators from day to day go- into the waste-paper baskets. Honorable: senators should consider that matter instead of criticizing the improvement of Hansard. I am not impressed with the arguments that have been advanced against, the expenditure upon Hansard and I believe that if the Government spent all the. funds at its disposal as intelligently, the country would’ be in a better position.
Senator GUY (Tasmania) [4.28).- The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) has not yet replied, in this debate, to the representations that I made for the more efficient working of the Parliament. Honorable senators have had a. demonstration to-day of the necessity for the appropriate Minister to be in this chamber so that honorable senators may obtain information. It is true that the Minister stated recently that the proposal was impracticable,, but I have put forward evidence of the conspicuous success of the system in other countries..
– Order ! I must rule that the honorable senator is out of order because his remarks do not relate to any proposed item of expenditure in the Appropriation Bill.
– The proposal would involve expenditure. However, I conclude by asking the Minister for Trade and Customs to consider it again.
. -I wish to refer briefly to the item for the printing of Hansard, including the cost of distribution. I do not intend to enter into the details as Senator Cameron has. done, nor shall I debate the fact that agreement has been reached upon the expenditure of £10,000 more than the sum expended last year. I remind honorable senators that once again the Parliament has been placed in a: rather humiliating position. The fact is that two senior members of the Parliament who occupy high positions in the Commonwealth of Australia could not conclude a simple administrative detail such as that under discussion. As I understand the sequence of events, the Speaker of the House of Representatives issued instructions to the Principal Parliamentary Reporter that Hansard should be printed in. two separate volumes.. Apparently, Senator Mattner, who was then President of the Senate, did not agree with the proposal. The Presiding Officers of the Parliament went to London for the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second and did not reach finality in the matter. Honorable senators rise in this chamber andtalk about co-operation in industry. But we are in the farcical position that two senior officers of the Parliament cannot complete a simple administrative detail. This ridiculous position takes its place in the sorry history of the Parliament since 1949 alongside such episodes as the removal of the photograph of Phar Lap from the. barber’s room in Parliament House.
.. - Senator Wedgwood asked for an explanation of the increase from £707 to £1,540 in the vote for salaries and allowances under Division 6, K, for the Public Accounts Committee. She also inquired the reason for the increase from £292 to £1,360 in. the vote for temporary and casual employees. I have been advised that the increased vote for salaries and allowances is due to the necessity to provide a full year’s salary for the secretary of the committee whereas it was only necessary to provide his salary for six months of the last financial year. The expenditure of the committee in the financial year 1952-53 covered the salary of a temporary typist for approximately six months. The vote for the current financial year is intended to cover a staff of two temporary typists. The additional typist has been required because of the greater work occasioned by the committee’s activities. The vote for general expenses for the committee has been reduced from £819 to £600 because the vote of £81 9 included initial expenditure on stationery and typewriters.
I do not think that anything that Senator Guy said requires any explanation other than that which I have already given in this chamber. I do not intend to express any disrespect for Senator Guy. His proposition has a tremendous amount of merit, but, for the reasons that I have already given, I do not think that his proposition is practicable.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £2,059,000.
– Some time ago certain propaganda was distributed to the country press of Australia which I have been informed emanated from the secretariat of the Prime Minister’s Department.
– Is the honorable senator referring to any particular item ?
– No. I want to know to which item this matter relates. The material that was distributed included printers’ blocks and pamphlets.
– I rise to order. I think that the honorable senator is quite out of order in dealing with a proposition that is entirely outside the Estimates. If the honorable senator asks for an explanation of a specific item I shall explain it to the best of my ability. But I cannot tell the honorable senator how much was spent on something which does not appear in the Estimates. I am here to answer questions concerning items set out in the Estimates.
– The point of order is sustained. The honorable senator must relate his remarks to a particular item of the Estimates.
– I wish to know what department provided this material. I have been informed that it was sent out by the secretariat of the Prime Minister’s Department. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) rose to order before the Temporary Chairman had an opportunity to understand what I was referring to.
– And the point of order was upheld.
– I expected that. The point of order has been taken that-
– Order! The honorable senator has the details of the Estimates before him and he must relate his remarks to an item in the Estimates. The honorable senator could waste a lot of the Senate’s time with remarks based on a suggestion that some material might have come from the Prime Minister’s Department. He must relate his remarks to a precise item of a particular department.
– I am trying to relate this matter to the Parliament. This material has been sent out by airmail. I presume that this subject relates to the Parliament.
– The committee is dealing with the Prime Minister’s Department.
– I have received one of the pamphlets to which I have referred. It mentions the achievements of the post office and invites attention to what has been done only in electorates that are represented by Liberal party and Australian Country party members in another place.
– I rise to order. I suggest that the honorable senator is completely ignoring the point of order which you have just upheld, Mr. Temporary Chairman. The honorable senator has produced no evidence to show that the material to which he has referred was not sent out by a private individual, or even by himself. He has provided no evidence to show that it was sent out by any government department. Therefore, I suggest that he is out of order unless he can show that it was issued by the Prime Minister’s Department.
– The point of order is sustained.
– I expected that.
– Order ! That is an affront to the Chair.
– What is?
– The honorable senator’s statement that he expected the ruling that I gave. I ask him to withdraw that statement.
– What statement?
– The statement that you expected me to give that decision.
– Well, I did, and I would be telling an untruth if I said otherwise.
– That remark is an affront to the Chair and I ask the honorable senator to withdraw it.
– If it is offensive I withdraw it, by all means.
– The honorable senator has not yet indicated to what item of the Estimates he is referring. It would be permissible for a question on such a matter as he has raised to be asked in relation to incidental and other expenditure. But the honorable senator cannot make a second-reading speech in committee.
– I have listened to all the speeches that have been made -in this chamber this afternoon, and they have resembled second -reading speeches more than anything else. No exception was taken to the remarks of other honorable senators, and I do not know why objection should have been taken to my remarks. I am trying to relate the circumstances that surround this matter. I have a copy of an envelope that was sent out. It bears the words “ Commonwealth of Australia “. Surely that is sufficient to connect it with the activities of the Government. Both propaganda documents and blocks were sent through the post. I want to know what they cost. Surely the Minister can tell me. I shall give him all the information that I have in regard to them.. Two blocks were sent to each newspaper. One of them mentioned the installation of an automatic telephone exchange. Has this material been sent out at the expense of the taxpayers as propaganda for the Liberal party and the Australian Country party? I would like to know the exact cost of distributing this material.
– I should like the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) to supply the Senate with information concerning item 3 of section B of division 13, National Library. This item relates to the collection and publication of Australian historical records for which a sum. of £1,500 was voted last year but none of that money appears to have been spent. The vote for the current financial year is again £1,500. I was a member of the Library Committee for some time and I know the valuable work that can be dene in the collection and publication of Australian historical records. It is a pity that we have lost many of the - early records of this country which were so valuable. I am greatly appreciative of the work that is being done by the National Library in this field. I should be sorry if every effort were not made to ensure that a record was kept of matters appertaining to our early history. Throughout Australia, historical societies are doing much to gather and keep records of our history and I commend them for their work, but they are unable to do as much as a national library could do. I urge that the National Library be given every opportunity to continue this excellent work. Will the Minister inform the Senate why the vote was not used for this purpose last year? I trust that the work will be continued.
– The estimated expenditure for the High Commissioner’s Office in the United Kingdom under division 14 of the Estimates is considerably less than the expenditure of this office during the last financial year. This is such an extraordinary circumstance that I think that the committee should receive an explanation of the reduction of the expenditure. A tremendous amount of money appears to have been spent by the High Commissioner’s Office on telegrams and telephone services. I have already mentioned in this committee that, in the absence of close supervision by responsible officers, what might be called incidental charges could amount to astronomical proportions.
– Like the expenditure on the Federal Members’ Rooms in Sydney.
– The Federal Members’ Rooms in Sydney are not the only case of this kind, although the expenditure there is probably still greater than it should be. At Australia House, for instance, expenditure on telegrams and telephones alone is estimated at nearly £70,000 this year. If that sum is divided by the number of employees at Australia House, we find that it represents about £186 a head. That expenditure seems to be extraordinarily high. It does not include cablegrams. There i3 a further £28,000 for cablegrams. Once again I come to the point that I made earlier to-day. It is quite obvious that these costly services are being used unnecessarily. Surely close scrutiny by officers in charge could reduce these expenses considerably.
An amount of £438,000 is provided for r.he Public Service Board, and I should like some information about activities of this edifice that is superimposed on the edifice of the Public Service itself. I invite the Minister to outline to the committee the manner in which this substantial sum of money is to be expended. The vote for the Public Service Board has more than doubled in the last four years. How much of that increase has been necessitated by inflation or by extra work I do not know, but I should be interested to hear a detailed account of the work that the board does to justify this tremendous expenditure. The board employs a large staff. In Canberra alone, it has 170 employees. What do all those people do?
There is an extraordinary increase also in the vote for the Governor-Generals office. Whilst I realize that this, is ground upon which angels fear to tread, the committee is entitled to know the manner in which expenditure is being incurred by that office. The vote for this year is £33,500, compared with a vote last year of £10,500, and an actual expenditure of £24,877. ‘ That increase may be well justified, but the committee is entitled to know the reason for it.
Senator MARRIOTT (Tasmania) 1 4.50]. - Whether it is a case of great minds thinking alike, or perhaps small minds thinking alike, I do not know, but two of the items mentioned by Senator Armstrong have also caught my attention, and I believe that this committee would do well to examine them. There is, first, the vote for . the Public Service Board. The staff of the board is listed as 381, an increase of seventeen over last year. Salaries are to cost an additional £30,000. The provision ‘for temporary employees of the Public Service Board is £18^700, and that gives rise to another matter. Throughout the maze of figures for the various departments, one finds many appropriations for temporary and casual employees. Sometimes, as is the case with the High Commissioner’s office, salaries and wages of temporary and casual employees exceed those of permanent employees. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) said in his first-reading speech on this measure that there should be a clearer and more detailed presentation of information in the Estimates. I agree with that. However, reverting to the Public Service Board, I honestly do not know what its functions are. I assume that it is virtually a board of directors, with, a large staff, charged with the responsibility of administering the Commonwealth Public Service. Every penny of the proposed expenditure may be needed, but I believe that if governmental expenditure is to be pruned, the pruning should start with the Parliament and then extend to the Public Service Board. The board is costing this country nearly £500,000 a year, and it is of importance that we should know something about its activities. I do not know what the rights of honorable senators are, but I am wondering whether it would be possible to have the chairman of the board, Mr. Dunk, before us to outline the ramifications of the board and to justify the heavy expenditure and increase of staff which we are being asked to approve.
– I should like to know to what degree the Public Service Board is responsible for the many delays that have occurred in the completion of the hearing by the Public Service Arbitrator of applications by various Public Service organizations for salary increases and improved working conditions. An extraordinary position has arisen. The Public Service Board obviously has a substantial staff and there should be no difficulty in compiling the evidence that the board may consider necessary to answer the claims of the unions, but representatives of the board have continually asked for adjournments of the hearings. The Australian Postal Workers Union, for instance, has had claims pending since 1951. Some of those claims, have been resubmitted, but adjournments have been obtained repeatedly by the representatives of the Public Service Board?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! Is the honorable senator discussing the office of the Public Service Arbitrator ?
– No. I am referring to the Public Service Board, the work of which is apparently very far in arrears. The repeated delays to which I have referred aTe inflicting hardship on union members. An examination of the schedule of salaries and allowances shows that the staff of the Public Service Board this year is greater than ever; yet the board has been unable to answer numerous claims by Public Service organizations for higher wages and salaries and improved working conditions. Some of these claims, I understand, have been referred ultimately to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Presumably, the Public Service Board employs a staff of well qualified men. I am not criticizing public servants as individuals, but I should like to hear an explanation of the delays. The inability of the Public Service Arbitrator to make determinations on applications that are before him is causing a grave injustice to many public servants in this period of vicious inflation. Moves have been made to petition the Government to grant an all-round increase of £1 a week in public service salaries pending the determination of union claims. Has there been any intrusion into this field by some outside authority to prevent the wage increases? When the vote for the Attorney-General’s Department is before us, I shall have further comments to make on the Public Service Arbitrator’s office. At this stage, however, I should like the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) to inform me whether the preparation of the Public Service Board’s case in answer to union applications has been delayed by lack of. staff. Repeatedly, responsible officers of the Public Service Board have informed the Public Service Arbitrator that they are not prepared to proceed with their case in reply to the union claims. How does the board justify those delays? Is additional staff required? The position is very serious and is a reflection on every officer of the Public Service Board from the top down. Are the delays due to Government policy? In the light of the expenditure that we are asked to approve for the upkeep of the Public Service Board, I find it hard to believe that there is any shortage of staff to which the protraction of the arbitration proceedings can be attributed.
.- The vote for the Public Service Board includes £9,000 for “ overseas study and training”. I should like the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) to explain to me the nature of that study and training and the subjects that are taught. I note that the proposed vote this year is £9,000, whereas last year it was only £4,500. Perhaps the Minister would also explain the reason for the increase. Does it mean that overseas study and training will be available to twice as many members of the staff of the Public Service Board as previously?
I also refer to item 4, under this heading, which refers to instructional films. Last year, £5,400 was voted for this purpose, but this year the proposed vote is only £1,000. I should like to be informed of the type of visual training which the Public .Service Board employs.
.- The proposed vote for the Public Service Board includes the following items: - “ Examinations - Expenses “, for which the proposed vote is £13,500, and “ Recruitment - ‘Advertising “, for which the proposed vote is £6,000. In order to see those amounts in their proper perspective, it is necessary to consider the methods adopted by the Public Service Board in recruiting its junior staff. The committee may be aware that a proportion of the staff is required to pass examinations prior to being admitted to the Public Service, whilst other recruits are admitted temporarily and required to pass examinations subsequently. Apparently, the Commonwealth Public Service Board expends fairly large sums of money in recruiting its staff, forgetting that, the States have costly education systems under which they conduct examinations to recruit staff for their own Public Services. To my mind, there is nothing to prevent the Commonwealth Public Service Board from obtaining all its staff requirements from juniors who pass either the junior university examination or the Public Service entrance examination in the States. The lists of those who pass are published by the Public Service authorities in the
States and should be available to the Commonwealth. The Australian Government and the State Government should co-operate in this matter.
Some time ago, when the Estimates were first submitted to the Cabinet, I understand that it reviewed them and then referred all of them back to the various departments with the request that further cuts in expenses be made. Unless the Government is determined to change certain Public Service methods, however, it will never succeed in economizing. This Government is conservatively following methods that were abandoned elsewhere years ago. Apparently, there is no one in the Public Service who possesses sufficient initiative or judgment to change methods which have been followed for many years. I appreciate that when we are discussing items of expenditure which total hundreds of millions of pounds, expenditure of £19,500 in respect of two items is of comparatively little importance. I point out, however, that it is by scrutinizing such amounts that a huge saving ultimately could be made. To my way of thinking, the Commonwealth Public Service Board could completely eliminate such expenditure by cooperatiiig ug with the education departments in the various States.
I refer now to Division 12, which deals with the proposed vote for the GovernorGeneral’s office. I suggest that at this stage of our national development we should not be clinging to the old conservatism. I see no necessity at all for Australia to import Governors-General. In my opinion, the position should be filled by Australians. That it can be filled successfully has been proved conclusively already. A Supreme Court judge stationed in Canberra, doing his ordinary duties, could act ex officio as GovernorGeneral of the Commonwealth. If that were so, considerable saving would be effected.
– I refer to the proposed vote for the administrative expenses of the Prime Minister’s Department, under Division 9, which covers office requisites and equipment, stationery and printing, and postage, telegrams and telephone services. I should like to know whether the expenses incurred under those headings include the cost of air mailing blocks or stereos of documents which were sent out by the Postmaster-General’s Department in official envelopes stamped “ On Her Majesty’s Service “, immediately prior to the recent Senate elections, one of which read -
Mr. Anthony said that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department had given special attention to the need to provide full-day service to country electors. Given details of exchanges completed, Mr. Anthony said that Liberal and Country party members of the Commonwealth Parliament had been untiring in directing attention to the areas needing this very essential service. Ho also promised an early announcement regarding his department’s immediate tentative programme of further installations.
– I also should like some information concerning the item, “ Overseas study and training “ included in the vote for the Public Service Board, to which Senator Paltridge referred. Whilst I am greatly in favour of overseas study, I am concerned about the proposed increased expenditure and would like to know the period occupied by the training referred to and the countries in which it is undertaken.
– I am. amazed that a man of Senator Ashley’s ripe and rich experience should be sufficiently gullible as to think that the Government would bother to send out, at public expense, the literature to which he has referred. I think he would do well to make sure that his leg is not being pulled. The item to which he referred covers the provision of office requisites, printing and stationery for the Prime Minister’s office, and also for the offices of the VicePresident of the Executive Council, the Cabinet, and the National Security Resources Board. Special stationery is required for letters of introduction, commission and orders in council. During 1952-53, the following expenditure was incurred in this connexion : - Government Printer, £3,000 ; photostat supplies, £1,100; duplicator supplies, £275; new typewriters, £135; glazing machine, £235; and other incidental purchases, £400. Item 3 - Postage, telegrams and telephone services - covers, in addition to ordinary departmental charges, the cost of ministerial telephones, particularly trunk-line calls, and telephone facilities for leaders and deputy leaders of parties, and former Prime Ministers.
Senator Annabelle Rankin requested information concerning the publication of Australian historical records. The chief activity being carried on under this head of expenditure is the micro-filming of documents in the Public Record Office, London. Work has been continuous since 1949 and has been speeded up in the past six months. The project is a co-operative one, the State libraries of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania also participating and each receiving a complete positive copy of all negatives made. All the financial transactions involved come under this heading. Substantial payments received from participating States late in the financial year account for the item temporarily being in credit. The Commonwealth National Library expenses in this connexion in 1952-53 were ?567, and at the present increased rate of copying, they will be greater this year. The possibility of commencing copying in institutions other than the Public Record Office is being examined.
Senator Armstrong and Senator Cooke sought information concerning the Public Service Board. Last Tuesday, in the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) gave a rather comprehensive answer to a question on this subject, in the course of which he indicated the trend in staffing from 1946 to the present time. During World War TI., the staff of the Public Service Board was considerably reduced, but it has been since built up to the pre-war level. I imagine that there is no shortage of staff at present. In 1946, 22 typists were employed, whereas there are now 44. At that time there were 49 clerks, and there are now 99, whilst an additional 46 clerical assistants have been employed. Honorable senators will appreciate that a. department may get in arrears as a result of a sudden rush of work. ‘ Indeed, when surplus staff is not retained merely to meet such an emergency, delays are inevitable when an unexpected rush of work occurs. However, I am confident that there is no ground for suspicion that work is being deliberately held back because of any ulterior motive.
asked to be supplied with details of the increased expenditure in respect of the Governor.General’s establishment, the increases being ?1,202 for travelling and subsistence and ?10,471 in respect of the allowance to the Governor-General for upkeep of the Governor-General’s establishments. The full establishment of staff officers to the incoming Governor-General and a small increase in the number of clerical officers will involve increased expenditure for travelling and car hire. The increase of expenditure under this item also includes the fares from London for His Excellency and Lady Slim and their personal staff. As from the time of appointment of Sir William McKell as Governor-General, an allowance is granted for the upkeep of the Governor-General’s establishments, whereas previously this cost was borne by the Governor-General: The vote for incidental and other items is ?406 less than the actual expenditure last year. Since the time when Sir Isaac Isaacs was Governor-General it has been the practice to pay a retiring allowance to the Governor-General upon his relinquishing that office. On this occasion an amount of ?10,000 is being provided foi- that purpose. The last payment under this heading was ?5,000 paid to the Right Honorable Sir William McKell.
Senator Armstrong also asked to be informed of the reason for the sudden reduction of expenditure in respect of the High Commissioner’s Office in London. The honorable senator will recall that when the Government assumed office, an officer of the Public Service Board made a thorough investigation with a view to reorganizing the staff of that office. Whereas at the 30th June, 1950, the staff employed in London totalled 866, at the 30th June last the staff was only 643, a decrease of 223. At one time, Australia maintained two establishments in London - Canberra House and Australia House. Canberra House was relinquished and its staff was transferred to Australia House. This change resulted in a saving of ?17,600.
– Has Canberra House been sold?
– The Government occupied Canberra House on lease, and it has not disposed of that lease.’ At present, an attempt is being made to dispose of the lease. It is estimated that since June, 1952, the overall saving effected as a result . of the reduction of staff amounts to approximately £69,000. Whereas in June, 1950, the total staff employed in London was 866, that number has been reduced to 787, 722 and 643 in the three intervening years respectively.
– I thank the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) for the information that he has supplied in answer to the points that I raised earlier. I am glad to know that no shortage of staff exists in the departments to which I referred. I join with the Minister in acknowledging the competence and efficiency of the staffs of those departments. I should like the Minister to inform me of the Public Service unions or associations that have claims for increased salaries and improved conditions under consideration by the Public Service Board preparatory to such claims being submitted to the Public Service Arbitrator. On what date was the log of claims, in each case, lodged with the Public Service Arbitrator? What cases are now before the Public Service Arbitrator? What cases have been adjourned? In respect of what cases has the Public Service Board sought an adjournment in order to enable it to prepare its case? What cases have been referred to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court after hearing of them has been commenced but not completed by the Public Service Arbitrator?
– I suggest that the questions that Senator Cooke has asked are not appropriate matters to be raised in a consideration of the Estimates. They can more properly be raised and answered in the normal way.
– With great respect I differ from the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) with respect to the matters that Senator Cooke has raised. The
Public Service Board is a party to each plaint that comes before the Public Service Arbitrator and, accordingly, such matters are relevant to a discussion of estimates of expenditure of the board in which it is completely proper to refer to the board’s activities and functions. Senator Cooke’s questions have been directed to delays that have occurred in proceedings before the Public Service Arbitrator owing to the inability of the staff of the Public Service Board to proceed in hearings before the arbitrator. I trust that the Minister will see the relevancy of the honorable senator’s questions.
I rose to refer to two matters. The control of the Public Service as a whole rests within the jurisdiction of the Public Service Board. That is done in order to defeat nepotism and to provide for the efficient administration of all departments. Two years ago, the Government decided to dismiss 10.000 public servants. The persons affected occupied their positions in the service with the approval of the board. The Opposition criticized that decision, particularly the arbitrary method by which the Government implemented it.
I understand that the Public Service at large was reduced by approximately 10,000, and I should like to be informed of the net result of that action. Is the Minister for Trade and Customs in a position to inform the committee of the number of public servants at the date when the Government took office, or at the nearest convenient date for purposes of statistics, and of the number of public servants to-day, or at the nearest convenient date for which statistics are available? I ask for that information in order to ascertain the net effect of the action of the Government in dismissing 10,000 public servants. I should also like the Minister to include in those numbers not only persons who come under the immediate control of the Public Service Board, but also persons employed by public authorities of the Commonwealth. I should also like the Minister to comment on the trend that I believe I see in governmental action in respect of employment within its service. There is a tendency on the part of the Government, when it dismisses employees, to provide that persons who are outside the Public Service altogether shall continue the services previously rendered by those who are dismissed. As far as possible, the same level of service is being maintained to the public because while the number of public servants in the strict sense of the term has been reduced the number of persons working for the Government outside the Service has been increased.
– -Is the honorable senator referring to employees of organizations such as Trans-Australia Airlines ?
– -No; I refer to employees of private enterprise organizations which are rendering services to the Government. Take, for example, the position of the transport pool that was set up under a Labour government. Under that arrangement, oars and drivers were concentrated in central depots and were available to do all Commonwealth transport work. The staff of that pool has been severely reduced in all States, but, simultaneously, the Government has to an increasing degree hired-out transport work to organizations conducted by private enterprise. When the number of employees in the transport pool has been reduced but the same service is still provided by employing more persons outside the service, the net results may be only an increase of costs. An interesting picture of the number of public servants now employed compared with, the number employed when the Government assumed office can be presented if the Government^ in making such a comparison, ignores the number of persons it has co-opted from outside the Public Service to provide the same services as were previously provided by public servants who have been dismissed. When the Government ordered a reduction of staff many linemen employed by the Postal Department were dismissed. Now the department is letting contracts to private enterprise for the laying of cables and the erection of telephone lines. That is indicative of the trend that has developed in the Public Service. By farming out to private enterprise work that was formerly done by public servants, the Government is involving the Commonwealth in expenditure that results in profit to outside interests. If the Public Service Board is doing its job efficiently, it should be able to provide an answer to the suggestion that these trends are developing.
I pointed out when the proposed vote for the Department of Health was under consideration that benefits under the medical benefits scheme are being distributed largely through private bodies that are registered with the Department of Health for the pur-pose. Those organizations employ large staffs to handle claims for benefits. Of course the Commonwealth is relieved of the financial burden of providing those staffs, but my point is that the staffs employed by the private organizations to dispense Commonwealth benefits are rendering a pub-, lie service. Has the Public Service Board directed its attention to the trend that is developing? Has it any idea of the extent to which it will be developed ? Does the board believe that there has been a diminution of service to the public as a result of the dismissal of 10,000 public servants, or does it claim that the same level of service is now being provided, despite that huge reduction of staff ?
I come now to another matter in connexion with the Prime Minister’s Department. The following statement appears on page 5 of the first report of the Public Accounts Committee: -
Prime Minister’s Department - Division 179, Item 49 - -Boy Scouts’ Association - Grant £5,000.
A grant to the Boy Scouts’ Association of £5,000 was approved in January, 1952. The amount had not been provided in the original Estimates and it was not included in the Additional Estimates because the amount was not considered large enough to warrant that course.
This item has been selected as one representative of a number of similar items in the Supplementary Estimates.
The Committee believes that Parliamentary authority for the expenditure of Commonwealth funds should be sought before the money is spent. In this case, the amount, although small, was known and consequently should have been included in the Additional Estimates.
This is an instance of what takes place in other departments. The general comment that is made on the whole position, which I quoted in another context earlier to-day, applies equally to this particular matter. It is not an isolated instance, even in relation to the Prime Minister’s Department. Does the Minister intend to offer any comment on that observation of the Public Accounts Committee?
– I shall obtain for the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) figures in relation to the strength of the Public Service at the 19th December, 1949, and the most recent figures that are available. With all due respect to him, I must reject his contention in connexion with the subject that was raised by Senator Cooke. I do not consider that the honorable senator adopted a reasonable attitude of approach to this matter by raising it during consideration of the proposed vote. If he had asked me a question about the matter at question time, I should have been happy to obtain the information for him. I find it difficult to resist the opinion that has been expressed by the Public Accounts Committee in relation to the grant of £5,000 to the Boy Scouts Association.
– I wish to pursue the subject that I have already raised. We are considering a proposed vote of £357,700 for the purpose of running the Public Service Board, which employs a large staff to look after the industrial conditions of public servants. Year after year we vote large sums of money for this purpose, and we are entitled to expect that the board will look after not only the welfare of the Government but also the conditions of the Government’s servants. Unless the board has acted in accordance with a direction on policy by the Government, I consider that it has been remiss in the carrying out of its duties. Many people criticize public servants by saying that they are well paid but loaf on the job. However, having occupied an administrative position in a government service, I know that public servants work hard and produce good results. Furthermore, they are required to pass examinations in order to qualify for promotion. Yet they invariably trail behind the field from the point of view of wages and industrial conditions. Apparently the board believes that because public servants enjoy continuous employment, their salaries and conditions need not be adjusted promptly. The Go vernment looks to the Public Service Board to ensure that social justice shall be done to its servants. Surely the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) considers that social justice should prevail in this country. Unless a member of this chamber is permitted to direct the attention of the Government to injustices that are being suffered by its servants, those employees are denied a voice. Whenever I have attempted to elicit information from the Minister by way of questions he has told me that he is not prepared to reply to questions that relate to Government policy, and now that I have raised the subject in debate he says that the information should be sought at question time. I point out that many good, competent, officers who are awaiting reclassification are trailing behind in the economic field. In many instances after paying their taxes, they find it difficult to live on their salaries. These officers are entitled to social justice. I respectfully submit that an obligation devolves on the Public Service Board to ensure that the Government’s servants shall be fairly and justly treated. I contend that during a discussion of this kind an honorable senator should be able to criticize a department that has fallen down on its job. I venture to say that if we were considering a proposed vote f or a department in which work had fallen into arrears, or which was not carrying out developmental work that had been entrusted to it, there would be an uproar. How can a proposed expenditure of £357,700 in this instance be justified when the department is not doing its work? The Minister has stated that the work is being done. The Public Service Board should maintain balanced justice in the interests of the Government on the one hand, and the servants of the Government on the other hand. Although I do not accuse the Government of political interference in the matter, I find it difficult to understand why an application that was lodged by the Australian Postal Workers Union in 1951 has not yet been heard. There has been an inordinate delay in government circles in connexion with this matter, and in the intervening period outside salaries have been increased considerably. I appeal to the Minister to thrash this matter out now, in order that justice may be done to the Government servants to whom I have referred. There should be no inhibition of debate in this chamber when the financial provision for a department is under consideration.
– Has the Public Service Board said that it is not ready to proceed with the hearing?
– It appears from the statement that was made by the Public Service Board that the Government is not able to answer the claim, because the relevant facts are not available to place before the court. An adjournment was sought and obtained, and subsequently, after considerable delay, the matter was referred to the Public Service Arbitrator. I understand that it is now awaiting hearing by the court. No proper determination has been made in relation to many claims that have been in the hands of the Public Service Board and the Public Service Arbitrator for more than three years. Every public servant is entitled to rely on the Public Service Board to protect his interests as well as the Government’s interests. I shall be very disappointed if the Minister does not furnish the information that I have sought. If he finds, upon inquiry, that my statements are justified I trust that he will permit open discussion of the matter in this chamber.
– I have no objection to making available to Senator Cooke any information that I can elicit on the matter that he has mentioned. However, I reiterate that that subject is outside the scope of a consideration of a proposed vote for a department. At a later hour I shall make available any information that I can obtain on the matter.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– I have been able to get some of the information that was sought by Senator Cooke in connexion with pending applications for the variation of wages and conditions of Commonwealth employees. The Public Service Board has gone as far as it can in this matter and the cases are awaiting hearing by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbi tration or by the Public Service Arbitrator. The following are some of the claims that are outstanding and in each case I shall give the date when the claim was lodged: -
Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks Union - Three claims lodged on the 10 th December, 1951, for marginal increases.
Amalgamated Engineering Union - A memorial involving claims for margins for metal tradesmen lodged on the 19th December, 1951.
Association of Architects, Engineers, Surveyors and Draughtsmen - Lodged on the 20th December, 1951.
The Commonwealth Meat Inspectors Association - Lodged on the 27th December, 1951.
Professional Officers Association - Lodged on the 10th June, 1952, and held over by mutual consent.
Federated Clerks Union of Australia - Two claims for marginal increases lodged on the 18th February, 1952.
Amalgamated Engineering Union draughtsmen at Lithgow - Lodged on the 19th February, 1952.
Commonwealth Telephone and Phonogram Officers Association - Lodged on the 22nd February, 1952.
Amalgamated Engineering Union - General claim, lodged on the 6th March, 1952.
Amalgamated Postal Workers Union - Lodged on the 27th March, 1952.
Printing Industry Employees Union of Australia - Lodged on the 27th June, 1952.
Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association - Lodged on the 10th September, 1952.
Transport Workers Union of Australia - Lodged on the 23rd September, 1952.
Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia - Lodged on the 10th October, 1952. This was a separate claim for increased margins.
– The information that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) has given the committee indicates that my inquiry was thoroughly justified but I am pleased to learn that the delay is not the fault of the Public Service Board. The officers concerned are most efficient, I know. I ask the Minister if he will take all steps possible to ensure that the industrial injustice that has been done to a section of the Public Service by the delay in the hearing of the applications will be overcome. If the contention made by these employees that their claims for immediate relief have been unjustly withheld from arbitration is justified, I ask that early consideration be given to the matter. I should like an assurance from the Minister that that will be done.
– I gladly give an assurance that whatever can be done by the Government to arrange for expeditious hearings of the claims will be done cheerfully. Senator Paltridge asked for information in connexion with the proposed vote for overseas study and training. The vote covers post-graduate scholarships in England that are granted by the Public Service Board to selected officers of the Commonwealth Public Service so that they may undertake courses of study that would benefit them in the work of their departments. In addition, the board grants certain allowances to supplement the emoluments of approved overseas scholarships. It was originally intended that the cost of the scheme would go to £10,000 a year. Honorable senators will observe that the figure is approaching fulfilment now. It will be increased to £9,000 this year. Senator Paltridge also asked about the nature of the training films for which provision is made. They are really a visual exposition of how departments should be run. They include visual training for receptionists in receiving people and answering telephones. This idea is commonly in use in the United States of America and the Prime Minister’s Department is gratified with the results that have been obtained. Senator Paltridge also asked a question on recruiting advertising. This expenditure was originally provided under the examination expenses .vote. In the conditions that existed in Australia after World War II., a campaign for recruits was necessary so that the Public Service could compete with outside employers for the best material that was offering. A separate item of expenditure was inserted for this purpose and. modern methods of advertising are being used by the board so that the standard of recruits is maintained at a high level.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has asked me for details of employment in 1949 compared with the latest figures. I have been unable to assist him in connexion with the opera tions of branches of some departments that have closed down. As a result of that development, the Government has at times engaged outside contractors. In those cases, records of the figures that Senator McKenna has sought have not been complete. I could inform the honorable senator how much the services cost, although the figures are not readily available, but I cannot give details of the number of people concerned after a service was closed down. For example, if a car transport service was closed, the extent to which private taxis were used would depend upon the nature and the rush of business. Separate details of the number of persons independently employed by private enterprise in comparison with the number relieved of employment by the Government would not be kept. The total figures that the Leader of the Opposition has sought could be ascertained but they would not be firm at any one time. I am able to supply these figures to the Leader of the Opposition. In December, 1949, the total number of employees under the Commonwealth Public Service Act was 152,873. At the 30th May, 1951, the total was 161,714. At the 30th June, 1953, the total was 147,856. From the 31st May, 1951, to the 30th June, 1953, the reduction was 13,858.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) to refer again to the item, “ Overseas study and training”. Can the Minister indicate the nature of the training, the numbers receiving training and the number of places allocated in each year? Is the expenditure rising merely because expenses are mounting? Is the increase due to the fact that there is first or second year training?
– I have some information that might help Senator Willesee. The vote is to be increased from £4,500 in 1952-53 to £9,000. Commitments on current scholarships and the development of the scholarship scheme will involve the Public Service Board in expenditure which will amount to about £9,000. At present the total number of persons holding these scholarships overseas is seventeen. That number is increased as years go by, but only within the limit of the maximum grant. This year the grant will be £9,000. The number of new scholarships will be such as will avoid exceeding that amount.
– I do not intend to question the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) upon this matter, but I shall refer to the Australian National University at Canberra. The matter may not be entirely appropriate to the debate, but it is sufficiently relevant, I believe, to permit me to refer to it at this juncture. I intend to refer to the proposed vote for the Prime Minister’s Department as a whole because I understand that it is responsible for the general direction and control of the Australian National University. I visited the university recently and I was disturbed by the general lay-out. The buildings are set quite close together and J. gained the impression that there is insufficient space. Some of the buildings obviously are of a temporary nature. Others are permanent. All are very ugly. The University College, a permanent structure that has cost a great deal of money, is an extremely ugly building. I believe that it was designed by a Melbourne architect who is also professor of architecture at the University of Melbourne. I have been informed that no applications were called for competitive designs for the structure. I should class the building as pseudo-modern in design without any great architectural merit.
– Order! The item to which the honorable senator has referred comes under Division 187, “ Miscellaneous Services, Prime Minister’s Department, Item 17, University : Supplementary Grant “.
– It is also referred to in the section of the Estimates that the committee is debating.
– The matter to which Senator Vincent is referring is dealt with under the heading of capital works and services in another bill. There is an item in that bill for permanent buildings amounting to £975,000.
– I appreciate that fact, but I am concerned with aspects of the. university other than the financial aspect. As the subject comes under the Prime Minister’s Department I suggest that this is the appropriate occasion to mention it. The University College is being painted yellow and mauve. That will add to its monstrous appearance. I hope that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and honorable senators will have a good look at this building. I think that we should be proud of our universities but I do not feel proud of this building.
– I wish to refer to Division 16, Commonwealth Office of Education. I notice that the amount of money that has been allocated for this office exceeds the allocation of the last financial year by about £2,000. I mention this fact because from time to time, honorable senators on this side of the chamber have said that they would like to have a gradual curtailment of the responsibility of the Commonwealth Office of Education. Government senators agree that education is absolutely essential and that an extension of it is desirable but we consider that Commonwealth responsibility constantly overlaps that of the States. 1 consider that more information should be given by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) in connexion with this expenditure. I notice that there will no longer be an Assistant Director of Education. The proposed vote for the Office of Education is £103,300. Is this office primarily engaged in the administration of the education of the children in the territories of the Commonwealth or is a proportion of this vote to be utilized for the purpose of assisting State education by way of scholarships and rehabilitation schemes? Is the Commonwealth rehabilitation course being implemented as fully as it was during the immediate post-war years? The committee is entitled to be told why there has not been a gradual curtailment of expenditure on this item. To some extent this activity usurps the responsibility of the States in educational matters.
– I do not know whether this is the appropriate time to discuss the National University, hut I want to express my agreement with Senator Vincent.
– The National University comes under the heading of the Prime Minister’s Department. I understand that the Canberra University College receives a grant-in-aid from the Department of the Interior.
– The National University is quite distinct from the University College.
– In reply to Senator Hannaford I point out that this grant does not cover education in the Australian Capital Territory. Education in the Australian Capita] Territory is administered by the Department of the Interior under an arrangement with the Education Department of New South Wales. The Commonwealth Office of Education is a small instrumentality which is attached to the Prime Minister’s Department and which was established under the Education Act of 1945. It is concerned primarily with educational and associated activities in which the Commonwealth has some responsibility. It has a. central office in Sydney and small branch offices in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. There is an education officer at Darwin who supervises an educational programme for aboriginals in connexion with which twelve teachers are employed. The major activities undertaken by the Commonwealth Office of Education include advice and assistance to Commonwealth departments and instrumentalities on educational matters; planning and administration of training schemes associated with the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme, at universities and similar bodies; the training of certain South-East Asian students, particularly at universities; administration of the Commonwealth scholarships scheme; education of full-blooded aboriginal children in the Northern Territory; planning and technical services connected with the education of adult immigrants; inter national relations in education, including Unesco, and the furnishing of information about education. There has been no significant alteration in the staff of the Office of Education. The staff of the office was carefully reviewed in 1951 and the reduction that was then effected was reflected in last year’s Estimates. The office functions with the minimum staff necessary for its purposes. The increase of £1,500 in the Estimates is attributable mainly to increments payable to permanent officers. Honorable senators will have noticed that as a result of a rearrangement of duties, the position of assistant director has been eliminated.
– Are there any further requests?
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of External Affairs.
Proposed vote, £1,915,000.
– I respectfully request, Mr. Chairman, that when you ask for requests you should look up to see whether any honorable senators desire to speak.
– I did look up.
– Suggestions have recently been made by the Public Accounts Committee in relation to the Department of External Affairs. Last year, Australian representation in Brazil cost £28,000 and the Government has now seen fit to propose an expenditure of £30,000 on this legation during the current financial year. Apparently Israel also requires the same degree of gold treatment. In addition, I understand that we have established legations in Thailand, Burma, Vietnam., Laos, and Cambodia. With the establishment of these legations I agree because these countries are now vitally situated so far as Australian interests are concerned. But what of Brazil and Israel?
– The proposed vote for the Department of External Affairs is £1,915,000. This is a very heavy bill. A certain amount of criticism has been levelled at the department in various places. However, I think that we must regard the activities of this department from a. very broad angle.
I think that every honorable senator takes great pride in belonging to Australia, a nation which is beginning to make its way in the world and which is beginning to have a certain amount of influence in world affairs. If Australia is to be a nation it must accept its responsibilities as a nation and maintain its status as a nation. “When a person grows up he has to maintain a certain status and I consider that the Department of External Affairs should be administered in the light of our status as a nation. What will be the situation if we do not administer the department in .that way? We might as well return to the status of a crown colony and rely for our foreign representation on the United Kingdom. We should then have to accept whatever was sent out to us in the way of information. I have a great respect and a great love for the United Kingdom, but I think that we have gone beyond the stage of a crown colony. The United Kingdom, might not have the same views on certain subjects as we have. For instance, South-East Asia is of far more importance to Australia than it is to the United Kingdom. Our very existence might be threatened in the next few years from this quarter and it is highly desirable that we .should have our own representatives there. We must be represented there by people who have been brought up in the atmosphere of our country, who realize our point of view and who can give us information from those countries that is vital to us. They will see affairs in those countries through our eyes. It is vital that Australia should maintain its legations in such places at Vietnam, Cambodia, and Burma. The expense of maintaining them is small, in view of their value to the national safety of Australia. In what countries could our representation be terminated? Could we close our Embassy in the United States of America? I do not think so.
– We could reduce the expense of its maintenance.
– I agree that we might be able to reduce the expense. The cost of maintaining our Embassy in the United States of America is £250j000. I believe that the rate of exchange is partly responsible for that amount but it still seems to me to be very large compared with the cost of maintaining our representation in other countries. I consider that we must retain all our legations and embassies. We cannot afford to close any of them. They do not really cost us the amount shown in the Estimates. There is a certain amount of gain to be derived from international representation because other countries maintain representatives in Australia and the cost of their upkeep contributes to our national income. However, I do not think that it costs £250,000 to maintain the embassy of the United States of America in Australia. The administrative expenditure of the Department of External Affairs is estimated at £469,000. I am not prepared to say that that is too much although I have read some press criticism of the department’s activities. Any department which covers such a wide field of activities must have a corps of experts at its head-quarters. Whilst there are some items of expenditure that appear upon close examination to be rather heavy, we must remember that the Department of External Affairs is expanding and becoming more and more important every day. It would be a great pity if the departmental expenditure were pruned too heavily at this vital time.
– When expenditure on Australian representation overseas was being discussed last year, the debate centred largely upon the Australian Embassy in Japan. The estimated cost of that embassy in the current financial year is £43,500. So far as I can see, the various items of expenditure that make up this sum are moderate with the ‘exception of special allowances for officers, the provision for which is £31,849, an increase of approximately £5,000 on the vote last year. When an explanation of the comparatively high expenditure under this heading was sought last year, we were informed, if I remember rightly, that it was largely extraordinary expenditure which would not recur. Now we find it has recurred - with an additional £5,000. I should like a clear statement on this matter. I find, for instance, that special allowances for officers at our embassy in the Netherlands will cost only £3,408, while in France they will cost only £2,500.
Why is this item so high in Japan? I should like to know how the money is expended. Are we obtaining any assets in Japan for it?
When the late Mr.R. S. Ryan, former member for Flinders in the House of Representatives, returned from a visit to Japan some years ago, he submitted to the Chifley Government a proposal that Australia should buy a property in Tokio for its embassy.’ Apparently a wellsituated property was available on most attractive terms. Labour relinquished office in 1949, and I have heard no more of the proposal.I should like to know whether anything further was done a bout it.
. -I have no quarrel with the proposed expenditure on Australian representation overseas. I agree with Senator Wordsworth that this expenditure is well worth while. We should be prepared to do everything possible to foster friendly relations with other coun tries. I should like to know, however, why it is that provision is made for the Australian High Commissioner in the United Kingdom under the vote for the Prime Minister’s Department whereas our high commissioners in other British Commonwealth countries are financed out of the vote for the Department of External Affairs. Presumably there is a reason for this distinction.
– I wish to deal specifically with communication costs. Under the heading “ General expenses “ in the administrative vote for the Department of External Affairs, the sum of £101,500 is provided for postage, telegrams and telephone services. That vote is approximately £5,000 less than the actual expenditure last year. However, the proposed vote for cablegrams and radiograms is £83,000 compared with an actual expenditure of £61,560 last year. This increase of approximately £18,000 appears to warrant some explanation. I notice, too, an item which appears to be quite new. I refer to the “ Courier service”, for which £13,000 is provided. I should like to know whether that service is in fact new, or whether it is merely replacing some other service. Is this another one of those fantastic new names that some departments seem to be continually devising?
– At this stage of Australia’s development, we cannot be niggardly in our representation abroad, but there are some aspects of the activities of the Department of External Affairs upon which I should like some enlightenment. Not only are we providing approximately £250,000 for the maintenance of our Embassy in the United States of America, but also we are being asked to vote a substantial sum for consular representation. I should like to know why expenditure on consular re presentation in the United. States of America and elsewhere is not included in an overall vote for each country. I should like to know also, not only what we arc getting in return for our expenditure in somecountries, but also what we are giving for that substantial financial outlay.Our expenditure in the Netherlands I consider to be very reasonable, at least compared with expenditure in Japan. In this country to-day, there are many Dutch immigrants who are malting very good settlers. They have come to Australia willing to work hard, and they are being assimilated very easily into the community. Australians have quite an affinity with the people of Holland. Therefore, I have no complaint to make about our expenditure in the Netherlands, except perhaps that it is rather small compared with our vast vote for Japan. During my visit abroad some years ago, I appreciated very much the services of Australian officials in other countries. In our consideration of the cost of our foreign services, we are apt to be over-awed by the substantial expenditure involved, and not to take sufficient cognizance of the human elements. I found that we had every reason to be proud of our representatives in every country that I visited. That was so in Europe, and it was particularly true of the British Commonwealth countries. Australia has a great affinity too with South Africa, but expenditure on our representation there is to be only a little more than £30,000. One is inclined to compare that with the heavy expenditure that we are incurring in some places of which I am sure many honorable senators have never heard. I am not casting aspersions on the intelligence of my colleagues, because I include myself in that criticism. For once I find myself in agreement with Senator Wright. I am inclined to wonder whether the return we are getting for some of our expenditure overseas justifies the maintenance of our representation in certain countries. We must bear in mind also the heavy payments that we are making to various countries under the Colombo plan. In modern times it is fashionable to talk in terms, not of hundreds of pounds, but of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of pounds, but the time has come when we must decide whether we are getting, and giving, value for the £2,000,000 a year that is disbursed by the Department of External Affairs.
– I agree with honorable senators who have said that expenditure on overseas representation is justified if it helps Australia to become better known a broad, improves our relations with foreign countries, and stimulates trade. Upon perusing the various items under the vote for this department one is inclined to wonder whether the expenditure is as well distributed as it might be. For instance, we are allocating £95,000 for our Embassy in Moscow. That provision is second only to the vote for our Embassy in the United States of America. Knowing from our reading of the conditions under which foreign diplomats in the Soviet Union have to work, one wonders just what we can hope to gain from our representation in that country. 1 read in the press only last week that the guards who formerly had accompanied our diplomats everywhere they went had been withdrawn and that only the guards who maintained a 24-hour watch outside our Embassy remained. Apparently the representatives of other countries are similarly treated. Perhaps we should consider reducing our expenditure in Russia, until relations between the two countries improve. One cannot cavil at the provision of a substantial sum of money for Australian representation in a country with which we have con siderable trade. We all agree that trade and commerce between countries is most important, particularly to Australia which is seeking to expand its population. There are many countries to which an increase of our exports, particularly secondary products, would be of great value. We are represented over a wide area of the world. Apparently Senator Wright was rather surprised to learn that we are represented in Brazil.
-not at all. I said that Brazil was an old friend.
– I am glad, because that is where the other nuts come from. Our only representative in South America is stationed in Brazil and that is an important post. However, there is very little trade between Australia and South American counties. Unless we have representatives on the spot, such trade will be difficult to develop. I know of an instance in which Great Britain could not meet Brazilian orders for £150,000 worth of electrical equipment. Nevertheless, Australian traders were not allowed to fill the orders, although the equipment was available in this country.
– Who obtained the orders ?
– As in many other instances, it was a case of the dog in the manger. Ultimately, the United Kingdom admitted that it could not supply the equipment. After approximately sixteen months had elapsed, the Brazilians set to work and manufactured it themselves, so that neither British nor Australian manufacturers secured the business.
If we have representatives abroad, we cannot afford to skimp the financial provision that is made for them. They must maintain a certain standard. Naturally, that standard does not compare with that of some other countries. I refer particularly to the standard set by representatives of the United Kingdom in some of the Asian countries, where magnificent ancient palaces are occupied by the British representatives. “ Face “ is most important, particularly in Eastern countries. Therefore, once we decide to send representatives abroad, we should endeavour to maintain them at the highest possible level.
It would be interesting to see the result of Australian representation in Spain, a country which is becoming increasingly important in world affairs. In recent weeks, an American-Spanish treaty has been announced. During the first year of that treaty, the United States of America will spend in Spain 226,000,000 dollars. Spain wishes to trade’ with Australia and to purchase our wheat. We could probably find a market in that country for our textiles. I have no doubt that a big movement of trade between our countries would result from an exchange of representatives. Because of this agreement with America, there will be great development and commercial activity in Spain, and Australia could well take advantage of that position. Under present conditions, if an Australian merchant wishes to do business in Spain he is obliged to approach the British consul or representative in Spain. There is no Australian representative in Spain with whom he can discuss the matter. If the Government does not wish to appoint a representative to that country, I suggest that it could come under the aegis of our ambassador in Paris or our Minister in Borne, so that Australians who wish to do business with Spanish traders could do so through Australians. Perhaps I am being a little critical of Great Britain to-night, but it must not be forgotten that the British are perhaps the world’s keenest traders. While our interests in Spain are catered for by the British Ambassador, it is possible that if Australian trade should conflict with British trade, there will be a repetition of the Brazilian incident to which I have referred.
In my opinion, money expended on overseas representation is well spent in the long run because it helps not only to increase trade, but also to improve relations with other countries. When I was overseas last year I was interested in the position of free China, which is represented in Australia by an ambassador. We have no representative in Formosa. Great Britain does not recognize free China, it recognizes red China, therefore there is no British Ambassador in free China, but trade representatives have been sent there. Australia, however, has no representative in that important listening post. I suggest that that area might come under the control either of our minister in the Philippines or our ambassador in Japan, because it seems to me that that is a part of the world which is becoming increasingly important. This Government is responsible for ensuring that the money which the taxpayers provide for overseas representation is spent where it will do the most good. It is also the responsibility of the Government to ensure that the Australian flag is carried proudly wherever it is sent.
Senator Tangney has referred to the great expenditure on consular representation in the United States of America. Actually, there is not a great deal of trade between the United States of America and Australia which involves government attention. We know each other well, and trade generally originates on a private buyer-to-buyer basis. Apart from the American purchases of wool in this country, the volume of trade is therefore relatively small. Our countries produce much the same commodities, and our appetites are also much the same. America has no great need for most of the goods which we produce, apart from our wool. From a diplomatic point of view, I do not cavil at the expenditure of this large amount of money because there is no doubt in my mind that the United States of America is the most important country in the world to-day. It is necessary that these matters should be discussed, and I know of no better place in which to discuss them than in this chamber.
.- I wish to refer to a matter which has been adverted to by Senator Wright and also by Senator Armstrong. I refer to Brazil, Senator Wright’s long-lost friend, whom he recognized to-night with delight. I do not propose to canvass in full the proposed vote for our legation in Brazil, or to argue whether that sum will be expended properly or otherwise. However, I think that the committee, in considering these matters and in discussing the places in which we have embassies, legations, high commissions and other representation, should appreciate that our legation in Brazil is our only post in a. geographic area of the world which is of some significance from the point of view of trade and also from that of a diplomatic listening post. On the sub-continent of South America there are many countries, including Nicaragua, Uruguay, Paraguay, Costa Rica, Bolivia and Ecuador, to mention only some. In addition, there is the important State of Mexico. Just off-shore, in the Caribbean Sea, among other trading islands, is a centre of Communist activity, and it is in that part of the world that the Caribbean Legion has been formed. One listening post in that vast area is surely justified. Without saying whether or not the expenditure involved will be applied to the best advantage, I suggest that it is reasonable to have a post in that part of the world.
– I refer to Part III., Department of External Affairs, “ Division 41, Other Representation Abroad”. Honorable senators will see that that item is again referred to on page 21 of the bill, where the item appears “ Salaries and allowances as per Schedule, page 142 “. On turning to the Schedule of Salaries and allowances on page 142, they will see “ Total Other representation abroad (see page 21) “. I should like to know what representation we have abroad other than that referred to in Divisions 18 to 41.
– In the schedule of salaries and allowances in respect of the Department of External Affairs, reference is made to our Commission in Malaya, and to political, official and assistant secretaries. As this is the only reference in the bill to a political secretary, I should like to know what is meant by that term.
– Senator Paltridge referred to the item in respect of cablegrams and radiograms which cost £61,560 in 1952-53, and which it is estimated will cost £83,000 this year. It is important to remember that this provision covers the outward cablegrams of all Commonwealth departments. It is not limited to cablegrams which are actually sent by the Department of External Affairs. All Commonwealth cables pass through that department, and the expenditure is charged in this way.
The rates of cablegrams increased by approximately one-third as from the 1st June last. I think honorable senators will agree that, in those circumstances, the increased expenditure is due largely to the increased rates. The honorable senator also inquired about the courier service, the proposed vote for which is £13,000. This provision covers fares, travelling allowances and freight charges connected with the service operating for a trial period of twelve months for Canberra, Djakarta and Singapore, whereby an officer accompanies diplomatic airmail of a certain type to provide greater security. This service links up with the United Kingdom Queen’s messenger service at Singapore. Senator Cooke referred to the proposed provision in respect of special allowances for the embassy in Japan. Those allowances cover cost of living, representation, cost of house rentals, electricity, fuel and items of that kind. Rentals in a number of overseas countries are high, and until we acquire residences for officers stationed in them special allowances must be provided. Such allowances are subject to review by a committee which consists of representatives of the Public Service Board, the Department of the Treasury and the Department of External Affairs. Senator Cooke also asked for information about the purchase of a property in Japan. I understand that a property has been purchased, and I gather that it is the property to which Colonel Ryan referred. The property is now occupied by our ambassador and some provision for new buildings on it has to be made.
asked why the High Commissioner’s office, in London, comes under the Prime Minister’s Department rather than under the Department of External Affairs. I gather that the explanation is that thai has always been so. That may be because our contact through a High Commissioner with the United Kingdom preceded the growth in its full form of the Department of External Affairs. The High Commissioner in London has always been regarded as the representative of the Prime Minister. On occasions, we have had a Minister there performing these functions. As a matter of history, the High Commissioner’s office in London has always been associated with the Prime Minister’s Department.
Other honorable senators have criticized, or praised, our representation in this, or that, country. It is a fairly easy pastime to engage in criticism of this kind. One starts off by mentioning a country like Brazil in which Australia may not appear to have many contacts, and the question is asked why we need to have representation there. Criticism of that kind has been aptly and ably answered by Senator Wordsworth and Senator Gorton and also by some honorable senators opposite, including Senator Arnold. Perhaps, in considering our representation in some overseas countries, we are apt to overlook the fact that a good deal of diplomatic activity these days takes place in the United Nations and that our relationships with other countries in the United Nations may have a very real significance. For example, in addition to Brazil, which is the only country on the South American continent, in which we have diplomatic representation, there are twenty other La tin- American countries which are reprerented in the United Nations. They are apt at times to join as a bloc with some other bloc on particular questions. The Latin- American countries, for instance, often vote with the Arab countries in the General Assembly of the United Nations. I suggest that even for the purpose of having representation in what is. perhaps, the most important country in the Latin-American bloc, expenditure on an embassy in a country like Brazil is justified.
– Brazil has diplomatic representation in Australia.
SenatorSPICER.- That is so. The same kind o f thing arises in another way in respect of Israel. It may be easy for some people to dismiss Israel as being a comparatively unimportant country, but Israel occupies a place in a most important part of the world with which Australia has always had vital ties. Because of such questions as Middle East defence, immigration, and other problems with which we are associated there is a tremendous lot to be said for our representation in Israel. One can also refer to other countries which may sound a little distant, such as the Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. When one thinks of those countries individually, they do not appear to be important for us, but they constitute Indo-Chinaj and when we refer to IndoChina these days we conjure up in our minds a territory which is of immense strategic importance in East Asia and in the developing diplomatic situation in a part of the world in which we are vitally interested. When a reasonable view is taken of all those things, it is difficult to point to a country in which our representation is not justified. I entirely endorse Senator Armstrong’s statement that when Australia proceeds to establish representation in almost any country, certain demands of prestige call for the maintenance of an establishment which is consonant with the dignity of our own country and the effect which we desire to produce in the country in which we are represented.
– The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) has given a very vague reply to the questions that I raised. The fact is that the sum of £31,849 is provided as a special allowance to the seven persons who constitute our representation in Japan. That sum is far greater than, any other item of expenditure, including salaries. I. note that the amount of exchange charges is now £943 compared with a charge of £6,968 for that item in the preceding year. The total of special allowance provided, in respect of the embassy in Japan is at least 25 per cent, greater than the average cost of staff and maintenance at any other embassy. The Attorney-General has failed to explain that expenditure satisfactorily. I do not say that it is not justified; but the committee is entitled to the information for which T. asked. Expenditure in respect of a personal nature also appears to be extraordinary. For instance, provision is being made in respect of rent and maintenance, office and residence of our Ambassador in Japan. The sum of £8,000 is proposed to he provided in respect of the item, “ Incidental and other expenditure “. The Embassy in Japan receives advances by imprest which is recouped. The Attorney-General is not justified in dismissing items of expenditure of that magnitude merely by saying that rentals and travelling expenses in Japan are high. I should like to be given more details of such expenditure.
– There is no mystery about the proposed expenditure in respect of the embassy in Japan. The sum of £31,849 in respect of special allowances io officers is made up of an amount of £24,849 for the staff at Tokyo and a sum of £4,000 for the staff at Hong Kong, whilst a sum of £3,000 is being provided in respect of staff that has still to be posted to Japan. The sum of £24,849 is made up of £4,150 representation allowance, £8,655 living allowance, £1,677 child allowance, £1,248 utilities allowance in respect of such items as electricity, which are unusually expensive, £6,075 for rental and an amount of £3,044. for certain charges in respect of the upkeep of the Ambassador’s residence.
.- 1 refer to the proposed vote of £83,000 in respect of the item, “Cablegrams and radiograms “ in the administrative division of the department. The AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) has explained that the Department of External Affairs is a clearing-house for cablegrams and radiograms for all departments. That being so, I should like to know whether the cost of rendering that service is charged to each department.
– Unless the cost of such, a service is charged to the department on whose behalf it is rendered the door is left open to all sorts of extravagance. Proper accountancy dictates that the cost of services should be charged to the department on whose behalf they are rendered by another department. If that were done, each department would be made cognizant of the expenditure that it incurred. Possibly, as a result, departments requiring cablegrams and radiograms to be despatched would draft such documents more precisely and in that way a considerable saving would be effected. As the Department of External Affairs is the clearing-house for other departments in the handling of cablegrams and radiograms, the cost of render ing that service should be charged to the departments on whose behalf it is rendered.
. - I endorse the remarks that have been made by Senator Henty, whose suggestion was underlined recently in a statement by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) in another place to the effect that until each department is obliged directly to bear responsibility for the expenditure that it incurs, it will be impossible to achieve economical administration. I am wondering whether we have been given the real picture in relation to administrative expenditure incurred by the Department of External Affairs. As Senator Paltridge has said, the proposed votes for postage, telegrams and telephone services; cablegrams and radiograms ; and the courier service aggregate about £200,000. That is said to represent the cost of outward communications by the Australian Government. Let us consider the proposed votes for our embassies. The proposed vote for our embassy in the United States of America - Division 18 - for the item “ Postage, telegrams, telephone services and cablegrams” is £81,200. The proposed vote for a similar item under Division 19, Embassy - Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, is £6,500. The proposed vote for a similar item, under Division 20, Embassy- Republic of France, is £11,600, and the proposed vote for a similar item under Division 21, Embassy - Kingdom of the Netherlands, is £7,200. The proposed vote for a similar item under Division 22, Embassy - Republic of Indonesia, is £5,000. There are proposed votes under other divisions for similar items in relation to other Australian embassies, legations, &c. Therefore, the total cost of diplomatic communications from all our various well-encouraged chickens overseas is from £100,000 to £200,000. I invite scrutiny of the items under Division 17, Administrative, to which I have referred, to see whether they include the estimated cost of all of the Government’s outward communications.
– Senator Wright has referred to our various well-encouraged chickens overseas. I do not choose to think of our overseas representatives in that way unless, of course, the honorable senator meant that they are being well paid for doing very little, but Senator Wright, in the words of Disraeli to Gladstone, is so inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity that he does not know the meaning of the words that he uses.
I endorse the remarks that have been made by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) about Brazil. Geographically it is a very important country, and probably our expenditure on representation there is quite justified. I agree also with what the Minister has said about Israel. Although it is only a very small country, Israel is strategically important because of the Jewish question. We must consider Israel in juxtaposition to the Arab question and conditions in Egypt. Senator Gorton, who is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, has mentioned the Caribbean Sea and British Guiana, and has indulged, in a certain amount of propaganda by saying that whatever good has been done in that zone has been done by the United States of America. What actually happened was that the people of British Guiana were given a franchise to elect a government but the Government that they returned to office did not please the powers that be. Anybody who knows anything about that country realizes that while there are a few mansions in British Guiana, the majority of the dwellings are filthy and rat-infested, while poverty and degradation is evident on all sides.
– I rise to order ! Is the honorable senator in order in engaging in a debate on foreign affairs’?
– This is an Irish debate.
– Order ! The honorable senator should direct his remarks to the proposed vote that is under consideration.
– Senator Gorton has referred to alleged Communist activity by the Government of British Guiana. Nothing of the sort has happened. The freely elected government of that country merely wished to’ do something for the unfortunate people there.
Senator Armstrong considers that Australia should be represented in Spain. .1 do not know whether the Australian Government recognizes the Franco Government in Spain, but I for one am very much against granting such recognition.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable senator is getting wide of the mark.
– I suppose that as Shanghai is not mentioned either, I shall be shanghaied into Shanghai if I refer to Shanghai. I suppose we shall have to forget about Formosa also, because it is only a temporary proposition, but we should interest ourselves in appointing a representative to red China. Whether or not we agree with what has taken place in China, we should recognize the position as a fait accompli.
– Apparently the honorable senator is at variance with the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Dr. Evatt) in this matter.
– I do not belong to a party that is rounded up like the party to which the honorable senator belongs. I do not know whether Dr. Evatt expressed an opinion that was different from mine.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! There is nothing about Dr. Evatt in the proposed vote.
– Apparently the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) believes that we have no right to contradict our leader, but when we follow him the Minister says that we are like sheep. So what are we to do? It is a great pity that our Foreign Affairs Committee cannot supply honorable senators with all the details of these things. I do not claim to be more intelligent than is the average member of the Opposition, but of course that average intelligence is higher than the average intelligence of supporters of the Government. I may have a little difficulty in connecting the remarks that I am about to make with the proposed vote. Evidently Senator Henty is an accountant, judging from his knowledge of millionaires. If we had a foreign affairs committee which was not the tool of the Minister-
– Order ! There is no reference to the Foreign Affairs Committee in the various divisions of the proposed vote.
– It is a great pity that we have not a foreign affairs committee which could explain the various items to us.
– It would take too long to explain them to the honorable senator.
– It would not take as long to explain them to me as it would for Senator Henty to understand the explanations. During the debate on the Appropriation Bill last year I directed the attention of honorable senators to the relatively small financial provision that is made for our representation in South Africa, which, from our point of view, is one of the most important countries of the world. The proposed vote for our High Commission in the Union of South Africa, under Division 3S, is £31,000. I agree with the comments that have been made by Senator Tangney in this connexion. I understand that a British Empire delegation will be visiting Nairobi next year. We cannot ignore conditions there, because they are similar to those in South Africa. In that country there is what is known as the central African federation, which comprises Nyasaland, Southern Rhodesia, and Northern Rhodesia. No worth-while information has been given to the committee of what is taking place in South Africa, a country which is very closely connected with Australia. I compliment the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on the very clever manner in which he referred to the situation there after his recent visit. Of course he was a guest in that country and consequently it was most difficult for him to express his views aptly. I shall not mention any names, but some people were not pleased that the Prime Minister did not fall into a trap that was set for him. Diplomatically, India is the most important country .of the world, and I think that Mr. Nehru, politically speaking, is the most able man in the world to-day.
The problems of South Africa are connected directly with those of India, which in turn is connected with Asia, and, whether or not we like to admit the fact, Australia is part and parcel of Asia. About one-third of the population of Durban are Boers, and another third British. There are about 200,000 natives in Durban. In South Africa there is considerable controversy about the problem of the Cape coloured people. I shall not discuss Dr. Malan’s policy, because we do not know sufficient about the problems of South Africa. We have no worth-while representation in that country to enable data to be collected for us. Three sisters of mine, who live in South Africa, post newspapers to me regularly, and it is evident to me from newspaper articles that I have read that the situation in that country is exceedingly dangerous. Anything is likely to happen there at any minute. It is absurd that we should provide only £31,000 for our representation in that country. We know very little about the problems of South Africa, as, indeed, very little is known or understood abroad about our so-called white Australia policy. When the Prime Minister returned to Australia from South Africa he stated that it is one thing to look at South Africa from a distance, but quite another thing to see the position at first hand. In that country there are four times as many coloured people as white people, and perhaps if white people who have never been to that country had the same proportion of coloured people in their native country, they would understand better the position in South Africa. My point is that honorable senators do not understand the situation there clearly. The Gold Coast is a. very important place, and we have read about the Mau Mau terrorism in Kenya. I think that we should reconsider the proposed miserly vote of £31,000 for our representation in South Africa. I do not say that our representative in that country is not doing his job. The High Commissioner for Australia in South Africa is paid a salary of only £2,500 a year. That is ridiculously low, because the cost of living in South Africa, is higher than in Australia.
– More inflation?
– I did not say that. Is Senator Marriott speaking for me, or am I speaking for myself? In South Africa, white people perform skilled jobs, not manual labour. A white person usually has a number of coloured servants. It is true that their wages are very low, but it is necessary for the Australian representative to keep up his prestige. I fail to see how our representative in that country, whether he be appointed by a Labour government or an anti-Labour government, can uphold his dignity on a salary of only £2,500 a year.
– He also receives an allowance of about £2,500 a year.
– Anybody who knows anything about South Africa realizes that the situation in that country is very delicate, and we should pay our representative a salary which will enable him to uphold Australia’s prestige in that country.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. So far in this debate I have not spoken at all in general upon matters concerning foreign policy because I understood that the debate was concerned solely with the Estimates, and how they were expended rather than with matters of general policy. Had the Hansard report of the remarks of Senator Grant been confined to those particulars, one inch of space would cover them. Senator Grant attributed to me by some process of reasoning a statement that communism was inciting riots in British Guiana. I did not mention that country. I did say that there was in the Caribbean region an organization known as the Caribbean Legion, which is Communist dominated.
– The honorable senator did not say that at all.
– To the best of my recollection I said that the Caribbean Legion was used for Communist purposes all round that region, and therefore Australia should have a representative there to keep an eye on it. Having made that personal explanation, I wish to say that 5 have no doubt whatever that the Communists are inciting the riots in British Guiana and had I thought of it at the time, I would have said so. I should like a ruling on what is in order and whether you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, wish to confine the debate to the Estimates or whether a discussion upon the Anzus pact would be in order.
– I am astonished that the honorable senator wants to knowhow the debate will proceed. I suggest that he should resume his seat and allow the discussion to proceed and leave it to me to determine what is in order.
– Why should 1 resumemy seat before my time has expired. ?
– The honorable senator rose to make a personal explanation. He may now address himself to the Estimates, so long as he confines his remarks to the item that is under discussion.
.- I refer to the proposed vote for the embassy in the United States of America. The amount of £252,000 has been mentioned several times. One benefit has flowed to this country that is worth more than that £252,000 ten times over. That is the conclusion of the pact between Australia, New Zealand, and the United States of America for the common defence of the Pacific region. It is known as the Anzus pact. It was a pact made much ‘ more certain by the fact that Australia had a representative in the United State’s of America under this item.
– Order ! The honorable senator will confine his remarks to the item and not deal with the Anzus pact.
– Your ruling is that I may say that this pact is a very good one, but that I cannot give my reasons for saying why it is a good one, and why it is related to this item ?
– I could say that the Anzus pact is no good and give many reasons for saying so.
– I said what an excellent pact it was and how good it was for Australia. I should like to say how having representation in the United States of America helped us to secure the pact. Will the Temporary Chairman hear me ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.It will be unnecessary for me to hear the honorable senator; I shall not hear him if he is proposing to discuss the pact and its relation to this item because there is no mention of the Anzus pact in the item.
– Will the Temporary Chairman allow me to point out how I propose to show the value of the Anzus pact in relation to this item?
– I. do not wish to interfere with the honorable senator’s speech, but I want him to deal with the proposed vote of £252,000. That is the item before the committee.
– I desire to point out in connexion with the item the benefit that has accrued to Australia from its representation in the United States of America which costs that amount.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable senator may make passing reference to the matter, but if he initiates a debate of that kind in connexion with the item, the Government will not get the Estimates through the Parliament.
– I shall confine myself to the remark that the expenditure of this sum of money has brought to Australia greater benefits than ever before, and at some future date I shall give my reasons for saying so.
– The proposed vote for the embassy in the United States of America has been mentioned, but if the sum that is required for consular representation is added to it, the amount is swollen to £315,400. When that amount is taken in conjunction with expenditure on representation in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, one-quarter of the expenditure of the Department of External Affairs is concentrated in those two countries. That makes the expenditure top-heavy. I also draw the attention of the committee to the fact that in the past few weeks a representative from the United States of America came to Australia to investigate the expenditure of the United States representatives. He also visited other countries, and as a result there has been a substantial pruning of the American foreign services.
I believe that that example could be followed to advantage by the Department of External Affairs. In my opinion, many persons in the services are redundant, and that without being cheese-paring
Australia could obtain the same amount of service as it is receiving now from its representatives abroad at much less cost. Although the people of Perth and other cities were sorry to see the representatives of the United States of America depart, we recognize that no country can continue indefinitely piling up expenditure on expenditure in the name of external affairs if it is not getting a return commensurate with the cost. I should like to have an indication whether the terrific expenditure upon these services is giving Australia value for money that is being spent, not only in terms of pounds, shillings and pence, but also whether Australia is being served better because of this very heavy expenditure or whether the money could not be put to better advantage elsewhere as the United States of America has found.
. -Senator Tangney has referred to the investigation that was made into the expenditure upon the United States embassy in Australia. The fact is that a member of the United States Government came to Australia to police the embassy’s expenditure. I hope that I shall never see the day when a representative of the Australian. Government will go to a foreign country and make the Australian representative look cheap in front of representatives of other countries by referring to the reason for his visit in front of his ambassador.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed vote, £8.071,000.
– The committee is now dealing with the Department of the Treasury and the first item provides for salaries of officers. Turning from the activities of those officers and their responsibilities, I direct the attention of the committee to the fact that the Treasury administers very substantial trust funds amounting to approximately £566,000,000.’ I have a particular interest in three items that appear among those funds. One is “ Strategic Stores and Equipment Reserve”, particulars of which may be found on page 104 of the budget papers.
In considering the estimates of any department, one must necessarily consider the functions of the department and its activities. Apart from questions, which do not permit of debate, this is the one opportunity that honorable senators have to canvass these matters. I am interested in the fact that there was a balance of £48,000,000 in the trust fund to which I have referred at the 30th June last. The trust fund was set up and referred to in the budget speech of 1950- 51 in the following terms: -
III view of developments overseas and the necessity to increase our defence preparations, the Government has decided that measures should be taken to build up’ in Australia reserve stocks of certain key materials and equipment needed for the defence services and waT industries.
The Government claimed at that time that there was a pressing need for that fund and £50,000,000 was provided in the Estimates. In the first year, instead of paying £50,000,000 into the fund, the Government paid in £57,000,000 and only £9,000,000 was expended, leaving at the 1st July, 1951, £48,000,000. In the 1951- 52 ‘budget, £10,000,000 was paid in but only £7,000,000 was expended and at the end of the financial year in June, 1952, the fund had a credit balance of £50,000,000. In the budget for 1952-53, the year began with £50,000,000. Only £1,300,000 was expended, and there was still in July, 1953, a credit of £48,000,000. I have given round figures only. That indicates plainly that the urgency for this expenditure which the Government claimed to exist in 1950 had not developed. How is the fund invested? Is it held in cash by the Treasury or any department. Has it been invested in* bonds? Is it represented by treasurybills, internal or otherwise?
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) stated in his speech on, the budget that the Government had dredged the bottom of the trust fund for internal loans.
– There are two classes of trust funds. There are the formal trust funds and there are the trust funds that are defined on page 103 of the budget papers. Complete details of the investment of the formal trust funds are available in the budget papers but there are no details of the investment of the trust accounts to which I now refer. I ask the Minister to comment on the fact that this fund has apparently not been needed for the purposes for which it was created. Is it proposed to spend moneys from it on strategic materials and how is the fund invested?
The second item in the same category to which I wish to refer is the war pension credit of £13,300,000 at the 1st July, 1953, which has been paid into the trust fund. I understand that that amount represents what would otherwise have been a surplus at the 30th June, 1953. The amount has been paid into the fund for credit to the War Pensions Account. I should like the Minister to tell me whether that fund is intact in cash or whether it is invested and, if so, how it is invested. The account indicates that during the year ended the 30th June, 1953, £36,500,000 was paid out and £49,900,000 was paid in. I understand that the normal course is for the amount that is paid in to equal the amount that, is paid out. Has the credit to that account any further purpose than to transfer a surplus which the Government may use, not for this specific purpose but for other and more general purposes?
Another item which I would like to mention is coinage. The trust account began the last financial year with a balance of £3,890,545 in respect of coinage which was also the amount of the balance at the end of the ‘financial year. I should like the Minister for National Development to tell me what that amount represents. Is the . main portion of the amount invested in bullion as shown on page 108 of the budget papers which indicates that £3,688,000 worth of bullion is on hand? If that amount represents the major portion of the balance that I have mentioned, does the remainder of the balance represent cash ?
– I desire information in relation to matters concerning either Division 42, Administrative, or Division 44, Taxation Branch. My request has been prompted by a statement that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made to-day to the effect that an allegation that the directors of Associated Newspapers Limited had received prior budget information was quite unfounded. The Prime Minister’s reply was given in answer to a question as to whether he had read the official transcript of the recent Equity Court proceedings. When I raised this matter in this chamber on a previous occasion the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) was inclined to brush it off lightly. This is a matter of grave importance to this Parliament. I have here a copy of the transcript of the court proceedings. When the witness, Mr. Irish, was being examined by Mr. Wallace, Q.C., in reference to the suggestion that there would be a profit of £130,000, less taxation, and that information had been received that the rate of taxation would be reduced from 9s. to 7s. in the £1, Mr. Wallace asked whether the change in the taxation rate would result in a saving of £71,500. Mr. Irish answered “ Yes “. He was then asked whether the basis of tax of 9s. in the £1 upon which he made his computation was correct. Mr. Irish answered “ Yes and no”. The transcript then reads as follows : -
– I do not think that the honorable senator should discuss that matter fully. The matter has been discussed previously in the Senate and I think that no more than a passing reference should be made to it.
– The transcript reads as follows: -
– Order !
– I only wish to finalize this matter. The answer to the question was -
I had a good idea, I think.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, under what item in the Estimates is the honorable senator referring to this matter? I submit that the honorable senator is out of order.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, Senator Henty has not raised a point of order. He has only asked a question. However, I should like to sub mit that the Department of the Treasury is primarily concerned with the presentation of the budget. I know of no matter that is more vital to the reputation of the Parliament than the safeguarding of the budget particulars. If this chamber is denied the opportunity to canvass the activities of a department on a vital matter of this nature then these Estimates might as well never be presented. If we could discuss only such matters as whether the Treasury paid too little or too much in salaries it would be futile for this committee to address itself to the task of examining the Estimates on that basis. From considerable experience, I can say that the widest latitude has been granted in the discussion of the Estimates in the past. There is no other opportunity in the whole year for the Opposition to criticize the Government and the administration of a department. I think that you would be ruling too narrowly if you denied an opportunity for the presentation of an argument on this matter. I had hoped to advert to this matter, not in too short terms, myself, depending on what reply came from the Minister. I hope, for the benefit of honorable senators generally, that you will not impose rigid limits on this debate. If you did so, you would terminate a practice that has been followed invariably in debating the Estimates.
– I should like to put the contrary point of view. It seems to me, with respect to the long experience of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), that the point of view that he put cannot be properly sustained. Surely the same distinction must be made in dealing with these Estimates as that which is made between the second-reading debates on a bill and the consideration of the bill at the committee stage. During the debate on the first reading of the bill under which the Estimates were introduced there was every opportunity for honorable senators to talk on matters that were relevant and irrelevant to the bill. They did so. At the committee stage of these Estimates the debate turns upon the amount of money involved, the purposes for which it is used and whether it is spent wisely and well and the functions of the department rather than the policy of the department. I submit that it is just as irrelevant to discuss the question of whether or not this gentleman received information on the budget while the committee is considering the Estimates for the Treasury as it would have been to discuss matters of international policy when the committee was dealing with the Estimates for the Department of External Affairs.
– I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). A point of order has not been raised by Senator Henty, nor did’ the honorable senator refer to any standing order under which a point of order might have been raised. The officers of the Treasury have the highest qualifications in the Public Service. It is necessary that the Parliament should have confidence in the officers of that department for they are the only public servants who can give any indication of the contents of the budget before it is presented to Parliament. There must be no doubt that the officers of this department are beyond reproach. I submit that the committee is entitled to canvass the point upon which some considerable doubt has been thrown.
– I directed my remarks to the administration of the Treasury. I do not question the policy of the Government in relation to that department. I ask that you treat this matter as important, Mr.- Temporary Chairman. The Government has treated it very lightly. The matter I am quoting relates to an incident which I consider reflected very gravely upon this Parliament.
– Order ! I think there is a great deal in the point of order that has been raised. If we adhere strictly to the Standing Orders, the discussion must be limited to the proposed votes that are before us to-night. Honorable senators had an opportunity to discuss the general policy of the Government during the debate on the Estimates and budget papers.
– - -I am not discussing general policy. I am discussing administration.
– If the honorable senator can connect his remarks with an item of the proposed vote now under discussion he may continue.
– I am dealing with Division 42 Administrative, Item 1 “ Salaries and Allowances as per schedule, page 144 “.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Very well.
– This is the only opportunity honorable senators have to discuss subjects of this kind. The Government, through its Ministers in this chamber, has treated this matter very lightly, but it is of great importance to the Parliament. The Government’s cavalier attitude has placed an officer of the Treasury in an invidious position.
– I rise to order. 1 direct your attention, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to Standing Order 190, which states - 190. In Bills which the Senate may not amend, the Question “ That this Bill be udt? read a First time “ may be debated, and in such debate matters both relevant and not relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill may he discussed.
Standing Order 203 states - 203. The discussion shall be confined to the Clause or Amendment before the Committee.
I submit that Senator Ashley’s remarks have nothing to do with the subject now before the committee.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The point of order is not upheld. Senator Ashley is in order if he can connect his remarks with any item of expenditure under the proposed vote for the Department of the Treasury. However, I suggest to Senator Ashley that he should not labour the point with which he is now dealing.
– I rise to order. Perhaps we can compromise if Senator Ashley will ask permission to have his remarks incorporated in Hansard.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! Senator Ashley may proceed.
– I do not need any assistance from the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). “When I was interrupted I was pointing out that this matter is of great importance because it involves an officer who holds a very high position in the Public Service. The Government has left him high and dry. It has refused nr. investigation of the allegations that have been made. 1 remind the Senate that in addition to those allegations, we have sworn evidence in a court of law. On page 149 of the transcript of the court proceedings the following passage appears : -
When Mr. Irish said that he obtained the information when he was in Canberra he was not committing perjury. The Government, by refusing an inquiry into this matter, is also placing Mr. Irish in an invidious position. Mr. Irish is not only a director of Associated Newspapers Limited but also vice-president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Australia. Therefore, he occupies a very responsible position in the business world. Again I urge the Government to investigate this matter thoroughly. It has before it the sworn evidence of a reputable citizen who is not a man of straw. He has sworn that he came to Canberra and got certain information. Why did he come to Canberra? Why did he not go to Newcastle or somewhere else? He came to Canberra because he could not have got the information elsewhere. Only three persons could have supplied him withthe information. They are the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and the Secretary of the Department of the Treasury, Dr. Roland Wilson.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable senator entitled to imply that the Prime Minister of Australia wrongfully divulged budget information?
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Reid).Order! Senator Ashley has been permitted considerable liberty. Now he is a little wide of the mark and I am afraid that I cannot allow him to proceed on those lines.
– I submit to your ruling, Mr. Chairman. I should not like to transgress the rules of the committee, although the Chair is often a little obstructive to me. Again I express the hope that the Government will have this important matter investigated and the facts ascertained once and for all. As matters stand, the Parliament does not stand very high in the eyes of the public. I hope too, that the Minister will reply also to the statement made to-day by the Prime Minister about this matter.
– The section of the budget papers dealing with trust funds shows that at the 30th June, 1952, the Commonwealth Aid Roads fund contained approximately £1,519,219. In the ensuing financial year expenditure totalled £15,622,220 and receipts were £15,707,059, leaving a balance of £1,604,058 in the fund. I should like to know whether this is the fund, provided by the petrol tax, out of which disbursements are made to the States for distribution among local governing authorities for the construction and maintenance of roads. There is also another item, “ Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works “ which shows that a balance of £714 was brought forward from the 30th June, 1952, and expended in the ensuing financial year. If there is in fact, a balance of £1,604,058 in the Commonwealth Aid Roads fund, why is this money being retained instead of being made available for road construction and maintenance at a time when all local governing authorities throughout the Commonwealth are short of funds? From time to time, local governing bodies ask the State governments for greater assistance in their roads work, and usually the reply is that financial assistance cannot be increased because the funds received by the States from the Commonwealth are inadequate. This matter is important to municipal councils and other local governing authorities throughout the Commonwealth, and I should like the Minister to provide some information about it.
– I too wish to refer to the operations of a trust account. I refer to the Flax Production Trust Account which is mentioned on page 103 of the budget papers. The figures show that during the year ended the 30th. June, 1953, there was a fall of approximately £31,000 in the balance of that account. Under Division 90 of the Estimates, reference is made to the expenditure in 1952-53 of £442,784 under the item, “ Less Amount recoverable from sales of flax fibre “. It appears to me that the decrease by more than £31,000 in the trust accountshown in the budget papers actually forms a part of the amount that has been carried into the Estimates, and which is shown as sales of flax fibre. . I should like the Minister to explain why no reference appears in the Estimates to the fact that trust funds have been used for this purpose. If they have been so used I think it is highly desirable that the fact should be made perfectly clear to the Parliament.
I refer now to Division 48, which deals’ with the Bureau of Census and Statistics. Item5 under “General Expenses “ refers to the “ Hire, service and maintenance of machines for tabulation of statistics “, the proposed vote being 24,600. I wish to know what part of that amount will be accounted for by hire charges for machines. It seems to me that the bureau must constantly require to use such machines, and it seems strange that it should hire them. It is obvious that, over a period of years, that method would be much more expensive than it would be to purchase the machines outright.
. - I also wish to refer to Division 48, Bureau of Census and Statistics. This bureau issues the Monthly Bulletin of Employment Statistics, which is prepared under the instructions of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). I should like the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to explain how the Government reconciles the figures which appear in that bulletin with its statements concerning the unemployment situation. At the end of January this year, according to this document, there were 121,000 unemployed persons. In the five succeeding months of February, March, April, May and June, 38,400 persons were placed in employment. Despite the fact that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has stated that for eight successive months there has been a reduction of the number of unemployed persons in this country-
– Order ! Is the honorable senator discussing the cost of producing the document or the accuracy of the material contained in it?
– The accuracy of the document.
– I do not think that the honorable senator is in order in doing so at this stage. He should discuss that matter at the first-reading or secondreading stage.
– I am discussing Division 48, which refers to the Bureau of Census and Statistics.
– No reference, under that division, is made to the document which the honorable senator wishes to discuss.
– Salaries have been paid in respect of the compilation of the document.
– All that the honorable senator may deal with at this stage is the cost of the document. He may not deal with its contents.
– Then I suggest that it is covered by Division 48, B, item 4, Printing of official publications.
– The honorable senator may deal with the printing of the document, but not with its accuracy. That matter could have been discussed at the first reading stage.
– I rise to order. In the light of your ruling, Mr. Chairman, it seems that the debate in this connexion may be severely curtailed. Is it not possible for honorable senators to discuss the propriety or otherwise of the Parliament being asked to vote money for the preparation of this document, if it can be shown that the document is valueless for the purpose for which it is designed? Surely it is within the province of honorable senators to criticize the continued voting of money for the publication of this document if it can be shown that its contents are worthless.
– Discussion of that aspect of the matter would be in order, but it is not in order for an honorable senator to attempt to make a first-reading speech at this stage. I have ruled that I shall not allow Senator Ashley to discuss the accuracy or otherwise of the contents of the document.
– If I may elaborate my point of order, would I not be in order in presenting to the committee facts which, might lead honorable senators to believe that the document is worthless, and, for that reason, further sums of money should not be voted for its publication? Surely it is in order to present the facts in order to substantiate such a claim.
– I also rise to order. I support the remarks of Senator Sheehan in this connexion. You were not present, Mr. Chairman, when I addressed your predecessor in the chair a little while ago, but I wish to repeat briefly what I then put to him. This is a particular opportunity which we of the Opposition have to discuss the activities of the various government departments. It is the one instance in which we are not obliged to accept any answer that a Minister may care to make. The truth is that this is the one great opportunity presented to the Parliament to rake departments and their activities. I suggest that even under the heading, “ Salaries and allowances “, departmental officers are open to criticism concerning the way in which they exercise their functions. That criticism must lead into discussion of deeds and documents. I suggest that it would be really striking a fundamental blow at the rights of the Parliament, and of oppositions particularly, if these Estimates were construed too narrowly. Not only is a fundamental principle involved, but also it has been the practice throughout the years to permit almost complete freedom, within reason, in such debates. Almost any subject may be opened up. If you adhere strictly to the view that one may address argument only to the cost of the document and not to the reasons why money should not be spent on its publication, you will deny honorable senators an opportunity to state the facts in endeavouring to prove its falsity by comparison with another statement, and to probe the department in order to ascertain whether it is operating efficiently. I hope that we shall have from you, sir, as we have had from your predecessors in office, the greatest liberty in these matters. I do not wish my remarks to be misconstrued when I say that it is healthier for the Senate to be given the fullest opportunity to open up such matters. The Standing Orders impose a severe limit as to time, and it is always within the competence of the Minister, if he considers that the argument is becoming too discursive and the privilege is being abused, to move that the question be put.
In endeavouring to hold the scales evenly in this matter, you might bear in mind that, on the question of expenditure of money, the Opposition is the watchdog of the public. In exercising its duty to the public, it is obliged to rake departments. One of the great disadvantages that I see in our parliamentary procedures is that there is no other opportunity to discuss this kind of thing. I think that discussion ‘ of such matters is the healthiest kind of medicine in public life. “When there is even the slightest allegation of wrong-doing on the part of a government or a government department, this is the opportunity for open discussion of the matter. This is the platform for such discussion. I ask you, sir, to be flexible in your ruling. If you allow lattitude, I think it will be healthier and, in the long run, quicker, because honorable senators will struggle to find ingenious methods of discussing the matter under other headings. I think that it is better for the Senate generally if, in these discussions, too rigid a limit is not set.
– There was a pretty rigid limit .imposed during my first year in the Senate, when one of the honorable senator’s colleagues was in the chair.
– I do not think that the honorable senator was present in this chamber when a Labour government introduced a budget. Am I correct?
– That is correct.
– Then the honorable senator has had. no opportunity to observe what _ the Labour Government did in similar circumstances. I urge upon honorable senators on both sides of the chamber the view that this is the opportunity peculiarly afforded to an Opposition to criticize the Government. It is the healthiest aspect of all our parliamentary procedures.
– I draw attention to the fact that Division 48 refers to the Bureau of Census and Statistics, and that the document to which I referred previously bears the caption, “Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, Canberra “. In my opinion, that conclusively identifies it with the Estimates for the Department of the Treasury.I suggest that I can do no better, in attempting to prove my contention in this matter, than to refer to this document which was prepared under the instructions of the Treasurer and issued by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician, Mr. Carver. I submit that I am completely in order in discussing the document. If I am not, then it seems to me that all the other discussion which occurred in the Senate to-night was also out of order and entirely irrelevant.
– I go a long way, if not the whole way, with the views expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and Senator Sheehan. However, the views that they have expressed are not at issue. I cannot imagine circumstances in which, during a review of the Estimates, it would not be possible for honorable senators to say, in respect of a certain publication, that it was good or bad, that its publication should be inquired into, or that money should not be expended on its preparation. That surely is a matter for discussion during the debate on the Estimates. But that is not the point at issue.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Reid).Order ! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Chairman do now leave the Chair and report to the Senate.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator A. D.Reid.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I desire briefly to follow up one matter that Senator Ashley mentioned. He referred to a. transcript of sworn evidence that was given in the Supreme Court of New South Wales by a gentleman of high repute to whom the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), on a recent occasion, paid the highest possible tribute and one which I accept without reserve. I put it to the Minister that when a gentleman of that character swears on oath - I shall paraphrase his evidence in order to reduce it to simple terms - that he had a good idea of what was in the budget, and he had that good idea as a result of certain discussions at Canberra, that instantly puts the Government upon inquiry. Again I ask the Government whether it proposes to institute an inquiry. I agree entirely with the viewpoint that a man of the character of Mr. Irish - the witness in question - would not initiate discussions upon the budget improperly. He would not seek to find out improperly the contents of the budget.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition mean that he concedes that point?
– Yes, I certainly concede that point, and I shall reiterate what I have said on a previous occasion, that I have had experience of documents being stolen - and I make no allegations against anybody - by people outside the Government, outside its staffs, and outside the Public Service altogether. From my own experience during the period that I acted for the Attorney-General in the previous Labour Government, I know how these things can happen. If the Government, on that sworn testimony from a man of a high repute, says that it will not lift a finger to inquire into the accuracy of that evidence, all I say is that it has no appreciation of its duty to itself as a government or to the Department of the Treasury, which is the custodian of the budget and prepares every budget paper. The Treasury, very properly, is exceedingly jealous of its reputation. Why should not Mr. Irish be approached and asked the following questions : Was this information volunteered to you; who volunteered it; and, when did he do it ? I ask the Minister whether the Government is prepared to make an inquiry. I know the sources that are available to it to follow up an inquiry. There is sworn testimony - not idle sayso - and a clear lead that somebody either improperly divulged budget information or stole budget information. It is one or the other. I merely point out to the Minister, very quietly, that if this Government, having been: -put on inquiry in that way in the court, persists in declining to follow that, matter up, it leaves itself open, in my view, to a suggestion that it does not understand the nature of its duty, and a. further suggestion that it is afraid to make the inquiries.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has invited the Labour party to make a charge.
– The Government is undoubtedly-
– Did not the Leader of the Opposition say that he got the information?
– I did not say so. I am basing the” whole of my remarks upon sworn testimony, and on nothing else.
– Did not Mr. Irish say that he had no reliable information?
– I hope that 3 am not going to be put to the tedium of reading that report through again. Senator Ashley has read it, and I do not want to read it. As I have given the purport of it, which has been written into Hansard, I do not wish to read it again. This witness swore that he had a good idea of what was in the budget, as a result of discussions “at Canberra. The only conclusion I draw is that it puts this Government on inquiry. I cannot imagine for a moment that the Government can take up the attitude that it will do nothing about the matter. I have stated that there is the best lead to that type of information that has ever been presented to a government, and I want this Government to at least make an inquiry. I think that Mr. Irish ought to be questioned as to these discussions. It is the bounden duty of the Government to do so. If the Government says that it will not lift a finger in this matter, I contend that it is open to the suggestion that it is afraid to make an inquiry. That is the suggestion that must be left, because every element of duty points to that lead being followed up.
– I shall reply to questions that have been raised by honorable senators in relation to trust funds. A balance of £4-8,870,755 in the strategic stores and equipment reserve was carried forward to the 1st July, 1953. The expenditure from that trust fund during the last financial year was £1,321,139 15s. Stockpiling has been suspended by the Government and the balance in the fund is included in the general trust funds. I have been informed that the total cost of investments in the general trust funds of £132,997,473 7s. lOd. includes the balance of strategic stores and equipment reserves of £48,870,755.
– Therefore the balance of the strategic stores reserve is all invested in Commonwealth Government inscribed stock?
– Yes, as is shown in the particulars relating to the general trust funds. This also applies to the War Pensions Trust Fund balance of £13,399,333 17s. lid. Furthermore, £3,310,474 10s. 7d. worth of silver bullion, and £67,752 14s. lOd. worth of bronze bullion is invested in general trust funds and included in the sub-total of £132,997,473 7s. lOd. that I have mentioned.
– That leaves hundreds of thousands of pounds in cash, which I assume is working capital.
– The balance is in cash. Senator Sheehan has referred to the Commonwealth Aid Roads Trust Fund, in connexion with which a balance of £1,604,058 2s. 7d. was carried forward to the 1st July, 1953. Actually the petrol tax apportionments are paid to the recipients. The balance of £714 8s. Sd. in the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Trust Fund that was brought forward from the 30th June, 1952, was expended during the last financial year. That balance was established under legislation that was repealed about three years ago. Transactions are now conducted under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act.
I am sorry that I cannot furnish information to the committee about the flax fibre transaction that was mentioned by Senator Paltridge. However, if the honorable senator will raise the matter again when the proposed vote for the Department of Commerce and Agriculture is under consideration I shall be able to furnish him with the desired ‘ information from the papers supporting the estimates of that department.
– Will a Treasury officer be present then?
– Yes, but the information will be contained in papers that I shall receive from an officer of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. The Treasury officer has only the net figure, not the details of the transaction. Senator Ashley referred to a statement in relation to bulletin statistics. I am unable to add to my remarks when I spoke to a point of order that was raised at the time, to the effect that I am unable to say whether the figures are right or wrong, because I came prepared for a debate on financial figures, not statistics, which are in a different category.
I come now to the matter of the transcript that has been mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition and Senator Ashley. I thought that I had made the position quite clear when this matter was raised previously. Having regard to the circumstances in which the evidence was given, and the effect that it had upon those to whom it was given, I do not think that it is a. reasonable interpreta tion of the evidence that Mr. Irish had knowledge of the budget. The Leader of the Opposition has stated that the Government is afraid to institute an inquiry in the matter. It is not the Government that is afraid. The Leader of the Opposition is afraid to make an allegation in the matter outside this chamber. He. stated, when originating this debate, that he was not making any allegations against members of the Cabinet.
– That is right.
– He also said that he was not making any allegations against public servants.
– That is right.
– Then, at the conclusion of the debate, the Leader of the Opposition asked the Government not to misunderstand him, because in no circumstances was he making an allegation against Mr. Irish. I think that that is a fair statement of the position.
– If that is a fair statement of the facts, how can there be anything upon which to make any allegation? If there had been any wrongdoing in’ this matter, Mr. Irish must have been a party to it. If there was any wrong-doing, he must have known of it. But the Leader of the Opposition said that in no circumstances would he make any criticism or any allegation against that gentleman. In other words, the Leader of the Opposition said, in effect, “ I have no case. I am just going to make the best of what I can scramble up in the circumstances “.
– The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has referred to courage in connexion with this matter. I am sorry that he introduced that element into the discussion.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) introduced it.
– The truth is that while the Opposition can make no charge against anybody, it looks to the evidence as does the public generally. I shall read what was said in the court -
A .I had a good idea, I think.
If I left the matter there the Government would have enough ground for an inquiry but the evidence continues -
I invite honorable senators to consider that section of the evidence. The answer to that question was not “ No “. There was no denial.
– Are you charging Mr. Irish or not?
– No, I am not. I am charging the Government with a breach of its duty to itself and its officers in not following up that sworn evidence. If the Government is not prepared to do so, I shall have to ask Mr. Irish these questions on behalf of the Opposition in this chamber, and I hope that the press will convey them to him. They are - Did he have any discussions in Canberra ? If so, with whom? When did he have the discussions ? What information about the budget was conveyed to him?
They are simple questions. Does the Government refuse to send one of its officers to interview Mr. Irish, who is a man of exceedingly high repute, to ask him those questions? I take it that the Government refuses to do so. The Minister for National Development has declined to make an inquiry. With the information that is before it, why does not the Government address those questions to Mr. Irish? I put this to the Government quite frankly. If it is not prepared to do that, it is open to the suggestion that it is afraid to do so. I can do no more than repeat that when there is anything in the nature of a budget leakage, even if it is a mere suggestion, it is the plain duty of the Government to start an active inquiry. In this case it has the incentive at the highest level in sworn evidence that has been given in a court by a highly reputable person. The evidence that was given is also recorded as follows: -
Mr. Hardie. Let him finish the answer.
Witness.- But enough to make me believe that there would be a reduction.
That statement cannot be taken alone. Consideration must be given to the picture as it was presented to the people of Australia as a whole by the press. Mr. Irish said, “ I had no reliable knowledge of what was in the budget. It led me to believe- “.
Senatorguy. - He did not say that.
– That is the way that it was put in the press of Australia. Is it of no consequence to this Government that the matter should be presented in that light to the people? I think that it is a completely fair paraphrasing of the evidence that was given in the court. Mr. Irish said that he had had discussions at Canberra. Is there any dispute about that fact?
– With whom ?
-That is what the Opposition wants to know. We believe that the Government should ask Mr. Irish with whom he had the discussions. The questions that I have framed should be put to the highly reputable man concerned. By his sworn evidence, he has virtually invited the Government to ask him those questions.
– If the Government does not do so, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) will? Is that the position?
– I have neither the duty nor the power to do so, but I address those questions to Mr. Irish now from the floor of this chamber. It is not I who should do so but the Government. It should have done so immediately the evidence became known. In not doing so, it is completely insensitive to its duty.
– I should like to have a final word upon this matter.
– It will never be final.
– The honorable senator means that it will not be final so long as the Opposition can get an opportunity to secure political advantage from it. My final word is to quote what the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) said when this matter was last before the Senate. He said -
I say at once, so that nobody will be nervous, that I do not lay any charge directly or indirectly against any member of the Government, against any of the staff or any member of the Commonwealth Public Service …
– That is all true.
– When I said, during the course of the debate, that the Leader of the Opposition by implication had laid a charge against Mr. Irish, Senator McKenna rose at the close of my speech and stated -
I rise to order. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) either misunderstood me or has deliberately misrepresented me. In the course of his remarks, he stated that I had made a charge against Mr. Irish to the effect that he had come to Canberra and had sought to negotiate or had in fact negotiated certain discussions. I wish to make it very clear that I said nothing of the kind.
– That is right.
– The Leader of the Opposition continued by stating these words, although I believe that the word “ careful “ has been omitted from this text -
I was very careful to do no more than read the words of Mr. Irish himself. At no time did I make any charge against him. Insofar as the Minister has conveyed the impression or madethe statement that I did so, he is completely mistaken.
– I rise to order. Is the Minister in order in quoting from a confidential document? Such a document is not supposed to be used in this chamber.
– Order ! The Minister is quite in order.
– I conclude by stating that the Leader of the Opposition has declared his position clearly. He said that he charges no person. The inference is that there could not have been something amiss without Mr. Irish being a party to it. The Leader of the Opposition, therefore, completely exonerates Mr. Irish. Therefore, I suggest that he has said, in effect, “ There is no case at all and nothing improper has occurred to which exception could be taken “.
.- The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has not satisfied me with his answer. I am prepared to use the document that I have quoted in this chamber on any public platform. If I do so, will the Minister or the Government take steps to have an inquiry as to who supplied the information in Canberra? Mr. Irish has given sworn evidence in a court of law that he secured information at Canberra. Surely the Government should have an inquiry to clear up this matter. It needs only to bring Mr. Irish to Canberra or any other city or to the Bar of the Senate if necessary and ask him who supplied the information. That would be a simple matter. It would not be a costly inquiry. The Government could ask him who supplied the information at Canberra and remove from the Parliament the charge tha t budget information has been obtained prematurely.
– One of the functions of the Taxation Branch is to raise Commonwealth loans.
– It will be when the Opposition gets its forced loans.
-For the purpose of raising loans, the Commonwealth Loans Organization has been formed. That section of the Department of the Treasury was established during the war years when it was necessary to canvass the whole country to get money to carry on the war. Honorable senators will recall that at that time war savings groups were active and contributed to war savings certificates and Commonwealth loans. The organization was essential during the war period, but very few loans are being raised in Australia now. I shall not comment whether they are successful or not, but the function of the Commonwealth Loans Organization is to engage in publicity and organizing work in connexion with the raising of Commonwealth loans. One does not need to have a vivid imagination to know that the duties of the organiaztion must be limited. The set up provides for a director who is a kind of lord high executioner, and in each State there is a deputy director. Under them there are a number of officers. They are aloof from all Commonwealth departments. In many cases they occupy rented buildings with wall to wall carpets and with plenty of space. They engage in publicity when a loan is to be raised although within the Department of the Treasury there is a Commonwealth Advertising Division. I should like to know what are the duties of the officers of the Commonwealth Loans Organization when no loans are being raised.
– Loans are being raised.
– What are the duties of the officers ? No loans are being raised.
– They are being raised every day of the year.
– The honorable senator does not know what he is talking about.
– I am not fully equipped to answer the honorable senator’s inquiry. I am relying upon my general knowledge when I state my recollection of conversations that I have had from time to time. I know that the Treasurer has given thought to the elimination of that sphere of the Treasury’s activity. After consideration he has decided against doing so. He considers that it serves a useful purpose. It is not true to say that loans are not being floated. A series of loans have been continued over recent years. I think it is the view of the Treasurer that that organization is justified.
– I should like to ask the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) two questions and then I shall leave the subject of the Treasury. First, has the Government directed or caused to be directed to Mr. Irish any or all of the questions that I suggested should be addressed to him? Secondly, if the Government has not done that, will it do so?
– The answer to the first question of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) is, not to my knowledge. The answer to his second question is, not with my consent.
– The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has stated that he has known Mr. Irish for many years as a most honorable man.
– I did not say that. I said that I knew him by reputation.
– I accept the correction of the Minister. Apparently Mr. Irish is known by reputation to the Minister as an honorable man. What would an honorable man do if he found himself in the position in which Mr. Irish has been placed? Even if he had not received the information that Mr. Irish is alleged to have received, an honorable man would consider that as he had made certain statements which had been interpretated by the Labour party in. a certain way for its political ends he should clear himself of the suspicion that had fallen upon him. Mr. Irish is aware of the discussion that has taken place concerning his actions. He should make a statement in order to clarify the position. It is significant that the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) has not spoken on this subject. One would imagine that this man had broken into the House of the Opposition and not the House of the Government. Mr. Irish has stated that he received this information.
– He swore that he did not receive it.
– In that case I would be satisfied with his guidance on the Melbourne Cup. Apparently he just guessed the new rate of tax. If he is prepared to state that he did not receive the information I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) will be satisfied with that statement. If this man has been misrepresented surely he can come forward and state that that is so. Under existing circumstances we can only deduce that he has something to hide. Either he received information on the budget from an individual or he did not.
– He said that he did not.
– Then ask him.
– He swore that he did not.
– Then let him be asked whom he saw. The questions which have been put by the Leader of the Opposition are simple. The Government is making the position worse than ever. If I were a Minister I would object to the fact that the Opposition had inferred that corruption had taken place in the Public Service. I would ask Mr. Irish to come forward and make a statement on the matter. If he refuses to clarify the position I do not think that he can be an honorable man. The existing position is not fair to the public servants or to Cabinet Ministers. An explanation is necessary. There is no necessity to make a charge against Mr. Irish. If the Opposition had the necessary evidence it would probably make a charge. As Senator Ashley suggested, an officer of the Attorney-General’s Department could explain to Mr. Irish that he had caused a certain amount of disturbance and ask him to make a statement on oath in reply to the questions that have been suggested by the Leader of the Opposition. If the Government has nothing to hide it should comply with the request of the Leader of the Opposition.
– As a supporter of the present Ministry for some time, I have thought, on various occasions, that it has not been entirely right. On this occasion I think that the Ministeris absolutely right. I have never heard a more fantastic request made from the other side of the chamber than that of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). Mr. Irish has sworn in a court of law that he received no reliable information about the budget. The Opposition has requested that the Government should find out where he obtained some unreliable information. I should like the Opposition to explain the benefit of discovering where people get unreliable information.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan ) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 11 a.m.
The following papers were pre sented . -
Australian National University Act - First Report of the Council of the Australian National University, for period 1st July, 1951 to 31st December, 1951.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired fur railway purposes - Port Augusta, South Australia.
Senate adjourned at 11.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 October 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1953/19531015_senate_20_s1/>.