20th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at & p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware of the very serious position of the flour-milling industry in South Australia where, since August, two large mills have closed and all others are working at a severely reduced rate? Is he aware that because of this position in an industry where there has been no industrial trouble or stoppages for many years there is now much unemployment and that the position is worse than it has been for fifteen years? Is he aware that, as a result of these conditions, primary producers are facing considerable difficulty in procuring bran and pollard? What immediate action, if any, does the Government propose to take in order that this most serious state of affairs may be terminated and all flour-mills restored to normal working conditions ?
– This subject has been causing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture great concern. It raises a serious problem for the users of bran and pollard. I understand, from latest reports, that those in the industry are experiencing great difficulty in finding markets for the export of flour at reasonable prices. In South Australia, particularly, this industry has a record of which we are proud. I shall obtain a further report on this matter from the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and find out the prospects for the immediate future.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer inform the Senate how the Government justifies, ethically and morally, the retention of a 12-J per cent, sales tax on sporting equipment in view of its action in abolishing the entertainments tax? How does the Government justify the preference that it has given to passive entertain- ment by making it free of tax? What is the estimated amount that will be collected from sales tax on sporting equipment during the current financial year? Why has the Government maintained a harsh, and unjust imposition upon physi-cai fitness, adherents whose many activities contribute towards national, economic and social welfare? As the budget provided for some small sales tax reduction on sporting goods will the Government re-examine the possibilities of total abolition of sales tax on such goods in conformity with its decision to abolish the entertainments tax?
– The honorable senator has posed, questions which have a wide application-. Indeed, they deal with a great proportion of the budget proposals. I think that I can give him only a short answer. At the time that the Government decided to make an appreciable reduction of taxes, it carefully considered the way in which such reduc- tiona could be made, in the best interests of the community generally. I suggest to the honorable senator that there is no tax which some group of people would not like to see abolished. There are many advocates of tax reductions. It is the responsibility of the Government to do what it considers to be right in the circumstances. The views of the Government regarding taxation reductions were expressed in the budget, and I think it has been generally accepted that those reductions were very generous indeed. They have been received with approbation throughout the community. At this stage, the Government cannot consider further tax reduction proposals such as those suggested by the Honorable senator.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware that when the Kwinana oil refinery is in operation, it ie estimated that Australian expenditure overseas will be reduced by approximately £20,000,000 sterling per annum ? Does the Minister consider that such a large conservation of Australian funds overseas is of national, rather than of State, importance? If so, will full weight be given to this aspect when the application for special financial assistance, which is shortly to be re-submitted to the Commonwealth by the Western Australian Government, is being considered ?
– I know that when the Kwinana oil refinery is in operation it will reduce our overseas expenditure by a very appreciable amount. I am not able to say, offhand, whether the figure of £20,000,000, to which the honorable senator referred, is correct, but a very large sum indeed will be involved. That large saving of overseas expenditure will bc of considerable national importance, but to say, as the honorable senator has said, that it will be a Commonwealth /rain rather than a State one is another matter. The Kwinana refinery is of tremendous advantage to Western Australia which, for decades, has been trying ti) find ways and means to increase the number of secondary industries within its boundaries. 1 take great pride in the fact that the Menzies Government was able to play a part in having the Kwinana refinery established in Western Australia, but when a State obtains such a great advantage I say, with respect, that it is the duty of the State government to find ways and means to finance the big consequential developmental works in that State. Other States of the Commonwealth would be glad to have the opportunity to do so. The third question asked by the honorable senator concerns an old story which crops up repeatedly. The facts are that the Australian Loan Council appropriates the loan moneys that are available. Each State receives its due proportion of those moneys. It is becoming the fashion for State Premiers, after receiving their fair share of the loan rooneys, to emulate Oliver Twist and ask for a second helping. That is not fair to the other States or to the Australian Government, which has done much towards providing funds for the works programmes of the States at a time when loan funds were scarce. Some one stated in Western Australia recently that the establishment of the Kwinana refinery was the greatest event in Western Australia since tho discovery of gold. That statement may be exaggerated, hut it is close enough to the truth to prompt me to suggest that the Western Australian Government has a responsibility to ensure that the project is carried to completion.
– Has the attention of the Attorney-General been directed to a report that was published in the Melbourne Herald yesterday to the effect that the Prime Minister was believed to be considering the termination of his coalition pact with the Leader of the Australian Country party, Sir Arthur Fadden, and that the branches of the Liberal party in New South Wales and Victoria had decided to oppose all retiring Australian Country party members at the forthcoming federal general election? Is it a fact that an earlier report stated that in the forthcoming by-election for the Gwydir seat in the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister, and the Treasurer, who is also the Leader of the Australian Country party, several endorsed Australian Country party candidates and an endorsed Liberal party candidate would appear on the same platform? If so, will the Attorney-General inform the Senate and the people of Australia whether the security service will be alerted and every precaution taken to avoid daggerthrowing between those partisans similar to that which shocked Australia a few years ago, as the recurrence appears to be imminent ?
– I treat the question with the contempt that it deserves.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Health been directed to a statement by Dr. J. Gunther to the effect that Australia’s expenditure in New Guinea upon health services for natives is the lowest of any nation with a colony in the Pacific, excluding Dutch New Guinea? Will the Minister inform the Senate whether that statement is correct?
– I have no personal knowledge of the matter, but I shall refer the question to the Minister for Territories and endeavour to obtain the information that has been requested by Iiic honorable senator.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral, who is the representative of the Minister for Territories in this chamber, aware that a question about the recent tragic massacres in New Guinea has now been on the notice-paper in my name for three weeks? Is he aware that, since the question was put on the notice-paper, at least three press statements have been made, although no information has been given to the Senate? Does the AttorneyGeneral not consider the action of the Minister for Territories in giving information to the press but not to the Senate to be contempt of Parliament?
– –My recollection is that the Minister for Territories has made a statement about this matter in the House of Representatives. If I remember correctly, the honorable senator’s question was asked either on the very day on which the Minister made a statement in the House of Representatives, or, perhaps, on the day after, but I do recall having seen in the newspapers something which I associated with the question directed to me by the honorable senator. However, I shall make some inquiries and let the honorable senator have an answer to his question on the next day of sitting. I am certain that the Minister for Territories has not been actuated by any desire to treat the honorable senator’s question with contempt.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral by stating that while I have no desire to be critical but only constructive, I have noticed for some time that news services broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission contain very few news items from Western Austral]’:!. As the Australian Broadcasting Commission is now holding a conference in Canberra, will the Minister direct the commission’s attention to the existence of Western Australia as one of the Australian States? From the point of view of Western Australians it is tragic that that State is mentioned only now and again in the national news broadcasts. Many visitors from the west to the eastern States have no means of ascertaining even weather conditions in their home districts except through such broadcasts. Could not items of that kind be included more frequently in the national news?
– I shall direct the attention of the Postmaster-General to the honorable senator’s question and obtain a considered reply.
– I preface a question which I direct to the Minister for Shipping and. Transport by pointing out that the Commonwealth railways have benefited considerably as a result of the introduction of the Budd rail car unit on the line from Woomera to Port Pirie. Many people in South Australia, particularly in the northern and mid-northern parts of the State which are serviced by the State railways, make frequent inquiries from their parliamentary representative about the introduction of that unit. Is the Minister in a position to inform rae of the cost of the Budd rail car unit? What is the supply position in respect of such units? Can the” be constructed to run on the 5-ft. 3-h.. or 3-ft. 6-in. gauges of the South Australian system? What is their running cost on a mileage basis, and what is the performance of the units generally” What is their capacity for the carriage of passengers and freight? Are these units air-conditioned? What other class of rolling-stock can be used with the Budd unit?
– From discussions that I have had with the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner and from reports that I have received from him. I understand that the Budd cars that arc operating from Port Pirie to Woomera are air-conditioned and have proved to be a great success. As they are also effectively sprung, they provide great comfort for passengers. They cover the journey from Port Pirie to Woomera and return before the steam train from Port Pirie reaches Woomera. I shall obtain for the honorable senator details with respect to the purchase cost and running expenses of these units.
– Is the Minister for Repatriation in a position to inform me of the number of special rate pensioners under the Repatriation Act? What are the numbers of blind and totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners and how many are receiving tuberculosis pensions and other classes of pensions? Do these pensioners or their dependants receive free medical treatment and free medicine as do other classes of pensioners? If they do not receive such benefits, what is the reason for their exclusion from them?
– I shall obtain the information that the honorable senator seeks and supply it to him at an early date.
– “With reference to the recent announcement by the Minister for the Interior that a large number of acquisitions of land by the Australian Government had been found to be unnecessary and that he intended to sell the surplus land acquired, I ask the Minister representing that Minister whether provision is made under the relevant legislation that an acquisition of land hy the Government shall be preceded by some form of public inquiry as to whether the acquisition is warranted in the public interest? If that legislation does not contain such a provision will the Minister review it critically after examining corresponding legislation in some of the States and in Great Britain?
– I shall be pleased to refer the question to the Minister for the Interior or, if the honorable senator i-‘i desires, he may put it on the noticepaper.
– Has the attention of ihe Minister representing the Treasurer been directed to the fact that the archives of this Parliament contain a most interesting document in the form of a report by the Commonwealth Housing Commission, dated the 25th August, 3944? Paragraph 308 of that report contains the following important statement : -
This Commission is also of the opinion that the only satisfactory method of dealing with problems of land use and land values is for land to be nationalised, and thereafter held as leasehold ; we feel, however, that the lease should be one in perpetuity with periodic reappraisements of the capital value.
Has the Minister associated the date of that document with the succeeding legis lation that was passed by the Chifley Government, namely, the War Service Land Settlement Agreements Act 1945 and the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act 1945? Can the Minister inform the Senate of the degreeto which that recommendation was adopted by the Chifley Government?
– I have no doubt that there are all sorts of odd things in the archives of the Commonwealth Parliament. The pertinent question is whether this Government subscribes to those odd things and adopts them as policy. I shall give a short answer to that question by saying that the contents of the report that the honorable senator has mentioned do not represent the views of this Government. They have not been adopted by this Government” and we do not propose to adopt them. The honorable senator has asked whether the points of view expressed in the report were adopted in connexion with the War Service Land Settlement legislation and the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. That is an interesting field of study, towhich I shall apply myself when an opportunity to do so occurs.
– In view of the success that has attended the Government’s efforts on the international loan market, and the obvious confidence in Australia overseas, I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether the Government will give consideration to the raising overseas of a loan to finance works such as the Kwinana project and the comprehensive water supply scheme in Western Australia, which cannot be provided for from local loan raisings.
– The Government is constantly considering the possibility of raising money overseas. That is evidenced by the recent loan obtained in Switzerland and the two earlier loans from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and I have no doubt that other such loans will be obtained in future. I agree that we require overseas money if we are to do all that has to be done in this country. There is a sympathetic feeling for Western Australia because of its huge area and comparatively small population, and I am sure that under the financial agreement everything possible will be done for that State, to which obviously the honorable senator is somewhat partial.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers are as follows : - [. Permission is frequently granted to overseas ships to carry passengers or cargo, including motor bodies, when passenger accommodation or cargo space is not available on Australian ships.
In connexion with the transport of motor bodies by sea, I have discovered that this method of transport results in damage to the extent of £8 a body. That accounts for the fact that no motor bodies were sent to Melbourne by sea in October. Very largely, the damage is due to rough handling by the men on the waterfront. It has been necessary to stop them from using hooks on highly polished motor bodies.
asked the Minister representing the Vice-President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Will the Minister representing the VicePresident of the Executive Council use his best, endeavours in conjunction with the State Government of Western Australia to have the town and port of Geraldton included in the itinerary of our Royal guests in the course of the forthcoming Royal tour?
– I have brought this matter to the attention of the VicePresident of the Executive Council, who has furnished the following answer: -
The compilation of the itinerary for the Royal visit within the States is entirely a matter for the States themselves over which I, as Minister in charge of the Royal visit, have no jurisdiction whatever. This applies in the case of Geraldton, the inclusion or exclusion of which is the prerogative of the State authorities in Western Australia to whom representations for any variation in the Royal visits to that State should be directed.
asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
The present selling price of cornsacks is 47s. Cd. a dozen ex stores, being the averaged price of cornsacks purchased in periods of scarcity and those purchased at the lower prices ruling recently.
I add that there were times when the price of cornsacks increased considerably and on those occasions the farmers received the benefit of a lower price.
asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) Yes. (6) I do not know whether or not it is a fact that Mr. Williamson made such a statement, but if he did it is misleading. What occurred was that the two governments failed to reach agreement on a definition of the term satisfactory market “, which appears in clause 1 of the Australian-United Kingdom fifteen-year meat agreement, to apply when bulk buying by the United. Kingdom Government ceases and trade reverts to an openmarket basis. The position is that clause 1 of the agreement states, inter aiia, that there will be a “ satisfactory market in the United Kingdom for the whole of the exportable surplus of meat from Australia during the term of the Agreement “. The term “ satisfactory market “ is not defined in the agreement, but it has always been held by the Australian Govern ment to mean a profitable market. The United Kingdom Government has refused to agree to that definition - in unqualified terms. However, the contract includes a guarantee by the United Kingdom that exports from Australia shall earn not less than agreed minimum or floor prices and it has been specifically established in the official record of negotiations that for th, balance of the first detailed agreement after the cessation of government to government trading (until the 30th September, 1958, for beef and veal and the 30th June, 1955, for lamb and mutton) the schedule i;f guaranteed minimum prices may be re-negotiated from time to time if open-market prices are unprofitable to Australian producers. For the three years following the first detailed agreement » schedule of guaranteed prices will be negotiated for a definite period ahead, in which full weight will be given to Australian costs of production but also account will be taken of actual prices paid by the United Kingdom for similar meat in the open market. For the balance ot the agreement, i.e., for the period the 1 s October, 1.901, to the 30th September, 1967, for beef and veal and the 1st July, 195S, to the 30th June, 19(57, for lamb and mutton, minimum prices will be determined in a series of further three-yearly periods, and at defined times ahead of such periods, with full weight being given to prices paid by the United Kingdom for meat in the open market. At the same time it li lis also been established in the official record of negotiation? that the objectives of the agreement stated in clause 1, including tinprovision of a satisfactory market, shall not bc lost sight of. Tt is also clearly recorded in the meat agreement and the official record of negotiations that if the guaranteed minimum prices agreed to by the United Kingdom in this latter phase of the agreement are unprofitable to Australian producers then Australia will have full right of unrestricted access to nil other markets. At all times after the trade reverts to an open-market basis if open-market prices exceed the guaranteed minimum prices Australian exporters and producers will receive the full market price.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice - .
Is the Minister in a position to give the Senate any information relating to the investigation being made into a plan to sustain the economic stability of the Australian copper mines which are working on low-grade ores?
– The answers to r,le honorable senator’s questions are as follows : - 1 mid 2. Vor some months past thu position <>i Mie Australian copper-producing industry has been engaging the attention of the Government in the light of the weakness in the overseas price which developed following the establishment of a free market for copper on the .London Metal Exchange last August. Two companies in particular have been pursuing plans for substantial expansion of production. One of these, the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company, in Tasmania, is operating in very low-grade ore, a:id on its present plans it-; expansion programme, which is expected to result in a substantial reduction in cost pelton, cannot be completed before 195G. The question is a highly complex one involving us it does the competitive position of Australian copper fabricators in relation to overseas copper fabricators. So far as the price is concerned, this is a matter for the State Prices Ministers. It is understood that following discussions with representatives of smelters, fabricators and producers, on the 28th October, 1953, the Victorian Prices Commissioner, acting under authority from the Statu Prices Ministers, determined the price nf copper to all producers at £320 a, ton, such price to be reviewed at the 1st January, .1954, and thereafter at two-monthly intervals. The price of copper purchased by fabricators had previously been fixed at £300 a ton. I am informed that it is the intention that the difference between the price paid to a producer and price paid by a. fabricator will be mct through the accumulated funds of the copper pool voluntarily formed some years ago. lt is hoped that these arrangements will enable the copper- producing industry to carry on satisfactorily for the present, and to ensure supplies of locally produced copper to the Australian market. However, in view of the complexity of the situation and the need fur evolving an appropriate long-term policy, thu Government has referred the whole matter of the copper-producing, refining and fabricating industries in Australia for investigation and report by the Tariff Board. This will ensure that on matters that concern the Commonweal th appropriate advice may be available to the Government.
Presentation or ADDRESS-IN-REPLY
– I have to inform the Senate that the time for presentation of the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General at Government House has been altered. The time now fixed is 3 o’clock to-morrow afternoon.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.
The circumstances connected with the state of disrepair of war service homes at East Payneham and Hectorville, in South Australia.
– I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 11.30 a.m.
– Is the motion supported ?
Four honorable senators having risen in support of the motion,
– The necessity for this motion arises, first, from unsatisfactory statements made by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) and the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) in connexion with the homes referred to in the motion. Secondly, during the dying hours of the preceding session of the Parliament, the Minister for National Development made some extraordinary statements concerning myself. He apparently overlooked the fact that Senator Critchley was also involved in the issues raised, and made his attack on me only. The third ground on which the motion is based is the gagging of the debate by the Minister for the gag, or, to give him his proper title, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay). The Minister for National Development doubted the veracity of my statements concerning the condition of the homes built by the War Service Homes Division at East Payneham. He took me to task and stated that my remarks were highly exaggerated. Since that time, inspections of the houses have been made by other honorable senators. I hope that the Minister will have the courtesy to listen to their testimony and that there will be no application of the gag on this occasion. Honorable senators may remember that on the last occasion when this matter was referred to, the Minister for National Development commented that although South Australia is represented in the Senate by ten senators, I was the only one who raised the matter. For that reason, I asked other honorable senators to have a look at the homes. They are now prepared to state the evidence of their own eyes.
I know that it is difficult to convince a Minister that something is wrong with his department or with work which has been performed by it. “When I first heard about these homes, the statements made to me seemed incredible. I did nothing in the matter until I had seen the homes for myself. “With Senator Critchley, I went to the district, and it was as a result of our investigation that we wrote the original letter to the Minister for Social Services, requesting him to give his personal attention to the matter. Incidentally, both that letter and the reply made by the Minister have been incorporated in Hansard and appear in volume No. 5 of the 8th October. I therefore do not propose to read that correspondence again. We tried to take up the matter quietly and nicely but were insulted by those in authority for our pains. During the sitting which commenced on the 22nd October last, when the Senate sat throughout the night, the Minister made a statement in the early hours of the morning upon this matter. Apparently some arrangement was made for the publication of his statement, presumably because he thought we were trying to use the situation for propaganda purposes. As a result of the publication of the Minister’s statement, a number of persons and organizations in South Australia began their own investigations. They know that I do not concern myself with matters lightly. First, the Adelaide News sent a special reporter to the settlement. I was not in Adelaide at the time and I cannot be blamed for the arrangement. On Wednesday, the 28th October, an article was published in the News under the heading “Faulty Work and Materials in War Service Homes Here “, and it verified the statements that I had made previously. I direct the attention of the Minister to a statement by the spokesman for the Hectorville Progress Association that was published at the close of the newspaper report. He stated -
The Hectorville Progress Association denies any knowledge of an inspection by Mr. Townley.
I shall return to that matter presently because the Minister had something to say about it. The representative of the News also took photographs of some of the homes. At my request copies of the photographs were supplied to me, and I now produce them for inspection. One of them shows a crack in a wall. Another is a photograph of a woman alongside a hole in a wall from which bricks have fallen. I stated previously in the Senate that the mortar in the homes, that was supposed to be cement compost, could be scratched out with a finger. The photograph that I produce proves the truth of that statement. The third photograph depicts some cracks in a ceiling. With your permission, Mr. President, I shall table the photographs with the other documents to which I have referred so that every honorable senator may inspect them. I am sure that they wal] convince honorable senators that the statements that I have made in this chamber are well based.
Inspections of the homes have since been made hy persons other than the Adelaide News representatives. Tho Campbelltown Council, which has authority over the East Payneham area, lias taken an interest in the matter and made an investigation. The South Australian Branch of the Returned Sailors. Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has been asked to investigate it also. Therefore, the publicity for which the Minister himself was responsible has attracted the attention of many organizations, and every statement that has been madron their behalf has proved the truth of the charges that I made in the Senate on the 7th and 8th October, with even more detail. Following this, agitation and the castigation of myself, the Minister for Social Services, who is in charge of war service homes, went, directly to the Adelaide Advertiser. That newspaper published a long statement by him. The Minister did not get into touch with those members of the
Senate who raised the question or with the honorable member for Sturt in the House of Representatives (Mr. Wilson). A reprint of his statement was distributed and copies were sent to the tenants of the homes with a covering note from, the honorable member for Sturt. “When the superfluous matter is removed from the reprint, the statement contains only the information that was given in the letter that the Minister .sent to Senator Critchley and me. In addition, it was taken by the honorable member for Sturt from the Minister to the Hectorville Progress Association.
Apparently the honorable member for Sturt had made requests to the Minister similar to those that were made by Senator Critchley and me, and he received replies from the Minister. He also was castigated by the Minister because ‘he said that in his opinion certain things should be done. “We merely asked that the Minister should attend to the matter personally and that something should be done to help the occupants of the homes. We suggested that perhaps a mistake had been made in building the homes in. that area, and we also definitely stated that there were faults in the materials used or in the construction of the buildings. We asked the Minister to inspect the homes himself but he did not do so. 1 tried to get a reply from the Minister for National Development who was in charge of the hill in this chamber. I asked who was responsible for the supervision of the buildings but I could not get the information from him. I have discovered that a letter from the Minister for Social Services stated that the homes were built under the supervision of the Department of Works as the agents for the War Service Homes Division. I had been trying to get that statement from the Minister for National Development in this cham’ber so that the blame for the unsatisfactory buildings could be fixed. I’ could not get the information and I was abused for my pains. If the Minister were not so steeped in malignant political suspicion, he would have seen at once the necessity to inquire into the matter, instead of slating me and going further to the point where this resolu tion became necessary. No Minister should rise in this chamber and tell deliberate untruths. No Minister should be allowed to distort the truth deliberately in an endeavour to build up his case against questions asked by an honorable senator. A Minister may make a mistake sometimes in the heat of debate, but a Minister should be thoroughly ashamed of himself if he states deliberately that another Minister has done a certain thing when that Minister has done no such thing at all. The Minister concerned should apologize for having misled the Senate. On the occasion to which I refer, the Minister for National Development said -
The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) is responsible for the administration of the War Service Homes Division and, there- f07-e, for the houses that have been erected in South Australia. He has inspected all the cottages and has spoken to all the tenants, and he has all the circumstances within his own knowledge.
L;iter in his remarks on that occasion the Minister repeated that statement in different words. He said -
As I have stated, the Minister for Social Services has seen the conditions for himself.
The Minister for Social Services has never “been near the East Payneham settlement where these houses have been erected. Representations were made to him to inspect the houses hut the nearest he got to the area was Adelaide when he attended the opening of the 5-ft. 3-iu. railway line to Mount Gambier. I ascertained later that he had really intended to inspect these houses ; but something intervened and prevented him from doing so. He has relied upon reports from the “branch of the Wai- Service Homes Division in South Australia; and I do not think that officers of the division gave the Minister fully to understand what had happened in respect of those houses. In any event the Minister did not go to the East Payneham settlement. As I have already pointed out, the secretary of the local progress association has no knowledge whatsoever that the Minister inspected these houses. Yet, he was the individual who made representations on this matter through the honorable member for Sturt to the War Service Homes Division and, afterwards, to the Minister.
After the Senate adjourned on the 22nd October last, I interviewed fourteen of the occupants of these houses, and each of those persons informed me that he had not even seen the Minister let alone been interviewed by him. Each of those persons said that the Minister had not visited his home. Yet, the Minister for National Development said that his colleague had visited all these houses and had spoken to their occupants. The Minister for National Development, in the remarks which he made later on the occasion to which I refer, said that the Minister for Social Services - - has discussed the position with the tenants of the cottages and thus has had an opportunity to undermine the propaganda that Senator O’Flaherty has disseminated.
I did not come into the matter until the 7th October when I raised the subject in this chamber. Between that date and the 22nd October, I again raised the matter on a couple of occasions when the Estimates were under consideration. It was during that period that the Minister for Social Services, according to the Minister for National Development, was in South Australia undermining the propaganda that I had disseminated. The inference to be drawn from the Minister’s statement is that his colleague went to South Australia between the 7th and the 21st October and inspected these houses. I repeat that the Minister for Social Services did not inspect them. There is something radically wrong when a Minister deliberately makes statements of that kind which are totally inaccurate. I have already referred to the views that have been expressed on this matter by members of the Campbelltown Town Council. Of those gentlemen, I have met only one, Alderman Newman, whom I met when I inspected his house. The Adelaide News reported -
Campbelltown Aldermen and Councillors reporting to last night’s council meeting on a week-end inspection of Hectorville war service homes claimed that much of the cracking was due to design and structural defects.
The Mayor, Alderman 0. H. Atkinson, made a statement to the local press that he was prepared to pay the expenses of the Minister and a competent inspector to examine the houses. He said -
Five big contractors whom he had asked to examine the homes considered that the roof design and inferior work and materials in the inner walls had caused much deterioration.
That statement substantiates my claim that the defects in these houses were not due solely to the fact that they were constructed on Bay of Biscay soil. Alderman Atkinson continued -
Although the inner walls had to take the weight of the tiled roof the bricks were laid on edge instead of being flat.
I was concerned, not about the weight, but about the thrust of the roof which, I said, was the cause of all the trouble. Alderman Atkinson added -
A week-end survey of S5 of the 98 houses in the war service group showed that cracking: in 32 was extremely bad.
In another twenty fracturing had been classified as bad.
In the others, the degree of damage varied.
Alderman Newman stated -
It was significant that severe cracking seemed to be confined mainly to group homes in the area.
That statement also shows that the trouble was due to structural faults and not to the fact that the houses were constructed on Bay of Biscay soil. Alderman Newman continued -
An architect who had inspected his home had told him that “ one day there would be a lot of noise in high places over the construction of such homes and someone would have to answer a lot of questions.
Mr. Felix O’Neill, who is the Assistant. Town ( Clerk and Building Surveyor of the Campbelltown Town Council, said -
The home of Mr. and Mrs. M. L. Martin in Britton-avenue, seemed to be beyond repair. You cannot put good work and materials on top of bad and expect a house to lie as good as new.
Mr. O’Neill believes that this house is now beyond repair. When I made a similar statement my veracity was challenged by the Minister whose veracity I am now challenging. Alderman Harris said that the house seemed to be shattered and probably would have to be stripped to its foundations to make a joh of it.
Councillor Wadmore said it was evident that the state of the inner walls could not be blamed solely on Bay of Biscay soil. Councillors Blesing and Grivell said that, the way the walls had fractured indicated a structural fault of some kind. I mention those matters because the Minister discounted statements made by Senator
Critchley and myself which by comparison with the opinions I have quoted, were very moderate indeed. All we asked was that the Minister for Social Services should have a look at these homes and take into consideration certain suggestions that we had made. “We received the insulting reply to which I have referred. The article that appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser was a rehash of the offers made hy the “War Service Homes Division to the tenants. It has been suggested that the tenants have been told that, if they so desire, they may walk out and they will get all their money back, but that is not so. The statements that were sent to Senator Critchley and me said something quite different from that. Three suggestions were made, and later a fourth was added. The first was that the War Service Homes Division would re-purchase any house at its original (!03t, less a reasonable rent for the period of occupancy. The answer given to that proposal by the occupants of the homes was that a reasonable rental could be estimated only on the basis of the rents charged for homes owned hy the South Australian Housing Trust which has hundreds of houses in the area. Those rents vary between £2 15s. and £3 a week. The refunding of payments would be absurd because it would leave the ex-servicemen the task of finding £600 or £700 deposit for a house at to-day’s prices. That would involve incurring a debt much greater than, that originally contracted for with the War Service Homes Division. Another offer made by the division was that the owners could profit by selling their houses. The Minister for Social Services said that certain tenants had profited in this way. That is quite true. One man for instance, when he found that his house was falling down, had cement and plaster repairs effected immediately and sold the premises to some one else. But that does not prove the attitude of the War Service Homes Division to be right. In fact, it is ethically wrong. The nev,- purchaser, in effect, was taken down for £400. I have been in the house since, and it is virtually slipping away. The third proposal was that if the owners were prepared to remain in occupation of the premises the War Service Homes Division would authorize an additional loan to make good the defects and to experiment on a few homes by laying a concrete or other impervious apron to stabilize the ground around the outer foundations. One home was treated in this way three months ago, and about a fortnight or three weeks ago officials went out to make an inspection. They inspected the apron, but the lady who occupied the house told me that they did not go inside. If the tenants were to agree to this proposal it would mean that concrete aprons would be put around two or three homes, and the other 98 or 99 tenants would have to wait for perhaps eighteen months to see whether the experiment was successful. In the meantime the rapid deterioration would continue. One house that I inspected quite recently had only a slight crack in it, but now there is a great hole.
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I think I should start by giving a factual survey of events because Senator O’Flaherty’s approach to the problem is obviously an emotional one. I shall give a factual survey of the circumstances as recorded in the departmental papers to which I have had access in anticipation of this debate. Senator O’Flaherty paid me the courtesy of informing me that he proposed to raise this matter to-day. This matter has been the subject of negotiations since February of this year. Since that date, the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) has been making representations to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) in relation to it. I regret that 1 said previously that the Minister had inspected the houses. That was an honest mistake on my part. When this matter was before the Senate earlier this year, I spoke to the Minister about it, and he gave me detailed information. I misunderstood him. I thought he had held meetings with the tenants and had inspected the houses personally. I found, subsequently, however, that the Minister had asked the honorable member for Sturt to do that for him. Therefore, I withdraw my earlier statement and express my regret at having made it. It was, as I have said, an honest mistake on my part. There are 101 homes in this war service homes settlement. Three contracts were let, one in 1948, another in 1949, and the third in 1950. The contracts were completed in May, 1950, October, 1950, and December. 1952, respectively. Two of the contracts were, let by the Labour Government and the third was let by the present Government.
– To whom?
– I cannot say offhand. It was a private contract. The houses are built on Bay of Biscay soil, and I have no information that the faults that have occurred are due to anything other than the fact that the houses are built on that soil. I shall quote from the newspaper cutting to which Senator O’Flaherty referred the report of the honorary architect for the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in South Australia. The report states -
Some members present commented disparagingly on the mortar, on the plastering, and on the roof timbers used. T examined these, and pointed out that there was nothing wrong with any of these things that I could sec.
Following my inspection of one of these dwellings, I was allowed access to the technical reports on this matter by the War Service Homes Division, which coincided with my own opinion in regard to the cause of the trouble, and the remedy.
– Does the Minister know when that inspection took place?
– I can obtain the date from the papers that are in my possession and I shall do so afterwards. It is not denied that there are cracks in the buildings. The homes were erected by building contractors and supervised by architects. The piers were let 3 ft. 6 in. into the ground, whereas apparently the professional opinion is that if trouble is to be avoided, they should be let 6 ft. into the ground. This is not an unusual problem in Adelaide. My information ithat in the Adelaide district at least 10,000 homes have been similarly affected because they have been built on Bay of Biscay soil. The people who built the houses knew that cracking was liable to occur and that repairs might be necessary. That explains the problem in a nutshell. Al She time that the houses were built it was building practice to put in S-ft 6-in. piers, and there was no known method of overcoming the trouble. In Adelaide it was accepted that persons who built on that kind of soil knew that there was a risk of repairs being required subsequently. It was suggested that 6-ft. piers might overcome the trouble; that would have increased considerably the cost of construction. It was also suggested that cracking could be prevented by placing an apron of concrete or bituminous material around the building. However that method of overcoming the difficulty has not been proven. In accordance with the general practice, builders effected necessary repairs to the buildings within a period of three months after their completion, whereupon each purchaser signed an acceptance to the effect that the house was satisfactory. The plans and specifications were approved by both the War Service Homes Division and the local municipal authorities, and, as I have said, under the terms of the contract the homes were maintained for three months after erection, when the purchasers accepted them as satisfactory. In these circumstances, no legal obligation now rests on the War Service Homes Division in connexion with this matter.
The Minister did not stand on his legal rights, but submitted five proposals to the ex-servicemen. The first was that, in view of the kind of land on which the homes were built, the War Service Homes Division would make available special loans to enable them to repair the cracks that had appeared, and effect such other repairs as were deemed necessary. His second proposal was, that if the owners did not want to do that, the War Service Homes Division would buy the houses back from them. Surely, if the exservicemen considered that they had made a bad bargain, that was a reasonable approach to the matter. Thirdly, it was proposed to the ex-servicemen that they continue as tenants of the buildings until new war service homes were available for them, when the War Service Homes Division would transfer their equity into the new buildings. Fourthly, the Minister said to the ex-servicemen, in effect, “If you do not like the homes you may sell them and the division will assist you, financially, to buy other war service homes”. Fifthly, the Minister said that the division would experiment with a concrete or bituminous apron around a building, and if the experiment was unsuccessful, the division would bear the cost of the work; however, if the experiment was successful, the division would lend money to the ex-servicemen to enable them to construct similar protective aprons around their homes. I think that that was a most reasonable approach to the matter. In short, the Minister said to the ex-servicemen, “ If you do not like your homes, the division will buy them back from you and allow you to transfer your equity to another building, or you may sell your homes “.
The honorable senator has said some hard things :in connexion with the sale of some of the homes. The fact of the matter is that 12 of the 101 houses have ‘been sold by the ex-servicemen, at profits ranging from £993 to £1,600.
– What was the original contract price?
– About £2,100. As the Minister pointed out in his press statement, difficulty is occurring as a result of political pressure. That is regrettable. The Minister has not approached the consideration of this matter in a legalistic or niggardly manner, but has been most generous. The assertion that .the market value of the homes has deteriorated cannot be sustained; indeed, there has been an appreciable increase of capital value. I think it is fair to say that during the period of some months that the honorable member for Sturt has made representations to the Minister in connexion with this matter, there has not been a political dispute about it ; no propaganda has been indulged in. The honorable member for Sturt, on his part, has handled the matter skilfully and well, and the Minister has been most sympathetic to it. Does any honorable senator believe that, in similar circumstances, a private builder would offer to the ex-servicemen anything approaching the alternatives that the Minister has offered to them?
– A private builder would soon be forced’ out of business if he did that kind of work.
– The Minister has approached the matter in a generous and fair-minded manner. The honorable member for Sturt, after presenting the Minister’s proposals to the Magill subbranch of the returned servicemen’s league, stated that if the ex-servicemen concerned wished the Minister to consider any other alternatives, he would gladly convey them to the Minister.
– That was done at the Progress Association, not a subbranch of the returned servicemen’s league.
– The exservicemen concerned did not advance any alternative proposals for consideration. Although I do not wish to over-state the position, because of the publicity that the matter has attracted already, I think that, by and large, the ex-servicemen concerned hold the view that the Minister has approached the matter fairly and equitably. I believe that observation to be substantially correct. I do not deny that many representations are being made about the matter, suggesting that the War Service Homes Division should repair the cracks free of cost to the tenants.
– The division should do so.
– That will be for the Minister to decide. How could the Minister justify approving of that course of action, in view of the fact that twelve of the houses have been sold already at profits ranging from £993 to £1,600? Do honorable senators opposite contend that it is reasonable to expect the division to carry out the repairs free of co3t to the tenants, who would then be able to sell their houses at profits of from £1,500 to £2,000? Of course, I say, “Good luck” to ex-servicemen who sell their homes at a profit. A reasonable approach should be made to this matter which has been handled a3 all concerned wished the Minister for Social Services to handle it. lt has been handled on a fair and equitable basis. It has not been disputed that there are cracks in the houses. People who live in Adelaide would expect to see that condition arise in houses built on that particular soil.
– Other houses have been built on that soil and they have not been affected.
– I am told that at least 10,000 houses in Adelaide which have been built on Bay of Biscay soil have subsequently developed cracks because of the movement of the soil. The local council, which has now jumped ou the band-wagon and taken up the cudgels on behalf of owners, should state why it approved of the plans of these houses before they were built. That was the time when the council should have been concerned with the circumstances of those who would live in them.
– There was nothing wrong with the design of the houses.
– There was nothing wrong with the design of the houses and there was nothing wrong with the materials that were used in building them. My information is that the trouble has been caused entirely by the movement nf the 301I. Arrangements were made for the honorary architect of the local branch >if the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and’ Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia to make an inspection of the houses. His report confirmed the report of the technical officer of the War Service Homes Division, which was to the effect that the trouble was due to the nature of the soil and not the method of construction or the materials.
The present position is that the South Australian branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has written to the executive of the league which has been in touch with the Minister for Social Services who has stated that lie will inspect the houses himself. The Minister has done all that he reasonably could do. He has told the league that, despite statements to the contrary, twelve of the HolMes have been sold at extraordinarily large profits ranging from £993 to £1,600. That, is an extraordinary profit to make on houses of this size. Senator O’Flaherty suggested that such a profit wa.« made only in an isolated instance. That is not so. Of twelve houses that have been sold, the smallest profit made by any owner was £993 and the largest was £1,600. For the purposes of this debate I endeavoured to obtain particulars of the twelve houses that were sold, but, as Adelaide is a considerable distance away, I have not been able to obtain those particulars in time. A very substantial and complete answer to the criticism of the Opposition is that if the owner does not like his house the War Service Homes Division will take it back or, if he prefers to sell the house, the War Service Homes Division will let him sell it and finance his purchase of another house. The majority of the people concerned have decided to take their chance with the houses that they have. However, they know of the sales that have been made and they know that if they have repairs effected and those repairs are not satisfactory they can sell their houses at a handsome profit.
The criticism that has been made of the administration of the Minister for Social Services is not justified. Such criticism falls hard on the Government because we are very proud of our record in connexion with war service homes administration. In three and a half years this Government has provided 48,784 homes foi ex-servicemen. During the last three and a half years of office of the last Labour Government, it provided 16,500 war service homes. In our three and a half years of office, for every house that the Labour Government provided in a similar period, we have provided three. In this period we have provided nearly as many war service homes as were provided in the whole 30 years prior to our election. During the 30 years ended the 31st December, .1949, only 54,541 war service homes were provided by previous governments. This government feels that one of its highest trusts is the provision of homes for ex-servicemen and it has made a great and successful effort in fulfilling that need. The Minister’s approach to this problem has been in keeping with the tradition of the Government in relation to war service homes. He has made an offer to the owners of the homes which no private builder would have made to them. He has offered to lend them, the money required to carry out repairs or buy their houses back from them. He has offered to experiment by constructing an apron around each house and has stated that if the experiment is unsuccessful the Government will pay for it and that if it is successful the Government will lend the owners the money to pay for it. If this proposition is not acceptable to the owners they have the alternative of remaining in their houses and selling them at their leisure and the Minister has informed them that if they do that he will disregard the usual procedure and make a second loan to them for the purpose of procuring a second war service home. If the matter is examined dispassionately it is difficult to come to any other conclusion than that these people have been treated fairly and on a most generous basis. I hope that the Senate will adopt that attitude to the matter.
– I support the remarks of Senator O’Flaherty. When the honorable senator first raised (his subject in this chamber some time ago I had no knowledge of the position that existed in regard to war service homes at Hectorville and Payneham. The somewhat moderate approach of the Minister for National Development (.Senator Spooner) to this matter to-day which contrasted with the attitude that he adopted when Senator O’Flaherty first raised this matter, reminded me of a batsman who has been caught at first slip and has remained at the wicket in order to give a discourse on his past performances. That is all that the Minister did in the reply to Senator O’Flaherty. When I returned to South Australia during the recent recess I made a point of verifying the claims of Senator O’Flaherty because, in effect, the Minister for National Development said that Senator O’Flaherty had not told the truth. I established beyond any shadow of doubt in my mind that Senator O’Flaherty had not overstated the position at the time that he received such a. chilly response from, the Minister and that, in fact, he had understated it. I visited about ten of these homes, the occupants of which are not irresponsible people. They are the best type of citizen and are considerate and moderate in their approach to their problem. They do not make melo dramatic statements. They only wish ti have removed, something that has been imposed upon them. In the first house that I visited, which was similar to all the others that I visited, I saw that the front door frame could be shifted 2 inches. It has never been possible to close three of the inside doors. Every room was badly cracked and in one room the ceilingwas an inch away from the wall. In another room there is an inch and a half of daylight showing between the walls and the ceiling. One inside wall is so badly cracked that it is possible to see through from one room to another. In addition, the bathroom walls are cracked and out of plumb. Big expanses of plaster have come out of the walls and ceilings. Some repairs were effected in this house in the short interval between completion and occupation. Although I have before me details in respect of each of the homes I visited, I do not intend to indulge in tedious repetition by referring to all of them. The house to which F have referred was in much the same condition as were the other houses I visited on the day of my inspection. 1. think that everybody will agree that such a state of affairs should not be allowed to continue.
I wish now to refer to the remarks of the Minister for National Development when he attempted to evade the real issue that has been raised this afternoon. Apparently the Minister believes that the solution of the problem lies in the occupants selling their homes. He attempted to justify that contention by stating that twelve of the original 101 tenants had disposed of their homes. In my opinion, that suggestion offers no solution of the problem, because the people who are complaining most bitterly and those most affected by the condition of their homes are those who do not wish to sell. They have a vested interest in the houses apart altogether from their value and what might be obtained for them on the open market. Some of the occupants informed me that they are most reluctant to wish on to other unfortunate people the disabilities from which they are suffering, f agree with Senator O’Flaherty that it would be wrong in principle for these homes to be patched up superficially and then pushed on to other unfortunate persons who might be induced to buy them. The cardinal fact is that the occupants have done a great deal of work around the homes. It would not be possible for many of them to again beautify homes as they have done at East Payneham. Some of these ex-servicemen, who suffer disabilities as a result of their war-time experiences, would not be physically capable of attempting to beautify other homes if the Minister’s suggestion were adopted and they relinquished their present homes. The Minister also referred to Bay of Biseay soil and claimed that that is solely responsible for the condition of the houses. 1 disagree with that contention. Like my colleagues Senator 0’Flaherty and Senator Critchley, I hare some knowledge of the building industry. For a period I was a carpenter. I say definitely that insufficient thought was given to the construction of the homes and inadequate safeguards were provided, having regard to Iiic nature of the soil. T remember that after World War I., when we were far less enlightened in regard to building methods than wo are to-day, it was a requirement in South Australia that war service, homos built in Hay of Biscay soil areas had to have a concrete band placed ( completely around them approximately three feet from the ceiling. It Was considered at that time that unless that precaution was taken.’ effective measures would not bc provided to counter the shifting nature of the soil. No such measures were taken in respect of the homes at East Payneham.
T claim that unsuitable material was used in the construction of the houses and that the workmanship was bad. .The evidence of my own eyes convinces inn that that is so. T disagree with the convention of the Minister that the nature nl’ the soil is the sole cause of the. shocking deterioration of the homes. I noticed with interest, and also a certain amount nf madness, that when Senator O’Flaberty tabled the very graphic photographs which lie had obtained from the Adelaide *New** and which give a fair picture of rome of
I he shocking disabilities from which these people are suffering, only two honorable senators opposite showed sufficient interest to have a look at them.
– That is not true. The photographs were passed along the benches on this side of thu chamber.
– I took particular notice, and I saw only two honorable senators opposite look at them. In my opinion this is a matter which deserves the interest of every member of the Parliament.
The suggestion has been made that an apron of concrete or bitumen placed around the outside of the homes will solve the problem. In my opinion such an apron will not have the desired effect. From my knowledge of the building industry, and also from what I saw when ! visited the place, these people will continue to suffer recurring disabilities because of the unsuitable material that was used originally, the faulty workmanship and the lack of attention to the nature of the soil. Within a year, eighteen months or two years it may be necessary again to undertake major repairs in every room of the houses. On what ground does the Minister suggest that it is not the responsibility of the War Service Homes Division to repair the houses? i’t seems to mc that only by repairing them can justice bo done to the occupants. It is tragic that the. people who have gone into these homes should be prevented from establishing themselves on a permanent basis. Their happiness .and future well-being have been clouded because they are not able to settle down and enjoy developing the individuality of their homes. It is the responsibility of this Parliament to ensure that the matter is remedied.
Many references have been, made to the publicity associated with this question, but, I .suggest that had the approach of the Minister, when the matter was first raised by Senator O’Flaherty. been as moderate as it is to-day. much of that publicity would have been avoided. The Minister invited publicity. Statements of a contradictory and untrue nature have been made from time to time and have added fuel to the fire. I have before 110 this afternoon a telegram which reads. “Refer News report 24th instant. Apparently Minister Townley again dreamt he inspected our homes stop. Suggest some one help his dreams, come true.” Although it is worded ironically, it gives an idea of how the people feel about the matter. There is no doubt that this matter is the responsibility of somebody. The four avenues that have been suggested by the Minister do not provide for equity and justice being done. Not one of them would give these people exactly what they need or are entitled to.
– What does the honorable senator suggest shouldbe done ?
-My suggestion is that, first, it is incumbent on the War Service Homes Division immediately to put those homes in a state of complete repair, and secondly, to undertake on all future occasions to carry out similar repairs, should they be necessary, because of the initial mistake. I use the word “ mistake “ advisedly because it is my impression, as the result of ray inspection, that the construction was faulty.
All the statements made by Senator O’Flaherty this afternoon are true. I believe that an injustice was done to him when he was told virtually that he had spoken untruths in this chamber. I think that a much more definite apology than that made by the Minister this afternoon is due to him. Unless some action is taken along the lines referred to by me, this matter will never resolve itself satisfactorily and justice will never be done to the people concerned.
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– When Senator O’Flaherty moved his motion this afternoon he gave four reasons as those which prompted him to raise this matter again. I accept those reasons. Perhaps I might be ex- cused for assuming that the campaign which he has waged in this place is cal- culated to affect the position of some members of this Parliament, but I shall not takethatmatter any farther. I think that the facts were placed clearly before theSenate by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who re presents the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) in the Senate. The Minister for Social Services stated definitely,and it has not been disputed, that because of representations made to him in the first instance by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) he agreed that a full and thorough investigation should be made. The Government does not deny that a problem exists at East Payneham. I do not think that the Minister for National Development, either on a former occasion or this afternoon, indicated that the Government refused to admit the existence of such a problem. I repeat, however, that the problem was first brought to the notice of the Minister for Social Services by the honorable member for Sturt. The investigations which have been made reveal that at the present time there is no legal obligation on the Minister or his department in connexion with these houses. Honorable senators opposite who have spoken on this matter to-day have not attempted to insinuate that such an obligation exists. The Minister accepts the proposition, however, that a moral obligation exists. I am sure that no member of this Parliament would like to think that ex-servicemen are being embarrassed and that nothing is being done to help them out of their embarrassment.
Investigations have proved that the contracts for the building of war service homes at East Payneham were let by the Chifley Government in 1948 and 1949.
– And also by the present Government in 1950.
– They were let in three lots. Two contracts were let in 1948 and 1949. Honorable senators opposite cannot escape from that fact.
SenatorCritchley. - We do not wish to do so.
– However, that is not the point at issue. The Chifley Government accepted responsibility, as SenatorCritchley agrees, for the letting of contracts for the erection of the homes. That Government must also accept responsibility for the plans and specifications which are part and parcel of such contracts.
SenatorCritchley, - We accept all of that.
– If the Opposition accepts such responsibility, what is the force of Senator O’Flaherty’s contention that the bricks have been laid on edge and not on the flat or of Senator Toohey’s suggestion that a concrete band should have been placed in the walls of the houses in order to bind them together? Surely those things should have been covered by the plans and specifications which the previous Labour Government accepted. The investigation revealed that the homes were erected under proper and adequate safeguards and supervision. The contracts were let by the former Government according to plans and specifications for which it must have been responsible. Unfortunately for the occupants in the light of events, they signed letters of acceptance which are necessary upon taking possession of the homes. That is normal procedure and it releases the Government and the War Service Homes Division from any legal responsibility after a reasonable period. The local council, which is now urging, I imagine, honorable senators opposite-
– -I have not seen the council.
– The mayor had a statement published.
– He has not spoken to us.
– I accept that assurance. However, I remind the mayor and hi3 council that they approved the plans and specifications of the homes under the Building Act which they administer in their territory. It ill behoves the council, therefore, now to criticize the “War Service Homes Division. The plans and specifications had to be submitted to the council, and it approved of them. Had it not done so the houses could not have been erected.
– Now who is being political ?
– There is nothing political about that. It is a plain statement of fact. In accordance with the promise that was made by the Minister, opinions upon the homes have been obtained from qualified persons. The South Australian Housing Trust, which has built more houses than any authority in South Australia at any time, was asked for an opinion. Its architects stated that there were 10,000 homes in South Australia that were equally affected, simply because of the nature of the soil upon which they are erected.
– That is not true.
- Senator Toohey should take up that question with the South Australian Housing Trust architects who made the statement. Senator Toohey and every other honorable senator from South Australia knows that there is a trouble area in the suburbs of Adelaide where houses are erected upon Bay of Biscay soil. All who live in that area know about it. Honorable senators from South Australia must have seen houses that are badly cracked because they are built on Bay of Biscay soil. They can be repaired and they will crack again the following summer. The Minister repeated to-day the opinions that have been obtained from competent authorities and they were an effective reply to the charge that more could have been done in the erection of the buildings to make them more satisfactory. An opinion was expressed by the independent consultant architect of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in South Australia.
– Does the honorable senator know the date when that opinion was given ?
– No, I do not. but it does not affect the matter.
– It was given on the 29th October, 1953.
– It was not.
– It was given less than a month ago.
– The statement that was made by that architect is worth repeating. He said that the whole trouble was due to the pier and beam foundations being only 3 ft. 6 in. deep instead of 6 feet or more. Nowadays those foundations go as deep as 6 feet S inches. At the time that the houses under discussion were built, contemporary standard practice shows that a 3-ft. 6-in. pier was considered sufficient. If that is so, the builders acted at the time according to standard practice. I have already referred to the opinion of the housing trust. During Senator
O’Flaherty’s speech. 1 waited in vain for any suggestion of further action that could be taken. I do not intend to canvass the offers that were made by the Minister for Social Services. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Four valuable propositions have been put to the persons concerned and further alternatives have been suggested in writing. None has been accepted.
– If I am given the opportunity I will suggest an alternative, and will not claim a fee.
– Profits have been shown upon the sale of some of the houses. Individual profits have been £933, £1,116, £1,645. £1,452, £987, £.1,353 and £766.
– Who made those profits ?
– The occupiers of the homes. They cost £2,000 and profits of that magnitude have been made. A wonderful proposition has been put to the people concerned and nothing better has been suggested. The only alternative that has come from honorable senators opposite is that the War Service Homes Division should repair the houses on this occasion, whatever the work costs, and that it should go on repairing them. Senator Toohey made that suggestion. Every honorable senator from South Australia knows very well that the houses that are built on Bay of Biscay doll will crack every summer. Senator Toohey knows that they must be repaired every succeeding summer so long as they stand.
– That is correct.
– What responsible government could accept such a. proposition?
– Any responsible government.
– No government would do 30 if it had any sense of responsibility to the taxpayers. It is all very well to repair the homes and put the persons who occupy them in the box seat. What about the taxpayers who have to find the money?
– What about _ the recurring requirements of the occupiers?
– I repeat that that is not a proposition, and I do not believe that the taxpayers will accuse this Government of being unfair in refusing to accept it. If the Government accepted Senator Toohey’s proposition, it would be rebuked on every side for giving unfair consideration to one section of the community. That proposition cannot be sustained. I do not believe that it was put forward seriously by honorable senators opposite.
– It was put forward with complete seriousness.
– I should like to think that honorable senators on the Opposition side have a greater sense of responsibility to the taxpayers. The occupiers of the houses have every opportunity to do one of four things. They have an equity in the homes. That is proved by the list that I have read. On a £2,000 investment, one owner made a profit of £987 upon re-sale. One house was sold for £2,766 as recently as the 26th October. There has been no suggestion of difficulty in selling the houses since the matter was ventilated. One was sold at a profit of £1,326 and another was sold at an even higher price with the furniture. The owners are not being dealt with harshly and I regret that honorable senators opposite have suggested that the Government and the Minister have not acted fairly towards the persons concerned. The Minister will visit the area.
– When ?
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I fully support my colleagues on the Opposition side and the motion that is before the Senate. I substantiate entirely the facts and figures that have been presented by other honorable senators from South Australia on this side of the chamber. I made an inspection of the war service homes at East Payneham during the parliamentary recess. In the limited time at my disposal, I am unable to give all the details of the jerry-built homes and the disabilities that I saw in that settlement. The statements that they are in bad condition are supported by the
Campbelltown Council, which had the matter before it at one of its meetings. Speaking on this matter the Mayor, Mr. 0. H. Atkinson, said -
If nothing was done, the council could perhaps condemn one of the homes as unfit for human habitation.
That is the state of affairs that I found to exist. I believe that it would be necessary to make repairs not only to one particular home but to a substantial number of them. I am not an expert but I believe that the homes have suffered from bad construction and faulty supervision whether those concerned acted intentionally or not. The blame should be placed upon the department that handled the construction of war service homes in that area. The Minister stated in this chamber, when the matter was ventilated by Senator O’Flaherty, that it was purely political. Irrespective of whether it is political or not, quite a number of other organizations have become directly interested in the matter. They have made overtures to the authorities similar to those that were made by honorable senators on the Opposition side, and have promised practical and unqualified support for the representations that are now being made to the Minister for adequate redress of the grievances and the proper repair of the jerry-built homes.
– Did not the honorable senator hear the Minister’s statement ?
– I heard the Minister give a number of answers to submissions that were made by my colleague, Senator O’Flaherty, but the Minister drew a number of red herrings across the trail, particularly in his reference to sales. Sales do not transpire only in that area. They take place every day in the year. There may have been other reasons why the occupiers of those homes sold them and left for other places. They may have been transferred by the Government if they are public servants or by their employers if they work in industry. My own son, who owns a war service home in St. Mary’s, South Australia, was transferred recently to Wallaroo. That is my reply to the Minister’s submissions. Since representations were made, the department has taken some action because public opinion has been aroused. Something practical has to be done quickly. The Minister said that the occupants of the houses involved in this matter have made certain overtures to the Government. I cite the following report that was published in the local newspaper : -
HECTORVILLE Men Say Commission Should Pay.
Repair our Homes, say Ex-servicemen .
Buyers of badly cracked War Service homes at Hectorville want them repaired at the cost of the War Service Homes Commission anil re-assessed to allow for their lowered value.
They want any work authorized by the commission done by a contractor approved by Hectorville Progress Association.
Government supporters may smile, but if they inspected these houses they would find that most of them are in such a condition that they will probably collapse within a few years unless faults in construction are rectified. What an indictment of the Government ! Does the War Service Homes Division accept houses that are so badly constructed that they threaten to collapse five years after they have been erected? The Government, appears to condone that standard of construction. Members of every public body in the area are supporting the exservicemen concerned in their efforts to obtain just treatment in this matter.
The present position is directly attributable to faulty construction and. bad supervision. I have already cited the view that has been expressed by the Campbelltown Town Council that some of these houses are on the verge of collapse. The council is already considering whether it should declare one of the houses to be totally unfit for human habitation. The Minister, and also Senator Pearson, stated that the Government was not under any legal obligation to have rectified the constructional faults that have been disclosed. Although I am not a member of the legal profession, I challenge that statement. Whilst, I understand, the period of guarantee under the terms of the contract has lapsed, the War Service Homes Division cannot, on grounds of equity, shirk its responsibility to ensure that justice shall be done to purchasers of these war service homes. The first issue that arises is whether these houses were constructed in accordance with practices and standards that are practically uniform throughout Australia. I believe that, unfortunately, they do not conform to those standards. Plans and charts showing the areas around the metropolitan area of Adelaide in which Bay of Biscay soil is present are available for inspection in the offices of architects, contractors and builders, and in public places, including savings banks, as well as in the offices of the “War Service Homes Division. Consequently, the contractors who constructed the houses at Hectorville cannot claim that they were not aware of the characteristics of Bay of Biscay soil from the viewpoint of construction. Indeed, over the years, it has been the custom of contractors to take special precautions to counter cracking and fracturing in such areas, and certain standards and specifications have been prepared for that purpose. These contractors should have observed such standards. In the metropolitan area of Adelaide thousands of houses have been built on Bay of Biscay soil, and I have yet to learn that any of them have deteriorated to anything like the degree that the houses at Hectorville have deteriorated.
In correspondence which emanated from the War Service Homes Division in April last, the Minister stated that the division is fully aware of the characteristics of Bay of Biscay soil in the Hectorville district. In letting the contracts for the construction of these houses, the division should have stipulated that they had to be constructed in accordance with the special standards and specifications that I have indicated. The occupants of these houses are entitled to treatment similar to that which the division has accorded to occupants of other war service homes that have been constructed on Bay of Biscay soil in accordance with such standards. There is no justification whatever for the division to discriminate against the occupants of houses at Hectorville. Above all, the division has the primary responsibility to ensure that contracts that it lets shall make provision for their satisfactory fulfilment in all particulars. The occupants of these houses should not be obliged to incur additional cost by reason of any failure on its part to ensure that the houses shall be constructed in accordance with specifications that are invariably observed in the construction of houses on Bay of Biscay soil. The purchasers of these houses were given no reason to believe that that condition would not be observed. It is clear that the division, knowingly or unknowingly, permitted faulty construction through lack of efficient supervision. Construction experts, including five contractors, have inspected these houses and have reported that their construction was not in accordance with the special standards and specifications thatI have mentioned.
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time has. expired.
Motion (by Senator Annabella Rankin) put -
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 11.30 a.m.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I lay on the table of the Senate the second report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs relating to the committee’s activities and functions.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table reports of the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Engine cleaning waste.
Elastics classifiable under Tariff Item
331 (B) (2) (6).
Tools and other articles imported as standard equipment with machines and appliances. Valve spring removers or lifters.
Plastics ( polyethylene ) .
At present copies of the three first mentioned reports only are available for circulation to honorable senators.
Ordered to be printed.
– I move -
That during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, Standing Order 68 be suspended to enable new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m.
I take this opportunity to inform the Senate that it is expected that we shall have an opportunity later to-night to introduce the National Health Bill. As the Senate will not meet to-morrow, this will enable us to debate the bill when we reassemble next Tuesday. TheSenate has a heavy programme for the last week of the session, and it will sit late if necessary. I hope, however, that honorable senators will co-operate as they usually do, and that unduly late sittings will not be necessary.
– I oppose the motion. In the past three weeks, theSenate has met on very few days. After the prorogation of the Parliament we met on Tuesday, the 10th November. The sitting commenced at 3 p.m., and the Senate adjourned at 10.26 p.m. On Wednesday, the 11th November, we met at 3 p.m. and adjourned at 10.27 p.m. That concluded our sittings for the week. In the following week we met on Wednesday, the 18th November, at 3 p.m., and adjourned at seven minutes past three as a mark of respect for the late Mr. Treloar. We met on the following day, Thursday, the 19th November, at 11 a.m., and adjourned at eight minutes past four in the afternoon. Therefore, the Government had for this chamber business that occupied only a few hours in the whole of that week. This week, the third of the present session, we met to-day, the 25th November. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) has informed us that we shall not meet to-morrow. I understand that is because a visit has been mooted to a certain undertaking in South Australia. That may be important and it may be interesting, but I draw attention to the unwisdom and the expense of bringing the Senate together to meet for only a few scant hours in each of the past three weeks. I think the Minister will acknowledge that to bring 60 senators here from all over Australia for only one day in a week is costly. Now, although we have no business for tomorrow and there are only four bills on the notice-paper, all of which are supported by the Opposition, the Minister informs us that the Government proposes that new business should be introduced after 10.30 to-night. The Opposition objects most strongly to that.
– Does the Opposition want the Senate to sit for an extra week?
– It may not be necessary to do that. If the Government has made up its mind that the Senate will rise for the Christmas recess on Friday, the 4th December, I am sure that, with the affairs of the Senate under the control of the Minister for Shipping and Transport, the sitting will conclude on that date regardless of how many bills have to he passed, and regardless of the Opposition’s protests. I have a supreme confidence that if that date is in the mind of the Minister, that is the date on which we shall rise, and I am sure that he could even tell us now the hour at which the business of this session will conclude. What is the need for this haste to-night? If the Minister is eager to inform members of the Opposition of the contents of the National Health Bill, I can assure him that we are already fully aware of the proposal contained in that measure.
– Does not the Opposition want to hear the details?
– We have heard them. It is obligatory on the Government to comply with the usual forms after it introduces the measure into this chamber. If the matter comes forward next Tuesday, we will be quite prepared, in view of our prior knowledge of this very important bill, to proceed with it immediately. I hope that the Senate will be afforded ample opportunity to consider the provisions of the bill, and that debate will not bo gagged. The Opposition opposes the motion. We see no reason for it, and we deplore the fact that honorable senators have been called back to Canberra week after week although there has been insufficient business to keep the Senate occupied.
Question put -
That (Hiring the present session,unless otherwise ordered, Standing Order 68 be suspended to enable new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 5.50 to 8 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Spicer) -by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the TariffBoard Act 1921-1952.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
Senator SPICER (Victoria - Attorney-
General) [8.1]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Honorable senators will be aware that the Commonwealth Tariff Board was constituted under the Tariff Board Act 1921-1952. That act at present provides for a board consisting of four members who may be appointed for terms of not less than one and not more than three years, with eligibility for re-appointment. In the bill now being considered the Government proposes to increase the membership of the board from four to seven and to increase the maximum term of appointment from three to five years. The purpose of the increased membership is to enable the board to sit concurrently in two divisions, each normally of three members, as provided in clause 6 of the bill. However, the provisions of the bill are sufficiently flexible to enable the chairman, on special occasions, to vary the membership of divisions to four or two. As the work of the board involves an intimate understanding of the tariff, it is proposed that one member of each division shall be an officer of the Department of Trade and Customs. To ensure uniformity of policy, the chairman of the Tariff .Board would attend meetings of either division at which a report was being prepared but would not necessarily attend meetings of a division called for the purpose of hearing evidence.
The extension of the maximum term of appointment from three to five years is designed to enable a prospective member to be offered an appointment for a reasonably long term. It is thought that the prospect of a term of five years might i’n courage men of outstanding ability to offer themselves for appointment to the hoard. When the board was first created in 3921, there were three members and this number was increased to four in 1923. The membership has not been increased since then. It is unnecessary for me to detail the changes that have taken place in Australian industry in the past 30 years. Industries that were established before or during the ‘twenties have expanded in order to meet the needs of a growing economy and this expansion has been accompanied by wide diversification of industry. Many of these industries, essential to the country in peace as well as war, have been established in the postwar era of high capital costs and, while in many cases this has carried the com.pensation of ensuring that equipment i? efficient and up to the minute, some manufacturers are experiencing difficulty in meeting the competition of their overseas counterparts whose capital costs were incurred at a lower general level. The chances in cost levels have also exposed some efficient Australian manufacturersto competition that it is difficult for them to meet with the present levels of tariff protection. This is particularly true of industries that have been protected, to some extent, in the past by fixed rate duties, that is, duties which are calculated on physical measurement, such as so much a square yard, or a ton.
Successive Australian governments have subscribed to the view that theappropriate method of protecting efficient Australian industry is by means of the Customs Tariff and, in arriving at the level of protection to be afforded, to take into full consideration the findings of theTariff Board made after public inquiry. This view has such general acceptance that it could well be described as a national policy of reasonable protection for efficient producers. The Government has consistently resisted a tendency to regard import licensing as a means of complementing the protection afforded industry by the Customs Tariff. Import licensing has as its object the most effective use of overseas exchange available to Australia. The protection to Australian industry that is incidental to the operation of import licensing ha.s, in fact, enabled some industries to become established without tariff protection. The removal or relaxation of import licensing, which will be effected a3 soon as circumstances permit, would leave someof these industries exposed to competition and the Government considers that, the level of tariff protection required toenable those industries to continue afterlicensing is removed should be determined by the Tariff Board without undue delay. The Tariff Board has, at the present time., some 46 references on which it has nol yet reported. In addition several cases are under examination by the Department of Trade and Customs in order to determine whether a prima facie case exists for reference to the board. Many of these inquiries cover industries with wide ramifications.
The Government anticipates that the provision of two divisions of the board will enable the average time taken for an inquiry to he held and a report to reach the Minister to be considerably reduced. In its 32 years of operation the tariff board system has been accepted with confidence by all sections of the community. The board hears evidence on oath at a public inquiry at which all interested parties may give evidence. In its annual report, which must be tabled in both Houses of Parliament, the board gives a clear picture of the factors that have influenced its recommendations, as well as an outline of the general economic position. The system has removed the question of tariffs from the political arena and has provided an impartial body to report to the government of the day on the course that should be taken. Of course, when the Government presents its policy on particular industries to the Parliament, the Parliament finally decides on the duties to be imposed. This is, as honorable senators will agree, right and proper and in accord with the principle/– of sound democratic government. So successfully has the tariff board system operated over the past 30 years in Australia, that inquiries have been received in respect of it from overseas and it has, in fact, benn copied by some countries. The bill now before this chamber does not depart from the sound principles that have been developed, in relation to the workings of the board, but it does extend the present system in order to bring it up to date and in order to enable the board to cope with the additional volume of work arising from the industrial development of Australia. It should enable the board to expedite its present procedures and allow the earlier determination by the Parliament of the duties to be imposed on particular goods. The small additional expense involved, in the opinion of the Government, will be more than compensated for by the benefits accruing. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator SPICER - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1010-1052.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second tii.no.
Since the Government took office it has become increasingly apparent that the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 3 910-1952, which provides for the government of the Northern Territory, requires amendment in various respects in order to effect improvements which experience has shown to be necessary. The Government has, therefore, reviewed the provisions of the act in consultation with the Administration of the Territory and the purpose of this bill is to make the amendments which the Government and the Administration consider to be necessary. The bill also includes a number of amendments which the draftsman in the course of his drafting work found to be desirable or necessary. The original act of 1910 was enacted following the enactment of the Northern Territory Acceptance Act 1910 whereby the Commonwealth assumed control of the Territory from the Government of South Australia as from the 1st January. 1911. The original act provided for the provisional government of the Territory, and until such time as the Parliament should make other provision for the government of the Territory, the Governor-General was empowered to make ordinances having the force of law in and in relation to the Territory. In 1947, other provision for the government of the Territory was made when the act was amended to provide for the establishment of a Legislative Council for the Territory which would consist of the Administrator, seven official members to be appointed by the Governor-General on the nomination of the Administrator, and six elective members. The Legislative Council was empowered, subject to the provisions of the act, to make ordinances for the peace, order and good government of the Territory. The amendments which are proposed in the bill, and which I will now explain, deal mainly with the office of Administrator and with the Legislative Council.
With regard to the office of Administrator, while the act contains provision regarding the appointment of an Administrator and the appointment of deputies of the Administrator, it does not con tain any provision regarding the general duty of the Administrator and the taking of oaths of allegiance and office by the Administrator or by a deputy of the Administrator, or regarding the appointment of an acting Administrator. These matters are dealt with in an ordinance of the Territory, the Northern Territory Government Ordinance 1932, but, that ordinance makes no provision for the taking of oaths of allegiance and office by an acting administrator. In addition, a person appointed under that ordinance as acting Administrator could not exercise any powers or functions of the Administrator under the act unless separately authorized to do so. The ordinance also deals inadequately with the office of acting Administrator. The Government considers that these important matters should be fully covered in the act itself, and to do this it is proposed to repeal the existing sections 4 and 4A of the act and to insert in their stead the amendments contained in clause 5 which seeks to insert new sections 3a to 3d inclusive in the principal act, together with the definitions contained in clause 4.
The proposed amendments regarding the Legislative Council relate to -
Senator Spicer. meeting. It follows, then, that the senior member should always be the member most likely to be more familiar with general Territory policy than any other member. This aspect has greater significance when it is related to the fact that, by an earlier provision in this bill, the senior official member of the Legislative Council, may be called upon to act as Administrator in certain circumstances. The bill then allows seniority to be especially assigned and, in the absence of any such assignment, the seniority will rank as previously, that is, as from the respective dates of the appointments of the members to the council.
General. A provision lacking in the present Act, has now been provided in the bill, allowing official members to resign and setting out the procedural requirements of such resignations.
Some doubts have been expressed whether the existing legislation makes it mandatory for the Legislative Council elections to be held concurrently with the federal elections. Also, the existing provisions restrict the term of office of elected members to no longer than three years, which restriction could result in there being a lapse in the continuity of elected members when, . in coinciding the council elections with the federal elections, the latter are held at a time longer than three years after the previous elections. The bill clarifies these doubts and anomalies by allowing the Administrator to determine the date of council elections and by prescribing a three-year term of office, which, however, may be extended on the occasions when, to synchronize with federal elections, there is a period longer than three years between two successive elections.
The act at present provides that the Governor-General may disallow an ordinance passed by the Legislative Council, but it makes no provision for partial disallowance. This is considered to be a distinct disadvantage, in that it requires the disallowance of the whole ordinance in cases where only a part of the ordinance may not be acceptable. A further weakness is that the act does not state clearly the effect of a disallowance. It is proposed to remedy these defects. It is also proposed to specify in the act in the classes of ordinances which the Administrator is required to reserve for the Governor-General’s pleasure, ordinances passed by the Legislative Council which contain provisions from which the Governor-General’s assent has previously been withheld or which the Governor-General has disallowed.
The draftsman has recommended a number of amendments designed to give clearer expression to certain of the existing provisions of the act. These include -
These and other minor drafting amendments are contained in clause 11 and clauses 14 to 20 of the bill.
I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 19th November (vide page 82), on motion by Senator McLeay -
That the bill bo now read a second time.
– This bill proposes to amend a very important act which was passed by this Parliament in 1948. Although the amendments are not of great moment, it is worthwhile to glance at the history of this legislation and its significance to Australia. One of the most important measures introduced in this Parliament by the previous Labour Government, following World War II., concerned the migration of a large number of people from Europe to Australia. As a result of the war, millions of people in Europe were displaced, and the Australian Government took advantage of the opportunity to bring to Australia many thousands of them. In keeping with our national ideals, the government of the day considered it imperative that the immigrants should be assimilated by the Australian community and become Australian citizens. To promote such assimilation, the term “new Australian” fame into being. In 1948, Ave became a nation in the additional sense that, for the first time in our history, we enacted nationality and citizenship laws which provided that certain conditions should apply to people who came to this country and wished to become permanent citizens. During recent years that legislation has served a very useful purpose. The Opposition believes that the amendments proposed in the bill now before the Senate will improve the act, and honorable senators on this side of the chamber will support the passage of the measure. We should be proud that we now have nationality and citizenship legislation and we should be prepared to treat it with the importance it deserves.
Although the bill before the Senate proposes amendments of a minor nature, there are one or two matters connected with them on which I wish to comment. During the second-reading speech of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), he stated that the act sets out certain residential qualifications which must be complied with before an immigrant may become a naturalized Australian. The period of residence stipulated is five years. However, the fact that an applicant served in the armed forces is taken into consideration in assessing the time which he must spend in this country in order to qualify for’ naturalization. The act provides that such a person must have served under a British officer and under British direction. An anomaly has arisen because many people who have come to Australia served with Allied forces, and even with British forces, but not under the direct command of British officers. The bill before the Senate proposes that the Minister be given discretion to regard service which, in effect, has complied with the intention of the act, to be accepted as service for the purposes of naturalization. I consider that that amendment will improve the operation of the law.
Another anomaly which has arisen concerns minors who make application for naturalization. Provided that a minor is still under the age of 21 years when the statutory two-year residential period has been served, the Minister may consent to naturalization, but if the minor attains the age of 21 years during that period of two years the Minister is not permitted to exercise discretion. The bill proposes to remove that anomaly. Another anomaly shows itself where an Australian judge or magistrate only has power to administer the oath of citizenship. It has been found, as the Minister stated in his second-reading speech, that an alien on service with our forces in Korea could have served a period of residence and qualified in all other ways, but because a magistrate was not present in the area where he was serving with the forces, the oath could not be administered to him. Under the proposed amendment, a commanding officer us well as a judge or a magistrate will be authorized to administer the oath of allegiance.
One particular amendment intrigue* me and I am pleased that the Government has included it in this bill. Previously a magistrate or a judge had to administer the oath of allegiance to a new citizen. Invariably the oath was administered in a court room. As the Minister has stated, it is possible in some States for the oath to he administered in town halls in cases where the mayor is a magistrate. 1 would prefer to see the ceremony take place in town halls under the direction of the mayor or the shire president or the leading citizen of the area in which the new Australian has applied for naturalization. I believe that persons who are to be naturalized should be welcomed into the community in an atmosphere of warm friendliness. The leading citizen, who has been chosen by the people of the district, should welcome the new citizen. While the amendment provides that that (/in be done and removes any obstacles to such ceremony that may be applied tinder the present act, I suggest to the Minister that it would be preferable to encourage the leading citizens of the relevant areas to undertake the privilege and honour of administering the oath to the new citizen. He should be welcomed into “the community as a fellow Australian and the ceremony can be performed most fittingly by the leading citizen. These amendments that have been advanced by the Government will improve the principal act considerably and .the Opposition believe that it can give the amending legislation full support.
– This bill introduces a number of minor amendments to the principal act that have been shown to be desirable in the experience of the department over a long period. I welcome the sentiments that have been expressed by
Senator Arnold and his statement that the Opposition supports the measure. For that reason I propose to address myself to only two of the amendments that have been introduced. The first is one to which Senator Arnold has referred. That is the swearing-in ceremony which, under this amendment, can be carried out by a civil authority in every State of Australia. In his secondreading speech, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) explained that in present circumstances, the ceremony cannot be conducted in New South Wales or South Australia in a town hall or a building of that nature. The Premiers of those States believe that the magistrates and judges are too fully occupied with their regular duties t’leave the judicial buildings to perform such ceremonies. Under this measure, it is proposed to give power to the Minister to appoint persons other than judges and magistrates in those two States to administer the oath of allegiance so that all the States will be brought into line. As a result, the naturalization ceremony can be a civil one in every State. There is every reason why it should be a civil -ceremony rather than one conducted in the cold and austere and, to a new Australian, sometimes frightening atmosphere of a courtroom.
The first- of the civil ceremonies in Western Australia was recently conducted in Perth. The Lord Mayor, Sir Joseph Totterdell, presided. The function was most successful in the opinion of new Australians who received naturalization and also in the view of older Australians who attended. The Lord Mayor was supported by members of the Perth City Council. Representatives of the Australian Government and the State Government attended. Also present were a number of interested citizens and many friends of the new Australians who were to receive their naturalization papers. I was pleased to note among those present also members of the Good Neighbour Council. That fine organization does a great deal to make new arrivals in Australia feel at home. The president of the ‘Good Neighbour Council in Perth, Ma-. Simpson, gave an address. A gratifying feature of the occasion was the opportunity that it presented to bring to public notice and make a public acknowledgment of the fine work that is being done by the Good Neighbour Councils throughout Australia. After the ceremony, the Perth City Council provided tea and refreshments, and in an atmosphere of complete informality, those present were able to move about and talk to new Australians. Generally I regarded the ceremony as a most fitting one and a proper way to introduce new Australians as members of the Australian nation. More than 30 persons were naturalized and all were proud of their new status and pleased with the nature of the ceremony.
The only other amendment to which I desire to direct my attention is that with regard to minors. Senator Arnold pointed out that under the existing act, discretionary power has rested with the Minister to grant naturalization to minors. In the past, the Minister for Immigration has used that power to reduce the period of residence from five years to two years. Under the act in its present form, an applicant may make an application for naturalization before he. is 21 years old, but before a decision is reached by the department or by the Minister, the applicant may enter his twentysecond year. The discretionary power of the Minister is thereupon automatically removed. This amendment «eek3 to end that anomaly which obviously defeats the purpose of the act and the intention of the Minister. The broad effect of the amendment will not be great. 1. have had a number of cases brought to my notice and Senator Annabelle Rankin has also written to the Minister upon the matter. No doubt other honorable senators have had a similar experience. Although I believe that the number concerned will be small, the amendment will remove an unnecessary irritant and an anomaly that has been misunderstood by applicants who were still minors. I thank the Minister for including this amendment. I support the bill.
– I support the bill and agree with Senator Arnold and Senator Paltridge that it removes anomalies that have existed under the principal act. I have had experience of citizenship ceremonies similar to that described by Senator Paltridge. In the past the conferring of citizenship upon an alien was conveyed to him in the form of a certificate signed by the Minister for Immigration. In many cases, aliens had applied for naturalization and they did not know that they had been accepted as Australian citizens until they received their certificate. The first public ceremony conferring naturalization was held in Victoria in 1950. Anybody who ha3 had the great privilege in the past few months of attending a ceremony conducted by the mayor as the leading citizen of a municipality must have been impressed with the effect that it has had upon the new Australians concerned and the assistance it will be towards their assimilation into the community. In the municipality of Kew, where I was asked to assist in the ceremony, the circumstances were practically identical with those described by Senator Paltridge. The leading citizens were there and took part in the ceremony. Representatives of important organizations in the district spoke. The Good Neighbour Council was represented and so also were the churches. Tea was served and those present were able to speak to the new citizens. Those present were most impressed when those who had been naturalized previously compared the manner in which citizenship had been conferred upon them and the manner in which the public ceremony had been conducted. I believe that the amendments will assist greatly in the assimilation of new Australians in the community and I support the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 19th November (vide page 82), on motion by Senator McLeay -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill is designed to empower the Public Works Committee to elect a chairman or vice-chairman in the event of the death, or resignation, of the occupant of either of those positions during the life of a Parliament. Section 8 of i he principal act reads -
There shall be a chairman and vice-chairman of the Committee, who shall be elected by the members of the Committee at their first meeting, or as soon thereafter as is practicable. The chairman, or in case of his absence or other disability the vice-chairman, shall preside at all meetings of the Committee;
Following the death early this year of the former member for Corangamite, Mr. Allan McDonald, while he was chairman nf the Public “Works Committee, it was found that the committee did not have statutory power to elect a successor to him as chairman. Since the date of Mr. McDonald’s death, the vice-chairman, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), has been carrying out the duties of chairman. That position has no statutory basis because section S of the principal act provides that the vice-chairman may act as chairman only in the absence or other disability of the chairman. The ob ject of this bill is to remedy that defect by providing, first, that the committee may from time to time elect a chairman, or vice-chairman, who may hold office during the pleasure of the committee; and, secondly, that the present vicechairman may act as chairman retrospectively from the date of Mr. McDonald’s death until the next chairman is elected. Apparently, this anomaly has been overlooked ever since the original act was passed in 1913, and it has been brought ito light only as a result of Mr. McDonald’s death. I take this opportunity to commend the work that Mr. McDonald performed in his capacity as chairman of the committee. He was most conscientious and efficient in carrying out the duties of that office. He was fully aware of the importance of the responsibility that is entrusted by the Parliament to standing committees that it appoints. Recently, the Senate had occasion to express appreciation of the work that is being performed by the Public Accounts Committee. These bodies have great potential value from the point of view of the Parliament. They are a means of supplying important information to members of the Parliament in respect of the expenditure of large sums of public money. No major public work should be undertaken until the Parliament, through the agency of a committee of this kind, has thoroughly examined all the details of the proposal. The provision of such details to members of the Parliament goes to the root of the system of responsible government.
Over the years, the activities of the Public Works Committee have been somewhat restricted. It is the view not only of many members of the Parliament but also of a large number of people outside that the activities of parliamentary committees should be extended. As a result of investigations by such bodies, members of the Parliament are greatly assisted in their deliberations upon the various matters that come before them. The value of the work that the Public Works Committee has performed can be appreciated from a glance at many of the reports that it has submitted to the Parliament. Since the committee was first appointed, in 1914, it has rendered valuable service. As a result of its investigations, millions of pounds have been saved for the taxpayers. The committee has acted as a. check on departmental extravagance and laxity and, at the same time, has provided a safeguard against dishonest or corrupt practices in the carrying out of major public works. I believe that every honorable senator will agree that the committee should be given every facility to enable it to continue to perform those functions most effectively. The committee has truly been described as the eyes and ears of the Parliament. Whilst the committee has been the means of saving considerable expenditure, it has achieved equally valuable results by obtaining evidence which has formed the basis of notable improvements of departmental plans for major buildings and undertakings. The committee has emphasized the coordination of functional requirements on a national basis rather than the mere provision of requirements of individual departments.
I shall instance some of the results that have been achieved by the committee. When it inquired into the proposal for the provision of a water supply for the Flinders Naval Base, it discovered a source of supply that had not previously been considered, and through the utilization of that source a saving of £61,000 was effected on that project. In respect of a shipbuilding proposal, inquiry by the committee, which disclosed faulty workmanship, resulted in a saving of £135,000. The committee was able to effect a saving of £24,000 in respect of air-conditioning of the Commonwealth offices in BrisbaneLast year, the committee inquired into the construction of the taxation building in Brisbane, and by co-ordinating the overall needs of all departments in that city it has recommended the construction of a building through which it is anticipated a saving of £1,750,000 will be effected. As a direct result of the committee’s investigation of that project departmental works experts are demonstrating that they are capable of planning and erecting buildings quickly and efficiently. The committee has almost concluded its inquiry into the construction of the proposed Commonwealth offices in Melbourne. That project will be the largest of its kind, yet to be undertaken by the Government. In that project, as a result of the committee’s inquiry, a. saving of £25,000 annually in respect of interest alone will be effected.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood).- Order ! The honorable senator is going outside the scope of the hill before the Chair.
– I was dealing with the activities of the committee up to date in order to demonstrate the necessity to enable the committee to function more effectively than it has been able to function under its present restricted charter. Although the original act was passed in 1913, it has claimed the attention of the Parliament on very few occasions. Minor amendments were effected in 1921. In 1932 the committee was suspended and was not reconstituted until 1936. Further minor amendments of the principal act were made in 1947 and in 1951. I submit that the Parliament should take this opportunity to review the principal act as a whole. I believe that it can be improved materially in several respects, and as it is most probable that a considerable period will elapse before this legislation will again come before the Parliament, we should not miss the opportunity now presented to us to consider those other matters. They are of the utmost importance, and in respect of them I shall suggest amendments for the purpose of enabling the committee to work even more effectively than it has done up to date. First. I suggest that the principal act should be amended to provide that all public works that are estimated to cost not less than £200,000 should be referred to the committee for investigation. As a result of the present inflationary trend, the value of money has decreased substantially compared with the value of money in 1913. At that time, it was provided that, at the discretion of the Minister, works of an estimated cost of at least £25,000 could be referred for investigation to lie committee. I believe that it should be made mandatory upon the Government to refer to the committee for investigation all public works, the cost of which is estimated to be £200,000. If that is done the committee will act as a check, upon the expenditure of large sumsof money, and as a result of its inquiries it will be able to put the Parliament in possession of essential information that might not otherwise be made available to it. I believe that provision should be made also in the Public Works Committee Act for the referring back to the committee of matters upon which it had already reported to the Parliament. A recommendation for the. inclusion of such authority in the Public Works Committee Act has already been made by the Public Accounts Committee. In its fifth report dealing with the Department of Works, the committee recommended-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! I cannot permit, the. debate to continue on the present lines. The honorable senator’s remarks are quite irrelevant to the bill.
– This is a bill to amend the Public Works Committee Act and for other purposes. This is the only opportunity that honorable senators have to discuss important matters relating to the operation of the act. I claim that I have a right to deal with this subject.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. The bill is drafted in certain terms, and the debate must be confined to the contents of the bill. The matter with which Senator O’Byrne is dealing is not related to the terms of the bill. lt is not my wish to stifle this interesting debate, but the honorable senator’s remarks are quite irrelevant.
– I am afraid I have to disagree with your ruling. I understand that the bill-
– I rise to order. I submit that it is not in order for an honorable senator to announce his disagreement with a ruling by the Chair unless he also moves a motion of dissent. The ruling of the Chair must be accepted unless a motion of dissent is moved.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - The situation is governed by Standing Order 332.
– I bow to your ruling. However, I believe that on an occasion such as this, in the interests of the Parliament and of good government, honorable senators should be entitled to refer not only to the subject-matter of the amending legislation but also to other matters of importance in the principal act. I shall conclude by making a quotation from Parliamentary Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, by Crisp, which expresses in a few sentences the view that I have been endeavouring to put. At page 172 the author states -
The value of thorough, conscientious and objective committees and commissions of enquiry and investigation, parliamentary and extra-parliamentary alike, which have been one of the major British contributions to the art of government, is likely to increase rather than to diminish in the economic and social complexity of modern democracies.
He continues -
Committees, however, like other parliamentary devices, justify themselves not simply as means to particular immediate ends but as means to the general end that representative opinion, representative criticism and representative constructive thinking may bc regularly brought to bear on every phase of government. The Australian Parliament must be effectively representative or fail in its essential purpose.
That sums up my opinion of the value of parliamentary committees. I hope that the Government will take this opportunity to rectify other anomalies and shortcomings of the Public Works Committee Act on the lines that I have suggested.
Debate (on motion by Senator Henty) adjourned,
Debate resumed from the 19th November (vide page 84), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not oppose this bill, which deals primarily with certain matters of procedure in connexion with the imposition of sales tax on imported goods. It provides that the Collector of Customs, who is also the agent for the collection of sales tax, may accept a deposit or security against the payment of sales tax on imported goods which are to be re-exported. At the end of a period not exceeding twelve months, if the goods have been re-exported in the meantime, the Collector of Customs may return the deposit or security to the importer. If the goods have not been re-exported, an extension of time may be granted. The bill also shows how, over the years, our approach to matters such as this is becoming more Australian. In 1947 the Customs Act was amended to provide that the value for duty of imported goods had to be converted into Australian currency. Therefore, a similar provision which appears in the Sales Tax Act is now redundant and is to be eliminated by this legislation. There is nothing in this bill beyond those mechanical measures designed to make the work of both customs and sales tax officers easier. The Opposition approves of the bill and will not vote against it.
– This bill is a further indication of the Government’s intention to streamline administration. As Senator Armstrong has pointed out, this simplification of sales tax procedure is in accordance with a recent advance in customs procedure. These alterations show clearly that both the Department of Trade and Customs and the Taxation Office are familiar with the latest business principles. Australia these days has many visitors, including tourists, businessmen and entertainers. The old practice was to demand the payment in cash of deposits in respect of both customs duty and sales tax on goods brought into the country by such people even though those goods were to be re-exported. However, the Department of Trade and Customs will now accept security for duty payments, and with the passing of this measure the Taxation Branch will adopt similar procedure in respect of sales tax. I believe that we owe a duty to the people of our external territories and of the sister dominion of New Zealand, who come to Australia on furlough. Many of them nowadays bring their motor cars with them, and this measure will provide for a quick sales tax clearance for such items. Previously it was necessary for such a visitor to make monetary deposits with the Department of Trade and Customs and with the Taxation Branch, but now bankers’ documents may be lodged as security. The Government should do everything in its power to make the path of visitors to this country as easy as possible, and I congratulate the Government upon this legislation which I have no doubt will make Australia more attractive to tourists and other visitors, it will relieve the residents of our external territories of considerable financial responsibility.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Senator HENTY (Tasmania) J”9.13’. - 1 should like the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to clarify the position under this measure of a company which brings machinery into Australia to carry out a specific job under contract and re-exports that machinery at the conclusion of the work. Will it now be possible for such machinery to he placed, in effect, in bond as it has been for customs purposes so that the organization concerned will not have to go to the trouble of paying sales tax on it and then claiming a refund when the machinery is exported? I have in mind the case of an overseas firm that has been doing hydro-electric work under contract in Tasmania. The Department nf Trade and Customs was able to declare a bonded area so that the machinery could be brought in duty free. Will a similar procedure now be adopted in relation to sales tax, and if so, will it have retrospective effect ?
– Sales tax will not be payable while the machinery is in bond. It will need to be cleared from bond before becoming liable to sales tax. If it were cleared from bond and used, for instance, as a sample for a limited period, and then re-exported, this provision would apply. If it were cleared from bond, used on work in connexion with a contract, and at the expiration of the contract again exported, a very strong case would have to be made out to establish that it was not subject to sales tax. If it were only used for a short period, circumstances may justify the non-imposition of sales tax but, by and large, once a machine is used in contracting work for the purpose for which it was designed it will become liable to sales tax.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 19th November (vide page 86), on motion by Senator Cooper -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The bill now before the Senate bears the rather fearsome title “ A Bill for an Act to provide standards for certain Therapeutic Substances, and for other purposes “. Reduced to non-technical language, its purpose is to control drugs that are used in the treatment of all the ills of mankind and even of animals. In effect, however, the bill deals with the drugs that are used primarily for the treatment of human beings. I suppose the most important thing that I can say at this stage is that the Opposition cordially welcomes this bill and supports it. Although that may be all that the Government may wish to hear from me on behalf of the Opposition I think the bill is both too important and too interesting to leave it at that. My one great regret is that it was not introduced fifty years ago. The fact that it only now comes into operation, at a time when the Commonwealth itself is developing a financial interest in the cost of drugs to its own exchequer, rather shows how slow are the processes of democracy. When I say that, I am voicing no criticism of any government in particular; it is a criticism that applies to all Australian governments since Federation. As the hill has been introduced on the recommendation of the National Health and Research Council, and with the approval of the State governments, it is off to a very even start from a legislative and political point of view.
The real purpose of the bill is to ensure that there shall be supplied to the sick people, drugs and medicaments of a proper standard, capable of achieving the purpose they are intended to serve. I point out at once that the Commonwealth, as the chief buyer of life-saving and disease-preventing drugs in Australia, has a very live interest in the preservation of proper standards of these drugs. The Commonwealth has had ample notice of the need for some such legislation. As long ago as 1907 a Royal Commission was conducted by one, Octavius Charles Beale, at the instance of the Deakin Government. Following his very lengthy investigations, Mr. Beale submitted a report that was truly appalling. It showed the quackery and the deceit that was practised in connexion with drugs of all kinds on sick people, particularly the credulous and ill-informed. Having perused the report rather rapidly, I think that things are not very different to-day in the field of patent medicines and nostrums that are daily advertised on the air and in the press.
– Wireless broadcasts have aggravated the evil.
– As one turns over the pages of this very voluminous report one sees the same names of these drugs in 1907 as they hear to-day.
– And most of them not much good !
– Probably 99 per cent, of them are either of no use in the treatment of illness, or distinctly harmful. »I am speaking now of proprietary and patent medicines. Anybody who has read, or even glanced through, this report by the royal commissioner will be literally horrified at what he found was going on in 1907.
– Particularly as far as cost was concerned.
– Yes, things that are not worth pence, in terms of treatment value, are retailed at shillings, and they are represented to be capable of curing almost every ill that the human body is subject to. One reads advertisements to-day for things to make fat people thin, and other things to make thin people fat; things to take hair off the body, and other things to encourage the growth of hair on the body; and even things to straighten noses and thick ears. The amazing fact is that so many people in our community are credulous enough to believe the advertising matter and to “ fall “ for these things. I do not wish to say a great deal about this particular aspect of the matter, but I should like to read to the Senate one or two brief passages from the report of the royal commissioner. At page five he stated -
As may well be expected, only samples here and there can be given of the acres of advertisements of quack medicines and drugs which appear in daily, weekly, and monthly journals throughout the English-speaking world. It is an art to itself, that advertising has its own experts - chevaliers d’industrie - its special literature, even its own trade journals. It has its markets, its exchanges, its brokers, where and by whom are bought and sold the letters, the names and addresses of invalids, of past and of possible victims, of pharmacists’ ordinary everyday customers. With what cheek and cunning those names and letters are obtained, how they are scanned, classified, stocked, and offered for sale, is shown herein.
The royal commissioner, from the beginning to the end of this very voluminous report, pointed to arrant deception and quackery, and to the false claims that are made for these various things. Unfortunately, this bill cannot deal directly with that whole world. The Commonwealth has only limited powers. It has invoked those powers to the full in the preparation of this measure. I consider that the draftsman has shown a great, deal of ingenuity in addressing this bill to the task at which it aims, bat unfortunately, as I have already indicated, the Common wealth’s powers are strictly limited, and the bill cannot go the whole way. What the bill does, in effect, is to prescribe certain substances which arc. deemed to be controlled substances in relation to drugs. They are defined as those that are listed in the British Pharmacopoeia, plus those that are listed in the British Pharmaceutical Codex, plus again those which are prescribed by regulation. The bill takes power, by regulation, to ensure that these things shall be packed, and that the labels shall adequately and properly describe by the proper scientific names the contents of various drugs. There is to be a complete prohibition of imports of these drugs into the country unless they bear their scientific names - in English, if it is an English name - and the label must also include the name and address of the manufacturer, as well as particulars of quantities. There is a complete prohibition of the use of substances not conforming to certain standards, in the course of interstate trade. There is a further requirement that the standards now set up are to be observed in goods comprising pharmaceutical benefits, and in goods of a therapeutic nature which are supplied to the Commonwealth itself. The bill does not add a specific piece of machinery directed to specific objectives, hut is mainly an enabling bill. In one clause great power is taken to do all kinds cf things by regulation. After all is said and done, an effective part of this measure ha * yet to be carried out by the Minister ant! by the Department of Health. Clause 13 sets out all the things that may be done : the taking of samples, the entering upon premises for that purpose, the prescribing of tests, the appointment or establishment of laboratories for the examination of these goods and substances, and the issue of certificates as to the results of those examinations. In effect, although the bill makes a great advance, and the Commonwealth for the first time enters this field, the real work and the real detail to enable this measure to come into action have yet to be worked out by regulation and to be implemented by the staff of the Department of Health. The Minister referred in his second-reading speech to the waste and extravagance that has gone on in connexion with the use of life-saving and disease-preventing drugs during recent years. They are points of criticism which the Opposition itself levelled against that scheme, and as the Minister has indicated, the Government is now taking steps to overtake those abuses. He said -
Steps are being taken in other directions to eliminate waste and extravagance in the prescription and use of drugs.
I think he might usefully have added, “ To eliminate danger to the health of the community by the over-prescribing and the over-use of these very expensive, very potent, and very new drugs “. I do not want to be an alarmist about the matter, but I think that it is now being generally realized by the public that these drugs must not be over-used. We are told, on medical authority, that their over-use produces an immunity in the body to the action of the drugs, and that they should be avoided until a real emergency develops.
Another very interesting comment by the Minister in connexion with the drugsthat are being prescribed in accordance with the present limited life-saving and disease-preventing list of drugs was that many substandard drugs have been supplied. I would like the Minister to state what investigations were carried out and what substances were found to be ineffective and who were the culprits. Were they backyard manufacturers or were they the major manufacturers of drugs? Those questions are of public concern, and the public of Australia, as well as honorable senators, are entitled to know what provoked that comment by the Minister. The Minister himself said that it was criminal that drugs should be supplied below a standard at which they could he effective for the purposes for which the medical profession intended them. I agree entirely with the Minister in that matter. Although I do not expect the Minister to mention names, I invite him to tell us how extensive a check has been made by his department and the results of such check.
The legislation that the Government has introduced has invoked all kinds of Commonwealth powers including the power to provide pharmaceutical benefits- sickness benefits, medical and dental services, power over imports and exports and power over interstate trade. The Government could also have invoked the appropriation power and the power to do anything incidental to the exercise of any other power. But despite the plenitude of heads of power, the difficulty still remains that the Commonwealth can take no action that will enable it to control the manufacture of drugs in the States. That power is entirely within the competence of the States. I was pleased to learn from the second-reading speech of the Minister that the States have asked the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) to use these powers to the full and have undertaken to supplement them where necessary by State legislation. I do not want it to be thought that the States have not been active in these matters, but they have no uniform approach to the matter. The Minister mentioned that draft legislation will be prepared to cover these very important gaps that exist in the Commonwealth power and I hope that the Commonwealth will show leadership in this matter and that it, in association with the State governments, will be prepared to draw up a draft bill which should be discussed at the departmental level before it reaches the ministerial level. I hope that the Minister will indicate that it is the intention of the Commonwealth to prepare that legislation for submission to the States.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the States should pass legislation before the Australian Government passes it?
– I should like the States to refer particular power in this all-important matter to the Commonwealth or, if they are not prepared to do that, then, having agreed on the principles of legislation to operate uniformly throughout Australia, they should pass legislation adopting the Commonwealth law or any amendments to it.
– Complementary legislation ?
– I would rather call it supplementary legislation. There is the alternative of passing complementary legislation and taking action to fill in what gaps exist. There are three courses of action that might be taken. This is a matter of national importance. It is not desirable that a large number of testing laboratories should be established throughout Australia. One testing laboratory might well be sufficient. I realize the great difficulty that exists in securing adequate personnel for testing purposes. Not very many people in Australia are qualified to undertake such work. However, I am delighted that a measure of agreement has been achieved between the Commonwealth and the States. I hope that this agreement will lead to uniformity in the control of these vastly improved drugs.
I should like the Minister to state what he had in mind when he mentioned the establishment of laboratories for the testing of various therapeutic substances that are covered by the bill. Is it proposed that the Commonwealth should set up its own testing laboratory or will the Commonwealth use existing institutions and, if it will, what institutions? I hope that the Government’s proposals will lead eventually to the establishment of a Commonwealth testing centre or, if necessary, Commonwealth testing centres. The bill does not make it clear whether the testing centres are to be set up by the Commonwealth or whether some existing facilities will be used. There has been a great deal of exploitation, even by firms which, whilst not engaging in the manufacture and distribution of sub-standard drugs, nevertheless exploit the sale of drugs, particularly when they are new, by charging enormous prices for them. As the drugs come into common use, over a period of a year or two, the price drops alarmingly. My attention has been directed to tablets called aminophllyn for which one firm charged £4 10s. a 1,000 tablets eighteen months ago. These tablets are now available for 15s, a 1,000 if they are made up in lots of 1,000. If they are made up in lots of 5,000 they are priced at only 13s. 6d. a 1,000. It is quite certain that the early entry of drugs on to the market is exploited by those who are fortunate enough to receive early supplies and they bring their price down to a proper level only when some element of competition forces them to do so.
– Not prices control.
– It might well be prices control. I do not know. The fact is that some manufacturers of these drugs unduly exploit the public when they get the opportunity. Under certain of its powers, such as the power to regulate interstate trade, the Government could exercise some influence upon the price of drugs and I invite the Minister to take that fact into consideration in connexion with the type of occurrence that I have mentioned.
The Opposition commends the Government for introducing this measure. It is long overdue and I hope that the Government will not feel that it has discharged its responsibility now that it has put this measure on the statute-book, but that it will immediately declare the standards that are necessary in the manufacture of drugs and thoroughly police those standards, taking whatever action is appropriate under the bill against those who are found to be peddling sub-standard drugs. The Opposition proposes to give this measure a speedy passage.
– I rise to commend the Government for bringing this bill before Parliament and. with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), I hope that this measure will not represent merely a pious contribution to the legislation of the Commonwealth but that it will become an act with which everybody in Australia will have to conform. As a result of two questions that I asked in the Senate three or four years ago, a very intensive investigation took place throughout Australia in connexion with patent medicines and the introduction of drugs into Australia by illicit means. Steps have been taken by the Department of Health and the Department of Trade and Customs to remedy that situation and save young girls and other people from the drug habit that has afflicted other countries. There has been so little uniformity in the legislation of the States in relation to this matter that it has been very difficult for pharmacists to treat their customers justly. In some States one can buy certain drugs at the chemists in unlimited quantities. In other States one is not allowed to buy drugs without a doctor’s prescription. There has been no uniformity in the States in the control of therapeutic substances. Consequently, I welcome this bill. I am quite sure that pharmacists throughout Australia will welcome the standardization of drugs. In 1935, the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed legislation of this kind in order to control the sale of drugs, and Australia passed similar legislation in 1937 and 193S but those acts were never proclaimed. I do hope that this act will not meet a similar fate.
One of the most important recommendations of the conference of Commonwealth and State representatives which was held in November, 1952, related to legislation necessary for the uniform control of drugs and medicines throughout the Commonwealth. The passing of this bill will permit that legislation to be prepared. The Minister was very gracious in thanking a number of Australian universities for the research work that they had done and the tests that they had made in connexion with this matter over a number of years. But I should like to mention the name of a doctor of fame in Australia who has devoted his life to preparing an Austraian Pharmacopoeia. He has been watching the trends in medicines and drugs for a great number of years and has done wonderful work. I commend to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), who represents the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), the name of Dr. George Stanton as that of a man worthy of recognition by this Parliament for the unselfish, unpaid and devoted service he has rendered in relation to medical and pharmaceutical matters during a long lifetime. We all know that in Australia pharmacists rely on the British Pharmacopoeia. However, research in this country has resulted in what might be called an Australian Pharmacopoeia being established. It might perhaps be regarded as a postscript to the British Pharmacopoeia. Dr. Stanton has taken a leading part in ensuring that this Australian Pharmacopoeia has been brought before the pharmacists of Australia.
The Minister suggested, in his secondreading speech, that a committee of experts shoud be appointed to draft suitable legislation. I hope that if such a committee is appointed, Dr. Stanton will be a member of it, because he has devoted a lifetime to this subject. The use of drugs in Australia has reached somewhat dangerous proportions, and it seems to me most necessary that there should be legislation designed to bring about uniformity throughout the Commonwealth regarding the control of certain drugs. As the Leader of the Opposition stated, the use of patent medicines has become, widespread. I agree with him that it is amazing how many people are sufficiently gullible to buy patent medicines such as Beecham’s pills and bile beans. Incidentally, recently I heard of a farmer who purchased bile beans and planted them because he thought that they were supposed to be grown. Whether that is a true story or not, I do not know, but it illustrates the gullibility of those who huy such patent medicines.
I compliment the Minister on the introduction of this bill. I hope that it will not be long before a committee of experts is appointed and that suitable legislation will be introduced in the near future to control the sale of drugs and patent medicines in this country. I support the bill.
– in reply - I appreciate the co-operation of honorable senators in this matter. I assure Senator Robertson that I shall bring the name of Dr. George Stanton to the notice of the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page). In reply to the matters raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), I point out that, before regulations are promulgated, the States will be fully informed. Honorable senators may appreciate that the success of this legislation will depend on the degree of co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States. They may appreciate, also, that many more factors affecting health matters come within the jurisdiction of the States than within that of the Commonwealth. The Australian Government considers that it will be necessary, first, for the Commonwealth Department of Health to endeavour to bring about uniformity. Perhaps uniformity will be attained by the States delegating greater powers to the Commonwealth, but in any event the Commonwealth will prepare the necessary legislation and submit it to the States, so that the same kind of legislation will go before each State government. The Government has a long-term policy in this matter. I think that the difficulties will be overcome and that the Commonwealth and the States will work together harmoniously and achieve something worthwhile.
The Leader of the Opposition also referred to the facilities for testing drugs. At the present time the testing facilities of the Department of Trade and Customs and the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories are used. For the present, it is not proposed to set up a new organization. The Department of Health is confident that it can operate efficiently by using the existing facilities, such as those of the Department of Trade and Customs for testing spirits and drugs imported into this country. The biological side will be handled by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. Regarding the comment by the Leader of the Opposition that prices of new drugs, such as aminophllyn, are high, I point out that many of the drug houses are put to considerable expense in undertaking experiments. Of course, every experiment does not end successfully. The normal practice of the drug houses is to endeavour to regain a portion of the cost of such experiments over a reasonably short period. When they have regained some of the cost, the drugs become cheaper. Another factor in making them cheaper, of course, is competition.
Recently, an examination of drugs which are supplied under the medical benefits scheme was made. As a result of that examination it was revealed that, of ten drugs examined, involving 100 separate tests, seven contained sub-standard products. Of the 110 individual products tested, 45, or approximately 41 per cent., failed to meet official requirements. It is not contended that the high percentage of failure reflects the overall picture, because some of the products tested were known to be unstable and were tested because of that knowledge. The fact that the Commonwealth is carrying out a continuous check on the quality of the drugs supplied has met with warm approval from those manufacturing chemists who, by means of continuous supervision during manufacture, endeavour to ensure that the quality of their products is maintained. In regard to the products which have been found to he sub-standard, I wish to make it clear that none of them constitutes a danger to the public. The main reason for their failure was because their strength did not come within the permissible limit of variation which has been laid down, a point which is very important in medical practice.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– With regard to the regulation-making power referred to in clause 13, is the Minister able to say whether the regulations are in draft form at the moment? Has their preparation begun, or is the work of drawing them up yet to be undertaken ? Clause 14 provides that a person guilty of an offence under the legislation may be prosecuted either summarily or upon indictment. Of course, the punishment will be far less severe if the prosecution is taken summarily than if it proceeds upon indictment. I wish to know who will determine whether an offence is to be prosecuted summarily or upon indictment. Is that determination to be left to officials in the States? Will it be a matter for the Director-General, the Minister for Health, or the AttorneyGeneral? Finally, in relation to the exceedingly high percentage of substandard drugs disclosed by the tests to which the Minister referred, can he say whether those drugs were the products of backyard manufacturers, or were they samples taken from the ordinary manufacturers of drugs?
– The preparation of the regulations referred to in clause 13 of the bill has not yet been undertaken. Regarding prosecution of offences referred to in clause 14, the Attorney-General’s Department will determine the nature of the prosecution to bo launched.
– Is it the intention that an offence will not be prosecuted upon indictment except with the consent of the Attorney-General?
– Yes, that is so.
– If that is the case, I suggest that it might well have been written into the bill.
– I suggest that it is already covered by the Crimes Act.
– That remains to be seen.
– The examination of the drugs, to which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) referred, was a general overall review of drugs manufactured by the various drug houses and in circulation. Samples were taken from the full range of drugs in circulation at the time. The results, therefore, provide an overall picture in relation to such drugs.
– And from all types of manufacture?
– Yes. Clause 14 deals with the punishment of offences. Sub-clause (1.) provides that an offence against this act may be prosecuted either summarily or upon indictment. 1 move -
That in clause 14, before sub-clause (1.), the following sub-clause be inserted: - “ (1a.) A person who contravenes, or fails to comply “with, a provision of this Act if guilty of an offence against this Act.”
The proposed new sub-clause is a formal amendment necessary to make clause 14 clear by providing that contravention of or failure to comply with the provision of the act is an offence against the act, punishable as provided by the clause.
Amendment agreed to.
– I should like the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) to explain the effect of the delegation of authority for which provision is made in clause 16. The clause states, in part -
The Minister may, in relation to a particular matter or class of matters, or to a part of the Commonwealth, by writing under his hand, delegate to a person all or any of his powers under this Act
To whom would the Minister delegate hi3 powers? Would they be delegated to a member of the medical profession or to pharmacists ?
– The Minister may delegate his powers under the act for an administrative purpose. The powers may be delegated to some one in a State or to a member of the Department of Health. The clause is worded in a general way.
Bill,, as amended, agreed to.
Mill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Tuesday next, at 3 p.m.
Motion (by. Senator McLeay) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I rise with n sense of feeling to call attention to a matter that I believe to be a challenge to the fundamental freedoms of a large city of this Commonwealth of which news has been received to-day. I have been impressed in the past few days by the sense of anxiety and gravity that the public of the City of Sydney has shown at the charges of corruption and bribery that pervade local government in that city. Those who have been responsible for moulding public opinion upon this matter have been suggesting very strongly that the situation has reached a. degree of gravity that calls for the appointment of a royal commission. Tt is a matter of great significance, that under such a royal commission, all sections of the people- would be amenable to the behest and order of an impartial commissioner. If, as I believe, the law which the High Court of Australia has declared applicable to Victoria is applicable also to New South Wales, all sections of the press would be amenable to the royal commissioner, but upon an equal basis with every other section of the community, including those who point the accusing finger, those who are accused and their accomplices. But the extraordinary answer to that proposition that has been evolved by one Mr. Evatt and his co-operators in the past two days is a special bill, dealing only with the subject of the City of Sydney and with a special matter. This extraordinary evasion, the Disclosure of Allegations Bill, as it is called, will refer only to alleged offences involving members or servants of the City of Sydney. The artifice that has been employed is to leave immune from inquiry all sections of the community other than those who have taken the responsibility of making reports or statements suggesting or implying the commission of an offence
Honorable senators should remember that those people who take the responsibility of statements or reports suggesting or implying the commission of an offence, already carry the responsibility under the law to justify themselves upon the ground of good faith and public interest. In the past, the people who make the reports have maintained the traditional freedom of the press. They have been regarded as performing a public service because they exercise a privilege accompanied by a responsibility. But in New South Wales they are now to be the targets of a particular measure that has been devised by the evasive action of Mr. Evatt. Criminals, their accomplices, their friends and those who for proper or improper motives remain silent upon the subject, are not to be brought within the scope of the measure. As a result, an extraordinary situation arises under which the people carrying the responsibility of showing their bona fides and accepting an interest in the public welfare and public opinion are the persons who are to be directly attacked.
It has been a tradition of the profession of journalism that news is collected from sources upon a basis of confidence. By tradition, confidences that are entrusted to that profession are not betrayed. The proposed measure is a means of forcing the disclosure of that confidence and an indirect method of drying up a source of information. So much is the tradition written into British law, that the police force is protected in seeking information for the establishment of evidence. Even when a policeman goes into a court of law sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, the law protects him from ever being questioned as to the source of the information that led him to detect the crime. Yet persons who take the responsibility of bringing forward, for the information of the public, statements or reports suggesting or implying the commission of crimes of corruption, are the very people who are now to be subjected to compulsory jurisdiction to force them to disclose their source of information. They alone will be affected. This is a startling and unprecedented display of a new attitude of mind which calls for immediate and prompt determination by everybody who treasures the liberty of the press and the freedom of the individual which is thereby guaranteed. Public opinion should be capable of being moulded by proper influences and public life will be kept clean only by enabling the whole evasive process of corruption to be discovered.
I wish to direct attention to one or two matters in connexion with this extraordinary measure. It provides that upon the order of a judge, on the application of a police inspector, persons who have made such statements shall be ordered to disclose their information. In the case of a breach of the order, the jurisdiction to punish the breach is not to be left in the hands of a Supreme Court judge, but is to be submitted to summary jurisdiction. During a debate in this chamber to-night I was interested in a reference to the difference between summary jurisdiction and trial upon indictment. Apparently one section of political thought believes that the only proper court to deal with the offences to which I have referred is a summary court denying to the person accused the right to trial by jury and providing not merely that people offending are liable, but that every director and every officer of the company concerned shall be liable unless he, carrying the onus of proof upon himself, proves that he has no knowledge of it. The savage penalties by which an attitude of mind is expressed are to be a fine of £1,000 in the case of a corporation, and a fine of £500 or imprisonment in gaol for twelve months, or both, in the case of an ordinary individual. These matters are to be entrusted to a magistrate exercising summary jurisdiction, so it is a. case where one might, by taking a little liberty with Kipling, state - “‘If white is black and black is white.”
The learned Judge portends, “ We are not ruled by criminals,
But only by their friends.”
– To-night we have had an extraordinary exhibition from a supporter of the Government who has taken upon himself, apparently while a bill is current in another Parliament, to rise in this Senate to criticize a measurethat’ a sovereign State has a perfect right to discuss and decide upon without this Senate attempting to debate it. I cannot believe that the honorable senator has really been impelled by a sense of indignation to make the remarks that he has just made to the Senate. It is patent that at present a coldly calculated campaign is being waged by members of the Liberal party in New South Wales to discredit members of the Australian Labour party in that State. Such tactics conform to a pattern that has become apparent during the last few. weeks. I can think of no reason why a Government supporter in the Senate should discuss a bill that has been introduced into a State parliament as Senator Wright has done, other than to support the propaganda that is being disseminated by the press proprietors and members of the Liberal party in New South Wales. This campaign is being conducted by innuendo. No direct charge is made. Such tactics do not do credit to members of the Liberal party or to the press proprietors who are peddling this propaganda. Honorable senators might well have been spared the undignified spectacle of one of their number challenging the sovereign right of a State parliament to consider methods which, it might take in order to clear np a position that is causing concern to all fair-minded people. Of course, as all of us know, an election for the Sydney City Council is pending; and the members of the Liberal party are determined that by hook or by crook Labour shall be destroyed. Therefore, they are lending themselves to one of the most disgraceful campaigns that has been undertaken in this country for many a long day. The attack that Senator Wright has made upon the New South Wales Government is all the more inexcusable because of the fact that he does not represent that State in the Senate. The campaign of distortion that is being engaged in by Government supporters and their colleagues outside the Parliament reminds us of the methods that are employed by those who control Communist and totalitarian States. That campaign is based on veiled accusations and innuendo. Those who resort to such tactics are not prepared to make direct accusations. If they are in possession of evidence which would warrant their making a direct charge they should do so instead of continuing to peddle this propaganda against the Australian Labour party. I repeat that the press proprietors in Sydney are lending themselves to the campaign which is being undertaken by members of the Liberal party.
– In spite of what Senator Arnold has said about the attitude that Senator Wright adopted in dealing with the matter that he raised, I believe, not only as a representative in the Senate of New South Wales but also as a citizen of that State, that it is our bounden duty to raise our voice in protest against the measure that was introduced this afternoon in the New South Wales Parliament. I agree entirely with everything that Senator Wright said. However, I propose to deal with this matter not from a legal viewpoint but from that of a private citizen. The so-called smear campaign has been undertaken as a legitimate duty by the press in New South Wales as a result of information that has come into the possession of the newspapers that all is not well in the Sydney City Council, or, according to rumour, in other public spheres also. All that Senator Wright said was that the newspapers should not be obliged to disclose the source of their information. The press in Sydney is simply trying to force the New South Wales Government to appoint a royal commission to investigate fully each of the charges that have been made in this matter. However, that Government, under the measure that it has introduced in the Parliament of that State, seeks to prevent the press from publishing anything further about those charges and to force the newspapers to divulge the sources of their information. That Government has taken that action with the object of scaring person. who have supplied that information to the newspapers. Such persons naturally will be intimidated if they are to be compelled to appear in court.
The Government of New South Wales cannot be described as being responsible when it stoops to such tactics. The measure that it has introduced will strike a blow at the freedom of the press and of the individual. I have had occasion to disagree with statements that have appeared in the press about myself and the party to which I belong, but I recognize above all the freedom of the press. If we feel aggrieved by reports that are published in the press, we have our remedy; but do not let us interfere in any way with its freedom. If we do so, we shall jeopardize responsible government. The press has a responsibility to protect the community generally, and it is discharging that duty by ventilating the allegations that certain members of the Sydney City Council have accepted graft. The newspapers have taken that action simply in order to urge the State Government to appoint a royal commission so that those charges can be thoroughly examined under conditions under which all witnesses will enjoy the protection that is given in respect of proceedings of such a tribunal. But the New South Wales Government is now trying to frighten the public so that no further information will be given to the press on this matter. In that respect, that Government is conforming to the pattern that is being implemented by Peron in Argentina and by the dictatorship in Spain in suppressing the press in those countries. That is the only way in which dictatorial governments can survive. Such tactics are a disgrace to any government, particularly a government that is supposed to he democratic. Like Senator Wright, I raise my voice in opposition to the measure that has been introduced into the State Parliament in New South Wales, because it will strike at the roots of democracy and jeopardize the freedom of the press and of the individual.
Senator McCALLUM (New South Wales) [10.25 j. - The matter to which Senator Wright referred is of national importance; and he had a perfect right to raise it. I should have been content “to allow his remarks to pass but for the fact that Senator Arnold challenged his right to raise this matter as he does not represent New South Wales in the Senate. This matter involves the nation’s honour. If, as Senator Arnold has alleged, Senator Wright made his remarks merely as a participant in a campaign that is being carried on by the Liberal party and the press in Sydney, the easiest way out of the difficulty would be for the Government of New South Wales to appoint a royal commission to inquire thoroughly into these charges. I make no charge or innuendo against anybody. Charges have been made not only against members of the Australian Labour party, but also against other citizens. They have been made against officials of the Sydney City Council. Any one who knows the history of that body will recall that about 30 years ago a similar state of affairs arose in Sydney and that exactly the same sort of defence was put up by those against whom the allegations were made as has been advanced by Senator Arnold to-night. The Premier of New South Wales at that time, Mr. Lang, said that the charges were simply electioneering. But Mr. Lang was defeated at the following election. A royal commission was appointed to inquire into the charges and as a result of that investigation an official of the Sydney City Council was sent to gaol. That official stated that a member of the Sydney City Council had accepted graft, but he refused to give evidence against him, and, subsequently, when the alderman was charged he was acquitted. That alderman is still a member of the Sydney City Council, and he is a prominent member of that body.
I repeat that these charges have not been made solely against members of the Australian Labour party. The charge has been made that corruption of the worst type exists in the Sydney City Council; and honest citizens of Sydney demand a full and open inquiry into that charge. I am sick and tired of hearing the criticism that honorable senators opposite level against the so-called capitalist press. The newspapers which have made these charges attack members of the Liberal party as severely as they attack members of any other party. These charges have been made by a section of the press that never has a good word to say for members of the Liberal party. The newspapers in Sydney are unanimous in making these charges. It is alleged that the control of the City of Sydney is in the hands of persons of the type that controlled the city of New York many years ago when the infamous political boss, Tweed, was in his hey-day. At that time, the only effective way of awakening an electorate, a large part of which was ignorant, was through the f famous cartoons of Nast. One of the most famous of those cartoons showed a large number of people standing in a circle with the infamous boss, Tweed. Each person in the picture was depicted pointing to the person standing next to him, and the caption of the cartoon read, “ Who stole the people’s money ? “ I repeat that every section of the press in Sydney is making these charges and that every honest and loyal citizen desires that the body that controls that city should be completely above suspicion. ‘ We have a perfect right to raise this matter in the Senate. There is another point. Senator Arnold should talk of legislation which the Parliament of New South Wales has a right to consider at leisure! The legislation is being “ gagged “ through ! Members are not being given the right to consider the bill at leisure. It is to go through in one day. Any person who has any respect for the national honour must be appalled that the City of Sydney is under this dark suspicion at present. There is one clear way out - the appointment of a royal commission. The very excuses that
Senator Arnold put up were put up by the Premier of New South Wales when certain people demanded a royal commission into the affairs of Mr. Arthur. It was said that those demands were sheer electioneering and were political stunts; but the learned judge who was appointed by the State Government as a royal commissioner gave a magnificent judgment. T. read every word of it. If anything, he leaned backwards to be perfectly fair to the accused person. Nevertheless, he brought in a decision which left the Labour party no option but to get rid of Mr. Arthur. The bill that is before the New South Wales Parliament is an infamous bill. I am a federalist. I have always argued that the States are sovereign in their own sphere, but if bills like that go through, I am afraid that we shall have to renounce federalism and give this Parliament power to bring some persons face to face with their duty. There is the greatest danger that New South Wales will become an outlaw State, governed by men who can cover up their tracks by refusing both the press and the ordinary citizen freedom of speech.
– 1 rise with a feeling of regret that this matter has been embarked upon in this chamber to-night. I say quite frankly that those who initiated this debate have demeaned themselves. I know nothing of a bill introduced into the New South Wales Parliament to-day.
– It is reported in the evening papers.
– That is what I thought. I assumed that the source of information of those who have spoken on this matter was the press. Honorable senators opposite have worked themselves into a condition of hysteria over a newspaper report which may or may not be accurate. No honorable senator on the Government side vouched for the accuracy of his information about the contents of the bill that he criticized. Is that the kind of conduct that one expects from an honorable senator who is a lawyer? Is it proper for one who knows so much about the law to allege corruption and graft on the part of a city council, when he has not one tittle of evidence, but relies solely upon newspaper reports? Surely everybody knows the old principle of refraining from referring to matters that are sub judice. No one is more aware of that principle than is Senator Wright, who initiated this debate.
– The New South Wales Government will not even appoint a judge to make the matter sub judice.
– If the honorable senator will listen he may learn something about when a matter is sub judice. He should know, and I have no doubt that he does know very well, that the springs of justice can be poisoned before they begin to flow. That expression is not new to Senator Wright. To embark upon a completely controversial subject, and one in relation to which charges are pending, is, I say quite frankly, a disgrace and serves only to demean the .Senate. I know nothing about a bill that has been brought into the New South Wales Parliament and I prefer not to comment upon it.
– Government supporters have not seen the bill.
– Of course, they have not seen the bill. They merely desire to embarrass the New South Wales Government simply because it is an Australian Labour party Government. I assure honorable senators opposite that the Australian Labour party will not stand for corruption or graft in any sphere.
Government senators interjecting J
– Honorable senators opposite give themselves away with their concerted laughter. They know quite well that what I have said is true. I do not know whether or not there is corruption in the Sydney City Council.
– We will never know.
– I think we will.
– The New South Wales Labour executive will prevent it.
– The New South Wales Labour executive will not tolerate graft or corruption anywhere. I give that assurance publicly to-night. On the basis of information that is mere hearsay, honorable senators opposite have launched an attack which they hope will figure in the press to-morrow. In any event, I think it is quite improper for anybody in this chamber to reflect on the actions of any State government or State parliament. I raised no objection, as the debate proceeded because I wanted to see how far honorable senators opposite were prepared to go. I was not surprised that Senator Wright opened the discussion, but I was surprised when he was followed so promptly by other honorable senators. This is merely a concerted effort on the part of Government supporters to win some publicity for themselves and the parties to which they belong at the expense of the members of another political party in Sydney. It is despicable to introduce this matter into this chamber. I shall leave the matter at that. I could not speak in stronger terms. I think that when honorable senators cool down and see this matter in its proper perspective, within a day or so they will wish that they had not been so ready to enter upon this discussion.
– I think the debate on this matter has gone far enough.
– Do you, Mr. President, rule that I may not speak in this debate? If that is your ruling, I ask under what standing order you are acting?
– I am not ruling that the honorable senator would be out of order. I am merely saying that, in my opinion, this matter has gone as far as it should go.
– I take it, Mr. President, that you will hear what I have to say. First, I should like to reply to the point made by Senator Arnold and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) that the Senate is not the proper place in which this matter ought to be discussed. I believe that if the Senate as a house of the Australian Parliament were not to discuss a proposal of this kind, we should be gravely retreating from our duty. It is precisely here that this matter should be discussed. A threat is being made to the rights of a section of the Australian people - basic rights that have existed as long as there has been British law. 1 refer to the rights under the Atlantic Charter of free speech and free publication which we as an Australian Parliament have endorsed in the councils of the world. Surely we, as members of a House of the Australian Parliament which has endorsed those rights and sworn to uphold them, would be retreating from our duty if we did not discuss a threat to those rights. To me the question of who is accused of doing what is of no significance, but the proposal that we are discussing, and which I believe we are in duty bound to discuss, does threaten the basic rights of individuals. The bill that has been introduced into the New South Wales Parliament is designed to protect not every citizen of this country, but only a particular class of citizen. Those citizens are being singled out from all their fellows for protection, beyond that already provided by the law of slander and libel, which is available to all ordinary citizens or members of corporations who consider that they have been traduced. That law is considered in this instance to be insufficient. Why is it considered to be insufficient? Why should a section of our community be singled out for special protection and very great protection at that ? If charges of any kind are made against this section, although they may later be proved to be true, or a jury at some subsequent date may consider them to be so firmly based that only nominal damages should be awarded, still the man who makes these charges may be sent to gaol for a year or fined £500 or, in the case of a newspaper, £1,000. That may happen to him not only if he does not produce documents, but if he does not prove he had no documents to produce. He might not have had documents, but if some police inspector thinks, in his police inspector’s mind, that he might have had documents, the man has to prove that he has not had them, or failing that, be sent to gaol even though the charges he made are subsequently proved to be true. If that is not an interference with basic British justice I have never seen any law that was an interference. Is the next thing to be that no charges may be made against officials of the Waterside Workers
Federation unless documents are produced, even though those charges may be found to be true? Is a man like the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) to be prevented from making charges against a man like Doyle, an associate of criminals, unless he can produce documents in support of those charges? Is he to be sent to gaol even though a royal commission has found the charges to be proved? This surely is one of the greatest attacks we have ever seen on the freedom of the individual and the freedom of the press, and this is the House in which such a matter should be debated because the threat is to a freedom that belongs not only to Australia, hut also to all democratic countries.
– I wish to develop Senator Gorton’3 argument that we as representatives of the States have a duty, in this States House, to discuss any matter that affects the States, or even goes beyond the States and affects the prestige of the whole of this great Commonwealth. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) indicated that he was not fully informed on current affairs. I understand that a bill entitled the City Council (Disclosure of Allegations) Bill, was introduced into the New South Wales Parliament to-day. I should think that it would be quite natural for any New South Wales senator to want to find out, by the use of modern facilities such as the telephone, exactly what has happened in the State House in connexion with this matter. Even at this late stage it is competent for any honorable senator to inform himself about current legislation in the New South Wales Parliament.
– I rise to order! Although I do not wish to stultify the debate, I point out that Standing Order 418 provides that no honorable senator shall impute improper motives to any House of a State parliament.
– Speaking to the point of order, I have not imputed any motive to a State House of Parliament. I have only referred to the fact that certain legislation has been introduced into the New South Wales Parliament.
– I should like a ruling on the point of order that I have raised.
– Order! Senator Anderson is within his rights in speaking to the point of order that Senator Cooke has raised.
– I am not speaking in a derogatory manner of any legislation ; I am merely supplying, for the benefit of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), information of which he has apparently failed to inform himself. As I have said already, at this very moment the legislation that I have mentioned is being passed through the New South Wales Parliament.
– Order ! I ask Senator Anderson to confine his remarks to the subject before the Senate. He is getting very close to contravening Standing Order 41S.
– I shall endeavour not to transgress Standing Order 418. As the Senate is a States House, surely honorable senators are entitled, to discuss any legislation affecting the prestige of the Commonwealth which is introduced into a State parliament. As the legislation that is at present before the New South Wales Parliament will affect the freedom of the press, I contend that it will affect the prestige of the Commonwealth.
Sena tor Cooke. - I again rise to order ! I submit that the honorable senator is imputing an improper motive in connexion with legislation that is now before a State parliament. Is it not improper for him to impute that the legislation that, has been mentioned is aimed at the suppression of the press? I ask for a withdrawal of that statement.
– Order ! The point of order is not upheld.
– As I have said, the legislation is directed at the free press of this great country. I submit that once the press has been stifled we certainly will have reached a stage where we are fast approaching a system of totalitarianism. It is an extraordinary thing that legislation has been introduced into the New South Wales Parliament for the stated purpose of preventing the press from publishing factual information.
– Mr. President, the honorable senator is offending against Standing Order 418, by making an imputation of improper motives on the part of a State House of Parliament.
– I should like to speak in the point of order. Standing Order 418 reads-
No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any Member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament, or against any statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives and all per.sonal reflections on Members shall bc considered highly disorderly.
– Order ! I rule that Senator Anderson has not contravened Standing Order 41S. However, the honorable senator should take caro not to infringe the provisions of the standing order.
– I believe that this National Parliament should express grave concern when anything is done by a State parliament which in any way nif octa the freedom of the press of this young nation.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has implied that supporters of the Government have “ ganged up “ on this matter. I point out that I was not in this chamber when the debate originated. Senator Wright had concluded his speech, and Senator McCallum was still addressing the Senate when T entered the chamber. The Leader of the Opposition stated that it was not right for those two honorable senators to raise this matter. I contend that every honorable senator has a right to discuss State matters.
– They do not need the honorable senator’s help.
– That is so. I could probably talk about certain people in Queensland who were helped by a certain Queenslander to try to get priorities in certain matters. One of them, a Labour candidate, was a first-class grafter. The matter that has been raised to-night has been the subject of newspaper reports. From what I have read in the press .1 am convinced that if the New South Wales Government had any sense of propriety or any sense of duty to the people of that State, and if it were honest and sincere, it would appoint a royal commission to inquire into the allegations that have been made.
– I rise to order. As has been pointed out already, Standing Order 41S provides that no senator shall impute improper motives to a State parliament. Senator Wood has referred to the honesty of that Parliament. I submit that that is an imputation, and contrary to the standing order.
– Order! I have allowed the debate to extend over a fairly wide range. However, I think it would be wise for Senator Wood to confine his remarks to the subject-matter before theSenate, having due regard to the provisions of Standing Order 418 in relation to imputations.
– I was impelled to join the debate by the implication of the Leader of the Opposition that all supporters of the Government had “ganged up” in connexion with this matter. I consider that, in such circumstances, every honorable senator on this side of the chamber has a right to engage in straight speaking. I emphasize that, in view of the accusations that have been made in the Sydney press about this matter, the right thing for the New South Wales Government to do would be toinstitute a royal commission in order toinquire into it. I have no brief for the Sydney press; in my opinion, it is the pinkest press in this country.
However, it is evident from the number of stories about graft and corruption in New South Wales that have been published by the Sydney press, there is something pretty rotten in the Sydney City Council.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian National Airlines Act - Australian National Airlines Commission - Annual Report (Eighth), for year 1952-53.
Defence Transition (Residual Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property ) Regulations - Orders - Inventions anddesigns (4).
Dried Fruits Export Control Act - Twentyninth Annual Report of the Commonwealth Dried Fruits Control Board, for year 1952-53, together with statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Explosives Act - Regulations - Order directing the Berthingof a Vessel.
Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs - Second Report relating to the Committee’s activities and functions.
Lands. Acquisition Act - Land, &c., acquired for -
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization purposes - Deniliquin, New South Wales.
Department of Civil Aviation purposes - Broken Hill,New South Wales.
Postal purposes -
Castlecrag, New South Wales.
Iluka, New South Wales.
Papua - Report for 1951-52.
Public Accounts Committee Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1953, No. 91.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Post master-General’s Department - F. Bussinan, ft. R. Gum.
Public Works Committee Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1953, No. BO.
Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. - Nineteenth Annual Report and Financial Accounts, for year 1952.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Regulations - 1953 - No. 14 (Motor Traffic Ordinance) .
Seat of Government (Administration) Act- Not ice of variation of plan of lay-out of Canberra nnd its environs, dated 19th November, 1953.
Services Trust Funds Act -
Royal Australian Air Force Welfare Trust Fund - Annual Report hv Trustees, for year 1951-52.
Royal Australian Navy Relief Trust Fund - Annual Report by Trustees foryear 1952-53.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Twenty-fifth Annual Report of the Australian Wine Board, for year 1952-53, together with statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Senate adjourned at 10.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 November 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1953/19531125_senate_20_s2/>.