21st Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Did the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs note the remarks, published recently in the press, of a respected tory senator who advocated the recognition of the Communist Government of red China? Do these remarks foreshadow a change of heart by the Government in its approach to this matter? Has there been any - communication between the British Government and the Australian Government concerningrecognition of Communist China, and if so, can the Minister enlighten the Senate on the matter?
– I am not aware of the comments to which the honorable senator refers. Apparently, they were comments made by a private member. When, and if, there is any change in this situation from the Government’s point of view, the Parliament, of course, will be informed. At the present time, I have nothing further to say on the subject.
– Can the Minister for
Shipping and Transport say whether the Public Service Board reviewed the staff organization and management of the Marine Branch of the Department of Shipping and Transport in 1953? If such a review was made, will the Minister advise me whether one of the findings was that engineer surveyors had all the qualifications, necessary training and experience to fit them for appointment to the office of regional director in. the department? Will the Minister also indicate how many regional directors are employed and the dates on which each will retire on account of age?
– The Public Service Board made a routine check of the set-up and personnel of the Marine Section of the Department of Shipping and Transport. Recommendations were made that the title “Deputy Director of Navigation “ might be changed to “Regional Director “. This recommendation created some confusion and increased the rivalry between engineers, clerks and nautical men about who should occupy the key posts. As far as policy is concerned, an alteration of the title would necessitate amendment of the Navigation Act, and I do not propose to recommend that. There are six deputy directors in Australia, one in each State. As I have mentioned to the Senate before, the question whether a nautical mau, an engineer or a clerk should be promoted to the position of deputy director of navigation is a matter that comes within the jurisdiction of the head of the Department of Shipping and Transport. Up to the present, a nautical man has been appointed to that position. It is obvious that the claims of other* are considered when appointments are made, but that matter comes solely under the jurisdiction of the Secretary to the Department of Shipping and Transport.
– Has the attention of the Minister for National Development been directed to a statement that was made by the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture with reference to the shortage of urgently needed fencing materials, to the effect that, although the production of those materials was at least 5,000 tons per annum short of Australian requirements, the Australian Government had permitted the export of 12 per cent, of production, thus forcing the producers to purchase imported materials at a higher cost? Will the Minister state whether that statement h correct”, and what steps are being taken to have the production of fencing materials increased to meet Australian requirements ?
– A general principle is applied to all steel products, including fencing materials, and it has been observed by this Government and previous governments. That principle is that export of fencing materials and other steel products will not be permitted unless Australian requirements are being met. The one variation of the principle is that exports have always been permitted to the South Sea islands, and some exports have been permitted to New Zealand. When supplies are in excess of demands, the surplus is exported. Sometimes, in the integrated steel industry, products in some categories are available but cannot be processed further because of the lack of plant capacity to complete a subsequent process. Those products may then be exported. Subject to those qualifications, and to the fact that special arrangements were made with regard to galvanized iron, there has not been any export of steel products that were required for use in Australia. The position is a little complicated, and I regret that I cannot recollect the exact details of the position as it applies to fencing materials, but I can assure the honorable senator that thos,e materials fall into the same category as other steel products, and are not exported if required in Australia, except to the South Sea islands and New Zealand.
– Has the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture read a recent statement that was made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to the effect that the United “Kingdom market for Australian wheat had been lost to the Argentine because of a difference in price of a fraction of a penny a bushel? If so, and in view of the fact that the Government of the United States of America has voted 700.000,000 dollars to subsidize farm production and find markets for American farmers, could a similar subsidy be paid to Australian wheatgrowers to enable them to compete with the Argentine and so win back the valued and traditional United Kingdom market?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has specialized in this problem for some time. The object of his present mission overseas is to discuss with representatives of tha United Kingdom and the United States of America a means to avoid cut-throat competition by way of subsidies. “When I have received reports from the Minister, and when the Government has decided what action it should take on them, I shall be pleased to inform the Senate accordingly, hut I am sure honorable senators do not expect me to make statements on matters of high Government policy in reply to questions without notice.
– My question is addressed to the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. By way of explanation, may I say that the Government has caused an investigation to be undertaken of the costs of production of the poultry industry? Owing to high costs of production and a highly competitive world market, the industry is in rather a difficult position. Can the Minister say when it is expected that the investigation will be completed? If he is hot in a position to answer the question now, will he be good enough to make th.-s appropriate enquiries of the department during the week-end and endeavour to let me have a reply next week?
– The poultry industry, like other industries that are meeting severe competition at present, is m some trouble. When the change from government-to-government trading to a trader-to-trader basis occurred and surpluses took the place of shortages, some re-adjustment of “prices was necessary. The investigation to which the honorable senator has referred has been going on for some time. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture, in co-operation with the Departments of Agriculture in various States, is conducting a very thorough investigation of the industry. It has in mind the importance of establishing the industry on the most efficient basis. I am not sure when the investigation will be completed, but I shall try to find out the approximate date and, if it is possible to do so, inform the Senate accordingly next week.
– The Parliament recently adjourned for a week, but several questions that have been on the noticepaper for a considerable time have not yet been answered. Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate make arrangements for questions to be answered more promptly ?
– Yes. I appreciate the difficulties under which honorable senators labour when replies to questions are not furnished for some time. The question gives me an opportunity to ask for the co-operation of honorable senators by refraining from asking questions that involve about six months’ work for sixteen people. I ask them to use their imaginations and to try to cut their questions short. The representatives of the various departments are most courteous and furnish replies to questions as quickly as possible. Several questions have been addressed to me which affect the work of the Department of Shipping and Transport, and some of ray key men are working until midnight night after night in order to answer them. If we are a little long winded in furnishing replies to questions, that is because we are overworked. However, I shall do my best to speed up the provision of replies.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture let me know the fate of the appeal of Mr. Poulton to the Privy Council in relation to joint organization wool moneys? If the appeal has been determined by the Privy Council or has lapsed through the effluxion of time, can the Minister state when a final distribution of joint organization wool moneys can be expected?
– Several questions have been asked about this matter during the last few months. I know that the appeal is a matter of great importance to people in the wool industry. That is one matter that I cannot speed up. It is a matter for the courts. But as this question is of such importance, I suggest that the honorable senator place it on the notice-paper and I shall try to supply him with a specific answer oil Tuesday.
– Will the Minister for National Development inform the Senate whether it is a fact that a Marion six cubic yards shovel which was purchased for £120,000 has stood near a district open cut mine since 1952 and has never been used ? Is the Minister aware that a walking drag-line which was taken to the Kerosene Vale Mine in May, 1950, and the estimated cost of which, including erection, was £250,000, has stood unused in the abandoned open cut since work terminated there in 1952? Is it a fact that the Joint Coal Board is finding difficulty in disposing of surplus plant because most of the machinery is unacceptable to private users because of its unsuitability for earth-moving work? Will the Minister inform the Senate of the amount in dollars involved in the purchase of Joint Coal Board plant since the end of 1949?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question as to whether a six cubic yards shovel has remained unused is that I do not know. I think that the Kerosene Vale open cut mine was closed down because production was surplus to requirements. If Senator Ashley would like to have it re-opened, and so put underground coal-miners out of work, I ask him to make a specific request in those terms. The answer to the honorable senator’s question as to whether the Joint Coal Board is having difficulty in disposing of surplus plant is, frankly, yes. The plant is not easy to sell, but whatever difficulties are being experienced in selling it, they are small compared with the difficulties from which the purchase of that plant extricated Australia when we did not have as much coal as we required.
– In view of the rapidly developing competition between the States to gain revenue from lotteries, and as such competition, in addition to creating ill-feeling between the States and New Zealand, is giving far too much prominence to gambling, will the AttorneyGeneral consider recommending that the committee which will review the Constitution should consider urging that, lotteries be controlled- by the Federal Parliament?
– The honorable senator’s question is one that I hesitate to answer without notice. It would require a lot of consideration, and I should have thought that there were ma,ny more important things that might come within the purview of this Parliament than the control of lotteries.
– As a loss if about £110,000 of public money was incurred during the last financial year on the operation of the government-controlled hotels and hostels in Canberra, will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior give immediate consideration to their disposal? There have been annual losses on this government activity for a number of years.
– I shall be very pleased to refer the matter to the Minister for the Interior and obtain a considered reply for the honorable senator.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
In order to allay certain beliefs that there have been large-scale leakages of Commonwealth funds, will the Minister lay on thu table of the Senate the report of the investigators who recently examined the administration of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission ?
– The Minister for Supply has supplied the following answer : -
Investigations have been made into certain allegations affecting the Bell Bay project, and the report of the investigators has now been received. It is being examined. Until this is completed, consideration cannot be given to the question of any publication of the report.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize reductions in the rates of income tax and social services contribution payable by individuals in the current financial year 1954-55. No doubt, honorable senators have already taken the opportunity to examine the schedules which have been circulated setting out the proposed reductions of the tax and contribution payable at various levels of income. It will be observed that the reductions range from 20 per cent, on incomes in the lower ranges to a little more than S per cent, on an income of £15,000. It will also be noted that the. higher percentage reductions are concentrated in the lower income groups so that the maximum benefit is extended to the greatest number of taxpayers. The maximum rate which is payable on that part of an individual’s taxable income in excess of £16,000 will be reduced from 14s. to 13s. 4d. in the £1.
New tax instalment schedules came into operation on 1st October, so that, from that date, lower tax instalments have been deducted from salaries and wages. Taxpayers subject to provisional tax will receive the benefit of the reduced rates in the provisional tax payable in respect of their 1954-55 income. This will be calculated at the proposed rates and included in the assessments based on 1953- 54 income. It is estimated that the proposed reductions in income tax rates will reduce the total tax payable by individual taxpayers by £23,200,000 in 1954- 55, and by £31,250,000 in a full year. Income tax collections in 1954-55 will be reduced from an estimated £380,500,000 at the present rates to £357,300,000 at the proposed rates. It is also proposed that the income tax and social services contribution now payable above certain income levels by those taxpayers to whom the age allowance provisions apply, shall be reduced by 10 per cent., which i3 broadly equivalent to the overall reductions proposed for the general body of individual taxpayers.
As the law now stands, no income tax is payable by a single man over the age of 65 or a single woman over the age of 60 if the net income does not exceed £375. For incomes from £375 to £415, the tax is equal to one half of the amount by which the net income exceeds £375. When the income reaches £415, normal income tax rates apply. Under this bill, the tax payable by a single person qualified by age and with a net income of between £375 and £415 will be reduced by 10 per cent, from one half to ninetwentieths of the amount by which the income exceeds £375. Where the combined income of a married couple, both qualified by age, does not exceed £750, no income tax is payable. On incomes between £750 and £975, provision is made to ensure that the tax shall be no more than nine-twentieths of the excess of combined income over £750.
The income tax reductions provided for in this bill represent yet another practical application of the Government’s policy of reducing the tax burden to the lowest possible level consistent with the nation’s domestic and international commitments. In fact, income tax rates are now almost 30 per cent, lower than those in force when this Government assumed office. The substantia] benefits to the Australian taxpayer which have accumulated with the continuous implementation of this policy since 1949, are clearly illustrated in the schedules which have been distributed to honorable senators. The incomes of persons supporting families have in some cases been entirely exempted from tax. Other taxpayers have benefited from reductions ranging from 82 per cent, to 17.1 per cent, of the tax payable in 1949-50. These figures do not take account of the concessional deductions either introduced or extended by this Government.
The schedules to which I have referred show that a taxpayer with a wife and two children whose income amounts to £800 will, under this bill, be required to pay £32 2s., compared with £60 in 1949-50, a reduction of nearly 50 per cent. But if this same taxpayer paid medical expenses of £S0, on account of one child, and education expenses totalling £50, he would have to pay only 32 per cent, of the tax payable in 1949-50: that is, in 1949-50 lie would have paid £53 15s., but now his tax will be reduced to only £17 7s. This same taxpayer receives £39 a year child endowment, so that, overall, he receives more than he pays in tax. I might add here that a taxpayer with a dependent wife and two children, and no other deductions, can earn up to £855 before his tax liability would exceed the amount of the child endowment received. A taxpayer with a wife and five children must receive more than £1,466 before the tax levied would exceed the amount of child endowment received.
Comparisons, which have Veen circulated, of the tax payable on selected incomes inNew Zealand, United Kingdom and this country show the favorable position of Australian taxpayers. In no case is a taxpayer in Australia required to pay more than his counterpart in either of the two countries mentioned. It will continue to be the earnest endeavour of this Government to encourage, within the stability we at present enjoy, economic growth which has made tax reductions of this magnitude possible. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Flaherty ) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is complementary to the new rates of tax in giving effect to the Government’s income tax proposals in this year’s budget. In the rating measure, substantial reductions of income tax on individuals are being made, and this bill will provide for further concessions. I believe that honorable senators will welcome, particularly, an extension that is proposed in the range of taxation concessions which will assist the cause of education. The Senate will recall that, in 1952, the Government introduced income tax deductions for the expenses incurred by taxpayers in the education of children and, in 1953, extended the scope of this concession.
In the present bill, provision is included for the allowance of income tax deductions for gifts of £1 or more to public funds for the acquisition, construction or maintenance of school or college buildings used, or to be used, by non-profit organizations, including governments and public authorities. Gifts will also be deductible if made to the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust or to the Australian Academy of Science, two organizations which are concerned with the development of the arts and sciences in this country. The deduction of gifts to schools or colleges and to the Australian Academy of Science will apply in respect of gifts made on or after the 1st July, 1954. In the case of the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust, deductions will be allowed for all gifts made since the commencement of the trust in the early part of this year. The concessions I have described are estimated to cost the revenue £200,000 in a full financial year.
The bill proposes a modification of the method of taxing certain purchased pensions and annuities. The rate of pension is normally calculated so that, over the period of the life expectation of the pensioner as from the date of commencement of the pension, the pensioner will have the purchase price of the pension returned to him and also an interest or income return on his investment.
Technically, a pension has the character of being a receipt of income, notwithstanding that it may have been purchased. However, under the Assessment Act, the assessable income of a pensioner is reduced by allowing deductions of amounts that represent a return of his capital included in the pension. In the case of superannuation pensions, these deductions are usually allowed over the years that subscriptions are made to the superannuation fund. In other word’s, the deductions are allowed prior to the commencement of the pension. As the Senate is aware, income tax deductions are at present allowed, subject to a maximum in any one year of £200, for payments of life assurance premiums and superannuation fund contributions.
If the total outlay by the pensioner to obtain the pension is freed from taxation by way of these deductions prior to the commencement of the pension, there is no occasion subsequently to exempt any portion of the pension from taxation in order to cover the return of capital. If, however, due to the limit on the amount of annual deduction, the full amount outlaid has not been allowed, a residue of the outlay remains to be excluded from the pension when it commences to be paid. In these circumstances, the amount to be excluded is spread by annual instalments over the period of life expectation of the pensioner. This means that from the time when the life expectation of the pensioner is reached, the annual instalments are discontinued and the whole pension becomes taxable. As a result, at an advanced age, the pensioner’s liability is increased although his income does not increase. In order to remove the hardship imposed by this additional liability, the bill provides for the annual deductions to continue during the whole time that a pension is paid, even where the life expectation is exceeded. Correspondingly, persons who have purchased annuities will continue to have the annual instalment of purchase price excluded from their assessments throughout the full term of the annuity.
Another proposal affecting pensions i3 to exempt, as from the 1st July, 1954, pensions received from the United Kingdom Government by the widows or dependants of deceased servicemen. This exemption will have the effect of placing the pensions received by the widows and other dependants of deceased United Kingdom servicemen on the same footing, so far as Australia is concerned, as pensions received from the Commonwealth by the widows and other dependants of Australian servicemen.
I turn now to provisions of the bill which bear on the taxation of lease premiums on property leased for purposes of mining. As the law at present stands, a lessee is allowed a deduction of the amount he pays as premium. Howover, the premium is subject to tax in the hands of the freeholder or sub-lessor, as the case may be, and the value of the premium to him is reduced by the amount of tax liability. It is felt that this reduction in the value of the premium has resulted in some reluctance on the part of property-holders to release their property for purposes of mining. To remove this possible deterrent to development, it is proposed to alter the basis of taxation so that the recipient of a lease. premium for a mining property will not be subject to tax on that premium.
As a general rule, a premium receipt for the leasing or sub-leasing of a property for mining purposes will be free from tax in the hands of the recipient and, of course, in this event no deduction will be allowed to the payer. If this arrangement does not suit the parties, it will be left open for them to agree between themselves that the present method of taxation and deduction of premiums should be continued. It is estimated that the amendment will cost revenue £.15,000 in a full assessment year.
It is convenient at this point to mention the proposal incorporated in the bill to exempt dividends that are paid by companies wholly and exclusively out of income that is exempt under section 23 (p) of the principal act. Section 23 (p) exempts income derived by a bona fide prospector from the sale, transfer or assignment of his rights to mine for gold and certain other metals and minerals that are prescribed by regulation. The exemption applies whether the bona fide prospector is an individual or a company. It is considered that the exemption allowed to a. company should be extended to its shareholders and, accordingly, the bill provides for the exemption, in the hands of shareholders, of dividends which, after the bill receives the Royal assent, are paid by a, company wholly and exclusively out of income that is exempt under section 23 (p). The value of this concession will be increased shortly by a proposed amendment to the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Regulations to enlarge the list of metals and minerals to which the exemption that I have described will apply.
I should also refer briefly to clause 9 of the bill which effects a technical adjustment to section 204 of the principal act. Under that section, it is necessary to specify a due date for payment, even although tax is not actually payable on the assessment; for example, where the taxpayer receives a refund of tax. It is proposed that in such case3 a due date for payment shall not be specified on the notice. However, section 170 of the act operates within certain periods commencing with the due date for payment. To meet the requirements of that section, it is proposed that, in these cases, the 30th day after the issue of the assessment notice shall be deemed to be the due date for payment.
Before concluding, I should mention that several amendments to this bill are proposed to be - moved when the committee stage is reached. These amendments are necessary in order- to bring the income tax law into line with proposed amendments of the Bankruptcy Act. Very briefly, the necessity to amend the Bankruptcy Act arises in consequence of a recent decision of the High Court, in the case of The Queen v. Davison, to the effect that provisions in that act empowering a Registrar in Bankruptcy to make a sequestration order are unconstitutional. When the amendments to the Bankruptcy Act become law, references in the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act to sequestration orders and to persons being adjudicated bankrupt will no longer be appropriate. It is accordingly proposed, in the amendments to the present bill, to substitute for each of these references the expression “ Where a taxpayer has become a bankrupt “ or words of similar effect. The sections of the principal act which are thus proposed to be amended deal with allowable deductions for bad debts and losses incurred in previous years, and with the Commonwealth’s priority in the payment of income tax. In other -contexts in the act, the expression “ where the taxpayer becomes bankrupt “ is already used. The amendments proposed are necessary for drafting purposes only. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’flaherty) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
.- I moveThat the bill be now read a second time.
The main object of the bill is to raise the general exemption for pay-roll tax from the level of £80 a week to £120 a week. The amount of the weekly exemption was fixed originally at £20, and it remained at that figure until the 1st October, 1953, when it was increased to £80 a week, or four times the amount of the previous exemption. The exemption of £120 a week now proposed, which is six times the amount of the original exemption, will be effective in respect of wages payable on and after the 1st September, 1954. Thus, the higher deduction will apply for the first time in the returns to be furnished early in October, 1954, in respect of September wages. Only those employers who pay wages in excess of £120 a week will be liable to pay-roll tax, and the tax will be payable only on the actual excess of the wages over £120 a week.
It has been found that some employers, whose pay-rolls vary from time to time because of seasonal or other conditions, do not obtain the benefit of the full amount of exemption in their monthly returns. In such cases, the law provides for an annual adjustment to ensure that the full benefit of the statutory exemption will be secured. For the financial year 1954-55, annual adjustments will be based on the amount Of £5,893, and in later financial years the annual allowance will be £6,240. Employers in the lower pay-roll groups will gain a further substantial benefit from the increased exemption. It is estimated that it will relieve approximately 10,500 employers from liability to pay the tax.
The bill is designed also to authorize exemption from the pay-roll tax of wages paid by non-profit private hospitals, previously, the law has exempted wages paid by public hospitals, without any specific provision for private hospitals. Some private hospitals have, nevertheless, enjoyed exemption because they are conducted by church organizations, and thus fall within the scope of the exemption of religious institutions. For the purposes of income tax and sale3 tax, certain concessions which are allowed to public hospitals are applied also specifically to private hospitals which are not conducted for profit. It. is now proposed to bring the pay-roll tax law into line with the income tax and sales tax provisions by exempting the wages payable by non-profit hospitals on and from the 1st September, 1954.
The concessions allowed by the bill will involve an annual loss of revenue of £1,S10,000, or £1,508,000 for the financial year 1954-55.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKENNA) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill lie now e:la , a second time.
The purpose of the bill is to provide £42,000,000 out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the payment of war pensions. It is necessary to submit a measure of this nature to the Parliament from time to time for the purpose of appropriating from revenue an amount for payment into a trust account to enable pensions to be paid in accordance with such rates as are approved by the Parliament. The amount of £42,000,000 . now requested makes allowance for the increase in war pensions recently approved by the Senate. The bill has no relation whatever to the rates or conditions under which pensions are paid.
It merely authorizes the provision of funds for the trust account from which war pensions are paid.
Debate (on motion by Senator Critchley) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the payment to the States in 1954-55 of a special financial assistance grant of approximately £19,500,000 to supplement the amount payable under the formula embodied in the States Grants (Tax Reimbursement) Act 1946-194S. In each of the last five years, the Commonwealth has supplemented the amounts payable to the States under the tax reimbursement formula. Last year, the formula grant amounted to £120,507,000. In addition, the States received a special financial assistance grant of £21,915,000, making a total payment for 1953-54 of £142,422,000. The precise amount payable in 1954-55 under the tax reimbursement formula will not be known until the Commonwealth Statistician has completed his calculations later in the year. It is estimated, however, that the formula grant this year will amount to about £130,500,000. Therefore, unless the Commonwealth made a supplementary payment again this year, the States would receive £11,922,000 less than the total payment which they received last year.
This matter was discussed at a meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers which was held in Canberra last June. At that meeting, the Commonwealth offered to make a supplementary grant sufficient to bring the total payment in 1954-55 to £150,000,000, compared with £142,422,000 last year. As the amount payable under the formula is estimated at £130,500,000, this involves the payment of a special financial grant of about £19,500,000. The Premiers agreed that this supplementary grant should be distributed among the States in the same proportions as the formula grant. A provision to this effect has been included in the bill.
The total payments which it is estimated will be made to each State in 1954-55 as a resultof this legislation are compared, in a table, with the total payments made to each State last year. With the leave of the Senate, I incorporate the table in Hansard -
Debate (on motion by Senator Mckenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McLeay) read a first time.
. -I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill seeks to authorize the Australian Wine Board to expend part of its funds on the advertising of wine and brandy in Australia. The board is the statutory authority set up under the Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1929-53 to supervise and regulate the export, and the sale and distribution after export, of Australian wine. It derives its funds from the industry itself, by means of a levy paid by wineries and distilleries on grapes delivered to them for use in producing wine, brandy and distillation spirit. The levy is collected by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture under the provisions of the Wine Grapes Charges Act and is paid to the board for administrative expenditure, research and overseas publicity.
The board, with the support of the Federal Viticultural Council, has now sought amending legislation to increase the maximum rates of levy to be collected under the Wine ‘Grapes Charges Act. With such additional funds, the board would be in a position to carry out intensive marketing publicity in Australia and overseas. However, it is first necessary to amend the Wine Overseas Marketing Act to place beyond doubt the constitutional power of the board to conduct publicity activities within Australia.
There is no doubt that a properly coordinated publicity drive in Australia and overseas would be helpful to the wine industry. Sales in Australia have contracted in recent years and efforts to expand the overseas trade have been severely handicapped by the high United Kingdom tariff on wine, and other factors. At the same time, production has been steadily increasing. Stocks of Australian wines held here and in the United Kingdom have reached a very high level and it is clear that a heavy vintage next year could create a very real storage problem. Prices of wine grapes fell sharply in the last two seasons, leading to requests for Commonwealth Government intervention and assistance.
The industry believes that expansion of sales can be achieved by a national publicity campaign to supplement brand advertizing by individual wine-makers. An amendment to the act, as proposed in this bill, will authorize the board to use moneys collected under the Wine Grapes Charges Act for publicity purposes within Australia. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McLeay.) read a first time.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Wine Grapes Charges Act 1929-1941 in order to authorize an increase in the maximum rates of levy that may be collected on grapes delivered to wineries and distilleries. The Wine Grapes Charges Act now provides for the collection from wine-makers and distillers of levies up to a maximum of 5s. per ton, in the case of fresh grapes, and 15s. per ton, in the case of dried grapes. The actual rates, within these maximum levels, are prescribed by regulation, the present prescribed rates being 4s. and 12s. a ton respectively. The funds derived from these levies are used by the Australian Wine Board for administrative expenditure, overseas advertising and research. This bill seeks to raise the existing maximum rates from 5s. to 10s. a ton in the case of fresh grapes and from 15s. to 30s. a ton in the case of dried grapes.
The proposal has been advanced by the Australian Wine Board with the strong support of the Federal Viticultural Council, which is the federal voluntary organization of Australian wine-makers and distillers. Stocks are accumulating, and if the production of Australian wine and brandy is to continue at the level of the quantities produced in recent years, active sales promotion and publicity campaigns by the Australian Wine Board, which will involve increased expenditure, will be necessary in Australia and overseas. The maximum rates of levy prescribed in the present act were fixed as far back as 1929, and increases are now necessary to enable sufficient funds to be collected for the purposes of the board. The Wine Grapes Charges Act is complementary in its operation to the Wine Overseas Marketing Act. I commend the bill to honorable senators-
Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 13th October(vide page 709).
Proposed vote - Department of Works, £2,503,000- agreed to.
Proposed vote, £1,407,000.
– I refer to Division 59, Legal Service Bureau. I have no quarrel with the principle that legal aid should be made available to exservicemen. Indeed, I heartily endorse that principle. But it appears to me that there has been a marked decline in the number of cases being dealt with by the Legal Service Bureau. The officers of the bureau in Perth have not nearly as many cases to deal with as they had in the years immediately after the war. Could the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) make available to the Senate particulars of the volume of work done by the bureau in the last five or six years in order to give the Senate an opportunity of comparing the volume of work now performed with the volume performed in previous years? I should like the Minister also to compare the numerical strength of the staff now employed by the Legal Service Bureau with that in previous years. The thought has occurred to me that this bureau may be being retained merely because it is now in existence. Of course, that practice is not peculiar to government departments; it is evident also in some private enterprise. I think that there should be a continuing examination to ensure that we shall no* pay more for a service to be performed by a government instrumentality than we would have to pay to private enterprise. Does the Attorney-General think that, in view of the long period of time that has elapsed since the end of World War II., the work now performed by the Legal Service Bureau could be carried out at less cost by outside legal practitioners ?
– There has been an appreciable reduction of the cost of maintaining the. Legal Service Bureau since the immediate post-war period. At the time that the reduction of the strength of the Public Service was under consideration in 1951, the Legal Service Bureau was given special attention. As a result of a direction that I issued, which was designed to ensure that the work that the bureau performed on behalf of exservicemen should be related to their rehabilitation, an appreciable reduction of the staff - and cost - of the bureau was effected. The bureau has been working quite satisfactorily under that direction ever since, and a high standard of service is still being maintained. I assure the honorable senator that this matter is at present under review. On the one hand, we have no desire to deprive ex-servicemen of a service that has been very useful to them, but, on the other hand, I agree with the honorable senator’s contention that the staff position should be kept continually under review because, logically, the volume of work handled by the bureau should become less each year. From my recent inquiries, I am convinced that the Legal Service Bureau is now handling about the same volume of work as it did in 1951 after the reduction of staff.
– I invite the attention of the Committee to Division No. 53, which relates to the High Court. It is generally agreed that the administration of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department has been maintained at a high standard, and I shall not, therefore, make any serious suggestions in relation to the administration of the High Court. However, as a resident of Brisbane, I point out that the volume of commercial activity of that city, which’ has a. population of about 500,000 persons, is comparable to that of other cities of a similar size. As there is not, at present, a resident High Court justice in Brisbane, I urge the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) to consider making such an appointment in the near future. A High Court justice, who was a resident of Brisbane, could deal with cases arising not only in Queensland, but also, probably, in the north of New South Wales. As only one sitting of the
High Court is held each year in Brisbane, a good deal of delay is occasioned to litigants. It could be reduced very considerably - if not altogether eliminated - by the holding of two sittings yearly in that city.
– I take this opportunity to compliment the Attorney-General’s Department on its high standard of administration, and I wish again to invite the attention of the committee to matters concerning the Government Printing Office, to which I addressed myself during a consideration of the proposed vote for the Department of the Treasury. On the 22nd October, 1953, I asked the Minister representing the Treasurer a series of questions related to the tremendous delay that occurred in making available to the public copies of the consolidated Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1936-1952. It appears from the Treasurer’s (Sir Arthur Fadden) reply that there is a considerable absence of liaison between the Income Tax Branch, the Attorney-General’s Department and the Government Printing Office. Of course, as a lawyer, I know that, inevitably, there are some delays in connexion with legal matters. The right honorable gentleman’s reply was as follows: -
The reprinting of acts as amended is a function of the Attorney-General’s Department. The Attorney-General has supplied me with the following information : -
The whole of the main portion of the manuscript of the reprint of the Income Tax and Social Services Contributions Assessment Act 1036- 1952 was sent to the Government Printer at the end of December, 1952, and the balance, comprising the Table of Sections and Index, was forwarded during April and May, 1953.
First proofs of the work were received in batches at intervals during March and April, 1953.
Imposed proofs of the various batches were ordered at intervals during April and May, 1953, and were received in batches during the same months.
Portion of the work was sent to the Government Printer “ Correct for Press “ on the 5th May, 1953, and the remainder on the 9th June, 1953.
The publication was ready for issue on the 29th July, 1953.
Admittedly, it was a fairly long publication - inasmuch as it ran to 2S2 pages - but I consider that the period of seven months which elapsed from’ the passage of the act until copies of it were available to the public, was inordinately long. In spite of what has been said about the excellent work of this department, I believe that particular attention should be given to the matter that I have mentioned, and that, if necessary, an officer should be responsible for ensuring that proofs are read and returned promptly and indices prepared as soon as practicable after a measure becomes law. [ see no reason why consolidations should not be made available in October or November of the year in which the amending legislation is passed. If they are not available until July of the following year, they very soon become obsolete because new consolidations are necessary. I direct the attention of the Attorney-General to the necessity to speed up this important function of his department.
– Senator Benn mentioned the desirability of having a resident of Queensland on the High Court. I think he must have overlooked the fact that Sir William Webb is a resident of that State.
– I do not think he is a resident judge.
– That suggests that there may be some misunderstanding of the functions of the High Court. Judges of the High Court are .called upon to travel round the Commonwealth, visiting each State from time to time in the course of the year. I have no doubt that, quite often, there is no judge of the High Court immediately available in Melbourne because the court is sitting in Sydney, or that sometimes no judge is available in Sydney because the court is meeting in Melbourne.
– I understand the position to be otherwise.
– I think that an endeavour is made always to have a judge available in Sydney and Melbourne because a great deal more work goes to the High Court in those cities - particularly work of the kind that is performed by a single judge. It would be very difficult to arrange the business of the court in such a way that one judge could usefully reside in Brisbane all the time. I do not think that the volume of work in Brisbane could possibly justify that and any such arrangement would deprive the court of the services of one judge when it was performing important business in other parts of the Commonwealth.
– What about Senator Bonn’s alternative suggestion that two sittings of the High Court be held in Brisbane each year?
– The arrangement of the business of the court is a matter for the court itself, and I have no doubt that it makes its arrangements in the light of the business that it is called upon to undertake in the various parts of the Commonwealth. The time may come - and this will be a matter for the court itself to determine - when the volume of business in Brisbane will call for two sittings a year instead of one. That is a matter which the Chief Justice and his colleagues will have to work out for themselves, having regard to the volume of business that the court has to carry out, not merely in Brisbane, but also throughout the Commonwealth.
Senator Laught spoke about the delays that take place in the publication of consolidations of statutes such as the Income Tax Assessment Act. I have a great deal of sympathy with his views. Part of the difficulty is due to the fact that the drafting section of my department is somewhat understaffed. While it would appear reasonable to suggest that if amending legislation is passed in say, November, the consolidation should be available, in three month’s time, all kinds of other matters may intervene. The draftsmen may be called upon to do other urgent work, and, therefore, may be unable to concentrate on the task of consolidation. However, I can assure the honorable senator that our aim is to have consolidations published as rapidly as possible. I gather from the dates mentioned by Senator Laught that the delays to which he referred were not in the Attorney-General’s Department. If I remember his figures correctly, a final draft went to the printer some time in
May or June but was not received back from the printer until six weeks later. So, apparently there are difficulties at the Government Printing Office. The Government Printer is overburdened with work at times, and his staff just cannot cope with the volume of printing. However, I again assure the honorable senator that I have the greatest sympathy with his point of view. It is undoubtedly desirable that acts of parliament, in a form that can be readily understood, should be available to the public at the earliest possible time and I shall do everything I can to ensure that that shall be done.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Interior.
Proposed vote, £3,513,000.
– The Canberra ‘bus service again incurred a substantial loss last year and I think it is time the authorities looked into this matter. It may be possible, for instance, to reduce operating costs by running one-man ‘buses, particularly during the slack periods of the day. I know that there is some opposition to one-man ‘buses by the employees, but I think that the congestion that is caused by the single operator of a ‘bus having to collect fares and give change could be minimized by the issuing of books of tickets. Most ‘bus passengers travel regularly from one point to another. The system has been tried in some States, and I commend it to the Minister for the Interior for adoption in Canberra with a view to overcoming these recurring losses.
While on the subject of Canberra, 1 might say that, in my opinion the time has come when the administration of this city should be placed in the hands of a municipal authority. It is ridiculous that members of Parliament who come from all- parts of the Commonwealth should be called upon to deal with Canberra’s domestic affairs which could be much more efficiently conducted by a municipal body. I can see many ways in which expenditure in Canberra could be reduced. The introduction of one-man buses, together with a system of prior sale of tickets is one of them.
, - I direct my remarks to Divisions 61 and 63. Some time ago, the adoption of a better method of allowing the Senate to consider the Estimates in detail was raised by Senator Wright. Various proposals were put forward at that time, and I suggested that Ministers, in presenting the Estimates for their departments, might comment on any new or unusual items, or on any great increase or decrease of expenditure. My idea in suggesting that was that anything of significance could thus be brought to the notice of the Senate ; otherwise, the attention of honorable senators might not be directed to such matters. Honorable senators will see that, in Division 61o, there is reference to payments for aerial photography, the proposed vote for which has increased by £40,000, or 50 per cent, over the vote last year. The vote this year represents an increase of approximately £35,000 over actual expenditure last year. There is also reference to film distribution, which is virtually a new item, because although £100 was voted for this purpose last year, there was no expenditure. The vote this year is £3,000.
The proposed vote in respect of meteorological instruments and apparatus, referred to in Division 63 - Meteorological Branch, discloses a very substantial increase, compared with the vote last year. Perhaps these matters are not very material, but they may cause honorable senators to wonder why provision has been made for substantially increased votes. Apparently, the Government has in mind considerable expansion of the system of aerial photography, and it would be of interest for honorable senators to know in which States that expansion is to be made, and the purpose of it.
On the question of film distribution, the proposed vote for which is £3,000 this year, I should like the Minister to indicate what the Government has in mind. Is it proposed to distribute films to private individuals or to societies and organizations? Is it also proposed to distribute them overseas?
– And is there to be any income from such distribution?
– That is also a material matter. The Minister might also say who is to be entrusted with the distribution of films, for whatever purpose they are made. Similar remarks, to a less degree, could be made about the proposed vote for meteorological instruments and apparatus. Apart from the general increase of costs, it would appear that it is the intention of the Government to expand technical equipment and meteorological services. I do not think that honorable senators should be obliged to give extremely close scrutiny to these matters in order to ferret out the facts about them. If the method that I have suggested were adopted by Ministers, honorable senators would really know what the Government had in mind in respect of new items which appeared in the Estimates, or substantial increases or decreases of amounts which appeared previously.
– I observe that there is a vote of £577,000 to cover the cost of running the Meteorological Branch of the Department of the Interior for the current year. Does the Minister think that we are obtaining full value for the expenditure of substantial sums of money for this purpose? I do not think that any one could exaggerate the importance of accurate weather forecasting in a country such as Australia. On former occasions in the Senate, I have directed attention to the failure of the Weather Bureau, in the State which I represent, to keep pace with the behaviour of the weather. I have in ray hand an extract from the Maranoa Grazier, which is published at Roma. In a report concerning a meeting of the Maranoa Graziers Association Executive Council, reference is made to the fact that a delegate had stated that rain had been falling for two days in the Surat area before the weather bureau in Brisbane even’ admitted that it was raining. Delegates who attended a meeting of the council at St. George stated that inaccurate or late weather forecasts had been responsible for the loss of more than 10,000 sheep, valued at more than £40,000, due to flooding of the Condamine River, of which they had had no warning through accurate weather forecasts. That brings me back to the question: Do we really obtain value for the money we expend on weather fore casting ? I am not offering these remarks as harsh criticism of the men who work in the Brisbane Weather Bureau, but rather as constructive criticism. We all realize that weather forecasting is not an exact science. Those who carry out that work have to contend with natural forces that, are very capricious. What I have to say, therefore, is said by way of helpful suggestion.
The Department of Civil Aviation is far better equipped to deal with approaching weather changes than the weather bureaux appear to be. I have suggested here previously that the Department of Civil Aviation, by means of aircraft moving through the skies, and uptodate methods at the various air terminals throughout Australia, has a better chance to observe the development of changes in the weather than have the weather bureaux. I advocate either that the weather bureaux should be integrated with the Department of Civil Aviation, or that better liaison should be established between the Department of Civil Aviation and the Meteorological Branch. If we want to have a weather forecasting system which will function on an efficient basis, I think the Minister would do well to give serious consideration to that suggestion.
I also suggest that, in country districts, where rainfall of 1 inch or more occurs, within three hours of precipitation the postmaster should send urgent telegraphic advice to the weather bureaux in the capital cities, so that such information could readily be made available to all those interested in it. In this country, information concerning changes in the weather is of the greatest importance to the industries upon which the wealth of Australia is founded. All our pastoral and agricultural industries, and also those which depend on them, are vitally concerned with weather conditions. I think that something could be done to improve existing methods. It cannot be denied that, in relation to information about, rainfall, we are still in the horseandbuggy days. It is still the practice for postmasters to register the rainfall at 9 o’clock every morning and, by means of a slow telegram, despatch that information to the weather bureaux in the capital cities. By the time the information becomes known to interested members of the public,, the news is stale. If we had access to the up-to-the-minute information which is available to the Department of Civil Aviation, we should be able to utilize more fully the information which is given to the Meteorological Branch. I make these observations again in order to focus attention on this important matter of weather forecasting, and I hope that they will lead to the adoption of improved methods.
– I refer to Division 67 - Rent of buildings. I should like the Minister to inform me whether the buildings that are referred to are located in every capital city of the Commonwealth. I notice that, last year, expenditure in this connexion was £546,742, whereas this year the proposed vote is £583,000. I agree that it is necessary for the Commonwealth to have offices throughout the Commonwealth, but it seems to me that millions of pounds have been paid unnecessarily for the renting of such offices. Is there any prospect, in the near future, of Commonwealth departments having their own offices in the capital cities where it is necessary for them to operate ? It appears from the particulars set out in this division that sixteen departments are obliged to pay rent for the buildings which they use.
– The matters that have been raised by Senator O’Byrne, Senator Seward and other honorable senators which affect policy will be conveyed to the responsible Ministers at the first opportunity. Senator O’Byrne also referred to increased expenditure in respect of aerial photography. I point out that expansion is taking place in that field. I also inform him that there was no expenditure in respect of film distribution last year because sufficient money had been collected. There was no outgoing. The increased vote for this year is partly due to the fact that production costs have risen considerably. Senator Maher raised certain matters in connexion with the Meterological Branch, and suggested that there should be a closer liaison with the Department of of Civil Aviation. Most of the meteorological work for civil aviation is done by the Meterological Branch. To improve our knowledge, and having regard to the importance of these matters to civil aviation, the sum of £253,500 has been included in the Estimates of the Department of the Interior for the provision of the latest mechanical equipment. With such equipment we shall be able to give the best possible advice to the representatives of the Department of Civil Aviation.
Senator Critchley directed attention to expenditure in connexion with the renting of buildings. I do not think any previous Minister for the Interior has done more than the present Minister (Mr. Kent Hughes) to try to cut down expenditure and put to better use some of the land that has been acquired by the Commonwealth. One of the main reasons why we are not able to provide our own accommodation is that there is a very great shortage of men and materials in the building industry. That factor has to be taken into consideration.
Sitting suspended from 12.J/-6 to 2.15 p.m.
– I wish to refer to Division 61 - Administrative, and the item “Motor vehicles - upkeep and hire, including use of private vehicles for departmental purposes, £37,000 “. Last year, the vote for this item was £34,000, and actual expenditure was £30,404. This appears to be an item of departmental expenditure that could easily and imperceptibly get out of control. The estimated cost of these services is £6,596 more than actual expenditure last year. I realize that in terms of the figures that the committee is dealing with in the Estimates, an amount of nearly £7,000 is practically nothing, but it represents an increase of £123 a week, and to my oldfashioned way of thinking; that is a considerable increase and should be explained. I should like the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) to explain in some detail how the increase of £123 a week is to be incurred, because it appears to me to be a class of expenditure that could quickly get out of control without an adequate explanation being given. It may be that this is a stab estimate by departmental officers’ rather than a calculated estimate.
– Senator Paltridge has pointed out that last year the vote was £34,000 for this item and actual expenditure was £30,404. In considering the Estimates, the departmental officers must provide for an amount to meet all contingencies. If the expenditure in the current year in comparison with the proposed vote is along the same lines as last year, the full amount of £37,000 will not be expended.
– Why was the figure estimated at £37,000?
– I am assured by advisers from the Department of the Interior that there has been no expansion of these services and none is contemplated. Costs and general expenses have risen, but as the honorable senator has said, the officers must make a stab at the probable total expenditure. If the honorable ‘senator considers this matter in the light of actual experience last year, he will realize that there will probably not be any greater expenditure in the current year. One of the reasons why the officers decided that this amount would be required was that additional provision had to be made for payment for the use of private vehicles approved by the Public Service Board. The officers worked on about a 10 per cent, margin to meet that requirement. . That is all the information that I can give the honorable senator.
– I wish to refer to the item “ Office cleaning other than salaries, £58,000” under Division 61 - Administrative. Last year the actual expenditure on this item was £44,4S4. The increase in the proposed vote of £13,516 over that expenditure appears to be excessive, as it does not cover salaries.
– Honorable senators have to give full consideration to the fact that the population of Canberra is growing, the strength of departments is increasing and costs are rising in consequence. If
Senator Wedgwood has regard to the difference between the amount of £50,000 that was voted last year, and the amount that was expended, I do not think that the proposed vote, which is a maximum amount, exaggerates the need resulting from expansions and increased costs.
– I should like the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) to explain several items under Division 61 - Administrative. The first is the item, “ Plan printing, papercoating and production of maps, £13,000 “. The other is the item under the next section, “ Mapping activities - Payments for work carried out by States, £12,000”. Can the Minister inform me whether the two items are related? If not, what maps and plans are referred to in the first item that I have mentioned that are not included in the second item? In that connexion, I direct attention to the item, “ Payments for aerial photography, £120,000”. That is appreciably higher than the amount of £85,391 that was expended on this item last year. What is that nature of the aerial photography that has taken place, for whom is it being done and is it work for which the Australian Government will be reimbursed by the States? Further. is that work being done for the armed forces? I am informed that the Department of the Interior is doing a good deal of mapping for some of the armed forces, and I should like to have that information.
– My remarks will be virtually a continuation of those that have been made by Senator Vincent. I seek information about the News and Information Bureau because I believe that it is under the administration of the Department of the Interior, Is it covered by the item, “ Publicity materials and services, £51,000”, under Division 61 - Administrative? I believe that the News and Information Bureau has taken the place of the Department of Information, but I do not know how many journalists are employed by it or the extent of its responsibilities. The committee should be given information about the cost of the bureau, the number of officers employed in it and their duties. If another department, such as the Postmaster-General’s Department, wishes to inform the public about its work, apart from political propaganda, is a journalist in the employ of the bureau assigned to the work, or does the Postmaster-General’s Department also employ a publicity staff? Does the bureau do all the publicity work of Commonwealth departments or is it working only in conjunction with the Department of the Interior? I know that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) represents another Minister who is charged with the administration of this department, and I should be quite happy to have later a detailed statement of the work of the News and Information Bureau, its duties and expenditure.
– The matter that has been raised by Senator Marriott is an interesting one. I have heard the fine work of the News and Information Bureau widely discussed and praised. Yesterday I had the privilege of seeing a film illustrative of an Australian expedition to the Antarctic that was produced by the bureau. Legislation relating to the Antarctic is being discussed in the House of Representatives, and the exhibition of that film was timely. It was an excellent film and members of the Parliament were fortunate to have the opportunity of seeing it. I pay a tribute to the News and Information Bureau for the work that it is doing at reasonable cost. The officers of the bureau are virtually public relations officers. As the Estimates show, the Australian Government is a big business organization, and it needs publicity and public relations officers. Although the size of the bureau has been considerably reduced and its vote is now cut to the bone, I compliment it on the work that it is doing. I hope that the Government will see fit to extend the activities of the bureau because Australia must profit from its activities. It serves to educate the public and members of the Parliament about Australian matters through films and publications that are not ordinarily available.
– I direct attention to Division 65 - Forestry Branch, and I pay a tribute to the work that is being done by that organization. In particular, I wish to refer to the item on page 153 of the Schedule, which shows that the amount estimated to remain unexpended by the Forestry Branch this year is £24,551. That is approximately one-third of the amount originally scheduled as likely to be expended. It would be a matter for regret if the full amount available for forestry research work were not expended. I have had the privilege of visiting the Forestry School at Yarralumla, and have made a fairly close inspection of the work that is being done there. Honorable senators might be surprised to learn that the students at the school include some from Abyssinia. The reason is that an attempt is being made to grow more eucalypts in Abyssinia, Pakistan and .Malaya, and that type of tree is not studied in forestry schools in the United Kingdom or Europe. Therefore, students from those countries come to Australia. Every endeavour should be made to extend research and teaching in forestry. I think it is a pity that it is expected that such a large sum will remain unexpended by the Forestry Branch.
While I am dealing with forestry, I want to pay tribute to the work of the Commonwealth in planting and growing trees in places such as Woomera. The growth of some thousands of trees in that arid area will make Woomera one of the most pleasant towns in South Australia. The planting of appropriate trees would be welcome in many other parts of Australia. I give my full support to the work of the Forestry Branch, but I should like the Minister to explain why it is expected that such a large proportion of the vote will not be expended when there is so much work to do in this field.
– The Estimate for the Forestry Branch was made on the basis that it might be possible to obtain the services of additional men qualified to do specific jobs. So far, one of the great problems confronting the branch has been to get enough men for its work. In preparing the Estimates, departmental officers bear in mind the necessity to do as much work as possible. If the full sum asked for is agreed to by the Parliament and the department has the good luck to get all the men it wants, finance does not present an obstacle.
Questions have been asked about aerial photographic work. As honorable senators appreciate, a Minister who is acting for another Minister must rely on the advice tendered to him by departmental officers. The more I look at the advice tendered to me by the officers of this department, the more I am inclined to congratulate them on their skill in covering all the points to which exception might possibly have been taken. The departmental note that I have received states -
This provision is to meet the costs of contracts with commercial air survey companies for air photography required by Commonwealth departments. The Commonwealth Survey -Committee, comprising representatives of the Departments of the Interior, Navy, Air, Supply, Civil Aviation, Army and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization co-ordinates the activities and requirements of departments and makes recommendations on priorities in respect of mapping and air surveys requested.
Those of us who have had practical experience of the work of government departments know that before estimates reach the stage of consideration by the Parliament they are considered carefully by the department concerned and also by the Treasury. In estimating expenditure, departmental officers, generally speaking, do an exceptionally good job. The Estimates come very close to the sums actually expended. I think honorable senators appreciate that, if departmental officers under-estimated their financial requirements, their departments might be in queer street before the end of a financial year. Looking through the Estimates, we find that in many instances the whole of a sum voted to a department has not been spent. That is due, not to errors of judgment by the estimating officers, but to circumstances over which they have no control. One of the major problems confronting my department, and probably many other departments, is to .get the materials that we require. Sometimes it is impracticable to spend all the money allotted to us, but sometimes we get a windfall in the shape of an extra shipment of materials and we require all the money allotted to us.
With regard to the item in respect of publicity materials and services, I have been supplied with the following explanation by the department: -
This item is to cover the cost of producing the News and Information Bureau’s publications, the quarterly reference booklet A.ustralia in Facts and Figures, and all publications issued by its overseas offices. The costs of contributed articles are also provided.
Provision is made for expenditure as follows: -
I could give many other details in connexion with this work. If any honorable senator wants detailed information about any item, I shall be only too pleased to obtain it for him, but it will be appreciated that it is a physical impossibility for a Minister acting for another Minister to carry all the details of the other department’s work in his head.
– I appreciate the remarks just made by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay). I certainly want some more detailed information about the upkeep and hire of motor vehicles. The Minister, in the course of the remarks he has just made, has pointed out that frequently the whole of a sum voted to a department is not spent. That is what brings me to my feet in connexion with this matter. I suggest that, on the face of it, an estimate of £37,000 for this purpose is completely unrealistic. The expenditure last year was only £30,000, and we have been assured by the Minister that there is to be no expansion of this activity. The proposed vote represents an increase by 20 per cent, of the sum spent last year. I should like an explanation of the increase. ls it clue to increased upkeep expenses? If so, to what extent? Is it due to increased hire charges? If so, to what extent? What is meant by the words “ including the use of private vehicles for departmental purposes “ ? To what extent is it expected that expenditure in connexion with the use of private vehicles will be increased? Why does the department use private cars for departmental purposes? Those are all matters arising out of this item in respect of which I should very much appreciate some further information from lie Minister. If he cannot give it to me now, I most certainly ask him to give it to me later. I repeat that, on the face of it, this is an unrealistic estimate, which the Minister has sought to justify partly by saying that departments must have money to cover their expenditure. Of course they must, but they should keep pretty close to the mark in their estimates. I suggest that in this case the estimate is very wide of the mark.
.- I shall try to reply to the remarks of Senator Paltridge while they arc fresh in my mind. A number of officers use their private cars for departmental purposes. Certain officers work in isolated areas, and it is much cheaper to permit them to use their private cars for their work than to keep Commonwealth cars on tap. The Public Service Board has been considering the mileage rate that should be paid to officers who use their private cars for departmental work. In the old days, some Cabinet Ministers used their cars for official purposes. From my conversations with those Ministers, I know that the Public Service Board is very cautious, properly so, in fixing the mileage rate. If anybody thinks he can get from the board a higher mileage rate than he should get, he will be very disappointed. As I have said, during the year, the Public Service Board has been making a complete examination of the mileage rate paid to users of private motor cars for official purposes in all parts ‘of Australia. It is anticipated that, as a result of that examination, expenditure on motor vehicles will rise from £30,000 to £37,000. To summarize the position, the reason for the anticipated increase is that the Public Service Board has decided that people who use their private cars for official purposes are entitled to a reasonable increase of the mileage rate.
– I should like the Minister to obtain some information for me. If he cannot give me the information now, I shall be quite happy if he can give it to me later. Outside Maitland, there are 50 or 60 Nissen huts that have been unoccupied for eighteen months or two years. I do not know whether they have been completely finished. However, they are not being used and are deteriorating gradually. I wonder whether any provision has been made for maintaining them. I am worried about what is going to happen to them. I should like to know what it is costing the Commonwealth to have such a large number of huts lying idle. Apparently, no use has been found for them.
– I refer to Division 67 - Rent of Buildings. It is estimated that the smallish sum of £583,000 will be spent for this purpose during this financial year. Last year, the expenditure was £546,000. I assume that, generally speaking, the buildings concerned are situated mainly, in the capital cities of Australia. To my mind, there are two very bad aspects of this matter. First, I believe we are paying far too much in rent for buildings, and it appears that the expenditure is increasing from year to year. The estimate for this year, at a rate of interest of 4 per cent., represents a capital investment of about £14,500,000. I should like the Minister to explain the policy of the Government in relation to what appears to be a perpetual commitment in respect of rented premises. Is this to be a permanent charge? If not, to what extent is it proposed, over a reasonable period, to provide premises for Commonwealth departments in the capital cities? By its . occupation of rented premises, the Government is denying their use to private occupiers. In each State, the
Commonwealth has taken over certain buildings. It is difficult to stop the Government from doing that. It is a powerful institution and cannot be denied. I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport to inform the Senate of the Government’s long-term policy in regard to the renting of buildings. I consider that the Government is paying far too much in rent and I should like to know when it intends to reduce that expenditure.
.- Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport (.Senator McLeay) supply me with some facts in relation to Division 61b, item 9 “Motor Vehicles - upkeep and hire, including use of private vehicles for departmental purposes, £37,000”? What additional expenditure will be incurred in the upkeep of vehicles and what additional expenditure will be incurred in the hire of private vehicles? I should like to know how many private cars are hired throughout the Commonwealth and how many are hired in each State. What is the basis of payment for the use of these cars? What was the charge before the Public Service .Board made its inquiry and what is the present charge? i know that the Minister cannot provide that information immediately but I should like to receive it as soon as possible.
– I consider that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) should be asked to examine the growing tendency among ‘departments to use private hire cars although government cars may be available. When somebody who is rightly entitled to a car needs one outside the normal hours of work, the departmental tendency seems to be to send for a vehicle from a private hire firm, with which the department has a contract. I think that the cost of each trip by a private hire car would be greater than the cost of using a departmental car because the Government owns the departmental cars and has to pay a driver whether he works or not. I suggest that the Government may be able to reduce this item of expenditure by issuing an instruction that government owned and driven cars shall be used in preference to private hire cars.
– The points that have been raised by honorable senators are of great importance. I do not defend the existing position. I only state the facts as they have been presented to me. Private hire cars are used mainly in country area.* where there is no pool of government cars or drivers. I shall take the first opportunity of placing before the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) the points that have been raised by Senator Paltridge and Senator Marriott. I shall also obtain from the department the information that was sought by Senate:’ Paltridge and let him have it at a later stage of the proceedings. The point? that were raised by Senator Vincent arc quite pertinent. The Government has received many objections from private owners concerning the acquisition of certain buildings at rentals which have been fixed by State authorities. In Melbourne and other places in which it has been possible to build, the Government is having offices constructed. As I said earlier, great difficulty is experienced in obtaining men and materials in order to construct the accommodation that is needed, particularly in the metropolitan areas. I assure honorable senators that a careful survey will be made of the matters that have been raised. The comments of” honorable senators will be forwarded to the Minister for the Interior and I shall obtain a reply from him as soon as possible.
Senator SEWARD (Western Australia) 2.52]. - I wish to raise the subject of the conditions of employment of Commonwealth car drivers. When I was being driven to the airport some time ago in a government car, the driver said that he might require my assistance because he was putting in for another job. I asked him what was wrong with his present one. He said that he was only employed on a temporary basis and that he had a wife and family to provide for. I maintain that these men should be employed on a permanent basis. They drive Ministers all over Western Australia and hear conversations of a. confidential character. The drivers of the Western Australian Government are permanently employed.
Our men work late hours. Sometimes they are out until midnight and have to leave again early in the morning. They are at the call of Ministers. I appeal to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) to have them employed on a permanent basis. They are courteous and efficient. When I approached a Minister on this matter some time ago, I was provided with a delightfully evasive reply. These men were then compared with men on pick-and-shovel work. They arc not. men of that type, and I appeal to the Minister to inquire into the possibility of having them permanently employed.
– I shall be pleased to do that.
Senator TANGNEY (Western Australia) 2.54 1 . - I endorse the remarks of Senator Seward. I understand that, in the capital cities, Commonwealth cardrivers are employed by the Department of Supply. Many of them have left their jobs, and their services have been lost to the Commonwealth because it has provided no security for them. As Senator Seward has said, these men do work which results in their hearing confidential information. They have to be men of integrity, and they should be rewarded by being made members of the permanent Public Service, with superannuation rights. I endorse the suggestion of Senator Seward, which I know will have the support of most honorable senators.
– As I have been absent from the chamber, I have not heard the discussion that has been going on regarding the renting of buildings. However, I point out that, in common with other States, South Australia is in a had position in regard to the housing of various departments. I understand that the renting of buildings for government use is arranged by the Department of the interior. Various people have complained to me about the occupation by Commonwealth departments of buildings in Adelaide. This is probably because South Australia has grown tremendously during the last few years, and activity there has increased. This development has resulted in a very grave lag in the provision of office accom modation. The Federal Members’ Rooms, which used to he in the State House of Parliament, were recently transferred to the C.M.L. Building, in the centre of Adelaide, where they occupy almost a whole floor, to the exclusion of the business people of Adelaide. Quite a number of business people have approached me on this matter. One prominent mar. took me into his office in that building.
– Did not the Government have that floor previously for the Social Services Department?
– That may be so, but the point is that it is now occupied by the Federal Members’ Rooms, to the exclusion of business people. The recent census revealed that the growth, of population in South Australia had exceeded that of every other State with the possible exception of Western Australia. Consequently, business activities throughout that State, particularly in Adelaide, have expanded rapidly. The time is ripe for the Government to undertake a building scheme in Adelaide in order adequately to house our Commonwealth departments. I do not know of any other capital city which has such a poor building for its Commonwealth Bank. The Commonwealth Bank building in Adelaide serves the purpose of a banking chamber to a degree, but it occupies a site on which a much more adequate building could be erected. Years ago, when I saw the Commonwealth Bank being erected on the site of the old building, I thought that it wa3 only a poor building compared with other buildings that were constructed for the Commonwealth Bank in those days. It is no more than a humpy.
It is necessary to consult the telephone book in order to discover the whereabouts of any Australian Government department in Adelaide. They are spread all over the city, and this results in a great loss of efficiency. A very large proportion of the railways administration building in Adelaide is occupied by the Taxation Branch. That is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs. T consider that it is high time the Government made adequate provision for the housing of its various departments in Adelaide. If the colossal amount of rent that is paid annually by the Government for office accommodation were capitalized, it would amount to a tremendous sum. Therefore, on behalf of the business people of Adelaide, and in the interests of departmental efficiency-
– “What about the general public?
– I include the general public. I urge the Government to give urgent consideration to this matter.
– I hope that the committee will not delay for very much longer, agreeing to this proposed vote, as there are still many proposed votes to be considered. I have already replied to similar points raised by other honorable senators, but several honorable senators who were not then present have since entered the chamber. The point made by Senator Hannaford has been, at various times, equally well stressed by members of the Liberal party, members of the Australian Country party, and representatives of Western Australia and Tasmania ; indeed’, many of. the requests have been far more eloquent than the replies of Ministers. I assure Senator Hannaford that I shall direct the attention of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) to his remarks.
– Has the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay). yet been able to ascertain, whether we are paying more than £546,000 annually as rental for premises occupied by the various departments?
– I shall not delay the committee for long. Whilst agreeing with many of the remarks of previous speakers on the inadequacy of government-owned office accommodation, I do not wish to be parochial in the matter. I am concerned primarily with Division 67 - Rent of Buildings - which includes a proposed vote of £73,000 for the Department of Labour and National Service. Generally speaking, the branches of that depart^ ment in various parts of Australia are very poorly housed. The department, which was established by a previous Labour government, is now an integral part of the economic set-up: of this country. It is performing work of inestimable value, by maintaining close contact with the people, providing vocational guidance for boys and girls about to leave school, and directing labour to where it is most needed. Its specially trained staff is well qualified to place labour. Many persons call at the various employment offices for advice in relation to various trades and professions. In view of the important work that is performed by this department, serious consideration’ should be given to the provision of suitable premises for its branches in all States. As other honorable senators have said, generally speaking, Commonwealth departments, are inadequately housed. A considerable improvement could be effected in relation to the Federal member’s rooms in most of the States. I stress the necessity to place the housing of the various -branches of the Department of Labour and National Service on a better basis.
– I invite the attention of the committee to Division 63 - Meteorological Branch - for which the proposed vote is £653,000. I strongly support, the views that have, been expressed by Senator Maher in relation, to the dissemination of meteorological information to primary producers. As he pointed out, advantage could be taken of civil aviation facilities in connexion with the collection and distribution of meteorological information. I was very disturbed when I read in this morning’s Victorian newspapers that almost 80 per cent, of the fruit crop in the Harcourt district of Victoria, where I reside, was destroyed by a freak frost last evening. The fruitgrowers in that area have not spared themselves in the provision of facilities to combat frost and, even if timely warning of the impending severe frost had been received by them, they may not have been able to prevent the destruction of their crops. The Meteorological Branch should give timely advice to primary producers in areas likely to be affected by unusual or severe weather conditions.
I wish, to refer, now, to. the item, “ Publication of meteorological data, £4,350”. I should like the Minister to inform me of the publications to which this item refers. I notice that only £711 of last year’s vote of £5,000 for this item .was expended. I do not know whether the matter that I have raised is covered by this item. However, as we are eager to increase our exports of .primary products, we should ensure the expeditious distribution of meteorological data, and so minimize the possibility of destruction overnight of valuable crops. I hope that the Government will not fail to provide adequate funds for this purpose.
– I support Senator Sheehan’s remarks in relation to Division 63, which relates to the Meteorological Branch. Will the Minister supply me with further information on the item, “ Salaries and Allowances as per Schedule, page 152, £530,000 “. The vote for the last financial year was £531,000, of which £474,434 was expended. There are on the staff of the Meteorological Branch skilled persons who make weather forecasts. But I think, perhaps, that Mr. Inigo Jones has the largest following in Australia in the matter of weather forecasts, particularly amongst the primary producers, but he receives very little assistance from the Government. Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) inform me whether the Department of the Interior has arranged for my of the officers of the Meteorological Branch to understudy Mr. Inigo Jones, in order that the experience and knowledge that he has gained during the last fifteen or twenty years shall not be lost ? I understand that, in many instances, his long-range weather forecasts - as far as two or three months ahead - were correct. I urge the Government to .adopt this suggestion, particularly in the interests of the primary producers, because Mr. Inigo Jones has reached an advanced age.
– Provision has been made for the grant of £1,000 for the purpose mentioned by Senator Scott. I point out that full details of salaries and allowances for personnel of the Meteorological Branch are set out in the schedule. Ample provision has been made to ‘carry out specific work if we can obtain the necessary labour and materials.
– Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) inform me whether the Government has made any move to acquire the meteorological records of Mr. Inigo Jones, who is now getting on in years? I understand that he inherited from his father-in-law, Mr. Clement Wragge, records relating to 50 years of weather research and observations. I point out that those records would doubtless be of very great assistance to the officers of the Meteorological Branch who issue forecasts., and would form a very useful addition to the departmental records. Every effort should be made to obtain for the Commonwealth the weather records that have been compiled by Mr. Inigo Jones over a long period of years.
– I assure the honorable senator that that matter is in hand, and that the provision on the Estimates is mainly for that purpose.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Civil Aviation.
Proposed vote .£11,082,000.
– I wish to bring to the notice of the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation the increased rental charges that have been imposed on employees of that -department in some of the smaller towns on the north-west coast of Western Australia such as Carnavon and Port Hedland. I was at Carnavon and Port Hedland recently, and I was given to understand that the formula by which rents are determined has recently been revised. Inevitably, of course, any such revision is in favour of the Government and to the detriment of the employees. Some examples of rent increases were given to me. For instance, at Port Hedland, Mr. Waldron, who was formerly paying £7,2 a year, is now being asked to pay £3 lis. 4d. a week, or nearly twice as much. At Carnavon, Mr. Hamilton was paying £72 a year, but is now being charged £2 4s. 5d. a week, although the house is the same, and the amenities are unchanged. Mr Stenberg, also of Carnavon, is now paying £2 3s. lid. a week compared with £72 a year previously. I had a look at ten departmental residences at Carnavon. Some of them are very ancient buildings. I found that Mr. K. Rowan and Mr. Parkin, who are sharing a dwelling, are each paying £1 17s. 9d. a week, or a total of £3 15s. 6d. This house was built in 19.11, and is little more than a shack. If one capitalizes the rent that Mr. Rowan and Mr. Parkin are paying, one finds that the value of the building is £5,000, whereas in fact it is worth about £250 for scrap. It is a bare building as one can well imagine it would be after standing for more than 40 years at Carnavon. I do not object to rents being reviewed; but they should be reviewed with some degree of reasonableness. Some of the rents now being charged are extortionate. The employees are being robbed. There is no justification for such huge increases, and the tenants are justifiably perturbed about them. I know that the answer will be that the rents have been revised in accordance with a formula. I am not prepared to accept that answer. It is a rotten answer. Each dwelling should be treated on its merits. As I have said, some of the rents are extortionate and if a private landlord were charging them, he would be hauled before a fair rents court and castigated by the magistrate. I speak with some feeling on this subject because people who live in these remote areas of the Commonwealth have few amenities and some regard should he had to the circumstances of their occupations.
An amazing feature of this matter is that when these people were informed that their rents were to be doubled, they were also told by departmental officials that they could apply to have the rents reviewed only if they considered they were suffering financial hardship. What on earth financial hardship has to do with fair rents I do not know. Obviously, it does not matter whether the tenants can or cannot pay the increased rents. The important consideration is whether the rents are fair. I invite the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Townley), or some one acting on his behalf, to visit these towns and have a look at the houses of which I have spoken. Anybody with a little knowledge of property values will quickly come to the conclusion that the tenants have a just grievance.
I am informed, that employees of the Department of Civil Aviation on the north-west coast do not receive a district allowance. If the Minister has never been there, I can assure him that the difficulties of living in places such as Carnavon, Port Hedland and Broome, fully warrant the payment of a district allowance. Most, other Commonwealth employees receive such an allowance, and I should like to know why officers of the Department of Civil Aviation are denied this concession. This, too, is a matter that is causing discussion and some heartburning amongst employees of the department. For the life of me I cannot see why some action has not been taken to provide a district allowance for these men. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation to give consideration to those two matters.
– Under Division 71 - Maintenance and operation of Civil Aviation facilities - provision is made for aerodromes, and air-route and airway facilities. I should like to know whether the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation can tell us what is being done to prepare airports for jet aircraft. I raised this matter a considerable time ago in the form of a question. Take, for instance, the airport at Eagle Farm, Brisbane, which originally was Brisbane’s second airfield, but was converted to a first-class aerodrome by the Americans. This aerodrome is contiguous to three substantial residential suburbs in which there is considerable capital investment. It is also close at one point to an area that is becoming highly industrialized, and perhaps more important still, it is close to two race-courses. The nuisance created to residents of areas adjoining any airport by modern high-speed four-engined aircraft is considerable. But, from what we have heard, it is nothing like the nuisance that is caused by modern jet aircraft.
– I rise to order. I do not wish to interrupt the honorable senator, but I draw attention to the fact that the vote now before the committee has nothing to do with capital expenditure on aerodromes. The committee will have an opportunity to discuss such expenditure when the Appropriation (Capital Works and Services) Bill is before this chamber.
– I am directing my remarks, not so much to capital expenditure on aerodromes, as to the need for research into the problem of situating airports in view of the public nuisance that is caused by jet aircraft.
– The honorable senator’s remarks will be more appropriate to the other measure to which 1 have referred.
– I accept the Minister’s guidance, and shall reserve my remarks for a later occasion.
– The point raised by Senator Vincent is of great importance. The problem of revising rentals of government houses, particularly in areas where there is a changing population, has arisen all over the Commonwealth. It is, however, a matter of Government policy, and the honorable senator will appreciate, I am sure, that the debate on the Estimates is not a suitable occasion for a declaration of Government policy. However, I shall direct the attention of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) to the honorable senator’s remarks.
– I should like an assurance from the Minister that when the works appropriation measure is before us, we shall be able to get some information about the aerodrome at West Beach in South Australia. I can find no mention of that airport in the general Estimates. I assure the Minister that, sooner or later, there must be a post mortem examination of this long-delayed project. It is one of the most disgraceful things that have occurred under any government in this country.
– I can assure Senator Critchley, as a fellow South Australian, that, as there is an aerodrome only a mile from my own house, I am just as eager as he is for the new airport at West Beach to be brought into operation as quickly as possible. I understand that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Townley) is doing everything possible to have the aerodrome in use before Christmas, and I hope that Senator Critchley and I will be there to celebrate the official opening. I trust that he will not complain about the lack of amenities, because they will not be all that could be desired. However, it is most important that West Beach aerodrome should be brought into service at the earliest possible date because it will provide better landing facilities for modern aircraft.
– I wish to refer to the administration of Trans-Australia Airlines. I do not know whether that matter can be discussed now or whether I should refer to it at a later stage.
– If the honorable senator makes his comments now, I shall have an answer ready.
– First, I should like to compliment Trans-Australia Airlines on its fine record of efficiency, despite the fact that its rivals have been given certain advantages by this Government, such as cheap money with which to purchase large American aircraft. TransAustralia Airlines was obliged to wait a long time before it was able to purchase Vickers Viscount aircraft. The present High Commissioner in London, Sir Thomas White, was responsible, when Minister for Civil Aviation, for refusing permission for Trans-Australia Airlines to purchase aircraft more than four years ago. As a result, the airline has been obliged to cut expenditure to the very bone. I think it is important for the employees of the organization to continue to present a good appearance. Only recently, I noticed that some of the people who drive the buses and work about the aerodromes were looking rather shabby. I asked one such employee how often he was issued with a new uniform, and he said that, because of financial difficulties, he would not be given another one.
– That position does not also apply to the air hostesses, does it?
– No. I pay a tribute to the appearance of the air hostesses and also to the good judgment of those responsible for their selection.. In my opinion, the high standard of appearance which was set by the employees of Trans-Australia Airlines in the past should be maintained.
– I shall pass on to my colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Townley), the matter raised by the honorable senator.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Trade and Customs.
Proposed vote, £3,457,000:
– I refer to Division 77b, general administrative expenses, and particularly to Item 9 - Honoraria to members of Book Censorship Board and to Appeal Censor. I should like the Minister to inform the Senate of the duties which those gentlemen perform. He might also let me know whether the work of book censorship is confined to Canberra or Sydney. Item 8 of the same division refers to the hire, maintenance, and operation of launches and the supply of equipment, the proposed vote for which is £10,000. That is certainly not a very large amount, but I should like to know whether the Department of Trade and Customs has no launches of its own.
In connexion with Division 79 - Film Censorship - I refer again to the importation of undesirable publications and films. Perhaps the Minister would be good enough to state the duties of the Commonwealth Censorship Board and the Appeal Censor in relation to undesirable publications and films.
.- I refer to Division 77 - Administrative - the proposed vote for which is £3,366,000. As the committee is aware, import licences are handled by the Department of Trade and Customs.. I think it was in October last year that I stated in this chamber, in the course of a question, that many importing firms in Australia, particularly in Sydney, were not satisfied with the honesty of the import licencing system then being operated in Sydney., As a matter of fact, there was a great deal of dissatisfaction on the part of many importers, because they could not obtain import licences but were aware that people of very low standing in the community were able to import goods into Australia. Had the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’ Sullivan) been alert, he would have caused inquiries to be made in the Sydney office of the department at that time. Evidently, he refused to accept the advice that I gave him, with the result: that, later on, the department found that goods: of an estimated value: of £250,000 had been brought into Australia on false import licences. In order to be fair to every one concerned, perhaps the Minister might say what stage the proceedings against the persons who were discovered doing that have reached. I understand that one of the officers of the Department of Trade and Customs in. Sydney was involved in that practice. If the Minister indicates to me that the proceedings have not been concluded, I shall refrain from saying anything further.
– They have not been concluded.
– In that case, I shall refrain from discussing the matter further.
. - I wish to refer, briefly, to Division 78 - Tariff Board. Honorable senators will notice that an amount of £57,000 is to be made available for the purposes of the Tariff Board this year, which is an increase of £20,600 on last year’s vote and an increase of almost £13,000 over last year’s expenditure. The committee will remember that, last year, the Tariff Board was divided into two parts. First, I wish to congratulate the board on the work that it has accomplished, not only during the regime of this Government, but also during that of previous governments. The board has had a very difficult time during the last three or four years. I appreciate that I cannot, at this stage, refer to the economic policy of the Governmentor the activities of the board in relation to matters of policy, but I point out that the board was practically inundated with requestsfrom the manufacturing industries of Australia due to a crisis which had arisen as the result of this Government’s economic policy. I commend to honorable senators careful perusal of the Tariff Board report. If they do that, there will be no need for me to labour the fact that the board is doing excellent work. I regret that it has been necessary to set up two separate boards in order that the demands that are being made by industries to-day may be met.
Reference will be seen in the report of the board to the cost structure in this country, and to the great difficulties that industry has to meet at the present time and will probably have to meet, also, in the near future. The Government met the crisis to which I have referred by an almost complete suspension of imports, thus bringing about disorganization and disruption of industry. I hope that if ever a situation of that kind develops again, the Government will attempt to overcome it by increasing exports rather than by cutting down imports. The Tariff Board enjoys a fine reputation in this country. All sections of the community have confidence in it. I believe that the board realizes the importance of its task, that it appreciates the difficulties of industry to-day, and that it is doing its best to overcome those difficulties.
– Just as a point of interest - not that I query the matter at all - would the Minister inform me of the meaning of item 7 of Division 77b - “ Payment to Postmaster-General’s Department for services rendered (sale of Beer Duty Stamps . . . ) “.
– The Department of Trade and Customs exercises certain censorship powers over the importation of objectionable matter into Australia and I take this opportunity to pass a few comments on censorship generally. This matter came more prominently to my mind a fortnight ago when I happened to look at a copy of an evening paper from New South Wales, which I have in front of me. I know that what goes into a daily paper in any State is, generally speaking, beyond the competency of the Federal Parliament to control. But the general question of the necessity for censorship highlights the matter of the moral tone of the com munity and the necessity for the community to be aware of any serious decline in the moral appreciation of the people, because that is of great importance and consequence to the nation. When I look at this copy of the newspaper to which I have referred, 1 see, on the front page, some rather startling headlines, one of which is, “ Thallium feared in boy’s death “. Then there is a rather attractive picture headed, “ Sydney model’s good showing in United Kingdom “. Next, there is a photo of another model who makes an equally good showing. On the same page is a heading, “ Singer posed in the nude “. On page 2 there is a heading, “ New Law to Stamp Out Sex Perverts “ and a little story on that subject. Page 3 carries a storyheaded, “Drink Was Doctored”. Another story is headed, “New Charges in Drug Stir “ with a detailed reference to a scandal in Italy in which allegations of depravity are involved. All those references are in one issue of the newspaper.
– Order! Last night the Chairman of Committees ruled that honorable senators should confine their remarks to the Estimates. Senator Byrne is talking about censorship in general rather than Commonwealth censorship.
– I cannot deal with censorship in relation to the powers of the Commonwealth without referring to the general need for the Australian Government to exercise its powers. I crave your indulgence, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to continue. On page 3 of the newspaper to which I have already referred, the caption over a photograph of an attractive girl reads “Betsy the Borgia of Broadway “. Apparently she was the young lady who doctored the drink already referred to. On another page, a story is headed, “ Man Wedded Girl and Her Auntie “.
– May I have a copy of the newspaper so that I can reply?
– I shall circulate the copy for the information of honorable senators. I do not wish to attack the press in general or any newspaper in particular,, but I know that there are strong opinions in the community on the desirability of censorship.
– What is the title of the newspaper to which the honorable senator has referred?
– It is the Sydney Daily Mirror, of Thursday, 23rd September. The point is that while we believe that periodicals and publications of that nature should be censored, no action is taken in connexion with daily newspapers unless they publish something so depraved or obscene that that action becomes absolutely essential. On the other hand, if there is any organ that can most easily transmit objectionable matter, ii is the newspaper that is taken into the ordinary homes of the community without much scrutiny. Copies of such newspapers are left a’bout and can easily be seen. I could refer to many other newspapers that are published in Australia and produce graphic illustrations and captions similar to those to which I have already referred.
Concern has been expressed in Great Britain about the lowering of the moral tone of the nation. It has been the subject of a commission of inquiry in Great Britain, and attention has been paid to the influence of low-class literature, ‘particularly on juveniles. The Australian Government has limited powers that extend only to features of an obscene character that are brought into Australia in violation of customs requirements. To that extent, there is not a great deal that we can do about it, but suggestions have been made that committees of the Senate should be constituted for various purposes, and it has occurred to me that a committee of the Senate could be constituted to investigate the general question of the entry, publication and distribution, not necessarily of obscene literature only, but of literature that is of such a character and so generally and widely distributed that it can become a menace to the moral tone of the community and particularly to the moral standards of juveniles. Provision is made for film censorship. In general, good work is being done in film censorship which is entrusted principally to the chief censor, Mr. J. O. Alexander. He is a man of broad tolerance with many years of experience, and I have every confidence in him. As a result of film censorship activities in Australia, satisfactory results have been attained in classifying films, and those of a highly questionable nature are not available to the general public. Those that are suitable only for more mature and adult minds are classified, and the responsibility is placed upon the parents to see that the films of that nature are not seen by children. That is a sane and reasonable approach to the problem. The Government is faced with the responsibility of censoring films and placing them in various categories. It is the responsibility of those who have the custody of young children to ensure that they see only those films that are placed in categories most suitable for them.
I suggest that a committee of the Senate should investigate this matter of undesirable literature. There is a need to raise the moral tone of the community, because ultimately every element of national life depends upon moral tone. It is impossible to build up a strong and virile people with a desire to improve social conditions in Australia and elsewhere if the basic moral tone of the community is unsound. I appeal to the committee to recognize that this is a community responsibility, and to support my suggestion that the whole matter should receive our scrutiny. The Senate might constitute a fact-finding committee to observe the trend in Australia, and suggest what can be done within the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth and the States. It could ascertain whether we, as a national body inviting the co-operation, assistance and interest of appropriate State authorities, can do something worthwhile in this matter. At least, we could put on record for an appropriate occasion in the proper place recommendations which, if converted into legislation, could do much to alter something that is a scar on national life.
– I am pleased that Senator Byrne has raised this matter of censorship. I know that Commonwealth censorship of films and literature applies only to material that is brought into Australia from overseas. I wish to place on record that in my opinion present censorship of films is quite adequate, and the work that has been done regarding general literature coming into Australia has been reasonably good. Only one other aspect of the matter requires our comment. Most of the obscene and objectionable tripe that is now being disseminated, particularly to the young persons in the community, is printed in Australia from material that is obtained from overseas. The worst and most lurid literature that young people buy on the bookstalls originates in other countries. It is printed from material and microfilms imported from overseas. Can the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) inform the committee whether there is any form of censorship of such material? Any one can see on the bookstalls in the railway stations from Sydney to Perth, dozens of different types of the most obscene and objectionable periodicals, all printed in Australia from materials obtained principally from the United States of America. In America these publications are called “ glossies “ because the covers are of glossy paper. I believe that the Australian censorship authorities have the right at least to examine this material and to censor it. There may be some practical difficulties associated with the task, but I should like the Minister to comment on the possibility of examining this stuff that is being brought from overseas. These publications do not originate in Australia.
Senator Byrne referred to one wellknown Sydney newspaper, but that is not the only Australian newspaper that is sponsoring the publication of rotten material. Some of the more responsible newspapers in New South Wales sponsor the publication of imported obscene publications, using material that is obtained from the United States of America. An obligation rests upon this Government and the Commonwealth Parliament to examine the matter because the problem is growing. The difficulties that we shall experience with television in connexion with the effect of objectionable features upon young minds will be as nothing compared with . the reactions that are being produced in young people from reading this rotten stuff. If the Minister cannot give an answer now, I ask him to consider the matter with a view to replying later to the points that have been raised.
– I wish to ask the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) whether he can explain the reduction by about 30 per cent, of the amount that is provided under the heading Division 79 - Film Censorship. As Senator Byrn and Senator Vincent have stated, the film censorship is a good service and it should not be curtailed, because the material that is seen on the films would be much worse but for the careful scrutiny and the work of. the film censorship authorities. Governments of every political colour have endeavoured- to prevent the importation into Australia of undesirable literature and they have been successful. During the period of three or four years when 1 was Minister for Trade and Customs, only one bool; was banned, but a quantity of literature was circulated. As Senator Vincent has said, it is printed in the States and the Australian Government has no authority over it. The States have the authority to prosecute anybody who might attempt to put such literature on the market, but the Australian Government has no authority.
– We can stop it coming into Australia.
– That hai been done, but much of it is brought into Australia under coyer. It might be sent in private letters and government departments cannot snoop on everybody. We do not want that state of affairs. It is practically impossible to trace much of this stuff. Its publication and distribution, however, comes under the authority of the States. I have not seen the copy of the newspaper to which Senator Byrne referred, but some of the material that is printed in the newspapers must make Gipsy Rose Lee feel rather a prude. It is dreadful. I am broad-minded, but I do not believe that much of the stuff that is printed in newspapers in Australia is beneficial to the people. I regret that the newspapers publish that kind of material. The Queensland State Government has taken definite action.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable senator is wandering from the subject when he refers to State censorship.
– The question is whether the Australian Government has adequate censorship powers. It has not, and we must consider what can be done. Some State governments are taking action along satisfactory lines, and I am sure that the Australian Government would be prepared to co-operate with the States to improve censorship.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Health.
Proposed vote, £1,252,000.
– I shall refer, with a certain amount of sorrow, to a somewhat serious matter. Recently a young lady in Western Australia, whose name, for obvious reasons, I shall refrain from mentioning, was awarded a zellerbachscholarship which entitled her to attend’ Stamford University in San Francisco for the purpose of conducting research in the field of speech therapy. The young lady holds a diploma of speech therapy granted by a school in Melbourne. She is the first recipient in Australia of a Zellerbach scholarship. I have been told by people who understand speech therapy that this science has not yet been fully developed in Australia. In fact, we are somewhat backward in the field. Most of the medicos with whom I discussed the matter were delighted that tho young lady had been awarded a scholarship. For the information of the Senate, I explain that speech therapy includes the art or science of speech training for young people and children who are mentally or physically retarded in some respects.
The young lady was in difficulties immediately, because the scholarship -did not entitle her to the payment of a living allowance. It merely gave her the right to attend the university. Therefore, I communicated with the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) to see whether he could give her some assistance in the form of a living allowance while she was at Stamford University. I received a peremptory reply from the Minister, in which he stated that his department had no funds for such a purpose. Frankly, the reply astounded and grieved me.. Apparently, there is no fund in this country that can be used to assist a Zellerbach scholar to pursue her studies in a unique or unusual field of medical science. I am conscious of the fact that in these days we are spending a lot of money to assist Asian students to study in this country. In those circumstances, surely we could afford a few pounds to assist our own scholars. I should like the Minister representing the Minister for Health to let me know whether we have no fund that could be used to help students to study such an important aspect of medical science as speech “therapy. If the Minister says the department has no money for that purpose, will he say whether it desires to have some? If it does, I shall have great pleasure in proposing that it be allocated some money for that purpose. The letter that I received from the Minister for Health was a most unfortunate one, and I should like the right honorable gentleman to give further consideration to this matter.
– In Division 81 there is an item of £3,800 in respect of health conferences. I should like to know whether they are conferences overseas, and whether they are general conferences or conferences to discuss special subjects. I should like to know also whether any conferences are to be held, in which Australia will participate, to consider cancer research. There is also an item of £8,600 in respect of payments to the States for the nutrition of children. I should like to know whether the item relates only to free milk for school children, or whether it includes other assistance.
– I propose to use the item in respect of payments to the States in connexion with the administration of the Tuberculosis Agreement as a vehicle for some remarks on the arrangements made by the Commonwealth and the States for the detection and eradication of tuberculosis. We know that the agreement was negotiated during the period of office of the Chifley Government, when Senator McKenna was Minister for Health. If we read the agreement carefully, we find that the cardinal principle on which it was based was that everybody in the community should be X-rayed to discover whether they were suffering from this dread disease. The Commonwealth had limited powers in that respect, and one of the reasons why the agreement was made was that the State governments, being sovereign governments, had power to compel people to be X-rayed.
The agreement has worked very well and magnificent results have been obtained from it. However, I believe that in New South Wales insufficient attention has been given to the problem of ensuring that everybody will be X-rayed. With the help of municipal councils, mobile X-ray units operated by the Anti-T.B. Association move into certain areas and carry out what is described as a compulsory screening of everybody in the areas. The point I want to make is that some people do not attend. Very often, they are suffering from tuberculosis and are carriers of the disease but, because they do not undergo the tests, that fact is not discovered. I had an extraordinary experience in the municipality in which I live. With a great flourish of trumpets, the municipal council embarked on a scheme of compulsory X-ray examinations. My wife and I set an example by being the first two people in the municipality to attend for examination. Later, the Anti-T.B. Association undertook what was described as a compulsory X-ray examination of all the people in the municipality. But, after all that had been done, a person living within a stone’s throw of my home was found to be suffering from a virulent type of tuberculosis. He has since died. He made no attempt to attend for a compulsory X-ray examination. No effective methods were adopted to ensure that every person over the age of sixteen years attended for an examination. There was no systematic check to ensure that nobodywas missed. We all know that the people who avoid these examinations are the very people who should be examined. Healthy, intelligent and thoughtful people go along, but some people will not do so. Generally speaking, they belong to the section of the community in which the. incidence of tuberculosis is greatest.
Whilst I recognize that this scheme is a wonderful’ one, and whilst I ani conscious that the graph shows a fall in g- off of the incidence of the disease, I believe we are falling short of implementing the scheme completely, because we are not emphasizing sufficiently the necessity that everybody, without exception should have their chest X-rayed. I ask the Minister whether representations can be made to the States about that aspect of the agreement.
I hope I shall be in order in referring to the arrangements made between the Commonwealth and the States in respect of mental institutions. This year, only about £230,000 is to be provided for payment to the States in connexion with mental institution benefits. Last year, the expenditure was £494,833. I am concerned about what is happening in regard to our mental institutions. 1 speak with some knowledge of hospital administrative costs, because I am an honorary director of a fairly big hospital, and I was the honorary treasurer until quite recently. Knowing something about hospital costs, I am amazed that the payment made to the States in respect of mental patients is only about ls. 4d. per bed day per patient. Something les3 than 10s. a week is paid to the States by the Commonwealth to cover the cost of treatment of a mental patient. I think we have got to enlighten this community about mental disorders. I suggest that the days are gone when a person who had a mental breakdown was branded as a lunatic, pushed into a mental institution and kept there for the rest of his life, with no prospect of recovery because no treatment was given. We have made great progress in many fields of health but, as a nation, I think we should be ashamed of our treatment of the mentally sick. I make that statement deliberately. There is nothing political about it, because my remarks apply to governments of all political colours. It is said that we cannot get enough nurses for mental institutions. We can get girls to train as nurses for mental patients if we have the will to do so, and are prepared to pay them a proper wage.
– And if we build better institutions for the accommodation of mental patients.
– Tes. We still lock mental patients up at 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. and keep them locked up until the next morning. In most of the mental institutions of this country, the patients are not provided with the comforts that should be provided for sick people. They are sick in mind. I shall not argue the merits of State and Commonwealth responsibility, but the Commonwealth has accepted health as a national matter, ft seems to me that we should make a more liberal allowance for this purpose so as to give mental patients better prospects of health in the future. It is also necessary to induce more women to undertake training as nurses for mental patients. Consequently, we must offer them better pay and more amenities.
I now wish to speak on item 1 of Division 81 B - Nutrition of children - Payments to States. I have already made submissions to the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) for a grant to be made to an organization which is known as the New South Wales Food for Babies Fund. That is a Sydney organization of which I am an honorary director. The organization raises money with the help of the community, and provides free milk for mothers and babies over and above what is normally provided through the State social services. The organization has provided over 1,000,000 pints of milk in the County of Cumberland for infants and mothers who have come out of hospital needing assistance. These mothers need to be built up before they go back to their homes. They cannot all go to an institution such as a Truby King home after coming out of maternity hospital. A tremendous demand has been placed on the maternity hospitals of New South Wales. They are booked out six months ahead. The .result is that, when the doctors co-operate with a hospital, mother and child, after a normal confinement, are discharged from hospital about ten days after admission. In some hospitals in which the doctors co-operate I have known mothers to come out on the seventh and eighth days. In cases in which something goes wrong, mothers cannot always be fortunate enough to be directed to a convalescent home where they can obtain care and attention for themselves and their babies. It is in such cases that the Food for Babies
Fund gives assistance. We provide tremendous help. When the almoners of the big hospitals in New South Wales have a problem of this nature they communicate with the Food for Babies Fund. Our secretary, Miss Nolan, is a real Christian and she asks the directors for help. We never give any money. We buy milk, special foods, fruit and special drugs. We provide a tremendous service to the community.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– From time to time we have heard the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) speak of the great job that he and the Government have clone in the prevention of tuberculosis. Division 83 of the Estimates, item 1, provides the huge sum of .8,600 for this purpose. I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) whether any additional money for the prevention of tuberculosis is provided elsewhere in the Estimates. Were the statements of the Minister for Health concerning the Government’s endeavours to prevent- tuberculosis correct or has the Minister tried to take credit for what the State governments are doing? In Tasmania it is compulsory for every one to be X-rayed for tuberculosis once a year and any one with signs of tuberculosis has to have treatment for it. The Federal Government has continued the policy of the Labour Government in granting pensions to tuberculosis sufferers. But what is being done by the Government for the prevention of tuberculosis in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, where I understand that tuberculosis is prevalent? Is the Government seeking to prevent the spread of tuberculosis throughout Australia by expending £8,600 a year, which is paid to one medical officer, who receives £2,246 a year, and a few assistants? Is only one medical officer employed in this work in the Australian- Capital Territory and the Northern Territory? Or does this medical officer perform work elsewhere whilst nothing is done for the prevention of tuberculosis in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory? If the Government is doing more for the prevention of tuberculosis than is apparent in the Estimates before the committee, where else in the Estimates may honorable senators find provision for the prevention of tuberculosis? I ask for this information because I should like people outside this Parliament to be able to judge for themselves whether the Government is taking definite steps to stamp out tuberculosis or whether it is leaving that work to the State governments.
– I refer to Division 82b, item 7. - Control of Foot and Mouth Disease. Two or three years ago, expenditure of f S0,000 was voted in order to prevent the entry into this country of this dreadful disease which has decimated the cattle population of Europe and which had a similar effect in the United Kingdom for some time. The vote for this item last year was £1.4,000, whilst the proposed vote is £6,300. I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) in what way will this money be expended? Will it be expended in disinfecting the effects of immigrants? Why has the figure dropped from £14,000’ to £6,300? Does the department consider that this small amount is adequate for the protection of the cattle population of this country?
– Senator Vincent mentioned a scholarship which a lady in Western Australia received in connexion with speech therapy. I understand that Commonwealth research scholarships are granted only for medical research for which an amount of £129,500 is provided in the Estimates. This amount will be transferred to the Medical Research Endowment Fund, which was established hy the Medical Research Endowment Act 1937 in order to provide assistance to departments of the Commonwealth, State universities, institutions or persons engaged in medical research, and in order to assist in training persons in medical research subject to conditions which the Minister for Health, acting on the advice of the National Health and Medical Research Council, might determine. The amount has been approved by the Treasury. Senator Vincent will realize that the Common wealth does no more than make that money available. A certain amount goes to the States. I have not been able to get any information concerning the scholarship to which the honorable senator referred except that it is not a Commonwealth scholarship. It is probably a special Western Australian scholarship. I shall endeavour to ascertain the facts in relation to that scholarship and regarding the possibility of providing a living allowance.
asked a question regarding expenditure on health conferences which is mentioned in Item 4 of Division 81b. This expenditure will be incurred within the Commonwealth mainly in connexion with meetings of the National Health and Medical Research Council. Item 7 relates to incidental expenditure by the States in connexion with the provision of free milk. The cost of milk supplied to school children is paid from the National Welfare Fund. As this matter was referred to by other senators I shall say more about it later on.
Senator Anderson spoke about tuberculosis and compulsory X-rays in the various States. The Australian Government makes representations to the States,, but except in the Australian Capital Territory, has not the power to compel persons to present themselves for check by means of X-ray photographs. In the States, only the State governments have that power. The Anti-Tuberculosis Association of New South Wales is heavily financed by the Australian Government.
– Under what division is provision made for that purpose?
– Provision is made for that purpose by means of a special appropriation from the National Welfare Fund, in accordance with the requirements of the National Health Services Act. At present, we are dealing only with proposed votes for administrative items. The Department of Health derives most of its funds from the National Welfare Fund. Senator Anderson referred to the item 1 “ Nutrition of children - Payments to States £8,600 “, under Division 81b - General
Expenses. The provision of free milk to school children is financed from the National Welfare Fund. The honorable senator also referred to the Food for Babies Fund in New South Wales. There is no doubt that excellent work is being done by the New South Wales organization. The act. does not make provision for payments to any associations other than those which distribute milk free to school children under thirteen years of age. Of course, the act could be amended, but, as matters stand, there is no provision for assistance to be given to further the worthy objectives that the honorable senator mentioned.
Senator Aylett made some observations on the taking of X-ray photographs in connexion with the anti-tuberculosis campaign. He asked what the Australian. Government had done in that connexion. I inform him that 80 per cent, of the cost of taking such X-ray photographs is paid by the Commonwealth. If the honorable senator had studied the figures in relation to the National Welfare fund, he would know that expenditure for activities connected with tuberculosis in this financial year is expected to be £5,950,000 - an increase of more than £370,000 on the expenditure under this heading in the last financial year. There has been a considerable increase of expenditure under this heading, including the maintenance of patients, and the payment of living allowances to sufferers, during the last four years. At. present, a married sufferer from tuberculosis, who has ‘ a dependent wife, receives an allowance of £9 2s. 6d. a week, and for each dependent child under sixteen years of age he receives an allowance of 10s. a week. A single sufferer from tuberculosis,, without dependants, who is receiving free treatment in an approved institution, receives an allowance of £3 10s. a week. If he is undergoing . domiciliary treatment, he receives an allowance of £5 12s. 6d. a week. At present, 5,796 sufferers from tuberculosis are receiving allowances. As I have already mentioned, the total estimated expenditure for activities connected with tuberculosis in this financial year will be almost £6,000,000.
Senator Anderson, also made certain observations in relation to the inmates of mental institutions.. I am quite sure that every member of the Parliament and, indeed, all sections of the community, are sympathetically disposed towards persons in those institutions. However., there are certain difficulties in relation to the control of mental institutions. The Australian Government has no control over the certification of a member of the community and his admission to a mental institution. Such a person can be certified only by the State authorities. It is for that reason that the Repatriation Department conducts its own mental institutions in co-operation with the State institutions. The State laws are not uniform in this matter. The question whether the Commonwealth should assume full control over mental institutions is a matter for consideration and discussion between the Commonwealth and the States. Some State governments are not prepared to relinquish their control of mental, institutions. The honorable senator pointed out that the proposed vote for this purpose is smaller than the amount that was voted for the last financial year. I point, out that payments made to the States during the last financial year were for a full twelve months, which, ended on the 31st March, 1954, in accordance with an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States that will expire early in this financial year: The proposed vote makes provision for payments from the 1st April, 1954, to the date of expiry. The Commonwealth had not undertaken a survey of the mental institutions throughout Australia because, as I have pointed out, the State governments are primarily responsible for the maintenance of mental institutions. In the last financial year,, the Commonwealth paid to the States, in accordance with the agreement, the sum of £494,833. After the present agreement expires, consideration will be given to new agreements, and there may be a fresh allocation of money to the States.
Senator AYLETT (Tasmania) [4’.40’J. - I thank the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) for the information he supplied in relation to the payment of allowances to sufferers from tuberculosis. but I remind the committee that the payment of the benefit was introduced by the previous Labour Government. The Minister did not furnish me with the information that I sought. I asked him what this Government was doing in connexion with the prevention of tuberculosis. Is it correct to> say that, preventive work is being carried out only by the States, and on their own initiative? The Minister dodged the issue. In spite of the speeches on this subject that have been delivered by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) it is apparent that this Government is not doing such a wonderful job in the prevention of tuberculosis.
– Order ! The honorable senator should confine his remarks to the proposed vote.
– Will the Minister inform me whether the proposed expenditure on. the X-Ray ‘ and Radium Laboratory, which is mentioned on page 162 of the Estimates, is intended to defray the cost of the campaign for the prevention of tuberculosis throughout Australia.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! We are considering the schedule to the Appropriation Bill.
– I should like the Minister to inform me what financial provision is being made for the prevention of tuberculosis in the Australian Capital. Territory,, the Northern Territory, and -‘.n other parts of Australia. The Minister did not refer to prevention, but only to the payment of allowances to sufferers from tuberculosis.
– I shall repeat what I said. At least 80 per cent, of the cost of taking X-ray photographs in various parts of Australia in connexion with the anti-tuberculosis campaign is borne by the Commonwealth-.. The Commonwealth has also provided money for the maintenance of - patients, allowances for sufferers, and the building of tuberculosis hospitals, which are being run by the States; the Commonwealth made grants to the States for that purpose. Apparently, Senator Aylett is concerned primarily with the position in the Australian Capital Territory. A tubercular survey was made here, by the taking of X-ray photographs, and many citizens were also subjected to the Mantoux test. Tubercular patients are housed in the Canberra Community Hospital.
– What about theNorthern. Territory 1
– A survey is being made in the Northern Territory at. present, and. will be completed at an early date. I assume that cases of tuberculosis revealed by the survey are being treated at the Darwin Hospital. It is a full survey, and people of the Northern Territory are being given the same protection as that afforded to residents of the Australian Capital Territory.
– What does the survey consist of ?
– It consists of X-ray examinations and Mantoux tests.
– I thank the Minister for his considerate reply to my observations about the Zellerbach scholarship. My only purpose in rising now is to eliminate a possible misunderstanding on the- Minister’s part that I may have caused. The Zellerbach scholarship is an American scholarship granted by an American institution. In the case I mentioned it was granted to a Perth girl for research work at Stamford University. However, the scholarship does not cover living expenses. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) has already said that the department has no funds for this purpose. I am rather astonished at this lack of funds, and. I cannot accept the explanation that this is the only reason why the unf ortunate girl cannot be given assistance. I could understand a claim that the scholarship was not worthy of assistance, or that the winner of it did not merit assistance, but merely to say that no funds are available is not an. adequate excuse so far as I am concerned. I should like to know why there are not a few pounds in “ kitty “ for this purpose. There is a fund of £100,000 to assist holders of scholarships provided for Commonwealth employees, but this holder of a Zellerbach scholarship does not happen to be a Commonwealth employee., She is employed at a. hospital in Perth, and for the life of me I cannot understand this discrimination between Commonwealth employees and private individuals. I do not expect the Minister for Repatriation to be able to answer fully my remarks on this subject, but I shall appreciate it if he will pass my comments on to the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), because, undoubtedly, the matter is one that should be examined. It is preposterous to say that there are no funds to assist the study of this important branch of medical science.
– In view of the reply given by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) to my remarks about mental institutions, I merely wish to get the picture clear. If I understand the Minister correctly, he said that although £494,S33 had been provided last year, only approximately £230,000 was being voted this year because the agreements between the Commonwealth and the States are running out. Presumably, there will be new agreements, provision for which will be made by a supplementary appropriation.
– I should like to know whether any attempt is made to police the hospital benefits scheme. From time to time, allegations are made of malpractices by certain members of the medical profession. Recently the following report appeared in the press: -
Certain honorary doctors were exploiting patients, a Royal Newcastle Hospital director, Mr. L. Grahame, said at the New South Wales Hospitals’ Association annual conference in Sydney yesterday.
He said these doctors were usurping the right of hospitals to determine whether patients should enter public wards or be placed in private or intermediate wards where doctors could charge fees.
Mr. Grahame said some doctors had extorted patients’ money by “ wilful lies “ about available wards.
He was discussing a motion that the Hospitals Commission should give all hospitals the right to draw up their own formula to apply the means test to patients. The resolution was defeated.
Mr. Grahame said that at the Royal Newcastle Hospital patients were admitted on a basis of medical urgency only.
There could be no question that in this State now hospitalization was being prostituted.
If a doctor told sick people that a hospital’s public ward was not available they accepted this. “There have been wilful lies told in our district he said. “ Doctors have said, ‘ It is no good my trying to get you into Newcastle. I shall get you into another place ‘.”
A doctor can, by private treaty, arrange for the patient to enter the intermediate or private ward and collect his fee.
If it has been suggested that doctors are charging fees to other than private or intermediate cases proper, that is up to the hospital board to investigate.
The Department of Health should, in my opinion, take all possible steps to ensure that such malpractices shall not recur. In Victoria there has been some criticism of a certain association. I am wondering whether the Commonwealth Department of Health, which makes payments to the States for hospital benefits administration, has investigated the manner in which the hospital benefits scheme is being administered. I should like to know whether any control is exercised over hospitals and over the medical profession.
– In reply to Senator Anderson, I point out that a survey of mental institutions throughout the Commonwealth is being carried out at present. Upon the result of that survey, future policy regarding agreements between the Commonwealth and States for payments to mental institutions will be considered. The item of proposed expenditure referred to by Senator Sheehan deals purely with reimbursement to the States for expenditure incurred in the administration of the hospital benefits scheme. It has nothing to do with the payments to the hospitals themselves. The Commonwealth has no control over fees charged by medical practitioners. That matter is entirely in the hands of the States. No huge scheme such as the hospital benefits scheme can be expected to be 100 per cent, perfect right from the start. Unfortunately, there are in every community some people who will not play the game. The legislation under which the medical benefits scheme was established was piloted through this chamber by me and, to the best of my recollection, the measure contains very stringent safeguards and ample authority for the disciplining of medical men. Generally speaking, medical practitioners have co-operated wholeheartedly, but it is difficult to eliminate dishonesty completely. Everything possible is being done to police the scheme and to curb the activities of dishonest persons.
– I thank the Minister for that information. I have searched the schedule to find the machinery that the department has to curb the practices of which the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) has spoken. I have noticed from time to time, that prosecutions have taken place as a result of infringements, but I cannot see anything in the Estimates for the department concerning that matter. Therefore, I am at a loss to know what the department is doing to prevent the malpractices to which the Minister referred.
– The Commonwealth is expending enormous sums of money with the idea of improving the health of the community. For instance, honorable senators will see that in Division S3a provision is made for the payment of salaries and allowances amounting to £437,000. I ask the Minister, as I have asked on previous occasions, whether some of that money could not be expended on the eradication of the dread disease of cancer. Unfortunately, very little has been done by the Commonwealth Department of Health to encourage the early diagnosis . of the disease. I think that a certain proportion of the proposed vote for the Department of Health should be devoted to the establishment of a post-graduate course at the Australian National University, so that general medical practitioners would be able to attend the university and refresh their knowledge of cancer. Much has been done for those who suffer from tuberculosis, but great as is the scourge of that disease, in my opinion, the unfortunate sufferers from cancer have more to bear. Early diagnosis of the disease seems to me essential. The mortality rate from cancer results in a great wastage of human life. In addition, an excessive burden is placed upon the shoulders of those who are obliged to care for sufferers. The patient becomes an incubus, not only on the State but also on his relatives, practically to the day of his death. I think that we should follow the practice of other countries regarding the early diagnosis of cancer, particularly in relation to women sufferers. Surely, it is time for greater collaboration between the Australian Government and the State governments in this matter. Whenever the matter is raised, the answer received is to the following effect: - “The States have plenty of money. Why do not they do something about it ? “ When one approaches the States, they say that they are being starved of the necessary funds by the Commonwealth. It is time that the Commonwealth took a stand in the matter. To my mind, there is nothing more distressing than the sufferings of people afflicted with this disease. Unfortunately, it is on the increase. To say that it is not the concern of the Australian Government seems to me to beg the question.
I suggest that the Commonwealth could make available a grant to the Australian National University for the purpose of establishing a post-graduate course such as that to which I have referred. General medical practitioners could then come to Canberra to undertake a course or, better still, certain men with expert knowledge could be sent to the capital cities for the purpose of disseminating their knowledge to general practitioners, upon whom devolves the task of early diagnosis. If, by some means, the people of Australia could be encouraged to interest themselves in early diagnosis, thousands of lives would be saved every year. From a pecuniary point of view, enormous sums of money would be saved also. I regret sincerely that, despite all the money that we expend on matters of health and social services, we are not able to find a penny for sufferers from cancer.
– I am encouraged to enter this discussion by the answer given by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) to Senator Anderson, in relation to payment of mental institution benefits. I think I am correct in saying that the various agreements which were entered into between the Commonwealth and the States have already terminated, but that, whilst a survey is being conducted by Dr. Stoller, the Commonwealth has agreed to continue .its payments. In Victoria, that payment amounts to ls. 2d. a day. From time to time, strong representations have been made to the -Government by persons interested in the problem of mental health, and their propositions have been specific. I, therefore, fail to understand why the Government is unable to arrive at a basis of .payment. The request has been made over and over again that the payment of 8s, a day, which is made by the Commonwealth in respect of each patient in a general or private hospital, should he paid also for each patient in a mental hospital. It is completely useless for the Australian Government to allow this matter to be passed backwards and forwards between the Commonwealth and the States. The very best medical advice in the community to-day is that mental health is just as important as is physical health. There should .be a very clear statement concerning the action that the Government intends to take, to assist those who are interested in mental health. I myself have spoken about that matter in this chamber on various occasions. “We must accept a great deal of the blame that is being directed at governments for their lack of thought for those in mental hospitals.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Minister to Division 83 - Health Services. I refer particularly to salaries and payments in the nature of salary. I ask the Minister to comment on the great ‘ inaccuracy in the estimate of anticipated expenditure last year under this heading. The vote was £341,000, and actual expenditure was £277,225, which represents a 20 per .cent, over-calculation of the likely expenditure. I notice that, . on this occasion, provision has been made for expenditure of £10,000 more than was voted last year. I refer also, in the same context, to Division 84- Serum Laboratories, item 6, Stores and Plant. The reverse has happened in that case. The vote last year was £44O,«9’0O, and expenditure was £529,259, or approximately £90,000 more. Therefore, expenditure exceeded the vote by about 20 per cent. The vote this year is £9,259 less than was ‘expended last year. I -consider that matters of that nature, particularly where there is such a wide variation between the vote and expenditure, should be discussed by the Minister, and I should be pleased if the Minister would -comment on both the matters 1 have raised.
– 3 desire information from the Minister regarding medical benefits. I understood the Minister to say, earlier, that the States alone had power over the fixation of medical fees. I, of course, accept that position. The medical benefits scheme, which is administered by the DirectorGeneral of Health, provides benefits which, from memory, range from 6s. to a maximum of £11 5s. I have a recollection that the Minister informed me in the Senate some time ago that those fees were fixed having regard to the general charges that were being made by medical practitioners, and that, in the mind of the Government, the Commonwealth contribution by way of medical benefits represented a certain percentage of some envisaged total fee. As each claim must specify the nature of the medical service rendered, the Commonwealth now must have before it a large number of. medical accounts which specify the nature of the services rendered and which show the total amount either claimed or paid. T. have little doubt that the department is addressing its mind to a survey of whether the original total fees contemplated when the medical benefits scheme was .instituted are being observed. T should like to know how much of the activities of the department are being concentrated on “ that aspect. The Minister will readily agree that, if the medical profession is free, as legally it is at the moment, to add to its charges the amount of -Common wealth benefit, all that the Commonwealth is doing is to pay a benefit to the medical practitioners and not to the patients. It is certainly incumbent on the Government and the departmental officers, although they can exercise no ‘compulsion in the matter, to consider the trends and to note whether the tendency is for1 medical fees to rise. The. Minister might also indicate the steps, if any, which the Government has taken to safeguard against such an increase of fees and to protect the interests of patients. Is there any agreement, oral or written, with the British Medical Association or the medical, profession under which that body or the profession has undertaken to police the fees charged by medical practitioners and to prevent an increase? If so, would the Minister give to the committee details of that arrangement? I am particularly concerned to know whether a survey of charges by medical practitioners has been undertaken by the department, and with what result.
.- This bill contains no reference to supervision of the medical benefits scheme, which was referred to by Senator Sheehan. The methods of policing and supervision are explained fully in the National Health Act. I have not a copy of the act before me at the moment, but I shall be pleased to obtain a copy for the honorable senator, or if he prefers to come to my office, I shall explain the matter to him. This bill deals only with the amount of money that is being voted for administration.
– For general administrative costs?
– That is so. Senator Wedgwood referred to the amounts that are paid to the States for assistance in the maintenance of mental hospitals. The agreement with Victoria expired -on the 31st July last. The agreement with Queensland is the only one that has not expired. Dr. Alan Stoller, one of the foremost world authorities on mental diseases, is conducting the survey of mental health problems to which Senator Wedgwood referred. It has not been completed but when a report is received the whole matter will be discussed by the Australian Government with the State governments and Senator Wedgwood’s comments will be considered. It is true that an amount of ls. 2d. a day for each mental patient was paid under the old agreement with Victoria. In 1953-54, Victoria received’ £156,752 for mental institutions from the Australian Government. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). referred to the checking of accounts.
– I asked whether the fees had been raised, and whether that matter was under the observation of departmental officers.
– The information at our disposal indicates that there is no general tendency for medical fees to rise. The British Medical Association has urged its members not to increase fees. I know that the association has not full control over its members, but it has acted as I have said.
– Can the Minister inform me what staff is engaged in watching that aspect? Is it a small staff?
– Those details are not available. I am informed that the Public Service Board has not yet stated what the full staff is to be, but work is being done on that matter now and a ceiling figure will be given. Senator Mattner referred to cancer research. That it a matter which could be considered by the National Health and Medical Research Council. About £130,000 was made available for research work last year, and I am informed that the largescale research programmes that are being conducted in the United States of America and the United Kingdom regarding the incidence of lung cancer are being closely watched by Australian observers. About SO per cent, of the total annual expenditure of £27,000 by the X-ray and Radium Laboratory is connected with cancer activities including care of Commonwealth radium, preparation of radon, standardization of X-ray therapy plant and work on radio isotopes. Senator Byrne referred to the fact that the expenditure on health services last year was £367,519, and it is estimated that this vear the amount required will be £437,000.
– I directed attention to the item “ Salaries and allowances £351,000” under Division S3- Health Services; but the principle is the same. Why was the amount over-estimated last year compared with actual expenditure?
– I am informed that the allocation was not spent last year because the medical benefits scheme did not function as quickly as expected. The staff was not required, but it is now working more or less at full strength.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Department of Commerce and Agriculture, £1,678,000; and Department of Social Services, £2,439,000 - agreed to.
Department of Shipping and Transport.
Proposed vote, £946,000.
– I direct attention to Division 94 - Marine Branch, “ Lighthouses, buoys and beacons - Operation and maintenance, £70,100”. Earlier in the sessional period, I referred to this matter andI should like the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) to inform me whether there is any intention of placing more lights along the north-west coast of Western Australia. There is a stretch of coastline 700 miles long in that area without a single light. Ships travelling along that route pass several islands. One exit from the port of Derby cannot be used at nightbecause there is no light. It is essential that ships should move from place to place as rapidly as possible because those ports are subject to a big rise and fall of the tide. If they miss a tide, they must stay outside a port for twelve hours or more. Is there any possibility of getting more lights along that coastline?
– I wish to refer to the item, “ Lighthouse steamers - Cost of operating, £130,000 “ under Division 94 - Marine Branch. Last year the vote was £180,000 and actual expenditure was £160,671. What is the reason for the decrease in the proposed vote?
– Last year one of the lighthouse steamers had to undergo a major overhaul involving the expenditure of a large sum of money. That is the reason for the decrease this year. Senator Seward referred to the need for lighthouses along the north-west coast of Western Australia.
I have made a tour of that coast and I know the difficulties that are experienced by the captains of ships in that area. The matter was referred to the special committee that deals with that problem. Something was done to improve the position at Yampi Sound, but I am not conversant with the details of the report in connexion with the other area to which the honorable senator referred. I shall get the information for Senator Seward and supply to him full details of the position.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Department of Territories, £165,000 - agreed to.
Department of Immigration.
Proposed vote, £1,296,000.
– Some time ago I referred a matter that I considered to be worthy of attention to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) but I have had no reply. Therefore, I shall refer to the matter in this committee. A young man who had settled in Perth came to see me. He had served with the United Kingdom forces in World War II. and, after becoming associated with some Australians while on active service, he wanted to come to Australia. At the end of the war he went to the office of the Agent-General for Western Australia in London and made inquiries about assisted immigration. He said that he was a farmer and he was told in effect, “ We do not want farmers in Australia. If you were a technician or a tradesman we could fix you up.” He went away, but about six months later he made another approach and received the same answer. He was told that Australia did not want agriculturists. He was determined to come to Australia, so he sold his farm and immigrated. Eventually he arrived in Western Australia. He went to the Lands and Surveys Department, but was informed that there was no land settlement scheme for civilians. He tried the Rural and Industries Bank of Western Australia and a machinery firm, Wigmores Limited, and finally took a lease of five or six acres of land in a suburb of Perth. Recently he came to me and said that he had £3,000 worth of pigs and wanted to get his brother to come to Australia as the work was beyond him. He said, however, that if his brother met the difficulties that he had met in London, his brother would not come to Australia. I referred the matter to the Minister for Immigration and have had no reply.
– When did the honorable senator refer the matter to the Minister ?
– Two or three months ago. I also referred to him a case that was brought to my notice by a friend in Western Australia who is a farmer. He had two young Englishmen on his property. They told me that when they arrived in Australia, every effort was made in the holding camp to get them to take employment in the railways instead of on farms. Both young men were farmers’ sons. I believe that this attitude towards immigrants is wrong. Our great task, under the United Nations, is to produce food. There is any amount of vacant land in this country - excellent land too. Much of it is in the north. I am not suggesting that these immigrants should go to Darwin. A.a matter of fact, after I came back from Darwin recently I received a letter from some people in Victoria in which they asked whether I would suggest that they go up there. I said, “ No, not under any circumstances, because most of the land there is held by absentee landlords “. I know that some young fellows had to &<> two or three hundred miles south from Darwin before they could get blocks of land. There is something radically wrong with the system when agriculturists who want to emigrate to Australia are deterred from doing so. There is any amount of land available for them,,and there are plenty of markets for the crops they could produce. The man I have referred to applied to a State government office in London. I suggest that the Commonwealth take the matter up with the State governments and try to get some explanation of why information of that kind is given to prospective immigrants. I think it is time that we overhauled our representation in London. We should employ people there who know our requirements and can give intending immigrants proper information and advice.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Labour. and National Service.
Proposed vote, £1,776,000.
.- I refer to Division 98- Administrative, under which an item of £2,100 is provided for staff training. I should like some information on what the item covers. Reference is made also to the Commonwealth-State Apprenticeship Inquiry. Honorable senators will remember that when that inquiry was completed, the committee issued a very comprehensive report. It is a most informative document, but people in Western Australia experience considerable difficulty in obtaining copies of it. I got a copy eventually through the courtesy of the Clerk of Papers of the Senate, but employers who gave evidence before the committee are still finding it difficult to get copies. Senator Laught has referred to the fact that many .government publications should be more readily available than they are. The only source of supply of government publications in Western Australia that I know of is the SabTreasury, but I could not obtain a copy of the report on the apprenticeship system from that source, and, as far as I know, copies are not yet available there. I have raised this matter because ir appears to me to be futile for a committee to examine a certain subject and issue a report on it if the findings of the committee are not to be made readily available to the people who are most interested in the subject. I ask that copies of this report be sent immediately to Western Australia.
– The estimate of expenditure by the Department of Labour and National Service on postage, telegrams and telephone services this year is £115,000, compared with an actual expenditure of about £111,000 last year. The proposed vote for the whole of the department is £1,776,000. I have noticed that in other departments, the proposed votes for which are approximately that figure, the estimated expenditure on telegrams, postage and telephone service is a little, more than a half of the expenditure estimated by the Department of
Labour and National Service. I am wondering why this department spends so much money in that way. It may be that it has more correspondence to conduct than other departments, and that it has to make more long-distance telephone calls. However, I draw attention to the disparity.
Senator VINCENT (“Western Australia [5.36]. - I refer to item 4 under the heading, “Miscellaneous”. Can the Minister inform me why the estimated expenditure in respect of that item this year is approximately four times greater than the actual expenditure last year?
. I refer to Division 98, Miscellaneous, item 1, “ Employment Services Trust Account - Working Advance, £2,000 “. That appears to be a new trust account. No provision was made for it last year, nor was there any expenditure on it. I have referred to the item, first, because I am wondering what the purpose of the account is, and secondly, because the Parliament has always set its face against the establishment of trust accounts unless there is a very good reason for them. Very often, activities are not so easy to scrutinize when financed from a trust account .as they are when financed from an ordinary vote. I should be pleased if the Minister would explain to the Senate the purpose of this account, and tell us what the money is required for.
I notice that in the schedule of salaries and allowances provision is made for permanent officers occupying uncreated positions. I do not know what the term “ uncreated positions “ means. I do not suppose anybody could occupy a position that did not exist. I understand that to create is to make something out of nothing. I presume that the expression is, if I may use the term, “public service journalese “ and means that the positions have not yet been declared officially to exist. However, £67,640 seems to be a very large sum to pay to people who are occupying positions that do not officially exist. I should be pleased if the Minister would make some comments on that point. I make the suggestion that it might be possible to use, in describing these positions, a term that would he more illuminating, that would not be so susceptible to criticism, that really described the situation and that made clear the purpose’s for which the money was proposed to be expended.
– I notice that the estimated expenditure on salaries and allowances for the department this year is less than the estimate for the previous year. The schedule of salaries and allowances shows that the number of executive and senior administrative officers in the department has been reduced by five. Will the Minister tell us the positions that have been affected by adjusting the staff from 63 to 58 executive and senior administrative officers? The number of employment officers has been increased. ,So also has the numbers of clerks, inspectors, typists and machinists. I should like to know whether the activities of the department will be affected by the Government’s policy of restricting the number of men selected for national service training. The officers of the department in Western Australia have been required to do quite a lot of work in calling up men for military training. It would be interesting to know whether the alteration of the Government’s policy in regard to national service training will affect the work of the department and, .if so, to what degree.
– I intend to move that item 4 under the heading, “ Miscellaneous”, be deleted. It relates to fees and other expenditure in connexion with boards of reference under the Stevedoring Industry Act. This matter has been raised during the discussion of the Estimates each year while I have been a member of the Senate, but so far nothing has been done to give effect to the suggestions made. In 1952, an inquiry into the stevedoring industry was made by Mr. Bastin, who issued ;a very good .report on the matter and .made certain recommendations. He stated in the report that unless something was done very quickly to alter existing conditions, there would be chaos ion our wharfs. We know that the older waterside workers are retiring from the industry and that they are being replaced by younger men. But the younger men have not been trained in the industry and, in addition, they are not subjected to the discipline that is necessary if work on the wharfs is to be done efficiently. One of the duties of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board is to train young men in the work of stevedoring and to use them to fill vacancies in the industry as they occur but, as Mr. Bastin has pointed out in his report, that is not being done. Vacancies are allowed to accumulate until there is such a lack of labour on the wharfs that the quota of waterside workers must be filled again. Instead of being filled with trained men, it is filled with untrained men. The result is that work on the wharfs is becoming worse every year.
During the recent recess I went to Darwin. Labour in the ports at which the ship called on the way to Darwin is not supplied by the “Waterside Workers Federation. The wharf labourers in those ports are members of the Australian Workers Union. I noticed, as we entered those ports, that the ship’s crew took the covers from the hatches, started the winches and got everything ready to begin unloading cargo as soon as the ship was secured to the wharf. But when we approached Darwin, nothing like that happened. At that port, we had to wait until the wharf labourers came on to the ship before the hatch covers were removed and the winches were started. They arrived at the wharf in a bus at 8.10 a.m. By 8.30 a.m. or 8.35 a.m. the hatch covers had been removed and the men were ready to begin unloading the cargo. They put the stuff in a net, hauled it up and lowered it. The net was undone on one side, cargo was distributed on the table and then transferred to a lorry. When all that had been done, the net was sent back. In any other port, the net is released as soon as it has been landed on the wharf or the table, and another net is sent back to the ship to be loaded. At 4.30 p.m. the men began to put the hatch covers on again, and at 4.50 p.m. they left the ship and went to the town. That was the end of work for the day. They worked from about 8.30 a.m. till about 4.30 p.m. Of course, they worked only two hours on -and two hours off. In addition, there were smokos.
– I rise to order. I suggest that this is not an occasion for a .general discussion of the position on the waterfront. This’ item relates to only a small part of the expenditure associated with the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. The. board’s revenue is derived mainly from a levy imposed under the authority of an act passed by the Parliament. I submit that this item does not permit the honorable senator to discuss the whole of the activities of the board.
The CHAIRMAN” (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid) - I have allowed the honorable senator some latitude in this matter. I appreciate the point he is trying to make, and I have purposely allowed him to go beyond the scope of the item in his remarks. However, I shall prevent any further extension of the debate on that aspect of the item. I have given the honorable senator some latitude to enable him to demonstrate his point, but it would not be right to permit a further extension of the debate along those lines.
– I have suggested that the item be deleted.
– Do you want to make a request that the item be deleted?
– Then I ask you to put the request in writing.
Sitting suspended from 547 to 8 p.m.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McLeay) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is for the purpose of amending the rate of levy chargeable on meat exported from Australia in pursuance of the provisions of the Meat Export Charges Act of 1935. Until May, 1947, export levies were collected under the act, paid into consolidated revenue, and then appropriated out of revenue and paid to the Australian Meat Board. The board financed its activities from the funds so obtained.
The Australian Meat Board was reconstituted in 1946, and given added powers to act as a buyer and seller of meat on behalf of the Commonwealth Government for the purpose of carrying out the Commonwealth’s obligations under the bulk meat contracts with the United Kingdom Government. The government of the day then decided that the board might more appropriately finance its activities by withholding from its suppliers a small percentage of the United Kingdom contract price instead of imposing a charge on exports. Following this decision, the operation of the Meat Export Charges Act was suspended in May, 1947, by a general exemption order made under section 4 of the principal act.
Following the decision of the British government to decontrol the meat trade in the United Kingdom, bulk trading in meat between Australia and the Ministry of Food under the governmenttogovernment contract has ceased. As a result, the Australian Meat Board is no longer in a position to finance its operations from trading activities. After reviewing the situation, the board has unanimously recommended that the levy under the Meat Export Charges Act should be reimposed and that the maximum rate of levy should be increased. The board states that the maximum rates of charge prescribed under the 1935 act would be much too low to finance the operating costs of the board under present-day conditions. For example, the maximum charge permitted by the act, as it now stands, on beef, which is the most important meat export commodity, is only id. a quarter, or about oneeightieth of a penny per lb. The new maximum rate recommended by the board for all meat exported is one-tenth of one penny per lb.
The board estimates that the maximum rates of charges under the 1935 act would, if applied for a full year, give a revenue of about £22,000 on an export of about 20S,000 tons. In 1952-53, the board spent approximately this amount on contributions to special projects, including trade exhibitions, carcase competitions, and extension services.
The cessation of bulk trading will, of course, lessen the administrative activities of the board and, consequently, its actual administrative expenses. However, the return to private trading and the cessation of rationing and distribution controls in the United Kingdom have placed an emphasis on the need for publicising meat, and particularly Australian meat, in our overseas markets, and the importance of such publicity. This will be a major responsibility of the board, which is at present giving active consideration to the matter.
At the present time, the board has reserve funds in the Meat Industry Advancement Trust Account. This account comprises moneys made available to the board by the Commonwealth from profits made by the Commonwealth Meat Controller during the war years. The transfer of these moneys to the board was conditional on their being reserved for research purposes and similar projects.
There are also reserve funds in the board’s general accounts amounting to approximately £500,000. These funds were built up mostly from profits made by the board on stocks in store at the end of a contract year, which were subsequently sold to the Ministry of Food at increased contract prices in the following contract year. It is emphasized that these board funds are producers’ funds to be held for their benefit. The Australian Meat Board is strongly of the opinion that they should not be used to finance current administrative expenses whilst the industry is enjoying buoyant conditions. “Within the maximum fixed by the act, the actual export charge may be varied for the different classes of meat.
A recommendation has been received from the Meat Board that, subject to this bill being passed by Parliament, a regulation should be made prescribing the charge as one-twentieth of a penny per lb. on all meat exported. Any variation in this charge will have regard to the circumstances of the industry at the time.
– The Opposition does not oppose this measure, but I feel that it is proper to offer some comments on the bill and on the speech of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay). I understand that bulk trading ended on the 30th September and the Australian Meat Board is no longer in a position to finance its administrative expenses from its own trading operations. Accordingly, those who are engaged in the export of meat will make no contribution to. the administrative expenses of the board from the end of last month until this measure becomes law. It is best that this bill should operate at the earliest possible point of time so that all those who are engaged in the export of meat will be caught up in the net of the meat export charge. That is one reason why the Opposition is taking the rather unusual course of not seeking an adjournment of this debate in order to give the measure fuller consideration.
The Minister stated that the administrative activities of the board would be lessened by the cessation of the bulk trading programme. One would expect, under those circumstances, that the cost of administering the activities of the board would be lessened. It comes as a shock to find that the maximum charge that this bill proposes to permit is eight times higher than the charge that was permissible under the Meat Export Act 1935. That, of course, illustrates the story of inflation in this country. The Minister did not say that the maximum amount would be charged, but he said that the charge would probably be at the rate of one-twentieth of a penny a pound, which would be four times the charge that was made some years ago. That is an illustration of the extent to which the currency has been inflated, and it indicates the difficulties that have been caused internally and abroad in relation to meat.
In fairness to the Minister, I must admit that he stated that further publicity and expense would be required by reason of the fact that the bulk contract has been abrogated. But he indicated that even if the maximum charge under this bill were imposed, the total revenue received would amount to only £22,000 per annum. That is certainly not a large figure. Some part of it must necessarily be expended on the administrative activities of the board, and the balance would, presumably, be available for publicity purposes. If £22,000 were the whole amount that will be available to the Australian Meat Board for the publicizing of Australian meat in London and elsewhere abroad, it would be so insignificant a contribution as not to be worth making. I should like the Minister to indicate to what extent recourse can be had to the two funds for publicity purposes that were mentioned by him. He stated that the general account had a credit of about £500,000. Although he did not state the balance in the Meat Industry Advancement Trust Account, I find on looking at the report of the Australian Meat Board for last year that it has accumulated funds of about £500,000. It seems that only the income from these two accounts is being expended. The income from one is being> used for research purposes and the income from the other for general purposes.
Even if the whole of the amounts in the two trust funds were expended on publicity - and they certainly are not both available for that purpose - they would not make possible a substantial publicity campaign abroad. I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport to tell the Senate what the Government contemplates doing in order to publicize Australian meat. Probably the best publicity that could be given to Australian meat would relate to its quality and price. Price is, perhaps, not the less important of the two factors. But it would be interesting to know exactly which of the funds is available for publicity purposes, whether any portion of the capital of the funds may be so applied, and what publicity campaign is contemplated by the Australian
Meat Board. I understand that there are real difficulties in selling Australian meat abroad. They have flowed from inflation which has been allowed to run unchecked. Inflation has sent up the cost of production and Australian meat is in difficulties in competing with meat from the Argentine, for instance, on a free market abroad. The great sin that the Opposition continually and monotonously lays at the door of the Government is that of allowing inflation to run unchecked for so long that it has made difficulties for this export industry among many others.
The charge proposed in this bill is not very substantial. One of the funds to which I have referred was built up out of the profits made on bulk trading operations by the Meat Controller during the war years. It is to be hoped that those who are engaged in this very important industry will find that some profits are left in it. One can appreciate the difficulties when he realizes that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) is at present abroad begging English buyers and wholesalers to buy our meat, and that we have to compete against meat at cheaper rates from the Argentine. It is not a bright outlook. Although we offer no objection to the passage of the bill, I should like the Minister to give me some information regarding the funds. I have referred to the figures to the 30th June, 1953, which are set out in the eighteenth annual report of the Australian Meat Board. I understand that to be the board’s latest report. At page 76, the board reported that there was a credit balance of £45,000 in the Meat Export Fund at that date; in the account to which the Minister referred - the Meat Industry Advancement Trust Account - there was a credit balance of £504,817 ; in a third account, which appears to be the General Account - to which the Minister also referred - which is mentioned at page 82, there was a surplus of accumulated funds totalling £519,897. The assets were reasonably liquid. They were : London cash, nearly £2,000 ; sundry debtors, £848,000; stock, £3,500,000; investments, £980,000. I should like the Minister to proffer a brief commentary upon those funds and the purposes to which they may be applied. I also ask him to give us some indication of the proposed expenditure on a publicity campaign. In particular, does the Government, in the present difficult period, contemplate making any advance to the board to further an expensive publicity campaign in the United Kingdom, or will the board conduct the publicity with its own resources?
The only other aspect on which I propose to comment is the activity of the Australian Meat Board in relation to developmental projects, and its general assistance to the industry. There is activity on developmental projects in each of the States, including Tasmania, and in the Northern Territory, and details of assistance to the industry, extending over many heads, are set out in paragraph 14 of the report.We know that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is cooperating in various kinds of research in connexion with this very important industry and that its services are. available to producers. We recognize the importance of the industry, and above all, the important contribution that science can make, by means of research, to problems such as cattle tick eradication, and all the physiological factors of soil and animal building that are involved in the industry.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I appreciate the assurance of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) that the Opposition will not offer any objection to the passage of the bill. I have been advised that the board will have the right, by regulation, to levy up to one-tenth of one penny per lb. on meat exported. It is expected that, in a full year, the board will gain revenue of about £22,000 on an export of 208,000 tons of meat. The idea is that the board will, from time to time, expend the sum of money that it thinks appropriate on advertising, and also pay its administrative expenses.
– Out of the fund?
– Yes. I have been advised that a levy of one-twentieth of Id. per lb. would be sufficient for those purposes but that the board shall have the right to levy up to one-tenth of Id., if it so desires.
– Can the Minister indicate broadly how much will be available out of the fund for publicity purposes? I point out that a publicity campaign conducted upon a small scale in the United Kingdom would, I imagine, be a complete waste of money. I should like the Minister to indicate what form the publicity will take. I suggest that even if the whole of the revenue received by the board in one year were applied to publicity purposes in the United Kingdom, the radio and press coverage in the United Kingdom would fall within a very narrow compass. I should like the Minister to express an opinion upon the adequacy of a restricted publicity campaign of that nature. The only other aspect on which I should like him to comment, is the extent to which revenue from any of the three funds at the board’s disposal will be available for the purpose. I indicate again to the Minister that thu board’s eighteenth annual report mentions three funds : the Meat Export Fund, which has a credit balance of £45,000; the Meat Industry Advancement Trust Account, which has a credit balance of about £504,000; and a general account, with a credit balance of about £500,000.
– O Over £1,000,000 all told?
– Yes, in different accounts. I should like the Minister to give me an indication of the purposes to which those funds may be applied. I know from what he said in his second-reading speech, that the advance trust account can only be applied to research purposes, and I note from the report, that only the income from that fund can be so applied. During the year ended June, 1953, £10,408 was expended from the income of that fund on research. I should like to know whether any portion of the capital fund can be so applied, and if it can, the proportion.
– I think the first point to appreciate is that the bill allows latitude to the people responsible for administering these funds. It is expected that, in the next year or so, the demand for our meat in the United Kingdom will be such that expenditure on advertising will not be extensive, because we are pleased to be able to report that wool and meat - two of our export commodities - are enjoying a reasonably good market at good prices. Therefore, I am not able to say how much will be spent on advertising from time to time. It will be determined by the market situation, and much will depend on research. It is very important that the administrative expenses in connexion with the marketing of our meat shall be met by levy. The committee will appreciate that it is difficult to say how much will be expended on research and advertising. It is for that reason that both an upper and a lower limit in respect of the charge has been provided.
– It appears that there are three separate funds: the Meat Export Fluid, the Meat Industry Advancement Trust Account, and a general account. I understand that the board has more than £1,000,000 in these funds, and, in addition, has invested about £900,000 of the meat-growers’ money. Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) inform me whether that amount of money is invested in Commonwealth bonds, or in other securities which are not easily convertible ?
– I am advised that the money is invested, not in Commonwealth bonds, but in properties in which the Australian Meat Board is interested, where experiments are conducted.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
In committee: Consideration resumed (vide page 753).
Department of Labour and National Service.
Proposed vote, £1,776,000.
.- I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend Division US, Subdivision C, by leaving out the following iti;m, viz.: - “ 4. Boards of Reference under Stevedoring Industry Act 194.9-
Fees and other expenditure . . £4,000 “.
I take this action because we are now considering the only part of the Estimates that relate to the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. I admit that the provision we are discussing is only to cover expenses of boards of reference but, as I pointed out previously, although we have brought this matter up on three previous occasions, we have not been able to get anywhere with it. The operations of the Australian Stevedoring Board at present are so far from the duties it is supposed to perform and so injurious to Australian shipping that we wish to bring to the Government’s notice forcibly our desire that the board shoud be abolished. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has returned to Australia within the last few days, and he has had some interviews with representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation, the Australian Council of Trades Unions, and the shipowners. He has stated his intention to introduce a measure to continue the operations of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. I also read in a newspaper a few days ago a statement to the effect that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had announced that the term of office of the chairman of the board would be renewed for a further period of three or five years. It is also reported that the president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions has pressed for a further inquiry into work on the wharfs with a view to having some kind of amendment introduced. Although the Minister for Labour and National Service has said that legislation will be introduced into the Parliament, that may or may not be done this session, and I should not like the present sittings to conclude without voicing an emphatic protest. Possibly, later this year, legislation will be introduced, but the position on the wharfs has reached such a state that Australian shipping services are becoming seriously menaced. I have already referred to activities at Darwin. We arrived there on a Monday at mid-day, and we remained there until mid-day on Thursday, unloading 276 tons of cargo. When there was pressure on the wharfs a few years ago, 500 tons of cargo a day was handled at Brisbane, and 600 tons a day at New Zealand ports. The point is, of course, that at Darwin, the men arrive on the wharf at about S.10 a.m. to start work at S.30 a.m. They finish for the day at 4.30 p.m. so that they can close the hatches and get to their club by 5 o’clock. There is no night work at Darwin. The result is that ships of the Blue Funnel Line trading between Singapore and Western Australia, refuse to call at Darwin. The only ships trading to Darwin now are the vessels of the State Shipping Service of Western Australia, and I am certain that they, too, would avoid Darwin if it were not for the fact that half of the cargo they carry is for that port.
– Why did the honorable senator not help the wharf labourers to unload the ship ?
– I shall tell the honorable senator why. When the ship was at Darwin, the skipper found that he could not use his own men to unload the vessel. He decided, therefore, to engage his crew on painting the boat. However, as soon as the men started to chip the old paint off the railings, representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation went to the skipper and told him that the chipping was distracting the wharf labourers, and that the work would have to stop. Senator Armstrong complained a few nights ago that not enough ships were trading to Australian ports. But how can we expect ships to visit our ports when that kind of conduct is going on? The Australian Stevedoring Board must be abolished. I do not suggest for one moment that waterside workers should be left to the mercy of the shipowners. That is not my intention. The men have to be protected. The Basten report commends the system in operation at Fremantle where most of the stevedoring work is done by the Harbour Trust. If that system were adopted at other ports, and the Stevedoring. Industry Board abolished, the men would be properly treated because the harbour trusts are concerned in all activities on the wharfs. They take care of the wharfs, and provide sheds, machinery, and so on. If they also had full control of labour, they could act as independent authorities between the shipowners and the waterside workers. They could look after the welfare of the men. I thoroughly agree also with Mr. Basten’s view that waterside workers should have permanent employment, and not have to depend on attendance money. Ships arrive at our ports irregularly. Sometimes there is a large number of vessels at the wharfs, but at other times there are only a few. Men cannot be expected to hang around on the offchance of getting a job. I say, therefore, that they should be given full employment.- Those are the things that are affecting the shipping industry. A few days ago some very strong statements were made by Mr. Justice Foster. One newspaper report of his honour’s remarks read as follows: -
Seamen who disobeyed lawful commands were hotly criticized by Mr. Justice Foster in the Arbitration Court to-day.
Mr. Justice Foster said he had spent a long period hearing about seamen’s difficulties. “ It makes me boil inside when they react in this way “, be added.
I have been down at the wharfs on several occasions, and I have seen the men at work. They have to be engaged so many to a gang.. In a gang of eight men, four may be playing cards while the others work. Then the four workers will stop to play cards while their comrades take up the loading or unloading. Unless we take some measures to eliminate such practices, there will be no improvement in the turn-round of shins. I do not blame the men entirely. The main responsibility lies with the supervisors. The men in charge of the gangs should see that the wharf labourers do their work. Honorable senators who have read the reports of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board will know that men have been paid for a day’s work when they have been so drunk that they could not work at all. I repeat that I am not blaming the men entirely. But I do blame those who are in charge of them. We cannot expect any improvement if the present system under which a foreman is elected by the men he is to control is te continue. Supervision should be exercised by some one who is completely independent.
– The honorable senator will not suggest that the practices to which he has referred are common.
– They are not indulged in by all the men on the waterfront, of course, but they are going on at Darwin, Fremantle, Brisbane and other ports. They are reported by the Stevedoring Industry Board. Such practices must be stopped if shipowners are to be induced to send their vessels here. On one occasion I went to see a refrigerated vessel loaded at Fremantle. The men were loading sides of bacon, telescoped lamb and cheese. I saw men carrying nineteen sides of bacon on a board. When the captain came down I pointed out that the men could put two or three times that number of sides on the board, but he laughed and said that they would not do it. He told me that he had 500 tons of cargo to load. I said to him, “ You started at midday on Thursday ; when do you expect the loading to be finished?” He said, “This day week” - that was Friday of the following week. He told me that every day the vessel was in port cost £450. I said, “ Do you mean to say that it will cost you £3,000 to load 500 tons of cargo?”, and he said, “Yes. We cannot afford to come to these ports. This ship cost £1,250,000 and I have to see that it earns interest on that money. Between the time I sight Liverpool, unload, reload and get away, six days have elapsed; but between the time I sight Australia, unload and reload at several ports, and get away, six weeks have elapsed “. How can we expect to sell our wool, wheat, meat, and other primary products when the ships that carry them have to remain in Australian ports under those conditions? What is the use of complaining about freight charges being high when other unnecessary costs are so great?
I appeal to honorable senators to press for the abolition of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. I realize. of course, that it could not be abolished straight away. It was noticeable that although the Minister for Labour and National Service conferred with the Australian Council of Trades Unions, the “Waterside Workers Federation, and the ship-owners, he did not confer with harbour trust authorities, who, I consider, are best able to give him not only expert advice but also impartial advice on this matter. Before the establishment of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board ‘the Fremantle Harbour Trust carried out all the work on the wharfs. It had stacking gangs, crane-driving gangs, gangs to manipulate trucks, and so on. Those gangs became very expert in their work, whereas to-day we never find the same men on one job for two days running and the inevitable result is much slower handling of cargo. For those reasons, I have moved for the deletion of this item with a view to improving conditions on the waterfront.
– I was interested in what Senator Seward said about conditions on the waterfront and the activities of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, but, unfortunately, not one of his remarks was relevant to the item which he asks us to exclude from the Estimates. That item would be included in the Estimates to-day whether there was an Australian Stevedoring Industry Board or not. It is an item for which provision must be made because an Arbitration Court judge, in the exercise of his . duties, has made an award which provides that certain functions shall be performed by boards of reference. As a matter of fact, it is rather a curious commentary that the functions which are now being performed by boards of reference, in accordance with the order of the Arbitration Court judge, were formerly performed by an officer of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. In fact, what has happened is that the judge of the Arbitration Court has taken these particular functions out of the hands of the board to which Senator Seward objects, and has put them in the hands of a board of reference, under the terms of the award which he has made. Because he has done that, it has become necessary to make provision for fees, and so forth, which have to be paid to the members of the board of reference.
All the expenditure which is incurred by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board itself is provided for under its own act. All the expenditure it incurs comes out of the stevedoring industry charge. Consequently, there will not be found in the Estimates provision for the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board itself. When honorable senators turn to the Stevedoring Industry Act they will find that it contains financial provision which provides for the payment to the board of the amounts of money which are collected under the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act; .but the boards of reference have been appointed by the judge, operating under an entirely different set of provisions in the act, namely,- Part V., which deals with the jurisdiction of the court. Those provisions operate quite independently of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. The fees that have to be paid to the members of these boards of reference, and other expenses, not being payable out of the stevedoring industry charge moneys, have to be provided for in these Estimates.
– If the board were abolished, this item would still be in the Estimates.
– Exactly. If the board were to be abolished to-morrow, this item would still appear in the Estimates. I assure Senator Seward that that is the position. It comes down to the point that this item has nothing whatever to do with the existence of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board as such. If we got rid of the board, we should still have this item. There is not the slightest doubt of that. Although I appreciate the motives which induced the honorable senator to make his request, obviously it has nothing to do with the end he seeks to achieve, and in those circumstances I ask the committee to reject the request.
– The ‘ Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) has pointed out that the request does not apply to the item which the committee is discussing, so that there is very little to be said, despite the fact that I am wholly in accord with the opinions expressed by Senator Seward, His remarks should remind the Government that the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board was set up during the last war and was meant to have a purely war-time purpose. I am aware of the conditions which operate on the coast of Queensland because of the existence of this board. In my opinion, to continue it would be a sheer waste of money. Although Senator Seward’s request has not been made on firm grounds, I believe that it will direct attention to the fact that this board does not serve any useful purpose. The rate of loading and unloading cargo in Queensland ports is probably only half as fast as it was before the war, although better conditions and a greater degree of mechanization now exist. This board has been bolstered by civil servants and Ministers, and I feel that its abolition is long overdue.
– I rise to order. As the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) lias already stated that Senator Seward’s request has nothing to do with this item, is Senator Wood in order in discussing the matter along the lines followed by Senator Seward?
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - I understand that Senator Wood has concluded his remarks.
, - I point out that both Senator Seward and Senator Wood are completely lacking in experience of industrial matters. This is a subject on which I have raised my voice many times. People who have nothing to do with the industrial world are always trying to aim a blow at the system of boards, such as reference boards and wages boards. It is time that such people left that field completely alone. If ever there was an industry in which an ad hoc body such as a board of reference is required, it is the waterfront industry, where all kinds of problems arise in connexion with employment. For instance, a ship may come into port with an obnoxious cargo. A dispute may arise that requires immediate settlement by a board of reference, the usual process of arbitration being too slow.
Honorable senators have heard two attacks from the opposite side of the chamber to-night. Senator Seward attacked waterside workers, and Senator Wood attacked civil servants. Those are two sections of the community which are considered fair game by many people. Waterside workers, civil servants and also politicians have been lampooned in the press for about 50 years.
– And also coalminers.
– Yes, and coalminers too. Senator Wood has stated that the rate of loading cargo in Queensland is slower than it was before the war. Does he not agree that the rate of progress in all Australian activities, including business management, is slower now than it was before the war? The fact that wharf labourers play cards on the job has nothing to do with the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board or the boards of reference. I shall always be an advocate of the* kind of industrial arbitration of which boards of reference are a part. Honorable senators opposite who attack that system of arbitration obviously have never dealt with matters of industrial psychology and management. If workmen drink on the job and do not do their work properly, should not the boss do something about it? Senator Seward condemned himself out of his own mouth, because he said that he did not blame the men for what they did. Nevertheless, he wants to do away with boards of reference. I agree with- the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral that the honorable senator’s request has nothing to do with the item which the committee is considering. I hope that the system of boards of reference will be extended throughout Australia.. Senator Seward’s request has given rise to an unwarranted attack on certain sections of the community, an attack which cannot be resisted by the Opposition because I believe that you, Mr. Chairman, would prevent honorable senators on this side of the chamber from doing so. If we were given the opportunity to debate the matter fully, the arguments used by Senator Seward and Senator Wood would be blown sky-high, and the stupidity of the request would, be quickly demonstrated.
.- I address my remarks to Division 98c, item 3 - Commonwealth-State Apprenticeship Inquiry. In 1950, at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, it was decided by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the six Premiers who attended the conference that a committee of inquiry should be appointed for the purpose of investigating fully the apprenticeship schemes operating throughout the Commonwealth. A committee of inquiry was appointed subsequently by the Australian Government, and a full investigation was made of the schemes in operation in the six States, as well as those in Commonwealth territories. I wish to pay a tribute to the committee which conducted that inquiry. I have had an opportunity to read its report and I have deduced that it set out to cover as wide a field as possible, and submitted recommendations to the Australian Government which it might very well adopt.
In my opinion, there is nothing more important for this Government to consider than the question of trade ‘apprenticeships. It is rather interesting to read in the report furnished by the committee a statement by one of the employers’ organizations which appeared before it. That statement was in the following terms : - ‘
The; training of youths to be all-round skilled craftsmen is of vital importance to the nation and the system of apprenticeship and apprenticeship training determines, tq a considerable degree, the strength of the Commonwealth in time of peace and in time of war, the status of the nation in the international sphere and the standard of living of the Australian people.
I wholeheartedly endorse every word of that statement. Trade apprenticeship matters are of great national importance at the present time. Indeed, I know of nothing more important.
I find, on going through the report, that the committee analysed the systems which operated in the States, and made various recommendations. I regret that the sum that has been set aside this year by the Commonwealth for this purpose is a meagre £100. That indicates quite clearly that this Government does not propose to do anything further about the recommendations made by the committee of inquiry, because it is obvious that £100 would not cover even postal expenses. The Government, apparently, intends to shelve the recommendation of the committee. During the time available to me, I propose to deal with some of those recommendations, and I am sure that when I have done so, honorable senators will appreciate the importance of them.
Members of the Government have claimed that Australia’s economy is sound and is expanding. If that is so, surely it follows that our secondary industries also are expanding and that, therefore, greater attention should be given to the training of apprentices. It is not sufficient for the Commonwealth to rely on employers in the community to engage apprentices and train them for the work that lies ahead. This Government musttake a more active interest in apprenticeship matters. There are also other matters in which it should interest itself. For instance, a study of the recommendations of the committee to which I have referred indicates that sufficient attention is not being given to the training of apprentice.-‘ in the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. The committee has furnished recommendations, and I shall be interested to know from the Minister what the Government proposes to do. Before I turn to the recommendations of the committee, I wish to refer to several matters that will be of particular interest to South Australian senators. Senator Hannaford is a big Australian, and he will give this matter his personal attention. In my opinion, South Australia is the most backward State in the Commonwealth in apprenticeship matters. J know that that is so, because some years ago I was chairman of an apprenticeship advisory committee, one of the first that was established in Australia. This report was made in 1954, just after the committee had concluded its investigations.
– Did the honorable senator say that South Australia was the most backward State?
– Yes, in cbe training of apprentices. That is a challenging statement, and I notice that a number of honorable senators are showing interest in it. I shall not try to answer them now, but I am willing to submit myself to any questioning afterwards. The committee made this statement about apprenticeships in South Australia -
In South Australia, administrative supervision of apprentices is not as close as in other States, and there is no single statute or portion of a statute which provides a complete code.
Nothing could be. more condemnatory of the South Australian apprenticeship system. The committee continued -
Provisions ‘for technical education of apprentices are separate from the regulation of their working conditions. The technical education and training of apprentices are regulated by the Apprenticeship Act, which sets up an apprentices board composed of the superintendent of technical schools, who is chairman; the chief inspector of factories, who is deputy chairman: two nominees of the Government, two nominees of the union interests and two of employing interests.
That is the administrative structure of apprenticeship affairs in South Australia. I am sure that honorable senators will be interested in the number of apprentices who are engaged in South Australia. The number is shockingly low considering the industrial progress of South Australia in the past decade. I shall compare the figures for South Australia with those of a State with a similar population. In South Australia, there are 2,643 trade apprentices. That number includes all apprentices, and some of the trades are weak trades. Hairdressing, for example, is a skilled trade in South Australia. In Western Australia, there are 4,810 apprentices. There are more in that State because it has a good h apprenticeship system. It should be made compulsory for employers to indenture their apprentices at the prescribed time and ensure that they are apprenticed for the period prescribed. Unless that regulation is rigorously policed, the same haphazard conditions will continue in South Australia.
I have only a brief time to speak, but 1 should like to grill the Australian Government for what it is doing in apprenticeship matters. Its record is deplorable, worse even than that . of South Australia. Not long ago, an employer in South Australia was compelled to go ‘ to Queensland to recruit tradesmen to man his factory. He had! to rely for labour on a State that instituted a proper apprenticeship system in 1924. The- Queensland system has been reported upon by the committee, and it has taken the system that has existed in Queensland since 1924 as the standard for good apprenticeship schemes in Australia. I wanted to refer to several Commonwealth matters, but I cannot cover the whole subject.
– Tell us about South Australia.
– As Senator Vincent is eager to hear more about South Australia, I shall oblige him, because I know that he is a sensible gentleman. [ wish to refer to some of the conclusions of the committee of inquiry because I regret that its report was not more widelypublicized. It is regrettable that copies of the report were not sent to every member of the Parliament and to every teacher in every primary school in Australia, because it contains something of concern to everybody. I also regret that my speech is not being broadcast so that I could get wide publicity for this matter.
Before I refer to the conclusions pf the committee, I wish to direct the attention of honorable senators to a clipping from a Sydney Sunday newspaper that I have in my hand. It has a. picture of a loaf of bread under the caption, “ This soggy mess came from a loaf “. The picture shows a man holding a loaf of bread and the article below the picture states -
Unless you pay fancy prices for fancy bread, you get a doughy mess, often half-cooked, which goes stale in a day.
Bread-baking is a skilled trade in most of the States, and minors have to be indentured for five years. They have to attend trade classes, where they are established, and also receive theoretical training. In Queensland, there is a trade school at the technical college with proper equipment, and apprentices are taught properly how to make and bake bread, but in South Australia there are no such facilities. I can produce evidence that in South Australia, bread-baking is not a skilled trade, and minors engaged in it are not apprenticed. Honorable senators are only concerned about tradesmen when they drive their 1928 Ford motor cars into garages for repairs. Then they worry about the standard of workmanship.
– Is the loaf of bread to which the honorable senator referred a Sydney loaf?
– Yes, and I pass .the newspaper clipping around the committee so that honorable senators may examine it. This is one of the conclusions of the (Committee.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– Senator Benn drew attention to the fact that the only item in these Estimates relating to apprentices was the item, “ CommonwealthState apprenticeship inquiry, £100 “ under Division 9S - Administrative. That is the estimated expenditure for this year in connexion with the inquiry. It is not the whole of the expenditure that was involved in the inquiry, however. Last year, an amount of £1,035 was expended. This year, there are one or two items that had to be met to wind up the activities of the committee. That is why the amount is set at £100. Other activities of the Department of Labour and National .Service following upon the inquiry are included in the general expenditure of the department. The committee gave what I thought was a very valuable report. Honorable senators might remember that Mr. Justice Wright presided over the inquiry, and it included representatives of State apprenticeship and technical education authorities, employers and workers’ organizations. It completed its inquiry, and the report has been published. Since the publication of the report, there have been consultations between the Department of Labour and National Service, employers’ organizations and the Australian Council of Trades Unions with regard to the implementation of the findings in the report.
Apprenticeship necessarily involves matters that are within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, but only to a limited extent. Primarily ‘they fall within the jurisdiction of the States. The Commonwealth Parliament has no power to pass any general law with regard to the subject-matter of apprenticeships, but it is a subject in which the Department of Labour and National Service can do useful work in assisting in the coordination of the activities of the States and encouraging the adoption of the kind of recommendations that are referred to in the report. Copies of the report have been made available to quite a number of people. They have been made available free to Commonwealth and State departments and instrumentalities concerned with technical education and apprentices. Copies have also been supplied free to the principal craft unions employing apprentices and to employers’ organizations. In addition, copies have been supplied to members of Parliament who have sought them, and those who have shown some interest in the subject-matter, to certain libraries and other bodies of that kind. Copies may still be bought by anybody who wants them for 15s. a copy.
One honorable senator referred to the item, “Staff Training, £2,100”. The practice is to conduct special courses for the training of officers handling physically handicapped and young persons. Those courses are held at regular intervals, and are an essential part of the process of training skilled officers in that class of work. Periodically, conferences and discussion groups are also held in the regional offices for all district employment officers as part of the process of ensuring that policy is properly understood and implemented. The central office arranges discussion groups and conferences of senior regional staffs, such as those in charge of arbitration inspectorate work and those controlling vocational guidance activities. All new staff joining the department are given induction training and follow-up training. The principal expenses are related to travel and allowances connected with it. What the department is doing is in conformity with advanced practice in other labour departments, and conforms with the emphasis placed by the Public Service Board on the importance of proper training.
Reference was made to the item relating to the Employment Services Trust Account. I am informed that that trust account was established by the Treasurer, under section 62a of the Audit Act, for the purpose of providing for expenditure on employment services, financed through the trust account to facilitate the functioning of the department. The operation of the trust account is limited to certain activities such as the advance and recovery of fares, travelling expenses and sustenance payments to workers proceeding to employment, or for interview with a view to employment; advances of fares to workers proceeding to seasonal work and recoveries in respect of those advances from growers or growers’ organizations; expenditure on transport of camping equipment on behalf of workers being placed in employment, ‘and payments in reduction of transport costs ; and the purchase of camping equipment and hiring or selling it to workers being placed in employment. . The sum sought to be appropriated for the account is £2,000, which is required as a working advance to finance the activities for which the trust account was established. Last year, provision for these activities was made under the heading, “ Tares, Travelling Expenses and Allowances to Workers “.
Senator Cooke referred to a reduction of the number of executive and senior administrative officers. I am informed that the department, in conjunction with the Public Service Board, is constantly reviewing its organization. The reduction of the number of executive and senior administrative officers resulted from such a reorganization, including the redesignation of certain positions. It will be noted that there was an increase of the number of industrial relations officers, clerks and employment officers. Some of the positions formerly designated as executive and senior administrative positions are now included with positions designated differently.
An honorable senator suggested that, because of the alteration of policy in regard to national service training, we could expect some reduction of the expenditure of the department. The fact is that although some alterations have been made of the scope of the call-up, the number of persons being called up each year remains precisely the same. Due to the fact that the area of exemption has been somewhat extended, the alterations of policy, far from causing a reduction of the costs of this department in so far as it is concerned with national service training, will tend to increase it.
Reference was made to the proposed vote. in respect of postage, telegrams and telephone services. The Estimate of £115,000 this year is a little lower than the Estimate for last year and a little higher than the actual expenditure last year. It was suggested that that expenditure represented rather a large proportion of the total expenditure of the department. Owing to the fact that the department has about 150 offices, and that it is concerned with multifarious activities such as the placement of migrants and other people in employment and the receipt and despatch throughout the Commonwealth of industrial reports, the sum spent on postage, telegrams and telephone services is, perhaps, somewhat large. I repeat that it is due to the large number of activities that the department carries on, through a large number of offices, which call for the prompt despatch of messages.
Senator Byrne has made reference to an item which appears in the schedule of salaries and allowances for this department - “ Permanent officers occupying uncreated positions “. I understand the explanation is that the persons concerned are permanent officers of the Public Service who, for the time being, are occupying temporary positions that have not yet been classified as permanent positions by the Public Service Board. It seems somewhat curious to talk about a permanent officer occupying an uncreated position. Perhaps the language, as Senator Byrne suggested, is a little unfortunate. However, the explanation is that they are permanent officers of the Public Service occupying, for the time being, temporary positions.
.- I am fully aware that the Commonwealth has no constitutional power to establish apprenticeship schemes that will operate within the States. If we were to examine the Constitution closely, perhaps we should find that the Department of Labour and National Service has very little constitutional power to perform nine-tenths of its work. Nevertheless, there is work for it to do in connexion with apprenticeship affairs, and I propose to indicate how the Government can discharge it obligations in that regard. 1 referred a little while ago to the work done by the committee of inquiry appointed by the Government to investigate apprenticeship schemes. Some of the conclusions reached by the committee are very interesting. In one passage of its report, the committee stated -
Taking these factors into consideration -
The reference was to certain things it had to consider - wc believe that the supply of new tradesmen coming forward from all sources is now barely sufficient to meet the demand of industry in Australia for tradesmen at the present time, while in some trades which are either unattractive or have particular problems there are still marked deficiencies.
We know that our secondary industries are expanding. We know also that, although some of those industries do not employ tradesmen, many of them are dependent on tradesmen for their existence. The committee stated that in some trades - I believe some honorable senators have a very good idea of the trades referred to - there was a marked deficiency. That information indicates that a very serious position has arisen. We cannot continue indefinitely to recruit tradesmen in other countries and bring them here to do our work. We should not neglect to train tradesmen here to do the work of the future. Another conclusion reached by the committee was as follows : -
Accepting the assumption of expanding economic activity during the next three to five years, the supply of new tradesmen coming forward from apprenticeships will not be sufficient for our industrial reuqirements,
That is very interesting indeed. The opinion of the committee is that we shall not have an army of tradesmen sufficient to meet our requirements in the future. In view of the conclusions reached by the committee, the National Government cannot afford to let the position drift farther. The committee stated also -
In the light of available statistics, it appears that the number of youths eligible for apprenticeship three to live years hence will be sufficient to provide enough skilled tradesmen in due course of time. Apprenticeship planning should, we think, proceed on the basis of continued industrial expansion, at least commensurate with growth of population.
That is not being done at present. I feel sure that some of the recommendations of the committee will be of great interest to honorable senators. “One of them, relating to the difficulty of training country lads, was’ as follows : -
The difficulty of training country lads for trades can best bc solved by the long term by providing educational facilities to enable apprentices to undergo their training in the areas in which they live.
I think we all support that recommendation. That is a field in which the Commonwealth could operate, but when we examine the estimates we find it is proposed to set aside only the paltry sum of £100 for that purpose.
– It. is a shame.
– I agree. The Government could perform no task more valuable at the present time than the proper training of tradesmen. Dealing with defence - one of the matters which concerns the Commonwealth - the committee stated -
The curricula, periods of training and examination standards for apprenticeships in the permanent defence forces should, in general, conform to the standards laid down by the apprenticeship authorities, so that tradesmen so trained will not be at a disadvantage in civilian employment after their discharge from (.lie forces.
At the present time, the forces are enlisting apprentices and training them for periods ranging from three to six years, but when the apprentices have completed their periods of service they will find they are of little value to private employers, because their training was altogether different from the training of civilian apprentices, and they were not given the classes of work normally given to apprentices in private industry. The recommendation of the committee in regard to apprentices in the defence forces is very sound.’ I suggest that the Commonwealth should act upon it immediately. It could convene a conference of the Service chiefs and men with practical knowledge of industry to consider how the curricula for these apprentices could be changed and made to agree with the curricula for apprentices in private industry. Nobody wants apprentices to be disappointed who go into the Navy, Army or Air Force and undergo training for’ a number of years, in th’e hope that when the time comes for their discharge they will be able to engage in private industry like other tradesmen. They are doomed to disappointment now, because, as the committee of inquiry has found, the training they receive in the services does not fit them for employment as tradesmen in private industry. With regard to postwar requirements, the committee said -
Special training schemes outside the normal apprenticeship system should be developed to meet the abnormal demand for skilled workers in the war and immediate post-war periods.
I should like to know whether the Government intends to implement that “recommendation.
The apprenticeship inquiry submitted recommendations and conclusions which show that the Government will have to train apprentices both in practice and theory. I am aware that in the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory, and New Guinea there are apprenticeship boards, but they only deal with apprentices within the Territories. 1 asked for information recently in regard to the number of apprentices employed in Commonwealth departments. If a survey were made immediately to discover the number of journeymen and the number of apprentices employed in the departments the Government would get a shock. It is not doing its share of work in training apprentices. The Government is having buildings constructed for it byprivate building contractors. It takes some building contractors five or six years to complete some buildings. The Government is not insisting, upon these contractors employing trained apprentices. If the Government were to appoint immediately an apprenticeship authority in order to deal specifically with apprentices in government departments and apprentices and minors employed by private contractors it. would find that the authority would have ample useful work to perform.
The Minister said that conferences had been held on this subject, but such conferences are not worth “ tuppence “ I know the value of employment exchanges. The employers obtained labour before employment exchanges were established, and they will continue to obtain labour irrespective of what the Department of Labour and National Service undertakes. But the department could render valuable service to the Commonwealth by training tradesmen in case Australia finds itself at war once again.
– I wish to speak on Division 9Sb , item 5 - Advertising and publicity. Last year £21,000 was voted for this purpose and £9,115 was spent. The proposed vote for this year is £16,000. I should like to know to what activities this advertising and publicity relates. There is a distinction between advertising and publicity. Probably the department advertises positions which become vacant. But as the two terms “ advertising “ and “ publicity “ are used, apparently other types of advertising are undertaken. Will the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) inform the Senate what this vote covers apart from the advertising of vacant positions?
– Earlier in this debate I made reference to the difficulty of obtaining copies of the report of the Apprenticeship Committee insofar as it affected Western Australia. I was pleased to hear the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) state that some copies of this report had been distributed, but the distribution must have been very limited in Western Australia. There is still an unsatisfied demand for this report and I ask the Attorney-General to ensure that two dozen copies are sent to the SubTreasury in Perth. -I can guarantee the sale of the volumes at 15s. each.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of National ‘ Development.
Proposed vote, £822,000.
– I should like to have some information from the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) in relation to Division 100a, item 1 - “ Salaries and allowances, £195,000 “. The schedule attached to the Estimates shows that the Bureau of Mineral Resources employs 158 persons whose salaries amount to £177,947. It will be noticed that these are men of skill, such as research officers, and men who hold degrees in subjects such as geology. I should like to ask the Minister to give some consideration to the development of haematite quartzite deposits. There has been a great demand for steel and iron in Australia. Unfortunately, supplies of steel and iron have not yet met the demand. There has been a big move by some people to establish, an iron and steel works at Whyalla in South Australia. It is in the operation of such works that haematite quartzite could play an important part. Consequently, I ask the Minister for National Development ( Senator Spooner) to have one of his officers investigate this matter. It would be an ideal arrangement to have an iron and steel plant at Whyalla. In 1930. the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited commenced operations in Port Kembla. Yet that company is still working on a major project to provide the plant and equipment necessary at its Port Kembla works. In Newcastle major works are under construction in order to replace existing worn plant. At Kwinana, in Western Australia, there is a rolling mill but, in order to make it effective, blast furnaces and open hearths are necessary. At Newcastle and Port Kembla, 2,250,000 tons of steel are produced every year. The cost of steel and iron products is similar in every capital city in Australia.
As much as I should like steel works to be established in South Australia it is necessary to examine the logistics of such an enterprise. One proposition is that iron ore should.be shipped to Newcastle and Port Kembla. Another is that coke should be shipped from Newcastle and Port Kembla to Whyalla. The latter plan would not be economic under present shipping conditions. If iron and steel works are to be. established at Whyalla an immense construction job must be commenced. It would be necessary to compete for men and materials with existing plants which are very short of skilled men. I believe that the best method of overcoming the steel shortage would be to use the men and plant that are now in operation. Perhaps, in time, iron and steel works will be established at Whyalla. The problem of logistics enters into the transport of limestone, iron ore, dolomite and the finished product, steel. Small ships carry iron products to South Australia and return to Newcastle and Port Kembla with limestone and dolomite. Larger ships, such as those in the Yampi class, transport the iron ore to Newcastle and return with coke. It is absolutely essential to have coking coal at a steel works. In England and America it has always been found that it is cheaper to bring iron ore to the coal deposits than to bring coal to the iron deposits. America brings ore from Venezuela, Bolivia and even from Labrador to its coal-fields.
In order to establish steel works at Whyalla, it will be necessary to build a suitable harbour. The existing harbour is dredged to a depth of 27 feet at low water. It is only possible to have a few ships at the unloading berth. A major reclamation and dredging scheme would be necessary in order to provide adequate wharf areas. It would be necessary to build heavy handling gear. Several blast furnaces, open hearths, and rolling mills, both major and subsidiary, would be needed. In addition, housing projects would be necessary for the accommodation of workers. An adequate water supply would have to be provided by the duplication of the Morgan-Whyalla pipe-line. The project would cost hundreds of millions of pounds. It will come but it will take time.
Another problem, is the dwindling iron ore reserves at Iron Monarch. The deposits at Iron Knob are more or less finished. Iron Monarch is the chief source of supply of iron ore. Despite expensive magnetometer and geophysical surveys, no recent major discoveries of high grade iron ore have been made in South Australia or any other part of Australia. Supplies of iron ore exist at Iron Prince, Iron Baron, and Iron Queen. These deposits are of a lower grade than the deposits at Iron Monarch and will need selective quarrying .in order to produce the same quality of ore as Iron Monarch. More equipment and more costly selection will be needed Our main hope appears to be in the large deposits of haematite quartzite that are found in this area. We have heard a great deal about these deposits. Whether or not we can use them will depend on whether we can establish iron and steel works at “Whyalla. The use of this type of iron ore deposit is being contemplated. Most countries are considering this type of ore deposit because their present resources of high-grade ore are diminishing. In England, America, Sweden, and Germany a great deal of research is being undertaken in connexion with this ore, but, up to date, cost has been an inhibiting factor. The ore must be beneficitated before it can be used. This entails crushing, and the separation of the deleterious quartzite, or gangue material, and then sintering, or similar treatment, in order to agglomerate the material before it can be used in blast furnaces. In big steel-producing countries, pilot plants have been established. At present, although much work is being done in this direction, decisive results have not yet been obtained. When this process becomes a commercial proposition, it will be a boon to Australia- particularly South Australia, in which State the major ore reserves are located. It will boost our economic position, and strengthen the case for the establishment of additional iron and steel works. Whilst the establishment of steel works at Whyalla is extremely desirable, we must, in considering Australia as a whole, realize that such an undertaking at Whyalla would need to be a long-range project. I should like the Minister to indicate whether he considers that we could embark on the treatment of haematite qUartzite in the way that I have described, in order to assist the expansion of our iron and steel industries.
– I direct attention to Miscellaneous Services, and to the item “ Contribution to Welfare Fund, £70,000”, under Division 201- Department of National Development. I take this opportunity to congratulate’ the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) and the senior officers of the Department of National Development on the very fine work that they have performed during the past twelve months. I assure the Minister that not only the mining industry, but every section of the community is indebted to them. Results that have been attained prove that the policy that Was adopted by the department was sound and technically correct. In all respects, it was very satisfactory from a mining point of view. I cannot see, for the life of me, why the Department of National Development and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization should be separate bodies, because they perform similar research work. I hope that the Government will seriously consider amalgamating them. I believe that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, because it engages in activity that is complementary to the activity of the department, should be under the direction of the Minister for National” Development. Due to the nature of his portfolio, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), who administers the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, is frequently absent from Australia on official business. I think that he would readily agree that the Minister who is charged with the administration of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization should be able to maintain a close interest in its scientific experiments. I assure the committee that I am not antagonistic in any way to the Minister for External Affairs when I say that, as research and development go hand in hand, they should be subject to the same directorate.
I shall refer, now, to the item “ Water resources investigations, £5,000 “ under Division 99 - Administrative. The subject of rain-making is a very important one, and research in this field has been given wide publicity in Australia. I do not want to develop the proposition that this country is very badly off in relation to water conservation. I recently read a most informative article on experiments in rain-making, which appeared in a publication entitled, United Nation’s Review. It is somewhat significant that there have been extensive experiments in rainmaking in India, South America, North America, Central America and Pakistan. The only mention of experiments conducted in Australia was this -
Experiments in Australia, a country which raises wool and cattle for the world market, have been carried out over the coast and highlands and semi-arid interior of New South Wales, the mountain areas of the island State of Tasmania, and the semi-arid tropical interior of Queensland. No success was apparently achieved in Queensland and the interior of New South Wales. Very little information on the actual quantitative results has been released.
A good deal of information was given about the results of experiments in other countries.
– I think that I remember reading a recent report to the effect that Australia was the most advanced country of the world in that field.
– I prefer to rely on the publication before me, rather than to accept Senator Byrne as an authority on the subject. I invite the Minister for National Development to say whether the Department of National Development has made any appreciable progress in this field.
– That activity comes within the purview of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
– I am sorry that that is so, because the Minister will probably only say that he will pass on my comments to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. However, I invite him to state the attitude of the Department of National Development towards experiments in rain-making.
I come now to a matter affecting the pastoral industry of Western Australia. I refer to the destruction of pastures by kangaroos. The position is so bad in the pastoral areas of Western Australia that many graziers now run more kangaroos than sheep. It is time that our scientists directed their attention to combating this pest. If a cheap method of eradicating kangaroos could be discovered, an immense advantage would be derived by the pastoral industry.- As this matter has a considerable bearing on national development, I invite the Minister for National Development to state his views on it.
– I direct the attention of the committee to the item “Dedication of roads- Villawood £8,600 “, under Divi sion 99. Will the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) inform me whether the proposed vote is intended to be expended on the construction of roads at Villawood, or on a dedication ceremony after they have been laid down? If the proposed vote is intended to provide a dedication ceremony, will he inform me how I might obtain an invitation to be present? I should also like him to tell me where Villawood is located, so that I may have a look at the district.
– I refer to the following items, which appear under Division 99 - Administrative, “ Kimberley Research Station - Contribution to cost £.1.8,000 “, ; “ Northern Australia Surveys £1S,000”; “North Kimberley Survey £1,500”; and “Water resources investigations £5,000”. Only £14,006 of the vote of £16,000 ‘ in the last financial year foi- Northern Australia Surveys was expended. I hope that that does not indicate any lessening of interest in the research station in the Kimberleys. Yesterday, in answer to a question that was asked by Senator Vincent, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) gave a comprehensive survey of the progress of crops in the Kimberleys, including sugar cane, rice, wheat, safflower, tobacco, peanuts, and cotton. His answer justifies a considerable degree of hope for . the development of the Kimberleys. I was astounded that he did not refer to the experiments in kenaf-growing in the Kimberleys. When I visited the experimental station the week before the Minister arrived there, I was very impressed with the quality of the kenaf there. It compared very favorably with kenaf that is grown in New Guinea, as a result of the active encouragement of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). We should look into the possibility of sowing large areas of the Kimberleys to kenaf. I remind the committee that the cost of maintaining the Kimberley Research Station is shared by the Commonwealth and the Western Australian Government.
The proposed vote for the North Kimberley survey is £1,500. This item refers to a project- that has been carried out in recent months, of which very few Australians know much. It concerns the laying down of a road from Wyndham to Gibb River, and up to the Drysdale Mission, which is a distance of from 200 miles to 300 miles. It may be of some interest to honorable senators to know that the survey party has traversed country which never before had -been entered by white men. Only a few weeks ago we read of the discovery in New Guinea, by aircraft, of a happy valley which had not previously been seen by white men, but hero in continental Australia is country which never before had been traversed by white men. The Department of National Development, in conjunction with the Government of Western Australia, through its Main Roads Department, has played an important part in opening up this area. I shall have something more to say about this matter when certain other business is before us next week. To-night, I wish to commend the Department of National Development for having interested itself in projects of this kind. This road will open up coastal country which, according to air surveys, contains harbours comparable with the finest in the world. The undertaking is of tremendous defence significance. I trust -that the Department of National Development will continue to interest itself in this kind of exploratory work.
The sum of £5,000 is provided in the Estimates this year for water resources investigations. Here again my mind turns to the same remote part of the Commonwealth. I should like to know whether those investigations include an examination of the prospects of - the Ord River valley. I have already referred to what could be done in the area from the agricultural point of view.
– I notice that the sum of £13,000 is provided this year for expenditure on publications. I have received, as I have no doubt other honorable senators have received, an excellent publication by the Department of National Development. This finely turned out booklet is a credit to the ‘Government, and I should like to know how many copies of it have been printed, how many have been issued free, and to whom, and how many are for sale,. and whether copies are being distributed to other parts of the world. I agree with Senator Paltridge that the Department of National Development is to be congratulated upon its work, particularly in the search for oil and in exploratory activities generally in comparatively unknown parts of the Commonwealth.
– This year, we are being asked to vote £466,000 for the Bureau of Mineral Resources. Last year, the vote was £504,000 and the actual expenditure £434,000. I should not like to let this occasion pass without paying a tribute to the excellent work that has been done by the Bureau of Mineral Resources in the search for oil and other minerals in various parts of the Commonwealth. I am convinced that the finding of oil in Australia was due largely to the exploratory work done by the Bureau in the north and north-west of Western Australia. Surveys were made around Learmouth and in the Kimberleys. The Bureau recommended that exploratory drilling be started in the Learmouth area at Cape Range and Rough Range. The second locality recommended for this work is the Nerrima basin in the Kimberley district. The discovery of oil was the result of the investment of both Australian and American capital, but I doubt very much whether oil would han been found at all but for the efforts of the Bureau of Mineral Resources. Therefore I say that we should not cavil at the proposed expenditure of £466,000 by the Bureau. Indeed, we, as taxpayers, should be prepared, if necessary, to contribute far more.
Senator Mattner claimed that South Australia was the logical choice for the development of the iron and steel industry in Australia. I contest that statement. The greatest deposits of iron ore in the Commonwealth are located in the northwest of Western Australia, but unfortunately, Western Australia, like South Australia, lacks coking coal for the production of steel. I remind Senator Mattner, however, that Western Australia has large deposits of manganese and chromite, two essential ingredients in steel production. Without those deposits of manganese and chromite, the Australian steel industry now established in the eastern States, would have to rely on imports of those vital commodities. It is true, as Senator Mattner has said, that it has been found more economical to transport iron ore by sea to areas when deposits of coking coal are located rather than to take the coal to the iron ore, but I am convinced that the Bureau of Mineral Resources has the ability to locate deposits of coking coal in Western Australia. If that were done, Western Australia would then have all the ingredients necessary for the production of steel. Extensive searches have already been made in Western Australia for coking coal, but so far without success. Nevertheless, Western Australia is a big State, and I am sure that high-quality coal will be found sooner or later with, the assistance of the Bureau of Mineral Resources.
I turn now to the Kimberley research station for which £13,000 is provided in the Estimates. In the Ord River basin, there is an area of approximately 1,000,000 acres that could be irrigated. A research station has been functioning in that locality for four or five years, but we have not yet been able to decide whether it would be economical to develop the Ord River basin for agriculture. I should like to know what contribution the Government of Western Australia is making towards the development of the basin, which, I believe, could be achieved only by damming the waters of the Ord River and irrigating the surrounding countryside for the production of crops such as rice, wheat, and fodder grasses. The population of the Kimberleys, an area larger than that of Victoria, is only a few thousand - the number of electors on the roll is less than 1,000 - yet the Kimberley district has a rainfall greater than that of Victoria! I believe that, as a nation, we should do whatever is necessary to entice population to those remote centres of the Commonwealth by undertaking irrigation and other developmental schemes. The sum of £1,500 is provided this year for the North Kimberley survey. I was in the Kimberley region recently, and I know that a large area of that country is totally unexplored. As Senator Paltridge has said, until the exploration party went through recently, only the black man had visited those areas. The rainfall is between 30 inches and 40 inches a year and the soil is rich and fertile. I should like to know whether the idea behind the North Kimberley survey is to develop the region for the benefit of the whole of Australia, or whether the object is merely to put the area on the map and leave it at that. I believe that if we wish to hold this country we must, in the near future, make a concerted effort to populate those areas.
– I refer to Division 100(3 - Bureau of Mineral Resources, and particularly to item 1 - “ Operational expenses, £340,000”. The details of that item are furnished in a footnote which indicates that the item includes provision for the expenditure of £105,309 on oilsearch surveys. I notice, in the schedule of salaries and allowances, that provision is made for a director of the Bureau of Mineral Resources, a deputy director, and a great many technicians, such as a chief petroleum technologist, a supervising petroleum technologist, senior petroleum technologists, geologists, geophysicists, and others obviously concerned with the search for oil in Australia and matters connected with that subject. Recently, in this chamber, I referred to the subject of oil. I do not propose to traverse the ground I covered then, other than to say that there is no item which is more important than oil in peace and also in war. I repeat, as I said then, that oil is almost as vital to us as are food and air.
– What about water ?
– Yes, I shall include even water. Without oil, every major city of Australia would starve within a week. When I spoke on this matter previously, I took the Government to task for its sins of commission in the sale of Glen Davis, the one concern which was producing oil from shale, for- the disposal of its shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and for declining the opportunity offered by AngloIranian Oil Limited to join that company in constructing a vast refinery at Kwinana. To those sins, I add the fact that although the Government had a plant which was capable of deep boring, it disposed of the plant to a company on condition that it be used in Australia and in a particular area. I understand I am correct in putting the matter in that way. I regard that as a tragedy for Australia.
If the only amount that is to be expended by the Australian Government on oil search is the miserable sum of £105,309 a year, I am prepared to say that the Government has no sense of responsibility to the nation. I should like to know, from the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), the total amount that is to be expended on operational activities in connexion with oil search. The Minister may, perhaps, point out that, in recent decades, oil companies, prospectors and the rest have spent tens of millions of pounds in the search for oil in Australia, but the truth is that, whilst that may be big money as far as those companies are concerned, it is infinitesimal when one considers how great is our need for oil. It is this Government that should be expending millions of pounds per annum in the search for oil.
– What did the government of which the honorable senator was a member spend?
– We, at least, believed the Director of the Bureau of Mineral Resources, Dr. Raggatt, who is now the head of the Department of National Development, when he expressed the belief that there was oil in Australia. He was sent abroad by the Chifley Government, and his examinations and investigations confirmed his belief that oil would be discovered in Western Australia, in the general area in which it, in fact, has been located.
– That is agreed, but how much did Labour spend?
– I remind the honorable senator that it was also the Chifley Government which, initiated the purchase of plant to enable the Government of this country to drill in the area indicated by Dr. Raggatt. The fact that that plant was accumulated and that private interests, using the information available in the department, were allowed to move into that field, represents a betrayal of Australian interests. That plant was sold to the organization upon which we are dependent for every gallon of oil that comes into this country. Certain State governments have a say in this matter, because they impose working conditions in respect of mining leases, but very largely, the rate of development of known or suspected oil-fields in Australia is in the hands of those companies which have a monopoly of the supply of oil to. Australia. When we consider how vital oil is, particularly in time of war, when its supply is most precarious, we cannot help wondering why the Government did not go on with the plans the Chifley Government had for the Department of National Development to go into the field of oil search.
– The wicked monopolies did not let us down in wartime.
– I am not criticising them for their behaviour then. If Senator Paltridge heard me speak on this matter in the Senate recently, he will agree that I paid the oil companies of the world a very high tribute for the part they played in winning the war by their developments in the octane field. That was a major contribution to the war effort, without which, no doubt, the Allies would not have prevailed. I do not want the honorable senator to represent me as attacking the oil companies for their part in the war effort. I am merely recording the fact that we are dependent, for every gallon of oil we need in peace and in war, on the giant organization by which the seven or eight major oil companies of the world share the markets, fix the prices of oil. . They constitute the greatest cartel that has ever been established. I gave proof of that to the Senate on the previous occasion when I spoke on this subject. Any honorable senator who is interested should study the report released by President Truman on the operations of that cartel.
– Does the honorable senator belittle the attempts that are being made to discover oil in Australia?
– No, but I say that the attack has not been made on the broad scale on which it should have been made. The various oil companies have conducted desultory activities in Australia and New Guinea for more than 50 years, and I doubt whether, during the whole of that time, they have expended more than £40,000,000. That, to my way of thinking, is a most insignificant contribution in the light of the vital importance of oil to this country.
– How much did the Chifley Government spend in that connexion before 1949 ?
– The honorable senator should understand that there was little time to go searching for oil during the war. The Chifley Government set up this bureau and gave Dr. Raggatt an assurance that he would receive all the money he needed for his investigations. Dr. Raggatt is in the chamber, and the Minister may refer to him if he wishes to do so. He was informed that there would be no limit to the money he could have for his organization to go into the field of oil search.
– 1 again ask how much the Labour Government spent?
– My answer is that I do not know the figure. The truth is that, had Dr. Raggatt been allowed to do what I believe he wanted to do, and what the Chifley Government wanted him to do, the great field in Western Australia which has such apparent potentialities at the moment, would at least be owned by the nation. I do not pretend for one moment that the Australian Government could successfully operate those fields or the refineries, but it could have got in on the ground floor, in a partnership with the great oil companies. Prom a constitutional and practical point of view, I think that the Government, realizing how vital oil is, should seek partnership at every point of that great and vital industry. Instead, what do we. see? This Government is moving further and further out of that vital field.
– The Chifley Government did not seek partnership with the aviation companies.
– We are talking about oil. I dismiss the honorable senator’s comment by saying that the airways case is authority for the proposition that we cannot have nationalization in Australia.
– Labour tried to bring it about.
– That bears out my point. We tried it in two fields, and we demonstrated beyond question that, whilst the Commonwealth can engage in any activity of that nature, it cannot do so to the exclusion of others. That was the point which was decided by the airways case. It was not a case of know-how being required, iis it would be if the Government were to take an active part in the oil industry. I appreciate .Senator Scott’s desire for information, but I suggest that he direct his questions to the Minister for National Development.
I should like the Minister to tell the story of the accumulation, over a period of four to five years, of the oil drilling plant to which I have referred. He might also say why it was not put into use at the instance of the department. I am prepared to state the matter in strong terms and to say that the failure of the Commonwealth to move into the field of oil discovery, with the information available in the Bureau of Mineral Resources, was a gross betrayal of the best interests of the country. We had a great opportunity to move in with Anglo-Iranian Oil Limited in the kind of highly desirable partnership that I envisage. The Minister takes great credit to his Government for the fact that the great oil companies are building refineries in Australia. I do not think that the Government is entitled to any credit at all in that matter. In my opinion, the oil companies are entitled to the whole of the credit. It seems to me that there are two factors which have been responsible for the great oil companies coming into this country in the refining field. First, it is a question of freights’, and secondly, since they must expand and as the demand for oil is ever growing, it is a matter of getting into a country where there is the possibility of political stability. They want to be able to look ahead and to get away from the political turbulence and revolution of the Middle
East. In refining petrol it pays to have a market near at hand for the by-products. Australia, with its great distances and its need of roads, represents a priceless opportunity for such companies. The markets for their by-products are right at hand.
We of the Opposition feel most strongly in this matter. This Government of a non-Labour complexion set up the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories so that, in time of war, the country could never be cut off from supplies of essential drugs. The Government is also carrying on the establishment of the aluminium industry, in which it is almost the sole proprietor, a project which was commenced by Labour, again because aluminium is a commodity that is vital to Australia, particularly in time of war. Yet it proposes to expend only about £105,000 on oil search surveys, although oil is fundamental to our way of life. I should like the Minister to describe the operational programme of activity of the Bureau of Mineral Resources in this connexion. What is the plan for this year ? What is the short-term plan and what is the longterm plan? Is there any prospect of the Government adopting a national outlook in regard to oil, having in mind the vital importance of that commodity, and of its seeking partnership with the bodies already in the field? Imagine the cost to the Australian Government to-day if it sought a half interest, or even a smaller interest, in the company that holds the field in Western Australia ! How much would the Australian Government have to pay?
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D.R eid) . - Order ! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
. - I shall take this opportunity of answering inquiries that have been made up to this stage in the hope that there will be no more and that we shall be able to pass the Estimates. I propose to take the items one by one, and shall turn my attention first to comments that were made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). His remarks show that in connexion with the oil programme in Australia, he is suffering from an inferiority complex, just as he is in relation to his health and medical scheme. He was a Minister in the Labour Government for some time before it went out of office and this Government was elected. In the term of office of this Government, results have been obtained in the search for oil in Australia and in the growth of oil refinery projects.
– The Minister is not over-modest.
– I said that results were obtained during the term of office of this Government. I do not mind the Leader of the Opposition expressing the point of view for which he stands, but I say emphatically that it would have been expressed with much more strength and more effectively had it been put forward when the Department of National Development was being criticized for the purchase of the oil-drilling plant. At the time the department was under fire, there were none of these brave words about the Labour Government buying the plant. Nothing was said about the department being given unlimited finance. Nothing was said about a brave new world that would be opened up by the plant. There were members of the Labour party on the committee and they sat in this chamber. They did not carry any banner. Instead they sniped at the department and condemned it.
– Was not the criticism directed at the failure to use the plant and not at its purchase ?
– No. Since this Government took office there has been a greater investment in the search for oi! in Australia than during any previous period in its history. There is not the slightest doubt that the Government’s withdrawal from drilling operations and from capital investment in oil refineries has encouraged investment by private companies in both fields of development. There is not the slightest doubt either that private investment is infinitely better for Australia than government investment. One . of the most extravagant statements that I have heard in the Senate chamber was the statement by the Leader of the Opposition that the Government should hold interests in refineries and that, as a government, it should have maintained control of, and taken an active part in, oil exploration when private investment was willing and able to do the job. Private investment, spread over so many activities in so many areas by so many companies, must obviously be more effective and efficient than similar activities by a government. That is the policy that this government is adopting towards the search for uranium. The Government is providing the basic information and making it avail-“able, and is inviting as many people as are willing to carry on the search. The Government is adopting that policy with uranium and oil. The governments of most other countries are acting similarly. If we adopted the socialist approach, and made oil search a government activity, progress would be retarded by decades.
I turn my attention now to the remarks that were made by Senator Scott. He concerned himself first with the iron and steel industry, and tilted a lance at one of his colleagues from South Australia, so I link the two together in my reply. They opened up a big subject. The steel industry in Australia has invested about £46,500,000 in its expansion programme since the end of World War II. If my memory is correct; the industry has doubled its output since 1939. It is the foundation of our secondary industries, and its development and expansion are vital. I have every sympathy with South Australians and Western Australians who would like to see an expansion of industry within their States, more particularly because from both those States we derive the iron ore that is used by the steel industry. “I had the great pleasure of going to Yampi Sound recently to see the iron ore deposits being worked there, and I believe that about 2,000,000 tons of ore a year is going from Yampi Sound to Newcastle and Port Kembla. The expansion of the steel industry, as I understand it, is a process of integration. It must be taken step by step, from the furnaces to the mills and so on. I do not know what wc- can do as a parliament to further the hopes or ambitions of the two States who desire to see the steel industry develop within their borders. It is the company that has to face the capital expenditure. There is not only a financial problem. There is also a technical problem of expanding the industry in the most economical way, so that all the processes will continue to run smoothly. It is most interesting to see the way in which the steel industry is developing, to note the growing pains that occur from time to time, and to see, from the- outside, some of the problems with which it is Confronted.
Senator Laught referred to the Journal. That publication has a circulation of about 1,800. About 300 copies are supplied free to press libraries and government departments, and the remainder are sold at 2s. 6d. a copy.
– It is a very good and valuable production. I hope it will not be discontinued.
– It will be continued. Some honorable senators commented on the Ord River research station and the North Kimberley survey. The North Kimberley area was explored - I think “ explored “ is a better word in that context - some years ago. I obtained from the Western Australian Minister a copy of the report that was made on that exploration. The new survey was conducted mainly by the Western Australian Government, but the Commonwealth was pleased to make a contribution to it. We made Army personnel and trucks available, and the Department of National Development gave a helping hand in coordinating the work. We have not yet received the report on the survey, but I have seen some press comments on it by the Surveyor-General of Western Australia, who, I think, had a good deal to do with it. The Ord River valley is one of the most interesting spots on, so to speak, the frontier of Australia. I had the pleasure of staying at the Ord River research station overnight, and seeing the work carried on there. The Western Australian Government is providing a half of the finance for the station and the Commonwealth is providing the other half. Some honorable senators seem to think that there will be a reduction of expenditure by the station, but that is not so. The station is getting all the finance for which it has asked. On the surface, the appropriation this year will be less than the appropriation last year, but there is some capital expenditure on plant and machinery which is not reflected in the figures for this year. That money will be spent as required during the year, and will be shown, I think, in supplementary estimates. I may be wrong about that. However, the fact is that it is not expected that expenditure on the station this year will be less than last year.
Senator O’Flaherty referred to. Villawood. Being a South Australian, he does not know the importance of Villawood in the suburbs of Sydney. We have sold the old munitions factory and the vacant land and have turned the area into an industrial estate.
Senator Vincent referred to rainmaking experiments and kangaroo destruction. I have to admit that neither of those activities comes within the purview of the Department of National Development. From reports I have received I know the kangaroo menace presents a great problem to many people in Western Australia. All that I can say in reply to the honorable senator is that I shall bring his remarks to the notice of the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, with a request that he see whether the organization can evolve some effective methods of dealing with the pest.
– I am sorry that the hope of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) that there would be no further representations in relation to the Department of National Development will not be realized. However, I shall be brief in my remarks. The Minister completely by-passed the attack that I made on the administration of the Government in relation to oil. I claim that the verdict goes to the Opposition by default. The first point of substance made by the Minister was that the Opposition did not raise this’ matter when the department was under fire. He said that on that occasion not one word was said by the Opposition about the need for all this activity. The honorable senator wa3 referring to an occasion when the Senate was considering a report by the Public Accounts Committee - an occasion when the department’s method of keeping accounts came under fire. In relation to this plant, paragraph after paragraph of the report criticized the form in which requests for financial aid were made to the Parliament or the Government. Nobody knows better than the Minister that a comment of the nature that I made to-night would have been completely inadmissible and irrelevant upon that issue. It is idle for him to level the charge against the Opposition that, having been given an opportunity to put its viewpoint forward then, it did not take advantage of that opportunity.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) say that the Opposition had no opportunity to do so on that occasion?
– I do. The Senate was considering a report by the Public Accounts Committee which criticized the form of the accounts and the form in which requests for financial aid were made.
– Does the honorable senator say the Opposition had no chance then to say, “ We were responsible for this”?
– I am perfectly certain that that was said.
– That the Labour party was responsible for what had occurred ?
– The very report that we are discussing now indicated that the sequence of events leading up to the purchase of the plant commenced in our period of office. The honorable senator has only to study the report to find that the sequence of events began then. I think Senator Willesee was perfectly correct when he intimated that the complaint made at the time by the Opposition was that the plant was left idle in Melbourne in the original boxes. I believe Senator Willesee was perfectly accurate when he intimated that that was the burden of the complaint by the Opposition on that occasion.
The honorable senator’s second point was that the withdrawal of the Government from drilling operations encouraged investment in oil refineries by oil companies. Nobody knows better than he how inaccurate that is. Let me remind him of some of his own statements. Tn February, 1952, the honorable senator made a statement in which he announced to Australia that the Government had been asked to put an extra £6,000,000, with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, into Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and to join in contributing £40,000,000 in all to the cost of the refinery at Kwinana. The Government was a partner in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and the Anglo-Iranian company wanted it to put further money into that company and contribute to the cost of the Kwinana refinery. That is the plainest indication that the Anglo-Iranian company did not come here because the Government withdrew. The truth is that it did not have the cheek to believe it could come here and embark upon these activities on such a grand scale without giving the Government an opportunity to go into partnership with it.
– What is the honorable senator talking about - drilling?
– I am talking about what the honorable senator talked about, that is, drilling and refining - both operations. The Minister gave no answer to the points that I made.
– I do not think the honorable senator should blame any one for not answering him. I have not the slightest idea what he is driving at. I do not know what points he is attempting to establish.
– I put it to honorable senators that there is certainly far more activity now in drilling operations than there was previously. Why is that? It is because the Bureau of Mineral Resources indicated to one company the spot at which it had a very real prospect of finding oil.
– Is not that a function of the bureau?
– It is. It is also a function of the bureau, and it was the bureau’s intention at that time, to do drilling tests. Had it done so, that great potential field would be owned by the nation, in conjunction with private enterprise.
– It is a conspiracy.
– If is extraordinary how irrelevant and childish some people can be. I suggest that the Minister has shown how little this Government appreciates the importance of oil to the nation. He does not appear to be concerned whether there are adequate supplies of oil in this country, or whether there are adequate storage facilities located at strategic points. I invite him to recall the plight of Australia when the Labour party took office in 1941.
– The Labour Government did not refine a gallon of petrol during the war, did it?
– Because of the utter lack- - Senator MARRIOTT - The Labour Government did not refine a gallon of petrol during the war.
– When we took office in . 1941, there was a complete lack of storage facilities for oil in this country. At a time when our need for oil was so great, we had to store oil in 40-gallon drums all round the country. That was the most expensive way of storing it. Stocks of oil in 40-gallon drums were established at points throughout Australia.
– And the oil deteriorated.
– It deteriorated and evaporated. That was the most expensive way of handling it. The Government parties have learnt nothing since 1941. Apparently they still do not, realize how vitally important this commodity is to the country. I asked the Minister to indicate the short-term and long-term operational programmes of the department, hut he said nothing in answer to that request. Having undertaken to be brief, I shall leave the matter there. [Senator VINCENT (Western Australia) [10.58]. - I crave the indulgence of the committee while I say a few words in reply to the observations made by Senator McKenna. I say, with the greatest respect, that the honorable senator has mixed up two aspects of the oil industry - exploration for oil and oil refining. The two operations are entirely distinct. The refining of oil is a business operation from which good profits can be made, but exploration for oil is about the most speculative undertaking in rnining, and most mining is speculative. As exploration for oil is probably the most speculative type of mining, does he suggest seriously that the Commonwealth should start exploring for oil? Is he aware that the Commonwealth has no more authority than he has or I ha.ve to go to any part of this country and start drilling for oil? It would require the concurrence of the appropriate State government before it could put one bit into the ground. Before he criticizes the Government for not exploring for oil he should criticize the State governments because they are responsible for the regulation of the oil industry. They issue licences to prospect and grant leases for drilling. If he still insists that the Government should, obtain a licence from the Western Australian Government to drill for oil, does he suggest that ii should drill in Exmouth Gulf, the Kimberleys, or the Great Australian Bight? In which company should the Commonwealth become a partner? Millions of pounds have been spent in exploring for oil. Does the Leader of the Opposition suggest that the Commonwealth should have spent that money? Would he advocate that the Government should spend millions of pounds, as millions of pound3 will be spent, in oil exploration in the next ten years? Would he suggest that the taxpayers should find that money? If he is consistent, he will answer “ yes “ to those questions.
Exploration for oil requires the expenditure of millions of pounds. If the Government were to hold shares in every drilling company in Western Australia its expenditure would far exceed the return. It is fantastic to propose that the most speculative of all mining industries, the oil industry, should be a prerogative of the Government. If the honorable senator maintains that the Government should explore for oil, in order to be logical he should say that the Government should explore for gold, coal, iron and all the other important minerals. Oil is no more important than iron or coal. Surely the present arrangement is a proper one. The Government has a very efficient Bureau .of Mineral Resources which is carrying out initial investigations. It is providing geological and geophysical information to explorer* and investors. The State governments regulate the work of exploration and drilling. The . third sphere of activity is private investment. People all over Australia risk their money in exploring for oil. Surely that is a logical state of affairs in this interesting undertaking. Surely it is the private investors who should risk their cash. Merely because oil has been discovered, the honorable senator cannot truthfully say that we knew it was there so we should have explored for it. There are thousands of square miles which could have been explored for oil so that the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition is absurd and preposterous.
– I understand perfectly that it is the function of the State governments to grant prospecting licences and mining leases. But under the defence power of the Com- °monwealth, because’ oil is so vital to the defence of the country, there would not be the slightest difficulty, in my view, in the Commonwealth’s developing oil resources. I asked whether the Government had approached the States on this matter. Apparently, the answer to that question is that it did not. Will Senator Vincent say that if. the Government had approached the Government of Western Australia it would have been denied an opportunity to investigate oil deposits? The honorable senator asked whether 1 considered that a government should spend the taxpayer’s money on oil exploration. I unquestionably do. I thought that I made that perfectly clear in the course of my previous remarks. I regard oil as so vital to the welfare of this country that I would be prepared to spend tens of millions of pounds per annum on it.
asked whether I considered the development of oil resources to be the prerogative of the Government. I regard it, not only as the prerogative, but the duty of the Government to undertake the production of oil. The failure of the Government to move into the field of oil development is a betrayal of the best interests of the country. The honorable senator asked whether I wanted to socialize the oil industry. I have already stated that that is not constitutionally possible and it is not practicable because persons with certain experience and a knowledge of certain techniques are necessary in order to develop an oil industry.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
Proposed vote, £3,800,000.
– I notice that the expenditure last year on Division 101o - item 15 - Building researc’h - was £110,280, and that the proposed vote for this year is £112,600. I do not disagree with the principle of building research. I think ft is an excellent idea. But, I am concerned in regard to the practical benefit that attends that research. I should like the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) toinform the Senate what action has been taken to ensure that the knowledge that is gained by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research . Organization is put to practical use. I am aware that the building research section of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has made many discoveries which could be used to reduce substantially the cost of home units, but there is no way in which to ensure that the knowledge that the section has acquired will be put to practical use. Building is controlled by State acts and ordinances, and many of the discoveries that the building research section has made involve the application of principles which are contrary to local government acts and ordinances. Therefore, the money spent on research has been wasted, because the discoveries have not been put to practical use. The building research station at North Ryde can demonstrate that it is possible substantially to reduce the amount of timber that is used in cottage units. I think it is possible to reduce the quantity of timber used in the roof of a building by over 25 per cent. The research station found that by applying a knowledge of stresses the amount of timber used in roofs could be substantially reduced whilst the stability of the building could be increased. But, the plan prepared by the research station would not conform to local governments acts and ordinances.
The building research station at North Ryde can prove than an 8 foot ceiling, constructed to its pattern, could provide better ventilation than higher ceilings constructed under old methods. But, because the plan for such ceilings is not approved by local government ordinances, it has not been used. Research by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has proved that the cost of a home unit could be reduced substantially if the State authorities would accept the knowledge that has been obtained, and alter local government acts and ordinances accordingly. I want to ask the Attorney-General what the Government is doing to ensure that it receives some reward for its labour in this field of research. It is useless to spend £100,000 a year in research which is directed to reducing the cost of building if the knowledge so gained cannot he used because the State authorities are not prepared to accept it. I suppose that similar difficulty exists in relation to other investigations which produce information which can only be used to the extent permitted by State governments. What assurance has the Senate that the knowledge gained from research has been put to practical use? In particular, what is the Government doing in relation to building research? Will the discoveries of the Building Research Section be put to some use, so that the taxpayers money may be said to have been spent wisely and well?
.- The following information may be of interest to Senator Anderson in relation to building research. By agreement with the Department of Works, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is responsible for long-term research on building and related engineering, whereas the Department of Works, through the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, is responsible primarily for short-term and developmental work in the same field. A Building Research and Development Advisory Committee, consisting of representatives of the Commonwealth departments interested in building research, the trade unions, and private architects, builders and manufacturers, advises the departments concerned on matters relating to building research and development. In addition, the interdepartmental Building Research Committee co-ordinates the building research development undertaken by Commonwealth departments and so avoids any danger of overlapping.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Organization Division of Building Research at Highett, Victoria, is investigating a number of urgent prob lems pertaining to housing and to building generally. These include investigations on large pre-cast gypsum plaster wall slabs, which offer great promise in reducing the cost not only of houses, but also of commercial and industrial buildings. Another line of work that is likely to lead to a worth-while reduction of costs is a study of the manufacture” and properties of lightweight aggregates for concrete and plaster, the use of which in commercial and industrial buildings- can result in marked savings in dead weight and therefore in cost. Investigations are also being made into the reasons for the rapid deterioration of flat roofs in Australia, and the possibilities of saving costs by the use of concrete floors in direct contact with the ground. Organic caulking materials, which are essential to the success of many forms of prefabricated construction, and which are widely used in civil engineering structures, are also being studied. The division is fully equipped for investigations relating to the heavy clay industry, and it is rendering considerable assistance to the industry by investigating the properties of, and best methods of utilizing, clays. The information section, by disseminating scientific information culled from the world’s literature to the building industry is performing a valuable service. Last year, it dealt with about 3,400 inquiries.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Australian Atomic Energy Commission.
Proposed vole. £505,000.
– I direct the attention of the committee to the item “ Research “, under Division 101k - Administrative, for which the proposed vote is £192,000, compared with an expenditure on this item in the last financial year of £35,745. From the schedule of salaries and allowances, it will be seen that the proposed vote for salaries and allowances for the operations of the commission is £76,120, compared with an’ expenditure of £38,150 in the last financial year. Provision is also made in the Schedule for the salaries of senior principal research officers and scientific officers.
Will the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) inform me whether the greatly increased financial provision in this financial year is attributa bie to the proposal to establish an atomic reactor research station in New South Wales, at a cost of about £5,500,000? I should be glad if he would also inform me why -a decision was taken to establish that station in New South Wales, and not in South Australia. I point out that the South Australian Government was the first government in this country to realize the power potential of uranium. It has pioneered the generation of power from uranium. As South Australia has no known deposits of coal or oil, it is to be commended for taking the initiative in this matter. That State has no natural water resources suitable for the development of hydro-electric power. Despite those disadvantages, the South Australian Government has encouraged the development of secondary industries to a remarkable degree. Indeed, the absence of alternative sources of power acted as a spur to that Government to investigate the possibilitiy of utilizing uranium power for industry. The South Australian Government has also encouraged the exploitation of the uranium deposits of the State. Previously, South Australia had to depend on coal from Newcastle and Leigh Creek for the generation of power for industry. If power can be successfully generated from uranium, if will be possible to supply power to the South Australian industries at a much cheaper rate than formerly. There is, therefore, a tremendous incentive to develop the generation of power from uranium. As the people of this country - particularly those in South Australia - considered that atomic research should proceed hand in hand with the generation of power from uranium, they received a great, shock when it was announced recently by the press that an atomic research station was to be established in New South Wales. In view of the initiative that’ was displayed by the South Australian Government, it was reasonable to expect the Commonwealth to assist South Australia in every way possible to develop its uranium deposits and apply uranium to the production of power, without shouting from the rooftops what it did. I consider that, on logical grounds, the proposed atomic research station should be established in South Australia although I do not overlook Queensland’sclaims. I point out that, in due course,, a reactor will have to be established: in South Australia, with consequent duplication of the work that lias been done in New South Wales. That will result in a waste of time and money. I shall not delay the committee for much; longer, because I understand other honorable senators wish to address themselvesto this subject. The duplication to which I have referred is a very important aspect of the matter, as will be seen from tha details of proposed expenditure on salaries by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission in this financial year. T consider that, in the interests of security also, it would be preferable to establish the proposed reactor in South Australia,, also the provision of an inland watersupply would have to be considered. I hope that the Minister will assure thecommittee that South Australia’s claimswill not be overlooked.
– I say at the outset that I support most of the statements that have been made by Senator Mattner. This is one of the few occasions on which I have found myself in agreement with him. The Commonwealth should cooperate with South Australia in research into, and the development of atomic energy. As Senator Mattner pointed out, South Australia pioneered the development of atomic energy for industry, and a pilot plant has already been established in that State. It is true that the Commonwealth has provided some assistance in that connexion, and assistance was also provided by the American Aton] ie Energy Commission. The South Australian Government established a reducing plant in South Australia to extract uranium from various ores. I emphasize, that the Commonwealth should have assisted the further development of the uranium industry in South Australia by establishing the proposed reactor plant in that State, particularly in view of the fact that a pilot plant is already in existence there. 1 should like the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to inform me why the Australian Government decided to start all over again in this field, by establishing the proposed reactor plant in New South Wales. There is already a treatment plant at Radium Hill in South Australia- and there is no need to establish another plant in New South Wales. I .understand that the New South Wales establishment is to be used to concentrate ore from Rum Jungle in the Northern Territory. If that is so, the ore will have to be either transported overland through South Australia to the seaboard and then shipped to New South Wales, or transported overland through the Northern Territory to Darwin for shipment. If the treatment plant already established in South Australia were used, ore could be obtained from Mount Painter, Radium Hill or Crockers Wells. Apparently, there is no treatment plant yet in operation at Rum Jungle. All that is necessary is for the Commonwealth to co-operate with the South Australian Government and- have the ore treated, at Radium Hill. The Opposition in the South Australian Parliament is wholeheartedly behind everything that the Playford- Government is doing in- this matter.
The excuse for the establishment of the plant in New South Wales is apparently that some secret information is to be obtained from the English and American atomic energy authorities. There has been too much secrecy altogether about atomic energy. There is no need for any secrecy apart, of course, from, the atomic: bomb. I have repeatedly asked the Minister for National Development whether there was any possibility of allowing private organizations to undertake the concentrating of uranium ores, but I have been told that the matter is hush hush, and that nothing must be said about it. The position is now that the Commonwealth is the only buyer of uranium ore in Australia ; but only £100,000 is provided in the Estimates for the purchase and treatment of ore. The ore is apparently to be treated at Rum Jungle because the only treatment plant that the Commonwealth will have will be situated there. The point I am making is that nobody else can undertake the treating of uranium ores because the Commonwealth is the sole buyer of these ores. Hundreds of thousands of pounds are’ being expended on the search for uranium in Commonwealth territory as well as in the States, where of course, the Commonwealth has no jurisdiction; but any uranium ores that are found belong to the Commonwealth. The general public is investing large sums of money in uranium companies, but, as I have said, the Commonwealth, the sole buyer of uranium ores, will purchase only £100,000 worth of those ores this year. This means that the company manipulators and sharks are robbing the people of this country on the stock exchange. Obviously, even if the prospecting companies find uranium, they will not be able to sell it. Five per cent, uranium ore is worth about £35 or £40 a ton. So, with only £100,000 available for the purchase of uranium ores, the Commonwealth will not be able to buy a very great quantity. Most of the people who have invested their money in uranium mining companies will not get anything at all in return. The manipulators and sharks will get it all due mainly to the atmosphere of secrecy fostered by this Government. If the Government were to let the general public know exactly what is to be done about the treatment of uranium ores, the present gambling in uranium shares on the stock exchanges would cease. I have no doubt that any competent mineralogist knows how uranium ore is treated, but of course, such information cannot be disclosed because of the Commonwealth’s insistence of secrecy.
Although only £100,000 worth of ore is to be purchased for treatment at Rum Jungle, £5,000,000 is to be spent on the establishment of a. plant in New South Wales when all that the Commonwealth has to do is to utilize the facilities available in South Australia. Only if that is done will real progress be made in this country towards the use of atomic energy for industrial purposes.
– I wish briefly to support the line taken by Senator Mattner, and supported by my other South Australian colleague, Senator O’flaherty, in his earlier remarks. Unfortunately although Senator 0’Flaherty started off by making a very good speech, he rather spoiled it towards the end. However, the debate has shown once again that when State interests are at stake, party political alignments in this chamber are forgotten, and honorable senators are prepared to do the job that is the primary responsibility of the Senate. We South Australians take a very serious view of the decision announced by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) to construct an atomic reactor for research in New South Wales. We presume that it will be located very near to the capital of New South Wales, the great overburdened city of Sydney. It is evident that a tremendous expansion in atomic development will occur, that large sums of money will be expended on it, and that many staff appointments will be made. I invite the attention of honorable senators to page 178 of the bill, where, under the heading, “ Operations “ in the Estimates of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission we find listed some of the new positions that will be created. A chief of research and . development, four senior principal research officers, and 33 scientific officers, compared to 24 in the previous year, are to be appointed. We can only presume that those appointments are related to the establishment of the atomic research reactor. There is no question that it will be established. We have been told that the decision has been made. We have been informed; also, that it will be constructed in New South Wales.
Senator Mattner has pointed out some of the effects that this decision will have on South Australia. Let me point out, in addition, that South Australia will be deprived of some of the skilled men that it has trained. I have in my hand an advertisement published in a recent issue of the Adelaide Advertiser, in which applications are invited for appointment as technical officers by the Atomic Energy Commission. The positions advertised are for chemists, chemical engineers, mechanical engineers, metallurgists and others, and attractive salaries are offered. South Australia cannot afford to pay similar salaries, and South Australians cannot be blamed if they offer their services to the commission in response to the attractive terms offered by it. South Australia, which has led the field in uranium research, will be deprived of the services of the men it has trained to a high degree of skill. South Australians cannot sit idly by and allow that to happen.
– We cannot replace those men.
– We cannot replace them. One would have to be exceedingly loyal to his State not to take advantage of the attractive terms that have been offered by the Atomic Energy Commission. I feel strongly on the matter of decentralization of atomic energy research. Why is the atomic reactor to be established adjacent to Sydney, which, as I have already stated, is overburdened and over-populated by Australian standards? As Senator Mattner has pointed out, Sydney is also extremely vulnerable. Why can we not have real decentralization, which would be so easy, so advisable, and so wise from many points of view?
We have been told that a sum of £5,000,000 is to be expended over five years on this project. One might well ask why the Government should engage in this activity at all. I am only a layman, and perhaps I am not qualified to speak on these matters, but I should like to point out that the great United States of America, which also is intensely interested in atomic development, is spending approximately 5,500,000,000 dollars a year on this type of development. How can we hope to discover anything that the United States of America could not discover much more quickly than we could discover it? The United States of America is expending approximately three times as much on atomic research and development as the total of the Australian budget, which is about £1,000,000,000 a year. On what basis did the Atomic Energy Commission make its recommendation to the Government? I understand that the Government has accepted the recommen.dation. I ask also the very pertinent questions: Were South Australia’s claims considered in relation to this matter?
Were any investigations made in South Australia? Was any responsible South Australian authority, from the Premier down, consulted? Did South Australia have an opportunity to place its claims before the commission prior to the making of the decision? I think the answer to all those questions is “ No “. That is an assumption for which I have good reason. No one has knowledge of any inquiries that may have been made in South Australia, if any were made. South Australians press this question. We believe that the claims of South Australia are undeniable and that Sydney did not have equal claims with South Australia. Onecan only presume that the commission’s recommendation was made to suit the personal convenience of persons who at present live in Sydney. I do not like saying this, but, in the absence of any explanation by the Minister for Supply or the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), we must rely on our own conclusions. I should be glad to hear from the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), who represents in this chamber the Minister for Supply, whether there are more important reasons for the decision. As my colleague, Senator Mattner, has very effectively pointed out, South Australia has led the field in atomic development. It should have been given due consideration when a decision was made about the establishment of the atomic reactor for research.
– South Australia has enough now. It wants the world.
– I have adopted the only means that we in this chamber have of expressing ourselves, and I take advantage of the ‘ opportunity most emphatically on behalf of South Australia, the just claims of which have been overlooked.
, - I congratulate Senator O’flaherty on the stand that he has taken for the State that sent him to this House. Honorable senators who have already spoken have given the Senate general particulars of the achievements of South Australia in uranium research. I wish now to refer to some figure contained in the loan estimates for South Australia, which were introduced in the South Aus tralian Parliament on the 24th August last. Expenditure by the South Australian Government on uranium production and working capital costs last financial year amounted to £2,875,000, and the estimate of expenditure for the current financial year is even greater. New sources of uranium have been discovered in a number of areas of South Australia, and these discoveries unquestionably will add to the quantities -of uranium ready for treatment. The plan is to produce uranium at the main mine at Radium Hill, which is near the New South Wales border. Early next year there will be quite a stockpile of concentrates at Port Pirie. Already, laboratories have been established in the State, and very extensive work has been done. Mr. Playford, the Premier of South Australia, recently made the following statement: -
I say emphatically that any duplication of these laboratories by any authority in Australia would be a public scandal, not only as a waste of money, but also because there is insufficient technical staff available.
The technical assistance which South Australia has given to the Commonwealth has been most marked in the development of Rum Jungle. It seems that it would be a great pity and a great waste if dispersal of this technical staff should take place at this stage.
In the forthcoming vear, South Australia is to set aside £3,000,000 for uranium production. That sum will be used in connexion with the operation of the Radium Hill project, modern metallurgical treatment, and the capital cost of the chemical treatment plant. The Radium Hill mine is expected to come into production within the next few weeks, and the chemical treatment plant will be in production early next year. The construction work at Port Pirie is proceeding satisfactorily. Consequently, there is a complete setup in South Australia. I join with other honorable senators in protesting against this proposal to expend approximately £5,000,000 in the vicinity of Sydney, and I also object to the fact that this matter has not been discussed fully with the Government of South Australia.
– In order to indicate the great interest which is being displayed in
South Australia in this connexion, I wish to refer to a statement which appeared in to-day’s Adelaide Advertiser. It is to the effect that the Premier of South Australia had said that he was very perturbed, after reading a statement by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) that an advance type of nuclear research reactor would be established in New South Wales as a part of a £5,500,000 atomic research programme. The Premier is reported to have made that statement in answer to a question asked in the South Australian Parliament by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. O’Halloran, who wanted to know whether the Commonwealth proposal to establish such a reactor in New South Wales would hamper South Australia’ efforts in developing the use of atomic power for industrial purposes, having regard to the availability of technical staff. Mr. O’Halloran asked -
Is there any clanger inherent in the proposal that our efforts to develop the natural resources of South Australia in this regard may be by-passed?
I think he expressed a very justifiable fear.
I wish to know why it has been decided to establish this reactor in New South Wales. Surely the matter of decentalization, to which Senator Pearson referred is worthy of consideration. Apparently that has been overlooked, and we have had, instead, this rather bald announcement that the reactor is to be established in New South Wales. What State could have better claims in this matter than South Australia? We pioneered the development of uranium and nuclear research. The Premier of South Australia, at the expense of the South Australian people, went to America to make inquiries about the latest developments in atomic science. Subsequently, he went to Harwell, in England, where he pursued those inquiries. I suppose that he is better informed in the matter of nuclear science than is any other Australian public man who is not also a scientist. He has persistently evinced the greatest interest in the development of atomic power in South Australia. He recognized its potentialities long before anybody else did so. We feel that the work that has been done by South Australia, particularly by the Premier, merits consideration in relation to the establishment of this reactor.
The Adelaide Advertiser, to which I have referred, also contains a statement by Professor J. P. Baxter, who is the Deputy-Chairman of. the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, to the effect that Australia’s first atomic power stations would have to be built in places such as South Australia and the Northern Territory, and that, because no cheap coal would be available in those places, high transport costs would have to be faced. I do not think that that statement can be overlooked. We depend entirely on New South Wales coal which, of course, has to be transported at greatexpense to South Australia for use by industries there. At the same time, we have developed in South Australia a low grade deposit of coal which is being used in the generation of domestic power. South Australia has initiated research in the use of atomic power and has developed the deposits of uranium that were found in the early stages at Radium Hill and Mount Paynter. It has since been established that there are deposits at Myponga, which is close to Adelaide, and also at Crocker’s Well. Those deposits are being investigated. Senator O’flaherty has already referred to the work clone, under the greatest difficulties, at Radium Hill, which is situated in a locality where there is no water and very little else. The treatment plant there is being used to the greatest advantage.
For the reasons I have stated, there seems to be neither rhyme nor reason in the proposal to establish this nuclear research station in New South Wales. South Australia is well protected against hostile attack. If the New South Wales project is proceeded with, the technical staff which has been established in South Australia over the years will be drained away. Therefore, we in South Australia are united in support of the submission that this station shall be established in our State. We cannot see any justification for it being built in New South Wales, because we are aware that that State has ample coal resources which are fully adequate for all its needs. Moreover, if the station were established in
South Australia, its strategic value to Australia would be greater than if it were placed anywhere else in. the Commonwealth.
Friday, 1.5 October 1954.
– 1 appreciate the attitude of South Australian senators in regard to the proposed atomic energy station, but I point out to them that the station will be a purely experimental unit, and will not be used for the production of power. Consequently, if it should be established in South Australia it would not increase the power resources of that State, and therefore the argument that it should not be established in New South Wales because New South Wales already has ample coal resources has no weight. The station will not be duplicated in any part of Australia, and, indeed, I believe that there will be no similar station in any part of the world. Therefore, if we establish it in New South Wales we shall not follow the lead of any one, including South Australia. I inform Senator O’flaherty that the £100,000 that he mentioned was placed on the Estimates because the Commonwealth is committed to purchase all the uranium ore mined in Australia until 195S. We do not know how much that ore will ‘cost us, and so £100,000 has been placed on the Estimates merely to indicate that we shall pay out something for uranium. We may ultimately pay only £100,000, or we may have to pay £.1,000,000.
Increases, totalling £133,200 are proposed as compared with the provision made for research during 1953-54. Those increases are to provide for an expanded programme of atomic research and development in co-operation with the United Kingdom, as approved by Cabinet. The programme provides for an increase in the numerical strength of the commission’s research staff at Harwell, the appointment of the necessary senior scientific officers in Australia to direct the programme, and the expansion of external research work for the commission in universities and research institutions in Australia. That is really the matter before the Senate at present.
An increase of £79,570 is proposed as compared with the provisions for 1953-54, as the estimated cost of research work to be carried out for the commission ‘ in Australian universities and research institutions on nuclear physics, metallurgy, radio-chemistry and nuclear engineering problems. That work will be co-ordinated with the general research programme to be carried out by the commission in cooperation with the United Kingdom.
The increase also provides for an expansion of the 1953-54 programme to cover the provision of post-graduate studentships and university scholarships for the training of research workers, geologists and geophysicists. In connexion with the geologists and geophysicists, the scholarships are being offered following discussions with the Department of National Development.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I realize that the members of the Senate are anxious to adjourn at this late hour, but I believe that the matter that I desire to bring before them is of such great importance that it is my public duty to attempt to bring it under the full light of public scrutiny without delay. It is one of the most scandalous and wicked cases of maladministration, dishonesty, and, as I shall bring evidence later to substantiate, of criminal mis-use of public moneys. Those are grave charges to make, and in making them I desire to say that the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), who is in charge of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, has repeatedly evaded questions that have been asked of him, both here and in another place, concerning the mal-administration that has been going on for a period of more than two years and, until the last few weeks, he has taken no action at all to bring the offenders to book. It is a good thing that the history of public administration in this country is not marred by many cases of the sort thatI am dealing with.
I believe that the Minister is guilty of a dereliction of duty in not having followed up reports made to him during the last two and a half years by various officials of the Australian Aluminium ProductionCommission to the effect that investigations ought to be made into the commission’s activities. On one occasion a stores superintendent approached me after he had been dismissed by the commission. He was a young man with a wife and family, who had moved his residence from Victoria to Tasmania at great expense to himself. He had purchased furniture and curtains and other household fittings in Tasmania, but because he investigated the tremendous discrepancy in the stores of the commission’s project at Bell Bay, he was summarily dismissed. The commission even refused to give him a reference as to his character and ability. By the 13th June, 1952, the Minister for Supply had available to him a report on discrepancies in the stores of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission. The discrepancies amounted to £4,045 and covered such items as a complete 30-in. saw bench valued at £255. Concretemixing equipment valued at £213, a concrete mixing dump cart worth £455, a cross-cutting machine valued at £456, a railmoving plant, a tipping truck valued at £554 and many other items belonging to the plant were missing up to June, 1952. Despite many attempts to get an investigation, the Minister has taken no action whatever. For the purposes of record, I should like to refer to numerous discrepancies that have been discovered. Accessories that are missinginclude office equipment valued at £3,703. It includes a whole suite of steel cabinet!? valued at £228, electric jugs, staff chain, revolving typists’ chairs, a draughtsman’s table, recorder units and other valuable goods. So far as I can ascertain, those articles are still missing. They must be in existence and the people of Australia, who will ultimately pay for these articles, should know what happened to them. They have been stolen or misplaced at the commission’s works at Bell Bay.
This report was available to the Minister, yet no information has been divulged about what happened to £3,665 worth of material that belonged to the cafeteria. A complete electric boiler valued at £613 disappeared. Other missing items that are included in this report are a steam heater unit valued at £281, an atmospheric steam heater valued at £298 and numerous other items. I ask for leave to have the list incorporated in Hansard.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) . - Is leave granted?
Leave not granted.
– The people should be given full information about this matter. When my colleague, the honorable member for Bass in the House of Representatives (Mr. Barnard) asked some curly questions in that chamber about this matter, the Minister approached him across the House and said, “ Lay off Bell Bay, or else ! “. When a responsible Minister of the Crown makes a threat like that to a man who is exercising his rights in the Parliament and performing a public duty, something must be done to bring the matter to the full light of public knowledge and scrutiny. When the honorable member for Bass approached the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) and asked whether he could bring the matter forward and discuss it fully as a matter of urgent public importance, the right honorable gentleman replied that the honorable member for Bass could have, only a quarter of an hour and he would not allow him an extension of time. All this goes to show that the matter is being purposely avoided by the Government. It is very important to the people of Tasmania, because they have an interest indirectly in the fixture of the aluminium industry. We all want to see the industry succeed, but we do not want to see the expense of the maladministration that has taken place during the present Government’s term of office added to the capital cost of the industry so that it will be unable to produce aluminium ingots and sell them on a competitive market. Some estimates indicate that we have already priced ourselves out of the market with the present plant.
– “Who made thu report to which the honorable senator is referring ?
– I am making this report.-
– I shall also give honorable senators a few more details with which Senator Marriott is familiar if he is doing his job in Tasmania properly.
– Is the honorable senator implying that I cannot do my job in Tasmania?
– If Senator Marriott does not know about this matter he is not doing his job, because it is known throughout George Town and the country districts around Launceston as one of the greatest scandals the people have known, but it is not being investigated thoroughly or fully explained. Only last week the field engineer was suspended from Bell Bay. He had been there five years or more, and he had built a house in George Town that could be valued at about £15,000. It is known that a contractor, Mr. Don Symons, who was doing bulldozing work and was paid £4S,000 for it, spent a tremendous amount of time actually working on the field engineer’s house. Concrete, timber and cement valued at £6,000 have disappeared from the stores and have not been accounted for. People who live in the locality actually saw these things happen. If Senator Marriott claims that I am not able to make a report on this matter, I say that he does not look after his electorate as well as I do. The field engineer, to whom I have already referred, during the period of early construction, let a contract for fencing for £100. He had an open cheque book from which he was able to’ pay any account that was presented. When he inspected the completed fence, he said to the contractor, “ My word, you have done a good job. Here is £150 “, and .handed over that amount. He was paying bills with cash-bearer cheques.
The next part of my case is to prove that the Government is systematically covering up this matter. I am certain that it has evidence that can substantiate what I am saying, but for some reason or other, the Government is deliberately covering it up. On behalf of the people of George Town and Launceston districts, I demand that the Government make a clear statement of the position. An amount of £2,000,000 is involved in the discrepancies through maladministration and what might be called straight-out negligence. If it is added to the capital cost of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission’s plant, it will have a. marked effect on the future of this industry.
I turn my attention to an appointment that was given last week to Mr. Debenham who has been assistant to the general manager, Mr. Keast, since 1951. Mr. Keast went to the Australian Aluminium Production Commission from the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. Those metal companies have a great habit of tying things up, and for all we know, this may have been part of a plan for the aluminium commission to become part of another cartel. The aluminium cartel is one of the biggest cartels in the world. Mr. Debenham went to the commission. By 1951, it became necessary for Mr. Keast to go over from Melbourne to Launceston because Mr. Debenham was making such a hash of things. On one occasion, when he was informed that he had not spent the total amount that was available, he said, “ I will soon fix that “. He put 200 men on overtime work .on Saturdays and Sundays to spend . the money. Those men just hung around until the money was spent. Mr. Keast submitted a report to the effect that Mr. Debenham was not efficient enough to carry out his duties, but only last week he was appointed as acting general manager. How the Government and the Minister can reconcile these things is beyond my comprehension.
I refer now to Mr. G. H. Watson, who was dismissed in 1953. I am quite certain that, when the story of his association with the commission comes to light, it will shock the people of Australia. A state of affairs in which a chairman of the commission can use his offices for the disposal of public moneys and receive commissions . is one which cannot be tolerated. I refer also to the bauxite deposits at Wessel Island. In a report that waS submitted by the Australian Aluminium Production Commission on the 4th February, 1943, there was included on the assets side of a statement of assets and liabilities, an item “ Intangible Assets: Expenses of establishment, £130,041 “. Another report, which was made on the 7th April, 1954, referred to Wessel Island for the first time. The company with which Mr. G. EL Watson was associated accepted the responsibility of making a survey for the supply of bauxite to the commission. In the report of the 7th April, 1954, the value of Wessel Island deposits was shown as £128,050. Four months later, on ‘the 25th August, 19’54, the amount shown for the Wessel Island deposits was £12,152. The difference between £128,050 and £12,152 was distributed over fixed assets such as building, plants and services. It was so distributed that it added to the capital value of the project in an attempt to cover up the excessive charge that was made for Wessel Island deposits.
– Did the AuditorGeneral say anything about this?
– I am very pleased that Senator Kendall has raised that matter, because over the last three years I have made it my business to ascertain whether the Auditor-General has made a report on the commission. He has not found it possible to make a report. He has stated each year that he has not been satisfied with the administration of the commission. The Auditor-General, in his report this year, did not refer to the financial side of the commission’s1 activities, and the commission, instead of issuing its report in the usual form, filled it up with pictures to cover up these deficiencies and the scandalous background of its financial position.
I refer also to the sale by the same Mr. Watson, who was chairman of the commission, of the yacht Illawarra. I must say that it looks a very trim little vessel as it lies off the Bell Bay jetty. I understand that a sum of £17,000, which was more than its value, was paid for that yacht. Moreover, it has been fitted out. luxuriously with a cocktail bar, and it is for the exclusive use of the administrative chiefs at Bell Bay. These matters are of such great importance that it is the responsibility of the Government to make an open ‘ statement and to come clean on the whole business. The continuous evasion of its responsibility is sickening. Some .considerable time ago, I placed on the notice-paper the following question : -
In order to allay certain beliefs that there have been large scale leakages of Commonwealth funds, will the Minister lay on the table of the Senate the report of the investigators who recently examined the administration of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission ?
To-day, the Minister for Supply furnished the following answer: -
Investigations have been made into certain allegations affecting the Bell Bay project, and the report of the investigators has now been received. ‘lt is being examined. Until this is completed consideration cannot be given to the question of any publication of the report.
The report of the investigators was received some time ago. Immediate action should be taken to bring to book those persons who are guilty of any misdemeanours. There also should be evidence that much of this missing material could be found by the civil police or by any other authority that is prepared to investigate its whereabouts.
– Is this a filibuster ?
– No. This matter is of very great importance. I cannot understand why Senator Marriott should be so hesitant about coming forward and joining with me in demanding that this matter should be brought to the full light of day. He is failing in his duty to the people of Tasmania. I am quite certain that he will be judged on his action. Of expenditure amounting to more than £2,000,000 approximately £1,200,000 cannot be accounted for, and between £800,000 and £900,000 has been incurred as the result of extravagance and erroneous designing. The bauxite that has been found close to Launceston is unsuitable for use .by the commission. The availability of bauxite was one of the main reasons why the commission was established in Tasmania. Deposits” have been purchased at St. Leonards, just outside Launceston, but the commission will not be able to use Tasmanian bauxite. If Senator Marriott were doing his job, he would raise in the Senate the question of those bauxite deposits. The honorable senator is interested only in the politics of this matter.
– I rise to a point of order.
– The honorable senator attacked me.
– Senator O’Byrne’s statement that I am interested only in the politics of this matter is objectionable to me, and I ask that his statement be withdrawn.
– There is no point of order. I shall not call upon the honorable senator to withdraw the statement.
– I shall not continue for very much longer.
– Mr. President, I understand that you asked Senator O’Byrne to withdraw the statement to which I have taken exception.
– No, I did not do so.
– lt is hard to believe that there is not a design to overcapitalize this industry, so that it will be placed at a disadvantage in producing aluminium for sale on the markets of the world in competition with the international aluminium combine. The sum of £2,000,000, which will be interest bearing and a charge on the ultimate product, will have a great effect on the future of the industry. I hope the Government will take steps immediately to write off this sum, so that the organization can be given a chance to compete with other companies on equal terms. The maladministration and failure to investigate continual complaints and reports of dishonesty and misuse of facilities belonging to the commission show that a very grave situation has arisen.
I am certain that the answer given to-day in another place when this matter was raised there was designed to evade the issue. The Minister, instead of dealing with the case that was put forward and giving the Parliament the information it was entitled to expect from a responsible Minister, delivered a political speech, in which he referred to events as far back as 1944 and 1946. We want honest replies to our questions. This organization is a great national asset. If the Government tells the people of
Australia frankly what is happening, it has nothing to fear, but by refusing to be frank it is doing the organization a great disservice.
– At last, we have discovered the truth about the Opposition’s attitude to the aluminium industry at Bell Bay in northern Tasmania. It is about time that, so to speak, the cap was taken off the attitude to this industry of the three political parties in this Parliament. Let me trace its history. When the idea was conceived that there should be an aluminium industry in northern Tasmania, there was a member for Bass in the House of Representatives, an honoured member, named Barnard. To the political student, it seemed as though he were on the inside going out. If the Labour party is honest, it will not deny that. So the idea of establishing an aluminium industry in Tasmania was conceived. The attitude of the Labour party was, “ We must establish an industry in this electorate to attract industrial workers to the area, who will vote for Barnard and save him at the next election “. [ Quorum formed.] At that time, there was published in Australia a newspaper called Smith’.’ Weekly. Mr. Barnard was the Minister for Repatriation. Members of the services were then returning to civil life. Smith’s Weekly very rightly said -
Whom Caucus wishes to destroy it first makes Minister for Repatriation.
The Labour party tried- to save Mr. Barnard from electoral defeat by establishing the aluminium industry at Bell Bay. The industry was established on the understanding that Tasmania should be a partner in the project, and should provide much of the necessary finance. Nobody can deny the truth of that statement.
– In what year was that?
– It was in 1944, but the honorable senator would not know that. The main condition in connexion with the establishment of the industry was that the Tasmanian Government should provide much of the finance. The Tasmanian Government also contracted to provide electric power for the plant.
– In what year?
– Does that matter? I have told the honorable senator that it occurred during the regime of the Chifley Government, and if he does not know when that government reigned, then he should withdraw from the argument. The industry was established, and, after the advent of the Menzies Government, as the interjector opposite cannot deny, gradually the Commonwealth became more financially interested in the venture. I think the Leader of the Opposition. (Senator McKenna) would be good enough to admit the value of the Government’s action in that respect. Mr. Cosgrove, the Premier of Tasmania, has admitted it. Without the provision of finance by the Commonwealth the industry must have languished, because Tasmania could not, in view of the present financial relationships between the Commonwealth and the States, have financed the establishment of the industry, expenditure on which exceeded the amount originally estimated.
I shall now. answer the remarks that Senator O’Byrne made, I hope against the wishes of his party, and probably so, because there were four Opposition senators present when he was speaking who apparently did not relish his arguments. Since the industry started to make headway under Commonwealth control, as a result of action by a Liberal government in the federal sphere, which relieved Tasmania of financial responsibility, the Labour party has been smearing the project. Members of that party are continually using an expression that is popular in the Labour party to-day. I refer to the expression “ It is a conspiracy “. The Labour party claims that there is a conspiracy at Bell Bay against Tasmania, against the Tasmanian Premier, and against the establishment of the industry. Honorable senators opposite and their colleagues elsewhere have tried to damn the industry ever since the Menzies Government gave it a new lease of life. This is a “ Commo “ plan.
– It is not a conspiracy ; it is a deficiency of which we complain.
– I knew that I would have some one rising to the bait when I said, sincerely and factually, that this is a “ Commo “ plan. The Labour party started to attack the industry only when, as a result of the policy of the present Government, it began to look like becoming a success. The only apparent bar to its success was the inability of the Tasmanian Government to provide electric power, but I think that that Government will be able to provide the necessary electric power soon. However, it was formerly believed that it would be unable to do so. The Labour party has been trying to pull the scheme to pieces, to cause suspicion, and to sow in the minds of the people the belief that there is a conspiracy. I do not know the facts about–
– You’re telling us!
– The honorable senator may think he is being smart.
– No, I do not. I am the most unintelligent fellow in the place.
– Order ! Senator Marriott will address his remarks to the chair, and will leave interjections in my good hands. I shall sec that order is kept.
– I do not know the facts regarding individual employees of the commission. I have enough faith in public servants, and in the heads of departments, not to inquire into details of management unless the Government considers that they should be inquired into. To my mind Senator O’Byrne verged on a heresy hunt. I do not say that he actually embarked on a heresy hunt, but I say’ that he verged on it in some of his remarks. If the aluminium industry in northern Tasmania is given a fair go, and gets the electric power that I sincerely believe the Tasmanian Government will be able to provide to it by the early months of next year, it will become a great asset to Tasmania. I hope that the Labour party will not try to sabotage the efforts that are being made to develop the industry merely because a Liberal government has taken it over.
– Mr. President-
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to-
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land disposed of under section63 - Return showing manner of disposal.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of Repatriation; - A. J. Clark, A. R. Turner.
Repatriation Act - No. 1 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal - Report for year 1953-54.
Whaling Industry Act - Fifth Annual Report of the Australian Whaling Commission, for year ended 31st March, 1954.
Senate adjourned at 12.47 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 October 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1954/19541014_senate_21_s4/>.