21st Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Bill 1955.
Crimes Bill 1955.
Wine Research Bill 1955.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Minister for Repatriation to a question which, speaking from memory, I asked on the 20th April last with reference to the sale of sharks’ livers, from which oil is extracted and which I believe is used as a basic ingredient in the manufacture of Aspros. I have not yet received a reply to that question.
– Speaking from memory, I gave an answer to that question in the Senate some time ago. I think the honorable senator was not present at the time, but his Whip asked the question and I answered it.
– On the 24th May I asked the following question: -
My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. As a result of the acute shortage of nursing staff and hospital accommodation, many people have to accept, as an alternative to hospital treatment, home treatment under the direction of qualified doctors, with the assistance of district nurses who are made available by the Silver Chain District and Bush Nursing Association (Incorporated), thereby relieving the National Welfare Fund of the considerable costs which would be charged against that fund if hospital services were available whereever needed. As the type of medical and health service that I have just mentioned is providing an essential service for thousands of taxpayers and citizens who live in areas in which normal, adequate hospital facilities do not exist, and as there is no provision in the National Health Act to permit the allowance of benefits in regard to this type of treatment, will the Minister take action to have the National Health Act 1953 amended in order to allow the cost of these services to be borne, at least in part, by the Commonwealth health authorities?
– The Minister for Health has now furnished the following reply : -
The District Nursing organizations referred to by the honorable senator are carrying out a valuable community service. Subsidies are necessary to enable their work to go on and these subsidies are provided by State governments. The benefits provided under the National Health Act do not at present extend to ancillary hospital and medical services such as home nursing. The extension of the National Health scheme to cover services of this kind will be considered in the light of the experience gained under the existing act.
– Yesterday I addressed a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport with regard to the critical situation that has arisen in Western Australia due to the cancellation of a voyage by the steamer Koorawatha, which was to load explosives for the gold-fields and oil-fields in Western Australia. Has the Minister any information on that matter yet?
– I have received the following report from the manager of the Australian Shipping Board in reply to Senator Vincent’s question: -
Arrangements have now been completed for Koorawatha to lift the9,000 cases of explosives from Melbourne in the week ending the 25th June. It is anticipated that this vessel will arrive in Western Australia in time to prevent any shortage of explosives in the oilfields or the gold-fields.
– On the 26th May, Senator Wright asked the following question, addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health: -
My question has reference to the medical and health benefits scheme, and to recent reports that some people are being misled by literature or proposals emanating from societies which are not approved. The literature does not clearly show that the societies have not the approval of the Government and that its members, therefore, are not eligible for government health and medical benefits. I ask the Minister whether the act gives power toprescribeby regulation, that societies at least those registered in the Australian Capital Territory should state conspicuously in all proposals for insurance for such benefits that they are not approved societies? If that power exists, has it been exercised? If it has not been exercised, will the Minister consider the matter with a view to deciding whether it would be desirable to exercise the power ?
The Minister for Health has now furnished the following reply to the honorable senator’s question: - -
Section 82 of the National Health Act requires each unregistered organization which conducts medical benefits or hospital benefits funds to state in its advertisements or notices, published or displayed, that it is not a registered organization under the National Health Scheme. A penalty of £100 is prescribed for a breach of this requirement. One health insurance company and its managing director were prosecuted under this section and were fined. Other unregistered organizations have been warned that they are liable to prosecution if their advertisements or notices do not indicate that they are not registered under the national health scheme. So far, these warnings have been sufficient.
No doubt the confusion to which the senator refers arose from the fact that several societies registered under the Australian Capital Territories Companies Ordinance had names’ which could have led people to believe that those societies were approved under the National Health Act. In fact, they are not approved, and their contributors are not eligible for Commonwealth benefits.
As a result of action taken by the Commonwealth, these companies have now changed their names. Commonwealth Health Benefits of Australia Limited has changed its name to Contributors Health Benefits Proprietary Limited, and Commonwealth Hospital and Medical Benefits Limited has changed its name to Commercial Hospital and Medical Benefits Limited. This change will eliminate the confusion which arose in the past.
– On the 11th May, Senator Critchley asked me whether I was in a position to inform the Senate whether the lag in dealing with hearings before the entitlement appeal tribunals had been overtaken, or whether applicants were still experiencing the same delays as occurred prior to the appointment of another tribunal. He also asked how many times the most recently appointed tribunal had sat. I then replied that I would obtain the information sought in the last part of his question. I am unable to state the number of times that the recently appointed entitlement appeal tribunal - that is, the No. 3 Appeal Tribunal - has sat. The entitlement appeal tribunals sit on each working day, except when travelling or on approved leave. The’ appointment of an additional tribunal has done much to overtake the lag in the hearing of appeals referred to by the honorable senator. On the 28th May, 1954, 2,407 appeals were outstanding. By the 20th May, 1955, the number had been reduced to 2,001. It will be seen, therefore, that since the additional tribunal was appointed the number of outstanding cases has been reduced by 406. uranium.
– My question to the Minister for National Development arises from a press statement he released a .day or two ago, in which he announced that, as from the 30th May, air survey maps to aid the search for uranium would be available from the Melbourne, Canberra and Darwin offices of the Bureau of Mineral Resources, and from the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, in Sydney. I now ask the Minister whether it is proposed that these maps shall be made available in other capital cities, and, if so, in which of them. “Will he also say whether they will be made available in various mining centres’ throughout Australia ?
– The purpose of making the statement was to give the widest possible publicity to the fact that maps were available, and to give the maps the widest circulation possible. The maps are the result of many months of highly scientific work. The honorable senator’s question, which contains the implication that the area over which the maps are to be available to the public is not as great as it should be, causes me some concern. I should like to examine the question and to talk the matter over with my departmental officers, with a view to finding out whether the maps are not being made available in the other capital cities, assuming that the honorable senator’s statement is correct. I find it difficult to believe that the maps are not available in places other than those mentioned. Should the honorable senator’s statement be correct, I shall want good reasons from my department for the maps not being as readily available as the honorable senator suggests they should “be.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Health say whether there is any limit to. the time in which a registered and approved hospital benefits society can hold refunds payable to> applicants after certificates and receipts have been received by the society? If there is no limit, will the Minister consider bringing in regulations to put a time limit on the period for which applications can be held before money justly due to applicants is repaid. I know what I am talking about, because I speak from my own experience as a victim of delays,
– L shall bring the honorable senator’s question before the Minister for Health and ask him to let the honorable senator have a considered reply.
– Is the Minister for National Development aware that the Government of Western Australia is resuming large areas of land- -330 acres at Morley Park, for instance - for the purpose of cutting it up into building blocks and erecting houses thereon? Is he aware that 30 or more people acquired this land over 30 years ago, and have erected homes on their blocks and engaged in egg and poultry production and pigraising, and that the plan of disposal of the land resumed prevents them from carrying on their activities? Is he also aware that, owing to the absence of a water supply system, electricity and transport, the owners have been prevented from sub-dividing their blocks, as they desired ? As money supplied by the Commonwealth is used by the State Government in these transactions, can the Minister take such steps as are necessary to ensure that the land is acquired on just terms ?
– I know nothing of the particular resumption to which the honorable senator has referred. A few weeks ago I was asked a question without notice on this matter and I made inquiries through the department. I was informed that the Government of Western Australia was compulsorily resuming la,nd for use under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and that it was not paying the market price of the land. I find the position to be that under the agreement the Australian Government merely lends the money to the States and has no power to govern in any detail the purposes for which the States use the money. It is entirely repugnant to the principles of this Government to resume anything, whether it is land or anything else, without paying to the owner of the property just compensation for the asset that is taken from him ; but that is not the position in some of the States, and, apparently, is not the position in Western Australia. The Australian Government has a constitutional obligation to pay just compensation and if ever there was a right and proper constitutional obligation, that one commends itself to me as such. As I understand the position in this particular matter, the Australian Government has no power to prevent the State of Western Australia from taking property from people unless it pays a fair price for the proprty that is taken.
– The Australian Government could attach conditions to the loan, could it not ?
– No, because the loan is made under a ten-year agreement. The silver lining to the cloud is that the agreement expires within the next few months. The old story is that one should not make statements of policy in answer to questions without notice, but if ever I was confident of anything I am confident that this Government will not be a party to any fresh arrangement that would result in the situation that Senator Seward has brought under notice in his question.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer able to inform me whether any record is kept of the contribution made by individual States to Australia’s dollar earnings? Secondly, is any record kept of dollar expenditure in each State? If any such record ia kept, is the Minister in a position to supply particulars?
– I think that the answer to the question is that no such record is kept. However, as this is entirely a statistical, or departmental, question, and as I wish to make quite sure of the answer, I ask the honorable senator to place the question on notice.
– I wish to inform the Minister representing the Treasurer that representations have been made to me by interested parties in South Australia regarding the possibility that the present exemption limit which applies for the purpose of gift duty will be raised. From what the Minister has just said I know that I cannot anticipate an indication of Government policy, but I should like to ask him whether he can give me an assurance that this matter will be considered by Cabinet when it is preparing the budget for presentation to the Parliament later this year.
– As the honorable senator has indicated, it is not practicable to make statements of Government policy in answer to questions, particularly to a question such as the one that he has asked, because budget time is close at hand. However, I assure him that his question and the proposal that he has put forward will be submitted to the Treasurer. After that has been done, I am sure that the Treasurer will give the matter his consideration.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade and Customs. In view of the fact that the United Nations has reached its tenth year of existence, during which time it has been responsible for the settlement of numerous international disputes and for exceptionally valuable progress in the fields of general health, health of children, food distribution and other matters connected with international co-operation, has the Government considered the review of the Charter of the United Nations which is to be undertaken this year? Further, has any provision been made for adequate representation of Australia at the tenth anniversary meeting of the United Nations which is to be held in the near future?
– As all honorable senators know, this Government has, given unstinted and unswerving support to the ideals and principles of the United Nations, and it has made very substantial contributions towards the carrying out of the work of that organization. Thematter raised by the honorable senator does not fall within the department that I administer, as my colleague the Minister for External Affairs attends to matters which concern the United Nations. However, I have no doubt that the matters raised by the honorable senator are already under consideration by the Minister for External Affairs.
– I assume, from the comments and complaints made by the respective States about the distribution of the proceeds of the petrol tax, that there must be some records such as that indicated by the honorable senator. If he will put his question . on the noticepaper, the information will be supplied.
– Just prior to the adjournment of the Senate for the Christmas recess, that is, in about October, 1954, you, Mr. President, promised to consider a suggestion that I made that the Senate should adopt the same practice as is adopted by the House of Representatives in the preparation of the notice-paper. If that were done, the date of each question asked upon notice would be printed alongside the question on the notice-paper. I now ask whether any consideration has been given to that matter?
– I have considered that matter, and I shall let the honorable senator have a statement about it within the next day or two.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, and preface it by informing the Minister that in Rozelle there is a park called St. George’s Park. Early in the war, that park was taken over by the Government for use by the Department of Supply and Development for war purposes. As soon as possible after the conclusion of the war, the Department of Supply and Development vacated the park, but the PostmasterGeneral’s Department took it over, and, from all accounts, it has since been impossible to shift that department. Since this park is beautifully situated along the bank of the Parramatta River, and as the people of that area have been deprived of the use of the park for many years, and as I am quite sure that the Postmaster-General’s Department is holding it only for the departments convenience, and that other arrangements could be made, I desire to ask the Minister whether he will examine the matter, in view of the very fine sentiments that I heard expressed a little while ago by the Minister for National Development.
– Does the honorable senator disagree with them?
– No. Sentiments are all very well, but a little more is needed. I ask the Minister whether determined efforts will be made to hand this park back to the people of Rozelle.
– I shall be pleased to convey the honorable senator’s question to my colleague, the Postmaster-General, and I will ask him whether he will reexamine the position and let me have a considered reply, which I will then give to the honorable senator.
– by leave - I move -
That the Senate approves of the redistribution of the State of Queensland into electoral divisions as proposed by Messrs. K. S. Olsen, J. 1?. Harvey and C. Faragher, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before the Senate on the 24th day of May, 1055, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the maps referred to therein, be adopted.
Debate (on motion by Senator Benn) adjourned.
– by leave - I move -
That the Senate approves of the redistribution of the State of New South Wales into electoral divisions, as proposed by Messrs. V. F. Turner, H. J. Martin and G. W. Vincent, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before the Senate on the 4th day of May, 1955, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the maps referred to therein, be adopted, except that the name “ Grayndler “ bc substituted for “ Cook the name “ Hughes “ for “ Werriwa “ and the name “Werriwa” for “Hughes”.
Debate (on motion by Senator Armstrong) adjourned.
– by leave - I move -
That the Senate approves of the redistribution of the State of Victoria into electoral divisions as proposed by Messrs. R. C. Nance, P. W. Arter and F. Cahill, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before the Senate on the 11th day of May, 1955, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the maps referred to therein, be adopted, except that the name “ La Trobe “ be substituted for “ Bruce “ and the name “ Bruce “ be substituted for “La Trobe”.
Debate (on motion by Senator Sandford) adjourned.
– by leave - I move -
That the Senate approves of the redistribution of the State of South Australia into electoral divisions, as proposed by Messrs. F. B. Phillips, H. L. Fisk, and A. W. Bowden, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before the Senate on the 11th day of May, 1955, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the maps referred to therein, be adopted.
Debate (on motion by Senator Critchley) adjourned.
– by leave - I move -
That the Senate approves of the redistribution nf the State of Western Australia into electoral divisions, as proposed bv Messrs. J. M. W. Anderson, W. V. Fyfe, and G. G. Friend, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before the Senate on the 4th Jay of May, 1955, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the maps referred to therein, be adopted.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cooke) adjourned.
Redistribution ok Tasmanian Divisions.
Senator McLEAY (South Australia - Minister for Shipping and Transport) 3. 32]. - by leave - I move -
That the Senate approves of the redistribution nf the State of Tasmania into electoral divisions, as proposed by Messrs. Si. W. Dwyer, F. Miles and E. C. Botten, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the -.aid State into divisions, in their report laid before the Senate on the 4th day of May, 1955, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the map referred to therein, bc adopted, except that the name “ Braddon “ be substituted for ‘ Darwin “.
Debate (on motion by Senator MCKENNA) adjourned.
Message .received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate in this bill.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator O’sullivan) read a first time.
. – -I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to enable members of the armed services to take up additional units commensurate with recent increases in their rates of pay and provide for corresponding adjustments i.n the rates of pensions payable on death or retirement. As honorable senators are aware, the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act provides for a contributory scheme by members whereby pensions, or alternatively, benefits by way of a lump sum, become payable on completion of service in the Permanent Forces. The scheme is analogous to that provided for public servants under the Superannuation Act. As a result of increased salaries following’ the recent marginal increases, members of the Commonwealth Public Service automatically qualify for additional units and with consequentially greater retirement benefits. It is, therefore, equitable that members of the Permanent Defence Forces should be permitted also to increase their unit entitlement by such number of units as are appropriate to . the increased margins which became payable as from December, 1954. The number of units for which various ranks will be eligible to contribute - entitlements were previously set out in the regulations - are shown in the first schedule to the bill.
The rate of pension payable to the member under the amendments in this bill has application to those members whose retirement became effective subsequent to the 9th December, 1954. Members who retired prior to that date did not participate in the marginal increases and consequently the rates of pension then existing are not affected by these amendments. Provision is . made in this bill also to permit a member, who previously elected under section 80 of the act not to become a contributor, to withdraw such election and to contribute as from the date of entering the Permanent Defence Forces or, alternatively, the date of completing the first six years of service under engagement.
The bill provides also that where a member, for a continuous period of more than 21 days, either absents himself without leave or, for a number of other reasons such as leave without pay, does not render effective service, the period involved will be excluded from the period under engagement in respect of which the member receives a gratuity under the act. This provision reduces the gratuity payable proportionately to the extent of periods of non-effective service which exceed 21 days. It is further provided that absences without leave exceeding 21 days shall not count as part of a member’s service for the purpose of assessing his pension entitlement under the act.
Provision is made in the bill also for the elimination from the act of several minor anomalies which up to the present have prevented certain classes of members from receiving the full extent of the benefit to which they are morally entitled on retirement. The provisions of this bill will generally benefit the Permanent Defence Forces by substantially increasing the pension entitlement of the career member and by qualifying the short-term member for a greater lump sum payment on retirement. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate fon motion by Senator Armstrong) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator O’sullivan) read a first time.
. Y. move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill serves two purposes. The first is to give effect to the decision of the Government to increase the salaries of the holders of certain statutory offices, the salaries of which are provided by special appropriation. The second is to give legal sanction to the methods adopted for the payment on and from the 23rd December, 3 954, of salary increases granted to public servants and employees of three statutory authorities whose methods of reclassification of offices are similar to those applied in the Public Service. The salaries of the holders of statutory offices were last reviewed in 1950. Since that date increases in their salaries of £250 per annum have been made corresponding to the cost of living increases that formerly were automatically received by public servants. The Government considers that the remuneration for these offices is not adequate in relation to the responsibilities and complex duties of the positions. These salaries must bear some relationship to the emoluments available to men with similar qualifications and experience in private industry. The new salaries for the positions are set out in the first schedule to the bill. In assessing the increases in these salaries, the Government considered the general trend of salaries for professional and high executive positions both in Australia and overseas. It is convinced that the increases which it proposes are not only reasonable but are also necessary to retain, in the Commonwealth service, the best men available.
The salaries of public servants, other than those who are members of the First Division, are subject to determinations by the Public Service Arbitrator. Consequent upon the judgment of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in the metal trades case, the Arbitrator, on the 16th December, 1954, resumed hearings of the claims by a number of Public Service organizations for adjustments to salaries. On the 21st December, 1954, the Public Service Board informed the Arbitrator of adjustments to salaries which it considered then to be appropriate. The full details of these increased salaries for public servants were finalized and notified by the Public Service Board on the 20th January, 1955. In the course of its reclassification, the Public Service Board introduced some simplification of the classification structure of the Second and Third Divisions of the Public Service. The number of classification ranges was reduced and fixed salaries at the top of the structure of the Second Division were substituted for classified ranges.
The bill provides for the giving effect to this salary reclassification of the Public Service Board on and from the 23rd December, 1954. This date of operation flows from the judgment in the metal trades case as, consistently with that judgment, there was a substantial number of Commonwealth employees whose remuneration was adjustable from that date. Consequently, the same date of operation was adopted for other sections of the Public Service. The Public Service Act does not empower the board retrospectively to reclassify positions. The bill now before the Senate will authorize the reclassifications on and from the 23rd December. Had other means been adopted for giving effect to the decision of the board on the 20th January, 1955, it would have been necessary to defer payment of the increased salaries for the period between that date and the 23rd December, 1954. This would have created additional administrative work the added cost of which would have been unnecessary and undesirable.
Debate (on motion by Senator Armstrong) adjourned.
SUPPLY BILL (No. 1) 1955-f 6.
Debate resumed from the 31st May (vide page 53S), on mct ion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a first time.
– In speaking to the measure that is before the Senate, I wish to direct the attention of honorable senators to the importance of uranium production in Australia. Before doing so, however, I propose to answer briefly some of the matters referred to yesterday by Senator Benn. I have been a member of this Senate since 1949, and the speech that Senator Benn delivered yesterday was the worst that I have heard in this chamber. If the proceedings of the Senate yesterday had been broadcast, and the Australian public had had the disadvantage of hearing Senator Benn, they would not have been at all impressed. He cast a cloud of gloom over Australia. He criticized the visits overseas of Ministers who are members of this Government and said, in effect, that he was opposed to Ministers travelling abroad. In a developing country such as Australia is, surely Ministers are entitled to go abroad during the parliamentary recess to improve their knowledge of what is happening in other parts of the world. All governments follow the practice of allowing Ministers to travel. The Chifley Government sent its Ministers abroad, and I am not opposed to that practice, nor can I see any reason why Senator Benn should oppose it.
According to a report in the press today, Mr. Drakeford, a member of the Labour Opposition in another place in this Parliament, asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) whether he would be prepared to send an all-party delegation of members of the Parliament to Malaya and South-East Asia to see for themselves the position that exists there. Senator Benn is also a member of the Australian Labour party. If he were asked to go to Malaya, apparently he would refuse. The inference to be drawn from his speech is that his conscience would prick him, because he is bitterly opposed to any one leaving Australia to see what is happening overseas. He sank to a low level when he discussed the subject in this chamber yesterday.
Senator Benn emphasized that the people of Australia were badly off, in his opinion. He mentioned terrific unemployment, but if honorable senators study the unemployment statistics for Western Australia and South Australia, in particular, they will find that fewer people are receiving unemployment benefits today than ever before. The number in South Australia is 47, and in Western Australia, 157. The total number of vacancies registered in Western Australia at the end of April last was 2,352. Therefore, for every person who is receiving unemployment benefits, there are approximately twenty jobs vacant. In 1946, when a Labour government was in office, Mr. Haylen, a supporter of that Government, was recorded in Hansard as having said that, to all intents and purposes, a country had full employment when less than 5 per cent, of its working population was unemployed. The comparative figure in Australia to-day is something less than .001 of 1 per cent.
Senator Benn, whom I am glad to see has now returned to the chamber, spoke of loan funds, and said that this Government had not given enough money to the States to enable them to proceed with the developmental work that they had in mind. Acting on its own initiative, this Government provided for the States out of its own revenue in 1952, amounts totalling more than £100,000,000. In its first four years of office, this Government granted to Western Australia from loan funds and tax reimbursement funds’ a total of £67,000,000. In the previous four years, the Chifley Labour Government, in its generosity, granted to Western Australia £16,000,000, so that Western Australia has been four times better off financially under this Government than it was under the previous Labour Government.
From time to time, honorable senators on the Opposition side repeat the story that this Government is not treating the age and invalid pensioners well. They know very well that those pensioners have received far better treatment from this Government than they ever received under the previous Labour Government.
– That is entirely wrong.
– Senator Ashley has never been right, so he would not know the facts. During the general election in 1954, the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Dr. Evatt) tried to beguile the electors of Australia into voting for the Australian Labour party. In the course of his policy speech, the right honorable gentleman said, not only to the aged and invalid but to all the people, that when they reached the age of 65 years, whether they had an income of £1 or £1,000 a week, they would receive an age pension of £4 a week if they voted for the Labour party candidates. He promised that the means test would be abolished. It sounded very good, but his proposal would have wrecked the finances of Australia if a Labour government had been elected to office, because the honouring of that promise alone would have cost the taxpayers an additional £120,000,000 a year. As collections of income tax this year will total approximately £500,000,000, it is obvious that if the Australian Labour party’s proposition had been put into effect, it would have been necessary to increase taxes, in the first year, by 20 per cent. Taxpayers with large incomes would contribute more in taxes when they reached the age of 65 years than they would be receiving. The proposal of the Leader of the Opposition was a vote-catching proposition designed to help the Labour party to attain the treasury bench, but it failed because the electors of Australia are wary people, and they knew that the promises of the right honorable gentleman, wide as they were, could not be fulfilled. So much for Senator Benn.
– Will the honorable senator say something about the Japanese divers ?
– I could say a lot about them if I so desired, but I do not propose to do so to-day. In passing, I say that I should like to take some of the honorable senators who are interjecting to the pearling areas of Western Australia, so that they could have a dive themselves. If they were on a lugger owned by me, I assure you, Mr. President, that it would be doubtful if they ever reached the surface again. However, I do not believe in making a speech on what other people have said. I have dismissed the unworthy speech of Senator Benn, and have nothing more to say about it.
I rose to speak particularly on the development of uranium resources in Australia. We must go back to the years of the war to get a clear picture of the need for a vital policy in regard to atomic energy in this country. Honorable senators will recall the dropping of the first atomic bombs in Japan in 1945. That was the first glimpse that we had of this new age, known as the Atomic Age. By those two explosions, which finished the war with Japan much earlier than otherwise would have been the case, the world was shown what a tremendous power atomic energy was. From that day on, the nations of the world have striven to their utmost to develop atomic energy. Britain and the United .States of America, which are probably the leading scientific nations of the world, have spent, and are spending to-day, large sums of money on research into atomic energy and all that goes with it. The Australian Government, seeing the need for uranium, offered a reward of £25,000 to the first person who discovered uranium in Australia. A few years ago, Mr. White discovered uranium at Rum Jungle, in the Northern Territory. Once the ore body was known to contain something exceeding 500,000 tons, the Australian Government approached the Combined Development Agency, an organization set up by the United States and Great Britain to provide finances for uranium production, with a view to obtaining sufficient funds to establish a plant at Rum Jungle. At a cost of about £3,000,000 that plant was erected, and to-day uranium oxide, which is a product of uranium, is being shipped overseas.
We have gone further than that. The South Australian Government has a plant operating at Radium Hill. That plant will be in full production- shortly when a coke plant is established in a more southern part of South Australia. Thus, we have established in this country two big uranium plants. In addition, two other areas are now being explored. One of them is at Mount Isa, in which Australian Oil Exploration has encouraged Rio Tinto to explore and examine the area. If the examination shows that there is a sufficiently large ore body present, the companies mentioned are prepared to expend between £3,000,000 and £5,000,000 in establishing plants for the treatment of uranium. That would make three plants in this country. The other area is on the Alligator River, in the Northern Territory where we have a field under examination. It may take a year or two to establish where the main ore body exists. An American company, known as the Atlas Company, is to inspect the area. If the examination proves satisfactory, that company, in conjunction with Northern Australian Uranium Company, will develop the lode.
It will be seen that Australia is going ahead with the production of uranium. The Government has made special taxation concessions for uranium development, and has granted liberal depreciation allowances. Moreover, no income tax will be payable on income derived from uranium. The Government has also, through its Bureau of Mineral Resources, had a plane operating throughout Australia, looking for areas that react to scintillometers. A complete survey of the Northern Territory has been made, and I understand that maps are now available. The Bureau of Mineral Resources has also been working in the north-west of Western Australia, and maps of that area too will be available shortly. These surveys cost a lot of money. The use of three aeroplanes and the provision of a mapping staff means fairly heavy expenditure, but by these actions the Government has shown that it is out to do its utmost to develop Australia’s uranium resources. Prospectors are given every assistance to find this valuable material. As soon as maps become available, prospectors go out to likely spots with geiger counters, and they report to the Government on what they have found. That is a big job, and it takes time, but it shows how great is the importance placed on the further development of atomic energy by the Australian Government.
In the past, the development of uranium has been proceeded with mainly in order to supply atomic energy for war purposes; but I understand that atomic power could easily take the place of coal and oil in our bigger industrial centres within a few years. I believe that atomic energy, when harnessed for the development of power plants throughout Australia, would enable us to compete with power from other sources, particularly in areas far removed from coal-fields.
Doctor L. R. Hafstad, who recently visited Australia, mentioned in an interesting talk that atomic power plants or nuclear power plants as he called them, could be built here at a cost of about £120 per kilowatt of generating capacity. This cost compares favorably with the cost of power stations in which the machinery is steam-driven and coal is burned. Coal-burning power plants cost at present about £100 per kilowatt of generating capacity, but the advantage of atomic power plants is that instead of using thousands of tons of coal each year, they use only small quantities of uranium oxide. This difference operates greatly to the favour of the atomic power plant because one pound of uranium oxide equals 1,000 tons of coal in the production of power. The cost of transporting coal, sometimes for many miles before it can be used at a power plant, is a considerable factor in weighing the advantages of an atomic power plant. It is clear that in the near future uranium will take the place of coal and oil fuels. Power plants using uranium would be specially suitable for places like Kalgoorlie and Broken Hill, which are a long way from good coal deposits. The Government should entourage the development of such power plants in Australia. Many people will say that Australia does not have the money for these things, but I have shown that the cost of building an atomic power plant would be much the same as the cast of building a power station that uses coal. In addition, there are English and American contractors who would build nuclear power plants in Australia. [ understand that they would be willing to finance the construction of the power stations under terms that would provide for repayment over a period of years and that they would be willing to find the labour and the materials. I foresee that soon uranium will be used as a source of power throughout the length and breadth of Australia. Coal is carried about 125 miles to Perth to be used in plants that generate electrical power for the needs of that capital city. This is a long haul, and thousands of tons have to be carried every week. The same power could be provided by only a pound or two of uranium each week. The cost of operating a nuclear power plant, once it is established, is cheaper than the cost of operating a coal-burning power plant.
The usual procedure in the development of uranium resources, not only in Australia, hut also in Canada and the United States of America is for the government of the country concerned to buy the ore, have it treated, and then to sell the uranium oxide to other countries. The principal consumers of uranium oxide have been England and the United States. I noticed that_ the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) in a speech in the other chamber last week mentioned that the Australian Government is moving away from trading in uranium on a government-to-government basis only, and that it is quite willing to allow a company that wishes to establish a uranium mine in any part of Australia to negotiate direct sales of uranium oxide to other countries outside the Russian bloc. Indeed, he said that the Government would encourage this activity, provided of course it was able to protect its own interests in that it would need a certain quantity of uranium for its own purposes. I believe that this policy will promote the development of uranium-mining in Australia.
At this stage I want to point to the need for a realization in Australia of the force of atomic power, especially in war. If a war should come it would most likely come suddenly and the major cities of the world’ would be completely destroyed within as short a period as 24 hours. Probably an enemy nation would deploy its air forces to the larger capital cities of the free world and smash them almost immediately. Indeed, such a happening would’ be the first knowledge that we in Australia or in any other part of the free world would have of another war. As these are likely to be the conditions, the Australian Government should take action to look after civilians. There has to be some form of civilian defence. It need not be costly. A government cannot do much in these times about shifting large bodies of people out of the capital cities or from this place to that place, but I believe that the Australian Government, in conjunction with the States, should take action to ensure that food reserves are placed outside the cities. Also, any further development of densely populated areas should be examined in the light of what might happen to a city in an atomic war. For example, if a State government wishes to expand its hospitals it should, instead of placing a new wing on an existing hospital, build a new establishment some distance away. A new hospital could easily be built 10 miles outside a city on the lee-side of a hill in a position in which its patients would not suffer through an attack on the nearby metropolis. The Government should also provide, in safe storage places, adequate quantities of medicines for the treatment of shock. This activity could easily be undertaken by health authorities. Many other things of importance to civilian defence could be simply done, and should be done.
– Much has not been done.
– I do not want any interjections from the honorable senator.
– The honorable senator will get them whether he wants them or not.
– That is the trouble with Senator Ashley. I agree with him for once that the State governments, which are mostly Labour, have done nothing regarding civilian defence. I believe that the ‘Australian Government should take some action and see that the States play a part in civilian defence because, as I said before, the only warning that we will have of an atomic war will be when enemy aircraft release on our cities the bombs that will destroy them.
– And we shall not know much about that.
– That is so. We have to take precautions for the sake of those who will be left. I hope that this Senate will take considerably more interest than it has in the development of uranium resources within Australia.
Senator CAMERON (Victoria) [3.14J. - During this debate reference has been made to the savings of workers. Senator Laught said that these were a sign of prosperity, but I do not agree with that. In fact, I consider that the exact opposite is the case so far as the workers are concerned. As I have explained frequently in this chamber, all savings amount to unliquidated costs. Those costs are recapitalized in the form of loans to municipalities, and to bodies like the State Electricity Commission in Victoria. If, for example, that commission borrows the workers’ savings, it pays perhaps 4$ per cent, for the privilege of using them. The interest at the rate of 4$ per cent, is recovered by the commission through the prices that it charges the workers. Therefore, the workers who have deposited money in the savings banks practically pay their own. interest and the banks get a rake-off amounting to about 2£ per cent. All interest charges enter into the prices of commodities, and are mainly paid by the workers. Therefore, the workers gain nothing by the recapitalization of their savings.
Now, perhaps, honorable senators will consider a condition of inflation. Workers who have money in savings banks find that the purchasing power of their money is correspondingly reduced as prices increase. The technique is very ingenious and insidious, and it is not understood by the average worker. However, the fact is that the worker gains nothing by putting his savings into the bank beyond being able to draw out depreciated money after he has paid the interest charged by the bank. Honorable senators will therefore perceive that the whole of our financial system does not favour prosperity for the worker; rather, it favours increased profits for the borrowers.
I agree with the contention of Senator Laught that the Constitution should be reviewed with the object of amending it. However, the most necessary amendment at - present is an amendment to provide that our economic and financial system shall be altered in order to assist the real producers of wealth - the workers. I suggest that both the Constitution and our economic system should be carefully studied with that end in view. At present, it may be said that our economic basis is the rule of maximum production for the owners of capital and minimum consumption for the non-owners of capital - the workers. As production diminishes, the consumption of the workers is proportionately reduced. An amendment of the Constitution along the lines that I have indicated would probably be of much more real benefit to the workers than the amendment suggested by Senator Laught would be.
Senator Scott referred to the defence of Australia from a military viewpoint, but I am referring to the defence of the workers from an economic viewpoint. My suggestion is completely different from the suggestion made by Senator Scott, but it is more urgently necessary. As I have said, our present economy is based on the principle of maximum production tor the owners of capital and minimum consumption for the workers. That principle is the fundamental cause of all industrial unrest and strikes, and we can never hope to abolish industrial troubles and disputes while the workers receive only the minimum price of subsistence from the wealth that they produce.
The owners of capital are constantly adding to their capital, and these accretions are not taxed. Honorable senators may see the truth of that statement in the beautiful buildings erected as bank offices and residences, and the palatial homes and offices used by the owners of capital. Those buildings are the result of the application of the principle of the maximum production for the owners of capital and the minimum consumption for the producers. A government is in the same category as are the owners of capital. The .present Government is now deliberately increasing all overhead charges to the maximum that is possible, so that when the budget is presented to the Parliament it will be able to tell us that government costs are far in excess of what they actually are.
There is always waste by the owners of capital, and by governments. In my view all such waste is absolutely unnecessary. Nevertheless, waste seems to he regarded as the safety valve of the Australian economy as well as of that of many overseas countries. This waste is the cause of all poverty both in Australia and overseas, and I have yet to learn of any proposal put forward by an antiLabour government to change that state of affairs. Great Britain’s economy is at present disrupted because of industrial unrest, but the fundamental cause of that trouble is the principle that I have already enunciated. However, I suggest that no move will be made in Great Britain to alter that principle.
Another effect of our incorrect approach to economic matters, is that we are accumulating surpluses of wheat, dried milk, dried fruit and other commodities which cannot be disposed of in this country, and which cannot be sold overseas because overseas countries also have their own surpluses. The Minister for Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) has already pointed out that our exports are declining. In my view they must continue to decline, just as some of the commodities produced in Australia must continue to decline in number because the purchasing power of workers, age pensioners, those receiving superannuation and others on small fixed incomes, is continually declining in the face of continually increasing prices. In spite of all this, the Government has taken no stand about our economic affairs, and it does not propose to do anything to provide the necessary relief to those groups of people which I have mentioned. The Government’s policy is to allow that state of affairs to continue until something very drastic occurs, such as a widespread strike or a depression. Then the Government will be at its wits’ end to find excuses for not having acted in a more constructive and statesmanlike fashion.
Ultimately, the state of the Australian economy could be the cause of war, because wars to-day result from attempts to capture world trade and increase profits, which can be done only by controlling what are known as the backward countries. Wars are fought in order to provide markets for accumulated surpluses. So that if the Australian Constitution is to be amended at any time, consideration should be given to the economic consequences of the principle upon which the Australian economy is now based. So far as I have been able to learn, not 09 member of the Government has attempted to deal with that matter. Our export trade is declining, and our trade within the boundaries of the homeland is declining to the extent that the purchasing power of workers, and of age pensioners and people in respect of small fixed incomes, is declining.
The remarks that I have made represent not only my opinion, but also the opinion of one of Australia’s leading financiers. I refer to Mr. Staniforth Ricketson, the chairman of directors of d. B. Were & Son, Melbourne. Mr. Ricketson, as chairman of directors of Capel Court Investment Company (Australia) Limited, delivered an address at the eighteenth annual meeting of that company on the 28th March,. 1955. In the course of his remarks, he referred to economic conditions in Australia, and particularly to inflation. On page 9 of the report of that meeting, under the heading “ Inflation Again Rising “, Mr. Ricketson is reported as having said -
It may well be asked why adverse factors and conditions, which have long since been signalled in official statistics, have not been more generally recognized before the present situation developed. The answer is that their effects and implications have been disguised through the presence of continually increasing inflationary pressures.
On the following page of the report the chairman is quoted as having said -
It may be argued that the continued disclosure of higher profits and dividends by a wide range of Australian companies has been the best possible evidence of genuine prosperity. On the other hand, it may be argued with equal, or even greater cogency, that this apparent prosperity is illusory, and that it has been due very largely to fortuitous world circumstances, to rising inflation, stimulated by wage increases, substantial tax cuts, large public loan expenditures, and, in recent months, u considerable currency depreciation resulting from an expansion of the public issue of treasury-bills. t join issue with Mr. Ricketson in his statement regarding wage increases. I say that wages have not been increased, and that, as a matter of fact, real wages have been reduced. At all events, that i3 the position that Mr. Ricketson sees developing, and I agree with him up to a point. Then, after dealing with the position generally, he goes on to make the following remarks, which appear on page 14 of the report: -
There appears to be general agreement amongst economic commentators that no early business recession is likely in the United States of America.
Employment is increasing in America at the moment. He goes on to say -
Nevertheless, both in official and in financial circles a feeling of uneasiness has developed, and both in the United Kingdom and in America one notes the increasing frequency of references to the 1920 Wall Street crash and the world-wide economic depression heralded by it.
Then he quotes from Sir “Winston Churchill’s war memoirs, and I might say that what Sir Winston Churchill mentions as a possibility is very likely to happen in the near future. The only thing that would prevent a depression in the immediate future is another war. If we have peace, and our economy continues to operate as it is to-day, a depression is inevitable. Mr. Ricketson quotes Sir Winston Churchill as follows: -
The year 1929 reached almost to the end of its third quarter under the promise and1 appearance of increasing prosperity, particularly in the United States. Extraordinary optimism sustained an. orgy of speculation. Books were written to prove that economiccrisis was a phase which expanding business organization and science had at last mastered. “ We are apparently finished an* done with economic cycles as we have know» them “, said the president of the New York. Stock Exchange in September. But in October a sudden and violent tempest swept over Wall Street. The intervention of the most powerful agencies failed to stem the tide of panic sales. A group of leading banks constituted a milliard dollar pool to maintain and stabilize the market. All was vain.
Everything points to a similar happening in the very near future, resulting from an economy based on maximum production for the owners of capital and minimum consumption for the workers. That policy will automatically and progressively lead to the state of affairs that existed before the depression of 1929. I have warned the members of this Senate of what is likely to happen. I would prefer that it did not happen, because I have been through these crises more than once. However, I cannot see how it may be avoided unless our internal economy is re-organized in the way in which I have indicated. That fact is being recognized in this country, and it will also require to be recognized in other countries of the British Commonwealth.
I wish to refer now to a matter which concerns the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, and to draw the attention of honorable senators to the following comments which appeared in the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial of the 28th May last, under the heading “ Repat. Hospital move by R.S.L.” :-
The R.S.L. wants the Repatriation Minister, Senator Cooper, to visit the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital. It wants him to see for himself the seriousness of the nursing shortage there. The E.S.L. State Secretary, Mr. C. Joyce, said last night that the league would ask the Minister to make the visit. Mr. Joyce said that 20 war widows who wished to be admitted to the hospital had been told they had no chance. The staff shortage arose, he said, because of the distance of the hospital from the city. “ Previously there was free transport from the city to the hospital for the staff, but this was discontinued last October “, said Mr. Joyce.
Mufti, which is the official journal of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, referred, in the May issue, to what is being done for ex-servicemen in America, and I commend its comments to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), and other ex-servicemen on the opposite side of the chamber, who would have us believe that they wish to do everything possible for ex-servicemen, particularly incapacitated ex-servicemen. Mufti points out what is being done in America, and I think that similar things could be done in this country. At page 25, under the heading “The Yanks Lead the Way!”, the following passage appears: -
A great deal of point has been given to the article in the March Mufti titled “Treatment for non-accepted cases “, with the news from America, where all war veterans are eligible for free medical care, that a “ Cut-off “ date for eligibility to qualify for free treatment lias finally been fixed. And the date is February 1st, 1955! This means that any war veteran who served with the U.S. armed forces from. 1017 (the date the United States entered the first World War) to February 1, 1955, is entitled to free treatment from the U.S. Veterans’ Administration, whether he is suffering from a war caused disability or not.
I emphasize those words “whether he is suffering from a war-caused disability or not “. The only qualification necessary, in order to be eligible for treatment, is that the applicant is an ex-serviceman. At Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, and at other repatriation establishments in Australia, ex-servicemen are being denied treatment on the ground that their disabilities were not war-caused. The article in Mufti continues -
And it is certain that in the event of a further war in which U.S. armed forces were engaged, a similar concession would be granted to such personnel. This is how it works. All veterans with service connected injuries and disabilities get first priority. All other veterans must be accepted for treatment and hospitalization, provided they need hospital <:are and can show that they cannot pay privately. They’ve been doing this in America since the First World War. Isn’t it about time Australia followed suit? lily answer is, “ Yes, it is about time “. I shall be pleased to know the answer of the ex-servicemen on the other side of the chamber.
Practically every day of the week I receive complaints by ex-servicemen that they are being denied treatment, for some reason or other. Usually those complaints are similar to the ones referred to by Mr. Joyce in the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial article which I cited. In common with other honorable senators, I write letters to the Minister, who replies and gives explanations, but nothing is done to improve the position. These men are heroes when they go away to fight for their country, but when they return, whether incapacitated or not, very often they are regarded as a nuisance and a burden on the Government. That is the way in which the Government regards its obligations to reward those who risk their lives to protect the country. That is not exaggerating the position. Support for that contention is provided by the evidence of members of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, a body which cannot be classed, by any process of reasoning, as one that is attempting deliberately to harass the Government or to press for concessions to which ex-servicemen are not entitled. That organization was brought into being for the purpose of protecting the interests of ex-servicemen. While some degree of service is being given to ex-servicemen, not everything is being done that could be done, particularly in relation to war widows, many of whom have been told that they have no chance of receiving the service to which they are entitled. ] do not know the views of honorable senators opposite regarding reciprocity and the need to reward the services rendered by ex-members of the forces, but they cannot deny that the position is as I have stated it.
Senator Laught, Senator Scott, and other honorable senators opposite, have stated that there is very little unemployment at the present time. The Employers Federation has organized, in Melbourne, associations of people over 40 years of age and particularly people over 50 years of age, and the federation has stated that there are thousands of people who cannot obtain employment, including ex-servicemen who are not eligible for repatriation benefits in the ordinary way.
I warn the Government, as Mr. Ricketson warned it, that it is futile to try to ignore this state of affairs. If that is done, the Government will be primarily responsible should a general hold-up, similar to that which is threatened in Great Britain, or some other national calamity, result, because we in Australia have had sufficient experience of these matters to know what is likely to happen. There are experienced officers in the Repatriation Department, and other government departments, and they understand the signs, just as Mr. Ricketson does. I am interested to know to what extent the Government is prepared to go in order to improve the conditions to which I have referred. If precedent is any criterion, [ do not expect the Government to do any more in the future than it has done in the past.
– Just over two weeks ago, we in Australia witnessed a memorable event. Lieutenant-General R. M. Ramey, commander of the United States 5th Air Force, arrived at Newcastle, by air, from Tokio. The aircraft under his command took off from Tokio at 5.30 in the morning and landed at Newcastle at 5.40 p.m. the same day. They had a cruising speed of 420 miles an hour, their flying height was approximately 40,000 feet and they were re-fuelled in the air at Guam, Manus Island and Townsville. Perhaps their flight could have been followed by radar, but it would not have been possible to do so with the human eye. This flight is of great significance to the defence and safety of Australia, and, fortunately for ns, it was performed by our faithful friend and firm ally, the United States of America. But it must be realized that if America can carry out such a mission, so also could other powers which are not so friendly towards Australia. I have in mind a power that controls China and which is established in Indo-China and may even hold Hainan Island. Every honorable senator knows that these bases are much nearer to Australia than is Tokio.
The American Globemasters which participated in the recent flight are capable of carrying 200 fully equipped men, and they require a runway of 4,000 feet. The achievement demonstrates to Australia that this continent has been brought much closer to the centre of hostilities than ever before. I doubt whether many Australians fully realize the importance of this flight, from a defence point of view, but that fact should not prevent the defence authorities of this country from appreciating the threat to our safety, and also the need to devise means of protection. As Senator Scott pointed out, there is a need for close co-operation between the armed forces - the Navy, the Army and the Air Force - and our civil defence organizations. Honorable senators know as well as I do that although aerial bombing is accurate and has greatly improved, it is still difficult to strike with pinpoint accuracy. Artillery using the latest weapons and most modern projectiles work to a reasonably large “ 100 per cent, zone”. That means that if four rounds of ammunition were fired at a given angle and a given temperature on a given spot, the four shells would land not on the exact spot but within a definitely known area which is called the “ 100 per cent, zone “. In .the earlier days when an 18-lb. shell was fired at a target 5,000 yards distant, the 100 per cent, zone extended over a diameter of 200 yards. That meant that one shell might land 100 yards beyond the target, another 100 yards short of it, and the other two within that area. “With modern accurate artillery the 100’ per cent, zone varies in direct proportion to the range. In aerial bombing, allowance is made for a degree of error.
These facts teach the lesson that centres of production of defence materials should be dispersed as far as practicable. It is not wise to concentrate munitions or defence works. Great Britain has given a splendid lead in this matter. As an ordinary citizen, I view with considerable concern the establishment of munitions factories in densely populated centres. Such action can be justified only in exceptional circumstances. We have welcomed with great pleasure the establishment of large oil refineries in Australia ; but one is tempted to ask whether the siting of those refineries was based on a strategic pattern. I know that the private investor has to be considered because he is supplying the finance - the sinews - with which to establish them; but in undertakings of this kind, cooperation and planning between the investors and the Government would be greatly appreciated by the citizens of Australia. Oil refineries may be in a different category to munitions works, particularly the proposed project at St. Mary’s, which is estimated to cost £23,000,000. An establishment costing such a large sum must be considered to be a permanent fixture. By no stretch of the imagination could it be regarded as temporary.
Another question that has recently arisen in the minds of many people is why atomic research must be carried out close ito Sydney. Again there must be some exceptionally strong circumstances to justify such a proceeding. The ordinary citizen has several grounds for his query. The first is that Sydney is already a bloated city industrially. Plants are being concentrated in centres of dense population. The Government advocates decentralization of industry and will do its best to avoid concentration, but if an accident were to occur at St. Mary’s a large percentage of Australia’s work force would be wiped out.
– Has it been put in the right place?
– In the United States of America in some of the big works, cats are not allowed to enter because of the static electricity in their fur, but’ I am not suggesting that Senator Ashley comes into that category. In my opinion, the Sydney Harbour bridge is vulnerable to atomic attack. Several submarines entered Sydney Harbour during World War II., and the bridge could be destroyed by an atomic missile discharged from a submarine. The general concen-aus of opinion is that if we had the time, we should disperse our plants to places where there is power and water.
– Put them in the mountains.
– Yes. I believe we have an ideal set-up in the Snowy
Mountains. Many of our factories could be established there, because an abundance of water and electricity will be available, and they are vital to defence projects. That reference leads me to ask whether the power that is being generated in the Snowy Mountains will go to Sydney or be used to develop the adjacent parts of New South Wales and Victoria. I should think that the great Snowy Mountains scheme was designed to build up Australian industries outside the capital cities, and I believe that the Government will make sure that it is used for the development of Victoria and New South Wales as a whole, and not in part.
I was interested in the statements that were made by Senator Scott about atomic energy. Recently, I asked in this chamber whether the problem of atomic power had been considered in relation to the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, and I believe that the powers-that-be have that matter well in hand. When we consider shifting power units from populated areas, certain problems have to be faced. In the Snowy Mountains area, an excellent housing project is already in existence, and houses are becoming available for occupation. The relationship between housing and defence must always be borne in mind. In the Snowy Mountains area, there are some of the most skilled men in the use of earth-moving equipment in the world. Some of the best experts in tunnelling are assembled there, also. Why should we not use them on housing projects? It takes time for these things to be done, but I know that the Government will consider the matter.
Atomic power will have a more revolutionary effect upon civilization than did the invention of the internal combustion engine. This new source of power will probably have the most beneficial effects in South Australia, the Northern Territory and the north-west of Western Australia, because supplies of readily accessible coal and water are limited in those areas. I make one plea to the Government in connexion with atomic power. The study of the production of atomic power is new, and requires the highest academic training. That training should be vested in the Australian universities. and the responsibility for that training should not rest with the Minister for Supply in this Government or any other government. Much better results would be achieved if the Government would make available to the Australian universities the means of providing training in this subject, and oblige them to apply the means of education in the field of atomic science. The Australian universities have been the fount of all our knowlodge in every other faculty. I pay a tribute to the universities for the part that they play in the Australian community.
Great Britain has embarked upon a tenyears’ plan to develop atomic energy for industrial power. I hope that we shall obtain our greatest benefits from the use of atomic energy in that direction. Fortunately, we have the benefit of being able to collaborate with Great Britain in this matter. We have access to the results achieved in Great Britain over the past fourteen years in the application of atomic energy to industry. Statistics that have been issued by the United Kingdom Government reveal that the cost of the initial developments in that direction is staggering. We in Australia could not have attempted such research, but the knowledge that has been gained over the past fourteen years is readily available to us. In that we are fortunate because, as I have said, we have not the financial backing to conduct that research ourselves. In addition, we have not the trained and skilled man-power to take advantage of that knowledge. The co-operation that exists between Australia, Britain and the United States of America, in regard to the development of atomic power is the best thing that could happen. Great Britain has embarked on the establishment of twelve nuclear stations, estimated to cost about £80,000,000. It is expected that they will be completed within the next ten years. As with its hydroelectric schemes, Great Britain is dispersing these stations throughout the country. This dispersion of power is influencing Britain’s coal-mining indus- try. Although 234,000,000 tons of black coal was mined in Britain last year - and that is a staggering figure - the country could not supply all the orders it had received for coal. It is well toremember, too, that Britain’s coal resources are not inexhaustible. We, in Australia, are fortunate in that we possess in New South Wales some of the richest coal deposits in the world.
– Queensland has some good coal deposits.
– Queensland is fortunate in having valuable natural resources of power, including a goodwater supply. South Australia, on the other hand, is not so blessed. That isone reason why that State went ahead to develop its uranium deposits, and as & result it is likely that South Australia will benefit more from atomic power than, will New South Wales, Queensland or Victoria. I sometimes wonder whether the people of those three States appreciate as they should the natural resources withwhich they have been blessed.
Under the present Commonwealth Government’s wise policy of providing mechanical equipment for use in coal mines, Australia’s production of coal hasbeen far greater than it was when Senator Ashley was a Minister. It is to the credit of the present Government that there is now sufficient coal available tomeet all needs. Even South Australia has reserves of coal, and has no longer to ration fuel, light and power. I am sure that Senator Ashley must rejoice to know that that is so. Being of »- generous disposition, the honorable senator could not have been happy when, asMinister, because of lack of sufficient coal, he had to face shortages of power, and his fellow workers had to walk to work.
– Oil fuel is being used to such a degree that coal is not so necessary as formerly.
– I have heard Senator O’Flaherty criticize the Government for obtaining dollars from theUnited States of America, and I wonder why he should now advocate sending out dollars to purchase oil fuel when we havesuch wonderful deposits of good coal’ available in our own country. T am. delighted to know that Senator O’Flaherty is the owner of a motor car.. We are accustomed to hearing that theOpposition, as representatives of the poorer section of the community, could not afford motor cars. However, I am glad that the honorable senator has one.
– An Australian one, too.
– I said that the honorable senator had one; I did not suggest that he had two.
The most spectacular aspect of the production of atomic power is the effect that the search for uranium is having on our northern areas. Much of the raw material that is being used by Great Britain and the United States of America is mined in the sparsely settled districts of northern Australia. Senator Scott said that Australia was exporting uranium oxide. It is good to know that we are getting a good price for it. According to experts in this field, there is no likelihood of a fall in the price, or a slackening of the demand for uranium oxide. The production of uranium oxide is giving a great impetus to settlement in the Australian outback, particularly in the Northern Territory.
Those who settle in such places have a right to expect the provision of such amenities as postal and telegraphic facilities. In this connexion, I emphasize that one of the outstanding needs of Darwin is a new post office. In to-day’1? language it is a “ must “. The employees of the department who work in the post office at Darwin are doing a wonderful job under not very happy conditions. From time to time Ministers visit certain spheres of influence. I suggest that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) should pay a visit to Darwin. Should he do so, and see for himself the conditions under which members of his department work, I am sure that Darwin would soon have a new post office. The Minister would do better to act in that direction than feverishly to pursue television for Sydney and Melbourne. Darwin is the northern door to Australia, but passengers who arrive there by air are not given a good advertisement of Australia when they visit the post office. I hope that the Estimates for the next financial year will include provision for a new post office at Darwin.
Another great need associated with the policy of dispersing our resources is the unification of our railway gauges. The conversion of the line from Broken Hill to Port Pirie is imperative. There should also be another railway link between Adelaide and Sydney by bridging the gap between Ouyen and Patchewollock. The distance between those two present railway termini is about 160 miles, and the intervening country would present no difficulties to our railway engineers. There would be only one major bridge to construct. The railway would serve good country, besides reducing the time spent in travel between Adelaide and Sydney. Even with one break of gauge, a passenger could leave Sydney at 7 p.m. and reach Adelaide before 7 a.m. the next day. The time would be even less if there were only one gauge for the whole distance.
– Where does the honorable senator suggest the South Australian terminus of the standard-gauge railway should be?
– The railway 1 have suggested would link with the line now running through Pinnaroo. The construction of this 160 miles of new railway would also link six spur lines in Victoria which now appear to end almost in mid-air. It would be of great value to the Murrumbidgee Valley and Murray Valley districts. Settlers in those areas, which contain some of the best fruitproducing land in Australia, are finding difficulty in disposing of their products. As I have said, the construction of this line would provide an alternative route between Adelaide and Sydney, and besides the other advantages I have mentioned, it could be constructed under ideal conditions.
I should like to refer to a number of other subjects, but I realize that my time has almost expired. I should like particularly to have replied to Senator Cameron’s remarks about soldiers. From time to time I am asked where man-power for various projects that are advocated from time to time will be found. I answer that question by asking another. The question that I pose is, do we believe in the protection of this country or do we believe in the 40-hpur week ?
The moment anything is sought to be done in Australia the cry is, *’ There is not enough man-power “. “When the Commonwealth Arbitration Court gave Australian industry a 40-hour week, the nation was told that if that shorter working week did not prove adequate to meet the demands upon industry it could be reviewed. I suggest that in any future application to the court, one of the things that the court should take into consideration is whether the 40-hour week ha3 been adequate to fulfil Australia’s defence needs. I consider that it has not been adequate and unfortunately there are not many years left in which the position can be rectified. Lads of eighteen years of age go into training camps for 90 days and follow this period of service with other training periods. I ask the people of Australia whether they are prepared to leave the whole burden of the defence of this country to those boys of eighteen, or are they prepared to give an extra four hours a week of work so that this country can be defended adequately? Four hours a week is only 200 hours a year. Are the people of Australia prepared to give the nation that time for the next three or four years? I am willing to do so, and I am confident that every decent Australian would be equally willing. I should rather give that time to ensure the maintenance of my Australian citizenship than live in subjection under a foreign ruler. It has been said in this chamber that in our democracy some of the oppressed squeal. I doubt whether there are oppressed in our democracy, hut if one assumes that there are, there is no doubt that they are permitted to squeal. This is the difference between democracy and the system that some honorable members of this chamber would wish to have under communistic rule. Under communistic rule the oppressed are not allowed to squeal. To me the choice is whether we prefer 40-hours a week or invasion. [ am against invasion.
– I was particularly interested in .Senator Mattner’s simplification of the problems facing this country. He reduces those to two factors and says that the choice is between invasion and the 40-hour week. I take it if there is a 44-hour week the threat of invasion disappears. The debate on a
Supply bill gives honorable senators the opportunity to talk about matters that do not present themselves for discussion during the debate on other legislation. This afternoon I wish to discuss two important matters. First, I wish to talk about the iron and steel industry in Australia, and, secondly, to say something about shipping freights. I have to plug away with’ my hostility to the increases in freights that are contemplated by the overseas shipping lines and later I shall give the Senate some details in this respect. First, I should like to survey the problem .that Australia faces in regard to its production of iron and steel, and this is where I disagree completely with Senator Mattner. I consider that it is important in the interests of the firm defence of this continent to expand rapidly the Australian iron and steel industry. The availability of cheap steel is fundamental in Australia’s economic growth. The demand for steel in this country is growing rapidly, but the available facilities for producing steel are unable to keep up with the demand. By 1960 that demand should he for about 5,000,000 tons of steel per annum, but under the present developmental plans of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, there is no possibility of that organization even going near to meeting that demand. Australia over many years has become a large importer of steel and steel products.
Steel capacity is properly regarded as indicative of >a country’s industrial strength and of its defence potential. An interesting survey that has been made shows that the per capita consumption of steel in Canada and the United States of America has increased in the last few years at a much greater rate than it has increased in Australia. In 1939-40, Australian steel capacity per head was roughly the same as that of Canada, but since then the per capita increase in Australia has been only 20 per cent., whereas in Canada it has been 100 per cent. The situation here is caused primarily by the fact that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited cannot supply demands. The present capacity of the company is about 2,750,000 tons a year. When I discuss the company in this fashion I am not being critical, because 1 believe that it is doing almost all that it is humanly possible for one company to do. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has been criticized by the financial critics because it has not distributed large dividends to its shareholders down the years. I wish to make Lt quite clear that I think that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has .approached its task in a national fashion and has put as much money back into the business as it could get from the money market. I do not know whether it could get more money, but it has gone to the market for millions of pounds that it has put into expanding its steel production. Nevertheless, that production is not nearly enough, and this is my point: The fundamental weakness is that Australia has only one steel producer. To have only one steel producer in a nation with a population of 9,000,000 that is rapidly growing is a sign of great weakness. The Government should encourage strongly an approach to the United Kingdom and to the United States of America to interest big steel producers in those countries in coming to Australia. One problem that overseas producers find when considering operations in Australia is a serious one indeed. It is that, down the years, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, as far as I can gather, has tied up almost all the best iron ore in Australia. I qualify my assertion - I say, almost all.
– The ore in Queensland is not tied up.
– “When I hear that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has not tied up the ore resources in Queensland I begin to doubt the quality of the ore in that State. I say that seriously because everywhere else in Australia where the iron ore is good, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has it tied up for many years to come.
– Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has not tied up the ore in Western Australia.
– They have tied it up in Western Australia for the next 50 years and for almost nothing.
– On what grounds does’ the senator rely when he says that?
– I thought the knowledge that the best iron ore deposits in the west are tied up was fairly general.
– They are not;, they are not even mined yet.
– Of course they are not even mined. That is the problem. They are not mined and they will not be mined.
– They are not owned by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited.
– They did not hand them over. All that the company has is a right to take iron ore out. The company works the deposits at its own leisure, and whenever it feels like doing so.
– The deposits are held by the Western Australian Government.
– That is correct, the deposits are in Crown land. However, the honorable senator will find out what will happen if some other steel company moves to Western Australia and tries to establish its industry there. It is only within the last five years that the sell-out that I have referred to has occurred. In the west, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has set up, as the bargain for its access to the iron ore deposits, a small steel mill close to the Kwinana oil refinery. That mill is producing very little, and is not employing many workers. I suggest that the Western Australian Government will continue to get that sort of treatment until it insists that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited should take more positive action.
– That state of affairs does not exist in South Australia.
– The position in South Australia is far worse than the position in Western Australia. In South Australia that company is ripping the ore out of Iron Monarch at a great rate. It is not using the taconite out of the Middleback Ranges, which is lowgrade ore, for mixtures, and it is using the better deposits. Of the 54,500,000 tons of ore taken out in South Australia, since the inception of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited agreement, more than 52,000,000 tons has come f rom Iron Monarch.
– Nevertheless, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited still produces very cheap steel.
– That is so; but that is because that company is able to obtain access to iron ore at much less cost than is any other steel producer in the world. Consequently, the price of Australian steel in the earlier stages compares very favorably with that of similar steel in other parts of the world. That, as I have said, is because the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited pays only a fraction of the price that is paid for access to ore by overseas countries - especially America and England. However, after that company has processed the iron and steel into its finer states, the steel at that stage becomes more expensive and is, in some cases, more expensive than similar steel produced in other countries. I appreciate the opportunity to speak about this matter, because I believe that all of us will ultimately agree that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has access to almost all of our best iron ore deposits.
– The South Australian Government has recently proved large quantities of iron ore that are completely outside the leases granted to that company.
– I suggest that that is very doubtful. There are no major deposits of iron ore in South Australia of any quality that are not being worked by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. I have access to the latest South Australian information, as no doubt Senator Hannaford has, and, therefore, I feel sure of my statements. I believe that one company alone should not be entrusted with the production of all the iron and steel that we require. Will honorable senators agree to that proposition? In this country of 9,000,000 people, a population that is rapidly growing, we need more steel companies to operate. We should not have one monopoly trying to grow as rapidly as the population and its needs. Indeed, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has shown that it cannot grow as rapidly as it should.
– The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has already stated that our steel production would overtake our needs this year. Does not the honorable senator believe that?
– No, I am afraid that I do not.
– The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has also made that statement.
– I shall be greatly astonished if that company is not lagging about 1,000,000 tons behind out requirements at the end of this year, because it is unable to get the money and labour that it needs to develop its plant. During the period of office of the last Labour Government, which is a considerable time ago, the company was building a cold strip mill in Port Kembla. That project was fairly well advanced at that time, but even to-day the mill has not started to make tinplate. When the mill does come into production - perhaps in a year or two - the tinplate then produced will possibly not be sufficient for our needs because our population and industries will have grown so greatly in the intervening period. Moreover, our modern civilization depends mainly upon iron and steel and their derivatives, and our need in that regard is being expanded year by year. It is of no use to try to plan for Australia’s requirements on the experiences of the past for, as I have already said, our requirements are increasing year by year. That is one of the reasons why the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited will not overtake our steel needs in 1955. Indeed, it is 1955 now, and the company has not caught up. The company produces 2,276,000 tons a year, and that is not nearly enough. Australia uses more than 3,000,000 tons a year. The expansion of the use of steel in Australia is not greater than the expansion in other countries, because all over the world there is a great movement towards the use of more and more steel. If the Broken Bull Proprietary Company Limited had not tied up the best of the iron ore deposits - I do not criticize the company but only the governments for allowing that to be done - other companies would also be able to produce steel for Australia.
– But there is a shortage throughout the world of trained iron workers.
– I cannot reply to that interjection, because I am afraid I was not listening to the honorable senator. I now stress that an approach should be made to other countries in order to try to have them establish more steelworks in Australia. Indeed, [ consider that it will be dangerous for as if we do not do that, and the sooner it is done the easier it will be. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is growing year by year, but still is not overtaking the back log of our steel requirements. I do not believe that the Minister for National Development did say at any time that that company would overtake the steel demand in 1955, but, if he did, he has been proved wrong. Legislation has been passed to reward the company for its enterprise and service to the public interest in South Australia, but it has become apparent that there has never been any company which has received so much in return for so little.
I hope that we shall receive some support from the Government in our suggestion that overseas steel producers should be encouraged to establish their industries in Australia. Steel production is a great and growing industry, and because of the modern developments in production and manufacture many of the products of modern steel industries are beyond the capacity of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has not sufficient trained men, because it has never carried on these modern processes. That makes it all the more important to have another company operating in Australia, so as to increase our production of steel. The most im- portant aspect of our defence preparations is steel production, but if Australia were involved in a war, the production of steel for civilian requirements would almost cease, because of the demands made on the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited for steel required for the purposes of war. It is common practice in other countries to have a reserve of productive capacity beyond civil requirements in case of war.
It has been pointed out to me by Queeusland senators that there are large deposits of iron ore at Cloncurry. At one time Mr. Theodore. who was Commonwealth Treasurer, closely considered the development of an iron and steel industry at Bowen, although I do not know whether he actually had plans drawn up. In Bowen to-day there i3 a coking mill which is used for supplying coke to Mount Isa. If the steel industry in this country can he dispersed, the advantages are obvious. The natural place to establish another steel mill is South Australia. From a tactical point of view it is the most suitable State for that purpose. It is in the most protected part of Australia.
– It is a long way from coal supplies.
– Yes, but the practice to-day is to take the iron ore to the coal, which is no different from bringing coal to the iron ore.
– It would be necessal’y to transport four times as much coal.
– No ; it is almost in the proportion of one for one. A million tons of iron can be produced with 1,500,000 tons of coal, and those two figures are more closely approaching one another all the time. Certain types of coal may not now be the best for use as coking coal, but with the application of new scientific developments that situation may be changed. 1 think South Australia is at least entitled to have a steel industry, because the iron ore is being rapidly taken away from the State, and if the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited continues to rip the iron ore out of Iron Monarch, in 25 years there will be none of that rich ore left there. The company will then be forced to resort to poorer deposits of ore. I think the time has arrived when Australia should have more than one steel producer. Whether a second company should be established or encouraged by a State or the Australian Government is perhaps a matter for debate, but I think the country is weakened by having only me company producing steel.
I shall not go into the details of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and its policy of continuing reasonable dividends aud increasing its capital. 1 admit that the company has done a very good job of development. I should imagine that in Port Kembla the company must have spent and is spending up to £60,000,000.
– Lysaghts spent £10,000,000 recently.
– The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is spending millions in the way some of my friends would spend 2s.
I shall not go into any further details regarding this company. I have merely thrown the subject in, as it were, for discussion by honorable senators, so that they may see the natural advantages of developing the steel industry. I shall leave that subject for a moment. It is an incomplete story, but I have said sufficient to justify my submission that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is facing a job which is too large for it, in supplying the iron and steel needs of this country, and that there should be competition in the industry. I say that if an overseas firm were given the opportunity to establish a plant anywhere as near to the iron ore supplies as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has built its plants, that overseas firm would come to this country as quickly as it could.
– Does the honorable senator not think that the State governments have the original obligation to start these developments?
– I think they have, and I cannot understand why a man with the initiative of the South Australian Premier has not done something along these lines.
– He will, in time.
– I hope he will. I want to turn my attention now to the question of increased shipping freights between Australia and England. This matter has been discussed in the Senate many times, but the result of those discussions is obvious. The more we talk about it, the greater is the increase made in freight rates by the shipping companies. I do not know whether we should be quiet aud hope that out of mercy the shipping companies will keep the freights low, or whether we should keep talking about it, in which case the shipping companies will keep increasing the rates, merely to show what they think of the Australian Government and itf members. I view this latest rise with alarm. I cannot see any justification for it. During the last seven years overseas freight rates have risen by 75 per cent. During that time there was admittedly a considerable improvement in the turn-round of ships. That improvement amounted to approximate!;; 50 per cent. In that time there was also a reduction in the stevedoring levies from lid. to 6d. a man-hour. The interstate shipping companies reduced their freight rates but the overseas companies did not. The overseas shipping lines reduced the freights on- car parts and components from the United Kingdom to Australia, and at the same time increased freight rates from Australia to the United Kingdom. It seems that the Australian exporters, who are composed mainly of primary producers, have had to subsidize British exporters, at the expense of the Australian primary products. I have reached the stage when I would believe almost anything that is written about British ship-owners. The pirates of other days, such as Drake, Frobisher and Hawkins, were just amateurs.
– Ladies and gentlemen !
– Not ladies, just gentlemen.
– Yes, Christians, compared with those ship-owners who dominate the shipping lines of England, from some obscure lane in London or from Threadneedle-street This country is being exploited by the owners of the big shipping companies in England. Freights from South Africa to eastern ports are lower. They are lower from the United Kingdom and Europe to Hong Kong and Singapore than from Australia to these ports. I have a letter from the Minister, Senator McLeay, in which he gave me figures which I have previously quoted to the Senate. He has shown that Australia has lost the tinned fruit market in Singapore, and that our share of that market has dropped from 42 per cent, to 7 per cent, of the market. He has shown also that Australia has lost almost all the market in dried milk in Hong Kong to Holland, because, although the product from Holland had to travel twice as far by sea, the amount expended on freight was little more than half as much as for the same product going from Australia to Hong Kong. Our exporters were unable to fight that competition. There was a rise of 10 per cent; in freights in 1950, 15 per cent, in 1951, and 7$ per cent, in 1953. The Government criticized the shipping companies for imposing those increases, saying that they were completely unjustified. It may be doing something in the matter. It may be getting all the facts together in order to discuss the matter again with the shipowners. But why it has not got all the facts already is beyond me.
The burden that is being borne by Australia because of these high freight rates has to be studied in order to be underwood. Shipping freights amount to 10.5 per cent, of the f.o.b. value of all merchandise carried. An amount between £10,000,000 and £15,000,000 could be involved in this recent general increase in freight rates to and from Australia. Our total export and import trade amounts to about £1,600,000,000 a year, and most of those goods are carried by British and European ships, known as conference line ships. These lines are the ones to-day whose owners are telling us that they are going to subject us to another increase of 10 per cent, in freight rates in the immediate future.
– They have not put up their freights on the service to South Africa, and one of the big shipping companies has given a £17,000,000 bonus to its shareholders, although it is proposed to increase freights on the Australian service by 10 per cent.
– All these pieces of evidence which have come before us show quite clearly that we are not being-treated in an ordinary, businesslike way. It is evident that the shipping companies are not working out their costs in relation to the haul from the United Kingdom to Australia and back, arriving at a reasonable profit on that basis. There is a most disturbing tendency in Great Britain at the present time. I think it was Senator Paltridge who referred to this matter in the Senate recently by way of a question addressed to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). Senator Paltridge wanted to know whether British price rings were operating in such a way as enabled them to co-ordinate their prices in respect of overseas tenders. According to the Minister for National Development, the British companies which were involved in the incident cited by him did not obtain any of the contracts. Nevertheless, that kind of thing is going on, not only internally in the United Kingdom itself, but also, according to a report which I read recently, externally. I do not propose to he specific on this matter, because I do not think it would be fair to identify the companies concerned, but it is obvious that the same kind of thing is going on in Great Britain, where four, five, or even six companies will submit tenders which are exactly the same. One of the greatest arguments in favour of socialism is being provided by large British companies, particularly those involved in the steel industry, linking themselves together and submitting identical tenders.
– They have done that in New Zealand, too.
– There is no doubt .that they will do it, if they can. Similarly, they will make the shipping business yield as much profit as they possibly can. While we keep on paying, without protest;, of course they will continue to increase their prices.
Senator Robertson referred to a report concerning the Peninsular and Oriental
Steam Navigation Company. I do not know how that company could possibly justify an increase of freight rates and the addition of another £10,000,000 or £15,000,000 to our adverse trade balance, and to their profit, and at the same time produce a balance-sheet which has been given a good deal of publicity during the last few days but which I think will bear further scrutiny. Only last week it was stated that the company had freed £14,000,000 sterling of secret reserves to finance another big issue of bonus shares. An issue of one free share for every share held was made in 1953, and the company now proposes to make another issue on the same lines this year. Nevertheless, this and other companies claim that their costs are so high that the present freight rates are not sufficient.
– Are the new issue shares of that company at par or free ?
– From the report, it seems that this will be a bonus issue of one free share for each share held. If a shareholder has one share to-day, he will have two shares to-morrow, and that is the way the issue was made in 1953, too. It is said that the shareholders have complained that dividends have been conservative, but the fact remains that these companies have been paying dividends at the rate of 12 per cent, up to this year, and this year they propose to pay 16 per cent. The chairman of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, Sir William Currie, warned shareholders that the bonus issue did not necessarily mean that there would be bigger dividends, but it is obvious that if the company continues to give a free share for each share held, it will not need to increase dividends very much. The chairman also stated that the presentation of future accounts would disclose what he described as more “hidden millions arising from a conservative valuation of assets”. He went on to say that if a new system were in force, fixed assets, which appear in the balancesheet at £107,000,000, would be shown as worth £137,000,000, and that reserves and undistributed profits would be £100,000,000, instead of £86,000,000.
I have no doubt that these companies are paying for new ships out of current profits. From my reading of this report concerning the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, it is obvious that the company is not using loan money, mortgage or bank credit with which to finance its tremendous programme of expansion. These shipping companies have almost completely re-equipped their lines since the war. I doubt whether there is a pre-war ship belonging to the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company on the Australian run at the moment. The company would have spent probably £80,000,000 in the purchase of new ships, but that is not referred to in its balance-sheets. That money would have come from profits earned and would have been ploughed back, as it were. Despite that, the company was able to make a bonus issue of one free share for each share held in 1953, and it proposes to make another such issue this year and to pay a dividend of 16 per cent. There is not a company in Australia which could do the same. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has, for years, been paying its shareholders 8 per cent., and when that company makes a new issue of shares it receives cash from its shareholders and the members of the public who wish to invest. As I say, there is not a company in Australia which could point to wealth, rate of profits and progress similar to that of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company.
– Is shipping the only interest of that company?
– No. It has stevedoring interests throughout the world. Goodness knows what it is making from that side-line of its business. It not this one of the famous companies interested in Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited? It is interested in lots of things, but I should say that the great mass of its profits is made from shipping. Primarily, it is a shipping company. Its other interests are off-shoots of its shipping interests, valuable as they may be.
I suggest that a tribunal should be set up to work out, on a proper basis, the costs of these companies. The matter should bc placed on a businesslike basis, so that this fear which we have in our minds - indeed, it is more than a fear in my mind - that we are being completely exploited by British shipowners, may be dispelled. There are only two ways in which that can be done. The first is to make sure that a cost system that is fair and reasonable is devised, and the second is to get into the business ourselves. There is no real competition between the overseas shipping lines, because they have been in combination for 30 years or more. They have an understanding regarding freight rates and things of that nature. The Japanese shipping lines broke into the trade a little while ago and, for a time, competed successfully, but they soon appreciated that, without the protection of the combine, they would have to raise their freight rates. The fact is that this is a world-wide monopoly, and, that being so, there is, in my opinion, only one thing for us to do. We must run our own line of ships. It will be a slow process, but it will be certain. When the overseas shipping lines see that there h going to be firm competition, they will be prepared to give us a better deal. As it is now, they want to squeeze every penny they can possibly get from the Australian people. There is ample proof that we have been exploited by the British shipowners and that we will continue to be exploited until we do something about the matter.
Sitting suspended from 5.54 to 8 p.m.
– I listened with great interest to the speech by Senator Armstrong. It was one of- those contributions to the debate to which senators listen with pleasure because it contained no element of party strife or any feature that would disturb the harmony of this place. That speech has prepared the way for the subject with which I wish to deal, because in a debate on a Supply bill honorable senators are allowed considerable latitude and need not pay great attention to relevance. However, the subject I have chosen is most relevant to Supply because the people have a right to know how their money is being spent. At the outset, I can say that portion of the people’s money is being well spent on the Senate. For at least ten years a systematic campaign has been conducted against the Senate. I do not know where it originated or who are the people mainly responsible for it, but mention of it appears in the press, and it is discussed among the public, in academic circles, and occasionally in the House of Representatives. I wish honorable senators to pay particular attention to that fact.
Some people say that the Senate has no right to exist; that it is a fifth wheel to the coach ; that it is something quite outmoded and worn out; that it was never of any use and is of less use to-day than ever it was. Such a contention is completely wrong. The Constitution lays down the duties of the Parliament and no clear differentiation is made between the Senate and the House of Representatives. The legislative duties are those of the Parliament. One difference between this House and the other chamber is that the Senate is expressly denied the right to introduce a money bill. It can amend a money measure, not in actual legal terms, but by making requests to another place and pressing them. In the early days of this Parliament the Senate did press requests, and although another place considered that they did not conform to the intention of the founders of the Constitution in providing for a Senate, it was proved wrong and the Senate succeeded in having its requests acceded to. Section 53 of the Constitution differentiates between the Senate and another place. It provides -
Proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys, . . . shall not originate in the Senate.
The concluding provision of that section reads -
Except as provided in this -section, the Senate shall have equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws.
Honorable senators, and particularly Ministers and the Leader of the Opposisition, should all keep that provision in mind. When members of another place or people outside speak about the Senate as an outmoded institution that should not exist, the reply of honorable senators should be that this house is as much part of the Commonwealth Parliament as is another place. The Constitution clearly says that the Parliament shall consist of the Queen, a Senate and a House of Representatives, and except as provided in section 53 the powers of the Senate are absolutely equal to those of another place.
In practice, one important difference between the functioning of the two houses, relates to the Cabinet. A ministry depends on the confidence of the House of Representatives. Members of that chamber can upset a government, but we cannot except in the case of a double dissolution - a term which has been rather badly handled by the press lately. There have been only two double dissolutions in the history of the whole Commonwealth.
– -That was two too many.
– I do not think there will be another. Apart from the procedure of a double dissolution, the Senate has nothing to do with the establishment or defeat of a ministry, and, consequently, is a little aloof from another place. Personally, I am happy to be in that position. Senators do not determine the fate of a cabinet. One frequently hears the Senate described as a “ house of review “. That is correct, but it is not the only function of this place. I have read the speeches of the fathers of the Constitution, and I know exactly what they had in mind when they set up this Senate. Their main idea was to have a body which could protect the States - particularly the smaller States. Some of them actually denied that this was to be another house. Honorable senators are acquainted with the red carpets and red benches in this chamber, and to that extent the House of Lords has been copied, but the Senate was not established as a replica of the House of Lords. The Constitution laid down that this house was free to establish its own procedure, but that, until that was done, the Senate should follow the procedure of the House of Commons. Consequently, the procedure of this chamber is not founded on that of the House of Lords, but on that of the House of Commons. With the exception of the Senate of the United States of America, the Australian Senate stands supreme among the upper chambers of the parliaments of the world.
– It is a democratic chamber.
– It is completely democratic, and in its election by the people we go back to what the Americans call the “grass roots”. Members of the Senate are not privileged. They are not appointed in any particular way. In that sense, we cannot be likened to members of the House of Lords, the legislative councils of the Australian States, or any other House of Parliament in the world. This Senate stands completely on its own. It is elected by the people and is responsible to them, and that is all that matters. I have been greatly distressed by newspaper reports attacking the Parliament - not this House or another place, but the Parliament as such. Honorable senators who have followed reports in the Australian newspapers in the past few weeks must have noticed the bitter attacks on the Parliament that have been published, but I am distressed principally by an article that I read in the Manchester Guardian. It was a signed article by Douglas Wilkie, an Australian journalist, who, I presume, had some information, and was quite serious about the comments that he wrote. Among other things, he wrote -
The setback to the dignity and prestige of Parliament in the past 10 or 12 days ie without parallel in a modern Anglo-Saxon democracy.
– What was the set back to which the writer referred?
– I leave that to the honorable senator to decide. I have picked out a few statements, and they include the phrases “ consistent rowdyism “, “ vicious asides “, “ privileged sneer “, and so on. Mr. Wilkie even went to the point of picking out one person who, I presume, is not a member of the Senate, but apparently is a member of the Parliament in another place, and he described him in these terms -
A rugged, sharp-tongued, teetotal High lander.
I do not know to whom the write referred, but I should say that it was not to anybody in the Senate. We, as members of the Senate, are not concerned with events in another place, but I think it is right that we should address ourselves to the question of what the Senate is. where it stands and what it does. We are all very jealous of the privileges of the Parliament, and we must take notice if the Parliament is attacked in the Australian press or the overseas newspapers. I know that there is a regulation that we may not, in any way, attack persons in another place, either by name or collectively, and 1 would be the last to do that. I am concerned with the privileges of the Parliament, and if it is attacked in the Australian or the overseas press, we should defend it. If I say one word too much, this chamber might be involved in a dispute with gentlemen in mother place, but we should be so jealous of the privileges of the Parliament that [ believe I might take a little risk there. E[as there been rowdyism ? Is it a fact that the level of parliamentary debate has sunk low? Is it true that certain people are not concerned with legislation, but with a State election ? Are those facts? I do not know; they may be.
For the past two or three weeks, honorable senators have been carrying on the business of the Senate in their own way. We have discussed a number of bills. We have debated measures dealing with courts-martial and trade marks and many other matters of public interest, hut I do not think we have been particularly rowdy or that we have attacked one another. As a matter of fact, I have been pleased that honorable senators have almost dropped party politics in the past three weeks. I believe it is very good that we should do so.
One of the criticisms made by the people against the Senate is that it has not operated well because it is elected on party lines. That cannot be denied. Honorable senators are elected on party lines, and possibly none of us would be in this chamber if we could not get the support of a party, but it so happens that many of the bills that come before the Senate are not discussed on party lines, In that connexion, I direct attention to the measure relating to courts-martial. That very important bill was not debated on party lines, and the Opposition Whip (Senator Critchley) was in complete agreement with my colleague on this side of the House, Senator Wordsworth.
– Senator Wordsworth was in agreement with me. I spoke first.
– The point I wish to make is that we were all in complete agreement on that measure. Party politics do not enter into the debates on many of the bills that come before the Senate. Personalities do not enter into the debates, either. We proceed in our own good way, and discuss measures as they should be discussed.
– On their merits.
– That is true, and it reflects credit on the Senate, a fact which should be recognized by the people. Another criticism of the Senate is that it is not really a States House although it was set up as one. I deny that the Senate is not a States house. Many discussions in this chamber have proved my contention. Senator Wright, who usually sits beside me, has introduced amendment? and motions many times, and, on occasions, he has succeeeded with them. One very important motion brought forward by Senator Wright in 1951 was connected with the land tax. Every honorable senator representing Tasmania voted with him. There was no party division. When the Senate discusses sugar, the honorable senators from Queensland are unanimous. Sugar is king with them. Senator Gorton, from Victoria, submitted a motion on the subject of grants for roads. It was a good motion, although I could not support the honorable senator from Victoria. That was purely a State issue. Apparently Victoria, being a closely settled State, was not getting all that it should have received in the way of grants for roads. My opinion is that we honorable senators from the wealthy States of Victoria and New South Wales should have a kindly eye for th’e people of the less thickly populated States of Western Australia, Tasmania. South Australia and Queensland. When I first entered the Senate the then President said to me, “ Do you not think that the people from the less populated States are a little parochial ? “ I said in reply, “ Do not put it that way. It amounts to this: We from New South Wales really think we are Australia.” The Senate is the place to correct any such wrong attitude. The Senate was originally designed, and it still exists, to protect the less populated
States,, particularly Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia. The Senate has carried out that function. It may be that people think that what we do here is, at times, not as important as what we do not do, or what we prevent from being done. There are those who think that, because we are elected on party lines, party differences are the things that attract most of our attention. That is not so. Honorable senators will recall the numerous occasions on which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has said that the Opposition does not oppose the measure before the chamber. That has happened again and again. It is not a matter of his not knowing what the legislation is about; it is a matter of complete agreement among Australian citizens on something which is so important that it transcends the little issues that divide us. Those measures on which we agree are probably the most important that come before us. I have mentioned some of them, and other honorable senators will think of others.
I propose to state briefly what I think are the functions of the Senate. When people use a phrase such as “ a States House “ or “ a House of review “ I do not think they have quite worked out all the implications of the term. To begin with, the Senate is a part of the Parliament. The Constitution lays it down that the Parliament shall consist of the Queen, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. The Senate has the full right to initiate legislation. Any bill, except a money bill, may be initiated in this House. Moreover, the Senate has the right to amend anything that comes before it, except a money bill. But even in regard to a money bill, the Senate can send it back to the other House, and insist on full consideration being given to the views of the Senate. That was one of the earliest matters raised in the first ten years of the Senate’s existence. The other House did try to insist that it had not only initiative, but also some superior kind of power to control money bills. The Senate insisted that when it sent a request to the other House that request should be fully considered. What it amounts to is that, in regard to money bills, the Senate has all the rights of the other House, but that they are stated in different terms. We in this chamber cannot make amendments, but we can make requests. Those requests have the full force of amendments. We can insist on those requests. The only difference between us - and it is one that we cannot argue with the other House - is that the House of Representatives has the rightto upset a ministry, and to say that the Cabinet then in office shall, or shall not, remain in office. There will never be any argument on that point, but in regard to all other matters, the Senate is not merely a house of review or a States house; it is a part of the Parliament of the Commonwealth. It lias the right to initiate legislation, and to take its full part in considering legislation. And so J say, “ Do not for one instant give up any of those rights, privileges, or obligations “.
There is a possibility that parliamentary government may be displaced, as it has been displaced in some other countries. If we want to preserve it, as I do, we should insist that every right that either house of a parliament possesses shall be fully preserved. We should say that although we have a great obligation to the people, at the same time we have certain rights, and intend to insist on those rights. We should not give way to caucus, to the people in another place, or to the general public. Finally, I say that, in insisting on our rights, we are not only defending our own rights as a separate body, but we are also defending the rights of the Parliament. On that point I believe that those who sit in another place, even if at times the remarks of some honorable members may seem to reflect on the parliamentary institution, will fully join with us. The one thing that saves us from some kind of tyranny - I do not care where it comes from - is the preservation of the parliamentary institutions which have been developed in Great Britain for over 700 years, which we have inherited, and which I believe we shall continue to defend as long as we have the capacity to defend them.
.- The nature of the bill before the Senate enables honorable senators to deal with many matters of public interest, and already, during the course of this debate, several honorable senators have dealt with many aspects of our national life, and have revealed that they had devoted much time and study to the subjects that they have presented to the Senate. I feel sure that their remarks will have repercussions in the community generally. It is in that belief that I desire to make my contribution to the debate to-night. The subject that I have chosen is that of compensation to Commonwealth employees. I have submitted a number of questions to Ministers concerning a national service trainee in South Australia who, to my mind, has not received justice. I shall endeavour to present to the Senate my reasons for that statement. My colleague, Senator Critchley, has on numerous occasions made ardent, factual and even passionate appeals to the Senate on this subject. However, despite his strong representation and my limited contributions, we have, so far, failed to achieve results, notwithstanding the merits of the case we have presented. I should like once again to relate some of the details of the case of the national service trainee to whom I have referred, for the information of honorable senators, In 1952 a young man named Luxton presented himself in accordance with the requirements of the Defence Act to render compulsory national service training at Woodside camp in South Australia. First he subjected himself for medical examination in accordance with the requirements of the National Service Act. The relevant sections of that act are contained in Part III., and they read -
The sections that I have read are those requiring submission to medical examination. The sections that I shall now quote relate to the obligation to render national service. Those sections are contained in Part IV.-
There are further requirements of a national service trainee in relation to physical fitness. These are contained in other specific provisions of the National Service Act, of which. Section 49 is an example. It reads -
A person who is requiredunder this Act to submit himself to medical examination (including a further medical examination) - I want these words to be understood and remembered - “ a further medical examination “ - shall not fail so to submit himself.
Section 50 reads -
A person shall not resist, obstruct or deceive a Federal Board or a person who is exercising a power or performing a function under this Act
Luxton subscribed in every detail to all those requirements of a trainee in relation to physical fitness. Finally, he presented himself at Woodside Military Camp and became an inmate there. During his term of service at Woodside, he was afflicted with a severe malady and up to date the nature of that malady has not been pronounced. Despite the persistent inquiries and applications by both Luxton and his representatives, the nature of the disease or complaint has not been made known to the unfortunate person who was affected. It has been suspected that it was typhoid fever or some other virulent disease, but whatever it was, it was sufficiently dangerous to incapacitate this lad Luxton, and a number of other trainees who were similarly stricken, for some considerable time. Several of the affected men recovered in time to complete their national service training period, but several also had to remain in hospital after the training period had ended.
– Four of them.
– That is so. Four victims remained in Dawes-road Repatriation Hospital for continued treatment. This is the major repatriation hospital in South Australia and some special treatment must have been warranted for these young men to be transferred there from Woodside camp, which is about 20 miles from Adelaide. These victims remained in the repatriation hospital.
– Yes. It can be said that they were segregated or isolated, but whatever term is applied to their situation, these victims were given special treatment for this virulent malady.
– What was the sickness? Honorable senators have heard about this for two years. What, was the matter with the boy?
– We do not know even yet. The information has not been given and that is why Senator Critchley and I are pressing our complaint on the floor of this chamber. This is only the start of the campaign. I do not wish to make a direct attack upon the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) or upon the official who has been delegated to investigate this matter. My complaint is with the decision that has been reached and the method by which it has been reached. The decision and the method were completely wrong and totally foreign to the principles of equity, good conscience and the substantial merit of the case.
– Hear, hear!
– Those are the principles according to which a matter of this kind should be examined and determined, and according to which an investigation should be made. They are the principles of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. There is no question about Luxton being amen able to the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. The disease that he contracted at Woodside comes within the ambit of it. For the information of the Senate the definition of “ disease “ in that act is as follows: - “ Disease “ includes any physical or mental ailment, disorder, defect or morbid condition, whether of sudden or gradual development, and also includes the aggravation, acceleration or recurrence of pre-existing disease.
Under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, a commissioner is appointed for the investigation of all claims, and who do honorable senators think he is? He is a servant of the Treasurer, a person who is capable in my opinion to deal only with financial matters. He is not a man grounded in the principles governing the investigation of a case of this description where a. lad was affected with an undisclosed malady while performing his national service training. I repeat the outline of the case. The lad was afflicted with a serious malady while doing his national service training and even after the term of his training had ended, he was still in the major repatriation hospital at Dawesroad, South Australia, still suffering from this malady.
If this man had been an employee in private industry, his employer would have been responsible to pay him compensation for the time he was away ill. But the Government, by some strange reasoning, and apparently in a state of hallucination, has stated that its responsibility finished as soon as the thirteen weeks’ training period expired. That has been the Government’s attitude in spite of the fact that this man was isolated in a repatriation hospital, and at one stage was unable to be visited even by his parents. All those facts indicate that his illness was of a serious nature. After being treated for some time his health improved. Following the inquiry of senators on this side of the chamber into the reason why compensation had not been paid to the man, the Minister stated -
Private Luxton was an inmate of the Repatriation General Hospital, Springbank, subsequent to his illness which became apparent during his national service training.
If honorable senators analyse that statement they will perceive that in the opinion of the Minister, Luxton was an inmate of the Repatriation General Hospital at Springbank while suffering from a certain illness, and that subsequently he was affected by some other complaint. lt any rate that is the interpretation that I find myself compelled to put upon the statement of the Minister. It would be very interesting to know how Luxton contracted the subsequent illness. To the present time he has not been told the nature of the disease that he had. Honorable senators know that the National Service Act provides that lads called up for national service training shall be physically fit. Luxton, together with all other national service trainees, was no doubt physically fit before he went to camp, and, fortunately, the great majority of young men who are called up complete their military service and are discharged without suffering any serious illnesses. However, this unfortunate epidemic occurred in the camp, and Luxton was the trainee who was most seriously affected by it. The commissioner who examined all the relevant material associated with the case of this man, decided that the onus of proof had not been discharged. Honorable senators will note that the powers of a commissioner are set out as follows : -
In the determination of matters and questions the Commissioner shall be guided by equity, good conscience and the substantial merits of the case without regard to technicalities, legal precedent or any rules of evidence.
That provision indicates that a commissioner is clothed with common-sense powers, and is required to apply proper and humane principles to the determination of matters that are referred to him. He is not to be bound by the rules of evidence, by legal technicalities or by legal precedent. I submit that the substantial merits of this case lie with the trainee involved. That is my opinion, and I have had a long association with the trade union movement, which has involved me in many matters of this kind. My experience leads me to suggest that in setting up tribunals of the kind that we have been discussing, we should provide that they shall be composed of practical men who are experienced in all aspects of compensation, and who deal with such matters practically every day of the week.
During the major part of my trade union experience in South Australia I dealt with matters of compensation. The employers and the trade unions considered whatever compensation cases came before them, whether they were easy or difficult of solution. Then we discussed the merits of the case between ourselves and arrived at a speedy settlement of the issues. Only matters in which technicalities were involved, such as demarcation disputes, were dealt with in a different way. Industries are constantly changing, and new aspects of compensation are continually arising. Whenever such cases came up for determination by the union officials and the employers’ representatives they were sent to the courts. Consequently, the courts were called upon in only a very limited number of cases. In view of my experience in compensation matters, I ask the Minister to reconsider this matter of Private Luxton. I suggest that the facts speak for themselves. They show clearly that this matter has not been determined in strict accordance with the requirements of the law. I do not deliberately accuse any person of failing to take the correct action but I do say that the commissioner had the wrong conception of his duties.
– I think the honorable senator also has a wrong conception. This is a matter for the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis).
– I suggest that Senator Kendall knows nothing about compensation. Surely, he does not suggest that Luxton was placed in hospital, given specialized treatment and exiled from his relatives when there was nothing at all wrong with him? Apparently, this lad was subsequently affected by a second illness; but he was not notified of the change of his type of disease. Another factor to be taken into consideration is that repatriation and hospitalization is not available for national service trainees after their training period has expired. However, the military authorities accepted responsibility and carried on with this lad’s medical treatment after his training period had expired. I suggest that thereby they indirectly accepted liability for the period of his medical treatment in Dawes-road military hospital.
This matter is as plain as a pikestaff, and it would be accepted as a cause for compensation in any court of law. My experience in these matters has been that courts are rather lenient in connexion with them. If one has a good case and presents it fairly, and if it has substantial merit, the courts will usually give the case close consideration, and more often than not they will grant the claim. There is no denying the fact that Luxton was affected by this virulent disease. The Army authorities did not deny that. In fact they paid compensation to other similarly affected trainees after the training period had expired. Luxton was also affected, so why was he not entitled to receive compensation, at least for the period during which this other trainee was suffering from the illness? That period extended for several weeks after the expiration of the training period.
Then Luxton evidently contracted some mysterious illness, which necessitated his remaining in the hospital. Obviously, hospital authorities do not keep a patient in hospital unless it is warranted. Luxton was maintained in the hospital for this further period after his mate had recovered, had been discharged, and had received compensation for that extended period. Luxton was detained further, and so far he has not been told the nature of his malady, or that he was not entitled to medical treatment in accordance with the act, or that he should have been discharged. If the Army authorities did not accept responsibility, then obviously they had an obligation to say to Luxton, “Your period of training has expired. “We cannot help your physical condition. We have no power under the law to give you further medical attention, but we will do the humane thing and send you to a public hospital. There all our obligations cease “. But they did not take that course. They kept him in Dawes-road Repatriation Hospital for. further treatment, without telling him that he had recovered from this epidemic disease. He was then suffering from some other disease, which certainly was not contracted outside, because he was physically fit. when accepted for training. Honorable senators will recall that I quoted the provisions of the act, one of which requires that any physically doubtful applicant shall be re-examined. But Luxton was not subjected to any re-examination. His medical charts were available to the military authorities. They perused thosecharts and accepted him as fit. They are now trying to evade their obligations and responsibilities, which require them to pay compensation in accordance with the Co.mmonweal.th Employees’ Compensation Act. That act covers all employee? of the Commonwealth service, including members of the defence forces.
I think I have given honorable senators sufficient particulars to substantiate my case this evening. I have mentioned the procedure adopted in cases of this nature in private industry, which procedure has dispelled any bitterness or harshness in industry, and which may be one reason why industrial peace is so widespread in South Australia. I suggest that the Minister might consider the adoption of that procedure in this case, and if he is notprepared to arrange for an employer’s and an employee’s representative to get together for the resolution of this problem, then he should take the matter up with the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, of which Luxton is a member. I feel sure that if my suggestions were adopted compensation would be readily forthcoming for this person. It is long overdue, and it is well merited. The commissioner is required to consider all. cases on the basis of equity, good conscience, and substantial merit. If that policy were followed I feel sure that the dissatisfaction which now exists would be removed. A case such as this becomes known in the area where the affected individual lives, and it causes a general feeling of hostility amongst the younger members of the community. They are the people whose services the Government will call upon in the event of a national emergency. When young men are called up for national service training, they feel that they are fulfilling their part of the contract by rendering themselves physically fit, and when, very infrequently, claims for compensation are made, the Government should accept its responsibility.
I suggest that the Minister should personally investigate this matter. I know that Ministers have a lot of work to do, and that they rely to a large extent upon their departmental officers, but I feel that such a case as this warrants personal action. If that suggestion were adopted
I am sure that Luxton would be justly treated, and would receive the compensation which is his due.
– I have listened with very great interest and, I hope, sympathy, to the speech made by Senator Ryan. I think all honorable senators will agree that, if Senator Ryan’s advocacy of Private Luxton’s case is not successful, it will not be because the honorable senator has not done justice to the presentation of the case. Nonetheless, I cannot escape the thought that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) will have a complete explanation of the circumstances, nor can I escape the thought that the subject-matter of the honorable senator’s speech was not altogether appropriate to the occasion. It is true that the debate on the Supply Bill may range over a wide field. Indeed, there is no bar to the subjects about which honorable senators may speak. In that respect, Senator Ryan no doubt was justified in choosing the topic he did, but it occurs to me that a case of this nature could be more appropriately presented elsewhere than in the Senate.
This debate affords the Opposition an opportunity to attack the policy of the Government. Perhaps the most surprising feature of the debates we have heard in the Senate during the last two days is that the Opposition, generally speaking, has studiously avoided launching any attack on the policy of the Government. I have listened with considerable interest to this debate, and I am of the opinion that dispassionate consideration of the matter would lead any one to the conclusion that this is probably the most insipid Supply debate that has ever taken place. Senator Benn led the debate on behalf of the Opposition, and it should be said of him that he did attempt to attack the Government. He picked our two or three items of Government policy, and followed a line with which we arc now most familiar. He spoke of the policy of the Government in respect of child endowment and other social services, but did not compare the record of this Government with that of the previous Labour Government.
– Naturally !
– Yes. The reason, of course, is apparent. Senator Benn, and every one who sits on his side of the chamber, know full well that when the record of the Government in relation to social services is compared with that of the previous Labour Government, there is no doubt that the record of this Government is infinitely superior. If an honorable senator opposite wishes to debate that topic, he can be assured that such an opportunity will be forthcoming in due course.
There is one aspect of the approach of the Opposition to social services and criticism of the Government which never fails to intrigue me. It is the easiest thing in the world for a member of Parliament to stand in his place and say that a particular social benefit should be increased. At the same time, that is one of the most irresponsible things for a member of Parliament to do. Obviously there are, and always will be, two aspects of the payment of social benefits. ‘ One aspect concerns the recipient, and the other the means by which the amount to be expended will be raised. I readily acknowledge that the raising of money for that purpose is the responsibility of the Government, but I suggest that when the Government is criticized on the ground that a particular social benefit, should be increased, it is clearly the duty of the person who makes that criticism to indicate the approximate cost of the increase. The absence of any such indication from the Opposition has been a feature of these debates over the years. It is a continuation of the tactics we saw during the last general election campaign, when a promise to remove the means test was made without any one on the Opposition side having an idea of the cost of fulfilling that promise. Honorable senators know the result of that attempt to influence the electors. Within a week of the promise being made by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), the supporters of the Australian Labour party were arguing among themselves about the cost involved in honouring the promise. That is the kind of irresponsible approach which the Opposition consistently makes to this extremely important matter of social services.
Senator Benn also had some criticism to make of the magnificent effort of the Commonwealth in respect of loan raisings. The honorable senator left the impression that the Commonwealth did not always rise to the heights desired by the States, and was not always able to obtain from the market the amount of money which the States demanded for their works programmes. There is again the simple question of how these things should be done. Only a few weeks ago, we in this chamber listened to the Labour Opposition opposing, as a point in their party platform, overseas borrowing, and advocating the restriction of borrowing to domestic sources. Now, honorable senators opposite say that, should domestic loans fail to return the amount required by the States, some action should be taken by the Government.
– The Labour Government financed a war from the resources of the Australian people.
– The Labour Government financed the war in completely different circumstances from those that apply to-day. That Government financed the war at a time when Australia, like every other exporting country in. the world, was building up its overseas reserves, and when, because of the unavailability of goods, it was unable to purchase equipment and plant required for the prosecution of the war. The things which we most sorely required were in short supply. Our overseas credits were accumulated, not as the result of any governmental action during the war, but as the inevitable result of our efforts as an exporting country unable to spend our funds overseas. Should the same circumstances come about to-morrow, the same result would occur. I have been referring to Senator Benn’s suggestion that when a market fails to return the amount required by a State, the Government should take action. I mention that matter simply because I want some Labour senator to state in plain terms what action should be taken. In an unguarded moment Senator Cameron, and other honorable senators who sit with him, stated Labour’s belief in a capital levy. Honorable senators are aware of the Labour Government’s efforts during the post-war period to control private finance. Is that the policy that the Labour party still holds dear ?
Senator Benn criticized the policy of the Government in respect of import restrictions. I was somewhat surprised to hear him do so. There are few points on which my socialist friends and I agree, but one of them happens to be import restrictions. If Senator Benn is in any doubt about the policy which the Labour party would follow in a position such as that which exists now in respect of imports, I can do no better than refer him to a document published in 1945 at the instigation of the honorable J. J. Dedman. It was entitled Full Employment in Australia, and was presented, by command, on the 30th May, 1945. It contained the policy of the Labour party in respect of the balance of overseas funds in conditions such as exist to-day. I shall read one extremely interesting paragraph. It is as follows : -
Other means of reducing imports will thus be required. If the deficit in the balance of payments is primarily due to a permanent decline in oversea demands for Australian products, and if it is not possible to restore export income by shifts of productive resources to meet changes in world demands, an alteration in the exchange rate may be the appropriate method of correction. If, however, the fall in export income is one which, although prolonged and severe, is not permanent, the more appropriate method may be quantitative restriction of imports.
That is precisely the policy employed by this Government to meet a particular circumstance and, strangely, it is the precise policy laid down by the Labour party. In attempting to gain some political capital, therefore, Senator Benn has fallen into the trap of criticizing his own policy.
I hope that my next remarks will commend themselves to all honorable senators irrespective of the geographical position of their constituencies. Within the [text, few weeks the Premiers will be assembling to discuss various important matters. I am disappointed that up till now there does not appear on the agenda for their conference a proposal made by the Prime Minister that the States and the Commonwealth should co-operate in the creation of a small advisory body of highly expert persons to serve as a national development commission, acting in association with the Department of National Development, to report to both the Commonwealth and the States upon, the economics and relative importance of a particular proposal. “When the Prime Minister first suggested the setting up of such a body, he pointed out the desirability of this procedure, as the country was then going through a period of vast expansion and all sorts of demands were being made upon the resources of the country and the available capital. Itcan be accurately said that almost all of our economic troubles spring from an expanding economy. They are economic growing pains. At a time when there is an almost insatiable demand for capital, resources and labour, it is appropriate that the governmental developmental programmes within Australia should be co-ordinated and directed along one line 30 that all the Australian people may reap the maximum benefit from a developmental policy which could include some plans of the defence policy. There never was a greater need or a more appropriate time to introduce into the public expenditure some measure of order and priority.
The Prime Minister suggested that such a body of experts should be purely advisory and should have no executive functions. It would not in any way override the States or their sovereignty but it could play a most important part in moulding the opinion of the public, the governments, and this Parliament on the most advantageous work to be undertaken and the order in which it should be done. It would be a powerful medium to enlighten the public. It could be compared to the Commonwealth Grants Commission which, although established for a different purpose from that of the proposed board, makes recommendations to the Government on the sums of money r.hat should bc made available to the claimant States. It conducts a completely objective and analytical examination of the claims of those States. The record of that commission has been such that through the years following its creation, the government of the day, irrespective of its political complexion, has always accepted and acted upon the commission’s recommendations. The commission has had no executive authority and has been able only to make recommendations, but no one can deny that it has played an important and formative part in the economy of Australia.
The points of contact between the Commonwealth and. the States are restricted to Australian Loan Council meetings and conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers. For the purpose of discussing a national pattern of development, the Australian Loan Council is an entirely inappropriate body, because the formula under which it allocates moneys to the States is fixed and rigid, and. it can take no notice of a particular or specific claim from any part of the Comonwealth no matter how great the need for satisfying that claim. As a point of contact for this purpose, the Australian Loan Council is of no value, and neither is the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. When the Premiers meet at their conferences, it is traditional that the meetings are used to advance the claims of the States that the Premiers represent, to the exclusion of all other considerations of any sort, no matter how important they might be from a national point of view. Again, I suggest that, lacking a medium whereby they can discuss problems on a national basis, the advisory committee that I have referred to might be the crucible in which’ there could be moulded a policy which would help the Premiers to form opinions of a national character rather than a State character. For that reason, I suggest that the committee is desirable.
I direct attention also to the possibility of integrating defence policy with developmental policy. I cannot generalize, as I am frequently tempted to do, and say that defence expenditure is often developmental expenditure, and vice versa. That is too wide a generalization, to be accurate, but it is undoubtedly true that, at some points, development and defence coincide. The advisory body of which I am speaking might be a medium which could advise on those particular points. I have in mind certain propositions that will shortly be submitted to the Australian Government by the Western Australian Government. They will take the form of proposals for the development of the north-west and the Kimberley areas of Western Australia. The proposals are not, in any sense, party political. As a matter of fact, they have been drawn up by an all-party committee of the Western Australian Parliament, and will be presented to the Australian Government by an all-party delegation from that State Parliament. As I have said, they will be related to certain aspects of development of the north-west and the Kimberleys, and will probably include plans for the development oi certain areas in the Ord River Valley and for a port at Derby. Having regard to the geographical location of the areas concerned, honorable senators will agree that those matters tire of national importance on every count. When those proposals are made to the Australian Government, they will be received and dealt with, no doubt, as a request for a specific grant to a particular State government. The delegation will be received in that atmosphere, and the propositions will be disposed of, favorably, or unfavorably, in that atmosphere. I suggest that that attitude is completely wrong. The proposals to which I have referred are not State propositions, but matters of national importance, which should be the business of the advisory committee that I have in mind.
T dire.ft attention also to civil defence, about which there has been considerable discussion recently. If we proceed in this matter as we have done in the past, civil defence will be handed out to the various States for implementation on a State basis. What is more national in character than civil defence? What have the States, as individual entities, to do with civil defence?
I wish to direct attention to the effect of recommendations of the proposed advisory committee on State expenditure itself. Frequently, State governments arc led into applying policies in regard to works and development which are determined more by political consideration); than by other influences. They build a road here and a bridge there, and they are no more than political roads or political bridges. If the States were fortified by the recommendations of tin3 suggested advisory committee they would, I am sure, be less likely to fall into a political trap.
Last year, I discussed in this Senate the withdrawal by the Western Australian Government of concessional rights in connexion with the operation of the air-beef project at Glenroy. The only reason, advanced by the Premier of Western Australia for the. withdrawal of the concessions was that the airways companies concerned were making a good thing out of their operations there. No consideration was given to the effect of the withdrawal of the concessions upon national development. The subsidy violated a political principle of the Premier of Western Australia who, of course, is a socialist, and for that reason, he withdrew it.
The construction of a comprehensive water scheme in Western Australia is a work of the first importance. An agreement exists between the Australian Government and the Western Australian Government to spend money on the project on a £1-for-£1 basis, but the Premier of Western Australia has been pleading that the State Government is unable to spare sufficient money from its own resources to claim, from the Federal Treasury, the money which lies available for the work, As Senator Cooke will acknowledge, the plea made is that there is work of such pressing urgency to be clone in Western Australia, that the Premier of that State cannot spend money on a water scheme. While the Premier is making that plea, he is spending money on the erection of shops in Commonwealth housing areas - a project which is obviously one for private enterprise.
– What about Kwinana ?
– I thank Senator Cooke for reminding me that. while the Premier of Western Australia is failing to spend money on a water scheme, he has erected a hotel at Medina. There is no money for a water scheme, but there is money for a State hotel to serve Kwinana. Unfortunately, my time has expired, but in conclusion I recommend to the Senate a close study of the possibilities that lie in the establishment of an advisory committee such as that recommended by the Prime Minister long ago.
– The speech that has just been delivered by Senator Paltridge is characteristic of those that are delivered by him and his colleague who occupies the same bench, Senator Henty. If honorable senators study the speeches of those two honorable senators as recorded in Hansard, they will note that they never rise to speak without spending half their time eulogizing the Government. I can understand the reason for that. Some vacancies are expected in the Government, and even Mr. Jos. Francis has dug his toes in and refused to take a diplomatic post and make a vacancy.
– Order !
– There are bright boys in this chamber, as well as in another place, who arc seeking to fill the expected vacancies.
– Is not the honorable senator trying to become Leader of the Opposition in this chamber?
– The reference by Senator Paltridge to social services benefits, and the comparison made by him of payments by the Labour Government and payments now made, were entirely incorrect, because in comparison with the basic wage at that time, the pension paid by the Labour Government was considerably more than it is to-day.
I wish to refer to a number of subjects to-night. The first of them is shipping. T expected to hear from members of the Australian Country party, who profess to be interested in primary producers and primary production, some reference to the increased freights, and some apology for the Government not having taken any action up to date to check the rise, beyond saying that it was tragic that freights should be increased. Senator Armstrong dealt extensively with this question. No greater exploitation of traders has taken place than this action on the part of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. Synchronized with that company’s manoeuvring for an increase of 10 per cent, in freights between Australia and Britain was the brazen announcement of a payment to shareholders of a one-for-one share bonus amounting to nearly £14,000,000. Then we have the information that the BritishIndia Company, which is a subsidiary of the Peninsular and Oriental company, intends to impose a surcharge of 25 per cent, on cargoes going to Calcutta and Bombay. The company has used as an excuse the pretext that shipping conditions in Indian ports are chaotic. We get the same story here from the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) whenever any reference is made to increased charges of any description. The Minister always alleges that the increased rates are necessary because of the time lost on the wharfs through the actions of the waterfront workers. That has always been the Minister’s excuse. Every honorable senator knows that the Minister is not in a position even to try to prevent shipping companies from raising freights. That is because those companies provide funds to enable the parties now in office to take charge of the treasury bench. Only recently the shipping companies were relieved of the necessity to pay to waterside workers appearance money amounting to £800,000 a year. At that time, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that it was expected that there would be a reduction in freights as a result of that £800,000 a year going back into the coffers of the shipping companies. There was, however, no reduction in freights.
This latest attempt at robbery on the part of the shipping companies will be costly to Australian producers. The Menzies Government pretends to be concerned. I read a report that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) had stated that increased freights would be disastrous to the primary producers of Australia. Notwithstanding such comments. the Government meekly acquiesces in the increased charges. Ministers are prepared to make comments, but not to take action. We are told that the Government was approached about the increase, and that there have been discussions from time to time. On the last occasion that the companies sought an increase of 10 per cent, the Government, according to press reports, made some protests, as a result of which a compromise was arrived at. Freights were increased on that occasion by 7i per cent. There was an understanding between the shipping monopoly and the Government. The shipowners did not expect to receive the full 10 per cent, when they applied for it. It is not surprising that the present Government has taken no real action to prevent the increase. The Indian Government, however, has displayed a courage that the spineless Menzies Government has never displayed in these matters. The Government of India is considering the placing of a ban on the ships of any line that imposes a 25 per cent, surcharge. It is true that the Minister for Shipping and Transport said that the Government would do everything possible to bring about a fair settlement, but what is a fair settlement? When it is a matter affecting the workers of this country, in regard to margins or the pegging of wages, the Government is prepared to act. It can always find a way to get over the law, and either reduce wages, or prevent a rise in wages, but the Government never attempts to interfere with the enormous profits made, or the huge dividends paid by the shipping companies. Recently a supporter of the Government advocated that the workers should work an extra four hours a week, but not a word was said about the profits being made by employers, in some cases the direct result of action taken by the present Government. I have in mind particularly the enormous increases granted to the coal-owners, in which the shipping companies also participated, because they are inter-related. After the Joint Coal Board had fixed a fair price for coal, which allowed for 7$ per cent, on the capital invested and for other incidental charges, with a minimum of ls. a ton profit, the Prime Minister appointed a committee, but the right honorable gentleman made sure that the coal-owners, who provided funds for the Government at election time, would be protected, and so he directed who should be appointed to the committee. The result was that, in the first year in which increases were given, one of the large colliery companies in New South Wales increased its profits by more than 160 per cent. This is not an isolated case.
The Minister for Shipping and Transport has been trying to shelter behind the coat tails of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), though it would be difficult for him to do so successfully because of his size. On a former occasion, when the exploitation of the Australian producer was pointed out, the reaction of the Minister for Shipping and Transport was to claim that the increased freight rates for his friends, the shipping companies, were justified. Government supporters will remember when that statement was made, because at that time, the occasion of the last rise, the Minister for Shipping and Transport was at variance with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who stated that he considered that the increase in freights was unjustified. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has intimated to-day that officers of the department under his administration are collecting facts about overseas freights and costs. He has stated that 83 per cent, of those costs are represented by stevedoring and port charges, fuel, storage and providoring, crew wages, canal charges and docking services. He stated also that the Government would not give to the world the impression that overseas shipping companies with big profits had better keep clear of Australia. This statement indicates that he is concerned not about increases in freights but only to put the best case he can for the- Government. The statement of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture shows definitely that he and the Government are tied up with the shipping companies to such an extent that they dare not interfere in any way or try to prevent the companies from increasing freights. Government supporters make allegations against the Australian Labour party, and it is surprising that some honorable senator opposite has not suggested thai freights were increased more often when Labour was in office than they have been since the Liberal and Country parties took office.
– Labour was not in office long enough.
– The honorable senator should keep quiet. I will deal with him in a minute. I have been told that between the beginning of World War II. and the end of 1953, freight charges from Australia to the United Kingdom were increased on eight occasions. I have not been able to obtain information for the years since then. On the 11th September, 1939, an increase of 25 per cent, was announced. This included surcharges. At that time, the Liberal and Country parties were in office. On the 13th October, 1939, a little more than a month later, another 20 per cent, increase, including surcharges, was made. Nine months later, on the 17th July, 1940, .there was an increase again of 11 per cent. On the 7th November, 1.940, still while the Liberal and Country parties were in government, another 15 per cent, was added to freight rates. These increases totalled 71 per cent, between the 11th September, 1939, and the 7th November, 1940. In 1941 the Labour Government took office after the Menzies Government had been thrown out by its own supporters because of its unseemly and unfortunate conduct of the war. From September, 1941, when Labour took office, until 1949, there was one increase of 10 per cent. That was the only increase over eight years. There had been increases totalling 71 per cent, over the period from September, 1939, to November, 1940, while the Liberal and Country parties were in office, but in Labour’s eight years of office, only one increase of 30 per cent, occurred. Since Labour left office in 3949, there have been other increases. The first was 15 per cent, on the 1st October, 1951. On the 1st September, 1953, there was another increase of 7i per cent, and an application is now in train for yet a further increase of 10 per cent. If this is granted, the total of increases since October, 1951, will be 32i per cent. There is no doubt that this Government is looking after its friends. I suppose that it considers itself entitled to do so because it has the financial support of these monopolistic companies.
– The same way as Labour looks after the “ Coins.” when they subscribe to the honorable senator’s party.
– Mr. Acting President, that statement by the Minister for National “ Destruction “ is offensive to me. He said that I look after the “ Corns.”. I ask for a withdrawal.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Pearson).- Order ! Personally I do not think it is offensive.
– Not offensive! It is offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn. I demand it.
– I rise to order! As far as I know there is no Minister for National “ Destruction “ in the Government.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order ! I think that if Senator Ashley takes offence, the Minister might withdraw the statement.
– I withdraw the statement. I understand the contribution was not made by the Communist party. It was made by Communistcontrolled unions.
– Thank you, Mr. Acting Deputy President. I have no desire to help the Communists in any shape or form. I have done more than any senator on the Government bench or any other member of the Liberal party or the Australian Country party to fight the Communists. What is the position at present? There are stoppages on the wharfs and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) is bending over backwards to assist Jim Healy and the “ Corns.” on the waterfront. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) refers to my assisting Communists, but the fact is that the only persons in this country who have taken action against the Communists are the members of the Australian Labour party.
The next matter to which T wish to refer is the proposal to build a huge factory at St. Mary’s. There has been some adverse comment on this proposition, not only in this chamber and in another place, but also in the public press. I am glad to see that the press has brought sufficient influence to bear to make the Government issue a statement on the matter in the House of Representatives to-day. Evidently the Government is now trying to explain why this huge factory is to be built at St. Mary’s.
The first indication that we had that increased production of ammunition was contemplated was when an advisory committee was appointed early in 1953 to assist in drawing up plans to obtain ammunition to meet the needs of this country in time of war. I should like to know whether that committee made any recommendations about the localities that might be suitable for the establishment of a huge factory such as is to be built at St. Mary’s, because St. Mary’s is within a few miles of the coast of New South Wales, and any defence establishment there will be open to attack from an enemy. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has stated that the factory will be established there, and will cost about £23,000,000. He has also said that a wide range of ammunition will be capable of being filled at the factory, including shells, bombs, mines and other ammunition for the three fighting services. However, the most alarming part of the statement made by the Prime Minister was that a new type of contract will be entered into by the Commonwealth in respect of this building.
It has been claimed that the contract has been drawn up to ensure that the work will be done by December, 1957. It would be interesting to know why the architectural firm of Stephenson and Turner has been selected to draw up plans and supervise this work. Apparently, that firm has been privileged to see records and reports about our defence system which have not been made available to any other private persons in the country. Moreover, as the whole job will cost about £23,000,000 the commission to be paid to the architects will amount to about £1,250,000. Also, the prime contractor is to get about £1,000,000, which is a far-t that we have been told about only to-day. T suggest that nothing less than the fullest explanation about the adoption of a new technique in the erection of this factory at St. Mary’s will satisfy the Senate. I make no other complaint about its proposed location, except to say that I do not consider it to be in the best interests of the country to expend £23,000,000 on a factory which is located within a few miles of the coast, and which, therefore, may be wide open to attack from the sea. Honorable senators should bear in mind that one atom bomb, or, indeed, one heavy bomb of the orthodox type might well put it out of action. I have not seen any evidence in the press or anywhere else in support of the Government’s decision to build a huge arms plant in this area. On the other hand, the advice that has been tendered by the press and by experts in this type of matter, is that the establishment should be divided into sections and the sections should he located in the various States of Australia or in country centres where they will not be so vulnerable.
The Prime Minister has announced that the new ammunition filling plant will be built on a cost-plus fixed fee basis. I suggest that such a system is contrary to the policy of the Menzies-Fadden coalition which has always maintained that it is only through open competition by private enterprise that the best results can be obtained. Again, I say that it would be most interesting to know why the private firm of Stephenson and Turner has been given preference in the choice of architects for the new St. Mary’s job. The Government should also explain why the Department of Works, which has had a considerable amount of experience in the construction of similar factories, has been completely ignored. Not only has that department had experience in constructing buildings for defence purposes in time of war, but it has also had similar experience in time of peace. That department has a complete knowledge of how defence factories operate, and would certainly be in a better position than any private firm of architects in the Commonwealth to supervise a job of this description. Why is the work to be done on a cost-plus fixed-fee basis when other tenderers are compelled to submit tenders at hard-and-fast prices to the Public Works Department?
I do not question the advisability of establishing portion of this huge undertaking at St. Mary’s, but I question the wisdom of the Government in deciding to establish the whole of the project so dose to Sydney and so close to the coast of New South Wales. We already have far too many of our essential industries in the coastal areas of Australia. In Victoria, aircraft and ammunition factories are open to swift and easy attack, and in Sydney, Adelaide and Newcastle important factories are also vulnerable. If the establishments close to the cities that I have mentioned were attacked -there would be very little of our defence potential left.
I understand that the St. Mary’s factory is to be an ammunition filling establishment, and that it is to provide all three fighting services with ammunition. It is well known that the Army does not use all the same type of ammunition as the Royal Australian Navy, and that the ammunition used by the Royal Australian Air Force is largely different from that used by both the Army and the Royal Australian Navy. That being so, it should not be difficult to divide the establishment into sections, and to place those sections in widely separated areas where they would not be so vulnerable. Moreover, the Government should give some consideration to the shortage of skilled workers and the shortage of materials that exist at present.
It is true that the Government’s decision to build this huge project at St. Mary’s arose from its desire to repair a serious deficiency that it discovered in our ammunition filling and assembling capacity. It is proposed that the factory shall be built by 1957. The Government has stated, through the Minister for Defence Production, that the firm of Stephenson and Turner worked in close collaboration with the Explosives Production Committee which was appointed by the Minister. Why were not other firms of architects given the same information as was given to the firm of Stephenson and Turner, and given the opportunity to contract for this work? Why was the firm of Stephenson and Turner the only one privileged to have close contact with members of the Minis ter’s department, and access to all the reports and statements obtained by thai department?
One of the recommendations is that a prime contractor be selected on a fixed-fee basis. The prime contractor would be in charge of the whole construction, and he would let out portions of the job as he thought fit, all on a cost-plus basis. The Department of Works employs men who understand the needs of munitions establishments. Many of those men have had experience during two world wars. They have all been ignored in this case, and the matter has been referred to a private firm.
The architects have recommended that before working drawings are made available to the contractor and finalized, a process engineering study be initiated to ensure the most effective selection process. Who could better perform this service than members of the Works Department, many of whom have been connected with munitions establishments since 1914, and who have proved themselves capable not only of building these plants, but also of running them? However, it is proposed to bring to Australia experts from overseas, particularly from the United State? of America. It is said that they are men whose lives have been devoted to preplanning of engineering establishments, and they may be quite capable.
The basis of payment for this contract will be cost-plus. It seems that the taxpayer pays all the time. There will be no restriction whatever in regard to cost. The sky is the limit, as it always has been with the Menzies-Fadden Government when jobs are provided for the monopolies of this country. There will be a serious drain on the man-power resources of this country because of the defence plan of the Government, and because of the necessity to meet our commitments in Malaya. The buildings that are proposed to be erected will add to the drain on the manpower and materials of this country during the next two years.
I suggest that consideration should have been given to the establishment of this plant at some other location. I asked a question in that regard in this chamber only last week, and I received a very curt reply from the Leader of the
Government. I suggested to him that the Government should have considered the establishment of portion of the plant at Glen Davis, the ghost town created by the Minister for National Development. I heard one of the Government’s supporters to-day saying that two essential requirements for the successful establishment of a munitions plant were power and water. At Glen Davis, there is an abundant water supply, which cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to provide. There is an unlimited supply of electricity from the Lithgow power house, which is situated within 20 miles of Glen Davis as the crow flies. There is no need to go to the Snowy Mountains area and place that project in jeopardy from enemy attack. Glen Davis can provide all the buildings required, including buildings to accommodate the necessary staff. There is a coal mine in the area which can provide unlimited supplies of coal. There are brickworks, lime quarries, and everything essential for a section of this plant.
I regret having exceeded my time in speaking of this matter. I hope that the Government will give serious consideration to the establishment of portion of this plant at Glen Davis. That town can provide every service which might he necessary. It has a school and a post office. If my suggestion is adopted, the ghost town of Glen Davis will be given a new lease of life, and there will be a saving in man-power and materials which are scarce in the country to-day.
.- Senator Ashley, in the course of rather a lengthy speech, has referred to various matters, two of which I shall comment upon. One of his complaints related to the siting of the St. Mary’s munitions factory near Sydney. I did not gather why Senator Ashley objected to this plant being established near Sydney, but I would remind the honorable senator that in the next atomic war enemy bombers will not single out munitions factories for attention. They will be concerned with dropping bombs on the City of Sydney, or on Melbourne, or on some other city. The atomic bombs will fall upon the unfortunate inhabitants of cities, not upon munitions factories. Therefore, from that point of view, it is not of much consequence where the munitions factory is situated. As a matter of fact, Senator Ashley knows as well as I do that the Government has had the best advice from defence experts in regard to the siting of this factory, and unless the honorable senator poses as a defence authority, I feel that it is not his province to comment upon the location of the factory.
Another matter that Senator Ashley referred to was the proposed increase of overseas shipping freights. He attributed the inability of the present Government to do something about that matter to the fact that, as he put it, we have been paid by the shipping companies large party contributions. It seemed to me that when the honorable senator started referring to party contributions his voice sounded rather sorrowful. However, I can assure Senator Ashley that the large shipping companies do not contribute big amounts to the Liberal party. I would not object if they did, of course, but they do not. The question whether overseas shipping freight rates can be prevented from rising is quite outside the constitutional powers of this Government.
I wish to refer now to the recent elections in the United Kingdom, and also to those in Victoria, and I propose to make some observations concerning them, with particular reference to the significance of those elections to this Parliament and the people of Australia. Recently, in Great Britain, the Government led by Sir Anthony Eden was returned to office with a larger majority than it had when it went to the polls. That was a rather unique circumstance in politics. As a matter of fact, until then, a sitting government had not been returned with a larger majority since the great Reform Bill days of 1832. It was an unusual happening, and it is of particular significance to us and the rest of the world. In Victoria, the Cain Government, which was elected not very long ago with a majority which could be described as more than comfortable. was unable to complete its term of office. That, too, is of significance to this Parliament and the people of Australia. Of course, the defeat of the Cain Government and the lack of success of the Labour party in Great Britain has been said to be due to splits in the ranks of Labour, [n the United Kingdom, before the election, Mr. Aneurin Bevan quarrelled violently with Mr. Attlee and was threatened with expulsion. In the nick of time, Mr. Bevan was reduced to the ranks, as it were, and absolved.
In this Parliament, we have seen the formation of a second Labour party - the Anti-Communist Labour party These things have been described as the causes of the trouble in’ Great Britain and Australia. I do not think they are the causes; I think they are the effects. So far as I am concerned, it is not sufficient to say that the Labour party split was due to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and his personality, or to the fact that the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) dislikes Dr. Evatt. I do not believe that Sir Anthony Eden’s Government won its way back to office because Mr. Aneurin Bevan had a violent row with Mr. Attlee. I think there are deeper causes than those, and it is to those deeper causes that I desire to address my remarks to-night.
I think we must go further than the obvious reasons which the newspapers give, ft seems to me we have to investigate why more than one-third of the Victorian electors who normally vote Labour suddenly broke away from tradition and voted for another political party. That is a most significant circumstance. In my opinion, it cannot be explained away by saying that the honorable member for Ballarat dislikes the Leader of the Opposition. We must get down to the fundamentals of this problem. If we do, I suggest we will come to the conclusion that the real trouble in the Labour ranks, not only in Australia and England, but in all social democratic countries also, is ideological. There are differences which exist in the socialist ranks throughout the world which cannot, I suggest, be reconciled. Those differences are deep and fundamental. In fact, they are ideological, and are reaching the stage at which it will be quite possible for the socialist parties of the world to collapse.
This Labour party dispute is important to us in Australia. It has been brewing for a long time. We have seen many signs, amongst socialists, that there has been real ideological trouble.
– The Liberal party also had trouble in 1941.
– The honorable senator may make a speech about the Liberal party if he wishes, but I point out that that party has no such problem on its hands now and that, in any event, its problem in those days was not an ideological one.
In 1954, Mr. Herbert Morrison condemned the policy of Mr. Aneurin Bevan because he considered that Mr. Bevan’s socialist policy was far too extreme. On the other hand, Professor G. D. H. Cole took up the cudgels on behalf of Mr. Bevan and disagreed violently with Mr. Herbert Morrison. In a pamphlet entitled Is this Socialism?, referring to the Attlee Administration, Professor Cole emphatically rejected the idea that the British Government was in any way socialistic. To Professor Cole, might 1 add, socialism implies a completely stateless society. This is what Professor Cole said, in answer to Mr. Herbert Morrison, and referring to the Attlee Administration at the same time, illustrating just how deep this ideological difference has become -
I am not in the least interested in helping the Labour Party to win a majority in Parliament unless it means to use its majority for advancing as fast as is practicable towards such a society.
He was referring to a classless society. When the argument became really vehement, the New Statesman and Nation, that famous socialist journal, warned these people that if they continued their fight they might finish up in trouble. It warned them that the Labour party might even disintegrate, unless the differences were resolved. In an article published early this year, the New Statesman and Nation said -
Labour’s great problem is not a question of leadership, but of ideas. Where it has failed is in the task of reinterpreting the principles of socialism in terms of “the Keynesian capitalism which has gradually developed since 194S.
We have a parallel picture in Australia. At about the same time, our friend Professor Macmahon Ball, who is the Australian correspondent of the New Statesnan and Nation, said -
Labour is searching for a leader when it Could be searching for a policy. For some time now it has had no effective, or reasonable consistent alternative to the programme of its opponents. lt seems that Labour’s great need to-day is to rethink and restate its distinctive objectives.
These are comments by gentlemen who do not see eye to eye with each other.
Finally, I come back to Professor Cole, because, in my opinion, he is the foremost doctrinaire socialist in Great Britain. In the New Statesman and Nation of the loth January last, Professor Cole had this to say about the rift in the British Labour party lute -
It is not that the Socialist leaders have wantonly and without cause abandoned their socialist aspirations or, at any rate postponed them to an indefinite future. They have realized that not enough of the electors want socialism to return a really socialist government to power; and that, with this, many of them have ceased themselves to want socialism. How can they, as good democrats, want what they feel a majority of the voters will refuse to support? They are professedly democrats first and socialists only afterwards, and subject to democratic consent. Their task as politicians, as they see it, is not to design Utopias or plot revolutionary coups, but “to beat the Tories by rallying a progressive majority behind them.
I could cite illustration after illustration to show that there is a state of confusion not only in the minds of Australian socialists, but also in the minds of socialdemocrats throughout the world. A climax has been reached in Australia because on one side of the socialist party there is a group led by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) , in another place, who are uncertain of where they are going, and on the other side a group of desperate socialists led by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), in another place. Dr. Evatt and his collaborators are desperately anxious to impose on Australia a regime of international socialism. I emphasize the word “ international “. They must have an international concept because they are bound to have regard to the international policies of Communist Russia. They cannot avoid them, because they are part of the international socialist world policy- Anybody who calls himself an international socialist, such as Dr. Evatt, cannot quarrel with, the policies of Russia. How can he? That explains why Dr. Evatt and his socialist friends are soannoyed because the Australian Government proposes to send troops to Malaya.. The Russians do not want Australian, troops there.
The group which I described as uncertain socialists following the lead of thehonorable member for Ballarat are in a. particularly difficult predicament, and they are not the only ones. They havetheir counterparts in every socialist country. These gentlemen, honest and sincere, are primarily democrats and secondly socialists, and that is why they are in a quandary. There are five good reasons why they are in a state of confusion. First, there is a conflict between their socialist principles and their belief in a democratic form of government. Neither they, nor honorable senators opposite in> this chamber, can answer the question how they, as good democrats, can want what they feel the majority of the electors refuse to support. That question has worried honest socialists for some years. It caused confusion after the defeat of the Chifley Government and also, in England, after the defeat of the Attlee Government, in 1951. I invite the socialists to answer that question, and also its corollary - assuming that the socialists win an election and have a mandate to nationalize industries in this country, or in any other country, how can they set up socialism, and also as good democrats, continue tornaintain established democratic processes whereby those nationalized industries can be de-socialized?
The second, dilemma in which the socialists find themselves arises from a conflict between the principles of the honest socialist and the spirit of nationalism that pervades each individual. Socialism was originally based upon a classless and stateless society. All socialists originally had to unite; the workers of the world were to be as one. But in a few years the world witnessed the spectacle of these united workers grasping their guns in two world wars and shooting brother socialists. The honest socialist -cannot understand why, in certain circumstances he should be called upon to throw overboard his socialist principles, and do such a thing. I am not a socialist, and I cannot answer that question, consequently I leave it to the honest socialist to do so.
A third state of confusion, of which honorable senators opposite may have had some personal experience, is created by the economic problems involved in socialist policy. Even at this stage socialists are prepared to admit that ;public confidence on the part of investors is absolutely essential to a balanced economy. If investors of capital are suspicious of a government they will button np their pockets and make their investments in some other country. That con.cerns not only the large investor, but also the man with a few pounds to invest. He must have confidence in the administration of the Government before he will open his pocket. The socialist spends most of his time between elections attacking the capitalist, but when election day approaches he is in a dilemma - as honorable senators opposite have been - because he decries the capitalist in his election speeches or else eulogizes his socialistprinciples. He cannot do both. Many Soonest socialists are becoming tired of keeping their policies under their cuff when election day approaches.
The fourth dilemma is that many socialists in Australia and also throughout the world are now beset by an awful fear, which is almost a conviction, that socialism has failed to deliver the goods, f shall refer to extracts from statements -of important socialists - the “ V.I.P.’s “ of the socialist party. The first is contained in an essay by Professor Arndt -on the subject of Economic Policy - Stability and Productivity. He is a well-known Australian socialist, as honorable senators opposite will acknowledge, and his statement, which I am about to read, is similar to some I have heard frequently within the last five years from the other side of this chamber. Professor Arndt wrote -
It is foolish to believe, as is commonly ^suggested n Labour propaganda, that businessman and their political allies prefer mass unemployment to full employment and that de pressions are deliberately engineered by big business and finance. Full employment mean* high profits-
Which is something -that Senator Ashley does not like - depression means not only unemployment bin. also low profits and bankruptcies.
That is a vital admission by one of the top-notch doctrinaire socialists of Australia, Professor Arndt. Surely it lend* colour to my argument that some socialists in this country have reached the conclusion that socialism is on its way out.
There is a further example of this viewpoint in the British book, Socialism: A New Statement of Principles. This book is the joint product of leading socialist thinkers in Great Britain, and its basie ideas have received the endorsement of a Labour politician of the standing of Mr. Clement Attlee and of Mr. Morgan Phillips, the secretary of the National Executive Committee of the Labour party in Great Britain. I shall quote several passages from this book because it indicates that what I have said is possibly true. The article refers to nationalization and states, in effect, that nationalization, as a central article of faith is repudiated and its limitations recognized. I direct the attention of honorable senators to this passage about nationalization -
It does not, by itself, remove from those employed as manual workers the feeling of being on “ the other side “… Many of the benefits which were expected naturally to flow are not attained unless further action is taken. The recognition of this new problem has called for a new slogan : “ Nationalization is not socialization “.
A further extract from this book on socialism states -
Their earlier beliefs usually led socialists to struggle for an increase in the powers of the State. To-day we are less certain. Do we want more or less State action in the social services? . . . We are all becoming aware that the concentration of economic and political power in the same hands may be a threat to the freedom and independence of the individual.
If those statements had been made by honorable senators on this side of the chamber - and similar statements have been made many times - objection would have been taken to them by honorable senators on the Opposition side who have been interjecting noisily, but are now silent, because those words have not come from a Liberal, but are from one of the best known sources of socialist philosophy extant in Great Britain.
– What is the honorable senator trying to prove?
– That there are a great many socialists who believe that, in common parlance, socialism has had it.
– It does not say so.
– The nationalized industries of Great Britain did nothing to prove to any one that socialism would succeed. They did not increase production. They were supposed to be set up so that productivity would be increased, but they have had the reverse effect. Industries in Great Britain were nationalized because the socialists claimed that goods would be cheaper. Nationalization had the reverse effect. Goods became dearer. Nationalization was introduced by the socialists because they argued that the workers would feel that they owned the industries, and that the arrangement would bring management and labour closer together. Nationalization had the opposite effect. The workers in nationalized industries did not know who their bosses were. That is why I suggest that the book from which I have quoted, written by socialists, has a message. Socialist friends in Great Britain of honorable senators on the Opposition side say so. That is the fourth genuine dilemma.
The fifth dilemma obviously arises from the fact that in all countries that have Liberal governments, those governments have been able to reach and have, in fact, achieved most of the objectives that the socialists claim can only be attained through a socialist government. Those objectives have been achieved by the Liberal governments without reverting to socialism. In that connexion I cite age pensions, child endowment and health schemes. They have been introduced by Liberal governments, although the socialists claim that they are strictly the prerogative of socialist administrations. We have achieved those objectives in Australia without socialism.
I conclude by stating that there is good reason to suggest that the rift in the Labour lute is entirely ideological in form and substance. It is not relevant to religion, culture or anything else. 1 direct the attention of honorable senators to the calamitous effect of this rift upon the Parliament. The Australian Labour party, as everyone knows, is dub recognized as Her Majesty’s Opposition. It has well-established and set obligations as an opposition. High salaries are paid from public funds to the Leaders of the Opposition, over and above their parliamentary salaries, for leading the Australian Labour party in Opposition. I say - and it is important to this Parliament - that the Australian Labour party has failed as an Opposition. Tb> members of the Labour party in Canberra are so busy prosecuting their internecin feud with the other socialists in the Parliament that they have neither the time nor the inclination to act competently as an Opposition. They cannot and they do not want to do so. This is a serious matter, not only for the Parliament, but also for the people of Australia. Something has to be done about it, and there is no other answer but to igo to the people and give them the right to say whether the socialist.1 should continue, even as a party in Opposition. That is the prerogative of the electors, and the sooner the electoratehas the opportunity to be heard the better it will be pleased.
Senator COOKE (Western Australia; (“10.37]. - In this debate, an opportunity is given to honorable senators on the Opposition side to direct the attention of the Government to many matters of which the Government is probably well aware, but upon which it is not prepared to take any corrective action. I propose to refer to the Speech of the Governor-General. Sir William Slim, that was delivered by His Excellency in the Senate on the advice of his Ministers. In the course of his Speech the Governor-General said - ‘
World economic changes have their effect on Australia’s export commodities. Though wool continues to be in a sound position and the prospects in the United Kingdom for quality meat are favorable, wheat is selling slowly, despite lower prices. Through the Australian Wheat Board, all possible markets are being actively explored. For many other commodities the market circumstances point very strongly to the clear need for reducing our costs of production - if such exports are to be even maintained.
That might be taken as an expression of the Government’s opinion, but the actions and policies of this Government have not promoted the welfare of the Australian community. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in introducing the budget last year, stated that there was a very gloomy outlook for the Australian export trade. He said that we were faced with grave difficulties and were likely to lose overseas markets because of the high cost of production. He added that the basic challenge to Australia’s existence economically would depend upon the ability of this country to place goods on the_ overseas market at prices competitive with those of other nations. Those are sound statements and the Opposition, as well as the Government, must take cognizance of them if they desire to promote Australia’s welfare. But the GovernorGeneral on the advice of his Ministers stated further -
My Government regards it as essential, however, to the healthy and permanent development of manufacturing industries in Australia that there should be a continuing drive by all concerned to increase efficiency and production and reduce costs.
While these statements have been made, costs have risen and severe indirect taxation has been imposed. The policy of the Government has been always in the direction of forcing up costs and causing inflation. The Government could not control inflation, which has had the effect of increasing the cost of production, nor is the Government capable of controlling either primary or secondary industries in this country. I do not say that it has not tried to do so, but I do say that it has failed. Can we look to the present Government for any other policy which will enable us to maintain our place in the world markets? I do not think so. The Government has not indicated that it has a policy to meet the situation. Senator Paltridge challenged the Opposition to criticize the Government’s policy. I think the honorable senator was adequately answered when he was told that the Government had no policy to meet the serious things that really challenge Aus tralia. Its policy is to sustain certain combines and interests that are gradually, but surely, strangling Australian industry and export trade.
Senator Paltridge also suggested the appointment of a committee of experts to examine national development. I commend him for that suggestion. It has been a part of Labour’s policy thai national development should proceed as an important contribution to Australia’s defence. Since Labour went out of office that policy, unfortunately, has not been continued. I do not think that a committee of experts would convince the present Government that it should operate on those lines. I emphasize that, by not attempting to deal with the freights charged by shipping companies and other transport bodies, the Government has failed to protect Australia against the most serious challenge to our exports, and also to our obtaining goods from overseas. Let us consider for a moment the Government’s attitude towards committees of experts. The Tariff Board is a body of experts. It considers matters on which it is called upon to report to the Government, its employers. What does the Tarif Board say in regard to transport costs? I have here an extract from the board’s report in which it says -
One of the disabilities tending to undermine the ability of Australian manufacturers to compete with overseas suppliers is the high level of freight charges in Australia on both raw materials and finished goods. Export industries, competing on world markets, also feel the impact of these costs. There are isolated instances of freight rates remaining the same since 1932, such as the general inter state rail freight rates, but these had already been giving concern on account of the level reached. Most other freight rates have in creased since that year. The small reduction in the Australian coastal shipping rate for general cargo from 1953 to 1954 was mere’ the passing on of a benefit gained by the ship ping companies when the Stevedoring IndustrBoard levy was reduced in May of this year.
That report from a committee of expert reveals a serious state of affairs, but the Government has done nothing to improve matters. On the contrary, it has encouraged a continuance of that state of affairs. I ask honorable senators opposite to explain why the recommendations of the Labour Minister for Transport for the unification of railway gauges throughout Australia, which were supported by a sub-committee of Cabinet, were not proceeded with, and never saw the light of day. There is only one answer, namely, that there was pressure from other transport mediums. Both the Labour Government and the present Government were convinced that for the economic development of Australia, as well as for its defence, that development was necessary. Yet nothing was done.
Let us now deal with shipping freights, which are even more important than matters affecting internal transport. The Government’s excuse for not dealing with shipping freights is that it has no power to deal with them. This is not the first time that Australia has been faced with the destruction of its export trade. On the 10th April, 1930, Senator Daly introduced in the Senate the Australian Industries Preservation Bill. In the course of his second-reading speech, he said that the sole purpose of the bill was to grapple with the increasing freights which had crippled Australia, and had brought her to her knees during the depression. At that time, wheat was sold for Hid. a bushel. But the government of that day did something about it and, therefore, honorable senators opposite cannot claim that this Government cannot act in these matters. The present Government does not act because the shipping companies are too powerful for it to deal with. The introduction of the Australian Industries Preservation Bill led to a reduction of freights. That legislation is still on the statute-book, and could be put into operadon. I do not say that the measure could not be improved. The point is that the present Government has failed to do anything in this matter. All sections of the. community, including workers, primary producers, exporters and importers, will be crushed because of the indifference of the Government, or perhaps its disinclination to deal with a combine which holds some power over the Government parties.
Increased freights have been referred to in this debate. It is interesting to note that between the 11th September, 1939, and the 11th October, 3940, freights were increased by 71 per cent. That was during the term of office of a Liberal government.
– It was also theperiod which followed the beginning of’ World War II.
– Honorable senator should compare that increase with theincrease of only 10 per cent, between 1941 and 1949, when a Labour government was in office. Conditions to-day are not greatly different from what they wereduring the war. War or no war, thetempo of rising freights is the same. Between 1951 and 1953, freights rose by 32$ per cent. The fact that honorablesenators opposite try to justify these increases shows that they are satisfied with the situation. This is a national matter, and I do not wish to make a party matter of it. The Opposition isdoing the right thing in letting the people know that they are being crucified by the Government, which is in collusion with, the shipping companies. If it were not; so, the Government would condemn the action of the companies. The interjections that are being made by honorable members opposite clearly show that this Government is lacking in policy. Excessive shipping freights have provedembarrassing to other countries, and they have been subsidized to overcome their harmful results. Holland, for example, which does not have shipping lines of itsown, subsidizes the freights paid by ite exporters so that they may compete successfully in the very markets in which Australia is competing. Heavy industry in Western Australia could have supplied! railway trucks and engines, and many other products, to Pakistan, but freight charges made success impossible. The cost of production in Australia was favorable, but freight charges from Australia made the price of the equipment at the point of delivery excessive in comparison with the price of equipment transported from countries on the otherside of the world - twice as far as Australia - from Pakistan. Is the Government not aware of these things? If it is,, what is it doing about them? In both* speeches and interjections in this chamber, honorable senators who support theGovernment have said that it has noconstitutional right to do anything about freight rates. I have quoted from
Hansard to show that the Government has such a right.
– The honorable senator did not tell the House where this power can be obtained.
– If Senator Kendall is so dull that he does not know, I refer him to the Ministers of the Government that he supports. They know what can be done, but they are failing to do it. However, nothing that the honorable senator could do would convince the Government of the need for action because honorable senators apparently have no influence on Ministers. This is clearly shown by the remarks of Senator Paltridge when he asked the Opposition for criticism of Government policy. He asked also that the Opposition put forward some policy. He even appealed to the Lord and said that He knows what is needed. But He will not tell the Government. In those circumstances, honorable senators on this side would not presume to tell the Government either. Senator Paltridge said that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had promised on several occasions to set up a committee of experts to advise on national development. It is quite obvious that supporters of the Government have been pressing for this to be done, but they have failed. Therefore, Senator Paltridge asks the Opposition to do something. His mistake is that he has been looking not at what the Government does but at what it tells the public at election time.
– The trouble is that the States will not co-operate.
– That interjection is to the point. If the Menzies-Fadden . Government were to set up a committee of experts to deal with national development, the States would not be given representation, and there would be a repetition of other happenings. On other occasions this Government has set up grandiose bodies to make all sorts of reports. Some of those reports have been factual and to the point, but what has been the result? The Menzies-Fadden Government has used the reports as a buffer and an apology. It has said that recommendations contained in reports were not the decisions of the Government, but the decisions of expert committees. and that as such, they were not necessarily binding on the Government. If this Government played the game at Premier* Conferences, instead of standing over the Premiers with a big stick, real national development would result. The Commonwealth tells the Premiers, “ Regardless of your majority in the Loan Council, you will go back to your respective States with what we give you”. That attitude will not lead to national development. A State Premier, whether he is Liberal or Labour, knows his State’s requirements. He knows what is needed in the interests of the development of his State, which is part of the development of Australia. If the Government is honest it can do much for national development through the meetings of Premiers and of the Loan Council.
– The States cannot spend what they get now.
– The statement that the States cannot spend the money they get makes me laugh. The honorable senator knows that the Commonwealth allocates money to the States for the specific purposes that it chooses. The Commonwealth grants money to the States according to its own dictates and those do not meet the requirements of the States. The Commonwealth will not listen to the State Premiers when they put forward their programmes. What has happened about comprehensive water schemes in Western Australia? When a Labour government wa- in office in this Parliament it gave £250,000, which was a lot of money in those times, for the Great Southern water scheme. That scheme progressed with the utmost regard for the development of the State until the federal Labour Government was defeated and the Liberal-Country party Government took office. Then a contract was made with private enterprise at Kwinana and the Government of Western Australia was committed. I realize that, by the law the Labour Government in Western Australia could have been compelled to complete that contract, whether it wished to do so or not, but the fact is that the scheme went ahead vigorously. When it was completed, the cost to Western Australia was over £10,000,000 and the project is to be run by a private concern ! The Government of Western Australia had to meet that cost out of its own revenues. It appealed to the federal Liberal-Country party Government time and time again for a reasonable contribution towards the cost, but its application was always rejected. The burden was borne solely by the revenues of Western Australia and it was a heavy one. The sheer neglect of the Menzies-Fadden Government, and its failure to realize the importance of national development, made that burden no lighter. The Australian Government could easily have assisted. This Government has a stranglehold on Western Australia in two respects. First, it committed Western Australia to a private contract in relation to the building of a huge refinery, which was a necessary and sound project, but it denied the State Government the assistance that it should have had to fulfil that contract. As a result Western Australia was driven almost to its knees to honour its obligations.
A federal Liberal-Country party government committed the State, but it took a Labour party government in that State to complete the project in record rime. It always takes a Labour party government to appreciate the importance of national development. The comprehensive Great Southern water scheme was opposed by the Commonwealth LiberalCountry party Government and by the Liberal party Opposition in the Parliament of Western Australia. Those opponents sought to curtail the scheme by reducing the size of the main to 9 inches. The intervention of the Chifley Government in the interests of national development ensured that the main was of the greatest possible size so that the scheme, even though it could not be completed with the capital available at the time, could be extended in the future and provide comprehensive benefits. The conduct of this Government shows its hypocrisy when it talks of national development. Honorable senators on the Government side of this chamber deliver homilies on socialism and declare that their policy cannot be criticized, but what is that policy? The only real policy of the Liberal and Country parties is never expressed in this chamber. It certainly is not a national policy. If the Government had a national policy it would have an answer to shipping and transport problems, falling overseas prices for our exports, and Australia’s inability to compete on overseas markets in the sale of its export produce. Labour has a policy for national development and has given clear evidence of it.
Labour established the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers and an anti-Labour government dispensed with it. The Department of National Development puts out propaganda about the building of ships, and asserts that Australia could now boost its shipping fleet to over 300,000 tons and thus become less reliant on government ship-building. Departmental propaganda has also said that there must be a ship-building programme for three years ahead. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) knows about these propaganda statements, but what programme has he presented to the Government for three years ahead to meet the strangulation of this nation by overseas shipping combines? Even if those combines cannot be soundly defeated in the competitive field, an Australian shipping line would be a bargaining medium and some restraint on rapaciousness. The old “ Bay “ line was a good example of this. Its ships were slow and probably not greatly competitive, but they represented bargaining power. The then Government did not sell that line - it was given to the very combine that is now bringing the export trade of this country to its knees through high freight rates. Supporters of the Government attack members of the Opposition in this chamber, yet they ask us to give the Government a policy. I am happy to give that policy. The first plank is an appreciation of the importance of national development and an Australian outlook on the needs of our primary producerswho export their products.
– Order! In con formity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 June 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1955/19550601_senate_21_s5/>.