22nd Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. A. 31 McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration inform the Senate why the Commonwealth Government continues its policy of compelling Australian youths and alien youths who have become naturalized to fulfil periods of service in the Citizen Military Forces, whilst, at the same time, unnaturalized youths
Are exempt and, despite their failure to become Australian citizens, avoid the financial loss suffered by those who undertake military service? Further, is the Minister satisfied that all unnaturalized youths have registered in compliance with the Defence Act?
– Whatever the Government is doing in relation to this matter is being done in accordance with the National Service Training Act. Offhand, I do not recollect the precise provisions in regard to unnaturalized persons, but I shall have a look and check them. I shall ascertain from the Minister whether there is any abuse, such as the honorable senator suggests, known to him in the administration of the act.
– Does the Minister wish me to place the question on the notice-paper ?
– Yes, the honorable senator may put it on the notice-paper if le likes.
– In view of the published reply of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner to the repeated requests of stock-owners and cattle men in the northern part of South Australia and in the Northern Territory that additional trains should be made ^available at an early date to transport cattle south, will the Minister for Shipping and Transport inform the Senate of the present position in this matter? Can he say how many additional trains will be provided, and when they will commence running? How soon is it expected that an announcement on these matters will be made, so that the stock-owners and cattle men of the north will know when to take their stock to the various railheads?
– Unfortunately, I am not in a position to furnish the precise information that the honorable senator seeks. Just before the Senate met to-day, I was in touch by telephone with the office of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, but, unfortunately, a poor connexion prevented me from getting all the information I wanted. I now expect to receive it either later today or first thing in the morning. I can, however, give Senator Critchley some information on this matter. I should like to emphasize that the allegation - which has been repeated two or three times - that the rail services have been restricted or cut down in any way is obviously not correct. In fact, up to a few days ago, only one request for an additional train had been rejected, and that rejection was due to the shortage of notice given by the applicant. The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner is very conscious of the difficulty that the stock men are facing, and recently he was in the Alice Springs area for a number of days discussing this matter with the pastoralists. As a matter of fact, he is on his way back to-day, and when he reaches Adelaide he will discuss this question with the relevant association. When I receive further information later to-day, or to-morrow, I shall be only too pleased to pass it on to the honorable senator.
Senator Kendall having asked a question for which notice was requested,
– Order ! I direct the attention of honorable senators, once again, to the desirability of placing on the notice-paper involved questions to which Ministers could not be expected to reply offhand.
– During the debate on the sales tax measures in this chamber last week, the Minister representing the Treasurer promised to make a statement to the Senate on certain aspects of sales tax, particularly the addition of freight charges to base charges before the calculation of sales tax is made. Will the Minister inform me when he expects to make a statement on this matter?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is “ I do not know “. I arranged for an officer to put the work in hand, and arranged with the Treasurer that the information would be nita (le available. I shall get that information as soon as I can.
– May I say that I consider that your point about questions, Mr. President, was well taken, but sometimes we ave not quite aware whether or not the Minister to whom our questions are directed is able to answer them. I think that the Minister for the Navy will be able to answer this question, or series of questions. T ask him whether it is a fact that certain dietitians broadcast through radio stations. Is it also a fact that their scripts are censored? If so, who is the censor and what are the princi pies under which he operates ?
– I am not aware of the answers to the question of the honorable senator, but I should think that that matter would probably be under the control of the Director-General of Health. The honorable senator’s question probably would have been more correctly addressed to my colleague in this chamber who represents the Minister for Health. However, if the question is placed on the notice-paper, I shall obtain an answer for the honorable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that the selling price in the United Kingdom of Australian butter has dropped in the last four months by more than 5 per cent, to 287s. sterling a cwt. ? If so, will the Minister inform the Senate why that should be so in view of the extensive trade drive being conducted in the United Kingdom at present, -and the efforts being made to identify Australian butter rather than continue the past policy of blending it with butter from other countries?
– I shall refer the question of the honorable senator to my colleague the Minister for Primary Industry, and obtain the information from him that the honorable senator seeks.
– I understand that the Minister representing the Prime Minister now has an answer to a question that I previously asked of him relative to the forth-coming visit to London of Australian Victoria Cross winners and their wives.
– Yes. As I promised the honorable senator, I brought her remarks to the notice of the Prime Minister and I am now able to inform her that the Commonwealth Government, in considering the question of giving financial assistance to enable Victoria Cross winners and relatives to visit the United Kingdom for the Victoria Cross celebrations, decided that all living Victoria Cross winners and their wives should be assisted. In addition it decided that the following categories of relatives should also be assisted : -
The relative of each posthumous winner of the Victoria Cross to whom the award was actually handed, provided that relative is the widow, mother or child;
The widow or mother of a deceased Victoria Cross winner.
The Government decided that it would provide first-class return passages for all those coming within the above categories and make a grant of £75 sterling as a contribution towards expenses. There seem to have been comments in some quarters that the Government’s attitude has been niggardly but perhaps it is not realized that the return first-class ship passages for a Victoria Cross winner and his wife will cost somewhere in the vicinity of £900 to £1,100. This figure is a fluctuating figure because some time after the Prime Minister made his announcement of the Government’s intentions, the Australian and New Zealand Passenger Conference offered a 50 per cent, rebate on the fares of the Victoria Cross winner and the relative who received the posthumous award provided that they travelled in May and returned’ in the passenger conference ships in July or December. This was a very fine gesture on the part of the Australian and New Zealand Passenger Conference. The Government is not asking the Victoria Cross winners to return in these months so that advantage can be taken of the concession, because it is considered that Victoria Cross winners and the relatives of deceased Victoria Cross winners should not feel in any way fettered in returning to Australia when they wished. The shipping companies’ concession does not apply to the wives of Victoria Cross winners or the widows or mothers of deceased Victoria Cross winners. As honorable senators know, when the Prime Minister announced the Government’s proposals for assistance, he also stated that the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia had agreed to accept the responsibility for receiving applications and would assist the Commonwealth Government in making the necessary arrangements for those eligible to attend the celebrations. The returned servicemen’s league has entered into the task wholeheartedly and at the invitation of the Government has made recommendations that greater financial assistance be made available in a few cases because of the rather straitened circumstances of the relative. In two cases the £75 sterling has been increased by a further £100 each, and in another case an amount of £50 has been recommended by the returned servicemen’s league over and above the £75 sterling. The Government has approved these recommendations. The Government has also agreed with another recommendation of the returned servicemen’s league that further assistance be provided by defraying transport costs to enable a number of Victoria Cross winners and relatives to visit Australian war cemeteries in France. In a few cases for varying reasons - ill health, &c, the returned servicemen’s league has recommended that certain Victoria Cross winners and their wives be provided with air passages to the United Kingdom. This the Government has been happy to do. I mention these cases to show that the Government has given considerable financial assistance to enable Victoria Cross winners and the relatives of deceased Victoria Cross winners to visit London. It is estimated that the Commonwealth will spend about £50,000 on this worthy cause. We are happy to do this because it is fitting that we should help the Victoria Cross winners and the widows and mothers of deceased Victoria Cross winners to attend the Victoria Cross celebrations. I have had the two cases the honorable senator has referred to examined. In both cases the general secretary of the returned servicemen’s league has had representations made to him, and knowing the categories which the Government has already approved he has not seen fit to approach the Government for assistance. I think the Government has an obligation to the mother and the widow of the deceased soldier but if they are unable to go, I do not consider that there is an obligation to send another relative.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether, in view of the fact that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania expires on the 30th June, he can inform the Senate of the stage negotiations have reached between the Australian Government and the State Government of Tasmania for the renewal of the agreement or for a new agreement.
– I do not think it is proper that I should answer this question while negotiations are going on. I understand that the final Commonwealth proposals will go forward to the various States within, I hope, the next week or so; and I think it is proper that the States should hear the Commonwealth proposals before I announce them.
– Following on the answer just given to me by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, I desire to ask him a further question. In that reply he stated that among the relatives to be assisted should be the relative of each posthumous winner of the Victoria Cross to whom the award was actually handed, provided that that relative is the widow, mother or child. I should like to ask the Minister whether in the second case, which I brought to his notice, of a son who is the next-of-kin of a deceased Victoria Cross winner, that provision does not apply to him. Secondly, on the second page of his answer the Minister mentioned that an approach had been made to the general secretary of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and that he had not seen fit to approach the Government for assistance. Was that the position after the State secretary or the State president of the league had made representations to the federal secretary of the league? Have the State presidents of the league been consulted at all in this matter ? I ask that because I understand that approaches have been made in Western Australia to the State secretary of the league which is supporting the claim of this son to attend the celebrations.
– In reading the second last paragraph of my reply I gave the impression that the Australian Government had consulted the federal body of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. Naturally, it would do that rather than approach the six respective State bodies, hut I have no doubt at all that the federal body in due course would consult with the respective State secretaries whose State interests were concerned. It appears that both the cases mentioned by the honorable senator have been thoroughly examined, and I have nothing further to add to the answer already given.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Shipping. T refer to a brochure which I have received, issued apparently by the Overseas Shipowners Representatives Association, in which is set forth the increased rates nf overseas freights since 1947, which is stated to be of the order of 50 per cent. That is compared with the rate of increase from 1947 in interstate freights on the Australian coast, which, last night, 1 said was 161 per cent., not including the recent 5s. increase. I direct the Minister’s attention to the statement that, in relation to overseas freights, an overseas ship is engaged in overseas ports for an average period of 33 days, discharging, and loading, as against 53 days in Australian ports. Has the Minister had an opportunity to verify these comparisons,, and can he say whether these figures can. be taken as an authentic basis for constructive thought?
– I have not had an opportunity to examine the publication referred to by Senator Wright,, but the figures he has cited are interesting. The statement, in part, poses a question, and in part provides an answer. If it is true that overseas ships spend 33 days in overseas ports as against 53 days in Australian ports, that fact obviously provides a substantial explanation of why Australian coastal freights have advanced so much more than overseas freights. I shall bc pleased to examine the publication to which the honorable senator has referred.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied thefollowing answers : -
United Kingdom, the detailed information on realizations, handling charges, freight and other costs, which was essential to the preparation of a complete itemized claim required sunder the agreement. The claim was finalized in November, 1955, and submitted to the United Kingdom Ministry of Food early in December. Following detailed check by the Ministry, part of the claim has already been settled, but the Ministry’s liability in respect -of one important transaction has been in dispute and is still the subject of negotiation.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– I have been informed that Sir Charles Darwin, Professor of Theoretical Physics in the University of Edinburgh, has been invited to come to Canberra by the Australian National University. He will be in Canberra for the latter portion of this week and early portion of next week.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply-
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply :-
The medical treatment provided for age pensioners under the pensioner medical service consists of general practitioner services that are ordinarily rendered in the doctor’s surgery or at the patient’s home. The service docs not extend to physiotherapy or specialist treatment. I understand that in the case of invalid pensioners physiotherapy may be provided under social services legislation as a part of the rehabilitation scheme of physically handicapped persons.
– On the 2nd May, Senator Mattner asked a question as. to whether the Minister for Supply would consider inviting Professor C. E. Tilley to Australia to report on uranium deposits and works. The Minister has now supplied me with the following information : -
I have discussed with my colleague the Minister for Supply, the honorable senator’s suggestion that Professor C. E. Tilley, Professor of Mineralogy and Petrology in the University of Cambridge, should be invited to Australia to report on our uranium deposits and works and am informed that the Minister fully appreciates the eminent reputation of the learned professor who has, of course, recently paid a visit to Australia in a private capacity. At this stage, however, there appears to be no special necessity for bringing Professor Tilley to Australia on the suggested mission. Our uranium deposits and works have been quite recently inspected by other overseas experts of high standing in the various fields associated with the uranium-mining industry.
– I move -
That Regulation No. 3 of Regulations 1955, No. 13, being Regulations under the Leases Ordinance 1918-1955 of the Australian Capital Territory, be disallowed.
I should like to begin by making brief reference to the legal base for, and the history of, the regulations in question. Section 12 of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act authorizes the GovernorGeneral to make ordinances for the Australian Capital Territory having the force of law. Clause 3 of the Leases Ordinance which has been operative for many decades - at least since 1918 - has limited to 25 years the term for which rural leases may be granted. The ordinance also contains a general authority to the Minister alone to make regulations for purposes of the ordinances. It is an authority conferred upon the Minister personally, and is not a matter, as is usually done under the regulations, of entrusting power to the GovernorGeneralinCouncil. It is distinctive in that respect. Regulations were made in due course, prior to recent amendments, and they included regulation 19. which deals with the right to assign or sub-let a lease of land in the Australian Capital Territory that has been obtained from the Crown. Regulation 19 states -
Except with the previous consent in writing of the Minister, a lessee shall not -
assign his lease,
sub-let the leased land; or
c ) part with the possession of leased land, and any assignment, sub-lease, agreement, or arrangement in contravention of this regulation shall be void.
Very clearly, the regulation provides that there can be no assignment or sub-letting without ministerial consent in writing. The same regulations include regulation. 7, and I pay a tribute to the forethought and enterprise of the Clerk’s staff who have supplied, for the use of every honorable senator, copies of the old regulation in question and the proposed new one. The Senate is blessed with a bright staff, the members of which apply their brains to facilitating the work of the chamber, and I pay tribute to their forethought. The old regulation 7 of the Leases Regulations has a marginal note reading, “ Value of land which may be leased “, and the regulation states -
No person shall hold under lease land of a greater assessed value than £10,000 (exclusive of the value of buildings, fences, dams, ground tanks, wells and bores). “ Assessed value “ for the purposes of this Regulation shall mean the assessed value as at the date of commencement of the lease.
Boiling that down, I should say that it is a prohibition against the aggregation, in one set of hands, of leasehold land in excess of an unimproved capital value of £10,000. The amount has been variously listed, as I understand the position. The limit was £6,000 in 1911. In 1929, it was lifted to £8,000, and it was again lifted, in 1941, to £10,000, so that disregarding the recent amendment to which I am now directing the attention of the Senate, the position was that the Minister had a complete and unrestricted discretion not to consent to the assigning or sub-letting of any lease, except for the provisions of regulation No. 7, which gave him an upset limit of £1 0,000 unimproved value; and his discretion had to be exercised within the limit that that particular regulation set.
– This is only in relation to rural leases, is it?
– Yes. I should have indicated that we are speaking now solely of rural leases and not of leases of business sites or building blocks in the city area.
Perhaps at this stage I might indicate the proportion of leasehold land to freehold land in the Territory. There are, I understand, 310,304 acres of leasehold land, as against 107,081 acres of freehold land. That was the position prior to recent alterations of the law. The proportion was roughly three to one, so that approximately three-quarters of the land in the Territory is the subject of leasehold and is affected by what is done in the ordinance and the regulations now under discussion.
Coining to the recent alterations, the first thing that happened was that on the 25th November last the ordinance itself was altered by an ordinance made by the Governor-General in Council. The effect of the alteration with which I am concerned was that it completely removed any limit to the period of a lease. Until that time the limit, according to the ordinance, was a term of 25 years. The main purpose of the ordinance recently enacted was to remove completely all limits, so that so far as the ordinance is now concerned - and I am not- speaking of regulations when I say that - there is no limit to the term of a leasehold tenure in the Australian Capital Territory. But on the 5th December, shortly afterwards, the Minister, pursuant to the power to which I have already adverted, under his own hand made a regulation. I am referring to the former Minister for the Interior, Mr. Kent Hughes. I ask the Senate to note the date, the 5th December, because I propose to make a comment in relation to it presently. That date was five days prior to the holding of the general election for the Parliament. The regulation itself was not gazetted until ten days later, on the 15th December, five days after the election had been held. The new regulation is known as regulation No. 13 of 1955.
If honorable senators will look at the document that has been circulated they will find that the regulation which my motion suggests should va ^pealed does two things. First, it repeals regulation No. 7, to which I have been adverting for some time, preventing undue aggregation of lands; and secondly, it limits rural leases to 50 years, and business and residential leases to 99 years. I say at once that I am not really concerned with the second aspect of that regulation. I recognize that tenure of 25 years to develop an agricultural, pastoral or horticultural property would not give to a tenant any very great inducement to put substantial improvements Upon the area. With the extension of that term to 50 years, in giving him a greater sense of security, I should imagine that it would undoubtedly induce him to develop the land with more confidence and with more effect. So, the purpose of moving for the disallowance of this regulation is not connected with that particular matter at all. Unfortunately, in the new regulation that matter is linked inextricably with the other matter to which I direct my particular concern. That is, I am concerned with the repeal of regulation No. 7, limiting holdings of agricultural land. That narrows very much the compass of what I put to the Senate. I am attacking that particular aspect of the regular tion for two reasons : First, because of the way in which it was done; and secondly, because of the effect of the repeal of regulation No. 7.
Let me come back and deal with the. way in which this was done. Before 1 embark on that, I want to remind the Senate of what happened in relation to the Lands Acquisition Act which was before this Senate only recently, relating to the Australian Capital Territory. The Senate will recall that, after enacting an omnibus Lands Acquisition Act for the Commonwealth, providing for the acquisition of land by the Commonwealth only on just terms, a Lands Acquisition Bill, confined in its application to the Territory, was introduced. It was due to the vigilance of the Opposition that it was discovered that there was an express negation of the application of the just terms provision to leaseholds in the Australian Capital Territory, and when attention was directed to it the Government and the Senate were good enough to accept an amendment. I ‘am able to inform the Senate that the Minister was unaware of the fact that his hill contained that particular provision. I had that from him personally. So that the situation came down to this : The proposal to prevent the application of just terms to the acquisition of leasehold land in the Territory emanated from a departmental mind. It did not flow from the Minister’s mind, nor did it flow from the Government’s mind. I see, in the application of this particular regulation I seek to disallow, the same kind of departmental mind. Let me trace it as I see it.
In the middle of an election campaign, with the Minister engaged in the final stages of that campaign, a regulation is submitted to him from the department for signature. I think I correctly interpret the departmental mind when I interpret it this way: They say, “Well, we may not have the same Minister, even if the Government wins. There may be a change of government. Let us get what we want through at this particular moment “. I think it was quite unfair to present to the Minister a regulation of this type at that time. I would suggest that it was quite improper to present it to him in a form which might be capable of misleading or deceiving him, and on the face of it, in not alerting him to the fact that the whole safeguard against undue aggregation of leasehold lands in the one hand was to be thrown into the discard.
If honorable senators will look at the old regulation No. 7, which is particularized in the paper they have before them, they will see a marginal note, “ Value of land which may be leased “. I should like the Senate to note that particularly. Then follows the regulation putting in the limit of £10,000 in any one hand. Now, coming to the exact regulation that we are considering at the moment - No. 213 of 1955 - we find that it reads -
Regulation 7 of the Leases Regulations is repealed and the following regulation inserted in its stead: -
And alongside that is a marginal note “ period of leases “. I suggest that the proper, the frank, and the right thing would have been to present a separate regulation - “ Value of land which may be leased “ - and alongside that to insert “Regulation 7 of the Leases Regulations is repealed”. If that had been done the matter would have been presented with complete frankness, and without the element of concealment, deceit or subterfuge. But that was not done, and according to the way that the matter was presented tothe Minister, the only thing for consideration was the period of leases - the extension of the period from 25 to 50 years - but obscurely in the regulation the onegreat and specific safeguard against the aggregation of leases was being thrown into the discard.
I think I can tell the Senate that this matter was raised in our party room, and it was referred to me because I had displayed some interest in leases in the Territory on a prior occasion. I was asked to look at the question of the extension of leases. It was only when I went very thoroughly with a fine-tooth comb into the amendment of the regulations that I discovered there was more to it than the mere extension of the leases. I found that the safeguard in regulation 7 was thrown away. I say emphatically that the matter was presented to the Minister in almost a deceitful fashion, but I leave the Minister out of any implication in that matter. It is my viewpoint that the Minister would not lend himself to deceit of that kind or any other kind. I think. that he is completely out of it, and that he has had a kind of departmental trick or prank played upon him in this matter. That is the first point to which I take exception - the form in which this particular matter has been presented.
The second point is this: That while the question of increasing the term of the leases was, in fact, submitted to the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council, the proposal for abandoning the safeguard against the aggregation of leaseholds in one set of hands or a few hands was not so submitted. I should like toknow from the Minister why that was not done. There are two matters dealt with in the one regulation that my motion seeks to repeal. One is the abolition of the clause preventing aggregation by fixing a limit of £10,000. The other is the extension of the period for which leases may be granted from 25 to 50 years. The point I am making is that there was referred to the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council the second of these matters - the extension of the terms of leaseholds - tout the first proposal, which was one to abolish the limit against aggregation, was never referred to it. I pose this question : Why was one o? these matters sent to the advisory council and not the other? I suggest that this calls for an answer from the Minister.
Now I come to the real gravamen of the objection, apart from form. As the law now stands in the Australian Capital Territory, there is only one safeguard - and that could be struck away by the hand of the Minister at any second - against the undue aggregation of leaseholds in one set of hands or in a few hands. The one safeguard now is regulation 19, which says that leases cannot be assigned or sublet without the consent in writing of the Minister. And the Minister himself may, if he wishes, wipe out that particular regulation by one stroke of the pen. That has never been a matter for the Governor-General in Council, the Executive Council, the Cabinet or anybody else. So that the Minister, at the moment, has unfettered discretion as to what transfers he permits or does not permit.
There might be a Minister who would see virtue in allowing the countryside of the Australian Capital Territory to remain undeveloped - inhabited by sheep, and used as pastoral land. Another Minister of the same or a different political complexion, might see virtue from the aesthetic viewpoint in having very much closer settlement and more intense cultivation ; or he might favour a utilitarian policy of providing for the agricultural, horticultural and dairying needs of the rapidly growing population of Canberra. I suggest that the second view would be the better. The Australian Capital Territory leasehold position in relation to the aggregation of leases rests, in fact, entirely in the whim of the Minister of the day, with whatever viewpoint he may have, and irrespective of his political complexion. I suggest that to us in this Parliament, each of us being a trustee in a particular way of the Australian Capital Territory, we should not rest content with the abolition of any direction to the
Minister. I think that this Parliament has the responsibility of setting some upper limit, and then allowing the Minister’s discretion to operate beneath that. I think it is quite wrong to leave him with an absolute discretion, which might be exercised wisely or unwisely.
I gather from what the present Minister has said that he would not be at all hostile to the imposition of some such limit. I think I interpret’ his recent remarks accurately when I say that he did not appear to be very happy with what had been done, but he, of course, faced an accomplished fact, the limit having been abolished. Let me say to the Senate that I recognize that if £10,000 were a proper limit to set on the value of land that could rest in one set of hands in 1941, there should be a very much higher amount to-day because of the change in the value of money. It seems to me that £10,000 on the basis of unimproved value, disregarding all improvements effected on the land, might well be’ an adequate limit, but I say at once that if we regarded that as the norm back in 1941, the amount might well be increased to-day to £20,000 or £25,000.
– Is that necessarily realistic, having regard to the actual position to-day?
– I understand it is, having regard to the values at which leasehold land does in fact change hands. I think it would be realistic to double it, or perhaps increase it one and a half times. I am not dogmatic about what the figure should be. I am merely stating to the Senate that if £10,000 were the proper amount in 1941, by reason of the great change in the value of money in the interim it should be a higher figure now. I would raise not the slightest objection if a figure of that nature had been set here.
– The Leader of the Opposition favours an increase in the permissible value of land held because the value of money has decreased?
– I would be prepared to see the value fixed at some realistic figure, having regard to modern prices and conditions. That would be unexceptional. So the whole- case that I am putting for the disallowance of the regulation simply amounts to this - that the Senate now has an opportunity presented to it, and should not abdicate its responsibility to the Australian Capital Territory in this matter. [ suggest, that it should set some limit.
The new Regulation 7 is expressed in such a way that it is impossible for me to separate the first part of it from the second part, although the two parts deal with unrelated matters. It is not possible for me, in a motion of the kind now before the Senate, to seek the amendment of the regulations. I have to approve or seek to disallow the lot. I suggest that the Minister should not meet my case with this answer, “ You might be all right in disposing of the first part and insisting on some limit, but if you disallow this regulation you are disallowing the beneficial provision that the term of the leases shall be extended “. I suggest that any such argument would not be a legitimate one, and that the Administration would not be embarrassed because the terms of the ordinance amended on the 25th November, 1955, still apply, and that amended ordinance removes all limits to the term of lease that may be granted. Therefore, if the need should arise to grant a lease to a 50-year limit, the Minister may use the present ordinance which was amended on the 25th November, 1955.
I consider that it would be wise for the Senate to disallow this regulation and allow the Administration, particu larly the new Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) to exercise his own independent judgment on what shall be done. I thank honorable senators for the hearing that they have given me. T believe that they have been impressed with the fact that there is some lack of frankness in the way in which this regulation has been drawn. I believe that honorable senators recognize their own responsibilities in the Australian Capital Territory, and they will realize them all the more strongly when I point out that under the regulation as now drawn there can be legally concentrated in one pair of hands, or in very few hands, the whole of the relatively limited leasehold land in the Australian Capital Territory, whether it is designed for use as agricultural land, pastoral land, horticultural land or for any other purpose. I suggest that that may not be a desirable position.
There would be no administrative difficulty if this regulaton should be disallowed. Its disallowance would give to the Minister for the Interior an opportunity to exercise both ministerial and governmental responsibility. A new Cabinet and a new Minister for the Interior have recently been appointed, and I consider that the mind of the previous Minister for the Interior was not, directed to’ this kind of matter at all. The matter under discussion gives one more example of that. I do not make an accusation of concealment or had faith on the part of that gentleman, because he is incapable of either of those actions.
If the motion is carried, it will give the Government an opportunity for further consideration of this particular regulation, and, after all, the machinery for the issue of the regulations is quite simple. It is only necessary for the Minister to write out another regulation and publish it in the Gazette. Such an action would create no administrative difficulty at all. I hope that the Senate will not regard this matter as a party matter simply because the Leader of the Opposition, or a member of the Opposition, has submitted the motion. The Senate would be discharging its proper responsibilities and would be imposing no administrative difficulty of any kind on the Minister, or the Department of the Interior, if it disallowed the regulation. A new regulation can be written with such speed that it is well worth the Senate’s while to adopt the motion that I have proposed.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) in addressing himself to the motion that he has proposed to the Senate, has professed to see a number of things which in fact do not exist, and has attributed as the reasons for the introduction of this regulation a number of reasons which in fact also do not exist. He has used such terms as a “ lack of frankness “, “ deceit “ and “ concealment “, the suggestion being that all those remarks may apply to the Department of the Interior or some officer of the department in presenting this regulation to the Minister for his signature.
The plain facts of the matter are these. The old regulation set-up provided for a value for land which was, in fact, completely unrealistic. The whole history of this valuation indicates that ever since a money value has been set on leases the attempt to put a proper money value on
I hern has not been successful. From 19:! S to 1929 the value on the Australian Capital Territory land leases was £6,000. [u 1929 it was increased to £8,000, and in .1941 again increased to £10,000. That, in itself, would seem to indicate that as the years went by successive Ministers for tilt Interior found that they would have to increase values to try to attain some figure that was realistic, and had some relation to the values obtaining at the particular time. The truth is that such i figure was always an arbitrary figure, and it had no real relationship to the value of any piece of land, to the productivity of any piece of land or to any standard of living, lt was completely arbitrary. If we were to apply the 1941 valuation to to-day’s values I suppose it would be reasonable to say that the value applicable to-day ‘is in the vicinity of £25,000 to £30,000, but I emphasize that any such figure would still be quite arbitrary and would still have no relationship to any particular piece of land, to any productivity of any land at all or to any standard of living.
Actually I do not think that there can be any doubt that in a matter such as this, it is highly desirable that there should be not a rigid fixation of a figure, but a flexibility which can have some realistic application to-day. I have read with interest the debate which took place in another place, and I noticed that during that debate it was acknowledged that successive Ministers for the Interior, no matter what political party they came from, had at times found it necessary to turn a blind eye to the breach of these regulations, because it was apparent that the regulations were too rigid in respect of values and other matters. This amendment merely applies something which is realistic and flexible and easy of administration.
The Leader of the Opposition has referred to the fact that under the ordinance the Minister for the Interior retains full power to refuse his approval either to the grant or the transfer of a lease. He, in fact, remains responsible for the administration of this regulation just as rauch in the future as he has been in the past. I think it is worthwhile to have a look at what the Minister for the Interior said in another place during the debate there on this regulation., In addressing himself to this very real problem of the aggregation of leasehold property, he said - 1 share with the honorable member some objections to the aggregation of land beyond an aggregation which will permit economic use and reasonably easy handling under modern methods of agriculture, which include topdressing, pasture improvement and so on. I assure the honorable member that it will be my objective to handle applications for the transfer of leases so that no untoward aggregation can occur.
The Leader of the Opposition has gone to some pains to present this motion, and in doing so he has rather exaggerated the probable effect of this decision. I submit that the new regulation is reasonable. It gives flexibility where flexibility is required, and I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition has advanced any sound reason why the regulations should be disallowed. The Government, rejects the motion.
Senator BYRNE (Queensland) [4.5 J. - I rise to support the motion which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). We must commence our approach to this problem by visualizing the area which is involved, an area of limited land and an area which is developing in a peculiar and individual way in which we are likely to find a peculiar development of land values differ - ing from the development of land values in any other part of Australia. Therefore the application of particular provisions to this area would seem, if not to be logical, at least to have some warrant. Apparently, that is the type of approach that has characterized the control of land aggregations in this area for many years. That approach was to put an upstairs monetary limit on the physical aggregation of land which, as the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) has pointed out, has varied from £6,000 to £8,000 to the existing limit of £10,000 which it is now proposed to abolish.
Looking at the regulation which has been repealed and the one which is inserted in lieu of it, there seems to be nothing of the same nature involved in the old regulation 7 and the new regulation 3 which would have justified the mere supplanting of the one by the other. The suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition is extremely logical. There should have been an actual recognition of the repeal of one regulation and an actual recognition of the need for the other, instead of the mere numerical supplanting of A by B when they do not relate to the same matter in any way. These two regulations could exist side by side. They are not only not necessarily antithetical; it seems to me they are actually complementary. That, I think, goes to the crux of the situation. Regulation 7 stated the basis on which the assessed value was to be determined and referred to the assesed value of the land at the date of the commencement of the lease. The fact is that the Government is now going to increase land tenures for periods longer than 25 years and up to 50 years or 99 years. That immediately provides for an increase in the value of land which inevitably will come with modern trends and conditions for leases of the longer period of time. In other words, at a time when the Government is giving people an opportunity to hold land which will increase in value, by an inevitable historical process as prices are rising and no doubt will continue to rise and as capital costs will become higher in this country, would it not be perfectly logical, at the same time, to retain the financial upstairs limit arising from the physical aggregation of land and translate it into monetary terms? Yet, we find the extraordinary situation that just when the Government is giving people the opportunity to hold land which will increase vastly in price, because it will have twice the term of tenure, at the same time it is removing any limit to the value of land which can be held. That is why I say that the old regulation 7 and the new regulation 3 should both be retained, the one being complementary to the other. But the approach of the department and of the Government is that these regulations are, by their very nature, antithetical. I think it will be acknowledged that, in view of the terms in which I have referred to it, such is not the case, but that, on the contrary, the opposite would be very much more logical.
I do not know what actuated the department to present the amendment in the form in which it did, the repeal of one and the substitution of the other without an express and specific acknowledgment. The Leader of the Opposition has suggested that it was lack of frankness, and that may be a reasonable hypothesis. I, personally, would tend to the view that the department was not fully aware of the real significance of what I have called the complementary nature of the two propositions. And, merely from the point of view of easy drafting and printing, if one was taking out regulation 3, though it dealt with one thing, there was a convenient place to insert another regulation 3, although it dealt with something completely different. The result has been a concealment from the Parliament. Whether it was intentional, foolish or accidental, it is not for us to pass judgment.
As a member of the Regulations and Ordinance Committee, I took the opportunity to ask the clerk of the committee to let me see the note that was appended by the department to the regulation when it was presented to our committee, to which all regulations and ordinances stand referred. In fairness to the department, I shall read, for the information of the Senate, the comments of the department which were attached to this regulation. They were -
These regulations -
bring the definition of “returned soldier “ up to date;
provide that leases for grazing, fruitgrowing, horticultural, dairying or agricultural purposes shall be for a period not exceeding 50 years and in other cases for a period not exceeding 99 years;
omit the restrictions on the value of land which may be held by one persons ; and
correct an error in regulation 9.
I think it must be conceded that in that memorandum there is at least an acknowledgment of the particular matters excised from the old regulation and of the matters inserted in the new. “Whether a similar memorandum was circulated, with a copy of the regulation, to members of the Parliament as distinct from members of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, I do not know; but I presume that would be so.
The tendency in other parts of Australia is not merely to prevent the undue physical aggregation of land, but, in fact, to dismember land where, in the past, it has been unduly aggregated or areas have been held to an undue extent. It seems strange that in the Australian Capital Territory, which, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, has a most limited area of available land, the Government should be setting its face in the opposite direction. To exchange for an upstairs limit, within which complete ministerial discretion could be exercised, without fixing some canons which might guide or influence the Minister in determining in a particular case what might be undue or unfair aggregation, seems to impose & tremendous responsibility upon the Minister while, at the same time, he is deprived of all reasonable indications and guide posts. As each case would no doubt be dealt with on its merits, it seems to me to be a most unfair responsibility to impose upon a Minister who is given unfettered discretion in such matters. I think the Senate should be solicitous, while we are writing what the Minister for Shipping and Transport calls flexibility into the approach and determination of this matter, that that flexibility should not be of such a nature that no reasonable man could, without the greatest anxiety and perhaps at the risk of exposing himself to the gravest criticism in a particular case, be compelled to make a determination. In supporting the motion I say, first of all, that the old and the new regulations can and should, because of their essential nature and in the particular circumstances of Canberra, stand together. Secondly, if regulation 7 is to stand repealed and the Minister is to have this tremendous discretion, which would be a constant worry and anxiety to him in its opera- tion, I think that the Senate should help bini by fixing in this regulation canons of judgment which he could observe in arriving at his determination. For those reasons, I support the motion.
– I am pleased that this matter has come before the Senate because senators are. particularly the guardians of the Australian Capital Territory. Regulations concerning it should come before the Senate more often for consideration. I felt a considerable degree of disquiet when Senator McKenna was speaking, because although there was no evidence of the sort of things which he suggested took place - and I am informed that they did not - feats of departmental sleightofhand are not altogether unknown to the department under consideration, or to other departments. It could conceivably have happened that while a Minister was busy with an election campaign, and had many other matters on his mind, a regulation could have been put before him of which he did not grasp the full significance. Before I came into the chamber this afternoon I carefully studied the new regulations, and I am at a loss to understand why regulation 7 should be so different from its original form. I can see no reason why there should be no limit to the area of land in a lease. I agree with the Minister that if the old limit was appropriate - with which Senator McKenna agreed also - the proposed new regulation concerning area is inappropriate. The Australian Capital Territory is comparatively email - roughly about 1,000 square miles - and if huge areas are to be leased for long terms, a land monopoly could easily be created.
I earnestly ask the Minister to reexamine the new regulation. I am satisfied with the greater part of his explanation, but I am not satisfied with the statement that there need be no limit. I am wondering whether this matter comes within the scope of the Senate Regulations Committee. I know that that committee is limited by certain rules, but I should imagine that it would be appropriate to refer this matter to it.
– This matter really involves policy more than anything else.
– The committee does not consider policy.
– I hope that the Minister will re-examine the regulation, and that some attempt will be made either in this or in another regulation to ensure that there is not - what Senator McKenna justly criticized - an attack on the policy of preventing land monopoly. On all other matters, the repeal of the old regulation, and the issue of the new is justified. However, I say again that I am not satisfied that there should not be some limit placed on the size of a lease, either by fixing a maximum value or a maximum area. In such a small territory as this it would not be wrong to fix a maximum size for a lease.
– I agree with the Minister’s statement that the existing regulation is, a.s lie described it. inflexible. I agree also with his statement that the regulation lias been repealed so as to give greater flexibility in regard to leasehold lands in the Australian Capital Territory. T agree, further, that the provision in the new regulation, which extends to 50 years the maximum period in respect of which leases may be granted by the Crown, is a reasonable one. Under the old regulation, the period of 25 years was unreasonable. Not only does the new regulation give a great deal of flexibility, it ?ives also an absolute and unfettered and undefined policy to the Minister in respect of what area will be granted to an individual. That is an indiscriminate licence, and goes too far, and I ask the Minister to refer this matter back to its -source, not for the purpose of disallowing the present regulations, with which I agree completely, but to examine the question whether a new regulation can be framed to provide conditions of value or area.
– That is what I call “ canons of guidance “.
– Restrictions on value, particularly unimproved value, in relation to agricultural land, .are unreal. It is most difficult to ascertain the true market value of unimproved land which exists as improved land. How can anbody do more than make a vague guess at the unimproved value of first-class grazing properties within 3 miles of Canberra, which have been cleared and fenced, the pastures improved, and on portion of which a brick house and barn have been constructed? Most of the land of any significance in the Australian Capital Territory is now improved. I hope that this matter will be re-examined and that restrictions on area will become the norm in respect of leases of agricultural land. It would be easy to define a maximum area which may be held by one individual as an economic unit, beyond which the Crown is not entitled to lease to any one individual. Incidentally, that is the policy which is followed in every State of Australia. Why should there be any difference in the Australian Capital Territory? In Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and, I think, New South Wales, restrictions on Crown leaseholds of agricultural laud are confined to area and not to value. This matter of the valuation of unimproved agricultural land is unreal and could not possibly be a proper norm for administrative purposes, whereas the matter of area could be.
I hope that the Minister will convey these remarks to the Minister in another place, because I am most unhappy in the present situation. Of course, that does not relate to this particular regulation, because it is quite a good one.
– in reply - I wish to reply briefly to the debate that has taken place, and I refer first of all to Senator Paltridge’s comments. He said that under the old regulations the value fixed was unreal. That position could be cured with ease by selecting a figure that truly related to what would-be a fair value.
– Could the Leader of the Opposition fairly fix an unimproved value for land which has been improved for a hundred years?
– If Senator Vincent is asking whether I, personally, could do that, I assure him that I could not, hut I am certain that people familiar with the land in question, and with the prices at which it has changed hands - as it has fairly frequently in recent years - would be able to assess the value of improvements and deduct that from the prices realized, and so ascertain the unimproved value. I see not the slightest difficulty in that process. Many competent people in the Australian Capital Territory could determine with complete accuracy what is the fair, unimproved value. Every municipality does that when rating upon the unimproved value of land. There are most competent people all over Australia who are accustomed to that particular process. There is no more common process, and I should imagine that there would be few activities in which one would find more experts than are to be found in that particular field. I see no difficulty whatsoever.
I come to the Minister’s next point, that the determination of value has no relation to productivity. With very great respect, I join issue with the Minister on that. I think that the value affixed to land is very largely determined by its productivity. Again, there is a criterion in the prices at which leaseholds have been changing hands in the Australian Capital Territory. I think a purchaser who is concerned to pay a fair price will advert in the very first instance to productivity, and the price he will offer will be conditioned primarily, if not wholly, by that fact. I should say that value and degree of productivity are two things that run completely in harness together, that there is the closest possible relation between them. I know that what the Minister has reported about his colleague, the present Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), is true. I know that he has expressed himself very strongly as being opposed to undue aggregation.
I say two things about that. The first is that he does not define what his conception of Undue aggregation is. Even if he defined it in terms satisfactory to me. whatever his viewpoint is, it would not bind his successor or the next Minister. He cannot speak for anybody but himself. He does not. know, by the grace of God and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), how long he will be there and when he may be succeeded by a Minister with an entirely different viewpoint who, I repeat, could even throw regulation 19 overboard by merely writing a regulation on his office desk and publishing it in the Gazette. It is as easy as that, the way regulations are made under ordinances in the Australian Capital Territory.
I direct the Senate’s attention to the fact that we have had no explanation from the Minister as to several matters that I raised. I particularly asked him, indeed I repeated ‘the request for his benefit, why one part of the proposed regulation 3 was submitted to the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council, why the portion dealing with the projected extension of terms of leases was submitted and the proposal to abolish the safeguard against undue aggregation of land was not submitted to that body. There has not been any explanation from any of the speakers on the Government side of that fact. I said at the time that that really called for an explanation. I am perfectly certain the Minister did not overlook it. I think I am entitled now to claim that he just could not answer it, and accordingly did not attempt to do so. The matter still remains in the position of really demanding an answer and an explanation.
Nor have we had any explanation whatsoever for bracketing two completely unrelated matters in one amending regulation, one abolishing the safeguard against aggregation and the other extending the term of leases, and wrapping them up as though the term of leastwas the only matter, that viewpoint being buttressed by the marginal note that makes reference only to one of the two matters and not to both. The Minister has not attempted to explain that. 1 repeat what t said ‘to the Senate a little while ago. No possible administrative difficulty is caused to the Government by the disallowance of this regulation. I point out that the Minister may rely upon the amended ordinance that we are nor. touching. That ordinance allows him to issue a lease for an absolutely unlimited term. He is not restricted in that way. I put that point to the Minister before, so that he might controvert me if he felt he could. He made no attempt, to do it. and the position as J out it is completely correct. If we do disallow this regulation, there is nothing to prevent the Minister from reconsidering the whole position, writing another regulation on his desk and publishing it in the Gazette within a matter of a day or two, although I hope that he will take a little longer than that to review the position.
I was glad to have Senator McCallum’s support for the broad propositions that I put. As to Senator Vincent’s comments, I notice that he expressed himself as rather in favour of a degree of flexibility that comes into the matter through the Minister’s having an utterly unlettered discretion; hut he was disturbed about the completely unfettered discretion. That would seem to lead him logically to a consideration of how he could fix some limit upon that discretion otherwise than by either acreage or value.
– As I stated, every State in Australia has an acreage limitation.
– I suggest to the honorable senator that in the Australian Capital Territory, where there is much poor land, an acreage basis is useless. There is a good deal of land on the fringe of the hills that is completely unsuitable for running sheep.
– It would have to be an economic unit, and that is based on acreage.
– It would have to be an economic unit, and I suggest that acreage would not be the test in a place like the Australian Capital Territory because of the great variation between types of land and the presence of land of exceedingly different types. After all is said and done, the test of value has survived since at least 1918. Minds have been addressed to it all down the decades. It has been lifted not once, but several times, and it seems a strange thing after all this time suddenly to discard a measuring stick that has proved effective from 191S till 1956. I suggest to the Senate that nothing has been said here beyond -the bald .statement to establish that it has not proved effective.
– I do not think it has proved effective.
– If the honorable senator prefers that there should be a test based upon acreage, he should, above all, move with me for the disallowance of this regulation. If he really believes what he said a while ago, if he really thinks that the Minister should have another look at the matter, he has control of that position in his own hands. If this regulation is disallowed, he will ensure that the Minister will have another look at it. I suggest to Senator Vincent that if he follows his speech through quite logically, he has only one course to take. That is the position into which he has got himself. He has one logical and proper course to take if he follows out the line of his argument. In the first place, he is disturbed about the unfettered discretion of the Minister. He does ask that the Minister have another look at the matter. Now, it is completely in his own hands to come over and vote with those who have moved for the disallowance of the regulation, for then he will have an absolute assurance that the Minister will have another look at it.
I should like to make one more comment about a matter which does not arise instantly out of the prior debate but which is more or less a question of giving information to the Senate to top off the story about this. Honorable senators may remember that some time ago I made some caustic comments about the prolixity and length of the leases that were submitted in relation to rural lands. There were volumes of them, and I think the Senate agreed with me that they were awful things.. Through the courtesy of the Department of the Interior, I have been able to get a copy of the form of lease used, and I looked for a long time to find any covenant in it running against the lessee obliging him not to sublet or assign without consent. I do not blush to confess that I went through it a number of times before I discovered it. Just as the earlier phases of the lease were terrifically prolix and complicated,
I came upon one that went to the other extreme, because the covenant against subletting is contained in these terms -
It is mutually covenanted and agreed as follows : -
If the lessee shall commit a breach of Regulation 19 of the Leases Regulations 1929, the Minister may terminate the lease. The Senate will recall that regulation 19 was the one that says that a lessee shall not assign or sublet without ministerial consent. It seems to me to be completely wrong to write an obligation of that type into a lease by reference to some regulation which is not immediately before the lessee. All that had to be stated was that the lease was not to be assigned without the consent of the Minister, instead of the lessee having to look for some regulation that he had never heard about.
– There was no need in law to include it, but I am not saying that it would notbe useful.
– The regulation would stand. I admit that the lessee would be legally bound, but the AttorneyGeneral will agree that it is usual to put into a document that is handed to a lessee the covenants that he is expected to observe.
– I can see that it would be useful.
– If it is to be put in at all, it should be in an express covenant against sub-letting or transferring, instead of by way of reference to some regulation that may never come to the notice of the tenant. I am glad that this matter is being examined and recast. I hope, when the lease is being re-drawn, that the regulation will be expressed in far more direct form.
I have stated that, if there has been lack of frankness, certainly it has not been on the part of the Minister. It may be departmental, but perhaps I should have put the position better to the Senate if I had indicated in the first place that it might have been accidental or foolish, as Senator Byrne suggested. It is obvious that the covenant is not frankly expressed, and I believe that the Senate has an obligation to record some sort of protest against that fact. It was necessary to investigate deeply to discover what is being done. It is not presented on the face of the document at all. There is not the slightest administrative difficulty about curing the trouble in any way the Minister desires. Regulations do not have to go to the Governor-General in Council or to Cabinet. The Minister has power to make any regulation he wishes. I hope the Senate will act objectively and disregard past considerations, and that honorable senators will join with me in support of the motion, bearing in mind all the considerations that have been canvassed in the course of the debate.
Question put -
That regulation No. 3 of Regulations. 1955, No. 13, being regulations under the Leases Ordinance 1918-1955 of the Australian Capita] Territory (Senator McKenna’s motion) be disallowed.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator SPOONER) proposed -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
– I wish to register a protest because of the procedure that is being adopted nowadays in the Senate. In recent times, it has become the habit of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, at the beginning of a sessional period, to give notice that on certain occasions he will move for the suspension of Standing Orders in order to rush bills through the Senate without delay. The Senate, in its wisdom over the years, has laid down a code of Standing Orders which should not be lightly brushed aside. Because -the Standing Orders may be suspended in order to meet emergencies, the Senate is now being faced with the position that, time after time, the Standing Orders are being discarded and swept aside in order that bills brought along by the Government may be dealt with immediately and urgently.
– It is part of our degeneration.
– I think there may be some truth in Senator Brown’s contention that it is a part of the degeneration of parliamentary practice. That is why I rise on this occasion to register a protest against it.
If this is to be the standard procedure in the Senate, then let us revise the Standing Orders. If Ministers wish to brush the Standing Orders aside time after time, let us discard the Standing Orders altogether and regard every bill that is introduced as one of urgency and as one that should be passed through immediately. I think it is wrong for the Government to adopt the attitude that it has displayed in this matter. It is reasonable that there should be occasions when bills are to be regarded as urgent, and that the Opposition should acknowledge those occasions in order to facili tate the work of the Government, but I strongly object to seeing, on the first day of a new sessional period, a notice of motion for the purpose of enabling the Government to suspend the Standing Orders in respect of every bill that comes along. As I say, if the Government wants to continue on this course, then let us revise the Standing Orders so that we may know where we stand.
– I am sure that every honorable senator, excepting Senator Arnold, is rather astonished by this sudden outburst. Ever since the honorable senator has been in the Senate, and, indeed, ever since any other honorable senator has been here, this has been standard practice. By adopting it, we are merely availing ourselves of the machinery that is provided by the Standing Orders themselves.
– But that does not make it right.
-The Stand ing Orders provide for it. It is not an outrage or a negation of the Standing Orders, but merely use of the Standing Orders. Each time that this contingent motion is moved, it is competent for a majority of the Senate to disallow it if there is reason to do so. Each time such a motion is moved it is competent for the Senate to reject it, and provision for that is specially provided in the Standing Orders.
It is entirely wrong to speak of bills being rushed through. Senator Arnold knows that instead of taking the bill to the ,first-reading stage to-day, to the second -reading stage to-morrow, and debating it still later, the constant practice has been for the Minister in charge of the bill, with the consent of the. Senate, if contingent: notice is given - as I have no doubt it will be - to bring the bill to th. second-reading stage. An Opposition senator then moves for the adjournment of the debate, and again with the consent of the Senate, further consideration of the bill is made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. The only effect of the adoption of this motion is that honorable senators will have an opportunity to know to-day what the second-reading speech, is about, instead of having to wait until to-morrow. But they are not called upon to debate the bill to-day.
– That is not in accordance with the facts, because the Government can go straight ahead and put the bill through all its stages, if it desires to do so.
– All that I am doing is telling the honorable senator what the practice has been, and I point out that that practice has never been abused while this Government has been in office. When I was in opposition, I do not remember even the government of that day abusing this practice - and honorable senators opposite will remember how tough they used to be when there were only three of us in opposition. I am amazed at Senator Arnold’s outburst concerning a practice which has been observed faithfully by the Government. If any honorable senator opposite wants lo go on with the debate, he may do so. If any honorable senator wants to adjourn the debate to a later day of sitting, that courtesy is never denied.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill contains important provisions designed to encourage increased primary production and to stimulate the mining for and treatment of uranium-bearing ore. The encouragement of primary production is being provided by an extension for a further three years of- the special 20 per cent, depreciation allowances to primary producers’ on plant, machinery and structural improvements, including residential accommodation for employees, share-farmers and tenants. In this regard, notice of the Government’s intention was given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in the course of his recent statement on economic measures.
Briefly, the special allowance was introduced in 1952, and is due to expire on the 30th June next. Clause 3 of the bill will authorize the continuance of the allowance on capital expenditure on plant, housing, &c, until the 30th June, 1959. .Structural improvements which are commenced during the year ending the 30th June, 1959, and completed bythe 30th June, 1960, will also be subject to the special allowance. Concurrently with this proposal, the present limit o£ £2,000 on housing units for employees, tenants and share-farmers is being raised to £2,750. Depreciation at normal rates will apply to expenditure on housing in excess of £2,750.
Turning to mining for and treatment of uranium-bearing ore, it is proposed, by clause 2 of the bill, to extend for a further five years the present exemption which applies to income derived from the working of a mining property in Australia, Papua or New Guinea for the purpose of obtaining the ore. The exemption was introduced in 1952, and was expanded last year to” include income from the treatment of the ore for the purpose of extracting concentrates where the treatment is carried out by the company, syndicate or individual mining the ore. The exemptions are due to expire in 1960, and the extension until the end of the income year 1964-65 is justified in the light of evidence which establishes that it is most unlikely that the profitable operation of treatment plant will occur for at least a number of years. But for the proposed five years’ extension, the practical value of the exemption as an encouragement to investment in the industry would be lost. -Clause 3 of the bill is a drafting provision ancillary to the income tax company rates bill which will he introduced later.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’flaherty) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 8th May (vide page 573), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Senator HARRIS (Western Australia) [4.5-6J. - When the debate was interrupted, I was referring to the amount of money that would be made available to assist the fishing industry. It is expected that £1,000,000 will be available for that purpose. Of course, when private interests know that the Government is prepared to take the risk, they are unwilling to speculate with their own money. Quite a big risk is involved in the development of the fishing industry, and I should be astounded if private enterprise were willing to speculate with its own money when government money was available. I fully expect that private interests will ask the Government for either subsidies or bounties, instead of risking their own money.
This Government intends to get rid of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission for S80,000 Menzies pounds, which is equivalent to about 350,000 Chifley pounds. Of course, this is only a fraction of the real value of the commission’s assets. Despite this fact, some years will elapse before the Government receives the purchase price in full. The deposit payable is £350,000. Instalments of £120,000 will be payable during the first and second years after the sale, and instalments of £290,000 in each of the third and fourth years. Of course, it is on the cards that the Nor’ West Whaling Company will seek an extension of another twelve months in which to complete its payments. We must not forget that the Australian Whaling Commission has been making a profit of about £200,000 a year. Therefore, if the present rate of profit is maintained during the next four or five years, the profit made over that period will exceed the instalments payable by the company. Therefore, the Nor’ West Whaling Company is on rather a good thing.
– It is on the whale’s back.
– I come now to a consideration of the concerns that will be assisted from the trust account. What will happen if they go bankrupt? I know what will happen. As has occurred in connexion with other matters handled by this Government, the money advanced from the trust account will be lost. These people will leave the industry and, of course, it will not be possible to retrieve the taxpayers’ money that was lent to them. I urge the Government to take steps to ensure that this will not occur. The Government should not give to fishing interests an open cheque, as it has done to other industries.
After looking through the record of this Government over the years, I do not know of one project it has taken on that has been successful. Have we not had enough of “ dud “ shows over the last few years? Have we not got enough white elephants without taking on any more? One outstanding example, of course, is the factory that is being constructed at St. Mary’s. It is supposed to be an ammunition filling factory. This is the biggest ramp that the Government has ever been in. It is being constructed for the Government on a cost-plus basis - which, in effect, means that the Government has given an open cheque for its construction - and it is estimated to cost £30,000,000. I wonder what will be filled at this factory when it is completed. It is not proposed to make munitions at St. Mary’s, but only to fill cases. I have seen filling factories before, and I have seen munitions factories. I believe that the St. Mary’s project will eventually cost the Government from £50,000,000 to £60,000,000 to complete. I should like to know who is getting the rake-off on this show. Some of the big boys in this Government might be getting something. As we are dealing with the Fishing Industry Bill, it is apt to remark that the St. Mary’s project looks fishy to me.
– I rise to a point of order. I ask you, Mr. President, to direct the honorable senator to withdraw that remark. It is an unconscionable, inaccurate remark. A statement that a Minister of the Crown could be getting something out of a deal such as this is a malicious remark which does no credit to the Senate or to this Parliament. The honorable senator should be thoroughly ashamed of himself for making a statement like that, and this Senate should be ashamed , to have him in its company. I ask, Mr. Deputy President, that the honorable senator be ordered to withdraw his remark.
– I did not say that any member or Cabinet Minister received anything.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid).- Order ! The remark that I understand Senator Spooner has taken exception to is that there are members of the Government who would be getting a rake-off out of St. Mary’s. I think that is objectionable, and I ask Senator Harris to withdraw it.
– I did not say that. I never said that, Mr. Deputy President.
– I think that is the expression word for word.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.Order ! I claim it offensive and ask you to withdraw it. That is the expression more or less word for word.
– If I said that, I will withdraw it. But I did not say that. I said I would like to know who is getting a rake-off out of this business.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.Order ! You went further than that and said that there were men on the Government side getting a rake-off. I ask you to withdraw it.
– I will withdraw it unreservedly.
– I rise to order. The remarks of the Minister when he said that Senator Harris-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.Order ! The remark has been withdrawn, the ruling has been given and there is nothing further to be said.
– If you will listen to me, I will make my case clearer. I want a withdrawal of words-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Is it a point of order?
– Yes, a point of order. I said so.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.Well, state it.
– You will not let me. The point I raise is that Senator Spooner said the Senate should be ashamed of having Senator Harris in its company. That is particularly offensive, especially to the members of the Labour party. Senator Harris is a personal f friend -of mine and a colleague from Western Australia, and I ask for withdrawal of the words.
– Instead of withdrawing my remarks I would like to amplify them. I would like to establish them.
– I suggest that the Minister is completely out of order. Ha has no right to speak at all.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.Order! He is speaking to the point of order.
– What the honorable senator said in his explanation was, in effect, that he really did not have the courage to make the poisonous allegation except by innuendo, and in those circumstances I can only repeat the view that I expressed previously. He is not one of whom we should be proud when he makes statements like that in debate.
– May I point out that it has always been the practice in this chamber, even with many milder things than this, that when a remark is personally offensive to a senator and he has directed attention to it, the withdrawal has been made. If a withdrawal has been refused the senator has been named, and I ask that the ordinary procedure be carried out.
– That is not correct under the Standing Orders. The occupant of the Chair has the right to decide whether the remark or statement is offensive, or otherwise. 1 consider that it is a general statement, and not offensive.
– You cannot say that it is a general statement. It applied to Senator Harris.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The ruling has been given and you can challenge it if you wish.
– 1 object! Why should we be ashamed? I object to it, and we ought to walk out. If there is an honorable senator here with whom we should be ashamed to associate, we should all walk out.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order !
– Never mind about you!
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order ! There is a proper procedure laid down. If any honorable senator wishes to dissent from a ruling, his motion should be put in writing.
– In view of the ruling that you have just given, I propose to move -
That the ruling be dissented from.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- It is necessary for such motion to be put in writing, and handed in.
– May I ask a question ? Do I understand from your ruling, Mr. Deputy President, that on any future occasion if I am desirous, or any senator who is a member of my party is desirous of using the same language as used by Senator Spooner, I or any member of my party will be perfectly in order?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! If you use language such as Senator Spooner has used, I will give a ruling as I have given now.
– Good ! All right ! I am ashamed of a man for saying those things.
Senator Kennelly having submitted, in writing, his objection to the ruling.
That the question of dissent requires immediate determination.
– I move-
That the ruling of the Deputy President be dissented from.
During your absence from the chamber, Mr. President, there was an interlude, which certainly livened up the proceedings a bit, but in which certain words were alleged to have been used. The words used were complained of by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), and he obtained a withdrawal of those words. On account of the words that the Minister used, a member of the Senate rose and said that those words were personally offensive as far as he was concerned, and asked the Minister to withdraw them. I understand that it is the practice, not only here but also in other legislative bodies, that when a member rises and states that words which have been spoken are personally offensive, and they are admitted to have been spoken, a withdrawal is always made.
– ‘Complete nonsense.
– It is not complete nonsense. In this instance the Minister repeated the words.
– I should think so.
– If my friend, Senator Wright, desires to get up after I complete my speech, and speak with all the legal learning that he possesses, he will have ample opportunity to do so. What followed was that the Deputy President, who was in the chair, then ruled that it was not necessary for the Minister to withdraw. I hope that I shall be accurate in the words that I now propose to utter. If the words that a nian is not fit to be in this chamber, or is not fit to associate with others cannot be classed as offensive, I want to know what words can be so classed. I believe that the ruling given was a biased ruling. I think that it was a purely party political ruling. The first honorable senator who was alleged to have transgressed - although he for some minutes protested that be had not used the words - finally withdrew the words. All I say is that when these interludes take place we should at least be able to expect nonpartisanship from the Chair. For the reasons I have given, I believe the ruling was wrong and unfair; and we on this side of the chamber desire to test it by moving that it he disagreed with.
– I desire to make a contribution to this matter in the hope, at least, of getting the facts or at least the approximate facts, on the record. In the course of his speech, Senator Harris made a remark to the effect that in the sale of the Australian Whaling Commission’s assets or in the building of St. Mary’s explosives filling factory - there was an interjection that indicated that other senators thought his remark related to the building at St. Mary’s - some big boys in the Government were getting a rake-off. I thought it was a very wrong thing for an honorable senator to allege dishonesty against a member of the Government. I say to each honorable senator, no matter on which side of the Senate he may be, that an allegation of that sort is a very grave matter indeed. The debate was not heated at the time; nobody was interjecting. The honorable senator made a deliberately false statement. I took a point of order and asked the Deputy President to request the senator to withdraw the remark, and J. said, perhaps in somewhat more heated terms than I should have, but still, I believe, with every justification, that the remark was one of which the Senate should be ashamed.
– The Minister said that we should be ashamed of the person.
– That we, as senators-
– The Minister said the honorable senator was not fit to be associated with’
– It was all of the same tenor.
– He was not fit to be in the Senate.
– It was all of the same tenor, whatever the exact words were - that we should be ashamed of him or that he was not fit to be in the Senate for making a remark such as that. The Deputy President ordered the withdrawal of the remark and then a point of order was taken by Senator Willesee that I should be called upon to withdraw in the same way as Senator Harris had been called upon to withdraw. I refused to withdraw, because I thought that what T had said was, in the circumstances, justified, because I do not believe that in any set of circumstances-
– Senator Harris denied he ever said it.
– I do not accept Senator Grant’s interjection that Senator Harris claimed that he did not say it. I do not believe that to be correct. I have no recollection of Senator Harris saying he did not say it. Those are the facts. If I have erred I am sorry, but I believe that what I said was justified in the circumstances.
– The Minister for National Development (.Senator Spooner) has made a statement which I think is probably as good an argument for the Opposition’s objection to the ruling as could be submitted. The debate was proceeding and Senator Harris made a statement to which the Minister took offence. According to the rules of debate the matter was submitted to the Chair and a withdrawal was called for. Senator Harris withdrew. I desire to draw attention to the Standing Orders which are in the care of you, sir, or your deputy, in order to show how unfair and biased is the ruling given in the light of the particular standing order concerned. Standing Order 418 reads -
No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any Member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament, or against any Statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
It is on the authority of that standing order that the Opposition moves that the ruling of your deputy be disagreed with. If it is the opinion of the Minister that merely because he is a Minister of the Crown he can, without any respect for the Standing Orders or this Senate, use highly personally insulting words to a senator,, and sustain them by saying afterwards in explanation, when .the ruling is challenged, that he said it in heat, then we are thoroughly justified in moving the motion that has been moved by Senator Kennelly. Every senator who has respect for the Standing Orders and the proper conduct of business in this Senate will support the motion that has been moved.
Not only has the Minister made a remark which is personal and insulting to the senator who, out of respect for your deputy, Mr. President, withdrew without reservation the allegation he had made, but in addition the Minister has told the Senate that the reason he made his remark was because he felt he was entitled to be insulting. This standing order does not give any personal latitude in the matter. It says that such a thing shall not be done; it does not say it shall be done if a Minister feels that he is justified in insulting an honorable senator. So, in support of the dignity of this chamber and of the rules which protect honorable senators I submit that the ruling should be disagreed with, and that you, sir, should not uphold the ruling of your deputy in this matter. I think it was entirely wrong. If it is not corrected in this instance, it will encourage Ministers and members of the Government to disobey the Standing Orders of this Senate; and it will be canvassed and endorsed by persons who have been given the high responsibility of safeguarding the Standing Orders which aire a protection to honorable senators in a democratic parliamentary system.
– Perhaps, it might assist the position if I were to say I am willing to withdraw my remarks rather than have this continued unpleasantness.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin). - Is leave granted?
Honorable Senators. - Yes.
– I withdraw the remark to which exception has been taken.
– In view of the statement by the Minister, I desire to withdraw the motion.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
– Honorable senators opposite will be lacking in their duty if they accept this measure dealing with the sale of the Australian Whaling Commission’s assets at Carnarvon. The Commonwealth’s power in relation to fishing applies only to waters beyond the 3-mile limit, with the exception of the coastline of the Northern Territory. In the waters within the 3-mile limit of the shore is an abundance of fish which will not be subject to the provisions of this legislation. The State governments have their own fisheries departments, but the Minister has made no mention of any consultation with the States to develop their fishing industries. There has been no indication of support from the Australian Government to the States for that purpose. At least 90 per cent, of those engaged in the fishing industry are working the fishing beds within the 3-mile limit which is’ under the jurisdiction of the .State departments. Does the Government propose to give any assistance to these people who are operating in only a small way, or to the State governments ? Some indication should be given of the extent of the assistance the Australian Government is prepared to give the State governments to develop the fishing industry along their coasts. Obviously the Government is .prepared to assist big fishing concerns because the Minister in his second-reading speech said -
If the fishing industry in Australia, is to progress, provision must be made for replacing obsolete equipment. 1 am informed that no additional steam trawlers have been purchased by Australian fishermen since the 1920’s with the exception only of two second-hand boats, obtained ten years ago from New Zealand.
This is an indication that this Government is willing to assist big fishing concerns operating outside the 3-mile limit, but, as I have already pointed out most of the fish sold in our markets comes from within the 3-mile limit along our coastline.
Apart from the Northern Territory, the main responsibility for developing the fishing industry around the Australian coastline will fall upon the State governments. The jurisdiction of the Commonwealth is restricted to waters beyond the 3-mile limit, and consequently it has no legal right to operate within that limit for the purposes for which this legislation is designed. The Minister should make some statement of what the Government is prepared to do. Along the Australian coastline facilities for developing the fishing industry are available, but because of lack of interest and initiative this Government has failed to appreciate the opportunities that are at hand. If this bill is .passed and the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission are disposed of, I am doubtful whether the proceeds will be spent in the best interests of the fishing industry generally. I hope that Government senators will support . the Opposition on this issue. I am inclined to agree with a statement made in another place that this legislation is a political fraud.
– This is a bill to establish a fisheries development trust account, and for purposes connected therewith, and, to me, it is one of the most welcome measures I have seen brought into the Senate. Some honorable senators will remember for a long time I have been trying to get assistance for the fishing industry in Australia in general, and in my own State of Queensland in particular. I must admit, however, that the fishing industry is more a national undertaking than a State responsibility.
During the debate statements have been made by Opposition senators to most of which’ I will leave the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to reply. I have matters to talk about which are more important to me, nevertheless I should like to reply to some of the comments made. When Senator Kennelly was speaking- as Deputy Leader of the Opposition - he remarked that this bill was a camouflage to cover up the sale of the Australian Whaling Commission’s assets at Carnarvon. I should not mind seeing a lot more camouflage like this in the interests of the fishing industry. From what Senator Kennelly said, it seemed to me that he was using that sort of argument to cover up his objection to this money being used in the fishing industry. I may be doing him an injustice, but that is the impression I gained from his remarks.
A little later the honorable senator suggested that overseas tenders should have been called for the purchase of the whaling station. Surely, he could not have been serious in that suggestion. If overseas tenders were to be called for the purchase of a large Australian undertaking such as this whaling station, it is likely that some would have been received from countries from which Australia would not welcome tenders. I say that without mentioning any nation. In any event, I should say that all such tenders would have been discarded by the Government, and it would have been a waste of time calling for them.
The other point on which I disagree with Senator Kennelly is his objection to Government aid being given to private enterprise in order to get a certain undertaking under way and then handing the undertaking over to the concern that has operated it. All governments do that sort of thing. To cite a case close to home I could give an example in the fishing industry itself. In the years 1934, 1935 and 1936 the fishermen in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia were having considerable trouble because the fishing banks were being fished out. The Canadian Government, through the legislature of Newfoundland, not only re-stocked those waters, but also supplied vessels to the fishermen on a kind of hire-purchase system. It built the boats and sold them to the fishermen on hire-purchase terms. Soon after the Government had re-stocked the waters of the fishing banks the fish population was restored to normal. That was a wonderful example of government help. If an industry falls upon evil times, as the fishing industry has done,1 or if a new industry is to be established, I consider it is the Government’s bounden duty to assist in the rehabilitation of the failing industry or the establishment of a new industry. Actually, I feel that underlying it all, Senator Kennelly is as pleased as we are that we are to have some help for the fishing industry despite what he has said. I suggest that some of the things said by Senator Benn in this chamber were almost as disgraceful as some of the things that were said this afternoon, but there again I leave it to the Minister to reply should he so desire.
One or two things that have been said lead me to believe that the knowledge of fishing possessed by the Senate is not very great. For the benefit of our amateur ichthyologists, I might pass on some of the terms so that honorable senators will know what Ave are talking about. There are four main classes in the fishing world. There are the crustaceans, which are the lobsters, crayfish, prawns, and so on. Then there are the sedentary fish, like oysters and clams; and then we come to the swimming fish. They are the fish which, generally speaking, hug the ground and are consequently found in waters close to the coast or out in the ocean but along the ocean bed whereas the pelagic fish, such as cod, swim in the deep water but nearer the surface.
– Why does the Minister call a whale a fish?
– We have had much talk about whales, but I should like to point out that whales are mammals, and I propose to talk about fish.
– The Minister says they are fish.
– They are made fish by act of Parliament.
– As I said before, 1 was for a long time a lone voice trying to persuade the Government to do something for our fishing industry. One of the main reasons why the fishing industry in Australia, in Queensland in particular, had fallen back was that many of the vessels were taken over during the war with the result that our fishing fleets and fishermen themselves very largely disappeared. Those who were left in Queensland waters when I commenced my crusade, as it were, some years ago, had only one vessel, running out of Cairns, which was capable and suitable, by reason of seaworthiness, range, refrigeration and so on, of fishing in the Coral Sea. That was the Trader Horn. Actually, I would not have taken some of the vessels they were using to go to the reef outside the estuary. With the rise in the prices of everything, it eventually became quite impossible for the ordinary fisherman, or even co-operatives, to build new ships to go out and compete with the Japanese in fishing in the Coral Sea. To build a decent tuna trawler to-day would cost probably something like £7.0,000 if it is to have sufficient range and refrigeration as well as being seaworthy. There are not very many fishermen, in fact there are not very many people at all, who can raise £65,000 or £70,000 to start an industry unless they form a company. A co-operative was formed comparatively recently, but it is engaged mainly in marketing, not in building. Because of all th is, I have been trying over the years to get some of the things which I now find provided for in this hill, and while I lui ve no certainty in my mind that anything I may have said may have influenced the introduction of this measure, I like to feel that I may have had a little to do with it. I know the fishermen up north think I have had something to do with it, and that gives me all the thanks I want.
I think it was last September when I spoke at some length in this chamber about fishing. On that occasion, there was a great deal of misunderstanding by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Apparently, somebody had read something I said in this Senate completely out of its context. If they had read the whole paragraph, they would have realized that I said that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization had done a magnificent job but had been hampered by the extremely small amount of money made available to it. In the budget for this year, I think the amount is only £160,000. That is only a flea-bite when we realize that Canada spends 10.000,000 dollars a year on fishery surveys, that Great Britain spends about the same and that in the United States of America they spend about 8,000,000 dollars on this work. Those countries have a number of vessels at sea all the time finding out those things that it is necessary for fishermen to know. I emphasize that I- am not reflecting on either Mr. Anderson, of the Fisheries Department, or the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization or on any of our ichthyologists throughout Australia. I have nothing but respect for the work they do. Indeed, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has clone an extraordinary amount of work on a shoe-string and working in vessels that I am not sure that I would take outside a river estuary in some cases.
There are people who say that there are no tuna in the Coral Sea. It is true that last year two vessels, Fairtuna and Fairventure, were sent up there for two months to investigate the possibilities of our catching tuna. They stayed there for two months, and it is impossible to conduct a survey of that kind in that short, time. Such a survey must extend over a period of years if it is to be satisfactory. Yet, after this two months’ survey, we were told that there were no tuna in the Coral Sea. I insist that there are tuna in large quantities in the Coral Sea. I base that assertion on the fact that the Japanese send their fishing vessels 4,500 miles to fish in the Coral Sea. They engage in what is known as long-line fishing on a catch of 14 per cent. By that, I mean that 14 per cent, of the hooks have fish on when the lines are hauled in, and that is an extraordinarily high percentage. They run out 60 or 70 miles of line with hooks at about every 200 yards. The normal catch anywhere else in the world is something like 9 per cent, or 10 per cent, of the hooks when the lines are hauled in. In the Coral Sea, the Japanese, fishing from small sampans, are getting up to 12 tons a day. That is why I insist that there are fish there. Those fish are being taken by the Japanese to Samoa where they are canned by the Americans and sold to America. Yet we have sat idly by and done nothing in this country to help those people who could supply that enormous export market which we so sadly need at the present time. Most of the fish that have been caught by the Japanese are what are called the yellow-fin tuna. That is an excellent canning fish and the average return is from 35 to 50 lb. of canned flesh from each fish. It is excellent white meat most suitable for canning. They are pelagic fish, that is to say, they inhabit the surface water of the oceans.
I think it has become quite obvious to everybody in Australia that our fishing catch is far too small to meet our requirements. I understand that more than half our requirements are imported in the shape of kippers, bloaters, haddock and other types of smoked fish. Quite a large amount of tinned fish is also imported, and to buy it tinned is the most expensive way .of buying fish, especially when we know that fresh tuna caught in Queensland waters is selling at 5d. per lb. at the moment. The same fish, canned and transported to the United States is selling there for something like 33 cents or 3s. per lb. Another important factor is that as the result of a recent prawn survey in Queensland, large quantities of a new type of prawn are being caught.
Sitting suspended from 5.4-5 to 8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended, I was discussing the need for much more research into fisheries in Australian waters. I expressed pleasure at the steps that were being taken by the Government to set up a trust fund of £750,000 for the benefit of our fisheries, which have bee~ in the position of an orphan child in years gone by. As I have said, one of the things that have made me certain that there are plenty of fish in Australian waters is the presence of the Japanese, who can afford to travel 4,500 miles to catch fish in the Coral Sea at great profit to themselves. I discussed some of the catches that were being obtained, and learned that they were excellent.
I wish to refer now to the establishment of a large prawn industry on the coast of Queensland. A company that has started operations in Bundaberg recently found new beds of very large prawns. That company now needs export permits from the Government without delay, but it is having trouble in getting them. The company has an order from New York for 1,000,000 lb. of prawns to be shipped in lots of 50,000 lb. to 100,000 lb. About fifteen to twenty of these prawns weigh a pound, and they are bringing 73 cents in New York or 6s. 6d. in Australian currency. Obviously, the industry has great possibilities. Even if smaller prawns are counted in and they are averaged, these prawns would be worth about 5s. per lb. and 1,000,000 lb. in weight represents £250,000 in Australian currency or approximately 550,000 dollars, which we need badly. 1 ask the responsible Minister to expedite the issue of these export licences which have been held up for some reason, possibly through departmental, red tape, but I am not sure.
– Are export licence* delayed ?
– Yes, at present. I wish to refer now to what other countries are doing for the fishing industry, in the hope that we can copy them here. In Great Britain, the country that .1 know best so far as fishing is concerned, the Ministry of Food has taken the English fisheries completely under its wing. The Scottish Herring Board does the same thing in Scotland. There is also a White Fish Board, besides several other minor organizations. In most of the fishing ports of England, such as Hull.
Grimsby and Yarmouth, and at Aberdeen in Scotland, there are proper recreation rooms for fishermen where films are shown dealing with the catching of fish. Some of the films are taken under water to show exactly what happens when a trawl is used, how the fish get out or why they do not escape, and those films help fishermen to understand their craft. Long-term loans are granted to fishermen in Great Britain, the United States of America, Canada, South Africa, Holland and Dutch New Guinea.
– Who makes the loans available?
– The governments. In England, there is published a small book on fishing, and I propose to pass a copy on to our fisheries authorities. Although the Fisheries Newsletter is an excellent publication and a credit to Mr. Anderson, nothing is so good that it cannot be improved. The Scottish Fisheries Bulletin contains pictures taken underwater showing what happens when the trawlers are active, and what the fish do. Charts or maps are marked to show where fish are to be found at any particular time. Notices are published once a. week, and are placed on boards in the ports. Surely we can do something similar in Australia.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) has been most helpful in discussing suggestions that I have made for the improvement of the fishing industry, and I believe that it has great prospects because of his intercession. He has assured me that, as soon as possible, when he has settled down to his task and the money is paid into this trust fund, he will call a. conference as I have suggested. It will be attended by leaders of the professional fishermen in each State and the secretary of the federal organization, by officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the permanent head of the Department of Primary Industry. I have submitted an agenda, and I hope that the matters contained in it will be discussed. I shall mention them to indicate the matters that I believe should be discussed thoroughly.
First, I should like to see the fishing industry proclaimed as a primary industry. I shall not go into details because Senator Laught yesterday made a most noteworthy speech on that very subject. An opportunity will he given at the committee stage to ask the responsible Minister about that suggestion. At present, the fishing industry is not considered a primary industry. It is one of the few food-producing industries that do not come under that heading.
I want to do something about the export permits but, more particularly, at present I want the Government to examine the very harsh restrictions that are placed upon the importation of nets. The manufacture of nets is not extensive in Australia, and we have to get them from overseas. I want to see the proper regulations applied to the various organizations in each State. That is primarily a State matter, hut if a federal conference or a conference of representatives of all States were held, it could produce regulations. I should like to see the railway departments in at least three States and, perhaps, others, acquainted with the requirements of the fishermen in the way of refrigerated cars. The railway departments have no knowledge of the best modern American or Canadian methods of carrying fish to distant markets so that they arrive in good condition.
I should like to see some control of fishing vessels by the Commonwealth Navigation Branch. Senator Henty has suggested that only .amateurs get into trouble, but that is not the case. As I have mentioned before, many vessels owned by fishermen are in a bad condition, and as they have to go out to earn their living they take chances and get” into trouble. Even with my own knowledge of ships, I should not like to take many of those vessels outside an estuary. Those fishermen should be under the wing of the Navigation Branch for survey and seaworthiness.
– Are they not now?
– They do not come under the control of any one at present. They pay a few shillings each year, get a licence and place a number on the side of the vessel, and that is all.
That is a State matter. They are not controlled by any one. New South Wales has a system of a moderate sort, but the position is very bad in Queensland and in some of the other States.
Another thing that I should like to see is a get-together between the State authorities on the naming and the sizes of the various fish in Australian waters, and also discussion of the seasons which should be considered closed season. At the present time, there are four or five different ideas on these matters in the various States. It seems a pity that that position should exist, because it should be so easy for the people concerned to get together and sort it out.
I have already mentioned the subject of long-term finance which could be of great benefit, even if it were to be a kind of hire-purchase system such as Canada introduced for a while when it was necessary to do so. As I pointed out earlier, it would be impossible for fishermen to put up £65,000 or £70,000 for the purpose of building a deep sea vessel unless a company were floated; and the majority of our professional fishermen do not want to do that. They like to be independent. They prefer to work two or three men to a vessel and to share their catch. That keeps them independent, which is always a very good thing. Perhaps, some of the money from the proposed trust account could be used to assist with the cost of ship-building.
Fuel tax is another matter that I should like to see discussed at what I hope will be a. worth-while conference. At the present time, fuel tax is paid by fisherman. They take their vessels to sea and pay tax on the petrol they use, and they also pay road tax. To my way of thinking, that does not seem a very fair method of taxation. I may be wrong there, because I do not know a great deal about finance and taxation; but on the face of it, it does not seem fair.
In the next budget, I should like to see budgetary allocation, on a non-recurring basis, of a certain sum of money to be applied to the building of two vessels to lie run by the fisheries department, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Scientific and. Industrial Research Organization, the ship to be completely fitted for scientific investigation, for the tagging of fish to find out where they go, for underwater photography, for purposes of oceanography, echo sounding, and that kind of thing, exactly as is done in other countries. In -Canada, they spend 1.0,000,000 dollars a year on this kind of work, whereas, last year, our allocation for this purpose was £160,000 and, in the preceding year, £145,000. Great Britain has fourteen ships engaged in this work, while the fifth mine sweeper flotilla stands by to look after fisherman and to keep them out of trouble, such as getting into Scandinavian or other waters. The United Kingdom fishing industry is husbanded and looked after because it is worth while and profitable to do so. If we could work up to large exports of fish, it would also be profitable for this country to do that.
In Canada and the United States, there is a method of dealing with fish which is known as the production of fish sticks. I .think that Senator Wordsworth knows something about this matter because 1 understand that production, in a small way, has been commenced in Tasmania. In Canada and the United States the fish fillets are cut into pieces about six inches or eight inches long, and round or nearly round in section. They are wrapped in cellophane and put into the deep freeze. When they go out to the retail market, all that the housewife has to do is to cook them. The fish sticks are as fresh as daisies; she has no cleaning to do and no bones to take out. This is big business in those countries. Indeed, it runs into tens of millions of dollars. I use the term “ big business “ in its proper sense, not in any political give-and-take sense of the term.
The conservation and husbandry of new fisheries comes under the heading of survey, to a large degree. When I tell honorable senators that a cod which weighs perhaps 30 lb., or 35 lb., can lay W.000,000 minute eggs at a time, it will be obvious that fish multiply rapidlyMany of those fish never pass beyond the embryonic stage, and of those that become tiny fish a great many arc eaten,, but, nevertheless, it may be seen how easy it is to restock waters which arebecoming overfished or which, through some other reason, lose their fish. That lias’ been done in New Zealand in relation to rainbow trout. The New Zealanders have imported spawn from England, with the result that they have a magnificent stock of rainbow trout.
– How is . the tuna fishing industry getting on?
– I discussed that matter before ‘the suspension of the sitting and I have not time to go back to it now. I noticed recently that a member of the House of Representatives had suggested that Lake George could be used as spawning ground for fresh water fish. There is nothing novel in that suggestion, of course. In practically every village in China there is a fish pond where fish are bred. You simply go along and catch your fish for breakfast.
Finally, if we are going to do this thing properly, after the conference has been held - and I hope that it will be held - let us ask the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to send us one of its experts. Mr. Harding, who is an expert of the organization, is in India at the present time, and, it would be easy to get him to come hero before he returned to the United States. Those are the things that I hope to see come to pass. After some years of working fairly consistently on this matter it is very pleasing to me to find a Minister who is sympathetic and who, when he does not understand things, is willing to listen and to help us along.
Senator SHEEHAN (Victoria) [8.16J. - We have just listened to a very interesting discourse concerning the fishing industry of Australia, and if this bill were being debated in different circumstances from those that exist to-night I should feel, inclined to follow Senator Kendall and also discuss the development of the fishing industry. But I am afraid that, despite the phraseology of the measure that is before us, and despite the soothing words of the Minister in charge of the hill and Senator Kendall, there is something else that needs to be stated. I feel that, in the guise of a bill to assist , the. fishing industry in this country, one of the greatest confidence tricks that could be worked against the Australian taxpayers is being propounded before us this evening.
According to the Minister, the purpose of the bill before us is to establish a fisheries development trust account. It might be suggested that that was a very wise action on the part of the Government. During the course of his remarks, the Minister directed attention to the wonderful potentialities of our fisheries. He also referred to the recent activities of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and other bodies, in relation to the discovery of new fields of tuna fishing. He ‘almost made our mouths water with his references to that delectable fish, which so many of us would like to eat. He pointed out that it is possible for Australia to develop exports of tuna, and he discussed the discovery of new areas of ‘ sea in which prawns may be found. I am sure that many Australian people who are fond of fish could be pardoned for thinking that there is a great opportunity for fish to be placed on Australian tables. However, I do not see anything in the bill that, guarantees to the Australian people that they will he able to purchase fish at lower prices than those that obtain at the moment. All that the Government is talking about is the further development of our fish export trade. Already, we are exporting considerable quantities of crayfish tails. In order to see the weakness of the Government’s approach, one has only to observe the price of fish in the fish shops in Sydney and Melbourne. I am sure that the consuming public would feel more grateful to the Government if a measure were introduced to ensure that fish would be available to them at cheaper prices.
Let us consider how the proposed development of the fishing industry will take place. Is this development to be accomplished because the Government places a certain amount of money in a trust account, or because of the activities of private enterprise? The Minister has stated that investigation has shown thai fishing grounds are ready for exploitation. What he omitted to say was that extreme difficulty has been experienced in inducing private enterprise to develop the fishing industry, despite the ready market that exists for fish, and the fact that big profits can be made.
As private enterprise has been unwilling to develop the fishing industry with its own cash resources, the Government now proposes to provide the necessary money. In order to establish the trust account, the Government intends to sell a most valuable asset belonging to the people of this country. The Government has adroitly concealed in this bill its intention to sell the valuable whaling station in Western Australia. Instead of introducing a measure to authorize the disposal of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission, it has introduced a measure ostensibly for the purpose of assisting the Australian fishing industry. Cunningly concealed is the fact that it is proposed to sell the whaling station.
When the bill to establish the whaling station was introduced in this chamber by Senator Courtice, who was Minister for Trade and Customs in the Labour government, it was not well received by our friends opposite, who then occupied the Opposition benches.
– Because it was a socialistic measure.
– I am glad to hear that interjection. It will be recalled that Senator Cooper’s chief objection to iiic measure at the time was its socialistic character. But the Labour government, using the people’s money, established what our friends on the other side chose to call a socialistic enterprise. At that time, there were only one or two broken down fishing establishments in Western Australia. Private enterprise had neglected to exploit the coastal waters in order to provide the community with an item of food of which it was in dire need. Members of the then Opposition in this chamber prophesied that the whaling venture would be a dismal failure. Senator Cooper spoke at length about unsuccessful government enterprises in New South Wales and Queensland, and said that the Government should not participate in the whaling industry. However, from its inception, the whaling station in Western Australia was a paying proposition, despite the fact that, due to the limitation on the number of whales that could be taken, the station’s plant has never been worked at full capacity.
The Minister has stated in his secondreading speech that the proceeds from the sale of the whaling station will be placed in a trust account in order to provide assistance in the development of the fishing industry. He was forced to admit, on behalf of this anti-socialist government, that this socialistic venture had operated successfully and made large profits. The Minister said that, in order, that the fishing industry might be developed, it was necessary foi the Government to assist those engaged in it to buy boats and fishing gear. It is evident that this anti-socialist Government is not averse to engaging in a little bit of socialism in order to develop an enterprise and bring it to a profitable stage before selling it to the friends of the Government. In effect, honorable senators opposite want a little both ways. Basically, they are anti-socialists, but when it suits them they a’i-e prepared ‘t’o be 100 .per cent, socialist. There is ho reason why the. Government should not have further developed the whaling station in Western Australia. -In- view of its successful operation, a wise government would have decided to extend the whaling industry. Although the whaling station was established only as an experimental station, it has operated very successfully, and there is no reason why it should be sold in order to provide assistance to the fishing industry generally. A wise government would have further developed the whaling industry in this country, but what do we fmd? We find that the Government is taking neither the Senate nor the people into its confidence tonight. Is the Government telling us what it is likely to receive for this station? Is it advising us that after the bill has been passed and the agreement signed, the purchasing organization will be compelled to maintain the whaling station in Western Australia? Is there any guarantee that the private organization which buys the station will not ©Jose it down, that as a result .of the operations of private enterprise and monopolies it may be closed down?
One would have thought that if this Government had been honest and sincere, and had nothing to hide, it would have attached a copy of the agreement to this measure or to the next one that will he before the Senate - the actual measure for the disposal of the whaling station. One would have thought that the Government would do that, so that the Senate, and perhaps the people, could be made aware of the conditions under which the disposal is to take place. But no such thing has been done, and the people have not been taken into the confidence of the Government. In those circumstances, is the Opposition not justified in suspecting that there may be something sinister, something underhand in regard to the whole business? Why has the Government not come out into the open and told the people, or the Senate, what is behind all this?
A piece of business of this kind is not a new action on the part of the Government. A few months ago, the Government went to the country, but the members of the Government would not take the people into their confidence as to what their policy was to be. However, after the Government was safely back on the treasury bench, it let loose its unexpected legislation. The Government had not told the people the type of legislation that it would introduce in order to deal with the crisis which lad occurred as the result of its ‘ own mismanagement and maladministration, but kept the whole matter in the dark. Tonight, the same sort of thing is happening again. The Government, in the guise of assisting the fishing industry is disposing of another of.the people’s assets. Therefore, is it any wonder that we look for the nigger in the woodpile in regard to this matter?
It is strange to notice that on its own admission, this Government will give itself a dose of socialism. We have been told by Government supporters that private enterprise will not take the initiative in the development of the fishing industry, and, therefore, the Government will hold itself responsible for setting up the necessary canning machinery, purchasing the boats, training the fishermen and doing all the necessary preliminary work. Then, if this country is unfortunate enough to have a government similar to the present Government when the fruit of the fully-developed industry is ripe for plucking, private enterprise will come along and endeavour to take it over.
– I suppose the honorable senator would communize it.
– My friends on the Government side of the chamber are continually talking about communism and anti-communism. ‘ Hardly a measure comes before the Senate without communisms being brought into the matter somehow or other. I suggest that those honorable senators should spend a little more time studying communism, and then, if they have the interests of this country at heart and desire to see a democratic system continue here, they should go out and fight communism much more effectively than they are at present doing. If communism ever becomes effective here, it will not be as the result of any actions of the Labour party, but will be through the actions of those in control of the country to-day who hide their heads in the sand and are not aware of what is going on around them. They are refusing to improve the conditions which are likely to breed communism.
I suggest that the action of the Government in disposing of the Australian Whaling Commission’s assets is only one of a series of similar actions against the welfare of the people of Australia and, as I said in my opening remarks, the measure before the Senate which, in other circumstances, would receive the wholehearted support of the Opposition, is merely a camouflage measure to cover up the sale of a valuable asset of the people. In the past, the Labour party has done everything possible, according to the means at its disposal, to develop the fishing industry in Australia. We ensured that trawling operations were carried on, and we maintained the late Mr. Dannevig as head of the Fisheries Division. That division had its trawling boat, Endeavour, which sailed the seas around Australia in order to develop our fishing grounds.
In the light of our record, it is plain that the Labour party is greatly in favour of developing the fishing industry, but this Government is now asking us to support a bill to disperse money which will be provided through the destruction of one of our great assets, an asset that is to-day paying good dividends and is so well developed that private enterprise is prepared to move in. I hope that I shall not be told that private enterprise is made up of philanthropists, and that the offer that has been made to the Government for the whaling station is actuated by philanthropy, because I am quite sure that those who bid for the station are prudent businessmen who have thoroughly investigated the matter and decided that they can make a handsome profit out of the transaction. They fully appreciate that some of the finest whaling industry machinery in the world is at present on the whaling station at Carnarvon. Their own plants are run down and broken. Here is their opportunity to get an excellent plant. They see that opportunity, and are prepared to step in. Surely honorable senators realize that a government, which on its own admission believes that the station is making a handsome profit, would not have sold the organization. For the first time in the history of legislation dealing with the whaling industry the whale has been declared a fish for the purposes of the act. If the Government wanted to utilize the whaling industry as a means of assisting the fishing industry, would there have been anything wrong in using the profits of the whaling station that have accrued as a result of the people’s money being invested in this particular activity and allowing the capital investment to remain? The Australian “Whaling Commission, according to its balance-sheets, lias been making good profits, and according to the speech of the Minister it has Deen well conducted and could, no doubt, continue to show a profit. I see nothing wrong in using profits made from whaling activities to improve our fisheries; that would be a wise and sound business arrangement. We find a similar course followed very frequently in private enterprise, especially in enterprises that have several strings to their bows. Large companies with associated holding companies use the profits of one concern to -develop another concern. This Government has not done that and it will not do at because, I suppose, as honorable senators opposite would say, that would be socialistic. That is what should have been done, instead of what is being done under this bill.
We have had a series of these raids upon the assets of the people. I have already mentioned the objection which’ the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), when his party was in Opposition, raised on a bill dealing with the fishing industry. I suppose he has forgotten all about that. He may speak later and attempt to justify what he said during the second-reading debate on the bill initiated by Senator Courtice who was then Minister for Trade and Customs. If the Minister for Repatriation decides to speak on this measure he will have to eat the words he uttered on that occasion. As I was sa.ying, this is only one of several attempts on the part of the Government to destroy an asset of the people which has u been built up by the Labour Government. In not one instance has the asset disposed of been a financial failure. First, we had Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited which, established by a Labour government, became a great asset in the wireless development of this country. That institution developed the technique of wireless and as a result of its activities in that science gave to the people the benefits of its research work. When it reached its peak it was destroyed; or at least it was handed over to hungry representatives of private enterprise who would not take the initiative.
Then we had Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, another institution established by a Labour government in the interests of the people and an organization which was of great benefit to every section of the community which uses petrol. It played a prominent part in the advancement of this country, but because it became an active competitor with other companies it had to go. Private enterprise saw the rich plunder, wanted it, and so it dropped into their lap. Then, we witnessed the attempt by this Government to cripple Trans-Australia Airlines, another great national institution built up by the taxpayers of this country. It has made Australia one of the greatest flying nations in the world. Australia has one of the finest air services in the world, thanks to the development of Trans-Australia Airlines. It is only the force of public opinion that prevents the Government from disposing of TransAustralia Airlines, although the Government has done everything possible to cripple it. Because it is a national institution, the Government has given more favoured treatment to its competitors.
Now we come to the whaling station at Carnarvon. Like the rest of the activities I have mentioned, it has been developed and has done a great job for the whaling industry in Australia. It l>icked it up from being an industry almost out of existence as the result of the failure of private industry to develop it. Now that it is ripe, private enterprise wants it. That is the chain of events. I suppose the Commonwealth shipping line will be next. The Government has also done all it can to destroy “our great financial institution, the Commonwealth Bank. A large number of its followers would like to see that bank crippled. So, we find this Government hiding behind a cloak with a hidden dagger. It brings forward a bill to develop fisheries. In reality this is not a bill to ‘develop fisheries at all, but a bill to destroy a valuable public utility that has done great work for Australia and could do a much greater if it had the sympathetic administration of a government that was prepared to develop it to its fullest extent.
The real purpose of this bill, despite the nice gentle speech of the Minister, and that of Senator Kendall, who I know is very enthusiastic about the development of the fishing industry, is not to develop Australian fisheries. It is, indeed, an expression of the Government’s hatred of any asset that was established by a. Labour government. That is the attitude of the Government; and, so, tonight the Senate witnesses the spectacle of another confidence trick being played upon the people of Australia, lt will not be long before the people will wake up to these things, and the retribution that will follow will be something that honorable senators opposite will not like.
– In rising to speak in sincere support of this measure to establish a fisheries development trust account, and for purposes connected therewith, I do not propose to deal in any detail with the speech of Senator Sheehan, to which we have just listened. Since Senator Kennelly, who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this chamber, set up his wail, Opposition speakers have been crying the same tune, the same mournful ditty, trying to arouse suspicion, to smear and to blackguard, when they could get away with it, members of this Government and the party of which I am proud to be a member. The speech I propose to make will encompass criticisms of Senator Sheehan’s remarks. The purpose of the bill is to set up a. trust account for research into, and development of. the fishing industry - a great primary industry. If members of theAustralian public had been asked, in a sort of gallup poll, “ What do you think of the idea of the Australian Government, setting up a trust account to develop the? fishing industry?” not one of them, noi even a child, would have offered any criticism, because every one is aware of the vast opportunities awaiting development in the 12,000 miles of coastal water* around this island continent. If the fis!) ing industry is developed, it will increase our export markets, curtail imports and help the economy of this nation. Consequently, one would think that there would be no opposition in the Parliament to the setting up of a trust account for this purpose.
The measure sets out openly the reasons for which the trust account is being established. It shows that the money will be spent in such ways as the initiation or the continuation of research and investigation in connexion with the fishing industry or in the direction of that industry, and in granting financial assistance by way of loans or provision of share capital to companies or persons engaged, or proposing to be engaged, in the fishing industry. That is most important, because more people and more companies need to be encouraged to take an interest in the fishing industry. Tr> engage in the industry is beyond the financial ability of the average person inclined to that mode of life, and if th, Government can give a lead by supplying capital, it will help this industry as :t lias helped in connexion with war service homes, war service land settlement and similar ventures. The Government is providing this money for development. T.i is well “known that to equip suitable vessels for deep sea fishing involves heavy expenditure.
One must ask, “ “Why this opposition ? “ “Why this prolonged debate which, b Senate standards, has been heated ai times? The answer is that the chief point of difference is the source from which will come the money that is to be paid into this trust account. Consideration of that problem involves a clash of party principles and ideologies. The socialist must control and own all ; he must restrain private enterprise and a have a finger in every pie. The socialist must always b<the boss. Consequently, when honorable senators opposite find that an industry is being sold, and the proceeds of the sale are to be used in the manner proposed, no matter how much they believe in the development of the fishing industry, they will oppose the bill because a government industry which has played its part and served its purpose is being disposed of. They continue their bitter opposition.
On the other hand, the Government parties, elected to office first in 1949, carrying out a clear-cut policy since that time, and being re-elected on each, occasion that they faced the electors, have declared that the Government should get out of business undertakings which need not be owned and controlled by the Government. They say that the dead hand of socialism should be lifted, and the entangling red tape of bureaucracy cut away from these industries. Every time private enterprise develops an undertaking it helps the economy of the nation, relieves the Government of responsibility, restores efficiency in industry and takes away the fear of corruption.
The socialists say that they believe in the development of the fishing industry, but they suggest that funds for the purpose should be taken out of Consolidated Revenue - the old milch cow. When measures of this kind are brought down to raise revenue for the normal purposes of government, the Opposition is loud in its criticism. In all my experience, both outside and inside this Senate chamber, I have never before realized that the Opposition could .be so simple, unsophisticated and inconsistent.
It is fair for a senator, speaking in support of a measure of this kind, to dwell on some of the features of the bill. By passing this legislation the Senate will be placing a great responsibility on the Government, and I should be a most disappointed supporter of the Government, if I saw a large departmental staff being built up with the proceeds of ..this trust account. This money must” be spent promptly. There is need for research and the promulgation of knowledge gained from that research. It may be necessary to buy a research vessel. There are many things the Government should do, and it will have nearly £1,000,000 with which to establish and develop this industry. From time to time, the Government can pay money into this account if it so desires.
Earlier this evening I was asked, in two places, what I knew about fishing. My reply is that I know very little, but I have assessed the importance of this legislation to the Australian” people, and I am convinced that it will be of great value so long as the Government an’d the Minister for Primary Industries (Mr. McMahon) and his department get on with the job as soon as this legislation is passed.
Since this measure has been before the Senate, honorable senators opposite have developed a theme which they have discussed under three headings. First, they have engaged in a smear attack on the Government, suggesting that the sale of the Carnarvon whaling station was carried out by underhand methods. Yesterday, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this chamber (Senator Kennelly) said that the proposed sale of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission savoured of political prejudice at its worst, and of a handout to Government supporters. If the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna) heard that remark, ,he must have frowned because it is not a statement such as he would have made. The Opposition evidently considers that once the Government takes1- a’ction to raise money that is an opportunity to engage in a smear campaign and arouse suspicion of corruption, bribery or misappropriation of public moneys. This Government lias been in office for six years, and except for the smearing attacks that have been made in debate, not one item has appeared in the press - although the press would have loved to publish such items if it had any justification - implying that there has been corrupt dealing. If the history of our predecessors is examined, and press reports that have been. published about them from time to time are perused, a different story is found. In reply to the criticism of the Government’s action in selling the people’s assets, I ask honorable senators opposite whether they will never realize that they should mend their ways, and come back to earth. Honorable senators opposite criticize us for selling an asset of the people. They criticize us for selling our interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and for other action we have taken. If it is wrong for this Government to sell what they call an asset of the people, I ask them what they call the action the Labour Government took in 1946 when it sold the nation’s holdings in the scheelite mine on lovely King Island right near the fishing industry in Bass Strait. On that island there was an estimated 3,000,000 tons of scheelite and tungsten ore, both of which were valuable for defence purposes, and in 1941-42 the Labour Government of the day invested money in it so that it could be developed rapidly for war purposes. At that time, it was estimated that there was enough ore to keep a mine of average production in operation for twenty years. The Commonwealth’s holdings in the scheelite mine were valued at approximately £420,000. In 1944, negotiations were started for the disposal of the Commonwealth’s interest. Part of the value was to be written off as war expenditure. It is quite easy to appreciate that the directors of the mine were only too anxious for the Government to get out- I laud the then Labour Government for getting out; but when honorable senators opposite smear us and imply dishonesty or bad dealing; I ask them why, on the 31st October, 1946, when the Commonwealth’s interest in the scheelite mine was worth just on £500,000, including the initial loan plus interest and accrued dividends, the then Labour Government accepted £250,000 for that £500,000 interest after two years of negotiation. I challenge any Labour senator or any Labour member in another place to prove that, what I say is wrong. The Labour Government had power to take such action, in those days, but, mark my words, it. was a power used without glory when it sold the people’s asset for half its value..
In view of that transaction, it ill becomes honorable senators opposite to» criticize this Government for accepting, the highest offer above its own valuation for the assets of the Australian Whaling: Commission. Not only did the Government accept the highest offer above ite valuation, but it also obtained a guarantee that every employee housed at Carnarvon would be retained in employment. Further, it received an assurance that theenterprise would expand rapidly becausethe Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited will now be able to consolidateits forces, its enterprise, and its power which, in turn, will enable it to cut overhead expenses and so develop thisgreat industry still further.
I should like to revert to the subject of .the scheelite mine at King Island, because some honorable senators oppositemight suggest that that was a losing concern. It was not. Soon after the Commonwealth sold out, the new ownersentered into long-term contracts for thesale of ore to the United Kingdom and United States governments ‘ at very good prices. If any one doubts my suspicions, I suggest that they trace the rise in theprice of shares in that enterprise. They went up to 61s. 7d., and by the 30th June, 1955, the total assets of the organization were worth £2,500,000. In that financial year, it made a profit of over £1,000,000 of which it distributed £500,000 in dividends to those who werelucky enough to hold shares in it.
In conclusion, I sincerely congratulate the Government for the action it has taken. I believe that everything has been completely open and above board. I firmly believe that the Government, in pursuance of its avowed policy at every ‘ election since the Liberal party was formed, made inquiries from sources, which it knew would be interested, as to how it might sell to private enterprise. It had offers, and it has accepted the highest bid. There can be nothing wrong in that, especially when that bid is higher than the valuation arrived at by its own valuers. The fact that the purchasing company has agreed to the Government’s request to watch the interests of employees housed at Carnarvon shows also that the Government has taken care of every aspect of the transaction. This sale will allow the whaling industry to develop. The Government will still get a certain amount of revenue by way of taxation from this profitable industry. Further, instead of having to take money out of Consolidated Revenue it will have nearly £1,000,000 to expend on the proper and wise development of the fishing industry. Because of that, I congratulate it, and scoff at the criticism of the Labour party because I do not think it is sincere. If honorable senators opposite feel that their criticism is sincere, then I submit that it is based on particularly bad premises.
– I rise to oppose the bill not because of its intention to help the fishing industry, but because of the methods adopted by which the Government seeks to force the Labour party into a false position. It is concealing the real object of the bill, which is the sale of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission. At the outset, I emphasize that no people in the Commonwealth have been more anxious to assist the fishing industry than have the members of the Australian Labour party. Honorable senators on the Government side have had much to say to-day about helping the fishing industry. I ask them what they have done since 1949. During the difficult post-war period, a great deal was done by the Chifley Government through Mr. Pollard, who was then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, to assist the fishing industry. During that time, money was given to the then Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to foster the fisheries section of that organization. It was during that time that the Fisheries Newsletter first came into being. It was in 1949, also, that Mr. Chifley authorized the purchase of a vessel for fishery research. That vessel was to cost £200,000. The authorization took place at the end of 1949, but,- unfortunately, the Menzies Government was then elected, and nothing has been done since about purchasing one.
In order to show how the fishing industry has been hampered over the years in not having that vessel, I should like to read extracts from reports of the fisheries division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization tabled in the Parliament each year since 1949. The report for the year 1950-51 states -
It is planned to extend the oceanographical work of the Division and for this purpose preliminary plans were prepared for an approximately 175-ft. oceanographical research vessel to be constructed in Great Britain.
That was in 1950-51. The report for 1951-52 stated -
Pending the commissioning of the tra.wler.oceanographical vessel at present under design, there has been some decrease in the deep sea research of the division. ,f
The next report, that for 1952-53, stated -
Oceanographical studies were again limited to coastal waters, and this must continue until the projected new 180-ft. trawleroceanographical vessel goes into commission.
The report for 1953-54 contained this comment -
During the year, studies have again been restricted to coastal waters because the division has only two small research vessels. Consideration is being given to the provision of a trawler-type oceanographical vessel to extend the work seawards.
Last year, the report stated -
The vessel for which £200,000 had been authorized by the Chifley Government would now cost £400,000, so the project has been temporarily shelved.
Yet we have heard honorable senators on the Government side saying how much they yearn to do something for the fishing industry whereas, as a matter of fact, they have not done anything in. this direction since 1949. We are all in agreement with every sentiment expressed by Government supporters regarding the development of the fishing industry. I should like to pay a particular tribute to Senator Kendall for his contribution to this debate. We regret that the Government has used these fishing industry proposals as a cover-,up for the sale of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission. Nothing, of course, could induce the Government to carry out its ideas for the development of the fishing industry without selling the Carnarvon whaling station. I have heard of a sprat being used to catch a mackerel, but this is the first time I. have known of a whale being used to catch a prawn.
This bill is very vague. The Government apparently was somewhat taken by surprise. There was no mention of the proposal to set up this trust fund in the Governor-General’s Speech, which was sadly lacking in some constructive proposal that would have received the support of honorable senators on the Opposition side. Nothing was said at that time because the Government had not thought of it. Now that the bill has been produced, we can see how vague it is. It was hastily conceived, its birth was premature and therefore its development is incomplete. There is nothing in the bill to set up any authority to supervise the expenditure of the rooney on the fishing industry. There is nothing to indicate that an authority, such as the Australian Whaling Commission, could be set up to ensure that the funds that are raised by the sale of the whaling station are properly expended on the fishing industry. If we had a man like the chairman of the Australian Whaling Commission, Mr. J. C. Bowes, in charge of this fund we would be happy. We are happy about the plan to assist the fishing industry, but we quarrel with the Government’s methods.
I am reminded of a bill that was introduced earlier this year to increase the size of the Cabinet. Inside that bill was another proposal to increase the salaries of Ministers. Even supporters of the Government rebelled against that method of hiding something in a new measure.
I was surprised to hear honorable senators on the Government side say that everything in connexion with the sale of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission was open and above board. Surely they do not expect us to believe them. If they believe it, they are the only ones who do so. Because of state ments that were current in Western Australia in the second week of February,. I asked a question in this chamber regarding the projected sale. Questionswere asked also in the House of Representatives and, in both chambers, evasivereplies were given. Some people were surprised when the cat got out of the bag, and wondered how it had happened. I could tell them, and I might do so one of these days.
This is the point that we have reached in Australia: We have legislation submitted to us as a cover-up for another piece of legislation that is to be introduced later. Why has not the Government been frank about this matter? Why did it not first introduce a bill to dispose of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission, and then introduce the Fishing Industry Bill? The reason is that even the Minister for National Development, (Senator Spooner) is not certain whether the legislation that is now before us will ever become operative, and nil the “ hifalutin “ talk of the Government supporters will not hide that fact. The Minister has stated -
Should unforeseen circumstances prevent a satisfactory sale being finalized, the legislation will remain on the Statute Book until such time as a satisfactory sale of the enterprise is made.
The Government is now introducing legislation based on a contingency, whereas it could have put before the Senate first a proposition that would be much more stable than the present measure. I am sure it felt that it had to give a sop to the people of Australia to counteract its duplicity in selling the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission. That deal had been in the air for four years and the Government claims that everybody should have known about it. It is true that the Government said it was going to sell the Whaling Station and the Commonwealth ships. The point is that the people did not know that this sale was imminent, at this time until somebody talked, and that person was not a member of the commission’s staff. He was one of the interested parties to the transaction who was annoyed because the December elections had prevented the sale from becoming a fait accompli in the last months of 1955.
Early in December, members of the Nor’ West Whaling Company were inquiring about valuations of the stock and fittings of the Australian Whaling Commission. They fully expected that they would have them for themselves. The fact is that the whaling season is about to start, and certain preparations had to be made to put everything in readiness. All the machinery at Point Cloates bad to be in order. The boiler had to be reconditioned and stores obtained. The company was up for an expenditure of £100,000 to get its whaling station into working order, and nothing was done because it was certain that it would get the station at Carnarvon.
I was surprised to hear Senator Marriott say the Government had made certain, in its dealings with the company, that the employees would be kept on. Nothing could be further from the truth. I. have something here that others have not been able to get - the contract of sale, which should be attached to this bill. It is a revealing document. There is nothing in the contract of sale regarding the position of employees at Carnarvon, because the Government could not force the company to keep a contract to maintain those men in employment. All the employees of the Australian Whaling Commission have been given notice ; every nian of them. Not one of them, up to 4 o’clock this afternoon, had been approached by the Nor’ West Whaling Company for employment with that company. They are all under notice. It is’ quite a big problem. “We have been told by the press that representatives of the company had come to Canberra to discuss with the Government the employment of these people. As a matter of fact, it was a very Petrov-like business. The directors left in secret for the talks in Canberra. They travelled on separate aircraft so that nobody would know what was happening. Some people seemed to have a complex about security, or something of that kind. An article which appeared in the West Australian of the 17th April last stated -
The directors of Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited were summoned to Canberra last week to discuss the terms of their tender with the Cabinet.
That is very interesting indeed. It went on -
Their departure from Perth was made secretly. Each member of the board left on a different plane and on a different day.
– Was that written in Western Australia?
– It was written by the finance editor of the West Australian. The article continued -
Points which it is believed were discussed In Canberra included the future of the staff of the Babbage Island whaling station and the disposal of the equipment, much of which is comparatively new.
The article went on to state that the company was supposed to have given the Government an assurance that those employees who were domiciled at Carnarvon would retain their employment. Some honorable senators might think that that would refer to the majority of the employees, but when I point out that there are between 140 and 150 employees during the season at Babbage Island and that, of that number, only about eight or nine have their homes at Carnarvon, it will be seen what a small concession, the company was making.
The whole business concerning the sale,, of this station reeks with suspicion - and that is being somewhat charitable. The terms of sale were not readily available. The Minister stated that he got in touch with interested people with regard to the sale of the station. He made that statement, in reply to questions which honorable senators and members of the House of Bepresentativ.es had raised concerning the secrecy with which this deal was being negotiated. Those of us who read auction sale notices will appreciate that it is often of interest to see what is going cheaply. Many hundreds of pounds are, spent in advertising disposals sales by the Department of Supply. The department advertises that there are second-hand beds, bedside cabinets, tea towels, knives arid forks, and all kinds of things for sale. A great deal of expense is incurred ^ in issuing catalogues concerning the sales. There are special days on which the disposals centres are open for inspection, so that people who are interested in buying surplus Commonwealth material may have the opportunity to do so on1 the open market. But when we come to ihe sale of this great national asset, the Australian Whaling Commission, is this procedure followed? Are the people of Australia told that this surplus Commonwealth asset is to he disposed of? No! The Minister writes to some of his friends. We do not know to whom he wrote. He said in the House of Representatives that he got in touch with certain interested people. One might be pardoned for thinking that the people most vitally interested would be, first, those engaged in whaling.
In Western Australia there are two companies that are working in this very important industry. We have the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited, the favoured one, and we have also the Cheyne’.0 Beach Whaling Company Limited, which is doing an excellent joh. The Cheyne’s Beach Whaling Company was not informed of this sale. The dl Minister stated in another place that he had been in touch with a Mr. Hunt, but the directors of the Cheyne’s Beach Whaling Company had a statement published in the W est Australian, on the 19th April last, to the effect that Mr. Hunt was not on its board of directors, that he had no connexion with the firm, that he was a director of a cannery firm at Albany, and that the company had no knowledge of this sale. Surely that company was one of the interested parties.
It was only after the Australian Labour party had made this matter public, and after questions had been asked here and in another place, that the people of Australia realized that the sale was imminent. They then began to ask for particulars. There was a company to be formed in Western Australia to ‘be known as the West Australian Whaling Company. I do not know very much about its bona fides, but a company was formed under the chairmanship of a member of the Country party of my State. This company, like the Moores when they undertook whaling at the Nor’ West Whaling Company’s station some years ago, did not know anything about whaling, but it had the capital and it had people to do the work, so tha’t it was able to make quite a good thing of it, with the help of the Australian Whaling Commission. In 1950, when one of lie ships belonging to the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited broke down and was unable to procure whales, the company approached the Australian Whaling Commission. SS. Manilya, one of the vessels of the Australian Whaling Commission, guaranteed to secure fourteen whales a week for the company, so that its operations could be kept going during that time. Otherwise, the work of the company would have been at a standstill.
This West Australian Whaling Company was formed under the chairmanship of a member of the Country party. I refer to Mr. Baxter, MLC. Representatives of the company got in touch with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) to find out the score. The honorable member was a little vague, as was everybody else, about what was actually happening, but after he came to Canberra he telephoned back to say that one of the company’s representatives would be well received by the department if he came over to make inquiries with regard to the purchase. However, hs found that things were very vague. Nobody seemed to know exactly what was being sold. The very ground on which the station was established belongs to the Western Australian Government. Here is the rub. At the time the Babbage Island whaling station was built, and when negotiations were being carried on with the Western Australian Government with regard to the leasing of Babbage Island, it was suggested by the Western Australian government of the day that the Commonwealth should purchase the land outright and make it a Commonwealth responsibility. I believe the present Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) was averse to such a process. Now we have the spectacle of the Australian Whaling Commission buildings and head-quarters being on land which is owned by the Western Australian Government and leased from that Government. The terms of sale contain no particulars about the conditions under which that lease is held. It seems that the whole thing has been very hastily conceived.
In. the terms of sale, as I have them, there are no dates. Perhaps that is why the terms of sale are not included in the bill. There is nothing definite about the matter at all, hut added to the terms of sale are two sub-clauses which are very interesting. “We have heard Government supporters to-night talking about monopolies, but I suggest that the very thing that the Government is attempting to do in “Western Australia is to establish a monopoly. The proposed conditions of sale state -
Under Section 10 of the Whaling Act 1935- 194.8 the Minister administering the Act has been granted an absolute discretion in respect of the granting of whaling licences, but the Commonwealth, without in any way purporting to bind itself or the Minister in the exercise of his discretion, expresses its intention that no additional whaling licence under that section will be issued in respect of the Western Australian coast during the whaling seasons 1956, 1957 and 1958 unless the quota attributable to the occupier of the Carnarvon whalingstation is restored to its previous quota of 000 whales and, if the purchaser-
This is rather tricky - is at the date of the sale an existing whaling company licensed to operate on the Western Australian coast-
They could not have said more plainly “ The Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited “. because that was the only company that was approached in the matter - unless the quota of the purchaser in respect of those operations is restored to the number of its quota during
Then there is a full stop. We are not told to what period “ during “ refers -
If the purchaser is an existing whaling company licensed to operate on the Western Australian coast the following provisions shall apply-
Here again, this has been put in specifically for the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited -
In other words, it means that this company which, at the present time, has the right to treat 500 whales, will get an additional right to treat a further 500 whales. As the whaling station at Carnarvon, which is the most modern in the world, is equipped to deal with 1,200 whales, it follows that the Point Cloate station will be closed down - indeed, it is in the process of closing itself down now - and all of the activities of this company will be transferred to Babbage Island. With the increase in its quota to 1,000 whales, and having tomeet only one lot of overhead expenses, this company will be able to make very handsome profits over the years, as a result of the gift it is receiving from this Government on very easy terms.
It is very interesting and enlightening to look at the list of shareholders of the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited, because when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) recently visited Perth - a visit which had such unfortunate consequences not only for the right honorable gentleman himself, but also for the Liberal party generally in Western Australia - he was asked on his arrival whether he could make any statement about thesale of the whaling station. He said that an announcement would be made within a. few days - he meant, of course, after the State elections had been held - and that the people of Western Australia would have no reason to be sorry over the result. Most people believe thatthe Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited is a Western Australian company. Up to the 31st March last - the latest date to which particulars of shareholdings are available - 540,000 shares in this company, of a nominal value of 10s. each, had been issued. Of these, 346,800 shares are registered in Perth, and 193,200 in Melbourne. Therefore, it might be said that this company is only about twothirds Western Australian. It is also interesting to note that the issued shares are held by 1,023 shareholders, some of whom hold only a few shares. More than one-third of the issued sharesare held by one family, and about one-fifth by another family which has a very close association with very high-ranking members of the Liberal party in Western Australia. We find, also, that shares are held by certain companies which have no particular affinity with Western Australia - companies that I had never beard of before. They include Aldershop Investments (Australia) Limited, Australian United Investments Company,
Fulcan Fodder Company Proprietary Limited, Loloma (Fiji) Gold Mines and N.M. Proprietary Limited.
A substantial shareholding belongs to people in Canada and other overseas countries. Yet the Nor’ “West Whaling Company Limited is supposed to be a purely Australian concern. In effect, the Government has said, “ We have looked into this matter, and as the Nor’ West Whaling Company is a Western Australian company, we shall help it all we can “.
We say that the whole matter requires investigation. The Opposition wants to know why the usual procedure for the sale of government property was not followed. Why were advertisements not inserted in the press? What was the substance of the communication from the Government to the persons or companies considered to be interested in this matter? Why are not the proposed conditions of sale of the whaling station incorporated in the bill which will be before us to-morrow, when I shall have to say all this over again because the Opposition wants answers to those questions? I am quite certain that the Government itself does not know how all of these matters have arisen. That is why we oppose this bill. The Government ha3 tried to take a mean advantage of the Labour party by putting us in an awkward position. Honorable senators opposite want to be able to say to the fishermen of Australia, “ The members of the Australian Labour party opposed this measure all along the line “. That is not so. We are wholly in agreement with the proposal to assist the fishing industry, butt we are opposed to this bill because of the underhand method that the Government has adopted in relation to the sale of the whaling station.
Of course, the amount involved is not very great, in terms of government finance. Eventually, the Government will receive about £750,000 to be placed in the proposed trust account. It is noteworthy -that the Government has not provided in this p ‘bill that any proposal to expend the money in the proposed trust account will have to come before the Parliament for approval.’’* Indeed, honorable senators opposite were very annoyed when the
Labour Government, which established the Australian Whaling Commission, inserted a clause in the relevant legislation to the effect that its assets could not be sold without the consent of the Parliament. That is why we are having this discussion now.
– Is the honorable senator looking ahead?
– There is no mention in the bill of the manner in which the trust account shall be managed, or of the Minister’s powers in relation to it. There is no provision in the bill to ensure that the Parliament shall have a say over the final dispersal of these assets. For all these reasons, while we would normally welcome any step by the Government to assist the fishing industry, because we realize what a wonderful industry it is and how sadly it has lacked assistance by this Government, we are not going to be trapped into voting for the sale of the Australian Whaling Commission, despite the Government’s claim that the end justifies the means.
.- I have very much pleasure in supporting this bill, and I have been astounded at the attitude of the Opposition toward? it.. The sob stories that we have heard from Senator Tangney and other honor able senators opposite have almost made me weep. I shall remind them of other factors in relation to Western Australia. No doubt, Senator Tangney, as a Labour senator, would know that the Labour Government in Western Australia sold the Moolabulla Station at Hall’s Creek, in the Kimberleys, on which were run abou’ 20,000 head of cattle. One of the conditions that the Western Australian Government placed in the terms of sale warthat about 300 natives who had been fed and housed on- that station should cO] 1tinue to be fed and housed there. Yet. within six months after the sale, we find that those natives have been wiped off the station. The section of the contract providing for their continued welfare ba>been completely ignored. .When Moolabulla Station was owned by the Government, the natives were looked after. Although the purchaser has failed to fulfil that obligation, the Labour Government of Western Australia has taken uo action against him. I assure the Opposition that six months after the sale of the whaling station, honorable senators opposite will not be able to say that the Government has not honoured its promise to assist the fishing industry with the proceeds of the sale. i repeat what 1 said at the outset, that I have very much pleasure in supporting this bill, which is one of the most refreshing measures I have seen introduced in thus chamber since i came here in 1949. lt breeds a spirit of initiative, and 1 believe that it is most refreshing to see that sort of thing in government activity.
I know that the Opposition is peddling the story around that a big capitalistic government is selling the Commonwealth’s whaling assets in Western Australia, but let us look at the position clearly. Some years ago a Labour government started the whaling station. Since then it has proved to be a success, but it is not the only whaling station that is operating in Australia to-day which is a successful proposition. As Queensland senators well know, the- Tangalooma station, in the southern part of Queensland, is operating very successfully at present. It is controlled by private enterprise. So, honorable senators will see that private enterprise whaling stations are also being operated successfully in Australia. That station in Queensland is paying good dividends and its shares are quoted at very attractive prices on the stock market.
The Government, now having seen the whaling industry well and soundly established in the Commonwealth, considers that it is a very fine move to sell the station in Western Australia and turn over the profits from the sale to the development of more fishing industries in and about Australia. I suggest that that is exceptionally good business. What is wrong with the money from the sale of a good industry being used to establish other industries? Surely nobody will suggest that it is the Government’s place to get out into this, that or the other industry and remain there permanently! This Government is taking the right attitude, and believes that it should invest money in an industry, make it successful and then move out a.nd leave private enterprise to carry on successfully. I cannot see why honorable senators of the Opposition should have any great desire to be members of a parliament that allows a government to run practically every business in this country. I suggest that it should be the desire of all of us to encoura’ge individuals to move out and build up private businesses into successful concerns.’ The Government can supply finance, expert guidance and experimental work in order to establish people in private business, and if we do that our Commonwealth will be much happier and more successful than if the Government remains interested in different types of businesses throughout the country.
The second-reading speech of the Minis,ter was one of the most interesting speeches that I have yet heard in the Senate. It laid down quite clearly that the Government is eager to develop Australian industry and to ensure that private enterprise shall play its rightful part’ in that development. There are immense’ possibilities if we act in that way. One of the honorable senators of the Opposition mentioned that some of the proceeds of the sale of the whaling, station will be used to develop the prawn industry. Our prawn industry to-day is very valuable, and I believe that according to figures published in the United States of America and elsewhere where prawns are caught in great quantities, this industry can grow to rauch greater proportions in Australia. Then, of course, if an industry such as the prawning industry, which offers remarkable opportunities, can be expanded and made more valuable, we shall be in a much better economic position than we are at present. Many such industries can help to provide food for the people, but they can also brins: in money from overseas, particularly dollars, or establish overseas credits.
The whaling industry has already been successfully established here, and we hove seen how the crayfish industry has developed until it is bringing in about £1,000,000 a year from overseas… In view of the development of those industries, I believe that the prawn industryis on the threshold of much greater development. If honorable senators refer to the second-reading, speech of the Minister, they will find that in the last financial year’ we imported fish and fish products valued at £5,612,0.00, and exported goods of the same kind, excluding whale oil, valued at £1,865,000. Those figures will give honorable senators an idea of how valuable the fishing industry is to other countries^ and how valuable it can become to this country..
Prawns can play a very important part in the development; of our export trade. On the New South Wales coast in particular, this industry has been largely developed, and’ in recent years there has been a great expansion of it in the southern part of Queensland. This industry has become very important as far north as Bundaberg, but it can be extended. Only a couple of years: ago, Mr. Stewart- and atn expert from overseas, who is now in: New South Wales and whose name X have forgotten, came to Mackay, in Queensland, and trawled off the coast to try to find how far north the extensive prawn beds along the Queensland coast extended. Unfortunately, they struck rough weather- for some time, but in the last couple of days of their activities, when the weather improved, they found extensive areas of prawns off the Mackay coast. They told me that in one area of the sea alone they must have sailed through at least 5 miles of prawns extending a great distance on either side of their course.
That sort of thing indicates the immense resources of the sea which are still available in our northern areas, and which have not yet been touched. While we may consider that we are doing a lot in the prawn industry, the future of that industry is much greater than we dream of. The Minister, in his secondreading speech, has specifically pointed out that this industry is capable of development. He also pointed out the necessity to develop better vessels for prawn trawling and to provide more efficient and modern machinery for the industry. If this measure is administered by the departments concerned in the spirit in which it has been introduced by the Government, we may look back in five or ten years time and realize that we participated in a great, event when this legislation passed through the Senate.
There are many other ways in which the proceeds from the sale of the whaling station can be applied.. In his secondreading speech the Minister has shown that there is great breadth of vision in the ideas of. his department,, and also in his own ideas. He specifically mentioned the. tuna industry. Those of us who live in the north of this continent know that, as Senator Kendall pointed out, Japanese ships have been fishing, in the waters near Queensland for the last year or so, and reports indicate that they are very successfully catching tuna there. As the Minister pointed out, there are great possibilities for Australia in the development of this industry, and it can be of immense value, to this country. It is particularly pleasing to know that the Minister and the Department of National Development are wide awake to all these possibilities.
There are other industries that might be considered. Tuna. has. been mentioned, but one of the fish caught off the Queensland coast in great quantities, by small ! fishermen isi the mackerel. I do not know to what extent the mackerel travels along the Australian coast; but I know that & lot of mackerel is caught along the Queensland coast. This fish should be further investigated by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in conjunction, with, the department administering this bill. Having regard to the scientific knowledge and investigating ability of that organization, other facta also might be disclosed. In a speech on the Appropriation Bill 1952-53, on the 25th September, 1952, I mentioned that most of our fishermen, because of the small craft they use, catch their mackerel inside the Great Barrier Reef. I am referring, of course, to the more northerly sections of the reef. In that- speech, I mentioned the case of one young man who ventured further out and who, in fact, went through the reef and found he was able to get much better hauls of mackerel. That indicates to me that there may be extensive mackerel fishing grounds outside the Great Barrier Reef, rather than inside it.
I believe that that area offers possibilities in other types of fishing too. Along the Queensland coast we have the giant perch, commonly known as the barramundi, which is considered to be one of the finest eating fish to be found anywhere in Australia. Anybody who has tasted it will agree with me. The money from the sale of this whaling station could be used to find out not only where these fish can be caught, but also their breeding habits and to make sure that fish of this type are not fished out. I believe that with the facilities available to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization we could find out the breeding habits of these fish and ascertain the fishing potential of the estuaries along our coast to a much greater extent than is known at the present time. As well as developing the industry in regard to tuna, mackerel and barramundi or giant perch, we should give consideration to the preservation of these fish.
I should also like the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to investigate the possibility of developing to a much greater extent the catching of what is known as the Queensland mud crab. It is a big crab with a delicate and beautiful flavour. Any one who has tasted it will agree that it is much sweeter than the crayfish, or lobster. It would sell well in any market. We know, of course, that crab is imported from overseas; and there may be difficulties in packing from the cost point of view, but I believe that the mud crab could be marketed because of the delightful taste of its flesh. 1 do not know its breeding potential, but that matter could be thoroughly investigated, not only from the marketing point of view, but also by the research organization from the point of view of preserving the crabs and building up their breeding possibilities.
During the war, some Indonesians came to the Mackay area as refugees, and I well remember them catching the little fish one sees in the water around piers and wharfs. They are there in thousands and can be seen shining in the water, but nobody bothers about them. These Indonesian people used to drop a line with multiple hooks and catch two or three at a time. They cooked them, bones and all; and, apparently, relished them. That is another possibility so far as the fishing industry is concerned. These may be little things, but it is marvellous how some of- these little things, when investigated and developed, can become really good things from a business and industry point of view. As I asked earlier: Who would have thought that the crayfish industry would become so valuable to Australia as a money-earner on our external markets? Not only tuna, mackerel, the giant perch or barramundi, but also these smaller fish which I have spoken about, with proper scientific investigation could become a valuable asset along our shores. Up to the present time, we have not learned their true value.
I believe that, properly handled and investigated, these fish could be of great benefit and produce much revenue noi. only in internal, but also external, credits. The Minister should note the suggestions I have made and give them consideration. His second-reading speech was comprehensive. I was stirred and thrilled to know that the Government is alive to the possibility of developing the fishing industry of this country, and, in particular, in seeing that private indus try is given its full opportunity. I leave those thoughts with honorable senators, believing that great possibilities lie ahead of the industry. Only yesterday, when travelling south from Mackay, I read in the Mackay newspaper a big heading, “ Prawn Harvest Attempt Next Week “. The article disclosed that a man named Allsopp, the owner of a small boat on which he spent £300 last year, was investigating the possibilities of catching prawns and other fish. He intends to go out with a New South Wales prawn expert, Mr. L. Field, to investigate the areas off the coast of Mackay. There are difficulties because of small capital and small boats, but under a bill of thikind finance can be made available to help these men get better boats and to back their spirit of venture in trying to build up not only a living for themselves but also an industry for this great country. The report stated that there were great stretches of prawns and that the field had been only just touched. It said -
Some of the prawns caught in the survey had weighed only three and four to the pound, and these were not isolated examples.
They found also Moreton Bay lobsters and scallops, which will provide a major industry along that part of the coast. I believe that this bill deals with the position in the right way. I compliment the Minister and the Government on being bold enough to sell what is now a thriving industry and on placing it firmly into the hands of private enterprise. The Government is to be congratulated in having the vision to see that, as the whaling industry has now been successfully established, it should utilize the money from that industry to establish other fishing industries in Australian waters. Because of the vision and enterprise shown by the Government and the Minister, 1 believe that five or ten years hence, as I said before, we shall be able to look back to the passing of this bill as a great service to the nation. Even honorable senators opposite, who are opposing the bill, will then be forced to admit that this Government thereby did the right thing and that Australia became richer internally and externally because of its vision, enterprise and determination to encourage the development of the fishing industry through private enterprise.
– If all honorable senators considering this bill were as simple as Senator Wood they might agree that there is a great deal of merit in the Government’s proposals. However, I intend to examine the measure in order to see whether the consequences likely to flow from it will be as desirable as Senator Wood suggests, or whether the bill is not a cloak for something unsavoury. At the outset I wish to express my appreciation of the speech by Senator Kendall this afternoon. It was obviously the fruit of a great deal of thought, and contained much wisdom and many valuable proposals that ought to be investigated by the Government. He outlined a course that could result in great benefit to Australia, and 1 was most interested in his remarks.
Ostensibly, the measure proposes to set up a trust for the development of fisheries in Australia. That is something which ought to have been done by the Government many years ago. It should have been done by the Labour Government when it was in office, but since that administration neglected to do it, this
Government has the right to claim credit for taking a forward step. I agree that the setting up of a trust to develop fisheries is an excellent move, but the method proposed by the Government for doing so raises a suspicion that it is concealing something that will not be very palatable to the people.
What will this trust do ? Down through the years, when a Commonwealth Parliament has considered that a need exists for funds to be used to develop an undertaking, the government has set aside certain sums from Consolidated Revenue, and proceeded with the developmental work. On this occasion, however, it appears that the Government, having decided as an afterthought to sell a valuable asset of the people, has tried to make of this proposal a palatable pill for the people to swallow. It has decided to set up a trust fund to develop the fishing industry around the coast of Australia, and in order to raise the money it has sold the Australian Whaling Commission’s station at Carnarvon, Western Australia. The Government has said, “ We have more than £800,000 which we can devote to the development of the fishing industry throughout the country”. That is a rather thin excuse for establishing this trust fund, and it appears to me more like putting the cart before the horse.
If this is a genuine transaction, and the Government is really concerned about how much money it can obtain each year for the development of the fishing industry in Australia, is it a good proposition to accept a lump sum of £800,000, or would it have been better to have £200,000 flowing in each year from the whaling station at Carnarvon? If the Government desired merely to set up a trust to develop the fishing industry, what better asset could it have than an annual income of £200,000? What return will the Government get from an investment of £800,000 in bonds or in a trust fund? Can it ever hope to obtain a return of £200,000 a year from such an investment - something like 25 per cent.? Although the Minister in charge of the. bill (Senator Spooner) is a financial wizard - and I “ dip my lid “ to the honorable gentleman - I am certain that never, in his most halcyon days, did he ever hope to earn 25 per cent, year after year from an investment. If he were advising clients, he would never suggest to them to get rid of an asset returning them 25 per cent, and invest their money in a concern returning only 5 per cent, or 6 per cent., and to regard that as a good transaction.
It is obvious that if the Government’s only concern in this bill is to set up a trust fund to assist the fishing industry of Australia, the Government could have had no more assured income than the £200,000 being provided annually by the Carnarvon whaling station. Now it has a lump sum of £S 00,000, and if it spends it at the rate of £200,000 a year it will be all gone in four years’ time. Although the proposal to set up a trust. fund to develop the fishing industry in Australia is good, and I fully support it, that fund should have been financed from Consolidated Revenue. If the Government did not desire to obtain funds from that source, it should have used the revenue flowing annually from the Australian Whaling Commission’s station at Carnarvon. Consequently, I cannot escape the conviction that the sale of that whaling station for the purpose of setting up a trust fund is not above suspicion.
The Government proposes to use. this trust fund for the purpose of research into the fishing industry. Where will that lead ?
Senator Wood has spoken about the prawning industry. Suppose the Government spends £250,000 in that industry. After having used the taxpayers’ money to experiment in this field of fisheries, and after having proved that this experiment will be successful, what does it propose to do? I suggest that the pattern is perfectly clear. The enterprise will then be sold to private industry. We have been called socialists, and I admit that I have a socialist outlook on these problems. Time after time, we who adopt that outlook have been told that the way to get things done in this ‘country is to give private enterprise the right to undertake the experiments, to take the risk3, and then, having developed an industry and made it successful, to let it enjoy the profits that flow from it. Apparently, the Government has now found that that is not quite the right way to do things. Apparently, it believes that it should undertake a risky enterprise, invest £1,000,000 in it, take all the risks and then, having established it and got it on such a sound financial footing that it is able to return to the people of Australia something like 25 per cent, each year, hand it over to private enterprise. I take it that that is the policy the Government proposes to pursue in the years to come. It intends to use this money as a trust fund and to embark upon ventures in fishing round the coast of Australia. The Government intends to use the taxpayers’ money to take the risk out of enterprise. It will spend the money on developing an industry. If that industry fails, then it does not matter, because the taxpayers’ money was used. On the other hand, if the industry is a success, it is perfectly obvious that as soon as it gets on to a successful footing and is returning handsome rewards, the Government will hand it over to private enterprise. That is a negation of what we call the capitalist system. It is a negation of private enterprise. If the Government stands for private enterprise, and claims to be the champion of people who, with their brains, skill and money embark upon ventures and then, having made a success of them, reap the reward, I suggest that what it is doing on this occasion is a negation of the whole theory that it has put to us from time to time.
This particular transaction requires the closest scrutiny despite the fact that the proceeds are to be used to establish a worth-while trust. This sort of trust ought to have been set up years ago because it -s perfectly clear that there is great wealth to be won from the waters “round our coast. It is true that the fishing industry in Australia has been sadly neglected ; and it is only right that the Commonwealth Government should spend money on developing it in order to bring that great wealth to the people. Senator Kendall ably pointed out that there is a tremendous a.mount of wealth in the oceans bounding Australia, and I fully support every possible help being given to the development of fisheries and the winning of that wealth for Australia.
I’ do not quarrel with the Government on what it proposes to do with the proceeds, from the sale of the whaling station. My only quarrel is with the method that it is using to set up the trust, irrespective of whether this station was a good or bad investment. I quarrel with the manner in which the whole of the negotiations have been conducted. No accountant, or no man with any financial intuition at all, could agree that it is good business to sell for £880,000 an asset that is returning £200,000 a year. If the Government’s sole intention is to set up this trust fund, it should seek to ensure that substantial income shall flow into that trust fund each year. It should look for ways in which it could get the best possible return for that fund. There are very few people in the community who are fortunate enough to hold an investment that returns them anything like 25 per cent. Certainly, the Government has very few such investments. It is patent that if the only purpose of the sale is the setting up of a trust fund, then somebody has made a very grave blunder in selling this whaling station.
Having made that point, I turn to the actual sale of the whaling station. Some six or seven years ago, in 1948 or 1949, this whaling station was established. In 1951, it began to return its first catch of whales and the Government reaped a reward for what it had invested in the industry. From that time onwards, the venture has proved an overwhelming success. I notice that several valuations were made of this station before it waa sold. One put the value of the fixed assets alone at £750,000. The Australian Whaling Commission had valued them on its books at £808,000. Another valuer who, I believe, was hired by the Government, valued those same fixed assets at £950.000. I suggest that an industry that has assets worth between £800,000 and £900,000, which is returning £200,000 a year to its investors and which is one of only two concerns which have a quota for the catching of whales on the western coast, is in an extremely comfortable position. I should say that this was a most healthy venture. I have had some experience in the business world, and if I had been called in to make a valuation of an industry such as that, I should have said that its fixed assets would he worth at least £800.000. Then we have to consider the goodwill based on the profits of the industry.
– Assured profits.
– Yes, at least three years’ profits could be counted as goodwill. The goodwill of a closed industry such as this one should be worth a great deal. Nobody else coud get a licence to take whales. Profits and markets were assured. The whales were there, and noone else was allowed to touch them. Therefore, the goodwill of this businesswould be at least three years’ profits, or £600,000, which would make the total £1,400,000. Only 1,000 whales could be caught, and this station had a licence to take 500. That concession alone amounted to a valuable addition to the assets of the company. It is difficult toassess the amount, but it was tremendous. The income of the station was assured. Is that not worth something? Private enterprise would have paid substantially for the industry if it had had to bargain for it.
Why do we have to sell the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission?” For months, wc have heard whispers that the whaling station was to be sold. When we sell other assets or even junk weadvertise extensively. If we have any worn-out machinery from the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, weadvertise it throughout Australia at a cost of hundreds of pounds. We hope toget back a few thousand pounds. If we have assets to sell, we should advertisethem in the press, and invite the people to tender against each other. What happened in this case? Week after week questions were asked in this chamberabout the intention of the Government to sell the whaling station. We received evasive answers. Not once did the Minister in charge of that enterprise say “yes “’ or “ no “. What was the reason for the secrecy? Why not tell all Australia?” This was not a defence matter, and an announcement would not harm the saleof the station. What was the purposeof the sale? If it would harm the Commonwealth or affect the security of Australia, we would have agreed to secrecy. None of those considerations entered intothis proposal. We have been told since that the station was for sale, but only a select group of persons was informed. The people of Australia were not told. Tenders were not invited in Australia or overseas and, after all, this is not a small deal. It amounts to almost £1,000,000. The. sale was concealed, and the business was kept to a small group of people.
– There was something crooked about it.
– I do not know. Anybody considering the matter might well be doubtful of the honesty of the transaction..
– The honorable senator does not believe that?
– I do not question the honesty of the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer), but I put it to him that there was concealment of the sale of a government asset without any explanation, and without any purpose that we can discover. Does not that make for a feeling that there was something dishonest?
– In the view of nastyminded people.
– That is not fair. 1 put it to the Attorney-General that we are the custodians of Commonwealth revenue amounting to £1,000,000,000 each year. There may be many nastyminded people in Australia, but they are entitled to know, and be sure, that any transactions that take place in government affairs are beyond question.
– Suppose the Labour party had done this.
– Exactly. .1. remind the Attorney-General that I have never known previously of the projected sale of a. national project valued at £1,000,000 being hidden from the people of Australia, and from those who might seek to buy it. As Senator Tangney has said, the directors of the company that was most fortunate in securing this asset came to Canberra in separate aircraft on different days in great secrecy because they did not want anybody to know that they were tendering for the purchase of the whaling station. The matter calls, at least, for a better explanation than that, given to the Senate.
Obviously, the whaling station has been sold at a bargain price. When this transaction was known, the shares of the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited rose by about 3s. immediately. Usually, in a. transaction of. this sort,, shares go down for a while, but this was such- ‘ a magnificent bargain that the shares rose immediately. The Government has not explained! sufficiently why the transaction was swob, a hole-and-corner affair. Why did not the Government say to the people oi Australia, “ Politically, this proposal might not be a. good one, and we might get into some trouble for selling national assets,, but we are going to do the honest thing. We are determined to sell the whaling station and get the best price we can.”? Why did not the Government spend several thousands of pounds in advertising: the project ion sale; in the United States: of America, Australia, and elsewhere?1 Tenders could have been called for a certain date and the assets sold on the best market. But the Go’vernment did not do that.
We have before us to-night one of the very few bills that I have seen in this chamber concerning the sale of a public asset in relation to< which not the slightest, information is given. We do not know whether the sale has been made, at a fair price or not. Why is there not a schedule attached to the- hill setting out the assets of the company, the assessment of goodwill,, the value of the by-products, and the value of the exclusive quota rights that are being given to the company? There’ is not a word in the bill about those matters, and! we are not able to find out anything about them. No matter how much we question members of the Government concerning- the value of the assets and the terms of sale, we are not able: to get any information at all. We are simply presented with a bill which states that the Government has disposed of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission.
– This bill says nothing of the kind.
– The AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) is quibbling. He knows very well that the trust fund which is to be set up under the terms- of this bill will rely on the funds that flow from the sale of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission.
– The honorable senator is speaking on the wrong bill.
– If that is the- best argument that the Attorney-General can advance, I ask him to be quiet Surely, we are entitled to discuss the sum that is to be received from the sale of the assets, whether it should be paid into Consolidated Revenue, and whether it is a good thing to sell the assets to selected people at a bargain price.
I suggest that this transaction is open to the interpretation that the people of Australia were not given an opportunity to retain the venture. It also suggests that the assets have been sold at a bargain price and that the Government was determined to get rid of something that it regarded as a socialist experiment. To judge by the shame-faced manner with which the Government has handled the matter, it appears that the establishment of this trust fund for the develop- ment of the fisheries is an attempt to cover up. I suggest that, if a similar farce occurs in relation to the development of the fishing industry, after the people of Australia have taken all the risks involved,’ and rights in the fishing industry are then sold to selected individuals, the trust fund to be established under this bill will have failed to do the job about which the Government has spoken in the Senate to-night.
This whole transaction has been cloaked by pious talk on the part of honorable senators opposite about doing something for the fishing industry. The Government has failed to tell the people of Australia how this sale was arranged. It has failed to explain why it has thrown away profits of £200,000 a year. It has failed to tell the people the terms of the sale and why the people of Australia were not given an opportunity to participate in this great bargain. As a member of the Australian Labour party, I greatly resent the presentation to the Parliament of a bill of this nature on the pretext of doing something for the fishing industry when, in fact, it represents a means of covering un a questionable deal in connexion with the whaling industry of “Western Australia.
– I rise to support the bill. I suggest that Senator Arnold should have reserved his remarks for the ensuing bill, which deals with the whaling industry. Had he done so, his remarks would have been more apt. The bill now before the Senate set out to do six specific things.
Whether or not honorable senators opposite agree with the sale of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission in Western Australia does not affect this bill at all. If they are sincere in their desire to see the fishing industry develop, they will support the bill wholeheartedly.
I point out to Senator Arnold that, despite the sale of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission, the whaling industry will continue to go ahead. The Government is not destroying anything. 1 suppose that the Western Australian Labour Government supports the Australian Labour party, which honorable senators here represent. I remind the Senate that the assets about which we have heard so much, and which have been sold for £8S0,000, were valued by the Western Australian Labour Government at £620,000. Let honorable senators opposite remember that fact.
– Senator Arnold could not have heard of that.
– Honorable senators opposite do not want to hear of it. This Government gave the Western Australian Government every opportunity to purchase the assets.
– And the matter was widely publicized.
– Exactly. The Western Australian Government’s offer was £620,000.
– It was given priority.
– That is true. I should have thought that honorable senators opposite would have put those facts before the Senate. The assets of the commission were valued on the books at £743,000. The Government valuation was £954,000. An independent valuation was £763,000, and they were sold for £880,000. There was no secrecy about the matter. Those are the facts, and they were available to every honorable senator opposite, but not one was prepared to deal fairly with the sale.
As I said earlier, this bill sets out to do six things. I should have thought that the Opposition would have assisted in passing the bill, because clause 6 provides that the moneys will be used for the following purposes: -
The initiation or continuation of research or investigation in connexion with, or for the promotion of, the fishing industry,
I should say that the fishing industry needs research, just as the farming industry and other industries need it, in order to keep up to date. It needs the assistance of science to ensure that the stocks of fish are exploited wisely and not wastefully. Of course, science will meet with one or two difficult problems in the fishing industry. Generally speaking, fish cannot be seen. We do not know where they live in the sea, or for that matter, in the rivers. In the investigation, certain methods will have to be adopted to ascertain the habits and the ways of fish. Do honorable senators opposite quarrel with that? Have they any objection to the Government doing that?
– Doing what ?
– For Senator Grant’s information, I shall read out again, from clause 6 (1.), the first purpose for which money in the trust account may be applied. It is -
That is what I referred to.
– We have been saying throughout this debate that we agree with those things.
– Marine research goes much wider than a study of the problems of the commercial fisheries. It includes basic research as well as applied research undertaken by the fisheries laboratories, the object of which is the utilitarian one of improving the fisheries. One of the greatest problems is the conservation of our fisheries. Scientists have shown us that by the application of science to fishing we can conserve the supply of fish in the sea, and at the same time increase our catches. After all is said and done, the purpose of research is to discover how to increase the fish population at the same time as catches are increased.
I was delighted to hear Senator Kendall and Senator Laught stress the value of suitable vessels and proper equipment and nets. It is a costly matter to equip fishing boats correctly, as we in South Australia well know. South Australia has done a considerable amount of research to ascertain the varieties and quantities of fish that exist in South Australian waters. Recently, the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, arranged for two American fishing experts to visit South Australia and inform the fishermen there of the most up-to-date method of catching tuna, known as the line and pole method. This necessitates marked changes in the approach to tuna fishing. It was proved that off the South Australian coast there are enormous quantities of tuna, but it was also proved that the existing fishing boats “ are unsuitable for handling catches of tuna. It is true that live bait was used when the tests were carried out, but it has also been proved conclusively that it is not necessary to have live bait in order to catch tuna. As honorable senators know, under the line and pole method, a barb is not used on the hook. I assure the Senate that it is a laborious task to haul in a tuna weighing 36 lb.
– Is the honorable senator speaking from personal experience ?
– I may be able to speak from a closer personal experience of work than can the honorable senator who has just interjected. At the moment, he is hard at work trying to break a serious contract because it does not suit him. Let him work that one off! As I was saying, it was proved that the existing fishing boats in South Australia are unsuited to handle catches of tuna. At the initial attempt, about 25 tons of fish was caught, but it was found that sufficient suitable storage on board was not available. The tests proved conclusively that enormous quantities of tuna could be taken in South Australian waters, but they also showed the necessity to have the right kind of boats and proper equipment. This bill will assist the fishing industry by making money available to the fishermen with which to obtain suitable equipment. I think this is a most admirable thing for the Government to do. The next purpose enumerated in clause 6 (1.) for which money in the trust account :may be applied is - .
That is a most admirable object and will, I think, result in increased supplies of fish being made available to the consuming public. Paragraph (c) of clause 6 (1.) reads -
The establishment or development of the Ashing industry in a particular place or for a particular purpose.
One of the problems that confront the scientists is associated with forecasting where fish will be at a given time. In addition, they have to find out where the fish are horn, and how and where they feed. A scientist may be able to tell a fisherman where the fish are on a certain night, and give him ari idea of the equipment he needs, and he could also give the people on the shore an idea of the provision that should be made. He could also give the people on shore an idea of the probable size of the catch. Certain honorable senators have said that the majority -of people have no idea of the quantity of fish that will become available. Under this set-up, we believe that the people who handle the fish on shore, as well as the consumers, will be given some idea of the probable size of a catch, as well as some assurance of continuity and regularity of supplies. We hope to assist people engaged in private enterprise by disseminating among them the knowledge that our scientists have gathered. As Senator Kendall has already said, it is a fact that in Great Britain and elsewhere all sorts of .technical publications are made available to every fishing village and every person engaged in fishing throughout the country. That is a practice that we could well follow, and this bill is designed to help in that direction.
I agree wholeheartedly with the remarks of Senator Kendall and Senator 1/aaigh.t to the effect that the fishing industry should be classified as a primary industry. I fully support those honorable senators’ pleas to the Government to alter the status of the industry because if fishermen were -primary producers adequate depreciation would be allowed not only on their boats but also .on their equipment, and it is well known that the repair and maintenance of fishing equipment is expensive. Adequate depreciation allowances would help to stabilize the fishing industry, and would give it added vigour and zest. I suggest that that sort of encouragement should certainly be extended to men who are prepared to take risks and enter the fishing industry in order to build up industries of value to themselves and to the country.
It appears that all sorts of fish may be caught around the coast of Australia and that canning industries can be built up which will be of great export value and will enhance our overseas credit. In fact, it appears that we are on the threshold of great activity and prosperity in our fishing industry.
– Any doubt that any one might have about the justice or the injustice of what the Government is doing under the measure before the Senate has been resolved by the arguments that have been put by supporters of the Labour party, both in the Senate and another place. Those arguments have shown quite clearly that the Government intends to sell a very profitable enterprise that is earning about £200,000 a year. The Labour party objects to the method adopted by the Government in this transaction, and the Government has not adequately answered the questions that we have asked of it.
– Does the honora’ble senator object to the profit?
– I would not believe that to-morrow was Thursday if Senator Scott told me.
– Why does not the honorable senator answer the question?
– I am very glad to learn that for the purposes of the bill a whale is a fish. I have read somewhere that a fish diet is good for the brain, and I suggest to certain people that they could do with a couple of whales a week.
– Does the honorable senator object to the profit made by the Australian Whaling Commission?
– Why does not some one supply Senator Scott with a rattle ?
– We have one in the Senate, and we do not need another.
– You do not need it because every time you shake your head it rattles.
– I would not shake my head when you were about.
– If Senator Scott is an exponent of individual enterprise, no wonder private enterprise is in a parlous condition ! I was greatly interested in Senator Kendall’s speech. He has spent a Lot of time at sea, hut there is no need for him still to be all at sea while he is on the land. What he said was intensely interesting, but, unfortunately, it had nothing to do with whether the sale of the whaling station is a good business deal or not.
– The bill before the Senate is the Fishing Industry Rill. It has nothing to do with the sale of the whaling station.
– Senator Kendall traversed conditions from Japan to Beersheba, and even dealt with Newfoundland, but he did not say whether or not this is a good bill.
– The honorable senator said that in his last speech.
– Senator Arnold pointed out that the Australian Whaling Commission has made a yearly profit of about £200,000. Is that a fact or is it not? I am not a good mathematician, but T believe that you would need to have £4,000,000 invested at 5 per cent, in order to receive an income of £200,000.
– How much did the Western Australian Government offer for the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission ?
– We have been told that. It is also interesting to remember that the State Government owns the land on which the station stands, but that has nothing to do with this matter at all. We heard all the arguments about socialism which the Government has advanced in relation to this measure, back in the days when the Government sold the Bay line of shins. After those ships had been sold, World War II. occurred, and we were very sorry then that we had sold them.. This Govern1ment sold our . equity in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and there was much talk about socialism at that time. I believe that Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited made a profit of about £250,000 in. the year before the Commonwealth’s interest in that company was sold.
– Is that a fact?
- Senator Henty does not look intelligent, but if he kept quiet we might think that he had a little intelligence. I do not object to interruptions, but the people who are listening to us might object.
– They turned you off long ago.
– When order ls maintained in the Senate, I shall con* tinue my speech.
– Order ! The honorable senator is entitled to be heard in silence.
– Thank you, Mr. President. One would need to invest £4,000,000 at 5 per cent, in order to secure a return of £200,000 per annum, so that the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission are a very nice present for those who bought them. However, we knew nothing about this transaction until it was presented to its as a fait accompli. That sort of thing happens often here. For example, if there is a crisis in the Near East, we hear nothing about it from the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) or the Department of External Affairs. During the last twelve months the democratic forces have been battered from the Mediterranean to French Indo-China, but we have heard nothing of that. Malaya and Singapore have been threatened but we have heard nothing about it. The same sort of thing applies to the sale of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission. Before the last general election, we heard nothing from the members of the Government about the proposed sale of assets. The Labour party told the people of what governments of the type of this Government had done through the years, but all that Government supporters said was that the Menzies Government should be returned to put the country’s economy on an even keel. Ever since 1949 this sort of confidence trick has been put over the people.
The idea underlying the introduction of this bill is that it should blind us to the fact that the people who buy the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission will get for a few hundred thousand pounds assets worth probably £3,000,000. It is futile to say that private enterprise can solve all our problems. All the brains of the world are mobilized at present in an attempt to prevent one half of the world from exterminating the other half, and that sort of thing is so foolish that it is not worth talking about. I took some notes earlier in the debate as I had intended to speak at an earlier stage. I believe that Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, on a capital of £709,000, made a profit of £150,000 the year before it was sold.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at II p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 May 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1956/19560509_senate_22_s7/>.