22nd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I esk the Leader of the Government whether it is the intention of the Government to transfer the Royal Australian Naval College from Flinders to Jervis Bay.
– The answer is “ Yes “. The matter has been given very full and complete consideration. I am sure that it has not come as a shock to the honorable senator to know that this decision has been arrived at by the Government. Apart from the great overall advantages of restoring the Naval College to Jervis Bay quite considerable saving in capital expenditure will be effected although it is true that the actual cost of running the college as a separate institution at Jervis Bay will be greater than it has been in the past when it has been in conjunction with the naval depot at Flinders.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether his attention has been directed to a report in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald which states that the Premier of New South “Wales, Mr. J. J. Cahill, will consider extending the retiring age, at present fixed at 65, in the State Public Service because this limit was fixed many years ago when life expectation was considerably shorter. Will the Minister have a review made of the Commonwealth Public. Service Act with a view to extending the retiring age in the Commonwealth Public Service in the light of the fact that medical science has now been responsible for giving a longer lease of working life?
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable senator has referred, but I shall have great pleasure in bringing the subject-matter of her question to the notice of the Prime Minister and obtaining an answer for her in due course.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question. In view of the Minister’s statement that the new vessel to replace Taroona on the Bass Strait service would have a speed of 17 knots, will he state if 17 knots is the cruising speed or maximum speed? If it is the maximum speed, will he consult with his technical advisers and see whether, in view of past experience, the maximum should be nearer 21 knots in order to maintain an efficient ferry service through these normally boisterous waters? I do not expect an answer immediately from the Minister. If I can have an assurance that he will take up this matter, I shall be satisfied.
– The statement I made was to the effect that the new vessel would have a service speed of IS knots. My understanding is that the service speed is the cruising speed, and that if circumstances warranted it that speed could be increased. I do not know to what extent it could be increased, but I shall find out and let .the honorable senator know.
– I ask the Minister for National Development a question relating to the importation of looms for woollen mills, particularly in South Australia. At the Lobethal woollen mill, great difficulty is being experienced in obtaining a licence to import the looms necessary to enable it to. expand its trade. Will the Minister inquire into the matter and ensure that an import licence is granted, not only to the Lobethal mill, but also to other woollen mills so that the required spinning looms may be admitted to Australia ?
– Each application for an import licence is considered upon its merits. I believe, for example, that if a request for a licence to import machinery is received, the general rule is to inquire whether that machinery can be manufactured in Australia. I suggest to the honorable senator that, instead of putting his question upon notice, he should write to the Minister for Trade.
– Write to him in England ?
– The Government of Australia always remains in Australia. There is a Minister acting for the Minister for Trade, and I am sure that he would canvass the matter in .this case, and would give the honorable senator reasons why a licence should ov should not be granted.
– Has the attention of the Minister for National Development been directed to a statement that was made yesterday by Mr. C. P. Puzey, Director of the Australian Industries Development Association, and which was published in the Canberra Times to-day? He stated -
Increased productivity in manufacturing industries had been the general trend in Australia since 1050. . . . The survey showed that the rise in output per man in Australian industries had averaged 5 per cent, since 1950.
This exceeded the rate of increase in America and Britain in that period and was second only to West Germany. . . .
Mr. Puzey also said that this rate could be increased further if better plant and machinery were available, but the present rates of depreciation allowances did not encourage manufacturers to improve their plant and machinery. If this is true, will the Minister consult the Treasurer with a view to having the depreciation allowance reviewed before the next budget is introduced?
– I did not see the statement, but I know it is correct that productivity has been increasing in Australia year by year.
– Per man?
– The figures point to the same conclusion however the calculation is made. It is frequently claimed, I know, that the increase in productivity would be accelerated if tax concessions were available on the purchase of plant and machinery and,. indeed, my recollection is that the Hulme com mittee advocated that course in its report to the Government. I shall refer the honorable senator’s question to the Treasurer, with a request that it be considered at budget time.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport by stating that his announcement in the Senate last night that the Government had decided to put under construction a new steamer for the Bass Strait ferry service was received with the utmost pleasure by honorable senators from Tasmania. Will the Minister inform the Senate whether any decision has been reached in connexion with a Tasmanian terminal for that service?
– The establishment of terminal facilities in Tasmania, and the provision of finance for it, are matters for the Tasmanian authorities, just as are other port and berthing facilities. I hasten to add that the Tasmanian Government has indicated its acceptance of that responsibility. The choice of a terminal for the Bass Strait service, and the work that will be done in connexion with it, are matters for the Tasmanian Government. No doubt it will make an announcement on its own account at a time that it considers appropriate. I do not know when that will be, and it is not of immediate importance. The construction of the new vessel can proceed forthwith, and it will not matter for some little time what decision is reached regarding a terminal.
– Is the Minister for Repatriation in a position to inform the Senate how far advanced is the job of erecting a ward for neurosis cases at the Springbank Hospital. South Australia? Have plans been completed or tenders called? Will the Minister fulfil his earlier promise to make a statement about this’ matter, and if he has not the information at present will he make it available before the Senate rises ?
– No doubt the Senate will remember that this question was asked by Senator Critchley a few weeks ago. I told him that no further progress had been made in regard to the planning of this work. Plans have been prepared, and I told the honorable senator that I went to the Springbank Hospital myself, and inspected the new site.
– The site is all right, but the building as yet is not so good.
– As far as I know, tenders have been provisionally called for. The planning of tenders has been carried out by the Department of Works, but I do not think that there is any chance of the work being started before the commencement of the new financial year. The undertaking will be included in the planned works for next year, and these new works will definitely be carried out. I believe I can assure the honorable senator of that, but the work cannot be done immediately because we need the finance to go ahead. The ground work has been planned and the place where the building is to go has been decided, as I saw when I visited the project about a month ago.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
Games Organizing Committee, assemble in Melbourne for the occasion of the sixteenth Olympiad.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following information, and with the consent of the Senate, I shall incorporate it in Hansard : -
1946 (GENERAL ELECTION).
The Australian Broadcasting Commission offered a total of eight hours’ broadcasting time, to be divided equally between the Government (Labour) on the one hand and the Opposition (the Liberal and Australian Country parties) on the other, the four-hour total due to these latter parties to be allocated by mutual consent of the parties. The period was divided as follows: -
Australian Labour party. - All States, 4 hours.
Liberal party. - New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, and Queensland, 2¼ hours; South Australia and Tasmania, 3¾ hours.
Australian Country party. - New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland, 1¾ hours; South Australia and Tasmania,¾ hour.
Lang Labour party. - New South Wales, ¼ hour.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission offered a total of eight hours, to be divided equally between the Government (Labour), and the Opposition parties (Liberal and Australian Country parties).
Labour party. - All States, 4 hours.
Liberal party. - New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia,and Queensland, 2 hours; South Australia and Tasmania, 2½ hours.
Australian Country party. - New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, and Queensland, 2 hours; South Australia and Tasmania,1½ hours.
Lang Labour party. - New South Wales and Victoria, 20 minutes.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission offered a total of eight hours, to he divided equally between the Government and the Opposition -
Liberal party. - New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia,and Queensland, 2 hours; South Australia and Tasmania,2½ hours.
Australian Country party. - New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, and Queensland, 2 hours; South Australia, and Tasmania,1½ hours.
Labour party. - All States, 4 hours. 1953 (Senate Election).
The Australian Broadasting Commission decided that the election for the Senate should be approached in the same way as a general election, namely, that a total of eight hours’ broadcasting time should be made available, to be divided equally between the two Government parties, and the Opposition.
Labour party. - All States, 4 hours.
Liberal party. - New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia, 2¼ hours; South Australia, Victoria, and Tasmania, 3¼ hours.
Australian Country party. - New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia, 1¾ hours; South Australia, Victoria, and Tasmania,¾ hour.
In accordance with previous practice, the Australian Broadcasting Commission again made available a total of eight hours’ broadcasting time, divided equally between the Government and Opposition -
Liberal party. - New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, and Queensland, 2¼ hours; South Australia and Tasmania, 3¼ hours.
Australian Country party. - NewSouth Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, and Queensland, 1¾ hours; South Australia and Tasmania,¾ hour.
Labour party. - All States, 4 hours.
Again the Australian Broadcasting Commission made available to the main parties a total of eight hours’ broadcasting time, to be divided equally between the Government (the Liberal and Australian Country parties) and the Opposition ( the Labour party ) . This time was allocated as follows: -
Liberal party. - New South Wales, Victoria., Western Australia, and Queens land, 2¼ hours; South Australia and Tasmania, 3¼ hours.
Australian Country party. - New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, and Queensland, 1¾ hours; South Australia and Tasmania,¾ hour.
Labour party. - All States, 4 hours.
Anti-Communist Labour party. - Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania, 1 hour; New South Wales and Queensland,½ hour.
It should be pointed out that all the broadcasts mentioned above, with the exception of the Lang Labour party’s broadcasts, were given on one national transmitter in each metropolitan area and on the national regional stations in country districts.
In 1940, Mr. Lang’s fifteen-minute broadcast was placed on one Sydney metropolitan station, and in 1949, his twenty-minute talk was heard through one metropolitan transmitter in Sydney and one in Melbourne.
– On the 30th May, Senator Byrne asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General the following question: -
Is the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral in a position to say when the form and set-up of the information page at the front of metropolitan directories last received the scrutiny of the department? Will the Minister not agree that in their present verbose and lengthy form, which attempts to convey a mass of detailed information, they are extremely obscure and defeat the purpose which they are designed to serve? Will the Minister interest himself to have only information reasonably required included in these pages to ensure that such information is presented in a form that can bc more easily followed ?
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information : -
The form and set-up of the information at the front of the telephone directories has been under review for some time and commencing with the forthcoming issue of the metropolitan directories which will go to press within the next few weeks certain changes will be made. These will include simplifying the wording and reducing the amount of matter in the various items where practicable as well as recasting some of the pages. As a result, the presentation of the matter should he improved.
FORMAL Motion for Adjournment.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin). - I have received from Senator Cole an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The imminent tlire.it to our parliamentary system of constitutional government, a threat which avisos from the predetermined deliberations of the Federal Conference of the Labour party to be held in Melbourne on Monday next.
– I move-
That the Senate at its rising adjourn to to-morrow at 9 a.m.
– Is the motion supported?
Pour honorable senators having risen in support of the motion,
– I submit that this matter far transcends the importance of the domestic policy of the Australian Labour movement to-day. The Australian parliamentary system depends upon the disciplined, effective functioning substantially of two parties. It depends upon a disciplined, effectivefunctioning party in government, and a disciplined, effective functioning party in Opposition. It is not a matter for surprise that the parliamentary system functions best where this two-party system is in vogue, especially in Great Britain, the United States of America and Australia, and that the parliamentary system functions worst in countries, such as France,, where the party organizations wage internecine warfare amongst themselves.
Since federation, Australia has had, in effect, a two-party Parliament. This system has often been attacked by those who maintain that a rigid party discipline destroys individual liberty. That has always been avoided in Australia until recent months, because the parties have not been doctrinaire, but have functioned within the framework of domestic institutions which allow the wide expression of free opinions within the structure of the party itself, under which system men of very divergent opinions not only uphold their own opinions but also change, or attempt to change, the viewpoints of their fellow members.
The guarantee of personal freedom within the party system, which is necessary to constitutional stability, is twofold in character. First, there is a domestic constitution of each political party which provides for the free expression of opinion, and for an opportunity to convince, and to convert within the framework of the party rules. Secondly, there is a rigid adherence to the constitution and rules of the party, which is supreme, not only over individuals, even the leaders, but also over ideas that clash within the party itself. Once this basis is destroyed in either of the two parties, the Australian system will fail to operate and will break down. Because of tha! possibility, we run the risk of experiencing the political indiscipline that we see so manifest in the French system of government to-day. That precise situation exists in view of the forthcoming federal conference of the Evatt Labour party to be held in Melbourne on Monday next. It poses a clear and present threat to the parliamentary structure of this nation and such matters should be brought forward in this Parliament and brought to the notice of the people of Australia.
What will be the issue in Melbourne next Monday? Very little inside knowledge is required to know the issue is already prejudged. The New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party has committed no crime except that through it normal constitutional processes it refuses to allow the great influence of the Australian Workers UnionCommunist alliance to destroy it. No one can doubt that the apprehension of the New South Wales branch is well based. The finding of the Petrov royal commission disclosed that quite a number of Communists were infiltrated into the Department of External Affairs during the reign of Dr. Evatt as the Minister for External Affairs. Any one should be apprehensive of the party that is being led in Australia to-day by Dr. Evatt.
No basis whatsoever, either in law or in equity, exists for the present attack that is being made upon the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party.’ The present executive of that branch was elected at a conference at which the federal president was the chairman; and the federal executive wrote its own rules for that conference. But, despite the fact that the New South Wales branch was forced to fight with its hands tied behind its back, the rank and file of the members of the party in New South Wales won the election . against the Australian Workers UnionCommunist alliance. At that conference, the federal executive wrote its own rules and appointed its own umpires; yet it was licked. That, however, was not the end of the intervention by the federal executive. Although it is aware of the total split that will occur in the Labour movement throughout Australia as a result of further intervention, the pattern of its wrecking in Victoria-
– It was Santamaria who wrecked the party in Victoria.
– That remark could be expected from a stupid person like the honorable senator. The pattern of it is obvious, but they still wish to go ahead,, and through an alliance of careerists,, political maniacs and Communists, they have a driving determination to get rid of everything that is decent in the Labourmovement.
– Bunkum !
– A complete answer tothe depredations of this body was given on the night of the 7th May, 1956, at amass rally of the Australian Labour party rank and file organized by therights committee, in the Sydney Town> Hall. This committee presented its bill1 of rights to 3,000 people, by whom it was overwhelmingly approved. This bill’ of rights is essential to the Labour movement as .the lawful basis of its organization, and it deserves to be studied by Labour supporters and others. It shows the difference between democracy and* totalitarianism. For the benefit of the Senate I will read the preamble to the federal platform of the Australian Labour party. It is as follows : -
The Australian Labour party in the Commonwealth and the States is democratic,, national and constitutional. It is democratic in that it believes that politics should beconducted within the framework of free elections on the basis of universal adult suffrage; that governments may be freely elected and freely dismissed by the electorate; that the right of constitutional opposition to a government is essential to freedom, and the party rejects the conception that any government, once installed, is irremovable.
The Labour party is constitutional in that it believes that its objectives must be attained by the constitutional utilization of federal, State and local governments, and that the Constitution should be altered by decisions of the Australian electorate.
The Australian Labour party rejects theoriesof revolution, and asserts that these theories have disastrous consequences to the people and do not attain real and lasting benefits.
The Labour party policy is made by federal conferences of delegates from all States, and the party policy within the States is framed by conferences of delegates elected by the constituent branches of affiliated unions. Its policy is not framed by directives from the leadership, but by resolutions from the members within the branches and affiliated unions.
The Labour party supports at all times the basic civil rights guaranteed in the past by such historic documents as Magna Carta, Bill of Rights and Habeas Corpus. It supports the separation of independence of judicial power from the Executive and the Legislature, freedom of worship, of the press, of speech, assembly .and association.
That platform, is the heritage of many centuries of struggle. Government by consent and liberty under the law are the twin principles of all democratic government - in Great Britain and throughout Western civilization. When men associate together, whether in the State or in the trade unions or in political parties, they must give executive powers to leaders. If those leaders are given, or assume, unlimited and arbitrary powers, the association becomes totalitarian and the members become slaves. If the leaders of a party are free to tear up its constitution to trample on the law or the rules, democracy and freedom vanish. Like the Constitutional law of the land, the constitution and rules of the party lay down the terms upon which men may associate within it. Each member surrenders his own arbitrary powers and, by so doing, safeguards himself in that he is guided by the rules; and he allows nobody else to take over those arbitrary powers. If the leaders deny that they are subject to the rules, claim power to ignore “the rules, seek to unmake and replace the rules agreed to by the members and deny to the members the right to decide by what rules and what leaders they may be governed - if they deny the rights of an opposition within the party - then those leaders betray their trust. Their rule is illegitimate and to defy them is not to defy the party. It is they who are defying the party because they are usurping powers which the members of the party never vested in them. By treating the party as their totalitarian instrument, they can only destroy it.
The present attack on the New South Wales executive is a totalitarian attack. It is an attack by those who have failed to gain control of the branch by constitutional means. It is an attack by the minority whose claim to leadership has been rejected by the majority. It is, therefore, a totalitarian attack because it rejects the first principle of democracy - government by consent. This has long been plain; but many failed to realize that these attackers have also rejected the second principle of democracy - liberty under the law. They claim, in fact, that the party is a totalitarian party, and the majority of the federal executive have accepted this claim. They do not use the word “ totalitarian “ but they claim that seven members of the federal executive can tear up the rules of any branch’ and impose their own unfettered whim on the party. They say that the party became totalitarian when it put these words in its constitution -
The .Federal Executive shall have plenary powers to deal with and decide any matter which, in the opinion of at least seven members pf the Executive, affects the general welfare of the Labour movement. “Powers to deal with and decide any matter “ is simple enough to understand to anybody who appreciates the real meaning of democracy. It means that when the rules of a party are silent - and this is important - on a certain matter, its leaders can decide what the policy of the party shall be. But that provision does not suggest for a moment that the federal executive can tear up the rules of the party and its branches or deprive members of their rights under the rules. Nor does it suggest that freely-elected leaders of a branch can be removed by the federal executive and replaced by defeated candidates who are congenially disposed towards it. It is not a power to stifle opposition within the party. No such powers are given to either the federal executive or the federal conference. That is the democratic view, and that is what was meant by that provision when it was placed in the rules of the party.
The totalitarian view, the fascist view, and the Communist view is that when the federal executive is given power to decide a matter it may ignore the rules and trample on the rights of members. The totalitarians say that the executive may dispense with the rules agreed to by the members and impose other rules on the members. They say that it may dismiss branch leaders elected by the members and install others who have been rejected by the members. They also say that the executive may cancel or postpone the annual conferences ‘which the members have decided shall take place at certain intervals; and they say that it may liquidate the opposition. The totalitarian view, in fact, is that the federal executive may do whatever it wishes. Those are the political tenets of Hitler and Stalin. They are the legal interpretations of Vishinsky. They can never be accepted by free men, by democrats or by .men loyal to the constitution and traditions of the Australian Labour party. There is no doubt as to where the decent Labour man will stand on this issue. On Monday next, he will be standing shoulder to shoulder with the New South Wales branch executive in its gallant fight to uphold the laws and traditions of the Australian Labour party. J:[e will be standing against the bogus federal body which has torn up Labour’s constitution, which has destroyed the party in three States and is attempting again to destroy Labour in the State where it is strongest and tie it to the halter of the Communists.
There are honorable senators in this chamber who will deny that the Evatt Labour party, of which they are members, is in the hands of the Communist party. T invite them to look at the facts rather than at the intricate rationalization with which they endeavour to still their own guilty consciences. The facts reside in the decisions made by the Evatt Labour party during the Victorian conference last week-end. I ask honorable senators to consider this question: Did the Evatt Labour party forbid Labour men to associate with Communists on unity tickets in trade union elections? That is a most important question, because to-day a vital ballot is being taken in Victoria, where Jim Neill, secretary of the Victorian branch of the Australian Railways Union, is being opposed by J. J. Brown, a well-known Communist. Who supports J. J. Brown in this election ? He is standing on a unity ticket, and it will be found that members of the Evatt Labour party are standing with him on that ticket in the same team.
Did the conference of the Evatt Labour party repudiate that abominable alliance? Did it direct the attention of the rank and file of the party to the resolution of the 1937 State conference of the Victorian Labour party which stated -
Under no circumstances must any branch or member of the party be associated with members of the Communist party or subsidiary thereof, in the holding of joint meetings in advocacy of the united front or in any other matter and, further, that any branch of the Australian Labour party which contravenes this instruction must be declared bogus, and any member of the Australian Labour party similarly offending will automatically expel himself or herself from the movement.
– They were not long in expelling you.
– That is a very silly remark. The honorable senator should consider this matter seriously. The answers to all those questions that I have posed are in the negative. Ear from prohibiting its members joining in the mere advocacy of the united front, the Evatt Labour party has whole-heartedly encouraged its members to be part and parcel of it, and to join with a Communist on the unity ticket in the Australian Railways Union election that is taking place to-day.
– How did it encourage them?
– The question that must be posed to every member of the Evatt Labour party in this chamber and, indeed, throughout the length and breadth of Australia is this : Where do you stand in the battle that is taking place to-day between Jim Neill and J. J. Brown? According to the conference that was held in Melbourne last week-end, they stand on the side of J. J. Brown, and yet they claim that they have not handed the’ Australian Labour party over to the Communists. Perhaps they delude themselves. They believe that they are using the Communists to-day, and will repudiate them to-morrow.
– It is they who will be strung up.
– Many of their kind have made the same mistake before. All through the countries of Eastern Europe, there are to be found the unmarked graves of social democrat leaders who thought they could do the same thing.
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
[3. 501. - May I address myself briefly to the terms of this motion? The motion itself ii an abuse of the procedure of this chamber. An honorable senator has risen and, without notice of any kind to the party against which the motion is directed, has sought to present, as a matter of national urgency, the domestic affairs of himself and a few fellows, and the domestic affairs of the Australian Labour party.
– The affairs of Australia.
– This is a complete abuse of the processes of the chamber, and a waste of the Senate’s time. These issues have been thrashed out before. The honorable senator was not even fair, let alone courteous. I may state for his information that it is the accepted practice, if a motion relating to some matter of national urgency is to be raised, to ensure that notice of it reaches the Minister, or the leader of the party or the person concerned at least two hours before the Senate meets. That
Traditional practice has been ignored to-day. The Opposition had no advice of Senator Cole’s motion. It was mean to present this matter in this way. It could be that statements would be presented that would need to be controverted, but no opportunity was given to meet that requirement.
– The Leader of the Opposition has that opportunity now.
– Senator Cole has wasted the time of this chamber in all respects, except by reading some extracts from the preamble to. the constitution of the Australian Labour party. The honorable senator subscribed to that preamble and all the elements of democracy that he mentioned - including loyalty - and to the federal rules of the party. When he did so, it is a pity that he did not give some real attention to the requirements of democracy and of loyalty.
As I understand democracy, it is acceptance of majority decisions, and that is one thing that the honorable senator has not been able to achieve. I suggest that, he has used the Senate really as a platform for self-justification - to justify what is, from a party viewpoint, the utmost disloyalty on his part, personally and otherwise. The one purpose of a political party is to win government so that it may put its policy into effect.
That is the one reason why a party exists, and has a platform and rules. It can remain a party only while it obeys the democratic principles of majority rule. Minorities who cannot accept that rule are free to get out, or to stay in the party and argue for their viewpoint until they make it prevail. Majority rule must prevail if there is to be a party and not a. rabble.
The honorable senator has sinned against the cardinal rule of loyalty, and his associates have clone the same, because it was in Victoria that they threw out a government which they had voluntarily helped to elect. The same sin of disloyalty, and the failure to accept majority decisions, is the real reason why industrial groups that were sponsored by the Australian Labour party have been killed in the unions. Had they been allowed to function as originally intended and designed by the Labour party, they would still be in the unions fighting communism. But their purposes were utterly and completely diverted and twisted by leaders., by men who, in their complete understanding of the techniques of communism and their complete knowledge of those methods which they learnt so well, beat the Communists at their own game. They learnt those methods too well, but as success was in sight in union after union they sought to apply those methods to the party that sponsored them. In order to capture that party a small group, animated by one thought only - a. fanatical hatred of communism - took action’.
They are completely right in being opposed to communism, but they are completely wrong in thinking that communism is the only thing on the world horizon. We have suffered from Nazi-ism and fascism, but they have come and gone. Communism has come, and it is rising, but it will go too. It is an ephemeral thing, because it is based on the fallacy that man is body only, and that the great motive power of life is the production and distribution of goods. The Communists recognize only that man is a material body with material needs. Communists say that those great human rights of the spirit can wait until all man’s economic needs are satisfied. That is the fundamental error that they forget, but which the Labour party does not forget - that man is first spirit and then body. Spirit is the more important side of man, and his spirit and mind must be catered for as a matter of prime order and as the first essence of things. The Communists are right to the extent that man is also body and that his material needs must be considered.
As we in the Labour party see the present evolution of society, we do not see it as the world against communism. We see communism as one only of the symptoms of a far greater evil. Anybody who has studied the history of the great changes in cultures in the world - and there have been four of them - will see a change during the first few centuries from pure religion to a combination of religion and materialism, until towards the latter part of the last five or six centuries materialism has dominated the whole picture, permeated all our institutions, and, at the present time, is dying from inanition and exhaustion, failing mankind. What is wrong to-day is that the world is in the crisis of the change-over from materialism to some other and, we hope, a better form of culture, one that will have regard to the fact that man has a spiritual side as well as material needs, and is blessed with reason. We of the Australian Labour party, seeing some persons concentrate on communism only as the one thing in the world, slandering everybody who is not yelling the same story with them, realize how utterly myopic- their viewpoint is and how futile, in the face of the real problem, they truly are.
T do not propose to waste the time of the Senate by dealing with this matter any further, other than to record the fact that this motion has been unfairly presented. Indeed, it should never have been submitted at all. But it will recur and recur, and we will be exceedingly tired of it; because those who join Senator Cole in disloyalty to the party that they upheld for years must seek some form of self-justification even if they do not seek some form of real justification. They are driven to it, “and their one weapon, which is a natural weapon for those who have to justify themselves in the situation these men are in, is to slander their erstwhile opponents. And we have to-day just one more example of the process of self-justification and slander.
.- There is only one point, as far as I am concerned, that has arisen in this debate, and I had hoped that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) would have replied to it. I regret that he has not touched upon it at all. The genesis of this motion is that the parliamentary institutions are in danger owing to what Senator Cole claims is the infiltration of Communist influence into some controlling part of the Labour party, which he said would disrupt it as an effective Opposition. As to most of his arguments in favour of that thesis, I am not qualified to pass an opinion. I do not know the interpretation of the Australian Labour party’s constitution and of the rules and regulations of that constitution, which can be used to justify or defy a particular argument; nor am I interested in them. But Senator Cole brought forward one point which appeared to give some substance to what he had to say, and which, I hope, since the Leader of the Opposition has not replied to it, some other member of the Opposition will see fit to do so. That was Senator Cole’s claim that in those unions on which the Labour party has always been based, and which it has always claimed to represent in this place, there has been a change of policy so that, now, control of those unions can be sought by known and acknowledged Communists in conjunction with known and acknowledged members of the official Evatt Labour party.
Senator Cole told us that previously it was against the rules of the Australian Labour party, before it split into factions, for a member of the party to stand on the same platform or appear on the same ticket with a Communist in an election, or to seek joint election to posts in unions or anywhere else. He has claimed - and this claim I know personally to be true - that that rule is now being disregarded, and that in union after union support is being sought by the Evatt Labour party for joint teams comprising Communists and members of the Evatt party. So, in that way, the party itself is helping Communists to control some union posts. That is a most serious matter for this country. If in the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, the railways unions and all those industrial combinations which must have an effect second only to that of a government on the economy and well-being of this country, acknowledged Communists are to be helped, aided and abetted by members of the Evatt Labour party, it is a matter of some popular importance, and a matter which should be popularly known. I know that this cannot be denied, because, as I showed the Senate last week, I have in my possession tickets on which Communists and members of the Labour party are shown as standing jointly.
– Are they official members of the Labour party?
– Is it the political Labour party?
– I paused to reply to a sensible interjection, but an unsensible one blanketed it out. I hope that on this occasion some responsible member of the Opposition in this chamber will at least explain whether from now on it is in accordance with the rules of his party for its members to stand on joint tickets with Communists in industrial union elections. If that is so, why have they made this change of front? And if it is not in accordance with those rules why do they permit this to take place time after time in election after election? That is the point that appealed to me of the points raised in this debate. It is one that has not been dealt with and one on which I would be glad to hear an explanation.
Senator COLE (Tasmania - Leader of the Anti-Communist Labour party) ~4.4]. - in reply - I did not receive a very good answer to the questions that I raised in this debate. I really want to find out where the Evatt Labour party stands to-day in the fight against communism. The Leader of the Opposition brought forward a number of pious platitudes, but we want to see a little action. He said that I- should remember loyalty and the principle of rule by the majority. I still abide by the rules of the party, and if the honorable senator looks at what happened in Tasmania he will find that it was rule by a minority that resulted in my being suspended from the Australian Labour party. The fact is that I received the vote of a majority at the State conference at Burnie. I topped the pole in the ballot for representatives to attend the federal conference, although only a week before I had stood out and refused to attend the bogus Hobart conference. At the Hobart conference we stood out in defence of the rules and constitution of the Labour party in Australia. Yet, Senator McKenna says that I should think about loyalty and majority rule! I am afraid that the honorable senator has not a very intimate knowledge of what really takes place within the’ Labour party itself.
Then the honorable senator went on to say that I should believe in the constitution of the party. Let us consider the position in Victoria. Jack Cain and nine others walked out of a properly constituted Victorian executive - a minority. Yet the honorable senator has the cheek to say here that we destroyed the Labour Government in Victoria. It was the other way round. Mr. Cain moved out from a. properly constituted and elected executive in Victoria, with a minority consisting of nine of the 25 members. What is this unity campaign that is going on in the Labour party today? Its success can be gauged in the political field, and also in the industrial field. Politically, the Communist party has achieved the first phase of its campaign; it has split the Labour party and has imposed upon the section led by Dr. Evatt the major portion of its immediate policies. As Lance Sharkey stated in the Communist Guardian of April, 1955, when commenting on the decisions of the 1955 Hobart conference of the Australian Labour party -
The way is open for A.L.P. and Communists to march in unity beneath banners of common policy.
Because of this, there is a united front between the Evatt Labour party and the Communist party, in respect of both policy and actions. I know that there are dozens of men in the Labour party who hate this unity and dislike the idea of being tied to the Communist party.
Industrially, the success of the campaign is indicated by the following statement made by Sharkey and McPhillips, the latter a full-time member of the national secretariat of the Communist party, and an ex-national secretary of the Ironworkers Union: -
That is, in the industrial field - was in marked evidence at the A.C.T.TJ. Congress, where a programme very similar to our Party’s programme was adopted, with only a weak opposition from the dyedinthewool groupers. The A.C.T.U. decisions were revolutionary in relation to putting an end to the compulsory arbitration system which has been fostered for decades by reformist leaders. lt vindicated the long struggle of our party against the arbitration system and its legalism, which has hamstrung the trade unions and brought them under control of the capitalist state, made strike action illegal and abolished trade union democracy. All of this will be ended, including the anti-democratic court controlled ballots, if unity is built and the decisions of the A.C.T.U. on these vital matters carried to their logical conclusions.
The A.C.T.U. carried decisions of first-class importance on the basic wage quarterly adjustments and other economic issues. The decisions of the A.C.T.U. taken in con junction with the decisions of the Hobart Conference of the A.L.P. on withdrawal of Australian troops and independence for Malaya, for recognition of People’s China and international peace, create the conditions for the broadest unity of the working class.
That article, which is signed “L. L. Sharkey”, appeared in the Communist Review of November, 1955.
If one refers to the objectives of the unity campaign, it will be seen that all of them, with the exception of the emergence of an open socialist unity party, have been achieved. The Australian Labour party groups have been dis.handed. although they will not, as Senator McKenna has stated, be ineffective in the unions. They will continue to be an effective force in the unions, even without support from the Labour party.
– Who is the honorable senator trying to kid? They are as dead as a door nail.
– That is what the honorable senator thinks.
– We have 94 per cent, of the trade union movement following us, and the honorable senator’s party has 6 per’ cent.
– Order !
– Senator Hendrickson has to speak out loudly here because of his fears about preselection by the Victorian Executive. The second achievement of the unity campaign is that the policy of the Australian Council of Trades Unions in respect of penal clauses, arbitration legislation, and, in large measure, clean ballot legislation, is that desired by the Communist party. The third achievement is that, in terms of economic and foreign policy, the Communist party has succeeded in capturing control of Australian Council of Trades Unions policy, and through it, has imposed its policy on all unions affiliated with the Australian Council of Trades Unions.
– Apparently, Senator Cole is the only man who is in step.
– The honorable senator had an opportunity, a few moments ago, to stand up and say his piece, but he did not do so. The disputed Hobart federal conference of the Australian Labour party laid the policy basis for a left-wing socialist unity party. As Sharkey said of it -
The way is now open for Communists and A.L.P. to march beneath banners of common policy.
The recognition of the left and extreme left wing in Victoria -as the official branch of the Evatt party, coupled with the influx . of Communists and sympathisers into the branches, has led to a socialist unity party in fact, if not in name.
The decision of the federal conference in Melbourne on the 12th June will determine whether or not the party will be irretrievably committed to this path. That is the question. It will determine whether Labour will be a party dedicated to social reform and to an active fight against communism, or whether it will be an extreme left-wing party of the socialist unity type. It will determine also whether or not the Communist party will achieve the complete objectives set down for it in its unity campaign. This issue . is vital to the future of parliamentary government in Australia. Otherwise, we shall find that a strong party in government can go to excesses in its legislation, against the welfare of the people of Australia, when there are in opposition parties that are split, and have no hope of joining together whilst Communist ideology is allowed to creep into what was once the great Australian Labour party.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
Debate resumed from the5th June (vide page 1236), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
. - When this debate was adjourned last night, I was dealing with the pressing needs to preserve various forms of transport - rail, road and sea - in this country. I had pointed out the necessity for us to ensure that these various forms of transport received the proportion of freight traffic to which they are entitled. During the debate, some honorable senators have compared the roads system in the United States of America with that in Australia. I am afraid that that comparison falls to the ground when the population and immense financial resources of America are compared with those of Australia. In the course of time, we hope to reach the stage of development that has been attained in the United States, but at present I do not think that we could possibly afford to lay down in this country roads the equivalent of those in America. I believe that if our roads were used only by motor cars, motor utility trucks and heavier trucks carrying loads up to a weight of, say, 10 tons, they would continue to give reasonable satisfaction for very many years to come. But the use of our roads by trucks carrying loads of from 20 tons to 30 tons at high speed results in serious damage to the road surfaces.
In common with Senator O’Flaherty, I have never been able to understand why our main sealed roads have been constructed parallel to the main railway lines. I believe that this fact has caused freight traffic to be diverted from the railways to the roads. If the main sealed roads ran at right angles to the main railway lines, I believe that freight would be conveyed to the railheads by motor transport and, by that means, both forms of transport would function equitably.I think that the laying down of main sealed roads parallel to the main railway lines has been one of the unfortunate results of centralization. It has been necessary to do this in order that city people who wish to travel by car to country towns served by railways can do so over reasonable roads. Furthermore, such roads enable commercial interests in the cities to keep in contact readily with business people in the country towns. Nevertheless, we are now faced with a calamitous situation, because an enormous amount of freight traffic has been diverted from the legitimate means of transport over long distances - the railways - to road traffic.
Last night, I mentioned briefly the effect that the increase of road freight traffic has had on coastal sea transport. I shall have more to say about that matter during the debate on another bill that will shortly be discussed by the Senate. However, I should like at this stage to make some comment about the matter. The terrific increase of road freight traffic has almost eliminated the intra-state coastal shipping service in New South Wales. Some years ago, small coastal vessels plied from Sydney to Newcastle and other north-coast centres, as well as to certain ports on the south coast of New South Wales. The elimination of those shipping services was hastened very considerably some years ago by the New South Wales railways cutting by 50 per cent. freight rates to towns served by coastal vessels. That practically put the coastal vessels out of business. There was a similar happening in Western Australia many years ago, when the Midland Railway Company Limited, which operates a railway service from Perth to just outside of Geraldton, cut its freight charges between those points very considerably. That resulted in the elimination of the coastal shipping service to Geraldton. But, four or five years ago, the railway company again increased its freight charges over that line. A similar state of affairs is now developing in relation to the railways. When road transport develops to such an extent that the transport of goods by rail becomes uneconomic, the railways will cease to handle that kind of traffic, and freight charges by road transport will then be increased.
Last night, Senator Hannaford cited comparative figures in relation to the cost of sea, rail and road transport. He said that the cost of sea transport was $d. to Id. per ton mile, rail transport, 5d. per ton mile, and road transport, from 3s. to 5s. per ton mile. Although I have not had a recent opportunity to study the relative costs, those figures tally pretty accurately with figures that I compiled some years ago.
I shall give another illustration of the effect of road transport on the cost of goods to the consumers. The South Australian Auditor-General drew attention in June, 1951, to the fact that the cost of transporting goods from Sydney to Adelaide by road had resulted in an additional cost of £15,000,000 to the consumers in South Australia. During tho last year or two, galvanized iron pipes have been transported from New South Wales to Western Australia at a cost of £60 a ton. Of course, somebody has to defray the additional charges. In view of the recent appeals by the Government to the community to reduce the cost of production, I urge the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) to direct his attention to these matters. If coastal shipping were available to handle this freight traffic-
– Apparently, it will be available when the new shipping commission is constituted.
– I sincerely hope so, but while commending the Minister for his efforts in this direction, I must direct his attention to some of the difficulties with which he will be confronted. I sincerely wish him well, because something will have to be done if we are to prevent all freight traffic from flowing to road transport, to the detriment of the railways and the coastal shipping services. I point out that sea transport is just as vital to defence as is road transport.
During this debate, an Opposition senator advocated the handing over to the States for roads purposes the whole of the additional revenue that will be derived from the increase of the petrol tax. We have to be realistic and I have no hesitation in saying that if the States received so much money they could not use it. We have unused money and plant in our State due to the fact that we have not been able to obtain the labour to use it because men are not willing to go out into the country districts. They will work round the metropolitan area but will not go out into the country. During the period I was a member of the State Parliament I made frequent representations to the Minister in charge of main’ roads in Western Ausrtalia asking him to provide certain roads. He informed me that the money and material were available but that the men would not go out into the country, and they could not be forced. That is one of the unfortunate features about the introduction of such amenities as television; it will entice more people to the cities.
– Is it not possible to get new Australians to go out?
– I do not know. I think they concentrate round the cities, too.
– They might do the work under contract.
– I know that some have accepted contracts, but I have felt sorry for them. I have one case in mind of a man who was working on the transAustralian railway. He had been brought from Germany and sent to Fisher. He wanted to bring out his wife, and applied for a. building that was unoccupied, but the department would not give it to him. The result was that he cleared out from the job. I do not wonder that he did so in the circumstances.
The same thing applies in regard to telephone applications. Many people have approached me in regard to applications for a telephone. Virtually ail of the applications have been refused because the department cannot get the necessary labour. Probably, the farmers themselves would be prepared to erect the- poles and do the labouring work provided they were paid the same wages as the department’s employees. The point is that labour is not available. So, it would not be much use making all of this money available to the States when they could not use it. In making £4,000,000 available the Government is doing good service and I venture to say that much of that money will be used.
Some honorable senators have tried to make a case for the whole of Australia. [ have no intention of doing that; I shall speak purely for Western Australia. [ refute what Senator O’Flaherty said yesterday about local government authorities in the States not receiving money from the registration fees for motor vehicles. That statement is totally wrong as far as Western Australia is concerned, in Western Australia the registration of vehicles comes under the control of local authorities. In many cases, the money received from motor vehicle registration fees is in excess of that received from rates. The position may be entirely different in other States where registration is centralized. In Western Australia the money from registration fees is spent by the various local authorities, and, of course, is supplemented by contributions from the Main Roads Board
– That is not -o in Victoria.
– I am speaking for Western Australia. That reminds me of another point which I think Senator Gorton brought up. He drew attention to the comparatively short length of sealed roads in Western Australia and drew from that the inference that there were not very many roads that still had to be sealed. That is far from the truth. As a matter of fact, the Main Roads Board in Western Australia, which is a very efficient organization, declares a road a main road only when it can see its way clear to construct and maintain that road. Once a road is declared to be a main road in Western Australia its construction and maintenance devolves upon the board. In the past, with the possibility of a federal main roads bill lasting for only three years, the main roads commissioner naturally decided against declaring a lot of main roads because he did not know what money would be coming to him and he might be left with a number of roads which he would not be able to maintain. He is gradually increasing the mileage of main roads.
I could name half a dozen roads - I have not time to cover the whole of the agricultural area - over which people have been travelling for 30 years and which are still so corrugated as to be untraffickable. I recall roads in the Lakes area, 50 miles from a railway, over which I would not care to drive a car. The people in the area have been asking for a bitumen road for years but have not been able to get one.
– Western Australia has lots of money, why does not the Government build the road?
– Workmen will not go to such areas. Suppose a government were to come into power that was opposed to this federal aid, what would be the position if a large number of roads had been declared main roads? The department would not be able to maintain them.
A suggestion was made that an equipment pool should be formed. Western Australia tried such a scheme years ago and discarded it. So for heavens sake, do not talk about that. It might be possible for two or three adjoining roads boards - they probably correspond to shire councils in other States - to combine and purchase certain heavy plant and employ one team of men to operate it, but if a pool were instituted an impossible situation could arise. In Western Australia only certain times of the year are suitable for road-making. (One board might take a machine out of the pool and experience wet weather and not be able to use it. When the weather cleared it would be time for the next board to use the equipment and the system would result in endless trouble. Consequently, I do not favour the establishment of such equipment pools.
I do not want to take up much further time as I would be only repeating what has already been said. However, in conclusion I desire to refer to the objective of the first bill of this kind. The Acting Prime Minister of that day, when he introduced the bill, said that it was introduced for the express purpose of giving the less populous and undeveloped States more of this money than the more populous States.
– That was before uniform taxation came in.
– Never mind when it was. That was the objective of the original bill. Of every other federal grant the bulk of the money goes to the more populous States, but this bill was introduced to help the less populous States. When I heard the plea that, for defence reasons, Victoria should be given a larger quota, I wondered whether the next war was going to be fought in that State. It would be more appropriate to seal . the Eyre Highway between South Australia and Western Australia. That road is not very usable in wet weather, and it would be an important strategic road in war-time. It is roads such as that on which we should concentrate. As T have said, the original objective of this legislation was to make finance available to the less populous States to enable them to build their roads systems to a reasonable standard of efficiency. With those few remarks, I have pleasure in supporting the bill.
– in reply - This bill has given rise to a debate of more than ordinary length. Most honorable senators have taken the opportunity to make some very valuable and interesting comments. The debate has fallen into two easily recognizable parts. The Opposition has naturally made a frontal attack on the bill and has stated that it opposes the measure because, in its view, the entire proceeds of the petrol tax increase of 3d. a gallon should be made available to the States.
The other section of the debate, also easily recognizable, was the diversionary skirmish, entirely disconnected from the main opposition to the bill, initiated by my colleague and friend from Victoria, Senator Gorton. I wish to say something about his contribution before I direct my attention to the remarks which emanated from the Opposition. I have always admired, as I think most honorable senators have done, the extraordinary zeal with which Senator Gorton takes up the cudgels on behalf of his own State. I always admire, too, the consummate skill with which he divests his stand for his State of any suggestion of parochialism, and clothes it with what has been loosely referred to in this chamber as “ a broad, national point of view “. Presumably, Senator Gorton is concerned, in the first instance, that his own State should receive more from petrol tax revenue, although he does not quite always succeed in showing how that can occur without taking some of the money which 13 now being allocated to the lesspopulous States so that Victoria might, have more.
The honorable senator found some fault with the formula, and referred to it, in his characteristically picturesque manner as “ old, tattered and motheaten “. It may be old - undoubtedly it is - but it certainly is not moth-eaten, because it was taken out and given a good airing at the Premiers conference of 1954. On that occasion the Premiers, in conference, decided that that particular formula, old and tattered, should remain.
Senator Seward referred to the basis of this formula which has, as its concept, the idea that the less-populous, little-developed States should be able to improve their roads. Senator Gorton referred to the desert through which no road should ever go. As he used thai phrase, my mind went back to some of the outback reaches of my own State of Western Australia, and I asked myself why the people who live in the Murchison district or in the eastern gold-fields should not have a road, say, from Wiluna, to Leonora. Why should they be denied a road while Victoria has a plan which envisages, within the next ten years, the duplication of pavements between Melbourne and Geelong, as well as to Oakleigh and beyond Dandenong, and the widening of arterial roads such as the Hume-highway and the Princes-highway. In my estimation, the basic purpose of this formula should remain so that the outback areas of Australia can be developed, and amenities provided for the people who live in remote parts.
Turning again to “Western Australia, Senator Gorton referred to the unspent surplus of £1,300,000, and asked why Western Australia should continue to receive large grants which it was unable to expend. Western Australia has an unspent surplus because the method of payment for work done in that State is probably dissimilar from that which is adopted in Victoria or in other parts of Australia. It is a fact that in Western Australia the work is first performed, and not until it has been examined by the Public Works Department is it paid for from road funds; so that, at any point of time there is always a nominal unspent surplus in the road fund, but in actual fact, as so many honorable senators have pointed out, the money is not only allocated but is also, in fact, spent and awaiting distribution.
I now turn to the main attack launched by the Labour party on the score that all the proceeds of the petrol tax increase should be distributed to the States. That is a radical departure from Labour’s practice and performance. It is another manifestation of that party’s desire, at this moment, to say to the people, “ Off with the old love, on with the new”. I know that Senator Kennelly was at some pains to explain that this was, in fact, Labour’s new love - Labour’s new-found policy. During the recent election campaign, his party promised that if returned’ to power it would forget its past actions and adopt a policy under which all petrol tax collections would be returned to the States. It is undeniable that that promise was made, but the plain fact is that in the face of it the people of Australia rejected the Labour party and returned this Government to power. The promises of the Labour party which, to say the least, have been many and varied during recent election campaigns, are no longer taken seriously by the people of Australia. The people returned the anti-Labour parties to power, no promise having been given by them that a policy such as enunciated, belatedly, by Senator Kennelly would be put into operation. It is performance, and not promises, which is important. In the last year that the Labour government was in office it allocated from petrol tax revenue £7,000,000 for road expenditure as against £27,000,000 allocated by this Government last year. If Senator Kennelly is not impressed by those figures let me state that 47 per cent, of petrol tax revenue was allocated by the Labour government to the States for expenditure on roads in its last year of office, as against 73 per cent, allocated by this Government last year.
Honorable senators opposite have taken advantage of this debate to say that it is not right, despite the past performance of the Labour party, that any portion of the petrol tax revenue should be retained by the Commonwealth. They contend that it should be expended for the benefit of those who purchase petrol, although 65 per cent, or 70 per cent, of petrol consumed in Australia is used in commercial vehicles, and the tax upon it is paid by the general public, not by the road user. I am impressed by the fact that the late Mr. Chifley saw and spoke about the fallacy of the argument which the new Labour party, the Evatt Labour party, is now presenting in connexion with its roads policy. When this question was receiving the consideration of the Labour Government in 1948, Mr. Chifley made the following comment: -
Representations have been received from many sources that the whole of the proceeds of taxation on petrol, or a greater portion should be made available for roads purposes.
The petrol tax is not imposed solely for this purpose, and although for many years substantial road grants have been made to the States, the major portion of this tax has been required to meet the expenditure of the Commonwealth for general purposes, and in particular, the heavy commitments for war and post-war purposes. The tax is primarily a revenue impost in common with those imposed on many other items such as beer, tobacco and matches.
About 90 per cent, of the petrol consumed in Australia for civil purposes is used for commercial and industrial purposes. To a great extent, the cost is passed on to the general community in transportation and delivery charges. <Since the greater portion of the tax is not finally borne by the users of petrol, but by the general community, it is inappropriate to contend that the whole of the proceeds should be used for roads purposes.
Once again, we have the spectacle of Mr. Chifley’s doctrine being, denied by the present Evatt Labour party. The position as Mr. Chifley saw it in 1948 was no different in principle from what exists to-day. The justification for what we are now doing was seen and acknowledged by Mr. Chifley in 1948.
It has also been repeated on many occasions during this debate that of the extra 3d. a gallon to be collected by way of petrol tax, only Id. will be returned to the States while the remaining 2d. will be retained by the Commonwealth. I pointed out, I think it was during my second-reading speech, that one purpose of the additional impost was to support the loan works programmes of the States. That being so, it is obvious that a good deal, if not the whole of the remaining 2d. referred to will eventually find its way back to the States.
– But under the system of uniform taxation, this Government taxes the people. The States have to live. Whether they get it for roads or for other purposes, they have got to get their money from this Government.
– Senator Kennelly, in his extremity, is trying to associate this particular impost with uniform taxation. He is trying to aline uniform taxation with the subject of loan funds to which I am now addressing myself; but there is no connexion between the two. I repeat that if the additional money that is to be collected by way of increased petrol tax is used to support the loan works programmes of the States, then it will, in fact, find its way back to the States. The States will then decide how they will spend the money. It may well be that they will decide to spend from their loan appropriations a greater amount on roads. If that should be the case, they are perfectly at liberty to do so.
I was interested also in some figures cited by Senator Kennelly. He compared the expenditure by one or two other countries on roads with Australia’s expenditure on roads. He said that the expenditure on roads per head of population was £7 19s. 3d. in Canada, £8 16s. in New Zealand and only £4-odd in Australia. I acknowledge at once that he cited those figures in the best of faith, but,, if he does not mind me saying so, I was immediately suspicious of them and I had some inquiries made. I discovered that in the last financial year the total amount expended on roads in Australia was £80,000,000. Taking our present population at about 9,000,000, that works out at just under £9 a head, which compares more than favorably with the expenditure in the two countries he mentioned. It would seem to me that the honorable senator had taken into consideration only the amount expended by the Commonwealth on roads in Australia and compared that with the total expenditure in Canada and New Zealand. I. remind him that one-third of the amount provided for roads in Australia comes direct from Commonwealth funds, and I remind him also that roads have been and still are the responsibility of the States.
Senator Sheehan and Senator Tangney made pointed references to the effect this extra 3d. a gallon petrol tax will have on transportation charges. I emphasize here that I regard with great misgivings any increase in costs at all, but if this additional impost is to be criticized on that score, it is as well that we get the matter into proper perspective. I made inquiries and ascertained that the extra 3d. a gallon would mean an increase of only .16d. a ton-mile in the charges for a light 2-ton or 3-ton vehicle. For the heaviest trucks, carrying loads of approximately 6i tons, the extra 3d. a gallon petrol tax will mean an increase of .05d. a ton-mile. While repeating that I do not look with enthusiasm upon any increase in costs at all, I point out that the increases due to the additional tax are infinitesimal when compared with the increases that flow from other causes, and I shall be interested to hear the reactions of honorable senators opposite to increases flowing from other causes. I shall be interested to see the measure of their concern in those cases.
Many honorable senators have referred to the desirability of adopting an overall national roads plan. Whatever virtue there may be in such an idea - and
I do not deny that there is virtue in it - I suggest that, as a precedent to the adoption of such a plan, the States themselves should take the opportunity of conferring, if necessary with the best constitutional advice available, to ascertain just what can be done towards establishing uniform registration fees, despite decisions upon that matter in the past. At present, one State, because of the interpretation it has given to a decision on this matter, is charging registration fees far below those of neighbouring States. As a result, truck owners from neighbouring States are going to the State where low registration fees are charged, to register their vehicles.
– What is the difference ?
– I cannot state precisely, but it is significant enough to attract owners from States hundreds of miles away.
– The Minister is referring to New South Wales ?
– Yes, particularly.
– That happens only when the States are in close proximity. Riverina truck-owners are doing that when they trade in Victoria.
– Many truckowners are registering in Victoria to take advantage of the low registration fees in that State. As to road maintenance, the States can do a great deal themselves by imposing speed limits to protect the roads, as Senator Seward has suggested. Fast-moving vehicles are tearing the roads to pieces. The speed limits are not sufficiently low, and the law is not adequately policed.
The suggestion of the Opposition that the whole of the revenue from the additional tax on petrol should be distributed for roads is too transparently political to be taken seriously. The Australian Labour party will be judged upon its record when it was in government. It will be judged on the rejected promise that it made at an election. The record of this Government in connexion with roads has commended itself to the people since it was elected to office in 1949. The Government will reject any amendment that is moved by the Opposition.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President -Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– The Australian Labour party is concerned principally with clause 3 of the bill, but I wish to say a few words in answer to the statements that have been made by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) in closing the debate on the second reading. To be quite candid, I was astonished when he adopted a party political attitude. I expected him to rise above party politics, and to give the Senate some constructive thoughts upon one of the most pressing problems that is facing Australia. I admit freely that, when the Labour government was in office, only a proportion of the proceeds of the petrol tax was handed over to the States, but when the parties that support the present Government were in opposition, they stated that all of the proceeds should be given to roads. I understand Senator Scott and possibly others getting down to the party political level.
– Who said it?
-The honorable senator said it, as he will find out if he reads his speech. Moreover, I take it that that is a fair thing, and I would say it myself if necessary. I am not deriding Senator Scott, but one does expect that when a Minister rises in reply to a debate he will at least raise the tone of his speech above the level of ordinary argument.
I reiterate that just as this party when in government gave only a. certain proportion of the proceeds of the petrol tax to the States for road purposes, at that time the present Government parties which were in Opposition, said that the whole of the proceeds should be given. Therefore, let us be candid and say that the members of the Government parties when in opposition advocated just what the present Opposition is now advocating. However, there is a difference between us, because we of the Australian Labour party are always big enough to acknowledge that circumstances change with the times.
In 1949, there were not nearly as many motor vehicles on our roads as there are to-day. Indeed, in 1949, those who had the responsibility of constructing and maintaining roads could hardly have visualized an increase of traffic to its present volume. I can speak with some experience on this matter, and I say that Victorian road engineers candidly admit that the roads were not constructed to carry the great weights that they are at present called upon to carry.
The Labour party recognizes that about 76 per cent, of our primary and secondary products are transported by road, and so we believe that we should give more of the proceeds of the petrol tax to the
States for road purposes. For that reason we make no apologies for the fact that our policy when we were in government was different from what it is to-day. It is true that at the last general election, the people gave the Government an economic blank cheque, but in the light of happenings in Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales I would not like to say what they would do now. At the moment they are paying for their placidity and for their misplaced confidence. One shudders to think what further sums they will have to pay in August or September of this year when the budget is introduced.
The Labour party is always willing to change its policy when it discovers that its past policy does not meet the circumstances of the time. On the other hand this Government’s policy is to leave things alone if they are going well for the Government supporters. That illustrates the difference between the ideologies of the Labour party and the Government parties.
All honorable senators realize the great part that roads are playing in our economy, and I hope that more of the proceeds of the petrol tax will be diverted for road purposes. I am sure that all Victorian senators will agree that whatever money is given to Victoria can quite easily be spent on the roads. Indeed, we are looking for more money just to keep Victorian roads at their 1949 standard.
The Minister has stated that certain figures which I mentioned were incorrect. All I can say in reply to that is that the figures were taken from page 291 of the Australian Municipal Journal of the 20th February, 1956. There it is stated that Canada spends £8 19s. 3d. a head of population on roads, New Zealand £8 16s. lOd. and Australia only £4 5s. Id. In Victoria, I believe that registration fees bring in about £4,000,000 a year, but I do not know the total revenue from licence-fees. However, the licence-fee is 10s., and there is one motor vehicle for every 4.4 persons, so honorable senator* can work out the total for themselves.
– Victoria spend? £17,000,000 on its roads from all sources except the Commonwealth.
– I have no reason to quote figures that are not correct, but I should expect that figures printed in the journal that I have mentioned could be accepted. The Government has stated that it will not accept any amendment to this measure, nevertheless the Opposition proposes to try to have it amended. Let us hope that when we next have a bill of this character before us the Government will acknowledge the necessity to give more money to the States.
I am not concerned that Western Australia was not able to use all the money given to it last financial year. It is not always possible to use in one year all of the money that is granted in respect of that year, but, I admit that, regardless of the political party that is in office in Western Australia, the money that is granted should be used for the purpose for which it is granted. My information is that some of the municipalities in Victoria are in dire straits because the money that they expected to receive from the Country Roads Board, the body that handles road money in that State, has not been forthcoming. This legislation at least will help the board and provide it with an opportunity to see that country municipalities receive the allocations which the board has promised them. The result will be that those who are charged with the responsibility of making the roads will have sufficient money with which to carry on their work.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I oppose clause 3 on the grounds relied on by the Australian Labour party and which aru known to the Minister for Shipping and Transport.
.- I think we all agree that, if it were possible to do what the Opposition has suggested should be done, and make monmoney available from this £12,000,000 for road works in the States, it would be of advantage to the States. I listened with a grea’t deal of interest to the remarks of Senator Kennelly, because apart from discussing the bill, he also gave in. an idea of the ideology of the Australian Labour party. He indicated that the. party changes its policy according to the times. It certainly does so. and very rapidly, too. After all, we had an example of such a change in this chamber only this afternoon. Honorable senators will remember that it was not so long ago that the Labour party banned any of its supporters whose names appeared with the names of Communists on unity tickets, but the party has changed its ideas completely, in the course of two or three years, and not only accepts the propriety of that course, but also encourages it. If there can be any quicker change than that, I should like to know what it is.
The position concerning this £12,000,000 is that it is proposed to raise that sum of money by the imposition of an additional 3d. a gallon tax on petrol. Of the £12,000,000, £8,000,000 will go to the States for State works, and £4,000,000 will go to the States for road works. The Opposition cannot get away from the fact that the £12,000,000 is being raised for the purposes of the States. If all of the £12,000,000 were to go to the States for road works only, what would happen to the State works in respect of which the Premiers are awaiting finance for the balance of this current financial year?
Senator Courtice interjecting,
– Senator Courtice may argue as he likes, but he knows efi well as I do that this money is being raised to finance State works. I do not know whether honorable senators opposite have consulted the Premiers of the States from which they come about the proposal that has been put forward here, but I am firmly of the opinion that the Premiers would not care to repudiate, the contracts which have been negotiated in connexion with State works, and in respect of which they are awaiting £8,000,000 of this £12,000,000 in order that those works may be continued. I think that honorable senators opposite should find out whether that is the wish of the Premiers. They cannot have it both ways. If we were to make this £12,000,000 available for road purposes only, we should have to raise an additional £8,000,000 from some other source. Obviously, honorable senators opposite want taxation to be increased by an additional £8,000,000, because that would be the only way in which to finance
State works if their proposal were adopted. The Opposition may not care to admit that that is so, but nevertheless it is true. It may change its policy, but it cannot change facts.
Of the money that is being raised for roads, the State Premiers will receive £1,000,000 between April and the end of J une of this year, and between £4,000,000 and £5,000,000 next year, which will raise the normal roads allocation of £27,500,000 to £32,500,000 in the coming year. I have only one objection to that, and that is that once the State Premiers receive the money, we shall have no further control over its distribution. It is an unfortunate fact that, in Tasmania, the municipal councils have been starved throughout the years. Although the various governments of Tasmania have received enormously increased allocations, amounting to more than three and a half times what they were previously, they have increased the allocations to the municipal councils by only £10,000, from £75,000 to £85,000. ‘ The allocations of the Tasmanian Government have increased from £600,000 to £1,500,000, but no greatly increased allocations have been made available for expenditure by the local councils. It is the duty of the State governments to see that the local councils, particularly rural councils, are given more money with which to improve the roads. Last night, I commended the Government for providing that 40 per cent, of this allocation should be expended on outback and rural roads, because that will be of great assistance to primary producers who, at this stage, need better roads as they have never needed them before.
In Tasmania, of which I speak particularly, the Government does not make sufficient funds available to the municipal councils in rural areas. I remind honorable senators opposite that there are 43 municipal councils in Tasmania, and that all of them are doing good work. If the State Government did not starve them, they would do even better work. It is unfortunate that we cannot follow through the allocation of this money - constitutionally, we cannot do so - and ensure that local government, which in my opinion is the best form of government in Australia, receives adequate funds from the State governments for roads.
I agree with Senator Kennelly that there has been a tremendous increase of traffic on the roads, particularly in New South Wales and Queensland. In those States it is almost impossible to transport goods on the railways, because the State governments have made such a mess of the railways. The result is that more and more freight is being driven onto the roads.
– What rot !
– I remind the honorable senator that the New South Wales Government Railways lost between £7,000,000 and £8,000,000 last year. One of the consequences of this neglect of the railways and failure to modernize them is that more and more traffic has been forced on to the roads. I think that every one in this chamber deplores the large number of road accidents that occur in Australia. A great many of those accidents are caused by the state of the roads. Anything that we can do to diminish the number of accidents will be action well taken.
I support this bill and I support this clause, because I know full well, just as the Opposition knows, that it is not possible to divert the whole of the £12,000,000 for roads purposes. At this stage, the whole of the amount of £12;000,000 could not be diverted to road works in the various States without reducing, by £8,000,000, the amount that will be provided to the States for other works programmes. Opposition senators know that this statement is true. Yet they rise in their places and advocate the giving of the whole of the additional revenue of £12,000,000 from the road tax to the States. They are speaking with their tongues so far in their cheeks that it is just as well for them that the proceedings in this chamber are not being televised.
– Senator Henty was at great pains to cover up his real opinions on this matter. Over the years, he has repeatedly directed the attention of honorable senators to the need for a greater expenditure of money on the roads, but when an opportunity is afforded to him to support an amendment directed to that end, he goes to extraordinary lengths to justify his rejection of it. Of course, this is characteristic of the honorable senator. Frequently, he advocates a certain course, and subsequently has great difficulty in retracting.
Did honorable senators ever hear a more foolish statement than that made by Senator Henty to the effect that the Government could not accept the Opposition’s amendment because, if it did so, the amount of money payable to the States for works programmes would be reduced by £8,000,000? That is ridiculous. The measure now before us has nothing to do with voting money to the States for public works. That was done long ago. Senator Henty realizes the position, and is merely covering up his former attitude in this matter. This is not very courageous of him. I believe that the Government is just as eager as is the Opposition to see more money spent on the improvement of the roads.
– The Government is anxious to spend more money on the roads.
– Of course it is. But the Government is not in a position to spend more money. Honorable senators opposite should speak honestly about this matter. Only a few months after introducing a record budget, the Government found it necessary to increase taxes by £115,000,000 a year in order to balance its accounts. This situation has arisen as a result of the Government engaging in extravagant expenditure - not the State governments, although I shall not apologize for their expenditure.
A strong supporter of the Government. Senator Scott, has stated that £10,000,000 of the defence vote could be spent on the roads. That was a very good suggestion.
– Hear, hear!
– Why does not the Government do that? The fact of the matter is, as every honorable senator knows, that the policy that has been applied by this Government over the years has practically wrecked this country’s economy. As I said a moment ago, only a few months after introducing a record budget, the Government had to impose extra taxation of £115,000,000 on the people. This is something that has never happened before in the history of Australian politics. The Government offered no valid excuse for its action. As I have said, its hit and run policy in regard to import restrictions, and its interference with the business and industry of this country have brought our finances and our economy to such a state that the Government has been forced to obtain additional revenue. In order to appease the people, it has decided to give to the States an additional £4,000,000 for roads purposes. Senator Henty said that if the whole of the additional revenue of £12,000,000 from the petrol tax were given to the States, the amount of financial assistance to the States for other public works would have to be cut by £8,000,000.
– This Government has to bolster the States’ works programmes.
– Financial assistance to the States for public works was budgeted for long ago. There is no substance in this aspect of the honorable senator’s argument. The relations between the Government parties have deteriorated to such an extent that th9 Australian Country party is now willing to do whatever the Liberal party wants it to do, because the position of the Australian Country party is becoming more difficult each year. It has been nauseating to the Opposition to see certain things happening under the administration of this Government. Only a few weeks ago certain honorable senators opposite said, “ As long as we have a government like this one, Australia will be all right “. But what is the position to-day? Our economy is in a very serious state indeed. This Government has increased taxation, although it promised the people that it would not do so. Right through the piece, this Government has applied a policy that lias interfered with the business and industrial affairs of this country and has retarded progress and development. Despite the fact that members of the Australian Country party have repeatedly advocated the provision of better roads in country districts, they now apologize for refusing to support the Opposition’s amendment, the purpose of which is to make available to the States more money for roads purposes. I think that the argument advanced by Senator Henty against giving to the States the whole of the additional revenue of £12,000,000 from the petrol tax was a very poor one indeed. Of course, I realize that honorable senators on the other side must support the Government. But let them be honest and admit that the Government needs additional revenue of £115,000,000 from taxes in order to balance its accounts. For Senator Henty to suggest that the States are to blame for the present state of affairs was only to beg the question.
.- I rise to intervene only because it seems to me that the very proper and valid argument that was advanced by Senator Henty has been completely misunderstood by Senator Courtice. As Senator Henty pointed out, the purpose of the bill now before us is to raise additional revenue of £12,000,000, of which £4,000,000 will go to the States for roads, and £8,000,000 will go to other States’ works. If we give more for roads purposes, we shall have to subtract such additional amounts from the amount granted for States’ works. Senator Courtice asserted that that was a dishonest argument because the amount of £8,000,000 would not go to States’ works, for which grants had been approved long ago. I think that he has completely lost sight of the fact that this £8,000,000 will be used for the purpose of underwriting the loans for State projects throughout Australia. This Government, for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth, has assumed a responsibility that it did not have to assume, that is, the underwriting of loans for works in every State of Australia, in order to maintain the economy and enable development and progress to continue. Consequently, as Senator Henty has said, this amount of £8,000,000 will be allocated to States’ works of all kinds, and his argument, therefore, was not only honest, it was very appropriate to the measure that we are considering.
, - I am a little bit surprised that we have a new Treasurer and a new Prime Minister in the person of Senator Henty in this chamber. I understood that all financial matters were explained by either of those right honorable gentlemen, but this afternoon Senator Henty has dealt with quite a few aspects of government finance. We have only to disprove one of his statements in order to discount all of them. All that the Opposition seeks, is that the whole of the additional revenue of £12,000,000 from the petrol tax shall be spent on the roads. Senator Henty said that, up to the end of this month, the States will receive £1,000,000 of the proceeds of the increased petrol tax; they will receive an additional £4,000,000 next year; and £8,000,000 will be given to the States for other public works. His statements were supported by Senator Gorton. I have a distinct recollection that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said just before the last general election that the incoming government would be faced with certain financial difficulties. The Treasurer, in August last, also made a statement, to the effect that the budget would take care of our economic difficulties. The Treasurer made a statement that certain moneys would be available for the purpose of carrying out developmental works throughout the States. He mentioned other matters in addition. A little later, the Prime Minister made a statement and said it was necessary to raise extra funds for the purpose of meeting the commitments for the public works of the various States. That is what Senator Henty had in mind.
– This £8,000,000 is part of that.
– The honorable senator is not yet the Prime Minister, although he may try to be. The Prime Minister made a much later statement in which he said that this money was necessary because the Government had some loans falling due next year amounting to approximately £250,000,000. The money is needed for either the purpose of carrying on the developmental work provided for in the budget of last year or else it is needed to meet the commitments falling due by way of the repayment of loans in 1956-57. The Government cannot have it both ways. In his latest statement the Prime Minister said the money was needed to meet the loans that would fall due next year. So the arguments of Senator Henty and his supporter, Senator Gorton, fall to the ground because of the latest statement made by the true Prime Minister, not the imaginary one. So far as the amount is concerned it is £12,000,000 next year, and, according to the statement, approximately £4,000,000 of that will be available at the end of June this year.
Every honorable senator on the Government side, at some time or other, has advocated that more money should be made available for the purpose of building roads. Even Senator Henty forgot himself because he said that more money should be made available for constructing district or rural roads.
– Out of the pool.
– The Government has either to make the money available or not make it available. I have referred to Senator Henty’s statement. The statement of the true Prime Minister of this country proves that Senator Henty’s premises were wrong. Secondly, he should support his own State in its need for more money for district rural roads. That is what his State i3 asking the Government to do. As I pointed out yesterday, when the present Government was in Opposition in 1949, its then leader in the Senate, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), made the statement that all of the moneys raised from petrol tax should be used for the purpose for which it was raised. He had stated prior to that in his speech that the tax was being levied for the purpose of helping the governments of the various States to construct roads.
– Senator Kennelly said that honorable senators opposite are entitled to change their coat every day.
– The honorable senator might twit us about changing our opinions but there has been a distinct change of opinion so far as this Govern ment is concerned. When in Opposition it was in favour of the proposal we are putting forward; but when it is in office it opposes it.
– The honorable senator’s party opposed the imposition of the petrol tax altogether.
– “We favour the payment of the total amount of money from this excise duty to be paid to the States for road purposes. Excuses could be made for not putting into operation a scheme such as this prior to 1949, but I am not going to make them except to say that honorable members opposite forget that at that time Australia was facing a tremendous struggle for life and was reconditioning its economy after the war. It was not possible to do anything then but at the present time it is possible. It is not necessary to use all this money for the purposes which the Prime Minister has indicated. He has had to try to find an excuse for the Government which to-day thinks that all this money should not be used for road purposes whereas in the past honorable senators opposite believed that it should be used for such purposes. !N”o reason at all exists why all this money should not be paid to the States, and there is no point in the argument advanced by Senator Henty.
– I do not think I can help Senator O’Flaherty in some of the troubles that, apparently, are worrying him. I pass on to a consideration of the bill. I agree with clause 3, and I am glad that an additional Id. a gallon of the petrol tax increase of 3d. a gallon is to be placed in a trust fund, but I should like some information from the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) concerning that fund, and the apportionment of this additional money which is to be placed in it. Section 13 of the principal act provides - (1.) There is payable out of the Trust Account, in respect of each year during the period of five years that commenced on the first day of July, 1954, the sum of £100,000, which may be expended by the Commonwealthy as approved by the Minister, on the promotion of road safety practices throughout Australia.
That section further provides - (2.) The Minister may, in considering proposals for expenditure of the moneys referred to in the last preceding sub-section, have regard to any recommendations made to him by the Australian Road Safety Council.
I should like to know from the Minister whether the additional money to he paid into the trust fund will provide additional money for road safety. I refer particularly to the necessity for a coordinated traffic code throughout Australia. I think that the money to he paid into the trust fund should he used to make -a thorough investigation into the co-ordination of a road traffic code.
It is my privilege to live in South Australia just near the Victorian horder. I have found that motorists coming from the State of Victoria, only 11 miles away, have been trained under a different traffic code ; and when they visit South Australia they become confused. They do not understand, until they have learnt it, the rule applying to a right-hand turn at intersections, because they are not versed in the code adopted in South Australia. I ask the Minister whether any further funds will be made available to introduce in Australia a uniform traffic code. In the various cities different signs are adopted for requiring traffic to stop at schools or to proceed slowly. There should be uniform traffic signs throughout Australia. I realize that even after a uniform code is agreed upon, it will cost a lot of money to put it into operation. I, therefore, ask the Minister whether additional funds will be made available, for the purpose of road safety, from the trust account we are discussing to-day. I am particularly interested in a uniform code of rules and traffic signs. It is interesting to know that this question is currently being stressed in the press of Australia. In to-day’s Adelaide Advertiser an article appears which discloses that the Acting Premier of Victoria directed the Commissioner of Police in that State to furnish a report on this matter; and that officer is reported as saying that the police in South Australia are harsher in their attitude towards motorists than are the police in Victoria.
Sitting suspended from 5.-45 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was discussing the Australian Road Safety Council. Annually, a sum of £150,000 is made available from the trust fund referred to in clause 3 for the work of this body, and I ask the Minister whether any part of the additional £4,000,000 to be raised by increasing the petrol tax will go to the Australian Road Safety Council, and if so, how much? The Australian Road Safety Council is deserving of the highest commendation for the work it is doing in the field of education in road safety and public relations. It is staggering to know that approximately 2,000 people are killed each year on the roads, and possibly 100,000 injured.
I stress again the importance of the Australian Road Traffic Code Committee, with which the Road Safety Council collaborates. It would be greatly appreciated if more money could be made available from the trust fund for the work of this committee. It is charged with the great responsibility of preparing, progressively, a uniform national traffic code for incorporation in State legislation. The States each have their separate traffic codes, but the Traffic Code Committee has been working quietly to bring those State codes into line so as to have a uniform traffic code for the whole of the Commonwealth and the Territories. This- code deals with such matters as speed limits, right-hand turns, rules governing the approach to intersections, qualifications of drivers, and even pedestrian behaviour. As I said earlier, I live in a city within 11 miles of a State border, and on every busy market day there is traffic confusion because residents of the adjoining State are not aware of the traffic rules operating in the State of South Australia. Money granted to assist the work of the Australian Road Traffic Code Committee will be well spent in assisting to bring to fruition its work of evolving a Commonwealth-wide uniform traffic code.
I was interested to read in the Adelaide Advertiser to-day a statement by the Victorian Chief Secretary (Mr. Rylagh) to the effect that he had just received a report from the Victorian Chief Commissioner of Police indicating that the police in South Australia are harsher than the Victorian police in their attitude towards motorists. I will not buy into a fight on that issue, because I respect the South Australian police very highly. But a statement such as that from a responsible chief secretary indicates clearly that there are two standards of police surveillance in those States with regard to traffic. That should not be. If Australia is to march towards nationhood, there should be one traffic code and a uniform police interpretation of that code.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman. I should like to know how the remarks of Senator Laught are related to the clause under discussion?
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! Senator Laught is discussing the Road Safety Council, which receives portion of the petrol tax revenue.
– 1 can easily link my remarks with the clause now under consideration, which deals with the allotment of the petrol tax revenue. I am making a plea to the Minister not to overlook the claims of the Australian Road Traffic Code Committee. I also stress the work of the Road Safety Council. I compliment the Minister on the work that he is doing, and I ask him to give earnest consideration to the matters which I have mentioned.
– I support the Opposition’s foreshadowed amendment. Speaking to clause 3, Government senators have expressed their objection to the policy of the Labour party to allocate the whole of the petrol tax revenue to the maintenance and extension of roads. While the Government parties were in opposition, they strongly advocated the allocation of all this fund for that purpose. Now they are in government they are failing to do that, and are twitting the Opposition on having changed its policy.
There are basic reasons for the change in the Labour party policy on this matter. In the years between the end of the war and 1949, the Labour government of the day made a close study, in conjunction with the States and local governing bodies, of the means to repair and extend roads, lt was agreed with the States and the local governing bodies that because roadbuilding plant was so scarce, local governing bodies and roads boards should pool and interchange their plant. Plant which was no longer required for war purposes was made available, and although some if it was not entirely suitable it was convertible for road construction work. In many of the States, however; it was not possible for the government or the local governing authority to spend the money which they had in hand on road construction and repair, because of shortage of labour, materials and plant, and as a consequence road maintenance and extension work has been curtailed. But to-day, there are many unemployed, and plant is available; consequently, it is physically impossible to embark on a vigorous road construction and maintenance programme. Oil refineries in Australia are able also to supply almost an over-abundance of bitumen and other materials necessary for the making of all-weather roads. This makes it possible to seal roads which have been constructed, but which have not a proper surface. The oil refining companies find it difficult to get rid of their residues, but these could be used in road work if the petrol tax revenue were fully applied in this direction. The whole nation would benefit thereby.
However, motorists have to pay not only a tax on petrol, but also sales tax on motor vehicles and accessories, in some instances at a higher rate than prevailed in war-time. The motorist is being taxed on all sides, and he is not receiving from the Government a return in service because the money is not being spent on the roads. The sales tax, in particular, is a vicious impost. It is of great national importance that this money be expended on roads. Such a policy would be fair and equitable to all road users, whether private or commercial, and it should be put into effect with the least possible delay. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) was quite right when he told us that money had been allocated for expenditure on the Eyre highway between South Australia and Western Australia and that it was the responsibility of the States concerned to put this most important strategic road in good order; but I remind him that if they undertook the work under the present system of making money available the best they could do would be a patchwork job that would prove most expensive and unsatisfactory in the long run. If this Government intends to face up to the responsibility it promised the electors it would accept when it sought from them a mandate to govern Australia, it should make more of this money available in order that we might have a reasonable standard of roads throughout Australia.
Another factor to be considered is the cost of production. We have been told that the cost of production of almost every commodity in the country has increased by at least 66§ per cent, during the regime of the present Government. The cost of maintaining roads is now about 200 per cent, higher than it was prior to 1949. The building of roads to-day is tremendously expensive. It is essential that the Government allocate more money for road purposes. It does not matter whether it comes from petrol tax or any other source because, when all is said and done, it is somewhat like the business of Paddy’s sheet - in order to make it longer cut a piece off the bottom and put it at the top. Better roads will be of advantage to both road users and our economy as a whole. Transport costs are probably one of the biggest factors in our costs of production. At the present time, the cost of transporting primary products from the point of production to the point of despatch is the highest it has ever been in the history of Australia. This is due to the fact that the wear and tear on the vehicles carrying commodities over bad roads is terrific. It is time now for Government supporters to put into effect the policy they enunciated when they sat in Opposition to the Chifley Government and when supplies of man-power, materials and plant were so short that it was impossible to carry out the projects that could be put into effect to-day.
– Money was always available from the Chifley Government.
– It was available, and the States were told by the Chifley Government that it was available. If this country is to develop, if our economy is to be improved, I submit that the whole of the proceeds from the petrol tax increase should be applied to road construction, rehabilitation and maintenance.
Senator WOOD (Queensland) [8.14J. - In supporting sub-clause 2a of clause 3, I should like to state at the outset thai, the remarks of Senator Cooke sounded like a fairy story. It was most interesting to hear him say that the money was available to local authorities and State governments during the Chifley Government’s term of office but they could not use it. Let me give the true story. At that time, I was State president of the’ Local Authorities Association in Queensland and a member of the Australian Council of Local Government. At that time, we came as a deputation to Canberra to interview the then Minister for Transport, now the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), at Canberra. He told us that it was not possible to give us the money we wanted. The then Labour Government, as a result of representations made by the New South Wales Local Government Council, made £1,000,000 available to local authorities in sparsely populated areas. That sum was in addition to the money allocated from main roads funds. This figure was increased to £2,000,000. and ultimately it rose to £3,000,000. I emphasize that during the whole of that time, the grants were restricted to local government bodies in sparsely populated areas. It was not until this Government attained office and varied the conditions of the federal aid roads grant that all municipalities were able to share in the money made available. That was the first time that local government bodies along the coast and in the cities and towns were able to share in the distribution of federal aid roads grants.
It has been suggested that local government bodies could not spend the money that was made available by the Chifley Government. I know that many councils could have spent it and, indeed, were asking for it but could not get any because there was not enough available. To-day, I noticed the Mayor of Townsville in this building, and I am reminded that in his city and in many other Queensland cities a great deal more money could have been spent if the local authorities could have obtained it. “We must be fair about this matter. The first time this money was ever made available to all local government bodies in Queensland was when the present Government introduced amending legislation to vary the system under which federal aid roads grants could be made available. The extra Id. a gallon of the petrol tax increase that is to be made available under this legislation will be a considerable to help all road-constructing authorities throughout Australia. It has been pointed out that the total amount that will be available this financial year will be only £1,000,000, but I remind honorable senators that that sum is to be paid for a period of only four months of the current year. Next financial year, £4,000,000 will bc made available from this source. I admit that £4,000,000 or even twice that sum would not be enough to bitumenize all roads or to make all roads first-class highways, but it has to be remembered that Australia is a vast continent. It is sparsely populated and the revenue has to be contributed by way of petrol tax or some other form of taxation levied on a comparatively small section of the people in this very large continent. We must be sensible and appreciate that there is a limit to what «an be done within a certain time.
Further, I am firmly convinced that when allocating these moneys to the States the Commonwealth should take a firm stand in determining the manner in which they shall be spent. The weakness that I see in this legislation is that it contains nothing which would prevent a State government from expending a considerable proportion of the money on building forestry access roads in order that it might derive revenue by way of royalties on the timbers taken from its forests. That is being done in Queensland now. It is my firm opinion that the great bulk of this money should go to local government bodies because they ire faced with intense problems. The provisions contained in this sub-clause seeking to make another Id. a gallon available for distribution throughout the States will be of great assistance indeed. Senator Kennelly referred to the moving picture that we saw in the Senate committee room the other night emphasizing the problem confronting the authorities in the United States of America in providing roads to meet the increasing demands of motor traffic. The United States is a country of great wealth, great development and immense motor traffic. They have their road problems there. Australia is not nearly so well developed as is the United States of America, nor are we so wealthy. Our population is smaller. Therefore, while we need more money for roads, we must recognize that there arc limits to the things we can do at this stage of our development. I support the ;Government’s proposal for the allocation of petrol tax revenue.
.- Honorable senators have expressed widely varied opinions as to how the paltry sum of £4,000,000 for road work should be allocated. Let us examine the facts. The Government expects to raise £12,000,000 a year by imposing a tax of 3d. a gallon more on petrol. It proposes to allow £S,000,000 to remain in a trust account, and to distribute £4,000,000 to the States for general road construction purposes. I am reminded that 40 per cent, of the money to be allocated to the various States must be spent on rural roads. Everybody will endorse that provision, but let us examine the overall situation without pretence. What will it be possible to do by way of road construction throughout the length and breadth of Australia with £4,000,000? The amount is so infinitesimal that it is not even worth considering. It is not worth the time that we are wasting upon this discussion. As I stated yesterday in this chamber, a gravel runway on an airport costs about £100,000, and the construction of a proper runway costs £1,000,000. Therefore, the money that is to be made available to all the States for roads would build only four runways. That illustrates how much work could be done on road repairs and construction with £4,000,000.
Many mean statements have been made to-day about the allocation of the money, and how it could have been spent during the past ten years. A deliberate statement was made that the Labour government, when in office, had distributed only a few pounds for road construction purposes. People forget that during that period the nation was at war and, at the end of the war, there was a period of rehabilitation and general settling down. Even if the State governments had set themselves out to build roads costing £7,000,000 or £S,000,000 a year, it would have been absolutely impossible for them to do so for very sound reasons. I know, of my own knowledge, that it was impossible for any State government to obtain labour to carry out any major road works up to 1949. The position has not improved to any great extent since then.
Let us consider the cost of repairing existing roads in Australia, ignoring altogether any consideration of new road construction. Repairs alone would require about £100,000,000, yet honorable senators have been engaging in pretence about the division of £4,000,000 according to a formula that was laid down a few years ago among six States. What will the States do with their portion of this allocation? New South Wales will probably get the major share of the £4,000,000. How much road work will it be able to do with its share ? Obviously the amount available will not be worth bothering about. If the Government told the States that they would receive £12,000,000 to do repair work and build some new roads, they would be able to accomplish something worthwhile. That is why the Australian Labour party has adopted its attitude to this measure. We believe that the whole of the money that will be raised from the increased petrol tax should be made available to the States, having regard to the condition of existing roads, the need for constructing new roads and the growth in the volume of motor vehicular traffic. The flow of traffic is increasing in volume and something must be done to provide suitable roads. Therefore, I intend to vote for the amendment to be submitted by the Opposition.
– I oppose the proposal to allocate the whole of the £12,000,000 to be raised by higher petrol tax to the roads, not because I am happy with the condition of our roads, but because I believe that the transport problem is not confined wholly and solely to our road system. The three main branches of surface transport in Australia are sea transport, road transport and rail transport, and the Government has to hold the scales of justice fairly poised between them. I am just as convinced as are other honorable senators of the great need for roads as part of our defence system, but do not let us be blinded to some other features of the problem.
– They are important at election time.
– Yes, but because they are important, do not let us think there are not other things equally important. I know that we need a realistic policy on roads, and that we need roads for national development, but there are other aspects of transport to be considered. Shire and municipal councils are urging us to increase grants for roads.
– Take some money off the cities.
– I am glad the honorable senator mentioned that matter because I wanted to deal with the whole question of transport, including sea, road and rail traffic, and the need for all avenues to be investigated. If we look at this problem in its widest aspect, we can see that, in the foreseeable future, about £700,000,000 or £800,000,000 will be required to put our transport system in order. We should have better roads, better railways, more diesel engines and improved wharf facilities. Honorable senators might ask how those improvements would affect roads. I believe that too much of our traffic is going over the roads now. Much of it should go by sea or rail, but the facilities are not available. I suggest that some of the £8,000,000 that is to be put into a trust account should be expended on the improvements that I have suggested. That would reduce considerably the traffic on the roads.
Senator Courtice spoke about city roads, but the biggest concealed losses in our economy occur because the arterial roads around the capital cities ave incapable of carrying present-day traffic Perhaps it may be- considered strange that
We who is seised of the great importance of rural roads could venture to make a Statement such as that, but if honorable senators consider it they will see that there is considerable truth in it.
This Government is doing a very good job in encouraging the development of roads, as well as in other directions, and it would be sheer folly to give the whole of the proceeds of the additional petrol tax to the States for road purposes at the present time when there,are so many Other problems awaiting solution. Those are the main reasons why I believe that the Government will do the right thing if it allocates only £4,000,000 to the States out of the additional £12,000,000 that it intends to raise by way of increased petrol tax. The additional sum will increase the total Commonwealth allocation for roads to about £35,000,000.
I hope that during the next financial year the Minister will be able to maintain the allocation for roads at the present rate. I know that lie has taken -a very keen interest in our roads, and I know that he will do all he can to develop road systems in this country.
. - There are three main forms of transport, road, rail and sea. However, to-night we are dealing with only one form, and that is road transport. The Opposition has put forward an amendment to the measure which is designed to ensure that the additional £12,000,000 which will be gathered through the increased petrol tax will be allocated to the States for the maintenance of existing roads and the construction of additional roads. If the amendment is successful, it is true that the sums allocated will be distributed on the old formula, but that is a matter for discussion at a later stage, and the immediate question is the amount to he distributed to the States.
Every time a statement is made in the Senate which involves expenditure of money, honorable senators on the Government side speak of what happened before 1949, and compare conditions after that date with those before it. They talk of 194’9 as though that year marked the closing of an old era or the opening of a new one. Although I do not believe that, I think that 1949 is a. significant date in our history. Indeed, .1 believe that most people would like to return to the economic conditions that existed under a Labour government prior to 1949.
If we were still enjoying those conditions, then because the purchasing power of the £1 was so much greater than it is now, perhaps the States would be very pleased to receive an additional £4,000,000 for their roads. But that sum now has much less purchasing power than it did before 1049. Since the end of 1949, that is since the advent of this Government, our economy has gone haywire. Surely it is time that Government supporters forgot about 1949 and tried to grapple with the conditions that exist to-day.
It is true that at the end of World War IT. and during the period of postwar reconstruction and rehabilitation, it was impossible for the authorities to obtain the man-power and materials that they needed. Therefore, at that time it wa.3 of no use for the government to make more money available than could be used. To-day, however, we are in a very different position, and so far as the State of Victoria is’ concerned I am sure that it would welcome its share of the additional £12,000,000, and would be quite easily able to expend it to good advantage. We should gladly welcome that money because it would enable our Country Roads Board to give additional assistance to the many rural and municipal organizations that are eager to do maintenance work on existing roads and build new ones.
The Opposition asks the Government to devote the whole of the additional £12,000,000 to road purposes, because it is needed and can be well spent. The Government is trying to bolster the case that it is putting before the people and is making itself out to be a philanthropic government in giving £4,000,000 extra to the ‘States, but if our economy had been progressing properly under this Government, and the Government had the full confidence of the people, this bill would not be before the Senate to-night. It would not have been necessary for the Government to have inflicted additional taxes upon the motoring section of the community, or to have imposed additional sales tax and other taxes as outlined in the supplementary budget which was recently introduced under the guise of an economic statement.
If the Government had been running the country properly it would have had sufficient funds to deal with all contingencies and would not have needed additional revenue. It would have been able to allocate money to the States on a scale far in excess of the paltry few pounds that we are talking about to-night. Therefore, honorable senators should not talk about 1949 as though upon that date a bright era dawned for the people of Australia, because really a bright era did not dawn at all as is clearly shown by the legislation before the Senate.
To-night, we are debating the allocation of £4,000,000, or £12,000,000, to l.he States, and I hope that those honorable se ti a tors who have had much to say about the development of our main roads, the construction of better rural roads and the relief of municipalities, will demonstrate by their votes when the amendment is placed before them whether they are earnest in their statements. If they are honest they will vote for the amendment,, but I am afraid that, as has happened so often in the past, many honorable senators will speak one way and vote another.
– The debate on this measure in the committee has followed substantially the pattern of the debate on the second reading of the bill. Because of that, no good purpose would be served by traversing it in any great detail. I think that, generally speaking, the course of the debate has illustrated that, as the years have gone by, increasing proportions of the petrol tax collections have been made available to the States, until to-day approximately 73 per cent, of the collections go to the States.
When I was speaking this afternoon I referred to expenditure of £84,000,000 in one year. I feel that I owe it to Senator Kennelly to explain the sources of that sum. They were : £21,600,000 from Commonwealth funds; £34^000,000 from State funds, and £27,448,000 from local government sources, making a total of approximately £83,000,000, which works out at about £9 a head of population, and which compares favorably with the figures in respect of Canada and New Zealand.
Brief mention has been made to-night of the incidence of the increased price of petrol, consequent on the additional tax of 3d. a gallon, and it is worth noting that the actual increase of costs attributable to the additional impost is not as great as it might appear to be. In respect of a light truck of 2 to 3 tons capacity, it works out at .16d. a ton-mile, and for a heavy truck with a capacity of 6-^ tons, it works out at .05d. a ton-mile.
The only other comment I wish to make arises from the matters referred to by Senator Laught, who spoke of the work of the Australian Road Safety Council and the efforts that have been made by the Australian Uniform Road Traffic Code Committee in connexion with standardizing rules of the road.
– A very necessary work. I have been interested in it actively for five or six years.
– I believe that Senator Critchley has shown a regular interest in the work of the committee. Its work, of course, is of a continuing nature. Recommendations flow from it, through the Australian Transport Advisory Council, to the various State legislatures. An idea of the scope of the work may be gained from the fact that, of 55 specific recommendations by the Australian Uniform Road Traffic Code Committee, 37 of them have been adopted 100 per cent, in Queensland, 41 in New South Wales, 32 in Victoria, 31 in South Australia, 27 in Western Australia, 24 in Tasmania, 26 in the Australian Capital Territory, and 30 in the Northern Territory. It may also be of interest to Senator Laught to know that the Australian Motor Vehicles Standards Committee, which is another sub-committee of the Australian Road Safety Council, is extremely active in trying to co-ordinate regulations in the various States, and to introduce a common set of standards for Australia. The regulations in Victoria and Western Australia embrace approximately 90 per cent. of the recommended draft regulations of the committee, whilst in Queensland the proportion is not less than 70 per cent. New South Wales, unfortunately, has made a relatively small number of amendments of its legislation to date. In Tasmania, the basic regulations are largely in conformity with the draft regulations. In South Australia, fewer amendments have been made in order to make the regulations accord with the draft regulations, and considerable additions to and amendments of the regulations in that State would be required to bring them into line with the suggested draft regulations.
Question put -
That the bill stand as printed.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D.Reid.)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 15th May (vide page 722), on motion by Senator Cooper -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The bill now before the Senate is one to fix the licence-fees applicable to broadcasting and television stations. This is done in a separate measure from the main bill dealing with broadcasting and television, because there is a danger that a fee fixed as a percentage based on gross profit might, conceivably, be regarded as taxation, and if that particular provision were included in the main bill dealing with the subjects of broadcasting and television, the bill might be declared invalid under the Constitution. So we have a separate bill dealing with the one matter of fees.
The broadcasting fee that has been applicable since 1947 is divided into two parts. The first part is a straight-out fee of £25, applicable to broadcasting stations only, and then there is a variable fee of one-half of 1 per cent. based on the gross takings of a broadcasting station. It is important to note that the gross takings include not only the proceeds of the sale of broadcasting time, music, records and the rest, but also rent from the letting of portions of the premises of radio stations. So that the one-half of 1 per cent. is charged upon the total gross takings of the radio station. I remind the Senate that I am not, at the moment,, dealing at all with fees for television licences. Under the present act the extra charge of½ per cent. is only payable if the station concerned makes a profit. It does not matter how large or how small the profit may be, but if a profit is made, one-half of 1 per cent. of the station’s gross takings for a year is payable by way of part of the annual licence-fee.
There is no great objection from the Opposition to the measure. In fact, we do not oppose it, except that we feel that it could be improved or modified in one particular - and one particular only. We thing that the intentions are justified on a number of grounds. Since the present fees were fixed in 1942, the broadcasting stations have very greatly increased their charges to their patrons and clients. Their gross takings have risen during that period from £1,330,000 to £6,687,000 a year. That in itself is an enormous increase over a relatively short period. When one looks at the net profits of the radio broadcasting stations, as disclosed by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, one finds that net profits have risen from £81,812 in 1942 to £1,449,000 last year. Over the intervening period, they have multiplied seventeen times. Therefore, one cannot feel any great sorrow over the plight of radio stations when one looks down the years since 1942. It is obvious that, by and large, they are doing exceedingly well, and that they could well bear some kind of percentage charge on their gross takings when the percentage is of the order of only onehalf of 1 per cent, of their profits after paying ordinary company tax and income tax.
I think, too, that in determining what ought to be the amount of the licence-fee, some regard ought to be had to the value of a licence, whether it be a radio licence or a television licence. I should imagine that most radio station licences, if they were sold at the market value, would realize a very large sum. The licence to operate a radio station is a very valuable asset to the proprietor.
Another factor that influences me in this matter is that, in the intervening period since 1942 when the fee was last fixed, there has been a great increase in governmental expenditure by both the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Postmaster-General’s Department in servicing broadcasting stations. I understand that a good deal of research has been conducted by both of those bodies and, of course, the technicians of the Postmaster-General’s Department very largely service the technical equipment of broadcasting stations. Nobody will argue against the proposition that there lias been a vast increase of costs, not only to the stations concerned, but also to the governmental bodies concerned.
The new proposal is, of course, to leave the fee of £25 intact - not to increase it - but to vary it by way of the licence-fee that hitherto has been a percentage of gross takings. The amount of the percentage is being lifted from one-half to 1 per cent, to 1 per cent., but it is to be calculated only upon the amounts received by a station from the sale of broadcasting time. Thus, whilst the percentage charged is to be increased, it will be calculated upon a relatively lower total amount, being portion only of the total receipts of the stations. The present bill provides that that extra charge shall be payable whether or not the station makes a profit. Even if it makes a loss, that new method of assessing the fee will apply.
The Opposition believes that most stations will not be seriously affected by the increase that is obviously to take place. We are not concerned with a great body of stations, nor are we concerned with those relay stations that make a loss if they are in the same ownership as a number of other stations that, over all, make a profit. We are not in the least bit worried about a loss incurred on one link in a. chain of stations, but wo think that, with the advent of television, there will be a rather difficult time ahead for radio broadcasting stations, particularly in the early years of television. It is very probable that the main advertising programmes will be attracted to television. It is highly probable that those very attractive programmes will not be available for relaying, as hitherto, to the country stations. They, in particular, are likely to be hit fairly hard by any increase of the licence-fee.
We believe that there will be a number of the smaller stations, particularly those in country districts, which will suffer a pretty substantial loss, and upon whom the increased charge will impose real hardship and an undue burden. It is on that ground, and that ground alone, that the Opposition presses its viewpoint. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) admitted in his second-reading speech that it was rather difficult to assess the impact of the new charge, and that it would be necessary to consider the operation of television for some time in order to see whether the charge worked out equitably or inflicted undue hardship. He stated that, over all, it was expected that the new charge would result in substantially increased revenue to the Government. In those circumstances, and having regard to the impact that television is certain to have in the early years of its operation upon radio stations until the two media of communications settle down together, as I understand they are settling down now in countries outside Australia. I think it would pay the Government to approach this question with some degree of relaxation and some little flexibility. If the bill is passed as it stands at the present time there will be no discretion in anybody to give relief to a radio station that may be hit particularly hard, by television in particular. Figures are available in the latest report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, and it is clear that down the years from 1941-42 losses have been suffered by certain radio stations. I refer the Senate to page 7 of the seventh annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Details given in paragraph IS disclose that in 1941-42, 44 stations out of 97 showed a loss. In the following year, 30 stations showed a loss. During the following ten years from 1943-44 to 1954-55 the average number of stations each year which suffered a loss was fifteen. The figure varies from as low as eleven up to eighteen, but the average is fifteen. Fifteen stations showed a loss.
That fact obviously poses a problem. This may have happened in a small corner, and it is true that not very many radio stations will be affected; but I submit to the Senate that the fact that only a few may be adversely affected is no reason why some relief should not be provided for them. Last year, twelve stations suffered a loss, and the report of the board, from which I intend to quote briefly, states - lt should be explained that seven of the twelve stations which made a loss were being operated on relay from capital city stations in the same ownership and that the combined accounts of the capital city stations and the relay stations showed a profit.
Those seven out of the twelve mentioned, I feel, deserve no consideration, but the report continues -
Of the remaining five stations, three have in recent times been re-located in areas where they will have better prospects, and a fourth was operating for only part of the .year and was expected to make a profit when its service was fully developed.
So on that report there is only one station about which we have heard nothing and the position does not appear to be serious or hopeless for any of the twelve stations, or even any of the residual five; but, nevertheless, we feel there are small stations in country areas that are entitled to some consideration and to some protection. I am not in the least, nor is the Opposition, concerned with a new licence that may be granted in radio or any of the licences that may be granted in television. The reason, of course, is that people who take up a five-year licence on an initial grant know exactly what they are undertaking. They know that there will be a developmental period in which, perhaps, they may not expect to make a profit at all. They go into that with their eyes open, and whatever losses they incur they regard them as part of their cost of development and part of their capital cost. That, of course, is true in particular of television stations which recognize it will be quite a considerable period, maybe some years, before they become profit-earning; and they will regard this initial loss merely as developmental expenditure and charge it to the capital costs of the whole undertaking.
The Opposition does not propose to oppose the second reading in any way. I have put the Opposition’s viewpoint and, at the committee stage, I shall move an amendment which, I believe, was circulated to honorable senators last week. It does not deal with the first part of the fee of £25, but proposes that in the case of radio broadcasting stations only, there should be relief for the second part of the fee in any instance in which the Australian Broadcasting Control Board feels that hardship would be borne if the charges were enforced. With those comments I leave the matter. The Opposition seeks a small modification and I feel that it is right and proper for the Senate to give consideration to the viewpoint I have put forward.
– in reply - The Leader of the Opposition (Senator
McKenna) has stated that the Opposition agreed with the main principles of the bill but intends to move an amendment later. I think I should reserve any further remarks until the committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– T refer to sub-clause (3.) of clause 4 which reads - (3.) There is payable to the Commonwealth by a licensee on the grant of his licence, being a grant by way of renewal of the licence, the amount referred to in paragraph (a) or (6) of sub-section (1.) of this section, whichever is applicable, together with an amount equal to one per centum of the gross earnings of his station during the year ended on the thirtieth day of June last preceding the commencement of the period for which the licence is renewed in respect of the broadcasting or tele- “ vising of advertisements or other matter. and I move -
That, in sub-clause (3.), after the word matter” the following words be inserted: - but where the Board certifies that payment of the last-mentioned amount would impose hardship on the licensee of a commercial broadcasting station that amount or so much thereof as the Board shall determine shall not be payable by the said licensee.”.
The board, in that case, pursuant to clause 3 of the bill, means the Australian Broadcasting Control Board; and the Opposition proposes that in any case where the board feels for any reason - whether it be an absence of profit, or some other calamity that may have overtaken a particular station - that the increased charge of 1 per cent, on the sale of broadcasting time would impose hardship, the board may grant relief. I developed this matter on the second reading, and I think it is clear in the minds of all honorable senators.
– I think the Leader of the Opposition should make a request as this is a bill which fixes a licence-fee.
– I understand it is a bill fixing a licence-fee and not imposing a penalty. The amendment I have moved seeks to exempt a radio station from a provision that there shall be payable a particular licence-fee. I have expressed my amendment in the words, “ shall not be payable “. The clause uses the words that “ there shall be payable “ a certain fee, but it shall not be payable in a certain case. I do not mind putting my amendment in the form of a request if you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, feel thai. I should do so. However, I point out that this is not a taxation bill.
– The assumption i.-> that it is a taxation bill.
– I think that consideration of the bill is proceeding on the basis that it may be so classed, and I recognize the strength of the argument that could be adduced on that particular matter.
– I am informed that the Commercial Broadcasting Stations Licence Fees Bill 194.2 was a taxing measure, and I rule that this bill also is a taxing measure.
– If that is your ruling, I put my motion in the form of .1 request.
– At the second-reading stage, I refrained from expressing my thoughts on this matter, but I take opportunity at this stage to say that the amendment that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has moved is most ill-advised. It is superficial to say that a motion seeking to grant relief from taxation on the ground of hardship is always received with some sympathy; but it *is an extremely anomalous position, first of all, to impose taxation on a person because he owns a licence. That is to say he is selected by the board as a permittee to carry on a business, and then the very same board that grants him that licence has power to certify, by reason of some hardship on the licensee, that the tas should be dispensed with in his case. If all taxation legislation were based upon that principle, an extremely precarious position would result. I am concerned to see this type of taxation growing. This, perhaps, is a novel situation, and because broadcasting in 1942 was a comparatively new medium, when a licence was issued a conventional fee of £25 was charged and then a turnover tax. The broadcasting companies have to pay company tax, and their shareholders pay income tax on their dividends. I speak disinterestedly in respect to them. The provision in the bill is, in effect, a superimposition, on the ordinary licencefee of £25, of a turnover tax on wireless time. It gives rise to some concern because ordinarily, although we would be disposed to increase rates in this post-war era when costs are rising, we must recognize that the turn-over on which the tax is levied has increased very greatly, and this must be taken into consideration when fixing a rate.
These appear to me to be disquieting aspects of the matter. The amendment is ill-advised, but I make a suggestion that because this is a novel type of taxation, it would be an excellent subject for a Senate committee to consider during the coming parliamentary recess.
.- This is a very sound amendment, and it is based on the experience which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has gained in his official duties over the years. Honorable senators all know how radio has developed, and they can appreciate that in a short space of time television will develop similarly. At the present time, it is intended to grant licences to commercial television stations in Sydney and Melbourne only, but every one knows that within a few years television will be operating in many other cities in Australia. The committee knows that the revenue from the broadcasting and television stations will come from advertisements. In Australia there are good and poor advertising centres, which are well known to the advertisers, and they will let their advertising contracts with great discrimination. They know, almost to an individual, the number of listeners in the various localities, and there will be hardship in the future for some of those engaged in broadcasting. Now is the time to consider an amendment of this nature, rather than wait -until television has developed. The proposal is a fair one, and I suggest that the committee agree to it.
– I wish to say a word on the suggestion that relief of the nature proposed might be anomalous. I invite the honorable senator who made that suggestion to refer to section 265 of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act.
– It is hedged around with many safeguards.
– That act provides for a board of three to deal with cases where a taxpayer has suffered such a loss or is in such circumstances that the exaction of the full amount of tax will entail serious hardship. That is surely the type of case contemplated by the amendment.
– Is “ hardship “ defined in the act?
– It is not defined, and I have refrained from enlarging on the point. If I added to it or subtracted from it by adding even the word “ undue “ or “ serious “, I might complicate the matter. The body dealing with a case of hardship could make a decision as to how great or little was the hardship, and it would determine at its discretion whether relief should be granted. The taxation board of three grants relief in circumstances such as I have mentioned, and the whole or part of the amount entailed may be remitted. The board consists of the Commissioner of Taxation, the Secretary to the Treasury and the Comptroller-General of Customs, or their substitutes or delegates.
What I have proposed in this amendment is in complete line with that. I agree with Senator Wright that, having regard to the great increase in gross takings, one-half of 1 per cent, would give a correspondingly greater yield as time went on. It must yield a bigger return and, one might claim, a commensurate return, but I indicate that the rate of 1 per cent., which it is to be in future, is calculated, not upon the amount previously levied upon, but on a very much smaller amount. That is what makes the result of this particular method of assessment rather unpredictable at the moment. That, in turn, is why we seek to make an elastic and flexible provision to meet a case of hardship.
– The publican has to pay his licence-fee.
– I was thinking of two illustrations to which I should like to advert, and the honorable senator reminds me of one. Liquor licences are imposed in all States upon the total value of liquor purchased. That is irrespective, technically, of whether a licensee makes a profit or not. I think, in actual fact, his ordinary mark-up on liquor purchases is 90 per cent. His accountant would think that something was seriously wrong if he did not make a gross profit of 90 per cent, on cost.
– Not now.
– Perhaps not now, but some years ago, when I was interested in watching these returns, 90 per cent, was the normal figure.
– He pays a licencefee, irrespective of loss or hardship.
– That is so. Another example is the bookmaker’s tax, which is imposed on turnover on all bets, irrespective of whether they win or lose. I am not arguing that they are just taxes or anything of that nature, but this type of tax is not unknown, and is not a new development. I confess that it is a somewhat novel way of determining a licencefee, but 1 per cent, on the sale of broadcasting time is not a great tax upon a man’s receipts. It is really only the licence-fee that the committee is discussing, and because it is variable, being a percentage of an amount, if a loss is sustained a hardship is imposed, and there ought to be machinery for granting relief, such as the Government and the Parliament sponsors in relation to income tax. There is no new principle involved, and the proposal in my amendment might well be adopted.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has moved an amendment which provides for a reduction of the amount payable by a licensee in any case where the Broadcasting Control Board considers that the payment of a full fee would impose hardship on him. Since this bill was introduced, many protests have been made against the contemplated increase in the licence-fee.
For instance, it has been claimed that many licensees have had to incur considerable expenditure in recent times in raising the power of their stations. That is quite true. The Government has, in the last few years, authorized substantial increases in power, but in the great majority of cases the increases have been sought by the licensees whose position has been greatly improved as a result of the better technical service they are able to give to their listeners. It has also been pointed out that the costs of commercial broadcasting stations have risen substantially. That, too, is quite true, but the licensees have met that situation by increasing their rates. Surely, they cannot complain if the Government follows a similar course and increases the licencefee, which was fixed at its present level fourteen years ago.
Another argument which has been put forward is that licence-fees should not be increased in view of the introduction of television. In this connexion, honorable senators will be interested in a statement made by the manager of the commercial station at Tamworth and which was reported in the Canberra Times last week. In that statement, he said that television will not replace radio as an advertising medium, but television will, of course, make some impact on broadcasting in this country. He said -
However, after ten years of television in the United States, broadcasting is much alive, although the broadcasters have had to adjust their programme ideas in many respects to meet the challenge of television. Between 1949 and 1954 there was a spectacular increase in the number of broadcasting stations in the United States and in the amount of money spent by advertisers on broadcasting stations.
This measure deals with the situation as it exists at the present time. Our commercial broadcasting services have experienced a quite prosperous period, and the Government, believes they are well able to meet the increased impost proposed in the bill. As I said in my secondrending speech, the higher rate will be based on the income of stations from the sale of station time instead of income from all sources as in the past. I might mention here that the liquor and bookmaking interests mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) are not the only people who pay a licencefee on a similar basis. In Queensland, for instance, certain transport operators, such as bus proprietors, pay a licence-fee based on their gross income irrespective of whether they make a profit or loss. The Government has given very careful consideration to the suggested amendment. It believes that there should be a uniform basis of determining the fee for all stations and that the bill as it stands is fully justified. Consequently, the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I thank the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) for going to so much trouble in his reply. I could agree with every word he uttered except the one sentence in which he said that he proposed amendment was not justified. I am not objecting to the increase. I merely ask that the bill include machinery to meet the case of hardship, which seems certain to occur. I am disappointed that the Government will not meet that viewpoint. It might regret its stand within the next few years. It is quite certain to do so if broadcasting is affected in a serious way in the first few years of television in this country. We can safely leave the major stations to look after themselves, to present their viewpoint and to press it home; but I think it would be wise to have this flexible arrangement that we now propose. Still, if the Government will not accept it, we of the Opposition can do nothing about it except record our vote in favour of our amendment.
Question put -
That the request (Senator McKenna’s ) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - . Senator The Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 31st May (vide page 1129) on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I suggest to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) that this bill, and the complementary measure, the Australian Coastal Shipping Agreement Bill 1956, be debated together.
– I am willing that the two bills should be debated together, Mr. President.
– Is the Senate agreeable ?
– The purpose of the two bills is to set up a commission to run the Commonwealth line of ships, and also to ratify an agreement between the Commonwealth line and the private shipowners of Australia. It is obvious that this legislation is designed to strike a further blow at the people’s assets which the Government is resolved to destroy. Only recently, the Government sold the profitable whaling enterprise in Western Australia. The project had been pioneered by the Labour government, and was returning a magnificent profit to the people of Australia. The sale of those assets was preceded by the crushing and strangling of the Commonwealth Government’s airline, in an attempt to give a privately-run airline an opportunity to exist. That pattern had been followed earlier, when the Government sold its interest in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, a concern that could have played an important part in the life of Australia with the introduction of television.
– Tell us about the shipping.
– I will tell the Senate about shipping as I go along. Perhaps when Senator Kendall has heard some of the objections of the Opposition to this measure, he will not be so eager to discuss the bills. The Government also set out to destroy another asset of the people. It sold its interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, an interest that was of great benefit to the people of Australia.
– Tell us about King Island scheelite.
– I have told the Senate enough about the Government’s policy, and honorable senators on the Government side do not want to hear more. The Government plans to destroy the Commonwealth shipping line. It was obvious to many honorable members of this Parliament, and to many persons outside, that the days of the Commonwealth shipping line were numbered when it became a successful trading enterprise. As the Minister for Shipping and Transport said in his secondreading speech, it was an open secret that the Government wanted to dispose of the Commonwealth shipping line. For some reason, it has not sold the ships to private enterprise, and I believe I can throw some light upon that matteras I proceed. I wish to review first thehistory of the line.
Between the two world wars, all theshipping around Australia was conducted by private enterprise. In 1939, when Australia became involved in war, our mercantile fleet was one of the oldest in the world. Left to private enterprise,, this vital ann of defence had becomeobsolete. Fifty per cent, of the ships were more than twenty years old, and in such condition that they should have been retired. The Newcastle floating dock, which, was to have been used for the repair of ships by private enterprise, was still in three pieces. It had never been completely assembled. Between 1934 and 1940, not one ship of more than 500 tons was constructed in Australia. Because of the inactivity of private enterprise, we had an inefficient fleet of obsolete ships. The shipping interests were determined to have their vessels built overseas, and Australian shipbuilding facilities were practically non-existent when World War II. began.
In that emergency, the government of the day had to set up, as quickly as possible, an authority to build and repair ships, because all facilities had been sadly neglected by the previous government and the private shipping interests. The Labour Government proceeded rapidly with its programme. As the ships were built, it was necessary to have some authority to control them, and the Australian Shipping Board came into operation. During the war, it did magnificent work for the Australian people, and it continued to trade after the war. By 1949-50, the Commonwealth ships were beginning to show a profit,” although the board had to develop unprofitable shipping runs and to take cargoes that other shippers would not handle.
From that day, we in this Parliament, particularly the honorable senators of the Opposition, were quite conscious that the days of the Commonwealth shipping line were numbered. When those ships began to make huge profits in 1952, profits which have continued till the present time, the private shipowners began to look for ways and means of preventing this line from competing with them.
The present Government has been subjected to continual pressure by the shipowners of Australia to force it to do something to stop the Commonwealth shipping line from breaking into the private shipowners’ profits. It was first considered that the way to do that was to sell the ships to the private owners, but to-day we see how the private owners have got what they want without paying Id. towards the cost of the ships.
To-night we have had presented to us an agreement which the Government proposes to enter into with the private shipowners of Australia, and I suggest to the . Government, after having carefully examined the bill, that I can see no reason for the agreement other than that the Government is determined to protect private shipowners. We who from time to time have been subjected to the argument that government enterprise cannot pay its way and cannot be a success, have been told to-night that in order that private enterprise might live, a Commonwealth agency has to be destroyed. So, to-night, we are asked to agree to this proposal which the Government has put before us.
We must consider what the Government proposes for the Commonwealth line of ships under this agreement. But first let me tell honorable senators of the restrictions that the Government proposes to place on the Commonwealth line itself, and then I will tell them what the Government expects to get in return from the private shipowners who enter into the agreement. The first thing is that the Government proposes that the Commonwealth ships shall work on all unprofitable runs.
– Where does that provision appear?
– It is stated in the bill that the Minister can direct the Commonwealth line to enter any run and to develop the run whether it is unprofitable or not. I suggest that the provision means that as the runs which are profitable to-day are being exploited by private shipowners, the only runs not profitable will be left to the Commonwealth line, and its ships will be directed to service those runs. As a run becomes unprofitable, the private shipowners will drop it and the Commonwealth line will be directed to take it up. Therefore, the Government is proposing to leave to the private shipowners the right to exploit any run that shows a profit, but as soon as the run becomes unprofitable the Commonwealth will have to take over that run irrespective of whether or not it makes a loss. If there is a run to be developed and it is unprofitable, the Commonwealth line will be directed to enter that run.
Then, in order to make certain that the private shipowners will be further protected, the agreement provides that the Commonwealth line will be prevented from entering into the territory of the present private owners. That is to say, if the Commonwealth line wants to enter a profitable run and there is already a private shipowner on that run, the Commonwealth line is prevented from going into it. Therefore, honorable senators will see how the territory of the private shipowners is protected. This agreement will create a complete monopoly for the particular company that runs a profitable line, and it is specifically laid down that the Commonwealth line must not compete against such a private company.
– Where does the bill say that?
– The Minister does not know the agreement very well; I oan pick it out in the bill.
– Well, pick it out.
– The Minister does not like these facts to be put to him, but they are all perfectly true.
– If they are true, pick them out of the bill.
– I shall make my speech in the way I wish, and after I have concluded the Minister can deny what I have said if he so wishes. I am not at all amazed to notice that the Government does not want these facts revealed to the people.
– But they are not facts.
– The members of the Government will later have an opportunity to prove that what I am saying is not true, if they can do so.
There is another protection that the Government proposes to give to the private shipowners, the Commonwealth ships must not compete with private ships by undercutting the rates of the private lines. I was under the impression that the present Government believed in private enterprise, and believed that competition was the stimulus that made for progress in Australia. However, when its friends are affected, it says to the Commonwealth line, “ You shall not compete against the private shipowner; you are not allowed to undercut him”. The agreement also points out that the Commonwealth line will be prevented from expanding into the territory of other shipowners, and that it shall not engage in stevedoring, booking in or handling of cargo. Any line of private ships is entitled to have its own stevedores and bookers of cargo, and is entitled to handle all its own cargo, but the Commonwealth line, which is the biggest line in Australia, will have these facilities taken away from it. If the biggest shipping line in Australia is to be handled in this way and is not to be allowed even to have its own stevedoring authorities or people booking its orders, then the Government is certainly putting fetters around it and making doubly certain that it will not survive against private shipowners.
As if that were not enough, in order to make sure that the line is properly crippled, the Government states that the line shall not expand at all.
– The bill does not say that.
– The honorable senator is completely inaccurate.
– I can see that it is about time I read some of the statements made by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) in his second-reading speech, so that honorable senators who blare out interjections will realize what their own Minister has said. En his second-reading speech the Minister said -
The private shipping companies, therefore, are given every opportunity to build the new tonnage which may be required for the Australian coastal trade, but if they do not do so then the commission may build tonnage to the extent to which the private companies fail to do so.
So the Commonwealth shipping line has no right to take that action on its own initiative. If the Commonwealth line isenterprising and wants to branch out into other runs, it has no right to do so. Private enterprise is to have that opportunity, and it will size up the possibilities,, work out whether a service will be worth while, and, if satisfied, will go ahead. If they do not think it is worth while, the Government will say, “ Well, the Commonwealth line can have a go at it The Minister for Shipping and Transport went on to say -
Thus, it is entirely in the hands of the shipping companies as to whether or not they take advantage of any opportunities offering from time to time to expand their operations.
The Government is leaving with the private shipping companies the right to expand their operations when they feel like doing so, but the Commonwealth line is to have no such right. It must wait until the private shipping companies say, “ No, we do not want it. It is not worth while. You can go in if you want to.”
The Minister continued -
On the other hand, the position of the commission and of the Australian public is fully protected, because if the shipowners fail to play their part, then it is open to the commission to step in and meet any deficiencies.
T have not seen anything quite so blatant as that statement for many years. If the private shipowners do not care to avail themselves of certain opportunities, the Commonwealth line may step in and do so.
– Very kind of them !
– Yes, very kind. In addition - and the Minister has tried to sidetrack me in this respect - the Government has limited, by the terms of the bill, the amount of tonnage that the Commonwealth line will be allowed to own.
– Limited it to what?.
– If the honorable senator consults the bill, he will see it set out there. The fact is that it is proposed to limit the tonnage that the Commonwealth line will be allowed to operate. If the Commonwealth line wants to expand, there will be a definite limit to such expansion. Because of the matters to which I have referred already, and the restrictions that will be placed upon the line, it is obvious that it will never have much opportunity to survive, let alone expand.
When two parties make an agreement it is usual for both to contribute something to the agreement. I think I have shown the Senate to-night that the Government has made most generous terms for the private shipowners and has placed most crippling restrictions on the Commonwealth line. I had thought that, in the circumstances, particularly good terms might be expected from the private shipowners, but after a careful perusal of the agreement, as outlined in the Minister’s second-reading speech, I cannot find anything worth while at all.
– The honorable senator should read the whole of the context this time.
– I shall read all of it, and if Senator Henty wishes later on to get up and dispute what I have said, I shall be perfectly happy for him to do so. In the course of the Minister’s second-reading speech, he stated -
The shipowners for their part undertake that they will provide sufficient vessels of suitable types as will, with the vessels of other companies and of the commission, provide adequate, efficient and economical coastal shipping services. They further undertake that they will conduct these services in an efficient and economical manner and under competitive conditions. tt is staggering to read that, having conceded all these points to the private shipowners and having muzzled the Commonwealth line of ships, the only contribution that the private shipowners are to make to this agreement is to be good boys, to run efficient services, and to help as much as they can. There is nothing concrete at all. Therefore, I say that the agreement that has been entered into by the Commonwealth and the private shipowners represents nothing but a sell-out of the people’s assets in regard to shipping.
Not only is the Commonwealth line to be muzzled, but also, the private shipOwners are to be granted a complete monopoly of shipping services on the Australian coast. It has been determined that the Commonwealth shipping line shall not enter into any price war. The
Minister proposes to ensure that freight cuts that the line may wish to make shall be approved by him. It is obvious that the Government is determined that there shall be no competition so far as freights are concerned. In addition, it has decided that the private shipowners are to have their runs protected and that the Commonwealth line will not be allowed to intrude upon that preserve.
– The honorable senator knows that that is not a correct statement of the provisions of the bill.
– Senator Wright apparently has not read the bill. Having conceded all those points, all that wc receive in return is a pious statement by the private shipowners that they will be good boys.
As I stated earlier, because the Commonwealth line became a danger to the private shipping companies and was competing successfully against them and making huge profits, it was necessary to destroy it. Therefore, the ships of the line were hawked- around Australia in an attempt to get rid of them.
– The Government even tried to sell them to China.
– It probably would have been glad to do so. The shipowners, however, were too wily to pay for the ships. They appreciated that, as this Government had destroyed one after another of the assets of the people of Australia, they had only to wait for a while and the Government would destroy the Commonwealth line of ships as well. It was much easier for them to wait until the line had been removed from competition by shackling it so that it could not trade and compete with the private companies. Knowing that that action could be expected of this Government, they waited until they were able to obtain the Government’s assent to the taking of steps that would lead to a complete monopoly for private shipping in Australia.
To-night, we are being asked quite blatantly to agree to this outrageous agreement, to which honorable senators on this side of the chamber are most strongly opposed. We consider that it is the worst agreement that has come before this Parliament in a long period of years. I say again that what the Government is attempting to do is to prevent competition with the private shipowners. It proposes to saddle the Commonwealth line with unprofitable runs and to leave it at the mercy of the private stevedores, the bookers of cargo and others, all of whom are closely allied with the private shipowners.
Let me read to the Senate what the stevedores are to contribute to this agreement. The Minister, in his secondreading speech, having guaranteed that the stevedores would receive trade from the Commonwealth line and all that went with it, stated -
The stevedoring companies nave likewise undertaken to carry out stevedoring operations in an efficient and economical manner and to give fair and equitable treatment to the vessels of the commission handled by them.
How generous of them! What a nice undertaking to give to the Commonwealth, when they are going to have the right to do all of the stevedoring business of the Commonwealth, because the Commonwealth will not have the right to establish its own organization. Those people have, indeed, been most generous! The fear that has been felt, not only by many people in Australia, but also by the Australian Labour party for a number of years, is about to be realized. We did, of course, hope that this line of modern ships, which had proved to be a successful undertaking and a valuable addition to the mercantile fleet of Australia, would be allowed to continue. I should like, if I had sufficient time at my disposal, to develop the theme of the shipbuilding industry in Australia, which was sadly neglected by anti-Labour governments before the war, but which was encouraged to develop by the Labour Government that was in office during the period of the war.
Senator George Rankin interjecting,
– I am conscious of Senator George Rankin interjecting something about the war. I remind him that, at that time, the Labour government of the day determined to develop the shipbuilding industry in Australia, and it established an authority for that purpose. That government encouraged the shipbuilding yards to establish slipways, and to get on with the job of building ships for Australia. In order to ensure that the shipyards would be kept going, it decided that ships over 24 years of. age would not be licensed to trade on the Australian coast. Then, by means of a national security regulation, it prevented ships intended for the Australian coastal trade from being built outside Australia, unless the Minister issued a licence for that purpose.
– No promise was given to any private shipping line that it would get new ships.
– I cannot understand what my friend from Tasmania is gabbling about. I am pleased to say that I had some experience of the shipbuilding board that the Labour government established. The Minister of the day, Senator Ashley, and Senator Armstrong refused to allow ships for the coastal trade to be built outside Australia unless it was not possible to build them here. As a result of that encouragement, the Australian shipyards were afforded an opportunity to develop into efficient organizations. However, sad to relate, since the present Government has been in office it has issued licences to anybody who applied for them to have ships for the coastal trade constructed overseas. Gradually, but surely, the Australian shipbuilding yards have lost confidence in this Government. I do not wish to develop this theme any further to-night.
I conclude on this note: If this Senate approves of the agreement which is set out in the schedule to the bill, the people of Australia will see another of their valuable assets destroyed. They will see a government undertaking, which has operated so successfully as to provide formidable competition to private enterprise, utterly destroyed. If the agreement is approved, the Commonwealth shipping line will be so shackled that the private shipping companies, having no competition to meet, will have a chance to survive at the expense of the people’s line. For these reasons, we oppose the bill.
– In the initial part of my remarks, I shall leave on one side the criticism of this bill that has been voiced by Senator Arnold. I do not think there is any need for me to stress the importance of the legislation now before the Senate. Great difficulties have been associated with transport in Australia. In particular, water transport has been a source of considerable difficulty for many years past. “We have had to encounter such difficulties as the lack of port facilities, continually recurring industrial trouble on the waterfront and the uncertainties inherent in the shipping industry. One of the best provisions of the bill removes from that industry the air of uncertainty that has surrounded it for many years past, since the Labour party became so involved in relation to the Commonwealth shipping line in the post-war years. The shipping companies of Australia realized that one of the foremost planks of the Labour party was the nationalization of shipping. The threat, tho danger - the dagger at their throats - created circumstances under which it waa impossible for the shipping industry to progress as it should.
– The Minister knows that Labour did not have the power to_ nationalize the shipping industry.
– When one studies the provisions of the Shipping Act 1 949, it is evident that the Labour government that was then in office would have sufficient indirect power under that measure to drive all private enterprise from the shipping lanes around the Australian coast, or to make them completely subservient to the government shipping line. Labour’s objective was to nationalize shipping as well as banking. Let there be no misunderstanding on that point. I shall quote from the Shipping Act 1949, which Labour did not have the courage to proclaim because it realized that the force of public opinion was against the measure, and that it was taking its socialistic proposals a stage too far for the people of Australia to accept.
Under Part III. of the Shipping Act 1949, no ship exceeding 200 tons could trade on the Australian coast unless a licence to do so was issued by the Minister. No ship could be built in Australia unless under licence from the Minister, and a licence so issued was subject to such conditions relating to the tonnage, design, fittings, gear and time, place, standards and methods of construction of the ship as the Minister determined. In other words, no shipping company could build a ship in Australia unless it conformed to the requirements of the socialist government of the day. No one with any sense of reality could but realize that a licence would not be forthcoming if a shipping company wanted to build a modern, efficient ship which would be likely to compete successfully with the government shipping line. That is the situation that developed under the shipping legislation of 1949 which, as I have said, undermined the confidence of the Australian shipping trade and created the period of uncertainty during which the whole of the shipping industry in Australia has been in the doldrums.
The first point that I think should be made is that great credit is due to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) for evolving a scheme to restore an air of certainty to the industry. This bill clearly defines, not only for those who are engaged in the Commonwealth shipping line, but also for those who have invested in snipping companies and are interested in the privateshipping trade, the position of the Commonwealth shipping line. It represents a tremendous step forward, and establishes a sound foundation for the future development of the shipping trade in Australia. In these circumstances, I thought that a cheer might have come even from the ranks of Tuscany. I thought they might have paid some compliment to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, who, although raised to ministerial rank only a short time ago, has shown that little touch of imagination, combined with decisiveness, which, in so short a period, has solved this problem which has been intractable for so long.
What is the reply of the Opposition to this legislation ? In view of its first reply, one almost feels inclined to sing, “ Tell me the old, old story” - the Government is selling the people’s assets. I have said before that this Government stands for the policy of desocialization of industry as completely opposed to the Labour party’s policy of socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and its policy of nationalization of hanking, shipping and public health.
In effect, the Government says that where private enterprise and private capital stands ready and prepared to do national work, to carry out national services, it should be encouraged to do so. In the final analysis the Government is really a taxpayer and the taxpayers should not be called upon to provide funds to carry 0111 work which private investment is prepared to do. That is the basic difference between the two parties.
In this bill the Government has shown how the proposal can operate in a practical form. I should like to refer, as quickly as I can, to some of the criticisms which Senator Arnold levelled at the bill. I should like to deal with those criticisms as quickly as I can, because I then want to explain the provisions of the bill, which Senator Arnold has either completely misconstrued or is incapable of understanding. It is quite fair to say that Senator Arnold did not make one major statement which showed he had knowledge or understanding of the bill, or of the principles which lie behind it, or of the way in which it will operate. He said that this bill will destroy the Commonwealth shipping line. That is directly contrary to what the bill proposes to do. The bill provides that the Commonwealth shipping line will continue in operation, and it envisages that the Commonwealth shipping line will have a reserve amount of tonnage which it will be able to add to its existing fleet. It also envisages that on each occasion when a private shipping company is unready or unwilling to add to its fleet the Commonwealth shipping line will add that tonnage to its fleet. To say that the bill provides for the destruction of the Commonwealth shipping line is completely at variance with the facts. For the first time in a decade the Commonwealth shipping line is to be put upon a firm and sound foundation so that it will be able to order its affairs with confidence in the future.
The next point made by Senator Arnold was that this bill is the result of pressure being put on the Government by the private shipping companies. Again that is exactly contrary to the facts, because the facts are that since this Government has been in office it has, in accordance with its policy, been endeavouring to sell this shipping line to private shipping owners. This is not a case of the shipping companies putting pressure on the Government; it is just the reverse - the Government is putting pressure on the shipping lines. Then, Senator Arnold said that the legislation will not permit the Commonwealth shipping line to expand. That is exactly the contrary of what is contained in the agreement because the Commonwealth shipping line has the responsibility to expand as and when circumstances arise if the private shipping companies are not prepared to do so. Then he referred to the limitation on the tonnage which the Commonwealth shipping line is permitted to own. The facts are that at present the tonnage owned by the Commonwealth shipping line is 247,000 tons, but under the agreement express provision exists for that tonnage to be increased by close on 33-J per cent, to 325,000 tons, and it can be expanded thereafter as circumstances permit.
Senator Arnold’s next point was that the Commonwealth shipping line is to take over all the unprofitable lines, which again is contrary to the terms of the agreement. The terms of the act place an obligation on the Commonwealth shipping line to run its affairs upon a commercial basis, and the Government expects it to do so. Instead of the line being expected to take over unprofitable lines a specific provision exists in the agreement for the Government to make good any loss the line incurs provided that that loss is not offset by profits in other directions. Senator Arnold also spoke about the Minister being in a position to prevent the Commonwealth shipping line from undercutting on freight rates. Again, that is almost entirely contrary to the provision in the act, because in the act and in the agreement the Minister is specifically prevented from initiating any proposals for a variation of freight rates. The Minister’s only responsibility is that he has, in the final analysis, to approve; but all initiating movements must come from the Commonwealth shipping line itself.
Then we come to an almost humorous touch when he says that now the Commonwealth shipping line is making huge profits, the Government is determined to sell it. I have the facts before me.
The taxpayers of Australia have invested in this Commonwealth shipping line some £14,000,000, and over the last decade the largest profit the line has ever made lias been £S70,000 which, on my computatation, is close enough to only 5£ per cent, profit on the capital that has been invested. For three consecutive years when the Labour party was in power, the Commonwealth shipping line lost £1,500,000, £2,200,000 and £2,000,000 respectively, and in truth, it was only when this Government came into office, find placed the Commonwealth shipping line under the capable business administration of our late colleague, Senator George “McLeay, that it came out of the red and commenced to make headway. It is only in the last 4 years that profits have been earned.
X think I have adequately replied to the superficial criticisms that have been levelled at this legislation. 1 suggest that the right way to look at this bill is in the broad rather than in detail. We have a situation in which doubt and uncertainty has shrouded one of our principal means of transport in Australia. First of all the Commonwealth shipping line was conducted under national security regulations. Later, it was contemplated that it would be put under a bill, but the government of the day never proclaimed that bill. So, even at the present time the line is still being operated under national security regulations. We have bad a situation in which the private shipping interests of Australia have had this dagger poised at their throats, and in those circumstances could not be expected to be progressive or expand their activities. This agreement changes the scene completely. It reminds the shipping trade of Australia, in effect, that the Government first asked that those interested in that trade should purchase the Government’s interest in the Commonwealth shipping line upon terms which protected the interests of the people. They declined to do that, and the Government now offers a scheme which provides a place for both government and private enterprise to run side by side. Tt will operate for a period of twenty years, during which time the private companies can know with confidence where they stand, what the Government will do and will not do, and that they will not be forced out of business by the Government’s usurping the functions which they are capable and willing to perform. The Government sets forth the terms and conditions upon which this will be done. Surely no one can say that those terms and conditions, which provide an opportunity for private investors to operate, successfully and at the same time protect the interests of the people of Australia, are unreasonable.
The Government has said, in effect, to the shipping companies: “Here is our fleet at its present size, and here is provided the extent to which we reserve to ourselves the right to increase it. We give you the undertaking that we will not use taxpayers’ money to increase the size of this fleet beyond the extent lawfully provided. You on your side can play your part, and increase your fleets as and when the circumstances require. If you are not prepared to do that, then the Government reserves the right to increase its fleet “. That is a perfectly business-like, reasonable arrangement.
The Government looks to the circumstances which could arise under which shipping companies would increase their fleets, and it has to be reasonable. At the present time, there are no circumstances which would justify a private shipping company increasing its fleet, because the situation is so uncertain. Under the agreement that uncertainty is removed, the shipping companies know where they stand and the Government knows where it stands. The arrangements that follow are consequential. The Government says to the shipping companies : “ This will be our sphere. This will be the size of our fleet, and we hope that you will provide the balance “.
The Government says further to the shipping companies : “ The Commonwealth shipping line requires stevedoring and agency services, but we will not disturb the arrangements which have been in existence ever since the Commonwealth shipping line was. formed, and which have operated satisfactorily to this stage. Those arrangements will continue, but this is a business transaction. Unless the existing arrangements continue to give service in the future, as they have done in the past, here is a formula under which they will be altered. If the Government is not satisfied with what you are doing it can, itself, make other arrangements.”
I cannot imagine any grounds on which that agreement can be criticized. The alternative would be for this line to duplicate the existing stevedoring activities, and to open booking and agency offices in all the State capitals - with all that is involved in the matter of premises, plant and staff. All that this Government is doing under this arrangement is what has been done since the Commonwealth shipping line was commenced, and what is universally practised by shipping companies throughout the world. Like so many other similar activities, they have their arrangements one with the other in order to avoid duplication of organization and expense. I am not surprised that the Labour party has opposed the bill, because, as I said at the beginning, the main principle of this measure is entirely opposed to one of its fundamental principles. The Labour party believes in the nationalization of shipping and in not giving an opportunity to private enterprise to play its part.
– “What about the Navy?
– With great respect, the honorable senator’s interjection is on a level with the arguments of the Opposition on this bill. We are talking about commercial shipping lines, and Senator Cameron interjects, “ What about the Navy ? “. How can we deal with national problems of this magnitude in an atmosphere created by remarks such as that? I expected opposition to the bill from the other side of the House because it offends against the Labour party’s policy of nationalization of shipping, but I am disappointed at the poverty of the argument that has been advanced against the proposal. When we consider the task ahead of Australia in regard to shipping, and all the difficulties which have to be surmounted in order to wed the divergent interests of the private shipping lines and the government shipping line, the problems of the stevedoring industry and what has to be done in the industrial sphere and by way of pro viding port facilities, we, as senators, should have some little sense of pride in the contribution which has been made to the solution of this problem by our own colleague; the Minister for Shipping and Transport.
– Senator Spooner, as usual, has interpreted the platform and policy of the Australian Labour party. He said that the Labour party intended to nationalize the shipping industry. That is a misstatement, and totally incorrect. Never at any period in the history of the Labour party has it even been suggested that the shipping industry should be nationalized. But at the outbreak of war it was found that the shipping services of Australia were in a very bad state. It was necessary not only to establish the Commonwealth shipping line, but also to charter ships from every part of the world in order to transport troops and munitions to the various theatres of war.
Senator Spooner has referred to the 1949 act. I have that act before me, and it is true, as the Minister said, that it provides that the Minister shall not grant a licence for a ship which has been serving for 24 years. That means in effect that no ship will be able to operate on the coast after 25 years of service. The provision states further - . . or was at any time prior to the commencement of this act engaged in trade exclusively between places in the Commonwealth or territory of . the Commonwealth.
Nobody knows better than does the Minister for National Development that the reason for including that provision was that at the outbreak of war the shipbuilding industry in this country was at a complete standstill and something had to be done to build it up during the war period.
The Minister for Shipping and Transport has been eulogized by the Minister for National Development, but he is not the only one who has eulogized him. The publication issued by the Department of Shipping and Transport contains a photograph of the Minister for Shipping and Transport, who, like the Minister for National Development, believes in publicity. We often see photographs of the Minister for National Development in publications relating to national development, and it would seem that the Minister for Shipping and Transport is following the same policy. In the publication issued by the Department of Shipping and Transport, the Minister for Shipping and Transport is referred to as the youngest member of the Cabinet. It says that he has made history for two reasons, first, because he is the youngest member of the Federal Cabinet; and secondly, because he attained the honour after one of the briefest parliamentary apprenticeships on record. I congratulate him upon achieving that position 30 quickly, but, at the same time, I must point out that he was most provocative in the references he made to the Opposition during his second-reading speech. J. have never known any Minister to take advantage of the second reading of a bill in such a way before. It is common knowledge that, as a general rule, secondreading speeches are prepared for Ministers by departmental officers. That being so, it would seem that the Minister for Shipping and Transport must have given instructions for the provocative remarks to be included in his secondreading speech for I am certain that they would not have been included by his officers unless they were instructed to do
This bill, which seeks to create a commission, may be likened to a sugar-coated pill in that it contains some good suggestions. During his second-reading speech, the Minister said -
Until now, those ships have been operated under the authority of the National Security (Shipping Co-ordination) Regulations. This is obviously undesirable. ft is true that they operated under those regulations. But the Opposition’s main objection is to the agreement which in my opinion is the most disgraceful sellout of the people’s assets ever perpetrated by any government in this country. Eighteen months ago, the Government set up a committee to inquire into the shipping industry, and one of the things into which it was to investigate was the amount of profit being made by these companies. Although an interim report has been submitted, it makes no reference to the profits of the shipping companies. Every one in Australia, be he producer or consumer, knows that the Australian shipowners are inefficient and contemptuous of the Government. In fact, I do not think I am being unkind to them when I say that these companies are rapacious. They have shown their contempt for the Menzies - Fadden Administration and its committee of inquiry by increasing freight charges twice since the committee was appointed. And these are the people with whom the Minister for Shipping and Transport has entered into a completely secret agreement !
– There is nothing secret about it.
– The Minister has made no mention of the persons who are likely to be appointed members of the proposed commission. I suggest that its members will be representatives of the shipping combines. If the Minister will deny that, then he will satisfy me to some extent. This agreement is typical of the way in which the Government runs the affairs of the country. In this place, we are told by the Minister for Shipping and Transport, a junior member of the Cabinet, and a man who has been eulogized to-night by the Minister for National Development, that the Australian shipowners are very efficient and reasonable people. On the other hand, his colleague in another place, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), was not so laudatory m his references to the shipowners as was the Minister for Shipping and Transport in his secondreading speech last Thursday night. Whilst the Minister for Shipping and Transport is in the Government’s second ministerial team, as it were, the Minister for Labour and National Service is in the first eleven; and if rumours are correct, he is expected to go much higher in the Government. There is no need, therefore, for me to point out that I prefer to accept statements made by the Minister for Labour and National Service rather than those of a junior Minister in this place. The proposed agreement states, among other things -
And whereas for the attainment of these purposes, it is necessary to make arrangements for the operation of shipping services on the Australian coast and to provide protection to the Companies in the manner provided in this agreement:
There is no doubt that the Minister is looting after the companies. This is said to be a bill which seeks to provide protection for the shipping companies, and the agreement associated with it certainly does that. It gives these companies protection and, what is more, it gives them carte blanche to do what they like for the next twenty years. Actually, the Minister has become the “sucker” for the combines. He has deliberately delivered into their hands a fleet of vessels owned by the Australian people. The Government should make the inefficient shipowners put their house in order instead of subsidizing them.
Reference has been made to the services that will be provided to the Commonwealth ships. The stevedoring industry is a very profitable one. Provision is made in the bill for the commission to consist of persons who are already engaged in the shipping industry and are associated with the cartels and combines. The commission will have the authority to determine whether Australian shipping is getting a fair deal from the stevedoring industry. If the commission even suspects that shippers are not getting a fair deal, it can try another stevedoring company; probably one owned by the shipping companies. If the commission is still not satisfied, it can appeal to an arbitrator, who will determine whether the complaint by the commission is just, and whether other stevedoring services should be provided. That will tie the hands of the Minister for Shipping and Transport, and everybody else concerned.
The Opposition has complained about attempts by the Government to sell the Commonwealth shipping line. The Government has not denied that it has tried to sell the ships. One of the obstacles to the sale was the fact that the shipping companies could not reach agreement about the division of the spoils. There was also difficulty about finance. Now, instead of selling the Commonwealth ships as it intended, the Government is trying to sentence them to a peaceful end by placing them under the control of a commission. The Minister has disclosed that the Government has joined the shipping combines which will swallow up the people’s ships. The Government has done much worse than sell the ships; it has handed them over, lock, stock and barrel, to the shipowners. Those interested in the stevedoring industry will favour ships that are operated by the shipowners for obvious reasons. Even the Minister would not deny that a stevedoring company which is associated with shipping interests will give priority to its own ships. The commission’s vessels will be at the bottom end of the line.
Reference has been made to the allocation of cargoes to Commonwealth ships. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) took strong exception to a statement made by Senator Arnold about the allocation of cargoes and the unprofitable routes along which Commonwealth ships were forced to trade. The private shipping companies have refused to serve some of the unprofitable ports of Australia. The Minister for National Development also claimed that the Commonwealth shipping line had lost money up to 1949 and that, immediately this Government was elected to office, it showed a profit. The Minister, as usual, avoided telling the whole truth.
The fact is that the Labour government realized in 1949 that the Commonwealth ships were not getting a fair deal . in the allocation of cargoes and the routes to be served. Those details were determined by a committee of shipowners. The unprofitable cargoes and routes were always allotted to the Commonwealth ships, and the profitable business went to the shipping companies. I make that statement deliberately, and I am sorry that the Minister for National Development is not in the chamber to hear me. As a result of its knowledge of the situation, the Labour government brought Mr. Dewey from England to manage the Commonwealth shipping line and, in the first year that he took over, it showed a profit. It has continued to make profits ever since. Those are the facts.
Under the agreement proposed in the measure before the Senate, all stevedoring and other services of the Commonwealth shipping line will be handed over to the shipping companies. I presume that it will then be known as the commission’s shipping line. I invite the Minister for Shipping and Transport and other members of the Government to imagine what will happen when arrangements for a cargo are being made, ls it likely that the shipowners will allot the best cargo to the government ships ? It is not unreasonable to suggest that the left-over cargoes and the unprofitable freight will be diverted to the government ships. That is only human nature, and it can be expected, in particular, of the shipping companies of Australia which are only out of profits. The Minister and his colleagues in the shipping cartel have told everybody how desirable it is to foster a shipbuilding industry in Australia, but if honorable senators will read through the bill and the Minister’s second-reading speech they will find that it is only the Minister who undertakes to support our shipbuilding industry.
There is no obligation at all under the agreement upon the shipowners to have their ships built in Australia. The private shipowners can get their ships built in Japan or Germany or any other country where cheap labour can be found, but the Commonwealth shipping line must have its ships built in Australia. The private combines and companies can import the ships they need, are under no obligation at all to have their ships built here, and thus have no responsibility to ensure continuous work in Australian shipyards. I ask the Minister to point out in the bill, if he can, where private shipowners are required to have their ships built in Australia.
This shameful bill, and the disgraceful agreement, are an insult to the intelligence of the Australian people, and a blot on this Parliament. It would be more honorable for the Government to get right out of the shipping industry and sell its ships to the highest bidder than to put forward such a scheme. The Government’s proposed action to replace the Australian Shipping Board by a commission is also in line with its policy of protecting private monopoly.
Only a week or two ago, we had an instance of this in the Broadcasting and Television Bill 1956. Under that measure, the Government has adopted a scheme to limit the development of the television industry in Australia. That is all in keeping with the policy of the Menzies Government to strangle government undertakings, and create monopolies for private enterprise. The Government was well aware that by adopting very high frequency for television it could use only ten channels, and that there therefore could not be any extension of television. That system will give a monopoly to the licensees in Australia.
In a similar way it is protecting shipping interests under the measure at present before the Senate. What is wrong with the Commonwealth shipping line, and why should the Government set up the proposed commission? The Commonwealth line has shown a profit, and is at present doing excellent service for the producers and consumers of Australia by competing with the shipping combines. Indeed, if a Labour government were at present in office the Commonwealth ships would be doing even greater service because they would not have increased their freight charges twice within eighteen months while an inquiry was being made in regard to the profits of the shipping combines. Why then is there any need to interfere with the Commonwealth shippine line? Moreover, that line is providing reasonable conditions for those employed in it.
In view of all those matters, why should this Government tie up the Commonwealth shipping line by this agreement, which will be to the detriment of the people of this country because it will remove a source of competition with private shipping interests and will have a general effect towards increasing freights. The Minister stated as follows: -
The Government believes that the measures contained in this bill provide the means of placing the affairs of the Commonwealth line on a sound and permanent basis. The commission, which will be charged with the duty of operating the Commonwealth ships, will be given a considerable degree of autonomy subject only to the approval of the Minister on a relatively few matters of major policy. It will, to all intents and purposes, be in the same position as a normal business organization, and the Government trusts that in its administration the vessels of the Commonwealth line will be operated on an efficient and profitable basis.
I suggest that the Government knows that the line will not be operated on an efficient and profitable basis, because its hands will be tied. In the future the Commonwealth shipping line will operate only subject to conditions which will enhance the monopoly enjoyed by private shipping companies.
– One can only deplore the extravagant misrepresentation and malice indulged in by the Opposition speakers with regard to the shipping industry - one of the arterial industries of Australia. Shipping should evoke the interest and support of all senators, because anybody who reflects upon the services rendered to the islands of Great Britain by the shipping interests of that country should realize that, since Australia is isolated in the Pacific as Great Britain is in the North Sea, we might hope for a similar service from our own coastal shipping.
Senator Arnold’s speech on this measure consisted of a tissue of statements which I thought he would not stoop to make. He took advantage of the broadcasting of our proceedings to make statements as to the provisions of this hill which could not by any reasonable judgment be considered to conform to facts.
When we review Senator Ashley’s speech, which had obviously been compiled for him by some outside source, from the manner in which he read it, it is obvious that he is most jealous of the Ministers who succeeded him as Minister in charge of shipping, and he speaks from malice arising from that jealousy.
During Senator Ashley’s administration of the shipping services of the Australian Shipping Board, loss after loss was sustained, but after Senator George MacLeay took over the services they were administered with equity and economy, which is something that is due to the taxpayers of the country and the people who depend upon the shipping services.
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 negative.
– If I had come into this Senate to-night believing that the allegation against the Government was that it was selling the Commonwealth line of ships, and if I had been told of that allegation in advance, I should have ridiculed my informant as being akin to a lunatic, because nobody can read this measure and seriously advance an interpretation of it that attributes to the Government an intention to sell out the Commonwealth line. Quite obviously this measure registers a decision by the Government to preserve, maintain, and operate the Government line as a commercial line of ships. I had been searching my mind to determine whether ornot that decision was justified, but so far from accusing us of running a government enterprise, the argument we have heard from Senator Ashley and Senator Arnold is that this is a case of selling out a government enterprise. I nail that definitely as the issue that has been advanced by the Opposition, and there is not a word in the legislation to support it. The bill before the Senate is specifically designed to continue the Government shipping line under the control of an independent body, the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, which will be appointed by the Government with sufficient tenure of office to guarantee its independence. There are provisions in the bill to which I shall refer in a moment and which ensure that the commission will continue that commercial service on a basis of equity and fairness. What is of importance to the Commonwealth, in the eyes of anybody of responsibility in government, is that it will ensure also that the service of the shipping commission is operated economically. When one contrasts that situation with the policy of the Labour Government, one can well understand the feelings of bitterness, malice and jealousy that are engendered in the Opposition by the legislation.
Opposition Senators interjecting,
– Noises such as I have heard before from the jungle are evoked from the Opposition by those remarks of mine. They are evidence of the animal feelings that are aroused in the Opposition. I find great pleasure in recalling to Senator Ashley the lost cause that was specifically included in the platform of the Australian Labour party from 1947 to 1949, that the Labour party’s objective was to nationalize the shipping industry. I examined the Shipping Bill that was piloted through this Parliament in March 1949. I ask the Senate to recall the significance of the date. It was March of 1949, just about the time when the Privy Council finally drove the nationalization of banking legislation on the rocks on constitutional grounds. The Labour Government then put through this Parliament a bill which had two objectives. One was to give a legislative basis to the Australian Shipping Board. That part of the legislation is fairly faithfully reproduced in the legislation introduced by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) on behalf of this Government. But the other part of the Labour government’s shipping bill, which was so iniquitous and gave expression to the nationalization policy of the Labour party, was Part III., which I am not ashamed to confess excited my intense resentment when I thought of the extent to which this country was in debt to the men who built the ships and the men who manned the ships not only for the purposes of industry but for the purposes of defence.
One reads in this vicious part of the Chifley-sponsored Shipping Act 1949 that the Minister, in his discretion, may grant licences for the construction of ships of more than 200 tons. In the discretion of a Minister! The relevant section went on to provide that a person shall not, except under a licence granted by the Minister under this section, and in accordance with any conditions to which the licence is subject, commence or continue the construction of a ship above 200 tons. The penalty was £1,000, or, if the offence was a continuing offence,. £1,000 for every day during which the offence continued. I now refer to a provision which shows the extent to which the fangs of socialism were then driven into the honest ship owners and the poison that they were ready to inject into the people of the Commonwealth. The act went on to provide that the master, owner or agent of a ship above 200 tons shall not suffer or permit the ship to engage in trade between places in the Commonwealth except under a licence granted by the Minister. The penalty for a breach of this provision was also £1,000, or, if the offence continued, £1,000 a day. Indeed, it is a happy thought to recall that the people of Australia finally, on the 10th December, claimed their vengeance and said that they would not support legislation of that sort. Of course, the biased outlook that goes into opposition and is corroded by the apparently permanent prospect of that happy state is manifest in argument which seeks to engender on this side of the chamber bitter partisan party politics.
I am glad to associate myself with the measure that emanates from the Minister, to whom great credit has properly been given in this debate for formulating a measure which I believe brings sober balance to the shipping industry which can give great benefit to this Commonwealth. The legislation now before the Senate does not give expression to the desires of any bigoted entrepreneurs of the private enterprise school, as misunderstood, but it does reconcile the essentially reconcilable interests of a Commonwealth that has built up a publicly-owned shipping line and maintains it in the interests of shippers and, no less importantly, in the interests of ultimate defence. Who can be silent when he recalls the extent to which the mercantile marine of England played its part in the perils that beset England in the two world wars? This Government, continuing that reconciliation of views, has adopted a practical policy of maintaining the government fleet on a sound business basis, and, ai the same time, enabling it to enter upon developmental services, with the assistance of government finance, when pioneering work on the sea lanes of the Commonwealth is necessary. On. the other hand, the Government is saying to those people who have built ships and invested capital in ships, big or small, in the faith that, in a British country, they have the right to operate their ships in the ordinary way of trade, “ We, representing the people of the Commonwealth, assure you a fair and equitable basis for trading “.
– A privileged basis for trading - restrictions on the government ships and privileges for the private ships.
– I am merely stating my proposal. I shall discuss the details later. I am saying that we are giving an assurance to the people who invest in ships that they shall enjoy the fundamental right of residents in a British community to engage in trade, so long as they conduct their trading activities, pay their taxes and work their employees according to ordinary fair trading principles.
Anybody who understands the trend of the shipping business in Australia to-day knows that it is the duty of every Australian to evoke from both sides of the industry, from the publicly owned side as well as from the privately owned side, the very best efforts and achievements of which each side is capable. He who harks back to purely partisan matters for the purpose of spreading outworn propaganda does his country no credit. The importance of the shipping industry is illustrated by the fact that the cost of replacing ships at the present time has risen enormously. In Australia, the cost of shipbuilding is such that the Tariff Board has recommended increased assistance of, I think, 25 per cent.
– To 33^ per cent.
– Yes, an increase from 25 per cent, to 33^ per cent, because of increased costs. In operating ships to-day, the difficulty in making a commercial return is fairly obvious. The conditions of trade are such that the revenues that are being produced by shipping business do not attract reinvestment in the industry. We have been discussing, for the last two days, alternative forms of transport, and honorable senators will appreciate that the cost of land transport is so great, in comparison with the cost of sea’ transport, that it is the duty of this country to build its merchant marine as ‘vigorously as possible. If honorable senators compare the cost of carting bulk cargoes, such as limestone, ironstone and coal, by sea, with the cost of carting them by rail, they will see that the advantage in favour of sea carriage is tremendous. It will be noted, too, that the advantage gained by carrying that kind of cargo by sea diminishes as the route is shortened, while the incidence of the other factor in the shipping industry, stevedoring costs, with with we shall be dealing next week, increases.
The carriage of general cargo by the commercial shipping services of Australia is diminishing. General cargo is being driven to land transport, which is much more costly, and in some cases to air transport, which is more costly still. It seems, therefore, that when we are dealing with the shipping industry of Australia we are dealing with a most potent factor in the economy of the country. A government that enters this business with a publicly owned shipping board has a duty to its constituents - the people who are taxed, I think on a terrific scale in this country to-day - to see that it requires services in return for the expenditure of government money. If we look at the trading results of this Government instrumentality, we find that for the years 1947, 1948, 1949, and 1950 and 1951 there were recurring losses. The largest, loss, in 1948, was £2,218,000.
– That was Ashley time, was it not?
– That is so. Then, after March 1952, the Australian Shipping Board began to make profits which ran to the order of £600,000, £700,000. and £800,000 a year. As the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has pointed out, those profits represent less than a commercial return on any trading investment. That experience sufficiently belies the accusation that discrimination has been used for the purpose of sending the ships of the Australian Shipping Board on unprofitable lines, to the advantage of its private competitors. Obviously, if that accusation were based on fact, it was Senator Ashley who disadvantaged the board and the late Senator McLeay, as Minister for Shipping and Transport, who brought its operations to a profitable stage. But of course the fact i? that Senator McLeay, when he took charge of the service, administered it on a basis that ensured efficient services and gave a decent return in the form of :j credit in the operating accounts, as well as ensuring proper service to those who consigned their cargoes in the ships. I am extremely pleased to find that, in this legislation, there is an insistence that this government enterprise must be run efficiently.
The legislation provides for the appointment of a commission to establish, maintain and operate all the shipping services of the Australian Shipping Board. Clause 16 of the bill enumerates a dozen or more powers which will give the commission the right to enter into every aspect of the shipping business. Furthermore, the bill provides that that business shall be conducted on an economic basis. It provides, also, that the Commonwealth shall make capital available from time to time. The commission, however, is not to be placed in the position of a borrower of that capital; the commission will be responsible for returning it to the Government only if it makes a profit, and it is provided that the commission is not to be disadvantaged in the manner of computing profit.
Clause 33 of the bill, which I mention specifically because it is capable of misunderstanding, ensures to the commission the right to credit the accounts with profit before anything is rendered back to the Government by way of return on capital. It provides, also, that the commission shall charge all the ordinary operating charges and fees. There is provision for taking into account obsolescence and depreciation, for the carrying out of repairs and services to ships, and there are provisions regarding insurance, staff superannuation and income tax. If there is a profit left when all those items have been deducted, out of that profit - and only out of that profit - the commission is obliged to make a return to the Government. That is the degree to which the Government accepts responsibility for assisting the commission financially, so that the ships that it owns will continue in service.
Then the Government takes care to ensure that a fallacious economic doctrine to which expression is often given by supporters of public ownership shall not apply m this case. If we subtract a large taxpayer from the agencies operating commercial enterprises, we do a disservice to the economy. Therefore, the commission, operating a commercial enterprise, will be bound to pay income tax, sales tax and, I think, pay-roll tax in the same way as its competitors. So there is in the legislation, I believe, a specific guarantee that the commission will have all the authority and all the financial assistance required to enable it to operate as an efficient unit of our economy.
When we turn to the agreement, which rationalizes the relations between the publicly-owned ships and the ships owned by private companies, we find that it gives expression to several purposes. Those purposes are to ensure, first, the continued operation by the private companies, as well as by the commission, of ships in the Australian coastal trade; secondly, the maintenance of competition between the respective companies and between the companies and commission; thirdly, the efficient and economical operation of shipping services in the Australian coastal trade; and lastly, the maintenance of the Australian shipbuilding industry. We find that a ceiling of, I think, 375,000 tons is to be applied to the commission’s ships. That will give ample opportunity for an increase of the present tonnage, which is, I believe, 247,000 tons.
We find that, so far from the private companies being guaranteed immunity from competition, there is not a word in the agreement which gives any private company immunity from competition on any sea route round the Australian coast. On the contrary, Article 11 of the agreement - no doubt the Minister required it to be inserted in the public interest - provides that if the Minister doubts the efficiency or the economy of any service on a route operated by a private company, he may issue an ultimatum. He may say, “ Put that service in order from the viewpoint of economy and efficiency. If you do not do so, the commission will operate the service “. Provision is made for the settlement of disputes on such matters by arbitration.
There are other provisions with which time does not permit me to deal, but, to my way of thinking, they show that there has been a fairly reasonable rationalization of the conflicting interests of the private shipowners and the publicly owned commission. I believe that the confidence inspired by the agreement will induce the private shipowners to embark with renewed vigour on their shipbuilding programme, which was sadly retarded by the uncertainty that followed the attack made on the private shipping companies by a socialist government. If the agreement does have the effect of reviving confidence and, in that way, inducing private companies again to invest in the coastal shipping trade of this country, we shall owe a great debt of gratitude to the Minister. As the Minister said in his second-reading speech, this is not a time for doctrinaire, theoretical and unreal policies. It is a time for balanced judgments by all people whose objective is, not party advantage, but the national interest.
– While the thunder of Senator Wright’s condemnation of Part III. of the 1949 Labour legislation is still ringing in my ears, I shall read the section to which’ the honorable senator referred. It will bo recalled that he read sub-section (1.) of section 30 of that act, which states -
The master, owner or agent of a ship to which this Part applies shall not suffer or permit the ship to engage in trade between places in the Commonwealth except under a licence granted by the Minister under this section.
Then Senator Wright dramatically quoted the penalty provision, which is as folows : -
Penalty: One thousand pounds or, if the offence is a continuing offence, One thousand pounds for each day during which the offence continues.
The honorable senator did not read subsection (3.) of the section, which provided -
The Minister shall grant a licence under this section, -
It was compulsory for him to do so - on application, in respect of a ship to which this Part applies -
That meant a ship exceeding 200 tons gross tonnage - if that ship -
is less than twenty-four hours old at the date of application; aud
– Read on.
– I shall read on. The sub-section continued - but subject to the next succeeding sub-section, the Minister shall ‘ not otherwise grant a licence.
What was the effect of that old provision? Part III.’ of that act was designed solely to ensure that ships of modern construction, with adequate accommodation and ample provision for safety, should operate on the Australian coast. That part has been dropped entirely by the Government from the measures that are now before the Senate. The position in relation to that matter is that the Government is giving a monopoly of the expansion of the Australian coastal shipping trade to private shipping interests, although the age of their vessels, for the most part, is double the average age of the ships of the Commonwealth shipping line. I hope, with the indulgence of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), not to proceed for too long with my speech to-night, but while that matter was fresh in my mind I wanted to put on the record the purpose of licensing ships.
The Minister himself has admitted in his second-reading speech that conditions in the coastal shipping trade are not as good as they might be. One reason is that the private shipping companies are operating with ships that should have been scrapped long ago. That was the whole purpose of Part III. of the 1949 measure, which suffered so much at the hands of Senator Wright, when the whole story was not before the Senate.
– Who is going to put money into a shipping company when the Government is going to nationalize the industry ?
– On the question of nationalization, let me say two things: First, we favoured the nationalization of shipping because it is a plank in the policy of the Australian Labour party. Unfortunately, it cannot be put into effect, owing to the Constitution. This Government decries the nationalization of shipping, but sponsors and conducts nationalized railways. I say to the Government, that we would nationalize shipping for exactly the same reason as it supports the nationalization of railways. There is no difference. “Why be hypocritical about the matter? I am not going to become contentious until I resume this speech - I hope on another day. I have now dealt only with issues that arose suddenly.
I congratulate the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) upon introducing his first measures into this chamber. It pleases honorable senators that he has ensured that we got the first opportunity to debate his bills. 1. should prefer, indeed, to be supporting, instead of being about to condemn roundly, the first measures that he has introduced from the department that he administers.
Senator Ashley directed the attention of the Senate to a matter to which I wish to refer briefly. He indicated, in other words, that the main purpose of a Minister’s second-reading speech was to outline the principles of the bill and explain its main provisions. I think it is fairly well known that second-reading speeches, in relation to a major matter like this, go round the world. They are read by everybody interested in shipping. They are studied by students of political economy and, I venture to say to the Minister, there will be some raised eyebrows in other parts of the world when it is seen that he has, in his second-reading speech, breached tradition.
– Only by thinskinned people.
– Not only by thin-skinned people, as the Minister has interjected. The breach of parliamentary tradition to which I refer is the attacks that have been made - one only mildly - against the Chifley legislation of 1949 which, as the Minister pointed out, was assented to in March, 1949, and had not been proclaimed when Labour went out of office.
– That is true.
– It is true, but that criticism comes very ill from a Minister who has adopted almost every word of Senator Ashley’s bill of 1949. Although he has adopted almost every word of that measure, it has taken him six and a half years to get to where he is to-night. Senator Ashley delayed the bill for some eight months. The reason for that delay was that he was looking foi1 a competent manager, who arrived here just as Labour lost the elections, and who later made a success of the Commonwealth line.
The other attack was directed with somewhat more force at the Opposition. The Minister referred to the uninformed and irresponsible criticism of the Opposition regarding the projected sale of the Commonwealth line. I say at once that it was not uninformed criticism, because the Government was trying to sell the line.
– Read the speech, find be honest !
– The criticism was not irresponsible, either, because it was only the continual pressure from the Opposition, which was met with evasive answers, that drew out the three points on which the Minister relied : That the Government would not sell the line at less than a fair price - I assume that is the condition to which be wishes me to refer; that the ships would be kept on the Australian coast ; and that the purchasers would be required to provide an adequate service. But for the pressure that was maintained by the Opposition, which asked to be informed as to what might happen regarding the sale of the line, we would not have learnt anything about the matter. Every time that a question was asked about the sale of the Commonwealth shipping line, an evasive answer was given by the Minister. It was the constant pressure that was kept up by the Opposition that alerted all the interests in Australia as to what could happen to the line. It was the upsurge of public opinion, expressed by those who normally support the Government, such as the Chamber of Manufactures, Chambers of Commerce and the rest which eventually made the Government announce the three principles enumerated in the bill.
– When were they first announced?
– They were announced very long after the matter was first raised by the Opposition. The Minister may contradict this assertion if he chooses to do so when replying. One cannot help feeling that the Government was most reluctant to bring in these measures, because its firm basic policy was - and I have no doubt, still is - to kill the Commonwealth line. Its first purpose openly announced, the Government made a desperate effort to do just that. For once, I am happy to be able to congratulate the Government on one of its failures. I was delighted to see it fail to achieve its objective. One cannot help feeling that the Government has not its heart in anything that allows the line to continue. It will be very apparent, I hope, as presently I analyse the items in this bill - which. I shall try to do quite objectively and accurately - that the Government has not got its heart in the measure. In effect, it will hamstring the Commonwealth line. If a shipping line were on legs, irons would be placed on every one of them and, if necessary, it would be chained. Just imagine the purpose of a government which sponsors a government line, professing to put it on a commercial basis so that it may compete in the coastal trade, and then telling it that it cannot conduct its own operations, but that they shall be conducted as the Minister directs ! If a loss is incurred on them, the line has to bear it. If it makes a profit in other directions, what does it ask the Commonwealth shipping line to do? It asks it to subsidize a losing trade.
Let me assume that the Minister directs the Commonwealth shipping line to open a developmental service, which loses in one year £500,000, while the overall loss of the line for the year is only £50,000. Under the provisions of this bill, the Government will make good to the line an amount of £50,000. I heard the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) say, without any qualification, that if the Government directed the line to undertake a developmental service, and a loss was incurred, the Government would make it good.
– That is not what I said.
– That is what I heard the Minister say.
– The Leader of the Opposition should read the Hansard report in the morning.
– I shall be pleased to do so and, if I am wrong, I apologize in advance, but that is what I heard the Minister say. I repeat : What sort of a proposition is that? The line is told to compete, and to try to pay a reasonable dividend. It has to pay income tax along with everybody else. What sort of a commercial proposition is this? The Government says to the line, in effect, “ Enter into a developmental trade. If by so doing you incur a loss, but you make a profit on your other activities, you will stand the whole of the loss “. That is obviously a national responsibility. Why should that condition be imposed upon a government instrumentality that is told to go out, and compete on a commercial basis? Is not that grossly unfair? Should there not be an obligation on the Government to provide a subsidy if it wants a service developed? It should not be for the line to carry a consequential loss, and then to be told that it has failed, commercially. This is only one instance of the atrocities that are perpetrated by this bill. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator O’SULLIVAN agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10 a.m.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– At this late hour, but without apologizing, I desire to take advantage of my rights as a private member to speak on the motion for the adjournment of the
Senate. I believe ‘that we should value that heritage. I want briefly to urge upon the Government that it take whatever action is necessary to bring to the Australian year a national Say. I mean by “ national day “ a particular date in the year, to be chosen by those who are better informed than I am, on which we shall celebrate the nationhood of Australia. I do not seek another public holiday, nor do I want a day like the 26th January, celebrated as a holiday on the nearest Monday. I believe that we should chose a date from those available in our normal calendar on which to celebrate a clay that will recall Australia’s nationhood. The nation deserves it. We have pioneers to honour, we have newcomers to impress, and we have youth to educate in loyalty to Australia. We have .a lot to be proud of as a nation. We have many people, who have gone before us, to thank for what we are now so proud of. I believe that we have every reason, in the modern era, to teach by both word and example the reason for loyalty to the country in which we live - loyalty to Australia and all that history has shown that it stands for and will, we hope, continue to stand for. We are very glad to welcome here, as immigrants and new settlers, people from nations of great honour, great history and great culture. Many of these newcomers still - and I praise them for it - celebrate their own national day, but surely they must think how extraordinary it is that in this country there is no day that is celebrated properly, coherently and collectively as a national day.
– What is wrong with Australia Day?
– I am glad of the interjection from Senator Tangney. I would not object to the 26th January being named as Australia’s national day, but I would object to the occasion being celebrated as a public holiday on the Monday nearest to the 26th January. That is makins a convenience, of the event, and causing it to lose its significance. I am informed that in some parts of Australia the 26th January is completely ignored and the occasion is celebrated as a public holiday on a day at some other time of the year that suits political, sporting or social interests. If we are to have a national holiday on which to remember our nation and all that it has been and all that it stands for, let us name it and, by both Commonwealth action and co-operation with the States, demand that it shall be a holiday.
I was saying, before Senator Tangney^ helpful interjection, that we have in the Commonwealth many newcomers to this country. I should not like, especially at this late hour, to appear to lecture the Senate. Certainly, it is not a matter into which party differences should intrude, but the troubles that face us to-day include disloyalty, sabotage, fifth column activity - one might even bring in child delinquency - and I believe that we should be doing a national good if we were to impress upon our youth that on one day in the year they should remember Australia’s rise to nationhood. If this Parliament will establish this day there are many people of goodwill throughout the States who will see that it is celebrated fittingly, and for the good of all. I do not want to be in any way misrepresented. Let it be quite clear that I am not asking for another public holiday. Indeed, I am asking the Commonwealth to review, in co-operation with the States, the whole system of public holidays.
I say, with great loyalty, that it is regrettable that on a convenient day in the month of June we celebrate the birthday of Her Majesty, the Queen, though it really falls on the 21st April. I say without fear of contradiction that this Parliament should look into this question. What respect are we showing to that day? Then there is the holiday which in some States I understand is called “Six Hour Day”. I think that in Tasmania it is called “Eight Hour Day “ or “ Labour Day “. I have not done my homework on that score too well, but it is one phase of the matter that should be inquired into with a view to ascertaining whether a national day could be substituted for one of these days. I am not prepared to suggest that Anzac Day should be the national day. As an ex-serviceman, I think that ex-servicemen generally would abhor the thought of doing anything like that. Anzac Day is the great day of remembrance for those who have fallen in war, and as a result of war, but I do not think that the two days could be combined. However, if the Government will consider this proposal, I urge it to contact the leaders of the returned servicemen’s organizations and ascertain whether they want Anzac Day to he the great national day, so that it will be one not only of remembrance but also of pride in the past and hope for the future.
I bring this matter forward, not as some hasty thought of my own, and not in any sense in the way of party politics. An influential and hardworking section of the Liberal party in Tasmania has, for the last two years to my knowledge, urged the party to which I am proud to belong to take action in this matter. That section is. in fact, the women of the Liberal party in Tasmania. Last year, I understand, the federal council of the Liberal party agreed that the Government should consider the matter and, as late as last week, the federal executive also considered it. I understand that it has agreed to lend its blessing - not its instruction - to the idea and that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) will, in due course, receive a letter saying that the executive hopes that the Government will consider the idea. All I want to do now is to say that it is a plea from a body of loyal, thoughtful citizens, which I pass on to the Government through the Senate. It is a plea that I make, without fear of contradiction, on behalf of all the people who are loyal to Australia and proud of this nation. The Government will be lacking in its duty if it does not give serious consideration to this matter and enter into consultation with the States in order to name and arrange to celebrate a date in the year as the day on which we recall and remember Australia.
– I should like very briefly to support Senator Marriott’s remarks. He has said this matter arose in Tasmania, but I think it is of interest to know that it was discussed two years ago at a citizenship convention. Those present at that convention felt that at this time, when Australia is becoming one of the foremost nations of the world, it is important that we should have a day on which our new and old citizens remember that we are a world nation. At that convention several ‘resolutions were passed, one being that we should have a citizenship day. I, personally, do not think it matters when the day is held or what it is called. If people are anxious to have it incorporated in Anzac Day that does not seem to matter to me, so long as we can emphasize our national pride on that day.
Australia Day has been bandied about from one day to another in the various States. It has been celebrated on different days and very little emphasis has been given to it. It was stressed at the convention that the press, radio and church organizations should stress this day. It is very pleasing to note that in South Australia the Australia Day Committee has now given a great deal of emphasis to that day. Last year a 7-page supplement dealing with the significance of the day was added to the daily newspaper. As I have said, I do not think it matters which day we choose for this purpose so long as we settle on a day that does not become just another holiday to add to a weekend. It could very well be the 26th January.
A resolution from the citizenship convention was forwarded to the Prime Minister’s Department and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) replied that he would be delighted to discuss this matter with the Premiers if it were put on the agenda for- a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. As, up to the present time, the Premiers have done nothing about it, perhaps the initiative could come from the Commonwealth through the Senate as it should be placed on the agenda of a conference of the Commonwealth and State Ministers to be discussed once again with emphasis placed upon it from a broad national outlook.
– I shall not detain the Senate more than a minute, but I desire to give Senator Marriott my support in regard to this matter. He is to be congratulated in bringing something before the Senate that will evoke a national spirit. I am not very much enamoured with the public holiday idea, but having regard to the fact that we rejoice in a country that possesses working standards and conditions that are the envy of the rest of the world, I would suggest that we make the day one of unusually intensive work, the earnings for which should be devoted by every individual in employment to the social services of the country as a supplement to those most in need. The day would then, I believe, express two undying aspects of the Australian spirit.
– I would not have risen at all except that I am prompted to do so by the absurdity of a man from whom I would expect something better. I am not in any way opposed to the idea that was, in the first place, submitted by Senator Marriott and supported by Senator Buttfield; but I can hardly imagine that a senator would rise .in this chamber and suggest that the workers of this country should devote the wages they receive on the suggested day to the social services of this nation. One wonders whether the suggestion was made in earnest or whether it was made with a view to damn the proposal that has been, I believe, honestly put forward by the first two speakers. If it were not for the latter purpose, I can think of nothing that is more stupid. It may be all right for Senator Wright or any honorable senator to contribute his earnings in that way; I do not suppose he would eat less or live under worse conditions if he gave of his earnings in the way he has proposed; but to say to the people of this country who, to-day, are forced to look for overtime in order to live at least in decent comfort-
Senator Wright interjecting,
– That is true. Senator Wright has no idea of what itmeans to live on the base rate of about £12 5s. and keep a wife and two or three kiddies. It is quite all right for a person like him to talk when he can earn his money not only here but is fortunate enough to be able to earn money elsewhere as well. To ask the mass of the people to do what he suggests, when we all know what the base rate is, and also the inadequacy of the amount of margins for skill, is, to my mind, to say the least, hypocritical. If we are to have a national day - and I agree that we should have one - it should be celebrated universally throughout the nation. We would do much more for this nation by celebrating such a day than we would by asking the people to suffer hardship. Whatever virtue there may be in the speeches that were originally made, if Senator Wright wanted to damn the suggestion put forward, he has certainly succeeded.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 June 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1956/19560606_senate_22_s8/>.