22nd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMulIin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
War Pensions Appropriation Bill 1956. Appropriation Bill 19S6-S7. Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill 1956-57.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. In view of the fact that a number of democratic governments, notably those of Great Britain and the United States of America, have issued statements supporting the heroic struggle for independence of the Hungarian people, will the Government arrange to issue a similar statement of support on behalf of the people of Australia?
– I am sure that the issues raised by the honorable senator’s question have caused general interest throughout the world - particularly the free world - and we have all been horrified to read reports of the ruthless massacre of unarmed men, women and children, by what have been reported to be, and what may indeed be, foreign mercenaries. At the same time, the free world has been thrilled by the unexampled heroism and the undaunted courage with which the Hungarian people in their struggle for liberty have with so little fought against so much. In some places these people might be referred to as rebels, but I believe that the freedomloving people of Australia would, themselves, like to be referred to as rebels if wrong and despotism were their rulers. It is not my province to make a statement on behalf of the Government - that is the perogative of the Prime Minister; and I have no doubt that when full, accurate and official reports are available, the Prime Minister will make a statement.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate the following questions: Is it not a fact that many of those persons who are unemployed in Western Australia are immigrants? Is it not a fact that the Australian Labour party has established a fund to aid the families of the unfortunate unemployed? If any immigrant is desirous of going to other parts of Australia to seek a job, does the Government assist by providing free travel facilities? Are intending immigrants from Europe being advised of the bad unemployment position in Western.Australia?
– I am not aware that the unemployment situation in Western Australia in relation to immigrants is particularly bad. I understand that the buoyancy of employment is not at the same level in that State as it is over here. If there is a shade of unemployment, no matter how small, I have no doubt that the immigrants are sharing in it. As far as the provision of rail transport facilities is concerned, I am sure the honorable senator appreciates that the State railways are run by the States and not by the Commonwealth.
– Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport suggest to the Road Safety Council that it investigate, first, the frequency of accidents in which semi-trailers and heavy trucks left unattended at night are involved? Secondly, do such accidents have a high fatality rate because the full force of collision is taken by the windscreen of the average passenger car due to the fact that the bonnet and bumper go beneath the rear of the truck? Thirdly, if it agrees that that is so, will he suggest to the council that the State governments be asked to introduce regulations providing that all such heavy vehicles shall be fitted with an efficient form of bumper bar such as a 6-inch steel plate extending the full width of the rear of the vehicle at a suitable height from the ground? I might add that my attention has been very forcibly directed to such accidents by a death in my family.
– 1 am sure that some aspects of the matter raised by the honorable senator have already engaged the attention of the Road Safety Council and that there would be available fairly uptodate statistics as to the number of casualties that have been caused in the manner referred to by him. I shall certainly ensure that statistics are made available to the honorable senator, and I shall refer his question to the Road Safety Council to see whether bumper bars of the kind suggested by him can be introduced with a view to further minimizing these tragic accidents.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence Production, by stating that, as he knows, 800 employees have already been dismissed from the aircraft production factories in Victoria. Six hundred of those employees are entitled to long service pay, but they have to wait six weeks from the date of dismissal before they receive it. Will the Minister ensure that employees who have been retrenched from the Department of Aircraft Production at Fishermen’s Bend, Avalon and Essendon, and who are entitled to long service pay, shall be given that pay when they finally leave after their one week’s notice has expired?
– I shall be pleased to take the matter up with my colleague, the Minister for Defence Production, and to let the honorable senator have a reply as quickly as I can.
– Has the attention of the Minister for National Development been directed to a statement in the “ Telegraph “ newspaper of 27th October that French engineers have begun work on the world’s first tidal power station? As the Kimberleys in Western Australia, and indeed the whole of the north-west of that State, are in need of more power, and as tidal waves along the north-west coast reach the same proportions as stated in the article, namely, a difference of from 40 feet to 60 feet between high and low tide, will the Minister have investigations made into the possibility of inaugurating a similar scheme in Western Australia?
– I have not seen the newspaper report to which the honorable senator has referred, but 1 know that the French have done a lot of pioneering work in connexion with tidal power stations. I shall keep in mind her suggestion that we should have, a look at the possibility of using this kind of power generation in the north of Western Australia.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Government in this chamber been drawn to an editorial in the “ Anglican “ - the Church of England weekly newspaper in Australia - of Friday last, headed “ Despotism in Action “, which refers to the dramatic check that has been given to the dark forces of absolutism in Poland, but states that they have fared better in Australia. After complimenting the Polish- people on their struggle for liberty, the article states -
The Prime Minister of Australia essayed - successfully - to lay further shackles on a country which has, during his regrettable terms of office, tamely accepted more restrictions upon personal liberty than any other democratic country in any part of the world in time of peace, in modern times.
In view of the severity of this comment, and other biting remarks in the editorial of the newspaper to which I have referred, which is an influential organ of a great Christian church in Australia, will the Minister study the article and inform the Senate what steps it is proposed to take to halt what the “ Anglican “ has described as the “ fascistMarxist “ approach of the Prime Minister to the economic and civil liberties of the Australian people? If the Minister so desires, 1 shall supply him with a copy of this article, which demands a reasoned and responsible reply.
– 1 have not yet got round to reading the article to which Senator Ashley has referred, but I shall be very pleased to do so when time and opportunity permit. I shall probably then find out that he has misread the article, or did not understand it.
– 1 wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs a question which is supplemental to Senator Cole’s question, ls it a fact that Dr. E. Ronald Walker has already expressed in the United Nations, on behalf of the Australian Government, our support for British and American condemnation of the killing by the Russians of Hungarian workers, peasants and students who are struggling for free elections in Hungary?
– 1 understand that, when it was proposed in the United Nations to refer this matter to the Security Council, the Australian representative took up the attitude that Senator Gorton has mentioned.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation inform me whether it is true that the sisters and staff of the Heidelberg Repatriation General Hospital are not permitted to visit the hospital cinema? If this is a fact, will he ascertain who was responsible for introducing this prohibition,, and will he see whether it can be removed?
– I understand that the position is as stated by Senator Wedgwood. I am sure that the honorable senator will appreciate that the film distributors make available films for screening at the hospital cinema for the entertainment of the patients. In this connexion, the film distributors have been of great assistance; they have provided many up-to-date and really good films for screening at the hospital. They have throughout, as far as I can understand, made it quite clear that the films which they supply to the department are for the entertainment of the patients of the various hospitals. They naturally believe that the staff can see the pictures in the ordinary theatres. 1 think it is quite fair, seeing the film people have been so good, that the department should give some consideration to their request regarding the exhibition of the films.
– 1 preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence Production by saying that on Sunday morning I had a visit from several people who told me that by February next a further 700 employees are likely to be dismissed from aircraft production factories and that the aircraft production establishment at Fishermen’s Bend is to be closed down. Will the Minister say whether there is any truth in these reports? Whether they are true or not, will he assure the Senate that no action involving dismissals of large numbers of employees from the department will be taken before the Parliament is given an opportunity to discuss the matter?
– I am not myself aware of the position which is alleged to be likely to develop. I shall refer the question to my colleague and see if it is possible for him to give a reply, or to make some statement, in regard to the matter raised by the honorable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I understand that the spread of an effective strain of myxoma virus throughout Victoria this season will be accomplished by means of an intensive programme by the State Lands Department of field days at country centres. These field days, when rabbits will be inoculated with myxoma, have already been commenced and will continue for some weeks. I ask the Minister -
– The honorable senator was good enough to inform me that he intended to ask this question and I was able to obtain for him the following reply: -
– Has the Leader of the Government noticed that 22 unanswered questions at present appear on the noticepaper, one dating back to 19th September? Most of those questions are of great public importance, and the information should be obtainable without any prolonged research. As this sessional period is rapidly drawing to a close and the recess will be of some months duration, will the Minister endeavour to induce his colleagues to have the questions asked by honorable senators answered before the Senate rises for the recess?
– Although there is quite a number of questions on the notice-paper, only four of them have been on it since last month. That is not a bad record. I assure honorable senators that it is the desire of the Government to have questions answered as quickly as possible. As Senator Sheehan will know from the experience of the Labour government, of which he was a supporter, the number of questions that still remain on the noticepaper is modest, particularly in view of their nature. Every Minister wants to have questions answered as quickly and as fully as possible. If it is possible to have all those on the notice-paper cleared before the Senate rises, we shall be glad to see that done.
– Apropos of the question that was asked by Senator Ashley, is the Leader of the Government aware that the “ Anglican “ is an independent newspaper and is not representative of the opinions of any church?
– I was not aware of the facts as explained by Senator McCallum, but I am now, and I shall have pleasure in passing that information on to Senator Ashley.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services by stating that I have had scores of letters and petitions from age pensioners stating that they are dying a painful death from malnutrition because of rising prices. As the Government has made no provision in the budget for the relief of pensioners, will the Minister take up with the Government the possibility of making a special grant to pensioners for Christmas so that they may buy some extra Christmas cheer?
– I suggest that the honorable senator might have expressed those sentiments and made his representations to the Labour government that he supported when it was in power.
– I direct the attention of the Leader of the Government in the Senate to the following statement which appeared in the Adelaide “ Advertiser “ to-day as emanating from the Minister acting for the Minister for Trade -
The Federal Government might be able to take a second look at import restrictions in the not too distant future.
Will the Leader of the Government elaborate on that interesting comment that has been made by his colleague, with particular reference to the possible date when Cabinet will consider this all-important matter?
– The question raises a matter that is peculiarly within the jurisdiction of my colleague, and it is a matter into which I should not care to go deeply at this stage. I am sure that, as soon as circumstances permit, my colleague will make a statement himself. The Senate will have noted with approval that our trade balance in the past few months has improved considerably with consequent improvement in our overseas balance of payments.
– Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate make representations to the Government for a special grant to pensioners for Christmas as their purchasing power is lagging behind the cost of necessaries? As the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services has refused to answer a similar question, I am directing it now to the Leader of the Government.
– I seem to have some recollection that the honorable senator asked much the same question about this time last year, but I do assure him that the aged and indigent have never been so well cared for or so generously considered as they have been by this Government. We know there is much room for improvement, and, if we are here long enough, we shall see that that improvement gradually takes place.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate able to inform the Senate whether the Prime Minister, or Treasurer, is in a position to make a statement shortly as to what amount the Commonwealth Government is prepared to advance to the South Australian Government to assist in flood relief and rehabilitation in that State? Can he also say whether this will be a final payment, or whether, as the floods recede and State authorities are able to further assess damages, further assistance is intended? Since there appears to be widespread misunderstanding concerning the financial responsibility of the Commonwealth Government towards disasters such as flood and fire in any one particular State, would the Prime Minister consider making a statement clarifying the position? Can the Leader of the Government inform the Senate as to whether any members of the Federal Cabinet intend to visit the flooded areas of the Murray Valley, those in South Australia in particular, in the near future?
– I understand that the matter of the amount to be made available by the Commonwealth Government to the State of South Australia for flood alleviation has already received, or is currently receiving, the consideration of the Commonwealth Government. I am quite sure that the Commonwealth Government will not be unmindful of the shocking devastation that has taken place there and that the amount that it will make available will not be ungenerous by any means, bearing in mind particularly that the Commonwealth
Government, as such, is under no responsibility or obligation at all in regard to these matters. As to whether the amount that is announced will be final, I understand that the procedure adopted is that the State Government which has the initial responsibility in these matters, makes a claim upon the Commonwealth Government in that it sets out the nature, variety and avenues in respect of which compensatory and rehabilitation work is to be done. So soon as that is assessed, I understand that representations are made to the Commonwealth Government and whatever might be given by the Commonwealth Government, I should imagine the amount would, in that context, be a final settlement.
As to responsibility, it has to be remembered that the taxpayer, after all, is one and indivisible, whether he be a Queenslander, a New South Welshman or a South Australian. Governments do not make money, whether they be State or Commonwealth; governments simply spend money which the taxpayer makes. The Commonwealth Government has responsibilities in certain respects, but, as I mentioned earlier, flood relief is not one of them. The money which goes towards the alleviation of flood distress is certainly taxpayers’ money, but it is taxpayers’ money which finds its way into the hands of the State rather than the Commonwealth Government. In times of acute emergency, if the finances of the States are over-strained, or, whether they are or not, the Commonwealth Government really breaking away from tradition in respect of federal responsibility in that direction, has, over the years, made a £l-for-£l contribution to the States for the alleviation of flood damage.
As to whether any member of the Federal Cabinet will be through those areas, I am not in a position to say, but the mere fact that a federal Minister has not done so does not indicate that the Commonwealth Government is not interested in these matters. The Commonwealth Government has its own expert officers from the Treasury and other departments who report to the Federal Cabinet. As I emphasized earlier, the fact is that the Commonwealth Government itself cannot determine either the priority or the nature of the reclamation work, nor can it say where it is to take place. Further, the Commonwealth Government would not have anything whatever to do in connexion* with the repair work to be done after the floods subside. That is, essentially, a State responsibility. The Commonwealth has no power at all in that regard. Consequently, it would be not only a duplication, but also a waste of time for a federal Minister to go there. The States take in hand the work of repair and reclamation and spend some of their money on this work. Then they come to the Commonwealth for assistance, and in the past the Commonwealth has always given assistance generously. 1 hope that, in the course of a few days, the Government of South Australia will know what the Commonwealth Government proposes to do, and I have no doubt that the people of South Australia will be well satisfied with the generosity of the Commonwealth Government.
– Will the Leader of the Government give an assurance that at the forthcoming economic conference of representatives of the Commonwealth and State governments, convened by the Prime Minister, the right of the consumers will receive equal attention with those of employers and employees, and that this principle will be incorporated in any resolutions that may be agreed to?
– The point raised by the honorable senator is important because of the three parts of the community - the employer, the employee and the consumer - the consumer is probably the most important,. The consumers embrace both employers and employees, as well as those who do not belong to either of those two classes. I have no doubt that the interests of the consumers will be kept in mind at the forthcoming conference.
– On 24th October, 1956, Senator Scott asked the following question: -
I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise whether he has been made aware of reports that people are dealing illicitly in the export of gold from Australia. Will the Minister check these reports, and if they are found to be true will he take the necessary action to prohibit the illegal export of this valuable commodity?
I now furnish the following answer: -
Reports of illicit export of gold appear from time to time probably because of its value and the interest which gold arouses in all sections of the community. However, my department has informed me that it has no knowledge of any current reports of the unlawful export of gold. Officials of other interested authorities such as the Commonwealth Investigation Service and the New South Wales Police are not in possession of any information on the matter. Whilst there is no doubt that there has been an illicit traffic in gold from Australia in recent years, responsible opinion is that it has now declined. This decline could stem from the fact that there is now little difference in the Australian price for gold and that ruling in free world markets and there is very little incentive for unlawful exportation. As regards certain countries in the East, for example, India, which for all practical purposes prohibit the importation of gold, there is information thai the premium paid on unlawful imports has fallen substantially thus contributing to the decline in the traffic. I can assure the honorable senator that a close watch is kept on the position in regard to the illegal export of gold and that any reports which reach my department are thoroughly investigated.
– My question, addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services is based upon a letter that I have received from the Western District Area Council, at Orange, of the Original Old Age and Invalid Pensioners Association of Australia, New South Wales Division. It requests me to appeal to the Government to give pensioners at Christmas twice the amount of one pension payment. The letter points out that no rise in pensions has been made for two years whereas, during that period, salaries and wages have risen several times. The correspondent points out, further, that a custom is observed in New Zealand, each Christmas, of giving pensioners one payment of twice the usual amount. I ask that consideration be given to this request.
– I, also, have heard of the New Zealand custom at Christmas time of giving pensioners one payment of twice the normal amount. The honorable senator knows that that has not been the custom in Australia, and I see little likelihood of its being done this year.
– Will the Minister for National Development inform the Senate whether it is his intention to set up an authority to examine schemes and recommend an all-over water policy in respect of the rivers of the eastern half of Australia? If this is his intention, will he say whether that authority will be constituted in time to investigate the conditions prevailing in the present flood on the river Murray, because if it is it will be able to formulate plans for future flood mitigration
– 1 do not intend to set up any new authority to consider the overall water system of eastern Australia. I recently had a long discussion about this matter with Dr. Loder and Mr. East, members of the River Murray Commission, whose standing is well known in connexion with matters of this kind. As a result of my discussions the River Murray Commission intends to prepare for all the parties interested in the River Murray Commission, a report about what might be done in respect of the river Murray and its tributaries. A little time will be required to complete that report, because the subject-matter under review is not small.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. During recent weeks, it has been repeatedly stated that in the coming year the national service training scheme is to be reviewed, the number of those to be trained will be severely cut and that the number in the next call-up will be reduced - according to the last statement issued - by a third, ls it the Minister’s intention to detail to the Senate the Government’s programme on national service training for the coming year?
– As soon as the Government sees fit to announce its policy in that regard I am quite sure a statement will be made about it.
– As the Minister for Shipping and Transport has stated that he will consider authorizing increases of shipping freight rates to cover the additional cost of increased wages granted by Mr.
Justice Ashburner, and since the report of the committee of inquiry into the stevedoring industry indicates that profits of stevedoring companies have increased by 601 per cent, from 1948 to 1954 while wages have increased by only 114 per cent, during the same period, will the Minister now refuse to authorize increases of freights, and demand that additional costs be met out of the excessive profits of shipping companies?
– With regard to that part of the honorable senator’s question which deals with the profits of stevedoring companies, I refer him to the report that he himself has mentioned. If he looks at page 1 1 of Part VIII. of the report of the committee of inquiry dated October, 1 956, he will see that the committee stated -
The amount of net profits plus rebates from stevedoring operations could have no significant effect on rates of freight. The amount of such profits and rebates combined in 1953-S4 was equivalent to ls. 4d. per ton of cargo handled
. al the same time the rate of freight for general cargo from Melbourne to Sydney was £6 I ls. 6d. per ton and the weighted average of freight rates between Australia and the United Kingdom-Continent was £14 10s. per ton.
It is quite obvious, therefore, from the findings of the committee, that the profits found by adding the disclosed profit, and the amounts rebated to the companies of ls. 4d. a ton, could have no appreciable affect on the freight rates. 1. turn now to another finding of the committee which is relevant to the honorable senator’s question, that is, the profits of shipping companies.
– If there is to be a crossexamination about this matter why does not the Minister furnish me with a copy of the report from which he is reading?
– There is no cross-examination. Senator Ashley asked me a question and I am answering it. I regret that Senator Ashley does not like the answer, but I am answering in full because I consider that it is well worthwhile to do so. The findings of the committee of inquiry are well worth the honorable senator’s study for reasons other than the mere making of party political capital. If the honorable senator looks at page 8 of Part XI. of the report he will see that the trading results of eight shipping companies over the last few years show that in 1947-48 - and that year had some significance - the losses that they sustained were £2.669,359.
– - Who was the Minister at that time?
– 1 point out that at that time a Labour government was in office. In 1948-1949, the eight shipping companies lost £2,385,684; in 1949-50, they lost £111,895; in 1950-51, they earned a profit of £23,315; in 1951-52, a profit of £1,280,039; in 1952-53, a profit of £1,224,063; in 1953-54, a profit of £1,766,006; and in 1954-55, they showed a profit of £706,230. I point out that over all those years the net result of trading by those eight shipping companies was that they suffered a loss of £167,285.
– Yes, but what about their interest in the coal industry and in other industries?
- Senator Ashley asked me a question about shipping. I suggest that if he wants to ask a question about coal he should direct it to the appropriate Minister, who is the Minister foi National Development. That Minister will give the honorable senator the treatment that he invariably gives him. I now wish to refer, in reply to the honorable senator’s question, to some of the evidence to be found at page 1 1 of Part XI. of the report. There it is reported -
The increase in the cost of operating vessels was considerably less than the increase in freight rates over the period, the overall increase in freight rates between December, 1947, and June, 1955, being about 160 per cent. However, a substantial proportion of the increased earnings flowing from higher freight rates went to restore profit-earning ability to the industry.
In the first years of the period 1947-48 to 1954-55, most shipowners were operating at a loss. The change-over from losses to profits, foi the industry as a whole, took place in the calendar year 1951, the turning-point being the increases in freight rates which were applied in February 1951. Over the period 1951-52 to 1953-54 most private operators and the Australian Shipping Board made overall profits, but in 1954-55 private operators were showing substantial losses from the operation of “ owned “ vessels although their “ charter “ activities were still profitable.
The level of profits in 1953-54 (the year ot highest profit) was too low to provide, from that source, the estimated replacement cost at that time of the fleets of private operators engaged in the industry.
I have read those few brief excerpts from the report because 1 am sure that if Senator Ashley studies the report a little more closely he will find a good deal in it to interest him.
– I wish to ask of the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question that is supplementary to one asked by Senator Buttfield, and it refers to the possibility of a senior Minister visiting the flooded areas about the river Murray. I am sure that the Minister and the Government have more than a passing interest in what has happened during the floods along the river Murray, inasmuch as the vast majority of the persons who have been affected are ex-servicemen from World War I. and World War II. Moreover, the Commonwealth has spent a great deal of money on the settlement of those people, and it must be interested in the loss of production which has been caused by floods. I assure the Minister that it would not be regarded by the people who live in that area as a waste of time if a Minister were to investigate the matter, and I ask the Leader of the Government to take up this matter with the Prime Minister. Because the present sitting of the Parliament will end soon, would it be possible to ascertain whether a senior Minister could pay a visit to the area - a visit which would be greatly appreciated by the people who live there?
– I hope the Senate did not misunderstand me when I said that it would be a waste of time. I did not use that phrase in the loose colloquial sense. What I meant was that no matter which Minister went there he could not be very much better informed on the matter than he is now by virtue of the reports that we have received. On the human side, I quite appreciate that it would be very desirable for as many Ministers as possible to see the place, because I am sure it would be only by a visual inspection that a proper appreciation of the colossal devastation could be- obtained. I shall raise the matter with the Prime Minister.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport to explain how the long statement that he furnished in reply to a question I asked about shipping company profits coincides with information contained in a stock exchange document, which I think would be fairly accurate. That document shows that the profits of the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited were as follows: - In 1950, £156,276; in 1951, £156,268; in 1952, £241,273; in 1953, £252,887; in 1954, £264,515; and in 1955, £159,518. The profits of Huddart Parker Limited are shown as follows: - In 1950, £158,029; in 1951, £210.504; in 1952, £183.171; in 1953, £300,508; and in 1954, £308,775. The profits of Mcllwraith McEacharn Limited were as follows:- -In 1950, £90,326; in 1951, £87,211; in 1952, £150,625; in 1953, £164,678; in 1954, £203,475; and in 1955, £220,542. The profits of the Melbourne Steamship Company Limited were as follows:- In 1950, £29,284: in 1951, £32,651; in 1952, £37,568; in 1953, £65,065; in 1954, £69,091; and in 1955, £58,186.
– The honorable senator has selected four of the biggest companies operating on the Australian coast.
– They are the proper ones to cite.
– I cited figures for the whole range of coastal shipping activity, covering eight separate organizations; but the honorable senator has selected four and has cited their profits year by year. I accept that; I do not complain about it. However, I suggest that, if he wants to ascertain the real measure of the success of those companies, he ought to examine the dividends paid by them for each of the years that he quoted.
– They are smothered.
– I assure him that the dividends paid by them would not be sufficiently attractive to lead him to invest any of his own money in them.
– In directing my question to the Minister for Customs and Excise, I desire to focus attention on another aspect of the river Murray flood damage. Will the Minister cause inquiries to be made concerning the expected longterm loss of excise revenue to the Commonwealth as a result of the disastrous floods in the upper Murray areas in South Australia? When the Minister learns of the figure, will he, assuming the Senate will not then be sitting, pass it to the Treasurer in order to stress the urgency even from a Commonwealth revenue viewpoint of the early rehabilitation of the vine-growing areas in the Murray Valley?
– The matter raised by the honorable senator is one of importance, because obviously the Department of Customs and Excise is a revenue-producing: department. I shall forward the question, to the department for full investigation, and furnish the honorable senator with a reply.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply has furnished the following reply: -
Financial year -
Amount of overtime included in above totals -
Our private contractors are paid flat rates of hire for all services supplied. No provision is made in the contracts for payment of overtime. The department considers that the employment of private contractors at flat rates for after hours service results in considerable economy.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The following reply has been furnished by the Treasurer: - 1 and 2. On 27th September, 1955, the Prime Minister informed Parliament of several conferences that he had held or proposed to hold with representatives of various interests in the community, including a conference he had had with representatives of the private trading banks and the Commonwealth Trading Bank. The object of this particular conference was, to quote the Prime Minister’s words in his statement to Parliament, “ … to get co-operation for the future on a basis of most realistic mutual understanding of the (overseas balances) problem . . .”. He was able to report that “ The nature of the problem was clearly seen. There was no banker present who did not agree that some tightening of credit was needed if the overseas balances problem was to be solved … I feel quite assured that quite irrespective of any formal directive by the Central Bank, the trading banks will co-operate with the Government in a matter the implications of which they are as well qualified to understand as anybody in the community “.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– I take it Senator Buttfield is referring to the inquiries that I promised to make in connexion with her question of 25th September, 1956. 1 now answer her specific inquiries in the following terms: -
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– My colleague has furnished the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
With reference to the statement by the Premier of Queensland that he proposes to urge at the next Premiers’ Conference that a national emergency fund bc established to meet losses from flood, cyclone, bush fire and other disasters, will - the Treasurer assure the Senate that the Government will give sympathetic support to the proposal?
– The Treasurer advises as follows: -
The Premier of Queensland has written to the Prime Minister about this matter, and it is at present under consideration.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Sugar Agreement Act - Twenty-fifth Annual Report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee for year ended 31st August, 1956.
It has not yet been possible to have the report printed. However, arrangements are now in hand for this to be done and, in due course, copies will be made available to all honorable senators who desire them.
Bill received from the House of Repre.senatives
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The clauses contained in this bill are designed to give effect to the income tax proposals that have already been announced in the 1956-57 budget speech. As honorable senators are aware, the Government’s examination of the present economic position of this country has shown that, having regard to our inescapable financial commitments, there is no scope at the present time for a general lowering of the level of taxation. The proposals which I shall now outline represent, therefore, the limits of the income tax allowances which the Government has decided it could provide in existing circumstances.
At present, premiums paid on life insurance, contributions to superannuation funds, subscriptions to friendly societies and similar payments are allowable as an income tax deduction up to a maximum allowance of £200. It is proposed under this bill to increase the maximum allowance to £300. The increase of £100 in the maximum allowance should provide, a powerful incentive to increased savings and individual provision for old age and retirement for both employees and the self-employed. This allowance will be further liberalized by a proposal to allow subscriptions to hospital and medical benefits funds as separate deductions. Such subscriptions will accordingly not be taken into account for the purposes of the new maximum allowance of £300. It is intended that these proposals shall operate as from 1st July, 1956.
It is proposed that exemption be granted in respect of the income of hospital and medical benefits funds which are administered by organizations registered under the National Health Act 1953-1955. This amendment will help in the preservation of a greater proportion of these funds for the benefit of members. The exemption will extend also to the funds of those organizations which were registered under Commonwealth health legislation in force prior to the National Health Act of 1953. For this purpose, provision is made for the exemption to operate as from 1st January, 1952. Provision is also made to ensure the refund of any tax that may have been paid by these registered organizations.
It is proposed to increase, as from 1st July, 1956, the special deductions afforded taxpayers who reside in isolated areas which are presently specified for income tax purposes as zones A and B. The proposal’ in the case of residents of zone A is to increase the present annual deduction from £120 to £180 and, in the case of residents of zone B, from £20 to £30. It is further proposed to extend the area of zone A to take in some of the areas at present included in zone B. A further substantial portion of Western Australia, the whole of the Northern Territory and a part of Western Queensland will be brought into zone A as a consequence of the amendment now proposed. At this point, I should mention that there have been representations from many quarters for the inclusion of localities in one zone or the other. My colleague the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has stressed the undesirability of dealing with these claims one by one without undertaking a comprehensive examination of the zone allowances as affecting the whole of Australia and its territories. When that examination has been completed, it is hoped that we will all be in a better position to determine those localities which merit a zone allowance and the measure of allowance that should be provided.
This Government in 1952 introduced into the income tax law for the first time a concessional allowance for expenses incurred by taxpayers in the education of student children. Since then it has been able to enlarge the amount of the maximum allowance in respect of each student child from £50 to £75 in 1953 and to extend the field of expenditure covered by the deduction. For example, the allowance has been extended to include the cost of text-books and fares to and from school as well as actual payments to schools, colleges and universities. It is proposed now that the deduction in respect of the education of each child be increased to £100 as from 1st July, 1956.
As honorable senators will know, deductions are provided under the income tax law for gifts of £1 and upwards to specific funds, authorities and institutions in Australia. It is proposed to add to the present list of allowable donations, gifts which are made for the specific purpose of promoting research in the Australian Antarctic Territory and for the advancement of postgraduate training and research by certain colleges in the fields of surgery, medicine and nursing. A deduction will also be allowed in respect to gifts to the Council for Christian Education in Schools which, as an accredited body in Victoria, advances the teaching of Christian faith and conduct in Government schools.
Since 1950, provision has been made for the exemption of the pay and allowances of members of the defence force engaged in operations in Malaya. This exemption, however, was not made to apply to members of the naval forces as, until last year, the Malayan operations were carried out by our land and air forces. For some fifteen months now, our naval forces also, as part of the Far East Strategic Reserve, have been serving in the Malayan area and it is proposed that the exemption should be extended to the pay and allowances of the Australian naval personnel concerned. The exemption will operate in respect of pay and allowances received on and after 1st July., 1955, from which date Australian naval vessels commenced service in the Malayan area.
The Government has given considerable thought to the question whether this exemption should be continued, having regard to the radically changed circumstances of service in the Malayan area. The decision has been reached that the exemption should be discontinued after this bill receives the Royal Assent.
Associated with the withdrawal of the exemption, provisions in the bill will enable members of the forces serving in the Malayan area to be allowed a special deduction of £180 per annum. As, in another part of this bill, it is proposed to increase the zone A allowance from £120 to £180, a similar increase to £180 is also proposed in the present deduction of £120 provided for members of the Australian Defence Force serving in specified overseas localities. It is intended that the enlarged allowances should apply as from 1st July, 1956.
As a preface to the further proposals which I am about to mention, I wish to refer briefly to the subject of income tax law in relation to the exhaustion of capital assets employed in gaining or producing assessable income.
Most taxing systems - and our own is no exception - make provision for the deduction of capital expenditure incurred in the acquisition of assets of a non-enduring nature which are used in the production of assessable income. The cost of plant, machinery and other equipment, for example, is deductible by reference to the estimated life of the asset. In the special circumstances applying in the mining industry, capital expenditure of this nature may be deducted upon the basis of the estimated life of the mine.
The Government has recognized the need to review our income tax laws in this regard in the light of views expressed in a most valuable report submitted by the Commonwealth Committee on Rates of Depreciation. It is felt that the time is opportune to implement several of that committee’s recommendations in relation to certain expenditure on access roads used in the timber industry and capital expenditure incurred in connexion with patents, registered designs and copyrights.
The proposal is to allow, as recommended by the Depreciation Committee, a deduction in respect of the cost of access roads which are constructed after 1st July, 1956, to facilitate the felling and extraction of timber.
The cost will be ‘deductible in annual amounts ascertained by reference to the estimated period for which the road will be used for the purposes of gaining access to timber or 25 years, whichever is the shorter period.
The deduction will apply also in respect of roads constructed prior to 1st July, 1956, which continue after that date to be used in connexion with timber operations. In these circumstances, however, a proportionate part only of the total cost of the road will be allowable.
Supplementary to the proposals on access roads, further amendments are proposed which will enlarge the present deductions associated with the felling of timber. It is proposed to allow deductions for the cost of acquiring standing timber or felling rights where assessable income is derived from the direct sale of the timber, from milling or other processing, or from the granting of a right to another party to fell the timber.
Another proposal in relation to the timber industry is that there should be an optional basis of assessment in respect of insurance moneys received as a result of the destruction by fire of forest plantations. Taxable insurance recoveries of this nature are ordinarily assessable in the year in which they are received. It is now proposed that the recipients shall have the option of bringing one-fifth of the insurance money into assessable income of the year of receipt, and one-fifth into assessable income of each of the next succeeding four years. This provision will operate from 1st July, 1956.
In regard to industrial property, it is proposed to allow a deduction of expenditure incurred on the development or purchase of a patent, registered design or copyright, and on the purchase of a licence to use a patent, registered design or copyright. This expenditure will be allowed by way of annual deductions over the period of the right commencing with the year in which it is first used for income-producing purposes. It is intended that these provisions should operate as from 1st July, 1956, and apply to rights existing at that date as well as future rights. So far as concerns rights which were in existence prior to 1st July, 1956, and in use for the production of assessable income at that date, a proportionate deduction will be allowable.
Expenditure incurred in registering or securing the renewal of registration of a patent, design or copyright will also be made an allowable deduction. This expenditure will be allowed in the year of income in which it is incurred.
Another proposal arising out of the Depreciation Committee’s recommendations relates to the balancing adjustments which are made for income tax purposes upon the disposal, loss or destruction of depreciable assets employed in the production of assessable income.
Where, in any of these events, consideration is received for the asset, the owner is required to bring into assessable income the excess, if any, of the consideration over the written-down value of the asset. The amount to be brought to account, however, is limited to the extent of the depreciation already allowed or allowable on the asset. For these purposes., any insurance or other recoveries in respect of the loss or destruction of the assets is treated as consideration receivable.
It has been claimed with substantial justification that, where an owner is liable to be taxed upon the excess of any insurance or other recovery over the written-down value of the plant, the owner may be seriously handicapped in financing adequate replacements. It is proposed in this bill that, as from 1st July, 1956, where a taxpayer is liable to be assessed upon the whole or part of any insurance recovery or other consideration receivable upon the loss or destruction of depreciable assets, he shall be afforded certain options. These options will allow the taxpayer to defer assessment of the balancing adjustment, and to offset an equivalent amount against the cost of the replacement asset or against the value of other assets subject to depreciation.
In effect, future annual deductions for depreciation will be reduced by an amount equivalent to the balancing adjustment which otherwise would have been included in assessable income of the year of loss or destruction of the asset.
Another amendment relates to the system by which losses incurred by taxpayers in one or more years are carried forward for deduction from income of succeeding years.
A feature of the system is that, where a taxpayer becomes bankrupt or is otherwise released from his debts under the Bankruptcy Act, losses incurred prior to bankruptcy or release shall not be deductible, lt will be agreed, I am sure, that where a taxpayer voluntarily pays debts which have entered into the calculation of losses not deductible because of the special provision I have described, the taxpayer should be entitled to deduct those payments. An amendment to this effect proposed by the bill will apply to payments made on and after 1st July, 1956.
Another amendment proposed by this bill relates to the removal of the conditions governing the exemption of dividends paid by private companies out of funds which have borne undistributed income tax at shareholders’ graduated rates of tax.
The conditions which it is proposed to remove make the exemption contingent upon the dividends being paid - (a) wholly and exclusively out of the taxed funds; and (b) on shares by reference to which the income tax was calculated. These conditions belong to a system of private company taxation which was replaced some years ago by the present system, and it is appropriate now that they should be removed. The amendment will apply to dividends paid on and after 1st July, 1956.
The bill also will exempt grants made under the Fulbright Agreement to students and research workers. While the grants were limited to students receiving full-time education, it was not necessary to provide a specific exemption, as a general exemption operated. Nowadays, some grants are being made in circumstances in which the general exemption does not operate.
It accordingly has become necessary to give legislative effect to the Fulbright Agreement between Australia and the United States of America, under which it was declared that grants by the United States Educational Foundation in Australia should be exempt from income tax. The exemption will operate as from 26th November, 1949, the date on which the agreement was made.
I have refrained from embarking on a detailed description of all the clauses, as honorable senators have had available to them an explanatory memorandum circulated by my colleague the Treasurer.
At the committee stage, it is proposed to introduce two further amendments to the assessment act. They are necessary as a consequence of the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Bill recently passed by the Senate. These amendments are of a drafting nature only. The first will ensure that the present exemption of repatriation pension will also apply to pensions under the new act payable in respect of service in Malaya. The second amendment will afford relief from outstanding tax in cases of deceased servicemen whose tax instalments are insufficient to meet the tax due on their service pay. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– 1 move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to declare the rates of income tax and social services contribution payable by individual taxpayers for the financial year 1956-57. For the reasons stated by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in the course of his budget speech on 30th August last, the Government does not intend this year to vary the rates of tax payable by individuals from those payable for the financial year 1955-56.
The rates declared in this bill will be applicable to the taxable incomes that will be derived by individuals during the current income year 1956-57. Although’ assessments in respect of the income year 1956-57 will not issue before 1st July, 1957, it is necessary to enact rates of tax at this juncture in order to arrive at the provisional tax in respect of the income year 1956-57, which will be notified in assessments based on the income of the 1955-56 income year. Instalments at present being deducted from salaries and wages are consistent with the proposed rates.
So far as individual taxpayers are concerned, the bill is comparable with the measure passed annually by the Parliament declaring the rates at which income tax will be payable. Accordingly I do not propose to explain in detail the provisions of each clause of the bill. In submitting this bill for the consideration of honorable senators, 1 emphasize that it relates to individual taxpayers only; the rates of tax and contribution payable by companies for the financial year 1956-57 were declared in May last. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Debate resumed from 26th October (vide page 1000), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- When the Senate adjourned, I was discussing the effect upon Australia’s economy of the reduced quotas under the new International Wheat Agreement. I had referred to the fact that the United States of America has embarked upon a policy which is aggravating the position so far as Australia is concerned in that the country is dumping large quantities of wheat in various parts of the world. This is causing us great embarrassment. Not only is Australia being deprived of markets which hitherto have been looked upon as hers; but it will also be very difficult for the Australian Wheat exporter to sell on these markets in the future. A further difficulty in the way of our finding additional markets is the fact that some countries are subsidizing their wheat-growers very heavily. Because of the loss of these markets overseas, our balance of payments position is adversely affected and the position generally is causing the wheat-growers of Australia a great deal of concern.
They are becoming depressed and wondering whether it is wise to persist in the growing of wheat when their export income is to be reduced automatically by one-third under the new agreement. As businessmen, they must pay some attention to the fact that huge surpluses abound throughout the world, and I am just afraid that many of them will be tempted to turn to other avenues of primary production. I have heard some say that it would be a good thing if some wheatgrowers got out of the industry in view of the fact that these surpluses exist throughout the world. To any one who thinks along those lines I say that if the wheat-grower relinquishes his interest either gradually or suddenly in producing wheat, the effect on our domestic economy will be most adverse. Many sections of secondary industry rely almost entirely on the success and prosperity of the wheat-grower. This year, the position has been aggravated by various factors. The three eastern States have had unique experiences of wet weather. Generally, droughts have played a major part in reducing wheat production. According to the best information I can obtain, production this year will be 65,000,000 bushels below that of last year. The monetary return will be reduced by £32,000,000. which is a not inconsiderable sum, and the income of the wheat-growers during the year 1956-57 will be correspondingly reduced. I mention a specific case by way of illustration, although I agree that it is an extreme case. A wheat-grower in recognized wheat-growing country, last year prepared 1,600 acres of fallow land to produce a crop in 1956-57. Because of the incessant rains he was unable to sow one grain of wheat. As a result, his loss of gross income will be in the vicinity of £25,000. Hundreds of wheat-growers, this year, will be embarrassed because they could not complete their normal sowing. These are matter-, which cause grave concern. lt is proper for me to suggest some of the problems that face the Government and the people, problems that have an effect on the production of wheat, which is a most valuable export commodity. Efforts must be made to find additional overseas markets. At the moment, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) is abroad on such a mission, and I am confident that it is in capable hands.
The Government must promote a vigorous policy of exploring the possibilities of every market. I know that some will ask how the buyers will pay for our wheat. 1 have not an answer to that question, but because the Australian people have always been ready and willing to accept a challenge, they will be big enough to devise ways and means of accepting payment from countries in which additional markets are found.
From the domestic point of view, the Government must take action to defeat a psychological impression in the mind of the wheat-grower that he is producing a commodity which will not be in keen demand. The first is the return of normal seasonal credit advances. On a previous occasion, I pointed out that the Government had never been a party to a policy of credit restriction for primary production. Perhaps certain financial institutions are not as aware as they should be of the importance of promoting primary production, and the Government needs to watch the position very closely. It would be easy for the wheat-grower, because of the psychological effect of all these factors, to decide that he would be better off in some other industry, and if he acted accordingly the result would be detrimental to the Australian economy.
The other day, I read, in the press, an article by a financier, summing up the needs of the wheat industry. He came to the astounding conclusion that the wheatgrower would have to reduce his costs before he could expand production. The wheat-grower is one among many primary producers who have no control over costs of production. All that he buys is costed by interests over which he has no influence. The price he receives for his products is governed by interests over which he has no control. It is of paramount importance, therefore, that the Government should watch the interests of the wheat-grower lest he should be influenced to leave the industry.
– The writer suggested, also, that the wheat-grower should work longer hours.
– That is so, and it is obvious that he knows very little about the wheat industry. At harvest time, when pressure is on the wheat-grower to gather in the crop, he never looks at the clock, but keeps at his job until it is finished. I am sure that the Government will not remain insensible to the influences that may be at work to reduce the production of this very valuable commodity. 1 give full credit to the Government for the manner in which it has encouraged the wheatgrower. The depreciation allowances it has made available to him are the envy of almost all sections of primary industry, and he should be grateful for it. For some years, the Government has paid a subsidy on superphosphate. Rather than allow the production level to decline, the Government might consider renewing that subsidy. 1 hope that I have not painted too gloomy a picture of this well-established industry, although it is suffering temporary adversity. It is so valuable to Australia’s oversea and domestic economy that nothing should be left undone to enable it to make its maximum contribution to the economic welfare of Australia.
– I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the success that has attended the efforts of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), after long negotiations, to bring about the acceptance of the International Wheat Agreement. I pay tribute, also, to the Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, Sir John Teasdale, and to the members of the board, for the way in which they have handled the Australian wheat crop during the last year, because it has not been an easy year for the growing and selling of wheat. At the beginning of the year, we had a large surplus of wheat, and there was a surplus throughout the world. Moreover, there was a desire on the part of some of the members of the International Wheat Agreement not to live up to their responsibilities. As I have said, Australia had a surplus of wheat, and other countries had large surpluses, and all of them wanted to get rid of those surpluses. All that has made the present year a difficult one in the wheat industry, but we have now succeeded in selling much of our wheat. So we have reduced the surplus that we held at the beginning of the yeal. It is pleasing to note that the wheat market generally is not in a bad state. During the week ended 9th September the average price for all wheat purchased in the 174 prescribed market towns in England and Wales was A. 16s. Hd. as against A. 13s. 7d. a bushel a year previously.
– What does the Australian wheat-grower get?
– I suggest that the honorable senator should work that out for himself. Liverpool futures from 17th October for delivery in March were A. 18s. 10id. as against A. 18s. 2d. a week earlier, so all that points to the fact that the wheat market is buoyant and that prices are rising. There is no immediate prospect of a big harvest anywhere in the world, and our own harvest will be less than last year. However, conditions in Western Australia have improved during the last month, with the result that instead of a harvest of about 30,000,000 bushels, it is now expected that the harvest will be about 35,000,000 bushels.
I do not wish to discuss all the circumstances of the International Wheat Agreement, because Senator Pearson and Senator Wade have done so. However, I do wish to reply to a statement made last week by Senator O’Flaherty. He advocated that more wheat should be used for gristing semolina. I point out to him, and to the Senate, that it is not easy to use more wheat for the purpose that he mentioned. Semolina is a by-product of wheat, but many other by-products such as bran and pollard, are needed more than semolina. However, before wheat can be gristed for those byproducts we have to sell more flour overseas. By-products are urgently needed for the pig and poultry industries, but we cannot make those by-products in the required quantities until we can sell more flour. lt has been suggested that the protein quality of our wheat should be improved. I point out that it is not always the quality of wheat that enables it to be sold. In that respect, I remind honorable senators that last year England purchased a large quantity of wheat from France despite the fact that the French wheat had 7 per cent, more moisture in it than the Australian wheat. Australian wheat was more suitable for the English purposes at that time, but the English purchasers were able to obtain French wheat more cheaply than they would have been able to get Australian wheat. Earlier this year, France wished to buy 120,000 tons of our wheat but stated that it could do so only if we bought more goods from France. We were not able to arrange to do that, despite the fact that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) was in France at the time. We lost that big sale. Honorable senators are well aware that international trade is not: a one-way traffic. If we wish to sell our produce overseas, then we must purchase goods overseas in return.
Senator Pearson mentioned a suggested change in the f.a.q. system. He said that the Director of Agriculture in South Australia had investigated the matter when he was overseas and had returned to this country convinced that the f.a.q. system should be changed. I assure honorable senators that if another system is adopted the change will be made not by a director of agriculture or by any other official, but by the wheat-growers themselves. The f.a.q. system is the only system that is acceptable in Western Australia, as I. have often pointed out, and on this particular matter I am speaking only for Western Australia because I am not familiar with the conditions in other States. If the f.a.q. system is abandoned the Australian Wheat Board will be abandoned, because Western Australia will not accept any other than the f.a.q. system. The reason is that there is a great variety of soils in Western Australia and the climate varies considerably in. different parts of the State. Therefore, we cannot produce one even quality of wheat throughout the State. The quality of our wheat varies, even in the one paddock, so that every load that comes to the collecting point has to be tested for quality. The f.a.q. system, therefore, is the system that suits us best, and I believe that over all, it will be found to suit Australia best.
High protein wheats are grown in various parts of this country, including Western Australia, and millers can have them if they are willing to pay for them. If millers want to buy wheat which has a higher protein content but a lower yield than the wheat at present grown, they will have to pay more for it. The price is the determining factor, because the grower runs his business on profitable lines and if he can grow a variety that will give him a bigger yield and a bigger financial return, that is the wheat he will grow. I join issue with Senator Wade on his statement that it would be a bad thing if we reduced the quantity of wheat that we produce. 1 hope that we shall reduce our production of wheat, not in those areas where wheat is the main product, but in the areas where the farmers can turn to other branches of primary production. Everywhere in the world at present, large quantities of wheat are being produced - in the United States of Amenca, in Canada, in the Argentine and in many other countries. Many of those wheat producers are closer to the world’s markets than we are, and consequently our costs and difficulties of marketing are much greater than theirs. Our marketing costs will continue to be high unless we can persuade the people of the eastern countries to use wheat instead of rice. If we could do that, we could open up good markets for ourselves.
– We can grow wheat much more cheaply than the United States can grow it.
– Yes, but 1 am concerned about ensuring the ready sale of all our primary products each year. If we have a surplus of wheat, we should try to obtain additional markets so that we can dispose of it. I suggest that many farmers can turn from wheat production to other primary production which is more profitable than wheat, and then turn back to wheat production and double their output. In the. areas where pastures can be grown, that is in the places where there is an assured rainfall, such as in the Great Southern and up in the midlands in Western Australia, it would pay the farmers to go in for fat lamb raising, wool-growing and baby beef production. They would be able lo do so if they improved their pastures, and there is a ready market for fat lambs, wool, and baby beef. At present we cannot sell all the beef that we send to England because the people of England consider that it is too old. However, if the farmers in the assured rainfall areas improve their pastures by planting clovers and other grasses, they can greatly increase their production of fat lambs, wool and baby beef.
In Western Australia it has been our experience that after wheat lands have been used to pasture stock in the way I have mentioned, the wheat yield from them is doubled. Therefore, from all aspects, the matter of pasture improvement demands close attention. In confirmation of what I have said 1 refer honorable senators to an article by Dr. Wadham, who is an expert on these matters, lt is difficult, to get farmers to produce fat lambs, because they have done well out of merino sheep and they prefer to produce merino wool in order to obtain high prices. But if the price of wool goes down, as it will - there is nothing more certain than that - the farmer.should go in for fat lambs, baby beef and wool, and that will give us more varied classes of export commodities. We should not put all our hopes in wheat and wool. To do as I have suggested would be good for both the nation and the individual. Of course, I am not suggesting for one moment that we should go out of wheat production altogether; to do that would be foolish.
We need not be seriously concerned about wheat production being down this year, because many of the eastern States have experienced an unprecedented rainfall. I do not think they have had such heavy rainfalls in the past, and we have no reason to believe that they will have the same experience again. I venture to say that we shall be able to prevent a recurrence of that disaster and that we shall again be able to produce the quantities of wheat that were produced before. Moreover, I am quite certain that we would be able to sell all the wheat we could produce. 1 congratulate those who have been responsible for the wheat agreement. Ii is not all that we had hoped for. We should like to have had more of our wheat included and to have had an even higher price because, as has been pointed out, costs are rising. At least an agreement has been drawn up and, after all, it is better than no agreement at all. If there were no agreement, we should be cutting each other’s throats in order to sell our wheat. T have much pleasure in supporting the bill.
– I agree with Senator Seward when he says that the agreement is not all that we desired and that half a loaf is better than none at all. I assure him that the wheat-grower of Victoria is not completely satisfied with the new agreement. If it were not for the heavy rainfall that has been experienced in the eastern States, the Government would have been in a very invidious position when the 1956-57 wheat crop was harvested. Fortunately for the Government, but not for the wheat-grower production will be down by about 65,000,000 bushels, and the Government will not be confronted by a marketing problem.
The wheat-producing community is getting back to where it was before the outbreak of World War II. Although Senator Wade did not say so in so many words, he admitted that the banks were giving the wheat-growers in many parts of Australia a headache, but he said that it was not the Government’s fault. I remind him that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has told us that he conferred with the banks and asked them to tighten up on credit. What the banks have done does not cause us any surprise. I think that Senator Seward’s suggestion about the curtailment of production is wrong. I should like him to go to some of the wheat-growers of Victoria and tell them to do that, and to stock up with fat lambs and young beef. Where is the money to come from? Who will stock the properties for them? Many of them would like to cease wheat production and stock up with lambs and beef, but they have not the wherewithal to buy the stock. When it is realized that a fat lamb is worth about £8-
– It is worth about £8.
– A fat lamb?
– Tn Victoria, if you take the wool with them, they are bringing between £7 and £8.
– Senator Mattner ought to feed his lambs.
– He would not feed anything. Let us take the price as being £5. Where is the wheat-grower to get money to stock up with fat lambs at £5 a head, bullocks at £40 or £50 a head, and young stock at £15 a head? I say quite frankly that there are markets for our wheat and that, if it were not for the bungling of this Government, we could sell it irrespective of the quantity we grew. It must be realized that we cannot pick and choose where we are going to sell it; it must bc sold on the open market. In 1949 we warned the primary producers that the time would arrive when they would price their products beyond the world parity. That time has now arrived, in relation not only to wheat but also to beef and every other primary product as well as our. secondary products. We are now confronted with an exceedingly high cost of production, which has not meant anything to the worker but which has meant a lot to those who have been making excessive profits over the past six or seven years during the term of office of this Government.
I do not wish to delay the passage of the bill. I know that the wheat-grower is forced to accept the agreement; he cannot do otherwise. When I asked Senator Seward what the producer was getting for his wheat, he replied, “ Find it out for yourself “. He was not game to tell the people. But, at another stage, he said they were getting 18s. a bushel.
– 1 did not.
– I venture to say that in some cases they are not getting 8s. a bushel. The wheat-grower is not getting the enormous price for wheat that people lead us to believe.
– And lamb producers are not getting the price for fat lambs that the honorable senator suggested.
– My word, they are. They are not getting it in England, because the people of England will not eat our lamb. The Government will have to take hold of itself and plan for the sale of our products; it cannot afford to proceed in a willy-nilly manner. It was saved this year because of the excessively wet season, but that might not happen again. What would have been the position of wheat-growers in Victoria, New South Wales and parts of South Australia if the 65,000,000 bushels of wheat mentioned earlier were available for sale? Where would the farmer have been paid from? The Government must plan for the sale of our primary products, and also to reduce the cost of them. What will happen to those farmers who bought land at the inflated price of £30, £40 or £50 an acre for wheatgrowing?
– They have very heavy mortgages.
– Yes. It is all very well for Senator Seward and others to rise and say that production is down by 65,000,000 bushels. Let us not forget that the State governments have established exservicemen on these areas. What will happen to those men in the near future when they have to meet their mortgages? That is the position that the Government must face up to. Although we accept the position as it is to-day, I again warn the Government that, if it is to honour its promises to the primary producers and others, it must devise a plan in the near future, as v/as done by the Curtin and Chifley Governments.
– As the bill is not opposed, I do not wish to say more than a few words. 1 shall refer, however, very briefly to the comments made last week by Senator O’Flaherty, who, unfortunately, is not here now. He threw some doubt on the accuracy of figures which I cited in relation to the maximum and minimum equivalent prices under the International Wheat Agreement. I think it was fairly obvious that he was trying to get the equivalent price by adopting a straight conversion of currency. He did that despite the fact that, in my second-reading speech, I went to some pains to make it clear how these prices were arrived at. I shall repeat what I said on that occasion -
The underlying principle is that wheals sold al the maximum or minimum prices in the different exporting countries should be competitive, one with another, in the various markets, thereby conforming to commercial practice.
In the case of Australian f.a.q. wheat, the new maximum price is equivalent to 18s. a bushel, f.o.b. Australian ports. The equivalent minimum price for Australian wheat will vary from time to time in accordance with movements in transportation costs, but, on the basis of current freights, is about 12s. a bushel, f.o.b. eastern Australian ports. The figures I have quoted as the equivalent maximum and minimum prices for Australian wheat, are, in each case, subject to such allowance as may be agreed between Australia and the importing country concerned to take account of differences in wheat quality.
Therefore, I repeat, if Senator O’Flaherty had made a straight conversion, he would have arrived at these figures: The maximum wheat price of 2 dollars would have been converted at 17s. lOd. in Australian currency, and the minimum price of 1 dollar 50 cents would have been converted at 13s. 5d. in Australian currency. But, as I said before, these are not the equivalent prices for Australian wheat in accordance with the formula that I mentioned in my second-reading speech, and which is set out in great detail in Article VI. of the agreement. The present equivalent prices for Australian f.a.q. wheat - 18s. a bushel maximum, and 12s. a bushel minimum, f.o.b. eastern Australian ports - that I mentioned in my second-reading speech are completely accurate. Both prices are, however, subject to a quality discount, which may vary from market to market and from sale to sale. The minimum figure is also dependent on freight rates, which change almost daily. I do not think that any one who has any knowledge of the Australian Wheat Board’s activities in the chartering of ships - of the different charter rates that apply - will have any reason at all to doubt the accuracy of my last statement.
I have availed myself of this opportunity to put on record the fact that the figures that were quoted by me in my second-reading speech are correct. Indeed, as every honorable senator knows, I did not compute the figures; they were computed by people more skilled in this particular kind of operation than any one else in Australia, and they are not to be doubted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 18th October (vide page 728), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The bill now before the chamber proposes that the control of the Mount Stromlo observatory be transferred from the Department of the Interior to the Australian National University. The Labour party opposes the measure. If the comments of Professor Woolley and Professor Oliphant had been excluded from the second-reading speech of the Minister for Shipping and Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) the roneoed copy of that speech would scarcely have filled a foolscap page. That fact indicates quite clearly that not sufficient thought was given to this matter by the Government before deciding to make the proposed change. The Minister said -
In 1953, the then Commonwealth Astronomer, Dr. R. v. d. R. Woolley, who, incidentally, is Astronomer Royal, recommended that the observatory should be transferred to the control of the Australian National University for incorporation in the Research School of Physical Sciences.
As this suggestion was made by Professor Woolley as long ago as 1953, it is obvious that grave deficiencies were inherent in the proposal at that time, otherwise action to implement the suggestion would have been taken long before now. It is indeed significant that more than three years elapsed before the Government decided to adopt the suggestion. In my opinion, that is a pretty clear indication that there were deficiencies in the suggestion. They should have been pin-pointed, and the Senate should have been given some indication of them. If the proposal has all the merit that the Minister says it has, why has action not been taken before now to implement it? That is a question that must come to the mind of every logical person.
Professor Oliphant has suggested that the proposed transfer might be of some benefit. T should like to make it perfectly clear that
T am not criticizing either Dr. Woolley or Professor Oliphant, who are men of tremendous capacity; indeed, their names are bywords in scientific circles in Australia. However, I do challenge the right of these gentlemen, specialists as they are in their own particular fields of activity, to propose administrative changes. I think it will be conceded that the proposed transfer of the control of this very important national activity from the Department of the Interior to the Australian National University is purely an administrative change.
I have taken the trouble to read some of the speeches that were made on this bill in another place, and it is apparent from them that certain honorable members there also held the opinion that sufficient information to justify the proposed change had not been furnished by the Government. All who spoke in support of the measure in the other place, including the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), had the greatest difficulty in giving one valid reason why the proposed change should be made. So devoid of constructive comment was one Government member, that he made this incredible statement -
From the earliest times, man has been interested in the stars, and has believed that they very largely controlled his destiny. Many people still believe that their day-to-day activities are controlled by the stars. Almost every newspaper that one picks up contains an article on the stars and what they mean in the day-to-day life of the reader.
This is a speech made during a debate dealing with the future control of the National Observatory of this country. It continues -
For curiosity, I looked to see what the stars held for me to-day. The Sydney “ Sun “ says-
This may probably be of some interest to honorable senators who may give some consideration to transactions on a certain famous race to be held in the not far distant future. This honorable member in another place had this to say -
The Sydney “ Sun “ says -
Don’t spend more than you have planned, or can afford on Wednesday or Thursday, and don’t lend.
The- “ Daily Mirror “ on the other, hand has this to say -
To-day may bring a lift, of an unusual and encouraging nature, but, anyhow, don’t force anything until after October 20th. 1 suggest that if the only arguments that can be adduced for changing the control of one of our national institutions are fantastic statements of that character, amusing as they may be, then the Government has not made a case and the bill should be withdrawn. I shall spare the Senate any further reference to the speech of the honorable gentleman in another place, but it is interesting in that it shows just how much Government members know about this proposed bill.
I make it perfectly clear at this stage that in respect of scientific work undertaken by the observatory, I know no more than does the Minister which, in the bluntest terms, means that I know nothing about it. However, this is a question not of science but of administration and control. The bill which seeks to change the control of this very important observatory will react against the best interests of both the university and the observatory and will certainly react against the best interests of this country.
A transfer of staff is involved, and I point out that while .under the control of the Department of the Interior the National Observatory has functioned very well indeed. In fact, I understand that the observatory is the best equipped of any in the southern hemisphere which makes it, in my opinion at least, and I believe in the opinion of the Senate, a most important institution. Much has been said in another place and in the Minister’s speech to the effect that most of the leading observatories in the world are attached to universities. I dispute that statement. Some of the smaller observatories are attached to universities, but I say quite definitely thai the observatories which are known widely throughout the world operate under government control. When the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) was challenged to name eight major observatories throughout the world not under university control, I notice that he made no reference whatever to the Mount Palomar observatory in the United States of America which is one of the best and most important observatories in the world. It is not under university control. 1 have noticed no reference to Mount Palomar not only in the Minister’s speech but also in speeches made by Government members in another place.
The Minister stated that the transfer of the observatory to the control of the university follows a trend now well established in most advanced countries. If that statement is true it means, of course, that the United States of America is not an advanced country. At least that is the inference that one can draw. The Minister also said that of 38 leading observatories throughout the world, 30 are under university control whilst some of the remainder, for purely historical reasons, as in the case of Greenwich, have remained under government control. I make the suggestion that this proposed change is not historical but rather hysterical. The Minister went on to say -
South African observatories remain under government control, but the leading observatories in countries like Sweden. Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany. Japan and the United States of America are almost exclusively under university control. lt is misleading to say that the leading observatories of the United States of America are under university control. Even the words “ almost exclusively “ do not take away the implication contained in that statement when one realizes that observatories of the character of Mount Palomar arc not under university but under government control.
The only reason for this bill advanced by the Minister and those who have spoken in support of it in another place is that Professor Woolley recommended this measure back in 1953. Without being derogatory to Professor Woolley I suggest that a good deal of woolly thinking exists on the part of the Government and those supporting this measure. It might be wise at this stage to consider the impact of this proposed change. Al present the Mount Stromlo observatory operates under the control of the Department of the Interior. During the term I have been a member of this Senate I have never heard it suggested that anything was wrong in respect of the relationship between the observatory and the department which exercises control over it. In fact, I think it is true to say that the control of the observatory has been most satisfactory and nothing has intruded into the relationship between the department and the observatory which would warrant a change. After the proposal has been considered for four years we find that the National University is to take over the control of this national institution. Let us consider the prospects which will emerge from such a change. The university is a collection of scientific departments dealing with all aspects of science. It does not specialize in any portion of the field which it covers, nor does it place any of the functions it controls in any order of importance. What it does is to deal with a conglomeration of sciences in accordance with the ideas of the governing authority of the university itself. I suggest that an institution as important as the national observatory of this country should not have its future prejudiced by being lost in a host of other scientific fields. The university, of course, receives a certain grant from the Commonwealth Government, and from that grant if distributes what it thinks it can afford to the various fields of science under its control. If the control of the Mount Stromlo observatory is handed over to the university the effect will be adverse not only on the observatory itself, but also on the university. lt will be the responsibility of the university to keep the observatory in operation and expanding. Although Mount Stromlo has the best equipment of any observatory in the southern hemisphere, it must continue to expand and extend its activities in accordance with modern requirements. Therefore, should control of the observatory go to the university, the responsibility will be too big for the university to handle if it accepts all the conditions that go with such an important utility.
This is a hasty proposal. It was first promulgated in 1953, and has been brought forward now because somebody has suggested to the responsible Minister that it might be a good idea to give Professor Woolley’s suggestion a trial. No other reason has been advanced on this occasion. If the measure is put into effect, it will be detrimental to an important national institution. The Government has admitted that the observatory is important, but it is not providing enough money for the work of the observatory. I have referred to this matter before. The proposed transfer will mean that less and less money will be set aside for the observatory each year. Professor Oliphant has suggested that the change would be a good one, but I believe that, three or four years hence, the university authorities might regret that they ever had such an important utility attached to the university.
The Opposition opposes this bill because it is a measure designed without appropriate thought. The removal of an important utility from the administration of a government department to the control of the Australian National University would react against the interests of Australia. We believe also that a probable major reason behind the proposal is the desire of a government department to evade a share of its responsibilities.
– I am amazed that the Opposition is opposing the bill to transfer the administration of the Mount Stromlo observatory to the Australian National University. Senator Toohey usually speaks with some conviction” in this chamber, but he showed lack of conviction in his speech to-day in addition to his self-admitted lack of knowledge. His arguments, and those that were advanced in another place in opposition to the measure, are shown to be untenable when the transfer is considered. I have made some notes of the objections raised by Senator Toohey and by Opposition members in another place, and I shall answer diem categorically later. In the meantime, some account of observatory work, and of the different types of observatories, is necessary as a background to my refutation of the Opposition’s case.
I do not claim to have done any original research work in observatories, but I have spent all my working life with the results of that research in the nature of nautical astronomy and navigation, and gravity as> it. is connected with the tides, and so on. I have had the pleasure of visiting four observatories, including Greenwich and Cambridge. I have a slight knowledge of their problems, and some of the methods that are used to solve them.
The movement of the heavenly bodies, including the sun, moon and stars, has attracted the attention of human beings as far back as 4,000 years ago, when the Chinese were very interested upon discovering that there was a different altitude of the sun at noon at different seasons of the year, rising in the summer and falling in the winter. There is no real record of that discovery, however. The first record we have comes from the so-called science of astrology which was mentioned by Senator Toohey. We find references to the stars in that connexion as far back as the courts of King Arthur when Merlin was the soothsayer or astrologer. Although this socalled science flourishes to-day in the columns of the newspapers, it is not at all accurate because astrologers, when dealing with the twelve signs of the Zodiac, forgot that the stars in the heavens are precessing at the rate of 50.2 seconds of arc every year. . A person born on 23rd August at 11.59 p.m. would be born under the sign of Leo but at the age of 25, because of the precession of the stars, the relevant time would be advanced over midnight to 22 seconds past twelve, and he would then come under the sign of Virgo.
I cite that example to show that this so-called science is completely unreliable. I remind honorable senators that I am speaking of astrology not of astronomy. That there is confusion between the two terms was evident from the debate on this bill in another place. Astrology is a harmless enough pastime and possibly it helps some superstitious persons.
The first actual record we have of any work being done in .collating the stars in the heavens and naming them was in the year 140 B.C., when Hipparchus named about 300 stars. He was followed about 300 years later by Ptolemy who added to that list. It was not until the eleventh century that any real attempt was made, in both Bagdad and Damascus, to discover why the stars and the heavenly bodies appeared to move in their orbits as they do. This was followed by the work of Tycho Brahe tn Denmark. He listed more than 1,000 stars - quite an achievement in those days before the invention of the telescope. The first observatory, as we know observatories to-day, was not built or formed until Galileo invented the telescope. He set up the first observatory along somewhat similar lines to the observatories of to-day and into it he introduced his telescope. The first work he did was to investigate the satellites of Jupiter. The Royal Observatory at Greenwich was founded in 1675. It was a beautiful place, many of the buildings being designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and all honorable senators know of the beauties of the work of that great architect. Many of the buildings still standing to-day were designed by him. They escaped the Great Fire of London.
The first Astronomer Royal was appointed about three years after the observatory had been set up by government grant. The objective at that time was to improve navigation, that is to say, to perfect the means whereby vessels could find their position at sea. The great disability in those days was that there was no method of finding the longitude. The latitude could be found very easily from the altitude of the sun, and more easily still from the altitude of the pole star because the pole star is in almost the same place in the celestial concave as our north geographical pole is on the earth. It only goes round a very tiny circle of about one degree radius and the consequence is that to take an observation all that is necessary is to get the angle between one’s eye, the horizon and the pole star. That will give within one degree the latitude at which one happens to be. It is obvious that if one is standing on the pole, the pole star would be right overhead, at 90 degrees. On the other hand, if one is on the equator, the pole star would be on the horizon. It is quite simple to work out the latitude; but the great difficulty experienced in those days was in finding out how far east or west one was. I have a tiny book at home printed in the days of Queen Elizabeth 1. On it, of course, she is not referred to as Queen Elizabeth I., but simply as Queen Elizabeth. It is most interesting to read in that book of the methods they had in those days and the extraordinary lengths to which they went to try and find out how far they were to the east or to the west.
The first suggestion as to how this could be done was made by Fresius, a Dutch astronomer. He pointed out that it would be necessary to build a very accurate clock. Taking the longitude at Greenwich as zero, he pointed out that as one went west so one increased what is termed the hour angle and, therefore, if it were possible to carry on a ship a clock that would maintain exact Greenwich time all the time, then, if a ship happened to be sailing from London to America, all that would be necessary to obtain the longitude would be first to take the altitude of a heavenly body, note the time on this very accurate clock and then find the difference between this very accurate clock and the actual altitude one had. That would show the difference between Greenwich time and the time of the longitude on which the ship happened to be. All honorable senators will know that time is calculated on the basis of 360 degrees, or a complete circle, representing 24 hours, fifteen degrees representing one hour. Therefore, if the difference between Greenwich time and the time of the actual longitude on which the ship happened to be was two hours, then obviously the ship was 30 degrees either west or east.
Many years went by before they were able to devise a really good clock. Finally, in 1714, the British Government offered a reward of £20,000 to anybody who could build a clock which would be accurate within 30 miles after a voyage of six weeks. I think those were the exact terms of the offer, and if honorable senators will remember that the speed of ships in those days was about four or five knots they will appreciate that in order to earn the reward it would be necessary to invent a clock which would be accurate to within three or four seconds a day, and that is extremely accurate indeed. Finally, a Yorkshire carpenter, John Harrison, devised such a clock and was paid the reward. Unfortunately, it was found that the clock that he devised was so sensitive that it was not a satisfactory type of clock to take to sea where it would be handled by people like rough sailors. The consequence was that it could not be used on a ship. They then called in some of the clockmakers and watchmakers and asked them, if, working on the same principle as Harrison had used, they could devise a clock that would be strong enough to take to sea. Finally, a watchmaker with that grand old name of Kendall produced a clock which was strong enough to take to sea to be used for that work. He was paid some 450 guineas, which was a goodly sum in those days.
Then, in 1765. Le Roy, of Paris, produced a better clock and finally Arnold Earnshaw of London, produced four clocks, one of which is still at Greenwich and still keeping excellent time. So, the problem of time was solved. To-day, of course, we do not find our position to within 30 miles; we find it to within 200 yards, thanks to the introduction of such clocks, although, with the advance science has made, such clocks really are not an absolute necessity. Wireless telegraphy has progressed so far that, with a big radio set. it is possible to get the lime signals any time of the day or night, and therefore all that is necessary is to take the exact time perhaps a few minutes or half an hour before actually taking observations.
I have spoken at some length on this longitude question because I want to illustrate the type of work done by certain observatories. The Greenwich observatory is one that does this bread and butter sort of work; but I shall mention that when I am disputing the remarks made by Senator Toohey. In 1769, George III. established a university at Kew. It was established primarily to observe what is known as the Transit of Venus. Perhaps, I might say a word or two on that because it is of great interest to me, and, I dare say, to other honorable senators. The Transit of Venus is of great value to astronomers because, where previously we had been able to get the relative distances between the various heavenly bodies, we had never been able to discover a rule to measure what those relative distances were. Venus is one of the four interior planets of which Mercury, Mars and the earth are the other three. Occasionally Venus, in her orbit, travels across the face of the sun, and, by setting up two observatories on opposite sides of the earth, and working something in the nature of a very large range-finder, they have been able to get actual distances as opposed to comparative distances from the time Venus comes to the edge of the sun until she crosses to the other side. °
The first Australian observatory was a: Dawes Point. It is now the Sydney observatory, and was established in 1786. The second was established at Williamstown a few years afterwards. It is now the Melbourne observatory.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was trying to give some sort of background to the work done by observatories all over the world, so that when I answer the various matters raised by the Opposition my replies may be more understandable. 1 attempted to deal with some of the various aspects of the work of observatories, and now I want to point out the various kinds of work that individual observatories undertake. A large majority of them do research work in astrophysics, which is the science of the composition of the various heavenly bodies; that is, the types of material of which they are formed. This brings in the science of optics and the spectrum because, by studying the various rays of light emitted by the stars, scientists can tell what elements the heavenly bodies contain. In that way, these scientists assist the astronomer in his work.
Observatories study also gravitation and magnetism, and by means of photography on a film which is far more sensitive than the human eye, they can chart the heavens. Up to the present time, more than 2,000,000 stars in the celestial concave have been charted. They range in brilliance from the first to the fourteenth magnitude. Honorable senators have noticed Jupiter and Venus in the sky. They are of about the first magnitude, so honorable senators can appreciate how far away from the earth are stars of the fourteenth magnitude. The average star that can be seen with the naked eye is of about the fifth magnitude.
It is no good depending on the science of astronomy alone when doing observatory work. Many other sciences must be used as well. The Greenwich observatory, the Washington naval observatory and those at various other places undertake what might be called “ bread-and-butter “ work. They keep a record of the time. Earlier in my speech I tried to explain how important is time. These observatories deal with magnetism and gravity, but only insofar as they affect tides or are of value in ascertaining exactly where the magnetic pole is in relation to the geographic pole. The reason is fairly obvious, because observatories such as Greenwich produce the ephemeris - that is, the particulars necessary so that the government printer at Greenwich or Washington or Paris or at any other government observatory may publish details of the position of stars, or of a particular star, at any hour of the day or night; the equation of time, and all the technical details which are used in nautical astronomy and in normal navigation by unscientific persons like myself. This information is printed in books, and it is an excellent thing to have observatories of that type under government control. Their work is closely connected with the government printer in the dissemination of that kind of information.
Those who have read philosophical works will know of the claim that Aristotle was the master of all the then known sciences, but now that science has made extraordinary advances each scientist makes a specialty of his particular type of work, whether it be astronomy, mathematics, physics, chemistry or something else. He makes a complete study of that science, and eventually becomes an expert in it.
I have said enough to inform honorable senators of the different kinds of observatories, and I now wish to reply to the points raised by members of the Opposition in another place, and also by Senator Toohey this afternoon. The first point made was that the Mount Stromlo observatory should remain under the control of the Department of the Interior because, in Great Britain, the Greenwich observatory is under the control of the Crown. I see no reason why Australia should have to do something simply because it is done in a particular way in another country. I agree with the statement in the Minister’s second-reading speech that Greenwich is an . historic memorial, and those who are acquainted with English people will appreciate that a great deal of sentiment is attached by them to historic memorials. The Greenwich observatory, with its Astronomer Royal, could not be removed from government control without a great deal of opposition. As I pointed out before, Greenwich does different work, and that is why it remains under government control.
The second point raised was that Mount Stromlo observatory has been run very efficiently up to the present, so why should any change be made in its administration? I am sure that there is no suggestion that it has been run other than very efficiently in the past. When Mount Stromlo was originally set up in 1911, the idea was that it should do solar work in conjunction with observatories in South Africa and India, its location being the third point in a triangle for doing a certain type of solar work. Since that time, its work has changed and now it deals with astrophysical investigations. For some time it was doing ionospheric work, but that was discontinued, and now its work is almost entirely of an astrophysical nature.
I can best explain the need for Mount Stromlo observatory to have help from other sciences by referring to an event that took place about the middle of the last century. An outer planet which was known, at that time, as Uranus, was seen by the astronomers to have deviated from its normal orbit around the sun and they could not account for this. Finally, they decided that this deviation must be due to the gravitational influence of another heavenly body which, so far, nobody had discovered. Professor Adams was given data by the astronomers as to the exact extent that this planet had deviated from its orbit, and he worked out by mathematics precisely where this other body should be. The astronomers directed their telescopes to the point he suggested, and it was found to be only one degree away from a new planet which they then discovered, now known as Neptune. I emphasize to honorable senators that in that case a mathematician, not an astronomer, discovered Neptune. That illustrates the need for various sciences to combine with astronomy to achieve efficiency in research work at observatories.
As its third point the Opposition asked why Mount Stromlo was not placed under the control of the Australian National University at the beginning. The answer is so obvious as to make the question quite ridiculous. Mount Stromlo was established in 1911, the first director was appointed in 1923, while the Australian National University was not inaugurated until 1946. I do not think that that proposition advanced by the Opposition needs, any further answer.
The fourth point raised by honorable senators opposite is in the form of a question. They ask why other countries have not placed their observatories under their national universities. The answer again is absurdly simple. It is that other countries do not have national universities. The concept of a national university is extremely rare. The only case of a proposed national university that I have been able to discover occurred in the United States of America. Many years ago President Jefferson attempted to found a national university in Washington, but was not successful. The primary reason for his failure was that the Congressional Library was supposed to be doing sufficient research to render a national university unnecessary. Therefore, the reason that we have placed our observatory under the Australian National University while other countries have not done similarly, is simply that there are no national universities in other countries. If there is another national university anywhere in the world I invite honorable senators opposite to name it.
The fifth point raised by the Opposition, and this matter was dealt with by a number of speakers in another place, was: Why did Dr. Woolley give no reasons for recommending the change in the administration of the observatory? I understand that Dr. Woolley recommended this change in 1953. After 1953, we had one very short session of the Parliament during the time Her Majesty the Queen visited Australia and another sitting later in the same year. Then, in the early part of 1955 - only eighteen months after the original suggestion was made - it became known that Dr. Woolley was to become Astronomer Royal. Therefore, I suggest that no undue length of time passed between Dr. Woolley’s original suggestion and the move to place the observatory under the Australian National University. lt has been said that Dr. Woolley gave no reasons why the change of administration should take place. I suggest that only Dr. Woolley could affirm or deny that suggestion - I cannot do it. However, the reasons are quite obvious to me, and would have been quite obvious even if I had not discussed the matter with several people. Perhaps Dr. Woolley did not give any reason. However, it is pertinent to remind the Senate that Professor Oliphant, and Dr. Bok - who will take Dr. Woolley’s place at the observatory - are both in favour of moving the administration from the Department of the Interior to the Australian National University. I do not believe that there are many scientists in the Department of the Interior who would be of much help to Dr. Bok, or any one else administering the observatory.
The sixth point made by the Opposition was that as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is not administered by the Australian National University, there is no reason why the observatory should be so administered. 1 agree that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is not administered by the university, and the reason for that is quite simple. That organization has a complete range of scientific departments, and has all its own scientists. The organization has been operating very well for about 30 years. Therefore, 1 do not think that that argument of the Opposition is of any value.
The seventh point made by honorable senators opposite was again a query. They asked why the Ionospheric Production Service has been moved. I have already touched on that matter. It has been moved because the attention of the observatory has been directed to astrophysical work only. The observatory started out as a solar observatory. Then for a while it was an astrophysical observatory, and in addition worked on the ionosphere. Now the ionospheric work has been taken away in order to allow the observatory to concentrate on astrophysical work in conjunction with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. The second thing that the Mount Stromlo observatory will work on is radio astronomy.
Quite recently I was fortunate enough to talk with Dr. Bok, and I found him most interesting. I listened for nearly two hours to what he had to tell me, and during the course of our conversation I learned that he had been professor of astronomy and director of the observatory at Harvard University for 27 years. He told me that the team of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization which is at present located in Sydney doing radio astronomical work, and which will work closely with him in his work at the observatory here, is recognized throughout the scientific world as being the best radio astronomy team in the world. I suggest that we can all be proud of that praise coming from an American who has been a professor at Harvard University nearly all his working life. I go a little further and say that Dr. Bok is very much in favour of a transfer of the administration of the observatory to the Australian National University for a number of reasons. That again bolsters up the case that I am trying to make.
The eighth objection of the Opposition was that there has been a breach of trust to the donors to the observatory. I call attention to clause 5 of the bill in which that matter is particularly well covered. Dr. Bok, who will become the head of the observatory, is an enthusiastic person and he told me that during his time here he will endeavour to sell astronomy to the Australian people and increase the donations for astronomical work that have been lagging over the last few years. I believe that we should all be very pleased that he is coming to this country.
The only other argument of the Opposition is that in other countries most of the observatories are conducted by governments. I have investigated the principal world observatories, and I have found that there are 28, beginning with Cambridge, Radcliffe-Oxford, Glasgow, Leipzig and
Palermo, which are administered by universities. There are thirteen national observatories, beginning with Greenwich, Edinburgh and the National Navy at Washington, conducted by governments and those four at least are bread-and-butter type observatories.’ The ones that I call breadandbutter observatories do not carry out research on specific subjects. There are also eleven private observatories, seven of which are in England, and those observatories, contrary to what Senator Toohey said, include Palomar and Mount Wilson which are financed and administered by the Rockefeller Foundation. Therefore, I fail to see how that argument can be used against transferring the administration of the Mount Stromlo Observatory to the Australian National University.
– Which of those that the honorable senator mentioned are national observatories?
– The thirteen that I mentioned.
– 1 do not mean those run by the state, but national observatories of the country.
– There are Greenwich, Edinburgh, National Navy, Paris, Versailles, Algiers, Marseilles, Toulouse, Nice, and also several Soviet observatories, although I do not know whether they are national or not.
– Which of those controlled by universities are also national observatories of the countries concerned?
– Not one of the observatories I have mentioned comes under a national university. As the Australian National University appears to be the only national university in the world, we cannot be guided by what has happened in other countries. There are no universities in other countries similar to our national university. Altogether I believe that the Opposition has put up a very poor case against this measure. Indeed, two or three of the arguments of honorable senators opposite were childishly easy to answer because even I have been able to answer them.
I think the Opposition will agree that the statements I have made are the complete answer to the arguments that it has put forward. I think, too, that we should help an already famous observatory by linking it with a university which is recognized throughout the world as fast becoming the centre of research in the southern hemisphere. I do not think it is necessary for me to go over any of these points; 1 have made them as clearly as I can. 1 hope that at least some Opposition senators will decide that this is a good bill and, like me, will vote for it. 1 think it is an excellent bill, and I feel that nothing but good can come from it. I support the measure.
Senator SCOTT (Western Australia) 18.21]. - I congratulate Senator Kendall on the excellent address that he made. Nothing that was said by Senator Toohey has convinced me that .1 should not support the bill. I should like to say a few words about the siting of the Mount Stromlo observatory, how it was established, and why I think that to place it under the control of the Australian National University would be to the advantage of Australia. The observatory was established for the study of solar phenomena and allied stellar and spectroscopic research, and it filled a gap in the chain of existing astrophysical observatories. Now that it is completed, there are observatories, 90 degrees apart, around the world. Its situation in the southern hemisphere places it in the unique position of being the only observatory that is making a feature of solar work south of the equator.
The first steps towards the establishment of an observatory in Australia were taken on 4th March, 1907, when a letter appeared in the South Australian press inquiring about the possibility of the University of Adelaide undertaking astronomical work. Subsequently, the movement received the support of the International Solar Union, the Royal Society, the British Association for the Advancement of Science, the Australian Association for the Advancement of Science, the Smithsonian Institute, and various other scientific bodies throughout the world. In 1908, a memorandum setting forth the reasons why a solar station should be established in Australia was presented to the Prime Minister. Before the Commonwealth decided to establish a solar observatory, inquiries were made in each of the States as to whether they had the technique, the equipment and the finance to carry out the work. It was discovered that they had not, and that it would be necessary for the Commonwealth to establish the observatory.
Committees were formed in England and Australia in order to raise capital. A committee of the Australian Association for the Advancement of Science sent a deputation to the Minister of Home Affairs in 1909. As a result, a meeting was organized in Melbourne with the idea of getting people interested in the proposed observatory and of raising the necessary funds for its establishment. The meeting was attended by the Governor-General and the Governor of Victoria. As a result of that meeting and the raising of finance, an approach was made to the Prime Minister in December, 1909. He took the first official action towards the establishment of the observatory by accepting the gift of a 9-inch refractory telescope from Mr. James Oddie, of Ballarat, and by including in the Estimates a sum of money sufficient for the erection of a temporary building within the Federal Capital Territory to house the telescope.
On 19th March, 1910, a conference of surveyors from the States at which the Government Astronomer of Victoria was present, was held at Canberra. The conference recommended that Mount Stromlo should be the site for the erection of a temporary observatory. In September, 1911, a temporary building was erected and the Oddie telescope was placed in position. It was decided to undertake observations to test the site, and after a period of two years Mr. Baracchi reported that the site was satisfactory for an observatory for solar and general astronomical research. In the meantime, further finance was collected by Australian enthusiasts and was offered to the Commonwealth Government, but the offer was not accepted at the time.
In May, 1913, a further memorandum, which set forth certain aspects of Australia’s participation in the international scheme of solar research, was transmitted to the government. The government stated that, when Canberra became the seat of government, the Parliament would set aside a sum of money for the establishment at Mount Stromlo of a general scientific section to be devoted to solar research. War broke out in 1914 and the matter remained in abeyance until 1923, when the government decided to proceed with the establishment of the observatory. The first director, Dr. Duffield, was appointed as from 1st January, 1924.
Mount Stromlo was selected as the site because of its altitude and because a clear view could be had from the mountain top, which is about 700 feet above the surrounding country and therefore about 2,700 feet above sea level. Between 1913 and 1923, the Oddie telescope and the buildings at Mount Stromlo were not used very much, except by farmers to detect bush fires.
Dr. Woolley, who is now the AstronomerRoyal at Greenwich Observatory, advised the Government that the control of the Mount Stromlo observatory should be transferred from the Department of the Interior to the Australian National University. This has also been recommended by Dr. Bok who, as we know, will take up his new position next March. The proposed transfer also meets with the approval of most of the staff of the observatory. Surely, in the light of these circumstances, it is only right that the Parliament should implement the proposal.
Originally, the observatory was established tor me purpose of engaging in ionospheric prediction. By studying matters associated with sunspots and the like, the observatory staff has been able to give advice in relation to radio frequencies throughout the world. Research conducted at the observatory by the use of transmitters and receivers established that the height of the ionosphere varies according to the strength of the sun and the time of the day, but that its most frequent location is about 100 miles from the ground. The variation of the height of the ionosphere is determined by the length of time that it takes for a signal sent out by the transmitter to return.
The Mount Stromlo observatory is ideally situated to enable scientists to study the Milky Way. lt is interesting to note that it is not practicable to study the Galaxy from any part of the northern hemisphere. Many valuable scientific instruments have been donated to the Mount Stromlo observatory for this specific purpose. Since Mr. James Oddie presented the observatory with its first telescope, another - one of the largest in the world - having a diameter of 74 inches, has been acquired by the observatory.
Reference has been made to the state of repair of the houses at Mount Stromlo. Although they are situated at one of the coldest places in Australia, the style of construction is more suited to the tropics. As they have not been regularly maintained, they have deteriorated badly, and are now urgently in need of painting and repairing. Incidentally, the access road to the Mount Stromlo observatory is also in urgent need of attention.
Although I understand that the Opposition intended, initially, to oppose this measure, in view of Senator Kendall’s brilliant speech, to which I have been able to add but little, I trust that the bill will now receive the support of honorable senators opposite.
– My original intention was not to participate in this debate, but I was invited in by Senator Kendall, who asked for fresh arguments to justify our opposition, and I have been cheered in by the speech of Senator Scott, who indicated that he had an open mind on this matter; that it was open to conviction. I hope, and believe, that his mind will not be open at both ends, and I invite him to consider my remarks. In the first place, I join with him by saying that I am indebted - as, I am sure, are all honorable senators - to Senator Kendall for the very interesting and informative address that he gave us. We should, I think, thank the honorable senator for engaging in so much research work in order to be able to inform the Senate fully on this subject. I think the approach to this is not from the viewpoint of horoscopes, or astrology, ionospheric predictions, astrophysics or any of the other terms that have been used here to-day. I think we can look at this from a purely parliamentary viewpoint.
Government senators. - Hear, hear!
– I am very glad to hear that. Looking at it from that viewpoint this bill is an insult to this Senate. I shall document that on two counts. In the first place, if the bill were never presented or passed at all, the transfer would take place on 1st January next because the Government has made no moneys available in the Appropriation Bill for the Mount Stromlo observatory. I find now, belatedly, hidden away on page 35 of the schedule of the Appropriation Bill dealing with the proposed votes of the Department of the Interior a little marginal note reading -
Provision made for Observatory for six months only, due to proposed transfer to Australian National University.
One: was not put on inquiry in this Senate when one looked at the proposed votes, because under this particular provision we found that last year the expenditure was £65,269, whilst this year the sum of £67,500 was sought for the observatory. It looked as though the Government was at least beginning to practice what it preached and was seeking to make some kind of a saving somewhere. The figures are relatively near each other, but there is the small note at the foot of the page to which I have referred. Under Miscellaneous Services one found that the proposed vote for the Australian National University - Running expenses - Supplementary Grant was £640,000. Alongside that figure was a very small (d) and when one looked at the foot of the page one saw the following note, “ Includes provision for Commonwealth Observatory to be taken over from January, 1957 “.
The first point I make is that the transfer is an accomplished fact without this bill at all so far as the observatory, staff and its equipment are concerned. No money will be available to the observatory from 1st January; so, the matter is predetermined before we consider this bill. It behoved the Government to direct particular attention during the debate on the Appropriation Bill to what was being done. We all sat here during that debate and on many occasions, I think the Senate will agree, it was a case of the call to the quick. One had to be quick to get the call, and many of the departmental votes were agreed to without proper consideration. But, that is not the only count on which 1 say this bill is an insult to the Senate.
This bill has two main purposes. The first of them is to transfer the Commonwealth Observatory Trust Fund to the Australian National University; and the second is to authorize the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) to make arrangements for the transfer. It is obvious that, as in two months time no money will be made available directly to the observatory, within that period that arrangement will have to be made and reduced to writing. The Government has had the matter in contemplation since 1953; yet it presents to this Parliament a bill which asks for a completely blank cheque for the Minister - a sort of “ mother-knows-best “ arrangement again. We of the Opposition are not prepared to subscribe to that position. Why, after three years consideration of this matter, was it not reduced to writing, discussed among the Mount Stromlo people, the Department of the Interior and the Australian National University and presented as a schedule to this bill? I want to know, from the Minister, because nothing has been said on the point in his second-reading speech or by any speaker who has taken part in this debate up to date, what the attitude of the Mount Stromlo staff is to this projected transfer. We have been told what Dr.. Woolley said long ago in 1953. But what is the attitude of the present controller of the. observatory? What is the attitude of the staff?
– They are all for it.
– I do not accept Senator Scott’s word for that; I doubt whether he has consulted them all. I point out that the Minister in his second-reading speech did not touch upon that point at all, and we of the Opposition desire to know just what is the attitude of the staff. If the present astronomer, his chief of staff and his staff generally are in favour, why did nol the Minister tell us so in his second-reading speech? Neither has he told us whether the Australian National University is prepared to accept the transfer. We are left to infer that is so. Reference has been made to what Professor Oliphant said, but Professor Oliphant is not the university. We of the Opposition ask very pointedly two questions of the Minister. We want to know, first, the attitude of the staff at Mount Stromlo observatory;, and, secondly, the attitude of the Australian National University. Is the university prepared to take over the observatory? What assurance is the university to be given that the necessary funds will be available from year to year to provide for the expansion of the observatory’s activities Not one word is to be found in this bill that binds the Minister to make the funds available to the university. If honorable senators look at the bill they will find that it is completely permissive so far as the Minister is concerned. Clause 5 reads - (1.) The Minister may-
Note the word “ may “ - on behalf ofthe Commonwealth, enter into an arrangement with the University for and in relation to thetransfer to the University of the administration of the Observatory. (2.) An arrangement under this section may provide for -
Then the clause deals, first, with the transfer of the property of the observatory; and secondly, the transfer of equipment and other physical property. It then proceeds - (3.) An arrangement under this section may include such undertakings by the University as the Minister thinks necessary with respect to -
Which senator knows one word of the actual arrangement for this transfer? Where is one word in this bill that tells any honorable senator what is going on? By reason of the fact that there will be no moneys for the observatory at the end of this year all these arrangements have to be made immediately the Parliament rises. That is the second reason why I say that this bill is an insult to the Parliament.
Why have not the arrangements been already made? Why are we to trust in the Minister? It may be he can be trusted - I do not question that - but we have a duty to know what we are passing. It is not good enough from the Opposition’s viewpoint that the Minister should be vested with plenary power which he may exercise wisely but may not exercise at all. Every one of us has the duty to assure himself that the money paid into the Observatory Trust Fund is applied generally for the purposes of the observatory. What assurance have we got? The assurance is that the Minister may make arrangements to tell the university what it is to do with the money after it is handed to it. What assurance has one honorable senator that the money will be used for the purposes of the observatory. If we are blind on every point in connexion with this agreement what is the need for this bill? I again ask the question: Why has not an arrangement been already made and exhibited now to the
Senate? It will have to be done during the next few weeks.
That leads me to ask: What has the Government got to hide in this matter? Has it got something to hide? I want to know from the Minister what will be the difference in the standard of salaries for the Mount Stromlo staff and the university staff? Is there any great difference? Will the Mount Stromlo staff have their salaries improved or will they be dragged down to a lower level when the observatory is transferred to the university? These are all vital points about which the Opposition wants information. It is now three years since this matter was first mooted, but when this bill was introduced in another place the second-reading speech was so sketchy that the Minister had to apologize for it. He did not see all the implications of it when the debate was opened by the Opposition in another place. Now an effort has been made in the second-reading speech of the Minister to justify the proposed transfer. Let me examine the reasons that are given in the Minister’s second-reading speech. The first argument is that research cannot be conducted in a vacuum, and that it has to be integrated with all the other fields of research in physical science.
– Does not the Leader of the Opposition agree with that?
-I do not deny the proposition but, at the same time, research is proceeding between Mount Stromlo and the university at present in the most intimate way. Research fellows and toolmakers from the university are actually working at Mount Stromlo. The university is bringing research workers from overseas to work both at Mount Stromlo and at the university, so that obviously there is the most complete co-operation in research. That is as it should be. What will this transfer do? Is Mount Stromlo observatory to be picked up and transferred to the grounds of the National University? Will not the two staffs have to continue moving backwards and forwards between the two places? Is not research work in a fully co-operative sense proceeding at present? What difference will the proposed transfer make? It will make no physical difference at all.
It is not the metier and the purpose of a new university to embark on new and important research and post-graduate work, or to bolster its reputation by picking up a brilliantly successful concern, such as the Mount Stromlo observatory has been, and take it over. Is this a matter of boosting university prestige and status when the same research and co-operation will go on in the future as in the past, regardless of whether it is done in conjunction with the university or not? Why should not the Minister give the Senate full details?
I am concerned to know what will be the conditions for the staff. The Opposition believes that it has a duty to fulfill to the staff. Neither I nor my colleagues are prepared to allow the Minister to make whatever arrangements he likes. We do not intend to throw the staffs into the discard in that irresponsible way. Personally, I believe the bill should be withdrawn and brought back with the full agreement attached to it as a schedule.
Earlier in my speech, I began to examine the arguments put forward in favour of the transfer. Professor Oliphant pointed out that the emphasis in the observatory’s work was moving away from routine and into research, and that it was desirable that there should be co-operation. The point I make is that there is already the fullest co-operation, and 1 challenge the Minister to deny that fact.
– Then Professor Oliphant is wrong?
– No. I agree that there should be co-operation, but it will not be made any closer by this transfer. Men from the university still have to travel to Mount Stromlo and from Mount Stromlo to the university. If the Government proposed to pick up the observatory as a physical unit and transfer it to the university grounds I might see some reason for the transfer, but that is not being done and, obviously, it cannot be done. I repeat that there is the fullest co-operation in research between the two institutions, and that the proposed transfer of administration will not enable that to be done in any better fashion.
Having disposed of that argument, I turn to the reasons advanced by Doctor R. Woolley, former Commonwealth Astronomer. Apparently, Dr. Woolley put forward four arguments. One was that the greater part of the work was now scientific research. I have answered that.
Dr. Woolley pointed out that university procedures in appointment and conditions of service were more appropriate to scientific workers than were Public Service conditions. I invite the Minister to tell the Senate what is the difference between the two, and why cannot the Public Service expand its terms and conditions for specialist workers like those at Mount Stromlo to enable them to function in a purely scientific way? After all is said and done, every kind of scientist is to be found in the Commonwealth Public Service. There are doctors galore, lawyers and every conceivable sort of professional man. Why should not the Public Service include scientists in this successful and highly developed activity? I see no point in that argument.
The next argument that was advanced by Dr. Woolley intrigues me. The Minister stated that Dr. Woolley considered there was likely to be a wider selection of suitable scientists attracted to a university post than to a departmental position. The very man who put that argument forward immediately belied it by going to a government post at Greenwich. He was the first to throw that argument overboard. Does the Government rely on a man’s argument or upon his actions?
– lt might have been promotion.
– Then we can take no notice of that argument because Dr. Woolley was the first to break a principle that he had affirmed.
– He wanted to better his position.
– If the trouble at Mount Stromlo is that the Government is not paying enough, then it should rectify the position because that matter is within its own hands. Dr. Woolley has referred to the possibility of attracting research workers from the rest of the world. I remember that recently scientists came from all over the world for observations. There was no difficulty in attracting research workers to the institution then, and I challenge the Minister to deny that proposition. The purely theoretical set of pseudo principles that are set up here are mere words to cloak the real purpose of the transfer of the observatory.
Then we come to the argument on research to which I have referred. We have a Medical Research Council in Aus- tralia, and it is endowed by the Commonwealth Government. If research is to be integrated in the university, why does not the Medical Research Council function within the university? Why are not its activities transferred there also? They have a John Curtin School of Medical Research at the university and all that research in the field of medicine takes place away from the purview of the Australian National University. There is no merit in these arguments. They are so many words used in an attempt to justify what the Government has done quite thoughtlessly.
The final argument advanced by the former Commonwealth Astronomer was that the transfer of the observatory to the control of the university followed a trend that was now well established in most advanced countries. 1 listened with great interest to Senator Kendall on that point and I agree with him when he said that we should not do something just because another country did it. The question whether the observatory should stand alone or be at the university cannot be determined on trends elsewhere. Every observatory must be located on the physical merits of the site and according to its status and other factors. I agree with Senator Kendall when he affirmed the general proposition that we should not follow what appears to be a trend in the rest of the world. After all, what is the trend in Australia? I am open to correction, but I. believe that there is an observatory in each State operated by the State governments. Why do we want to break away from an Australian trend in favour of one that might be completely outmoded? I believe that no real argument has been addressed to the Senate on that particular matter.
– In South Australia, the university controls the observatory.
– I did not know that, which is why I was not dogmatic about it; but my impression is that the observatories are operated under their own power as national or State concerns. The argument has been addressed that a body which is connected with the university will attract more private funds. I take no notice whatever of that argument.
– I did not say that.
– I did not put that to the honorable senator. I think it is pitiful for a national institution to be thinking about seeking private endowments.
– The universities are noi getting them now.
– They are not getting them, and there has not been a contribution to the Mount Stromlo observatory for 25 years. Yet we hear the argument advanced that if it were attached lo the university it would attract funds! The university is not attracting funds in any event. I hope Senator Scott has listened throughout my contribution and that he will look at this matter from the parliamentary point of view which I have expressed and seize upon the two important principles to which I have referred.
I think I have seriously put to the Senate a powerful case for our opposition. We say we are being formally asked to effectuate something that has already been accomplished under the Appropriation Bill. We say also that we have had an insult, in the two months that are available before this transfer takes place, that we are not made aware of all the details connected with the arrangement. If we support the transfer in the form set out in this bill, then we, as senators and members of the National Parliament, shall abdicate our own responsibilities.
– I am afraid 1 have been very remiss in this matter. 1 ought to be in a position fully to inform the Senate about the proposed transfer. It so happens that I am the parliamentary representative on the university council and as such was present at the council meeting at which this matter was decided. I have in Sydney, safely locked in a drawer, the minutes of that meeting. If I had those minutes now, I could refute every argument that has been put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna); but I thought the bill would pass through the Senate without any opposition. I did not think that it would be necessary to come here and argue that two and two make four. It seemed to me to be so elementary and so obvious that I did not trouble any more about it. Therefore. I shall have to repair my omission by stating the facts as I remember them.
– We are convinced after having heard “ Professor “ Scott.
– 1 admit that J: have not the profound knowledge of astronomy possessed by “ Professor “ Scott, but 1 approach the question from the political and administrative side. I assure the Leader of the Opposition that the matter was discussed fully at the university council meeting and that all the points raised by him were considered thoroughly. That meeting considered the wishes of the observatory people and of the university authorities, it discussed fully the conditions obtaining at the university and whether those applying at the university were more favorable than those obtaining in the Public Service. I was convinced, as I think also was every other councillor who had to rely on experts for technical evidence, that the observatory would be much better under the administration of the university. I assure the Senate that every point that has been raised by the Opposition to-night was carefully considered and that a satisfactory answer to every problem mentioned by the Opposition was found. I can only give information on those matters about which I have a clear recollection.
– Did the university or the observatory ask for the transfer?
– It was arranged by agreement between the two bodies.
– Who took the initiative?
– I could not say, but my recollection is that when the matter came before the council both parties were in agreement. The point made by the Leader of the Opposition that Professor Woolley was inconsistent is, I think, purely a debating point. We felt that the status of this university and that of the observatory would be improved by the amalgamation of the two institutions. An old established institution such as the Greenwich observatory has no need to increase its prestige; it has been established for centuries. Professor Woolley was quite right in saying that the observatory would have more attraction to people from abroad if it were with the university than it would if it were part of the Public Service. After all, our Public Service is not the same thing as the Greenwich observatory. 1 assure the Senate that at the council meeting we looked into everything connected with the trust funds, and honorable senators can rest assured that these funds will be used for the purpose for which they were created. I am satisfied that the conditions of the employees will be more favorable under the Australian National University. The conditions obtaining there compare favorably with those of any other university as well as with those of the Public Service. Further, in my view, the astronomers will benefit from their association with scientists and others at the university. Astronomy is a part of liberal education. It is that part of liberal education which has been rather neglected, in my case, but a study ot astronomy brings to the mind a great sense of proportion. Honorable senators may know of the story of the American politician who joined a party which visited an observatory. When he looked through the great telescope, the astronomers said to him, That star is 50,000,000 light years off. and that star is 200,000,000 light years off”, and so on. He became rather humble and said, “Then it does not matter who wins the election “. I think that, perhaps, we who are apt to become heated over things that are not so great might benefit from the company of astronomers.
The Australian National University is a good place to visit because there one meets people of great ability and intellectual power. Many of them are humble men. They know infinitely more than we do about the matters in which they specialize, but they will discuss these things with one without any condescension whatsoever. They have not that sense of false pride that some of us perhaps develop here. Again I commend the bill and apologize to the Senate for not having more detailed information to give. I repeat that the reason for my failure to bring the full information is that it did not occur to me that there would be any opposition to the bill. Had I thought that honorable senators opposite might raise objections, I should certainly have brought the information that would have enabled me to answer satisfactorily all the points that have been raised.
– As I did not know that there was to be a division on this bill, I did not bother to study it. Believing that this was a matter into which politics should not enter, I was quite prepared to listen to the arguments for and against the proposed transfer. Not having the profound knowledge of Senator Scott, I have listened to the arguments that have been adduced and so far I have heard nothing to convince me that the proposed transfer should not be made. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) mentioned an insult to the Senate. Even if an insult were intended, that would be no reason why the bill should not be passed.
I repeat that, like Senator McCallium, I thought after glancing briefly through this measure that it would pass through all its stages without any opposition. To me, it seems only logical that an institution like the observatory should be placed under the administration of the Australian National University, especially at Canberra, where the two organizations are in such close proximity to one another. That was my first impression, but when I heard that this vote was to be taken I came in and listened to all the arguments. The last one, brought forward by Senator McCallum swung my vote definitely in favour of allowing the observatory to be connected with the National University. That is the logical authority to control it. That was my opinion at the beginning, but I was prepared to listen to arguments for and against that proposition. Having done that, I propose to vote in the way I have indicated. This matter has taken a great deal of time which could have been spent profitably on many more important subjects.
– in reply - The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) came late into this debate with the object, he said, of presenting fresh argument, no doubt feeling that the case presented up to that point by the Opposition required some substantial support. Whatever fresh argument he succeeded in presenting, I am certain that it proved to be no more convincing than that presented by the members of his party who spoke before him.
What is this proposal? It is to take’ action in line with a world-wide trend, to transfer the control of a research observa-tory to the National University. That is all. It is the sort of thing that is taking place in many countries, and is in keeping, with a trend that undoubtedly will continue. Other observatories will, unquestionably, come under the control of universities. This action is not being undertaken lightly, and for a long time it has been the subject of close consideration. There was complete agreement between Dr. Woolley and the Board of Visitors to the observatory, a: body consisting of seven scientists from various States under the chairmanship of Professor Vonwiller. All these persons, in conference, decided that the National University was the most appropriate authority to control the observatory.
I could not help feeling that the Leader, of the Opposition, in attempting to adduce fresh argument, was forced to draw the long bow rather more frequently than he usually does. First, he complained about the procedure taken in relation to the Estimates. I suggest to the Leader of the Opposition that this is not an unusual way of treating such a matter. It is not extraordinary that the Treasury should anticipate the passing of legislation to transfer the control of this establishment. The honorable senator complained, also, that clause 5 of the bill, which empowers the Minister to make arrangements, is permissive. That, too, is quite a usual procedure. He need have no fear that any Minister will violate the assurance contained in clause 5 of the bill as to the use of the fund.
– Where is that assurance?
– I, for one, would be prepared to accept the clause, as drafted, permissively, as the Leader of the Opposition described it, as an assurance that the Minister would use the money in the manner in which it was intended. Details of the arrangements to be made by the Minister under clause 5 have been discussed by officials of the Department of the Interior with representatives of the National University and with Dr. Bok. No difficulties are expected in relation to any of the matters to be covered by that arrangement. The university is prepared to give the undertakings required by the Minister, particularly with regard to the use of the trust fund for the observatory.
The Leader of the Opposition asked what conditions the staff would enjoy. I am informed that their conditions will be improved, because of provision for study leave for the scientists. There will be no change in salary. The Leader of the Opposition asked how the staff of the observatory regarded this proposed change. Two members of the office staff are not accepting transfer to the university, and they are being found other positions in the Public Service. All other members of the staff are making the transfer and are happy to do so.
This measure is a simple one, and does nothing more than follow a trend which is completely normal and usual. There is nothing sinister about it; it is straightforward, deserves support, andI commend it to the Senate.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
SenatorMcKENNA (Tasmania - Leader of the Opposition) [9.22]. - I desireto direct some questions about clause 5 to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge). Does he agree that under the Appropriation Bill no moneys will be available to the Mount Stromlo observatory, as such, after the end of the year? Thereafter, moneys for the observatory will be made available through the Australian National University. Does the Minister acknowledge that that obliges the conclusion of the arrangement contemplated in clause 5 within the next two months? Will those arrangements, when made, be reduced to writing? I think that the Minister will agree that arrangements upon which depend the rights of the staff, amongst other things, and directions as to the use of moneys in various undertakings should not be left at large on purely oral discussions. Can the Minister give to the committee the real reason why that was not done before this bill was introduced? What could be the difficulty, when this change has been in contemplation for three years, in determining all these matters between the university, the Department of the Interior and the Mount Stromlo observatory? What could be the real reason for not presenting the agreement in a settled form to the committee? If the arrangement is to be reduced to writing, will the document be laid upon the table of the Senate at the first opportunity, and will it in the meantime be published and made available?
The Minister has already acknowledged that clause 5 was correctly described by me as being permissive only in its effect, and as not pledging the Minister to make arrangements of this type, but merely authorizing him to enter into such arrangements. The Minister said that he is prepared to accept those general permissions as assurances. I fail to see how he can construe a mere authority to the Minister as an assurance to anybody with an interest in this matter. I invite him to point out where there is any suggestion in clause 5 that the university will be given enough additional money to enable it to carry on the work of the observatory. If the Minister quotes sub-clause (3.) of clause 5 in reply to me, 1 point out that sub-clause (3.) reads - (3.) An arrangement under this section may include such undertakings by the University as the Minister thinks necessary with respect to -
That provision does no more than purport presently to impose an obligation on the university to continue the activities of the observatory. That is not my point. 1 ask: Where is the assurance of the type the Minister construes from this clause that the Government will make the necessary funds available to the university to continue the work of the observatory?
.- I should like to know what will be the status of those who control the Mount Stromlo observatory when it is within the Australian National University. Will the Director of the Observatory become the dean of a faculty in the university or a senior professor on the teaching and professorial and research staff, or will the observatory become a sub-department within a major department of investigation in the university? That type of question goes to the concern of the Opposition in relation to this bill because the observatory is a scientific unit which, in its present circumstances, has been doing excellent work with moneys provided by the Government. We are concerned that under this new arrangement the standard of work of this unit shall be at no lower level. The fact that the staff may consider the change desirable and that the transfer should take place is not in itself a compelling reason why such an alteration should be made. The Government must be satisfied that this transfer will maintain the work of the observatory at its present high level, and that the observatory will enjoy a status within the university which will enable it to present its demands for money within the budget of the university just as it had a status within the Department of the Interior. Can the Minister indicate the position and status that the observatory will have within the
Australian National University, and its relations with the board of visitors of that institution?
.- I point out that if this mesaure is passed the officers of the Mount Stromlo observatory, being officers of the Australian National University, will” not need to come under the provisions of the Public Service Act. It would mean, in effect, that any one could be recruited to the observatory’s staff. I am thinking of those at present connected with the observatory, and it seems to me that under the measure, no person at the observatory will be controlled by the Public Service Act as he would be if the observatory remained under the administration of the Department of the Interior.
.- If the Mount Stromlo observatory is transferred to the Australian National University, will diplomas, degrees and fellowships in astrophysics be granted with equal status to degrees granted in other departments of the university?
. -I should like the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) to say whether it is a fact that two members of the present staff of the Mount Stromlo observatory are not being transferred and, if so, why that step is being taken.
. -I inform the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) that the matters about which he asked will be reduced to writing and will be in the form of an agreement. I know of no reason why that agreement, upon completion, should not be tabled. I think it was the Leader of the Opposition who asked also about an assurance of moneys being made available.
– Being made available to the Australian National University in the future.
– I think the only and most effective answerI can give is that the assurance of the past will be the assurance of the future. If it were not intended that moneys should be made available to the university, the whole purpose of the transfer of the observatory would be defeated. 1 put it only on the level of common sense that moneys will be made available to the National University for the purposes of the university and, particularly as we are now discussing the Mount Stromlo observatory, to cover the activities of the observatory.
– Will the agreement have any reference to the provision of funds?
– 1 am informed that probably it will not, that it will not lay down any amount to be made available throughout the years, but that votes will continue to be made in the future as they are now made for any department. There will be no guarantee of a certain sum, but the vote will depend, as must the votes of all government departments and instrumentalities, on the economic situation, the availability of money, and things of that nature. Senator Byrne asked what the status will be of the person now in charge of the observatory who is to be transferred to the Australian National University.
– I asked what the status of the observatory will be within the pattern of the National University.
– At the university, he will be known as the Professor of Astronomy, and astronomy will be a section of the School of Physical Sciences. The professor will also be the Commonwealth Astronomer. In reply to Senator Kennelly, clause 7 covers those persons who will be transferred to the university. I am informed that future appointments will not be so covered.
– That would not be the reason for the bill?
– No. The bill concerns itself with the rights of those persons who are being transferred, but not with the rights of those who will be appointed in the future. Senator O’Byrne asked me a question about the awarding of diplomas and degrees in astro-physics from the university. I am sorry that I am not in a position to give him any information on that matter. Senator Toohey asked me about two members of the observatory staff who are not being transferred to the staff of the university. They are members of the office staff and are not accepting transfer. They prefer not to go to the university, and they are being found other positions in the Public Service.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) whether the Professor of Astronomy, which is the title by which the person in charge of the Mount Stromlo observatory will be known, will be responsible directly to the Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University or the university council, or whether he will be responsible to and will take orders from Professor Oliphant or some other member of the staff of the university.
– I am informed that he will be responsible directly to the vicechancellor.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 18th October (vide page 730),. on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill now before the Senate is for the purpose of making available £8,500,000 for the continuation of the land settlement of ex-servicemen. That seems to be a very large sum but, when one takes into account the present inflated value of land, it is only a very small sum. Recently, I listened to a debate on immigration during which Senator Buttfield said that immigrants could be settled on the land. Let me remind Senator Buttfield and the Senate generally that there are thousands of ex-servicemen who are still waiting for land to be made available. Although I agree with her or any one else who suggests that more people should be placed on the land, it is quite impossible for the Government to place immigrants on the land at the present time.
I have before me figures showing the price of land when the settlement of exservicemen was commenced after World War II. Those of us who took part in World War T. remember the failure of the land settlement scheme that was put into operation by the Commonwealth Government through the Repatriation Department after that war. What happened in the land settlement of ex-servicemen after World War I. could quite easily happen again if something is not done immediately. In 1931 and 1932, many ex-servicemen of World War I., who were settled on the land when land prices were not inflated as they are to-day, had to leave their farms and carry their swags in an effort to obtain work. Remembering what happened in those days, the Labour government, led by John Curtin, determined to take steps to protect soldier settlers after World War II. From time to time between 1942 and when the war finished in 1945, that government discussed with the various State governments a new scheme for the land settlement of ex-servicemen. In my own State of Victoria, the land settlement of ex-servicemen has been handled much better since World War II. than it was after World War I. In addition to conferring with the Victorian Government - Labour was then in office in that State - the Federal Government also conferred with ex-servicemen’s organizations, and drew up a scheme that assured soldier settlers of success unless they became ill or were too lazy to work the ground efficiently.
The Victorian Government commenced acquiring land for soldier settlement in 1945. At 1st July, 1947, it had acquired 233,208 acres for £2. 1 34,554, which was an average cost of £9 an acre. By 1949, the average cost per acre of land acquired for this purpose had risen to £9 15s. In 1950-51, ‘85,826 acres of land were acquired in Victoria, at a cost of more than £2,000,000. The average price per acre in that year was £23 10s. By 30th June, 1954, the cost of acquiring land for soldier settlement blocks had risen from £23 10s. to £25 an acre. Since then, land values have been further inflated.
Instead of £8,500,000 being provided for the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land this year, I think £40,000,000’ or £50,000,000 should be provided, in order to permit the States to implement fully their land settlement schemes. As I said a few minutes ago, land values depreciated considerably in. 1931 and 1932. When the soldier settlers were forced to walk off their blocks, they lost their equity in the land, and the Federal Government was saddled with a financial liability that took years to write off. Because the price of wheat is dropping, I am apprehensive that a position similar to that of the early ‘thirties may arise. Land was acquired in the Ribbonvale area of Victoria when dried fruits were selling at up to £100 a ton. The selling price of dried fruits has since dropped by, almost 50 per cent,
I believe that land should be acquirer! for further soldier settlement, not at today’s inflated values, but at a valuation, based on its productive capacity in normal times, lt must be borne in mind that much of the land that is now being acquired id Victoria for soldier settlement has never previously been used for grazing or foi irrigation farming. I do not agree with the attitude of people who complain that the Labour Government that was in office from 1945 to 1947 should not have acquired land at the 1942 pegged prices. If land for soldier settlement were acquired at prices based on the productive capacity of the land in normal times, I should not be apprehensive about the future of primary production in Australia. But I have a great fear that if to-day’s inflated prices are paid for land for this purpose, the success of the- war service land settlement scheme, as far as future setlers are concerned, will be prejudiced.
I think that the federal Government should also assist young people who have a knowledge of farming to go on the land. I do not think that there can ever be overproduction, provided a proper system of distribution is observed.
While I am not opposed to the bill, 1 think that it contains anomalies. Eleven years after the termination of World War 11., ex-servicemen who desire to settle on the land should not be still waiting for government assistance to do so. U .i* foolish for the Government to make a man wait until he is in his ‘fifties before settling him on the land. I should like to see the war service land settlement scheme moving quicker. I urge the Government to make more money available for the purposes of the scheme, so that many ex-servicemen who are waiting for blocks may get them before they are too old to> work.
– I support the bill. Although 1 endorse some of Senator Hendrickson^ remarks, 1. cannot agree with everything he said. I certainly agree with his contention that many of the pitfalls of the war service land setlement scheme that was introduced after World War I. were avoided in the new scheme after World War II.
The agreement between the Commonwealth and the States contains certain safeguards for ex-servicemen settlers. Speaking of the position in the agent States - I do not know the present position in the major States - in order to prevent the individual ex-servicemen settlers from being saddled with an unfair financial burden, an arrangement has been made under which the value of soldier settlement blocks will be assessed on a production basis. If any excessive costs cause the finally determined production figure to be exceeded it will be written down and the soldier will get the benefit. Any loss under this heading will be borne in part by the Commonwealth and in part by the State. That is part and parcel of tile War Service Land Settlement Agreement as it applies, at any rate, to the agent States.
– What is the percentage borne by each?
– I think it is twofifths by the State and three-fifths by the Commonwealth; it is stated in the agreement. I believe that that was a very wise provision to be inserted at the beginning. I should like the Minister, when he replies, to inform me whether in actual practice there has been a writing down because of the terms of the agreement. If that has taken place I would be interested to know to what extent such writing down has taken place in terms of money and the number of properties involved up to date.
In regard to Senator Hendrickson^ concern about whether land has been putchased at too great a price, let me say that, perhaps, Victoria has some responsibility in that matter. I would not know whether in fact too much has been paid for land for war service land settlement in that State; but I presume that the State governments have some responsibility if farms are overcapitalized because of the cost of land. Criticism has been levelled against New South Wales on the ground that it has been unfair io landholders when purchasing land for land settlement. I believe that until recently, at any rate, it has worked ,on 1942 values and has compulsorily acquired land. The matter has been raised and discussed on more than one occasion as to whether the Commonwealth should advance moneys to New South Wales while it acted in such an unfair fashion by acquiring land on the basis of 1942 values. There is a reason for all things and there is a reason for this.
I speak particularly in regard to the agent Slates and about what happened in my own State of South Australia. 1 was reminded by the Minister in his second-reading speech that in the agent States a total of £38,500,000 has been spent up to 30th June, 1956, and that for the year 1956-57 provision is being made in this bill of £5,000,000 for the purpose of acquisition, development and other capital .expenditure in improving those properties. In addition to the £5,000.000 available to the agent States, anticipated repayments amount to £3,750,000 which means that there will be available for capital expenditure in the current year a total of £8,750,000. I am interested to know that in South Australia a total of £15,973,000 has been spent so far, of which the Commonwealth has provided £15,875,000 and the State £98,000. I learn from a table submitted by the Minister during his second-reading speech that 718 farms have been allotted in South Australia.
In following the debate through in another place, I found that one member of that august chamber, who thought he was particularly good at sums, suggested that one had only to divide the sum of. approximately £16,000,000 by 718 and one would arrive at the capital expenditure of each of these 718 farms. That, of course, is most misleading, to say the least. I understand that the sum of nearly £16,000,000 in my own State includes quite a deal of expenditure on land which is in the process of being developed prior to allotment. Therefore, it is not sufficient merely to divide the number of farms actually allotted into the total amount spent. We have to remember that thousands of pounds are spent on these holdings prior to allotment. The average would be something over £20.000 a holding in South Australia. I know of projects now being developed on which money, almost up to that amount, has been spent.
That has also been included in the £16,000,000 made available to South Australia. I hope this unrealistic approach to the matter will not be pursued in this chamber.
South Australia has done a very good job in regard to war service land settlement and nobody has any reason to suggest that over-capitalization has taken place or that the State has wasted the money made available to it. Costs have been kept to a minimum and I know - and this probably answers some anxiety on the part of Senator Hendrickson - that in the case of the agent States the Commonwealth does not accept any projects under the scheme until it is satisfied that no grave danger exists of over-capitalization, writing down, or loss to the soldier settler. I commend the Commonwealth for its cautious attitude in this matter. I hope it is not over-cautious, but I believe that both the States and the Commonwealth have done a very wise thing in agreeing that before land is. acquired and developed there should be no real danger of that land being bought at too high a price which would only involve the settler in hardship and the Commonwealth and the States between them in ultimately writing down the value.
As I have said, the whole picture in South Australia is a good one. In almost every instance virgin country has been developed; land previously producing nothing, or perhaps just a few scrubby sheep, now has sheep and lambs grazing on it. That has much to commend it. It is probably a longdrawnout process because much work has to be done to bring land such as that into production, but when it is accomplished it means new production. Both the State and the Commonwealth reap the benefit. It is to the credit of all concerned that some of these areas have been pioneered. It is really a pretty sight to travel through them and see green pastures on which are grazing sheep, cattle and lambs. That is all to the credit of those responsible whether they be connected with the State or the Commonwealth.
I have some particular areas in mind and no doubt will be pardoned if I take a few moments to refer to them. Some 50 to 60 settlers have been settled under ideal conditions on Eyre Peninsula. Some teething troubles or growing pains were experienced^ but I do not think any real anxiety exists on the part of anybody as to the ultimate success of the scheme. I hope I may be pardoned if I say that I played some small part in the initial stages regarding the purchase of the land for that scheme. On Kangaroo Island 170 holdings are in the process of being developed. The land there was of a similar raw type but was accepted by the Commonwealth, and is now in the process of being developed. Returned soldiers have also been settled in the river Murray area. There will be 350 holdings at Loxton, Cooltong and Loveday when the area is finally allotted. They will be fruitgrowing blocks. Successful settlement is taking place in other areas in the south-east, and there are great possibilities in such expansion. 1 hope that the settlement of land, particularly in the Hundred of Jeffreys, will be approved by the Commonwealth Government at least as a start. 1 know that the matter has been receiving earnest and faithful attention, and 1 hope that, as a result, the South Australian Government will be allowed to allot half a dozen blocks that are in question now.
I pay tribute to the work that has been done in South Australia by Commonwealth’ officers and by the Land Development Executive. It was pioneering work, and there have been many heartaches, but I believe that, in the end, men who are settled in those areas will be able to make a good living. I like to think that they will not have to start from scratch, as did men after World War I., many of whom found themselves virtually bankrupt after battling for fifteen or twenty years. 1 do not think there is any possibility of that happening in South Australia as the work has been approached carefully by all concerned.
If Senator Critchley were in the chamber, I am sure that he would pay tribute to the work that is being done by the Administration in South Australia. 1 know that he gives credit where it is due, and that he is sincere, and I always appreciate his sentiments.
– The bill provides for the expenditure of, £8,500,000 on land settlement. I believe it is not sufficient. Eleven years have passed since World War II. and the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land is still far from finished. We depend heavily on rural production, and we should settle ex-servicemen on the land as quickly as possible so that we can proceed with the land settlement of civilians. If we can get the land into production, it will be for the welfare of Australia. We are taking too long, and probably are being too elaborate, with the farms we are preparing for exservicemen. They could go onto the land much sooner than they are doing now by waiting for the Government to prepare it to the point where it is practically in applepie order. It is all very well to do that, but the ex-serviceman should be left some work on the farm so that he can improve his equity in the holding.
The holdings are too expensive. Senator Pearson referred to the manner in which the value was determined, and he said that it was not quite the correct method. In Tasmania, the value of holdings is reaching astronomical figures. The Commonwealth Government and the State have spent in Tasmania £9,450,326. If we divide that amount by the number of farms that have been allotted and the number that are incomplete, but upon which work is still being done, we can discover what farm holdings are costing. I am not speaking of those that have been allotted and dividing that number into the total sum that has been expended. I am taking into account all the proposed farms on which work is being done at present as well as those that have been allotted.
– Including those in the Montague and Mowbray Swamps?
– Yes. Altogether, 340 have been allotted and 642 are to be provided. An amount of £9,450,326 has been spent, and that is equal to £14,720 for each property. Honorable senators should remember that 302 properties are in process of being completed. As Senator Aylett has pointed out, there are 100 dairy farms in the Mowbray Swamp. I think the Government acted wrongly in going into that area for soldier settlement, because there are many difficulties. Huge drains have to be dug, and the land has to be drained to make it suitable for dairy production. The cost is. enormous. I do not know the exact amount, but the total will be about £1,000,000 before those farms are in full production. The capital cost of those properties should be investigated.
– Does the cost cover houses, sheds and stock?
– It will include all those improvements. There are still 302 properties virtually without houses, barns or stock In the case of the Mowbray Swamp, . the cost of putting the land in working order will be tremendous, and the capital value of the farms is very worrying to the settlers. I am sure that the Government will have to come to an arrangement to reduce capital costs considerably. I have said that the average cost is £14,720. The area of the farms varies from 150 to 180 acres. There are not many sheep properties. Most of them are dairy farms. On King Island a dairy farm of 150 acres costs £14,000. There will have to be a great deal of writing down by the Government. Like Senator Pearson, I understand that the Commonwealth Government is to bear threefifths of the writing down and the State Government two-fifths, and in my view much better results would have been achieved by concentrating more on single-unit farms. There are many of these farms in Tasmania, especially in the marginal country and the outback areas, that could have been bought and put into production quite reasonably, but the Commonwealth Government seems to prefer extensive schemes. In Tasmania, we require only about 600 farms to meet the needs of applicants. Instead of these extensive schemes which have become expensive schemes, the Government could have provided single-unit farms for exservicemen.
In Tasmania, we are in the happy position of having fulfilled the needs of all soldier settlers once the farms now under way are completed. Already 340 have been allotted, and of the 360 remaining applicants, 111 are from the mainland. In those circumstances, we have no quarrel about speed in satisfying applicants; but we do have great quarrel with the extensive schemes that have been undertaken and which have resulted in exorbitant cost. However, the Government is endeavouring to settle returned servicemen and we should like to see them settled more quickly so that we may push on with’ settling civilians on the land. The settlement of civilians should not be so costly because I presume that, unlike the soldiers, the civilians will have to effect most of the improvements themselves. We need more primary production in Australia in order to maintain our export income, and if the Government will only hasten with the settlement of these men Australia’s economic position will be made stronger. I support the bill because I believe the ideals aimed at are right, although 1 am of the opinion that insufficient money is being allotted for the work that should be done.
– In presenting this bill, the Government ignores the realities of the present position. Those realities are that the rural population is declining and the city population is increasing. This means that fewer people are earning a living from the land because country dwellers have gravitated to the cities. According to a survey carried out by the British Farm Equipment Company in 1952, the rural population of Australia declined by 70,000 in the decade from 1942 to 1952 while the productivity of the man on the land increased by 50 per cent. There has been a further decline in our rural population since 1952, and the figures supplied in answer to a question asked by Senator Kennelly last week disclose that this decline is continuing. In those circumstances, it cannot be argued that a bill such as the one under discussion can do anything to improve the lot of ex-servicemen in the slightest. On paper it would appear to do so, but in practice it has the opposite effect.
Together with this decline in rural population, we have increasing surpluses of primary production for which there are no markets. That state of affairs obtains in every country. In America, for instance, the surpluses are phenomenal. Mr. Clement D. Johnson, Director of the New York Chamber of Commerce, when he visited Australia last year, said that it was costing America £800,000 a day to store surplus primary products for which there was no market. We now hear the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) complaining that America is dumping these surpluses on markets which hitherto were prepared to take Australian products, and although the Government brings down schemes which look excellent on paper, I should like to know what it intends to do in a practical way for our ex-servicemen. Consumption is lagging more and more behind production in Australia. Only last week the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ published a graph showing that the majority of the population is being concentrated round Sydney, Newcastle and other cities whilst the rural population is declining. I should like to know how the Government expects, by this or any other bill we have seen to date, to establish and maintain a balanced population or to ensure that consumption both within and without our boundaries shall keep pace with production.
The Minister gave no indication during his second-reading speech of what. the Government proposed to do. Fundamentally, as labour power diminishes in production as a result of mechanization, the effective value of the wage also declines to that extent. Therefore, an increasing number of men and women are unable to maintain themselves on the land. For all practical purposes the small farms, as is the case with small business concerns in the city, are dying out.
What does the Government propose to do? The bill provides for the lending of £8,500,000. What will the settlers do with that money if they cannot find a market for their product or cannot compete with larger farmers, as is the case now? The Government is entirely ignoring that aspect, and the overall effect is that the economy of the country is becoming more and more unbalanced and unworkable foi a majority of the people.
When a bill such as this is presented to the Senate, I should feel that I was remisein my duty if I did not direct attention to what is happening. My statements are not based on hearsay, and if the position i examined by private firms or government statisticians it will be found that what I have said is correct. Why should the Government deceive ex-servicemen into believing that it is doing something for them: Why should it mislead them, refuse to face realities and fail to produce a plan for the establishment and maintenance of a better balanced economy? As a result of the Government’s policy the city population is increasing and reaching a stage of. dynamic density. This has the effect of increasing the slum population, the gaol population and the mentally ill population. That is happening not only in Australia, but also in other countries. Chronologically, Australia is young in comparison with other countries, and a great deal more could be done here if a little of the faculty known as creative imagination or understanding were used. The approach being made to land settlement by the Government is similar to that made 100 years or more ago, when it was assumed that everybody who was able and willing to go on the land could be settled. That cannot be done under existing conditions.
During the last election campaign. I addressed large meetings of Greeks, Italians and other immigrants who came to Australia believing that they could settle on the land. They asked why they were unable to do so. Under existing conditions, it is economically impossible for them to do so, and that position will never change until purchasing power is equal to the value of the goods produced. The Government will find that it is still accumulating surpluses that cannot be disposed of, and population will be centralized in the cities because people cannot make a living on the land.
If ex-servicemen were settled on the land under the terms of this bill, whatever t hey produced could not be sold under existing conditions because of accumulating surpluses. Last January, I travelled through the wheat belt of Western Australia and saw thousands of bushels of wheat unsold. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) was spending thousands of pounds on a trip overseas in an effort to obtain markets for it. That cannot be done.
I ask the Government again why does it not face the real position, and bring down a bill to make possible the settling of men and women on the land under conditions which will enable them to make a decent living? It is allowing conditions to continue under which people congregate in the cities where there is a shortage of housing and facilities of all kinds, and where the children are not given the schooling or attention that they deserve. Until a more balanced approach is made to this problem a bill of this kind is so much political eyewash. It does not mean a thing to the ex-servicemen, any more than similar legislation meant to ex-servicemen of World War I.
I am wondering how long the Government will continue along the present lines before action is taken - as ultimately it will have to be taken - either to force it to face the position or to give way to another party that will attempt to settle ex-servicemen under proper conditions.
– I support the bill, and I wish to reply to some of the remarks made by Senator Cameron. I was not sure whether he was addressing his remarks to the bill, because he seemed to be confused in his thinking. He said that ex-servicemen could not be settled on the land economically, and that the Government was trying to deceive them by attempting to do it. Does the honorable senator suggest that the Government should jettison the promises made in 1945 to settle these men on the land? The Government has an obligation to rehabilitate the men. and it should fulfil its promise to the letter.
Senator Hendrickson referred to the costs of improved land for soldier settlement. He painted a very dismal picture about the price to be paid for it. I do not think it can be purchased any cheaper than at the full market price. The New South Wales Government has been acquiring land at 1942 values, and this has been acclaimed throughout Australia as something that no honest government would do. Nevertheless, that Government of New South Wales has continued to do it. In Tasmania, the Government has been concentrating on the development of virgin land for settlement, and the payment of the full market price for it has proved to be more satisfactory than to resume it under compulsory acquisition as is done in New South Wales..
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A.
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 October 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1956/19561030_senate_22_s9/>.