22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The Senate met at 3 p.m.
The Acting Clerk. - I have received advice that the President (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) is unable to attend the sittings of the Senate to-day. In accordance with Standing Order 29, the Chairman of Committees will take the chair as Deputy President.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid) thereupon took the chair, and read prayers.
– Can the Minister for National Development say whether it is a fact that mineral production in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is on the decline? Has approval been given for the Bureau of Mineral Resources to carry out a geological survey of the Territory? If so, can the Minister advise the Senate when this work started, and whether the bureau has made any significant discoveries of new mineral deposits? Is the Government making special loans available to prospectors and others to assist in the promotion of mining in the Territory?
– Statistical records show that there has been some decline of mining and mineral production in the Territory. Arrangements have been made for the Bureau of Mineral Resources to carry out some work in Papua and New Guinea, but I am unable to give any details of the result of that work. My recollection is that the operations undertaken by the bureau commenced comparatively recently - not more than a few months ago. It is, of course, unreasonable to expect quick results from mining exploration, as the honorable senator knows. There is in operation a scheme under which prospecting in Papua and New Guinea is subsidized by the Administration, on certain conditions, on a £l-for-£l basis.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade aware that the licensing section of the Department of
Trade is considered by the public to be a hot-bed of corruption and inefficiency? In order to dispel this attitude will the Minister appoint a special committee, one member of which, I suggest, should be Sir Douglas Copland, to investigate the whole of the licensing scheme which is now operating so deplorably?
– It is terribly unfair for an honorable senator to stand up and make a general accusation like that against a big group of employees of the Government or employees of any one else. If the honorable senator believes what he says, if he is genuine, then he should make a specific accusation against a specific person. If he is not prepared to make a specific accusation, then I say to him that he does not believe the accusation he is making, that he is making it .quite insincerely and is prepared to victimize employees without any justification at all.
– Is the Minister for Repatriation in a position to inform the Senate whether the number of ex-service men and women who have appealed to entitlement appeal tribunals against decisions of the department in the matter of pensions and so on is increasing or decreasing, particularly during the last six months?
– From memory it would be rather difficult to say whether the number is decreasing or increasing. I can inform the honorable senator that so far as the assessment appeal tribunals are concerned the number of outstanding applications has considerably decreased. The appointment of an additional tribunal has reduced the waiting time. In regard to the entitlement appeal tribunals, the number of outstanding applications has slightly increased. That has been due, more or less, to the holiday recess at Christmas and New Year. I cannot say whether the actual number of new cases is increasing or decreasing; I would say that it is more or less static at approximately 800 a month. Such applications have not reached the peak at the present time. I shall obtain the information sought by the honorable senator in respect of applications te the entitlement appeal tribunals.
– Is the Minister for National Development aware that, in Tasmania, there is a waiting period of fifteen months before an ex-serviceman can obtain finance from the War Service Homes Division to buy an existing home, and of approximately ten months before he can obtain a loan to build a home? In view of these long waiting periods, will the Minister endeavour to have a larger amount of money made available to the division to enable ex-servicemen to be more expeditiously housed? Will he also give favorable consideration to extending the provisions of the War Service Homes Act to cover persons who served in the Citizen Military Forces, particularly those who were rejected for overseas service?
– The answer to the first question is “ Yes “. As the second question relates to a budgetary matter, it will be considered when the budget is under consideration. The answer to the third question is “ No “.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is he aware that the Royal Flying Doctor Service urgently needs increased financial aid from the Commonwealth Government to enable it to continue the excellent work that it is doing in remote areas? Does the Minister know that in the year ended 30th June, 1956, the Royal Flying Doctor Service operated 1,122 flights and flew 385,563 miles in the service of people in isolated areas, and that its operational costs have increased steadily from £147,000 in 1954-55 to £162,000 in the year ended 30th June, 1956? Will the Minister give urgent consideration to making available to this highly efficient and necessary service adequate finance to enable it to continue its activities? What arrangement, if any, has been made for financial allocations to the Royal Flying Doctor Service for capital expenditure since the Government’s agreement to provide £15,000 a year on a £l-for-£l basis ceased to operate on 30th June, 1956?
– We all are aware of the extraordinarily great national service that is rendered by the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and I am sure that the responsible
Minister will give very sympathetic consideration to any representations that are made to him by that organization.
– The question that I address to the Minister for Shipping and Transport is supplementary to one that was asked yesterday by my colleague, Senator Wardlaw, but I seek more definite information from the Minister. It arises from a reported statement by the Premier of Tasmania - which caused apprehension in the minds of the people of that State - that because of the Government’s, accelerated naval shipbuilding programme, the construction of the new Bass Strait ferry steamer would be, or could be, delayed. In order, I hope, to remove that doubt, I ask the Minister: Is he in a position to state definitely that the Government’s accelerated naval shipbuilding programme will in no way delay the construction of the new Bass Strait ferry steamer?
– So far as I am aware, all the current naval shipbuilding is taking place in naval shipyards. The Bass Strait ferry steamer is being constructed at Newcastle. I have made repeated inquiries, and I have heard nothing during the past few months to indicate that construction of the ferry will be delayed. Indeed, everything indicates that it will be in commission on the scheduled date. The vessel is to be completed in November, 1959, and there is no reason to believe that it will not be finished then.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, and I hope that he will not blow up. Will the Minister inform the Senate what specific influence has to be used to enable a person to get a licence to import goods if he did not have an established quota in 1954 or 1955?
– I see no occasion to blow up over the question that has been asked by the honorable senator. It is quite a legitimate question, and I wish I were as confident of my capacity to answer it as I am certain of its validity. It is difficult to give a brief answer, but I should like to delete from the question the words “ specific influence “. The granting of an import licence confers a very valuable right upon a person, and I should be sorry to think that licences were given on any basis other than the merits of the case.
I am certain that the Minister for Trade has issued a statement setting out the principles that have guided him and the Department of Trade in issuing import licences. I discussed one aspect yesterday; that was, the preference that was given, so far as possible, to those who were well established for a long time in the import business. Other orders of priority are determined on such grounds as goods needed for capital equipment or for manufacture. Raw materials for manufacturers are in one order of priority, and others are determined according to particular cases. I repudiate the suggestion that any specific influence operates. Those few words have a sinister touch about them, and I would delete them from the question and say that, by and large, the licences are issued to meet commercial needs in order to allow goods to be brought into the country in an order of priority that is in accordance with the needs of the nation.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. In view of the disaster that has taken place over the Suez Canal since the policy laid down by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the Prime Minister of Australia was applied without consultation with Canada or even the United States of America, is it the intention of the Prime Minister or his deputy to make a statement to this Parliament and to the people telling them exactly what happened, and what we are going to do now to try to overcome the disaster that has happened because we have ignored the United Nations, the United States of America and the British Dominions?
– Yesterday, in reply to a question, I made a statement in this chamber on behalf of the Deputy Prime Minister. It was in the same terms as the statement that was made by the Deputy Prime Minister himself in another place. That statement set out the policy of the United Kingdom in connexion with the present position in relation to the Suez Canal.
I made a statement to the effect that the Australian Government supported the United Kingdom Government in its present policy. What the honorable senator asks is that some statement be made as to the actual circumstances that arose at the time of the Suez crisis. I have seen no such statement made in either Great Britain, France or America, and therefore I cannot hold out hope that such a statement will be made in Australia.
– Do I take it that all this has happened, and the Australian public is not to be informed at all?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order!
– Do I take it, after the Minister’s explanation now, that everything is finished, that the fiasco has taken place and we are not to be told anything more about it?
– The honorable senator has a different conception of the Suez Canal crisis from what I have. He says it has finished. In my judgment, it is only just commencing; but it is not for me to make prognostications concerning future developments.
– In the absence of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, I ask the Minister for National Development, as the Prime Minister’s representative, whether he remembers that during the acute period of unemployment, which is still affecting workers in Western Australia, the question of Commonwealth capital expenditure in that State was raised and that several projects were advocated both here and in another place as being possible means of relieving the situation. Is he aware that the Premier of Western Australia, the Honorable R. A. G. Hawke, wired to the Commonwealth Government on 29th March urgently requesting the commencement of work on a building approved for the Australian Broadcasting Commission? Is he aware that the Minister for Immigration replied that the Joint Committee on Public Works had approved of the proposed building, but that it would take twelve months to draw up plans and call tenders and on present indications that work might be included in the civil works programme of the Commonwealth Government in Western Australia in 1958-59? In view of the urgent need for capital expenditure in Western Australia, and having regard to the fact that the failure to carry out many of the projects which have been promised for that State is causing concern, will the Minister tell us whether it is possible at all to speed up the allocation of Commonwealth funds for expenditure in Western Australia so that at least this building may be commenced as soon as possible?
– Knowing that the honorable senator tries to exaggerate to the fullest extent the unemployment position in Western Australia, I always keep the figures before me so that we can keep this problem in its right perspective. The latest figures available disclose that at 27th April there were only 1,630 males in the whole of Western Australia in receipt of unemployment relief benefit. Such a position as that cannot be developed into any sort of crisis.
The next point I make is that the Commonwealth Government did make some additional loan moneys available to Western Australia. A list of works in Western Australia was submitted through the representatives of that State, and the Commonwealth said to the Western Australian Government, in specific terms, “ Here is additional financial assistance. You use that yourself in the way in which you consider best.” The State has had the benefit of that additional finance. Now the honorable senator proceeds to add a list of works, and by so doing, he is hardly playing the game.
I am sorry that I know nothing about the third point mentioned by him - the correspondence with my colleague, Mr. Townley.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. It relates to a person who has been engaged as a manufacturer in the textile industry for two or three years. He was caught up by the import restrictions, and eventually carried on his business by purchasing surplus quotas from some big firms and other persons, after advertising his intention openly in the press. He has now been refused a quota which would be sufficient for him to carry on his business. He employs 60 persons in the manufacture of the cheaper lines of women’s clothing. He purchases 75 per cent, of his material in Australia, and in order to carry on his business it is necessary for him to import the remaining 25 per cent. I have particulars of the case, which I shall be glad to submit to the Minister for examination. Must this manufacturer close his business and sack his 60 employees, or will he be granted a quota?
– The honorable senator should make his representations in the usual way to the Department of Trade. If he does so, I am quite certain that action appropriate to the case will be taken.
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The following replies are furnished: -
– On 2nd May, Senator Hannan asked me the following question: -
In directing a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, I point out that reference has been made to the experimental frequency modulation transmissions carried out by the Postmaster-General’s Department on programmes of the Australian Broadcasting Commission from Jolimont, Melbourne, and also from Sydney and Adelaide. Is it the department’s intention to continue and regularize these experimental transmissions which are widely appreciated? If so, is it intended to extend them to other cities?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished the following reply: -
Experimental frequency modulation broadcasting stations are operating in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, and it is proposed to continue the transmissions until a decision is reached by the Government regarding the general introduction of frequency modulation broadcasting after a public inquiry is made by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board into this matter in the near future. It is not considered necessary to extend the transmissions to other cities at this stage.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence Production, upon notice -
– The following replies have been furnished: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence Production, upon notice -
With a view to maintaining the existing Australian aircraft manufacturing industry when its current run of military aircraft is completed and to reducing delays in the purchase of airliners, will the Government give consideration to the possibility of procuring the manufacture of civil aircraft and transports in Australia, either under licence or otherwise?
– The following reply has been furnished: -
I have already given some thought to the suggestion that Australia manufacture civil aircraft. There are substantial difficulties in adopting it, particularly so far as government factories are concerned, not the least being the small number of aircraft of any one type actually required annually for commercial purposes. However, I shall give this question further consideration.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence Production, upon notice -
– The following replies have been furnished: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply -
– The following replies have been furnished: -
– On 20th March,
asked a question without notice concerning the extension of the Bell Bay aluminium plant. The Minister for Supply has supplied the following answer: -
The Australian Aluminium Production Commission has its own deposits of good grade bauxite on Marchinbar Island off the north-east corner of the Northern Territory, and the recent discovery of bauxite deposits on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula has no bearing on the question of whether the Bell Bay aluminium plant should be extended in the near future. The latter question will be considered by the Government at the appropriate time. The Commission’s engineering and other technical staff are fully engaged in building up production and increasing efficiency. In the circumstances, it would be premature to consider an extension of the plant.
– On 10th April, Senator Vincent asked a question without notice regarding the manufacture in Australia of F.104 Starfighter aircraft. The Minister for Defence Production has supplied the following answer: -
The Government has recently decided that an aircraft with a performance equivalent to the F.104 Starfighter will be made in Australia and that a technical mission will proceed overseas as soon as practicable to investigate the techniques and processes developed by the manufacturers of the selected aircraft type. Production in Australia will begin as soon as the contract arrangements with the overseas manufacturer have been completed and the drawings and technical data commence to arrive. Initial production will be for the Royal Australian Air Force but the question of production for other countries in the Southwest Pacific will be examined.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - I have received from Senator Toohey an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of public importance, namely -
The Government’s consistent opposition to the incorporation in federal awards of automatic wage adjustments, resulting in denial of wage justice, a reduction in living standards, and serious industrial unrest.
– I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 11.15 a.m.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Is the motion supported? (More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
– Honorable senators on this side of the chamber express their opposition to, and condemnation of, the Government’s opposition to quarterly adjustments of the basic wage. At the outset, it may be of interest to recount briefly the history of these cost of living adjustments. Until 1953, when the Arbitration Court made certain decisions, the various courts and tribunals had accepted the principle of quarterly cost of living adjustments, which latterly were based on the C series index. In that year, the court as then constituted departed from that system. In order that honorable senators opposite may understand the position more clearly, I point out that the C series index covers a considerable number of commodities, the basic ones being rent, food, groceries, clothing and other household commodities. In addition, there are numbers of miscellaneous items, but those are the basic commodities in which the C series index is determined. That is because those commodities are of the greatest interest to the working people of this country. At this stage, I want to make it perfectly clear that the trade union movement has never accepted the view that the C series index has provided for justice to the workers, even when cost of living adjustments have been made. The trade union movement has concurred in the view that the basic needs of families are provided for in the C series index. Had an extension of those items into other fields been embarked upon, and recognized by the courts, the C series index would probably have been accepted completely by the trade union movement. At least, that movement accepted the fact that that index, with adjustments, did, in part, keep them and those whom they represented in touch with the cost of living as it rose from time to time. However, in 1953, as I have said, the Arbitration Court, with the full support and concurrence of the present Government, saw fit to discontinue the quarterly adjustments of the basic wage. That action met with the disapproval not only of the unions representing the workers, but also of the workers themselves. It had a three-fold effect. It immediately caused industrial unrest, because it constituted a denial of wage justice. It was equally evident - and this has been confirmed by figures released by the Commonwealth Statistician since then - that it would materially reduce the living standards of the Australian workers to a much lower level. It is well known that many of the major unions in this country protested violently at the action taken by the court, and supported by the present Government. I believe that industrial unrest of a serious nature would have arisen in Australia had it not been for the leadership, patience and tolerance shown at that time by those in control of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. I am confident that if the workers had been left to their own devices, had made their own decisions and carried them out in respect to the action of the court at that time, we would have seen perhaps the greatest wave of industrial unrest in this country’s history. It was the Australian Council of Trades Unions leadership which prevented what might be called a complete industrial blow up over this particular matter. At the same time, I do not think the leaders of the Australian Council of Trades Unions will forever continue to ask for tolerance to be exhibited by the workers of this country when they are labouring under such a sense of injustice as a result of the court’s decision and the Government’s support of that decision. Unless some change of heart takes place in this matter we might, in the next twelve months, see some tangible demonstration of just what the workers of Australia feel in respect of the living standards which have been so drastically lowered as a consequence of this action.
It would be safe to say - I make it clear at this stage that I am not being dogmatic about this figure - that since the freezing of the quarterly adjustments to the basic wage in 1953, workers/ under various federal awards in this Commonwealth have lost in the vicinity of £100,000,000. As I stated, I am not dogmatically giving that figure as a completely correct estimation of the position, but I think it is a conserva tive estimate of the amount of money that has been collectively lost by the workers of Australia as a consequence of that decision. It is interesting to note that the trade union movement has made research into this matter as it applies to the various States and has attempted to ascertain the individual amounts lost on an average basis by a worker in each of the six capital cities. Since the freezing of the basic wage adjustments took place the average worker in Sydney has lost £67 7s.; in Melbourne, £79 7s.; in Brisbane, £75 6s.; in Adelaide, £78 lis.; in Perth, £194 5s.- that is in approximately three and a half years - and in Hobart, £120 3s. If that average per worker in the six capital cities is translated into an overall amount as it applies to the whole of the workers throughout the Commonwealth affected by the decision of the court at that time, one can understand that the estimated figure of £100,000,000 is indeed a conservative one. It indicates quite clearly that, to the extent of the overall sum, and the individual amounts I have quoted, the living standards of the Australian workers have been reduced as a result of this Government’s action. I intend to come later to the relationship between this Government and the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in the past and the commission to-day.
– How can you lose something you never had? The honorable senator said that the workers lost something.
– I do not intend to get entangled in an exchange of pleasantries with Senator Scott, who is not asking a very intelligent question, anyhow. I do not intend to worry much about him.
– It is a pretty simple question.
– Coming from a simple mind.
– Thanks very much, Senator Ashley. Perhaps it will help Senator Scott to know that in due course I will come to this matter that is exercising his rather infantile mind. It might be interesting at this stage to indicate to the Senate the reasonable application that was made by the trade union movement of this country to the commission. In broad terms it was this: First, the addition to the basic wage of the sum required to bring it to the amount it would have reached if quarterly adjustments had not been abolished in 1953. When the application was lodged in October, 1956, the amount was 23s. averaged over the six capital cities, falling during the hearing to 20s. with the December quarter drop in the index. Secondly, the adjustment of the sum so ascertained at quarterly intervals according to variations in the C series retail price index. I think that covers the point that Senator Scott was hysterical about, and indicates quite clearly that the workers of this country, as a consequence of the failure to have their quarterly cost of living adjustments, were losing, on the six capital cities basis, an amount of 20s. at the time of the hearing in 1956.
Another interesting point is the submissions made by the trade union movement. No doubt some members of the Government would not be aware of the terms of the unions’ application and the submissions that were broadly made. The unions’ case was based, broadly, on three main arguments: First, that the basic wage should be adjusted in accordance with price changes to preserve the same real standard ofliving enjoyed in 1953 and that to do this is safe and just because money capacity moved upwards with price rises; secondly, unless the capacity of the economy has declined since 1953 workers are entitled to at least the same real standard of that year and, in fact, it can be shown that capacity has improved since that time; thirdly, the court’s decision to abolish the adjustment principle was based upon a misinterpretation of earlier judgments which, in fact, can be shown to originate, and continue to justify for more than twenty years, the application of the adjustment principle to a capacity wage. Those were the unions’ application and submissions.
– The unions’ application as at what date?
– As at 1956-57. Now, we come to the part played by the Government. I think that it is consistent - that is the only virtue it has - with its action in 1953, and again in 1956, when it made it quite clear that it had steadfastly set its face against the workers in this country and was prepared to exercise its influence on the court to prevent them from enjoying the benefits - perhaps the better word would be the justice - of having at least the purchasing power of their wages kept at a level consistent with the price of the basic commodities I have mentioned. Perhaps, it might be advisable at this stage to refer to page 6 of the judgment relating to the Government’s intervention–
– About which judgment is the honorable senator speaking?
– I am dealing with the judgment of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in 1957, and I am directing attention to the method of intervention that was adopted by the Commonwealth Government - the Menzies-Fadden Administration - and the reasons given for that intervention. This is one very extraordinary statement in the judgment, which I shall elaborate later. It is -
The Attorney-General of the Commonwealth intervened in the public interest -
It was certainly not in the interests of the workers of this country, as we will see when we come to the manner in which he intervened - but the only issue in which his counsel made a positive submission was on the application for the restoration of the automatic adjustment system. The Commonwealth opposed such a system whatever index were used. On the issue of what amount the basic wage should be, the Commonwealth specifically indicated that it made no submission one way or the other. In this regard, however, the Commonwealth, after supplying information on all aspects of the national economy in conformity with its useful past practice, made a general submission which is repeated in the words of its counsel, Mr. Sheldon - “ It is submitted that it remains true that any steps that would lead to a general increase in the level of demand and of the level of costs and prices would run counter to the best interests of the Australian economy at the present time “.
The Commonwealth also proposed that the Commission should, in the absence of an adjustment system, undertake an annual review of the basic wage. This question will be separately discussed later.
One of the most extraordinary features of the Government’s intervention, opposing the continuation of quarterly adjustments of the basic wage, was that, prior to making that pronouncement, it said that it was completely neutral on the matter. However, it came in afterwards and said that it was completely opposed to a continuance of quarterly adjustments. I would suggest that that was a very clear case of the Government attempting to have a “ bob each way “. It was obviously trying to cushion the impact of its opposition. All I can say is that I would not like any one to be a neutral of that kind if I were engaged in a fight or a struggle, because he would not help me much.
That brings me to the question of the annual review, which obviously is the new baby that this Government wants to nurse. The proposal is that there should be at a certain time each year a review of wages. I myself think that that is a stupid proposal. In the first place, such a system would not give even a vestige of justice to the workers, whose wage adjustments would lag behind increases of the cost of living caused by increases of the prices of commodities. In the second place, it would cost the great trade union movement of Australia in the vicinity of £5,000 to tell the commission what it already knew. The commission has already decided that it will fix wages in accordance with the ability of industry to pay, so, of necessity, it must be advised by the experts, who will state their conception of what industry is able to pay at any particular time. The unions would be placed in the farcical position of spending thousands of pounds on making submissions and giving evidence on a matter that had been determined by the commission before the application was made, simply by a survey of the statistical information placed before it by people qualified to do so. I suggest that the trade union movement will never accept that proposition and it will be an eternal cause of industrial unrest in this country.
There is a very interesting passaage in the judgment to which I feel we could give some consideration. It relates to the Government’s attitude, although the Government is not mentioned specifically in it. I think it covers the deficiencies of the Government in respect of this matter. The relevant portion of the judgment reads -
Inflation now exists within our community in a time of full, or over-full, employment because there is more money available for spending than there are goods and services, including capital equipment, available to be purchased. The shortage of goods and equipment has by the sheer weight of demand over, supply forced up prices, and as long as the shortage continues the inflationary trend will continue.
That brings us to the very kernel of the attitude of this Government to wages, prices and quite a few other matters. I find myself in agreement with the particular passage from the judgment that I have just read. It is quite true that at a time of overfull employment, when there is a consistent demand for goods, there must, of necessity, be a degree of inflation. Indeed, that might be regarded as one of the basic causes of inflation in this or any other economy of a similar kind. But the important question is: How can we correct that position? This is where the Government is open to condemnation and where it can be attacked with validity, because the only remedies that it knows are, first, to reduce the standard of living of the Australian worker. That is obviously what it has set out to do by a discontinuance of quarterly adjustments. It is clear that the Government has done that because it considers it to be a counter-inflationary measure. It has drastically lowered the living standards of the Australian workers and done an injustice to them which they ought not to suffer. The Government knows another way, too. I am. referring to the MenziesFadden Administration. It is to create some form of unemployment in the country, because unemployment is, in itself, counterinflationary.
Both of the measures I have discussed are opposed to the best interests of the community. They are measures designed to cause misery and poverty among the workers of this country. Let me suggest what the Government should do. If it believes that there is some inflation, caused by full employment, which is affecting the wage structure of this country, then, instead of reducing the real wages of the workers by action such as that which has been stated in the commission’s judgment, it would be better advised to impose by legislation a sufficient degree of control to cushion the impact of over-full employment. In the 1956 “Year-Book” this interesting statement is made at page 160 -
Immediately after the outbreak of the war, price control was established by the Government under Regulations dated 28th September, 1939, and a national policy of price stabilization was applied as from 12th April, 1943, backed by more stringent price control and price subsidies. The retail price level, as measured by the index, remained relatively steady throughout 1944 and 1945 at the level of March, 1943.
I suggest that therein lies the answer to the problem of how to maintain a condition of full employment in this country without causing distress to the workers. It is perfectly obvious that Government senators do not realize the plight to which they have brought the country. The Government parties promised some years ago to restore value to the £1, but the very opposite result has been achieved. Now they want the working-class people to extricate the country from the mess into which the Government has got it. The Government has never given consideration, for instance, to stabilizing the position by imposing a tax on profits. The only section of the community to which it has given attention is the section comprising the people who have the least to give and who are most embarrassed by the giving. The Government has never told the companies that it will impose an excess profits tax. It has never considered that if the economy is to be stabilized, there must be stabilized price levels, and it has never sought to impose price controls.
I know the issue is unpopular on the Government side of the chamber. Supporters of the Government do not like price controls because their friends would suffer. Nobody wants to see anything other than full employment, but there is no doubt that in a time of full employment, the only way to combat inflation effectively is to establish control of prices on a national basis, or to impose such taxes on profits as may be necessary in accordance with the justice and decency that is applied to the little man and the workers.
That is what the Government is afraid to do. I suggest that that is why it has had to go to a court, and say through its counsel that the workers of Australia shall be denied the principles of elementary justice. Supporters of the Government know in their own hearts that the whole situation is wrong. They know that the annual adjustment of wages will not work. I can visualize a situation arising, even if this were an accepted principle and were put into operation, when there would be some serious movement of price levels in the first three months of the year and then, nine months later, the commission would hear claims by the unions. The commission could fix an annual wage adjustment which would apply to the time that the application was made, and would cover no ground that might have been lost by the workers in the preceding period.
The workers are a long way behind when we consider the adjustment of wages and prices. They will never catch up under an annual review of the basic wage. Even under the system of quarterly adjustments they lost something, because they were always a quarter behind increases of prices, but at least under that system, only weeks or a few months elapsed before the workers were given some degree of justice.
Honorable senators on the Opposition side view with the gravest concern the inroads that have been made by this Government into the workers’ living standards by the Government’s support of discontinuance of quarterly basic wage adjustments. I say finally that until there is a change of heart on the part of both the Menzies-Fadden Government and the commission that hears these cases, there must be a continuance of industrial unrest.
– The anti-Communist Labour party supports the motion so far as it seeks to restore to the workers under federal awards payments to which they are entitled as compensation for increases in the cost of living. We also support the motion as a step towards correcting the anomaly of workers in one undertaking receiving different cost of living adjustments because they are under different awards.
At the outset, however, I want to say that my party is by no means wedded to the quarterly adjustment system as a feature of wage fixation, any more than are many trade union leaders. We believe, as do many others, that a better system should be possible, and that the Parliament, the employers and the trade unions should co-operate in evolving such a system and putting it into effect.
Of course, the adjustments to the basic wage on a quarterly basis have been subjected to considerable criticism over the years from both sides of the industrial fence. The employers have suggested that they cause continual fluctuations which are bad for industry; that they tend towards inflation and increased costs. Those arguments have been advanced, not merely by private employers, but also by government employers.
It is no secret that over recent years, even in the case of Labour governments, it was necessary for the trade union movement to twist the arms of the State Premiers, at times rather severely, to induce them to introduce cost of living adjustments. In Tasmania, at the present time, the trade union movement and the State executive of the Australian Labour party are twisting the arm of the Premier of Tasmania in an endeavour to make him introduce cost of living adjustments but without success. As certain Tasmanian senators are going to Queensland to participate in the forthcoming State election, I for one will be extremely interested in the manner in which they will explain why Mr. Gair should have been expelled in Queensland for doing exactly what Mr. Cosgrove is doing in Tasmania.
We come now to the trade union angle. The unions have always criticized the system very strongly for a number of reasons. They have suggested that the index under which adjustments are computed is unsatisfactory. They have pointed out that whereas the increases of wages, when awarded, are intended to be compensation for past price rises, it has come to be accepted by the business community that instead of the increases being compensation for past price rises, they are merely the jumping-off place for future price rises.
The point that has been made by Senator Toohey is a valid one. It was that, really, it is not of much use to have quarterly increases of the basic wage unless there is a firm system of price control to retain for the worker the value of the increase that he gets at the end of each quarter. The Federal President of the Australian Workers Union himself pointed out that, in the present circumstances, without control of prices, the quarterly adjustments of wages did not give the worker the real value he should get from them.
In spite of those criticisms, the fact remains that the worker has tended to regard quarterly adjustments of wages as giving him a rough-and-ready form of compensation for increases of prices. Therefore, I believe that’ those adjustments should not have been taken away from the workers unless the relevant court or the Government had had some other system which would give wage justice in the place of those adjustments. Until we have another system which will give confidence to the workers that they will be compensated for increases in the cost of living I do think that, as a matter of elementary justice, we have to support a system of quarterly adjustments.
A member of the Opposition in another place pointed out as one example that in the City of Melbourne a worker who had lost the adjustments would have suffered the loss of some £79 a year. That is a very serious loss for a family man on the lower scale of pay. In such a case, the worker cannot help reflecting that, while he is called upon to make that contribution to the solvency of the nation, there has not been a commensurate attempt to deal with excess profits or hire purchase, and that industrial companies, many of which have been most opposed to quarterly adjustments of the basic wage, have been able to make bonus issues of shares to shareholders on a fairly large scale. When he compares the treatment he has had with that meted out to those big organizations, he cannot be blamed for feeling a sense of injustice.
However, most people agree that there are many criticisms that can be launched at the system of quarterly adjustments of wages. I am one of those who believe that we have reached the stage when there should be an inquiry on the highest level for the purpose of determining a just system of assessing wages. If necessary, let it be a royal commission with every section of the industrial community represented. At the present time, the trade union movement is particularly interested itself in an inquiry on this issue; and there is the hint of the fact that it is looking in other directions on the question of wage justice in a decision that was made by the Australian Council of Trades Unions in February of this year. That decision was - ‘
The basic wage must provide as a minimum for the reasonable needs of a married wage-earner and his family.
The reasonable needs would be determined from time to time in the light of standards generally accepted in progressive communities and the .social aspirations of the Australian people.
Subject to the maintenance of the minimum, standard already referred to, the basic wage would be assessed on the basis of the increased productivity of the nation and should be the highest wage that the full resources of a community, fully employed, could provide.
That indicates that even in the trade union movement they are looking for a better system, and I hope that this Parliament will give the people of the country, through the medium of an inquiry at a high level, an opportunity to look for a better system, a system which will definitely give wage justice.
There are strong possibilities in the proposal that wages should be based on productivity, and I suggest that it would be very valuable if the Government could arrange for the Statistician to prepare and issue such a productivity index. Even under the present system such an index would be of immense value to the trade unions, which are put to considerable expense at the present time in endeavouring to obtain information of an economic character. It would be valuable for both employers and employees. The unions, I suppose, are not wedded by any means to the present costly system under which they are involved in the expenditure of thousands of pounds for advocates, and economists as advisers, an expenditure which they feel is rather unjustly hoisted upon them. If a productivity index were available, they would at least be relieved of some of that expense; and if we could evolve a system under which wages were tied to productivity, it might do away with the necessity for many of these very costly inquiries. It would also save some embarrassment at times to the Opposition, because embarrassment has been caused to the trade union movement on occasions when, in the Arbitration Court, they have been seeking increases in wages on the basis that the country has never been more prosperous, while at the same time leading members of the Opposition, such as Senator O’Byrne, have been suggesting in this chamber that we are on the verge of a depression.
The final point I should like to make relates to industrial unrest. I think there has been an amazingly small amount of industrial unrest following the abolition of the quarterly wage adjustments. I do not know that it is altogether due to leadership. I think it is due to some extent to the common sense of the average working man. It is also due to the fact that the workers have not been entirely united on this issue because some of them have been receiving the quarterly basic wage adjustments and, therefore, have not been prepared to .fight for other people. Again, some of them have been given the basic wage adjustments as an act of grace by the employers, while others have been receiving more than the basic wage over the years and, therefore, are not prepared to fight, in this particular case, for the quarterly adjustments for fear the employer might say, “ All right, I will pull you back to the award rate “.
Another reason, of course, has been that where unions have been under sound Labour control their leaders have .adopted the attitude that if they were to go into a fight of this character it would be a big fight because .they would be fighting not only the employers but also the Government. In this instance there is the same need for political backing as the workers found they required in the ‘nineties when they went into a similar big fight. In the present circumstances, when the Labour movement is so divided politically, it is understandable that these industrial leaders did not feel like pulling on a fight which looked like being one of the biggest they have ever had to fight. Communist leaders in trade unions similarly do not want industrial trouble at the present time because, thanks, for example, to the unity tickets that are being run in my State in complete defiance of an alleged decision of the federal conference of the Opposition, the Communist party is making big gains in the trade union field. At the moment, it does not want industrial unrest because its endeavours to achieve further gains might be hampered.
Whilst, however, there has not been much industrial unrest, I do not think that the Government would be justified in saying that there will not be any unrest. The Australian working man has a strong sense of injustice. When he thinks he is unfairly treated, he reaches a point when he will resist.
– But he also has a very high level of intelligence.
– He has, and I therefore appeal to the Government to give consideration to the point of view that I have put, that there should be a royal commission, or a commission of inquiry, to determine a satisfactory system of giving wage justice to the workers of this country.
– Would the honorable * senator define “ wage justice “ for us?
– Wage justice is something that I could define in a number of ways. I shall simply define it by using an Australian term. Wage justice is “ a fair go “. I do not think the Australian workers got a fair go when their quarterly adjustments were taken from them without any attempt on the part of the Government to deal with excess profits, bonus issues, hire purchase and all those other things. Therefore, I conclude by repeating what I said at the outset. I am not wedded by any means to the quarterly adjustment system; I can see many of its defects, but I say that until we have something to replace it, something that will give the worker confidence that he is getting justice, it ought to be retained.
– I listened with a great deal of interest to Senator Toohey and Senator McManus. Both honorable senators have bad a good deal of hard practical experience in the problem on which Senator Toohey has moved the adjournment of the Senate, and I shall do my best to answer the arguments they have advanced.
I always like to get a problem down to its fundamental parts. The point of view that I put, in general - I shall refine it and retreat a little as I go along - is that those who argue that the cost of living adjustments should be restored are in truth suggesting that we should disregard the finding of the Arbitration Commission, which, in its wisdom, came to the conclusion, in effect, not quickly or suddenly but over a long period of years and after a series of judgments, that the wage should be the highest it is within the capacity of industry and commerce to pay. The Arbitration Court itself, after hearing the views of both sides, after hearing the case argued not once but many times over a considerable period of years, came to the conclusion that the cost of living quarterly adjustments should be discontinued and that the real test was the capacity of industry and commerce to pay.
When Senator McManus said that it was a tribute to the tolerance of the Australian worker that there had been so little industrial unrest - he may not have used the word “ tolerance “ - I interjected that the Australian worker and the Australian citizen have a very high level of intelligence. I believe that there has been comparatively little industrial unrest, except in some unions, in recent years, because the average Australian knows that the task of the industrial court is no longer the localized, or specialized task of fixing a particular wage, and that the court has a great responsibility also to fit its awards into a world committed to the policy of full employment. Prosperity, with a high level of economic activity and employment throughout the community, brings greater benefits than a mere wage increase. The industrial court has a responsibility to fit in with the general pattern of economic development.
The average Australian knows that the high level of prosperity, the basis of which is the high level of employment that has been a feature of the economy of Australia and others countries - like all great movements it is not localized but world-wide - has not been achieved by accident but as a result of a careful nursing of the economy. It has been brought about not only by the actions of the industrial court but also by central banking arrangements, the fiscal measures contained in government budgets year after year, and the trading policy of governments which are doing their utmost to develop an export income so that we shall have the wherewithal to purchase imports. That is becoming more generally recognized as time goes on. The very history of the industrial court and its findings, as I understand it, supports that view. The last judgment does not enunciate any startlingly new principle.
As far back as 1930, the court began to move away from the needs basis. In the decade from 1937 to 1947 there were two components in the basic wage, needs and the capacity of industry to pay. I think Senator Toohey cited a series of figures to show what had been lost since cost of living adjustments were discontinued. I think I am correct in saying that in 1953, when the court made an outstanding review, the wage was no longer assessed on a needs basis. In 1956 the court found that the then basic wage was about 36s. a week, or 18 per cent., higher than it would have been if the court had adhered strictly to the old needs basis. So I put the point of view, with all the force that I can command, that it is not right to look at this matter in isolation. Honorable members opposite will not advance the cause of a higher standard of living if they say, “ Let us fight only for the restoration of quarterly adjustments “. Many things have resulted from the constant improvement in living standards that has flowed from the findings of the court. We must consider not only the level of wages, but also the quantity of wages. We must consider the degree of employment, and for how many weeks in a year the wage is paid. The degree of employment is just as important as the rate of pay.
– The big question is what the wage will buy.
– That is so. That theme runs through and through the judgments of the court. The court has considered what it should do in order to make its contribution to the stability of the economy. The rate of wages is not the only factor to be considered. We must remember the great advances in working conditions that have been made within the time of us senators. Weekly hours have been reduced from 48 to 44, and then to 40. Workers have gained long service leave, annual leave, sick leave, increased margins for skill, and, last but not least, is the whole of our vast social service edifice. All these matters have to be taken into account. I repeat that the Australian is an intelligent person. He sees that we are making progress along that path. We make mistakes, of course, from time to time. Honorable senators opposite will hold it against me when I say that one of the greatest mistakes made was the 20s. advance in 1951 and 1952. We went beyond our strength at that time.
– Costs are going up and wages are stabilized.
– This is where I cross swords with my political opponents of both parties. The answer is that with out doubt, in every direction and by any test, the standard of living has improved in Australia. I cannot understand responsible persons challenging that statement, decrying the progress that has been made, or denying that progress has been made, when surely it is the common objective on . both sides of the chamber that that progress be accelerated. The difference of opinion between us is on the best method to adopt.
– The standard of living is not better for the majority of people.
– I repudiate that statement.
– Do you say that a man on the basic wage is better off to-day than he was ten years ago?
– First, in the world in which we live, with the existing level of employment, we have the practical problem of finding that person on the basic wage. It is not an easy task to find the person whose earnings are as low as that. To illustrate this point, average weekly earnings have risen from £16 6s. in December, 1953, to £19 2s. in December, 1956.
– But they are only figures. They prove nothing.
– Do they not? Let us admit that perhaps the £1 did not purchase as much in 1956 as it did in 1953, but those figures reveal a substantial increase of average earnings.
– I wish-
– The honorable senator may wish as he chooses, but I have this great wish: I wish that the Australian Labour party would move away from its advocacy of prices control. Advocacy of prices control is just a parrot cry. That form of control makes no contribution towards overcoming the problem but is like having a comptometer beside one on which one records the way in which prices have risen. The common-sense approach is to endeavour to ascertain the causes and to remove them instead of trying to conceal the facts. All that prices control means is the keeping of records that date back to the days of black markets, and the destruction of flexibility in the economy and of the possibility of doing better.
Events during this Government’s term of office support the view that our standards of living will increase as our production increases. I was very glad indeed to hear Senator McManus stress the need for increased production. Although the Government, during the proceedings before the court, opposed the incorporation of automatic cost-of-living adjustments in the wage structure, at no stage did it suggest that wages should not be adjusted. After all is said and done, the court is the only authority that is equipped and is in a position to make the requisite economic survey and to decide what is the utmost that the economy can pay. I repeat that the Government did not suggest the freezing of wages or that there should not be wage adjustment; what it did was to support the proposal that the wage awarded should be the highest wage that it was within the capacity of industry to pay, and that there should be an independent and impartial examination at annual intervals to ensure that satisfactory adjustments are made.
I can do no more than put forward those facts as being the Government’s view, which is directly opposed to the views that have been expressed by honorable senators opposite, and to suggest that what we are doing is constructive, progressive, is yielding results, and is giving us an increasingly higher standard of living. The alternative that is advanced by the Opposition is appalling, because it does not attack the basis of the problem but seeks a reversion to conditions which we know the Australian people will not accept. The people of Australia will not accept prices control, which is ineffective. What we are doing is producing results, whereas the alternative would not do so. That being the case, I think that there is very little need to debate the matter further. In conclusion, I move -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until tomorrow at 11.15 a.m.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the Australian Capital Territory Ordinance No. 3 of 19S7, being the Landlord and Tenant Ordinance 19S7 and being an Ordinance to amend the Landlord and Tenant Ordinance 1949- 1952, be disallowed.
I understand that the ordinance in question was circulated to honorable senators yesterday.. The effect of the ordinance is not evident on the surface. It appears to be an ordinary machine measure to amend the main ordinance and, therefore, I propose at the outset to put it in its proper setting and, later, to explain its effect.
There are two matters concerned in this type of ordinance. The first is rent control, which carries with it rent pegging. I shall put them under the one heading of “ rent control “. The second is protection for lessees against eviction from premises that are occupied by them. Until August, 1949, protection was contained in National Security (Landlord and Tenant) Regulations, which were made under the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act. They came into force for the first time during World War II. Since August, 1949, they have been contained in Ordinance No. 6 of 1949. It is a comprehensive ordinance, which covers the whole position in the fields that I have already indicated. I understand that, for the benefit of those who wish to follow the argument closely, general copies have been made available to honorable senators. If we refer to that ordinance we shall find that it applies to prescribed premises, but on page 4 of the ordinance we find that the term “ prescribed premises “ means business premises in the Australian Capital Territory, and also dwellings in the Territory. The ordinance did not apply from the beginning, and does not apply to-day, to rural areas or rural leases; it is confined to business premises and dwellings. The general effect of the ordinance in relation to rent control was, first of all, to peg rents for the business premises and dwellings in Canberra as on 31st August, 1939, which was just prior to the commencement of World War II. With regard to premises that were not then occupied or built a further pegging took place on 1st March, 1945. The third aspect in relation to rent control was that all rents were open to review under the fair rents procedure before a fair rents court. The fair rents court consisted of a court of petty sessions presided over by a stipendiary or a police magistrate.
I pass now to what is the real issue in relation to the motion, the recovery of possession of prescribed premises. The Senate will appreciate that, at the moment, I am concerned only about business premises and not dwellings. If the Senate cares to refer to the basic ordinance of 1949, it will find that the effect of section 63 is to prohibit a lessor from recovering possession of business premises except upon certain grounds that are then set out in the ordinance. Before I proceed to a consideration of those exceptions, let me make it clear to the Senate that in Canberra nearly every landlord - when we speak of landlords and tenants - is a lessee himself. The Crown is the owner of all the land, with rare exceptions - I understand there are none in relation to business premises - and the lessor holds the land under a 99-years lease. He, in turn, as head lessor, lets to the various shopkeepers and business and professional people who occupy the business premises. So, in truth, when” I speak of leases, I am dealing with subleases.
Section 63 indicates that no landlord - I am speaking of head lessors when I use that term - may evict his tenant except upon quite a large number of grounds. I regret that it will take me some few minutes to put them before the Senate. I do not propose to read them in detail but to give a precis of the main points so that the Senate will see that a landlord is free, under many heads, to take proceedings to evict his tenants. The first of the exceptions is that the lessee has failed to pay the rent. If he fails in that respect the landlord can move for his eviction. The next is that the lessee has failed to perform or observe some other term or condition of the lease; the next that the lessee has failed to take reasonable care of the premises; then that the lessee has been guilty of conduct which is a nuisance or an annoyance to adjoining or neighbouring occupiers; the next that the lessee has been convicted of an offence arising out of illegal use of the premises that have been let; the next that the lessee has given notice of his intention to vacate the premises and the lessor has agreed to sell or let the premises, acting upon that notice - in other words, the lessee has caused the lessor to alter his position. The next exception is that the premises, not being a dwelling-house - in other words, being business premises - are reasonably required for occupation by the lessor or a person associated with him in his business.
The next is that the premises are used as, or have been acquired for, use as a parsonage, vicarage, presbytery or other like premises and are reasonably required for such use. Another ground upon which the landlord may proceed is that the lessor is a trustee and the premises are reasonably required by a beneficiary under the trust for his personal occupation; the next that the landlord is a person, body or authority carrying on a hospital and needs the premises reasonably for use as a hospital. The next is that the premises have been occupied, or are occupied, by somebody in the lessor’s employ and are needed by some other person in his employment. The next head upon which the lessor may proceed to eviction is that he has agreed to sell the premises by an agreement in relation to business premises which are reasonably required for occupation by the purchaser. There are three more. They are that the premises are reasonably required by the lessor for reconstruction or demolition.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! Two hours ha ving elapsed since the meeting of the Senate, Standing Order 127 requires that the debate be interrupted.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That consideration of Orders of the Day be postponed until after the disposal of business ofthe Senate, Notice of Motion No. 1.
– I thank the Senate. I am obliged not to have been diverted to a consideration of Standing Order 127 at this stage. I might have lost the thread of my whole argument. Before the interruption I was putting to the Senate that under the original ordinance a landlord had many doors open to him to evict a tenant. I want to mention just two more, the first being that the lessee has become the lessee of the premises by virtue of an assignment or transfer which the lessor has not consented to or approved; and finally, that the lessee has sub-let the premises or some part thereof by a sub-lease which has not been consented to or approved by the lessor.
I put to the Senate at once that there is an extremely wide set of circumstances that enables a landlord, despite the prohibition against eviction, to find a way to get rid of a tenant. He may have recourse to any one of those grounds; but that is not the landlord’s only protection. If the Senate will refer to the question of hardship dealt with in section 71 of the ordinance it will find that that section provides as follows: -
On the hearing of any proceedings by a lessor for an order for the recovery of possession of any prescribed premises or for the ejectment of the lessee therefrom (whether the proceedings were commenced before or after the commencement of this Ordinance), the court shall–
It is mandatory upon the court - take into consideration, in addition to all other relevant matters -
Then there is a particular one, protecting the landlord -
I point out to the Senate that, first of all, there are a vast number of grounds upon which the landlord may proceed; and then you have the omnibus clause in favour of both the lessee and lessor which says to the court, in effect, “ Even if a ground is established or not established - I confine it now to the position of the lessor - even if the lessor does not establish his ground in his notice, if you think, having regard to the principles of equity, fair play and justice, that hardship would be caused to the lessor, you may nevertheless give him possession of the premises in question if in your unfettered discretion, having regard to the principles of equity, you think that should be done “. Again, there is a vast provision in favour of a landlord who can make out a case of hardship.
He must, on some ground, initiate the proceedings, but, in the final analysis, having launched the proceedings upon some ground, even if he cannot establish the facts to justify it, the court may, if it finds hardship in a general sense, evict the tenant and make an order in favour of the landlord. It is a very wide and very flexible protection. It is not designed in favour of the lessee or the lessor only. That kind of protection about hardship applies equally to both of them.
Again, that is not the end of the remedies that are available to the lessee or lessor. I refer the Senate to section 75. It provides that there can be an appeal from the decision of the police magistrate or stipendiary magistrate in the lower court to the Supreme Court of the Territory on a question of law, and to the High Court in any other matter.
At the risk of repetition, let me see where I have carried the Senate at the moment. There are wide grounds open to the landlord to proceed. I have detailed them at considerable length to the Senate. There is the hardship clause, under which the court has complete discretion to do the right thing in favour of lessor or lessee, and finally, there is the right of appeal, by either the lessor or the lessee, to a superior court. I do not think that one honorable senator would say that that is not the code that should be applied, whether in war-time or in peace-time. I defy any honorable senator to say that that is not fair and just. It allows the court, originally and on appeal, to determine the fair thing and the just thing to do. It comes down as narrow as that. I suggest there could be no code devised that could be better and fairer than that. We all pay tribute to the impartiality and the wisdom of the courts. Their decisions are accepted, we can say, universally. In this instance, any particular matter affecting eviction may go right through to the High Court.
With that picture before the Senate, I proceed with the history of the ordinance that has developed from 1949. Under section 2, the Minister has a very wide power.
The power is to exempt from the application of the ordinance prescribed premises or matters. He has an exceedingly wide power. The Minister for the Interior has exercised that power twice - first in 1951.
I want the Senate now to observe how there has been a whittling away of the protection afforded by the main ordinance to the lessees of business premises. The first order was gazetted on 25th October, 1951, and it completely removed rent pegging on business premises. There is the first cutting away of control - no rent pegging any longer. But it did at that stage retain fair rent control. Now we move to 1955. On 16th June, 1955, the Minister gazetted another order, which removed fair rent control from business premises. There was almost a complete removal of rent control in its application to business premises. It did leave, however, a very small residue. It did not disturb determinations of the fair rents court that were still current at that time. That was one small residue that was left. So that by June, 1955 - about two years ago - we reached the position that business premises in the Australian Capital Territory were completely freed of all rent controls. It meant that, except where there was a fixed term and a fixed rent under a written lease, or where there were a few determinations of the fair rents courts still current, there was no rent control whatever in relation to business premises.
What has been happening in the Territory? Talk of the relaxation of these controls has been heard for a considerable time in the Territory, and as leases of business premises became due for renewal they were not renewed. The lessees of business premises were put on weekly and monthly tenancies. I would like the Senate to understand that the position to-day is that in respect of most of the business premises in the Territory there are no fixed leases. Tenants have gradually, as their fixed terms have elapsed, been put on to an exceedingly short-term basis.
By the particular regulation that we are now considering - I will just mention this broad fact before I come to a consideration of its detail - the lessees of business premises are to be cut off from all protection against eviction. I have referred to the three protections which existed previously.
The landlord had to find a particular ground, the court had to decide hardship, and there was a right of appeal. All that is cut out by the regulation that the Senate is now considering and that I am asking it to disallow. The lessees are thrown wide open to action at the instance of landlords for any reason, or for no reason. It throws the position wide open. The lessor no longer has to find a particular ground. We have reached the position that the landlord of business premises in this Territory may charge what he likes by way of rent, and may evict quite freely. There is no law - in particular of the type that I have already indicated - to protect the lessees.
– That is similar to the position now in Tasmania.
– Yes, but I am sure that the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) will acknowledge that the Tasmanian position was brought about, not by the will of the people of Tasmania, but by arbitrary action of the Tasmanian Legislative Council.
– By its common-sense action.
– I ask the Minister to keep to the facts. It was against the will of the Government of Tasmania.
– If the Leader of the Opposition were familiar with Hobart, he would acknowledge that the position in relation to business premises has been improved.
– Senator Wright may have an opportunity to put that viewpoint. If he attributes the improvement in Hobart to the removal of controls, I shall be very interested to hear him develop his theme. The point that I would like the Senate to bear in mind is that business premises alone have been dealt with in this way. As far as dwellings in the whole of the Australian Capital Territory are concerned, they are still subject to rent pegging, they are still subject to fair rent control, and the tenants have still got all the protections against eviction that I previously mentioned. There cannot be anything wrong, in principle, with those things if this Government retains them in respect of dwellings. The principle cannot be wrong. The first question I pose to the Minister is: As the principles of rent con trol, fair renting and protection against eviction have been affirmed, why are those principles, which have been retained in relation to dwelling-houses, now completely abandoned in relation to business premises?
I am still on the history of this matter. There was a change in the ordinance again in 1952. A further ordinance was brought in, and copies of that, too, are available to honorable senators who are interested. By it, protection against eviction was accorded to persons in business premises and dwellings, with some special protection if they were ex-servicemen or dependants of exservicemen. Extra special protection was provided there. So at that stage this Government was really extending the protection.
The regulation we are now considering, to which, at last, I address myself, deals with two positions. It was promulgated on 22nd February, 1957. In clause 2, it is expressed to come into operation on 1st May, 1957. The effect of the first paragraph of clause 3 is merely to define business premises. I should like the Senate to address its mind to the wide scope of the definition, which states that “ business premises “ means premises used solely or primarily for the purposes of a trade, business or profession, including shops, factories, workshops, storerooms, offices and professional rooms. The effect of the second paragraph is to remove all those premises, even if the occupiers are exservicemen, entirely from the protection against eviction that has hitherto operated in the Territory. That covers the effect of both clause 3 and clause 4.
The next two clauses are consequential upon the first two. The effect of clause 5 is to remove the last vestige of fair rent control of business premises. I indicated earlier that, in 1955, determinations already made by fair rents courts had not been disturbed when the fair rents system was abolished. Clause 5 proposes to abrogate any determinations that may be current, so there goes the very last vestige of rent control. I am not concerned about that to-day, but with the removal of protection against eviction from business premises. Clause 6 is merely an incidental provision, and provides that eviction proceedings already commenced under the principal ordinance will carry on as though that ordinance had not been passed. The first that was heard about this proposition in the A.C.T. was on 19th June, 1956, when Mr. J. R. Fraser,, who represents the A.C.T. in this Parliament, asked the Minister for the Interior, in the House of Representatives, whether it was proposed to destroy the protection that was afforded by the ordinance to lessees of business premises. The Minister replied that it was intended to do that from 1st June, 1957, but he agreed to refer the whole matter to the A.C.T. Advisory Council.
The Minister did, in. fact, do that in September last. The A.C.T. Advisory Council considered the matter, and opinions very hostile to the Minister’s proposals were expressed by a majority of the members. The whole matter was referred back to the Minister with a request that he advert to the views expressed by the council.
The matter went back to the council in October, and it was asked for a definite recommendation. It recommended that, in relation to business premises, an arbitrator between the landlord and the tenant should be appointed, and that the arbitrator could be called upon by either party. The third and very important recommendation of the council was that some provision should be made to pay compensation for goodwill that was disturbed and lost by a tenant.
Those were the recommendations from a body which is appointed with nominee and elected members in the A.C.T. to advise the Minister for the Interior. He rejected its advice, and the next step was a public statement by the Minister, on 6th February last, in which he indicated that he was going to promulgate the regulation that we are now seeking to disallow. The Minister stated -
It might not be possible to avoid hardship entirely, but the number of cases which have been brought to my attention-
And 1 direct the attention of honorable senators to this point - since the proposal to free business premises was first initiated, indicated that an extremely small number of tenants were involved, some of whom have since been able to make satisfactory arrangements.
The Minister proceeded, evidently in the honest belief that although there would be some hardship, very few people would be affected. I should like to inform the Minis ter that three documents, all addressed to Mr. J. R. Fraser, M.H.R., have been handed to me to-day. The text, which is the same in each document, is as follows: -
We, the undersigned, hereby protest through you against the proposal to amend the Landlord and Tenant Ordinance so as to remove from lessees full protection from eviction by the landlord. This will destroy businesses that have been established for many years and we would like the new ordinance to be disallowed.
The signatories include 40 business people from the Kingston area, 29 from Manuka and 26 from Civic Centre. There are 95 signatures, and I shall place the document in the hands of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) presently.
Mostly, the signatures are those of the small business people in the business community of Canberra. They do not include professional people, such as dentists,, doctors and solicitors, who also could be disturbed once the protection is removed. I have no exact information on this point, but my belief from my broad observation is that the signatories would constitute easily the big majority of the small shopkeepers of Canberra.
I ask the Minister to have regard to that fact particularly. It is not only a small number of persons who are affected. If this regulation was promulgated in the belief - and I think it was an honest belief - that few people would be affected, I think that the Minister for the Interior should now take this opportunity of revising the basis upon which he made his decision.
– Do these people have tenancies, or do they merely say that they are affected?
– They are interested in the disallowance of the regulation. They object to the removal of the protection from eviction.
– I did not understand the document read, by the Leader of the Opposition to state that these persons had tenancies which would be affected.
– I remind thehonorable senator that the signatories madethis statement -
This will destroy businesses that have been established for many years, and we would like the new ordinance to, be disallowed.
I agree that that is not a specific statement that each of them is under threat of eviction, but at least it shows-
– Will the honorable senator state that it is evident that a great number are affected, and not a small number?
– Every one of them would be on a short-term lease. Even if they are not under notice of dismissal to-day, they are concerned about the possibility that they might be evicted to-morrow. I am not attempting to misrepresent the position.
– Why are they on shortterm leases?
– Because the landlords have failed to renew the long-term leases.
– For obvious reasons. Rentals were pegged at the 1939 level.
– The pegging of rentals has gone since 1951.
– If the shopkeeper does not agree to an increase of rental, he cannot be evicted.
– From 1950, there has been no rental pegging. For the past two years there has been no fair rent control.
– There must be agreement between the two to increase the rental. If the lessee does not agree, the owner can do nothing.
– Only if there is a fixed-term lease. If there is no fixedterm lease, but only a weekly tenancy, the landlord has been in a position for two years to make the rental what he wants it to be. I understand that the rentals have more than doubled.
– That is not correct.
– I should be glad to have the Minister’s explanation because, since 1955, there has been complete freedom for the landlord to charge what he likes. I want to refer to one particular case. I shall name the person, because I have his authority to do so. I shall not refer to the landlord’s name, because I have no authority to do so. This is a typical example. A man named Reece has been operating a mercery business at Kingston. He has been told to vacate his premises. It is a landmark, and is known as Reece’s Corner. He has been in the area for 30 years. For over twenty years, he has been in the present shop. He was a pioneer businessman in the Australian Capital Territory. Thirty years ago, he operated a small business in Queanbeyan. He travelled with a van round the construction camps selling clothing to the workers. Then he started business at Manuka. Twenty-five years ago, he moved into a small shop in Kingston, and twenty years ago he opened his present premises. The shop has a double frontage to two streets. Goodwill has been associated with his business on that particular site for a period of twenty years. Now, being on a very short-term tenancy, the landlord has given him notice that he wants the premises. He has no protection in law at all against that. He is divested of his goodwill at the arbitrary, unfettered will of his landlord. His stock will have to go at cut prices. I understand he cannot get other premises anywhere near where he has been carrying on business for the last twenty years. The fixtures he has put in will be of no use to him when they are pulled out. They are suitable only for that particular shop.
I say to the Minister that here is one case in which the lessee has met every request by the landlord for rent increases, even when he was not obliged to do so. In common with other tenants, he has even contributed towards the cost of additions to his premises. All I put to the Senate is that that man goes out utterly without compensation for the goodwill that he has built up. The landlord may take that goodwill and, if he can find somebody who wants to run a business of that type, get the benefit of it. The landlord can take it and appropriate to himself the twenty years’ work of that individual lessee. Do honorable senators opposite subscribe to that? Is that fair? The goodwill may be completely destroyed if the landlord wants the premises for himself for another purpose. Honorable senators know that goodwill is associated with a site as well as with a person. I have no knowledge of what business is likely to replace this one; but, look at the opportunity given to a greedy landlord who sees a business like this, with a high goodwill value. The ordinance that we are now considering opens the door to a procedure whereby, on a week’s notice, or a month’s notice at the most, he can evict that particular person and then sell the premises to another mercer, or to another person interested in the same line of business and charge that person an amount equivalent to the value of the goodwill.
Whose goodwill is it, really? Is it the landlord’s, in equity and truth, or is it the goodwill of the person who has built it up over twenty-odd years? That pattern of transaction can be repeated again and again in this city.
– Whose goodwill is it? Is it Reece’s, or does it attach to the site?
– It is attached to the site.
– Is it Reece’s goodwill?
– It is undoubtedly goodwill that he has associated with the site.
– If it is Reece’s, he can take it with him.
– No, the goodwill attaches to the site more particularly, but honorable senators must recognize that there is some element of fairness in the argument that he should not be arbitrarily deprived, without reason, without access to a court, and without compensation, of that goodwill. Surely, that is a reasonable proposition to put.
I am simply asking the Senate to consider what happens if it disallows this particular regulation. Its disallowance will mean, first, that ex-servicemen who have business premises will get their protection back. It will also mean that those who are not ex-service personnel will nevertheless get back the protection they have hitherto enjoyed. No harm will be done because the landlord has the protection that the court has freedom to apply equity to the situation and everybody has the right of appeal to a superior court. If the regulation is not disallowed, then we are saying to presently protected people, to exservicemen personnel, “You get no protection against eviction from business premises “. We say the same thing to every other type of tenant, and we do nothing to protect the goodwill resulting from a life’s work on the part of many of these people.
There is another aspect of the Australian Capital Territory that ought to be considered to-day. I refer to the fact that very recently many of the big emporiums have established shops, depots and branches in this area. There is a natural tendency on their part not to be restrictive but to want to move out to more branches in the Australian Capital Territory. They are eager to get more premises, to extend their own areas and to form new branches; and they are prepared to pay much higher rentals . than the small shopkeepers of Canberra can afford. The implementation of this particular ordinance will enable that development to proceed. The way in which it will develop will be that the small shopkeepers in the Australian Capital Territory will simply be forced out of existence and the business of the community will gradually get into the hands of the major emporiums which, in my view, as time goes on will become less and less competitive.
– That has not happened anywhere else. It has not happened in the other cities where small shops are still doing well.
– There are no small shops in the cities.
– Yes, there are.
– They are outside the cities now. I suggest that one usually does not find small shops in the cities now.
– There are hundreds of them, and they are giving good service.
– I am indicating the view that I take and which I am instructed is the view that is taken by the many lessees who are affected by this matter. What has happened is that whereas hitherto it has been a matter for a court - even a High Court in the final analysis - to determine what is just, the Minister has now pushed the courts aside, and has said, in effect, “ I decide that in respect of every lessee in Canberra there will not be much hardship “. He sub.stitutes his judgment for that of the courts.
– That is not a fair way to put it.
– I think it is; it is the fact. Let me put it this way to the honorable senator: The Minister has taken up the position that he abolishes all protection that has hitherto existed, and has said there will be no hardship. He has said, in effect, “ I believe it will affect very few, but I am prepared to allow the hardship to lie where it falls “. At least, he says that.
– It is a two-way hardship.
– In this case, the hardship must fall on the lessee.
– But what about the hardship the lessor has had in the last ten years?
– Under the ordinance as it stood all that time, he had only to go to a court, and could win even on one ground. The court had the right to do justice on the question of hardship.
I appreciate that the Minister in charge of this matter in this chamber is at a disadvantage. He is not the Minister who has made the order. He is representing a Minister in another place, and, no matter how well he may have been briefed, he certainly would not be as familiar as the Minister for the Interior himself would be with all the details of this position in Canberra. I put it to him that I have introduced the matter from the viewpoint of at least the numbers who are concerned about the regulation, and that that information was not before the Minister for the Interior. I should be very happy if he would agree to adjourn this debate and give the Minister for the Interior an opportunity to consider the views of the large number of signatories who have addressed themselves to this particular matter. I am prepared to make the lists freely available to the Minister.
I do not wish to detain the Senate longer on this matter. I have laid it out and perhaps repeated myself in considerable detail; but I felt that it was wise to do justice to the lessees. I feel strongly about it. I felt I was under a duty to put the position fully to the Senate; and I ask the Senate not lightly to reject the motion that is now before it. Many persons who have spent a long time in this community are grievously affected and concerned, and I should like those honorable senators who have not addressed their minds to this matter before to take the opportunity to consider it quietly, to read through, perhaps, what has been said here to-day, and to make their own inquiries before they cast their votes. It would be wrong to rush consideration of the matter. It would not be the right thing to do by all the persons who are concerned, who constitute, in my view, the great majority of the shopkeepers of the Australian Capital Territory.
– I do not think for a moment that we can accept the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) in regard to the adjournment of this debate, because the grounds which he has advanced have no merit in them. I think that the old ordinance lasted far too long in Canberra. In many States the rent and other controls that were a hang-over from war-time have been lifted. In Tasmania, the Landlord and Tenant Regulations were repealed in 1956. The party which the honorable senator represents in this House predicted that all sorts of awful things would happen to Tasmanian businesses. It spoke of wholesale bankruptcies, evictions, terrific rents, and so forth. Yet the controls were abolished and in that State to-day we find, not in one area only, but from the capital city of Hobart to Launceston and the towns on the north-west coast, the greatest development in the building of new and up-to-date business premises that the State has experienced in the last 50 years. That has happened because we got away from stupid, negative control.
As was pointed out by our acting leader in this House, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), when we were discussing another matter, price control and Landlord and Tenant Regulations constitute a negative approach to the development of proper, free and open competition. In Canberra in the last two or three years there has been a tremendous development in shopping facilities and buildings which has reacted to the benefit of the people, because it has brought in a breath of fresh air. There is now in Canberra competition such as was never seen before. In this city we have branches of most of the big stores of the State capitals. We have good, keen, progressive selling, which we never had before. Only this week I read in the newspaper that last week-end butter could be bought in Canberra at 3s. 8d. per lb., because of keen competition. If that does not help the housewife, I do not know what does. If the people of Canberra who spend the money, the consumers, the wage-earners, and the housewives, were asked whether they preferred to go back to the days when there was no competition, when far too many leases were held by too few people, they would say “ No “, in no uncertain manner. They prefer the good, sound, open competition of private enterprise, which they are getting now for the first time.
I was interested in the petition which Senator McKenna presented. The petition was not grounded on hardship. Of course if one has been paying 1939 rentals for almost twenty years for a good business site which he knows in his own heart is worth much more he will sign a paper asking that he be not disturbed! That is the normal reaction of persons who have been paying rentals which are in no way commensurate with the value of the properties which they occupy. When they see the good thing that they have been on is likely to disappear, it is in their own interests to try to delay action for a little longer. If there is one type of investor in Australia who has been pilloried over the years, it is the man who was unfortunate enough to invest his money in property, particularly in States which have socialist governments, and more especially when the same type of government was in office in Canberra. I have never been able to make out why this type of investor, in preference to any other, should be chosen for such harsh treatment, but that has been the position.
I listened with great interest when Senator McKenna mentioned a single case of a man who, according to the honorable senator, will suffer some hardship through having to leave his site. If I heard him correctly - he may correct me if I am wrong - he said that the man is now under notice of eviction.
– I understand that that is so.
– Then he is under notice of eviction issued under the ordinance to which the Leader of the Opposition wishes to return.
– No. The new month. We are seeking disallowance of an ordinance which has been effective since 1st May.
– Therefore, he is under notice of eviction issued under the present ordinance?
– I was mistakenly under the impression that it was under the old ordinance. The honorable senator put forward this proposition which interests me. He read a long list of grounds on which an owner could appeal to the court. Then he said that there is another blanket cover which protects the owner in that case. Of course, one has to find one of those grounds in order to get to the court. He overlooks that. I looked at them with great interest, because if I know business people, as I think I have known them for over 40 years, no lessee who was paying a 1939 rent would provide the owner with any of those grounds for getting to the court.
– Does the Minister suggest that there is anybody in the Australian Capital Territory who is still on the 1939 level?
– I have in my possession a list of a number of cases of hardship on the other side of the picture which I had intended to place before the Senate after the suspension of the sitting for dinner. Senator McKenna has presented only one side of the picture in order to back up his argument, but I can furnish quite a number of cases in which owners have suffered severe hardship. When considering such matters, both sides of the argument must be considered in order to obtain a balanced picture. Although there is provision for the owner to go to the court, the position is that he must do so on one of the specified grounds, and no man who has a lease of a particularly good site in the City of Canberra would provide the owner with any of those grounds. In the past, the owner has been unable to obtain fair and just treatment in relation to rents. Where the lessee has refused to agree to an increase of rent, the owner has not been able to get any redress because the lessee has been protected.
The Landlord and Tenant Ordinance followed the repeal of the National Security (Landlord and Tenant) Regulations under the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act 1946-1948. lt set up a structure which depends on two systems by which the relationship of landlord and tenant is controlled. The first is the control of rents by a system of fair rents, and the other is the control of the power of the landlord to recover possession. Only those premises which are prescribed premises as defined in section 8 of the ordinance come within the scope of the ordinance; and the landlord and tenant of such prescribed premises are subject to both of the controls mentioned unless, by order of the Minister under section 6 (2.), the premises are excluded from any provisions of the ordinance.
I think it might have been far better if the whole matter had been adjusted at once, but the Minister took steps, in 1951, to relieve the position. At that time, it was seen that the application of all the provisions of the ordinance was having a depressing effect upon the business community. Landlords of business premises were unwilling to grant long-term leases of shops and business properties whereby they would tie themselves for long periods to low rents and the restrictive provisions of the ordinance.
Sitting suspended from 5.49 to 8 p.m.
– Before the sitting was suspended, I had pointed out that, in my opinion, the motion before the Senate was an attempt by the socialist party to put back the clock and return to the old days when Canberra was governed by national security regulations. I said, further, that I regarded the motion as an attempt to protect Canberra against the intrusion of private enterprise from outside, and to stop the progress that private enterprise brings with it. I directed the attention of the Senate to the great development that had taken place in the City of Canberra under the régime of the present Government and its policy of encouraging private enterprise, and pointed out that Canberra was becoming the shopping centre of a large surrounding district.
– That is why I have sought to protect lessees against eviction.
– The best judges of Canberra’s progress as a shopping centre are the people of Canberra themselves. particularly its housewives, who spend the family pay-roll each week, and are reaping the advantages of the competitive shopping system that now exists. I said that in this area weekly sales and progressive selling methods conferred great benefit on housewives, and I instanced that last week butter could be bought in Canberra for 3s. 8d. per lb. If honorable senators will ask the: housewives of Canberra whether they want to go back to the old days when thesethings were governed by national securityregulations, they will get their answer. E again ask why Canberra should be treated; differently from Hobart, or Perth, or Adelaide, or other places outside this Territory where controls were lifted long ago. As long ago as 1953, the progressive Premier of South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford, removed rent control from premises other than dwellings under the Landlord and Tenant (Control of Rents) Act Amendment Act 1953. Has his action retarded the development of Adelaide and South Australia generally? Did the dire consequences which are predicted for Canberra occur in South Australia, or is it true that that State is progressing rapidly? The answer is that there has been great progress in South Australia since those controls were lifted. In Tasmania, also, the Landlord and Tenant Act (No. 2) 1954 removed business premises from control as from 1st January, 1955. Any one has only to travel through that State to see the development that has taken place everywhere as a result of the freedom from those controls. In Western Australia, too, the Rents and Tenancies Emergency Provisions Act 1951- 1956 provides that premises leased after 1st August, 1954, for a fixed term of not less than three years are exempt. Similar action has been taken in most Australian Stales; controls have been lifted.
– That has been done in the progressive States.
– That is so. In my opinion, Canberra should be treated in exactly the same way as other cities of Australia are treated. We should allow this progressive, competitive spirit to flow in and bring with it benefits to Canberra, housewives and the people of this city generally.
I listened with interest to the cases of hardship mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition, but I know that other cases vastly different from it could be cited. I have before me particulars relating to a shop in the Kingston district of Canberra the rental of which was £39 17s.10d. a month, or approximately £10 a week. The tenants sub-let it for £16 a week. That was a glaring case of a tenant taking advantage of the ordinance before it was repealed. Another instance that I bring before the Senate is that of a block at City, where the ground floor and the first floor of a building were leased for £8 a week prior to 1st January, 1955. The rental was advanced to £14 a week after that date, but comparable areas in the new shopping centre of Canberra are bringing rentals of £40 a week. Those instances are clear evidence that people have been taking advantage of the ordinance. The names of those people are probably on Senator McKenna’s list. Another instance showing how advantage was taken of the ordinance is that of a shop for which the rental in 1954 was £5 10s. a week, plus insurance. The tenant disputed an increase of rental to £7 10s. a week, plus insurance, notwithstanding that a fair rental would be at least £10 a week. How can we justify continuing a system under which people who have been renting premises for years at low rates are protected, when their competitiors who occupy new premises of similar size pay much more? There may be odd cases of hardship, but it is time a new ordinance giving a fairer deal all round come into operation.
No one will dispute that, on balance, we have reason to be proud of the development of Canberra. Whether opponents of the private enterprise system like it or not, that system has brought to the people more goods at prices they can pay than any other system in the world has done. I ask the Senate to reject the motion, and I move -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the Australian Capital Territory Ordinance No. 3 of 1957, being the Landlord and Tenant Ordinance 1957 and being an Ordinance to amend the Landlord and Tenant Ordinance 1949-1952, be disallowed.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I lay on the table the following paper: - 1957 and Beyond: An Economic Survey.
The paper was tabled by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in another place on Thursday last. I ask for leave to make a statement relating thereto.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Is leave granted?
Opposition Senators. - No
Leave not granted.
– Having tabled the paper, I move -
That the paper be printed.
When the first annual economic survey was presented to Parliament, about a year ago, we had only recently passed through the critical stages of an inflationary phase in the economy. To combat that situation the Government had taken firm action, culminating in the legislative and other measures of early 1956, to reduce the pressure upon resources - action which, within a few months, began to show signs of being successful. The signs which were then detected have since fulfilled their early promise, so that we are now in a much more balanced situation. To-day, in aggregate, internal supply and demand appear approximately balanced. Prices and wages show signs of greater stability; excess pressures for scarce labour and materials have diminished. Despite the re-adjustments which were necessary to achieve these desirable aims, overall output and employment have been maintained. Most significantly, the balance of payments, and with it . the state of our international reserves, has shown a quite dramatic swing in our favour.
When we contemplate the difficulties and the hazards with which we were faced scarcely more than a year ago, we are, I think, justified in drawing considerable satisfaction from this overall improvement in our economic position. It is now reasonable to look forward with some confidence to a period of continued prosperity and progress, assuming always that we manage to retain the stability which we have gained. We have achieved, in other words, a remarkable recovery, but there are in that no grounds for complacency. It is true that inflationary pressures have, for the moment, abated to some extent. Nonetheless, there is to be found in the present situation, a potential for renewed inflation which could upset this internal balance, and pose a further threat to costs and prices. For this reason we can in no sense afford to set aside caution and restraint in the matter of demand on total resources. Such caution will be the more necessary since, in any case, higher export receipts and rising wage rates will, directly and indirectly, provide a stimulus to domestic demand and business activity. The parallel expansion of the total money supply, as reflected in the deposits and liquid assets of trading and savings banks, will tend to work in the same direction.
Nor should we lose sight of the fact, which has been forcefully brought home to us time and again, that the Australian economy is, by its very nature, highly susceptible to external changes - changes which often take place very swiftly. Partly, such changes may arise from the nature of our exports; partly they may be associated with the stresses and strains which have been a natural result of our rapid rate of post-war economic growth. Whatever their origin, they present a powerful reason for continuing to handle the present economic position with due care. For example, we can have little influence on the course of world commodity prices, especially that of wool, on which balance in our external accounts so largely depends. Should these prices fall we could quickly find ourselves again struggling with a balance of payments deficit. With our international reserves not yet restored to a satisfactory level, and with the level of imports, even after the most recent relaxations, not yet sufficient to meet fully all existing demands, these possible dangers to stability assume an importance greater than they otherwise would.
These and other aspects of recent economic developments are more fully covered in the first part of the economic survey. The upsurge of expenditure between mid- 1953 and the end of 1955 is traced in some detail, as is the gradual subsidence of the boom during 1956. That boom, it is noteworthy, was wholly the product of forces within the economy; it occurred without provocation from abroad and despite a firm control on public expenditure. More than anything, it demonstrates the need, during a phase of growth, for restraint on total expenditure.
Last year’s economic survey discussed Australia’s post-war economic growth. We have thought it desirable to devote a major part of the present survey to a discussion of some of the longer-term problems which we foresee as likely to arise from the future continuation of that growth, and which may be expected to be directly related to the rate at which that growth proceeds. The sources of growth will be immediately apparent and, indeed, familiar. That which first springs to mind will be the increases in the population and workforce as a result both of natural increase and immigration. Others, such as increases in capital investment, increases in productivity and the development of new resources are also familiar to us. If such growth is to be balanced, and if we are to avoid or mitigate the disorders which too rapid a rate of growth can bring, there are some fundamental issues to which we will need to direct our attention.
Though basically there is no reason why this country, by intelligent exploitation of its available resources, should not maintain the rates of growth achieved over recent years, nevertheless when we consider more closely the means by which expansion is to be sustained, it is apparent that there are many risks and difficulties. Perhaps the overriding risk is that, in our eagerness to push on with development, usually clearly desirable and necessary in itself, we may attempt too much at the one time. In doing so we would upset the balance of the economy and frustrate the very purposes we set out to achieve.
Some estimates are made in the survey of the population growth which might be expected over the next decade on the basis of a continuance of present rates of immigration and other relevant factors. These estimates, tentative though they are, suggest some quite striking changes, one of which will be the restoration, or partial restoration of the proportion of the population in the working age groups. Not only, therefore, do we have to provide for a larger population, but within this for a relatively larger working population, imply ing as that does a rising demand for jobs, for working facilities, factories, power, and so on.
The enlargement of the capital structure to provide for this additional population involves not merely the overall problem of making available sufficient resources for investment purposes, but also of channelling those resources into those sectors of production in which they will make their maximum contribution. In most general terms, the problem of financing capital expansion in both the public and the private sectors is the problem of inducing a sufficiently high level of community savings from current incomes, and of attracting investment capital from overseas. This raises for public authorities the whole vexed question of an alternative to financing capital works from revenue.
If the rate of economic growth is largely determined by the level of output, the composition of output is also important. This is well illustrated by our balance of payments position. The increased demand for imports which will be bound to occur as a result of our economic expansion over the next ten years may be met in part by borrowing abroad, but, much more important, will require an increased level of export proceeds. In the expansion of exports, we. will have to keep down costs to keep our exports competitive in world markets. We must also, however, concentrate our resources on those export activities in which we have the greatest advantages, natural and other, and which consequently offer the greatest scope for economical expansion. There is no doubt that the opportunities for the expansion of exports do exist; it is for us to put ourselves in the position to exploit such opportunities.
– I rise to order. Is the Minister in order, under Standing Order 406, in reading a speech when he has announced that he was going to make only a few remarks. My point’ of order is that he has no right to read those remarks.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- -Order The Minister has submitted a substantive motion, and therefore he has the right to read a speech in support of that motion.
– Under what standing order have you given your ruling, Mr. Deputy President?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- The
Minister, as the proposer of a motion, has the right to make a statement. He is making that statement in a speech supporting the motion for the printing of the paper.
– With respect, that was not the subject of my question. Under what standing order have you given your ruling, Mr. Deputy President? Senator Arnold cited Standing Order 406, which covers only one line of print. It states that no senator shall read his speech.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! If it comes to a point, the Minister has been following a practice that has been adopted on more than one occasion. He has been referring to copious notes.
– The point is only of academic interest, Mr. Deputy President, because we have now reached the last paragraph of the copious notes. I am certain that honorable senators on the Government side-
– Am I to understand, Mr. Deputy President, that the Minister is reading from copious notes, and that you have reversed your previous ruling that the Minister had the right to read a speech in support of a motion?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! I have given a ruling. The Minister has been referring to copious notes. If Senator Willesee is not satisfied, there is an appropriate line of action open to him.
– I am merely asking a question for future guidance. You have given two rulings, Mr. Deputy President. You have ruled that the Minister has the right under the Standing Orders to read his speech, and you have also ruled that he is referring to copious notes. Which ruling do you abide by?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I have given a ruling that the Minister is in order, and I do not propose to depart from it. If Senator Willesee is not satisfied, he should take appropriate action.
– Does your ruling mean, Mr. Deputy President, that in future all honorable senators will be able to read their speeches?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- If the rule against the reading of speeches were enforced strictly, many honorable senators would never make a speech in this, chamber. I have given a ruling, and I stand by it. I call upon the Minister for National Development to resume his speech.
– Very briefly, these are the problems discussed in the second part of the survey. They are problems to which, no doubt, we shall be forced to return in future surveys, for these are problems that are bound to arise in the process of economic growth. As such, intent as we are on a continuance of growth, they are problems which must be faced, and for which solutions must be found.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
There is nothing very complicated about this measure. Its primary purpose is to give legislative effect to the decisions affecting national service that were announced recently in another place by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). In brief, those decisions were, first, to confine national service training in future to the Army; second, to reduce the numbers actually trained from 33,000 per annum to 12,000 and, third, to fix the period of actual training with the Citizen Military Forces at 140 days, and spread it over four years instead of three. These changes in the national service scheme are the result of a review of the defence programme that the Government has made after close examination by the Defence Department, the Chiefsofstaff, and the relevant departments. This review necessarily has covered not only the strategic basis of Australian defence policy, but also the composition and equipment of the Australian defence forces.
The Government did not take the decision to cut back the national service scheme without reluctance, and only after detailed discussions with its highest service advisers. Quite apart from its value in producing partly trained reserves for the services, the Government is fully aware of the social value of the scheme. There is no doubt that the scheme has encouraged a sense of discipline and improved the health standards of the 180,000 young men who have been trained under the scheme. For their part, the young trainees have responded admirably and the standards of military training attained in their period of service have been a credit both to them and their instructors. The Government believes that the scheme has been completely successful in meeting the limited objectives it was set.
The fact that has to be faced, however, is that changing patterns of defence needs call for adjustments in the structure and composition of our forces. The requirements of 1951, when the national service scheme was introduced, and those of to-day are vastly different. Some adjustments were made earlier, in 1955, when the total numbers trained were reduced and the principles of geographic and rural worker deferment were introduced. Now again, in 1957, further adjustments have become necessary. The Government’s review has shown that the current and prospective needs of the permanent forces of the Navy and the Air Force are available. The service value in continuing national service training would not justify the diversion of Navy and Air Force resources from other more pressing requirements.
The national service scheme has been absorbing more resources in terms of money and of personnel for training in the Army than can, in future, be spared for that work, having regard to the greater emphasis that must be given to equipment and mobility. In particular, it is necessary that the regular forces at the Army’s disposal for speedy deployment should be increased and this is being met by the withdrawal of personnel from duties connected with the training of national servicemen. This diver sion of regular Army personnel from national service training duties will contribute substantially to the build-up of a mobile brigade group. At the same time, the organization and strength of the Citizen Military Forces must be maintained so as to provide the nucleus of trained and partly trained personnel required for the rapid expansion of our forces in time of emergency.
There has never been any officially based suggestion that the national service scheme could be dispensed with altogether. Indeed, the whole of our advice and the conclusion the Government arrived at was that the continuance of the national service scheme, in a modified form, was necessary for the maintenance of the C.M.F. on an effective basis. In the circumstances confronting the Government, there were several possible alternative approaches. They were exhaustively examined with our service advisers. Broadly, when once it was clear that the continuance of national service on the previous scale was no longer justifiable, and that it should be confined to the Army, there were two principal alternatives - one was to reduce the national service intake into the Army to very small dimensions, but to extend the period of training; the other was to maintain the intake at a sizeable level and vary the training programme.
A great many considerations entered into the taking of the decision to fix the annual intake at 12,000 and to extend the training over four years instead of three. We believe that this arrangement best meets the needs of the future as we have been able to assess them. Either course would produce only partly trained men. The course we have embarked on will produce many more, and enable the C.M.F. to be maintained at a strength of 50,700. The new proposals will mean that at any given time we will have more trained men than would be the case under any other practicable alternative. And the Government is confident that the changes now being made will result in an even better trained national service component.
To provide the numbers required under the new national service arrangements, which involve the call-up of only 12,000 a year for the Army in place of 33,000 for the three services in the past, a system of selection by ballot will operate. After carefully considering all possible methods, the Government has decided on a ballot based on dates of birth. This has the great virtues of being simple, equitable, and easily understood by those affected and of not lending itself to any manipulation. No change of method will be needed to provide each year the numbers required, notwithstanding the fact that annually the numbers of young men available will grow. This is quite important. We had to avoid a method of selection that would have to be altered as we went along because of the growth in the numbers of eighteen year olds. Some idea of this growth will be seen when I say that our estimates are that in 1960 the number, 73,000, will be 16 per cent, greater than it was in 1956 when it was, 63,000, and in 1965, at 104,000, it will be 65 per cent, greater. It is also important that the chances of selection of each individual will be substantially the same under the method I will describe as under any more elaborate system, and that the method will make for economic and efficient administration.
The system of selection will work like this: out of the total number of birth dates which can occur for any group to which a ballot is being applied, a certain number of birth dates will be drawn by ballot. The Minister proposes to invite some well-known and respected citizen to preside at, and make each draw. The number of birth dates to be drawn will be calculated in advance according to the number needed for training in relation to the number potentially available for training. Allowance, based on the experience of the Department of Labour and National Service of previous registrations, will be made for factors that reduce the numbers available for call-up, such as medical unfitness and deferments.
Those whose birthdays do not fall on the dates drawn will be granted “ indefinite “ deferment of service and will be notified individually of their deferment. Those notified of their deferment may, if they wish, volunteer to undergo national service training. It is no wish of the Government that any young men who wish to do their training should be prevented from doing so, if they are fit and live sufficiently near to a C.M.F. training centre. Those whose birthdays fall on the dates drawn will be regarded as available for service. Present arrangements under which the service is deferred of young men who live at such a distance from a C.M.F. training centre that it is impracticable to train, ‘ or who are employed full-time on a rural holding, as permanent rural workers engaged in the production of food and raw materials, will continue. So also will the present provisions for deferment on the ground of exceptional hardship and for deferment of students and apprentices where call-up would prejudicially affect their studies. None of these deferments is granted on an “ indefinite “ basis, so that when the circumstances warranting deferment cease to exist, those concerned will be called up.
The first ballot, for those already registered and not yet called up, i.e., those who were eighteen before 31st December, 1956, will be drawn shortly. Of those who are to be called up as a result of this ballot, most will go into camp either in July or October next, but some, mostly students and apprentices, will not enter camp until next January, which is the camp normally reserved for such young men. A small proportion of those already registered have, regrettably, not carried out the obligations required of them under the National Service Act. I refer to those who, without proper reason, did not register when they should, did not notify changes of their addresses, or failed to report for medical examination or for service and so on’ and, as a result, were not called up for service in the past at the normal time. For the sake of simplicity, I shall refer to all these people as defaulters. These defaulters will be treated as liable for training, regardless of the ballot result.
We do not intend to include in the ballot arrangements I have described that small number of persons who are already registered and who were over the age of 21 as at 31st December last. These are people who for one reason or another have been deferred from time to time. They include men who could be 24 and even more at the time of call-up if left in the ballot. It has been found that the inclusion of these older aged men with eighteen and nineteen year olds makes it harder to create the team spirit of groups under training. In addition, adults frequently have commitments not normally the lot of younger men.
Arrangements for the future will be as follows: - All British subjects and new
Australians,, as in the past, must register when their age groups are called upon to do so. Registrations will continue to be held twice a year and each will cover a six-month period. A ballot of birth dates will be drawn roughly one month after the close of each registration period. Those who fail to register before a ballot is drawn will, unless they can satisfy the registrar that the late registration was quite unavoidable, be treated as liable for call-up regardless of the results of the ballot. In addition, they will render themselves liable to the penalties provided by the National Service Act. Those who do satisfy the registrar, as I have mentioned, will be included in the succeeding ballot. The first registration this year will be in June for those whose eighteenth birthdays occur between 1st January and 30th June. It is anticipated that the registration for those whose eighteenth birthdays occur between 1st July and 31st December will be in August.
I want to emphasize three things. First, all young men must register, as has been the case in the past. Second, those who are to be deferred will be notified individually to that effect. Third, those who are so notified may, if they wish and they live handy enough to a C.M.F. unit to be trained, volunteer for national service. Thus, provided they can be trained, we are continuing the arrangements that have been operating since geographic and rural deferments were introduced in 1955, namely, that those who wish to volunteer will be accepted.
I referred a moment ago to defaulters. One of the many pleasing features of the national service scheme has been the relatively few attempts at dodging. The great bulk of our young men have been anxious to do their national service and have observed their obligations under the act. There have, however, been some defaulters. The department catches up with them, but, regrettably, some magistrates have tended to treat the offence of failing to register for national service altogether too lightly. There are cases of fines of as little as 10s. being imposed. Apart from any other consideration, the cost of tracing the defaulter may have been considerable. So we are providing in clause 21 for a minimum as well as a maximum fine. There can be no room for sympathy with these dodgers - they have neither a proper sense of duty to their country, nor a proper respect for their obligation to all those who have.
Before passing to deal with the other provisions of the bill, I point out that the lesser numbers being called up in future will mean that the Army cannot justify the continuation of some C.M.F. units. This will mostly be the case in country centres. Incidentally, if the national service intake had been cut further, a lot more units would have had to be disbanded. This would have been most unfortunate and regretted by many whose association with country units has been long and devoted. The matter is covered by clause 16 of the bill. When any unit is disbanded and the 140 days’ training obligation has not then been completed, the personnel in question will be excused the balance, but, like those who have completed their training in the Army, Navy and Air Force, they will remain in the Inactive Reserve for the balance of their period of five years commencing on the date of their first enlistment. Incidentally, the last Navy and Air Force intakes will complete their training in a matter of weeks.
The remainder of the clauses of the bill are either formal or to tidy up some small deficiencies revealed in the six years of the legislation’s administration, or are the essential transitional provisions inseparable from a measure like this. With one exception, about which I will say something, these provisions really speak for themselves. If any explanation is desired, the committee stage will provide the opportunity.
The one clause that I direct attention specifically to is clause 20. As the act stands unless the Minister otherwise directs, the period of national service training does not count towards the period of apprenticeship. The rule followed has been that, where a national service trainee has been employed in his trade, that time is allowed towards the apprenticeship period. More recently, the State officials concerned with apprenticeship administration conferred with the Department of Labour and National Service, and came to the conclusion that the rule should be that the time spent in national service training should count towards the apprenticeship period if, at the normal time of completion of apprenticeship, the apprenticeship authorities were satisfied that the young man was entitled to be regarded as a fully trained tradesman.
With the alteration in the number being trained and the shortening of the period of training, it was clear that the present provisions should be reviewed. In future, the longest period for which apprentices will be called up will be 77 days. It will occur at the beginning of the year and part of that period will be a time when technical colleges and even places of employment are closed. Originally an apprentice might be doing his national service for as long as 176 days continuously.
In these circumstances, the Government feels that the emphasis of the present provision should be altered so that, unless the Minister otherwise directs, the period of national service training will count towards the apprenticeship. Under the new arrangements, there can really be no question, generally speaking, of an apprentice losing any worthwhile part of his apprenticeship period in national service training. The exception that I have mentioned, however, enabling the Minister to direct otherwise, will permit action being taken if it should appear that, in cases of any individual trade or profession, it is necessary to extend the period of apprenticeship to compensate for time lost in national service. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 8th May (vide page 593), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The measure now before the chamber is designed to set up a new service in the Commonwealth sphere - a Commonwealth Police Force. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), in introducing the measure, described it as straightforward. I regret that I cannot subscribe to that statement.
Broadly, the bill proposes the merging of two bodies that have been in existence for a number of years, one since 1917 and the other since 1925. The first of those bodies is the Commonwealth Investigation Service. It should not be confused with the Commonwealth security service, which, of course, is concerned with the security of the Commonwealth, with the protection of its. confidential documents and with the provision of the necessary counterespionage services. I put that body to one side; it is not involved in this measure. The Commonwealth Investigation Service is the product of the egg thrown at Warwick, Queensland, in, I understand, 1917. It is the body that is regarded as the detective force of the Commonwealth. It conducts investigations into offences, or alleged offences, against Commonwealth laws. All of its members are at present, and have been since 1917, under the Public Service Act.
– Where did you say it began?
– At Warwick, Queensland. The honorable senator sitting alongside the interjector evidently has a clear recollection of an egg that was aimed at the late Mr. W. M. Hughes. The reaction to that action was the establishment of the Commonwealth Investigation Service.
– Because a State policeman would not do his duty.
– It was set up administratively, not by an act of this Parliament, and it has been functioning ever since by administrative act. It is true that its members were, like every other public servant in Australia, under the control of the Public Service Board.
– My years were a bit tender in 1917.
– Yes. In 1925 another body, called the Peace Officer Guard, was set up. It consists of uniformed officers, whose duty, mainly, is to act as watchmen and custodians of Commonwealth property. The interesting aspect is that that body, which in numbers is very much larger than the Commonwealth Investigation Service, is not under the Public Service Act. Its members are appointed by the Attorney-General. Its charter is an act of Parliament. It is very interesting to note that the bill that is now before the
Senate seeks to re-enact, almost verbatim, the 192S act, and I say at once that some of its provisions are distinctly archaic.
One very interesting fact is this: Although there are two bodies - the Commonwealth Investigation Service and the Peace Officer Guard - they have the same departmental heads. The director of one is the director of the other, and the deputy directors of one service are the deputy directors of the other. I can imagine no better basis of coordinating the activities of these two separate bodies than to have them under the one set of executive officers. Another very interesting fact is that all those executive officers are members of the Public Service.
Having made those preliminary remarks, I come to the proposal that is contained in the bill. The proposal is to merge the two bodies in a new organization to be called the Commonwealth Police Force. The most important thing to remember is that it will not be under the control of the Public Service Board and will not function under the Public Service Act. The bill deals with three phases of administration. First, it enables the Attorney-General, and him only, to select the personnel for the new force - not the Public Service Board; and certain conditions are laid down in clause 5. A person appointed must be a British subject; he must pass a medical examination as to his physical fitness, and he must take an appropriate oath. Apart from that, the Attorney-General may appoint persons to be Commonwealth police officers. When this force is removed altogether from the control of the Public Service Board and the act under which the board functions, there will be the widest opportunity for nepotism, the widest opportunity for favoritism. Under the proposed legislation, the Attorney-General may fill the new police force with people of his own choosing. No examination will be required; it will be a matter of his own individual judgment and choice. I am not suggesting that the Attorney-General of the clay will do that.
– It has been done before.
– Yes, but whether he does so or not, it is more likely that the selection of personnel will be left entirely to the executive head who is in charge of the force. I say that that is an exceedingly dangerous position, particularly in view of other aspects of the bill. The AttorneyGeneral, in addition to appointing people who are British subjects, who are physically fit, and who take an oath, may, pursuant to clause 10 - . . at any time and on such terms and conditions as he thinks fit, appoint such special Commonwealth Police Officers as he thinks fit and all special Commonwealth Police Officers so appointed shall, during the continuance of their appointment, be Commonwealth Police Officers under this Act.
The one thing that special police officers must do is to take an oath. In other words, I take it that this provision is to be invoked in an emergency when the regular members of the Commonwealth police force need to be augmented. It is a repetition of section 8 of the 1925 act; but it is not sufficient justification, after a lapse of 32 years, just to pick it up and put it in a new act without any explanation as to its need being given by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who is in charge of the bill.
The bill seeks to permit the creation of the widest possible Federal police force, and I say that is a dangerous thing to do. The Parliament should be very concerned before it agrees to the establishment of an organization that can have enormous scope and enormous activity and the members of which can be appointed by one man, because it boils down to that. That is far too dangerous a proceeding for this country.
Let me now examine the establishment and the terms of conditions of employment that are provided for in the bill.
– Have not these provisions been in existence under the old system, under which there were two branches?
– It did not apply to the Commonwealth Investigation Service, but that provision was contained in the 1925 legislation which set up the uniformed service of the Commonwealth peace officers. I invite the Minister to tell the Senate whether that clause has ever been invoked in the intervening 32 years; and, if so, in what circumstances. What leads the Government to believe that it will need to be invoked in the years that lie ahead? That is a direct question which
I pose to the Minister. I lack information about when recourse has been had to it under the existing act. I think that vital information should be placed before the Parliament. So much for the selection of personnel, which is a matter that will be entirely in the unfettered discretion of one person, nominally the Attorney-General, and in actual fact very largely the head of the particular department.
As to the establishment, the bill provides that the Attorney-General may set up a force of such numbers, ranks and grades as he, with the concurrence of the Public Service Board, determines. It comes to this: The Attorney-General can select all the personnel as individuals, but the question of their total numbers, various grades and types of officers is to be determined by him with the concurrence of the Public Service Board.
The next point relates to the terms and conditions of employment. The Senate will find that matter dealt with in clause 5 (4.) which reads -
Commonwealth Police Officers appointed in pursuance of sub-section (2.) of this section are not subject to the Public Service Act 1922-1955 and their terms and conditions of service are such as the Attorney-General, with the concurrence of the Public Service Board, determines.
That sub-clause is a kind of protection; it provides that their terms and conditions of employment shall be agreed upon between the Attorney-General and the Public Service Board. But whatever protection is accorded under the second heading is negatived by the next sub-clause, which provides -
Determinations made in pursuance of the last preceding sub-section shall be in writing, but shall be deemed not to be Statutory Rules within the meaning of the Rules Publication Act 1903-1939.
What does that mean? It means that the determination as to terms and conditions of employment in this new force - that is, the determination of the Attorney-General, with the concurrence of the Public Service Board - will not have to be sent to the Government Printer, will not have to be printed, will not be available for purchase by the public, and, what is most important, cannot be reviewed by the Parliament. It will not be the kind of thing that can be disallowed. That is a most dangerous proceeding. In almost every other case regulations made by Ministers are deemed under the Rules Publication Act to be statutory rules, and under the Acts Interpretation Act they have to be laid on the table of both Houses of the Parliament within a limited number of days, and either House, by a simple resolution, can disallow them. I should like the Senate to understand that the Parliament will be cut off from any review of the terms and conditions that may be laid down in this instance by the Public Service Board and the AttorneyGeneral. That, too, I suggest, is a matter that is of the most serious import. That should be in the mind of every honorable senator because the Senate is the one body within the Parliament that concerns itself very directly and immediately with ordinances and regulations. The Senate Regulations and Ordinances Committee will have no opportunity to review this particular matter. I acknowledge that there are circumstances in which a matter affecting terms and conditions of employment can come to the Parliament. That would be if recourse were had by the officers in the new organization to the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator. I believe that the provisions of the Public Service are wide enough to embrace this body, and that it would have an opportunity to present a plaint before the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator. That officer is obliged, after making an award, to table it in the Parliament, after which either House may disallow it; but only if there is an award from the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator. That is an opportunity that the Parliament may, or may not, have. The original determination of conditions could pass beyond our ken.
I now come to another aspect of this subject. If honorable senators will refer to the last Estimates submitted to the Parliament they will find, on page 30, under Division 61, that particulars of the Commonwealth Investigation Service, which at present is under the Public Service Act, are set out. An item there relates to salaries and allowances, and on page 180 there is set out the whole of the establishment of that organization. There is one director, seven deputy directors or assistant directors, twelve senior clerks, 40 investigators and 30 clerical assistants, making a total of 90 persons. When the matter comes before the Senate or the House of Representatives, in that form, there is an opportunity for every member to examine the establishment and ask questions about the work of those employed in the various grades.
By way of contrast, I turn to Division 64, on the next page, which deals with the Peace Officer Guard that was set up under the act of 1925. One item in Division No. 64 is “ Salaries and Allowances, £495,000 “. This body - the Peace Officer Guard - is not under the Public Service Act, and nowhere in the Estimates would honorable senators find details of the establishment. We do not know how many directors, deputy directors, assistant directors, police officers and clerical assistants are paid from that vote. That information is not available to us. I suggest that that is not a healthy development. That lack of information applies also to the security service, but I am prepared to concede it in favour of that service, because it is connected clearly with the security of the country, and must have agents who are not known. The Parliament has agreed not to probe the expenditure of money by that organization, but I think we should stop short there, particularly when we know that the great bulk of the work of the Peace Officer Guard will be concerned with the ordinary, plain, civil duty of acting as watchmen and custodians of Commonwealth property. This force ought to be kept under the constant review of the Parliament. I say that, to justify the changes that we are asked to approve, a very strong case should have been made out by the Government.
Let us examine the case as I interpret it from the Minister’s second-reading speech. The first point submitted by the Minister in favour of the bill is that the demand for the services of the Commonwealth Investigation Service is growing. According to the Minister, there is only a small establishment - 90 persons - but there is no readily available source of competent recruits, whilst Commonwealth activities have greatly increased. Let me take the Minister’s last argument first, namely, that the Commonwealth activities have increased vastly since 1939 when World War II. began. That was eighteen years ago. The present Government has been in office for nearly eight years. I venture to say that there was no less activity eight years ago than there is now, because at that time many rehabilitation problems had to be faced. Indeed, it may well be that there were more activities then than now. It is extraordinary that this amalgamation takes place, in one case, 40 years after the first body was established, and in the other case, 30 years after the second body was established, whilst Commonwealth activity has been on a colossal scale compared with pre-war activities for at least eight years during this Government’s term of office. I ask the Minister to tell the Senate what has suddenly arisen, at the end of eight years of this Government’s functioning, to justify the argument that Commonwealth activities have greatly increased.
We are told that there is no readily available source of competent recruits. The first comment I make is that I understand that advertisements for this service appear in the press calling for applications for admission to it from persons both inside and outside the Public Service. Section 39’ of the Public Service Act permits persons outside the service to enter at the level of the fourth division. I invite the Minister to say whether that is the way that members of the Commonwealth Investigation Service are recruited, because I have a very distinct recollection, arising from my experience of administration, that very brilliant members of State police forces were attracted to the Commonwealth Investigation Service - men who had rendered distinguished service, and had drawn from judges in the courts of this country expressions of real commendation, as well as similar expressions from counsel engaged in cases in which they appeared, counsel on both sides. Great ingenuity and ability have been displayed by many men in this service.
As I have said, some of the foremost among them were men drawn from State police forces. If those are the facts - and I believe them to be so - I ask the Minister to state where the difficulty in recruitment lies. He talks about the need for training, but I point out that there is nothing whatsoever to prevent the Public Service Board, when dealing with the Commonwealth Investigation Service, from setting up its own unit for training. That is normal practice in other spheres, so why not here also? In this service, which is concerned with Commonwealth law, and with highly specialized investigations demanding great tact, courage and, above all, great technical skill and understanding, I see the desirability of having its own training corps. It could select a group of cadets, who could go through a course of training until they reached the higher levels required by an investigation service. Where is the difficulty in setting up such a training scheme as a part of the Commonwealth Investigation Service? I should like to hear what the Minister has to say on that point.
The Minister went on to say that the resources of the two bodies could be employed more efficiently and flexibly if the two bodies were combined. I ask what more can be done to combine their activities and their resources than to have both bodies under the command of one director, and one set of deputy directors. What better link is wanted than that? I cannot imagine anything that could be better adapted to ensure that the two bodies function efficiently together than to have them under the one Control. It, therefore, seems reasonable to ask the Government to explain the need to upset the present system, which has operated well. Nothing has been said to indicate that there has been any friction between the two bodies. In the set-up that I have outlined friction should not develop, because the man in charge could not be in conflict with himself as to what the two bodies should do.
The Minister then went on to indicate that the Government’s proposals would provide a career service, and he gave that as an argument in favour of the bill. I do not know what he meant by that statement. Is it not a career service now? My recollection is that many of the men have been in it for many years, and have made it a career service. I should like the Minister to tell the Senate just what he means by saying that the new body will offer members a career service, because, frankly, I do not understand what that means. He has made it plain that the new body will not touch the duties of the police forces of the Territories, the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory. The bill provides that whilst the whole force will be outside the Commonwealth Public Service, nevertheless the executive heads will remain within it. What kind of a hybrid body is being proposed? We have a body that is to be entirely outside the Public Service but whose executive officers are to be members of it. Other police forces of the Federal Parliament, in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, are to be outside this force altogether.
The Minister told us that apart from these bodies there are investigational bodies in Australia which will not be affected by the establishment of the new police force. He then went on to say that the Commonwealth Police Force will be charged with the duty of ensuring co-operation between and the co-ordination of all these other bodies. I point out that if that is to be the case, it certainly will not be long before it will absorb them. If it has the duty of co-ordinating them and ensuring their cooperation, it will not be long before these departmental investigational bodies will themselves be absorbed in the Commonwealth Police Force. Let me mention some of the departments concerned. The Department of Social Services has officers who investigate questions of fraud and make delicate inquiries into the affairs of pensioners and claimants for pensions. Does anybody think it desirable that a member of the Commonwealth Police Force should be engaged in that kind of investigation or impinge upon it in any way? Similarly, investigational officers are employed in the Repatriation Department. Is a similar suggestion to be made about them? The Customs Department employs a highlytrained investigational staff concerned with fraud, the importation of drugs, narcotics and that type of thing.
– A specific assurance was given in the second-reading speech that that will not happen.
– I indicated that; but the Minister has gone further and indicated that it will be the function of the Commonwealth Police Force to ensure cooperation between and the co-ordination of these bodies. I invite the Minister presently, when he replies, to say where any need exists at all for a Commonwealth police force to co-ordinate these specialized agencies. If we are to have one grand Commonwealth investigational service, why is anybody left out? I am asking for information.
This bill has been presented to the Parliament in a way that not only does not give sufficient information to honorable senators but also does not give us any proper reasons for the establishment of such a force on the basis proposed. There is a whole field of postal investigation. Then, the Taxation Branch has a field of highly skilled investigators, skilled particularly in accountancy and alert to detect fraud that might be practised upon the department. I invite the Minister to tell us what activity of that staff the new Commonwealth Police Force proposes to coordinate. What is the need for that co-operation? It seems to me that we are creating a multiplicity of bodies, aggregating these two, leaving two sets of police forces run free, and letting all these departmental investigational bodies continue to function. All these things ought to be explained far more fully to the Parliament than has been done in the second-reading speech.
I invite the Minister to tell us, too, whether it is a fact that the various State police forces have expressed willingness to train officers for the Commonwealth. My advice, without being sure that I have been advised correctly, is that the various State police forces have expressed their complete willingness to train officers for the Commonwealth Police Force. If that is the case where is the need even to set up our own training facilities? I do not object to that being done, but I am concerned to know the reason for it. I do not propose to address myself at length to this bill because, at the moment, I am so devoid of information from the Government in relation to it and the real reason for the change, that at this stage I indicate that the Opposition will have no other course but to oppose the bill at all its stages. We would need to be supplied with a very strong and cogent reason before we would agree to the setting-up of what could be an unlimited police force at the federal level. I prefer to keep down a force of that type to a minimum. I do not propose to facilitate its extension into new fields and greater activities.
I acknowledge that although the present members of the Public Service who are affected will not be regarded as being in the Public Service or subject to the Public Service Board when they go to this body, nevertheless all their rights as public servants are preserved. I note, too, that they will be entitled to Commonwealth employees’ compensation. Those are good features, but they are minor features and the objection that I pose on behalf of the Opposition is only with regard to the basis upon which the new police force is to be set up. My colleagues will develop at greater length the various points I have outlined. I simply indicate to the Government that unless it can find a far more powerful set of reasons to justify the bill than it has presented at this stage, the Opposition will oppose it.
– I support the bill. Quite frankly, I cannot appreciate the fears that the Leader -of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has attempted to detail to the Senate. I regard this bill as another milestone in the history of this country. It will give legislative sanction for the establishment of a Commonwealth police force. That, I consider, is a natural development in this nation. The bill integrates in one service the old Commonwealth Investigation Service, or to speak colloquially, the detective service, with the old Peace Officer Guard. The latter comprised uniformed officers who guarded Commonwealth buildings and did other police duties for specific Commonwealth institutions. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, the new Commonwealth Police Force is not to be a section of the Public Service although the old Commonwealth Investigation Service was. However, that is not unusual because in no State of the Commonwealth at the present time is a police service part of the normal civil service with the public service board of a particular State having control and jurisdiction over it. So, there is nothing new in the departure set out in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition.
In this country there has been a very great expansion of population since the beginning of the war from approximately 7,000,000 to approximately 10,000,000. The Commonwealth’s functions have of necessity increased apace. Large Commonwealth factories and other buildings have been created, and there are spread through the country Commonwealth , projects which require a very high degree of security. It is right and proper that the Commonwealth should accept responsibility for the protection of its own property. Aerodromes and defence installations are being added to monthly. Consequently, I cannot see that it would be unwise to set up the best possible organization for the protection of these Commonwealth establishments and for the detection of any crimes or misdemeanours that may be occasioned by their presence in the States or the Territories of the Commonwealth.
As the Minister has said in his secondreading speech, there is at present no reserve of trained staff to perform these detection and police duties. I understand that in the past the strength of the Commonwealth Investigation Service has been built up by officers transferred from other civil service departments - men who were surplus to other establishments. It is proposed now to create a new service. This new service will not be built up by, as it were, temporary people. In other words, there will not be square pegs in round holes, or transferees from other departments. This new police service will be able to have a training school - a training cadre, as it were. It will be a career service. There will be wider avenues for the use of the abilities of the officers who join it, and opportunities for promotion will occur regularly.
I am encouraged when I review the growth of the diplomatic service of the nation. About twenty years ago it consisted of a mere handful of men. To-day we are proud of our diplomatic representatives. Most of them started as cadets. They were duly trained by the Department of External Affairs in Canberra and then were sent abroad as third secretaries. Some of those cadets are now ambassadors or high commissioners. There is every reason to hope that the Commonwealth Police Force will develop along the same lines. So I consider that this evening, when the Senate is asked to put its imprimatur on the Commonwealth Police Force, is an historic occasion.
I feel that there is a lesson to be learned from the Territories. We are building up a fine civil service in New Guinea. It commenced as an integrated service, with cadets, good opportunities for promotion, and so on. I believe that that is important. There should be opportunities for a man who enters the Commonwealth service as a policeman to go eventually on to detective work and to rise to the top, but at present there appear to be no such opportunities. Although there was no reference to this in the second-reading speech of the Minister, I hope that eventually this Common wealth Police Force will be integrated with the police forces in our territories. One of the great difficulties with regard to the police services in Nauru, the Northern Territory and Papua and New Guinea is that there does not seem to be provision for men to go from one territory to another without losing status. I hope, therefore, that it may be possible later to integrate the police forces of the territories and the police service that we are setting up by this bill.
With regard to the objections raised by the Leader of the Opposition, I think it is proper to point out that there will be ample opportunity for the detailed administration of this new service to come before the Parliament. Clause 11 provides -
The Attorney-General shall, once in each year, cause a report containing a general review of the operation of the Commonwealth Police Force and a summary of its activities during the year to be prepared, and the report shall be laid before each House of the Parliament.
That should dissolve the fears of the Leader of the Opposition. The Parliament will have annually an opportunity to consider that report, as well as the normal opportunity to discuss the amount of money spent by the force during the year and the amount sought to be appropriated for it for the forthcoming year. There is adequate provision for the Parliament to follow the doings of this Commonwealth Police Force. It will not be, as the Leader of the Opposition stated, cut off from review. On the contrary, there is a legislative requirement that it shall be constantly before the review of the Parliament.
I agree that eventually it may be necessary to appoint a police appeal board, as has been done in some of the States. I have in mind in particular South Australia, where there is a very important board known as the Police Appeal Board, which does give great satisfaction with regard to promotions and appeals. I hope those things will take care of themselves as this force develops. I do not think there is anything wrong with the provision that special police officers may be appointed to the force.
In clause 10 of the bill there is provision to appoint special Commonwealth police officers. Similar power is contained in every act of the State parliaments relating to the police. I cannot understand why the Leader of the Opposition should look askance at a clause of that sort in this bill or why he should appear to be bewildered when reading it because, in a case of emergency, it is essential that the Executive should have the power to appoint special police officers. Fortunately, that power is very seldom used in this country of peaceful people. Possibly, it is 30 years since that power was used in South Australia. The last time was about 1927 when there was trouble on the waterfront, and special constables were sworn in. But the power is there and it is quite correct that it should be included in the bill that is before the Senate.
I cannot follow the objections that the Leader of the Opposition has put to the Senate. In my opinion, this bill should meet with our approval. I believe that it will be approved by those who are employed in the two services that are affected. They will see in the integration of the two services the possibility of a career for themselves. The younger officers will see prospects of promotion.
I should like to make one suggestion in connexion with the protection of police officers. The South Australian legislation contains a valuable provision for the protection of police officers who may be sued by a member of the public. Section 53 of the Police Regulation Act 1952 of South Australia provides -
The South Australian legislation also provides that if action of a vexatious or frivolous nature is brought against a police officer and it fails completely, the plaintiff shall be heavily mulcted for costs on the highest possible scale. I should like to see some protection provided in this measure for police officers who in the course of their duty may be vexatiously set upon by members of the public. With those minor criticisms and brief comments, I heartily support the bill, and wish the proposed new service every success.
– I join with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) in opposing the bill. I listened with interest to the contribution to the debate that was made by Senator Laught. . He began by saying that this measure was another milestone in the growth of Australia, and went on to explain why the police force should be enlarged. Senator Laught asked why we should not have a Commonwealth police force. He invited us to think of all the aerodromes and buildings that we have constructed in recent years. It is true that we have aerodromes and buildings, but the honorable senator then went on to give reasons why we should have a cadetship in the proposed new force. If ordinary people want a cadetship so that aerodromes and buildings can be protected, we shall hear next that a chair should be established at universities for such purposes.
I agree with Senator Laught’s comment with respect to the right of appeal. If we are to have a Commonwealth police force - and I hope that we shall not have one - we should give to the members of the force the same right of appeal as that which is enjoyed by other Commonwealth employees. No doubt there is such a provision in every State act covering the police force.
The purpose of this bill is to amalgamate the Peace Officer Guard and the Commonwealth Investigation Service as the Commonwealth Police Force. It will also exclude the new body from the control of the Public Service Board and place it under the control of the Attorney-General. He will be able to appoint anybody he likes and as many officers as he wishes. He will have sole control of the force.
It is interesting to study the history of the two organizations concerned. The Commonwealth Investigation Service grew out of an egg, according to history. That was the famous “ Warwick egg “ that was thrown at Mr. W. M. Hughes when he was Prime Minister. Some one did not agree with the views he expressed during the second conscription campaign during World War I., and caused an egg to be thrown at him. I am not sure whether , the egg hit Mr. Hughes; but he was so annoyed that he set up the body to which I have referred in 1917 without consulting the Parliament.
– It was not a good egg, either.
– Possibly, the cause that Mr. Hughes espoused was as bad as the egg. That is what the people indicated in the subsequent vote on the conscription issue. The Peace Officer Guard was set up by the Bruce-Page Government in 1925. Two cases were cited. There was a case in Western Australia where officers of the Customs Department, I believe, were involved, and a case in New South Wales connected with the deportation of British seamen who had been involved in the 1925 British seamen’s strike. The State police at the time would not give the co-operation that was required of them. The bill that brought about the establishment of the peace officers in 1925 arose from those incidents.
I have read and re-read the secondreading speech of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who is in charge of the bill. What evidence did he place before the Senate to justify this measure? He did not state, as was done by the Prime Minister of the day in 1925, that incidents had occurred in which the State police refused to co-operate. He cited no cases and adduced no evidence whatever to show that in recent years there has not been co-operation between the State and the Commonwealth forces. During the course of his speech, the Minister said -
In recent times the demand for the services of the Commonwealth Investigation Service has been, far greater than can be expeditiously met by the existing establishment, which is small, and which has no readily available source of competent trained people to draw upon.
He offers no evidence to support that statement. He does not say why the extra numbers are needed. We want more than a bald statement which is unsupported by facts. Indeed, one could say that in the main none of the points raised by him is supported by evidence. He also spoke about the wide range of matters which these officers are called to investigate and which make demends upon skill and ingenuity which can only be expected of officers of the highest ability and training. Again, he quotes no example to illustrate the skill required of these men, nor does he explain what ability is needed. In fact, he does not say exactly what work this body will do.
The Minister also said that the proposed new body will not interfere with the work of officers of the various departments which deal directly with the public, and he mentioned social services, taxation and so on.
I do not know whether he wants these officers to discover defaulters or people who fail to furnish income tax returns. At least, he should tell us the special skill which the members of this force must possess.
– They have already been operating for 30 years.
– The Minister did not say that in his speech.
– Yes, I did. I said that the Commonwealth Investigation Service was established in 1917.
– I am not speaking about the time when it was established. I am saying that when the Minister referred to demands upon skill and ingenuity, he did not cite cases or give examples to illustrate the kind of skill or ingenuity that is needed.
– But this organization has been in existence for 40 years now.
– I simply ask the Minister to support his statements. I ask him to give examples and to quote cases. If he could do that, it might put an entirely different complexion upon the whole question. He says that this force will not interfere with the investigations being conducted by officers of any other department; but he has quoted no case in which a State has not co-operated in the enforcement of Commonwealth laws. It is about time he told us what the enlarged force will do.
– Who is going to enlarge it?
– I understood the Minister to say that one part of the bill provides that all appointments made under this measure will be subject to the control of the Attorney-General. They are to be taken from the jurisdiction of the Public Service Board. The Minister then said that this body will be the principal investigational and law enforcement authority of the Commonwealth.
– As it is now.
– Then, he goes on to say that it will not interfere with any other body. The Minister should let us know exactly what he does mean. What work will this Commonwealth Police Force do? Is it to be an authority similar to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States of America?
– It has not been so for the last 30 years.
– The Minister knows as well as I do that the moment two forces are amalgamated the normal reaction of the person appointed to lead the new body is to set about building around himself the biggest force he can induce the appropriate authority to appoint because, as with all government departments, whether they be State or Federal, the more important one’s job becomes the safer it becomes.
– Sound antisocialism!
– No. I am simply stating facts. The Minister went on to say that as these officers will not in future be subject to the Public Service Act recruitment will be helped. At the present time, any person who wishes to. enter the Public Service is required to pass a competitive examination. Once he passes that examination and the medical test, he is appointed and is on his way. In most cases his progress then rests upon himself. As this body will not be under the Public Service Act, what is to be the position? Will applicants not have to pass the leaving certificate or matriculation examination? Is there to be a competitive system of appointment? The bill does not say so. All that it provides is that the Attorney-General will have the right to appoint. Can any one say that the Public Service to-day, to which appointments are made on merit, because applicants must pass an examination before they can be appointed, has not been all that we hoped it would be? Is the Government so dissatisfied with the Public Service that it is cutting out that method of appointment?
The Minister said that if this force were excluded from the operations of the Public Service Act, recruitment would be helped. He did not explain how it would be helped. Senator Laught spoke about cadetships. How are appointments to be made if there are cadetships? Are appointments to be made because the Attorney-General likes the way the applicants do their hair, or must appointees be as able as we expect members of the Public Service to be? The Minister should at least tell us something about it. He should not just read a statement, unsupported by reasons for an alteration of the system.
If men are wanted for the Peace Officer Guard or the Commonwealth Investigation Service, they need not necessarily be taken from the Public Service. Other persons can apply for such jobs if they want them, and a determination can then be made on whether or not they are suitable. In effect, the Minister said that the persons who are in the employ of the government in these two services to-day are not the best. That is the inference that can be drawn, because an alteration is sought in the method of recruitment. From the Minister’s statement that recruitment will be helped, the inference can be drawn that the Government expects to get a better class of men. The Minister said in his second-reading speech -
The’ different authorities under which the Peace Officer Guard and the officers of the Commonwealth Investigation Service are employed and the different fields of recruitment have placed severe limitations in the past upon the extent to which the two services can operate towards a common end.
The Minister did not say anything in support of that contention. All that we want is information. He should not make a bald statement and expect it to carry weight with us, because it will not do so.
The Minister said also that this is a straightforward measure, but he directed attention to clause 4 (2.). This provision, he said, is intended to ensure that executive ‘ officers will retain their present status. But let us look at the bill. If I were one of the officers concerned, I should not worry about what was said in a second-reading speech. The jobs of these officers will be safeguarded only by the provisions of the legislation. I suggest that those persons who are interested should examine the bill, because in clause 4 (2.) the operative word is “ may “. If the Minister’s statement were correct, the word would be “ shall “, in which case the persons affected would have some protection. Let us not imagine that the present Attorney-General will hold that office for life. Conditions change, and the next Attorney-General may have different views. I suggest, therefore, that the word “ may “ in clause 4 (2.) be altered to “shall”. Now let us look at clause 10, which reads - (1.) The Attorney-General may, at any time and on such terms and conditions as he thinks fit, appoint such special Commonwealth Police Officers as he thinks fit and all special Commonwealth Police Officers so appointed shall, during the continuance of their appointment, be Commonwealth Police Officers under this Act.
That means that the Attorney-General is to be given an open cheque. He may do what he likes, how he likes and when he likes. Irrespective of who the Attorney-General may be, I should prefer a guarantee of conditions. No doubt regulations may be made under the legislation, but that is not stated in clause 10. How long will the special Commonwealth police officers be appointed, and what guarantee will they have of continuity of employment?
Paragraph (a) of clause 13 deals with the general government and discipline of the Commonwealth Police Force, and paragraph (b) with the protection of officers in respect of acts done in pursuance of their duties, or in obedience to instructions received by them. What does that mean? When will we be told what it means? Is this to be a strike-breaking force?
– It is all very well to say that; but we want to know what it will be used for. No explanation was offered by the Minister in his secondreading speech.
– The functions are not being altered one bit.
– It is all very well to say that.
– The honorable senator has not read the Minister’s secondreading speech.
– I have not read it?
– It would appear so.
– I oppose the measure, because I believe that it seeks to build up an empire that the nation does not need in spite of the need to guard the extra aerodromes and buildings that have been constructed. The proposed force could develop into something like the American Federal Bureau of Investigation.
I again ask: Have not State officers cooperated in investigations of cases of evasion of customs duty and the smuggling of narcotics or other contraband into Australia? Is the proposed Commonwealth police force to be superimposed on the State organizations? How soon will we tell the States that we do not want their police officers to interfere in Commonwealth matters? Who ensures that the law is obeyed in the Australian Capital Territory? It is true that there is a Commonwealth police force in the Northern Territory but, unless I have been misinformed, I should say that New South Wales police officers help the Commonwealth in the administration of the law in the Australian Capital Territory.
What I fear more than anything else is that one of the underlying purposes of this bill is to raise a force that can be used in future industrial disputes. I hope I am assured later that that is not so. Of course, I have spent so much of my life in trying to settle disputes and I do not wish to see any more.
– The honorable senator is not doing too well.
– I am referring to another field. I have no desire to see others pass through times similar to those which I have passed through. No adequate guarantee has been given in relation to the conditions of employment of officers who will be appointed under clause 10; and there was no reference in the Minister’s second-reading speech to the number of men who will comprise the force. I believe that its numbers will grow. I should not think that if any honorable senator were to be appointed as head of the organization hewould be willing to keep it as small as it is; he would be thinking, rather, of the future.
I hope that, when the Minister replies, he will furnish us with more information than he did in his second-reading speech. Because of the dangers that are inherent in the bill, and because no substantial reasons have been advanced by the Minister for its introduction, I oppose it.
– Having heard the second-reading speech of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), I had not intended to participate in the debate. I felt that the bill had been introduced for sensible reasons and had been fully explained. Although, perhaps, one or two clauses need to be debated in detail, I shall not attempt to do so at this stage. 1 am amazed at the opposition to the bill that has been expressed to-night. A Labour Opposition, in criticizing a government for bringing together under one head two separate bodies whose work is so closely related, in order to streamline their activities and to reduce administrative costs, seems to be adopting an amazing attitude. I thought the Government would have been praised. Any government that links two organizations such as these should be praised. Government supporters are supposed to be conservatives who do not like changes, but to-night the boot is on the other foot. Perhaps, it is because we constitute the Government and honorable senators opposite form the Opposition and they say, “ Whatever the Government puts forward we will criticize “.
Senator Kennelly even criticized the the Minister’s second-reading speech because it did not contain reference to the skill that is required of employees in these two services. All I say to Senator Kennelly is that if any member of the National Parliament does not know the degree of skill that is required of an investigator in the Commonwealth Investigation Service or does not know the attributes that a peace officer is required to possess, an examination ought to be held for candidates for election to the Parliament.
– I agree wholeheartedly with that suggestion.
– If that were done, the honorable senator would not be here. I understood him to say that officers who are employed by other departments on investigational activities would be drawn into the empire that he suggests the bill seeks to establish. The Minister, in his secondreading speech, was very clear on the point. He said -
Honorable senators are assured that the autonomy of investigational agencies of other departments will not be affected in any way by the creation of the Commonwealth police force.
If, by bringing these two bodies under one administrative head, we are opening the way to the creation of an empire, which I understood Senator Kennelly to say is established every time a State or Federal departmental head gets an opportunity-
– That is true.
– That is a nasty aspersion to cast upon any one during a debate on a measure of this kind. If this bill opens the way for the building of an empire, all 1 say is that it would be just as easy for little empires to grow under existing heads.
– There would then be two empires.
– Yes. If one makes an unbiased approach to this measure, one welcomes the fact that it will remove the Commonwealth Investigation Service from the scope of the Public Service Act. In my opinion, no police force or security service should be governed by the Public Service Act. I am not alone in holding that view, because not one State police force comes under a State Public Service Act. The reason is obvious; these officers may have to conduct investigations within the Public Service. I believe that the Parliament, by placing these officers outside the Public Service, is giving them an opportunity to have freedom of action without any fear of retribution. That is only being fair to those persons whom the Government seeks to employ, and, therefore, I cannot understand the doubt expressed by Senator Kennelly concerning recruitment for the service being improved by the linking of the two bodies. There are about 40 officers in the Commonwealth Investigation Service, but I understand that the authorized establishment of the Peace Officer Guard is about 640. That this small organization is, as it were, out on a limb, and provides little or no opportunity for advancement, is shown by the fact that recruits are hard to get, and that the personnel employed is now only about 560. Is it not common sense to provide that men seeking employment with the Peace Officer Guard shall know that they can advance to positions in the investigation service? By amalgamating the two bodies, more recruits and cadets should be obtained. That is obvious, and is another reason why the Government is wise in making provision for these two bodies to come together under one head.
For the reasons that I have given, I support the bill, and express my amazement at the attempt of the Opposition to defeat it.
– The longer this bill is debated, and the greater the numbers of supporters of the Government who speak on it, the more I am convinced that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), and those on this side who have followed him, have good reasons for their opposition to it. Supporters of the measure have not given one good reason for co-ordinating the two services into one. But this bill goes farther than that. It is the least justified blank cheque that has ever been brought before the Senate since I have been a member of it - and I did not enter it for the first time yesterday. Under this bill almost anything can be done by regulation, or indeed in other ways, because it gives unlimited power to the Attorney-General. The scope of the measure is as open and wide as Australia is big. There is more in this proposal than the co-ordination of two services. If we are to have a secret police service, as the Minister indicated it would be, I wonder how secret it will be if its details are open to discussion in the Parliament, and its investigations made known to the public, should any member of the Parliament seek that information. Yet, according to statements by the Minister and others sitting behind him, that will be the position. We on this side should have been pleased indeed if we had been in the position to demand information of that kind in connexion with the Petrov case. We should then have been able to learn something of the prize of £5,000 paid to certain individuals. According to the Minister, we shall be able to demand that information in the Senate, and get it, if this bill is passed.
I come now to a more serious aspect of this secret service organization. Does the Minister think that we are so simple as to believe that the transactions and activities of this secret service will be made public in this Parliament? Of course they will not be brought before us, and the Minister cannot gull us, as he has attempted to do. A secret service similar to the organization we have in Australia is essential in every country. If we are to incorporate a secret service in an ordinary police force, it will be a case not of raising the status of our secret service officers, but of letting them down to a lower level. The speeches made by the Minister and his supporters contain not one word of praise for Australia’s present secret service organization. In reply to Senator Kennelly, who said that another empire would be established, the Minister asked, “Who has said that more will be appointed? “. Let us use our own judgment concerning the Minister’s statement when he said -
In recent times demand for the services of the Commonwealth Investigation Service has been far greater than can be expeditiously met by the existing establishment, which is small, and which has no readily available source of competently trained people to draw upon.
If the organization is small, and if there is no readily available source of competently trained people to draw upon, whose fault is that? Previous governments realized that it was necessary to train officers for overseas appointments, such as those in the Department of External Affairs, and they saw that men were so trained. They realized, too, that the training must start at the bottom, in Canberra and other places in Australia, so that in time they could fill the places of men in the higher positions, and thus continue their excellent work. Would it not be possible to adopt a similar scheme of training in connexion with our investigation service, under which recruits would be obtained and trained for higher appointments? The Minister then went on to say -
Also the extension of the field of the Commonwealth activities since the establishment of the Commonwealth Investigation Service and the wide range of matters now falling to the officers of that service for investigation is making demands upon skill and ingenuity which can only be expected of officers of the highest ability and training.
That statement is an admission that there is need for a training centre to be set up. I ask whether the Government expects that, by obtaining recruits for an ordinary police force, it will get men sufficiently skilled to carry out the important duties of a secret service? In my opinion, it is lunacy to think that skilled men, competent to act as secret service officers, can be obtained by seeking recruits for an ordinary police force.
Referring to the remarks of Senator Kennelly regarding the establishment of another empire, Senator Laught said that because governmental activities were increasing, by the establishment of more government factories, buildings, aerodromes, and so on, a stronger police force was needed. Like the Minister and Senator Marriott, he did not cite one instance in which a State police force has let this Government down. He did not tell us of any crime wave that has taken place that calls for this extra force. I ask honorable senators opposite, who have yet to speak on this bill, to cite any instance in respect of the protection of aerodromes, Commonwealth factories or departmental property in which a State police force has fallen down on the job. Have crimes been committed that could not have been detected by a State police force? Unless honorable senators opposite can give specific instances in which State police forces are not doing their job, I say it is useless to introduce a bill of this kind. What has been said is only a blind to cover up the open-cheque nature of this bill.
Senator Laught was peeved because no appeal board from which members” of the force might receive justice is to be set up. I know that is the case; but, once this opencheque bill is passed, how long will it be before an appeal board is established? Senator Laught said that the States have such appeal boards. Of course they have; and Senator Laught, being a lawyer, should know of that fact. In Tasmania the police have an appeal board which can override the decision of the sovereign Government of the’ State. That is how powerful the appeal board of the police force in Tasmania is. What I am saying is not hearsay, because that was done only recently. That appeal board overrode the decision of the elected Government of the State and snapped its fingers at it; and that Government could do nothing about it. Honorable senators opposite talk about police appeal boards; and I am just illustrating how powerful such bodies can become when one starts to boost them. Senator Laught boosted appeal boards, but this is one kind of appeal board I will not boost. It is one appeal board, to use an Australian term, which I would say is wrong underneath, wrong in principle and wrong in any shape or form.
I am not saying that the great majority of the members of the State police force in Tasmania have neglected their work in any shape or form in keeping law and order. Can anybody name one instance in which a State police force has fallen down on its job? Can any one name one instance in which any Commonwealth police force could have gone into a State and done a better job /of looking after Commonwealth factories, aerodromes and buildings than State police forces have been doing up to date? If they can then I invite them to do so and thus produce some justification for the provision in this instance of power which, at some distant date, if the position is not watched very closely, may be exercised completely beyond control. Is there any guarantee that this proposed force will not in time override the six State police forces? Is that the longrange object of this bill? Unless the Government has fault to find with the State police forces, I would say that is the object of this bill and that it cannot have any other object.
Upon further examination we find that this bill is even more dangerous than that. The more one analyses it, the more dangerous it appears to be. I will read one paragraph of the Minister’s second-reading speech which confirms what was said by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and by Senator Kennelly. The Minister said -
This bill establishes a Commonwealth Police Force and empowers the Attorney-General to appoint persons to be Commonwealth police officers.
As the Leader of the Opposition and Senator Kennelly pointed out, when they dealt with some provisions of the bill - I do not intend to reiterate what they said - the Attorney-General is being given power to make these appointments. At some future time - I am not accusing the present Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) - an Attorney-General could set up, if he so desired, one of the vilest and most wicked Gestapos to be found in any country of the world. Yet, innocent senators, like Senator Mattner, if he remains here long enough, will just sit by; it would be so simple and easy.
I have heard during debates in this chamber over a number of years, fears expressed about the setting up of terrible dictators - terrible Hitlers and Mussolinis. Here is a method of giving dictatorial power to one man in the Parliament. Honorable senators opposite cannot get away from the fact; it is a stark, naked fact which they cannot escape. If a future AttorneyGeneral should have a personal friend whom he wants to slip into the force, nothing will prevent him from doing so, whether or not his friend is qualified for such an appointment. I am pointing out a danger which I have experienced. I could cite an instance in which a senior officer in a police force engaged in work to which no member of this Senate would stoop. He engaged in corruption and bribery in order to obtain convictions against innocent people. That is a bold statement to make, but if honorable senators want me to name the officer I can do so. I am not making charges that I cannot prove. In that instance, when complaints were made to the Tasmanian Attorney-General, who had power similar to that which this bill seeks to give to the Commonwealth Attorney-General, he called in the officer concerned and asked him to investigate complaints against himself. That is what can happen under a dictatorship of the nature I am dealing with at the moment. Happenings of that kind have brought me to my feet to-night to protest against this open-cheque bill going through. This bill prepares the foundation for the vilest dictatorship that could possibly arise in any country. Although we pride ourselves upon our democracy and justice, we are now putting into a measure something which can protect a man who might engage in tactics of the kind I have just illustrated. The naked facts I have quoted are happening from day to day. The particular case I mentioned was of very recent origin.
It is no use honorable senators opposite telling me that this bill is safe. I am not saying anything against the AttorneyGeneral, but who knows how long he will be Attorney-General? Who knows how long the present Government will be in office? A Labour government may take its place. Honorable senators opposite do not know how near this country was recently to having in power a party altogether different from the Labour party or the Liberal party.
– Which party is that?
– Honorable senators opposite do not realize the debt of gratitude they owe to Dr. Evatt for nipping that party in the bud. If the form of government to which I refer had not been nipped in the bud by Dr. Evatt, what sort of an Attorney-
General do honorable senators think we would have had in this Parliament? We should have seen very soon whether we had an Attorney-General who would set up a dictatorship in this country. Therefore, I say that we should safeguard ourselves against such things happening in the future. The general public is misled from time to time, and it is possible that it could be misled into falling in behind a dictator in the same way as the Germans fell in behind Hitler, the Italians behind Mussolini and the Spaniards behind Franco. Nobody can say that what Franco is doing in Spain could be done in a real democracy. Those things have happened in other countries. Do not tell me that they could not happen here.
– We are trying to prevent them from happening.
– The Government is doing quite the reverse by bringing in a bill that gives would-be dictators every possible protection and encourages them to go ahead. Senator Laught said during his speech that this occasion, when the Parliament is being asked to establish a Commonwealth police force, is an historic occasion. Before he is much older, there may be a dictator in this country, acting under this legislation. If that happened, this occasion would certainly be a historic occasion, but not one of which we could be proud. It is against the possibility of events such as I have described that we must guard ourselves.
Government senators say that they are concerned about certain other countries and their forms of government. If they fear that supporters of those forms of government will pollute our democratic system, why place on the statute-book legislation that would suit their purposes? Such people would say “ A democratic government enacted this legislation. All we have to do is to go straight ahead and build on it.”
– Do not worry; the Menzies Government will be in office for years to come.
– According to a press report, Senator Wedgwood stated in an address that she made to a women’s organization in Victoria last week that her greatest fear was that Communists would infiltrate Australia. She went on to say that Communists were already infiltrating the Australian Labour party.
– She did not say “ infiltrating “.
– I said that they were controlling the Labour party.
– I based my remark on what the press reported her as having said. Now we find Senator Wedgwood supporting a measure designed to give the Communists all the power they would need. Of course, she knows that there is not an atom of truth in what she said about the Labour party. The point is that she acknowledged her fear of a Communist regime being established here. The honorable senator knows that there are Communists in this country. She knows also that there is another group in Australia composed of persons who are even worse than Communists. Both groups are recognized political parties. Knowing those things, Senator Wedgwood should think, twice about supporting the measure now before the chamber. Those parties, by fooling the public, just as this Government has done from time to time, could increase in numbers. Who knows but that they might form the Government at some time in the future? Nobody can say that they will not do so. Both the Liberal party and the Labour party have grown from small beginnings. When the Australian Labour party was formed, it was criticized in much the same way as the Communists and the “ groupers “ are being criticized to-day. Nevertheless, it grew into a big party and, shortly after the beginning of World War II., it was entrusted by the people with the government of this country after an antiLabour government had failed to act effectively. During Labour’s regime, no legislation of this nature was placed on the statutebook, because Labour was fully aware of what could happen in the future. Why does the Government want a Commonwealth police force? Does it want such a force to smash industrial disputes?
– If it does not want the new force for that purpose, let the Minister give us a definite, unqualified assurance, that the Commonwealth Police
Force will not be used to smash industrial disputes. Does the Government intend that the new force shall override the police forces of the States? If that is not the Government’s intention, let the Minister give us an unqualified assurance to that effect. If the new force is not needed to do any of those things, what is the necessity for it? After all, we went through two world wars without a Commonwealth police force. There were no riots then. During both world wars, there was no necessity for a Commonwealth police force, but now, after years of peace, the Government suddenly wakes up - after it has been in office for almost eight years - and says that it needs a Commonwealth police force - a seventh police force in this country. No good reason has been given for its establishment. All that the Government has said is that it wants the new force to be established and that an open cheque should be given to the Attorney-General, who will decide afterwards where the men will be trained, who they shall be and from where they shall be recruited.
The Labour party says that this additional police force is not necessary. If extra men are needed from time to time, as they are, for the secret service of the country, why not establish a school to train experts for the jobs for which they will be needed? Then we should have experts to assist the men who are doing the job to-day. It is nonsensical to suggest that we want to expose all the business, so to speak, of the present security organization. The Minister should give us more information about the duties of this proposed police force. He should give us an assurance that it will not duplicate in any way the functions of the six State police forces. Let him give us an assurance that the new force will not be used for the purpose of settling industrial disputes and things of that nature. If he does so, we shall be more enlightened than we are at present.
– I have heard some very silly speeches in this chamber - Senator Aylett has made a few of them - but I have never heard a sillier speech than that just delivered by Senator Aylett. Either the worthy senator was deliberately trying to mislead the people who are, perhaps, listening to the broadcast of these proceedings, or he has not read the bill.
For more than an hour, Senator Aylett has done his best to frighten - or has pretended to try to frighten - many people with the suggestion that this measure bears some relationship to the setting up of a Gestapo. He has implied that, in some dreadful way, the State police forces will be founded up and put behind bars and that in their place we shall have a police state. He has suggested that the Commonwealth police force might be used to get hold of worthy gentlemen who are on strike and put them behind bars too. In short, the honorable senator has been endeavouring to suggest - he knows perfectly well that he has not been expressing his real beliefs - that under this new measure, some horrible force will be set up and used by this or some other government in a highly irregular manner.
If the honorable senator had taken the trouble to read the bill, he would have seen that those suggestions are just silly. This bill has nothing to do with the functions of any service in the Commonwealth. It will not alter in any way the functions of the police force, the Peace Officer Guard or the security service. Not one comma in connexion with the functions of the Commonwealth services will be altered by this bill. It is purely an administrative measure. There has been a lot of silly talk to-night about national problems and national fears about this bill, but the measure contains nothing connected with the functioning of the Commonwealth security service, the Commonwealth Investigation Service or the Peace Officer Guard.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) joined the bandwagon because the proceedings of the Senate were on the air. He said something that, personally, I do not think he believed - that he was fearful that the Commonwealth Police Force that is to be set up would be used by the Government to break strikes. What a silly suggestion! After all, the existing forces could be used for that purpose if the Government so wished. It does not require this bill to make the fears of Senator Kennelly beter founded than they were before. I suggest that the Opposition senators have taken a ride on a silly bandwagon to-night simply because their speeches were being broadcast. They were trying to cloud the issue on a measure which is purely administrative and is not really controversial at all.
Having said that, I want to say something about the merits of the bill, because there are merits in it. In my opinion, the justification for the bill can be found under three or four headings. From the administrative point of view, and also from the point of view of the personnel of the services concerned, the bill is desirable. In fact, I suggest that if the Attorney-General, the Public Service Board and the men who form the two services concerned were asked what they wanted, they would say unhesitatingly, “Let us have this bill so that we can perform our duties more effectively “.
In the first place, I think the bill is justified because of the important aspect of discipline. We have now one section of the service serving under the Attorney-General’s Department and -mother section is, to some extent, under the direction of the Public Service Board. Surely a service that requires a high standard of discipline cannot be expected to serve two masters. I suggest that that is embarrassing and incompatible with efficiency in any police force. It is also most difficult, so far as the direction and control of the services are concerned, and most difficult for those in the services.
Let us take as an example a man in the Commonwealth Investigation Service who is asked to carry out an investigation into a department under the Public Service Board. The man concerned is under the control of the Board in many respects, including promotion. He might be a firstclass investigator, but it would be palpably unfair and against the best interests of any investigator or any member of a police force to subject him to that embarrassing set of circumstances. Surely an investigation service should be untrammelled by such factors.
I suggest that that is one reason why not one State police force in Australia is under the control of a Public Service Commissioner. The police force in every State - and they are sovereign States - operates under the control of a Commissioner of Police, who in turn operates under the direction and control of the State AttorneyGeneral. That organization and system of control has been found to be desirable in the States, and I suggest that it is desirable that similar control should apply to the Commonwealth Police Force, because the functions of the organization are similar. There should be no other control of the police service and no other influence should operate upon those concerned. Otherwise, I suggest, there could be times when embarrassment would be caused both to those controlling the police force and to the police officers themselves.
The administrative change is desirable on another ground. I refer to the matter of promotion of men within the two services. We must remember that the task of the Commonwealth Investigation Service is becoming bigger and more important each year. We can recall recent investigations that in importance and scope - and certainly in difficulty - have far exceeded the work of any State investigation service. I refer to investigations that were carried out by Commonwealth officers recently into the frauds ofmen like Cody and Willis, and the inquiry into the aluminium production plant at Bell Bay. They are examples of large investigations carried out in recent years which far transcend in scope similar investigations that have been carried out in the States.
In this particular Commonwealth service we have an unfortunate set of circumstances operating at present. The investigators themselves are in the Fourth Division under the Public Service Act, and are responsible to the Public Service Board. As soon as they are eligible for promotion, they go into the Third Division and, according to the law of the land, which this bill does not seek to alter, they are then no longer able to carry out the work of investigators. Once they go into the Third Division, they become clerks and office workers.
As this service is organized now, there can never be any senior investigators. Once they are eligible for promotion under the Public Service Act, they go into the Third Division and can no longer carry on the work of investigators. The work of the service is increasing in difficulty and intensity. Obviously, it requires now a number of highly skilled men, who are entitled to a reasonable expectation of promotion. That cannot be given to them at present because, as I have said, the Commonwealth Investigation Service is under the Public Service Board.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 May 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1957/19570515_senate_22_s10/>.