22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– Yesterday, I asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question without notice relating to the sale of Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool machinery and equipment. He replied to the effect that the sale of the machinery and equipment was proceeding, and stated that the department was negotiating with persons who had submitted tenders for the purchase of machinery and equipment in Brisbane, including the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool Co-operative. 1 now ask the Minister whether he has observed any evidence that the manager of the pool is prejudiced against the cooperative body that has been formed by employees of the pool. Will he ensure that the tender of the co-operative body receives just consideration?
– I have not observed, and, indeed, I do not believe there has come before me, any evidence that the manager of the pool is not favorably disposed towards the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool Co-operative. I give to the honorable senator an assurance that the tender submitted by the cooperative will receive full, just and equitable consideration.
– How will you know that?
– You direct a question to me about it and I shall tell you.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for National Development. I preface my question by stating that wolfram is the metal which is mined for the purpose of producing tungsten, the agent used for hardening steel for industrial and defence purposes. Is the Minister aware of the serious economic crisis that faces the wolfram mining industry in Australia, particularly in the Northern Territory? Is the Minister aware that the price of wolfram has tumbled from £80 a bag to approximately £15 a bag during the past few months and that the production of wolfram at this figure is uneconomical? Is the Minister further aware that the population of Hatches Creek, a wolfram-mining field, has dropped from 300 people to twenty people within the last few months? In view of the importance of this industry to Australia, both from an industrial and a defence viewpoint, would the Government consider introducing some form of price stabilization or other assistance, even if it involved some degree of stockpiling?
– There are some problems confronting various sections of the mining industry after the all-round fall of world parity prices for minerals and metals. I know that wolfram mining has its problems, in the same way as other mining activities, and I will give consideration to the honorable senator’s proposal. I should like to add the rider that, because of substantial variations in world parity prices from year to year, and owing to varying mining conditions in different localities, it has not been easy in the past to evolve stabilization plan arrangements, nor has a great deal of goodwill for such arrangements been exhibited by many of the mining industries.
– Is the Leader of the Government in a position to tell the Senate when the Government’s decision on the report of the Universities Committee will be announced?
– I am not quite sure, but I believe the Prime Minister will be making a statement on that subject in the House of Representatives either to-day or at the next sitting. I shall ascertain the position and let the honorable senator know.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I understand that “Westralia” has on board 500 tons of
Western Australian potatoes.. Can the: Ministerassuremethat,inordertoavoid considerablelosstoWesternAustralian potatogrowers,hewilldohisbesttohave thatfreightunloadedwhentheshiparrives inSydney?
– The cargoof potatoesfromWesternAustralia,towhich thehonorablesentonrefershasarrivedat Sydney.Itarrivedearlythisweek.A gooddealofconcernwasfeltbythepotato boardinWesternAustraliaaboutthe possibility of thecargonotbeing unloaded The boand got in touch with me,Ithink,on Monday or Tuesday. I have since been able to inform it that the job has been granted a priority and that labour has been allotted to it. The cargo is being unloaded - if,infact,ithasnotalreadybeen unloaded.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice - 1.Isitafact,asreportedinthe”Australian MineralIndustryReview”for1956,thatthe Bureau,ofMineralResourceshasdiscoverediron ore deposits in thetheCostanceRangeareainnorthwest Queensland, andthatthesedepositsarebeing extensivelytested;bydrillingbytheBrokenHill ProprietaryCompanyLimited? 2.Ifso;inviewofthegreatimportanceto thiscountryoffindingsuitableironoredeposits, will theMinisteradvisetheSenateofanyinformationthatisavailableontheresultsofthispros pecting?
– Theanswertothe honorablesenator’squestionisasfollows:-
Itisafactthatin1954-56.ironbearingforma- tionswerediscoveredandmappedbyfieldgeolo- gstsoftheBureauofMineralResourcesinthe ConstanceRange;north-westQueensland;90-125 miles north ofCamooweal.Theformationsare now being extensively tested by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. The deposits were originally, thought to be relatively low grade, but drilling has revealed that the siliceous matrix inthesurfacedepositspassesatdepthintocar bonatesandsilicatesofiron.Theunweathered ore may, therefore, be of a significantly higher averagegradethanthesurfacedeposits.Ifthe carbonate-silicate iron ore is proved to be extensive, this will represent a completely new type of iron ore deposit for Australia. Such deposits are, however, extensively mined in the United Kingdom and Europe. It is too early to attempt to evaluate thepossible commercialimportanceof thesedeposits;buttheworkdonetodatesuggeststhattheyareveryextensiveandthatthey may representasignificantadditiontoAustralian iron ore reserves.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) agreed to -
Thatleavebegiventointroduceabillforan act relating, to the Air. Force (Canteens) Regulations.
Thatleavebegiventointroduceabillforan acttoencouragethesearchforpetroleumin Australiabysubsidizingstratigraphicdrilling.
.- I move-
This is a bill which aims to encourage the searchforpetroleuminAustraliabysubsidizingstratigraphicdrilling.Thereislittle needtoestablishtheimportanceoffinding oilinAustralia.Evennow,withouroil refineriesinfulloperation,wearespending about £120,000,000 perannumontheimportationofpetroleumandpetroleumproducts. Our consumption of petroleum productsincreaseseachyear.Inthefiveyears ending31stDecember;1957,theaverage rateofincreasewillhavebeen about 10 per cent,perannum.The national benefits - bothfromthepointofviewofdefence and general development - that, would follow attainment of self-sufficiency in petroleum supplies are almost incalculable.
Approximately £50,000,000 has been spentuponthesearchforoilin Australia and Papua-New Guinea, during the past 50 years. Of that £50,000,000 no less than £33,000,000 has been spent in the last four years since the discovery of oil at Rough Range, Western. Australia, in. November, 1953.
Interestinthesearchforoilebbsand flows.Themajoroilcompaniescontinue theirinterestinitbecauseitistotheir llong-termadvantagetodoso.Smallinvest- mentcomesinwaves.Bycontrastwith pastperiodstherehasbeengreatinterest inthelastthreeyears,butthereisneedto attract the required finance to do what needs to be done until such time as oil is found.
The Commonwealth Government’s contribution to oil exploration is made in two main ways. These are, indirectly, through the substantial concessions in the income tax law aimed to encourage expenditure on the search for oil and, directly, through the Division of National Mapping and the Bureau of Mineral Resources of my department The Division of National Mapping provides the maps, which are a pre-requisite to efficient searching, while the Bureau of Mineral Resources searches for and records the basic geological and geophysical data which are to be made available to the public, To date, the cost of that part of the work of the Bureau of Mineral Resources concerned with the search for oil amounts to £1,567,300. The cost in this financial year will be £396,800. This bill marks an important step by the Government in proposing an increase in expenditure on oil search. In a full year, the increase will amount to £500,000.
There is a close association between marine sediments and oil accumulation. Any area in which there is a significant thickness of marine sediments is worth attention for its oil prospects. There are many areas in Australia in which the geological conditions are such as to suggest that they are potentially oil-bearing. In addition, there is evidence at several localities of the actual occurrence of oil, either as seepages or as showings in bores. Such evidence has been revealed at Lakes Entrance, Victoria; Roma, Queensland; Rough Range and Kimberley division in Western Australia; Torrens Basin, South Australia; and at numerous places in Papua on the north-eastern side of the Gulf of Papua.
So far, the drilling of the geological structures which have been tested in Papua and Western Australia has not led to the discovery of an oilfield. There is, as yet, no reason to assume that oil does not occur in commercial quantities at those and other areas. However, the conditions under which oil occurs in the areas that have been tested are now being shown to be more complex than they were originally thought to be. Modern methods have made a great difference in prospecting for oil and in evaluating the possibilities of its existence in certain areas. By these methods, we are gradually accumulating information concerning the geological environments favorable for oil occurrence.
In the Sahara 2,000 holes were drilled before oil was discovered in commercial quantities. More than 3,000 holes were drilled over a period of 30 years before the great oilfields of Alberta were tapped. Even including the recent drilling by West Australian Petroleum Proprietary Limited and the companies operating in Papua and New Guinea, the number of bore holes put down in Australia in the search for oil is insignificant. The total is about 400, of which 123 are relatively shallow holes put down in the Lakes Entrance area.
In the last resort, oil will be found only by drilling. That drilling needs to be carried on systematically, both for the purpose of obtaining geological information which cannot be obtained in any other way, and for the purpose of testing suitable geological structures for oil. One of the difficulties about the search for oil in Australia is that we have not been fortunate enough to discover a normal dome-type oilfield. It is certain, however, that once oil is discovered in commercial quantities at any one locality, the probability of making further discoveries will be greatly increased.
There are three kinds of drilling: -
Stratigraphic information, that is, information concerning the geological succession down to the bedrock of our major sedimentary basins, is available for only a very few places in Australia. This is not the kind of drilling normally undertaken by exploration companies. Such drilling, being deeper than usual, is costly and, as the companies normally have limited funds, their shareholders expect them to concentrate on drilling in places where there is a chance of finding oil. Only where the basins are shallow, as at Lakes Entrance, or where the large companies are interested - Carnarvon Basin. Western Australia and Papua - has any stratigraphic drilling been done.
Many holes have been drilled for water in most of the potential oil areas but naturally the majority of these holes are of relatively shallow depth. It is unfortunate that much of the subsurface information which became available as a result of this drilling has never been recorded. In some of these water wells, shows of oil were noted, but no comprehensive testing was carried out. No core analyses were made of those formations in which shows of oil were found.
It is believed that there will be many opportunities for the funds being made available by Parliament to be used to supplement the drilling programmes of oil exploration companies. For example, companies may have plans to test structures to relatively shallow depths at localities where the Government’s advisers consider that a deep test would be desirable. Subsidizing drilling at such localities would provide information of general use and conserve the particular company’s funds for its own exploration activities. Visiting experts have suggested that it would be very useful for the Government to subsidize deep stratigraphic drilling and that information obtained in this way would probably attract the notice of overseas companies and lead to their becoming interested in the search for oil in Australia. The Government’s own professional advisers would like to see at least one bore put down in each sedimentary basin to the maximum depth attainable by oil-drilling plant now in Australia.
The Government Members’ Mining Committee made an extensive examination of all aspects of the oil industry. Under the able chairmanship of our colleague, Senator Scott, this committee conferred with all the major oil exploration companies and visited several localities where oil exploration was being carried on. The work of this committee was extremely valuable, and one of its recommendations was that the Commonwealth should subsidize drilling and exploration work in areas approved by the Bureau of Mineral Resources.
There is a great need for far more drilling in Australia than has been done. Indeed, the extent to which drilling has increased is the test by which to measure the success of a programme to accelerate the search for oil. But, of course, the worst result of all is haphazard drilling done by speculative companies with little prospect of success and almost the certainty that the negative result will frighten capital investment away. So there is a very strong case to justify the Government arranging basic drilling to provide information upon which deductions can be made. But it is difficult to persuade companies in the search to do the basic work and it is inadvisable for the Government itself to embark upon an activity that might grow and eventually reach a situation in which all stratigraphic drilling will be done by the Government.
For this reason on 15th August of this year Cabinet gave approval to a proposal to subsidize drilling specially undertaken for the purpose of obtaining stratigraphic information. The sum approved for this purpose is £500,000 per annum and the subsidy will be paid on the following basis: -
It is hoped that, with the financial assistance from the Commonwealth. Government, companies with valid petroleum holdings will be encouraged to undertake drilling for stratigraphic information which, due to lack of adequate funds, they are reluctant to attempt at present.
Following the announcement by my colleague, the Treasurer, in his Budget speech of the 3rd September that stratigraphic drilling would be subsidized by the Commonwealth Government, the Department of National Development has already received applications from eleven oilprospecting companies, and more are expected.
The subsidy will be paid in accordance with agreements which the Minister will enter into with suitably qualified persons who will undertake to carry out an approved drilling programme in an approved location. It is intended that the subsidy will be payable only in respect of the cost of drilling in a location in which the department advises the Minister that the stratigraphic information is unknown or incomplete.
Locations will be selected where drilling will give information at depths at which reliable deductions cannot be made from surface surveys. The purpose will be to increase the geological information available about areas in Australia which seem likely to contain oil deposits. Stratigraphic drilling is thus not drilling which has the prime and immediate purpose of locating commercial deposits of oil.
In order to administer the subsidy, a twostage arrangement is proposed. The first stage is of a technical character, and involves agreement with a person wishing to undertake drilling for stratigraphic information, as to the location of the drill site and the method whereby drilling is to be carried out, the target depth of the drill hole and the period within which the target may be achieved. These are technical issues or issues with technical aspects; and it is proposed that they should be handled by the department and approval given by the
Minister after receiving the recommendation of the permanent head of the department.
The second stage will involve agreement as to the terms and conditions upon which the drilling operation will be carried out, and upon which the grant of subsidy for the drilling operation will be made. The agreement will be entered into by the Minister on behalf of the Commonwealth.
When the technical details as to the drilling operation have been approved, the person who has received approval may then apply to the Minister for a grant of subsidy. However, the application for a grant of subsidy must be made within a period of three months from the date of being given the notice of approval, or such longer period as the Minister may determine. It is clearly undesirable to let a proposal for an approved drilling operation run on indefinitely, as this might undesirably tie up funds and prevent the best use being made of the funds available for subsidy.
It is intended to authorize the payment of subsidy equal to half the cost incurred in, or in connexion with, the drilling operation. The costs will include the cost of the preparation of the site and the construction of access roads or strips, camp accommodation, delivery of plant, materials and personnel into the working area, installation of plant, removal of plant, &c. They will also, of course, include direct drilling costs, coring, running and cementing casing in the bore hole, logging, testing and other bore-hole surveys.
The detail of the costs to be covered in particular instances will be dealt with by the relevant agreement. Without limiting the generality of this, the bill specifies a number of matters in connexion with which the agreement may make provision. It is proposed that payments on account of subsidy will be made progressively but that no subsidy would be payable until the drill hole itself had reached a depth of at least 2,000 feet. Thereafter, payments would be made on account of subsidy as the drill hole reached succeeding stages, probably of 2,000 feet each. It is contemplated that these progress payments would amount to no more than 80 per cent, of the amount due at each stage, the balance not being payable until completion to the satisfaction of the Minister of the whole drilling operation in terms of the agreement.
In some circumstances it might be found desirable to withhold payment of subsidy - for example, if the drilling were not proceeding according to timetable; or the drilling, logging and testing were not being carried out satisfactorily; or the applicant were not taking the necessary action to provide access to sites and information; or the applicant were not supplying to the department cores, cuttings and other samples.
The agreement will specify the rights and obligations of the parties in the event of the original programme, for any reason, being varied. Provision is likely to be made to cover a case where a subsidized drilling operation has been commenced and for some reason the applicant wishes to abandon the work. In such circumstances, provided the Commonwealth were willing to find the necessary funds, it might be considered desirable to continue the drilling operation at Commonwealth expense rather than to waste the investment which the Commonwealth might have already made.
Itis intended that the information obtained by the Commonwealth will in due course be assembled and published by the department. As I have already mentioned, the intention of the Government to provide the stratigraphic drilling subsidy was publicly announced by the Treasurer in his Budget speech on 3rd September. The department was immediately approached by interested persons about the matter. Obviously, any operations which had been commenced before 3rd September could not attract a subsidy. Discussions have therefore proceeded with interested parties on the basis that as long as they had not entered into any commitment before 3rd September the mere fact of having commenced an operation before the passage of this bill would not of itself disqualify the applicant from subsidy.
It is intended that the subsidy will not be payable after 30th June, 1961, unless action is taken beforehand to extend the period of subsidy. This could be done, of course, in due course by appropriate amendment to the act. This bill marks an important development in the task before us of searching for oil in Australia. The successful outcome of this task could have transcending consequences for our national security and for our national development - so much so, that I believe this bill rises above party discussions in this Parliament, and 1 hope for its speedy passage. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Armstrong) adjourned.
Bill presented by Senator O’SulIivan, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to validate the Air Force (Canteens) Regulations, which became void on 10th October, 1957, because they had not been tabled in the Parliament.
The Regulations, being Statutory Rules 1957, No. 48, were made by the GovernorGeneral on 31st August, 1957, and came into operation on the following day, 1st September, 1957. Section 48(1.) of the Acts Interpretation Act requires, amongst other things, that regulations should be laid before each House of Parliament within fifteen sitting days of that House after the making of the regulations, and sub-section (3.) provides that if any regulations are not laid before each House in accordance with sub-section (1.), they shall be void and of no effect. The Air Force (Canteens) Regulations, through a departmental over sight, were not tabled within the time prescribed by law, and consequently they ceased to exist as valid law from and including 11th October, 1957. I mention here that, owing to the frequent occasions on which regulations had previously been omitted to be tabled, my department undertook, some ten years ago, the responsibility for tabling statutory rules. This is the first time since then that an omission has occurred. The administrative procedure for tabling has been further strengthened, and it is highly unlikely that a similar omission will occur in the future.
The regulations under consideration replaced a previous set of regulations, made in 1945, which established a canteens service for the Air Force. The service was re-established, but a number of changes were made for the purpose of giving improved services and increased amenities for welfare of Air Force personnel. The Royal Australian Air Force Canteens Service Board was reconstituted with additional members. It was created a body corporate with powers and functions specified in the regulations. Amongst other things, it could purchase, lease or hire property, sell goods and merchandise, supply and provide services and entertainment and other amenities, and employ staff. Although the regulations were not tabled, honorable senators will no doubt be familiar with them because they have been distributed for some time. In any case, I have made arrangements for a copy to be distributed with the bill.
The omission to table was only recently noticed, but the Royal Australian Air Force Canteens Service Board, as constituted under the lapsed regulations, has been carrying on its activities under the statutory authority that the regulations purport to provide. It is essential, therefore, that remedial action be taken to replace the statutory authority that has lapsed. Retrospective legislation is necessary and I am advised by my department, and concur in Che advice, that the proper method of approaching the problem is by act of Parliament and not by a fresh set of regulations which, through the necessity for retrospective operation, could not be made consistently with section 48 of the Acts Interpretation Act. The regulations were avoided by act of Parliament, and as the law at present stands they must be restored by the same means.
I therefore ask honorable senators, by passing this bill, to rectify the mistake made, and so restore to effective operation the regulations that were omitted to be tabled.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Cooper) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to make special provision for the granting of pensions and other benefits to certain natives who served in the Defence Force during the war and their dependants, and for purposes connected therewith.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide legal authority for the repatriation benefits which have previously been provided as an act of grace for and in respect of those natives of the Territories of Papua and New Guinea or of an island of the Torres Strait or of the Pacific Ocean, who served in the native units raised for service in those areas during the 1939-1945 war. When the war cabinet in 1941 decided to raise these native units, special conditions of service were fixed to accord with the social and economic conditions of the natives enlisted. Accordingly, the conditions under which, for example, a Torres Strait islander served, differed from those under which a native of Papua or New Guinea served. No action was taken, however, to enact legislation to give effect to the decisions of the war cabinet so far as the repatriation benefits available to the native ex-servicemen and their dependants were concerned.
This bill applies to those natives who served at a rate of pay less than the minimum rate that was prescribed as payable to a male member of the Australian Military Forces and it will remedy that omission. The rates of pension payable in respect of native members from the Torres Strait islands have been reviewed from time to time and have been increased after consultation with the Government of Queensland within the boundaries of which State they reside. The position with regard to the native members of Papua and New Guinea was somewhat different. In 1944 the Native War Damage Compensation Committee was set up under the Chairmanship of Mr. J. V. Barry, K.C., now Mr. Justice Barry of the Victorian Supreme Court, to “ recommend a just and practicable plan for compensating natives in Bapua and New Guinea for loss of or damage to land and property and death or injury arising from military operations or arising out of causes attributable to the existence of a state of war in the Territories “. The recommendations in the report of that committee were adopted by the Government of the time and effect was given to those recommendations. Payments covered compensation to the natives generally for war damage suffered as well as compensation to natives enlisted for war service. Notwithstanding those payments which were in the nature of final payments, and which amounted to approximately £2,000,000, there could still be a need for further provisions to be made in the future in relation to death or incapacity due to a native’s war service.
Accordingly, this bill does two things. It validates payments already made in respect of native ex-servicemen and their dependants by way of pension compensation or other benefits and it enables appropriate provisions to be made for the future. In determining what are appropriate pensions and other benefits, due regard must, of course, be had to the social and economic conditions of the community in which the various classes of persons to receive those benefits live and to the changing nature of those conditions which vary from time to time and from place to place.
Therefore, the bill provides that the details of the benefits, which will be worked out by the two Ministers responsible for the administration of the act in consultation with the Treasurer, are to be prescribed in regulations made under the act. The two Ministers who will deal with these regulations are the Minister for Repatriation and the Minister for Territories. Regulations are in course of preparation and it is expected that the act will, in accordance with clause 2 of the bill, be proclaimed shortly after it receives the Royal assent. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne adjourned.)
Motion (by Senator O’sullivan) agreed to -
That unless otherwise ordered Government business take precedence over general business after 8 p.m. this sitting.
Debate resumed from 27th November (vide page 1570), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- When the Senate adjourned last night I was referring to the position of the small grower in relation to the dealer. The small grower found it necessary, convenient or expedient to sell his small lots of wool to a dealer, but invariably he felt that, although prices were rising, he was not getting all he was entitled to from the sale of his wool. That feeling was well founded. It was not finally eliminated until a dealer named Poulton took a case to the High Court. The decision handed down by the court was to the effect that the growers were entitled to the profits. That is a view to which, I am sure, we all heartily subscribe.
Now that the final chapter of this portion of our history is being written, it is right and proper that we should make reference to two organizations which have played a great part in the successful implementation of this scheme. In the first instance, I pay a tribute to the woolbrokers, who subjugated their own interests to those of Government policy. Never once did I hear of even a clerical error being made in their calculations associated with the distribution of moneys to the growers. So thorough were the woolbrokers’ methods that never did I ever hear of payments being late. When we realize that the organization handling that part of the industry was operating on a world-wide basis, we must pay tribute to its efficiency.
– It is one of the most efficient in Australia.
– That is true. I think that it is right and proper that we, as representatives of the people, should pay a tribute to the six men who formed the commission which handled the wool on behalf of the growers so expeditiously and so profitably for the growers. Finally, this Government and the Parliament say “ Thank you “ to the Joint Wool Organization Committee for its contribution to the economy of this country.
– The bill seeks to finalize the distribution of Joint Organization profits from the sale of the Australian wool surplus at the end of the war. It extends, from March, 1957, to 30th June, 1959, the period during which outstanding sums may be distributed to growers.
To go right back to the beginning, it is interesting to note that by 15th September, 1939 - the year in which war broke out - the then government had contracted for the sale to the British Government of the Australian war-time wool clip. The original price was 101-d. sterling per lb. - 13.4d. per lb. Australian currency - which was 10 per cent, above the price then ruling. The agreement between the Australian Government and the United Kingdom came into force on 28th September, 1939. As the war proceeded and the cost of wool growing increased, the United Kingdom agreed to a price increase, as from 1st July, 1942, of 15 per cent. This brought the price per lb. to 15.4d. Australian currency.
The contract price was fixed on the basis of payment to the grower at the wool store and a further 3id. per lb. was paid to the Australian wool committee to cover administration and delivery charges f.o.b. The price which woolgrowers received during the war was estimated to be in excess of the cost of production.
At the end of the war about 13,000,000 bales - a very large number - were held by the wool-growing countries of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and the respective governments decided to set up a body known as the Joint Organization, comprising representatives of the three countries, to dispose of this wool in an orderly fashion. However, the wool was not all sold until 1949 or 1950. It is interesting to note that the prices received by the Joint Organization brought to the Australian growers an additional £93,000,000.
Between 1949 and 1955 five interim distributions, and one special distribution were made. All of the £93,000,000, with the exception of £2,500,000 which is held by the Australian Wool Realization Commission on behalf of the Joint Organization, has been distributed. Most of the wool sold during the war was handled by brokers, but of the sum not yet distributed, only £300,000 relates to wool sold in this way. The remaining £2,200,000 relates to wool which was sold to private buyers, in the field.
– Some of the growers will be pretty hard to locate.
– Distribution is a difficult matter. There have been deaths and property changes over the long period since the inception of the scheme. As a result, it is difficult to locate all of the growers concerned. That is why the Government has decided to bring down this measure. It will give the Australian Wool Realization Commission a further two years in which to dispose of the undistributed money.
Wool sold to private buyers had to go to a recognized broker for appraisement, and subsequent sale through the stores, because there was only one outlet for the whole of the Australian wool clip. In some cases the contract with the private buyer contained a clause to the effect that profits obtained over and above the appraisement price were the property of the grower. In other cases, however, the contract did not contain such a clause. We know that one dealer, a Mr. Poulton, challenged the decision of the Government to distribute to growers the profits on all wool. That case was commenced, I think, in 1949, when a decision against Mr. Poulton was given by a single judge of the High Court. In 1953, the Full Bench of the High Court gave a decision against Mr. Poulton, who then stated that he intended to appeal to the Privy Council. Payment to the growers was further delayed. I remember asking questions in this chamber at the time - and other honorable senators also asked questions - in an endeavour to ascertain when the Government would release to the growers the money that rightfully belonged to them, the payment of which was being held up due to the Poulton case. At the time, the Attorney-General stated that a reasonable period had to be allowed to Mr. Poulton in which to seek leave from the High Court to appeal to the Privy Council.
It is interesting to recall that although the Full Bench of the High Court gave its decision in December, 1953, against Mr. Poulton, it was not until May, 1956, that the Government authorized the Australian Wool Realization Commission to pay to the growers the money that belonged to them. Mr. Poulton applied to the High Court in July, 1956, for leave to appeal to the Privy Council. This application was refused by the Full Bench of the High Court in October, 1956. The commission was then empowered to make payments to the growers concerned. Provision was made that any money that could not be disbursed to certain woolgrowers to whom it belonged because they could not be located - I presume that the amount, when computed, will be fairly large: - would be paid into the Wool Research Trust Fund and applied to assist the Australian wool industry. The fund was established at the beginning of this year. There was paid into it all moneys available if or wool research in this country, the balance of the Wool Industry Fund, and an amount representing 2s. a bale contributed by growers together with the Government’s contribution of 2s. a bale. The committee controlling the fund has made large amounts of money available to the C.S.I.R.O. for wool research and assistance to the wool industry generally.
At this stage, it is interesting to recall some of the achievements of the C.S.I.R.O. wool research. One was announced recently - the process to make woollen garments that would hold their crease. The organization has also developed new techniques for carbonizing wool and for the jet sulphur scouring of wool. It has also discovered a new fluid to be used for branding sheep, and which will readily scour out of the wool. But for the achievements of the C.S.I.R.O. in wool research, the industry would to-day be in a dire plight. By its research, the organization has enabled wool to compete successfully with synthetic goods that have been produced in other parts of the world. Even before the last war, growers got together and discussed their concern about the future of the wool industry. At that time, it was frequently suggested that synthetic fibres would eventually replace wool and that,, therefore, the future of the Australian wool industry was somewhat limited. Since science has come to the assistance of the growers, woolgrowing is now a very profitable industry in Australia. Since the introduction of myxomatosis to combat the rabbit menace, the number of sheep in Australia has increased from about 106,000,000 in 1949 to 156,000,000 to-day. Each year, new records of wool production are being established. Although the figures for this year have not yet been compiled, I believe that but for the current drought Australia would have produced about 5,000,000 bales of wool, which would have been an all-time record. Australia derives an export income of from £350,000,000 to £400,000,000 a year from wool. Indeed, the return from wool exports exceeds the return from any other export. The officers of the C.S.I.R.O. have played a very notable part in the furtherance of the wool industry in Australia.
I said earlier that about £300,000 remains to be distributed by the brokers, that £2,200,000 is held by the private buyers, that the act required the distribution of these moneys by 17th March last, and that this bill is designed to extend the time limit to 30th June, 1959. To date, there are approximately 5,050 claims in respect of dealers’ wool. We have already paid 3,570, and there are approximately 1,480 still outstanding. We hope to have most of those claims cleaned up by 30th June, 1959. I sincerely hope that by that date most of the £2,500,000 that is available will have been distributed to the growers. It is interesting to note that the money that is left will be paid into the Wool Research Trust Fund, which will continue to operate and help the wool industry of Australia.
The attitude adopted to this matter by various governments from the outbreak of war in 1939 until the present time is worthy of commendation. I have no doubt that that attitude will be maintained until this legislation expires on 30th June, 1959. Those governments deserve credit for the way in which they handled the wool industry when it was impossible to sell wool, when there was a fixed reserve price and when there was a surplus of approximately 13,000,000 bales to be sold. If the surplus had been allowed to go on to the market in one lump, or over a short period, without any control, it would have flooded the world’s markets, which would have meant bankruptcy for many Australian farmers. The whole of the organization - officers, brokers and governments - should be congratulated on the way in which wool, Australia’s main commodity, has been handled since the inception of the scheme in 1939. (Senator (HANNAFORD (South Australia) [12.19] - We are -very much indebted to Senator W,ade .and Senator ‘Scott ‘for their speeches >on this measure. -Both honorable senators ane practical men ion the wool production side of the [industry, and everything that they said can .be taken as authoritative. Their remarks were very interesting indeed fro,m an .-historical .point .of view. They dealt with the brokers and the development ,of the splendid organization -which we know as the Joint Organization, the Australian -counterpart of which is the Australian Wool Realization Commission.
Their comments recalled to my mind the days of the first world war, when I was not very old .but was able to take a certain amount of interest in the happenings of that time. I can remember quite clearly a similar .experiment, as it was conceded to be, when there was established what was called B.A.W.R.A. - the British-Australian Wool Realization Association. If my memory serves me correctly, B.A.W.R.A. scrip was dealt with on the stock exchanges of Australia. I think it was negotiable, which did not detract from its value. Anybody who had any doubt about the ultimate success of the Joint Organization had only to bark back to the days of B.A.W.R.A. to acquire more confidence and to realize that there was no prospect of the Joint Organization not working out as successfully as B.A.W.R.A. had done.
B.A.W.R.A. was a complete success. Wool was placed on the world’s markets in an orderly fashion, in the same way as it was marketed by the organization we are discussing now. The people who participated in the activities of B.A.W.R.A. were richly rewarded for their confidence. I mention that only because B.A.W.R.A. was similar to the Joint Organization which we are discussing now.
I am glad that Senator Wade has mentioned the work that the Australian Woolbrokers Association has done in connexion with the scheme that has been administered since the last war. We must pay the highest possible tribute to that association. It is not a disinterested party, of course, but it is an organization in which the man on the land in Australia has implicit trust. The brokers work on a commission basis. Down through the years they have served Australian woolgrowers well. In the difficult days after the outbreak of war, ‘the ‘Government approached the Australian Woolbrokers Association for co-operation and assistance, which were readily forthcoming. Right through the difficult -days of -the war assistance in -the disposal of our wool was given freely to the Government.
We know what transpired in the months immediately after the outbreak of war. Wool is a vital war commodity. The combatant nations required greater and greater quantities of wool. The immediate reaction of the United Kingdom Government was to look to Australia, the greatest wool-producing country in the world, for its wool. We must not forget that the United Kingdom had to contend with many difficulties, probably the greatest of which was transport. We just could not ship wool readily. Ships were not available for the purpose. Consequently, there was a necessity to build up tremendous stores of wool throughout this land. From time to time we have passed legislation dealing with the use and disposal of those stores.
The appraisal scheme entered into by the United Kingdom and the Australian Government was an unqualified success. It was a complete reversal of the previous practice under which wool was placed in the store, valued by the growers and sold by auction. The new system was an appraisal scheme under which an average price was negotiated. I think it was Senator McLeay, who was then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who had the difficult task of negotiating an average price under that scheme, and I remember him saying that it was only after prolonged negotiations that a final average price per lb. was fixed at 13.4d. Australian or 10i-d. sterling. When we compare those prices with the prices that have been ruling during the post-war years, we cannot help but wonder how the woolgrower managed to enjoy any degree of prosperity at all. However, it is no use making invidious comparisons between days gone by and the present. It was thought at that time that the price arrived at was a satisfactory one which would leave a margin of profit to the grower. It probably did. Subsequently - I think it was in 1942 - the price per lb. was increased to 15.4d. Australian.
That appraisal scheme applied down through the years. Under it, wool was handled as expeditiously as circumstances would permit and taken to the vital manufacturing centres of Great Britain, where wool was required so urgently, as well as to other allied countries. One of the agreements arrived at between the British Government, the Australian Government and the South African and New Zealand Governments was that any wool undisposed of at the conclusion of the war was to be placed on the world market and all profits from the sale of that wool were to be shared on a 50-50 basis between the British Government and other governments concerned.
That is a general outline of the organization that has been responsible for the distribution of receipts from the sale of wool since 1949. Everything worked extremely well under it. I admit that, as happened during the previous world war, there were prophets of gloom who said that the scheme would not function, that it would be a very long time before those moneys would be distributed, and who expressed grave doubts as to the ultimate success of the scheme. Strangely enough, however, the Joint Organization was able to dispose of this enormous quantity of wool. It has to be remembered also that in addition to the disposal of these 13,000,000 bales throughout the woolconsuming countries of the world, there was the constant task of disposing of the annual wool clip. All this wool has been handled very satisfactorily indeed. When we realize that 13,000,000 bales is approximately two and a half times Australia’s present wool clip, we must appreciate that the organization, in disposing of that wool on the world’s market in such a short time without disrupting the price for wool, registered an achievement that was nothing short of magnificent. As Senator Mattner reminds me, the fact that the organization was able to dispose of this quantity of wool so quickly was indicative of the great demand there was for this product. I have no desire to understate this position. I admit that the world was absolutely wool hungry; but it is a fact that we were able to place all this wool in the various wool consuming countries within the short space of five or six years.
Senator Scott was kind enough to tell us that the amount of money for distribution was £93,000,000. I do not know whether the whole sum has yet been distributed. The total amount raised was £93,000,000 and I think that of that figure approximately £2,500,000 has still to be distributed. Of the £2,500,000, of course, £300,000 represents moneys obtained from the sale of wool that was placed in the hands of brokers and which has not reached its final destination because, owing to deaths, it has not been possible to locate the owners.
The great bulk of this £2,500,000 represents money that had accrued from the sale of dealer wool. I clearly remember the various responsible organizations advising farmers and graziers not to market their wool through this particular channel; but, of course, it was a free country and the farmers and graziers had the right to sell their wool in that way if they so desired. No doubt on many of the farms there were small lots of wool, such as a bale here and a bale there, or even a few bags, which were placed with the dealers who found it quite lucrative to call on the farmers at every available opportunity and pick up this wool at prices that were no doubt advantageous to the dealers.
This wool had to find its way eventually to the Joint Organization that was handling the disposal of the commodity, and ultimately there arose argument over who actually owned the wool and over where the money obtained from the sale of it was to be placed. Senator Scott has given us a clear outline of the legal action that was taken. I refer to the Poulton case. That was made a test case and as Poulton lost the case, it is now necessary to distribute the money according to the provisions set out in the bill. I do not want to get into any argument as to who should receive this money. We cannot go past a legal decision and, because of that legal decision in the Poulton case, this money has to be paid to the woolgrowers. So far as I can see the original intention was that the Joint Organization was to be finally wound up in 1957. The bill extends the period until 1959. We now come to the rather difficult problem of where the entitlement to the money rests. In his second-reading speech, the Minister stated that the commission had received 5,050 claims and had paid 3,570 of them, amounting to £486,780. Approximately 1,480 claims remained to be dealt with and further claims were still being received.
The bill will give the Joint Organization an opportunity to pay the money to the growers of the wool. It will be able to make further investigations before distributing the whole amount of £2,200,000. I believe that we are doing the fair thing by the growers of the wool. We want the growers to get the money. Poulton, and people like him, are not entitled to it. That has been decided by the court. Therefore, we must make every endeavour to ensure that the money goes to those who are strictly entitled ot it. I believe that eventually we will find that most of the money will be distributed to its rightful owners. The time provided for doing so is adequate.
Another important feature of the bill is the provision to pay into the Wool Research Trust Fund any money that is not distributed. That is a very wise provision because there is bound to be a large sum of money that will not find its rightful owners. I support the statements that have been made by Senator Scott on wool research activities. We know the value of wool. Probably every person in this chamber is wearing a suit made of wool. There is no material to compare with it, and no country can produce wool equal to the Australian fleece. We grow the finest wool and the largest quantity of it. I am proud to think that Australia is the world’s premier wool-producing country.
Although some merino rams were exported to South Africa, I believe that Australia will hold its premier position as a producer of wool. Only one of the rams that went to South Africa was satisfactory and its progeny will not have a material effect on the quality of South African wool. We know the value of wool and the comfort that is derived from wearing a woollen garment. When there is a drop in temperature, other textiles exude much of their moisture but wool holds a big proportion of its moisture content. Wool keeps the wearer warm, and no other textile has the same protective value. All these qualities of wool have been investigated by those who are engaged in the industry. Wool, which is an animal fibre, is far superior to vegetable textiles. We have every reason to protect this great and valuable Australian industry for Australia.
I know something of the treatment of wool and the carbonizing and other processes. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has done valuable work in connexion with the shrinkage of wool and its crease-resisting qualities. All those problems are under investigation by our foremost scientific organization. 1 do not underestimate the value of research that has been undertaken by private manufacturers of woollen textiles. The United Kingdom has achieved much in the production of fine woollen cloths. All that has not been achieved in a day. The work has been proceeding for more than a century.
– How much money will the people in England get under the provisions of this bill?
– They will not get anything out of it. The money that is to be distributed will go to the rightful owners, and not to Poulton and his fellows. As I have said, research into the quality and uses of wool has been proceeding for a long time. I heartily support the Wool Research Trust Fund that has been established by this Government so that experiments can be conducted by competent bodies such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, to improve the production and quality of wool. I pay a tribute to the Joint Organization and to those who have handled the wool industry, particularly since World War II. I believe that the money that is to be distributed under this bill will benefit the growers and the wool industry generally.
I do not underestimate the value of the provisions in the bill for research. I, myself, am vitally interested in the wool industry and I know that the provisions of this bill will have the approval of Australian woolgrowers. This industry is of vital importance to Australia and we cannot afford to neglect it in the slightest degree. Under the terms of this bill, we shall be doing justice to those who have produced the wool because the money that is to be distributed will go to those who are justly entitled to it.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.30 p.m.
– Mr. President, the purpose of this bill is to amend the Wool Realization (Distribution of Profits) Act 1948-1955 with a view to extending the period for the distribution of Joint Organization profits to woolgrowers. I do not think it is necessary for me to go into very much detail, because the scheme has been explained very thoroughly by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) in his second-reading speech, and by Senators Scott and Hannaford. Nevertheless, I should like to make one or two comments on the scheme, of which we all have some knowledge and a very high opinion. This legislation constitutes the closing chapter of the history of the splendid effort that was made to help the United Kingdom and her allies during the first and second world wars.
As has already been explained, the Australian Government purchased the wool for the United Kingdom and was responsible for assembling and shipping it. On present day values, the average price of ls. Hd. per lb. that was originally agreed upon seems to be ridiculous. Although it was raised later to ls. 3id., it was still very low. The fact that that price was agreed upon was a gesture on the part of the woolgrowers of Australia to the United Kingdom in her hour of peril and very great need. The distribution of profits has been delayed for three or four years, principally because of the Poulton litigation. The question of the right of the wool dealers to participate in the profits was fought in the courts, but I am very pleased that their claim was defeated. I cannot see how they had any right to a profit in addition to that which they undoubtedly enjoyed when they purchased the wool from the growers. I should say that the fact that the wool was selling on a rising market gave them even less right to that additional profit.
The scheme that was in operation during the first world war was carried on by the Central Wool Committee and the one that operated during the second world war was controlled by the Australian Wool Realization Commission. At the conclusion of the second world war in 1945 there was a large carry-over of wool, and it seemed that it would be very difficult for Australia to sell it on the overseas markets. But we then entered into an agreement with the United Kingdom, South Africa, and New Zealand to dispose of the carry-over of, I think, 6,790,000 bales of the 15,000,000 bales that the commission handled. Most of the wool that was left over was of a kind that was, if not unwanted, then not readily saleable. Moreover, the annual wool clip of other countries was coming on the market.
The carry-over of wool in 1945 and the additional annual supplies within Australia itself presented a problem that required very careful consideration. If that wool had been put on the market, it would have had a very serious effect on the sale of the product throughout the world and may have been calamitous in the extreme for Australia.
Australia’s 50 per cent, share of the profits from the overall sale of wool amounted to £93,000,000 - a very substantial sum, which was not anticipated at the time the arrangement was made. When one looks at the circumstances which then existed, it must be conceded that the scheme was very wonderful and that it got Australia out of a very difficult situation. I wish to pay tribute to the Australian Wool Realization Commission for the success it has achieved in controlling the marketing and distribution of our wool. In my opinion, it has been a triumph for orderly marketing, which has been a strong plank of the policies of primary industry. The commission is entitled to top marks for the controlled buying, selling, and distribution of such a huge quantity of wool. I am one of those people who believe that the old organization should have been retained, principally because it had been so successful in the orderly marketing of this commodity, but also because it had the necessary buildings in which to store the wool. Its trained and experienced personnel and its know-how would have been of very great advantage to the industry.
– The woolgrowers’ federation did not agree with that, did it?
– It probably did not. The matter was submitted to the woolgrowers, but they thought at the time that the agreement did not give them full control over their product and that in the hands of an unsympathetic government - constituted, perhaps, by members of the Parliament who are now in Opposition - it could be used against them at some future time. To have retained the old organization would have been of very great advantage to the country because, by selling our wool on a fixed market at a fixed price, we contributed greatly to the Australian economy. Honorable senators will recall that the large amount of taxation that was collected when wool was bringing high prices from overseas buyers was a great help to the Treasury and assisted to no end in development at a later stage. Money for development was needed badly at that time.
In my opinion, the American offer of a fixed price of, speaking from memory, approximately 12s. per lb., for our wool should have been accepted. Not only would America have been a solid market for our product, but also, in all the circumstances, the price was very good. That offer was submitted to the growers, but was rejected in due course. As I indicated earlier, the growers were keen to preserve their rights as private enterprise people; they wanted a continuance of the public auction systemand not government control.
It is very difficult for me to accept the idea that markets and sales still are not manipulated. 1 do not think there is a market, particularly for a product of such importance as wool, that is not manipulated or controlled in some way by buying agents, brokers or overseas interests. The demand for wool, and very often the financial position of countries wishing to purchase it, affect the situation. I am of the opinion that all markets, particularly markets for wool, are controlled in some way, probably in a way that is against the interests of the producers. I hold the opinion that the great value of wool was brought home to the world as the result of the great national gesture by the woolgrowers during the last war. They made no bones about placing their wool at the disposal of the United Kingdom in her hour of peril. That splendid national gesture by the woolgrowers - who have a very proud record in this respect - which drew attention to the value of wool has paid off to a great extent since then. Australia was very fortunate in having at its disposal during the war primary products that were in great demand overseas. I refer particularly to wool, wheat, meat, butter and fruit.
I should like to pay a tribute to the people who were responsible for the very fine organization which we know as the Joint Organization. It was a great success and was splendidly managed. The first chairman, Mr. A. F. Bell, unfortunately did not enjoy very many years in the chair. His life was comparatively short after taking over the chairmanship. He was succeeded by (hat great Australian, Sir Owen Dixon, for whom we all have a profound admiration. He was followed in due course by Sir William Owen. Both of them were men of outstanding ability and of very high standing in the community. They both enjoyed the confidence of the woolgrowers and of everybody connected with and interested in the scheme. They were outstanding personalities, not only in the wool industry, but in other walks of life as well. They were followed by prominent men connected with the industry, who also carried out their duties in an exemplary manner.
The first chairman of the Australian Wool Realization Committee was Mr. Murphy, who was succeeded by Mr. Yeo. The present chairman is Mr. Norman Carson, who has as his assistants Messrs. Cowdery, Bakewell, Hitchins, Renshaw and Kyle. All those men are carrying out the task entrusted to them with outstanding ability and good judgment, and are ensuring complete success for the wool disposal scheme. I do not think I need say anything more, except to express my warm approval of the bill.
– I welcome the bill, which the preceding speakers dealt with comprehensively, although Senator Hannaford did not mention steel wool or cotton wool. I shall get away from wool itself and consider what I believe to be one of the important aspects of the bill. I refer to the Poulton case. I feel that if we examine the Poulton case we shall discover why, although so many years have elapsed since this wool was delivered, finalization of the matter is taking place only now. I do not need to stress the importance of early and accurate distribution payments. Some of the growers delivered their wool as far back as seventeen years ago, but we are still dealing in this National Parliament with the money due to them.
What impresses me most is that it is the small farmers who have not received their money. The large woolgrowers - the station owners and large sheep farmers - followed their normal practice of delivering their wool to the woolbroking firms. However, many men - mixed farmers, running only a few sheep - did not have shearing sheds or the staff necessary to enable them to class their wool. They adopted the practice during the war years of delivering their wool to country merchants and stores, and, in some cases, to dealers, as their agents. It is those men who are now waiting for their money, as was pointed out by the Minister in his secondreading speech. I think we owe it to the nation to examine some of the delays which have occurred in order to ensure that such delays will not occur again.
For the purposes of my argument, I shall assume that the Department of Primary Industry has not been guilty of undue delay, that the Attorney-General’s Department has not been guilty of undue delay, and - here I hope I speak from some knowledge - that counsel and solicitors on the Government side have not been guilty of undue delay. I feel that I should recount to the Senate some features of the Poulton case and refer particularly to dates associated with the case, because, as previous speakers have pointed out, this bill is, as it were, the wash-up after the Poulton case. When the Wool Realization (Distribultion of Profits) Act was enacted in 1948, it expressly denied wool dealers access to J. 6. profits. This provision was called into question in 1949 by Mr. Poulton. I quote from the Commonwealth Law Reports, volume 89, page 554, where the statement of facts of the Poulton case is given. It states -
In an action brought in the High Court by writ of summons of date 19th October, 1949, . . .
That is the starting date. This was obviously a test case. It was designed to establish the right of dealers to a share of the profits. In view of the ensuing litigation, the profits on wool submitted through dealers were withheld by order of the commission. In 1949, the government of the day, in its prudence, prescribed a very wide area in which the distribution of profits was to be withheld. I am not blaming that government for that. As a result of that action, wool which still remained identifiable in the names of woolgrowers was regarded by the Government as being dealers’ wool. The money received for that wool has been held ever since, pending some decision in this case.
The case was heard by Mr. Justice Fullagar in the High Court. He found in November, 1952 - approximately three years after the writ was issued - that the plaintiff’s claim was without foundation, and the action was dismissed.
– Was there undue delay then?
– I am absolving the legal people from responsibility for unduly delaying the date of this discussion. On 4th December, 1952, the plaintiff gave notice of appeal to the Full High Court from the judgment of Mr. Justice Fullagar. On 16th December, 1953, nearly four years ago, the Full High Court dismissed the appeal with costs against Mr. Poulton. The matter had been proceeding ever since 1949. Although Mr. Poulton had indicated repeatedly that he proposed to apply to the High Court for leave to appeal to the Privy Council against the decision of 16th December, 1953, he had taken no action by May, 1956.
Honorable senators will recall that over the years this question has been continually raised in the Senate and in another place. Honorable senators have repeatedly asked. “What is happening about the Poulton case? “ The Government, quite commendably, took a chance on it. Poulton’s procrastination was so great that the Government, after satisfying itself that he had little prospect of succeeding, authorized, in May, 1956, the Australian Wool Realization Commission to distribute the dealer wool profits to growers. An application was lodged by Poulton on 20th July, 1956, for leave to appeal to the Privy Council, but this was unanimously rejected by the High Court on 11th October, 1956. Therefore, on 10th October, 1956. almost seven years after the writ was issued in the High Court, the matter, so far as the Australian judicial system was concerned, was finally resolved. In the interim, millions of pounds due, in the main, to the smaller woolgrowers, were withheld.
I propose to devote a few minutes to making some suggestions so that this sort of thing will not happen again. I direct the attention of honorable senators to section 74 of the Commonwealth Constitution, because it is in that section that the question of appeals to the Privy Council are dealt with. It should be remembered that under the Constitution the judicial power of the Commonwealth is vested in a federal supreme court called the High Court of Australia. In their wisdom, the fathers of federation provided for an appeal against the decision of that court. Section 74 reads -
No appeal shall be permitted to the Queen in Council from a decision of the High Court upon any question, howsoever arising, as to the limits inter se of the Constitutional powers of the Commonwealth and those of any State or States, or as to the limits inter se of the Constitutional powers of any two or more States, unless the High Court shall certify that the question is one which ought to be determined by Her Majesty in Council.
As honorable senators will see, where an appeal is desired the High Court must grant a certificate on questions inter se of the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth. The section further provides -
The High Court may so certify if satisfied that for any special reason the certificate should be granted, and thereupon an appeal shall lie to Her Majesty in Council on the question without further leave.
A further paragraph, which I shall not read, relates to appeals which the Privy Council may accept direct from litigants. Perhaps T could give an illustration, by referring to a simple lower court matter, of how delay could be cut down. I ask honorable senators to consider what happens in a magistrate’s court in any of the States. If a person is fined for some minor offence, in most instances he has a right of appeal - in my own State, at any rate - to the Supreme Court of the State. However, he must appeal within a certain time or for ever after hold his peace. He cannot expect, later, to have a further right to appeal.
Apparently, there are deficiencies in the rule relating to applications for leave to appeal to the Privy Council. Poulton indicated his dissatisfaction with the judgment of the Full High Court in December, 1953, and was able, right up to October, 1956, to expect success as an appellant. This, as has been disclosed by the second-reading speech of the Minister, is a matter of prime importance to the judicial system of Australia. Therefore, I ask the Minister in charge of the bill to refer this question to the Attorney-General, and to the Cabinet. It may be beyond our power to do anything about it. Perhaps the question would have to be raised in Westminster itself. It should be remembered that the judicial committee of the Privy Council advises Her Majesty on the question of these appeals.
The small amount of research that I have been able to carry out suggests that some of the rules relating to appeals to the judicial committee of the Privy Council are more than 100 years old. I believe that they virtually describe the time limit as any “ reasonable “ time, and were drawn up in a period when it was not practicable to assert that appeals should be lodged within a month, or six months, or any fixed time, because of transport difficulties. One hundred years ago, it took a great deal of time to transport litigants, papers, documents and exhibits from the far-flung parts of the Empire to London. With the passage of time all that has changed. In place of the sailing ship we now have the jetpropelled aircraft. In place of the quill and parchment we now have the teleprinter and the radio.
The second-reading speech of the Minister clearly reveals that the rules of our highest courts of appeal are not adequate for this modern age. This was a test case, and the distribution of several millions of pounds - in most cases to the smaller woolgrower - was held up because, I believe, of a deficiency in the rules of the High Court, and perhaps of the Privy Council also, relating to appeals. In addressing this argument to honorable senators, I have absolved Australian departments and legal authorities from responsibility for- any undue delay. I feel sure that if the rules had been adequate the matter would have been finalized long before October, 1956. I put this question to the Minister in charge of the bill: Has this matter been concluded, or is there a possibility of an appeal being directed to the Privy Council by any other litigant other than through the High Court? I think not, yet I cannot be absolutely certain on that point.
– Is there still some money tied up?
– I should imagine from a cursory reading of the material and the Auditor-General’s report that there is some money held back for contingencies, but 1 do stress to honorable senators that this Senate should give immediate attention to the matter of litigation in the appellate jurisdiction because, as Mr. Poulton was able to hold the Commonwealth at bay for seven years, possibly any other citizen of the Commonwealth could hold the Commonwealth or another citizen at bay for a long time, in view of the existing rules of the High Court and the Privy Council.
I have listened with great interest to the remarks of my colleagues, who have explained this measure fully to the Senate. I commend the bill and I wish it a speedy passage.
Senator PEARSON (South Australia) (3.1]. - I support the bill, the need for which as obvious to every member of this chamber. Closely connected with the subjecof extending the time during which the proceeds of the resale of wool may be paid ito the growers is the Poulton case, to which my colleague, Senator Laught, has referred. J, and other lay members of this chamber, are indebted to Senator Laught for his lucid explanation of the method by which an appeal is made to the Privy Council. As the honorable senator pointed out, there was a very lengthy delay in the finalization of the Poulton case and this measure has been introduced as a result of the consequential delay in paying to the woolgrowers the money to which they are entitled.
As a layman, I agree with Senator Laught’s contention that other industries could be affected by people behaving in the way that Poulton has behaved in relation to the wool industry. Therefore, I support Senator Laught’s request directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), who is in charge of the bill, to see what steps could be taken to prevent any person from delaying for as long as Poulton did an application to the High Court’ for leave to appeal to the Privy Council.
As Senator Laught pointed out, in South Australia a time limit is imposed in respect of appeals to higher tribunals. It surely would be sensible to extend this practice to appeals to the Privy Council.
I commend the Government on introducing this bill, which has been necessitated by the delay in making disbursements to the growers pending the decision in the Poulton case. Again, as a layman, I should like to make this point, that it was possibly due to the Government’s decision to proceed to distribute the money, Mr. Poulton not actually having sought leave from the High Court to appeal to the Privy Council, that actually forced Mr. Poulton to apply for leave. Up to that stage, he was unhurried. His decision to apply for leave to appeal was doubtless hastened by the announcement that the Government intended to go ahead with the distribution of a fair percentage of the money, which would have added to his difficulty in obtaining the share of the proceeds to which he believed he was entitled. It may be that he decided there and then to exercise his right to apply to the High Court for leave to appeal, which application was turned down.
In .common with other honorable senators on this side of the chamber, I like al.ways to give credit to those to whom it is due. I believe that great credit is due to the people who performed the work of the Joint Organization and to those who were concerned with the war-time appraisal of wool. The appraisal system was introduced at a time when we were experiencing difficulty at the commencement of the war in marketing our wool, and it operated successfully from the outset. I give credit to the governments which introduced the scheme and administered it during the war years. The manner in which the scheme operated reflects great credit on all concerned, and the scheme solved the problem of marketing our wool throughout the war period.
I believe that both parliamentarians and the members of the wool industry should give credit - as it was given during the war years - to Britain for the manner in which she handled this matter. In addition to paying an agreed price for our wool under the appraisal scheme, Great Britain accepted all the risks associated with transporting wool from Australia under the scheme to England. I know that when it was revealed that Britain was making a profit from the resale of the wool, many people were inclined to think that the appraisal prices were not high enough and that Britain was not playing the game. They thought that Britain was engaged in a shrewd deal, by buying the wool, treating it and then reselling it at a profit, and that the agreement should provide for Australia to share in the profits of the reselling. 1 should like to say that I think that Great Britain’s action in taking all the risk was highly commendable. She had to get the wool, and she was willing to assume all the consequential responsibility involved in transporting it 12,000 miles over the seas. We did not have the ships. Furthermore, Britain paid us spot cash for our wool, and the growers were paid their money in accordance with the prices under the appraisal scheme. In view of the period of time that has since elapsed, I think the growers should be reminded of those facts.
I think it is only fair to give credit to the government that was in office in 1948 which promised the growers that the money that was mounting up from, the resale of the wool would be paid to them. There was some contention about the matter at the time,, but the growers appreciated that promise.. All that has been done since was an consequence of the promise that was made by the then Prime Minister of Australia.
We realize, of course, as the Minister stated in his second-reading speech, that the bulk of the money to go eventually to the growers has in fact been disbursed to them in five or six distributions. However, a final payment has yet to be made. For this purpose, the bill extends the time for payments till 30th June, 1959, by which date it is expected the matter will be finalized, with the exception, possibly, of an inconsequential amount of money which cannot at present be determined because, as other honorable senators have pointed out, certain persons who are entitled to share in the proceeds cannot be located. A very wise decision has been made to the effect that any moneys not distributed by that date will be paid into the Wool Research Trust Fund, which was established as a result of legislation of this Parliament last year.
I have nothing further to say in support of this measure. I commend my colleague. Senator Laught, on his approach to the difficulty which has been shown to exist as a result of the Poulton case. I am sure that the Government will give consideration to this very important question, because it might easily arise at any time, not necessarily in relation to this matter, but as a result of an applicant who disagreed with a High Court decision seeking to approach the Privy Council and causing delay such as has occurred in this instance.
.- I have listened with considerable interest to all the honorable senators who have preceded me and who have made very interesting contributions to the debate. The purpose of the bill, of course, is clear to us all. It is to amend the Wool Realization (Distribution of Profits) Act, 1948-55, by extending the period for the distribution to woolgrowers of what we call Joint Organization profits. I hark back over the years to the British-Australian Wool Realization Association, known as B.A.W.R.A., which came into being as a consequence of the first world war. In conjunction with my partner at that time, Mr. Wilkinson, I participated in the distribution of profits by that wool-selling organization. That organization built up its personnel and developed its policies in such a way as to set the pattern for the Joint Organization which came into being because of the second world war.
I remember that, when B.A.W.R.A. was winding up finally, Mr. Wilkinson and I received a distribution of profits in the form of a cheque for 3d. We thought it was rather a waste of money to issue the cheque, because of the cost of the postage and duty stamps. We thought that the organization might well have retained the 3d. However, the law had to be upheld, and the debt to us had to be discharged. We had the cheque framed and hung in our office, and it was an object of great curiosity to people who came in to see us from time to time.
– - How could you carry on without the money?
– Times were pretty hard. The cheque was always a security, and while we had it we could always make a last-ditch monetary stand. Some time elapsed, and then we got a letter saying that the cheque had not been presented, that that was causing some inconvenience, and that the organization would like us to present the cheque to the bank. We wrote back, saying that the cheque had a value to us as an object of curiosity in our office and that we would like to retain it, but we received a pretty stiff letter in reply, saying that the cheque should be presented to the bank so that it could be duly paid. In one way or another, it cost a couple of shillings to have the cheque presented and the amount collected. That is only a little tale of other days which I recount because this bill is before us. lt will be recalled that in 1945 the Governments of the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa formed an agency known as the Joint Organization to dispose of the wool which had accumulated as a stockpile under wartime conditions. In those days, too, I had sheep and produced wool. I contributed wool to this pool and subsequently received payments under the five distributions which were made to woolgrowers proper, as distinct from those people who are affected by this legislation and who sold their wool to dealers.
At that time, as Senator Scott pointed out, the price of wool was very low. The appraised price was about 13d. per lb., and I can assure the Senate that there was not much profit in it for the woolgrowers, but we accepted the price in patriotic recognition of our duty to our country. Of course, costs in the grazing industry at that time were also particularly low. They were too ‘low altogether, because a man who went out into the country and undertook big capital commitments, based on the currency values of the time, did not get sufficient in return to enable him to pay to the men who worked for him the wage that they were entitled to. The returns did not enable the graziers to pay wages they would have liked to pay.
Since then, of course, the price of wool has risen considerably. The graziers, with increased returns, can pay the higher wages prescribed by industrial court awards. More money has circulated in country districts, country towns have progressed considerably and the graziers have been enabled to improve their homesteads and install various amenities to make life more acceptable to the womenfolk who live in distant parts of the bush, away from the main centres. In addition, legislation which has enabled graziers to claim as deductions for taxation purposes money spent on water supplies, fencing repairs and, latterly, shearing sheds, shearers’ accommodation and other things of that nature, has permitted the graziers over the past twenty years to make great improvements indeed. Conditions have become much more tolerable for the grazier, his family and all whom he employs. Conditions are better now than they were formerly. Senator O’Byrne has had jackerooing experience in the Cunnamulla district of Queensland. He was there about the time-
– Captain Cook’s time?
– No, Captain Cook was well before his time. The honorable senator was in the Cunnamulla district, engaged in the pastoral industry. He has a pretty good knowledge of the conditions that obtained at the time to which I make reference. He knows the big changes that have taken place because of the action of the legislature in granting tax concessions for improvements made, and because of the better prices which have since been received for our wool. That is all to the good. Australia has great assets because of that, and schemes such as the one dealt with under this bill have been of immense value. The distributions which took place in terms of the Joint Organization have brought in largesse, unexpected dividends, to graziers who thought they had parted with their wool during the war years at about 13d. per lb. Of course, when they found, after the war, that there was a big stockpile of wool, that they were to participate in the increased value which had accrued, that the civilian population of the world was hungry for wool and that therefore values went up under the pressure of demand, they were very pleasantly surprised. As I say, this was a bonanza to the woolgrowers, and the distributions were of great value to them as they were made from time to time.
That applies to those who sold their wool through the regular channels - the woolbrokers - but this measure deals with those woolgrowers, mainly small woolgrowers, who sold their wool through wool dealers. In most wool-growing districts, there are wool and skin buyers who go round in vans and motor trucks buying up old wool that is lying about. They buy up the dead wool, the crutchings, the wool of lesser value, and this saves the grazier the bother of baling it, up and sending it away for sale. These dealers are able to make a fair livelihood on the turnover. It is dealers such as these who have purchased wool in smaller quantities and sent it on to the market, and, for the purposes of the scheme, it has been adjudged by the law courts - quite properly, too - that the dealers’ wool, as it is termed, properly belongs to the grower and it is the grower who should secure the advantage of the increased value which has accrued.
This claim was contested. Most honorable senators know of the action, which was publicized largely at the time, taken by Mr. Poulton on behalf of a number of wool dealers, who stood to make very substantial profits if the litigation which he had launched had succeeded. The courts held that the money had to be refunded to the woolgrowers. In all, about £2,500,000 is involved in dealers’ wool. Where small lots are concerned, the great difficulty is to locate, at this period of time, the people who grew the wool and sold it to the dealers, and who have entitlement to receive the distributions. I think that, in all, 1,480 claims are still involved. That is a large number of claims. Many of the growers of this wool have sold out, others have retired, others have passed on, and the probability is that there will still be money left undistributed when the period within which it must be distributed comes to an end in 1959.
The whole object of the measure is a good one. It is to try to find the people who are entitled to the £2,500,000 and to get to them their proportion of that amount. The Wool Realization Commission has a very big task ahead of it in doing that.
I should like now to join with others who have expressed appreciation of the splendid work that has been done by the Joint Organization in handling the tremendous stockpile of wool which had accumulated at the end of the war. At that time, this huge stockpile was a source of great anxiety to woolgrowers. That big quantity of unsold wool hung over their economic affairs like the sword of Damocles, ready to fall at any minute and cause the market for the current season’s wool to collapse. Mercifully, there was a wool-hungry world waiting and the wool that was there was rapidly absorbed at highly profitable prices, thus making it possible for the Joint Organization to give valuable help to the graziers, who were struggling to recover their positions after all the costs involved in the prosecution of the war. The measure is one which deserves the support of the whole Senate, and 1 accordingly support it.
– The point raised by a number of honorable senators in connexion with the Poulton case is of great interest to all members of the Senate. I think all will agree that there is a loophole in the system when it is possible to delay for a long period the bringing of appeals before the Privy Council. That matter has been, and is still being, given close attention. I think it is felt by all that the question should be looked at and dealt with as early as possible. The situation is complex, and those honorable senators who have brought it to the notice of the Senate can rest assured that this matter is receiving attention.
The passing of this legislation will enable distribution of the moneys involved to be made to the woolgrowers as early as possible. I think every one will agree that, throughout the Commonwealth, there is a great lack of documentary evidence of ownership of this wool. I do not think the long delay which has occurred has helped that position, and the Wool Realization Commission is most anxious for the growers to establish their claims as early as possible, so that this long-drawn-out, but nevertheless very beneficial and very well-managed, scheme may be brought to an end. I am sure honorable senators will do all they can to encourage applicants under this scheme to proceed with their claims as early as possible so that the money may be paid to them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 21st November (vide page 1418), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.”
.- It is not my purpose to speak at length on this bill because the debate on the previous measure indicates that this bill will evoke considerable discussion. The purpose of the bill is to provide for the appropriation of £3,000,000 in both 1957-58 and 1958-59 to supplement the payments that are already made under the Commonwealth aid roads legislation. Of the £6,000,000, an amount of £5,000,000 will be raised by the tax on diesel fuel which is levied under the Budget. The Government will add £1,000,000 to the £2,000,000 that will be collected from the new tax in this financial year. The money is not to be paid to the States under the formula that is adopted for distribution of other money to the States for roads. That revenue is derived from the petrol tax and it is distributed to the States in the proportion of three-fifths according to population and two-fifths according to area, with the exception of Tasmania, which receives 5 per cent, of the amount available.
– I thought the money was to be distributed under that formula!
– I am concerned only with what is set out in the bill. I will leave the honorable senator to argue that matter himself. New South Wales is to get £800,000 of the £3,000,000 and Victoria is to receive £700,000. The other States will receive smaller amounts. I do not know what system was adopted in preparing this formula, if one might call it that, or whether the figures were simply pulled out of a hat, but that is how the money is to be distributed. It is said that, as the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement ceases in June, 1959, and the formula may or may not be altered–
– Let us hope that it is.
– May be, but there are other things that should be done to-day. Senator Wade and I both come from Victoria, but we have to consider these matters from a national point of view as well as from the State’s viewpoint. Victoria must put its own house in order before it makes a big outcry about its share. On the face of it, Victoria might appear to be treated unfairly and, possibly, the treatment meted out to it is unfair. However, the situation in Victoria is just as unfair in another connexion if we consider the amount of money that is raised from motor vehicle registrations and other sources. Between 64 per cent, and 67 per cent, of motor registrations in Victoria are made within 26 miles of the area that comes within the control of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, and Senator Wade knows how little of that money is expended in that area.
– Is the honorable senator quarrelling with that arrangement?
– Yes, and I do not. care how much Senator Wade uses that statement of mine in the country areas because I believe that anybody who travels along the roads in the big cities realizes, when all is said and done-
– Should we not take a State outlook?
– I think that we have done so over a period of years. If Victoria believes that all the money provided under this bill should be spent in the same ratio as are the funds that the State already receives, in contradistinction to considering the matter from a defence point of view, one is entitled to have another look at this matter. If I am in the Senate long enough, I shall discuss the Commonwealth Aid Roads agreement in that connexion, and I do not think that I will see eye to eye with a number of honorable senators who also represent Victoria. I do not know why this money was not allocated under the terms of the formula that has already been adopted, it may be that pressure by my friend, Senator Gorton, was responsible for the decision.
– He takes a broad national point of view.
– Senator Gorton might have reasons for doing so, and they might be good reasons, in his opinion.
– His nation is Victoria.
– Victoria is the most important place. I think we can agree on that. However, I will not be dragooned into taking up a lot of time on this measure. The Opposition has no objection whatever to the bill. We shall be looking with anxious eyes to the future. The secondreading speech of the Minister for Shipping and Transport contained many figures. He compared the amount of money spent in 1949 with that spent to-day and the amount allotted by this Government with the allocations for road purposes in the preceding 24 years. When all that information is gathered together, it means little.
– Does not the honorable senator believe in history?
– I do not mind historical comparisons so long as they are related to what money will buy. The Opposition raises no objection to the bill and wishes it a speedy passage.
Senator PEARSON (South Australia) 13.38]. - I was interested in the statements that were made by Senator Kennelly, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. He has rightly directed attention to the fact that the amount of £3,000,000, which is to be paid to the States by way of an additional grant under the Commonwealth aid roads scheme, is not to be distributed on the basis of the formula which is part of the Federal Aid Roads Agreement. That interests me greatly. I am an easy fellow to get along with, and I am not suggesting that I disagree with that arrangement at the moment. I have listened to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and to other honorable senators from Victoria who have contravened the Standing Orders by interjecting
– The honorable senator has not heard anything yet.
– Is that a threat or a promise? All I say to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, who is in charge of the bill, is that I hope that this departure from the formula does not foreshadow a major alteration in the formula when the current agreement expires in 1959.
– That is big of you!
– I shall repeat the words of Senator Wade and tell him now that if there is a major alteration in the formula, he has not heard anything yet.
– You might change your mind.
– Of course, we all might change our minds. Even Senator Gorton might change the attitude that I suspect he will adopt. I do not contest the legislation which, as I have indicated, seeks to alter the present formula. Rather do T compliment the Government upon its prompt action in making available to the States this year for road purposes an additional sum of £3,000,000, with a promise that a similar sum will be added to the amount made available next year. The Government has allocated the sum of £3,000,000 this year despite the fact that in the current financial year it expects to collect from the new diesel fuel tax only £2,000,000. I suggest that the Government could, with some justification, have limited the sum to be made available this year to £2,000,000, and have made £3,000,000 available next year - that is, if it is to rely solely on its diesel fuel tax collections.
I understand that legislation is to be introduced soon to deal with the new diesel fuel tax. Lest I do not address myself to that measure, let me say now that I appreciate the announced intention of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) to have exempted from the payment of that tax all persons who use diesel fuel for non-road purposes. I am sure every one appreciates his prompt action in that respect.
– I do not think you will get a chance to speak on the next bill.
– I indicate to Senator McKenna that I shall not speak at length on the one now before us. I direct attention to a matter which Senator Kennelly conveniently dismissed with only a passing reference - the amount of money that has been made available to the States for road purposes since this Government assumed office compared with the amount that was made available during the previous 24 years following the adoption of the principle of federal aid for roads.
– I shall agree very heartily with you on this point.
– I have no doubt that my colleague will. In the eight years this Government has been in office, £180,000,000 has been made available to the States under the Commonwealth aid roads legislation, compared with the payment of £80,000,000 by all governments in the previous 24 years. However, I wish to be fair. I realize that the fact that this Government has made available £180,000,000 is due, not only to the increased percentage of the petrol tax that has been made available, but also to a very impressive rise in the number of motor vehicles used during those eight years and a corresponding increase in the quantity of petrol consumed. Nevertheless, I do give credit to the Government for its action in stepping up from 3d. in 194S-49 io 3d. per gallon at the present time the proportion of petrol tax that is rebated to the States. That amount of 8d. per gallon relates not only to imported fuel but also to fuel that is now refined in Australia. We all know that, following the great development of oil refineries in this country, the quantity of oil refined locally has risen.
It is interesting to note that the total sum that will be made available to the States this year, including the sum of £3,000,000 for which provision is made in this measure, will be £37,000,000. That represents a considerable increase on last year’s figure, which was £32,500,000. South Australia’s share will be increased by a little more than £500,000, from £3,509,000 to £4,034,000. Her share of the amount provided for in this legislation will be £325,000.
I look forward to the result of the consideration that the Minister has indicated that he and the Government will give to what is to happen at the expiration of the current Commonwealth aid roads legislation. I hope that my friend, Senator Kennelly, will have adopted a national outlook by that time. I hope that Senator Wade will do likewise; apparently he believes that the Victorian Government should adopt a State outlook in regard to roads outside the metropolitan area. If the honorable senator adopts the view that the country areas of Victoria are deserving of special consideration, he must agree that the sparsely populated areas of Australia also are entitled to the consideration that they receive under the present formula, which provides for a distribution on the basis of three-fifths as to population and two-fifths as to area.
– Is there not reference to a figure of 40 per cent.?
– A certain percentage is specifically ear-marked for rural areas. But 1 am referring specifically to the formula, which provides that the available moneys shall be distributed on the basis of three-fifths as to population and two-fifths as to area. South Australia is rather interested in that method of distribution, as would be, I imagine, Western Australia and Queensland. I point out that
Victoria is in a fortunate position in that respect, because not only has she a large population, and therefore, perhaps, larger financial resources, but also, I imagine, a. lower mileage of main roads to build and maintain than would be the case in Western Australia or Queensland.
I support the bill with very great pleasure.
– First of all, I congratulate Senator Pearson on the remarks he made in support of this measure to provide special assistance for the development of road systems throughout Australia. An allocation will be made to the various States from the revenue which the Commonwealth expects to receive from the tax of ls. a gallon to be levied on diesel fuel. The revenue from the tax during the next two years will be, I understand, approximately £5,000.000. The sum allocated to the various States will be £6,000,000, made up of a grant of £3,000,000 to 30th June, 1958, and another £3,000,000 to 30th June, 1959. That means that the Government, from Consolidated Revenue, will find £1,000,000. The whole idea of this measure is to impose a tax on the diesel trucks which use our roads for the cartage of goods.
– That is the bill we are waiting for. It is not the bill we are dealing with now.
– I am referring to the money that will be raised by the tax of ls. a gallon imposed on the fuel used by trucks.
– This bill does not provide for the levying of the tax.
– I can read the bill for myself. If the honorable senator cares to read the second-reading speech of the Minister, he will find that the Minister made a comment on the tax on diesel fuel.
– This is not the bill that imposes the tax. The Government has put the cart before the horse. It is allocating the money but it has not brought in the bill to authorize the tax.
– The Opposition had an opportunity to treat this measure in the same way as it treated the banking bill which was introduced yesterday, lt could have thrown this measure out on the first reading.
– We had no desire to do that. The Opposition supports the bill.
– Yet the honorable senator is quite prepared to throw in such interjections. I am really thankful for the help he is giving me. He is of considerable assistance to mc.
– This is a very friendly atmosphere.
– It is very friendly indeed, but 1 should like to get on with my speech. I congratulate the Government on the measures it has brought down providing for some of the revenue raised by taxes on petrol and other fuels to be made available to help the States to build better roads throughout Australia. I believe that this Government has a record unsurpassed by that of any previous government in relation to the amount of money made available to the States for this work. The Labour Government in 1949 allocated to the States from the petrol tax revenue the sum of £9,367,000. That allocation was based on 3d. a gallon of the tax on imported petrol and 2d. a gallon of the duty on locally refined petrol, lt included a sum of £3,000,000 made available for roads in rural areas. The allocation is now made on the basis of 8d. a gallon for all petrol, whether imported or refined in Australia.
– Will you carry that argument to its conclusion and tell us how many miles of roads were built with the money allocated in 1949 and how many miles of roads are being built at present?
– I will have to look up the records for that.
– Those figures would put the matter in perspective.
– No doubt some honorable senators opposite will follow me. They will be able to give the Senate those interesting figures. If Senator Kennelly wishes to know what is being done, I suggest that he come to Western Australia and have a look at the roads that are being built there.
– I thought you would want me to have a look at the bridge across the Narrows.
– Built with federal aid roads money. The honorable senator should have a look at the roads that have been built since this Government came into office and compare them with the roads that existed prior to its coming into office. For Senator Kennelly’s benefit, I inform the Senate that prior to 1949 one could travel only for 475 miles north of Perth on a formed road. It would be safe to say that to-day one could go 2,000 miles north of Perth and still be on formed roads, built by the State government from petrol tax revenue received from the Commonwealth Government.
I mentioned earlier that the Labour government in 1949 made available to the States the amount of £9,367,000 from moneys raised by the petrol tax. That is something that members of the Labour party would not dare to mention on the hustings during an election, because it would demonstrate how miserable were the allocations made by a Labour government: The £34,000,000 distributed by this Government last year is £25,000.000 greater than, or three and a half times as much as, the distribution when it assumed office. During the last eight years this Government has distributed £180,000,000 to the States, compared with £80,000,000 distributed during the preceding 24 years by the various governments which were in office during those years. I reiterate that we have a record of which we can be proud. Even so, we are not satisfied with what has been done. Therefore, we have brought into the Senate this measure which will enable another £3,000,000 to be given to the States in each of the next two years to assist them in the construction of roads.
As the Senate knows, the Federal Aid Roads Act, which has been in force since 1926. laid down a formula, suggested by Sir Earle Page, by which the money was to be distributed to the States on a populationplusarea basis. The agreement, incorporating that formula, which has never been altered, is to expire on 30th June, 1959. I sincerely hope that, as the formula has been in existence for so long, it will continue to serve the States as it has in the past. I think it would be difficult to find a more effective substitute. A distribution in the proportion, three-fifths as to population and two-fifths as to area, gives the larger States, which are sparsely populated, an opportunity to have, not good, but reasonable, roads in outback areas. The only formula that would” be better would be one which laid down a distribution of three-fifths as to area and two-fifths as to population. I think that it would receive the support of every one in the bigger States, particularly Western Australia, which comprises one third of the area of the Commonwealth.
From the Minister’s second-reading speech, it would appear that a review of all petrol tax grants will be made before 30th June, 1959. 1 know that the Minister, though himself a Western Australian, will not be parochial in this matter, but I sincerely hope that the States will stick together and retain the formula that has been operating for so long. The proceeds of this tax will go to the construction of roads, which are so vital for the development of Australia.
We have only to look’ at the structure of our roads to see how they have improved in the last ten or fifteen years. Where once we travelled on bush tracks we often find now made and formed roads. Australia’s transport problem is largely tied up with its system. In many States the railways are experiencing heavy losses, notwithstanding high freight rates. The whole question of road and rail transport should be gone into very thoroughly. The carriage of superphosphate, for instance, which is undertaken at a cut rate in Western Australia, works out at roughly 8d. a ton mile. That undoubtedly, when the cost of cartage is added, creates a loss for the taxpayers of approximately 3d. or 4d. a ton mile. Road transport can carry superphosphate for 6d. a ton mile and deliver it right to the farmer’s property.
Let us, for a moment, look at what has transpired over the years in this matter of road transport. In 1926-27 the maximum load carried in the rural areas of Western Australia was 1 ton, or perhaps 2 tons. At that time petrol-driven trucks were taking the place of horse-drawn vehicles. In the interim, a matter of 30 years, trucks have gradually carried greater and greater loads on our highways. Many now carry more than 15 or 20 tons. In the outback of Western Australia a system of road transport has been developed which enables approximately 80 fully grown bullocks to be taken, on a road train, a distance of 600 miles or more. I would suggest that these cattle, which are carried on one vehicle, made up of a truck and one or two trailers, would each weigh about 1,000 lb. - a total load of 40 tons.
– About 40 short tons.
– In good seasons the beasts may average 1,120 lb. each and the total weight would then be 40 long tons. In view of the honorable senator’s interjection I thought that that matter might just as well be straightened out. Therefore, in 30 years the load carried has changed from 2 tons to more than 40 tons, and we have not yet seen the end of it all. Recently, I read that a new type of road train, using a diesel engine which generated its own electricity and transmitted the electricity to motors driving each of the wheels, now makes it possible to carry loads in excess of 120 tons. That is the system that has developed since road transport by motor vehicle was introduced in Australia about 30 years ago. I think that this system, as far as the development of Western Australia is concerned, is cheaper from the point of view of both construction and operating costs than the provision of railways in those areas. I am not suggesting that road transport can beat rail transport in certain areas. If a large quantity of goods has to be transported quickly from one place to another, and if a railway line can be constructed fairly economically, I think the train is the answer. Of course, that depends on a continuous flow of goods for transportation. But in sparsely populated areas where only relatively small tonnages of goods have to be carted, it is not economical to provide a railway service. Therefore, I think the first transport requirement in the outback areas is the provision of solid main roads, capable of carrying heavy vehicles such as road trains.
During the last war, a meatworks was established at Broome, in the north-west of Western Australia, to kill beef from the Kimberley area and export it overseas. Initially, the cattle was brought in bydrovers from places up to 300 miles away. Since the war, however, and since roads have been constructed out of the proceeds of the petrol tax, road trains in increasing numbers have made their appearance. During the last three years the proprietors of the meatworks at Broome have purchased road trains which now convey at least 85 per cent, of the cattle killed at those works. The company estimates that if the cattle were driven in on the hoof over stock routes that had been eaten out and on which there was insufficient water, each beast would lose approximately 100 lb. in weight. Approximately 8,000 or 9,000 lb. weight of beef is being saved on the 85 per cent, of cattle brought to the meatworks by road trains. lt is interesting to note that since the war, and particularly since this Government came to office, large oil refineries have been built in this country. Australia imports £88,500,000 worth of petroleum products a year, most of which are refined in the local refineries. If these refineries had not been established, we would have to import refined products at a cost of £160,000,000 a year. Therefore, an improvement of £71,500,000 a year has been effected from the point of view of our external balances. I certainly look forward to the day when oil is found in Australia and it will be no longer necessary for us to import petroleum products. In 1952-53, we collected excise duty amounting to £3,826,000 and by 1956-57 the receipts had risen to £39,878,000 - roughly nine times as much - in respect of petrol refined in Australia. Collections of customs duty have fallen from £23,472,000 in 1952-53 to £9,500,000 in 1956-57 - roughly one-half. It is estimated that 85 per cent, of our requirements of fuel is now supplied by the Australian refineries. Prior to our taking office I do not think that any oil refinery other than the one at Altona - which did not operate for a couple of years during the war - existed in Australia. It is very pleasing to me to know that in the eight years that this Government has been in office considerable improvements have been made in relation to the refining of oil in Australia, and that the local refineries now supply 85 per cent, of our requirements.
It is interesting to note that although we have increased from £9,000,000 to approximately £35,000,000 the amount of money made available to the States from the petrol tax, State taxation of vehicles has not been increased proportionately. The annual allocation for roads from the petrol tax has been increased from 3d. a gallon in respect of imported petrol and 2d. a gallon in respect of locally refined petrol in 1949-50 to a total of 8d. a gallon in respect of both imported and locally refined petrol. The States are always asking the Commonwealth for extra moneys for roads and other purposes. I think it is the duty of the States to collect in motor vehicle licence fees a fair proportion of the money needed for road construction. It is not right that a vehicle which could be licensed for a fee of £8 in 1938-39 can be licensed for only a little more at the present time. The States have to play their part in the development of our roads system.
I should like to mention the distribution to the local authorities of moneys received by the States for road construction. I think it would be readily agreed, upon studying the picture, that the local authorities can get more value per £1 spent than can State Main Roads Departments or, for that matter, the Commonwealth Department of Works. In view of the stricter administration of the local authorities, and the better supervision of the expenditure of money, the States should make available to the local authorities more and more money for the development of roads. But the amount of money made available by the States to the local authorities has not increased by the same percentage as has the Commonwealth contribution to the States. For instance, we give nearly four times as much to the States now as we gave in 1949. In that year they received £9,600,000, whereas this year the amount will be £35,000,000. But the local authorities are not receiving from the States four times as much as they received in 1949. I do not know that there is anything that the Commonwealth Government can do about it.
– I cannot help you.
– I know. The honorable senator would not if he could. Probably he will get up shortly and make a speech about it. I was not seeking his assistance, because I think the matter is a little beyond him, but if he gives me time I shall work the problem out. I shall certainly take my time. That is how I see the position, particularly in Western Australia. The State Government there is not increasing substantially its contribution to local authorities from the petrol tax moneys that it receives from the Commonwealth. I say quite emphatically that the local authorities, particularly in Western Australia, do a grand job in road-making. 1 would say that local authorities get better value for every £1 spent than does either the State or the Commonwealth. By the amending legislation of 1950, we permitted State governments to make money available to local authorities for the purchase of plant, but in Western Australia only a very limited amount of money has been made available for that purpose. Speaking off the cuff, I would say that since that provision was made, not more than £20,000 has been provided for this purpose to road boards in special circumstances.
– Do you know of any States other than Western Australia?
– There is no need to know any others. 1 am interested in my State. I do not know whether that provision has been availed of in any other State. I understand it has. The Labour Government of Western Australia is so anxious to hold the purse strings that it will rarely make available from petrol tax moneys funds for local authorities to purchase plant.
– You said a moment ago that all the other States were the same. You are not just singling out Western Australia?
– I know the position in Western Australia particularly. To clear the point up, let me say that I have made inquiries and I understand that other States do make money available to local authorities in special circumstances for the purchase of plant, but the Western Australian Labour Government wants to hold the purse strings and will not make money available for this purpose. I think it is vital that State governments should make money available to local authorities for the purchase of plant. They should give to a local authority, say, £5,000 and say, “ If you want to spend £2,500 of this amount on the purchase of plant, you may do so “. But in our State a local authority has to stipulate the type of work it proposes to do, where the money is to be spent, and the type of road that is to be constructed. The construction has to be in accordance with specifications laid down by the Main Roads Department.
– That sounds like common sense to me.
– I did not say that it was not. Those are the circumstances that exist, and I am not opposed to them, but a local authority should be able to decide whether it will spend its allocation of petrol tax moneys on the purchase of plant or on road construction. Although the Commonwealth permits the States to give this money to local authorities for the purchase of plant, the Western Australian Government has approved of the purchase of plant by only one or two local authorities.
I want to say a word or two about the construction from petrol tax moneys of roads in isolated areas of Western Australia. I suppose the same conditions apply in other parts of Australia. In the outback areas the men working on road construction are camped sometimes at such great distances from the actual point at which the work is being done that often they arrive at the working place just in time to boil the billy for morning tea. In many instances only a few hours’ work is done each day by these road construction gangs because they are allowed time to travel to and from the jobs. This means that very little work is being done for the huge amount being expended. I suggest that it could be of advantage if the State governments let contracts for the construction of roads in outback areas at so much a mile, and they could also specify the way in which the work must be done. I believe that if that were done, it would be far cheaper in the long run than building these roads by the day labour system. I do not seek to deny the men working in those areas the right to have a cup of tea, but when they travel as much as 30 and 40 miles to their work, it becomes difficult to do enough work in the day to justify the huge expenditure involved.
All these roads in the outback areas have gravel surfaces. It often happens that the Main Roads Department constructs a length of road by the end of winter and then, during the wet summer season, when anything up to 20 inches of rain falls in 24 hours, it is not uncommon to see washed away much of the work on which the State Government has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds. Needless to say, if this should happen, the road is untrafficable until the wet season is over. Then the State Government is required to expend further moneys on reconstructing it the washed-out sections. That is one great problem that must be overcome. We are gradually getting over it, but I feel that in the long run it might be cheaper to seal the roads with bitumen so that the roads may shed heavy downpours and in this way avoid the washing out of large sections of expensive gravel roads. Although this is a problem for the State and not the Commonwealth, 1 do feel that the Federal Government, by the distribution of these large sums of money, has done much to help Western Australia in particular with the development of its roads system. 1 come now to the formula adopted for the distribution of this £3,000,000 special assistance to the States for the development of their roads. I notice that for the first time since 1 925 the Commonwealth Government is not following the usual system.
– The first but not the last.
– lt is the last departure I shall support, and I hope it is the last I shall see. I notice that under this bill New South Wales is to receive £800,000. This, together with the £9,076,000 allocated to that State under the principal act, makes a total of £9,876,000 for road works, Victoria which is approximately one-third the size of New South Wales, is to receive £700,000 under this bill. This sum, together with the £5,808,000 allocated under the principal act, makes a total of £6,508,000. I feel that, because of the parochial attitude adopted by some honorable senators, the Commonwealth Government has made available to Victoria more money than is justified. If the allocation is to be made according to the voices raised on behalf of a particular State, we shall be sitting here until well after Christmas because those honorable senators who come from Western Australia will be voicing their feelings rather loudly. I repeat that Victoria, probably one of the richest States in the Commonwealth, and a State only approximately one-third the size of New South Wales, is to receive £700,000 from this special assistance of £3,000,000 while New South. Wales is to receive only £800,000. Again, Queensland is to receive special assistance amounting to £500,000 which, when added to the £6,352,000 allocated under the principal act, makes a total of £6,852,000 for road works.
– That is more than Victoria is getting.
– Just a little bit more. Under the formula proposed by the bill, South Australia is to receive special assistance amounting to £325,000 which, together with the £3,709,000 granted under the principal act, makes a total of £4,034,000. That is about fair. Actually, it is really not enough for that State. I should like South Australia to get more. Tasmania is to receive £150,000. Under the principal act, that State receives £1,650,000, so it will get a total of £1,800,000.
If this money had been allocated under the system that operated previously, Tasmania might have done a little better, but Western Australia, which is vitally concerned with this measure, is hardly done by under this bill. Of the total amount of £3,000,000 that is to be distributed this year, Western Australia will receive only £475,000. Under the principal act, Western Australia receives £6,453,000 and its total allocation will be, therefore, £6,928,000. If the money had been distributed according to the formula, Western Australia would have received about £576,000. Western Australia, therefore, will lose about £100,000. That is a tragedy for Western Australia. I sincerely hope that when the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement ends in 1959, the Commonwealth Government will distribute all revenue levied for road purposes in accordance with the formula that has been in operation without alteration since 1925. I believe that there is a reason why the formula has never been altered.
– The dead hand of the past.
– I do not know about that, but I do know that no formula could have been more satisfactory.
– To Western Australia.
– To Western Australia, New South Wales, Queensland or South Australia. Senator Wade has interjected because he represents Victoria. That State happens to be the richest in the Commonwealth and carries a very large population on a very small area. I believe that the area of Victoria could be fitted into that of Western Australia thirteen or fourteen times. There are areas as big as Victoria in Western Australia without one white resident.
– They would not feed a crow.
– That is not the question. I am trying to get honorable senators to understand Western Australian problems in the development of roads. If a person travels 190 miles north of Melbourne, he crosses into New South Wales. If a man travels 190 miles north of Perth he is only a little more than half way to Geraldton. He would pay about 6s. by way of petrol tax if he travelled that distance in a vehicle covering 20 miles to the gallon. If you travel 300 miles north of Perth, you reach Geraldton. The next town on the coast is Carnarvon, 300 miles north of Geraldton and 600 miles from the capital city. On reaching Carnarvon, you are still only onethird of the distance to the most northern point of Western Australia. It is another 300 miles to Onslow, then 198 miles to Roebourne and then 240 miles to Port Hedland. Broome is 400 miles north of Port Hedland.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- I do not wish to spend very much time in talking about this bill, but I should not like a matter that has engaged my attention and the attention of all other Victorians so intensely to pass without some comment. Having heard some of the remarks of honorable senators from other States, I should even less like the matter to pass without comment. It is with regret that I cannot but characterize the remarks of honorable senators from other States as being myopically provincial, insubstantial and completely unsubstantiated, and as directed really to no other object than the selfish glorification of a State to the detriment of the continent of Australia.
I wish to qualify the remarks I have just made as they apply to the attitude of honorable senators from South Australia towards the formula, because I am certain that the time is approaching when they will realize that a revision of the formula can do nothing but good for them. I am equally certain that, when the Premier of South Australia and honorable senators from that State are convinced finally that the national good runs on all fours with the good of
South Australia, they will adopt a national outlook and will support a revision of ‘the formula.
When I hear, as I have heard on other occasions, the remarks and arguments that are presented by the representatives of that half of Australia which lies to our west, I feel that some analysis of what has been said ought to be made. We have before us, and have had for far too long, the spectacle of this section of Australia getting from, not only the motorists, but also the farmers, the fishermen, and all the other petrolusers of the rest of Australia, vast sums of money which are greater than those that are allocated to the hub of Australia - Victoria. What sort of State is it that is getting this money and demanding more, and what use is being made of it after that State has got it? We know already, because it is admitted, that those motorists and petrol-users in the other parts of Australia are paying for all road construction in the suburbs of Perth. We know that we are paying for bridges across the Swan River so that city traffic may go wherever it wants to, as has been indicated by Senator Scott. If I heard correctly what the honorable senator said in the middle of his speech, it seems that he now wants us to build railways as well - or, at least roads capable of carrying road trains. I note that the honorable senator has left the chamber. I imagine that he is hiding his head in shame, and rightly so.
Great play has been made of the fact that Victoria could be placed in Western Australia and that no one would know it. was there. It is suggested that Western Australia should get more money than Victoria because of its larger area. We have been told in this chamber just what kind of desert country most of Western Australia is. We sat in this place and listened to honorable senators from Western Australia address themselves to the States grants legislation. One honorable senator after another rose and told us that Western Australia was nothing but a land of sand, rock, desert and sore eyes.
– And no water.
– And sin and sorrow.
– I do not suppose Western Australia is more sinful than is any other State!
– It will save Australia again, . as it did once before when Victoria failed.
– Perhaps it will save Australia again although, in view of the data that has been presented to the Senate by Western Australian senators, it is very difficult to see how that State will. What we have heard to-day is in line with what we have heard on other occasions - that is, every time a strong wind blows over Western Australia, most of the earth blows away, lands on the eastern part of Australia, and top-dresses it. The people of Western Australia do not know who lives in the State. Only a few weeks ago, an anthropologist discovered a tribe in Western Australia which no one had ever heard of.
– The good old Bindaboos
– Yes, the Bindaboos What is more, I am willing to make a small bet right here and now that within the next couple of years a couple more tribes will be found and Western Australia will want more money from the Commonwealth to build roads through the sand and spinifex to enable anthropologists to find tribes like the Bindaboos, while roads in the rest of Australia, crack to pieces.
The statement of the Minister for Shipping and Transport when he introduced the measure holds forth the greatest hope and promise that have ever been held out to the motoring public of Australia, since I was elected to the Parliament. I direct your attention, Mr. President, to the following sentence in the bill -
The existing Commonwealth Aid Roads legislation will expire on 30th June, 1959, and the whole question of Commonwealth assistance for roads will therefore be reviewed before that date.
– Is that in the bill?
– It is in the Minister’s second-reading speech.
– You said it was in the bill.
– I should like to make it quite clear that, although I strongly commend the bill to honorable senators, I commend the Minister’s second-reading speech to them, too. It is the second-reading speech that holds out hope and promise for the future.
– The second-reading speech is not placed on the statute-book.
– No, it is not placed on the statute-book, but it is in the minds of honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. It helps to form the climate of opinion. Light is breaking through into what hitherto have been dark places. For that reason, I commend the speech to honorable senators. I direct attention also to another passage in the Minister’s excellent and admirable second-reading speech. He said - the Government” has sought to avoid anticipating the results of the review of the main legislation which will be made in due course.
It is clear that the Government has sought to avoid anticipating those results because full justice has not been done in the bill; but we can hope that the” Government has made some small progress towards anticipating the review of the formula that we require. Then there is this further passage in the Minister’s speech -
That is, the Government - finally decided that, rather than adopt at this stage a new formula which might be taken as anticipating its review of the main legislation, the special grant of £3,000,000 should be distributed in the manner set out in the schedule to the bill.
Again, there is held forth to us the hope and promise that the State which above all others has been badly dealt with over the years, the result of which has been reflected in the nation’s economy, will in due course be given the justice that is its due.
I desire to make one or two other observations in connexion with the bill itself and the principles involved in it. In the first place, the principle which has been applied to the petrol tax is to be departed from, in this case to the extent that the tax on dieselene will be paid only by those who use diesel-driven machines on the roads. Petrol tax is levied, not only on petrol used by petrol-driven machines on the roads, but also on petrol used by farm tractors, fishermen’s outboard motors, lighting plants, milking machine engines - in fact, all engines which use petrol for any purpose.
– Do not let that give you any ideas.
– Speaking for myself, I do not object to petrol tax being levied on petrol used in those machines, but 1 come back to where I started by saying that insult is being added to injury when the revenue from the tax which is levied on petrol used in those machines, which have nothing to do with roads whatever, is wrenched from those who pay it in one State and used to build roads and bridges in other States. That is the point I want to make. It adds insult to injury.
What is the reason why we hear now such an impassioned defence of the iniquitous formula that has been in operation for so long? I know what the reason was some years ago. The reason some years ago was that every State except Victoria was on a good thing and, consequently, was going to stick to it. That was the beginning and the end of it.
– It still is.
– Perhaps it is, but I hope to introduce some doubt into the minds of some of my colleagues by showing that it is not such a good reason now as it used to be. I direct the attention of my colleagues from Tasmania, who have the interests of their State at heart, to the amount that that State will receive from this £3,000,000, distributed not under the old system, but under a much fairer system. They will find that Tasmania will receive - it is in the schedule to the bill - £150,000. 1 took the trouble to go to the Minister for Shipping and Transport and have worked out for me the amount that Tasmania would have received from this £3,000,000 if the money had been distributed under the old, iniquitous, worn-out formula. It would have received £148,000. That was the figure given to me, but I am prepared to accept the figure of £147,000 that has been suggested in an interjection. Consequently, by abandoning the old formula and accepting the one under which this dieselfueltank revenue is to be distributed, Tasmaniawill receive £3,000 more than it wouldhave received under the old formula. Quite clearly, that fact supports what I was trying to prove a little earlier - that now not only Victoria is being damage’’ by this formula, but some of the other States are receiving less than they would have received if a formula taking into consideration traffic density had been adopted.
This, of course, applies particularly to the smallish States like Tasmania, which have a volume of traffic according to their road length which, if it were incorporated in a formula, could well lead to the betterment of those States.
– If Tasmania receives more, another State must get less. Which State would get less?
– The unquestionable statement has been made that if Tasmania were to get more, some other State would get less. I do not care about that, because I am on the side of Tasmania in this argument. Once Tasmania realizes the position, it will come on to the side of Victoria. Then we will have two standard bearers for the right.
– There is a bit of logrolling in this.
– It is pure mathematics. I trust that when one honorable senator directs the attention of an honorable senator from another State to the fact that he can benefit himself, his political party and his State by accepting mathematical facts, that will never again be referred to as log-rolling. I was asked by a representative of the State of New South Wales which of the States would receive less in the future if Tasmania received more. Quite clearly, one of the Stales which would receive less would be that vast, sprawling aggregation of desert - Western Australia - to which I have referred before.
– That really would not matter. Western Australia would have its bridge built by then.
– I entirely and thoroughly agree with you on that point. The other State which would receive less, although it would not be affected to the same extent as Western Australia, would be the other large State containing great areas of desert and mangrove swamps and towns such as Cloncurry, populated - during the war years at any rate - almost exclusively by goats. I refer to Queensland.
– When we bowl along 500 miles of beautiful bitumen road to address a political meeting we say, “ God Bless Victoria “.
– In reply to that interjection, I can only say that if we were able to bowl along 500 miles of beautiful bitumen road in Victoria, we would say, “ God bless the Premiers conference for coming to a proper conclusion for the distribution of petrol tax “. At the moment we are liable to run into a series of road blocks such as we saw during the winter before last, when heavy rains caused the main trunk road between Melbourne and Sydney, carrying a volume of traffic vital to Australia’s economy, to be blocked for weeks and weeks. The road just gave way and sank. There was not sufficient money to build a proper main trunk road. It had gone to build roads for the Bindaboo tribe in Western Australia.
– The hold-up to which the honorable senator referred occurred in New South Wales.
– Of course it did, but the traffic passing through New South Wales is the same traffic that uses the road in Victoria. It is a trunk road.
– It goes on to Brisbane.
– It does go on to Brisbane. I am quite sympathetic with the suggestion that the construction of a trunk road from Brisbane, through Sydney and Melbourne, to Adelaide should receive great priority. If, for some reason, it is found to be too difficult to alter the formula under which petrol tax revenue is distributed, at least a large sum from the receipts of petrol tax should be reserved for the maintenance of that trunk route before the remainder of the money is divided under this rather iniquitous formula. 1 commend that idea to honorable senators from Queensland. In reply to Senator Anderson, I may say that Western Australia and Queensland would receive less so that Tasmania might receive more.
– It does not seem very rational to conclude that Queensland should be deprived to such a vast extent.
– It depends upon what one means by “ rational “. As all interjections are disorderly, I take it, Mr. President, that you did not hear what the honorable senator had to say. 1 have no doubt that it was put in a helpful way by Senator Byrne, who, by a coincidence, comes from Queensland. He said that it was not very rational for Queensland to be deprived of some of its swollen revenues so that Tasmania might receive more. But- what I have said about Western Australia must also hold good so far as the vast, unpopulated areas of Queensland are concerned. If you, Sir, go to Cooktown - and I hope for your sake that you never will - you will find that on both sides of that semi-ghost town, and in the hinterland, no people at all are to be found.
– There are no roads.
– What is the good of building roads when there are no people there to use them? No one can be found to use the railway that is there. What is needed is more roads where there are people suffering from the inconvenience of having to do without them.
– The railway runs westwards for 50 miles.
– lt does not matter whether the railway runs north, south or west, for no one is to be found in any direction. Senator Byrne has asked whether my attitude is rational. Surely, it is more rational to strengthen the roads where the traffic is to be found, to place bitumen where people can get the benefit of it.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad to see that more and more honorable senators from both sides are coming to realize how rational my argument really is.
– Senator Kennelly means that the roads should be provided in the metropolitan area of Victoria.
– I must ask Senator Wood not to interpret what Senator Kennelly has said. If I accept his interpretation, Senator Kennelly may get up and refute it, and then where shall I be? I repeat, I am glad to see that more and more honorable senators are beginning to realize the necessity of building roads where there are people to use them. I am glad that <hey are realizing the value, in that way, of increasing industrial capacity, cutting economic costs, and getting people to go further and further out - afterwards building the roads that they need. It will be possible to do that without the shocking injustice which has been perpetrated for so lone, as a result of this formula, which has been foisted upon us.
I was astonished to hear some of the remarks of Senator Kennelly. I look to all Victorians for support in this matter.
This is surely not a matter that a party ought to take up as a political issue. Surely, without crossing party lines, disobeying caucus instructions or embarrassing governments, all the senators from a particular State can present their joint viewpoint, demonstrate the injustice that they suffer, and suggest a charter of freedom from the shackles which bind them. Unfortunately, that support has not been forthcoming in full measure from Senator Kennelly. It was suggested that before Victoria was given a fair deal it ought to put its house in order.
– That is right.
– It is astonishing to hear a Victorian say that.
– What I have said, ot course, brings forth interjections. There is not a Victorian householder in the metropolitan area who has not to pay for the road outside his home, and for its maintenance.
– That is also true of every country town in Victoria.
– What about Western Australia?
– In Western Australia all these things are provided from money collected in Victoria. There is not a bridge on any arterial road in the metropolitan area of Victoria that is not paid for by way of direct taxation to the Victorian Government. In Western Australia and, I suspect, Queensland also, these bridges are paid for from money collected, not in Western Australia or Queensland, but throughout Australia generally. Money ought not to be spent on roads unless the demand is there also.
– Is Senator Gorton again putting up his bitumen formula, and suggesting that money should be allocated in proportion to the existing mileage of bitumen road?
– At present I am not putting forward any specific formula. I am merely submitting the argument - and it is a very cogent argument - that the present formula is the worst that could be devised. It may be that a formula based on the length of bitumen roadway in a particular State could operate with justice to all.
– It could not.
– Perhaps some other formula would be equally effective. It might, for instance, be based on the volume and type of traffic which use a given length of road, taken with or without the population figures. The present formula could be varied, or replaced, in half a dozen ways that would be more equitable than the present arrangement. It is not the function of an honorable senator speaking on this bill to set forth in detail the kind of formula that should be adopted, because it would result in endless discussion.
– But it would be very helpful.
– Perhaps I should repeat for the benefit of the honorable senator from Tasmania, who was not here earlier, that under this departure from the petrol tax formula Tasmania is getting more money than would otherwise have been the case. The smaller States should open their eyes and see that they have now reached a stage where, by advocating a formula based on sealed roads and traffic, they stand to gain in every way. For too long have they allowed themselves to be bluffed by the large States of Western Australia and Queensland into a course of action which is, in effect, against their own interests. I include the State of South Australia in that category.
– Bluffed or bluffing?
– I include South Australia in the category of States that have been bluffed by Western Australia and Queensland into thinking they are getting a benefit from this bill which they are not in fact getting.
– Oh, break it down!
– Of course, it is not for me to say what the senators from South Australia should do specifically, but 1 think I should say that I am seeking allies in what has been Victoria’s lone struggle by suggesting to them that they should look at some possible alternative formulas before this matter is reconsidered in 195.9. I think they will find, if they do so, that they would benefit by incorporating the matter of traffic density in the formula. Tasmania is already benefiting from it, as the figures in this bill show. We should express some gratitude and thanks to the Government for the better treatment which Victoria has got under the diesel tax distribution legislation - better treatment than it has ever had before. I think there has been some ingratitude voiced from my own State on the ground that Victoria’s share could have been larger. I agree that it could have been larger.
– Did the honorable senator say fairer?
– To be completely fair, it ought to have been an even larger amount, but I am prepared to be grateful and thankful that it is much larger than it would have been if the old iniquitous formula had been adhered to. I should be very grateful if the Minister, when closing this debate, would give me, if he can, a short statement of just what formula this distribution is based on, so that I can study it in conjunction with the other possible formulas that I have already mentioned and see whether something along those lines could be incorporated.
– It is a private formula.
– I am told that it is a private one, but at any rate it is an infinitely better one than the public formula that we have suffered under for so many years. If the Minister will give me the details, I might even be able to suggest some improvements.
I believe that Australia is not served by either sealed roads or bitumen roads in areas of sparse population, where perhaps only one car passes over an uninhabited countryside in every three weeks. The money spent on that sort of construction would be very much better spent on stengthening and widening the roads and making them safer and able to carry speedier traffic in areas where hundreds of cars and hundreds of trucks pass any given point during any two or three minutes.
– Hundreds of cars and trucks every two or three minutes would be pretty good.
– I am referring to the total of those going in each direction.
– What about four-lane highways?
– We should have a look at four-lane roads, but we have no hope of getting them while the present formula exists. That is why I have said that Australia is not served by some of the States constructing sealed roads through spinifex and uninhabited areas. We need roads to carry the traffic where it wants to go in the greatest volume.
– That is a statesmanlike attitude.
– Yes, I think it is, because I do not confine it to the State of Victoria. Not at all! Roads should be built where the main traffic is, that is, from Adelaide to Melbourne and up through Sydney to Brisbane. That is the area through which there is a vast flow of traffic which contributes to Australia’s economy. I also want to see feeder roads leading into those main roads, whether they be in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales or Queensland.
– What about Tasmania?
– Tasmania is going to do all right with the alteration of the of the formula, lt has good roads and not a comparable flow of traffic. However, I am serious when I say that Australia is badly served if the area of which I am speaking is not provided adequately with roads while roads are built far up the west coast or the east coast of Australia where nobody uses them and where they do not contribute to the economy.
– You have almost convinced me!
– I hope that by 1959 the Minister will be convinced, not by me, but by the logic of my argument, and that the developing populations of Tasmania and South Australia will convince not only Tasmanians but also South Australians that they can with propriety and with a broad national outlook join with Victoria in urging that the money for roads should be spent where the roads are needed. We heard an objection earlier that money collected in the City of Melbourne should be spent on roads in that city and not throughout the State.
– A proportion of it ought to be.
– That is a modification. Now the suggestion has been broken down to a proportion of the money collected in the City of Melbourne. While the whole State is held in a strait jacket, as it is now, not enough money is coming to the State to remedy the deterioration of the country roads and the main roads leading into Melbourne, a deterioration which could have a very bad effect on the economy of the State and on the pockets of the citizens of Melbourne. But if we could obtain for the State a revised formula to provide for the return of a higher proportion of the money collected from the State, it might be possible to do something along those lines. 1, and Victorians generally, do not urge that all of the money collected in Victoria from petrol tax should be retained by and expended in that State. It is simply a question of where the line should be properly drawn, and how much of the money collected in Victoria should come back to Victoria. We may differ as to the proportion that should be returned. We can all agree that some of the money collected in Victoria ought to be spent on the development of other less fortunate States, but surely any Victorian must say that too much of the money that is being collected in Victoria is being spent in the outer marches of Australia. Surely every Victorian must join in the fight to see that the position is altered, for the sake not only of Victoria, but of the Australian economy as a whole. Surely, when good sense is applied and a thorough examination is made, Victoria must be joined by Tasmania and South Australia in attempting to bring about that desirable state of affairs.
– It is most unusual for me to speak in two second-reading debates in the course of one day. I am just wondering what is really the cause of it. I do not like hearing myself talk, but on this occasion I. appreciate the opportunity to address the Senate on two important bills in one day. We have listened to three very interesting speeches, but I want to refer in particular to the last two speeches that we have heard. Senator Scott, in his marathon speech, put forward the view of Western Australia. Subsequently, Senator Gorton dealt with the measure from the Victorian viewpoint.
– The Australian viewpoint.
– I would say from the Victorian viewpoint, even if it is his interpretation of the Australian viewpoint. The two last speeches were diametrically opposed. I feel that I have to tread warily, especially after hearing what Senator Gorton said about South Australia’s future course. I concede that South Australia is a rapidly developing State. Our population is growing and we have, II think, a greater number of cars in proportion to population than any State of the Commonwealth. Those are two facts which lend support to Senator Gorton’s argument.
– I think you are a bit ambitious.
– I am not ambitious. I know exactly the facts in relation to the development of our State. I concede that Senator Gorton was quite sincere in the argument that he put forward. We have heard it before, although 1 think he introduced to-day a few facts of which we did not have the benefit previously. However, I cannot ignore what Senator Scott said in addressing himself to the bill.
I had the pleasure of visiting Western Australia not long ago. I saw some of the problems with which that State has to contend. It has a vast area of undeveloped land, and I suggest that a lot of that land could be successfully developed if proper arterial roads were built to carry the transport necessary for development. So I say that the case advanced by Senator Scott for Western Australia was a valid case.
I am not ignoring the arguments that Senator Gorton produced in support of a better deal for Victoria, but I adopt a broad national outlook in regard to this measure. Down through the years South Australia has been satisfied with the formula that has applied, but, if circumstances warranted it, I would have no hesitation in adopting any new formula which would not leave us in a worse position than at present. We have not an axe to grind, particularly in relation to this measure. Commonwealth aid roads legislation has been of immeasurable benefit to South Australia, and I suggest that over the years it has done a great deal for the development of the Commonwealth.
This measure deals with the money that will be raised by the tax on diesel fuel and paid to the States during the next two years. As the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) has reminded me - although I did not need to be reminded of it- a further £1,000,000 will be made available from Consolidated Revenue for expenditure on roads. That is a very desirable state of affairs, and we can thank the Government for the manner in which it has discharged its responsibilities to the States in regard to the maintenance and extension of their road systems.
I do not want to talk at great length on this measure. Plenty of time is available to me owing to the silence of the Opposition, but 1 am not one of those people who like to hear themselves speak very frequently or for very long. I feel that the measure as presented is well worthy of our support. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, pointed out that the existing Commonwealth aid roads legislation will expire in 1959, and that this is more or less an interim measure to give added funds to the States for expenditure on roads. No one can predict what will happen in the future. I believe that the Government is at present giving serious consideration to this matter, but whether it will decide to retain the system that now prevails or adopt some new formula or method of distributing the proceeds of petrol tax and diesel fuel tax remains to be seen. However, that is a question for the future. A Cabinet sub-committee is giving close consideration to this matter, and no doubt in due course the Government’s views will be presented to us for adoption or rejection.
We have had a long discourse on the fairness or otherwise of the formula based on three-fifths of the population and twofifths of the area of a State. The schedule to the bill has departed from that formula. Of the £3,000,000 special grant to be made available, South Australia is to receive £325,000. This year, the total allocation to that State from moneys collected by way of petrol tax and the proposed new tax on diesel fuel for expenditure on roads is to be £4,034,000.
The manner in which the moneys are allocated for roads is left to each State. Here I pay a special tribute to the South Australia Government for the very fair way in which it has allocated funds to those authorities responsible for the maintenance and extension of highways. Senator Scott referred to the unsatisfactory way in which the Western Australian Government is distributing its Commonwealth aids roads grant. I can only say that in South Australia this money is used to the best advantage. Like other States, South Australia has certain bodies carrying out the construction of roads in the various areas, and, speaking as one with some experience of local government in the State, I can say that the system of distribution of the moneys made available by the Commonwealth for road construction purposes is operating extremely satisfactorily. I do not know the facts relating to Western Australia, but apparently Senator Scott is not satisfied with the way in which the money is being distributed there for the purposes of improving the highway system. I do know, however, that very little exception can be taken to the policy laid down and carried out by the South Australian Government.
The main road-constructing authority in South Australia is the Highways and Local Government Department. It has the responsibility of distributing the money made available to South Australia by the Commonwealth from revenue derived from the petrol tax. That organization works through the local governing bodies, or district councils, as we call them, throughout South Australia, and I know just how beneficial and helpful this money has been to those district councils.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended, I was discussing the method th.-t is used in South Australia to distribute the money made available from the petrol tax and other sources for roads. I expressed satisfaction with the manner in which the work was done in South Australia. The Highways and Local Government Department is the principal organization responsible for road making in South Australia. Its chief responsibility is the construction and maintenance of the important main highways. They are the arterial roads that run through the length and breadth of the State, and, mainly, they have a bitumen surface.
So far as I can observe from my association with local government work, the roads that are the responsibility of that department are maintained in a satisfactory condition. I do not suggest that there are not many roads that are due for improvement and extension, but the money available is being spent economically and effectively with the work force and the resources at the disposal of the authorities.
Senator Scott said that he was dissatisfied with the way the money was spent by local government authorities in Western Australia. I have expressed the contrary view so far as South Australia is concerned. I have had experience in local government and I know what valuable help has been given by the Highways and Local Government Department to the local government authority with which I was associated. The local government authorities have a number of sources of revenue. They obtain rates from landholders and property owners. They are given grants from petrol tax revenue, and funds are allotted to them from the revenue derived from motor vehicle registrations. Altogether, those amounts represent a considerable sum of money. Each year, grants are made to local government bodies, which are known as district councils in South Australia, and they spend the money to the best advantage in the areas under their administration. Those local government bodies would be hard put to it to do roadmaking and other work if it were not for the substantial grants they receive from the Highways and Local Government Department and from Commonwealth and State sources.
In connexion with roadmaking equipment, a good system operates in South Australia. When a grant is made by the Highways and Local Government Department to a district council, close attention is paid to the expenditure of that money on roadmaking. The district councils are given every encouragement to obtain the most modern roadmaking equipment. When a grant is made for a main road, the local government authority’s equipment is used and a payment for its hire is made by the Highways and Local Government Department. That is credited against the cost of the machine. In other words, advances are made to the local government authorities for the purchase of good equipment and credit is given for its use. The local government authorities are thus encouraged to do the work on an economic basis. The ability of a council to do the work economically and effectively influences the size of the grant that is given to it.
I do not think that we realize what has been done in Australia in the way of roadmaking in the past 30 years. From time to time, we hear criticism of the lack of a national roads plan. We are inclined to forget the great achievements of the past two or three decades. Throughout Australia, we have a network of very fine highways. To some extent, that applied to Western Australia with its vast distances. I made that discovery during a recent trip to Western Australia. I believe the authorities there have expended wisely any money that was made available to them for roadmaking. Whether you travel to Derby or Broome, you move over roads that are essential and, by and large, they are good roads. I did not suffer any great discomfort in travelling over any of them.
The technique of roadmaking has improved immeasurably in recent years. We have to contend with heavier loads. Great semi-trailers carry as much as 30 tons. We have to contend with speed, and it has been a task of terrific magnitude to provide a road system that will carry all classes of traffic. For that reason, I say that we do ourselves a disservice when we suggest that we are not keping pace with the need for road development. The amount of money that we have allocated to roads, compares quite favorably with allocations for similar purposes in other countries.
As the Minister for Shipping and Transport has pointed out, since this Government was elected to office, about £180,000,000 has been made available for the construction and extension of our road system. We must add to that amount the revenue that is derived from the various State governments through motor taxation. In addition, an enormous sum of money is raised by local government bodies in the form of rates which is spent on local roads.
I refer now to the vexed question of the formula about which so much was said by Senators Scott and Gorton. I wish to adopt a moderate attitude towards this matter, because I believe that both honorable senators advanced fairly sound arguments in support of their case. South Australia is sitting in a box seat, and it would not mean very much to that State if the formula were altered. As Senator Gorton pointed out, South Australia is developing and, being prosperous, has a greater number of motor cars proportionately than has any other State.
– Then South Australia does not need our assistance any longer?
– We have been very glad of the assistance that has been rendered in the past. If a good case can be advanced for a revision of the formula, it should be reviewed. I feel certain that a satisfactory formula could be evolved which would provide justice to all States, and that is nothing more or less than what we want.
The imposition of a tax on diesel fuel to raise the money for which provision is made in this measure is fully justified. In fact, I think that tax is overdue. The money that will be so raised will considerably augment the sum of £37,000,000 that otherwise is to be made available to the States during this financial year. The expenditure of such a vast sum of money annually must eventually provide us with a very fine road system.
I think there should be an overall transport plan. The Minister for Shipping and Transport is fully aware of the very great responsibility that rests upon him in that regard. I have no wish to underestimate the value of rail and sea transport. When we are focussing our attention on road transport, we are inclined to overlook the other vital means of transport. I refer, as I have indicated, to sea transport and rail transport.
– And air transport?
– I shall leave air transport out of the consideration just for the moment. All those other modes of transport are essential in the development of Australia. I very much regret the fact that in Australia transport costs assume such a large proportion of our national income. Australia probably has the highest transport costs in the world; by comparison with America, she is at a grave disadvantage. Our transport costs are approximately 30 per cent, of our national income, whereas the figure in America is approximately 1 1 per cent.
– Do you mean our internal transport costs?
– I am referring to our internal transport costs. I understand that the figures I have just quoted are correct. If they are not, they are npt very wide of the mark. Transport costs place a very heavy burden on the nation’s economy, and we must do something to reduce them.
– Can you suggest anything tangible?
– I could suggest quite a lot of things. I believe that the Australian rail transport system could be much more efficient. However, I do not wish to develop that matter. I have been associated with the Government Members’ Rail Standardization Committee and have had an opportunity to investigate this matter. I believe that some amelioration could be afforded by a more extensive programme of rail standardization. I am not an authority on shipping, but I have some knowledge of rail transportation. The heavy loads that are being carried on our main arterial highways should be carried on two steel rails. Until we fully realize the need to carry such loads by rail, our highways will continue to be damaged, and the cost of maintaining them will be high.
I think this bill is a good one. I am pleased to learn that the Government at last has made up its mind to impose a tax on diesel fuel and thereby to insist that the owners of vehicles that use diesel fuel make some contribution towards the cost of the roads that they use. The Government has made a wise move in raising additional revenue for the extension and maintenance of our road system, and I compliment it upon having introduced this measure
.- The history of this Government’s provision of funds for roads is something of which it can truly be proud. There has been a considerable improvement in the allocation of funds for roads purposes since we assumed office. Like my colleague, Senator Hannaford, I have played a considerable part in local government and have been very closely associated with the allocation of funds for road purposes. I was president of the Queensland Local Authorities Association for five or six years and president of the Australian Council of Local Government Associations for one year. I had the opportunity of coming, with other delegates, to the federal council and of submitting the local authorities’ case on this subject. At that particular time, funds were allocated on a Commonwealth basis. In addition, after this Government assumed office. £3,000,000 was allocated for roads in rural areas. In the main, that sum was intended for sparsely populated areas. The Government has amalgamated the two funds, and the sum made available has been raised from £12,367,000 in 1949-50 to £37,000,000 for the current year. A very impressive aspect of the allocation is that this year there is to be an increase of £5,000,000. If the allocation were to be increased in the same proportion each year, it would not be very long before the present allocation, too, was greatly increased.
Roads are of very great importance to the people of Australia from both the domestic and national viewpoints. I therefore have very much pleasure in complimenting the Government upon its introduction of this measure, which, in the main, is a good one. Of course, it deals with the allocation of funds that will be raised from the new tax on diesel fuel. I think it is right that operators who use diesel-driven transports should pay something towards the building and upkeep of roads. Dieseldriven transports are heavier than are the ordinary petrol-driven vehicles and therefore do a correspondingly greater amount of damage to the roads. Over a period of years those operators have been free from taxation, but I believe the Government has done the right thing by bringing them into line with people whose vehicles use petrol. I know that some State governments, through their Main Roads Departments, or whatever titles the departments are given, have taxed diesel-driven vehicles at a much heavier rate by charging a higher registration fee than that charged for petrol-driven vehicles. If we are going to have a tax as mentioned in this bill, it is possible that the State governments will have to redesign their registration legislation.
The people of Queensland, the State I have the honour to represent, are very concerned about one aspect of this bill. They are concerned because the way in which it is proposed to distribute this money differs from the way in which moneys are distributed under the general Commonwealth aid roads legislation. . Senator Scott dealt with this aspect at length, and Senator Gorton from Victoria spoke in rebuttal of his statements. There are, of course, reasons why the less populous States should receive greater consideration in the building of roads. Naturally my sentiments agree to a great extent with those expressed by Senator Scott, who comes from Western Australia. Western Australia and Queensland have much in common because of their spaciousness. I would say that because of the wide horizons of those States, their peoples have a wide outlook. They have a genial outlook. They want everybody to be successful and they want every State to get a fair deal as long as they themselves also get a fair deal. We find that the people of Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales do not look at this matter from a parochial viewpoint, as do senators who represent States such as Victoria. Victorian senators should recognize, not only that this is a States’ House, but also that it is a joint States’ House, with a national outlook. That, I am sure, is Queensland’s view.
States like Queensland and Western Australia have peculiar road problems because of special circumstances. Because of the great area of our State, we in Queensland have a much greater mileage of roads to look after than is the case in some of the smaller States. Take for example the road along the Queensland coast. The distance from Brisbane to Mackay is about 700 miles. From Mackay to Cairns or Cooktown is probably another 600 or 700 miles. Even then, you are many hundreds of miles from Cape York, which is right at the top of Queensland. Those mileages will give honorable senators some idea of the vastness of Queensland. The State also extends hundreds of miles from the coast to the west. There are the south-western, the central-western and the north-western areas, and also the area around the Gulf of Carpentaria. Anybody who travels through those areas must realize the terrific problems that a State like Queensland is faced with in roads development. I feel confident that if honorable senators from other States were to go to those areas, they would come back with a truly Australian outlook and could not help but feel that the roads problems of Queensland and Victoria should be looked at from a national point of view.
I am sure that every one will agree that in times of trouble such as we experienced during the last war, when many things had to be transported to the north by rail and air, good roads are essential to our getting supplies quickly to the areas where they are needed. That the Commonwealth Government, during the last war, recognized the necessity for good roads in these areas is shown by the fact that hundreds of men were employed on building roads as quickly as possible in Central Australia. As I have said, I believe that we should adopt a national outlook to this problem and ensure that we shall have roads in sparsely populated areas, not only for the purpose of serving the States concerned in times of peace, but also for the purpose of serving the nation in times of stress.
Many hundreds and thousands of miles of roads in Queensland have been gazetted as main roads although the main roads have not yet been built. That should cause honorable senators to realize that the problems facing a State like Queensland are different from those facing States with greater concentrations of population. The money that the smaller States receive is out of proportion with the money received by States like Queensland and Western Australia, where the building of new roads is so necessary. Although there may be a great density of population in Victoria, it is just as essential for people in the sparsely populated States to have roads as it is for people in the densely populated States.
– Tell me why.
– Senator Gorton says “Tell me why?” I will tell him why. Queensland is, in the main, a rural State. It is a great primary producing State. Consequently, it needs roads as well as railways for its development. Because of the vision of the men who guided the destinies of Queensland many years ago, that State probably has a greater mileage of railways than any other State in the Commonwealth.
– It has in fact.
– It has in fact. Just as the people in those days realized that transport on steel rails was necessary, so we to-day recognize that, because of the development of motor transport, it is necessary to develop our roads if we are to develop the State further. Wherever you go in Queensland, you see great potentialities. The State is passing through an era of great development and as a consequence it is in need of roads. I believe that roads are becoming more and more important, not only for the people living in Queensland, but also from the point of view of industry. From the developmental aspect alone, the provision of money for the building of roads in Queensland would be a very good investment for the Commonwealth, because in the long run Australia will receive a much greater return from Queensland than from some other States which I could mention. This is a very important point. We need more good roads for further development. This Government realizes the need for development, and has created the portfolio of National Development.
If honorable senators would take a trip through Queensland, I feel that after they had seen the country and some of the roads the people of Queensland have to travel on, they would return to the Senate and say, “ Let Queensland have an even bigger share of the allocation of money for roads than it is receiving at present “. Another circumstance peculiar to Queensland is that it experiences very severe weather conditions, not experienced by other States. During January, February and March the mon.soonal rains occur.
– And cyclones.
– That is the cyclonic period and also the period of the monsoons. Senator Scott has said that there are heavy falls of rain in parts of Western Australia. We get heavy falls of rain along the Queensland coast, some places receiving from 100 to 200 inches of rain in a year. This heavy rainfall makes it very difficult to maintain roads other than those of a permanent character. It is, therefore, essential for Queensland to have as much money as possible so that it can build roads that will last. It is, to my way of thinking, useless to build earth roads in these areas, because the first monsoon or the first torrential rain will rip the surface of such roads. The great flow of water causes very severe erosion. Experience has shown me that the best type of road to build is the good, hardtop, sealed bitumen road, over which water can flow without causing the surface to deteriorate. Honorable senators would only have to take a trip to north Queensland to see what takes place in our State. They would see how much money is needed if we are to bring our roads to a first-crass condition. A great effort is being made to improve a very bad stretch on the coast road itself, between -Rockhampton and Mackay. More bad stretches are to be found between Proserpine and Bowen. Work is being done on them, but much more is needed if our main coastal highway is to be kept in first-class condition.
We have also to remember the central road running to the north, and the roads running off to the west. Over the years our railway system has fostered decentralization more than has been the case in most States, and the provision of good roads extending westwards from the coast would assist decentralization still further.
Much of our State is in the tropical region, and this, too, brings its special problems. We must make living conditions as attractive as possible for people in that area. For many years now we have undertaken successfully the task of establishing white people in a tropical area, and carving a living out of the growing of tropical products, such as sugar cane. We have shown that this can be done according to the most scientific standards in the world.
– Thanks to heavy subsidies!
– I refer to the efforts of private enterprise in the sugar industry, which is not subsidized. Australians must realize that it is our duty to make living conditions in the north of Australia as attractive as possible so that people will continue to go there and develop it. The factors which are detrimental to the white man can be offset only by providing amenities in other directions.
Good roads are an economic necessity and, in many ways, play their part in developing this country. They contribute not only to more successful rural industry, but to a reduction in the cost of transport as well. I do not think that any honorable senator will disagree with that contention. If honorable senators who come from the southern States had roads like ours, they would experience much higher running costs for their vehicles. There are still many miles of bad roads in Queensland, and broken springs are common. I have seen Victorians travel on what we call highways and then have to go to a garage in Mackay, or some other centre, and pay £40 or £50 to repair the damage to their cars. Honorable senators would be well advised to give Queensland enough money to enable it to keep its roads in good condition.
Bad roads add to transport costs, not only when travelling is undertaken for pleasure, but also when it is a necessity. Better roads can play a big part in reducing the costs of industry, for the transport element in the final cost of an article is substantial. The more we improve roads the more we shall help industry to operate economically and effectively. I am thinking especially of the transportation of goods between cities, and from seaports to the western areas. I think of farmers carting their sugar cane over roads of a very difficult kind. I think of the dairyfarmers on the ranges at the back of my home city who cannot bring their cream down to the factories during time of flood because they have been unable to afford to build adequate roads and bridges. Often the dairy-farmers’ product is lost because it cannot be brought to the city in time. The sugar-farmer who has not a tramline cannot, during periods of heavy rain, take his cane to the mill. When that happens the mill closes down and an economic loss is sustained all round. These may seem to be only small matters, but collectively they can be significant in contributing to the cost of running this country. From the point of view of both business and industry, good roads are essential. In sparsely populated areas they contribute greatly to the development of national wealth.
Our primary and secondary industries deserve every consideration by this Government and future governments. When I speak of amenities I have in mind especially the people living in the west of Queensland. Similar considerations doubtless apply in other States also. There is a tendency for people to want to live on the coast; therefore, those who live in the sparsely populated areas of the west deserve special consideration so far as roads are concerned. In addition to promoting decentralization, better roads help to make the west more attractive. The speed of modern motor travel enables people to move quickly to the coast, provided always that there are good roads. This is not the case in the west of Queensland. The people there should be given the opportunity to travel to the coast much more frequently.
The people of the west do a great deal to build up our national wealth. They live in regions where population is sparse, where station properties are extensive in area, and where it is impossible for local folk to provide sufficient money with which to build adequate roads. They have the special problem offered by the country over which they have to travel. As some honorable senators, such as Senator Maher, who know the country will agree, very little rain is needed to make the black soil areas difficult to travel about in. Very often, unless the side roads are of bitumen or hard-topped, it becomes impossible to move off the main road. Therefore, good roads are essential not only from the point of view of industry, but also from the point of view of amenities.
Recently, I read a report to the effect that hundreds of thousands of pounds were to be spent upon giving the people of Canberra access to the south coast of New South Wales. I say without fear of contradiction that the people of Canberra, surrounded as they are with beautification schemes, are in clover compared with people in the west of Queensland. If it is good enough for the people of this city, the National Capital, to have an access road to the coast, it is good enough for us as Australians to be truly national and ensure that the people of the western districts of Queensland enjoy a similar privilege. When Senator Scott mentioned the increased use of road trains, Senator Gorton rather snorted about the matter. I believe that, wherever possible, we should construct roads from the country districts to the coast capable of carrying any type of vehicle. It is to the Commonwealth’s advantage to extend every opportunity and encouragement to the States to improve their roads systems in the interests of national development. In saying that, I have in mind the value of Queensland industries to the Commonwealth. Frequently, certain people adopt a short-sighted approach to this matter by directing attention to the fact that some States, possess advantages over other States.
– Can the honorable senator give the Senate figures on this issue in relation to all the States? They would be most interesting. Start with dairy products!
– I shall indicate the net value to the Commonwealth of Queensland’s exports, and compare it with the Commonwealth’s total net income from exports. I do not think the value of Queensland’s export trade, as distinct from our internal trade, is generally recognized.
– As distinct from taking in each other’s washing?
– Yes. I have in mind the Victorian manufacturers. That is Senator Wade’s conception of trade. It is important to Australia that we derive as much money as possible from the sale of our products overseas. Indeed, it is our export income that enables the people in Victoria to buy machinery in order to establish up-to-date factories.
– The honorable senator was doing all right. Why does he not leave Victoria alone?
– I am referring not to people like Senator Kennelly who have a national outlook, but rather to certain narrow-minded Victorians, particularly those whose outlook does not extend beyond the metropolitan area of Melbourne.
– You only have a national outlook when you are spending Victoria’s money.
– As I have said, the fact that Victoria can buy more machinery in order to develop its industries is due, in part, to the export earnings of great rural States like Queensland. Let us consider the products that are exported by Queensland in large quantities. First, there is wool and, secondly, meat. Queensland is the greatest meat-producing State in the Commonwealth. Then there is sugar, the sweetest product in Australia. We also export butter.
– Yes, butter; and the butter we export is rich in vitamins as a result of the wonderful sunshine in Queensland. We also export large quantities of minerals, including copper, uranium and bauxite.
– What about peanuts?
– I could refer to many ether products, including peanuts, but I do not want to diminish Senator Wade’s confidence in Victoria. Nobody could fail to be impressed by the extent to which the growth of primary industries in Queensland has assisted the national economy. The imagination of every Australian who has read recent newspaper reports concerning the discovery of deposits of uranium and bauxite in Queensland must be stirred when he considers the immense possibilities of the State.
– 1 hope the honorable senator is not forgetting the berry fruit industry in Tasmania.
– No. Queensland supplies Tasmania with sugar for processing the berry fruits.
– We sweeten them up.
– That is so. As I have said, the recent mineral finds in Queensland really catch the imagination of everyone. There has been considerable development at the Mary Kathleen and Mount lsa fields.
– Tobacco is important, too.
– Yes. I have mentioned the recent discovery of a bauxite deposit in Queensland. It has been estimated that that deposit contains more bauxite than the rest of the deposits of the world combined. 1 believe that up to £200,000,000 will be spent ultimately on the development of this deposit for the production of aluminium.
– The honorable senator has not mentioned the Blair Athol coalfield.
– Senator Byrne and other honorable senators from Queensland, realizing the amazing array of resources possessed by that State, are rushing me with suggestions and reminders, but I can deal with only one at a time; I have only one voice.
– Roads are needed in connexion with all of the primary industries that you have mentioned.
– Yes, we certainly need roads. Most of the breathtaking possibilities of Queensland are centred in remote areas, and roads are needed to provide communications between them and thickly populated areas on the coast. The construction of roads in those areas would assist the further development of the resources that I have mentioned, to the enrichment of this country as a whole.
– Is that the end of chapter 14?
– As Senator Brown knows, there are many chapters concerning Queensland. I have mentioned but few. Senator Wade said earlier, by interjection, that he was interested in the production figures of Queensland industries. I was not altogether prepared to make this speech, and therefore I have not before me all details of primary production in Queensland. However, I believe that the best way to tell a story is to relate it simply. As the honorable senator is an average Victorian. I think that if I tell the story simply it will appeal to him more than it would if I resorted to complex details. As Senator Wright, my colleague from Tasmania, says, it will also assist Senator Wade’s understanding. Australia exports and imports so much a year. It will be interesting for honorable senators to know that, according to a statement issued two years ago by the Queensland Government Statistician, the excess of Queensland’s overseas exports over imports from overseas was responsible for at least 50 per cent., probably more, of Australia’s net credit in overseas trade. That goes to show how valuable this State is to the Commonwealth and the importance of the rural States to the industrial States in the provision of credits to enable the purchase of machinery for the manufacture of goods. Senator Gorton, in a magnificently generous moment, said that he was quite agreeable to the building of a good road from Melbourne to Brisbane, but in this State which produces so much wealth for the Commonwealth, the external money-earning industries, so to speak, are situated to the north of Brisbane.
– Brisbane is only 70 miles north of the border.
– That is right. Many Victorians go to Queensland, but when asked where they went, they say, “ I was in Brisbane “. My reply to such people is, “ That is just like a horse putting his head over the fence and nibbling a bit of grass “. Unfortunately, that is all that most people know of the great State of Queensland. We Queenslanders are very co-operative. We believe in co-operation and we wish that the people of States such as Victoria were co-operative too. Let me quote from a speech made by Senator Byrne. Irrespective of the party to which we Queenslanders belong, we believe in a national outlook. The honorable senator said -
The last figures available to me for a complete trading year are those for 1953-54. Australia’s credit balance on overseas trade for that year was £146,700,000. Of that figure, £109,500,000 represents the favorable overseas trading balance of the State of Queensland.
That gives a very clear indication of how I have been understating my case. Senator Byrne continued -
In other words, 75 per cent, of Australia’s favorable overseas balance at the end of that trading year was directly attributable to Queensland exports. That is a magnificent contribution to Australia’s economics stability. In that year, Queensland exported goods worth £165,100,000 and imported goods valued at £55,600,000.
My friend, Senator Byrne, brought me the “ Hansard “ record of that speech to enable me to quote some figures to illustrate my argument. I have been able to make a very striking point for the benefit of people from that industrial State, Victoria. Let me say clearly that if it were not for States like Queensland, Victorians-
– Would have good roads.
– They would probably have better roads, but they would have only half the industry that they have now. States such as Queensland and Western Australia buy many of the products of their secondary industries. In the main. Western Australia and Queensland are primary producing States and, as a consequence, we provide many customers for Victorian industries. If Queensland and Western Australia were not as they are, Victoria would fade away to insignificance and instead of being a densely populated State, it would be sparsely populated. I think it is well to know that much of Victoria’s industrial production is sold in Queensland.
– You are doing very well for Queensland, but you should close down now.
– Senator Brown says that I should close down now, but there is one other aspect to which I think I should refer. There are great fields for development in Queensland. At the back of my own area, 175 miles inland-
– Where is your area?
– Where would you say? At the back of that area lies an open-cut coalfield which has one of the largest coal seams in the world. The seam is about 100 feet deep and contains many millions of tons of coal. There are many more millions of tons of coal between there and the ranges. There are great possibilities for the development of those coalfields. A diamond driller operating in that area told me of a well borer, working in a region where coal is not at present being mined, who had found coal at a depth of 100 feet, and whose drill was still in coal at a depth of 300 feet. That meant that he had drilled the seam to a depth of 200 feet but had not passed through it. When the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) went to have a look at that Nebo coalfield area, he was greatly impressed with the possibilities of developing, not only the coal resources, but also the beautiful piece of country that stretches from the range about 50 miles west of Mackay towards the Clermont area.
– If you only had roads!
– If we only had good roads, this development could proceed. Any one who knows Queensland well knows the great Darling Downs area. In the region to which I refer, the Grosvenor Downs and the Logan Downs area, we could develop another Darling Downs and, by means of closer settlement, we could further help the Commonwealth. Good roads would facilitate the development of these areas. These are the possibilities that exist, but the co-operation and help of the rest of the Commonwealth are required. It is up to every one to be bold and imaginative, and to take a truly Australian outlook when dealing with such a problem as this. -Great as the help given to road development by the Commonwealth Government has been, I believe that an even bolder and more imaginative road-building policy is needed. As Senator Hannaford has pointed out, we need a plan for the overall development of our roads, a plan in which there is the closest co-operation between the Commonwealth and State governments. Because the States implement the road-building programmes, it is essential that an overall plan be agreed upon and contributed to by both Commonwealth and State governments.
I suggest that such a plan should make full provision for essential defence roads and for the construction of interstate highways over which trade may flow freely between the States. The plan should provide for the construction of main roads within the States in order to foster the decentralization of development. The plan should provide for the construction of adequate rural roads so that primary producers who play such an important part in the economy of our country are assured of a proper road system over which to convey their goods to the nearest point of shipment or delivery. The plan should also make provision for the requirements of cities so that suitable roads are constructed through those cities to connect with the highways at their boundaries. These are the roads in which Senator Kennelly was so interested. It is essential that roads through cities connecting highways be considered in the distribution of Commonwealth aid roads funds.
The overall plan should also make provision for the construction of tourist or scenic roads and highways. As I have referred so often before to the importance of tourist traffic, there is no need for me to say much about it now. I feel that with the construction of good scenic roads and the development of the tourist industry, much, external wealth could be earned for Australia. I sincerely believe that if we embarked upon an intensive publicity campaign to attract international tourists our income from external sources could be increased to at least £50,000,000 a year within the next ten years. To support that contention, I quote the experience of Great Britain. That country set out to earn £100,000,000 a year from tourist traffic. Those honorable senators who received a circular the other day from the United Kingdom High Commissioner will have noticed in it that the tourist traffic last year was worth £212,500,000 to Great Britain and in order to obtain that income she found it necessary to spend only £1,000,000. That is a wonderful return which must impress upon honorable senators what it is possible for us to do in this country.
I repeat that for the reasons I have mentioned it is essential that we have an overall plan of road development in Australia. There is a great deal more in this problem than is apparent to those who have never been associated with this work. I said at the opening of my remarks that my experience in local government has brought home to me a realization that many factors have to be considered. For instance I have come to realize that it is essential that roads of varying strengths be constructed, that roads strong enough to stand up to the traffic they will be required to carry are necessary if we are to avoid such breakdowns as we see so often in our roads now. A striking illustration of the need for roads of adequate strength is to be found in the breakdown of the Hume Highway only a couple of years ago, and to which Senator Gorton has referred.
This country urgently needs good roads. Every right-thinking Australian who has any width of vision at all should have a true appreciation of that fact. Roads, like our railways and our shipping lines, are the sinews of transport for the Commonwealth. They are the means by which the products of industry and of the primary producer are conveyed. They are the means by which are transported all those things required for development and the establishment of amenities in general.
States like Queensland, with such huge areas requiring development, are deserving of a higher percentage of the funds distributed by the Commonwealth for road purposes. I emphasize that the main consideration should be not the population of a State but the area to be served and developed, so that this great country may be built up. I feel that the Commonwealth’s formula for the distribution of these funds should not be altered to the disadvantage of huge States like Queensland and
Western Australia. 1 know that the people of Queensland are as concerned as I am at the fact that the formula proposed for the distribution of moneys received from the diesel fuel tax is disadvantageous to States like Western Australia and Queensland, and I sincerely hope that the present proposal is not an indication that when the Commonwealth aid roads programme is reviewed in 1959, the Government has in mind departing from the broad national Australian outlook and reducing the allocation to these two States. It is my firm belief that if the formula is to be reviewed the only proper step that can be taken is to increase the allocation by basing it on area rather than population. I suggest that it should be based on the area developed, because, where a State has developed in the outback it naturally follows that there are more people in those outback and rural areas who urgently need decent roads for the carriage of their goods and some comfort in living conditions.
– Victoria gets 4d. out of every1s. she pays. Would you give her less than that?
– As a matter of fact, 4d. in every1s. amounts to one-third.
– It is only one-third of what we pay.
– The point is that Victoria is such a small State that it is not in such great need of road funds as is Queensland. I point out to Senator Hannan that if the outback areas of States like Queensland are not served with better roads to encourage people to settle out there, the industries of the metropolitan area of Victoria will have no markets for the goods they produce.I remind him that large primary-producing States like Queensland are the main markets for the secondary goods produced by industrial areas such as are to be found in Victoria.
– But would you give us less than 4d. out of every1s. we pay?
– AllI am concerned about is ensuring that States like Queensland and New South Wales, with the greatest overall development, be given more consideration. Duringmy life in local government and in this National Parliament, I have always advocated that the people who are living in the outback areas under great disadvantage and in circumstances in which probably many of us would not like to live, are deserving of every encouragement. Those people are playing no mean part in helping to keep Australia on an even keel financially.I am confident that every rightthinking Australian will agree with me when I say that the people of the outback who are doing this great work are deserving of a much greater share of available funds so that they may be given the opportunity of enjoying decent living conditions and modern amenities. If we provide these things for them, we will not only induce them to stay there, but also encourage others to go out into the outback areas and help Australia to become an even greater country than it is to-day.
– I had not intended to take part in this debate, but I have been prompted to do so by several statements that have been made during the course of it. I wish to take the opportunity of expressing pleasure at the proposed distribution of an extra amount of money for roads in Australia. Unlike some honorable senators, I take no exception to the fact that Victoria is getting a larger share from this grant than it would under the current formula. Indeed, I might be prepared to give Victoria our share because I am of the opinion that we get a fair share under the formula. At the same time, I am going to give Victoria some advice. When the Victorians get good roads, they should look after them and not tear them to pieces. They are ruining their roads and, consequently, they want more money to keep them in repair.
When I spoke on this subject a few years ago, I proved that with figures. They showed that, of the petrol tax revenue that is made available to Victoria, 90 per cent, was spent on the maintenance of roads and 10 per cent, on construction. In Western Australia, we are spending 90 per cent, on construction and 10 per cent, on maintenance. The reason is that we refuse to allow heavily laden fast motor vehicles to cut our roads to pieces.
– How do you stop them?
– By law. We had experience of that in 1947-1948 and 1949. During two wars and a depression, our railways became so neglected that they were not able, to handle the transport of superphosphate and wheat. Accordingly, permission was given for road transport to handle the traffic that the railways could not carry. The road traffic cut our roads to pieces. I was Minister for Transport, and those vehicles were taken off the roads as quickly as the railways could be made capable of taking the business. Accordingly, our roads are in a better condition to-day.
Unfortunately, the present Government in Western Australia is allowing big loads of timber to be carried on one road. Maintenance of that road is costing a lot more than it did previously. Victoria is experiencing similar trouble. I have seen huge vehicles travelling over Victorian roads. 1 read in an American magazine that a heavily laden fast-moving motor vehicle in one trip did damage to a road estimated at 15,000 dollars. That will give honorable senators an idea of the damage that is done by these vehicles. I pass that hint on to Victorians. If they would take large vehicles off the roads and put their goods on the railways, they would reduce the railways deficit and preserve the roads at the same time.
– The road hauliers go to the Privy Council on every move that we make, and it is ruled out of order.
– That is all nonsense. The railways can handle the traffic if they are made to do so. Of course, the railways must give good service. I have had complaints from business people in Melbourne that it took ten days to transport goods by rail from Melbourne to Sydney. That is not a service. It is impossible to get business that way. If the railways were brought to a proper standard, they would take the traffic off the roads.
Senator Gorton said that we were getting more money than we needed in Western Australia and that we made roads where they were used by only two or three motor cars in a week. That is quite incorrect. I know of areas where men have been settled since 1925. They are 60 miles from a rail head and they have not yet got a bitumen road. When we do build a bitumen road, we see that the traffic on it is suitable and not too heavy for the surface to withstand. I have had many visitorsfrom the eastern States, and when I have taken them out for a run, their first comment has been, “What good roads you have “. Of course we have. We use the money available to us to advantage and1 make sure that it is not misspent.
It has been stated in this chamber that road transport is cheaper than rail transport. That is the most incorrect statement that I have heard for many a day. I wish that any person who has that conviction would bring me proof to justify it. I can give a few illustrations to prove that the contrary is true. We have a government in Western Australia now which, in one respect, is misguided. It has closed certain railways. It closed one from Nornalup to Elleker, which is about 80 miles from Albany. A timber mill was using the railway to send timber to Adelaide for house construction. While the mill was doing that, it could compete with imported timber, but as soon as the railway was closed and the timber had to go by road, the mill was put out of the market. As a result, the Western Australian Government had to go to the assistance of the timber mill and subsidize road transport. I have forgotten the exact figure, but I believe that it had to pay a subsidy of 6d. per 100 super, feet. That clearly proves that road transport is more expensive than rail transport.
The Western Australian Government closed the railway from Geraldton to Yuna, a distance of 45 miles. Before the railway was closed, a farmer told me he could get a machine freighted from Perth to Yuna at a cost of £23. That is a distance of 300 miles. When the railway was closed, freight on the same goods cost him £19 to Geraldton and £13 for the 45 miles from Geraldton to Yuna. That is another example of the cost of road services.
I saw another classic example at Darwin recently. The Royal Australian Air Force is building a big airstrip there. The commanding officer told me . that metal was being obtained from a place 45 miles from Darwin on a bitumen road. There was also a railway running to this place. The officer told me that the Air Force was obtaining the material by rail. The comparative cost was 16s. 6d. a ton by rail, and 43s. a ton by road. I present those figures to the advocates of road transport who imagine that road transport is the cheaper of the two.
Apart from that, the railways are essential, but if you have railways, you must make them pay or reduce the loss on them to a minimum. To do that, it is essential to make the railways carry the material for which they are suited. If you permit other forms of transport to take that business away, obviously the railways will lose more. In some cases the costs of road and railway transport might be similar. I suggest that if you closed the railways and made the road services observe the wages and hours of railway workers you would discover the truth about road transport.
In the areas I have already mentioned where farmers live 60 miles from the rail head, the railway is subsidizing road transport for seven years to bridge the gap between the higher cost of road transport and the charges formerly made by the railway.
– Why was the railway cut out?
– Because of the stupid financial system adopted by the railways. For example, let us consider the railway from Canberra to Sydney. Under the Western Australian system, the line between Canberra and Goulburn would get the credit only for goods transported over that distance. The goods might go on to Sydney, but the Goulburn-Sydney section of the line would get the credit for that portion of the line. That is stupid. Under such a system the only railway that pays in Western Australia is the 60 miles of line from Northam to Perth, because it gets all the loading. That is the reason why the Western Australian Government is closing country lines.
I now wish to say a word or two about the formula. I remind those people who are violently opposed to the formula of the speech that was made by the Honorable S. M. Bruce, as he then was, when he introduced the federal aid roads legislation. He said that the formula was devised with the object of making the greater part of the money available to the less developed and less populated States, and directed attention to the fact that that was the only piece of legislation under which those States received the larger proportion of the money that was made available for any particular purpose.
– Mr. Bruce was a Victorian.
– Yes. I think Sir Earle Page was the author of the measure, but Mr. Bruce introduced the bill. I repeat that that was the purpose of introducing the formula, which I sincerely hope will be continued. During this debate, some honorable senators have expressed the hope that when the matter is reviewed, the Government will attach certain conditions to an alteration of the formula. I remind the Senate that the Commonwealth has only one-seventh of the say, because the matter will be decided by a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. Although the formula was adopted in 1925, we had to wait until about 1953 before a dissentient voice was raised. As I have just said, any alteration to the formula will be effected only by the decision of all those Ministers in conference.
– How does that come about? Does not the agreement expire on 30th June next?
– lt expires on 30th June, 1959, but it must be renewed in accordance with a decision of the State Premiers and Commonwealth representatives in conference.
– Why cannot the Commonwealth impose an excise of customs and distribute the revenue according to its own decision?
– Such as the diesel fuel tax?
– The formula would have to be altered. The formula has been introduced with the consent and approval of the Premiers. I should not think it is likely that they would give it away.
– I thought you were speaking as to the legal validity of it. We will have to watch it.
– Yes, we will have to watch it and see that the decisions made by the more populous States do not place the other States in an invidious or worse position.
– Does the Australian Loan Council provide funds for road purposes?
– The ability of the Loan Council to raise money is limited by the capacity of the loan market to provide money. The Commonwealth aid roads legislation seeks to distribute a certain proportion of the petrol tax collections; I think the amount is 8d. a gallon. That is a different matter altogether.
Either Senator Wood or Senator Gorton referred to the fact that money was being expended on the provision of bitumen roads up to station properties. In Western Australia, no station property has a bitumen road leading right up to it. There is no bitumen road north of Northampton, which is only 30 miles north of Geraldton. It must be remembered that a large proportion of the bitumen roads in Western Australia are down in an area which has an annual rainfall of between 40 and 60 inches. A nonbitumen road in that area would be absolutely useless. I can assure those people who are jealous of Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania, because they get such a large share of these moneys, that Western Australia is using the money to the very best advantage and is safeguarding its roads. We are not wasting the money, and we are endeavouring to ensure that no particularly heavy loads are carried.
The road transport people themselves recognize that they cannot compete with the railways. That is illustrated by the fact that the operators of very heavy trucks that travel to Western Australia from the eastern States drive their vehicles to Port Augusta, have them transported by the Commonwealth Railway to Kalgoorlie, and then drive them to Perth. We can be sure that it pays them to do that; otherwise they would not do it. Those operators used to drive across the highway, but they have cut it up pretty badly and are now using the railways to get their vehicles to Kalgoorlie. They do the same on the return journey. If decent labour conditions obtained on the wharfs, and if it were possible to maintain a proper schedule, sea transport would be the most desirable. Given favorable conditions, sea transport is the cheapest form of transport. Then follow rail transport and road transport, in that order. 1 express my pleasure at the fact that this extra sum of money is to be made available to assist the States to bear the cost of the extra wear and tear that is being caused by heavy diesel vehicles. I congratulate the Government on having introduced the measure.
– The purpose of this bill is to provide for the appropriation of £3,000,000 in both 1957-58 and 1958-59 to supplement payments already authorized under the Commonwealth aid roads legislation. The amount already authorized is of the order of £34,000,000, so that £3,000,000 that is to be provided within the terms of this legislation will bring the total allocation for 1957-58 to £36,000,000 - a very considerable sum indeed.
I emphasize the fact that under the Commonwealth aid roads legislation this Government has provided no less than £180,000,0000 - that, in any calculation, is a large sum of money - for roads over the past eight years. As against that, only £80,000,000 was made available to the States and local authorities in the preceding 24 years under the formula legislation. It will be noted that great headway has been made. Surely no one can complain that this Government has not recognized the importance of providing large sums of money for road construction and maintenance undertaken by the States and local authorities throughout Australia.
It is only fair that road hauliers who use heavy diesel vehicles should be asked to contribute a fairly substantial amount towards the repair and maintenance of the roads that they traverse. Some of these vehicles of the semi-trailer type range from 10 to 40 tons in weight overall and in periods of heavy rainfall cut deeply into the roads. This legislation provides for the allocation of the revenue that will be raised by an imposition of ls. a gallon on the fuel used by those hauliers. I do not think that any one can fairly object to that.
Honorable senators from Victoria have objected to the method of allocation of road funds. That is not a new attitude; on former occasions, some of the Victorian senators have advanced what, from their viewpoint, has been a strong case for the granting of relief to Victoria. I am not being personal in regard to any honorable senator from Victoria who feels that it is right and proper to state a case for his State. I am merely dealing with the principle involved and the equity of the application of this formula. We all know that under the formula Tasmania receives 5 per cent, of the total money available for roads and that the balance left after Tasmania has taken its share is divided amongst the other States on the basis of three-fifhts for population and two-fifths for area. Victoria’s trouble consists in its extremely limited area. That is the reason why Victoria does not receive as much as some of the other States. Because of its limited area, it has not the same need as larger States for money for road construction, but, as it is a densely populated State, it does need to maintain many roads.
I notice that Victoria, according to the schedule, will this year receive no less than £6,508,000. That is £1,000,000 more than it received last year. Queensland is much greater in area than Victoria. Queensland is still in the pioneering and developmental stage, whereas in Victoria development is already a fait accompli in the greater part of the State. There is a great difference between the amount of money required for road expansion and development in Victoria and the amount required in Queensland, which extends for 1,500 miles from the New South Wales border to the tip of the Cape York Peninsula and 800 miles west from the coast. A big State like Queensland, still in the pioneering and early developmental stages, requires a lot of money for road development. The provision of good roads would mean that the State could be opened up and opportunities created for land settlement, mining development and the other things that make for the enrichment of a State.
Queensland is to receive £6,852,000 during the current year. It is significant that honorable senators from New South “Wales have not complained about the amount of money to be allocated to that State. New South Wales is larger than Victoria, it is densely populated and it is the mother State of the Commonwealth. There is no complaint by honorable senators from that State about the formula.
In order to put the record straight in regard to the request made by Victoria, let me say that we should take into account the fact that Victoria is receiving benefits which do not accrue to most of the other States. For example, the Commonwealth Government recently agreed to meet 70 per cent, of the cost of the uniform gauge railway from Wodonga to Melbourne. The construction of that railway, it is estimated, will cost in the vicinity of £10,000,000. That means that Victoria is receiving a straight-out gift of £7,000,000. Surely that is in the nature of an off-set to the amount that Victoria contributes for roads. Then there is the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme, which will cost between £350,000,000 and £400,000,000. That money is coming from the revenues of the Commonwealth Government. Which States stand to benefit from that scheme in the main? The whole of Australia will benefit indirectly, but the States which stand to benefit mainly are Victoria and New South Wales. There is a direct gift to them of power for industry and water for irrigation. Those States stand to take the lion’s share of the benefits of a great scheme to which the whole of the people of Australia are contributing. Victoria should have a sense of equity.
– Why not get on with the government of the country, instead of this tomfoolery?
– There is no tomfoolery about a reasoned argument. It is strange that the honorable senator who talks about tomfoolery is the biggest tomfool in this Senate. I am stating these facts for the consideration of the Senate. Victoria’s complaint is that other States are getting too much. Reference was made to the fact that Western Australia had built a bridge in Perth across the Narrows of the Swan River, and had also built an allweather road from Perth to Kalgoorlie and down to Norseman. I suppose it could be said that the road from Cloncurry to Mary Kathleen has been built with moneys furnished by Victoria, which, of course, would be right in one way. The point is that Western Australia and Queensland are big States in the course of development. It is only fair and right that the national spirit should prevail. As Senator Seward said, Viscount Bruce, a great and distinguished Australian, and a Victorian by birth, stood for this principle. Other great Australians have stood for the same principle over the years.
Victoria’s population and wealth have increased enormously since the formula was introduced. To-day Victoria is better able to comply with the terms of the formula than at any other time in its history.
– Whom are you trying to convince? We are all in favour of the measure.
– Who is making this speech? Other States have enjoyed expansion and development over the last 24 years, but their progress has not been in any way comparable with the tremendous progress of Victoria. That State has made great progress in the field of manufacturing and secondary industries in general. It has also enjoyed intensive agricultural and pastoral development. I do not begrudge Victoria anything. I have the greatest respect for the way in which the Victorian people have managed their great little State. I wish it well. Victoria looks like becoming the greatest manufacturing State in Australia, and it should regard the rest of Australia as its market. It should be prepared, graciously and without complaint, to throw some of its wealth into the common pool in order to help those States which are smaller, not in area, but in wealth and population. Victoria should help them to become established. I think that is fair. When Victoria asks for justice, it should take those things into account. It is already obtaining a substantial quid pro quo from the rest of Australia by way of the benefits derived from the construction of the uniform gauge railway and the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. These are big enterprises, and their existence should silence Victorian criticism in a matter such as this. In recent years, I have had a fairly good opportunity to travel around Australia, and it gives me tremendous satisfaction to go, for instance, to Darwin and see there a fine wharf built at the expense of the whole Commonwealth to accommodate the ships which go to the Territory. The shipping service assists in the development of the north which, though possessing only a limited population, has great riches yet to be exploited. The wharf provides accommodation for our Navy operating in seas that are pregnant with all sorts of possibilities for the future defence of this country. It is good to see these things happening.
Similarly, when I see the bridge across the Swan River at Perth, I do not ask were the money has come from. I am glad to see that the bridge has been provided. A handful of people are struggling in Western Australia to build a good economy out of a hard and difficult State with a vast area, much of which is not really habitable. It is good to think that we, in the richer parts of Australia, can give them a helping hand. Equally, it is good to see that a man can get in a car or truck and travel on an all-weather road right out to Kalgoorlie and down to Norseman. I do not ask where the money to make this possible has come from, but am glad to see that it has been provided, and that the more prosperous parts of Australia are contributing to the development of outlying regions.
In Queensland, one sees good roads being built here and there - though not fast enough for my liking. They are being built with the money provided from petrol tax revenue, as well as from taxes collected from other sources. Good roads are vital in opening up the outback regions of such vast States as Western Australia and Queensland. Indeed, Victorians should hang up on the wall a large question mark concerning their attitude to the building of roads for this purpose.
I wish to assure all honorable senators that the day will come when Queensland will be the greatest State in Australia, and will produce more wealth than any other. I may not live to see that day, but it is surely coming, and then Queensland, without complaint, will be willing to repay Victoria, the great little State which to-day is helping it in its upward climb to increased population, greater industrialization and unbounded prosperity. When our day comes, we shall repay in good measure. All that we ask now of the rich manufacturing and well-governed State of Victoria - of which as an Australian I am very proud - is that it will accept its responsibility to help Australia to nationhood, and make it, for those who are developing its outlying areas, a better place to live in.
– The measure before us allocates to the several States moneys raised from a tax on diesel fuel, as well as a special grant by the Treasurer of £1,000,000 for the purpose of road construction. The measure introduces a new tax, and I preface my remarks by saying that I must consider somewhat seriously the introduction of a new tax upon the Australian community at this stage. There has been an air of levity in the conduct of this debate so far. That is unusual for this august chamber, and somewhat refreshing. However, one realizes that there is a sober side to this legislation when one remembers that it imposes a new tax. 1 do not like new taxes. I do not suppose that any one likes them, but at this stage of our economy one must be especially cautious before one applauds a new tax. There are, I admit, times when the introduction of new taxes, or additional taxes, is desirable and necessary. Taxes have been necessary, on occasion, in order to stabilize the economy and to stem the onrush of inflation. There are, of course, other reasons why new or additional taxes are imposed. 1 do not for a moment think that such circumstances are present at the moment. I feel that we should be giving the greatest possible consideration to reducing taxes.
I do not think that any one could quarrel with the imposition of a tax for the purpose of providing roads. It is probably a truism, but nevertheless an important truism, and worth repeating, that our transport problems are among the most difficult that we have to face. Our economy is beset by many problems, some of which are perhaps beyond solution, but our transport problem must always remain one of our greatest headaches. The transport problem is heightened by the scarcity of population, the great distances between production and distribution centres, and the vast areas over which the distribution of manufactured goods takes place. Quite frankly, I admit that I should be very loath to lend this bill my personal support if it were not for the fact that it assists in the solution of our transportation problems.
We have had put before us a great many statistics concerning the effect of this measure. I listened with great interest to Senator Maher’s comments on this legislation to increase by £3,000,000 the Commonwealth aid roads grant in 1957-58 and 1958-59. The total grant this year will be about £37,000,000.
Not all of the money collected from petrol tax is spent on roads. In due course, I think that we will have to rationalize this aspect of taxation. Our ultimate objective should be to spend on the roads all of the money raised by the petrol tax. It has been said at times that the petrol tax was imposed for the purpose of raising money for road construction. That is not so. Originally, the whole of the proceeds from this tax were paid into Consolidated1 Revenue. In all equity and justice to the road users and the consumers of petrol, J think that ultimately all revenue derived from the taxation of petrol and diesel fuel should be expended on road construction and maintenance.
When the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) introduces the relevant bill, I shall have something to say on how the proceeds of the diesel fuel tax should be distributed, as well as on the other aspects of that important measure. At the moment, I content myself by saying that it would be completely wrong and unjust to saddle the users of petrol and diesel fuel perpetually with a tax the proceeds of which is not all spent on the roads.
I was very interested in Senator Gorton’sbrilliant speech, which caused considerable levity; it was very nicely constructed. I gathered the impression that the honorable senator did not agree with the suggestion* that had been made by senators from my State and from other large States concerning the distribution of the proceeds of the petrol tax.
– How could he?
– I rather gathered that Senator Gorton intended to imply that anybody who disagreed with his views wasnot a true Victorian, or a true Australian. Apparently he believes that for one to be truly Australian and to express a truly national point of view, all he need do is tosubscribe to the views of certain Victorian senators. I commend Senator Gorton for this very broad national viewpoint! It isto be regretted that many honorable senators have become somewhat parochial in their outlook.
– That outlook extends even to the boundaries of Melbourne.
– It is difficult toknow where the boundary of Melbourne finishes; one could easily find himself ia the River Murray if he were not careful. Having said that, I think that the Victorian senators should adopt a national outlook in this matter and forget about their individual State problems. According to a note that I made at the time, Senator Gorton said -
It is with regret that I cannot but characterize the remarks of honorable senators from other States as myopically provincial, as completely insubstantial and unsubstantiated, and as directed really to no other object than the selfish glorification of a State to the detriment of the continent of Australia.
With those sentiments, I think we all agree. The implementation of them is quite another matter. In order to implement that broad national sentiment, Senator Gorton apparently would have us put all of the petrol tax money into the Victorian roads. Neither Senator Maher nor I can see eye to eye with that proposition. We believe that some of the money raised by this means should be given to Western Australia and to Queensland, because there are problems of a national character in those States. Of course, we could be quite wrong in that opinion.
We have problems of development. This will be appreciated when I mention that the combined area of Queensland and Western Australia is equal to two-thirds of the Commonwealth. These States contain potentially wealthy areas, of which Senator Wood gave some indication. In these potentially wealthy areas, there is a population of only about 1,000,000 people. These circumstances present a challenge to all of us - including the senators from Victoria - to get on with the job of development. Much of the area that I have mentioned is not well watered. In order to develop it adequately, an enormous public investment of capital, and a correspondingly high degree of private investment, will be needed.
This problem represents a challenge to every Australian who really regards the development of those areas as of urgent national importance. I mention this matter in passing only because of the corollary, that transport of all kinds, but particularly road transport, is an important aid to development. There are very comfortable trains running from Flinders-street station in Melbourne to Richmond and Footscray, but those areas do not produce one scrap of wealth. Likewise, first-class trains run from Sydney to Parramatta, but that area does not produce one scrap of wealth. I am not for a moment decrying the secondary industries, but I point out that it is necessary to provide proper transport facilities in the country areas where the wealth is produced. That is the keynote of our transport problem in relation to development. This bill is of paramount importance to us all but I do not think it provides a complete solution to our transport problems.
I should like to outline my views in relation to the rationalization of expenditure on transport. What more equitable and better way is there of providing money for road purposes than the imposition of road tolls? One of these days, we will have to have a good road even between Sydney and Melbourne, the provision of which will cost a vast amount of money. I suggest that that money could most equitably be obtained by imposing road tolls.
– Did the honorable senator say that a good road is needed between Sydney and Melbourne?
– Yes, but I am referring really to main arterial roads in general. If the honorable senator prefers, I could say between Adelaide and Brisbane. One of the worst main arterial roads in Australia is the Hume Highway between Sydney and Melbourne. It badly needs looking after. I suggest that a proper, equitable, and just way of doing it would be for the interstate road hauliers and the big contractors - in short, all the users - to pay a direct tax for the use of that road. This system is used in America, where all the main arterial highways are financed exclusively by the imposition of road tolls. I commend that suggestion to the Senate, and I ask for leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator O’sullivan) proposed -
That Standing Order No. 68 be suspended up to and including 31st December, 19S7, to enable new business to be commenced after 10.30 o.m.
– It amazes me to hear the Leader of the Government (Senator O’sullivan) propose such a motion and to move it without giving any supporting reason, because anybody who - listened to what has gone on in this Senate on Tuesday of this week and to-day, must realize that the Government is most desperately wasting time. I want to put before the Senate just what has happened on those two days. The middle day, Wednesday, was devoted almost entirely to banking, but this week we had two other days in which to get on with the business of the Senate. Let us have a look at the record. On Tuesday the Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill was before this chamber. Senator O’Byrne spoke for four minutes in putting the Opposition’s case and indicating its support.
– Do you think-
– Please keep quiet till I put this case. He took four minutes. He was speaking in continuation of remarks that had been made on an earlier day, but I am talking about what happened on Tuesday. He was followed by four Government senators - in relation to a bill that the Opposition was supporting - and by Senator Cole, the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labour party. Only Government senators participated in the debate in the committee stages, in relation to their own bill. The Senate met at 3 p.m. Question time concluded at 3.26 p.m. Apart from the four minutes occupied by Senator O’Byrne, Government senators took until almost five minutes past five to debate this bill which the whole Senate supported. I merely record the facts.
Immediately after that debate finished, Senator Kennelly put the Opposition’s viewpoint on the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Bill. In a speech of fourteen minutes, he indicated that the Opposition was not opposing the measure. He was followed by three Government senators, and when it was completely obvious that the Government was fooling with its speakers, I rose and occupied one minute of the Senate’s time in moving that the question be put, in order to end the farce. I was followed by two more senators from the Government side, stalling their own bill. There was an argument on a point of order as to whether an amendment proposed by Senator Kennelly was in order. That debate on a bill that the Opposition was hot opposing ran from five minutes past five until eight minutes past ten at night. What a day of work that was for the Senate! At the instance of this Government, the proceedings were reduced to a farce! This is a government that pretends that it has so much business to be dealt with that it wants senators to work after 10.30 p.m.
That was Tuesday. I make no complaint about Wednesday, and 1 come to to-day. This has been a most extraordinary day. We began with a consideration of the Wool Realization (Distribution of Profits) Bill. The Senate will recall that at 10.51 p.m. yesterday I put the Opposition’s viewpoint on that bill and indicated our support in a speech that occupied, I think, no more than five minutes. I indicated to the Leader of the Government that as far as we were concerned he could take the bill by 11 o’clock. I offered to stay after 11 p.m. for the few minutes that might be required to enable the bill to be passed. This was a bill that was not opposed by the Opposition.
What has happened in this chamber today in regard to this matter? Senator Wade continued his remarks. He opened the proceedings, and he was followed by seven other Government senators in a row. They took from a little after 1 1 o’clock this morning until 3.30 this afternoon, with not one Opposition speaker intervening. Then we came to a consideration of the Commonwealth Aid Roads (Special Assistance) Bill. If ever a debate was made a farce, it was the debate on that measure. In a short speech, Senator Kennelly put the Opposition’s viewpoint and indicated that there was no opposition to the bill. We had several Government senators in a row, many of them from time to time fumbling for words - let alone ideas - and two of them completely humorous. Really, the speeches by Senator Wood and, I think, Senator Gorton were quite humorous from the viewpoint of anybody who was in the Senate and had nothing to think about.
If ever the proceedings were reduced to a farce, it was during Senator Wood’s speech dealing with roads, in which he ranged from the sunshine in Queensland, to sugar, to bauxite, to berry fruits in Tasmania, and back again. It was a speech that had no true relevance. It was turned into a piece of fun and games in the Senate. Quite all right! A whole day of this Senate’s time was absolutely wasted by the Government’s deliberate stalling of its own bill. Now the Leader of the Government has the audacity at this hour to stand up and ask to be permitted to introduce new business after 10.30 p.m. I am amazed at the audacity of the proposal.
And what is the background against which the fun and games of to-day have gone on? Senator Arnold is here, of necessity. I do not want to comment on his position; you know it. He has been here since twenty minutes to eleven this morning. Out of concern for him, Senator Kennelly and I saw your two leaders this morning. At five minutes to ten I sought an appointment. I was told that it would probably be granted by five minutes past ten. I understand that the Leader was not in the House. I was sent for at twenty minutes to eleven, by which time Senator Arnold had arrived in the building. I proposed that we would agree to this motion if the banking legislation were excluded, so that we could release Senator Arnold. This proposal was rejected. Senator Arnold has been here all day. We have three other very sick senators who have just returned to duty. I say to senators on the Government side: You have seen them, you have heard them, and you know that they are seriously and desperately unwell. They are living in a state of tension here in this chamber and in its precincts. Normally, with a knowledge of what business was likely to come on, they could make appropriate arrangements and go away. They are compelled to stay here every minute, because the Government’s intimation of last Thursday to the Opposition still stands. It was, “ We will tell you nothing. We will not let you know when anything is to come on. We will not give you an adjournment of any debate. You have to be on the qui vive ail the time “. What is the effect of that on sick senators in this place? You can imagine the state of Senator Arnold and those other senators, seeing the fun and games that Government senators have been having to-day, making a travesty of the proceedings of this Senate, delaying the passage of Government measures for two whole days.
Then the Leader of the Government had the audacity and the hide to get up and ask, on behalf of his Government, to be permitted to introduce new business after 10.30 p.m. One has only to state the facts to see how absurd the proposition is and how utterly callous and devoid of human compassion the Government is to men who are sick. I do not want to labour the point. I merely state the facts. It may be that there is no thought in this matter. Perhaps what has happened to-day has been done without thought, but it has had a terrific effect on a number of our colleagues in this chamber. They are entitled to consideration as human beings as well as honorable senators. Even the pressure of Government business, or the tactics of the day ought to have some regard to their situation. 1 say to the Leader of the Government that we will oppose this motion. Unless the Leader of the Government cares to give me a concession in relation to Senator Arnold, I shall have to wheel him in here again. Does the Leader of the Government want me to do that? Why will I do it? There is only one reason and that is so that Senator Arnold will not be kept here after 10.30 at night. I will need to have him wheeled through that door again–
– No. If he is in his room, one of us will leave.
– I thank the Leader of the Government for that.
– If he is in his room.
– He is in his room, and he will be in his room, until the Senate rises, each day the Senate sits. So will the other sick honorable senators. I thank the Leader of the Government for that concession. I appreciate that consideration.
– I offered you that last night.
– After the division bells had been rung and as Senator Arnold was approaching the door of this chamber. I felt that the Government should have the shame of seeing him come in. That is why the offer was refused.
– The Government did not bring him in; you brought him in.
– We brought him in.
– Then yours was the shame, not ours.
– The shame was yours; the embarrassment was Senator Arnold’s. Might I ask honorable senators on the Government side a question? Why did their hearts melt with a few seconds to go? Why did their hearts melt when the sands were running out of the glass? I will tell the Senate the reason in one sentence. It was because honorable senators on the Government side were ashamed of themselves.
– No, we were ashamed of you.
– You did not want to see him. I am obliged to the Leader of the Government for the fact that I do not have to bring him in to-night. But I do not want to pursue this matter any further. I merely say, as a responsible member of this Senate, that I am ashamed of what has gone on to-day. I am ashamed of what went on on Tuesday. It staggers me, in the light of the way that it has prostituted this Senate to-day, that the Government would now bring forward this motion.
I think I have said enough in relation to the matter to make the position of the Opposition quite clear. I have indicated that we will oppose the motion. We do so for general reasons. The first reason is the rule which requires that no new business can be introduced after 10.30 p.m. That is for a particular reason, for a very human and proper reason. It is so that legislation will not be pushed through this chamber after honorable senators on the Opposition side, regardless of the party they belong to, have become exhausted, lt is a protection against legislation by utter exhaustion. In circumstances in which we are in the unfortunate position of having one man who is bedridden, three others who have returned sick, one after he had been in the hospital here for weeks and weeks and weeks, the need for the rule is shown quite plainly. It is a proper protection of honorable senators.
I do not want to labour this matter further and, frankly, whilst I do not deny anybody, even an honorable senator on my side, the right to come into this debate, I prefer to leave it where it is. I ask the Leader of the Government, in the light of the circumstances that exist, not even to press his motion.
– I propose to speak only briefly because I think the issues were canvassed yesterday during the course of the proceedings. What I want to say, and the point that I want to make, is that whatever responsibility attaches for bringing those in ill health to the Senate, that responsibility rests with the Opposition parties.
– We acknowledge that. We are concerned about keeping them here.
– The responsibility rests with the Opposition parties, which. I have no doubt, have taken the precaution to obtain medical advice to the effect that those who are attending are not prejudicing their health in doing so. No doubt medical advice is being obtained; no doubt medical attention is being retained. I only say that to put the responsibility where it properly lies on medical grounds, to put the responsibility where it properly lies on moral grounds and on political grounds because we, on this side of the chamber, are bringing forward major legislation, the principles of which are subscribed to by the members of the Government and to which the Opposition knows they subscribe. The Opposition also knows, as has been said ad nauseam, of the very substantial majority the Government holds in the lower House and of the very decisive win that the Government had at the last Senate election. It is, therefore, not by any parliamentary practice a function of the Senate to obstruct legislation of such major importance.
That is the position that we have adopted previously. There is no point in covering the ground over and over again. What the Government is doing in moving this motion is, of course, testing the defences of the Opposition, to see that the Opposition has its numbers here. The Government knows it cannot get the legislation through whilst the Opposition maintains its numbers. The Government is testing that position.
The Leader of the Opposition talked to me in terms of the Government being ashamed of what it is doing. If any political party should be ashamed of a political performance, it is the Opposition in respect of its political performance of last night in not being prepared to debate, at any stage, two matters of such major importance. It was a procedure which is indefensible in any terms of parliamentary government. It was a procedure of which any political party should be thoroughly ashamed.
Having expressed that sentiment, I move -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . 0
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed (vide page 1577).
The bill that is before the chamber was introduced only this morning. So far as I am able to recall from the limited opportunity I have had to consider the secondreading speech of the Attorney-General (Senator O’Sullivan), the bill involves the validation of certain regulations. The scrutiny of regulations is the peculiar duty of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, and some consideration should be given to all regulations before they are validated by Act of Parliament. However, these regulations do not come within the scope of that standing committee, which is the watchdog of the propriety of subordinate legislation.
I accept the assurance given by the Minister in his second-reading speech that he will table the regulations. I take it that his failure to do so was due to inadvertence. The Minister was good enough, as he made his second-reading speech this morning, to circulate copies of the regulations. I have since had an opportunity only for a casual glance at them, but I have noticed that they include provision, as one would expect from their title, for the Royal Australian Air Force Canteens Service Board to carry on business for the operation of the canteens, and to do other things. Regulation 15 provides that the board has power to establish, maintain and operate the canteen service and, in the course of maintaining and operating that service may, subject to the regulations, exercise very wide business powers. Provision is also made exempting the canteen service from all State licensing laws. Regulation 23 states -
It is not necessary, under or by reason of any law of a State or a Territory of the Commonwealth to obtain or have any licence or permistion for -
supplying, on sale or otherwise, to members of the Air Force or to persons employed in Air Force establishments or units;
supplying at the expense of members of the Air Force or of persons employed in Air Force establishments or units, to their guests; or
permitting the consumption of, intoxicating liquor at any canteen or club established in pursuance of these Regulations, if the intoxicating liquor is the property of the Board, of members of the Air Force, or of the persons employed in Air Force establishments or units.
Regulation 24 gives complete exemption to the board from all State licensing legislation. It states -
Subject to the approval of a commanding officer of the Air Force establishment or unit, the Board may, upon such terms and conditions as it determines, grant to any person a licence to trade in an Air Force establishment or unit for the purpose of rendering a service not catered for in that establishment or unit by the Canteens Service.
With great respect to the Minister, who has implied that this measure should be passed by the Senate without real scrutiny, I submit that I have read sufficient of the regulations to support a case to the contrary. I trust I do not do the Senate any discredit if I suggest that, had these regulations come forward in the form of a bill, we would take time to consider them. As we are considering a measure to validate these regulations, I submit that those of us who constitute the Regulations and Ordinances Committee have a special duty to consider them carefully before the measure is passed. I am not being unduly critical of the procedures of the House. In fact, when I began my speech, I was somewhat dismayed by the procedures of the House tonight. I am not sure whether or not these proceedings will be interrupted by the sessional order at 10.30 p.m., and that we will thus be given an opportunity to consider the measure. Provision is made in the regulations for the canteens board, subject to the approval of the commanding officer of any Air Force establishment or unit, upon such conditions as it determines, to grant a licence to trade in any establishment or unit of the Air Force.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Those in favour say, “Aye” - (Some honorable senators having called, “ Aye “)-
– Those against say, “ No ‘*. (Other honorable senators having called, “ No “)-
.- Mr. President-
– I thought the motion was negatived. (Senator Wood having resumed his seat) -
– Mr. President, you put the question, “That the Senate do now adjourn “. I thought that Senator Wood, in the exercise of his right to speak to the motion, rose and received the call. If he does not propose to take advantage of the call, 1 wish to exercise my right to speak to the motion.
– The motion was negatived.
– Order! The whole trouble in this chamber is that, when I put a question, I do not get a definite response from honorable senators. I can judge the attitude of the Senate only on the voices that I hear. Obviously, it is the desire of the Senate to proceed, but I wish that honorable senators would indicate to me clearly what their wishes are in these matters. I again put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Those in favour say, “ Aye “ - (Some honorable senators having called, “ Aye “)-
– Mr. President-
– Those against say, “ No “. (Other honorable senators having called, “ No “)-
– Mr. President, if, when you put the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, I seek the call by addressing you as “ Mr. President “, I am entitled to receive the call and to speak on the motion. Having done that, but not wishing to seem to be in competition with Senator Wood, if the honorable senator does not wish to proceed I indicate that I wish to speak.
.- I rise only because I want to advance the request that the debate on which we were engaged before the motion for the adjournment was put shall not be allowed to proceed any further to-night. We had before us statutory rules accompanied by a bill to validate those rules. One expects that, as the time approaches 10.30 p.m., one will not have to undertake consideration of a new matter.
I confess I watch the guarding of regulations a little jealously and the preserving of propriety in regard to them. Even though honorable senators are engaging in conversation while I speak, I suggest quite placidly that we should be given the opportunity further to consider the matter that was before us, but without having to complete our remarks to-night. I know that the debate on the motion for the adjournment does not afford the only opportunity that I shall have–
– We are not debating the motion for the adjournment now.
– Yes, we are. So far as the Senate can make itself intelligible to me, 1 submit that we are debating the motion for the adjournment.
– Is it a motion, or is it not a question automatically put without motion?
– If we are to go into dissertations on casuistry of that sort, I want an adequate period of preparation in a monastery, and not in the Senate, so that I may address myself to the matter with a facility that is likely to please my revered friend and esteemed colleague, Senator Byrne.
Now we shall babble along so that the brook may reveal its lights. I have requested that we be given time for further consideration of the matter that was being debated before the motion for the adjournment was put. If that debate is resumed and I get the call, I shall ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage. One dissentient voice, I think, would be sufficient to deny me the opportunity to continue my remarks at a later stage. One voice might be sufficient to deny other opportunities.
Earlier, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) referred to the conduct of this House throughout the day. In particular, he made some disparaging remarks about a speech that I had delivered and said, in effect, that my speech had reduced the proceedings of this chamber to a farce. As a Queensland senator, let me say that, if to plead for more money for better roads for primary producers such as dairyfarmers, sugar-cane growers and people in the west of the State is to reduce this House to a state of farce, I do not know what serious debate is. I do not think there could have been a more serious debate tonight. No one is more concerned about the provision of amenities for the people of Queensland than I am. Throughout my life before I was elected to the Parliament, I was associated with such work. 1 very much resent the remarks of Senator McKenna. If we are not to have a little humour but must always present funereal faces here, this chamber will become a very drab and dreary place. If Senator McKenna were to look at the proof of my speech which I am now reading, he would see that, apart from a certain amount of good-natured banter which occurred, my remarks were quite serious. I think it would be very unwise of him to suggest that such banter should not occasionally take place in this chamber, which is a States house. We know that there are rivalries between States, and that, because of the attitude of representatives of Victoria in this chamber to-night, certain comments were made in a good-natured way. No one could have been more serious than I was in pleading for a good deal for Queensland in the allocation of roads funds. When making my speech, I indicated that I was impressed by the change in the basis of distribution as related to the diesel tax collections.
– Order ! The honorable senator may not refer to an earlier debate.
– Very well, Sir! Senator McKenna’s remarks about me were illfounded. I think they were of a nasty character. I would not have expected such remarks to come from him. I say quite clearly that I resent his remarks, because my speech was a serious one. I believe that the banter which took place did not do this chamber any harm nor cause it any loss of dignity.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.39 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 November 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1957/19571128_senate_22_s11/>.