22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuliin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Address-in-Reply - Presentation to the Governor-General .
– I desire to inform the Senate that on Friday last, accompanied by honorable senators, I waited on the Governor-General and presented to him the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech on the occasion of the opening of the Third Session of the Twenty-second Parliament, agreed to on 13th March. His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply: -
Thank you for your Address-in-Reply which you have just presented to me.
It will afford me much pleasure to convey to Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen the message of loyalty from the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, to which the Address gives expression.
– I desire to ask the Minister for National Development two questions without notice. Regarding the release of £500,000 by the Commonwealth Trading Bank for home building and home purchase, has the Minister noted the statement by the president of co-operative building societies, Mr. Tytherleigh, that building societies operate only in two States, New South Wales and Victoria, so that the new loan will go to housing in those two States? Does this mean that Queensland, for instance, will receive no benefit from the new loan of £500,000?
– I am sorry to say T cannot answer the question adequately. I did read the statement by Mr. Tytherleigh with a good deal of interest, but I have to confess that I did not pick up the point that the honorable senator makes. I correct him, though, to this extent: Mr. Tytherleigh says that the building societies operate in only two States. That is rather a general statement. As Senator Brown himself doubtless knows, there has been quite an upsurge of building societies in Brisbane - in Queensland itself - and the same thing applies in other States. So I think Mr. Tytherleigh is talking in terms of terminating building societies, in which he is quite an expert, rather than of building societies generally. There would be an opportunity for the Commonwealth Trading Bank, if it so desired, to make this money available to building societies not only in New South Wales and Victoria, but also in most of the other States. Whether the Commonwealth Trading Bank proposes to do that or not, I could not say. I know that the Commonwealth Bank has made advances in the past to building societies operating in Brisbane. What the Commonwealth Trading Bank proposes to do 1 do not know.
– I desire to submit to the Minister for Customs and Excise a question relating to the matter of the censorship of Australian books and publications. First, has the Minister seen a statement in to-day’s Melbourne “ Age “ which refers to a criticism of the Literature Censorship Board by Mr. Frederick Warburg, a London publisher? Secondly, is it correct to say, as was stated by Mr. Warburg, that 1,000 books have been banned by the board? Thirdly, is it true that there is a Government move to stop the public from knowing that a particular book is to be banned? And fourthly, is the Minister prepared to publish a list of banned books from time to time?
– I have not digested the statement by Mr. Warburg, but the honorable senator was good enough to jot down two or three points from it and I shall attempt to say something about them. I do not know how many books are at present banned, but the list has been overhauled in the last few months by the Literature Censorship Board. The new list will be available in about a week’s time. It will be published in the Commonwealth “ Gazette “ as a customs document, so that every one will know which books are banned. The honorable senator asks whether a list of the banned books will be published from time to time. In future the title of any such book will be published in the Commonwealth “ Gazette “ for the information of all. I have prepared a very short statement on the subject so that the Senate might be kept fully informed. With the consent of the Senate I shall read it now. It reads -
The altered procedures announced some months ago were undertaken only after long and careful analysis and wide consultation throughout the Commonwealth, and provide the necessary safeguards for the censorship of imported literature. They are as follows: -
The departmental Inspectors of Publications at the point of import check the literature and detain any book they wish to have further examined. The book is forwarded to central office with the comments of the detaining officer. Here, after examination, it can be released or submitted to the Literature Censorship Board. This board can recommend release or banning.
If, following the board’s advice the book is banned, then the importer has the right to ask the Minister or the Comptroller-General to submit this decision to the Literature Appeal Censor. Upon receipt of advice from this source the final decision rests with the Minister. Notification of a decision to ban will be made in the Commonwealth “ Gazette “.
The practice of departmental officers of advising booksellers that a book at present on sale is under review, and of requesting its withdrawal from sale pending a decision, has been discontinued. It has led to wide misunderstanding by both the public and the press. In fact, this procedure has been used to gain wide publicity for, and enhance the sales of, the book.
The corner stone of this re-organization is a free and independent Literature Censorship Board and Appeal Censor, consisting of men and women with a broad literary background, a sound social outlook and a wide experience.
I am examining the present Film Censorship Regulations to ascertain whether changes are necessary to bring them into line with modern conditions. To clarify regulation 13 (d) of the Cinematograph Regulations, i.e., the regulation referring to films which depict any matter, the exhibition of which is undesirable in the public interest, the following interpretation has been adopted.
Regulation 13 (d) should not be used to debar the registration of religious films for the reason only that the nature of the films or critical commentary may be deemed to give offence to any one religious section of the community.
Censorship of television films is undertaken by my department under the standards for television adopted by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in conjunction with the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– Some time ago I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question on the proposed employ ment of Australian boys in the production of a horror film. Although the Government has no direct power in this matter, I was very concerned that it did not express or make known its disapproval of that proposal. I now ask the Minister in charge of the Senate whether he has seen reports of midnight horror films being shown in capital cities. Although the Commonwealth may not have any direct power in this matter, is the Government opposed to these anti-social activities? If so, will the Government make its opposition known, especially in view of the alarming increase in juvenile hooliganism?
– I have seen newspaper reports of these midnight horror films. It is extremely improbable that the Commonwealth Government will express any view on this matter, because it is one which, I understand, comes entirely within the jurisdiction of the State governments. If the Commonwealth Government expressed a view on such a matter, it could be criticized for extending its activities into a matter with which it had no concern.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that recently an advertisement appeared in the press calling for applications to the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the position of organizer of women’s sessions at Sydney head-quarters, stating that the duties include general supervision of programmes for women’s sessions conducted in other States? Will the PostmasterGeneral give an assurance that this stipulation will not mean dictatorship, and does not imply a radical change in the highly educational and interest-stimulating programmes in Western Australia, which provide a lively and vigorous local touch with a widely spread listening audience of women in outback centres of the area? Will the Postmaster-General note that the twoway traffic between the sessions and the listeners - the most fruitful form of broadcasting - that now prevails in Western Australia would be quite impossible with broadcasts between Western Australia and Sydney, because conditions in those two places differ so completely?
– I have seen the advertisement calling for applications for appointment to this position with the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Sydney. I do not think there need be any fear of interference with present activities in Western Australia. However, I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of my colleague, the PostmasterGeneral, and ask him to give me a detailed reply.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior seen the answer to a question asked in another place, the answer being to the effect that a private bathroom has been installed in the Hotel Kurrajong for use by the Minister for Trade, at a cost of £355, for which an additional 3s. a day will be charged? Will the Minister ask his colleague to take action to see that at least a wash basin is provided in each of the small balcony rooms used by private secretaries, who pay the same tariff as persons who are given much larger rooms in which wash basins are installed? I can assure the Minister that many private secretaries would be only too pleased to pay an extra charge of 3s. a day for the exclusive use of a bathroom.
– In answer to the honorable senator’s question, I should say that it is just as important for a secretary to wash as it is for anybody else. I shall have great pleasure in placing the honorable senator’s question before the Minister and obtaining a considered reply for him.
– I ask the Minister for National Development, in the absence of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, whether any plans have been made which will permit next-of-kin and representatives of returned servicemen’s associations to attend the unveiling ceremony by Her Majesty the Queen of the Brookwood Memorial to the Commonwealth Land Forces in Brookwood Military Cemetery near Woking, Surrey, England, on 25th October this year. If no plans have already been made, and in view of the fact that an invitation to attend the ceremony has been sent to the next-of-kin of each man commemorated, will the Govern ment give consideration to ensuring adequate Australian representation at the ceremony?
– I feel certain that over the years the Government has evolved some set of precedents or arrangements to cover invitations to such important ceremonies as this one. I am sorry to inform the honorable senator that I cannot say what those arrangements are, but I shall ask the Prime Minister’s Department to let me know, and I shall convey the information to him. Then, if need be, we can discuss it further.
– In view of the im portance of the city of Newcastle, which has no civil aerodrome, and in view of the fact that civilian aircraft are allowed to use the Royal Australian Air Force base for only a brief time before 9 a.m. and again after 6 p.m., will the Minister representing the Minister for Air see whether it is possible for the R.A.A.F. so to arrange its training programme as to make the aerodrome available in the middle of the day for civil aircraft to serve the city of Newcastle?
– I shall refer the honorable senator’s question to my colleague, the Minister for Air, and obtain an answer for him.
– The Minister for National Development may recall that during last session I directed inquiries to him aimed at securing assistance for the Australian copper-mining industry, and that he answered by referring to the Tariff Board inquiry into that industry, which had just been completed. Can the Minister now advise me whether the Tariff Board’s report on the Australian copper-mining industry is yet available? If it is not available, are there any particular difficulties of a technical or administrative nature holding it up, or is the delay an indication that the Tariff Board is considerably in arrears in the discharge of its important functions?
– There has been, and still is, very great interest in the Tariff Board’s report on the copper-mining industry. I can only repeat what I am sure I said previously. The Tariff Board has completed its investigation. The report has gone to the Minister for Trade, and he is examining it, with some professional assistants. The Tariff Board’s work is increasing in volume. Its staff is being strengthened. The secretariat that assists the board has been strengthened, and my colleague hopes this will result in a more efficient Tariff Board and more prompt reports based on its inquiries.
– I should like to refer to an answer I gave to a question without notice, on 13th March last, relating to the Tariff Board. I have had my attention directed to the fact that my answer, as reported in “ Hansard “, is not in accordance with facts. I am sure “ Hansard “ was right, as usual. I can only assume that in the stress of answering questions without notice I gave some information incorrectly.
I should like, therefore, to clarify the position and see that the record is corrected by saying that when I was replying to a question by Senator Wright, on 13th March last, and at the same time answering questions from other honorable senators who interjected, the words I uttered would make it appear that I was saying that Mr. Date had sought to make observations concerning his own private affairs on Tariff Board reports. This, of course, is not right. I think it is clearly understood that Mr. Date has, over a period, attached or sought to attach to Tariff Board reports, in association with his signature, his comments upon Tariff Board procedures, these comments having no relevancy whatever to the subject-matter under examination by the board. Further, and over the same period, as the Minister for Trade has stated, Mr. Date has conducted an extensive campaign of protests addressed to numerous official people concerning a whole variety of matters on which he had legal and personal views, and his grievances have included questions of travelling allowance and such personal considerations. “ Hansard “ seems to read that I said that Mr. Date had endeavoured to incorporate these personal matters into Tariff Board reports. The things that he wanted to incorporate into the Tariff Board reports were strictures or comments on Tariff Board procedures.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. In view of the assurance from the Minister that a close watch was being kept on the question of indemnity payments by shipowners, I now ask: Have the services of a tug been refused for the steamer “ Iron Master “, now located at Newcastle? If so, is the reason for the refusal the failure of the Hong Kong interests concerned in the sale of the ship to comply with the demand from maritime unions for an indemnity payment of £4,125? If this is so, does the failure of the seamen’s union to permit the use of a tug for “ Iron Master “ in these circumstances constitute industrial blackmail, and does the Government contemplate any action in the matter?
– I have read with great interest the newspaper report to which the honorable senator refers, but I am sorry to say that I have not discussed the matter with my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service. I feel that I should do so, rather than make ,a reply now which the facts may not justify, or which may not be in accord with Government policy. Therefore, I must ask that the question be placed on the notice-paper.
– I address a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I understand that sheep affected by the disease known as foot rot have been transported recently from eastern Australia to Esperance, Western Australia. In view of the fact that Esperance has been completely free of this contagious disease, and because the officers of the Western Australian Department of Agriculture are doing all they can to wipe out the disease in that State, will the Minister inform me whether the Commonwealth proposes to take action to prohibit affected sheep from being sent to Western Australia?
– I very much doubt whether a prohibition on the transport of sheep affected with foot rot is a matter which would fall within my administration. However, I shall have a look at the matter, as it affects transport. I shall inquire into the circumstances and see what can be done.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration: Is it a fact that there is in the Immigration Act an archaic, Hitlerian proviso which prohibits the entry into Australia, for permanent residence, of unmarried women who have reached the age of 40 years and have no close relatives in Australia? Is the reason given for such exclusion that these women are unlikely to marry and bear children and, therefore, are likely to become a charge on the community in their later years? In view of the fact that professional women, such as nurses, doctors, teachers and so on, would be of value to the Australian community, will the Minister indicate whether these women are prevented from taking up permanent residence here merely on the score of age? Does the Minister subscribe to the theory that a woman has outlived her usefulness to the community after she has reached the age of 40 years, if she is still unmarried? If the Minister believes that a woman’s natural function is that of motherhood, are the officers of his department competent to decide the exact age at which a woman ceases to be capable of fulfilling this function, bearing in mind Genesis, chapter 17, verses 17 to 19, wherein it is stated that Sarah was 90 years of age when Isaac was born?
– As the matter comes under the jurisdiction of my colleague, the Minister for Immigration, I am not prepared to commit myself to a debate with the honorable senator on the question of age. If she places her long series of questions on the notice-paper, without doubt I shall get an answer for her. The honorable senator is not raising anything new. Apparently, there has been no alteration of the Immigration Act for a number of years. If the provision to which Senator Tangney refers is in the act, it has been there for quite a number of years and the Government of which she was a supporter could have altered it if it had so desired. I repeat that I shall obtain a reply for the honorable senator.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade been drawn to a statement made in Brisbane by Mr. D. J. Muir, the Queensland Agent-General in London, that the reputation of Australian canned meat on the English market is being ruined by inferior quality canned meat that is put up by meat packers in a State other than Queensland? Is the Minister aware that Mr. Muir said that the Queensland pack had a meat content of 85 per cent., that the pack produced by the southern firm had a meat content of only 65 per cent., that the British housewife judged Australian canned meat by the lowest quality article, and that our canned meat trade suffered accordingly?’ Is it not possible to standardize our canned meat export trade on a uniform pack and quality basis?
– I am sorry to have to say that I did not read that perfectly impartial statement by a Queenslander, to which, the honorable senator has referred. I know that the question of the packaging of tinned meat for overseas has been the subject of a lot of consideration, not only at the departmental level, but also at conferences and discussions between the. departments that are responsible for export trade and the trade as a. whole-. I cant do no more than say to the honorable senator that I shall ensure that the views which Mr. Muir has expressed will be placed before the Minister for Trade so that he may take any action which he thinks is appropriate and practicable.
– I direct to Senator Spooner, in his capacity as Minister for National Development and as Minister representing the Treasurer, the following questions: Will the Government examine the special taxation provision that the Canadian Government applies to new mines in Canada? Will he inform the Senate whether the Government will consider applying a similar measure to the development of mines in Australia? Will he examine especially the provision under which the Canadian Government grants a a three-year tax-free period in respect of new mines, from the viewpoint of giving assistance to the north-west of Western Australia and other remote areas?
– The difference between the taxation concessions that are granted to the Canadian mining industry and those that are given to the Australian mining industry would be the subject of a very fruitful debate. There is too great a tendency to claim that the Canadian concessions are better than those of Australia. A year or so ago, the Department of National Development, at my request, made a detailed inquiry into the relative provisions of the two sets of legislation. The conclusion reached was that there was little difference between the two sets of legislation. The honorable senator mentioned the provision in the Canadian legislation which grants in respect of new Canadian mines a tax-free period of three years. May I remind him that, under the Australian tax law, the operators of a new mine have the right to claim as a deduction all its capital expenditure. If a new mine established in Australia earns profits, it has the right, I think, before any of those profits becomes taxable, to write off and claim as a deduction the whole of the capital expenditure incurred up to that stage. The matter is receiving very close attention by my department. I shall consider whether 1 am prepared to make available the result of the investigation conducted a couple of years ago, and I shall inform the honorable senator later.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. Is it a fact that at the present time Australia’s output of tin falls far short of domestic requirements? In view of the richness and extent of the Maranboy field in the Northern Territory, is the Government, in conjunction with United Uranium No Liability, testing the field for tin? If so, how many drill holes are to be drilled and at whose expense? If the Government is bearing any of the expense, what arrangements have been made for reimbursement to the Government if the leases prove successful?
– The consumption of tin in Australia falls short of Australian mining capacity and the position has been exaggerated or worsened - perhaps “ improved “ is a better word - by the commencement of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited tin plate mills at Port
Kembla. Maranboy tinfelds in the Northern Territory have in truth been a challenge to the mining industry for many years past. United Uranium, which has opened up El Sharana and other deposits on the Alligator River, has entered upon a programme of testing by drilling the old Maranboy tin deposits. The Government has an arrangement with United Uranium on this basis: “ You will drill in this area; we shall drill in that area. You will let us have the result of your drilling; we shall inform you of the result of our drilling. If, as a result of the combined drilling, you produce tin in this field, then you will repay to the Commonwealth the amount it has expended on drilling.” I did know the number of holes drilled and the amount involved, but I do not recollect the figures offhand.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether it is a fact that a Commonwealth chartered vessel “ Challenge “ has been engaged for some months on a survey of prawns in Queensland waters. If this is a fact, has the survey been completed and will the report be made available to the Senate? Are the Western Australian coastal waters to be included in any further survey by this vessel?
– I shall refer the honorable senator’s question to the Minister and obtain whatever material is available.
– My question addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation relates to the arrangements he made during his recent visit overseas for the supply of new modern aircraft in substitution for those now used by the various companies in Australia. Is the Minister yet in a position to inform the Senate of the outcome of his visit in relation to that matter? Tn particular, can he advise whether he gave any consideration to the supply of new aircraft to MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited which operates over a large area of Western Australia?
– Mr. President, I want to say at once that my recent visit overseas was not for the purpose of choosing or selecting aircraft as replacement aircraft for the operating companies. That clearly, Sir, is a highly technical matter, about which I have not the knowledge or the skill to make a determination at all. It is now well known that all Australian airlines are interested in re-equipment and that inquiries are being pursued. Indeed, some of the companies have announced what their proposals are and have referred to certain negotiations. With regard to the re-equipment of MacRobertson Miller Airlines, I remind the honorable senator that in my statement in September last I referred to the Government’s plans for assisting feeder airlines in the acquisition of equipment. I understand that MacRobertson Miller Airlines is at the moment engaging in inquiries as to what it may best do, and I expect that when the managing director of that firm returns from his overseas trip I shall be informed of the result of those inquiries.
– On 11th March, I asked Senator Cooper, who represents the Postmaster-General in this chamber, a question concerning the delay in the delivery in Canberra of air mail letters from Western Australia, and the matter was rectified within 24 hours. I should like Senator Cooper to convey .to the Postmaster-General my thanks, and the thanks of, I think, all Western Australian members of the Parliament, for the expeditious manner in which my representations were dealt with.
– I shall be only too pleased to comply with the honorable senator’s request.
– On 13th March, Senator Sheehan asked the following question: -
I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Health a question which is supplementary to that asked by Senator Wardlaw. Will the Minister ascertain whether there is any possibility of the drug cortisone, which I understand was originally on the free list, being restored to the list and whether, if it cannot be completely restored to the list, it will be issued free in necessitous cases?
The Minister for Health has now furnished the following reply: -
For some considerable time the drug cortisone has been available as a pharmaceutical benefit for the treatment of certain specified diseases where its use is most valuable. The list of these diseases is drawn up on expert advice by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee and is extended from time to time in accordance with up-to-date medical knowledge.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– I have been supplied with the following answer: -
Telephone trunk-line service in the Huon Valley has been affected recently by a number of faults caused by conditions outside the control of the Post Office and although most of them have been removed some have been difficult to locate. Two trunk lines to Hobart are still out of order but these should be restored to service within the next few days.
The position has been aggravated by temporary staffing difficulties caused by the resignation of some trained operators and the recruitment of girls without any experience. This position is improving rapidly and a fully qualified staff should be available to handle the traffic within the next week or so.
There is a need for additional trunk lines between Huonville and Hobart to carry the increased traffic and two extra channels will be provided within the next three months. In the meantime, however, close attention is being given to all exchanges in the Huon Valley area to ensure that the best use possible is made of the existing facilities.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has furnished the following reply: - 1 and 2. The matters referred to by the honorable senator have been the subject of public controversy in recent years. However, the particular statements mentioned by him have not come to my notice.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
Will the Minister have an assessment made of the economic loss over the period from January, 1957, to December, 1958, caused by drought conditions in Queensland during 1957?
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answer: -
Even if wide and costly surveys were practicable it would not be possible at this stage to obtain a reasonably firm assessment of economic losses in Queensland from January, 1957, to December, 1958, due to drought conditions. Seasonal conditions in that State in the next nine months will affect the position considerably one way or the other. The rural situation in a State at any time can best be assessed by the appropriate authorities of the State concerned. It is, in fact, a normal State responsibility. The official figures issued by Commonwealth and State Government Statisticians from time to time provide a lead to changes over a given period in the crops harvested or in stock numbers, &c, but there would be considerable difficulty in assessing the degree of economic loss directly attributable to drought conditions and not to other factors.
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– An investigation is now being made of the comparative advantages and disadvantages of developing Essendon airport and other possible sites ‘near Melbourne as an international airport for Melbourne. An investigation of this nature is of necessity complex, involving both operational and engineering considerations. No firm date can yet be given for the completion of this work, but I assure the honorable senator that it is being treated by my department as a matter of the utmost urgency.
It would be inappropriate at this time to give precise information about the actual areas under investigation. It can, however, be stated that one of the areas is on the western side of Melbourne.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice - -1. Is it a fact that the purchase of farms, and the development of land for war service land settlement, will cease at the end of the .financial year 1958-59?
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answer: -
The Commonwealth has set a target date, 30th June, 1959, for the completion of war service land settlement in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. It is expected that by that date the projects under development will be substantially completed and the farms allotted to classified ex-servicemen. Sufficient blocks will be available under this programme to meet the outstanding demand in Western Australia and Tasmania. South Australia, however, has not been able to procure adequate areas of suitable land to meet the demand in that State, and those applicants unlikely to obtain farms under the scheme have been advised accordingly by the State Government.
New South Wales and Victoria find the capital funds for war service land settlement from their own resources. The date of termination of the present scheme is therefore a matter for decision by those governments. In recent years the Commonwealth has endeavoured to accelerate settlement in these States by providing additional finance by means of special loans. The arrangement covering these loans does not extend beyond 30th June, 1959. On estimates made by the States it is possible that Victoria can satisfy demand by that date. The New South Wales position is being improved by the grant of these extra funds by the Commonwealth Government.
The scheme has been successful and has set a pattern which has already been followed by some States for civilian settlement, either through legislation for a scheme to follow war service land settlement, or for financial assistance to existing farmers. Civilian land settlement is constitutionally a function of the States themselves, and I have no doubt that their experience in war service land settlement will be carried over into this sphere.
– (New South Wales - Minister for National Development) - by leave - This afternoon, in another place, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made a statement on defence. I shall read the prepared statement to the Senate. It is as follows -
In November last, Cabinet appointed a subcommittee, with that very distinguished citizen and soldier, Lieutenant-General Sir Leslie Morshead, as its chairman, and the Chairman of the Public Service Board, Sir William Dunk, the Secretary of the Department of Defence, Mr. E. W. Hicks, and the Assistant Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department, Mr. E. J. Bunting, as members, to review the organization of the defence group of departments, and to advise Cabinet.
The committee submitted a report in December and a supplementary report in February. Its recommendations fell into two groups. In the first place, it recommended that the separate Departments of Defence, Navy, Army and Air should be amalgamated into a single Department of Defence under a single Minister for Defence.
The committee linked with this recommendation a proposal that the Minister for Defence should, because of the wide and heavy nature of his responsibilities, receive assistance from two associate Ministers. These associate Ministers would have their defence assignments in addition to their own non-defence ministerial portfolios.
It was proposed further that the associate Ministers should be allotted duties on a “ functional “ and not a “ service “ basis, i.e. that instead of a Minister in charge of all the detailed administrative matters affecting the Navy, as we now have, another in charge of Army matters, another in charge of Air matters, there would be one associate Minister in charge of certain functions, say, personnel, for all Services and another associate Minister in charge of another group of functions, say, logistics, or, briefly, military supply and material provision, for all the Services.
The second group of recommendations included a variety of matters. One recommendation was that the separate Departments of Supply and Defence Production should be amalgamated into a single department, under a single Minister. Others related to various devices for improving efficiency, reducing overlapping, encouraging the development of common services, defining the responsibilities of service chiefs, and strengthening the overall authority and control of the Minister for Defence.
As I will refer to these recommendations in detail as they have been dealt with by the Cabinet, it is not necessary to set them out categorically at this stage. I will, therefore, proceed to set out the Government’s decisions and, where necessary, the reasons for them.
Before doing so, I should express the Government’s great indebtedness to this very strong committee for its constructive work. Where we have disagreed with a recommendation, as we have in the case of complete amalgamation, we have done so after careful thought and only for reasons which seem to us to be compelling; as I will now proceed to explain.
We have adopted several proposals. But as we have rejected the recommendation of the Morshead Committee for a complete amalgamation into one Department of Defence and the three Service Departments, it is important that I should state to the House quite clearly our reasons for so doing. This is the more important because we were at first greatly attracted to the idea of a single integrated department. But further consideration has convinced us that the proposed scheme would not work if parliamentary control is to be preserved and administrative efficiency retained.
At the risk of wearying the House, I will set out as briefly as possible the considerations which have led us to these conclusions. It is not to the point to refer to the fact that before the war there was a single integrated Department of Defence. So there was, but our armed forces were very small. The scientific complexities of defence preparation were only beginning. Munitions production was in a rudimentary stage. The overall expenditure on defence at no time exceeded £14,000,000 in a year. Rapid war-time expansion from early 1939 onwards made the creation of separate departments inevitable.
Nowadays, though we are again at peace, the problems are immeasurably more complex than they were in 1938. The forces are larger; technical problems have multiplied; munitions production is more extensive and varied; the overall defence expenditure runs in the vicinity of £200,000,000.
We are, under these circumstances, convinced that the task of overall Defence political administration and responsibility is far too great for one minister. We cannot go back to 1938.
The committee recognized this. It proposed to meet it by the completely novel expedient - nol adopted so far as we know anywhere else in the world - of having two associate ministers who could deal with indicated functions or elements common to the three services. Thus, as I have said, it was suggested that one associate minister might be made responsible for logistics and the other for personnel.
Two sets of considerations seem to us to render this recommendation impracticable, and I now proceed to summarize them. There have been from time to time proposals that assistant Ministers could and should be appointed for various purposes. Indeed, years ago, assistant Ministers were actually appointed.
As I have always doubted whether such appointments are constitutionally valid, I recently asked the Attorney-General to secure opinions on -mi, point from constitutional lawyers of standing. These have been obtained and studied. To appreciate them, it is necessary to make a brief reference to the terms of the Commonwealth Constitution which, of course, bind the Government and the Parliament.
Under section 44, any person who holds any “ office of profit under the Crown “ is incapable of sitting as a member of the House of Representatives. In addition to forfeiting his seat, he is, under section 46, liable until this Parliament otherwise provides, to a daily penalty at the suit of a common informer. The only office of profit under the Crown which a member may take without forfeiture is that of one of the Queen’s Ministers of State for the Commonwealth.
Under section 64, the Queen’s Ministers of State for the Commonwealth are those appointed to administer such departments of State as the Governor-General in Council may establish.
The opinions obtained show that it would be unsafe, to say the least of it, to appoint a salaried assistant Minister, for almost certainly such an appointment would be to an office of prop under the Crown not authorized by the Con.stitution and would therefore expose the appointee to the forfeiture of his seat in Parliament and to the other penalties provided in the Constitution. We therefore cannot appoint assistant Ministers.
Could we safely appoint parliamentary secretaries? Again the answer is that we cannot, unless the office of parliamentary secretary is purely honorary. As it is not reasonable to expect members of Parliament to undertake continuous administrative responsibilities within a department without some additional compensation beyond their normal parliamentary salaries as private members, neither the appointment of an assistant Minister nor of a parliamentary secretary would offer any valid hope of easing the administrative burden of the Minister of an integrated defence department.
To meet this position, the committee hit on the device of associate Ministers, the validity of whose appointments would be established by first appointing them to be Ministers of State for some other department. Thus, for example, a Minister validly appointed as Minister for Works, Works being one of the departments of State, could be named in addition as Associate Minister for Defence. As Associate Minister for Defence he would be assigned, say, to the logistics of the three services; he would not receive his salary in respect of the work so assigned, but in respect of his duties as Minister for Works. As there would be no department of defence logistics, be would do his administrative work in that field, not through a departmental head but through one or more of the officers in the overall defence organization.
It will be readily seen by those with experience of political administration that, under these circumstances, the position and authority of the associate Minister would be extremely ambiguous. He would be trying to deal with one stratum of the business of defence, a stratum common to all services, without that clear vertical line of authority which exists when a Minister deals with a permanent head and the permanent head deals with those through whom authority devolves to the point of ultimate action. In addition, how would such an associate Minister stand in relation to the three Chiefs of Staff who, in any conception of an integrated Defence Department, would exist in close proximity to the Minister for Defence and be primarily responsible to him?
We have, in short, such doubts of the efficacy of a scheme of associate Ministers on a functional basis that we do not feel able to accept the risks of adopting it, particularly when there is no world experience to persuade us that it will work.
But there is another and very powerful reason, one which the committee could not reasonably be expected to consider in the same way as a Cabinet must. It is this. As President Eisenhower recently said in an address to Congress -
One requirement of military organization is a clear subordination of the military services to duly constituted civilian authority. This control must be real, not merely on the surface.
This statement expresses the traditional and sound view in Australia. Parliament votes defence moneys on behalf of the people who have elected it. Parliament is entitled to control that expenditure. Parliament is entitled to have, sitting in it as Ministers, people directly responsible for all aspects of this expenditure and of the policies which are being formed and operated. In brief, there must be constant and complete accountability in Parliament.
Now, let us suppose that we have a Minister for Defence and two associate Ministers - one dealing with personnel and one with logistics. True, questions could be put to either of the associate Ministers about the particular layer of interservice matters dealt with by him. But who would answer in Parliament any question or debate in respect of service matters not included in either of those two layers? Logistics and personnel do not by any means include the whole gamut of matters covered by service activities. Yet it is just on many of these points of detailed administration that questions arise in this House and members become entitled to information and to answers to criticism.
Somebody must, politically and in Parliament, be responsible. Under the “ associate Ministers “ proposal, it would be the Minister for Defence. This would mean that the Minister for Defence, who can to-day leave to the service Ministers in Parliament all detailed matters relating to the actual administration of the services, would need himself to become familiar with many of those administrative details outside the areas of logistics and personnel, details with which he need not to-day concern himself at all.
This would mean that, in order to preserve the vital principle of parliamentary authority, the Minister for Defence would have to become in part a detailed services administrator and would therefore have less time to consider those great problems of constant strategic thinking and overall planning which it is the vital business of the Department of Defence to deal with. In brief, the Defence Minister would find himself devoting less attention to defence policy, which is of the essence of his functions, and defence would suffer accordingly.
Having regard to all these considerations, the Cabinet has concluded that a complete integration of the four departments is not feasible, and that in particular the distribution of the work by the creation of associate Ministers, each of whom would of necessity have another normal civilian department to administer, could not be accommodated either to the needs of efficiency or the preservation of the parliamentary system of Government.
But this does not by any means dispose of the matter. While we have, with great regret, not felt able to accept the particular recommendation of the committee to which I have already referred, we have not lost sight of the underlying considerations which influenced that recommendation. We are, like the committee, and greatly assisted by it, convinced that the present administrative structure in Defence needs candid examination and. in important respects, material improvement.
The authority of the Department of Defence, which should be clear and commanding, has come to be regarded as uncertain in various particulars.
The existence of separate service departments, although it has advantages, tends to make it difficult to get truly unified joint service views. Sometimes it may make those views amount to a somewhat uneasy compromise between honestly maintained but conflicting conceptions and interests.
The two departments of Supply and Defence Production have operated outside the overall authority of the Department of Defence, and this has no doubt led to a state of affairs in which there may be, and occasionally has been, divergence between the views of the service departments and the two supplying departments on matters of defence supply and production. Examination shows that there may be some overlapping or duplication of services which might well be common services.
The association between the three Chiefs of Staff and the Minister for Defence, and the constant formulation by the three Chiefs of Staff of joint professional advice, both need material improvement. Administrative efficiency in the service departments themselves requires a much closer contact between those departments and the Department of Defence on the political, professional and administrative level. We have given much thought to each of these factors. In the decisions which I will now indicate we have sought to establish or prepare for as great a measure of integration as can be obtained without a complete structural merger of four departments into one.
I will now discuss the elements to which I have just referred. I deal first with the authority of the Minister for Defence and Department of Defence.
We propose to clarify this by issuing an administrative direction which will establish the complete superiority of the Department of Defence in the field of policy and which will also enable that department by authority, if persuasion fails, to secure the elimination of overlapping between the departments and the creation wherever possibleof common services and standards.
We acknowledge that difficulties have existed in securing truly joint service views, including the allocation of annual votes, for presentation through the Minister for Defence to the Cabinet. Such difficulty is easy to understand, since each service is naturally and traditionally concentrated upon its own needs.
In addition to this, the Chiefs of Staff, though they have much contact, have probably not been called upon sufficiently to meet as such without civilian intervention, for the expression of a purely professional view on purely military matters. They have as a rule formed members of larger committees in which important non-professional considerations, either political or financial, have also been taken into account.
It is of course right that when a government gives a decision, all factors, military and nonmilitary, should be in its mind; but it is, in our judgment, vital that the Chiefs of Staff should make their military appreciations and constantly bring them up to date independently of non-military considerations, so that when subsequent meetings occur, the military view may be clearly understood, though it may, and will, in practice, have to give way in some particulars to considerations of political policy or finance.
We have, therefore, decided that the Chiefs of Staff will in future, in addition to sitting in the other committees, meet regularly for the formulation of purely military views. In such meetings they will have at call the defence scientific advisers and others whom they may need. This should in itself produce a greater integration of military judgment than has hitherto been obtained.
But we must go further. It is not desirable that the Minister for Defence should receive military advice which represents a form of compromise between able men holding strong service views without having the assistance of an experienced and comprehensive military view singly and clearly evolved in the light of what the Chiefs of Staff have said and thrashed out in consultation. We have, therefore, decided that there should be a chairman of the Chiefs of Staff committee who is not himself currently one of the Chiefs of Staff. He must, of course, be a military man of eminence and therefore drawn from one of the services. But his duty will not be towards his former service but to the Minister in respect of the overall defence picture. He will not in any way affect or reduce the proper authority of a Chief of Staff in relation to the affairs of that chief’s own service, Navy, Army or Air. But on the ultimate level of what I will call joint service policy and planning, he will -
convene meetings of the Chiefs of Staff;
arrange the agenda in consultation;
aim at securing comprehensive decisions and appreciations;
give advice to the Minister and Department of Defence and, with the Chiefs of Staff, attend and take part in meetings of the Defence Committee; and
act as our military liaison officer on Seato, Anzus and Anzam.
While on these matters of integration of appreciations and policies, I should remind the Senate that, for the co-ordination of inter-service military ideas with the special knowledge of the Department of External Affairs, the financial considerations of the Treasury, and the broad policy preoccupations of the Prime Minister’s Department, we already have a Defence Committee in which the heads of these departments together with the Chiefs of Staff sit under the chairmanship of the Secretary of the Department of Defence.
This Defence Committee has been in existence for approximately a year and has worked extremely well in practice. It has provided an effective means of advising the Minister for Defence and the Government on the co-ordination of military, strategic, external affairs, economic and financial factors into comprehensive policy. We propose that this committee shall continue to function with the addition of the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee to its membership. Defence policy is determined and varied by the inter-action of the three basic elements of intelligence, resources and plans; the continuance of the Defence Committee will ensure that there is an adequate continuing review of all aspects of our national defence policy.
But the development of integrated ideas must be pursued not in one field but as far as possible in all. We have therefore decided that, while the paramount authority of the Minister for Defence is to be put beyond question, that Minister will intensify the practice of bringing into consultation the Service and Supply Ministers, so that they may constantly be informed on defence policy and be able to draw upon their own departmental experience to make suggestions of an informed kind at the appropriate level.
Similarly, the permanent heads of the Service departments and the Department of Supply will be in frequentconsultation with the permanent head of the Department of Defence and will be, in appropriate cases, accompanied by some senior expert adviser,military or scientific. This will greatly assist common understanding and enable the necessary follow-up work to be handled more coherently and speedily.
We accept the recommendation that the Departments of Supply and of Defence Production should be amalgamated into one Departmentof Supply. Arrangements to this end have been in progress for some weeks and there will be no delay in constituting the new amalgamated department.
So that there may be not only at the top but at all levels a close association between the work and ideas of the Services and the work and ideas of the Department of Supply including the very important section relating to research and development, if will be made clear in the Administrative Directionthat the Department of Supply, like the
Service departments, will in future operate within and subject to the general policy authority of the Department of Defence.
There is an urgent need, as the committee has emphasized to us, for the elimination of overlapping, for the co-ordinating of activities and for the development of common services. The paramount responsibility for this activity will be with the Department of Defence. For this purpose, organization and methods review will, while conducted to an extent inside each Service department, flow from and be controlled by centralized machinery within the Department of Defence, the Minister for Defence being given the final authority to direct changes in procedures, the institution of common services, and such other reforms as may be brought up by investigation. The procedures are being worked out by the Public Service Board.
As the Department of Supply will, under these arrangements, embody one of the aspects of defence administration, the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, which has at present only a remote association with defence, will be reallocated to the Department of National Development.
Acting upon the views of the committee, as we have in most of what I have already stated, we have also given certain particular decisions designed to effect improvements.
The work of the Aircraft Maintenance Branch of the Department of Defence Production will be limited to the allocation and planning of essential production and resources, leaving the Air Force to order directly from suppliers of services and spare parts, it being understood that the Air Force will in all appropriate cases use the Contracts Board machinery.
The design and inspection work of all the services will be brought together and integrated to the maximum possible extent.
The control by the Department of Defence of the research and development programme will be strengthened to provide for a more direct overall control and review of the programme and also, very importantly, to ensure that the Services are more intimately associated at all relevant stages with the research and development effort.
What Ministers have decided will, we believe, greatly improve the existing position. It is quite true that it stops short of a complete structural and ministerial amalgamation which, for the reasons set out, we do not regard as either practicable or desirable from a parliamentary point of view. But our decisions should go a long way towards eliminating the disadvantages of separatism which are inherent in the present system. They should give rise to much more co-operative effort, the elimination of wasteful duplications, and the clear and authoritative formulation of policy; and enhance administrative speed and efficiency. All of the elements in defence will be brought more closely together. Close contacts and the promotion of common services wherever possible will tend to produce a growing integration of outlook and ideas and will tend to give a unitary significance and thus a more effective value to the total defence effort.
I lay on the table the following paper -
Defence Organization - Statement by the Prime Minister, dated 19th March, 1958, and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 13 th March (vide page 173), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
14.201. - The measure now before the Senate seeks to amend the Atomic Energy Act passed in 1953. Its purpose is mainly procedural, in that the commission appointed under the original act to control the development of atomic energy in this country is to be reconstituted. Under the present system there is a chairman, a deputy chairman and a third member, all of whom hold office on a purely part-time basis. The intention is that they will continue to hold office but that, in addition, there will be appointed to the commission an executive member who will function upon a full-time basis. It is proposed also to add to the commission a fifth member who may or may not function on a part-time basis. It might be thought fitting that he should devote the whole of his time to his duties with the commission.
Broadly, the personnel of the commission is to be expanded from three to five. There will be an executive member on a full-time basis. Although the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), in his second-reading speech, said nothing particularly about the qualifications of the prospective new appointees, I think it is implicit in what he said that they should be men of the highest technical and scientific qualifications. I hope that the Minister, in replying to the debate, will confirm my belief that that is what is in the mind of the Government.
– It is contemplated that one of them will have high administrative capacity.
– The Minister informs me that he has in mind that one of them will have high administrative capacity.
I recognize the need for that where the commission is developing, with a growing staff and expanding activities. In such circumstances there certainly is room for an administrator to co-ordinate the activities of the various branches and to ensure that the organization functions with due efficiency. I take it, then, that the other member of the commission would be a person in respect of whose appointment the main consideration would be technical and scientific excellence. I see that the Minister concurs, and with that the Opposition is completely happy.
Following that change, there will be certain consequential amendments to the quorum of the commission, and it will be necessary to do some other things to which I need not make particular reference. There are to be some machinery changes of a kind that, in recent years, have been proposed by the Government in respect of quite a number of bills affecting bodies of this type - statutory bodies in every instance. The Opposition has not seen fit to oppose any of those proposals to date, and it sees no virtue in offering any opposition to what is now proposed regarding the terms under which a member of the commission will vacate his office, or the forms of account to be kept by the commission. We welcome, of course, the provisions in the bill that will strengthen the hands of the Auditor-General and will impose upon him wider duties in the matter of the subjects on which he is to report to this Parliament. With all of those purposes the Opposition has no quarrel. We see the need for greater administrative and functional activity in this vastly important field.
The Minister, at the opening of his second-reading speech, very properly gave to the Senate a survey, in broad terms, of activities throughout Australia in the field of atomic energy and I, in common, I am sure, with everybody in the Senate, am indebted to him for that. One is tempted to embark upon a dissertation on this relatively recent and novel scientific development of power and its potentialities, but I resist the temptation for two reasons. One is quite personal, and the other is that other members of the Opposition are keen to develop the theme. I leave it to them. I should not like it to be thought by anybody in the chamber that I, as Leader of the Opposition, lack an appreciation of the great importance of this field and the vast difference that, with proper development and extension, it could make to the fortunes and the development of this country. I assure the Senate that I and every other member of the Opposition has a perfect appreciation of that fact, and I ask to be excused for leaving the development of the theme in the hands of others on this side of the chamber.
I wish to advert to only one other matter before I conclude, and it is this: From a responsible source in the Parliament, to wit the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson), an attack has been made upon the handling of the project at Lucas Heights where the first reactor in Australia for the development of atomic energy has been established. The attack has been made by Mr. Johnson under a number of heads. My justification for referring to an attack that has been made by somebody else and not by me is the fact that the allegations come from a responsible source - a member of my party, of course, but a member of the Parliament and the member who represents the area in which this reactor is situated. I believe that Mr. Johnson has based his allegations upon some personal knowledge of the project. I do not in any way attempt to vouch personally for his allegations. I mention them very broadly to give the Minister an opportunity to answer them in due course, because the allegations call for a public reply from somebody on behalf of the Government and from nobody more appropriate than the Minister who is charged with the responsibility of administering the act which this bill proposes to amend.
Mr. Johnson puts it that there has been a failure on behalf of the Government to accord a high priority to the development of this reactor, which is Australia’s only project in this field. He claims that for the last three years, at about this time of the year, quite a number of men employed by the contractors who are constructing the project have been put off and that activity on the project has ceased for a considerable period until more funds have been made available in the ensuing financial year. He has claimed that the project, to use his term, “ has been allowed to crawl at snail’s pace “. I think the Minister should have an opportunity in this chamber to answer those allegations.
Mr. Johnson has pointed out that, although the reactor is to be opened in the immediate future, I understand by the Prime Minister, included among the uncompleted works are the emergency control centre, which will not be in operation when the reactor starts to function. I do not need to develop the hazards of harnessing atomic energy and of keeping it under control, the need for emergency control in the event of anything going wrong, and not having the control eggs, might I say, all in the one basket. It would seem that the reactor should not go into commission unless more provision for emergencies is made. Mr. Johnson has claimed that this reactor will be in commission and will be functioning without the emergency control centre having been properly established. If that is true, I think everybody will agree that it could be a very serious situation.
– Perhaps the honorable senator will permit me to interject and to say that the Australian Atomic Energy Commission has given me a complete assurance that all arrangements are completely safe and, on the safety side, are as they should be.
– I should expect that to be the case, and I am very happy to know that the commission has convinced the Minister that everything is completely safe. But I think that does not absolve him from dealing with the allegation that has been made by Mr. Johnson, and I am giving him the opportunty to deal with it quite publicly.
– I shall deal with the allegation. I thought it was only fair to make the interjection, in case there should be any wrong impression.
– I quite appreciate that, and I was very ready to give the Minister the opportunity to make that statement. I am happy to feel that at least he is satisfied that there will be no danger to anybody in the locality from the use of the reactor. I shall be very interested to hear what he must say presently upon the existence of emergency control.
Mr. Johnson has put the further point that the physics laboratory has not been commenced, that a chemistry and chemical engineering block is without equipment, that extensive and protective concrete cells are not even under construction, that a lecture theatre to be used for the training of atomic scientists has not been commenced, and that another uncompleted section is the engineering workshop and the metallurgy block. He claimed, finally, that among other half-built and uncompleted works are the staff cottages and the inflammable materials store.
I merely indicate to the Senate that, having put those matters on record, and having relied upon the responsibility of the person who made the allegations, I look forward with interest to the Minister’s reply in due course.
– I join in this debate with very great interest; but honorable senators will appreciate that I shall not attempt to answer the questions that have been put by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), as I have observed the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) taking careful note of what has been said.
The question before the Senate this afternoon is this: Should the Senate agree to extend the structure of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission? I think it behoves the Senate, on every such occasion, to examine carefully any request that is made by the Government for an expansion of its activities, an expansion and increase of government expenditure and, in particular, an expansion of the civil service. Obviously, an extension of the structure of the Atomic Energy Commission will involve some increase of the civil service, no matter how slight. Therefore, the task that is before the Senate this afternoon is to examine critically this proposition that the Government has submitted.
It should be remembered that the 1953 legislation, which this bill seeks to amend, was really a consolidation of legislation which followed the passing of the Atomic Energy (Control of Materials) Act 1946. It is interesting to recall - I proudly proclaim this as a senator from South Australia - that even before 1946 the South Australian Government under the leadership of Mr. Playford, as he then was, was able to discover uranium and that it had done certain preliminary work in relation to its mining and even some scientific work’ on its processing and treatment. Of course.! the great lift in Australia in regard to: uranium came when a certain gentleman by the name of White discovered in the Northern Territory the field that now has become known as Rum Jungle. I compliment the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) upon the fact that his department, with its sub-department the Bureau of Mineral Resources, and the Department of Supply were quickly on the spot in the Northern Territory to explore and to extend this remarkable discovery that was made by Mr. White. I note that the Minister at the table is the Minister in charge of National Development and the peaceful uses of atomic energy, so this important work is co-ordinated or integrated under one Minister.
I was privileged in 1955 to visit the Northern Territory where I found a group of zealous men, officers of the Department of Territories, the Northern Territory Administration, the Bureau of Mineral Resources, and, most importantly to my mind, a group of keen young men employed by Territory Enterprises Proprietary Limited, a subsidiary of Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited. This group of young men was assisting the Government in the mining and processing of uranium ores. Rum Jungle is also a site of great importance. This vast hill just near the Adelaide River in the Northern Territory was being gouged out by a series of mechanical appliances filling trucks which were leaving almost minute by minute with many tons of ore and earth for treatment.
The Australian Atomic Energy Commission, within a few years - almost within a few months - of the discovery of uranium ore, was developing the area and has continued to do so at a great and improved rate. The enthusiasm displayed by the commission was caught by private enterprise and throughout the Northern Territory small areas were being explored by men with very interesting equipment such as geiger counters; aircraft were flying overhead; a number of explorations were under the control of companies, and even individual prospectors were searching for this important metal.
My colleagues and I visited El Sharana, a small show on the Adelaide River, and also the find of the North Australian Uranium Corporation on the Alligator River. Although a number of these small, and even the lar.ger organizations, may not have progressed very far in the discovery of uranium, they are carrying out a thoughtful and careful exploration of that area.
During question time to-day the Maranboy tin-field was discussed and we learned that one of the companies searching for uranium was able to extend some of its activities to the important matter of tinmining. I compliment the commission on the energy it has displayed since its inception. However, as a South Australian, I feel that it is a matter of regret that the Commonwealth has not extended some of its energy towards closer co-operation with South Australia. In particular I mention the work, as I know it, of the Mines Department in that State. Sir Thomas Playford played a very great part in fostering the scientific discovery of uranium at places like Radium Hill and Croker’s Well and establishing the mining plants at those places. In addition, he fostered the erection of a treatment plant at Port Pirie which is the home of smelting in Australia and possibly one of the great centres of the world where scientific smelting and metallurgy are carried on. Consequently, there has been considerably large development in South Australia in uranium mining and the establishment of uranium treatment plant. lt is a pity that the activities of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission are not more manifest in South Australia seeing that that State and those associated with the University of Adelaide, the Mines Department and famous geologists have all done so much, virtually off their own bat, with the limited funds available to South Australia by way of taxation concessions and assistance from the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
South Australia feels a great expectation in the matter of the development of heavy industry. I should like to see at least one member of the commission appointed from South Australia because I feel the commission generally would obtain a great advantage in having as a member a man brought up, trained and experienced in those matters relating to uranium that have arisen in South Australia during the last six or seven years. The Commonwealth will not be dissatisfied with the quality of scientists from that State. It should be remembered that the British Government, with the co-operation of the Australian Government, created the nucleus of very high scientific knowledge and technique there - I refer to the long range weapons establishments at Salisbury, Woomera and Maralinga. South Australia could produce a person who would adorn the commission in its extended form.
The Fifth Annual Report of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, which has recently come before the Senate, contains some very interesting aspects. One is the statement that at present it would appear the erection of an atomic power station in Australia is justified. This extended commission immediately should set its mind to work on that matter even though the power station may be only small. I feel the people of Australia would like to see something actually in existence.
– Where would it be erected?
– Mount Isa, in Queensland, has been mentioned. I believe Mount Isa can make a strong claim for the erection of an atomic power station because it is hundreds of miles away from major cities at the source of the minerals. I understand it is in rather an arid area where water is not readily available, and a vast potential of copper and other minerals is indicated. I should like to mention one of our own territories, the Northern Territory, and in particular Tennant Creek, because I feel that Tennant Creek itself is a place that should be examined by this commission. There is a large area of potential mineral wealth. I believe that rich gold and copper deposits are already being mined. In particular, the gold at some of the mines is being produced at a profitable price. In normal times, I understand, the copper from that area can be produced at a profitable price.
I should like to mention again a matter relating to South Australia. In view of the expansion that is going on in the WhyallaIron Knob area with heavy industry and all the subsidiary industry that follows after a steel-works has been established, I feel that the question of power may be of great importance. I agree that when a steel industry is established, coke and gas are produced from the coal that is necessarily consumed, but I still feel that additional power will be required. I ask the
Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), who is now at the table, to consider the advisability of the Atomic Energy Commission looking into the establishment of atomic energy plants at places other than Mount Isa, the one place referred to in its report. I have in mind Tennant Creek, and in particular the Whyalla-Iron Knob area. Of course, we all agree and hope that the extension of the use of atomic energy will develop along peaceful lines. One of the great hopes of the world, I think, is that the isotopes will be used in medical science, in industry, and even in connexion with agricultural research, so that vast and important expansions in food production will take place, because there are so many people hungry in this world at the present time.
I am glad to see that the Atomic Energy Commission, in its excellent report, devoted a whole chapter to its research programme, and in particular referred to isotopes and agricultural research and actually gave statistics of the number of inquiries it has had from Industry, Agriculture and Medicine. I do hope that that extends.
I want to make one reference to what I think is a very bad mistake that the commission has made, or not so much the commission, as the Government. I refer to the loss of one of its eminent men, Sir Jack Stevens. It should be remembered that Sir Jack was the chairman of the commission for some time and it amazes me to read that immediately after he had been sent round the world, obviously at the expense of the Government, in his official capacity, he was able to retire from his office and relinquish his work. I feel that this is a matter that should not go unnoticed and I do hope that when the new commissioners are appointed - and I agree entirely that they should be men of the highest calibre, and that one in particular should be a man of the highest ability in business administration - some definite understanding or arrangement will be worked out so that as soon as they return from an important visit abroad their services will not be directly lost to the Commonwealth as the services of Sir Jack Stevens were obviously lost immediately on his return.
I wish to refer to one fact that I was pleased to learn on studying the report of the Atomic Energy Commission. It is that
Sir Jack Stevens is now a member of a body known as the Business Advisory Group. He, of course, is a member of that group because of his association, I understand, with A.E.I. Limited - he is chairman of that company - and he is executive chairman of Australian Electrical Industries Proprietary Limited. I pass the suggestion on to the Government that it should be most careful that people whom its appoints will at least serve for a specific time and, in particular, that those whom it appoints and sends abroad will for certain remain with the commission for some time.
There is one other small matter that I should like to mention. I am pleased to see a minor amendment in clause 9 of the bill. The clause provides for the amendment of section 38 of the principal act. The gist of the amendment is that inroads on the liberties of the subject or the rights or laws of a State or Territory shall not be made except by regulation. Under section 38, it was possible for the Government to do certain things by order. I am very pleased to see that when this bill passes, that is to be done only by regulation. That is very important, because it should be remembered that all regulations lie on the table of both Houses of Parliament and, of course, under our own Standing Orders, regulations that lie on the table of the Senate are committed to the Regulations and Ordinances Committee of the Senate. I compliment the Government on introducing that amendment because I think it is right and proper that any restriction of the liberty of the subject or of the rights of the States should only be done after the regulation passes the surveillance of this Senate and its Regulations and Ordinances Committee.
I remind the Minister for National Development of a matter that I referred to him in October last. In the King’s Hall at that time there was a somewhat remarkable exhibition of the uses of atomic energy. There were photographs and working models, and what was most important, J thought, was that there were present some excellent young officers of the commission to assist us in our understanding of the matters to which the photographs referred and the cost of the creation of these working models. At that time, I could not help but observe the number of young people, particularly senior school and high school children, who spent some considerable time observing this exhibition.
J asked the Minister whether it was possible for the exhibition, when moving to other States, to come to South Australia and, in particular, to some of the country areas of that State. He was good enough to reply to me in writing to the effect that the commission would take the exhibition to Adelaide probably about September, 1958 I should like the Minister, when replying to this debate, to let me know whether it is possible to bring this exhibition to South Australia, in particular to some of the country areas. I suggested that it should be possible to have the exhibition in the southern part and in the north of South Australia. I now stress the desirability of having this exhibition in places such as Port Pirie, because it should be remembered that if it is to go to Western Australia by rail, trans-shipment will be necessary at Port Pirie because of the break of gauge. Secondly, Port Pirie is the home of uranium treatment in South Australia. Thirdly, we hope that wherever this exhibition may be young people, particularly those who aspire to become scientists in the future, will get the germ, as it were, of the importance of study of and experience in this new element.
I should be pleased to hear whether the Minister has anything to report, first, on the activities of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission in South Australia; secondly, on the view that one of the members of -the commission could well be appointed by South Australia; thirdly, on the possibility of establishing an atomic power station in the area that I have mentioned; and, fourthly, on the subject of the exhibition, and its presentation in the metropolitan area, and at least two country areas, of the’ State which I am proud to represent. I compliment the Government on its expansion programme in this field, and hope that the measure will receive the speedy and favorable support of this chamber.
.- I feel sure that all honorable senators regard as very important any bill relating to the development of power in Australia. The measure before us is especially important because it is concerned with a new form of power. We acknowledge the fact that Australia is not an oil-producing country and is, therefore, considerably handicapped in comparison with countries which can produce their oil requirements.
The world has witnessed, since the beginning of history, a number of power eras. As we all know, there was first the period of manual power, when the pyramids were constructed. Man was next able to harness the wind, and use the power of beasts such as horses and bullocks. Then came the internal combustion engine, and steam and various other forms of power.
Senator Laught said that the Australian people would like to have an atomic power plant operating immediately. This is true, and springs from public curiosity in any new form of power. However, the ready acceptance of new power sources was not always so marked. It is interesting to read what was said when electrical energy was first mooted. In 1878 - 80 years ago - a certain professor said this of the Paris exhibition, where electric power and electric light were first demonstrated -
I may say, without fear of contradiction, that when the Paris exhibition closes electric light will close with it, and very little more will be heard of it.
– When did that happen?
– In 1878. If the honorable senator is interested I can give him the name of the professor also. Modern man is much more ready to accept without reservation the claims made for a new source of power. It is interesting to think how many gallons of diesel oil are used in Australia each year. I understand that Senator Scott will be speaking on the bill. He will probably give us the estimated consumption for the coming year. It is astonishing to contemplate the fact that this cheap source of power - diesel oil - is used to drive heavy equipment, such as tractors and earth moving machinery, and also ships, trucks and stationary engines. At present, of course, man employs a combination of power sources. He uses oil, steam and the wind. Consider, for instance, the useful work which windmills alone perform in our agricultural areas.
Now we have come to the era of atomic power, and are all wondering what uses it can be put to economically in time of peace. After thinking a good deal about the matter, I am forced to the belief that the uranium deposits of the country should be controlled by the national Government. The people should have some say in how those deposits shall be worked, and the uranium oxide from them used. I think that that is necessary, because atomic energy is a new source of power and the Goverment will have to spend large sums in developing it. I feel fairly certain that, in Australia, atomic energy will have to be produced first by the Commonwealth Government, or by some organization to whom it has given a great deal of financial assistance. The main problem associated with atomic energy is the finding of uranium deposits. It is useless to think what you intend to do with atomic energy unless you first find uranium deposits in sufficient volume to enable your plans to be carried through to a satisfactory conclusion. I am not sure whether the Minister indicated that an assessment of the uranium deposits in the Commonwealth had been made. Even if he did, I doubt whether he would make that information available to us.
I have been to the uranium producing centre at Mary Kathleen, and have examined the works there. I was impressed most by the modern township that has been provided by the operating company. Special thought seems to have been given to the comfort of those who will have to live there and produce the uranium ores. I was also greatly impressed by the huge dam - of about 3,300,000,000 gallons capacity - which will provide the water needed by the enterprise. All this has, of course, been provided by a private company. I understand from the employees that the whole place has a congenial atmosphere which is quite unlike that of the primitive mining camps of many years ago. There is a school, footpaths, recreation halls and canteens, and every consideration has been given to the welfare of employees. I always believe that whenever a project like that at Mary Kathleen gets under way it will not be very long before suitable deposits will be found in the surrounding districts. I have spoken to experienced miners who have searched for uranium deposits and some of them have informed me that one of the last places where they would have been inclined to search for uranium was where it was found at Mary Kathleen. There are other localities there where mining activities are on a huge scale. Mount Isa Mines Limited is operating not very far away from Mary Kathleen. While that company has been mining its ores, it has, of course, been searching for other fields adjacent to the mine. That goes on in almost all mining undertakings. They operate their mines and at the same time carry out exploration work in the neighbourhood.
The act of 1953 provided for rewards for people who discovered uranium fields. It is interesting to note that in 1956-57 £38,000 was paid out in the form of rewards to people who discovered worthwhile uranium deposits. I hope the Government will not cease to pay rewards to people who discover uranium deposits. They are people who are prepared to go into arid areas and live in a very crude manner while they search for uranium so that we can have atomic energy sooner or later.
We know that Australia’s capacity to develop atomic energy is definitely limited. First of all, we have to acquire the knowledge how to convert uranium into the material that is used. That is where Australia is lagging. In the past, we have not had an opportunity to train staff or to acquire the machinery necessary to set up atomic power houses, so we are starting more or less at the beginning. The Government no doubt had the best of intentions when it included in its 1953 legislation provisions relating to scholarships and fellowships through which university graduates could enter the service of the commission that had been established, thus enabling them to acquire the knowledge necessary to, complete the work that has to be done on the development of atomic power. The latest report of the commission discloses that very few scholarships and fellowships have been granted. I earnestly hope that the Government will continue to grant these scholarships and fellowships to young men. I hope that, having granted a number this year, it will not reduce the number next year and then perhaps, allow the practice of granting scholarships to fade out altogether. I know, of course, that the number of scholarships granted must be balanced with the amount of uranium oxide available and the ability of the Government to create atomic energy.
– I think the cost of scholarships last year was about £47,000.
– The scholarships certainly cost money, but there were far fewer than 47,000 scholarships granted.
– These scholarships cost more than £1 each.
– They certainly do, but we are dealing with a new power and a great deal of pioneering research work must be done. Other nations which produce uranium and seek to develop atomic power have found it necessary to exchange information on the results of their research. International conferences have been held, and I think at one of those conferences 81 countries were represented. The United Nations is also interested and arranges for the distribution of information. In Australia, surely the six State governments, not only the Commonwealth Government, are interested in the development of atomic power. Provision for research has been made by the Commonwealth Government and facilities exist for disseminating information, but how the scheme is being executed, I am not fully aware.
I should like to see the reactor that has been recently established near Sydney, as well as any atomic power stations we may establish, wholly staffed by Australians. I know that initially we must hire staff from overseas, but let us seek eventually to have the whole of the work carried out by Australian men and women.
– Even America does not employ Americans exclusively in its atomic research work.
– That may be so, but that raises the point of the exchange of information. America employs experts from other countries because they have the knowledge required, but with a proper exchange of information the difficulty of finding people with the requisite knowledge will be overcome. I earnestly look forward to the time when we will be able to rely upon our own Australian youth to do the whole of the work.
I look forward to the early development of atomic power. Recently in Queensland I witnessed the destruction caused by a very serious drought - perhaps the most serious drought that Queensland has ever experienced. Stock died by the thousand because of shortages of feed and water.
Queensland’s prospect of great irrigation projects is rather dim at present, but if a cheap and convenient form of power could be developed the outlook would be much brighter. That is one of the reasons why I wish to see an early development of atomic power.
I wish now to refer to the market for uranium oxide. I have searched the Estimates to find out how much the Commonwealth Government received from sales of uranium mined at Rum Jungle but I have been unable to obtain any information on the point. Why that is so, I do not know. The department controlling the sale of uranium is an important one. Last year its administration costs were £698,978 and the estimate for this year is £1,411,000. Evidently it is proposed to increase the staff and the work of the department. We find also that last year £2,515,000 was spent on capital works and services. The vote for the current year is £2,674,000. It would appear from this that some progress is being made towards the establishment of atomic energy in Australia. I think that Senator Laught suggested that what might be termed a pilot power house, or a miniature station, should be built so that the people will be induced to become greatly interested in it and so as to encourage the extension of atomic power stations to various parts of Australia.
Senator Laught discussed the potentialities of many mining areas in Australia. I think honorable senators know just how important the development of electricity, and especially cheap atomic power, is to mining centres. To-day, a question was asked about income tax concessions for the mining industry. I understand that some income tax concessions are granted to the uranium mining industry, and that those concessions are to operate for another year or two. They are some incentive to the industry, and if it is possible for the Government to provide one incentive, then I suggest it would do well to search for means of offering other incentives. I make that suggestion because I do not want Australia to lag behind other countries in this field. Canada, the United States of America, Britain and other countries are directing their resources towards the establishment of stations for the generation and reticulation of atomic power. I do not want Australia to be left in the background in the development of this new power; I want her to progress; indeed, I should like her to lead the world in this field.
The main object of the bill, of course, relates to administration. If the measure will bring about some improvement in the administration of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, it may be the means of speeding the day when Australia will enjoy the benefits of atomic energy.
.- I support this measure which is aimed at strengthening the Australian Atomic Energy Commission by providing, under section 3 of the act for the appointment of a permanent member. In my opinion, the bill itself is a recognition of the increasing importance of atomic energy in this day and age. I believe also that if ever anybody had a full-time job, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission has one. It is pleasing, therefore, to see the Government taking appropriate measures to strengthen the commission’s hands.
In the few years of its history, atomic energy has usually conjured up in our minds visions of a dark, ominous mushroomshaped cloud spreading debris, desolation and death, and it is reassuring to know that in respect of the peaceful uses of atomic energy, to which on the surface this commission has directed its attention exclusively, a far prettier picture may be painted, and Australia must be up and doing in this important field.
In its last annual report, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission outlined an encouraging list of achievements. It has fostered the discovery of uranium throughout Australia; it has supervised the activities of the main field at Rum Jungle, which I had the opportunity of inspecting during the winter recess. Rum Jungle presents a very interesting example of private enterprise and government working very harmoniously in partnership for the good of the nation. The modern plant and the economic methods of extraction used at Rum Jungle are an object lesson to any type of mining in the Commonwealth.
The commission has brought its research men home from Harwell to Sydney, where, of course, it is much easier to see what is going on. The commission has also financed university scholarships in research, and its main physical job has been the supervision of the construction of the reactor at Lucas Heights, which is now nearing completion and is soon to be opened.
The commission’s most obvious activity in the commercial world has been the establishment of the Isotopes Advisory Service and the instruction of industry in the use of this magical gimmick in various processes. The commission has advised persons and organizations on the setting up of nuclear power stations and, all in all, with the help of its experts, it has done a very worthwhile job for Australia in laying the ground work for this atomic energy know-how.
I notice from the last annual report of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission that there is an expanding use of radioisotopes in Australian industry. The report states, on page 43, that radio-isotopes have been widely used in medicine and in scientific research, and that there is evidence of a steady increase in its use, but that in the industrial application of these isotopes Australia has lagged behind other Western countries. That we have lagged behind is unfortunate, but in a young country such as this it is understandable. Therefore, it is pleasing to have this legislation before us, which is aimed at reducing that leeway.
One of the most common industrial applications of a radio-isotope is in gamma radiography. A number of firms are using it consistently in Australia, and it is particularly useful for examining the welds in piping. Some other practical examples of the use of the isotope in tracing trouble are given by the commission in another section of its report. Reference is made to some typical problems in which isotopes have been used to provide a solution. They include the measurement of wear in engineering equipment by means of radio-active gear wheels, the observation of silt flow in a harbour by radio-isotope labelling, the detection of counterfeit coins by beta radiation backscatter, the location of partial blockages in water mains by a float tagged with a radio-isotope, and, finally, the accurate determination of the filament coatings in the production of electronic equipment. Ten years ago, all these things would have been looked upon as black magic. The Australian Atomic Energy Commission is now bringing the knowledge of this abstruse and complex subject well and truly to Australia.
I am indebted to a special correspondent in this morning’s Melbourne “ Age “ for some very encouraging reports, particularly having in view Australia’s requirements in regard to oil production in the peaceful use of atomic energy. In recent experiments conducted in the United States, a peaceful use of atomic bomb explosions, as distinct from the weapons, is seeking and finding out a great deal of information about the earth’s crust below the surface. The American Atomic Energy Commission has stated that by the use of this device its scientists might soon be in a position to make the old type and methods of mining obsolete. The peaceful uses of atomic blasts by the United States, says the correspondent, could gain a coup with as much world impact as the Russian space launchings recently achieved. The civil application of atomic energy probably will be in the search for oil, in the first instance; but the mining industry generally will benefit from these explosions. All major civil engineering projects and works which require the removal of large quantities of earth, such as the shifting or levelling of mountains and filling of valleys, may well benefit from the use of controlled atomic power. To use a biblical analogy, atomic energy is a little like faith, because it can move mountains.
Talks in America between Atomic Energy Commission officials and private industry show that several oil companies are interested in the use of atomic power. A successful explosion was conducted in the Nevada Mountains. There were no hazardous after-effects from the explosion and the engineers were able completely to control its effects. We need not think very hard, Mr. Acting Deputy President, to imagine the value of a scientific search of this nature, perhaps as applied to the oil fields of New Guinea and of Western Australia, or to the Gippsland region and the Murray Valley. We all know of the tremendous disappointment that is felt, after deep oil well drilling has taken place and a well has been sunk to a depth of some thousands of feet, when a dry hole results. For example, in Alberta nearly 2,000 dry holes were sunk before a very rich field was discovered. The fact that so many holes are dry is due to the structure of the earth’s crust. The new atomic method of exploration, by way of a small atomic explosion beneath the crust, has a kind of scatter effect. Instead of exploration being confined to a single drill bore, we have a large area combed for valuable oil by a single explosion.
Dr. Libby, the scientist in charge of the American Atomic Energy Commission, told members of the American Senate that a tiny bomb exploded 2,000 feet inside a mountain had crushed 500,000 tons of rock to sand and had made the mountain jump 6 inches.
– Which way?
– Presumably upwards. The atomic device used had the force of 1,700 tons of T.N.T., which, of course, is very much smaller than that of the atomic bombs which were dropped just before the conclusion of the war with Japan. On the basis of the data derived from these tests, the scientists have calculated that this force could be multiplied as much as 100 times without troublesome effects, thereby increasing the exploratory range of the explosion.
I come back again to the tremendous possibility that this type of work, once it can be put in hand in Australia, may result in the quest for oil, which has been pursued for so long and so arduously, and at such enormous expense, ultimately being successful. Scientists believe that a number of other matters could be learned from under-earth explosions. Enormous quantities of earth could be moved quickly and safely by atomic energy. Atomic bombs could be fired in such a way that radioactivity would seal itself in and would not come out to contaminate the surroundings. In other words, it would be a clean atomic explosion to work with, not a dirty one.
– We will have to have our future atomic wars underground!
– That might not be quite as silly as it sounds. Atomic power could be trapped in a mountain and later tapped. The construction of vast, deep harbours and artificial ports could be undertaken in a weekend. Think what a boon that would be to the Commonwealth
Department of Works! Old oil fields which were virtually played out could be reopened and the oil made to flow again. The final suggestion from the American scientists is that radio-active rocks impregnated by the atomic explosion could be taken out and dissolved to produce isotopes for a vast variety of useful human endeavours. 1 think that those matters to which I have referred show that the area of peaceful uses of atomic energy is far more important and far wider than is the awful power for destruction. But unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world. A discussion of the peaceful uses of atomic energy presupposes a world at peace. That is scarcely an accurate description of our globe to-day. From very many quarters, largely from Communist quarters, has come a cry to ban the testing of atomic weapons. Russian propaganda has worked this theme long and arduously. At the same time, the Russians resisted any suggestion that they should provide proper inspection facilities to ensure that all nations complied with the ban. When the Americans said that they were prepared to discuss the matter on the basis of proper aerial inspection, the reply was an insulting refusal and a suggestion that the American inspection would be simply a form of spying. How the Government of any Western country possibly could accept a proposition that the Western nations should agree to unilateral banning of atomic bomb tests is beyond ray comprehension.
Words have lost their meaning in much of the jargon that is fired at us from propaganda quarters to-day. The words “ peace “ and “ democracy “ have been so misused that they are almost suspect. Speaking from memory, I think that Russia has broken 34 international agreements, nonaggression pacts and truce arrangements since 1921. It would be ludicrous to rely on the unsupported word of Russia, as some honorable senators opposite have suggested we should. A ban on nuclear tests without inspection would be completely futile, as well as dangerous. In my belief, it would be almost traitorous to suggest such a thing. A ban without inspection would be as futile and as dangerous as was the famous ban on kissing imposed by the Roman Emperor Caligula quite a long time ago. That ban did not work. A unilateral ban on nuclear testing could not possibly work, either.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Pearson). - Order! I must remind the honorable senator that he is wandering away from the scope of the bill.
– Very well, Sir. 1 think that the remarks could be linked up in this way: The peaceful development of atomic energy, with which, of course, we are primarily interested and concerned, is impossible unless we are free from fear but, having denuded ourselves of the great deterrent of nuclear weapons, we may be placed in a position where, because we are defenceless, we are no longer able to carry out peaceful work on atomic energy which holds so much good for the future of mankind.
If I am permitted to say so, we can draw an analogy from the position of Byzantium many centuries ago. From about the sixth century to the twelfth century, the Roman empire in the east was tossed on a sea of barbarism. It was hopelessly outnumbered, it could not hire sufficient mercenaries, and it would have been completely at the mercy of the Turks had it not been for the existence of the equivalent of atomic weapons in the form of a highly inflammable substance that was known as Greek fire. It is particularly important to remember, when we are considering the peaceful uses of atomic energy, that for 600 or 700 years Byzantium, without arms and proper protection, was able to develop the peaceful arts because it had this wonderful, unanswerable defensive weapon called Greek fire.
On one occasion in the ninth century when the enemies of the Roman empire had forced the Bosphorus and all seemed lost, the engineers were able to fling themselves upon their pyrophorous syphons and eliminate 10,000 craft in an instant under a torrent of Greek fire. With the passage of time, nothing has been changed in principle. We hope and pray that the fearsome giant of atomic energy will never be let loose in violence again and will never be used to kill human beings; but, at the same time, we must be protected.
I am particularly glad, therefore, that the Government is expanding and strengthening the important body which will have the control of atomic energy in this country. The legislation that is now before this chamber, which I support, will undoubtedly be fraught with great benefit for this community.
– Although the Opposition is not opposing the bill, there are some points that honorable senators wish to discuss and which they are tempted to discuss perhaps a little more fully than if the measure were being opposed. I shall make one or two comments about the statements of Senator Laught. I have no objection to the honorable senator’s eulogizing the South Australian Government and the work it has done, but there is more to be considered than just the work that has been done by that government in the production of uranium oxide. I remind the honorable senator that the Department of National Development knew of deposits of uranium in quite a number of places in South Australia long before work was commenced on them by any South Australian authority. I have a distinct recollection of the discovery about 50 years ago of uranium ores and doing the best we could to separate the uranium salts or uranium oxide from the ores. Although we tried every process that was known to ordinary prospectors, we had to cease our efforts. I think the records of the South Australian Department of Mines will disclose analyses of particular ores and reports saying what those ores contained.
If one goes to Mount Painter one finds torbernites, and at Uranium Hill uraninites. To separate these ores is very difficult for the ordinary man and indeed for the big mining concerns, as I shall indicate presently. In those days the Department of Mines separated and analysed these ores and forwarded us a little chit saying that they contained certain percentages of uranium. But there ‘ was no statement showing what we could do with it or what it could be used for. So we had to ask the department what uranium was used for. We were told, at that time, that there was not much, use for it. Although we could have sent it to Belgium or Germany, the market value was so low that it was not worth sending it overseas. That position obtained right up to the time when the Director of Mines in South Australia, Mr. Dickinson, started to prospect with the aid, of course, of money that was supplied by the South Australian
Government, some of which had come from the Commonwealth Treasury. The result is that mines are actually working. Otherdeposits have been examined, but they would, not be paying propositions if developed by mining companies.
In addition to the places I have mentioned, some work is being done at Crocker’s Well. Crocker’s Well is supposed to have been discovered only quite recently, and I saw a statement which indicated that it was located as a result of an aerial survey. But that is not correct. Crocker’s Well was known to contain some kind of foreign, ore - it was not known to be uranium- - about twenty years ago. This area was discovered by a woman who used to potter around a station property. Eventually she obtained a geiger counter and discovered that the ore in which she was interested contained elements that registered on the counter. The South Australian Government examined the ore and discovered that it contained uranium. I think there is also a very small amount of ore there which contains thorium. There might even be some tin associated with it, too. But uranium was discovered in that area before an aerial survey was made. My reason for referring to this is that quite a number of people think that these minerals can be found by aerial surveys. But all that can be done is to get some idea of where the minerals might be. It is then necessary to go to the area and search for them.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– I should like to mention one or two aspects of this bill. Up to the present time Australia has been exporting uranium ores that were processed and reduced in volume to concentrate form. We are now exporting uranium salts and condensations of uranium oxide. We know that it is too dangerous to export pure uranium to other parts of the world, and for that reason the concentrates - uranium salts and uranium oxide of certain percentage of purity - are sent to overseas plants where the process of separating the pure uranium from the concentrates is completed.
The huge combines in the metal, mineral and chemical industries have complete control of all the secrets attached to the’ use of uranium. I have, on previous occasions, complained in this chamber about the secrecy surrounding the machinery and plant used in the treatment of uranium ores, yet we find, even on the Australian Atomic Energy Commission Advisory Board, representatives of some of the great metal and mineral cartels.
With the exception of Great Britain, the major powers of the world have concentrated upon uranium ores and pure uranium because of their fusion value in the manufacture of atomic bombs. Great Britain, however, is establishing’ a plant that will produce power from uranium. The United States of America is still experimenting on those lines with a view to competing with -Great Britain. Huge concerns such as Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand and the one-time great Farben organization of Germany are in possession of all the secrets in connexion with the processing necessary to produce uranium in its pure form. Those secrets are not available to anybody else. In Australia the Federal Government says, “ Hush, hush; you must not have access to those secrets “. I think that approach is entirely wrong. The matter ought to be open and above board “because if those secrets were available to other persons those particular elements might possibly be used for peaceful purposes instead of being reserved completely for the manufacture of atomic bombs.
If honorable senators were to visit Rum Jungle and South Australia they would find a security screen round the buildings through which they could not enter to view the processes being carried on. I think that also is entirely wrong. The secrets ought to be made available to those people who have the possibility of utilizing the power generated from the fusion material for the purpose of producing electricity and so on, and increasing the production of Australia.
The fifth anual report of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission contains a list of names of the people acting in an advisory capacity to the commission. In that list are men ot considerable standing in the business world. I am not questioning their ability or the advice they would give, but they are connected with huge undertakings with world-wide ramifications, and those undertakings receive the benefit of Australia’s knowledge of processing of these ores while, on the other hand, that knowledge is withheld from the ordinary man in Australia who may be interested in the process.
All of the ores in Australia are refractory ores, that is, they contain some other mineral, such as copper or gold. The treatment of a refractory ore is extraordinarily costly. I have some knowledge of the processes involved in the separation, for normal mining purposes, of ordinary and some refractory ores. Although we have the magnetic grids and the electrolytic and flotation processes, a still further process is involved in refining the uranium ore to obtain pure uranium.
I am not suggesting that the people with overseas connexions are making use of their knowledge at the moment, but the possibility is that in the future they will choke out Australian manufacturers because of the secrets they learned in the experimental stages of the processing, even at Rum Jungle and in South Australia.
That brings me to a consideration of the experiments that have been conducted in the treatment of various ores. I notice from the commission’s report that more of the element itself is now being extracted from the ore than was obtained a couple of years ago. Of course, experiments are still being conducted in relation to extraction processes. As anybody with any knowledge of these processes knows, in the course of crushing the ore goes through a slurry. Uranium is one of the elements that tend to escape with the slurry*- and experiments have been directed towards preventing loss of the element in this way when the slurry goes through the crushing plants and the magnetic grids, or during the electrolytic process and the flotation and zinc magnetic processes of separation.
My complaint is that the Government has not gone fully into this matter and that it is not expending sufficient money on these experiments. At the risk of being thought parochial, I should like to mention that a branch of the South Australian Mines Department is continually conducting experiments in the separation of refractory ores, particularly uranium and thorium. Of course, the processes are different. There should be bigger plants than pilot plants in association with Rum Jungle and other places in Australia where there are huge deposits of certain classes of uranium ore. At some places there are deposits of pitchblende which probably contain purer forms of uranium than do other depots. But even pitchblende is a refractory ore, and separation is involved in order to extract the uranium. The Government should accelerate the experiments that are being conducted by the commission with a view to obviating the present wastage during extraction. I give credit to the Atomic Energy Commission for what it has done and what it is doing, and I give credit also to the Zinc Corporation for the work that it is doing at Rum Jungle.
I recollect the Minister saying that it was proposed to farm out the treatment of the ore and that negotiations were taking place with some American firms. At the time, I directed attention to the fact that there were people in the mining sphere in Australia who were quite capable of treating any ore at Rum Jungle and of conducting any experiments necessary. I also mentioned that the experiments that had been conducted by Associated Smelters, Electrolytic Zinc and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited had evolved methods which were being used in other countries to deal with various metals. The Zinc Corporation has done a very good job in this connexion but, as I have said, further experiments are needed in order to evolve a means of preventing wastage during extraction. The treatment process is not yet perfect. I think that the results of experiments in this field should be made available to all and sundry, in order to pave the way for anybody in Australia to use atomic energy for peaceful purposes, instead of practically 90 per cent, of the activity being concentrated on the production of atomic weapons. I think that the emphasis should be placed on the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes.
That brings me to my final point, which concerns the establishment of an atomic power house, similar to those in Great Britain. From what I have read on this subject, I understand that a huge volume of water is needed in the production of power from uranium, particularly during the fusion process. I understand that the huge volume of water is needed for cooling and circulation purposes. Furthermore, the quality of the water must be such that iswill not cause corrosion and so block thepipes.
This afternoon, Senator Laught suggested that an atomic power plant should be established, I think, in the Northern Territory. When I visited the part of the Territory to which he referred I noticed that only a trickle of water was coming out of a pipe. I understand that after the rainy season, water that accumulates in certain areas in the Territory becomes highly mineralized. Therefore, I do not think that an atomicpower plant should be established there at the present time. I believe that the proper place to establish such a plant is where the Premier of South Australia has suggested it should be built, that is, between Port Augusta and Port Pirie, where there is an abundance of water and everything else that is needed. Furthermore, there are hugemineral deposits within a radius of approximately 100 miles, and all the extra electricity needed in South Australia could be generated by that plant. I urge the Government to establish an atomic energy plant at this location in preference to the location suggested by Senator Laught. Of course, if he had suggested the establishment of the plant at Rum Jungle, that would be another matter because a huge volume of water flows down the Finnis River. Although it may be practicable to establish a small power plant there, I point out that population is needed to establish and operate factories. Therefore, the lower end of South Australia commends itself for this purpose.
In conclusion, I stress that it is time that we directed our attention to the production of uranium for peaceful purposes instead of weapons of destruction.
– I support the bill because it is intended to further the peaceful use of atomic energy. Since honorable senators on both sides of the chamber are convinced that this is a worthy purpose, I shall say nothing more about atomic energy. However, I do wish to discuss the details of the bill. I must congratulate the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) on the brevity of his second-reading speech. It certainly did not suffer from what some people regard as one of the chief weaknesses in both this chamber and the other place, namely, verbosity, but I wish it had been a little fuller. I noticed that his concluding paragraph contained these words -
If that means that we are not to dissect the measure and ask questions about various clauses in it, I must say that I differ from the Minister, because I intend to do just that. I am amazed that no member of the Opposition has pointed out that the measure makes a fundamental change in the commission’s set-up. The former commission, which was set up by Act No. 31 of 1953, consisted of a chairman, a deputy chairman and a third member, all holding office on a part-time basis. The provision setting up the commission along those lines is repealed. Proposed new section 9(1.) reads -
The Commission shall consist of a Chairman, a Deputy Chairman, an Executive Member and not more than two other members. 1 should have thought that the Minister, in introducing the bill, would have explained fully why this newcomer, the executive member, was included. All that we were told was that, in addition to the former membership there would be a full-time member, who would act ‘as the executive of the commission and would, within the policy laid down by the commission, generally administer its affairs. I want the Minister, either in his reply to this debate or in committee, to tell us why it has become necessary to appoint this executive member, and in what way the former commission has fallen short of requirements, or has been found by experience to be ineffective. It appears to me that the proposed executive member is to take over some at least of the duties that were formerly undertaken by the chairman. Proposed new section 9 (4.) reads -
The Executive Member of the Commission shall, in accordance with the decisions and subject to the directions of the Commission, administer the affairs of the Commission.
I do not see the necessity for that change. There may be good reasons for it, but we should have been told of them. I think, also, that the Opposition, not having been told, should have been the first to demand them. It has been left to what is called a “ back-bencher “ - although I happen to be sitting in a front bench - to demand it.
There are many other clauses on which I should like more information, but I shall leave them until the committee stage arrives. One or two of them appear to be self-explanatory. One refers to salaries and alters the maximum to which an officer can rise without the approval of the Minister. 1 presume that that is rendered necessary by the fact that all salaries in the Public Service have risen since the original bill was introduced. However, another clause repeals a series of existing provisions, which appear to deal with accountancy matters. I refer to the inquiry to be made by the Auditor-General into the work of the commission, and his responsibility to report thereon to the Parliament. From my reading of the original bill - not being a chartered accountant or knowing very much about such things - I should have thought that the relevant provisions were watertight, and did everything necessary to assure strict accountability. I should like the Minister to explain why those provisions are to be repealed, and certain others put in their place. Has that part of the bill been found ineffective, have accountancy methods changed in the interim, or is it intended to get away from some of the rigidities of the Public Service and allow the commission, being only a quasi-governmental body - more freedom of action? I simply do not know why we were not told that by the Minister in his second-reading speech. I think that we should have been.
I protest, as I have on previous occasions, against the assumption that when a certain kind of bill coming up from a department involves no questions of party policy - and therefore the Opposition, presumably, can be expected not to be too vigilant concerning it - we will sit here’ and pass it without inquiry. I think that if we do that we are failing in our duty and I ask the Minister to give such answers as he thinks fit, both during his reply, and subsequently during the committee stage to our inquiries. I hope that in committee he will be able to supply us with any advice that we need about machinery matters. I do not think that it is either beneath the dignity of the Senate, or beyond the scope of its work, to examine the machinery of the Public Service or of any quasi-governmental body. To the contrary, I think that we should be eternally vigilant. In the last year or two we have seen that these machinery bills and regulations warrant the closest scrutiny of all.. In the absence of party Opposition to them, the departments tend to assume that they will go through without criticism. I assure honorable senators that this bill will not.
.- The measure before the chamber is designed to amend the Atomic Energy Act of 1953. Senator McCallum referred to the brevity of the Minister’s second-reading speech. My complaint relates not to the proposed amendments, but to certain matters - important to the future development and exploitation of this tremendous source of power - which have been left out. The Minister in charge of the bill in another place said that its purpose was to bring together under one piece of legislation all matters associated with the provision of atomic energy. He said that the bill provided great safeguards for secrets associated with Australia’s uranium fields and sources of supply, and the way in which the finished product was disposed of. However, the bill does nothing at all to give parliamentary authority for the most important issue facing the Australian people to-day - the rapid development of this new source of power for peaceful purposes by the use of all the resources that we can place at the disposal of the scientists responsible for getting on with the job.
It has been truly said that we are on the threshold of a new era. Mankind has, in its short recorded history, passed through various stages in the struggle to overcome its environment, including the use of water power! and the most primitive use of metals. We have witnessed, in the present era, another great revolution brought about by man’s mastery of steam and the development of industry generally. However, as a people, we have not grasped the importance of the era which we are how entering. The Minister spoke of the advances in atomic research and the construction, at Lucas Heights, in New South Wales, of a research reactor. He spoke also of the fact that Australia had become an important producer of uranium and said that plants in operation or under construction represented a capital outlay of £26,000,000. I have had the good fortune to see what is taking place at Rum Jungle. I pay a tribute to the people engaged in that work for the efficient way in which they are taking advantage of recent developments in the field of heavy earth-moving equipment. They are gouging into the bowels of the earth to extract this valuable ore. I pay a tribute to the engineers and scientists who have developed the technique for extracting uranium from the ore.
Sometimes I wonder whether Australia has done its best to ensure the most advantageous future use of its uranium ore. The Australian Government made an agreement, with the United States Government under which the United States Government agreed to take considerable quantities of the uranium produced at Rum Jungle for the purpose of obtaining scientific data about its chemical content and so on, but that uranium appears to have been diverted into only one channel. What the Australian people are most interested in is the speedy development of means of using atomic energy for peaceful purposes. The Minister said -
In addition, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission is conducting research in and encouraging the industrial and other uses of radio-isotopes. It has established arrangements under which research complementary to its own programme is being carried on in all the Australian universities. It has established training schemes at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels to ensure a supply of scientists for future needs in the atomic energy field.
That may sound all right to a person who skims the statement, but I join issue with the Minister on it. I do not believe that the Australian Atomic Energy Commission is encouraging the training of scientists. In my view, it is failing badly to discharge the responsibilities imposed upon it. There is nothing in this bill, which will give the commission wider powers, particularly financial powers, to assist the universities to train scientists, not only so that they can take part in projects at the present stage of development of atomic science, but also so that they can go into the wider fields that will be opened up by the development of reactors such as that at Lucas Heights. The whole field of science is due for a complete change as a result of the application of atomic energy to ordinary peace-time activities. The chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission has, in another field, directly contradicted a part of the Minister’s speech. According to the Sydney “ Sunday Telegraph “ of 15th September, 1957, Professor Baxter spoke of the facilities for education in Australia as being in a shocking state and said -
Our schools are deplorable and our universities are almost bankrupt. . . . Many of our high schools have inadequate facilities in their science laboratories. . . Many of the science teachers are Arts graduates who have had no formal science training.
The Minister spoke of what he called the great work that the Atomic Energy Commission is doing in encouraging at Australian universities research complementary to its own programme. In that connexion, I shall quote some remarks made by Dr. Bastow. the chief executive officer of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. He said -
Australia is doing hardly anything to encourage the training of more scientists. . . . Every Government, State and Federal, is passing the buck about the need for more scientists. We are saying we are short of scientists but we are doing nothing about it. . . . Young boys are becoming more and more unwilling to take on science courses. This is partly due to present methods of teaching science …. Scientists are becoming too highly specialized. . . . They put on blinkers and are incapable of seeing anything but the end to their particular line of study.
– Is Dr. Bastow a scientist?
– Dr. Bastow is the chief executive officer of the C.S.I.R.O. He is a man of high repute. He has contradicted the Minister, who spoke so proudly of the work that he claimed the Atomic Energy Commission was doing to encourage the training of scientists in our universities. The Minister’s statement has been contradicted by other men closely associated with scientific research and with the administration of our universities and the teaching of science in them. Professor Harry Messel, who is such a great asset to Australia in atomic research, has also spoken of the tragic shortage of scientists. He is reported to have said -
Australia’s very survival depended on her training far more scientists and technologists than she had. In this technological age Australia needs relatively far more high-quality scientists and technicians than other nations to make up for her lack of population.
I have quoted those opinions to show the fallacy of the statement made by the Minister in his second-reading speech when he said that the Atomic Energy Commis sion has established arrangements under which research complementary to its own programme is being carried on in all the Australian universities. The figures prove conclusively that not only are the Australian universities unable to afford to train the required number of scientists, but also that they are in a far worse position than universities in other parts of the world. I think, perhaps, I should quote figures compiled by the Australian Academy of Science in a booklet called “ Scientific and Technological Man-power, Supply and Demand in Australia”. It discloses that in 1939, when Australia’s population was 6,993,000, the percentage of the population represented by university students was 0.15, and that in 1955, with a population of 9,000,000, the percentage was 0.23. As a result of the Commonwealth Reconstruction and Training scheme, in 1947, the number of science students who obtained their bachelor degrees was 430. In 1948, the number increased to 501. By 1949, it had risen to 660, and to 703 in 1950. That was an attempt by the government of the day to give opportunities to ex-servicemen whose war service prevented them from taking university courses to study in the various sciences. They would be the men with whom we could form an army to deal with this tremendous problem of the peaceful uses of atomic energy. After reaching that peak, in 1951, six years after the war finished, the number upon whom the degree of Bachelor of Science was conferred was 518. In 1952, the number dropped to 497. In 1955, it fell still further to 373. There was another drop in 1956 to 333, and’ last year it fell to 332. How does the Minister reconcile those figures with his assertion that the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and the Government are encouraging Australian universities to carry out complementary research in this field?
– Did you say they were all ex-servicemen?
– No. I was giving the total number upon whom the degree of Bachelor of Science was conferred in Australia. They are the men whom the Government says are being encouraged by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. Compared with 655 in 1952, under the Labour government’s scheme of subsidizing university students, the number upon whom the degree of Bachelor of Science was conferred last year was only 332. That is a disgrace to any country.
– But you had the backlog of all the ex-servicemen in that period.
– It is all very well to make excuses. Let me now compare the number upon whom the degree of Doctor of Philosophy was conferred in Australia with the numbers in other countries. In Great Britain, 900 were awarded that degree last year while in the United States of America it was awarded to 3,500. In the Soviet Union, the number obtaining that -degree was 4,500, in Canada it was 270, and in Australia only 38. The proportion of the population upon whom that degree was conferred was 18 per 1,000,000 in Great Britain, 21 per 1,000,000 in the United States of America, 21 to the 1,000,000 in Russia, 18.5 per 1,000,000 in Canada and 4.2 per 1,000,000 in Australia. We are inclined to feel complacent when the Minister tells us that the Government has -established training schemes at undergraduate and post-graduate levels to ensure a supply of scientists to conduct research in the atomic energy field.
– What has all this got to do with the bill?
– The work of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission has been bound by the strictest security measures and earlier was confined mainly to the use of uranium reserves for military purposes. We have now reached the stage when the great masses of people throughout the world are determined to throw out any government that is not prepared to place greater emphasis upon the development of atomic and -nuclear energy for peaceful purposes than upon its use for war purposes. The money that is being found throughout the world to-day for stockpiling thermo-nuclear bombs for setting up bases, and for brinkmanship - Mr. Foster Dulles’s policy-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT -(Senator Anderson). - Order! The honorable senator is getting a little wide of the principles contained in the bill. I ask him to link his remarks with the matter under discussion.
– I bow to your ruling, and say that the amount of money that is being diverted for expenditure by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission upon the encouragement of undergraduate and post-graduate .work is utterly insufficient and is a reflection upon not only the Government but the whole of the Australian people when we compare the position here with what is being done in other countries.
– Did the Minister tell us how much money is being spent on that encouragement?
– There is no mention whatever of the amount of money that is being expended. As I said in my opening remarks, the proposed amendment in the bill is notable not so much for what it says - it says virtually nothing - as for what has been omitted, and I suggest the Government is deserving of censure for that.
The United Kingdom has taken world leadership in the economical production of electricity by the use of atomic energy. The atomic power station at Calder Hall merits the highest tribute and reflects honour upon the British scientists who have made such progress in the development of the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes. The British people have had a great burden to bear since the war in trying to rebuild their bombed cities and in facing up to all the other difficulties associated with being portion of war-ravaged Europe. Despite all this, the British have found it possible to divert sufficient of their resources to enable eighteen out of every 1,000,000 of the population to obtain degrees in the sciences and for a similar proportion of the population to become bachelors of science.
It may be a long time before we see that development which we should like to have in the peaceful use of atomic energy, but it is my firm belief that we in Australia should at least be able to equal what is being done in England because we have such a vast potential for development. For example, in the field of agriculture, radioisotopes can be of tremendous value. Further, radiation is of the utmost importance in preventing and eradicating diseases in plants and seeds. I understand that our scientists have now reached the stage where they can prevent potatoes from sprouting shoots, thus making it possible to conserve them for longer periods. I understand also that it is possible to detect flaws in machinery and metals. I repeat that we in Australia should be able at least to achieve the high standard of the United Kingdom in research into this great problem.
I emphasize that in these days, when the intensity of the destructiveness of atomic energy has been developed to worlddevastating proportions, our scientists advise that if we are not able to control the use of thermo-nuclear power, if we are not able to use it for purposes of peace rather than for war purposes, then the only future before us is one of complete hopelessness. On the other hand, I suggest that the development which unfolds under the aegis of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission in this country could open up an era that would enable us to take a great step forward in the mastery of our environment and, by the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes, provide an opportunity for man to work in close co-operation with his fellow man for the general welfare of the people as a whole. However, this can be done only if the work is made one of the main planks of national policy. Instead of bringing down an amendment such as the one under discussion, which has for its purpose merely an alteration to the composition of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, we should have before us a measure designed to develop a far-sighted policy of progress in the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes. Instead of such a policy, we find that everything connected with atomic energy has been hidden under a veil of secrecy.
– There is nothing secret about it. It is possible to buy an atomic plant in England. The British have just sold one to Japan.
– That is quite true. What I am saying is that the position in Australia is steeped in mystery. Only recently, I read in the press of an interview with a distinguished Englishman who had just been in America. He spoke of American scientists and said that, unfortunately, they had lost their zip and that some of them had reached the stage where they were content to take a job in industry, or to pursue some easy line in science, because of the responsibilities that are involved in having anything to do with highly secret matters. They feel that Big Brother is looking over their shoulder and that they might be suspected if they knew anything secret.
– What about the Russian scientists? Big Brother is watching them.
– The point is that this waste of brain power and initiative from the storehouse of science throughout the world could be avoided through the proper use of atomic power.
I hope that it will not be long before we see another set of amendments of the Atomic Energy Act, or even a complete review of the act. I hope, too, that we shall soon see complete removal of the provisions which result in everything being veiled in secrecy and which demand that everything shall be kept hush-hush. The Australian people should be enlightened and acquainted with the great potential that lies immediately ahead of them in the use of atomic power. Some day - I hope in the very near future - perhaps sanity will overcome man’s propensity to destroy himself. Those honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber who accentuate the negative all the time, and who see in atomic energy only the power to beat the other fellow who is playing the same game, also need some sanity. I hope that, instead of the orthodox type of approach such as this proposed amendment of the legislation presents to the Parliament, we shall see a much more vigorous approach being made towards enlightening the Australian people generally about what really is involved in the peaceful uses of atomic energy. All members of this Parliament should do their best to hasten the day when a proper attitude will be adopted to legislation of this kind. They can do that by a concerted effort to see that Australia makes provision that the universities, technical education centres and other places where scientists are trained, are provided with sufficient finance to train the men who will be needed to carry on scientific work in the future.
– The finances are already there, in respect of tertiary education.
– It is only necessary to read the report of the committee which investigated Australian universities recently to know that Senator Kendall is talking through a hole in his naval uniform. The members of this Parliament should bend every effort towards seeing that the necessary plant and equipment are provided, so that scientists may be trained in the generation of nuclear energy which will mean so much to man’s future health and welfare. I hope that the Government will introduce legislation dealing with atomic energy that will show the people that, instead of atomic energy being a towering and frightening image of destruction, it can become the servant of a peaceful world. We should devote our minds to ensuring that the wonderful inventiveness and creative power of our scientists, instead of being dedicated to killing, are consecrated to ensuring for mankind a long and healthy life.
– Before I deal with some of the merits of this legislation, I wish to make a brief comment or two on the demerits of Senator O’Byrne’s speech. It was a rather melancholy contribution. A casual observer might say that the honorable senator saw very little except gloom in the bill before the Senate. I think that perhaps the honorable senator was not feeling very well. Actually, this legislation affords no reason for gloom. Rather is its introduction an occasion that we should celebrate, because it marks a further stage in a remarkable effort on the part of the Government. Senator O’Byrne concentrated his attention on two broad aspects of the problem as he saw it. First, he criticized the production of uranium by the Australian Government on the ground that too much of it - he did not say how much - was being diverted to the production of atomic bombs.
– It is, too.
– I hear an honorable senator, in a deep voice saying, “ It is, too “.
– All of it is.
– That is quite incorrect. Such criticism would have some basis if it were true, but it does not happen to be true.
– How does the honorable senator know?
– I intend to quote from a statement of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who apparently would know these things, made on 9th March of this year. The Minister said that only a small proportion of the current production of our uranium concentrate is being sold to the Combined Development Agency, which is a joint purchasing agency for the defence needs of Britain and the United States. He went on to say that the rest of the production - the greater proportion of it - is being used for peace-time purposes, as will the whole of the production of the Mary Kathleen project when it gets into operation. That was a statement of fact by the Minister, and it is of no use Senator O’Byrne, or the other honorable senator who has interjected, saying something that is not true. It does not get them very far. The facts of this matter are, briefly, that the greater proportion of our current production is being used, and practically all of our future production will be used, for peace-time purposes. That is Government policy, and that happens to be the truth.
The other complaint of Senator O’Byrne was that the Australian Atomic Energy Commission was in dire distress because it was short of scientists and scientific assistants. I have here the report for the current year of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, and there is in it not one word that justifies Senator O’Byrne in making such a statement. At page 52, in referring to scientists, -the report states -
The eight scholars were selected from a field of over 260 candidates, many of whom had remarkable academic records. The Commission has now granted twenty-eight scholarships.
The commission wanted eight scholars and it obtained them from the 260 candidates offering. Surely Senator O’Byrne can appreciate that if the commission wanted more than eight scholars, it would have asked for them! There were 260 in the field. The report continues -
The first fruits of the scheme-
That is, the scheme for the granting of these scholarships - were obtained in 1957, when five scholarship holders graduated. Two of the graduates received first class honours, with first place in their respective universities. Three scholars graduated in geology and two in geophysics, and all are now members of the staff of the Bureau of Mineral Resources.
Eighteen new post-graduate research studentships were awarded for 1957, bringing the total number granted during the past three years to fifty. Of these some forty are still current and they cover ail nine Australian universities.
There is not one word in this report which even suggests that the commission is short of skilled personnel.
I refer now to a ministerial statement of 9th March in relation to the subject of scientific assistance to the commission. The Minister for National Development, in answer to a question directed to him, said that at the end of 1957 there were 200 on the staff of the establishment - he meant 200 scientists - and that this number was expected to grow to about 400 within a year or two. He said that the majority of these people were Australians, many of them with experience in overseas research establishments. In reply to a question about whether there was a shortage of scientists in the commission, the Minister said that up to the present time we have been able to fill positions as they have been offered. He added that it was encouraging to find that so many of our Australian scientists with overseas experience had- been willing to join our research programme and thus had recognized the importance of the programme to our national development, tie said that there must be a steady flow of young men entering atomic energy work to avoid hindrance to the programme.
– That bears out my argument.
– If there had been any merit in Senator O’Byrne’s wails, I should have, regarded them as being a contribution to this debate; but, quite clearly, he made out a story and, as his speech happened to be broadcast;’ he thought it might go down. I wish to offer the lie to such futile criticism. It is not warranted or justified, neither is it fair. I invite Senator O’Byrne or any other honorable senator opposite to offer criticism of this legislation which is based on fact. Let us have criticism by all means, but let us not have a concoction of ‘nonsense that is incorrect and untrue.
The bill is a machinery measure which seeks to enlarge the personnel of the commission and as such has no great significance,, except that I suggest it now gives to the commission some permanent executive staff which, having regard to the important work it performs, has been necessary foi some. time.
I shall confine my remarks now to the commission’s activities so far as they relate to. the production of uranium for peacetime purposes because, as I have already said and as the Minister has said more than once; that is its main function. I suggest to the Senate that the Government’s record in this direction is no mean feat. We have not to go back very far in the history of the production of uranium to discover that we had no organization whatever for this purpose. The interest of the Commonwealth. Government in atomic energy matters dates back only to the immediate post-war years when Professor Oliphant took a very great interest in atomic energy for peace-time purposes, for which we must thank him. Following upon his splendid work, because it was recognized that a great potential existed in this field it was decided to establish the Australian Atomic Energy Commission’ for certain purposes.
Briefly, the commission’s aims are threefold, and they will not be altered by this legislation. The commission is concerned, first, with exploration for and the mining of uranium and, of course, other atomic materials that are necessary for atomic power. The commission is interested, secondly, in research into and the conversion’ of uranium into atomic energy. Its third prime function is to concern itself with ‘ the training of scientists and technologists in the use’ of atomic energy in Australia. One might well - ask how far the commission had gone. A word or two in recognition of the commission’s great work would not be out of - place at this stage. The commission has done-much in the field of exploration. It has four aircraft continuously in operation in research programmes. It has conducted a lot of aerial and ground surveys and has made geological maps- of large areas of Australia to determine the likelihood . of uranium deposits.
In addition, the commission has given technical assistance to exploration companies that are interested - in uranium research- and, as we all know, is giving taxfree financial rewards to those companies or persons that have been successful in discovering payable uranium deposits. In fact, it is carrying out a policy of exploration similar to that which I advocated very recently in regard to all base metals. That policy is succeeding, because when we consider the question of reserves we discover that, within a period of five years, Australia has built up a reserve of approximately 7,000,000 tons of high-grade uranium ore. Any experienced geologist will tell us that there are still large areas of Australia in which it is confidently expected that large and payable deposits of uranium are still to be found.
– Did the honorable senator say 7,000,000 tons?
– There are 7,000,000 tons of ore in reserve.
– On the ground, not in the earth? You mean it has been dug out?
– When one speaks of ore in reserve, one speaks of it as being in the ground. Generally speaking, “ ore reserves “ relates to ore that has been developed.
– Ore which is proven?
– Ore which is proven and developed, lt is known to exisT; it has not been broken or hauled to the surface. Our present production of uranium, too, is a feat of which the commission can well be proud. We are now producing uranium at the rate of about 500,000. lbs. per year. When the Mary Kathleen plant is in production, early next year, our production will be so high that we will then be the fourth largest producer of uranium in the world.
– Of uranium oxide?
– Yes. That means uranium, too, because our uranium ore happens to be quite rich in uranium content. That, Sir, is no mean feat for the short time that we have been in production, because, when all is said and done, we did not start first in the field in the search for uranium or in the production of uranium oxide. We started comparatively late in terms of world competition.
These questions might be asked: Are we using all this uranium internally? What is happening to it? The answer is quite simple. Most of it is being sold overseas. As I said in answer to Senator O’Byrne’s allegations, most of it is being used for the production of uranium for peace-time purposes. The total output of the Mary Kathleen plant will be going directly to Great Britain for use in her industrial atomic power programme. The Government is not unmindful of the fact that we require reserves of this element for our own use, and in the contracts that have been let adequate provision has been made for a reserve to be maintained in Australia for domestic use.
The price under the contract is not disclosed and we will not know the world ruling price of uranium oxide until 1962 when the nations that are acquiring this valuable material will be throwing it, as it were, upon the world market. At that date the United States of America, I understand, will be prepared to offer eight dollars per pound for the uranium element itself. That raises a problem to which I shall refer at a later stage.
Thorium and zirconium are two other minerals equally as essential as uranium in the manufacture of atomic energy. The question arises as to whether we have adequate reserves of those two minerals. I understand some 3,000,000 tons of zirconium ore are held in reserve, which is adequate for our purposes. However, we are short of thorium, and I suggest for the consideration of the Government that a policy similar to that now in operation in relation to uranium should be applied to exploration for thorium, namely, rewards, tax-free for the discovery of new deposits of this very important and valuable mineral.
Australia ‘ has in hand about 20 years’ supply of uranium having regard, to our requirements and overseas commitments. That represents an outstanding performance on the part of the commission when measured in terms of the efforts of the other nations of the world.
Turning to the second and equally important function of the commission, namely, research into and development of atomic energy, I wish to mention the research establishment at Lucas Heights, the unit known as “ Hifar “, which will be officially opened on 18th April next. That unit will be the most modern atomic energy research establishment in the southern hemisphere and is modelled on the British “Dido”. The function of this unit is research and not the creation of atomic energy for industrial purposes, which is the next stage in this story.
The first task of “ Hifar “ is to develop an atomic energy unit that will be appropriate and economic having regard to the conditions of its use in Australia. It is well known - in fact, I think it is Government policy already announced - that the Commonwealth Government favours the establishment of such units in the remote areas of Australia that are without reasonably close access to power from coal or the great hydro-electric scheme in the Snowy Mountains. That Government policy is logical. One honorable senator mentioned Mount lsa.
– I mentioned Iron Knob.
– An excellent place. Another honorable senator quoted the new bauxite field at Cape York and the Minister nominated Kalgoorlie, so we have four areas that require power. Apart ‘ from their isolation from centres of thermal and hydro-electric power, these remote areas are entitled to power from atomic energy because they are engaged in mining operations. The cost of power is probably the most grievous problem the mining industry has to overcome; for example, coal for use at Kalgoorlie has to be hauled 500 miles from Collie. When one considers the unfortunate fact that the Western Australian railways are probably the dearest in Australia, are losing the most money in Australia, have probably the highest freights in Australia, and that, in Western Australia, coal has to be hauled the’ farthest distance in Australia for the purpose of creating power for a big industry, the case for the creation of a nuclear power station in that area becomes very strong.
However, the immediate problem is that up to the present the world has not produced an atomic reactor that can operate successfully in an arid area. Most of the successful atomic energy reactors, such as the Calder Hall unit in Great Britain and the Shippingport reactor in the United States of America, require large quantities of water.
– Sea water would serve the purpose.
– Sea water would serve the purpose in certain circumstances, but those units are a long distance from the sea. As Senator O’Flaherty very properly mentioned, highly mineralized water cannot be used because it will foul the machinery. The design and evolution of. an atomic energy unit that does not require large quantities of water poses a problem for “ Hifar “. I understand - and I am not speaking with any authority - that that problem is close to being solved. Through the medium of “ Hifar “ and pur Australian scientists, we shall shortly have a unit that will not require large quantities of water. That will represent another victory for the commission because it will have evolved an atomic reactor that can be used at Mount Isa, Broken Hill, Kalgoorlie, or even Iron Knob.
The question whether the States can provide their own reactors is often raised. Commonwealth policy at the moment is based on the proposition that the States are responsible for the provision of their own atomic reactors. That policy should be reviewed. An atomic reactor costs about £25,000,000 and I do not think it is within the power of my own State, for example, to find such an amount for the construction of a reactor in Kalgoorlie or anywhere else. That is a matter of Government policy and outside the ambit of the commission. The States that want these reactors will have to be assisted financially towards the cost of construction.
I mentioned that “ Hifar “ had an important task in the field of research. It has a second important task, to obtain power from heavy hydrogen. Now, however, one likes to think about this matter of atomic energy, one cannot escape the fundamental fact that eventually fission power will be evolyed into power from heavy hydrogen. British scientists who are well known, as well as the brilliant Australian scientist, Dr. Peter Thonemann, are well ahead in this field and they have stated that in our time new industrial power will be obtained from hydrogen. Perhaps ten, twenty or 30 years will see power being generated from hydrogen. That is not a long time in the history of a nation, and such a development will have the most terrific effect on the economy of the world because every nation is near enough to large quantities of water from which power from heavy hydrogen -can be . created. .. Every nation may not have -power., from the present source, but every nation is close to water, so that points to a tremendous field which could revolutionize the power of the world. .- ~…..
I know there are difficulties in the way; we are all well acquainted with them. First of all, of course, the completion of the research work has yet to be finalized. That is some years oft… There is no certainty that the power that will be created will be economically produced for many-years. It is not just a matter of pumping a quantity of sea water into a fusion power plant. The element deuterium, which is.actually the important element in heavy .hydrogen, exists in the proportion of only one part to 5,000 parts of water and the extraction of this element is a. complicated and costly process, .so that the economics of power from heavy hydrogen have not been fully thrashed out. .t there is’ a ‘further important factor to bear in mind, and it is this: Quite obviously, the economics of power from heavy hydrogen will be such that it will only be possible to establish such units in very heavily populated areas, where very, large quantities of power are required. So hydrogen power units will probably be used only in such areas as Sydney and Melbourne for many years to come. These are some things that are most important in relation to the matter of power from hydrogen, but I emphasize the point that science will overcome all these problems. ‘‘It “has overcome similar, and even more difficult ‘problems in relation to -fission power, and it will overcome the present problems itf- relation to power from hydrogen; it is only a matter of time.
That brings me to two important questions that I think confront the commission and the Government in the long-term future in relation to this matter. The first question, I suggest, sticks out a mile. What is to be the future of our uranium mining industry? The second question that needs consideration now, although it is a longterm question, is that it is important that Australia get in early in the production of power from heavy hydrogen. Let us have a look at those two questions. Both are important. -Both flow from the terrific work being done in this field.
I think we must accept the inevitable, that in our time the world demand for uranium will drop and will probably stay down. It will drop for the reason that hydrogen power will supplant to a large extent the power that is now’ “being produced from uranium. Hydrogen power will surplant power produced from uranium because uranium is a very precious metal, a most expensive metal to mine, and hydrogen will ultimately become’ a very “common element that is reasonably easily produced. I think those cards are now on the scientific table. We have to remember; in relation to the present ‘ uranium ‘mining’ industry, that the Commonwealth- is acquiring all uranium. It is acquiring the product compulsorily. It is acquiring uranium at a fixed price. It is offering every inducement and incentive to the private investor to put his money into uranium mining. An enormous private investment has already been placed into the uranium ‘mining field. I put it to the Senate, and to .the Government, that it will take many years for the capital to be repaid to the private investor in this form of investment and if the price of uranium drops permanently’ before the investors’ capital has been. repaid and before they have had a reasonable return on it, I suggest it will hot -be quite fair because, after all, this investment is being sought by the_ Commonwealth. Every .inducement is being offered. That being so,’. I suggest, the Commonwealth has some obligation to ensure ‘ that the investor’ who places his money , into a uranium project will have some reasonable, -chance .- of getting his capital back. s - - ‘ *
As the . time available to me has almost expired, I shall ‘'’conclude” briefly ‘on this note, that I do think that the advent of power from heavy, hydrogen- and that is the long-term problem that faces this commission - presents a challenge to this country, we have to take it up. No effort should be spared in this field of research. Australia has got to be ‘first; or with the first nations that are able to produce power from hydrogen in -economic quantities, whether it be in 10, 20 or 30 years’ time. Unless we are, we will ‘suffer in the competition that is bound to occur in this particular field of power. I think it is a challenge that this Government is prepared to accept; indeed, I understand the Government has already accepted it. Professor
Oliphant is already engaged in this activity. I congratulate the Government on its foresight in envisaging the long-term future of this tremendous field. With those words, I heartily support the present measure.
– Senator Vincent’s last words were to congratulate the Government. I certainly wish that I could congratulate him on the little effort we have just heard. First of all, .in strong language for a senator from Western Australia, he more than suggested that Senator O’Byrne, in putting up a case for the training of scientific personnel for the. purposes of the Atomic Energy Commission was, in fact, telling lies. That was a dreadful, thing to say, particularly when the honorable senator proceeded to prove everything that Senator O’Byrne had said about a lack of scientific personnel, not only in the Atomic Energy Commission, but throughout the world.
This bill to amend the Atomic Energy Act, although it is not of itself a big bill and although the amendments are relatively unimportant, at least gives the Senate an opportunity on a wide plane, to discuss a lot of the things that are important and which we do not have an opportunity to discuss as often as we should like. One of the matters with which. I wish, to deal is the question of encouraging our scientists in the development df this aspect of the organization. I do not think there could ‘be a more important ‘ aspect. When Senator O’Byrne decried the poor effort of the commission in encouraging young scientists to enter the service of the commission, he put his .finger not only. on a problem of the moment but also on a vital, weak point in the whole .of the economy. Per head of population, Australia’s production of scientists is very poor indeed when compared with that , of other countries. We produce approximately one-half as many scientists and engineers as do Great Britain and Canada, and between one-third and one-quarter as many as does the United States. We produce only one-quarter as many as does “Soviet Russia. One way to improve the position Would be for every organization, such as the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, which needs scientists, to do everything in its power to spend money on scholarships and the like so as to attract the maximum number of young men to the industry. The real tragedy is revealed if one looks at the graduation figures at Australian universities in earlier years. More science graduates came out of our universities in 1946 than in 1956 or 1957. I do not think that any Australian can look at those figures without getting a shiver down his spine and wondering where we are going. During the interim our population has increased by about “1,000,000, yet the number of science graduates has decreased from 342 in 1946 to 335 in 1956 and 332 in 1957. The high point was reached in 1950 because; as ‘ Senator O’Byrne’ has pointed out, of the influx under the great post-war reconstruction training scheme for soldiers. In 1950, 703 science students graduated. In 1951, the figure was only 655. All in all, it is a very sad story.
The little that the (Australia Atomic Energy Commission is doing-r-when it could do so much - is still further evidence that the Government is neglecting its opportunities. One has only to look at the expenditure of the commission on studentships and scholarships. This year £47,000 is being spent compared with £76,000 last year. It may be that the accountant responsible for these figures has so allocated them that they tell a different story this year. The Minister in charge of the bill has probably never lost his early ability as an accountant to produce figures to tell one story ohe night and a different story the next. Perhaps he can explain why the expenditure in this important field is lower this year than last. It is especially strange when he makes such a feature of the supposedly wonderful work that is being done to . encourage graduate and post-graduate studies. One would naturally expect the expenditure this year to be greater than last, but it is £20,000 less. I shall say no more on that subject, because I need not keep hammering a situation which is obvious. Senator O’Byrne was attacked viciously and unfairly by Senator Vincent, but I share his view that the shortage of scientists is becoming one of our major problems. The Government apparently is not capable of handling it. I have before me the finding of a special committee which the Australian Academy of Science set up to study scientific and technological manpower supply and demand in
Australia. The council of the Academy called a conference in November, 1956, and said of it -
The information and views there presented, and data that has since come to hand, has convinced the academy that Australia is suffering from a serious shortage of scientists and technologists.
The long term outlook is very grave: unless drastic measures are adopted the development of the country will be tragically hindered an ! lower living standards will prevail than would have accrued , if proper reliance had been placed on science and technology. The gathering shortage of trained personnel, if left uncorrected, will aggravate the position,
Instead of a steadily increasing flow of ‘ scientists, the country is actually experiencing a decreasing flow. In the years after the recent war, we were able to recruit many scientists from overseas, but now the process has gone into reverse. Better conditions and higher standards of work and salary elsewhere have caused a movement of scientists away from Australia. I believe that the findings of the Australian Academy of Science were put before the Cabinet, so it is not a matter of lack of knowledge of this fundamental problem. As is the case with many other matters in which the Government is concerned, everyone knows what is wrong, and everyone talks about it, but no one can be found who will do anything about it.
Turning now to the bill itself, I should like first to comment on the proposed reorganization of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. Shortly after the present commission was appointed, Sir Jack Stevens was made full-time chairman. He occupied that position for about two years, and then left to take an outside position with one of Australia’s big industries. The Government did not replace him with a full-time chairman but, instead, allowed matters to drift along in the same old way that we know so well. Professor Baxter was brought up from deputy chairman to act as a part-time chairman. At last, the Government has felt obliged to appoint as a full-time member - not the chairman - but a new executive officer df the commission. The Government apparently feels that top level ability is in such short supply that it must be spread very thinly. That is a serious mistake. Under the bill Professor Baxter will have the chief say - as indeed he should - in the commission’s work. I suppose that it is a great understatement to say that he is an extremely busy man. Can he give to the commission the time, energy and thought that is needed if’ it is; to be properly developed and, at the same time, fulfil his other responsibilities - including the very great one of controlling the New South Wales University of Technology, or the University of New South Wales, as it will shortly be known? So we find that these top men are spread so thinly - I hope I make myself understood by using that expression - that they are not able to give their best at any one point. Because of their great knowledge, it would be difficult to leave some of those men off these committees, but I feel that we are not getting full value from them because so many demands are made on .their services.
The remarks I have been making refer to the top executive level, but when we come down to the, next level we find no shortage of man-power, particularly in the Business Advisory Group. There seems to be a great desire to get on to : that body. Whether the incentive to be on committees of this kind is the fact that they rarely, if ever, meet, I do not know. Perhaps the reason for wanting to be on them is that the names of the members are printed , on the most expensive paper and look beautiful when people read them. However, there are twenty members of the Business Advisory Group of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. Can the Government tell’ me what are the duties of the members of the Business Advisory Group? Professor Baxter is the chairman of that group, just as he is the acting chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, the Scientific Advisory Committee and the other bodies which deal with problems for which he must take some responsibility. The names of the members of the Business Advisory Group appear on page 5 of the report of the commission. I do not like to read out the names of prominent men over the air, but I do suggest to honorable senators that the list looks like, so to speak, a Melbourne Cup field. It is one of the largest fields that I have seen grouped together under one starter. The group comprises top representatives of Permewan Wright Limited, Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the English Electric Company Limited, the Colonial Sugar
Refining Company Limited, the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, Metal Manufactures Limited and the Bank of New South Wales. We have two banks represented.
I see from the commission’s report that this Business Advisory Group of twenty members met in March, 1957. It would be interesting if, when the Minister replies, he were to tell us how many times it has met since then, if at all. It would be interesting also to know how many of the men whose names appear on page 5 of the commission’s report attended subsequent meetings, if such meetings have been held. I should like to know, too, what recommendations they have made to the commission. The group may have some value, but I cannot see what it is. I cannot see what a body of this size could do that a committee of two or three members could not do. I am certain that a committee of twenty members never could do the work that is required. I recall the late Mr. Chifley’s statement that an ideal committee was a committee of ‘two, and that if one of those two members were absent the committee was more effective. I do not know how many members would have to be absent from a meeting of the Business Advisory Group for it to be able to give efficient advice to the Australian Atomic Energy Commission.
It is a fact that much of what we talk about in connexion with atomic energy has to do with the future. Older men like Ministers of the Crown and I are at a grave disadvantage. Because we were not born into this new scientific world, we have great difficulty in understanding the tremendous implications of hydrogen bombs, Sputniks and other scientific developments. I understand that one of the next steps will be to put a satellite into the orbit of the moon. We read’ about these things, but those of us who are honest will confess frankly that we have difficulty in understanding what is going on to-day. I do not remember much of what I learnt when I was at school, but one of the things I remember is that I was taught that the atom was the smallest particle of matter - that it was irreducible. I was told that the atom was the basic constituent of all the substances that comprised the world. However, my belief that that was so was destroyed by the splitting of the atom. Even that one small thing that I remember from my school days has been proved to be wrong. That is why I am not very critical of the Government on this matter. We are living in a world where much is unknown, and it is only by the process of trial and error that our minds can develop properly.
I want us to go as far and as fast as we can in the development of atomic energy for industry. I think that Australia is one of the countries that would derive great advantages from the application- of nuclear energy to industry. The United States of America has no great need for nuclear power because it has conventional power available at the cheapest rates in the world - half as cheap as in the United Kingdom. That explains what has happened in the United Kingdom, where there has been a degree of concentration on the development of atomic power stations, the best known being that at Calder Hall. The United Kingdom has also sought orders for the construction of atomic power stations overseas. America has only one such power station, and even American scientists say that the effort in America cannot be compared to that which has been made in the United Kingdom. America is lagging behind the United Kingdom in this work, but that is due to the fact that it has no internal problem due to a lack of conventional power. Therefore, it has no great need to develop nuclear power to supplement its own resources.
We, however, need nuclear power to develop our vast continent. What are the Government and the Australian Atomic Energy Commisison doing to develop this source of power in Australia? Have we got to face the fact that if we want nuclear power stations in Australia, we will have to buy them from Great Britain? Is that where our future lies, or can we look forward, within the next five, six or even ten years, to making our own atomic power stations? That is the picture I should like to see. I should not like to think that the Government has said, in effect, “When the time comes we will buy our atomic power stations from the United Kingdom, and ‘-in -the meantime we will play around with the reactor that we have outside Sutherland. It is nice to have a few scientists playing around with that; it is something that we can talk about in the Parliament.” That is not a policy that will bring us to the point where we can make our own power stations. I should like the Government to face up to this problem and to channel the work of the Atomic Energy Commission in the direction of the production of power in nuclear power stations. “’ ’
The position is far from clear. Senator Vincent said - I am sure he was confident that what he said was right - that the demand for uranium oxide must deteriorate because, for these purposes, uranium would be replaced by hydrogen. Yet in the report of the Atomic Energy Commission we -find it stated that there is a growing demand for uranium oxide. The demand is growing despite the fact that uranium ore prices have dropped and contracts are harder to obtain. Some months ago, I showed the Minister for National Development a report on this subject that appeared in an American publication. , The same opinion was published again during the last couple of weeks, only in a much more severe form. It is very difficult to get good prices for uranium ore in the United States, yet the report of the Australian Atomic .Energy Commission stares that by 1958 the estimated free world production will be from 30,000 to 40,000 tons, a. year. . The commission also says that if requirements for uranium oxide continue to increase as expected, by 1975 .the “total annual need could be from 4^000 to 100,000 tons. Senator Vincent, on the other hand, says that the demand for Uranium oxide must deteriorate. I do riot know who is right and who is wrong. At the moment the price of uranium has’ fallen, but the fall is in line with the fall of the prices ‘of all metals. No metal has been able to’ stand tip under the ‘economic barrage of the last eighteen months. The Government has been forced to take extraordinary steps to protect copper producers. The lead bonus at Broken Hill has been eliminated - something that has not occurred for many years. The prices of all metals have dropped, some by more than half in the last eighteen months or two years. I only hope that the Australian Atomic Energy Commission has a clear policy for development at Rum Jungle and Mary Kathleen, although Mary Kathleen has some protection in that there we have a long-term contract with the British Government. I suggest that the British Government might do something with America in connexion with the sale of atomic power stations. At the moment, the Americans will not guarantee to supply uranium whereas the British Government guarantees to supply all the uranium .necessary to: keep in operation any atomic power station that it sells.
In view of all these things, I must admit that it is hard to decide what should be done, but I suggest that if we confine our attention to what is best for Australia we shall not be far wrong ‘ in the long run. A full-lime executive ‘on the Australian Atomic Energy Commission may be necessary, but I doubt it. I incline to the view that this whole question of atomic energy for peaceful purposes is so important that it warrants a full-time chairman of the commission. We have hardly scratched the surface of the problem yet, and for that reason we should endeavour to obtain the best brains possible : and give those brains the .fullest opportunity to concentrate on future’ steps to be taken in this most important, field. The Government should lay down a long-range plan, using the reactor at Menai as a- basis. It should direct the Australian Atomic Energy Commission to construct, further nuclear power stations in Australia at the earliest possible : moment. I go so far as to venture the opinion that we may even- see the time when that great part of South-East, Asia which is now bursting its bonds and reaching full status of nationhood will need the type of power that can be generated at nuclear power stations and when we may be in a “ position to supply it,. .
.’ - I rise to support this measure, the main purpose of which is to increase the personnel of the- Austraiian Atomic Energy Commission by two, making ;one a fulltime commissioner:’ Senator Armstrong has criticized what the Australian Atomic Energy Commission has done in connexion with our scientists, but- 1 point out that the commission’s balance-sheet for last year discloses that it granted £45,000 for research and £47,000 for studentships and scholarships; so that in all, the grants by the commission amounted to £92,000 out of a total expenditure of some £3,000,000 or £4,000,000. The Government has been very generous in its treatment, through the commission, of those people who have sought to enter this field of science. It has enabled them to receive -university education for work in this field of science which is so important to the development of Australia.
At this stage, I point out that the Government proposes to bring before the House of Representatives and the Senate a bill to provide for the expenditure of £22,000,000 to aid the universities of Australia over the next three years.
– That is not enough. .
– I suggest it is a most generous gesture when compared with what the Labour government did.
– It is £22,000,000 a year.
– A total expenditure of £66,000,000 over the next three years. Much has been said about what Russia has done to encourage students to study the sciences. It has also been suggested that Russia .is paying her scientists much higher salaries than are being paid in Australia or in any of the free nations of the world. The Russians may have a few more scientists than we have at the moment, but it cannot be denied that the Australian Atomic Energy Commission is playing no mean part in encouraging people to take science degrees and engage in this important field of atomic energy development.
– How much is the scholarship worth?
– We can go into that later. At the moment I wish to point out that, through the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, this Government has embarked on a field of research not undertaken by any previous government. The commission was established in 1953 for the purpose of developing atomic energy and the sources of atomic energy in Australia. Tn the five years of the commission’s operation the Government has not found it necessary to make any major amendments to the legislation. The only reason why any amendment is being made now, if I read the Minister’s second-reading speech correctly, is . that this field of research has become so important that an increase in the membership of the commission from three to five, with one full-time commissioner, is warranted. ..
When .we consider the history of the development of atomic energy throughout the world, we see that from the time of the first atomic bomb in 1945 it has taken approximately thirteen .years to harness atomic energy for commercial purposes. The Australian Government, appreciating the importance df discoveries ‘of “ uranium, offered rewards to prospectors of up to £25,000. If a person found uranium in any part of Australia, provided that the deposit was more than 5 miles from other known deposits, he could claim the reward, and if the discovery was substantiated by the Department of National Development, a reward of up to £25,000 would be made. We have had several important discoveries in Australia. For instance, Mr. White discovered the Rum Jungle deposits and received a reward from the Government, through the Australian Atomic Energy Commission of £25,000. The Mary Kathleen field has since ‘ been discovered and a reward of £25,000 was paid to the finder this year.
It has been said that we in Australia have not pulled our weight in the ; development of uranium-mining and atomic-energy. ‘ I wish to emphasize that When the Mary Kathleen leases come into operation, Australia will be the fourth largest producer of uranium oxide in the world. Statistics disclose that by 1975, the total world requirements of uranium oxide will be 75,000 tons a year. According to the United States Atomic Energy Commission, America will require, for industrial purposes by 1975, between 20,00 and’ 30,000 tons a year, while the requirements of the rest of the free world will account for the balance of the 75,000 tons a year.
At the present time, the total production of uranium oxide by the countries of the free world is only about 30,000 tons a year. Last year, the United States produced only 8,000 tons, from a. total of 4,000,000 short tons of uranium ore. Honorable senators will therefore appreciate that great quantities of. ore have to be handled in order to produce a small quantity of uranium oxide. When we realize that only 8,000 tons of uranium oxide were obtained from 4,000,000 tons of uranium ore, we can appreciate that large quantities of uranium ore will have to be located between now and 1975 if we are to keep up the supplies of uranium oxide that atomic power stations throughout the world will require.
– That is something that the Government can promise during the next election campaign.
– The Australian Labour party makes plenty of wild promises, but I doubt whether the Government parties need to do so to win the next election.
The reserves of uranium ore in the United States, in November, 1956, amounted to 60,000,000 tons, the grade being only 2.5 per cent, uranium oxide. At the milling rate of approximately 5,000,000 to 6,000,000 tons annually, the known ore reserves in America have a life of only ten years. I notice from the report of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission that the commission is worried because prospecting is not being undertaken widely in Australia. I think that, in Australia, an idea has got about that the price of uranium oxide has fallen so much that nobody wants it. I believe, too, that the Australian people have the idea, fostered by the publicity given to the discovery by Australian scientists in England, in conjunction with English scientists, of ways and means to develop hydrogen power for peaceful purposes, that in the near future the need for uranium will cut out. In my opinion, the discovery by Dr. Thonemann and his colleagues in England is one of the greatest that has been made in the world in the last decade, or even since the turn of the century. To my mind, it is of far greater importance to the world than is the launching of a Sputnik into outer space which, although a considerable achievement, does not really mean very much in the development of power for peaceful uses.
It is possible that the development of hydrogen ‘ power in the future will be so economical and on such a large scale that we in Australia, if we get to the stage of installing the necessary plants, will be able tq reclaim areas that are now uninhabitable because of lack of water. I believe, however, that the generation of power from hydrogen will take a long time to achieve. It has been said by notable scientists that it mav take’ twenty years to do so. There is a possibility that it may be 30 years, or even 40 years, before such power can be harnessed for peaceful purposes. Perhaps that is the reason why Australians to-day are not searching more vigorously for additional uranium deposits. However, I understand that the reward still applies. I understand, also, that the encouragement that the Commonwealth Government has given to the uranium industry does not extend to any other industry, with the exception of gold-mining. I refer to the fact that the net profit derived from the sale of uranium is tax free. The Government provided initially that it should be tax free until 1962, but the period has been extended to 1965; - seven years from now. Uranium produced in Australia is sold at a guaranteed price. .
– What is the price?
– That has not been disclosed by the Government; but, to make a rough stab -at it, I. should say it is between £10.000 and £12,500 per short ton. I have suggested that figure, because it has been stated that uranium oxide produced by Canada is sold at a price which is equivalent to between £10,000 and £12,000 in Australian currency.
England’s power requirements are mounting every day. Last year she consumed 214,000,000 tons of coal. It is estimated that that figure will rise to approximately 250,000,000 tons a year, and that her coal deposits have a life of between 150 and 200 years. That is why England is placing such emphasis on the use of uranium oxide for the production of nuclear power. On 17th October last year, Her Majesty the Queen turned a switch which fed atomic power from Calder Hall into the grid system throughout the British Isles. A British white paper issued in 1955 disclosed that by .1965 Britain’s output of nuclear power would be between. 1,500 and 2,000 megawatts. Since then., the target has been raised to between 5.000 and 6.000. megawatts,, which* is equivalent to the power output of 18,000,000. tons of coal. It is estimated that by 1 975 she will be using atomic power equivalent to the output of between 60.000.000 and 70,000,000 tons ‘of coal.
Sir Christopher Hinton, who ‘is managing director of the British atomic’ energy authority’s industry group, estimates ‘ that trie cost of nuclear power will decline. He believes that by 1956 the cost of producing a unit of nuclear power will be ,66d., that in 1970 it will be .43d., that in 1980 it will be .38d., and that by 1990 it will drop to less than one-third of a penny. Even to-day, this form of power is almost as cheap as power that is derived from conventional fuels such as coal.
– It is much cheaper. .
– Yes. Sir Christopher estimates also that the cost of a unit of power produced from coal in 1960 will be 66d; in 1970, .67.; and in 1980, .84d. So in 1980 the cost in England of producing nuclear power will be approximately onethird of the cost of producing power from coal. I should say that by 1980 or 1990 England will have done away with most of her coal burning power stations and will be using nuclear power produced from uranium oxide. Then she will move on to the stage where she will probably be one of the first, if not the first, to install a power station using hydrogen power.
Let us consider the vast possibilities that would be opened to us in Australia if we could develop power for .32d. per unit. Very wide fields would be opened up. I suggest to the Government that it is our duty to establish an atomic power plant somewhere in Australia, preferably at Kalgoorie in Western Australia, at the earliest opportunity. I believe that atomic energy will become the chief form of power throughout the world, and the sooner we start with the construction of such a plant the more we will learn about the subject. T know that the construction of an atomic power station is expensive. It has been said that an atomic power station big enough to supply the needs pf a town of the size of Mount Isa or kalgoorlie would cost £15,000,000, £20,000,000 or perhaps a little more. But we must start. It is believed that the cost of constructing such power stations will fall as the years go by. We as a nation must play our part and must not wait any longer than is necessary to ascertain what other nations are doing. The present time or the immediate future may be, a little too early to construct such a unit, but I think that within the next year or so the, Government, through the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, . should take step’s to establish a t nuclear, power station somewhere in Australia.
When the cost of generating power has been reduced to .32d., no doubt we will be in a position, by means of irrigation.’ to open up for farming some of our outback country. The salt content has been extracted from sea Water by the use of electricity, and if a nuclear reactor were erected near the coast salt water could be changed into fresh water which could then be pumped into the areas of low rainfall to supply the necessary water for irrigation. When that has been achieved, what will be the extent to which our population potential will grow? Some of the richest soil in Australia is in the Murchison area of Western Australia, rich red flats within 150 miles of the coast with a rainfall of approximately 8 inches a year. When we can irrigate such areas by the use of nuclear power we shall change arid country into the richest pasture land.
The population of Australia has increased in the last six or seven years by over 25 per cent., and we are now approaching a figure of approximately 10,000,000 persons. By the use of atomic energy, the number of people this country could carry would be almost unlimited. It is, therefore, absolutely essential that, in the near future, the Government should make a start on the construction of an atomic reactor somewhere in Australia. Controversy may arise as to whether we can, in accordance with the Constitution, erect an atomic reactor in some States. If it were erected in a- particular State that did not wish to have it. a howl of protest would be voiced by that State. On the other hand, the other five would perhaps also want a reactor. The question should be approached on a Commonwealth basis and the reactor placed where it is most urgently needed and where it will .assist in the development of our outback areas.
– The Government should take a broad view.
– Yes, the Government should take a broad view. Kalgoorlie is one “ place where ‘ a reactor should be constructed. ‘
I congratulate the Government on its sane approach to this most vital field of new sources of power, and in’ developing the production of materials for atomic energy that have lain hidden in this country for centuries. The Government .. has approached the subject with a clear mind and is developing a very important- industry at Mary Kathleen which, when the leases become . productive, will have an earning capacity in the .vicinity of £10,000,000 a year. As a result of the encouragement given by the Commonwealth, some £26,000,000 is already, invested in the industry in Australia. I- sincerely hope the Government will continue with its programme of developing atomic energy, and at the earliest opportunity will install a nuclear, reactor- where it will be of the greatest benefit to Australia.
.- I shall add very briefly ‘what will be rather in the nature of a postscript to this debate on the proposal to expand the Australian Atomic Energy Commission by the addition of a full-time executive ‘member. -The proposal - indicates that not only have the activities of the Commission expanded greatly, in the past few years, but also that it is anticipated the- Commission will continue to grow. If ‘that be’ so, the Government can well be congratulated’- on the prospects for the future; ‘
We Have heard to-night quite a deal .about the industrial and research uses to which isotopes can be put. It is gratifying to know that a research reactor, which will supply those isotopes for use by our scientists in their work, is to be put into operation at Lucas Heights. -
In the set-up in -Australia1 generally, some gaps exist -which I should like to see filled as soon as the Government considers it has sufficient revenue to do so. .In particular, I should like to see established eventually, as does Senator Scott, a” reactor or reactors of . a commercial type. At the present time we produce only uranium oxide. I should like to see1’ established a- plant to convert that material into the’ natural ‘ metallic uranium, which is. the basic fuel of all atomic reactors. To establish such a plant would cost in the vicinity of £4,000,000, but the expenditure would be worth while for Australia in that we would be independent of any’ other country in the production of-natural metallic uranium and its by-products. -
Having erected the plant and produced metallic uranium, I should then like to see established somewhere in Australia reactors to supply not only energy and electricity, which would be one of their functions, but also to provide our scientists with basic training in their operation. The scientists could then progress to the fields’ of “ research now open to them only overseas.
As mentioned by Senator Scott, in the early stages we would- have to generate electricity by reactors of the type that are at present an uneconomical proposition. There would be a very small margin of loss on the generation of electricity at the present moment, but if we take into consideration the payment of interest on the money invested in the reactor, the amortization of that money, and all the cost factors involved, the loss, at a rough guess, would probably only be between .Old. and .05d. per unit. But that surely would be repaid to us over and over again by the scientific advantages which our practising technologists would have available to them in this country - at home. If this could be carried out - I know it’ would cost some £25,000,000 per reactor: - not only . could we fuel this reactor with the metallic uranium ourselves, but we would be able to get from that metallic uranium after it had been in use in the - reactor and. had reached the end of its life, the plutonium which would be residual in the metallic uranium charged from. uranium 238 because of the bombardment -of - neutrons into the metal.
That plutonium would almost certainly be the - basic fuel of the more advanced types of reactors which we can expect to see coming into operation in the future. I say “ almost certainly be “.; it looks at the present moment,- on the best scientific advice one can ‘get, that plutonium would be the basic fuel eventually, but that comes from the basic metallic uranium I would like to see us make. If that wore done we would then be, as I have said, independent from start to finish in our energygenerating programme.
It may be that in time. a fusion process instead of , a , fission process will take the place, of reactors, pf that kind;, in fact, it is almost .certain -that they will take, the place of those reactors. How many years ahead it will be before they take that place is not known, but even should we put in reactors of the present type and find them superseded by fusion reactors in 5, 10, 15 or 20 years’ time, the reactors we put in now would stilL be .able to -generate electricity’ at- a reasonably cheap price to provide basic- training for those who wish to go on to more advanced types of reactors later and open up, as has been pointed out before, an almost unlimited vista for the development of Australia in the provision of water , for irrigation, and - this would be a fission. not a fusion project- in the production of fuels for transport of all kinds -which we can confidently expect at some time in the future to be powered with atomic power.
All I wish to add to this debate is that the Government is to be congratulated on what is has done, and the personnel of the Atomic Energy Commission are to be congratulated on what1 they have done. I believe that to bring this work to its full fruition we should, as soon as we can, provide a. plan to change our uranium oxide to natural metallic uranium and provide a reactor or reactors at points where the economy of Australia suggests they would be of most use to Australia.
– in reply - I thank the Senate for the reception it has given the bill. I think I may say with confidence that the debate has been on an interesting topic and has been conducted in an interesting way. I have been well served in the debate, as I have an officer pf the Atomic Energy Commission present who has given me in concise form the points that have been, raised in the debate that require answers, and some notes which would enable me to give those answers. So I can deal with the points raised in the debate, subject to the limitation of time.
I shall take seriatim -the points that were made by various speakers, starting, of course, with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator’ McKenna). The particular point in Senator McKenna’s speech was the criticism’ made by Mr. L. R. Johnson, a member of the House of Representatives, within whose’ electorate the experimental station has been erected. I think it is rather a pity- it is bad luck- that; Mr. Johnson has thought fit to criticize’ the establishment so stringently,” because a new venture like this always wants friends rather than enemies .or . critics. It is particularly unfortunate that . the criticism was so inaccurate and unfair. Mr. Johnson has been making press statements alleging various things, to which I have given terse or short replies, but as he has now made the criticism in the Parliament and it has been supported by the Leader of the Opposition, I need to reply to it.
What has happened is in general terms this: Close enough to £6,000,000 has been spent upon the building of this research establishment. It is without doubt the finest of its type in the Southern Hemisphere. It is probably the finest establishment of its kind outside of Europe arid the Americas. The work that was contemplated has come to an end and the staff - those engaged upon it - have been put off or are in the process of being put off. Mr. Johnson complained very bitterly about the men being put off. But that is the way of building contracts. When a contract is completed, the staff engaged on it move on to other employment. It may well be that at some time in the future there will be an expansion of the establishment, but that time is not now. At present, the contract is completed and the staff must, of . necessity., be reduced.
Mr. Johnson allies to that the statement that because the emergency control centre is not completed, there is a degree of danger about the research establishment, to’ which the Atomic Energy Commission itself gives me the answer that it is an irresponsible suggestion. An emergency control -centre is completely unnecessary at present, and when the time comes at - which the centre is needed,’ it will then be installed and made available for use. The building necessary to house it has already been erected. That reply is applicable also to other suggestions that buildings’ are not being completed. A large part of the chemical engineering block, concerning “which” Mr. “Johnson complains, “has, in truth, been occupied for nearly a year and the research programme is already under way. I could spend a great deal more time in” “replying to this criticism, but’ I forbear to do so because I should like to refer to other matters which are of more interest. I might perhaps reply to Mr. Johnson by making two general statements. “First it is irresponsible to allege that there” is any element of danger in the operations of the research establishment, and such statements do him little credit. Secondly, the building staff has been reduced for the normal reason - of which he must be perfectly well aware - the completion of contract work.
Senator Laught, as a good South Australian, suggested that one of the commissioners - preferably a uranium expert - should come from that State. However, there is no vacancy for a mining expert at the moment. Two distinguished mining men are already on the commission. I refer to Dr. Raggatt and Mr. Hugh Murray, the general manager of the Mount Lyell company. South Australians, as one might expect, are prominently represented on the business advisory group.
Senator Laught also asked that greater commission activity should take place in South Australia. I point out that the Commonwealth can undertake mining - as mining - only in Commonwealth territories. There is, however, a very close relationship between the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, the Bureau of Mineral Resources and the South Australian Mines Department, which is reflected in the firstclass work in the extraction of uranium from ore which takes place at Radium Hill. The Australian Atomic Energy Commission is also financing atomic research in the University of Adelaide. In fact, South Australia has more atomic energy scholarship holders per head of population than has any other State.
The honorable senator also requested the building of a nuclear power station - preferably at Tennant Creek or Whyalla. As has been mentioned previously, the provision of power is primarily a State responsibility. I do not think sufficient emphasis has been placed upon the fact that the use of nuclear power will depend very largely upon a hard-headed business approach by the State electricity commissions. It will make its way according to its economic attractiveness, and its results in competition with other forms of power. Inherent in the atomic research establishment at Lucas Heights is a research programme aimed at designing a nuclear power station suitable for Australian conditions, especially in the outback, where the need for power is great, but the absence of water, and the long haulages of coal, make thermal power production expensive. The honorable senator made a plea for atomic energy stations at Mount Gambier and Port Pirie. I shall not refer to that at length now, so that I may deal with other matters in the time left to me.
The Australian Atomic Energy Commission has held exhibitions in Melbourne, Sydney, Morwell and Wollongong, and further exhibitions are contemplated.I have been to each of them and have been most interested to see the keen attention of the younger folk present - especially lads in their last school years or apprenticeship years - a sight that would gladden- the heart of Senator Armstrong.
In reply to Senator O’Flaherty - and without alluding to all his questions - I would say that the output of Rum Jungle and Radium Hill is still being sold to the Combined Development Agency, which, honorable senators may recall, was the wartime link between Great Britain and the United States of America in the purchase of uranium for defence purposes. Under the present arrangement, all of the Mary Kathleen output will go to the United Kingdom for use in its atomic power programme. The output from the other mines will be devoted to our own defence programme.
Senator Benn sought information about the extent to which publicity was sought, but I shall not deal with that question at length now. Senator McCallum raised questions concerning accounting and auditing. The changes contemplated in the bill are no criticism of what has been done in the past and are merely an attemptto employ more modern methods of accounting and strengthen the powers of the AuditorGeneral. If the honorable senator seeks further information I shall supply it to him in committee.
asked a series of interesting questions, and I should like to reply to at least some of them. Our main reserves of uranium, which amount to about 9,000,000 tons, are capable of producing 10,000 or 12,000 tons of oxide. According to geological advice, conditions throughout the north of Australia are favorable for the finding of substantial quantities of uranium ore. Oil is where you find it, they say, and uranium ore is in much the same category. Though our advice is that uranium ore is likely to be found in the north of Australia, it has nevertheless to be found. Early next year, when the Mary Kathleen undertaking is operating, the Australian production of uranium oxide will be about 1,000 tons per annum. That will place us in the fourth position on the list of world producers - excluding the iron curtain countries, concerning which no information is available. Although we are the fourth on the list, there is no doubt that the Australian Atomic Energy Commission is correct when it expresses the view that more uranium must be discovered in Australia in order to meet our anticipated needs. I share the view of the mining experts and the commission that the best way to encourage people to find more uranium is to provide markets for it overseas. That will encourage prospecting and development.
I think Senator Benn was the first to introduce the subject of scholarships. Through the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, the Government has awarded over 100 under-graduate and post-graduate scholarships during the last four years. This has cost almost £120,000. There are two interesting points about these scholarships and scientific work generally. The first is that within the research establishment itself the commission has formed an institute in association with all the Australian universities. It is known as the Institute of Nuclear Science. It is constituted of the commission and all the universities of Australia. We are in the course of erecting special premises to house it. The capital expenditure involved is of the order of £60,000. We hope to make that institute the Mecca for research work in atomic energy for the universities of Australia.
– Where is it located?
– Within the boundaries of the Lucas Heights establishment. We hope to make it the head-quarters for atomic science research by the universities, giving them access to the actual experimental research reactor.
The second point is of special interest. The development of the research establishment was planned bearing in mind the way in which scientific research staff could be attracted. The original anticipation was that it would take us a few years either to train young chaps for the work or attract them from overseas. However, when the research establishment got under way we found that a surprisingly large number of Australian atomic energy research scientists working overseas were very happy to come back to Australia to do their professional work and carry on their research careers. We have been able to recruit a highly qualified scientific staff in a much shorter period than seemed possible a few years ago.
Senator Benn also expressed the hope that the Lucas Heights establishment would be wholly staffed by Australians, to which I say “ Amen, amen “. At the present time, except for a few New Zealanders, one of whom is the chief scientist, Mr. Watson Munro, the establishment is staffed by Australians.
Senator Benn also wished to know what the future market for uranium will be. That is a very wide question. At the present time the military demand for uranium is running at the rate of about 30,000 tons per annum and the civil demand is probably less than 5,000 tons per annum. It has been predicted that there will be an increase in the civil demand as the demand for atomic power stations increases. The search for uranium, by all mining standards, is a difficult task. I said earlier that we need much more than we have found, but that statement should not be construed to mean that we should not feel pleased about what we have done up to the present time.
Senator O’Byrne said that the Government had allocated inadequate funds for the training of scientists and engineers. I have already dealt with that matter. Senator Armstrong asked why the number of scholarships granted had dropped this year. It is the old story of figures not showing the true position. The 1957-58 figure of £47,000 is below the 1956-57 figure of £76,000 because the figure for 1956-57 included nearly £40,000 for research - not training - at the universities. The Atomic Energy Commission does not only grant scholarships and bursaries but also, in connexion with particular problems that arise in the course of its research programme, it asks a university to take over a problem and carry out the basic or original research required. The Commission bears the cost of the work but obtains the benefit of the services- of the professional staff’ of the university. The total expenditure on research and training at universities this financial year will be £92,000, or £16,000 more than was spent last year.
Senator Vincent urged a similar programme for thorium to that which is operating for uranium. The geological occurrence of thorium is quite different from “that of uranium and there is less difficulty in assessing our thorium reserves. Geologists seem to know with some degree of exactitude the amount of our thorium reserves. Recently the Government decided that it would not be to the national advantage for our limited reserves of thorium to be sold without regard for Australia’s requirements in the years to come. At present the Government is purchasing all the thorium produced in Australia and stockpiling it for future use. I think I have covered the points, that have been raised in the debate.
– Will the Minister comment on the suggestion that it might be better to manufacture the metal in Aus.ralia?
– I have a recollection that the probability is that for the next decade it- would not be economical to have a metal manufactur.ing industry in Australia. It would be better to export the oxide and import .the metal.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
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.
– I regret that once again I have to detain honorable senators for a little while on the motion for the adjournment,, but, unless one adopts this procedure one never has the opportunity of saying what one wishes to say on certain matters.
I have referred on previous occasions to the Government’s inaction in connexion with giving parklands back to the people. As one who is interested in one particular park, I have held the opinion, for some time, that the reason why the- Government is so dilatory in regard to Albert Park is that the rentals paid by it for this area are so small that the Government continues to pass the buck when pressed on the matter. * -1
Only a short time ago, I wrote to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) informing. :him .that as .from 1st January, 1958, rental per acre for. the Albert Park land would be charged on the same basis as the rent paid by the Government for land occupied by it in. an area known as Debney’s Paddock. I might say here that it took 92 days for a reply to reach me. That “is not a bad effort! Just imagine - 92 days from the day the letter was given into the Minister’s office’ here until I received a reply in my office in Parliament House. -As’ every one knows, this Government is so complacent -that- it thinks it can delay answering correspondence for 92 days.
As I have said, I asked for the same rent as was being charged for land in Debney’s Paddock, but I emphasize at once, that the. Albert Park committee of management would -:be. only too happy if it received nothing whatever, because its main concern is to get the Government out of this area. We feel now that because we have been lenient with it, the Government is just playing us. on a long bow. I assume also that Mr. Fairhall did not write his letter in Canberra because although “ Canberra “ is typed ,on the letterhead, the date is put on with a stamp. I made some inquiries and have reason to believe that I am correct in assuming that the letter was written in Melbourne. Mr. Fairhall’s excuse for not answering my letter’ for 92 days was that the Christmas and New Year- holidays had intervened. ‘- This is what he says -
The question of vacating portions of ‘ Albert Park in stages is being vigorously pursued, and I am glad to advise you that alternative plans for the Army Signal Section have been included in the works programme,- ‘making possible the vacation of Section A for which you have been pressing.
I point out here that the Government had agreed to vacate section A in June of last year. From what I know of the position, I understand that , the delay is due to the “fact that a new camp is being built at an outer suburb called Watsonia and that there has been disagreement between the sergeants and the officers. I do not mind if the sergeants and officers do not eat together, but I am informed that each section wanted a separate kitchen. Just imagine it - one kitchen to cook food for the sergeants and another kitchen to cook food for the officers! Now we .are finding out where a few thousand pounds of the £200,000,000 voted for defence each year is going. The letter continued-
I am informed that the rental being paid on Albert Park was set by your committee as recently as 1956.
That is quite true. I know that to be so because I had ascertained the dictum of the Victorian government of the day. I know that this dictum permitted the rent to be raised by 25 per cent. We increased the rent because we wanted the Government to vacate the park. We did not want its money. Reading further from the letter, I. come to this gem -
It is not considered that, rentals on- Albert Park can be compared with rentals being paid on the City Council area known as Debney’s Paddock as it must be well known to you that the Kensington land is classed as industrial land only.
Let us examine the position. I am sure there are some honorable senators present who know where the famous Debney’s Paddock is and who also know where Fitzroystreet, St. Kilda, is. To say the land at Debney’s Paddock is equal in value to the land in St. Kilda cannot be supported by facts, as I know, because I have ascertained the facts.
There was an inquiry recently on the question whether the whole of the Debney’s Paddock area should be made into a park or whether certain vested interests should be allowed to occupy portion pf it for industrial purposes, and the Commonwealth to have Hi acres of the area. An inquiry was held in Melbourne. The Government appointed Dr. Coppel, an eminent judge, to conduct the inquiry. The Melbourne City Council claimed before Mr, Justice. Coppel that the Debney’s Paddock land. was worth £40,000 an acre, while the Commonwealth suggested it was worth only £20,000. Mr. Justice Coppel rejected the Melbourne City Council’s figure of £40,000. He did not state what figure he considered appropriate, but I submit it is reasonable to infer from his ‘ observations that he considered that £25,000 an acre would not be far from its true valuation. . .
To show again that the Minister, or whoever wrote the letter, was badly advised, I have ascertained the ‘value ‘of the land at both ends of Albert Park. I obtained the information as late as to-day. I shall deal, first, with the South Melbourne section, an area of possibly 4 or 5 acres. The town clerk of South Melbourne has supplied me with the following information with regard ‘to the area of parkland which is occupied by the Commonwealth in that portion df Albert Park within the municipality of South Melbourne. He states that, after consultation with the valuer of the city of South Melbourne, he is of the opinion that the land is worth at least between £25,000 and £28,000 an acre.
Let us go up to the St. Kilda end where, of course, the land is more valuable than it is at the South Melbourne end. The following is a statement given to me over the telephone to-day by the town clerk of St. Kilda, Mr. Graves, and supplied to him by the city valuer of St. Kilda, Mr. Rouvray -
Assuming the site in Albert Park to be somewhat in proximity to Fitzroy-street, St. Kilda, the figures from sales in this street could give a lead to Albert Park values, however thin the line of demarcation. It is known, that. land, in Fitzroystreet brought £165 per foot a few years ago and over £200 per foot twelve months ago. Turning to acres in Albert Park, an investor would reserve divisional possibilities and ascertain the development capacity of each sub-divided allotment. From a table showing varying frontages and depths obtainable in an acre of land, I suggest this. Frontage 281 feet by a depth of 130 feet after providing for half of a road of 50 feet in width. From sale figures in Fitzroy-street, I suggest £100 per foot in Albert Park, and therefore the land would be valued at £28,000 to £30,000 per acre.
I was really astounded when I read in the Melbourne “ Herald “ last night an account of what the Government had done in regard to Debney’s Paddock.
– Who was Debney?
– Everybody knows that. At present, the Commonwealth pays only £2,300 a year rent for Hi acres. The City Council had sought £20,000 a year. The new rent would be £15,000 on the Hi acres paid retrospectively for the whole of this’ year, and £11,000 a year in subsequent years for the 7i acres still to be retained. Yet, in respect of the Albert Park land, which is more valuable than land in the Flemington area, the Government pays £125 an acre annually, without any lease. Its lease for the Debney’s Paddock area ran out a couple of years ago. According to Mr. Borrie, who drafted the master plan for the development of the city of Melbourne, there is no more security for the Commonwealth buildings in the Debney’s Paddock area than there is in Albert Park, or vice versa. What I want to know is: How can any Government justify a rent of £125 an acre when the land it occupies is more valuable than land for which it pays approximately £1,500 an acre?
Let me tell the Senate that the Minister and the Government will be informed by letter to-morrow of what is to be done.
– Then why not let it rest at that?
– It is all very well for Senator Maher to take that attitude. He is not worried at all about the matter. If it affected wool, it would be different. I heard the honorable senator crying the other night about the drop in the price of wool, despite all the big prices that he has received for his wool over the years. This subject affects the people of my State. I want to tell the Government now that on 1st May it will not be able to use the two sheds on Albert-road drive to house 400 odd motor cars that it houses there now.
– This matter has no national bearing whatever. It is a parish pump matter.
– It has a lot of national bearing. It demonstrates unfair administration by the Government of the people’s land. This Government may bow the knee to the wealthy Melbourne City Council but we shall see that it is also made to give equal treatment to Albert Park.
I want to tell the Minister that on 1st May, Commonwealth cars will not be permitted in there. I say that for the reason that the park authorities want them out of the area. Apparently, because the Government can get cheap accommodation, it proposes to play about with the interests of the people. I am telling it that it is not going to do so. I speak not only on behalf of myself but for the people whom the government of Victoria has placed in charge of this area. It is true that the Commonwealth has acquisition rights, but I challenge it to acquire the area. Even if the Government did so, at least the court would decide a fair, just and reasonable price for it.
I have never in all my experience, in the Parliament or outside it, seen a responsible Minister who was prepared to put his name to a letter stating matters which were so contrary to the facts. If he is not prepared to read his letters but just to sign his name, as he must have done in this instance because, obviously, he does not know the facts, all I desire to tell him is that he will have a little job on his hands in finding a garage for 400 motor cars, or more, on 1st May. In a very short while he will have the additional job of finding office accommodation, because what will be done on 1st May, in a very short time also will be done in respect of other areas. I advise the Government not to rely on help from the Victorian police, because it will not get help.
– Is this a minor revolution?
– No. All we want is a fair and honest transaction. We do not want the Commonwealth in the area, but if it persists in remaining there it will have to pay us a fair and just rent. If it does not do that-
– You could take us to court, could you not? ?
– No, we cannot take you to court. I should not expect the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), who is only the representative in this chamber of the Minister for the Interior, to know everything about the matter. If he did, he would not make such an interjection. On behalf of the Albert Park Trust, I warn the Minister now that he will receive an official letter on the matter not later than Friday, informing him of what will happen. If the Government wants to put its 400 or 500 motor cars on the road, it will not put them into Albert Park. If it wants to take us to court, let it do so.
I repeat that the Government has no right to bow the knee to the big city council because it is of the same political ilk as the
Government itself. The Government gave back 44- acres of Debney’s Paddock because it was being made pay for it. Despite all the promises I have received about the Commonwealth vacating this area in June, 1959, 1 think we will get it long before then. 1 never thought that a responsible Minister would sign a letter which contained statements that were so contrary to the facts. If the Government persists in the attitude that it has adopted towards this matter, it will be responsible for he action that is taken.
– During the debate on the motion for the adjournment on Wednesday, 12th March, I referred to certain union officials who were associated with indemnity payments as being Communists. I was approached to-day by an honorable senator who told me that one of them, Mr. Tudehope, was known to him personally and was not a Communist. I accept that assurance unreservedly, and I take advantage of this the first opportunity I have had to withdraw the statement that Mr. Tudehope is a Communist. My withdrawal will appear in Hansard “. I have ascertained that the statement was not broadcast but, if it was published in any newspaper, I ask that my withdrawal be published.
– I wish to reply briefly to Senator Kennelly. I think the first speech that I ever heard the honorable senator make in this chamber was about the vacating of Albert Park by the
Army, and he has raised the matter consistently since then.
– The battle of Albert Park?
– Yes, the battle of Albert Park. I know that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) and- officials of his department have been scouring the City of Melbourne for alternative properties. Melbourne covers a big area, and it has not been easy to find property that is satisfactory. I repeat that Senator Kennelly has been interested in this matter for quite a long time, but I believe that when he spoke earlier in the piece about the vacating of Albert Park he hoped that it would not be vacated too quickly because the rent received was very useful in developing the rest of the park.
– I do not think that the Minister has any right to say that. It is like so many other assertions; it is not supported by fact.
– I have a sneaking suspicion that that money has been very useful.
– If that was the case, it is not now, because we do not want these people there. Let them get out.
– Within a very short time - perhaps much shorter than the honorable senator believes - he will get the best news that he will have had for quite a long time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.23 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 March 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1958/19580319_senate_22_s12/>.