22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– lis the Leader of the Government aware that a very grave situation has arisen at the works of Commonwealth Engineering .Queensland Proprietary Limited in Brisbane? Is he aware that, owing to lack of orders, 400 men will be dismissed shortly? Has the Premier of Queensland been in touch with the Commonwealth Government regarding this serious position? Has the Premier of Queensland stated that the men could be kept in work if money were forthcoming to enable the State Government to order various types of railway carriages and other railway rolling stock? Will the Government consider making funds available for this purpose?
– I am not aware of the circumstances referred to by the honorable senator, but I shall have inquiries made and supply him with an answer.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether it is a fact that Mr. Reg Ansett recently came to Western Australia to give additional reasons why Ansett-A.N.A. should be allowed to purchase Lockheed Electra aircraft. Has the Minister given further consideration to the request? If so, has the Government agreed to allow Ansett-A.N.A. to purchase Lockheed Electras instead of Vickers Viscount 810 aircraft? If this permission has been granted, could the Minister tell me the reason for the change and whether TransAustralia Airlines will be granted permission to purchase Caravelle aircraft?
– It is a fact that, subsequent to Cabinet’s decision on his application for permission to purchase Lockheed Electra aircraft, Mr. Ansett saw me in Perth and put to me further submissions in support of the application which had been rejected, lt is also a fact that since then I have had further communications and submissions from Trans-Australia Airlines. Apparently, the honorable senator has not seen a press statement which was issue.d by the Prime Minister on Friday last, subsequent to an interview which took place between the Prime Minister, Mr.. Ansett, Mr. McDonald of T.A.A- and myself. In making that statement, tb.e Prime Minister indicated he had pointed out to both Mr. Ansett and Mr. McDonald that two factors in the Government’s policy with respect to civil aviation were that the Government supported the maintenance and operations of the two major airlines and that whilst it did that it sought to avoid the introduction to Australia of a multiplicity of aircraft types. The reason for that is obvious; indeed, I recall that my friend, Senator Scott, has indicated to me in this chamber from time to time the desirability of the maintenance of some standardization of aircraft types within Australia. As a result of that meeting on Friday last both Mr. Ansett and Mr. McDonald have now agreed to discuss their re-equipment programme in the light of the information they received from the Prime Minister. -1 understand that they will be conferring at an early date, probably to-day. I do not know when they will bring their further submissions to me, but I expect it will be in the not too distant future.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Government been drawn to the Australia-wide increase of 5s. a week in the federal basic wage? Does this increase now prove that the claim of the Menzies Government that it has checked and stabilized the cost of living is completely false? Does not the upward spiral in the cost of living adjustments confirm the fact that the Australian economy is unsound because of the meagre value left in the Australian £1? Does the Minister realize that it is nine years since the Australian people first heard the reckless promise of Mr. Menzies to put value back into the £1, and that yesterday’s judgment proves that all value is rapidly draining out of the income .of workers, pensioners and others on fixed incomes?
– I have not yet had an opportunity to read the full reasons upon which the increase was based, but the fact that an increase was granted is not viewed with any undue alarm by senators on this side of the chamber. We are not a lowwage party. 1 understand that the increase was based on the prosperity of the country and the capacity of industry to pay more to its employees. We do not believe that the employers should keep all their profits, or that they should be the only people to benefit in a time of prosperity. We are a highwage party, and we do not begrudge the workers a decent remuneration for their work.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General inquire whether there is any truth in the allegations contained in to-day’s Melbourne press that the Australian Broadcasting Commission land lines prepared for the broadcasting of the policy speech of the Australian Democratic Labour party in Melbourne last night were deliberately cut, and that this sabotage was carried out by supporters of the Evatt Labour party? If there is any truth in the allegations, will the Postmaster-General request the Australian Broadcasting Commission to provide alternative broadcasting facilities to the Australian Democratic Labour party so that, in this democratic country, the policy speech of that recognized political party can be broadcast over national stations? Will the Australian Broadcasting Commission take every precaution to prevent any further interference with these broadcasts that may be attempted?
– I understand that investigations already made confirm the fact that the lines were deliberately broken. I am also informed that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is giving immediate attention to measures to ensure that broadcast facilities provided for all parties are not subject to interference in the future.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. Will he confirm the reported statement that the Department of Trade has not had, and will not have, any discussions or arrive at any arrangements with the trade delegation now in Australia representing the Government of Communist China? Should any trade facilities or assistance be sought, will the Minister ensure that the Government will take full cognizance of the fact that while imports from Communist China may be cheap in monetary value, they have been produced at the inhuman cost of 15,000,000 Chinese executed, and 25,000,000 others languishing in concentration camps to-day?
– In view of the importance of the question, it would be well for the honorable senator to place it on the notice-paper so that the Minister for Trade may reply to it direct. I add two observations. As far as I am aware, this delegation is not here at the invitation of the Australian Government but has come on its own account. The Government’s trade policy in regard to red China is well known - we will not trade in items that have any strategic value in time of war.
– Is the Minister for National Development aware that a national conference of building experts yesterday decided to press for the introduction of a uniform building code with scope for modification to suit peculiar local conditions, as a means of reducing the cost of home building? Is he also aware that the organizations concerned are the Australian Institute of Builders, the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, the Institute of Engineers, Australia, the Master Builders Federation and the Building Industry Congress? Is it a fact that the New South Wales act and ordinances relating to building were introduced in 1919 and have not been ‘ .^red since to any substantial degree? Is it a fact that a Commonwealth instrumentality, the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, over the years has recommended considerable changes in those ordinances? Is it a fact that the changes proposed by the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station would result in a substantial lowering of the cost of building a normal home, without in any way interfering with architectural stability? Bearing in mind that standard building practice is desirable in order to bring down costs, will the Minister consider calling a national conference of governmental and other authorities, State and Federal, with a view to preparing the way for the Standards Association of Australia, in which the Commonwealth has a definite interest, to resume work on the preparation of a national building code?
– The question is fairly lengthy, but .1 shall try to answer it. I did read the press reports on the building industry committee meeting that was held in Sydney yesterday, and I did note that a number of influential groups in the building industry were represented. I am aware of the work that has been done by the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station. 1 applaud the suggestion that representatives of the building trades, architects and others interested should meet for the purpose of evolving ways and means of reducing building costs. I have some doubt about whether a national conference on standard building methods would be fruitful, because building conditions, arrangements and standards vary so materially from State to State. I think the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station has found from experience that the best procedure to adopt to have its various ideas implemented is to make representations to each State rather than to the States as a whole.
– 1 refer to recent press announcements that overseas oil companies are on the point of abandoning any further search for oil in Australia. In view of the cardinal importance of finding oil in Australia, can the Minister inform the Senate whether any applications for payment of a drilling subsidy have been made under recent enabling legislation? Does he believe that such legislation has, in fact, encouraged exploration? As some local oil companies that possess modern drilling equipment, but insufficient capital to use it, are also believed to be on the point of ceasing operations, will the Government examine the possibility of granting more liberal assistance to oil exploration companies?
– Whilst there may be some general impression that the search for oil is being reduced in its intensity, the fact is that, up to the present, the companies interested in the search for oil are committed to programmes which, this year at least, are as great as the programmes carried out last year. The search for oil is of profound importance. It can be safely said that as yet there has been no decline in the volume of work being done. The professional advice I have is that this recent legislation has encouraged the search for oil. Honorable senators will remember that the subsidy is not so much a subsidy for drilling for oil as it is a subsidy for drilling particular holes in order to obtain geological information which will become available to the nation. In other words, the professional people want, if they can, to get geological information about each of a dozen or so sedimentary basins throughout Australia in which there is a likelihood of obtaining oil. The purpose of the legislation is to obtain over a period of time as complete a geological picture as is possible in respect of each of these sedimentary basins. Much as I applaud and endeavour to increase the rate of the search for oil, I remind the honorable senator that a good deal is being done at the present time, and that the Government itself, in addition to providing attractive tax concessions for those who want to speculate or invest in oil search is, at the present time, spending on basic surveys and in the subsidizing of drilling, somewhere about £1,000,000 a year. I am sure honorable senators will agree that the present rate of governmental spending is a not inconsiderable contribution to the cost of the search.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development. Is it a fact that the Government proposes to allow the powerful oil companies in Australia an increase in the rate of allowance for loss by evaporation of petrol stocks held in bond? Is the proposed increase to be from the present rate of one-half of 1 per cent, to 2 per cent? Is it not a fact that customs officers have protested against this virtual gift of millions of pounds annually by the Government to its friends, the oil companies? Is it not true that it is a well-established fact that the present rate of evaporation allowance is entirely adequate to meet the losses of the oil cartel, and that the Government has been urged to grant an allowance of 2 per cent, in order to repay its debt to the oil cartel? What action has been taken to consider the strong case made out by the excise officers of the Department of Customs and Excise in opposition to the Government’s plan to replace by snap checks the regular and systematic checks of oil stocks held in bond?
– In view of the number of very important points that the honorable senator has raised, I should be pleased if he would place the question on the. notice-paper. I should like to assure him at this stage that no consideration whatsoever has been given to granting an allowance of 2 per cent, to any oil company for evaporation losses. Copies of a series of documents which have been circulated among members of Parliament are based on completely incorrect information. Steps are being taken to explain to the people who forwarded those documents the actual position in the matter. About two months ago, I explained the position to union representatives whom I met in Sydney, but they are still persisting with their earlier misrepresentations. If the honorable senator places the question on the noticepaper, I shall get him a full reply to the misstatements he has made.
– Has the Minister for Customs and Excise noted frequent references that have been made by the press to the unprecedented growth of the illegal drug traffic in Australia? Is it a fact that there are not any fully trained pharmaceutical clerks on the staff of the Department of Customs and Excise? Will the Minister give consideration to the appointment of trained men and women to this branch of the service to ensure, as far as possible, that the illegal importation of drugs at ports of entry into Australia either by sea or by air is successfully checked?
– The Department of Customs and Excise pays particular attention to the importation of drugs into Australia. Only this morning, I made a press statement in relation to this matter. 1 feel confident that the department is especially well qualified in this respect and that it does a particularly good job in guarding the Australian nation against illegal trafficking in drugs. If the honorable senator will place her question on notice, I shall get further information for her on the other points that she has raised.
– Has the Minister for Repatriation any record of the number of women who joined the Women’s Land Army during the war? Are ex-members of the Women’s Land Army, who did such an important war-time job, entitled to any benefits under the Repatriation Act? Are they regarded as ex-members of the women’s services on public occasions such as Anzac Day services?
– That question, I think, should be directed to the Minister for the Army. I cannot tell the honorable senator, offhand, the number of women who joined the Women’s Land Army, so if she will put her question on the notice-paper I shall discover who is the appropriate Minister to answer it, and have it referred to him.
– Has the Minister for Customs and Excise noticed in this morning’s press a complaint by a Melbourne bookseller to the effect that he was prevented by the Department of Customs and Excise from selling a book, pending a decision on whether that book should, or should not, be banned? Did the Minister notice the comment by the bookseller to the effect that he, the bookseller, had thought that the Government had promised not to apply that procedure? Will the Minister inform us of the true position?
– I did notice the press report referred to, and I have asked the Comptroller-General of Customs to go to Melbourne as soon as possible and interview the booksellers’ association there and find out just where the recent organization that we planned has broken down. Apparently there has been some breakdown in the organization, because it is the very position referred to in the press this morning - if the press report is factual - that the organization was designed to overcome. However, the press report is vague, and I am not at the moment in possession of all the information in regard to the matter. The department undertook, and has so informed the importers, that the importers would be allowed to bring in through the Customs books which could be prohibited imports, take them into their warehouses, service them and get them ready for delivery to shops while they were, awaiting clearance of the titles by the department. I think that this is a commonsense procedure, because it overcomes the long delay which previously existed. ID rather puts the importers on an honour system, in that we expect, in turn, that they will not send these books out to the retailers until such times as the titles have been, cleared with the department. I hope that that system has not broken down because, if it has, that would lead to a reconsideration of the concession which has been made to the importers, and could lead to its withdrawal.
– I direct to the Minister for National Development a question which I preface by referring to a statement in to-day’s press relating to hydrogen power. The article is headed, “ Power from the Sea “, and states that Sir William Penney has been taken off military work in order to be placed in charge of the development of the Zeta process. When the Zeta project was opened a few months ago, scientists were saying that it would take twenty years to get a sea-water power station in operation. It is now suggested that power will be derived from sea-water by 1965. Can the Minister advise me whether he has received any official advice from Great Britain concerning the developments I have mentioned? Also, are any Australian scientists co-operating with British scientists in the construction of Zeta? Finally, does the Minister believe that within: the next decade hydrogen power will take the place of power derived from atomic energy?
– I am sorry that I did not see the newspaper report to which the honorable senator has referred. It is particularly interesting to hear that Sir William Penney has been taken off defence work and put to work on the new process, in charge of Zeta. I had not heard of that previously. I can only repeat what I said before, which is that my professional advisers have told me rather to discount estimates that are made about our getting power from sea-water within a short period of time as a result of this new process. As I understand it - and it is not given to laymen to understand very much about such a process - all that has been done so far is to prove by pilot plant, or in some similar small way, that it is possible. I understand that what has yet to be established is whether it is a practicable proposition.
– I ask the
Minister for Shipping and Transport whether the Bass Strait passenger ferry “ Taroona “, which operates between Melbourne and northern Tasmanian ports, will be off the run for annual maintenance from 26th July to 18th August. If so, can the Minister assure the Senate that every effort will be made by his department to provide from its own resources, or through- private shipping, companies, another passenger service during this period? I night aci thu. each year the growth of the winter tourist traffic to Tasmania makes a continuous passenger service ever more important to the economy of that State.
– It is true that “ Taroona “ will be laid up during JulyAugust for survey, but unfortunately there is not on die coast a vessel suitable to replace her during this period. Consequently, in order to reduce inconvenience to travellers to a minimum, the survey is being undertaken in the slackest period of the year. For the same reason, as much work as possible will be done while she is on her normal schedule.
– Earlier this session the Minister representing, the Treasurer advised me that he would discuss with the right honorable gentleman the possibility of an increase in the price of gold. I now ask him: In view of the present high cost of producing gold, will he say whether the outcome of his discussion with the Treasurer was an approach to the International Monetary Fund for a higher price and, if so, whether an answer has- yet been received? If a negative answer was received, does the Minister believe the gold price position- to be so serious as to warrant further assistance being given the industry?
– As the honorable senator is aware, the Australian Government, in common with South Africa, has constantly sought from the International Monetary Fund an increase in the price of gold. Its representations have not so fa» been successful, but the honorable senator may be assured that the Government will continue to seek a higher price.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Relative to announcements made some months ago to the effect that a sub-committee of the Cabinet was undertaking a review of the development of the Public Service, will the Prime Minister advise (a) whether the review has been completed, and (b) whether a statement on the result of the review will be made to Parliament?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer: -
As I indicated in the House of Representatives on 30th April, the Cabinet Committee on the Re-organization of the Public Service is continuing its work. Its reviews have not been completed, and may not be completed for some time; but we do not expect to go right through the Public Service before taking action on any matter which proves to be warranted by our investigations. For example, we have already amalgamated the Departments of Supply and Defence Production as a consequence of the recommendations of the Morshead Committee appointed as part of the Cabinet Committee’s deliberations. Parliament will be informed from time to time of any important administrative changes which arise from the work of the Cabinet Committee.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The Minister for Social Services has replied as follows: -
Debate resumed from 1 st May (vide page 763), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill before the chamber is largely a machinery measure concerning the procedures and establishment of the Tariff Board. The Senate will recall that in 1953 membership of the board was increased to seven. In addition, the opportunity was taken to enable the board to sit in two divisions. That proposal was supported generally by the Opposition. At that time quite a number of senators on -this side of the chamber thought that the machinery to give effect to the purposes of the bill was rather deficient. It would appear now that that was so because the Government again addresses itself to the Tariff Board in this measure.
No major matter of principle is involved in the alterations. The definitions clause is repealed and re-enacted to bring it into line with a number of alterations made by the bill. One of the main provisions m the measure is that whereas previously two members of the board had to be drawn from the Department of Trade, those two members may now be drawn from the Public Service at large. We consider that to be an improvement because the field of recruitment open to the board is expanded. Having regard to the vast importance of the Tariff Board to Australia - in particular to secondary industry - it is essential that the widest possible scope should be available to the Government in selecting members of the board. It is desirable, in order to preserve continuity of Government policy, that certain members of the Public Service should be on the board, but it is not right that the selection of those members should be confined to one department only. The Opposition supports this amendment.
The bill provides for the appointment of a deputy chairman to take effect forthwith, so that it will not be left for the GovernorGeneral in Council to appoint an acting chairman when the necessity arises. The need for such a provision is rather obvious when two boards are sitting at the same time. The bill also provides for the appointment of an acting chairman when neither the chairman nor the deputy chairman is available. That, too, is an improvement.
In his second reading speech the Minister indicated that there was a back-log of inquiries awaiting attention by the Tariff Board. I am sure the Minister will acknowledge that that situation is not desirable. The steps proposed indicate that some attack is being made upon the problem. One approach to the problem is the appointment of an additional member to the board, bringing the total number of members to eight. The new appointment is to be effective only until 31st December of this year. That appointment, coupled with the increase in the secretariat of the Tariff Board, should enable the arrears to be overtaken. According to the Minister, that is the expectation of the Government, and the Opposition joins with him in the hope that that expectation will be realized.
It is of the utmost importance that matters submitted to the Tariff Board for inquiry should be dealt with expeditiously. Very great issues hang upon the result of such inquiry and recommendation. At the moment the timber industry is awaiting the submission of a report by the board, and the textile industry is awaiting the determination of the Government upon the findings and recommendation of the board. I have been informed that great anxiety will be felt in both fields until the effect of the tariff upon the future of those industries is clearly known. The Opposition would like the Minister to indicate when the reports on those industries, together with the decisions of the Government on them, are likely to be available and made public.
It is usual and quite proper when a bill affecting the Tariff Board is under consideration for the Opposition to express its appreciation of the quality of the work performed by that board, and of the great contribution that its highly qualified per*sonnel makes to Australian industry. On this occasion I emphasize what we have said in that direction on each such occasion.
Apparently the machinery set up in 1953 to enable two boards to sit at the same time was too sketchy and cumbersome, and is now being overhauled. This bill obviously results from disharmony of some kind among members of the Tariff Board. Within my recollection, this is the first time any such disharmony has existed. I think each member of the Parliament received a written memorandum from a member of the Tariff Board complaining about certain activities and omissions of the board. That such a submission should be prepared and circulated occasioned a good deal of surprise, and betrayed the lack of harmony among members of the board. Obviously some of the amendments before us are designed to meet that position. If disharmony does exist, obviously it is necessary that something be done about it immediately.
However, on consideration of what the Government has done, I am not completely reassured because one particular clause is inadequate and still leaves room for a good deal of misunderstanding and conflict among members of the board. I refer to clause 6 of the bill which seeks to insert a new section 8 into the Tariff Board Act. I do not propose to traverse that matter at this stage; I merely give notice to the Minister of my intention, at the committee stage, to deal with that clause.
Apart from that one matter, the Opposition offers no objection to the .passage of the bill, but it is probable that we shall vote against clause 6, more because of its inadequate treatment of an important subject than anything unsatisfactory in the clause itself. Although we appreciate that the purpose of the clause is to allow decisions to be made in conflicting situations, particularly should disharmony arise among members of the Tariff Board, our view is that the clause is not drawn in such a way as to effectuate adequately the purpose that the Government has in mind.
.- The Senate welcomes the presentation of a bill dealing with the Tariff Board, if only for the opportunity that it provides to offer some comments on the effective contribution that the board makes to the Australian economy. I approach a consideration of the measure with great disquiet and uneasiness. 1 should think that the proper course for the Senate to take would be to refer it to a select committee, because I feel that there lie behind it matters which may, if not resolved, seriously detract from the efficiency of the board. Having watched events associated with the activities of the Tariff Board over the last two years, I have the feeling that we have not by any means been presented with a factual outline of the position.
T acquiesce in the mild criticism that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has offered of some of the provisions of the bill. When we look at them, we realize that we are being asked to patch up the constitution of a board that came into existence in 1921’. Any one who takes the trouble to peruse the debates upon the original legislation will see that the board owes its efficacy and importance in the Australian economy not to the original conception of the board but to the great work it has done and the status it has earned in the subsequent years. We all know that before 1921 members of the Parliament were engaged many times for weeks on end in a particular and detailed discussion of various tariff items. Those debates were much more detailed than are the debates to which we now subject even the Estimates.
The Senate will remember that the original intention of the Constitution was to mould our uniform Australian tariff under the guidance and supervision of the Inter-State Commission. The legislation which entrusted tariff recommendations to the Inter-State Commission fell upon evil times during the First World War and the commission became discredited. Then in 1921, I think due simply to a political circumstance, jurisdiction to deal with the tariff was transferred from the constitutional repository, the Inter-State Commission, to the new Tariff Board. I take leave to remind the Senate that during the ‘twenties the Tariff Board was gradually feeling its way. In 1929; the government of the day thought fit to appoint a very learned panel of economists and practical tariff administrators to report upon the contribution being made by the Tariff Board to the Australian tariff and the impact that the tariff itself was having upon the Australian economy. On previous occasions I have referred with sadness - I repeat the reference in the hope that it will awaken perhaps a scintilla of interest - to the fact that since 1929 no government has been minded to appoint a similar committee so that a thoughtful and competent re-assessment may be made of the impact that the tariff is now making on the economy either associated with or dissociated from the recent contrivances that we call import licences.
Having made those general observations on the Tariff Board, I come to more practical and important administrative matters to which the bill addresses itself. The first matter to which I refer is that there has been growing dissension within the board as between Mr. Date, from whom all members of the Parliament have received communications during the last two years, and the present chairman and his predecessor. I find myself unable to adopt the proposals that are contained in the bill as being appropriate measures to equip the board for efficient and co-operative working. The bill seeks to give the chairman such overriding powers that they are a reflection upon every other member of the board.
Proposed section 8 is designed to give the chairman power to determine which members shall take part in a particular inquiry. I have no objection to that. But the section then seeks to give the chairman power to direct and control travel by members in connexion with their duties - travel by co-ordinate members of a board the status of which is guaranteed by the strict way in which the Parliament thought fit to provide that, although they could be suspended by a Minister for misbehaviour and incapacity, the suspension disappeared unless both Houses of Parliament endorsed it within a specified time. Now it is proposed that the chairman- shall direct and control members in regard to travel. If a member of the board abuses his position in regard to travel, the proper remedy is to consider whether he has been guilty of misbehaviour or incapacity and. to deal with him accordingly. To my mind, to subject all members of the board to the direction and control of the chairman, even though such direction and control are to be exercised only after consulation with members, is to place the members of the board in an unsatisfactory position.
Sub-section (3.) of proposed section 8 provides that, where the services of Public Service officers are made available to the board, the use of those services by members of the board shall be subject to the control of the chairman. I can understand that there should be proper deference as between the chairman and members as to the use of public servants who are made available to the board; but the board is constituted for board purposes and we should not elevate the chairman, whoever he may be, so as to give him overriding control of the board. Certainly let him be given a casting vote as a member of the board; but he should not be erected as a superior officer with control over other members of the board who have been entrusted by us with equal authority to discharge their great public functions. I would not agree to a curtailment of their proper authority and access to members of the Public Service in the discharge of those duties.
I direct attention also to proposed section 9b, which provides that a member shall be paid such allowances as are determined by the Minister after consultation with the Public Service Board. I am not prepared to agree to that. I do not believe that the Minister should have discretion to pay to members of the Tariff Board, the independence of which is tremendously important, such allowances as he thinks fit. Allowances can be made supplementary to salary, but if they are not made uniform as between the three members of the board the Minister will have too much control over individual members of the board. I should like to know why, in the new bill, that power of the Minister is extended to allowances generally, whereas in the present act only travelling allowances are specified.
I do not think I am usurping the functions of the committee by taking this opportunity to refer to proposed section 9c. In that new section honorable senators will notice a piece of draftsmanship to which I call the earnest attention of the Minister. Read at its face value it means, in effect, that the Minister may grant leave of absence to a member and may make certain determinations either generally or in a par ticular case. I submit that, in the light of what has been going on, it is not appropriate that, in the words of sub-section (2.)-
The Minister may determine, either generally or in a particular case, the terms and conditions as to the remuneration or otherwise applicable to leave granted under this section.
Surely, with an independent Tariff Board leave should be granted on a uniform basis and the remuneration for such leave should not be subject to any discrimination. I refer honorable senators to sub-section (3.). It seems that here can be seen the trail of the serpent. Under this sub-section, the Minister can delegate his powers to the chairman. The chairman will have the right to determine either generally or in a particular case the terms and conditions as to the remuneration or otherwise applicable to leave granted. I do not know the personalities involved. Like other honorable senators I have received communications, but otherwise I am unconscious of what has been going on in this board. I believe, however, that efficient administration demands that if disharmony is rendering the board inefficient, or is making it necessary that one member be subjected to this sort of control by his chairman, it is either a case of misbehaviour or incapacity or else the member must still be entrusted with independent discretion and authority in accordance with the act. I offer no comment on the merits or otherwise because I have heard nothing except the communications to which I have referred. Whilst they do not impress me as having any particular merit, I believe that the maintenance of the independent status of a member of the board is vital. Once we introduce authority for the chairman of the board to discriminate as between members, then we introduce authority by the Minister to discriminate as to allowances, terms and conditions of leave and control of travel, and this will undermine the independence of the board.
Having said that, I now refer to one or two other matters that bear upon the cognate functions of the Tariff Board. First of all, I am concerned at the delays that take place in the decisions on recommendations by the board. I have in mind, particularly, the timber inquiry which has been referred to by the Leader of the
Opposition (Senator McKenna). The matter was referred to the board as a matter of urgency, if my memory serves me correctly, as long ago as June, 1957. Why was not a recommendation sent back to this Parliament within two or three months and then immediately brought before the Parliament and given the consideration it deserves? In this respect, I direct attention to proposed section 16a (2.), and comment that whereas the present section 16 of the act requires that a copy of every report of the board shall be laid on the table of each House of the Parliament within seven days after its receipt by the Minister, the proposed new section provides that it shall reach us within fifteen sitting days after its receipt by the Minister.
– That could be three months.
– As my colleague, Senator Marriott, interjects, that could be three months. The delay at the present time is intolerable. During the past three weeks, we have been told that the timber report is in the hands of the Minister. In view of its urgency I submit it should be before the Parliament. I do not wish to detract from the sterling work that is being done by the Minister. I make criticisms of this sort purely upon principle and irrespective of personalities. If the Minister’s programme is too comprehensive for him to consider recommendations expeditiously and bring reports of this sort before the Parliament, then he should be provided with sufficient under-secretaries to enable the work to be done with more expedition. The commerce of the country demands that.
I wish also to refer to another matter which is not peculiar to this bill. A change was made in the act by an amendment passed in 1950. Before that date the salaries of members of the Tariff Board were fixed by the Parliament, but at that time we saw the opening of the chink. Since then we have had measures in endless succession depriving Parliament of the power to fix the salaries attaching to important statutory offices and committing that responsibility to the GovernorGeneral. He makes his determination in secret. There is no necessity for the Governor-General to make salaries uniform; but whereas when the States Grants Bill was before us my anxiety and disquiet were based upon the specific nature of the body which exercises the judicial function of deciding as between the Commonwealth and the States in the matter of Commonwealth financial grants, we have since had a more recent experience. I refer to the appointment of the Canberra Commission. The Governor-General was given power by this Parliament to fix the commissioners’ salaries. That leads me to think that purely upon ordinary administration grounds, to maintain a relativity in the salaries of key officers in the Public Service, and a relativity as between the Federal and State Public Services, it is necessary for this Parliament to retain the power to fix the salaries of important officers of Government agencies. For myself I must say that I have quite resolved that in any forthcoming legislation it is imperative for Parliament to retain authority to fix those salaries. A consideration has occurred to me in the last three weeks whilst turning this principle over in my mind. I think it might appeal to honorable senators. We are all jealous of the status of the American Senate. We all know that it owes its particular position and prestige to the fact that the most important administrative appointments in the Executive of the United States Government are subject to the approval of the Senate, an authority which the American Senate exercises very jealously. While we have the power here to participate by way of approval in the fixation of the salaries of important officers, the Senate has a special duty to retain that power. But that argument is simply subsidiary to the other considerations I have advanced.
Lastly, I wish to make some observations upon the growing inundation of the Tariff Board’s importance by the import licensing system. The Parliament once conceived that it was important that it should retain the power to fix every adjustment of duty on every item on which duty was imposed, and, in the case of Bates, great constitutional debate took place as to whether the Executive could impose an import duty without parliamentary sanction. After great parliamentary contention, the Parliament won. To-day, our interest in particular items of tariff is attracted only in the case of an exceptional item or one which a member has particularly noticed, but not a penny difference is made in the tax on goods by way of customs that is not passed through both Houses of this Parliament by way of statute. But the odd thing is that we have developed a system of import licensing whereby the Parliament is not consulted - indeed, it is not informed - as to particular absolute prohibitions of imports - not merely raising the tax by one penny per lb. - to prevent goods from being imported at all or from being imported in quantities greater than are specified. It is quite obvious that the longer that system goes on and imports are restricted by executive licence not tabled in the Parliament, and actually effectuated by all sorts of officers within the Department of Trade without the slightest parliamentary sanction or knowledge, the greater is the strength that is acquired by those factories that grow up to supply goods of the kind whose importation is prohibited. We see in the trade journals of chambers of manufactures and chambers of commerce that quite a vocal section of those bodies now has a vested interest in the maintenance of the import licensing system.
The relevance of that to the Tariff Board is this: I take leave to refer to the annual report of the Tariff Board for the year 1956-57 - the latest that we have had - wherein the board refers to import restrictions in a separate series of paragraphs. Paragraph 10 reads -
In overseas trade during the year, two new records were established. Exports valued at £980,000,000 exceeded by £5,000,000 those in the boom year 1950-51, when wool prices reached their peak. The addition of £210,000,000 to overseas reserves was also a record and practically offset the decreases of £215,000,000 experienced in the two previous years. The latter record was assisted by the severe restrictions on imports which at £717,000,000 were the third lowest in value since J 950-51; because of the change in values since 1950-51, the quality of imports would have been correspondingly low.
The board goes on to say, in paragraph 1 3 -
The comfort that should arise from a satisfactory balance of payments must, however, be conditioned by a recognition that it is largely the outcome of severe import restrictions. Australian manufacturers have filled many of the gaps resulting from restricted imports, but the cost of replacement will not be known until trade wilh traditional suppliers is resumed on a normal basis, and until trading -operations are speckled with more than the present rare dust of overseas competition.
Then, df the Senate will take its mind back to two rather sudden pronouncements by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) with respect to the printed cotton textile industry on 27th February this year, it will be seen the Minister said that pending a Tariff Board report on the industry, special comprehensive measures would be taken to safeguard the Australian printed cotton textile manufacturing industry, and that no further licences would be issued to import printed cotton textiles from any source until the Government had received and considered that report. The Minister went on to say that this use of import restrictions for the purpose of affording protection on a continuing basis was not authorized by Gatt but, to meet a temporary situation, it was consistent with Gatt. The reaction to that pronouncement was such throughout Australia that the Minister was minded to issue a supplementary statement on 6th March. He then said that the announced ban on licences was not a step taken in course of normal import licensing policy. It was taken within the framework of Gatt to extend to a local industry, for a temporary period, a protection through quantitative restriction against being swamped and destroyed by a flood of imports. The Minister followed that up with a piece of argument that bears examination.
He said that the ban announced by him was a temporary ban on the issue of licences which is by no means the same in early result as a ban on imports. I thought that even the law courts had long since passed the day when that type of casuistry would be used in advocacy, and I would think that when addressing these statements to more simple-minded people it would be better to make clear their substance and effect. I fear that when we have a Minister putting a straight-out ban on import ‘licensing pending the consideration by the Tariff Board of its report and an indication -
– It was a special one for the Japanese.
– No, the Minister made it very clear that it was not designed solely for the Japanese, although the
Japanese came within its purview. But the Japanese met the situation, as the Minister for Trade acknowledges, by voluntary restraint on their own part consistent with the Japanese Trade Agreement. Indeed, the Minister himself goes on record in his statement to acknowledge that the arbitrary action - I underline the words “ arbitrary action “ - which he had announced, in suspending temporarily the issuing of licences, was taken because of the careful watch by the Department of Trade oh the taking out of licences for the import of printed cotton. Of course, it is legitimate and fair for me to say that I think the assessment of the Department of Trade was that apprehension of greater customs duties being recommended on cotton textiles by the Tariff Board stimulated importers to get their requirements in early before the increased duties took effect.
– They brought in enormous quantities of materials at the time.
– But consistent only with the import licences granted by the Minister up to that time.
– But they could have flooded the market and destroyed the printed materials industry.
– Well, 1 do not compete with Senator’ Maher in pretending to understand the way the import licensing system evenly balances out; but I point out that if the importation of textiles is to be regulated one thing people should be able to envisage is regularity and continuity of administration so that import licences will bc issued in a way that will regulate the trade evenly. It comes as a complete shock to me to discover that, under the present system, a department can simply place an absolute embargo on the importation, for a specified time, of any particular item.
In the statement from which I have been quoting the Minister for Trade goes on to say that a complete ban on further licences would stand until the end of the present licensing period which, I believe, is 30th June. When you relate that statement as to the graphic necessity for the use of import licensing to the apprehensive statement in the Tariff Board’s report as to the damage that the import licensing system is doing to Australia’s trade, I think the relationship between the import licensing system and the Tariff Board’s function’s becomes all too clear - and it seems that an indefinite continuance of this system is envisaged. If that is so, Mr. President, it is completely delusive to suggest that the Tariff Board can operate on the basis on which we expect it to ‘Operate in moulding a tariff suitable, in its scale, to give the adequate protection needful for Australian industry to compete with the outside world.
Of course, we do not want an excessive tariff. We want a tariff that is consistent with the needs of our exporters to match exports with income so as to maintain our export trade. It is a complete delusion to expect the Tariff Board to discharge it’s proper function in that respect and at the same time have a Government department operating ah import licensing system and in a position to say “ That item can come in “, or “ That item is completely prohibited “, or “ You can bring in three dozen of item 1 “, or “ You can bring in 3,000 dozen of item 2 “. Because, the effect of that executive action, especially when you couple with it arbitrary instances such as those to which I have referred - and in doing so I used the language of Mr. McEwen himself - is that you are undermining the Tariff Board’s work completely.
Do not let anybody understand me to suggest that we can import only as much in the way of goods as the country’s exports can pay for. Everybody recognizes that. What I complain about is that there is no endeavour to get these restraints on imports on a basis of equity to the commercial community consistent with the proper functions of the Tariff Board and related to the authority of the Tariff Board. It is in that respect that I protest against the indefinite continuance of something which is going to damage the economy to such a degree that the Tariff Board will never be able to restore the basis of tariff protection, the establishment of which its annual reports show to be its most earnest desire.
To underline my remarks in that respect I refer to a further passage in last year’s annual report of the Tariff Board. That passage shows the board’s obvious concern about the effect on costs of the increase of 1 0s. in wages authorized by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in April, 1957. The board there referred to the “ possible weakening of our competitive position against imports and the limiting of our capacity to maintain or increase exports “. It said that either of these circumstances could postpone the day for the removal of import restrictions.
The thought I want to leave with the Senate is that if this system of regulation of imports is to be continued it is equally important that the restriction of imports should be entrusted to an authority like the Tariff Board, just as the authority to tax imports is made the subject of the board’s recommendations. That function should be exercised by the Tariff Board, with its independent continuous knowledge and experience designed to give a uniformity to the tariff so as not to permit inflation and to limit tariff protection to the things that legitimately need it. That position will be completely undermined and eroded if a Minister and the whole of his department have the power to license or prohibit imports by simple executive decision from time to time.
It is my view, arrived at after the greatest consideration, that all of these matters make this an occasion on which the Senate would do itself credit if it referred this bill to a select committee which could inform itself of the difficulties that are being engendered within the administration of the Tariff Board, giving rise to the small, but important, administrative amendments contained in the bill. The committee could also take the opportunity to consult with members of the Tariff Board on whether or not they are - and 1 think they are - anxious and apprehensive as to the continued effect of import restrictions and whether they, from their experience, are able to offer any suggestion for an improved system. I think that there is very little evidence of any earnestness within the Parliament to get a new and improved system, and I feel that a select committee of the Senate, consulting with the people interested in this matter, would provide to the Parliament a channel of information from persons whose experience should count. It will be my intention to move accordingly at the appropriate time.
. I find myself in general agreement with Senator Wright, and I feel that the Senate is indebted to him for his explanation of the present position. He has obviously given the matter a great deal of consideration, and I do not think it will be necessary for me to reiterate many of the statements that he has made. We must accept the assurance of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) that the bill is intended to streamline the work of the Tariff Board, and enable it to overtake some of the arrears which have been evident for some years now.
It may not be out of place to say at this stage that the board has been snowed under with work largely because of the Government’s somewhat clumsy policy of making spasmodic stabs at our trade problems and periodically imposing import restrictions and the like. This policy has caused a great deal of uneasiness and distress among business people and industries generally, and they have no choice but to apply to the board for alleviation of their plight.
Honorable senators generally feel that the Tariff Board has rendered great service to Australia. It has always comprised men with an intimate knowledge of industry and of all the factors associated with trade. It has acted independently of governments, but has got along very well with all administrations. Indeed, governments have usually felt able to accept the board’s recommendations. However, I share Senator Wright’s uneasiness concerning the future. The board may not always enjoy the confidence and respect of all sections of industry, business and government. I am fearful that some day a government will be able to so arrange things that the board will report as that government wishes, and not as the needs of Australian industry demand. I am quite prepared to accept the reasons which the Minister has given for some of the changes proposed in this measure. There is certainly a great need for the board to be enlarged, if only to enable it to deal speedily with the many cases which come before it. However, it would be a great pity if the confidence which all sections of industry have in the board were injured by any action of the Government.
I was very unhappy to see the Department of Trade take control of the Tariff Board. I was satisfied with the existing constitution of the board and felt that its members had a most intimate knowledge of trade relations. I felt that it was safer under the control of the Department of Customs and Excise, but the Government thought otherwise. For many years there had been a constant nibbling at the Government for the establishment of a separate Department of Trade. Those efforts finally succeeded, no doubt because of the great influence of the present Minister for Trade. (Mr. McEwen). He succeeded in doing something that others had been unable to do. However, I fear that the business people of this country may no longer be able to go to the board with a feeling that their case will be considered regardless of Government policy. That aspect is not mentioned in the bill, but I cannot help feeling uneasy lest something might interfere with the great work hitherto accomplished by the Tariff Board.
– in reply - I have listened to the debate with more than passing interest. At present it is impracticable to avoid import licensing. The import position has been very important, and very difficult to deal with in recent years. Australia has enjoyed growth and development unparalleled at any previous stage of her history. We have gone through a period in which there have been wide variations in the level of economic stability. No one likes to impose wide-scale import licensing, but those who most criticize it cannot suggest an alternative way of effectively controlling our overseas balances and currency requirements. I think that that is a fair statement of the position. We are in import licensing to-day because needs must. We have either to remain in that field or step down the level of development, step down our policy of full employment, and step down our objective of higher and higher living standards.
– Or build up our exports!
– That is so, but that is not an objective which one may attain overnight. It is rather a constant objective. The control of import licensing, and of the Tariff Board, reside in one department, and under one ministerial head. The Government’s policy is that import licensing shall not be used to protect Australian industry. There is a clear line of demarcation between Tariff Board functions and import licensing which is not resorted to for protective purposes. The functions of the board are sacrosanct. No endeavour is made to usurp them by licensing imports. When I make that statement, in those specific terms, it is to be understood that I realize, in common with every one else, that the need to reduce the volume of imports creates a set of conditions which is perhaps more favorable to particular Australian industries than the result of a specific Tariff Board inquiry might be; but that is all part of the general position. I repeat . that I know that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) takes every step to ensure that the import licensing provisions are not used as a protective measure. I know that he has said that publicly on a number of occasions. I admit that there have been some exceptions to the rule, but I also know that the Minister takes such a situation so seriously that, although he must, in the very nature of things, have a wide discretion in the various licensing arrangements, he never uses import licensing in any protective fashion without putting the facts and circumstances of the particular case before the Government. It would be very much of an understatement indeed to say that this endeavour conscientiously to separate the two functions is a basic policy in the Department of Trade.
I listened with very great interest to what Senator Wright said, but this bill does not deal with the matters to which he referred. The Senate has not before it a bill dealing with trade policy, the ramifications and effects of import licensing or matters cognate to the Tariff Board, such as obligations under the Ottawa Agreement, and so on; the bill before the Senate is in truth a purely administrative machinery measure. I think I am correct in saying that it contains no provision which is not related to the administrative side of the Tariff Board. If I am wrong in saying that, I can be corrected later, but I feel certain that it is entirely an administrative measure, lt is aimed at the efficient operation of the administrative side of the Tariff Board, and it has no relation whatsoever to matters of policy that come before the board. With great respect to the Senate, I must say that I do not see any possible way in which the provisions of this bill can affect any member of the Tariff Board when considering the substantive matters with which he has to deal. There is nothing in the bill which says to a member of the Tariff Board that when he is dealing with the great responsibilities with which he is entrusted he shall apply a certain principle or look at a particular matter from a certain point of view only. All this bill seeks to do is to lay down the machinery under which the administration of the board shall proceed.
This is a matter of very great consequence, especially when taken in the light of present circumstances. Honorable senators will recall that the consensus of opinion about the work of the Tariff Board has always undoubtedly been that its efficiency is deserving of tribute; it has undoubtedly always been that the Tariff Board has conducted its inquiries very well indeed, although, as was the case to-day, the comment has always been along the lines that Tariff Board inquiries fake too long and that industry is kept waiting for much longer periods than it should be. It was to overcome this that the 1953 legislation was passed. From memory, I think that legislation increased the membership of the Tariff Board from four to seven. In the bill before us is a proposal that the membership be increased by one, to eight, for a limited period. That increase is to be only until the end of this year. I repeat that all the provisions in the bill relate purely to machinery matters. They are all aimed at the efficient and orderly conduct of the business of the board. They set out how meetings shall be convened, how the form of records to be kept shall be determined, how the particular members who shall take part in particular inquiries shall be determined, and so on.
All these matters are placed in the hands of the chairman of the board. 1 submit that where you have a statutory authority carrying such big responsibilities, and under some criticism that its work is not being done quickly, it is surely only reasonable that somewhere in the organization the point of authority must be set out clearly. Surely, in every organization, there must be a final head, some one who can say, “ Yea “ or “ Nay “, some one who can lay down procedures, some one who shall say what shall be done. And Who is better fitted to be vested with that authority than the chairman of the board?
That I think, is the argument in simple form. It is the basis of the bill, and I find it difficult to see why there should be any objection to if. I listened to the arguments adduced by Senator Wright and I read the report of the debate upon this measure in another place. I feel that we have got to be rather apprehensive and imaginative to think that because the chairman of the board is given the right to say what travelling allowances shall be paid, because he is given the right to say which half of the board shall carry out this inquiry or that inquiry, because he is given the right to say that the board shall sit here on a certain date and there on another date the authority and the work of the board will be undermined.
I was asked about the position relating to some of the Tariff Board’s inquiries. I am told that it is expected that the report of the inquiry into the timber industry will be tabled before Parliament rises this week. It is also expected that reports relating to piece goods and printed textiles will also be tabled this week. 1 now commend the bill to the Senate and hope that what I have said will be convincing to those who have spoken to the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I move -
I have already stated my reasons for my motion, but in reply to the Minister I wish to’ add that, although the system of import restrictions is not adverted to in the bill, it is only when dealing with matters affecting the Tariff Board that we can, by means of a select committee, obtain the views of that experienced and informative body. The system of import restrictions is impinging so directly and, apparently, for an indefinite period, upon the work entrusted to the Tariff Board - the authority upon which the Whole community placed reliance until the introduction of those restrictions -that it is imperative that an inquiry into the system should be undertaken. But not on that ground alone do I advance the proposition that the bill be referred to a select committee. This chamber should know much more about the disharmony referred to as the reason for the administrative amendments proposed in the bill.
– If it be necessary that Senator Wright’s motion be seconded; I have pleasure in doing so. I am glad that the honorable senator confined his motion merely to referring the bill to the select committee. By that means the field of inquiry of the committee will be narrowed to a consideration of the- particular measure. In that narrow sense alone, such a committee will have a real job to do.
We have heard on all sides about disharmony among members of the Tariff Board, but we do not know the reason for such disharmony. Senator Courtice, who held office at one time as Minister for Trade and Customs, and who has an intimate knowledge of the working of the Tariff Board, has expressed uneasiness about the future of that board having regard to the existing situation. Other members of the Opposition are also concerned. The appointment of a select committee will afford an opportunity to examine the provisions of the bill that are directed to removing the disharmony. Presumably disharmony has not arisen previously because the members of the board have been able to work in complete unity. When one considers the act under which the board has functioned for many years, one cannot but be amazed at its sketchiness. One sees phrases such as “ records shall be kept “ - a provision, in- the widest possible terms. The position is not improved by the bill now before the chamber. Clause 7 seeks to amend section 1 1- of the Principal Ac* by inserting the following sub-sections - (l1.) The Board may hold meetings in any part of the Commonwealth. (2.) The. Board shall keep records of its meetings. . . . (3a.) Subject to this Act and the regulations, the member presiding at a meeting of the Board mav give directions regarding the procedure to be followed at or in connexion with the meeting.
Reference to clause 6 which seeks to repeal sections 8 and 9 indicates that the chairman is the only person empowered to convene meetings of the board. Such a provision fills one with uneasiness, even if it is conceded that the same power is given to the- deputy chairman or the acting chairman. Surely with men- of the quality of the members of the Tariff Board, the convocation of a meeting should be decided by the whole board, or at least by a number of the members. Why should the power to convene a meeting reside in one individual? That is a point a select committee might, well investigate.
Clause 7, to which I have already referred, confers upon the chairman the power to determine the form of the records of meetings and the procedure to be adopted at such meetings. On this matter I agree with the comment made by Senator Wright during the second-reading debate. I repeat that the two matters to which I have directed attention, the records of the meetings and the procedure to be followed at such meetings, ought to be particularized, either in an act of Parliament or by regulation which comes within the purview of the Parliament. If such matters were covered broadly by act or regulation, any particular difficulty could be determined by the board at a meeting. Surely that is a rational approach to the problem.
It is an insult to the great body of members of the board that the procedure to be followed and the decisions on the convocation of meetings should be matters for the chairman only. I should imagine that the setting down of the time and place of a meeting of the board would be primarily a matter of meeting the convenience of a number of members and of determining the venue at which the board would function most efficiently in relation to a particular inquiry. The very nature of the inquiry may determine the place. Surely the decision in those matters should be left to members of the board assembled at their usual meetings, and not rest upon the chairman who, although he may consult with his fellow members, is not bound in any way to consider the views expressed at such consultations.
Proposed new section 8 (1.) (c) gives the chairman the right to determine which member shall take part in a particular inquiry by the board. I am not concerned about the substance of that provision. Where two boards are to sit, it is inevitable that there must be an authority to say which members shall sit on each board. But that power has already been committed to the chairman by section 12a, which was inserted in 1953. I repeat that I am not disturbed about the substance of the proposed provision, but I am disturbed about the repetition of it. It impacts on my mind the thought that proper consideration has not been given to the drafting of the bill. Section 12a (1.), which I repeat was inserted in 1953, provides -
Where a matter has been referred to the Board for inquiry and report, the Chairman may, subject to the next succeeding sub-section-
We can forget about that sub-section, because it provides only that one of the public service members shall be on each board - determine, by writing under his hand, that, for the purposes of that inquiry and report, the powers of the Board under this Act may be exercised by the Chairman and such other members as are specified by the Chairman.
What is the need to provide again that the chairman shall have power to determine which member shall take part in a particular inquiry? I am disturbed to think that that principle is reaffirmed in a bill which seeks to attack a situation in which disharmony has developed, and I get the uneasy feeling, as I said earlier, that proper consideration has not been given to the measure.
I agree entirely with Senator Wright’s criticism of proposed section 8 (1.) (d), which seeks to give the chairman complete power to direct and control travel by members in connexion with their duties. There must be some oversight in relation to travel.
– The chairman would be able to say whether members were to travel by air or rail.
– That is so. The bill seeks to vest an arbitrary power in one individual. It could be that that individual was not even a member of a board that was attending to a particular matter, but the members of that board could be told that they must proceed not to Brisbane but to Hobart. I think that the Senate is entitled to know more about why that particular power is to be reposed in the chairman. I concede that it is a power he may not exercise. Perhaps it is a reserve power, but when we are considering legislation of this kind we must remember that we are putting that instrument into the hands of one of seven members. I repeat that it may be exercised by an individual who is not a member of a particular board, who does not sit on the inquiry, and who does not participate in the recommendation. Surely it is for the board generally to determine where it will meet, when it will meet, and the places to which it needs to go in the pursuit of its inquiries.
Senator Wright adverted also to proposed section 9c, which seeks to give to the Minister power to determine either at large in relation to all members of the board or in a particular case what leave is to be taken and what will be the position in relation to remuneration during that period of leave. I say quite frankly that there should not be power to discriminate in that way. Surely the act should provide that each member of the board is entitled to a specified period of holiday at his usual rate of remuneration. This is the kind of matter in relation to which a Minister ought not to obtrude but for which provision should be made in the act.
I am not raising certain other matters to which Senator Wright has referred, but I am concerned about the provision in proposed section 16a which seeks to extend the time for the tabling of a report. The reasons for all these provisions ought to be investigated, but they cannot be investigated at the moment. I think the Minister might discover that out of an inquiry by a select committee appointed by the Senate - it is proposed that it shall report by 30th September - would come a consideration of the bill that would do more to solve the problems of the board and to assure it of its status in the community, about which Senator Courtice spoke, than would allowing the measure to pass and hoping for the best by investing dictatorial powers in the chairman.
On behalf of the Opposition, I suggest that the Minister would be well advised to consider the appointment of a select committee. 1 presume there is no vital hurry about the passing of the measure. I suggest to the Minister that, rather than reject the suggestion out of hand, he ought to allow one of his colleagues to move the adjournment of the debate and then consider the proposal. I feel that a committee constituted by this Senate would do a real service by putting the bill into much better shape. lt has, on the face of it, obvious defects.
I had made up my mind not to move any amendments but to vote against clause 6. I felt that proper provision needed to be made for so many matters relating to records, procedure and the convening of meetings that I would have to re-draw the bill completely. I did not think that was a task for the Opposition. Also, I felt at a disadvantage in not knowing what were the basic troubles in the board at which the Government was aiming. I sympathize with the Government in its desire to clarify the position, but I think the approach that is being made will aggravate the existing troubles and not cure them. A select committee could submit to the Senate recommendations based on a real knowledge of the trouble and present the bill in a form that would put the issues out of the ring. The keeping of records, procedures and the convening of meetings ought to be placed beyond the possibility of dispute amongst members of the board. All that ought to be left for determination are minor residual matters about which the sitting board might be left to make up its own mind. Because of the way in which the trouble has developed, the best thing to do is to put beyond all doubt matters upon which there may be disputation.
I indicate that, in the circumstances, the Opposition will support the measure, but 1 suggest to the Minister that he should take time to ponder the proposal for the appointment of a select committee.
– May I commence by referring to a letter that was published in this morning’s press and which was written by a gentleman who 1 do not know but who acted as deputy chairman of a certain inquiry? The writer of the letter referred to an inquiry into the automotive industry and said that the funds employed totalled £370,000,000, that the number of employees in the industry was 125,000, and that the evidence taken during the inquiry before the Tariff Board exceeded 1,000 pages of transcript. I mention that to establish the point which I think will be conceded, and to which I think insufficient attention has been given, namely, the tremendous importance of the activities of the Tariff Board and their effect upon the commercial and industrial community of Australia.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) mentioned the need to have the timber industry inquiry completed. We all know that other Tariff Board inquiries could be placed in the same category. It is fair to say that the history of the administration of the Tariff Board, since it came under the control of the Department of Trade, indicates a constant endeavour to make the board more efficient, and to ensure not only that it does its work efficiently, but also that it completes its work more quickly. The board has been increased in size and additions have been made to its staff so that it can be supplied with proper statistical information. Against that background I say, with respect to those who may hold the contrary view, that it would be extremely serious to delay the passage of this legislation for the purposes set out in the proposed amendment. I say without hesitation that I have no need to refer this amendment to my colleague, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). I know the importance he places upon getting this legislation through as quickly as is reasonably possible.
I also make the further point that if there were grounds for the apprehension expressed in the amendment, one would have expected them to be expressed from more than one quarter. There is no suggestion that members of the Tariff Board think that the proposals contained in this legislation will not enable the board to operate more efficiently. The members of the board have to work under the conditions set out in the legislation, and with one exception, I know of no objection by members of the Tariff Board. I feel certain, without reference to the Minister for
Trade, that if any such feelings on the part of members of the board had been expressed, these proposals would not be before us to-day.
– Has this bill been considered by the board at all ?
-I am not in a position to answer that question now, but I shall answer it frankly when the bill goes into committee. I do say that we have no right to assume that these arrangements are not welcomed by the Tariff Board members as a whole.
I repeat the other point of view that I put to the Senate earlier in the debate. This legislation relates to administrative matters only, and in several places provision is made for the chairman to consult with the board. We have no right to assume that the chairman will consult with members of the board and then override their opinions in an arbitrary way or in a manner they would resent. On these purely administrative matters, I feel that the board is in agreement with the Government, which is charged with the responsibility of making the Tariff Board operate efficiently. I believe that members of the board agree that the proposals contained in this legislation are necessary to achieve that objective.
As stated by the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Wright probably also had in mind that the proposed select committee of the Senate should examine Tariff Board policy. In his second-reading speech he mentioned that it would be desirable to make further inquiry into the effect of the Tariff Board upon the economy in the same way as was done in the 1929 inquiry.
– I did not envisage that any select committee would be competent to do that.
– Senator Wright also criticized import licensing and its relation to the Tariff Board.
– I meant that the committee would obtain information on that angle incidentally.
– The honorable senator did have such matters in mind. He has just interjected that the committee would consider such matters incidentally. He could find out Whether the Senate would support his proposals by using some other form of procedure not associated with this bill. The matters to which he has referred are of tremendous importance, but my point is that if Senator Wright desires to inquire into them, he is not restricted in his pursuit of that activity to this particular bill. He could move the Senate in some other way in order to have such a committee of inquiry appointed.
Treating this amendment as a request for the appointment of a committee to inquire into the administrative arrangements of the Tariff Board, I reply that I hope the Senate does not support the proposal because to delay this legislation would be a matter of great consequence to the Government. Secondly - and I say this with bated breath - I do hot think the matter is of sufficient importance to warrant a committee Of inquiry by the Senate. I do not think the detailed administrative arrangements of Tariff Board meetings are of such consequence as to justify a Senate inquiry. I suppose I am saying in another way that I do not share the honorable senator’s apprehension that these proposals will not be administered in an equitable way and to the satisfaction of all members of the Tariff Board, which has not Objected to them.
– Do you say advisedly that the members have been consulted?
Senator SPOONER..Mt withdrew that suggestion as the result Of an interjection by the Leader of the Opposition because I have not made that inquiry. I do say that, prima facie, that must be the position or else the legislation would not be before us to-day.
.- in reply - I shall delay the Senate for a few minutes only. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) said that he did not think the proposed control of the Tariff Board by its chairman and the administrative procedures of the board were of sufficient importance to warrant the attention of a select committee of the Senate. With great respect, I join issue on that statement. It is the very constitution of this board and the powers of its individual members that make for its independence. It is remarkable to me that the Senate should be asked by the Minister to accept a bill like this when he is not in a position to indicate the extent to which the members of the board have been consulted with regard to its provisions. Say what you will, its provisions doundermine the actual status and authority of every individual member of the board except the chairman. I am very jealous to see that no member in carrying out the very important responsibilities of the Tariff Board shall be undermined inadvisably by this Parliament.I do not think that any of us, after being properly informed of what the trouble is, would deny to the board, as distinct from its chairman, the proper authority to carry out its business; and I suggest tothe Minister that it is whollyunheard of for the chairman of any directorate, unless he has reserved to himself the powers of a governing director, to decide the form of its proceedings and the places where it will meet from time to time. Under this provision, if the board were sitting in Darwin to-day, the chairman could send a message to that meeting to say that the board shall meet elsewhere to-morrow. The board itself should retain the ordinary authority to decide from day to day the places and the times to which it will adjourn.
– It is possible under the act for the deputy chairman sitting on the spot to make such decisions.
-Yes, I am not looking to any particular person. I have not the privilege of knowing the chairman, and nothing I say is in disparagement of him. But my anxiety is not engendered by the legislation of particular governments. In the changes that may come, who would predict just what attempts to abuse authority will be made unless we take the opportunity to express our legislation in a form that will safeguard the rights of every member of the board. To my way of thinking, this is a derogation of their power. Indeed, it is an insult, not to any particular member of the board but to its six subordinate members, to put them under the control - as to leave, use of staff, the places where they shall meet, the travel they shall engage in and all the other things, as to which any men of reasonable intelligence resent interference - of the person who has authority to chair their meetings but who is in no way superior in authority to them.It is not a matter of making a case for any individual member of the board. Just as I have never had the priviledge ofmeetingthe chairman, I have never hadthe opportunity to meet Mr. Date or any other memberofthe board. These principles are advanced to the Senate upon purelyobjective groundsso that the Tariff Boardmay function efficiently. I submit that the Senate would do itself real credit by referring this measure to a select committee.
Thatthe motion (videpage 956) be agreed to.
TheSenate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Ayes . . . . 19
Noes . . . . . . 28
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Interpretation).
.- I simply rise in my search for understanding. Will the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) explain to me the meaning of sub-section (2.) of the proposed new section 4? It reads -
A reference in this Act to the functions of the Chairman shall be read as including a reference to the function of forming, together with three other members, a quorum of the Board.
– The reason for the change is to ensure that the chairman shall be able to delegate to the deputy chairman his function of forming a quorum with three other members, and also to ensure that that function may be exercised by the deputy chairman or the acting chairman in the absence of the chairman.
^ The matter is of relevance because, under the existing law, any four members of the board constitute a quorum; but under proposed new section 12a (2a.), for some reason, which has not yet been explained, the chairman is to be an essential constituent, with three other members, to form a quorum. I wondered why. Surely all the four members would not be Mr. Dates. If four members have been capable up to date of constituting a quorum why is it necessary now to specify that the chairman is essential for a quorum? What new quality has been brought to the board so as to make it essential that the chairman should be a constituent element in a quorum?
– I confess I can see nothing sinister in the proposal. I should think that what is proposed is a natural thing when you have a Tariff Board that is going to act in two sections. We have seven members on the board. I think a few years ago there were four. We are deliberately doubling the former size of the Tariff Board so that it can work in two sections and conduct two inquiries simultaneously. I should think that it is the most natural thing in the world that one part of the Tariff Board should be presided over by the chairman and that the other part should be presided over by the deputy chairman. I do not see why that should not be translated into a provision in black on white. I should think, with respect, that the board would be under a disadvantage if its two component parts were not chaired by the two principal members.
– I wish to speak on the point made by the Minister. I do not see anything to prevent both the chairman and the deputy chairman from being present at the same sitting of one part of the board while another part of the board is sitting, under an acting chairman. Am 1 right in that? The Minister’s argument just now wasbased on the fact that the chairman would chair one section of the board sitting on oneinquiry while the deputy chairman would chair another section of the board sitting on another inquiry; but I say that there isnothing to prevent the chairman and the deputy chairman from sitting together on the same inquiry. That might well arisebecause they might have special knowledge of the particular subject matter under inquiry. It might happen again and again, and I take it that because of that possibility, provision is made for an acting chairman who would act when the chairman and deputy chairman are not available. What occurs to me in relation to the clause that provides that the chairman and three other members shall form a quorum is that there is a provision in clause 5, which we have not yet reached, but which you may permit me to mention, Mr. Chairman, which is as follows - : the Deputy Chairman has all the powers and duties, and shall perform all the functions, of the Chairman . . . during the illness, suspension or absence of the Chairman.
Again, if the deputy chairman or the chairman is not present the acting chairman, pursuant to sub-section (6.) of proposed new section 7 -
So I take it that we get to the position, in relation to a quorum, that if the chairman is present he joins with the other three members in constituting a quorum; if he is not present the deputy chairman has the power to join with them in forming a quorum; if neither of them is present an acting chairman appointed by the GovernorGeneral for the purpose will act. But I ask the Minister again, whether he suggests that there is anything in this bill which would prevent the chairman and deputy chairman from sitting together.
.- Before the Minister replies to the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) I wish to state that T question whether the Leader of the Opposition’s interpretation is correct. The proposed new sub-section (4.) of section 7 provides that - in the case of the illness, suspension or absence of the Chairman, the Governor-General may. if there is no Deputy Chairman or the Deputy Chairman is ill, suspended or absent, appoint one of the other members to be the Acting Chairman of the Board
It is the ambiguity of that word “ absent “ which concerns me. Does it mean absent from one branch of the board when the board is sitting in two branches? If the chairman and deputy chairman were both sitting on board “ A “ are they absent so as to permit the appointment of an acting chairman to take charge of board “ B “. I mention that because, despite all the naturalness which the Minister told us about so blandly, this is a provision which has been absent from the legislation of this country hitherto. It has never been felt necessary hitherto that the chairman should be one of a quorum. All the similar legislation since 1921 has permitted any four members to form a quorum without the blessed chairman. It is because of the situation which Senator McKenna poses, taken in conjunction with proposed new section 12a and proposed new sub-section (4.) of section 7 that I submit there is here an obstacle being written into the legislation, unless it be that each branch of the board is able to work only in the presence of the chairman or deputy chairman.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to proposed new section 8, which gives certain powers to the chairman of the Tariff Board. The section purports to confer those powers upon him, “ in addition to any other power, duty or function that he may perform “. Does the Minister subscribe to the view that if the chairman is not present the deputy chairman may exercise the functions and that, in the absence of both, an acting chairman may do likewise? Would the chairman’s power be lost to him if he were sitting on one board and the deputy chairman were in charge of a second?
I come now to the four matters dealt with in sub-section (1.). The chairman is to have power -
Why should the power to convene a meeting of the board be vested in the chairman alone? Why is no power to be given to members at large to requisition for the convening of a meeting? Why should six out of seven members of the board be denied the opportunity so to do? Why should sole power to convene be left in the hands of the chairman, and how far is that power to extend? Is it to apply only to the initial summoning of a meeting to pursue a particular inquiry, or does it mean that the power to convene rests with the chairman only even if a particular section of the board, dealing with a special subject, adjourns from time to time? Has the board no power to deal with its own adjournments from time to time, or from place to place? Must the chairman be consulted in every case, regardless of whether he is a member of the particular board or not? If that is the case it seems to present a very unreal proposition.
In paragraph (b), power is given to the chairman to determine the form of the records of meetings of the board “ in accordance with this act “. But the only requirement concerning records which I can find in the act is that referred to in proposed new sub-section (2.) of section 11, which states -
The Board shall keep records of its meetings.
That does not detail the type of record. It does not say whether the record shall be a record of the fact that the board has met on a particular day, or a record of deliberations, of witnesses heard, and decisions reached. The provision could not be wider or more vague. Under paragraph (b) all detail and particularity is left to the discretion of the chairman. Reference is made to the supposed requirements of the act, but the act does no more than say that records shall be kept. This makes the chairman the sole arbiter. If the power conferred upon the chairman is implicitly to reside in the deputy chairman and the acting chairman also we may get three different forms of direction in relation to different boards. I am prompted to ask these questions because they obviously arise from a consideration of the clause, and call for an answer.
Under paragraph (b) of sub-section (1.) the chairman is also given power to determine the procedure to be adopted at meetings. Again, apparently the chairman, the deputy chairman or an acting chairman may make a determination in the matter - the procedure may vary from time to time and from board to board. Surely the act or the regulations should prescribe the form of record and the procedure to be followed by a body such as the Tariff Board. Surely it should not be subject to variation at the hands of either the chairman, his deputy or an acting chairman.
Paragraph (c) of the same sub-section gives the chairman power to determine which members shall take part in a particular inquiry. What need is there for that provision when sub-section (1.) of section 1 2a of the act provides -
Where a matter has been referred to the Board for inquiry and report, the Chairman may, subject to the next succeeding sub-section, determine, by writing under his hand, that, for the purposes of that inquiry and report, the powers of the Board under this Act may be exercised by the Chairman and such other members as are specified by the Chairman.
That sub-section gives the chairman clear power to allocate members to one inquiry or another - in such circumstances the board being divided into two boards. What need is there for paragraph (c)? Does its inclusion not justify the comment that proper consideration has not been given to the drafting of the clause?
I should like to reserve comment on paragraph (d), asking the Minister to keep in mind what was said earlier regarding the power to direct and control travel by members in connexion with their duty. I should like, first, to know what is in the mind of the Government in conferring that rather extraordinary and complete power upon the chairman.
– It is not easy to go through, item by item, the matters referred to by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and answer his questions in detail. Any answer must be given against the general background that these provisions have been inserted for the more orderly operation of the board. The chairman is given certain powers and in his absence they are exercisable by the deputy chairman. In the event that there was an acting chairman, the powers would vest in him. They are not conflicting powers, if that is the right term to use.
It is not contemplated that the chairman and the vice-chairman would issue directions or instructions, in conflict with each other, upon the same matter.
– Why should they not, if they are inconsistent personalities?
– It is my advice that the bill is so drafted that whoever is chairman has charge of the proceedings, and it is in him that the power lies to issue the direction, but he can divest himself of that power by giving it to the vicechairman with respect to one board. It is usually in the chairman, unless he divests himself of it. I point out that an actingchairman has to be appointed by the Governor-General, and an acting chairman would not be appointed under circumstances under which the chairman and the vice-chairman were carrying out their duties.
– But would the Minister consider the fact that there could be sitting one board that would comprise both the chairman and the deputy chairman, and an acting chairman would be required for the second board? Why could not that position arise?
– I do not know how that position could arise, because the acting chairman would need to be appointed by the Governor-General. It is not in contemplation that, with a chairman and vice-chairman, there would then be an acting chairman appointed for another inquiry.
– If that is so, and if the chairman and vice-chairman are- both members of one board, another board cannot sit.
– I suppose that could be argued, but in practice it does not happen. In practice, the chairman presides at one board and the vicechairman presides at the other. That is the way it has worked, and that is the way it is contemplated that it will work.
– Would the Minister stay on that for a moment and clarify the point? Let us assume there is the chairman in charge of one and the vicechairman in charge of the other. Who lays down the provisions as to records and proceedings at the board under the vicechairman?
– The chairman, unless he delegates that to the vicechairman, and there is power in the bill for him to do so. I understand that it is contemplated that in practice it will be the chairman, but the bill empowers him to delegate it to the vice-chairman.
– Are you sure that the deputy chairman needs a delegation under section 7, sub-section (3.) of the act?
– I should think that he did not.
– I am not expressing any final opinion; 1 am only asking for information.
.- This would be a very truncated state in which to leave clause 6. The last question that 1 asked, and which has not been answered, was whether the deputy chairman needs a delegation from the chairman. As I read clause 5, sub-clause (2.) it says that the Governor-General may appoint a member to be the deputy chairman of the board. Sub-clause (3.) then says -
Subject to the next succeeding sub-section, the Deputy Chairman has all the powers and .duties, and shall perform all the functions, of the Chairman (including powers and functions delegated to the Chairman by the Minister under this Act). 1 remind the Senate that this is a power given to the deputy chairman while a member is sick, and it is the power to determine remuneration and terms and conditions of his leave during that time, either generally or in a particular case. That power is given under new section 9c, as proposed by clause 6, which we are now considering. Clause 5 of the bill provides that the deputy chairman shall have all the powers and duties and shall perform all the functions of the chairman during the illness, suspension or absence of the chairman. Does the deputy chairman .have those-powers only during the absence from one branch of the board? I raised that question before the suspension of .the sitting. What does “ absence “ mean there?
– I :am told that the last words of sub-clause (3.), those reading, “ during the illness, suspension or absence of the chairman “, determine the situation.
In other words, the deputy chairman has these powers, and can exercise them, only during the illness, suspension or absence of the chairman.
– I am obliged to the Minister for that information. Clause 5 seeks to introduce a new sub-section (3.) into section 7 of the act. What does “ absence “ mean in the case mentioned in the proposed sub-section? We are specifically appointing seven members so that the Tariff Board can sit in two branches - board A and board B. Before dinner, I called attention to the fact that it is now proposed to make it a requirement of the act that the chairman must be present before a quorum can be formed. That is to be contained in proposed section 12a. Under that provision, the chairman is an essential ingredient to a quorum at a meeting of the board. Let us assume that the chairman goes to board A, and board B is sitting at the same lime. Is the chairman competent to have a deputy chairman on board B? I ask that because, under the clause we are considering, it is only in the absence, suspension or illness of the chairman that the deputy chairman has the chairman’s functions. If the person one would expect to be deputy chairman goes to chair board B, is it the intention of the Government to read this bill to mean that in that case the deputy chairman may exercise all the functions of the chairman in relation to board B because the chairman of the board, being present at board A, is absent from board B?
If that is the intention of the Government, I may say that recent legal proceedings in which I have been professionally concerned illustrate the tremendous ambiguity that is involved, and it would be desirable to clarify the point. I should think that when you refer to the absence of the chairman under sub-section (3.) of the proposed section 7 you are referring to the absence of the chairman from his duties as chairman of the board and that his physical presence at board A would not enable the deputy chairman, in relation to board B, to function as the chairman. I should not think that in those circumstances in the ordinary connotation of the term, it could be said that the chairman was absent. He is absent from board B, but he is not absent from the discharge of his duties as chairman of the board. That is where you get a very attractive problem, and I still fail to see the advantage of making the chairman a constituent ingredient, indispensable from the statutory quorum indicated in proposed section 12. That, of course, is only a peanut in the consideration of clause 6. One reaches the situation in which all sorts of problems are involved. However, I shall defer consideration of those problems until the Minister replies to the submissions T have just made.
– Before the Minister replies 1 remind him that he has not yet answered the questions 1 posed in regard to proposed new section 8. He dealt with my submissions in general terms only. 1 asked, in particular, regarding paragraph (a), why a number of members of. the board should not be empowered to requisition a meeting? Why should the sole power rest in the chairman? With regard to paragraph (b), 1 asked why the chairman should be the sole determiner of records and proceedings of a board meeting? Why not allow the board itself to determine those matters? Paragraph (c) appears to be unnecessary because adequate provision exists already in section 12a of the principal act. In relation to paragraph (d), 1 invited the Minister to comment on the need for power to be vested in the chairman to direct and control travel by members.
– Perhaps the easiest way to deal with Senator McKenna’s questions is to give the departmental explanation for the clause. In relation to the section generally, the comment is made that the chairman’s powers under the existing act are ambiguous in some respects and the change is designed to remove the ambiguity. With regard to paragraph (a), dealing with the power of the chairman to convene meetings of the board at the times and places which he deems most convenient for the conduct of the business of the board, the comment is that no real change is proposed in the chairman’s powers to convene meetings; but he is required under sub-section (2.) to consult other members, as far as practicable, as to suitable times and places. In other words, the existing section provides that the board may meet in such place or places as it may deem most convenient for the transac tion of its business, but the proposed new provision empowers the chairman to convene meetings of the board at the times and places which he deems most convenient for the conduct of the business of the board.
The next paragraph deals with the form of the records of meetings and the procedure to be adopted at such meetings. Section 11 of the existing act requires that records shall be kept, but it is silent as to the chairman’s power on those matters. It does not say who shall determine the form of the records. It will be noted that the chairman must, wherever practicable, consult the other members of the board.
The departmental comment in regard to paragraph (c) is that the chairman’s powers under section 12a are being extended to enable him to determine which members shall take part in a particular inquiry. Whereas section 12a contains a limitation on the number of members who shall sit on a particular inquiry the new provision does not. It may be undesirable to use the committee system in one instance, but in another instance it may be desirable to keep one member free for other tasks.
The power proposed to be given to the chairman under paragraph (d) is to direct and control travel by members of the board in connexion with their duties. The reason for this paragraph may be stated in one word, “ administrative “. For Treasury and audit purposes, some one must be responsible for expenditure incurred in travel by members. The chairman is the most appropriate person to take that responsibility.
.- I hope that this is the last occasion on which I shall speak on this proposed new section, but I must rise again because the proposal is a complete erosion of those principles for which I, as a member of the Liberal party, stand. If I were to ask a person to accept statutory office for the discharge of independent functions, I should expect to give him parliamentary protection and deny to the chairman of the board the right to subordinate that member. After all, they are all members of the board and the only additional function of the chairman is to chair the meetings in accordance with recognized procedure. In no respect has the chairman the authority to subordinate any member.
The Minister was good enough to read no the Senate the departmental explanation of this proposed new section. I have commented before that we, by this process of legislation, do not arrive at parliamentary judgment but only at bureaucratic viewpoints presented to the Senate. In this instance the statement read by the Minister indicates in one phrase the situation which I envisage this proposed new section intends. I refer to the power vested in the chairman to reserve one member from an inquiry for use on other duties.
I have no information as to the reason for the dissension among members of the Tariff Board, but the explanation given by the Minister indicates, in an indirect manner, the way in which one member of the board, on occasions chosen by the chairman, may be shelved - put under the dust in a pigeonhole. To-day it may be one member, to-morrow it may be two, and the week after next it may be three. Those members will be relegated to silence on the back-benches of the Tariff Board.
If this clause of the bill is passed, the Senate will be deliberately drafting itself into danger and creating the machinery whereby this independent and efficient Tariff Board may be undermined.
Referring to the convening of meetings, the committee will recall that under section 1 1 of the existing act, salutary provisions exist. The section states that the board may hold sittings in any part of the Commonwealth, in such place or places as it may deem most convenient for the transaction of its business. Honorable senators should contrast that section with proposed new section 8(1.) under which the chairman has power to convene meetings of the board at the times and places which he deems most convenient for the conduct of the business of the board.
The existing section requires that the board shall keep minutes of its proceedings in the prescribed form, a perfectly proper provision. I am amazed by the simplicity with which we are asked to agree to an amendment whereby the form of the proceedings, which is now prescribed by the regulations, is to be determined by the chairman of the board, with no statutory requirement as to continuity and no consistency. Let honorable senators note the cunning way in which whoever drafted this provision has complied with the purpose of some official outside the Government.
Proposed section 8(1) (b) provides that the chairman shall have power to determine the form of the records of meetings of the board to be kept in accordance with the act. When will he make that determination? Will it be a matter of general determination or an ad hoc determination? Will he determine that at one meeting the record shall take a certain form and at the next it shall take another and more convenient form? I repeat that section 11 of the act already provides that the board “ shall keep minutes of its proceedings in the prescribed form “.
If a regulation prescribing the form of the proceedings is issued, it can be reviewed by honorable senators; but we will have no control over the form of proceedings which proposed section 8 (1.) (b) will authorize the chairman to determine and which he will be entitled to determine in different form from time to time. Why is there need to torpedo a salutary provision which requires the minutes of proceedings to be in a prescribed form and to substitute a form which the chairman may determine from time to time without any possibility of the Parliament or of the Senate reviewing it?
The chairman of the board is to have the power also to direct and control travel by members in connexion with their duties. Of course, only proper travel is to be engaged in, but what a situation of contempt it is to put a member who is equal with the chairman under the direction and control of the chairman in relation to the extent of travel that he may make in connexion with the duties of the board and as to the mode of travel! I repeat that to do that is to put that member in a position of complete contempt.
Proposed section 8 (2.) requires consultation by the chairman with the members of the board only in relation to the convening of meetings and the form of proceedings, and deliberately excludes the power of the chairman to direct which members of the board shall take part in a particular inquiry and the power of the chairman to direct and control the travel of members.
Proposed section 9a simply incorporates a 1950 provision that a member shall be paid salary, at such’ rate as the GovernorGeneral determines. I referred to that matter in my second-reading speech. I am> entirely, opposed to the provision for the following reasons: - First, the Senate has a. special authority and a. special opportunity to take part in the determination of the. salaries of statutory functionaries; secondly,, the. only way by which, the Parliament canregulate an effective supervision of the Public Service is for the Parliament itself specifically to fix. the. salaries of statutory officers, and thirdly, in relation to a member of a board it is imperative, I submit, if the Governor-General is to take the right of fixation that there should be a statutory requirement against discrimination. If the salary of one member of the board can be advanced so as to become an inducement, one could wield a great influence as against other members.
I direct attention now to proposed section 9b. Although under the existing act the Minister has power to fix travel allowances for members, for some reason that fact has not been adverted to. I submit that, under proposed section. 9c, the chairman of the board is intended to be given power to grant leave of abence to his fellow members on such terms either generally or in a particular case as he determines as to remuneration or otherwise. I submit that no Liberal who ever entered Parliament could submit to that’ kind of statutory control of a board that was intended to discharge independent functions under a disaffected government. That is what I am watching. 1 submit that this provision is a complete abnegation of everything that we stand for.
I propose to vote against the whole of clause 6 of the bill, because it is incapable of being amended into an acceptable form.
– Because of Senator Wright’s comments, I can be relatively brief, particularly in regard to proposed section 8 (1.). I more or less wish to indicate to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) that I do not accept, the departmental explanations about that sub-section. Senator Wright has exposed the fact that those explanations are not accurate. Hitherto, it has been the board - in other words the majority of the board - that has determined times and places of sittings, and the minutes were to be in accordance with the prescribed form; but now it is proposed that all those matters shall be in the unfettered discretion of a chairman subject only to consultation with his> fellow members. That is an entirely different position, and does not represent a recasting of the originaL’ provisions in the act.
I join with Senator Wright; not in his comments on proposed sections 9a and 9b, but in regard to proposed section 9c, which deals with the Minister’s power to grant leave of absence and which allows him to determine and discriminate in each case as to the remuneration or conditions upon which that leave is to be granted. If ever there was a matter upon which there should be provision for equality in an act of Parliament, and if ever anything should be on a basis of equality as between members of a board, surely it should be the leave to which those members are entitled and the duration of that leave as a matter of statutory right in both particulars and not as a matter to be left to the complete discretion of the Minister.
I indicated during the second-reading stage that I felt that clause 6 was so bad that it was completely impossible for the Opposition to amend, it, and that the only hope would be to recast it. I can only hope that, after what the Minister has heard, not only from the Opposition but also from the other side of the chamber, that he has an appreciation of how bad the clause is. In effect, it will lead to this position: The Tariff Board will cease to be a collection of independently minded people. In the main, they will be under the complete direction of a chairman who in turn will be so easily subservient to the Minister of the day. If the clause is agreed to, it will allow the approach to go directly from the Minister to the chairman. There is great danger in the position that the whole of clause 6 seeks to set up. It is an entirely different decision from the one we approved in 1953. I invite the Minister to take time to consider the representations that have been made to him, quite objectively, for the improvement of this clause. I think the whole clause strikes a blow at the status and dignity, and ultimately at the effectiveness, of the Tariff Board. I should like to see the matter deferred to enable the Government to give mature consideration to the arguments that, have been addressed to it to-day. 1 associate myself with Senator Wright and say that the Opposition must oppose the whole clause. We cannot support any of it, and it. cannot be. effectively amended. The clause involves matters of major policy, and to amend it one would have to tear up the bill and start again. It seems to me that would be the best thing the Government could do. I should like to see the Minister accept that suggestion to defer consideration of- the matter and give mature consideration to it.
– I should like more information and more time to consider this clause. I have read very carefully the sections proposed to be repealed, and, frankly, I cannot see anything wrong with them. Some of the terms in the new clause I simply do not understand. I do not know what they might lead to. I am particularly puzzled by the words, “ determine the form of the records “. I do not know what that means. I do not know how wide a lattitude it givesto the chairman. I repeat that I can see nothing wrong with the section in its present form. If I voted for this clause in its present form I simply would not know for what I was voting.
.- In addressing my remarks to clause 6, which proposes to amend sections 8 and 9 of the principal act I, like Senator McCallum, can see no reason for any change. Senator Wright’s views are entitled, of course, to the greatest respect, but I think he has been tilting at windmills, and that his difficulties are more illusory than real. The Tariff Board is a statutory body, which directs itself largely to ad hoc inquiries. Clause 6 of the bill gives to the chairman power which it is rational for a person occupying such a position to wield. Somebody must accept responsibility for running the board. Somebody must be the key, the decisive figure in determining its activities.
I draw an analogy which I feel sure Senator Wright will respect. I refer to the High Court of Australia. I know that the good senator will be shocked at my reference to judicial and administrative powers in the one breath, but in the case of High Court decisions, it is, of course, true that where numbers are equal the decision of the Chief Justice - or in other words the chairman - prevails. In the composition of courts- of appeal it is common practice in the State and federal judicial systems for the. Chief Justice to nominate the particular judges- who are to constitute the court, and. also the judges to do certain circuits. It is common practice in legal circles for the Chief Justice - although he is no more of a judge than any one else - to have a vast reservoir of administrative, power in. relation to his colleagues, and nobody has ever challenged that position. In my view, the. analogy is clear, and I can see no reason why the duties and powers of the chairman should not be indicated in the bill.
– Does the Judiciary Act lay down the procedure to which the honorable senator refers?
– No, it is a matter of practice.
– I want to go on record as refuting, to the best of my ability the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) that the proposed arrangements would affect the substance of the work to be done by the Tariff Board. I tried to make it plain earlier in the debate that there is a great difference between the form, procedure, or shell of the arrangements whereunder the board performs its work and the actual work that it does. Nothing in this bill in any way touches upon the members of the board in the exercise of the big responsibility they have in making tariff recommendations. AH this bill proposes to do is to put an orderly set of arrangements into operation. I am indebted to Senator Hannan for pointing out the analogous position in the courts.
– You might not have heard the question I asked Senator Hannan. I asked him whether the administrative functions of the Chief Justice were prescribed in the Judiciary Act and he answered, “ No, it is a matter of practice “. That is exactly the position under the Tariff Board Act - the position which this bill proposes to change.
– I am told that in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act that was introduced by this Government there are specific provisions under which the Chief Commissioner has authority to allocate the work in the same way in which this bill proposes that the chairman of the Tariff Board shall allocate the work of his board. I am inclined to get as indignant as most people, but I cannot understand the depth of feeling that Senator Wright has shown on this particular matter. It seems to me that where we have a Tariff Board with a number of members, the chairman receiving remuneration at the rate of £5,000 per annum and the members at the rate of £4,000 per annum, it is a matter of common sense that the chairman should take charge of the management of the board. He should decide when the board is going to sit, how it will be constituted, what matters are to be divided among the various members and what sort of records they will keep. We know that there has been a situation in which arguments on points of procedure have taken place and time has been wasted. It is necessary for procedural matters such as that to be taken beyond the field of argument so that those responsible for the work of the Tariff Board can get on with their job. If the procedure and form of arrangements are set out the board can work in accordance with those arrangements. I dispute with all the force I can muster the suggestion that these are unreasonable arrangements. They are the sort of arrangements that I would expect to be operating in practice in every public company which has a board of directors and a chairman of directors. In practice, the chairman of directors arranges the meetings and the procedure to be adopted at those meetings. That is what one would expect. If you have a board for which no procedural arrangements are set down arguments and disputations can take place, and instead of getting on with the job members may spend much time in discussion. I ask the committee to agree to the bill as it stands.
– I am afraid T cannot allow the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to get away with the statement with which he began. He said that surely power must be vested in somebody to decide which members shall undertake particular inquiries when the board is divided. I have conceded that. My complaint is in relation to the matter that is repeated twice in this clause, and is also found in section 12a. I have appreciated the fact from the beginning - I thought I had made it plain - that there must be some individual, and preferably the chairman, with power to allocate work among members of the board. Senator Hannan indicated that that type of thing operates in the judiciary. I do not want to tell tales out of school, but because of my knowledge of what goes on sometimes I could tell of cases when members of courts have declined to follow the directions of their chiefs. Honorable senators would be surprised if they knew all of the circumstances. It does happen and that is one reason why I, on behalf of the Opposition, am not objecting to that particular provision. But there are all the other matters that have been raised - matters differing from those in the present act - relating to depriving a board sitting alone of determining when and where it shall meet, the board being divided in two.
The honorable senator referred to the need for some one to lay down procedures and forms. Where better to lay them down than in the act or in the regulations? Why leave it to the chairman, who may change from time to time?
– I think a fairer question might be: Why not leave it to the’ chairman?
– He may be succeeded by a deputy chairman who, in turn, may be succeeded by an acting chairman, each of whom might have different views as to procedure. It may be very disruptive of the work of the board if the procedures and records are to be changed by each of the temporary personnel in the office. Surely to goodness this is the place to prescribe it.
The Minister made no attempt to answer the criticisms that have been offered in relation to proposed section 9c, under which the Minister may determine the conditions as to remuneration and so on when a member of the board goes on leave; in fact, he may discriminate. The power to discriminate . is almost conferred by the board.
– It is conferred in specific terms.
– The clause provides that the Minister may determine either generally - that is, in relation to all members of the board - or in a particular case, the terms and conditions as to remuneration or otherwise applicable to leave granted under proposed section 9c. I say that there is a clear statutory authority given to the Minister to discriminate in the matter of leave, and payment for leave, between members of the board. I throw this in as only one more very strong reason why the Opposition will oppose the whole clause. We think that it is bad from beginning to end and we are not in a position to amend or improve it.
.- I rise only to say that I thought it was implied in Senator Hannan’s contribution to this debate that in organizing the functions of a court the Chief Justice had the right conferred by statute, such as this bill proposes to confer, to convene meetings of the court at such times and places as he deems fit. I cannot find that provision in the Judiciary Act.
– It is not there.
– I thought the honorable senator implied that a right was conferred to determine the record of the court. I can find nothing of the kind in the Judiciary Act.
– I did not say that it is in the Judiciary Act.
– If Senator Hannan agrees that it is not in the Judiciary Act, that is the only admission I want. Why is it not there? The answer is that judges are appointed to an independent office. They together constitute a court, and they have their judicial obligations which they are taught to discharge, just as the members of the Tariff Board have certain obligations. Unless they act in concert to constitute a court and, in accordance with the law, together operate to discharge the jurisdiction of the court, any repeated resistance to that sort of thing would be misbehaviour which would disintegrate the court.
If We are going to have a tariff board constituted of members to whom we are going to concede a reasonable degree of discretion and judgment, we should not seek to submit them to the direction of the chairman as to these matters. Particularly, when members come to a certain decision the form of their decision should be determined by the majority and not by the chairman. That is the rub. I want to say to Senator Hannan that I would scarcely expect a member of the legal profession to deny that within the interstices of form and procedure are conceived the very substance of the law, and so, too, the distinction which my colleague, Senator Spooner, is disposed to treat so simply as between form and substance is one of the things that has been evolved down the centuries. It is by determination, historically, of procedures that the substance in the realm of law is evolved; and it is so, too, I suggest, in the jurisdiction of the Tariff Board.
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D.. Reid.)
Majority .. ..11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 7 to 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 -
Section sixteen of the Principal Act is repeated and the following sections are inserted in itsstead: - “ 16a.- (1.) . . . “ (2.) Where a report of the Board .contains a recommendation referred to in sub-section (3.) of section fifteen of this Act, the Minister shall lay a copy of the report -before each House of -the Parliament within fifteen sitting days of .that House from the date of receipt of the report by the Minister.”.
– This clause seeks to enact a new section 16a. The present section 16 provides as follows: - (1.) Upon receipt of a report from the Board in pursuance of section fifteen, the Minister may, if he thinks fit, take action according to law in respect of any of the matters dealt with by the Board in its report.
Sub-section (1.) of proposed section 16a is a repetition of that provision, but it also provides that the Minister for Customs and Excise shall be one of the appropriate Ministers and confers the necessary authority on him. Sub-section (2.) of section 16 of the act reads -
A copy of every report made in pursuance of sub-section (3.) of section -fifteen shall be laid on the table of each House of the Parliament within seven days, if the Parliament is then sitting, and, if the Parliament is not then sitting, then within seven days of the next meeting of the Parliament.
Seven days! It is now proposed to replace that provision with the following provision, contained in sub-section (2.) of the proposed section 16a -
Where a report of the Board contains a recommendation referred to in sub-section (3.) of section fifteen of this Act, the Minister shall lay a copy of the report before each House of the Parliament within fifteen sitting days of that House from the date of receipt of the report by the Minister.
Well, I fail to see why the present delay in the presentation of the reports of the board, which is causing so much dissatisfaction, should be added to by delay here after the receipt of the report by the Minister. It is quite possible that at the time of our autumn session - and this is what happened in the case of the timber report - we would hear nothing of the Tariff Board report until October, although it had been received by the Minister in April, if the report is directed to be presented within fifteen sitting days of the meeting of the Parliament. Therefore, I move -
Leave out al! words after “ within “, insert “ seven days if the Parliament is then sitting, and, if the Parliament is not then sitting, then within seven days of the next meeting of the Parliament “.
Those are the words in the existing section 16 (2.) of the act. I submit that there is no reason for the relaxation of that requirement ,that we should have these reports within due time.
– The present provision is that -
A copy of every report made in pursuance of sub-section (3.) of section 15 shall be laid on the table of each House of the Parliament within seven days if the Parliament is then sitting, and, if the Parliament is not then sitting, within seven days of the next meeting of the Parliament.
The bill proposes to make that period fifteen sitting days from the date of the receipt of the report by the Minister. Senator Wright’s amendment proposes, I think, to restore the former wording.
– That is correct.
– The departmental explanation of the provision in the bill is that it is based primarily on printing difficulties. Reports under this particular section of the act are rare. Great trouble has been experienced with the production of the annual reports which are required under section 18, because of the congestion in the Government Printing Office and the difficulty of getting reports printed. I remind honorable senators, also, of the secrecy that is necessary in connexion with the production and presentation of Tariff Board reports. These reports are treated in .a manner peculiar to Tariff Board reports, in that, when the board makes its report, it issues only a very limited number of copies to the Minister. All copies are identified. I do not think I need stress to the honorable senator that the contents of the reports nee.d to be closely guarded until they are made available publicly.
– You are speaking of the reports required under section 15 (3.).
– I am referring to Tariff Board reports.
– Other than the annual report?
– Other than the annual report, yes. So, with respect, I am not prepared to accept the amendment, because the present provision in the bill is based on the experience of what is needed. The departmental explanation says that the reason for the provision in the bill is primarily associated ;with printing difficulties. Reports under section 15 (3.) are rare and could possibly be handled, but it is desirable to be consistent with the provision referring to annual reports in section 1 8, where difficulty is real and has led on at least one occasion to the tabling of a typed report before enough copies were available for members of the public. There were also legal objections to the old wording. Section 15 (3.) refers to recommendations and not reports, and there was some doubt as to the legal position if one House were sitting and the other were not. The reference to sitting days follows modern practice.
.- So far from the Minister’s observations being an argument in his favour, very quietly and in the hope that even one word that I may say will be construed as a persuasive argument, I point out that the possibility of a leakage from the reports to which he refers, occurring before their presentation to the Parliament, and casting a reflection on the integrity of all concerned, will be increased one hundredfold by the elongation of the interval of time between the receipt of a report by the Minister and its presentation to the Parliament. I can understand a draftsman, sitting in his back office and looking at words only, desiring uniformity. He may easily forget that one of the reasons for specifying prompt submission to Parliament of recommendations was that it would eliminate the possibility of abuse.
– Ordinarily, when a debate is adjourned after the Minister’s second-reading speech has been given some days elapse, and during that time we are forewarned of proposed amendments, even by the official Opposition. That gives lay people an opportunity to study the measure alongside the proposed amendments. That has not happened in this case so far as I, a private senator on the Government side, am concerned. As Senator Wright has said, no amendment has been foreshadowed although, by way of interjection, I showed my. dismay at the change in the act brought about by the present bill. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), speaking in rebuttal of what Senator Wright has put, says, “ This is a departmental view “.
Frankly, I am not interested in what the department says. I am interested only in what the Liberal Minister of the Crown says. If departments rule the Ministers of to-day, why have Ministers at all? I am prepared to listen to any case for an extension of the lime limit that is put to me in the name of a Minister of the Crown, and to judge the proposal on its merits. There is plenty of business before the Senate, and very little time in which to discuss it. To be frank, many senators want to get home at the end of the week to take part in certain elections. 1 believe that the insertion in an act of Parliament of a provision authorizing delay weakens the authority and the rights of the Parliament. If, for years, the specified period for the tabling of a report has been seven days, I should like to hear a very good reason before agreeing that it should be altered to fifteen sitting days. The word “ sitting “ is put in quietly and, but for Senator Wright, would doubtless have passed unnoticed. Let us be honest with ourselves: At the beginning of a session we sit for possibly two days in each of the first two weeks and then get up for twelve days. A month may pass before we have attended on even six sitting days. A department which wanted to delay the presentation of a report to the Parliament could take advantage of that fact. If we are honest we will admit that if such leniency is written into the act it will become, in a few years, the rule and not the exception. Senator Wright has referred to the delay in presenting the report on the timber industry. The Government’s decision on that report is of great importance to Tasmania.
I am not prepared to support the clause. I regret that I have been unable earlier to announce my opposition to it, but the force of the clause did not catch my attention when 1 was examining the bill. The Minister should say, “ This is an important point. I am prepared to consider the committee’s view. I will take it to the Minister for Trade and Customs who is in another place, and will return here armed with his explanation of why the amendment is being pushed forward by the Government”. In short, if the Minister will not postpone the clause, I must support Senator Wright’s amendment.
.- I must confess that Senator Wright’s argument has much merit. His legal training has enabled him to bring to light the fact that the existing period of seven days is being changed to fifteen sitting days, which may represent a substantial period of time. The Minister himself made the vital point that the secrecy of the reports would be best protected if they were presented quickly. In view of the fact that, despite printing difficulties, presentation has usually proceeded as laid down in the act, the Minister should reconsider the clause at issue. As has been pointed out, the quicker these reports come before the Parliament the more likelihood there is of avoiding leakages. I cannot see that the extension of the time limit is fundamental so far as the bill is concerned and I strongly urge the Minister to reconsider his attitude. If seven days is insufficient, let the Minister increase the number of days, not employ the term “ sitting days “. Quite a long period may elapse before there have been fifteen sitting days. I am sure that if the Minister looks closely at the existing provision he will see that it carries out the intention of the Parliament much better than would the suggested amendment.
– Surely it is not to be supposed that a government brings down an amendment to a bill without first considering the matter fully and deciding that it is necessary. Surely, when a Minister does the committee the courtesy of providing an explanation, even though reading from a brief, he is not to be considered as merely putting forward a departmental view. A Minister does not say things without, at the same time, giving them the force of his support. I do not voice merely departmental opinions. I voice my own opinions.
What happened on this occasion? I read to the Senate a brief stating that, in practice, it was difficult to get these reports printed within the time specified in the statute. I gave a practical example - that on some occasions it has been necessary to table typed reports. I say, with respect, that the committee is not entitled to proceed upon the assumption that the department, or the Minister, takes as long as possible to put a report before the Parliament. The Minister does his best to present it quickly.
The whole purpose of the bill, though one would never think it after hearing some Government senators - is to streamline the work of the Tariff Board and give a quicker and more effective service to the public. When the act was being overhauled, it was found to contain a provision that had proved unworkable. The Government merely asks the committee to say that the Minister may take up to fifteen sitting days to present reports. The Minister does not seek that right for the purpose of being offensive, or of taking more time than is necessary. He does so because, in his opinion, it is necessary. I can say no more than that.
.- I was interested to hear what the Minister had to say in reply to my suggestion, and I do not want him to feel that I was castigating him. I made the suggestion because I firmly believe that we should have a fixed period instead of a flexible term. As a general rule, the Senate sits three days in a week. If we were sitting continuously, the provision “ fifteen sitting days “ would mean that the report could be tabled within five weeks; but, as the Senate does not sit continuously, this means that it could be anything up to three months before a report is tabled. In those circumstances, I cannot agree that “ fifteen sitting days “ is the most suitable provision. I suggest that we should state a definite period. I make that suggestion in all earnestness because, under the present proposal, it could happen that one report might be presented within five weeks of being received by the Minister whilst another might not be presented for many months after receipt by the Minister.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Wright’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 12 -
Section eighteen of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-sections (2.) and (3.) and inserting in their stead the following sub-sections: - “ (2.) The Minister shall lay a copy of the report before each House of the Parliament within fifteen sitting days of that House from the date of receipt of the report by the Minister.
I move -
Leave out proposed sub-section (2.).
Section 18 of the act provides that the annual report shall be tabled in each House of the Parliament within seven days of its receipt by the Minister, if the Parliament is the sitting, and, if the Parliament is not then sitting, within seven days of the next meeting of the Parliament. The clause proposes to substitute for that requirement of seven days after receipt by the Minister a provision for tabling within fifteen sitting days after receipt by the Minister. When we were discussing clause 11, the Minister said that it had occurred to the draftsman that there should be uniformity in relation to reports tabled under section 15 (3.) of the act.
I have yet to conceive of anything more puerile, especially when we realize that in recent years we have developed a practice under which the Auditor-General’s report is always furnished to us in time for the Budget debate while we have been handicapped on many occasions by the absence of the Tariff Board’s report, which is a very valuable review of economic progress for the year. The reason given for this is simply that on one occasion, to comply with the statute, the annual report had to be distributed in roneoed form and that, with the mountain of irrelevant rubbish that clutters the Government Printing Office, there is not time to print the Tariff Board’s report. Now, so that the report may be presented to Parliament in a timely fashion we are asked seriously, as if we were a kindergarten, to amend the statute. I challenge the Minister to put forward one responsible argument why we should relax the time from seven days to fifteen sitting days after the receipt of a report. I want to go on record as strenuously opposing the suggestion.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 13 and 14 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator O’Sullivan) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
On 28th November last, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) announced the decisions which the Government had taken on the report on Australian universities by the Murray committee. The bill before the chamber seeks now to give effect to those decisions insofar as they affect the finances of the State universities over the three-year period 1958 to1960. It does not deal with any of the other recommendations of the committee.
Legislation over the years 1951 to 1957 provided for Commonwealth grants to the States for university purposes, and the amount provided by the Commonwealth for recurrent expenditure on universities has increased from £1,103,000 in 1951 to £2,300,000 in 1957. The report of the Murray committee, among other things, clearly indicated the need for much more substantial financial assistance, and the present bill makes provision for maximum Commonwealth assistance of over £20,000,000 over the three-year period.
The recommendations of the Murray committee involve obligations on the part of both the Commonwealth and the States. In general, the provision of funds by the Commonwealth involves the States in maintaining at least their present level of expenditure on universities, Commonwealth grants being additional to, and not by way of replacement of, State expenditure. The Premiers in all States have been consulted and, in general terms, they have accepted the corresponding financial responsibilities for their States.
This increased financial provision for universities, in which Commonwealth and State governments are joining, opens a new era in the development of university education in Australia.
I have said that this bill deals with the Government’s decisions on financial assistance to State universities, and honorable senators will note that Part II. of the bill, and the accompanying schedules, set out the maximum financial assistance the Commonwealth is making available for the years 1958, 1959 and 1960.
The first section to which I would direct the attention of honorable senators is section 7. This provides for an emergency grant in each year to remedy urgent deficiencies of universities, as revealed by the »e,port of the Murray committee. This is Dot a matching grant, but is contingent on the State level of expenditure on universities being at least at the level required in 1-957 to attract the maximum Commonwealth grant. We are not expecting that this will cause any difficulties for the States. This money may not be spent on ;new buildings or sites, for which provision is made under section 9 of this bill. My colleague, the Prime Minister, has also made it clear to State Premiers that it would be contrary to the recommendations of the Murray committee, and to the indentions of the Government, for any of it to be devoted to meeting the cost of increasing the salaries of university staff holding positions that existed in 1957. Provision for Commonwealth assistance for this purpose is made under section 8. In accordance with the established practice for grants for recurrent expenditure, a small component of this emergency grant is to be devoted to the teaching and administrative costs of residential colleges.
Section 8 of the bill provides for grants for recurrent expenditure. The first of these again follows the long established principles with which honorable senators will be familiar from previous legislation. The maximum Commonwealth grant payable in respect of 1958 represents a 10 per cent, increase above the 1957 level, and provision is made for a further 10 per cent, increase in each of the years 1959 and 1960. In its report the Murray committee recommended salary increases to bring standard professorial salaries to £3,500 per annum with pro rata increases for other members of the academic staff. The Government agreed to provide its share of the Murray committee’s estimate of the cost of these increases on the normal 3:1 State-Commonwealth basis for recurrent expenditure, and under this section £187,500 is accordingly provided for this purpose. If a university increases staff salaries, it will be entitled to its share of the total, as set out in the Second Schedule.
Honorable senators will note that provision is also made under section 8 for grants for recurrent expenditure to South Australia for the South Australian School of Mines and Industries as this institution has, since the beginning of 1957, provided courses of study which lead to the degree of Bachelor of Technology at the University of Adelaide.
The Commonwealth enters a new field in providing capital grants for university building programmes. Under section 9 of this bill, these grants are provided on a matching basis of State and Commonwealth contributions, and in general envisage a continuation of the present level of State expenditure on university buildings. The Third Schedule sets out the projects which the Commonwealth will assist, and shows in each case the appropriate State and Commonwealth expenditure.
Estimates of costs of particular buildings can only be approximate at the present stage of planning, and accordingly the bill provides for ministerial discretion in varying the amounts the Commonwealth will provide for particular buildings. In accordance with the Murray committee’s recommendation, the Minister would accept without question any variation up to 15 per cent, of the estimated cost. The bill, however, clearly states that the total amount of Commonwealth money provided for a university is not to be exceeded.
Honorable senators will notice from a study of the Third Schedule that in all States the Commonwealth and State contributions are on a £l-for-£l basis, except in Western Australia and Tasmania where 25s. of Commonwealth money is provided for every £1 of State expenditure. However, in New South Wales the Commonwealth offers more than £1 for £1 for the University of Sydney, and less than £1 for £1 for the New South Wales University of Technology. This follows precisely the Murray committee’s recommendations. At each university the Commonwealth contribution is calculated to bridge the gap between the State contribution and the Murray committee’s judgment of the university’s needs for the period 1958-60.
We have also agreed to provide assistance for the building programmes of residential colleges affiliated with universities, and section 10 provides £600,000 for this purpose. The Fourth Schedule of the bill indicates the allocation of this money between States. It is left to the States to decide how much money a particular college will get. This money is available only for the independent affiliated residential colleges and not for colleges or hostels administered by a university. In the schedule of university building projects, capital grants are provided for colleges administered by a university where the Murray committee deemed it appropriate.
Payment of capital grants for residential college building is on the basis of £1 for every £1 provided by State governments and from other sources. The Murray committee recommended that there should be yearly limitations on the provision of this money, but we have not felt this limitation necessary. Its removal will give fullest opportunity for early increase in the provision of residential college accommodation.
In brief, Part II of this bill provides over the three-year period for emergency grants totalling £4,500,000, grants for recurrent expenditure amounting to just over £9,000,000, capital grants for university buildings and their equipment and sites of some £7,270,000, and grants of £600,000 for residential college buildings - a total of £21,400,000.
Proceeding to Part III of the bill, honorable senators will recall that the 1957 legislation provided grants for recurrent expenditure for each of the years 1957 and 1958. Grants for 1958 provided in this legislation have been superseded by those in the bill now before this chamber. Part III, therefore, amends the 1957 legislation by deleting from it reference to the year 1958. This amendment to the 1957 act also provides for grants for the South Australian School of Mines and Industries for the year 1957, as these grants had not been approved prior to the introduction of the 1957 legislation.
As honorable senators are aware, the Murray committee made other recommendations which are not dealt with in this bill. It made recommendations affecting the Australian National University and the Canberra University College. Though decisions have not yet been reached on all of these, we have already taken action in respect of the recommendations for the Australian National University, for increases in recurrent expenditure at the Canberra University College, and for certain capital developments at the college such as the establishment of a science faculty.
The committee also made recommendations on the Commonwealth scholarship scheme, and the Universities Commission has been asked to make thorough investigation of what these recommendations would involve. These investigations require consultation with State education departments which administer the Commonwealth scholarship scheme and with universities, and it has not yet been possible to present firm recommendations. I expect that the result of the commission’s investigations will be made available as soon as practicable.
Finally, may I refer to the recommendation for the appointment of a permanent Australian universities committee. The Government has agreed to the establishment of this committee and the matter is receiving the Prime Minister’s close attention, but it is not yet possible to make any specific announcement about it. Honorable senators will be aware of some of the more important problems of our universities - the need for more graduates, the need to reduce wastage, the inadequacy of buildings and equipment and the ever increasing budgetary difficulties of the universities, all of which were dealt with in the Murray report.
This bill sets out to provide additional financial assistance which should help the universities to remedy as many of these problems as they can in the shortest possible time. But finance is not all. The State governments, and more particularly the universities, must be expected to act in other ways as well to remedy the deficiencies to which the Murray committee drew attention. It is my hope that, when the permanent committee comes to consider the needs of our universities, it will find the situation in them much less critical than did the Murray committee. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Flaherty) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Cotton Bounty Act 1951-1957 provides for the payment of bounty on deliveries of seed cotton up to and including the 1958 harvest. The effect of the bounty is to guarantee to growers an average price of 14d. per lb. on deliveries of seed cotton to ginneries. The purpose of this bill is to continue the guarantee on the same basis for a further five years until 31st December, 1963.
Queensland is the only State in which cotton is at present being grown on a commercial basis. Experimental plantings have recently been made in north-western New South Wales and at Katherine in the Northern Territory with promising indications, and there are distinct possibilities that cotton-growing may be developed within the next few years in areas other than Queensland.
No import duty is levied on imported raw cotton. The customs tariff provides for a duty of Hd. per lb., but this is suspended under by-law. The tariff protection on manufactured cotton goods is based on the assumption that Australian cotton spinners are able to obtain their supplies of imported raw cotton duty free. Raw cotton produced in Australia is therefore sold to Australian spinners at the world price equivalent and the difference between the world price and the guaranteed price is met by a bounty payment. The amount of bounty payment required therefore depends on the world price of cotton. In recent years, the United States of America has been exporting its surplus raw cotton at a price level of about 6 cents per lb. below the domestic price. This depression in world cotton prices has necessitated an increased rate of bounty on the Australian production. The Australian economy, however, has not suffered as the cost of our imports of raw cotton has been greatly reduced as a result of the United States export policy. It is interesting to note that the United States, which is the largest and most efficient cotton-producing country, finds it essential to subsidize its raw cotton exports to the extent of about 6 cents per lb.
The present bounty scheme was put into operation at a time when there was a reasonable expectation that under normal conditions assistance would not be required. The bounty proposal did, however, protect the grower to some extent from market fluctuations and adverse weather conditions, all being beyond the growers’ control. The guaranteed price applied first to the 1951 harvest but was not needed for either that or the following year. It applied only to a relatively small extent for the 1953 harvest.
Bounty amounting to £17,651 was paid on the 1953 harvest of 5,423,051 lb. of seed cotton. Payments rose to £25,243 on the 1954 harvest of 3,687,828 lb. of seed cotton, and again to £67,284 on 5,650,785 lb. of seed cotton for the 1955 harvest. Bounty paid for the 1956 harvest was £119,826 on 3,929,523 lb. of seed cotton. The expectation for the 1957 harvest is a bounty of £76,324 on 3,412,709 lb. of seed cotton. Although the quantity of seed cotton delivered in 1957 was lower than in previous years due to drought conditions, the quality was above average as the dry weather favoured clean harvesting. The grade of the raw cotton was further improved by the operation of the new ginning plant installed by the Cotton Marketing Board at a cost of around £20,000. Due to continued drought conditions in Queensland at the end of 1957 and early this year, the 1958 harvest is estimated to be 3,000,000 lb. of seed cotton, and the bounty expectation is £82,000.
The number of growers and the acreage harvested has varied considerably over past years. The relative figures are -
It is obvious that a bounty payment in itself is not sufficient to assure the development of the cotton growing industry - additional assistance must be given by way of research and extension activities. The Queensland Department of Agriculture has recently intensified its research into cotton growing. Three experimental stations now undertake work on cotton, and an additional station in the Mareeba-Tinaroo district is to be included shortly. The department also intends to open a further station in the Inglewood district to complete the climatic coverage for cotton growing. It is not sufficient to produce cotton on experimental stations - farmers must be instructed in correct agricultural practices, and for this purpose field officers must be made available. The question of extension services for cotton producers has been discussed with the Queensland Minister for Agriculture and Stock and arrangements have been made for assistance to be given under the Commonwealth extension services grant. A land survey is being considered by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to determine what other areas in Australia are suitable for cotton-growing.
There is little doubt that the Commonwealth Government could boost cottongrowing by substantially increasing the guaranteed price. There is a danger, however, that this would result in the production by inexperienced growers of low-grade cotton which would be unacceptable to Australian spinners. Further, growers enticed into the industry by a high guaranteed price would probably cease cotton-growing should the guarantee be reduced. The Division of Agricultural Economics made a survey of the industry in Queensland in 1956 and reported that a number of growers had satisfactory net returns at the present guaranteed price. This indicates that a guaranteed price of 14d. per lb. should prove reasonably remunerative for efficient producers.
Increased interest in cotton-growing has recently been displayed by farmers in Queensland particularly in the Darling Downs area where cotton is a suitable crop for rotation with grain. As Australian spinners use between 80,000 and 90,000 bales of cotton annually of which only about 3,000 are produced locally, there is ample scope for expansion of cottongrowing in Australia. Imports of raw cotton cost over £6,000,000 annually, most of this amount being in dollar currency. An efficient local industry would save much of this heavy expenditure. Since the commencement of the present bounty act in 1951, about £300,000 has been paid in bounty. Expenditure for 1958 is estimated at £82,000. The monetary cost of the guarantee must however be considered in relation to the benefits to be derived from the development of an efficient cottongrowing industry. These benefits include the saving of dollar funds by reducing the quantity of cotton which is at present imported; the diversification of our production; the value of cotton as a rotation crop, and the provision of by-products, including protein rich cattle food.
There is no apparent reason why cotton cannot be grown in Australia as efficiently as in the United States of America and other countries. The Government believes that an extension of the present guarantee for a further five years and an intensification of research and extension activities should do much to establish the industry in Australia on a firm and economic basis. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Flaherty) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henry) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. This bill has as its main feature a proposal to abolish beer duty stamps as a method of collecting excise duty levied on beer. Honorable senators no doubt know that the stamp system of duty collection dates back to 1901 and, whilst it has proved its worth as a means of collecting beer revenue, present-day production levels prompted a review of the system to ascertain whether simplification could be achieved.
At all times my department is striving to streamline and simplify its procedures and with this object in view an extensive examination of the stamp system was recently carried out. The conclusion was reached, in consultation with the industry, that the use of stamps could be regarded as a cumbersome and costly procedure which could be abandoned with benefit to both the department and the trade. The stamp method of collection involves the Government in the printing each year of many millions of stamps of varying denominations, whilst extensive storage facilities have to be provided throughout the Commonwealth. Comprehensive accounts and audits are involved for both the Department of Customs and Excise and brewers whilst the latter must provide labour for the affixing of stamps to vessels and, in the case of bottled beer, to the relevant cart-note. Then again, a publican must cut the stamp upon opening a vessel. The purport of this bill is, therefore, to abolish stamps and apply to beer the same duty collection procedures as operate in respect of other excisable goods. The record systems now operating at breweries will not be disturbed and the trade is in agreement with the proposal outlined.
Further, as a revenue protection aspect, the bill provides for departmental control to be exercised over the acquisition and use by brewers of cart-notes which will become prime documents in brewery control. Consequent upon the proposal which I have outlined, a further provision is made in this bill to allow, in common with the treatment afforded other excisable goods, the removal of beer “ under bond “ as between breweries and to such places as customs warehouses prior to subsequent payment of duty. The present stamp system does not allow such removals as the law limits duty payment to breweries and brewers’ delivery stores only. The bill is submitted for the favorable consideration of honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Flaherty) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 6th May (vide page 811), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– On 6th May last, when I first spoke on this bill under which the Commonwealth Government is to make available £2,500,000 to the Western Australian Government to be spent in the area of Western Australia north of the 20th parallel, I mentioned some of the difficulties that are retarding the development of the area, the chief being, in my opinion, the land tenure system operating at the present time. The present system is that of lease-hold tenure, most of the leases in the area expiring in the year 1982. I mentioned that, as security, these leases were not of any value because the banking institutions do not regard them sufficiently highly to make advances against them. The only assistance that pastoralists can obtain are advances from stock firms who are prepared to advance money on stock and station securities. I think this matter should be looked into by the State Government with a view to giving the people in this area an adequate acreage in their own right. Then I believe that the banks would be more ready to advance finance for the development of the properties.
The State Government has already advised the Commonwealth Government of three projects it hopes to carry out with the assistance of this finance. One is the establishment of the Black Rocks deep-water port on King Sound. The second is the carrying out of extensive investigations into the development prospects of the north Kimberleys for which the Napier-Broome Bay area may provide an outlet; and the third is the extension of the Wyndham jetty. I believe that the State should be very grateful for the recommendations that are submitted to the Commonwealth.
I said a moment ago that I doubted whether the establishment of a deep water jetty at Black Rocks would lead to increased productivity in the Kimberleys. Let us consider the tonnage of cargo that is shipped from Derby. In 1956-57, 10,208 cattle were shipped from that port. On the basis of two head of cattle weighing about a ton, some 5,000 tons of livestock were shipped from Derby in that year. There were 39,654 cattle slaughtered in the whole of the area, which comprises Wyndham, Broome and the Glenroy Air-Beef scheme. Most of those cattle were slaughtered at Wyndham, about 5,000 being slaughtered at Broome and a similar number at Glenroy. According to the published statistics, about 8,000 tons of cargo was shipped to Derby, and about 13,000 tons from Derby last year. Surely, a far better use for the money could be found than in establishing a deep water port at Black Rocks, which would handle at present only approximately 20,000 tons of cargo a year.
– Would the establishment of the jetty be advantageous from the point of view of defence?
– The port of Derby is located about 80 miles down King’s Sound. From the time Japan entered the last war until the conclusion of hostilities, the port was closed to shipping. As Senator Tangney knows, there are only two outlets from the port, which could be kept under surveillance by enemy submarines in war-time. I believe that in the event of another war occurring in the South-East Asia area, the defence authorities would again consider closing the port. However, I am not an authority on that subject, and circumstances do change. I should not like honorable senators to think that I do not want Derby to go ahead; I do. I want to see the whole of the Kimberleys go ahead. That is why I shall support the passage of this measure. It is terribly important from the point of view of both the Commonwealth and the State that the greatest advantage shall be gained from the proposed g/ant of £2,500,000 to Western Australia over the next five years. I remind honorable senators that a lot of this money could be expended without getting any increase of production. I urge the Government to give consideration to the establishment of a research station in the Kimberleys area, whose function it would be to ascertain the best methods of developing the smaller areas. I suggest that the available land in the 30-in. rainfall area adjacent to Derby be sub-divided into blocks of from 10,000 acres to 15,000 acres. These blocks, when fenced and after watering facilities have been installed, could be utilized for grazing and for fattening sheep and cattle.
So little is known of this area, and so many conflicting reports on its potentiality have been received from residents that it is hard to establish a correct line of approach to its development. It is known that this land is deficient in phosphate. Furthermore, there is a deficiency of cobalt and copper there. It has been observed that cattle thrive in areas where there are deposits of cobalt and copper. The Western Australian Department of Agriculture has experimented with the planting of buffel grass in the area and it has carried out experiments in relation to stock. Mr. Smith, of the State Department of Agriculture, is stationed in the area. Experiments which he has conducted have shown that by adding phosphate to the water it has been possible to fatten cattle which otherwise would have remained in poor condition on the plains. As a result of this experiment, also, the sheep breeding potential of the area has been increased. The Ord River experimental station is experimenting with irrigation. As far as I know, no experiments in dry farming are being undertaken there at present. I believe that it would be advantageous for the Commonwealth to combine with the State to establish two or three experimental stations with a proportion of this money, with the object of ascertaining the best use to which the land could be put.
I was told by a gathering of people at Derby some months ago that the area is sufficiently fertile to develop a farming project, on the basis of running one sheep to every two or three acres. I consider that assistance should be provided by the Commonwealth or the State to establish a research station to explore the potentialities of the area. 1 understand that the Western Australian Government, during the last twelve months, has sent out surveyors to survey the land between the northern section of the area at Wyndham and the Napier-Broome Bay area. They have discovered some very rich and fertile land. Several stations consisting of 1,000,000 acres have been surveyed. I understand that applications for the subdivided blocks were called and that the land has been allocated.
The terrific problems associated with the area should be approached with a good deal of caution because £2,500,000, unless wisely spent, would not increase production by even 1 per cent. If the money is wisely spent production could be increased. There could be a terrific expansion of the area. A large proportion of the money that Western Australia has received from the Commonwealth under the Aid Roads Agreement has been spent in the area. There is now a formed road from Port Hedland to Broome, approximately half the length of which is in the area concerned. We have a formed road - by which I mean a gravel road - from Broome to Derby, which is a distance of about 130 miles, and from Derby to Hall’s Creek. There are also formed roads running about 150 miles south of Wyndham. So the area is being opened up considerably by roads. I think there should be further expansion along those lines.
I was speaking previously about the Black Rocks jetty. When the State Government decided to approach the Commonwealth some years ago for assistance in the construction of the Black Rocks deep-water jetty, it chose to alter the name of the place to Black Rocks from its former name of Point Torment. The older name was given to that place because of the multitudes of insects, such as sandflies and mosquitoes, that infested the area. At the time of the original approach by the State Government there might have been a chance of shifting the whole township of Derby to Point Tor-, ment; but to-day, as a result of oil search activities in the area and because of the development of the outback stations, the township of Derby has expanded threefold or four-fold, and I doubt very much whether the residents of Derby would want to go to Black Rocks now.
I believe that a government that submits proposals for a deep-water jetty at Black
Rocks should have another Look at the matter, because no town with a jetty that is at present serving the area should need the expenditure of a couple of million pounds on a deep-water jetty which would cater for only about 22,000 tons or 23,000 tons a year. I should say that the proper approach to the matter would be to repair the present jetty and to get the State to do all that it can, with the assistance that the Commonwealth is providing, to find out just what the area is capable of. The Commonwealth could assist the State financially in really starting the job, and also assist it, through the work of Commonwealth experimental stations and so on, towards fullscale development of the area. A deepwater port at Black Rocks will not, in my opinion, make a great deal of difference.
The number of cattle in the Northern Territory has expanded far more quickly during the last few years than has the number of cattle in the Kimberleys. I believe that that is largely the result of the Commonwealth Government’s assistance to Northern Territory pastoralists by way of tax concessions that are allowable to graziers in the Territory, but not allowable to graziers in any of the States. In this connexion I shall refer to section 57ab (4.) of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act which reads -
In respect of a structural improvement to which this Section applies … the taxpayer may elect that, instead of an annual deduction for depreciation of twenty per centum of the cost of that unit, the whole of that cost shall be allowed as a deduction for depreciation in the year of income in which the improvement is completed.
That sub-section is dealing with tax concessions in the Northern Territory.
– Is that confined to the west of Western Australia?
– It is confined to the Northern Territory. It was one of the measures introduced by the Commonwealth Government some four or five years ago as a means of assisting the development of the Northern Territory. I think the Commonwealth Government has been quite liberal to farmers throughout the Commonwealth in allowing them to claim an annual deduction, over a period of five years, of 20 per cent, as a depreciation allowance on all plant, and similar deductions in respect of expenditure on the erection of yards, tanks, windmills and men’s quarters. But the tax laws applying to the Northern Territory provide that the primary producer there may elect to deduct the whole of the cost of structural improvements in the year in which the money is spent on them, although that law does not apply, I understand, to motor vehicles used for the transport of people. So a great advantage is given to the Northern Territory in that respect. A pastoralist whose station is just inside the Territory border has the advantage of that tax concession, while a pastoralist whose station is in the northern part of South Australia, the Kimberleys, or Queensland, just over the Territory border, does not receive it. I think we can say quite safely that this concession, which is a generous one, has done a lot to improve the cattle stations in the Northern Territory and that it is unfortunate that it does not apply to other pastoral parts of Australia. The result is that station owners who have made large incomes in the northern parts of Western Australia, in the past few years, either from wool or cattle, have bought properties in the southern part of the State that are covered with timber and completely undeveloped. They spend their money on clearing up the properties - an expenditure which is a complete deduction for tax purposes - and therefore they build up a capital appreciation out of what they would normally be paying in income tax. When they sell such a property they pay no tax on the proceeds, because it is a capital appreciation. The people of the Northern Territory are developing their properties while those in the north-west of Western Australia are spending their money down south. That is quite wrong, and the Government could well look at our tax laws with a view to permitting pastoralists or leaseholders - a leaseholder could own 100,000 acres or more - to claim as a deduction all moneys spent on improving their properties during a given year. That is one way in which development of these areas would be helped greatly.
The Kimberleys have not been thoroughly prospected for minerals. There are iron ore deposits at Yampi Sound. Indeed, as much as 2,000,000 tons of ore has been shipped from the area in a year. However, the production of gold fell from 2,963 fine ounces, worth £12,600, in 1910 to 68 fine ounces, worth £1,060, in 1957. A lead mine operated in the area some two years ago, but the deposits proved insufficient to enable production to be continued. Recently some interested companies have had prospectors out looking for various minerals, and I understand that one of the major companies has recently found copper deposits which, when further developed, may warrant mining. Little is known of the mineral wealth of the area. The Bureau of Mineral Resources could carry out a geological survey, or the State Government could ask that some of the money provided under the bill be spent on this work, and on providing maps which would be available to companies anxious to prospect. I am very fearful of the approach that the State Government may make to this problem - and I say that without any regard for politics. The Commonwealth Government is making a most generous offer.
– Has not the State Government to submit its priorities to the Commonwealth Government for approval?
– Yes, but it would be difficult to refuse a request by the State to spend £1,000,000 on the development of a deep-water port at Black Rocks although, in my opinion, it would be a waste of money.
– The project must be regarded as No. 1 priority by a joint parliamentary committee of both parties.
– With all due respect to such a committee, I think that a proposal such as the development at Black Rocks would have to be inquired into very closely. Only 23,000 tons of goods are shipped in and out of the area each year, according to figures provided by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. If the State Government wanted to spend £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 on developing a deep-water port at Black Rocks I should feel inclined to ask it what immediate effect this would have upon exports. I would not deny the possibility of a bright future for rice-growing in the Kimberleys. Last year I went through the Liveringa rice project and found there some concern over the severe shortage of water. The Western Australian Government had spent a few pounds in putting down a dam, but it had been washed away. I understand that something is being done at present to increase the quantity of water available. I would think that it would be preferable to spend, say, £500,000 on providing sufficient water to meet the needs of the ricegrowers at Liveringa. I am certainly not opposed to the idea of a deep-water port when there is something to ship out of it. The tonnage shipped out of Derby in twelve months is 8,000, and that shipped in 13,000. A large proportion of the shipments from Derby are of live cattle. They are taken to Robb’s Jetty, South Fremantle, where they are sold as fat stock and slaughtered. About 2,208 cattle, representing some 5,000 tons, are shipped from Derby each year. Those cattle are now shipped, and always will be shipped, on vessels that can negotiate the present shallow-water port there.
I should like to see the State hand over the whole of the Kimberleys, and perhaps other areas also, to the Commonwealth for inclusion in the Northern Territory. There are some 4,000 people in the area, and in view of the large sums of money that will have to be spent there, the State Government would be wise to hand the region over to the Commonwealth Government.
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.
– Most honorable senators will have noticed in to-day’s press that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has increased the federal basic wage by 5s. a week for men and 3s. 9d. a week for women. As from the first pay period after 31st May, the new basic wage for men will be £13 8s. in Sydney, £13 in Melbourne, £12 3s. in Brisbane, £12 16s. in Adelaide, £13 7s. in Hobart and £131s. in Perth. It will be remembered that on 30th October last year I directed attention to the fact that the then Chancellor of the Exchequer and Secretary to the Treasury in England had stated that for the years since 1914, taking the index figure as 100 in 1914, the purchasing value of the £1 sterling had decreased by 78 per cent. By 1956, the £1 sterling was worth only 4s. 4d. as compared with 20s. in 1914. Since 1956, increased rent and other charges in England have reduced that value to approximately 4s.
This reduction in the purchasing power of the £1 sterling has been brought about by inflation of currency in accordance with the Government’s policy, and has reacted mainly to the detriment of the recipients of wages and small incomes. I submit that a similar state of affairs now exists in this country - it has existed since 1949 - due to the sustained inflation of our currency. Taking into consideration Australia’s adverse exchange rate of 25 per cent., the £1 Australian is now worth only 3s. as compared with 20s. in 1914, so that there has been no increase in the real wage since that year. For example, if the federal basic wage had been fixed at £14 a week, its purchasing power, in terms of £1 worth 20s., would be no more than that of the basic wage fixed at £2 2s. a week by Mr. Justice Higgins in 1907.
On 6th April, a representative of the Melbourne “ Herald “ in New York reported that Mr. Bernard Baruch, financial adviser to President Eisenhower, stated that inflation is the most important factor of our time, and that it is the greatest single peril to our economic health. I wish to emphasize that, and point out that for all practical purposes there has been no increase in the basic wage in Australia. The £1 Australian, which was worth 20s. in 1914, is worth only 3s. to-day. I submit that the whole process of fixing the basic wage to-day is fraudulent. The only people who benefit from it are the employers and certain members of the legal profession. This state of affairs cannot go on indefinitely, and I am drawing attention to it now with the object of preventing, so far as is possible, the creation of a false impression by the recent decision of the court.
I base my statements on figures issued by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in England on 1st April, 1957, but there are other ways of arriving at the extent to which recipients of wages and persons on small incomes, such as pensioners and others, are misled and robbed. One way is to judge the position on the price of gold. It is worth £15 12s. 6d. an ounce to-day. For the purpose of my argument, let us say it is worth £16 an ounce. A sovereign contains one-quarter ounce of gold, so that to-day one requires four £1 notes to purchase what could be bought with one £1 note in 1914. Another way of arriving at the true position is to consider the number of hours that must be worked to earn what may be called the commodity wage. By “ commodity wage “ I mean the wage that will enable the worker to buy the necessaries of life. An examination of the position will disclose that, because of the manipulation of currency, the present generation is now working not only longer but also faster in an effort to earn a wage sufficient to purchase the necessaries of life than they did before the 1914-18 war.
As I have said, this state of affairs cannot go on indefinitely. The position has become even more desperate in America; and it has become more desperate in England. I cannot imagine 50,000 busmen going on strike unless they had good reasons for believing that it was absolutely necessary to do so in their own interests. The whole system works on the same principles as the wheelbarrow. The Government moves just as fast as it can be pushed, and no faster. In my opinion the pressure that has been brought to bear by the bus employees in England will be augmented by the railway workers and other employees unless something unforeseen happens. There is not the slightest doubt that a similar position could develop in Australia. Any one who is any judge of the feeling among employees on the waterfront, among seamen and other workers, must admit that such a position is developing. I can quite imagine that the Leader of the Government in the Senate and other members of cabinet would claim that such a development would be Communistinspired, ignoring the manner in which currency has been loaded against the workers. The Arbitration Court fixes the money wage and the employers fix the commodity wage by increasing prices. Yet, we heard the Leader of the Government in the Senate say this morning that his Government believes in high wages. It does nothing of the sort.
He believes, as do all Government supporters, in a minimum wage. The principle on which the whole economy operates in this age of capitalist monopoly is maximum production and profit for the owners of land and capital, and minimum consumption by the workers. That is one of the main reasons why inflation has been resorted to as a means of misrepresenting the whole position. What is the overall effect? In Victoria alone 18,000 people need homes. Thousands of people are living in rooms when they should be living in decent houses. Pensioners are living in a conditions of semi-starvation. Yet, on the other hand, millions of pounds are spent in converting liquid capital into fixed capital. Skyscrapers are being erected in every district; banks are opening branches in areas where they are not absolutely necessary, and petrol stations are being erected everywhere. That is the overall effect of the position that is now developing.
I would be remiss in my duty if I did not bring this state of affairs to the knowledge of honorable senators. Whether the judges of the arbitration courts know it or not, they are parties to a fraudulent process of misleading the workers and falsifying the currency. In this they are condoned by the present Government. If it were in my power, the process would have been challenged long ago by organized labour. A serious state of affairs will develop unless the Government takes cognizance of the position and institutes the necessary steps, which are well within the field of practical politics, to readjust the economy. When the climax is reached, I foresee a position similar to that which existed in the ‘thirties with the remnants of the Government, the Communists and others, all parties to this fraudulent process, running for cover and making all sorts of excuses to justify a policy of inaction. As a representative of the workers of Australia, I feel justified in directing the attention of honorable senators to the present state of affairs.
We are passing through an age of what I term mitigated slavery and savagery, an age in which a slave to a machine produces so much and receives so little, and an age when men are trained so efficiently to slaughter their fellow men in such great numbers for the purposes of trade. In the First World War 20,000,000 people were killed; in the Second World War a conservative estimate was 30,000,000, and in the Korean war the figure was 5,000,000. How many more millions of lives are to be sacrificed because of the ignorance and cowardice of capitalist governments?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.45 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 May 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1958/19580513_senate_22_s12/>.