23rd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMulIin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the “Leader of the Government in the Senate. -Is it a fact that the hotel accommodation available in Australian capitals and other large cities compares most unfavorably with that of other countries? Is it a fact that only 1,760 hotel rooms are available in Sydney and that, of these, only 785 have bathrooms? Is it also a fact that 150,800 rooms, or nearly 100 times as many, are available in New York? Is it further a fact that the “ International Hotel Guide “ which, though not listing all hotel accommodation does offer a fair comparison, shows that the only city comparable with Sydney in this respect is Johannesburg; that Ankara and Rio de Janeiro have approximately 50 .per cent, more rooms, and Berlin four times as many? I might mention a few other examples from a long list. Montreal has ten times .as many, Cairo five times as .many, Paris .35 times as many, London twenty times as many and .Rome ten times as many. Is it .a fact that only 6,000 American tourists, out of nearly 1,500,000 who travelled overseas, visited Australia last year? Is it .also a fact that travel .agents discourage American tourists ,from .coming to this country because .of the shortage of suitable hotel accommodation? In ‘the circumstances, will the Prime Minister inquire into this situation with a view to ascertaining what action governments of other countries ‘have taken to stimulate ‘hotel construction and, perhaps, taking ‘similar action in Australia?
– I must begin by confessing that .1 ‘am not nearly so conversant with hotel statistics as is Senator Buttfield. That is not to be wondered at because, as we all know, she has taken the greatest interest over a long period in the development of tourist activities within Australia. If it is true that (the travel agents, in their activities overseas, are not advancing Australia’s claims for tourist traffic, then I give the rejoinder that they are not doing the fair thing by their clients, because I believe there are attractions in all parts of Australia that should make it one of the great tourist resorts of the world.
Senator Buttfield takes her question on to hotel accommodation. I think that, as Australians, we have to admit that we would be better served .if we had better standards of hotel accommodation not only in the capital .cities but in the country areas, and, in particular, at the tourist .resorts. The -honorable senator’s final question is whether I will .discuss .the ,matter with the Prime Minister when the opportunity occurs. I shall be glad to do so, but I remind her that .the .licensing laws, and :the matters relating to ‘hotels, come almost wholly within the responsibility of the State governments rather than the Commonwealth Government.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development relating to a recent statement about the expansion of the aluminium works at Bell Bay, in Tasmania. What is the Commonwealth Government’s proportion of the £650,000, which represents profits, interest and capital charges, that is to be waived by the Commonwealth and the Government of Tasmania to enable the Australian Aluminium Production Commission to contribute that amount towards the extension of the industry at Bell Bay? In view of the fact that the Commonwealth demand for aluminium ingot is rapidly increasing and .is now estimated at 30,000 tons a year, can the Minister say whether the present .extension to 16,000 tons will interfere an any way with the proposal to double the output as a further step towards aluminium self-sufficiency in Australia?
– The question covers a very wide field, but I shall do my best ‘to answer it. It is true that recently statements were made by the Prime Minister and the Premier of Tasmania marking the end of negotiations that had gone on for some time and which were based upon a recommendation by the Australian Aluminium Production Commission that the .-size of the plant should be increased. -I had the responsibility of conducting the negotiations with the
Premier of Tasmania, and I say now that we have achieved the best possible result as the outcome of the co-operative efforts of the Premier of Tasmania, the Australian Aluminium Production Commission and myself.
In brief, the proposal is one to increase the size of the plant by the expenditure of approximately £3,000,000. The Tasmanian Government is underwriting the whole of that expenditure on the basis that, from within the internal resources of the commission, it is anticipated that £650,000 will be found. Added to that, the Commonwealth agrees to continue to guarantee the bank overdraft of the commission to the extent of £300,000. This means that, in round figures, the commission, with the Commonwealth guarantee, expects to be able to find £950,000. Since that comes from the internal resources of the commission, I think the Commonwealth proportion can be fairly described as being in the ratio of 9.7 millions to 11.2 millions. Perhaps I can make myself plainer by saying that of the present capital of the commission, £9,700,000 has been found by the Commonwealth Government and £1,500,000 by the Tasmanian Government, or that the internal resources of the commission are distributed on that basis. The Tasmanian Government undertakes that, if the commission is unable to find its part, that Government will do so. I believe that the commission will be able to find its part.
The expenditure of £3,000,000 includes £500,000 for foundations. I use the word “ foundations “ in the sense of basic plant and buildings - the foundations of further expansion of the plant in the future. The estimates indicate that it would cost a great deal more to do that work in the future. It could be done more economically at the present juncture. The plant proposals provide for an increase in the capacity of. the plant to 16,000 tons, and for the foundation to be laid for an increase to 28,000 tons in the future. The arrangement between the two governments is that, with a desire further to increase the size of the plant, they will co-operate, as they have done up to this stage, in seeking outside capital - not government money - to achieve that increase.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. In view of the progressively later issue of the Tasmanian telephone directory, will the Postmaster-General give favorable consideration to issuing a supplementary telephone directory early in each year to assist telephone users by providing them with up-to-date information on new or altered telephone numbers?
– I shall be pleased to bring to the notice of my colleague, the Postmaster-General, the request that the honorable senator has made. I am sure that the Postmaster-General will go into the matter, and that if anything can be done in that direction he will see that it is done.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, in his capacity as Minister for National Development. I preface the question by saying that I understand that the final stage in the work of increasing the capacity of the Hume reservoir from 1,500,000 acre feet to 2,500,000 acre feet is shortly to commence, and that tenders for the work are being called by the New South Wales Public Works Department, which is the constructing authority under the River Murray Waters Agreement. Will the Minister inform the Senate of the anticipated time schedule for the completion of this project, and of the financial basis for the provision of the capital expenditure involved in the project as between the. Commonwealth and the States?
– It is true that arrangements are now proceeding to implement the long-standing agreement that the size of the Hume weir will be increased. The size of the weir, of course, assumes increasing importance now that we have reached the situation that, within the next few months, the diversion of Snowy waters will commence. True it is that that diversion will be into the Murrumbidgee River at this stage, rather than into the Murray River, but for a balanced irrigation programme it is essential that the Hume weir should be increased in size. All these arrangements relating to works along the river Murray are done within the terms of the River Murray Waters Act 1912, which provides that no action can be taken by the commissioners unless there is a unanimous decision on the part of the four governments that are interested. I think it is one of the things to remember that since 1912 there has never been a failure on the part of the commissioners and the four governments concerned to reach a unanimous decision. The act sets out a list of works the cost of which the four governments agreed to share equally, and the Hume weir work is being done as one within that category.
– My question without notice is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ is attempting to gain control of a television licence in Canberra through its representative in Canberra? Is it also a fact that Dr. John Burton, Professor Oliphant and Sir John Crawford have formed, or are forming, a company to obtain the Canberra T.V. licence?
– I am not aware of the matter to which the honorable senator has referred, but 1 shall ask my colleague, the Postmaster-General, to let him have a report on the position.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer: Is it a fact that the major trading banks in Australia are now lending more money to the rural sector of the economy than for several years past, and that other business loans have fallen in terms of the percentage to total advances? Can the Minister inform the Senate of the respective percentage increase and decrease in bank advances to these two sectors of the economy?
– I think the general pattern of advances followed by the major trading banks is in accordance with what Senator Wedgwood has stated. A greater absolute amount is being made available to primary industry at the moment, and I believe that a greater proportion of the total advances than has been the case in the past is going to primary production. I point out that this tendency is no doubt influenced very significantly by the increasing practice of commerce and manufac turing industries to invite public participation by various methods in the financing of their businesses. I do not know the precise figures or the proportions, but I shall be pleased to find out and let the honorable senator know.
– 1 wish to ask the Minister a supplementary question. Can he inform me whether the increasing indebtedness of the farmers to the’ banks is reflected in reduced deposits that the banks recorded in last year’s figures, to the extent of something like £50,000,000?
– Mr. President, before the Minister answers, I should like to ask him another supplementary question. Is it not a fact that the recent increase of bank advances to primary producers is mainly on account of the low prices that have been received for wool over the last two years?
– I think a large proportion of the variation in the advances to, and deposits by, farmers has been brought about by a decreased rate of debt reduction last year. I would also add that another - and substantial - reason for increased advances to primary producers is the increasing amount of investment by farmers in capital equipment and improvements, as indicated by the increasing sales of farm machinery such as tractors, haybalers and similar equipment.
My reply to Senator McKellar’s question is that obviously a fall in the price of wool creates a demand for advances from banks, which is generally reflected in increased advances to primary producers.
– Pursuant to questions asked by me yesterday, I now ask the Leader of the Government in. the Senate whether or not, if the Commonwealth Government guaranteed repayment of a loan for the rebuilding of the Townsville to Mount Isa railway, everything in the garden would be lovely. Could the Commonwealth Government give such a guarantee and, if so, would the World Bank make the loan? Is it a fact that at present agents of Australia are in West Germany seeking there a loan for this purpose? In the event of failure to obtain such a loan in the various parts of the world where it is, being-, sought, would it not be possible for the Government, acting im conjunction, with the Queensland Government, to raise a special loan, for the purpose?
– I point out to Senator Brown, that in the terms of the Financial Agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, the Commonwealth guarantees repayment of all loans that are raised overseas. The trend is always for there to be a loan to the Commonwealth Government and a relending of that amount to the State concerned, so the Commonwealth is always a party to overseas borrowing transactions. I have no comment at all to make upon the suggestion that negotiations are going on in Wes: Germany.
As to the third part of the question, I say only that I have the utmost confidence that the Townsville to Mount lsa- railway line- will be rebuilt and that the Mount Isa mine will be further developed. We are going: through a period of negotiations. One set of negotiations has failed, but there will be a. set of negotiations that will be successful and Queensland, and! the mine will have the line rebuilt.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether his attention has been directed to the paragraph in to-day’s issue of the Sydney . “ Daily Telegraph “ headed, “ It’s really very silly,, isn’t it? “. The paragraph refers, to the refusal of the Australian Wool Bureau to provide a woollen wardrobe for beauty queen Gina. Eviston, who is about to set out as guest of Pan-American Airways to attend San Francisco’s annual Pacific Festival. I would say that this lady and what she wears could well be seen by millions of people on television and otherwise in the United States. Also- by way of preface, I say that- Miss Sanders, the promotion director of. the bureau, explained in a telegram to the “ Daily Telegraph “ that more than twenty requests for wardrobes for contest winners have had to be refused; reluctantly, in- the last three months. It would! appear also* from my study of the situation, that there is a prohibition against the bureau’s promoting Australian wool overseas. I ask the Minister: Is there anything; that he can do to have this, question looked, at by his colleagues to see whether greater freedom of action can be gained in the matter of promotion of Australian wool by Australians overseas?
– I have noticed reports on the matter to which the honorable senator has referred’, although not the report in the particular newspaper he mentioned’. By way of preface to my answer, let me say I am quite sure that the study of the situation made by Senator Laught is not in any way influenced by the fortuitous circumstance- that Miss Sanders happens to be a- South Australian. It does seem to me to be unfortunate that the opportunity for this sportswoman, Miss Eviston, to show off Australian’ capacity to make good’ woollen garments is not being availed of by the Australian Wool Bureau. I do not think the bureau is under the direct orders of the Minister for Primary Industry, but- I shall see whether, in view of Senator Laught’s question, any suggestions could be made which- would’ help- in attaining the objective he has- in mind. I think that the graziers’ associations, which. I understand also have decided- not to participate in helping to provide a woollen wardrobe for this girl, might interest themselves in the matter and be able to do something on their own account.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport the following questions: Is it a fact that the Australian National Line vessel “ River Burdekin “ was recently sold to the Djakarta Lloyd Company of Indonesia? If that is a fact, what was the sale price, after allowing for the cost of delivering the vessel? Is it a fact that extensive renovations and repairs were carried out on the “ River Burdekin “ during 1956 at a total cost of approximately £470,000? What was the net profit from the “ River Burdekin “ between the time when those renovations were completed and when it was sold overseas?
– I have forgotten what the sale price was. The price quoted was. in sterling for delivery, in Djakarta. The net proceeds to the Australian National Line,, if my memory, is correct, were £58,500. I do not know when, the last survey of the “ River Burdekin “ was undertaken or what. it. cost. If the. honorable senator places his question, on the noticepaper, I shall, obtain, the information he seeks.
– I address to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs a question relating, to current Communist aggression in Laos and the Indian provinces of Bhutan, and’ sikhim. ls the. Minister yet in a position to make an authoritative statement to the Senate setting out the factual position in these countries?, rs there any evidence to confirm, the view that these incidents are being manufactured by world communism as in terrorem debating points at forthcoming international: talks?
– I recently tabled in this chamber a statement on- red China by my colleague,, the’ Minister for External Affairs. I note, that yesterday the AttorneyGeneral’, who- is acting for- the Minister for External Affairs, made ai statement on the position! in India.
– And China.
– Yes, and China. 1 hope that when the Senate resumes in the third week of September there will be an opportunity for a general debate on foreign affairs. I should like to- reserve my forces for that debate instead of attempting now to give an answer off the cuff on a matter which is of some delicacy, even though I have a rather firm personal opinion about it.
– I wish to ask the Minister for National Development a question relating to an announcement made last night that oil had been found in large quantities between Derby and Broome, and the subsequent denials this morning by the Minister, and also by the Minister for Mines in Western Australia, that oil had been, found. Is the company known as Wapet drilling anywhere within> that area? How many drills is Wapet operating in Western. Australia? li the company is not drilling at present,, is it anticipated that it will be drilling in, the future? If so, what will be. the: number of drills?
– L ami sorry to say that offhand- I cannot give, the information that Senator. Scott requests about Wapet’s drilling programme,, because I do not keep it in. my recollection. We were all, of course, very interested indeed in the report that emanated- from London to the effect that there had. been a strike of oil- in Western Australia, but,, unfortunately, all the facts and information that I can gather show that the report cannot be substantiated in any, way.. No drilling activity, is- proceeding at the moment in. the area which, I am told, is mentioned in the report. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get a copy of the report myself. I have not had’ a- chance to see it, and’ am relying on information that came’ to me from other quarters. It may be- that coming events are- casting their shadows before them, but there is no actual event that can be substantiated by the professional knowledge within my department at the present time. There is no justification that we know of for the report.
– My question is directed’ to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It refers to the production of sugar in Australia and to the International Sugar Agreement, under which the price of sugar in Australia and’ the distribution of sugar in Australia to processors of fruit are regulated. I do not wish my question to be taken as indicating that I am critical of the- agreement, but I do wish to have some aspects of the sugar-growing industry explained to the- Senate. Is the Minister aware that in the report of the South Johnstone Mills, for the present year an interesting statement appears? It is as follows: -
The 1959 cane crop estimate is based on a probable average of approximately 29 tons an acre. As it is anticipated that only up te peak sugar will be taken by the Sugar. Board, a substantial tonnage of cane, possibly 50,000 tons, will, have to be left unharvested
Will the Minister endeavour to supply the Senate with figures showing the quantity of sugar cane grown, in Queensland which has- been left’ unharvested and untreated during the last three years? Will he have an investigation- made to sec whether this unwarranted wastage caused by the destruction’ of immense quantities of ai primary product can be prevented and whether sugar cane that normally would be destroyed could be used to the advantage of the economy? The result of the wastage is only to increase the price of sugar because the mills are not treating all the cane that is grown. Will the Minister have the fullest investigation made to see whether sugar cane that normally would be ploughed back could be utilized to the advantage of the fruit industry and other Australian industries dependent on sugar, which would be pleased to buy sugar - inside the agreement, if possible - at a reasonable rate?
– I am not an authority on the International Sugar Agreement. I suppose I should be, but I am not. The International Sugar Agreement has, I understand, been one of the most successful of the international commodity arrangements. It is certainly a very popular international agreement in Queensland, which depends so largely on sugar cane growing. My recollection is that one of the conditions of the arrangement between the buying and selling countries for the maintenance of quotas and parity prices is that there will be no stockpiling of sugar surpluses. As I said earlier, I am not an expert upon the question, and in view of its importance, I ask the honorable senator to put it on notice. We shall then be sure of giving accurate information.
– Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport say whether he has granted permits to four Caltex vessels and one refrigerated cargo vessel, which is registered overseas, to engage in the Australian coastal trade for an extended period? If so, did the Minister stipulate that while these vessels operated on the Australian coast, crews should receive the same rate of pay and conditions as are enjoyed on the coast generally?
– I can only assume that the four Caltex vessels to which the honorable senator refers are tankers. I point out that it has been the policy of successive governments over many years to grant permits to trade on the Australian coast to tankers which, because they are not registered in Australia, are not obliged to comply with this coun try’s manning codes. I am not sure that such a permit has been granted in this case but, assuming that the information is correct, the action taken is in conformity with the policy followed ever since tankers have been trading on the Australian coast. I do not know to which refrigerated vessel the honorable senator refers. It might be the “ Viti “, a vessel registered in New Zealand, which is trading between Tasmania and the mainland. At the request of the Tasmanian Government, it was granted a permit to lift Tasmanian produce from the production point to the mainland. The request was made because of the absence of suitable shipping of Australian ownership, and it had the support of Tasmanian primary producer organizations.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is he aware that approval has been given for the 1962 Empire Games to be held in Perth? Has the Government been, approached by the Western Australian Government, or any other authority, for financial assistance in running and conducting the games? Have any negotiations on the subject been conducted? In view of the great prestige which Australia gained from the way in which the 1956 Olympic Games were conducted in Melbourne, and the interest which the Commonwealth showed in that great sporting event, will the Government co-operate with Western Australia and finance the 1962 games as generously as it did the Olympic Games - an epic occasion when the efforts of Australians brought great honour to this country?
– In answer to the first part of the honorable senator’s question, let me say that I am very much aware - just as aware as he is - of the important event that is to take place in Perth in 1962. I cannot say with precision what requests have been made by the Western Australian Government for assistance. From time to time I have read in the press that certain approaches have been made. I should have to make inquiries as to the specific proposals advanced, but I have no doubt that the Commonwealth Government will view them sympathetically.
– I understand that the motor vessel “ Himalaya “, which is owned by the P. & O. company, is undergoing repairs at Cockatoo Dock. Will the Minister for the Navy say whether the cost is substantial and by whom it is being met?
– The P. & O. liner “ Himalaya “ damaged one of its propellers coming through the Suez Canal. The repairs, which were carried out by the Navy, have, in fact, been completed. The total cost was, r think, £18,311 7s. 4d. It is being met entirely by the P. & O. company; no charge will lie on the Commonwealth Government. I am glad to say that the repairs were carried out very expeditiously by all the Navy personnel concerned. In fact, I have received from the P. & O. company a letter of appreciation of the way in which the work was done, and I have informed the company in return that the Navy will be happy to repair any of its ships any time they bump into anything.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
Minister for Territories has now furnished the following replies: -
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
Who are the agents appointed to purchase beryl for the Commonwealth?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade has supplied the following answers: -
– I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject: -
Proposed Government Printing Office, Canberra, A.C.T. and move -
That the report be .printed.
I should like to say on behalf of my Senate colleagues, Senator Anderson and Senator Maher, and the members of the House of Representatives on the Public Works Committee, that the committee gave this project very thorough consideration. It has recommended that the project, which will eventually cover 10 acres of land at Kingston, which will cost £2,800,000 and which will include the purchase and installation of very complicated and delicate printing machines, as well as give employment to 800 persons, be proceeded with as .early as possible. The decrepit and obsolescent state .of most of the buildings being used now, the overcrowded conditions under which expensive and intricate machinery is being operated, and the urgent need for immediate expansion with provision for future development were impressive reasons for action. We found that despite the fact that additions have been made to the printing office over the past 30 years, the facilities .are still inadequate and we have recommended that a start be made on the project at the earliest possible moment.
The committee was not happy about having to recommend the particular site, but it did accept the assurance of the National Capital Development Commission that adequate land will be available in this area for future requirements. In view of that assurance, the committee has recommended that the site suggested be adopted on the understanding that the National Capital Development Commission will plan suitable areas adjacent to the building and in the direction of the proposed lake in such a way as not to interfere with or restrict the activities of the new printing office.
– What evidence of comparative costs did the committee have before it?
– We obtained evidence lOt costs from persons in other printing establishments in Australia. We had evidence from the Government Printer in Sydney, from .the Government Printer in Melbourne and from private sources. On the evidence we had ‘before us, the costs stated in the proposal appeared to be quite reasonable.
Another important matter that arises in the consideration of proposals for buildings such as this relates to air-conditioning. The question of the high capital cost of airconditioning equipment occurs repeatedly in proposals dealt with by the committee and, because of this, we have gained some experience of the matter. It appears that the high capital cost of air-conditioning equipment is eating up a tremendous proportion of the money being made available for public works.
– It gave us a great deal of worry, too.
– That is so. My colleague, Senator Maher, has studied this matter very diligently, and the members of the committee feel that as air-conditioning is eating up from 25 per cent, to 30 per cent, of the moneys available for the erection of ‘buildings, this item needs very careful consideration. Very convincing evidence has been submitted to us that airconditioning is of economic advantage under present-day working conditions. Persons employed in air-conditioned buildings work better and more efficiently. Their attitude to their job is improved, and, all round, there is a definite economic advantage in air-conditioning.
The committee believes in airconditioning on principle, but we feel it our duty to reportto Parliament this mounting charge on the taxpayers’ funds. As a committee, we investigated every channel we could possibly pursue to discover how these costs could be cut down. Finally, the committee accepted the evidence submitted by the Government Printer, Mr. Arthur, after a thorough investigation of printing establishments throughout the world. We say that this project is justified, and we recommend that it be proceeded with as expeditiously aspossible.
– Do you recommend air-conditioning in this instance?
– Yes, we have recommended airconditioning a particular central unit type. We feel that this type is necessary because of the very delicate nature of many of the modern printing machines to be installed in the building. Some of the rotary presses have a capacity of 4,000 units an hour and it is essential to their efficient working that both paper and machines be kept at the correct temperature. Modern printing machinery is designedfor use in airconditioned buildings, so that if we have efficient, modern equipment it must be installed in airconditionedsurroundings.
Another expensive itemis lighting. As the proposed building will be of the single story type and will cover 10 acres, the question of lighting was considered very carefully by the committee. Because of the great advantage to be gained from natural lighting through better workmanship and less strain on the eyes of employees, we have recommended the roof lighting suggested to us in evidence. Overall, Mr. President, the matter is a most interesting one. I suggest to the members of the Senate that they read the full report of the committee, because it is concerned with a project which will take its place in the pattern of development of this great National Capital. The members of the committee feel, too, that the work that the committee is doing on behalf of the Parliament will be appreciated when the report is read.
– I was interested in SenatorO’Byrne’sremarks, and there are one or two points that Iwould like him to explain. First, 1 should like to know whether the committee took evidence ‘from representatives of State governments concerning the duplication of work which couldtake place, having regard to the work which State governmental printeries do for the Commonwealth at the moment. I understand that the Government printers in Hobart has been considerably enlarged so that it may do a great amount of work for the Commonwealth. Therefore, I am interested to know whether evidence regarding duplication of work was given to the committee.
Secondly, will the construction of this new Government Printing Office mean that State governments will not be called upon to do printing work for the Commonwealth in the future, so that the printer’s that have been established in the States to do such work will become redundant? I should like to know the degree of co-operation that has been experienced by the committee in this respect. I ask for leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for two months be granted to Senator Hannaford on account of absence overseas while attending the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly at New York.
Motion (by Senator McKenna) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for two months be granted to Senator Hendrickson on account of absence overseas while attending the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly at New York.
Debate resumed from 2nd September (vide page 473), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the following paper: -
Second Annual Report to the Prime Minister by the National Radiation Advisory Committee - be printed.
– I resume the remarkswhich I was makinglast night in reply 10 the speech of Senator McKenna on this most important report, which has been presented to us by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner). I pointed out last night, as Senator McKenna also said, that great emotionalism surrounded this subject. I contended that evidence of that emotionalism was the amount of time devoted in his speech - this reflects what normally happens - to a discussion of the possible effects of radio-active fall-out, which, as the first report of this committee showed, are .1 and .3, compared with 160 from man-made radiation and 100 from natural radiation.
From that, Sir, I go on to talk of other evidence of emotionalism which appears, not only here, but wherever there is discussion of this matter, although the danger from radio-active fall-out is confined to this miniscule proportion of damage that is done, if any damage is done, by radiation occurring throughout the world. One of the evidences of this emotionalism is the prominence which is invariably given to pronouncements on this subject by any person or body of people with the remotest connexion with any branch of science. It only requires somebody who may be a surgeon or a chemist, or engaged in any one of the multifarious branches of scientific activity which have nothing to do with the subject under discussion, to make a statement - some scare statement as a rule - on radiation damage, or, more usually, on fall-out damage, for it to receive immense prominence. That prominence is given without any indication to those who read as to whether the person making the statement has any qualifications as a physicist or as a biologist or whether, in fact, he has any qualifications which entitled him to be regarded as a expert in the field about which he has spoken.
– But is not the matter so dangerous that it is wise to alert us to these things?
– If the matter is dangerous - I do not think it is - surely those who read pronouncements on it are entitled to know whether those pronouncements have the force of somebody trained in the subject. For instance, if one wanted to get information in the engineering field about the best way to build and stress a skyscraper, one would want to have information from a construction engineer. One would not accept a statement attributed to an engineer who turned out to be a marine engineer, not qualified to speak on that particular subject.
– Should not politicians be heard in interpretation of what the scientists say?
– In interpretation, of course, but not as authorities in that particular field. If they spoke as interpreters, I would have no objection, but that is not the case. We have statements of this kind emphasized, whereas the statements made by those trained in the particular field are too often completely overlooked.
I think we had some instances of the emotional thinking which is common throughout the community, in the specific suggestions made by the Leader of the Opposition last night in this matter. For instance, he suggested that all atomic tests necessarily resulted in debris, in fall-out and radio-active damage. It is quite clear, Sir, and I think it is not the subject of contradiction by any one remotely knowledgeable in this field, that fall-out from a test is caused by debris from the ground or the coral, or whatever it may be, which at the time of the explosion is sent up into the air and made radio-active by the fissionable products of that explosion. So, if a test explosion takes place in space, as some have, it creates no debris and no radioactive fall-out. If an explosion takes place, as some have, well beneath the surface of the earth, such as in a hole or tunnel 200 feet of 2,000 feet down - the sort of explosion, indeed, which is proposed for peaceful purposes, as in the search for oil and so on - again, the explosion does not throw debris into the atmosphere. So, to get the picture straight, let us rather say, “ Large explosions of fissionable material which take place at or near the surface of the earth are the explosions which create fall-out “.
There was talk - there has been much talk, and there was more last night - on what happened to some Japanese fishermen at Bikini, and the inference may be taken that that is the sort of thing that could happen to anybody throughout the world as a result of fall-out from the stratosphere from tests. But again, on an examination of the facts, Sir, what happened was that there was a Japanese fishing vessel within an area proclaimed to be a danger area by the United States which, at that time, was conducting this test. That fishing vessel was showered, not with atomic fall-out from the stratosphere, but with immediate dust from the explosion within a short period of the time that the explosion took place - not the sort of fall-out we are talking about, but the sort of dust cloud that immediately arises. That covered the ship. That was not washed off the ship. It covered the fishermen on board. I think that not sufficient precautions were made by the fishermen on board to wipe or wash the debris from their own bodies; they lived with it for days and as a result one of them died. But this is not a question of atomic fall-out such as we are talking about here. This is a question of some one getting close to an explosion, letting the immediate dust from that explosion be blown over him and cover him, and that, of course, is dangerous; but it is not the matter dealt with in this report. It has an emotional, not a scientific, bearing on the subject that we are now discussing. There is a similarity, I think, in the case of the Hiroshima bomb. A small bomb exploded above the ground. Explosions well above the ground do more destruction to buildings than explosions near the ground, and they have an immense immediate irradiating effect in the vicinity but, as far as the scientists are able to tell me, no continuing irradiating effect after that first sudden dust. Persons within its range when the bomb went off subsequently contracted diseases. There appears to be no evidence that those coming into the vicinity afterwards have contracted diseases from any continuing irradiation after that time. There again, there is, I think, a suggestion of emotionalism in the discussion of the matter.
I am trying, Sir, to clear the way in order to get down to a discussion of what is actually said by the scientific committee in its report and by the United Nations Scientific Committee, and to clear the way from general statements and statements designed to have a similar effect which do not tie in with the report of the scientists either here or in other cases before us.
There are two other matters to be mentioned before I leave this particular subject. I think that Senator McKenna indicated last night that the ocean might be far more dangerous than the land, because there is a bigger area of ocean on which fall-out could be deposited and whereas on the land fall-out is concentrated in the top two inches, in the ocean it could sink through the water and its effect could be felt down to 200 feet. Well, Sir, certainly more would fall on water than on land because there is more water than land, but in general terms the amount deposited on a square yard of water would be the same as the amount deposited on a square yard of land. There might well be, according to currents above us, some variations between one part of land and another, and on one part of water and another, but any general global fall-out would deposit as much in one square yard of land as in one square yard of water.
The effect of any deposit so made, if it were concentrated in two inches, would clearly be 1,200 times as great as the effect would be if it were diffused through 200 feet. So in fact, if there is anything in the argument at all, it shows quite clearly not that the oceans would be more dangerous than the land, but that they would in fact be 1,200 times safer.
As to the suggestion that there might be danger from eating fish out of the ocean, we must remember that any strontium which enters the living organism goes into the bones of that organism, being allied with calcium - the bones prefer to take up calcium to strontium. The human organism excretes strontium, but some will go into the bones - not the flesh - so that if there could be an effect from eating fish, then that effect would be gained by eating bones or skeletons of the fish and not the fish itself. Again, this fear that if you eat a fillet of fish you may get strontium-
– You might get shark.
– Well, a fillet of shark, as long as you do not eat the bones, should be safe.
I have attempted, first, to show the tiny proportion of any danger from radiation which comes from fall-out tests, and secondly, to clear away some of the generally thrown out arguments endeavouring to show that tests are extremely dangerous or that other types of radiation are extremely dangerous. In spite of that clear indication that the danger is not great, there has been an attempt - there is being an attempt made - on the part of the Western powers to limit or possibly to prohibit the further testing of atomic explosions on or near the ground.
The Senate, I think, will be interested in- the way in which the present negotiations on that matter have come about and in the history of them. Those negotiations began in- August, 1957 - two years ago - when the United’ Kingdom- and the United States made a number of proposals on disarmament through, the appropriate organization of the United Nations. They suggested that the suspension of nuclear tests could last for two years, during which time an attempt would- be made to work out an international system of inspection and control, to ensure that an agreement of this kind- was, in fact’, kept on a- worlds-wide basis, because if - I emphasize “ if “ - there is a- danger from any of the man-made radioactive activities that go on and if - again, I emphasize “ if “ - that danger is- added to by fall-out, then it is- clear not only that atomic tests at or near the ground should be said to be banned’ but they should, in fact, be known to be banned. Saying that they would be banned would, if there were danger, be no protection to anybody in the world. At that time in 1957, America and the United Kindom asked the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to join in expert technical committees to work out an inspection, programme of this type under United Nations supervision, but the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics refused even to discuss the proposals, let alone attempt to work out a plan. However, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed, and kept endorsing, the plan put forward by the United Kingdom and the United States. In March, 1958, eight months later, immediately following the conclusion of a most formidable series of tests at Lake Baikal,, in Siberia, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics said that it would’ suspend tests unilaterally, but again the United Kingdom and the United States pointed out that it was necessary, for the peace, of mind: of all members of the United Nations, to be sure that this undertaking, and their own undertakings were kept
So. they continued to press- for such, a conference, and in, July, 1958, a conference of scientists- did meet at Geneva in order to endeavour to work out whether it was possible to create’ a network of inspection posts to ensure that nobody did make any atomic tests,, and if that were possible, to determine where the posts should, be, how many there should be, and how they should be manned. This conference, of scientific experts from all these countries - I emphasize that they were scientific experts - came to the conclusion that, it was possible to work out such a system! From memory, I think, they, suggested’ about. 110 or 120 posts.
– One hundred and seventy.
– Was it 170? They suggested that 1’70 posts be established throughout the world, some static, some on. ships in the oceans and- others- on aircraft, and. that there should be, in addition, mobile: inspection. teams which would-be able to go- quickly, freely, and immediately to find what had: caused any suspicious earth tremors which, these posts had detected on their equipment and. whether they were the result of natural earthquakes or of somebody testing, a. bomb, while; attempting to hide, the fact.
The conclusions of this- scientific conference at Geneva have been published and are available to anybody who wishes to read them. Subsequently, further experiments indicated that it was not as easy as was then thought to detect underground explosions of this kind, but that meant only that there would be need for more posts and perhaps slightly different detecting equipment. The proposal was still feasible. However, while these negotiations were going on and before they had reached a conclusion, the United Kingdom and the United States said again, “ Anyway, we shall suspend our tests on two conditions. One is that we begin a definite drive to put into practice these scientific proposals which are feasible and the other is that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, too, does not carry out any tests.” Negotiations, on a political level, to put. into practice the plans which were regarded by the scientists as feasible did begin on 31st October, 1958, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics initiated a new series of test explosions on the following day However, in spite of this initiation of new test explosions in the face of the conditions requested by the United Kingdom and the United States, these two countries announced that they would not resume testing, at any rate until the end of 1959.
That political conference is still proceeding in an endeavour to put into practice the plans regarded as feasible by the scientists who met at Geneva. Progress is slow and extremely difficult and what is delaying progress is this: The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is prepared, in principle, to establish static inspection posts, but it is not prepared to allow those posts to be manned in sufficient numbers by other than Union of Soviet Socialist Republics nationals. The United Kingdom and the United States take the position that these posts under United Nations control should be manned by nationals from a country other than that in which they are located, so that in America there would be Russian observers in -sufficient number to be able to be sure that the posts were working properly. Likewise, in the United Kingdom there would be ‘Russian observers, and in Russia itself there would be American and United Kingdom observers to be sure that the posts were working properly.
That .is one of the .matters that is delaying the implementation of this plan. The other is .the question .of .mobile inspection teams able to .go out and see what has caused phenomena detected by .static posts. We have not been able to .get .from the Union of Soviet .Socialist Republics .any agreement on that matter. I do not seek to argue -or ;to apportion blame for this position. J .merely make a plain, factual statement of the endeavour to inspect, limit, and perhaps prohibit atomic explosions and the difficulties that are being met. The latest proposal from the United .States and the United Kingdom is on these .lines. They say that as it is relatively easy to .detect atomic explosions that take place at -high altitude, at sea, or on the ground, but extremely difficult to detect one that ‘takes place underground, ‘let there be agreement to ‘limit explosions to those above 30 miles and below the ground. These will not require mobile inspection teams. They will require only static posts to take air samples and make other tests. That would not be a big limitation, but so far the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has refused to discuss this proposal at all, and has rejected it outright. That is the history of the attempts which have been made to limit or prohibit atomic explosions.
I now wish, Sir, to move on to a consideration of the report which is before us. To my mind, the relevant paragraphs commence at paragraph 42, where the committee discusses the three possible effects of radiation - that is, an increase of leukaemia, which is blood cancer, an increase of bone tumour, and genetic effects of carbon 14. But I point out once mors that the committee in discussing these three matters, was very careful to say that any increase of leukaemia was unproven. In discussing the possible incidence of .bone tumour, the committee pointed out that it assumed the absence of a threshold dose, although .the threshold dose is receiving more and more scientific endorsement.
– What do you mean by a threshold dose?
– I shall tell the honorable ‘senator in a moment or two In discussing :the -possible (genetic ^effects of carbon 14, the committee pointed out that the ,Dart if any, which carbon 14 plays >in the :production of biological effects still has to be [determined. So ‘the committee is talking not only about a part of radiation which is in the tenths as compared with the hundreds of other man-made radiation, but also about ‘something which some people say might happen but -which has not yet been proven in any way to have happened.
The committee also assumed, as I said, that there was no threshold dose. There is an idea, which again has not been disproved, that any increase in radiation must be .dangerous - that any effect from these ionized particles, however small, must have an effect leading to a susceptibility to leukaemia and bone tumour. But there is another school .of thought, which at the moment is being thoroughly explored and is receiving more and more scientific endorsement, to the effect that there is what is called a threshold dose below which there may be no ill-effects from ionized particles. So the meaning of the term “ threshold dose “ is that, until there has been a certain amount of continuous irradiation so that the content of the bones, for example, is raised to a certain level, there can be no effect from a minor dose and only after that does a continuing dose have an effect. The report of the National Radiation Advisory Committee assumes there is no threshold dose and that anything, however small, leads to this susceptibility.
That assumption tends to be disproved by experiments which have taken and are taking place at Harwell and elsewhere in which endeavours are being made by, I think, a woman named Finkel and somebody else with generations of guinea pigs and generations of mice to see whether, if it is true that a large dose of radiation given quickly has an effect leading to leukaemia or bone tumour, it is also true that small doses of radiation given over a long period and in total the same as the larger dose given quickly have the same effect. All the indications are that they do not have the same effect and that there is in fact a threshold dose.
Having attempted to bring out the qualifications that have been made, let us see precisely what the committee’s report says. Let us look first at paragraph 52, because it deals with the matters about which I intend to speak. That paragraph emphasizes that the developments which are taking place are in the direction of reducing estimates of the hazards. The values given in the paragraphs that I intend to discuss are therefore to be regarded as being upper limits of the effects and as giving the most pessimistic interpretation of the possibilities. So we arc talking about radiation damage in general and about a minute fractional part of that damage which could result from fallout, making the most pessimistic assumptions possible and drawing the most pessimistic conclusions possible. With that background, v/hat does the committee say? The committee says, in regard to the possible increase of leukaemia, that the effect of fall-out in Australia from all weapon tests held to date would be to produce a maximum of one case of leukaemia every two and a half years for the 10,000,000 or 1.1,000,000 people in Australia. That is the maximum which the committee says is possible on the most pessimistic assumptions it can make. Of course, if there is a threshold, there would be no damage whatever.
Let us see what the committee says about the possible increase of bone tumour. It commences its observations by referring to the report of the United Nations Scientific Committee, which I have here and which Senator McKenna quoted last night. The committee accepts the assumptions of the United Nations Scientific Committee and applies a radiation factor for Australia which was borne out by their researches. Then the committee says that, assuming the worst possible conditions, the worst possible result would be a further one case every five to ten years for the whole population of 10,000,000 or 11,000,000, compared with a normal annual occurrence of five to ten cases per 1,000,000 of the population. In other words, compared with 50 to 100 cases per year at the moment, the worst that could possibly happen would be one more case every five or ten years.
Now let us consider the genetic consequences which the report suggests might occur. The committee says -
The total ionising radiation which will be received by the population of Australia as a result of all testing of nuclear weapons to date will constitute only a very small addition to the average natural background radiation . . . The Committee believes, however, that on the basis of the most acceptable assumptions and extrapolations allowed by present scientific knowledge, a realistic assessment of the biological consequences can be made.
The assessment the committee makes is that an all-time increase for all future generations would be between 0.2 and 7 per million of the population, compared with a natural occurrence of genetic effects, not only from the natural background but also from all the other man-made radiation, of 140 to 600 per million of the population. These, Sir, are the worst possible things that can happen, according to the report which we are debating. Assuming that anything can occur from an increase of the 160.3 man-made radiation, the damage that can be allotted to the .3 of that 160.3 must be regarded as fairly miniscule.
In order to keep things in perspective we should compare what the experts say might happen as a result of radiation with what can happen as the result of inhaling petrol fumes, diesel fumes, industrial smog, cigarette smoke and the products of other modern phenomena. We must regard the latter as infinitely more dangerous than the total natural man-made radiation. Radioactive fall-out is almost different in kind, not only in degree. It is clear from the report of this committee that there is a need for a continued study and a continued measurement of all sources of radiation, as well as for continued precautions against radiation. The committee suggests that this should be done, and I believe that it is being done. It is being done, not because radiation is dangerous, but because it might be dangerous. Therefore, scientists in Australia should add to their knowledge of it. I am not arguing against the point made by Senator McKenna that the largescale use of large atomic weapons would have a great effect on the level of radiation. That is not what we are talking about. That is not what this report deals with. Having regard to the evidence, as far as I have been able to adduce it, on what the effect of fall-out, as such, can be, 1 share Senator McKenna’s feeling that there is nothing to worry about at the moment, and I feel that there is unlikely to be anything to worry about in the future.
In his concluding remarks, Senator McKenna said that the Labour Party stood for peace. I do not know whether he meant peace at any price; I do not think he did. This Government stands for peace, but not for peace at any price. The history of the negotiations on this matter, which 1 have given to the Senate this morning, shows clearly that the United Kingdom and the United States have taken a peaceful lead in this field. I conclude by saying that, having read this report, having studied the history of the negotiations, and having read the United Nations report which is before the Senate, I feel that they are all extremely re-assuring. If the worst assumptions made were right, if the maximum effects feared turned out to be the actual effects, 1 myself would still be prepared to accept that position rather than to remain in this world under the constant threat of conquest and enslavement by some countries which have atomic bombs, and which will - unless our proposals are accepted by them - continue to test those bombs.
I think that all precautions are being taken to protect the population, and that, on the evidence of the report of this committee, there is, in fact, little against which to be prepared. I think it necessary, right and proper that, if we cannot induce the world - including Soviet Russia - to suspend tests and to see that that suspension is policed and carried out, we should protect ourselves as best we can. But let us concentrate a little more of our attention on the 160 factor and on what we can do to get rid of atomic waste when every country has a reactor. Let us concentrate a little more on what we can do to limit the effects of radiation therapy and X-ray treatment. If there is any danger emanating from the 1,60.3, let us devote our attention to eliminating the danger from the 160, and not concentrate on worrying about the .3.
– I listened with interest to the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton). I thought the theme running through his story was extremely interesting. His was a theme of optimism, and he implied that the theme of Senator McKenna’s remarks was one of pessimism. Actually, Senator McKenna gave a particularly interesting address, furnished with many details. He quoted, as occasion demanded, from newspaper reports, although I admit that they are not necessarily reliable. I agree with Senator Gorton that there is emotionalism in the press on occasions. The press has grown and developed in such a fashion that the sensational has an appeal, because it represents quick and big dividends. The press has made of the nation, in no small measure, a group of headline readers and photo lookers. I am not condemning the ordinary pressman for that, the situation has emanated from those in control of the press throughout Australia. It is not peculiar to Australia. It is a world-wide happening of significance at the present time.
We have experience of the past, we live in the present and we have a responsibility to provide for the future. All the world’s scientists, including those eminently capable men who constitute the National Radiation Advisory Council, have that responsibility. I think the interjection that Senator Wright made during the early stages of Senator
Gorton’s remarks was apt and appropriate. He interjected to refer to the role and the’ attitude of science: I think that the remarks made by Senator Gorton during the last five or six minutes of his address formed the: real kernel of what he. had to say and did represent something constructive. However, he spent most of his time, in attempting to condemn the activities of those men and women of the world, including th: scientists, who have seen fit to draw attention to the danger of ionizing radiation not because of what occurred in the past, not because of what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not because an unfortunate Japanese fisherman died at Bikini, but because of the potentialities for evil inherent in ionizing radiation. This potentiality for evil must increase unless we find a solution to the problem. It must increase with the expansion of the use of nuclear energy for the purposes of generating electricity, for transport and for other purposes that might evolve in the process of time. It will increase with the expanding use of X-rays in diagnosis and therapy in medicine; with the use of radiated elements or isotopes, in the treatment of various diseases; with the use of X-rays and isotopes in industry; with the mining of radio-active ores and so on. All these things can contribute substantially to radiation. That is what I think is exercising the minds of scientists the world over. They are concerned, not with what has happened in the past, but with the potentialities for evil in the future because of these expanding uses.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– There is of course something more to it all than mere hysterical emotionalism. We all have a responsibility to discuss this matter within the limitations imposed by our intellect. If we can do that, and in the course of observation and discussion bring something to bear upon the. question that will help to ameliorate world conditions, it will be all to the good. Those whom we represent here have a right to expect that of us.
Senator Gorton said that many people who were unqualified in this field had expressed their opinions. I want to make it quite clear that, whatever type of intellect 1 may have, I do no consider myself eminently qualified in this field. However, if one examines the personnel of the National Radiation Advisory Committee one finds that, however eminent they may be in a particular field, they are not all versed in all fields. I would not attempt to deny their extraordinary talents - no one can take them away - but they are simply not versed in all fields. Consequently, we have a responsibility to consider the matter as it affects the rights of the people.
To-day,, an aristocracy of scientists is being established in the world. I am not opposed to the rights of scientists, and I believe that we have a real responsibility to recognize the place of science in the scheme of things, but the aristocracy of science does not necessarily herald the coming, of the Kingdom of wisdom. Therefore, we should be quite clear as to the role that the scientist should play.
Senator Gorton said that there was no suggestion of an absence of a threshold. Recently, the United States Congressional Atomic Energy Committee summoned 30 leading scientists to consider the question. I am not suggesting that those scientists are better qualified than our own scientists, but at least they are recognized as world experts in the fields of atomic radiation and nuclear physics. They said that there was no evidence of a threshold. May I, out of my limited knowledge, speculate that there could be a measure of confusion here; that there could indeed be a threshold. Biologists have admitted that there is a natural measure of recovery - a reaction to injury - inherent in. the animal make-up and that that ability is possessed generally by the human being. Perhaps there may be no threshold, but that the human body by reacting is able to protect itself if the dosage is not massive, or the period of exposure is- not lengthy. We have two conflicting views - that suggested by our own radiation committee and that suggested by the scientists who appeared’ before the United States congressional committee. The latter did at least say -
We cannot say that there is a safe minimum level below which there is no increase in cancer or leukaemia for those’ living, and no- shortening of life or of reproductive capacity- for future generations.
I aim content to leave the question open. I do not think, that anyone in this, chamber may give an opinion on which group is right, or whether neither is right.
L appreciated Senator Gorton’s remarks on oceanography and hydrography. No doubt they were pleasing to Senator Kendall, for he has advocated greater effort in these fields for a very long time. The Minister said that there was no danger at present from the disposal- of waste matter, but it- is interesting to note what has been observed during the disposal of low energy waste in the United States. Waste, in the form: of gloves, mops, rags* discarded utensils and so on, has been, encased in steel cylinders surrounded by thick concrete and dumped at great depths in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Despite these precautions, leakages have been detected. Let us. be frank and say that though it represents no real menace to-day, we must consider the effect of adding it to the quantity to be disposed of. If low energy, or high energy atomic waste cannot be used - the preferable method - the statesmen of the world, including the governments of Australia, will sooner or later have to face the problem of disposal.
Unfortunately, the Leader of the Opposition, in making his able exposition of a particular feature of ionizing radiation, stole a lot of my verbal thunder. In the few hours left to me before I was due to speak I had to recast my mind. Honorable senators will realize that, limited as it is, I- was faced with a real problem. I do not want to take away the credit that should go to the National Radiation Advisory Committee. Its members are- extraordinarily talented, and the nation owes them its gratitude. They have responsibilities which make great demands on their time. They give it freely in examining this problem and its possibilities for’ evil so far as, this nation is concerned’. Any contribution that they can make to world nuclear physics in the process will promote the well-being of all mankind.
If we. look at the history of radioactivity we realize that at first man had very little knowledge of it, although a measure of foresight was present in the minds, of some scientists. The story goes back a little further than the beginning of this century. The first real advance was the discovery of X-rays by Professor Rontgen in 1895. Most honorable senators will be familiar with- the story of the more or less accidental discovery of X-rays. In 1896 Becquerel recognized the radioactive qualities, of uranium salts. The isolation of radium by that famous, couple, the Curies, followed soon after. Scientists, of course, are never satisfied. I suppose that one could regard them as the greatest basic seekers of our age or of any other age. Their ultimate aim was the splitting of the atom. That honour fell upon a New Zealander, Lord Rutherford, who split the atom by using a cyclotron in the Cavendish Laboratory. The scientists, realizing the possibilitiesthat existed for the release of energy, and never’ visualizing that it might be used for destructive purposes against mankind, set about the task of releasing it. Activity was particularly intense in Germany. Indeed, Professor Hahn in Germany, when seeking means of destruction, was well on the way to discovering how to fabricate an atom bomb. It was the movement of his secretary to England that paved the way to the ultimate fabrication by the United States of America and the United Kingdom in co-operation of the bombs that resulted in the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We are all familiar with the idealistic Communist, Dr. Fuchs, who played a part, through the payment of a miserable £100, to a man named Gold, in transferring the secrets to Russia and so starting the great chain reaction we have seen. From then on we have seen a mad race for better, brighter and more powerful nuclear weapons.
But not all scientists were concerned with the use of fission for destruction. Side by side with destructive efforts were those who sought to seek the peaceful utilization of the power inherent in fission for the betterment of mankind. Especially was this a characteristic of the English efforts, and all’ credit must go to men like Sir John Cockcroft and Sir William Penney who played such a big part in evolving the utilization of atomic energy for peaceful purposes.
Realizing just how much atomic energy can contribute to our welfare, we have to face the possibility of its use for destruction. That is why we of this Parliament, the members of the Government in particular, have a real and immediate responsibility, even though Australia may play only a comparatively small part in world affairs. The Government must accept that responsibility not only in the interests of the present generation but as a contribution to the welfare of generations yet unborn.
Following the development of the X-ray there was the activation of certain elements, of potassium, iodine, strontium 90, caesium 137, and so on. Many of them have been used for medical processes. If, during the course of my speech, I refer to elements, I want it clearly understood that 1 am talking in terms of isotopes, radio-active elements, not elements in the sense in which they are usually known chemically.
It is interesting to note that although so much money has been spent in all countries upon obtaining scientific knowledge of the effect of ionizing rays in various forms, such as X-rays, neutrons, protons and alpha, beta and gamma rays, our knowledge of the safe dosages, time factors, physical characteristics and so on, is not matched by our knowledge as to the mechanical effect on human tissues and on the environment in which we live. We must accept our responsibility to conduct adequate research into not so much the physical side as the biological sequence and biological effects.
We know, in general terms, and on a broad pathological basis, what is the end result, and the end result only, but we do not know the underlying mechanism; we have no knowledge as to effects on cellular structure and cellular functioning. We have a real and important responsibility to find out these things and I am confident that the scientists of the world as a whole will accept that responsibility.
We know many of the real sources of radiation. Of course, there is the naturally occurring source, such as the cosmic rays, of extra-terrestrial origin. Then there are the naturally occurring ores such as radium, uranium, and thorium very often occurring in the sands from which rutile and zircon are obtained. Then there are the manmade rays such as X-rays and activated elements. Again, when we think of the possible release of harmful entities from our nuclear power stations and so on, a very real problem is posed to us. The solution of that problem is the responsibility . of the nations.
When X-rays were discovered, every one heralded them as the beginning of a new epoch in medicine, in diagnostic medicine in particular. It was of tremendous benefit in that field, and it was not until some years after that we discovered that, associated with the advantages of the X-ray were certain detrimental disadvantages. As scientists noticed certain pathological conditions occurring in the bodies of radiologists and those associated with the operation of X-ray machines, they began to realize that the operation of X-ray machines was noi without its hazards, and it is to the credit of the radiologists of the world that in the 1920’s they saw fit to assemble internationally. I think the first assembly was held in 1921. At subsequent meetings, these scientists laid down as far as was within their power, certain, conditions relating to design and technique, and certain rules governing protective measures. With the elaboration of equipment, the X-ray began to move into the field of therapy as distinct from diagnosis, and there are many men and women throughout the world to-day who formerly had cancer and who now owe their lives to the effect of radiotherapy.
But there are harmful effects on occasions. As I have said, we have the activation of elements - iodine, gold and phosphorus. We have the utilization of X- rays, and of radio isotopes in industry; and it has to be remembered that when they are utilized in industry it is the responsibility of industry to see to it that those men and women who are handling these substances are protected, just as every protection must be accorded those who are mining, handling and processing radio-active ores. It has to be remembered that more, may we suggest, through ignorance rather than through callous neglect in certain European mines in which radio-active ores were being mined there was an alarming increase in the incidence not only of lung cancer but also pneumonitis or inflammation of the lungs and fibrosis or scarring of the lungs. The incidence was much higher amongst workers in those mines than it was amongst the general public. It behoves us, therefore, to make certain that if we have men working amongst radio-active ores in Australia they do not suffer for giving service in the public interest. It is this Government’s responsibility to provide adequate safeguards for these people.
Then, added to these hazards, we have the radio fall-out. Frankly, I think that has been discussed adequately already by both Senator McKenna and Senator Gorton. I cannot add much to what they have said except to point out that no one has yet decided how many elements are activated. We know that there are caesium 137, strontium 90, and carbon 14. It is all very well for Senator Gorton to say that carbon 14 does not matter. It is an activated element and it has chemical properties similar to those of ordinary carbon. It can take its place in the organic chain that constitutes the compounds that form the cellular structure. These cells, in the aggregate, form the human tissues, which, when you unite them together, become man, or, in the field of general biology, become the bodies of animals. So we have a responsibility to make certain that carbon 14 has not inherent in it the potential for evil. No one has yet said that other elements are not activated. Admittedly, we have concentrated our attention on strontium 90, but other elements as well have an affinity for particular tissues in the human body, as I hope to show in some measure of detail if time permits.
I do not propose to deal in any detail with the question of fall-out. I will accept the assurance of various scientists, because of their eminence, that we are in no immediate danger. But if we are going to have a repetition of fall-out, when will we reach the stage of danger? That is why we should use every endeavour to attempt to halt nuclear explosions. But with the increasing use of accelerators, nuclear reactors, and whatever else may be devised, contamination associated with the peaceful uses of nuclear energy could become a real menace. We have to face that problem.
As I mentioned briefly earlier in my remarks, we have to face the responsibility for the proper disposal of atomic waste. As most honorable senators will know, such waste has been divided into two categories - low energy waste and high energy waste. We have a pretty fair idea where the United States and the United Kingdom dispose of their waste, but we know very little, to my knowledge, of what the Soviet States do with their waste. We do not even know whether they have found means of utilizing it. The United States puts its low energy waste in metal containers encased in concrete and dumps the containers in the ocean. Some of the containers are already leaking. Its high energy waste is buried under the ground. The United Kingdom discharges its low energy waste into the Irish Sea - and I do not propose to raise the Irish question now. Its high energy waste is buried. The disposal of waste material poses a real problem. In the Moho project, which is a gigantic proposition, scientists are going to explore the crust and the outside solid core of the earth and, if possible, determine the movement of ocean currents as far as the site is concerned, because the hole will be bored under the ocean. They are trying to ascertain the movements of the sea at great depth. Possibly atomic waste could be dumped safely in places where there is a minimum amount of movement of the sea. Nevertheless, this matter of the disposal of waste material poses and must continue to pose, the biggest of problems. Perhaps, it is the biggest problem of all.
Accidents associated with nuclear energy plants forunately have been rare, although I suppose that the accidents that have occurred have served a purpose. That may sound somewhat callous, but I am not really adopting a callous approach. Accidents that have occurred at nuclear energy plants have afforded material for clinical and pathological investigation. We have learned much, even though few accidents have occurred, but with increasing numbers of these plants there must be an everincreasing number of accidents. Again, we are faced with the question of the elimination of contamination and the elimination of the evil effects of ionizing radiation.
Some may ask, “ How do people become affected? “ You cannot see these rays. People are affected by the rays coming into contact with the skin. Some of the rays, fortunately, have not great penetrative qualities and some have not great longevity, and they are the ones that have the minimum effect. People may be affected through inhalation, that is, by breathing in radio-active particles from a particular type of ore or -product, giving rise to lung conditions. Then there is ingestion, with contamination coming through the food, and so .on. This is by absorption of radiated material through the intestines into the blood stream and so to various tissues, setting up in its train evil effects. No one yet has said that radiation of any type has a stimulating effect for good. All scientists have agreed that its effect is destructive, even though it may contribute to the general good in the elimination of cancer. Its very good, in this case, is based on its destructiveness. No one has yet been able to produce evidence that it makes a contribution to the general or individual good.
When we look at ‘the effects of radiation the world over, we find that anatomists and pathologists have said that the ,end results are no different in apparent structure from those conditions ‘that .we have seen in everyday life occurring from known or unknown causes, or -other irritating effects. For example, we .have the general irritation in .the way of burns. We have necrosis, or the death of -tissues; we have ulceration; and we .have .the .occurrence -of neoplasms, or cancer, as .they .are commonly termed. To the naked ,eve, macroscopically or microscopically, as far as the labour of human effort can judge, the results appear to ‘be no different from those caused by other organisms or agents, but the real basis of their occurrence is not known to us. It does appear that it is wrapped up in cellular functions.
Most honorable senators will know that we are merely a combination of tissues which are an aggregation of cells, and our basic mechanism is wrapped up in those cells. Actually, what transpires is not known. As I mentioned earlier, we have no precise knowledge of cellular activity. We know the purpose of cells, but how they come to function to serve that purpose is relatively unknown. Here lies a great field of research for the scientists. If we can find the basis of the bio-physical and bio-chemical activity of cells, perhaps we may be well on the way to finding the cause of cancer. Dr. Ken Starr, a friend of mine in Sydney, an eminent surgeon and a cancer authority, recently announced that research had revealed that a deficiency of calcium appeared to be playing a part in the incidence of cancer. Strontium and strontium ‘90 are in a similar chemical group ‘to calcium, and strontium is absorbed into our bodies. Is it not possible that -in the process of time the cause of cancer will be found to lie in the field of investigation embracing bio-physical or biochemical reactions to ionizing radiation, whether by strontium 90 or .other elements of a radiated type?
When we come to look at the effects of these particular things, with which I shall deal in a measure of detail, we think in terms of the immediate effects on the present generation. It has been recognized that damage is occasioned by ionizing radiation to the chromosomes which are part and parcel of -the two elements, male and ‘female, serving reproduction and serving the purpose of continuing the race. But let us see how in the present generation, and how damaging the effects could be on #e particular organs that are sensitive. It is not much use ‘Senator Gorton saying that only one in 500,000, four in a million or ten in 1’0,000,000 may be affected in particular cases. Those were not his exact figures, but if we are going to go into the realm of damage, what we have to look for and fear is an increase in the effect of ionizing radiation. I hope that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who is in charge of this chamber, will accept willingly the grave responsibility and sponsor the research necessary to eliminate unnecessary hazards for man. I know he will.
Let us consider briefly the organs most sensitive to radiation of varying types, irrespective of whether they are X-rays, or emanate from isotopes or coming from radio-active ores, or fallouts, or nuclear reactors, or waste products. The most sensitive organs are the blood-forming organs, the gonads, the bones, the lungs, the thymus in children and the liver in the foetus. I will .traverse the story and I trust you will bear with me. There are the blood-forming organs by and large, the bone marrow, bones, and the lymph glands, which most of you know. You can feel those ‘little glands as they become inflamed and swollen; the spleen and the liver in the foetus. Those all play their part in elaborating a range of cells, red cells, white cells and platelets, each of which has a part to play in the functioning of man.
The variety of effects that can be occasioned by ionizing radiation is amazing. Most honorable senators have been told by previous speakers in this debate about leukaemia, how it occurred through the effect on the bone marrow. Leukaemia is an excess of white cells, largely immature, in the. blood, which fail to serve the purpose as required of them in the body. You can also have a deficiency of white cells known as Leucopenia, a decrease in the red cells known as anaemia, and a disturbance of the platelets in the blood resulting in more or less acute haemorrhage. Leukaemia, because of the excessive number and the nature of activity of the abnormal cells has been referred to as blood cancer. But that is not the only result of strontium 90 as it would appear. It has a selective affinity for the bone structure itself - the solid portion - and it settles there and can result in necrosis which may be defined as the destruction or death of bone, if I may put it so crudely to you. It can result in new growth or cancer. In children- it has a special affinity for those- portions of the long bones known as the- epiphyses - the end of the bones which when: they join with shaft or diaphysis constitute mature bones; and just as in the adult it: can result in cancer, in children there is the further effect of being deposited in the epiphyses- or end resulting in stunted growth. No one is going to suggest that I have received ionizing radiation - on account of my build. The effects on the gastro-intestinal tract are that it can control or limit the flow of the digestive juices, pepsin and hydrochloric acid, which: are essential. It is known that rays influence mobility. They can limit relaxation or contraction and interfere with the usual’ mechanism. They can interfere with the normal flora bacteria which are essential to the normal digestive processes. This associated with denudation or ulceration of the mucosa or lining, which can be expected of ionizing radiation, may cause a change and with the bacteria absorbed into the blood stream it can result in a form of blood poisoning known, as bacteriaemia.
We could talk in terms of its effect on the lungs and the nervous system and other organs if time permitted. For a long time it was suggested that ionizing radiation had no effect on the nervous system but it is now recognized after further histological and pathological’ examination that they do result in injury to the nervous system and they can affect, the phases of excitation and inhibition and those normal electrical impulses that our nervous system should receive or discharge. It has been recognized that it has an effect on the encephogram, which is an electrical tracing of brain processes.
But let us remember that it has a definite effect on the genetic entities which are responsible for the reproduction of man. This is one of the most damaging features and no scientists have yet said that ionizing radiation does not have a damaging effect on the male or female reproductive entities as contained in the gonads. The definite effect on the chromosomes has been detected by microscopic examination, partially splitting them. The end result is there to be recognized. If the damage is severe enough it can result in minor abnormality such as a missing finger or toe. If damage is more serious, it. can result in greater abnormality such as a missing limb or may move into the realm of monstrosities, differing in no one way from those that have brought grief to some unfortunate mothers and fathers. Examples are to be seen in any university and anatomical museum, and perhaps have two heads on one body, no head at all, small heads, missing anterior abdominal wall, part of the spinal cord outside the spinal column, part of the brain outside the skull, and so on. Are not those terrible things to postulate as being in the realm of thepowers held by men to-day?
But Senator Gorton says that Senator McKenna and many other people are pessimistic. We know that these things have occurred naturally but we do not want an increasing incidence of them. That is what the proposition is from this side of the chamber, I feel certain. Let us think in terms of what we should do. It has been recognized that mutations - those are the changes that do occur in the genes - are permanent and transmissible. We know that heredity plays: a- part and so does environment in the development of the human1 body and- personality,. But let us, if we- can when referring to environmental factors, also determine the basis of heredity particularly if we can eliminate damaging agents which can result in a poorer type, or unhappiness, or ill health.
Thus, we suggest that there is a real responsibility on the Leader of the Government in the Senate to harken to the requests of various scientists. They are somewhat concerned, irrespective of what Senator Gorton has said, because they have suggested certain measures that should be adopted. If they were not worried they would not have made those suggestions. They would have said that there was no need for action. They have suggested Commonwealth control of X-rays and radiological practices, and, incidentally, it is desirable that those things should be controlled. There has grown up a too liberal use of X-rays particularly in obstetrics. It was accepted as a practice, almost as a routine, to determine the position of a foetus - as regards multiple births and pelvic measurements in obstetrics. Honorable senators need not take my word for the necessity to limit the practice of making routine radiographic investigations of pregnant women. Dr. Cooper, the director of the Queensland Radium Institute - from whose qualifications and eminence no one can detract - has suggested that it is necessary to limit this practice, in the interests of both the women themselves and the children that will be born of them and their children after them. Those are his words, not mine.
The National Radiation Advisory Committee has suggested that further laboratories be established and further investigations be made. We realize the limitations of finance and personnel, particularly of qualified personnel. We can only play our part in the world of science, human genetics and human welfare. To me this appears to be merely another reason to justify the Commonwealth’s entry into the field of primary and secondary education. 1 have maintained for years, as have many others, that the Commonwealth should enter these fields. Scientists are not made necessarily at university level. They are fashioned, perhaps, as they move through the primary sphere, the secondary school or the technical school. The States, one and all - I do not differentiate between them - have failed in greater or lesser measure, and we have the responsibility of seeing that there are facilities for those children who have the necessary talent and who are capable of benefiting from tertiary education and have been denied the opportunity to proceed properly through primary school, in a suitable environment and with efficient training, to secondary schools and universities. Not long ago Professor Messel announced that there were in Australia insufficient science teachers in the sphere of secondary education.
There is little need for me to recall the numbers of scientists trained in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America, as compared with the number trained in the Soviet group of nations, a fact that we have every reason to fear. If they establish recognition of the aristocracy of science, let us at least face up to the responsibility of protecting our people in equal fashion. We have the talent, and we can have science and scientific development in an atmosphere of freedom which those Soviet States cannot have. Let us not say that we cannot train our personnel as well as the Soviet can train its personnel. We can do so, but it is the Government’s responsibility to accept this as a matter of importance. We know the fields of human endeavour into which we have to move. We have extensive knowledge of the physics of ionising radiation. We have practically no knowledge of the biochemistry and biophysics of cellular functions. We require more biochemists of outstanding type, and more biophysicists Human genetics is an almost neglected science. To quote evidence of this, regarded as unusual, I cite the investigation of one family, the Jukes family in the United States of America, which led to the family being traced back for many generations in order to show, if possible, the influence of heredity as distinct from the influence of environment. In that family was found an outstanding incidence of alcoholism, prostitution, and other anti-social habits of many types, including criminal aberrations of almost all kinds.
We call for a greater investigation into human genetics. This can be further assisted by an increase in the number of men engaged in a study of the genetics of the animal world. There should be a real investigation, on a world-wide basis, of the efficient disposal or utilization of atomic waste. We have, in our ingenuity, devised a great power for good, but with it exists an inherent power for evil. We have a responsibility to the present generation, but we have also a responsibility to the generations that will follow us to ensure that we do not leave the world worse for them, and especially that we do not leave inherent in their structural make-up something that is basically bad, something that it deformed and that amounts to a monstrosity. Each new development - fire, the wheel, steam, diesel power, and jet power - has posed its problems, but we have managed to live by them and with them. Here we have something that can contribute to man’s well-being. Let us realize that by our efforts we can, in the process of time, live by it and with it. If we do not do that, generations as yet unborn will curse the day that we split the atom and devised nuclear power.
Senator SCOTT (Western Australia) 13. 1]. - I congratulate the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) for bringing this matter before the Senate in order that it may be discussed. I do not believe that there is in the world to-day a more important subject than radiation. The Senate has been given the opportunity of studying and discussing the report of the National Radiation Advisory Committee, which the Government in its wisdom established in 1957 to inquire into and report upon radiation and its effect upon the Australian community, both to-day and in the future. 1 should like first to congratulate Senator Dittmer on the interesting address that he has made on this important subject. 1 agree with many of the points that he made, and particularly on the need to encourage our people to take science courses at universities. Some ten or fifteen years ago students taking science courses were twice the number of those taking professional courses, but of late years the position has been completely reversed. Now the students doing professional courses are twice the number of those doing science courses. Science is playing and will continue to play a role of tremendous importance in the free world. It is quite easy to ascertain, as T have done, why students in sufficient numbers are not doing science courses at universities. One cannot blame a person who would normally want to be a scientist changing his mind and doing a course in medicine or law when, upon qualifying in those professions, he can receive double the remuneration that he would receive upon graduating with a science degree and entering industry or perhaps a government department. The remuneration of scientists is, in my opinion, far too low in relation to the importance of their work.
Senator Dittmer mentioned the dreadful illeffects that strontium 90 can have, and in his opinion is having, on the community. I am not a doctor, so all I can do is to refer the honorable senators to the findings of the National Radiation Advisory Committee. If we refer to the committee’s report, we will be able to ascertain whether or not Senator Dittmer or his advisers are correct. I refer to paragraph 90 of the committee’s report of July, 1959, which gives the story about the biological consequences of fall-out in Australia. The paragraph reads -
The scope of the strontium 90 survey being carried out in Australia is considered adequate and comparable to those conducted in the United Kingdom and United States. The National Radiation Advisory Committee strongly endorses the Safety Committee’s decision to continue the survey for as long as is necessary, and to publish the results annually.
Paragraph 40 of the report reads -
In making an assessment of possible biological consequences for the Australian population, the Committee has applied the assumptions, estimates and methods of calculation unanimously accepted by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. That committee’s prediction of future fallout levels is based .on the measured accumulation and rate of deposition of strontium 90 at the surface of the earth; the levels of caesium 137 are taken to be the same. Any possible increase in the incidence of leukaemia and of bone tumour which could be attributed to fallout is considered to be due to strontium 90. while any genetic defects are contributed mainly to caesium 137.
The report continues, in paragraph 41 -
A comparison has been made of the data now available on the accumulation and deposition or strontium 90 in Australia and in the rest of tho world. From this information the Committee has concluded that the average doses to the bone marrow and the gonads, calculated by the United Nations Scientific Committee for a world population, should be reduced by one-fourth to onethird for the Australian population. The Committee has adopted a factor of one-third in tho assessments given below, and the United Nations Scientific Committee’s estimates have been modified accordingly.
Then paragraph 42 reads -
Possible increased incidence of Leukemia On the assumption that even the smallest radiation dose to bone marrow can be leukaemogenic, and this is still unproven, the effect of fallout in Australia from all weapon tests held to date would be to produce a maximum of one case every 21. years for the whole population. This should be compared with the normal incidence of the disease which, in the same period, would amount to about 1,250 cases. If weapon tests cease, this maximum rate will gradually fall to zero, a total of less than 30 cases ultimately occurring for all time.
Paragraph 44 of the report points out that there is more natural background of strontium 90 in the bone marrow than could be caused by the fallout that has occurred in the past few years. The paragraph reads -
Accepting the assumptions of that committee and. applying the reduction factor for Australia, the modified calculations give, for a normal annual occurrence of five to ten cases of primary bone tumour per million of the population, a possible further one case, every five- to ten years for the. whole population.
So, even- though’ the- doctor expressed a lot of concern about the effects of fall-out, the Natonal Radiation Advisory Committee’s report indicates that the effects are practically indiscernible..
The background information presented by the Minister for National Development. (Senator Spooner) shows that the amount of fall-out from atomic explosions that have occurred since 1946 - some 115 atomic explosions, have been recorded, of which 35 to 40’ have been- heavy explosions - is less than 1 per cent. I point out to honorable senators who are wearing wristlet watches with luminous dials that radiation from luminous dials is 1 per cent., or the same as the total fall-out from atomic explosions over the last ten or fifteen years.. The report of the Radiation Advisory Committee indicates that X-ray diagnostic examinations constitute the: most dangerous source of contamination. They cause 22 per cent, of the natural background. The degree of contamination from television sets is 1 per cent, and that of occupational exposure, which has been with us for all time, is 1.7 per cent. The whole of this debate, particularly what has been said by the Opposition, has revolved around radiation from the use of nuclear weapons. Not much notice has been taken of the effects of other forms of danger that exist in the community.
Honorable senators opposite say that as far as possible we should abandon nuclear or atomic bomb tests. I agree. But, as I have indicated, fall-out occasioned by atomic bomb tests amounts to 1 per cent, and the degree of radiation from wristlet watches with luminous dials likewise is 1 per cent.; but no one in this chamber has suggested that we should cease wearing wristlet watches with luminous dials.
– But there is no fall-out from wristlet watches.
– But the degree of radiation from wristlet watches with luminous dials is the same as the total fallout from atomic tests since the first atomic bomb was exploded over Hiroshima in the 1940’s. So there is not as much danger from atomic explosions as one would be led to believe by the Opposition. Of course, that is no reason why we should not encourage the abandonment of atomic tests. I think we all agree that since 1957 Australia, in conjunction with England and America, has endeavoured to reach agreement with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to ban all atomic tests. In 1957 the Western powers: approached the Soviet Union in an endeavour to secure agreement to cut out atomic tests altogether. It is interesting to note that the. Soviet Union refused even to discuss the; proposals, although later they were endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly.
In March, 19581, following the conclusion of a formidable series of Russian test explosions, and just before the beginning of a series of United States tests, the U.S.S.R. announced that, it would suspend tests on a unilateral basis. The West pointed out that a mere declaration of a suspension of tests was valueless, without a. system of inspection. Since then, the West has tried to arrange with the Soviet Union a satisfactory inspection system, but without result. I cannot tell honorable senators the reasons why the Soviet Union refuses to agree to inspections.
The Western powers are still negotiating with the Russians, and we are getting closer to a satisfactory solution of the problem. As a basis* for discussion, the Western powers- suggested that, first of all, tests of atomic weapons at heights up to 31 miles should be banned. Experiments could be carried out at heights greater than 31 miles, and also under water. The Soviet Union refused to agree to that proposition. The present position is that the West is trying to reach agreement with the Soviet Union for a system of inspections and control points, lt is suggested that stations be set up throughout the world to detect and measure disturbances caused by atomic bombs, earthquakes or landslides. It would be very difficult, of course, for any station, even with the most sensitive of instruments, to locate accurately a disturbance that occurred 100 or 1,000 miles away and to define the cause, because earthquakes or landslides have the same effect on delicate instruments as atomic bomb explosions. So it is necessary, in any arrangements made between the East and the West, to have a system of inspections. It has been suggested that some 170 stationary posts should be set up. They would be able to record explosions, earthquakes, landslides or other disturbances. But when a disturbance was recorded, an inspection of the site would be necessary, so it is suggested that each post should have a team which it could send out to investigate and report on any disturbance that occurred in the area covered by the post.
The Russians have said, “ Yes, we will agree to inspection posts in our territory, but they must be manned by our own nationals “. I do not know what satisfaction that would give to any one. Suppose that we in Australia said, “ Yes, we will agree, but our posts will have to be manned by Australians, who will tell you just what has taken place”. Would that be satisfactory to the Soviet Union? I do not think it would be. However, the Soviet Union has come back with another suggestion. It has said that it will allow one or two foreigners to man posts in its territory. That is the point that has been reached at the present time. It is hoped that in the near future a solution to the problem will be found.
After twelve months of negotiating, the committee which was set up to discuss the problems of the East and the West - it consisted of members from the Soviet Union, Great Britain and America - went into recess for six weeks. At the conclusion of that recess, it is hoped that a satisfactory solution to the problem will be found and that we will then be able to arrange for inspection posts to be set up throughout the whole of the world, manned by men who will be able to make inspections of the sites of atomic explosions or any other type of explosion and report thereon. It is interesting to note that both Great Britain and America have announced that they are not going to carry out any atomic tests in 1959.
I should like to refer now to some of the more interesting results that have been attained by the use of radiation in industry. If we dismiss the small amount of radiation that has been caused up to the present time, we should then consider what can be achieved by the development and use of radio-active isotopes - how they can help industry to develop in the future. It was announced in America in 1958 that the use of radio-active isotopes had saved American industry 500,000,000 dollars in one year. It is estimated from the same source that by 1962 that saving will have multiplied ten times. In other words, by 1962 American industry will be saving somewhere in the vicinity of 5,000,000,000 dollars a year. Isotopes are certain atoms of elements such as sodium, carbon, hydrogen, phosphorus, iron, nitrogen, etc. Ninety elements occur naturally, ten elements can be made artificially. These elements are changed into radio-active elements, from which isotopes are produced, when they are placed in an atomic reactor. We have such an atomic reactor in Australia at Lucas Heights, and in the near future it will be producing radio-active isotopes which can be used by Australian industry. The reactor which is working there at present is being run on a very low charge. It will not be run on full charge until towards the end of the year. To produce radioactive isotopes one places the necessary elements in an atomic reactor. After a time they become radioactive, and emit radiation. It is this radiation which makes radio isotopes so useful to industry, and to scientific, agricultural and research workers. Radiation exists in a number of forms. The two commonest and most useful are known as beta and gamma. With beta radiation the isotope sends out a continuous stream of electrons in all directions. These electrons can pass through a solid mass half an inch thick. Gamma radiation is very energetic and can pass through a steel mass up to twelve inches thick.
It is interesting to consider the uses to which isotopes can be put. The silting up of the River Thames was creating serious problems for the authorities. Each year extensive dredging had to be undertaken to keep the port open. No one could work out where all the silt was coming from. It was thought to be coming downstream, and the dredgers dumped their loads at the mouth of the river. The atomic energy commission of that country made available one of its experts. He made a quantity of mud radioactive. It was then distributed along the bed of the river, and a geiger counter was used to ascertain just what was happening. A close watch was kept and within a month the expert was able to advise the authorities that the mud was actually coming in on the tide from the ocean; that the same mud was being dredged up time and time again. This was the reason why six times as much silt was being found in the port as might normally have been expected. The credit for discovering the real movement of the mud must go to the use of the isotope.
Another example is provided in Australia. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has to renew the lining of its furnaces every three or four months. It could never work out just how long they would last. The new lining is two feet thick and made of bricks. The safe period of operation was regarded as being the period during which the thickness of the lining was nine inches or more. However, the company frequently found, upon closing down a furnace, that the brick lining was fifteen inches or more thick and would have lasted for another month or so. With the aid of an isotope, radioactive materials can be placed at intervals of an inch right through the lining and a periodical count of those remaining can be taken. When the wall reaches, the danger point the furnace can be closed down, and then there is no wastage of lining.
Industry can use isotopes in many ways. They are being used extensively in the manufacture of paper, sheet metal, flat rubber, synthetic pipes and hoses, linoleum and so on to measure the thickness of material coming off a roller. Isotopes can be used not only for the taking of measurements, but also for controlling automatically such adjustments as are necessary to keep material at a given width. No one need go near the machines. Honorable senators can imagine the saving in costs which follows.
Isotopes have many uses, but Australian industry apparently does not realize this fact. In a tobacco factory, isotopes can be used to detect a flaw in a cigarette or package. A considerable saving of labour is involved. The United Kingdom and the United States of America have realized this and are using isotopes more extensively every year. Australian industry is beginning to take notice of the possibilities, but a lot more could be done to lower costs. Proprietors should keep in touch with the Australian Atomic Energy Commission’; project at Lucas Heights and avail themselves of the services of people who are only too pleased to help industry. Australia is one of the nations with a high cost structure - almost as high as that of the United States, but that country is now saving 500,000,000 dollars a year and expects to be saving 5,000,000,000 dollars a year by 1962 as the result of the use of technological improvements. We must fall into line in that regard, or we shall simply not be able to compete in the future.
I should like to give another example of the way in which the scientists have helped industry. A drain which ran right underneath a large building had become blocked. The blockage could not be located because the building was very old and the plans could not be obtained. The owners did not know exactly where the drain was, and it became apparent that inspections would have to be made at various places right along the possible line of the drain. By using an isotope they were able to pinpoint the blockage and, within 24 hours, were able to clear an obstacle the removal of which, under normal circumstances, would have involved an expenditure of from £1,000 to £1,500. I mention that as an example of the help isotopes can be to industry, and I suggest that manufacturers and industrialists throughout the Commonwealth should make more use of the information made available, and the services offered, by the research officers at Lucas Heights.
Many interesting suggestions are covered in the National Radiation Advisory Committee’s report. For instance, reference is made to tuberculosis, and its detection by use of the X-ray. lt is possible that members of the medical profession could devise ways of detecting tuberculosis other than the X-ray. I understand that at the present time there is one process under which, by examining a piece of the patient’s skin, it is possible to state whether tuberculosis is present. If tuberculosis is found to be present, then the X-ray should be used to ascertain how bad it is and how the patient should be treated.
The report also states that X-ray diagnostic examinations are responsible for up to 20 per cent, of the national radiation background and that is 22 times stronger than the fall-out from an atomic test. I should say, therefore, that careful consideration should be given to the Radiation Advisory Committee’s recommendation that we carry out further experiments with a view to ascertaining whether a smaller dose of radiation will give the results necessary for X-ray treatment. The committee also recommends that all operators of X-ray equipment used for medical diagnosis be licensed, and that further experimental programmes be carried out in the medical use of X-rays. It also mentions leukaemia and recommends that it be declared a notifiable disease. I understand that at the moment it is not possible to say with certainty that leukaemia is caused by the fall-out from atomic tests. We know that its incidence is increasing throughout the world, but no one has yet proved that it is actually caused by the fall-out from atomic tests.
One interesting feature is the fact that in the United States of America, where first use was made of detergents for washing up dishes the incidence of leukaemia began to increase. These detergents were first used there in 1948 or 1949. Later, they were used for washing up in England and now they are in fairly common use everywhere. Whether it is only coincidence, or whether there is any relationship between the two I do not know, but the fact is that the incidence of leukaemia increased with the more general use of detergents for washing up dishes after meals. Certainly, according to the committee’s report, it has not yet been proved that strontium 90 causes leukaemia.
The committee’s report covers many matters of great interest. It is concisely presented and the committee is to be congratulated for the time spent on its investigations and the excellent manner in which it has carried them out. Its findings on the possibility of radioactivity in all its phases are of the utmost interest.
For instance, the committee points out that the various governments concerned took every precaution against trouble from fall-out of radioactive material .in Australia when the tests were carried out at Monte Bello island a few years ago. It mentions that 100 stations were set up to watch that test and the effects of fall-out. Its report states that an analysis of the findings of these stations indicates that the local fallout contributed a negligible addition to the background radiation to which the population in Australia is continuously exposed.
For those reasons, I think the committee which is taking an interest in this matter on behalf of the Commonwealth Government is deserving of the greatest tribute for its work and the Government is to be commended for setting it up.
I do not believe that this Government should carry out wholesale nuclear tests in the use of atomic energy. I believe that it would be a good thing for the world if agreement could be reached to ban atomic tests’, but, unless that agreement can be reached, we of the West cannot afford to abandon them. The Russians have not carried out any tests since those conducted on the 1st and 3rd November, 1958. I hope they do not carry out any more, but I cannot agree to our abandoning tests unless complete global agreement can be reached. I point out that the negotiations between England, America and Russia have been in progress for some time now. After some fifteen or eighteen months of negotiation, they have not been able to reach agreement. Assuming that agreement is reached within the next six months, who is to say that we shall be able to get the rest of the world to agree?
Will Communist China agree in these matters? Has that country the atomic bomb? Is it carrying out atomic experiments? We know of its plans for development. Are other nations experimenting. After all, it is only by experiment that knowledge can be obtained. Even if we cannot get full agreement, I think that further experiments should be conducted so that bombs will not be exploded close to the earth, thus raising a dust cloud full of radiation and a menace to the population. We are told that bombs using energy derived from uranium atoms give off the greatest amount of radiation when they are exploded, and that thermal bombs, or those of the hydrogen type, do not throw out as much radio-active material. We are also told that explosions that take place more than 30 miles or so above the earth’s surface are not so dangerous as those closer to the earth. So, Sir, I say that if agreement cannot be reached with the rest of the world, and if the Western nations continue to experiment, they should do so in such a way that the experiments will not create danger to future generations.
I suppose that we are to-day passing into a nuclear era. I believe that more and more nuclear reactors will be constructed throughout the world. That is something that we shall have to put up with. I do not know to what degree they will create radio-activity, although I do know that some of them are pretty well controlled. For instance, an official of the Lucas Heights establishment advised me that the utmost precautions were being taken there. He said that even the effluent going down to George’s River will be continuously watched to see that radio-activity does not build up. Apparently, the authorities there are so careful that they are even taking samples from the bottom of a tributary of George’s River, making chemical tests of oysters to ascertain the natural conditions in which they live, and analysing the mud at the bottom of the river, before any effluent is put in the river. By doing these things they will be able to assess with accuracy any increase of radio-activity in the river. They are also exploring ways and means of disposing of the effluent in such a way that it will not contaminate a stream and so become dangerous to people in the area.
There is no doubt, Mr. President, that we shall see more and more atomic power stations in the future. In fact, I believe that atomic power will be the power of the future. I hope that we in Australia will have an atomic power station one of these days. Apart from the question of capital cost, atomic power stations can produce electricity much cheaper than can power stations that use coal or water. No doubt, with the advance of science, atomic power stations will become cheaper to construct than they are now.
I hope that the National Radiation Advisory Committee will continue to operate and advise the Government on ways and means that it should adopt to control, as far as possible, the radiation dangers from nuclear power stations that may be established in Australia. Taking this matter all in all, and comparing the advantages with the disadvantages, I believe that the development of radio-active isotopes and the establishment of nuclear power stations are matters that the community will have to face in the future. In setting up the National Radiation Advisory Committee, the Government has taken a step in the right direction. The committee, in making recommendations to the Government so that the utmost precautions may be taken to safeguard the community, has acted wisely. I think that Australia has a great future, Mr. President. We are about to enter an age when radio-active isotopes will help industry to an increasing degree, as will power developed from nuclear energy. We aTe perhaps already living in an age of nuclear energy. I believe that the good will outweigh the bad, provided that the advice given by the National Radiation Advisory Committee is heeded by the Government.
.- The second annual report to the Prime Minister by the National Radiation Advisory Committee is before the Senate, and we are indebted to the committee for the comprehensive nature of the report. It was with regret that I read in the report that Professor Sir Macfarlane Burnet was retiring from the committee. I sincerely hope that he will continue to make available to the committee, in a consultative capacity, his great energy and reservoir of wisdom, even though he is not able to give to its activities the time that he devoted to them previously. I understand that the committee has met on ten occasions, and I find that it has covered a very comprehensive field.
The observations that I wish to make on this report will not be of a technical nature. Honorable senators may be assured of that. I am rather surprised that this debate has brought forward so many contributions of such a high level. This fact should make us realize that the great problem we are discussing is very much in the forefront of the minds of honorable senators. I believe that the Senate is indebted to Senator Dittmer for his eloquent and erudite assessment of the committee’s report, which certainly should have stirred any of us who are complacent about the biological consequences of radio-active fallout and radiation generally. I feel that his objective observations are well worth recommending to people outside this chamber who did not have the pleasure of hearing his speech.
Throughout this report there is evidence of a traditional degree of conservatism, so I believe that the report is not as comprehensive as it might be. The report states that the first submission to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) last year gave details of radio-active fall-out and thermo-nuclear fall-out, and in the present report the committee has concentrated more or less on ionizing radiation. I believe that each of these reports should have stressed the importance of radio-active fall-out. Although seven or eight very distinguished scientists have furnished a report in quite convincing terms, reports from other parts of the world create an element of doubt whether some of the conclusions stated in this report are conclusive. In its summary, the report states -
The hazards of ionizing radiation have been widely publicized, sometimes in a way that caused unnecessary alarm. As a result, there is a danger that individuals may come to harm through reluctance or refusal to undergo necessary X-ray examination.
As against that, an article by Geoffrey Hutton, of London, which appeared in the Melbourne “Age” of 14th August, 1958, states -
The 83 scientists who put their hands to the report agree that there are greater and more dangerous sources of radio-activity than nuclear tests, but they also agree that these tests may be causing thousands of deaths and thousands of genetic defects already.
Yet the report now before us, under the heading “Leukaemia”, states -
A maximum of one additional case of leukaemia every two and half years for the whole Australian population might occur as a result of fallout; this should be compared with the normal incidence of about 1,230 cases in the same period. Less than 30 additional cases might occur for all time.
It is a little disturbing - it is to me, anyway - that we have more or less positive conclusions stated in this report, which is at variance with the report that was submitted by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the effects of atomic radiation, after two and a half years’ deliberation. I do not want to decry the great work that has been done by the members of the National Radiation Advisory Committee, and the extent of their knowledge, but must say that there is cause for alarm and a feeling of uncertainty about these matters. There is no room for complacency, as a result of this report, on the part of honorable senators and people throughout this country; they cannot believe that everything in the garden is lovely. The United Nations committee stated -
One view is that below a certain “ threshold “ radiation has no effect, but the committee can find no convincing evidence that such threshold exists.
Yet Senator Gorton and other honorable senators spoke of the threshold not having been reached. I should like to quote from an article by Ian Moffitt that appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 4th July last. It relates to the contributions that have been made to this research by Professor Titterton and Professor Mellor. The article states -
How great is the risk, and how great it is growing, are controversial questions on which physicists and geneticists are divided.
That is entirely different from the conclusive report that has been placed before us, in which it is stated that a maximum of one additional case of leukaemia every two and a half years in the whole Australian population might occur as a result of fall-out. Ian Moffitt’ s article continues -
Strontium 90 is the most dangerous ingredient in fall-out because it has a long radio-half life of 28 years (every 28 years its radioactivity decays by half), . . .
Senator Scott stated that there have been no thermo-nuclear explosions since those in the Soviet Union in 1957 or 1958. But a year or two later this report is published to the effect that strontium 90 has a radioactive half-life of 28 years. Therefore, we must regard the report now before us as very inconclusive. Ian Moffitt’s article goes on -
Strontium 90 is drifting smoothly around the stratosphere where the mushroom heads of the high yield blasts have pushed it. It stays up for years, slowly settling into the turbulent “mixing bowl “ of the troposphere, and then falling with rain or snow on to oceans, buildings, trees, and grass.
We are all acquainted with the saying, “ It falleth as the gentle rain from heaven “, but the element in this case is not mercy, it is merciless! Strontium 90 remains in the troposphere for an indefinite period, and we have no proof of the amount of radio-active dust that is in the troposphere. We have no proof of the incidence of its fall through into the atmosphere and at the present time the estimate of its life is 28 years at full strength; it then halves, and lives for another 28 years at half strength.
We should be fully acquainted with the nature of the problem that we are dealing with and we should look sceptically at any positive and definite statement to the effect that this problem is in hand and under control. The article goes on -
At least three-quarters of it probably falls into the oceans which cover 71 per cent, of the earth’s surface, and radio-activity extends down several hundred feet into their depths. In soil it is different. It remains, usually, in the top two inches. It settles on the leaves of lettuce, shallowrooting plants and grasses also absorb it from the soil. Our cows eat grass dusted by strontium 90. Australians, then, are eating and drinking minute quantities of strontium 90, but however minute the quantities we cannot be sure that they are not already dangerous.
The position is that we are drinking minute quantities of strontium 90 in our milk and it remains in our bodies over a period of ten years or fifteen years. In these circumstances, how can we feel complacent about having any definite figures about a threshold. I make it quite clear that I am disturbed about the talk of a threshold where the line of “ no return “ exists. Insufficient information has been furnished to make us feel certain about this threshold. The committee spoke of the local fall-out in Australia and its biological implicationsIt also spoke of the atomic weapon tests in Australia. It is stated that the committee had received all relevant data on fallout over Australia from these tests, and that each test had been completed safely with a negligible addition to the background radiation. However, in the “ Sydney Morning Herald” of 6th July, 1959, appeared an article headed “ Strontium 90 and Australia. Research sketchy; fall-out checks poor “. The article reads - it is a sober reminder that physicists everywhere are pressing forward inexorably - cracking atoms, releasing radio-activity. It is not their function to determine what happens to living organisms when radio-activity penetrates them. This is the job of the geneticist or the biologist.
This is most important, because, as I have said, the committee stated in its report that it had received all relevant data about the fall-out over Australia from tests of atomic weapons and that each test had been completed safely with a negligible addition to the background radiation.
Referring to the Australian Atomic Energy Commission’s establishment at Lucas Heights, the report proceeds -
Its research program (inside the commission and out) mainly concerns the development of new types of power reactors, problems associated with large-scale industrial use of radioactive materials, and the production and use of radio-active isotopes. Strontium-90 plays no pan in this research program. The commission has only one scientist working on strontium-90 at Lucas Heights - one man in a tiny wooden hut. As one commission employee put it: “ We don’t make much of a point about it. We’re not really interested in it”.
The Lucas Heights scientist has been testing samples for strontium-90 “for six or eight months “, according to a high commission authority. He uses (says the commission’s last annual report) “special low background betacounting equipment for strontium-90 analyses in soils, milk, bone, ash, etc.” But he cannot have examined many samples, because each strontium- 90 analysis is a long, difficult process, lasting weeks . . .
A principal research officer of the C.S.I.R.O., Dr. A. S. Fraser, commented: “ Detection is no good unless it’s done well; it’s no good putting amateur-professionals on the job. Errors can accumulate; results can be quite haywire. If you want research on strontium-90, you must pay for it. And we must emphasise our ignorance of strontium-90 the whole time - we don’t know, we don’t know, we don’t know “ .
He was quite certain that the scientists did not know. This press article continues -
Dr. Fraser favours more work on the general effects of radiation (especially cancer induction) before concentrating on strontium-90. But if anyone is to do more work on strontium-90, the Commission should, he believes - it has the space and equipment.
So we come back to the question of how much equipment we have and where it is situated. I understand that these tests are made very close to the Lucas Heights establishment and that our information otherwise is sketchy. I gather that this is the information on which our scientists based the findings published in this report.
I have a further very important observation to make in relation to the enactment of proper legislation in all the States so that there may be a national policy in regard to radiation. Each State has different laws relating to the collection of data. The committee reported -
A network for monitoring global fallout over Australia was installed by the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee in May, 1956; continuous operation has been maintained since that date, and the results have been reported annually . . . From the measurements within Australia it is concluded that the whole body doses received as a result of global fallout are amongst the lowest in the world.
We do not know whether this information is conveyed to all the States. Western Australia has an act and regulations concerning the control of research into radioactivity. In South Australia there is a relevant amendment to the Health Act, and regulations are in course of preparation. In Tasmania, there is an act, with regulations also in preparation. In Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland there are also regulations, either in existence or in course of preparation. So it appears that although co-ordination is under way there is no Australia-wide policy and no very great progress has been made by the Commonwealth and States in assembling in compact form data on ionizing radiation.
The committee reported, in paragraph 43-
The alternative view, that a certain radiation dose or threshold must be exceeded before any case of leukaemia will be induced, is gaining considerable experimental support (see paragraph SO). The United Nations Scientific Committee considered it as an alternative hypothesis, accepting, as a threshold, a dose to the bone marrow 4,000 times that received annually from the natural background. On this basis no cases of leukaemia could be caused by fallout in Australia from all weapon tests to date.
From what I have already said there appears to be grave room for doubting the finality of that statement. Among the matters to be remembered are the arrangements at the Lucas Heights establishment for testing the incidence of radio-active strontium 90, the fact that very learned men, including members of the United Nations committee, are very uncertain, some admitting that they just do not know, and the fact that atomic tests have been taking place, with an uprush of air taking dust and radioactive particles high up into the troposphere beyond the influence of gravity. We have no definite data on how long this threat to mankind will continue. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
India’s Northern Frontier - Statement by the acting Minister for External Affairs, dated 2nd September, 1959 - and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Loans Securities Act 1919-1956, by adding to it a provision that the principal of and interest on bonds issued overseas by the Commonwealth Government, which are held by a person not residing in or ordinarily a resident of Australia, are not to be subject to Australian taxes. In all loans raised abroad since 1921, the Commonwealth has assured non-resident bondholders that the principal of and interest on Commonwealth bonds would be free of Australian taxes. This undertaking has always been understood abroad to mean that non-resident holders of Australian bonds would be exempt from Commonwealth and State income taxes, estate duties, gift .duties and so on, in relation to their holdings. The reason for granting this exemption is, of course, that many overseas bondholders would otherwise be liable to tax on the ‘bonds, not only in the country in which .they ordinarily reside, but also under Australian laws. I may add that this is a normal provision in loans raised by ‘borrowing ‘countries in the markets of other countries.
Because of certain provisions contained in the Estate and Gift Duty Conventions entered into by the Commonwealth Government with the United States Government in 1953, and ratified by both Parliaments, doubts have now .arisen as .to whether unqualified assurance? of .the type I have mentioned can still legally be ..given to residents of the United States who hold Australian securities issued .in New York.
All that would strictly be necessary to rectify the position for residents of the United States who hold Commonwealth bonds, and who may now be subject to Commonwealth estate and gift duty, would be to amend the relevant convention ratification acts. However, undertakings regarding freedom of overseas bond-holders from taxes, though in various verbal forms, are included in Commonwealth securities issued in the United Kingdom, in Canada, and in Switzerland, as well as in the United States. Consequently, the Government has considered that an opportunity should now be taken to obtain Parliament’s approval to make undertakings of this type effective, and to ensure exemption from all Australian taxes of all holdings by non-residents of Australian bonds issued overseas, whenever such exemptions are promised by the loan agreements. In this way, the legal force of the undertakings already given, and to be given in the future, to investors in Australian securities issued overseas will be set beyond doubt.
The need to seek this approval as a matter of urgency at the present time arises from the fact that the Government is presently engaged in negotiations which it is hoped will lead to the raising of a further 25,000,000 dollars on the New York market. The proceeds of this loan will be used for the borrowing programme of £220,’000,000 approved by the Australian Loan Council for 1959-60. In accordance with legal requirements in the United States, a preliminary registration statement :and prospectus for the proposed loan was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, .in Washington, on 28th August. In the registration statement and prospectus, which will .be finally filed at the time of issue of the new securities, later this month, the Commonwealth again wishes to give an undertaking in relation to Australian taxes similar to that given in all other recent borrowings in New York. As I have emphasized, such an undertaking is usual in such financial operations, and without it there would .be little, if any, prospect .of the success ;of .a .foreign loan, in particular of the loan now in an advanced stage -of negotiation. Therefore, it is obviously desirable - and indeed necessary - to clarify the position before the loan is actually floated.
I should add that this bill, if enacted, would have no effect whatsoever on the liability for taxation of holdings of Australian (overseas securities by residents of Australia. These will remain fully taxable. Nor will at, as I ‘have already explained, create , any .-new rights for overseas bondholders other than those which we already understood from the undertakings in the securities. All that it will do is to set beyond doubt an exemption which was hitherto intended to be available to all holders of Australian securities issued overseas. It will also .enable overseas investors to subscribe :to new Commonwealth loans raised overseas with confidence that their investments will have the immunity from Australian tax which they have always expected, and have been assured, in previous loans raised by the Commonwealth. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
– Mr. Deputy President, the Opposition takes the unusual course of proceeding at once to debate this matter. We do so because we recognize the need for an early decision, there being a loan flotation under way in the United States at the moment which will reach its culmination on the seventeenth of the month. Normally, we would have liked ample time to address ourselves to the matter. As the Senate, I understand, will not be sitting next week, it behoves us to validate what is under way, because negotiations are at more than an advanced stage, the original prospectus and certificate in relation to the loan having already been filed officially in New York.
The trouble, as I think the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) has made plain, arises from the terms of the two treaty conventions with America in relation to double taxation back in 1953. Those conventions relate to estate duty and gift duty. The Minister indicated that, strictly speaking, they are the only two difficulties being encountered in the flotation of the current loan and that it would be appropriate and sufficient if the two treaty agreements were amended. The difficulty I see about that is that they could not be altered without the concurrence of the United States legislature, and that result certainly could not be achieved in the time that is available. We of the Opposition recognize that in relation to past loans there is an obligation upon the Commonwealth, written into the bonds given to overseas investors, not to subject those bonds to Australian taxes. That undertaking having been entered into on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia and all its people, we are all honour bound, and those undertakings must be observed. We do not oppose the bill when it seeks to put beyond all possibility of doubt the freedom of those overseas bonds from liability to taxation at the hands of Australia. When all is said and done probably we could not protect ourselves against the bond-holders in any event. If we did attempt to impose taxation upon them they might be obliged to pay, if we in Australia could get our hands upon their assets, bur they would be entitled to sue for breach of contract, and the measure of their damages would be the quantum of tax that we had wrongly imposed upon them. Having taxed them, we would be obliged to repay that tax, and also to pay costs, in circumstances that would cause irreparable damage to our prestige as a nation, apart from the damage done to pur good repute in the financial markets of the world.
The Opposition faces that position. We say at once that we will not hesitate, where bonds have been, entered, as in the case of ‘ the current loan, to ratify what has been done in relation to taxation. We also recognize that it is necessary in practice to have a provision of this type, stating that the borrowing country will impose no taxation upon principle and interest, secured by bonds in the hands of overseas investors. It is quite obvious that if the borrowing country were free to tax at will, nobody overseas- would invest, since-, so far as income is concerned, taxation could be levied at the rate of 19s. 6d. in the £1, if need be, and there could be even a capital levy in relation to the asset. The Opposition recognizes that from a practical’ business point of view that is a condition that must operate when Australia goes on to the foreign markets.
Much as we dislike overseas loans in foreign currency, for the reasons we have advanced time and again in this place, we recognize that, owing to the quantum of borrowing and the number of loans that will fall due from time to time, Australia is irrevocably committed to negotiating further loans, if only to provide for the conversion of certain loans. We have to face that position, and we do so. For those reasons, the Opposition does not oppose the purpose expressed in this bill.
It is a bill to amend the Loans Securities Act. When we reach the committee stage, I shall move the amendment which I hope has already been circulated to honorable senators. The effect of that amendment will be to require that loans floated abroad shall be subject to the approval of the Parliament. The Senate will remember the debate on this matter in 1956, when 1 addressed myself at length to this point and1 drew attention to the fact that the Treasurer was given- complete powers, under section 3 of the Loans Securities Act, to disregard other acts and to proceed upon such terms and conditions as he saw fit. In fact, the Governor-General was restricted, in his authority to merely naming the amount that the Treasurer would be authorized to borrow. All the terms and conditions were left to the Treasurer to determine. There was a very distinct value, from a negotiating point of view, in our negotiators nothaving to put their hands down, when asked for their authority, before the people with whom they were dealing. One understands the good sense of that.
However, I expressed at that time the views of the Opposition upon overseas borrowing. I drew attention to the way in which the Government had been using foreign loans to rectify the balance of payments position. I drew attention also to the fact that, with the mounting tide of overseas borrowings, if all the American industrial concerns that were operating in Australia had attempted to repatriate the whole of their profits to America, it would have consumed, at the time I made that speech, 42.8 per cent. - nearly half - of our dollar export income. That attempt was not made, because the companies reinvested the major portion of their profits in this country, but, of course, the potential of that demand is there, and is mounting year by year.
The Opposition objects to overseas loans except in circumstances where it can be demonstrated that they are completely necessary. It thinks that they should not be embarked upon unless their purpose and need is put clearly before the Parliament and the loan agreement is open to debate and consideration in the Parliament. I shall move in committee an amendment which embodies that viewpoint. I am deliberately restricting myself at this stage to indicating the viewpoint of the Opposition. We certainly will not oppose the bill at the second-reading stage.
– I support the bill and indicate that I intend to oppose the amendment suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). I compliment the Leader of the Opposition on his clear exposition of the bill. In connexion with his amendment, let me say that I think it would be most specious if, before the Treasurer were allowed to negotiate overseas, a public debate had to take place in the Parliament on the proposed loan.
– The amendment does not mean that.
– The amendment suggested by the Leader of the Opposition reads -
Notwithstanding the provisions of this Act or any other Act, no stock or security shall be issued by or on behalf of the Commonwealth outside Australia on or after the first day of October, 1959, without the approval of the Parliament.
– That does not touch negotiations.
– If the Treasurer desired to float a loan overseas, he would have to get the approval of Parliament. He would have to lay everything on the table of Parliament. The firms overseas - the brokers, the banks and all the other organizations - would, by reference to “ Hansard “ and the documents tabled in Parliament, be able to obtain information of a kind which I do not think any business would be prepared to make public before it engaged in loan negotiations. The Treasurer would be completely hamstrung if the obligation laid down, in the amendment suggested by Senator McKenna were to become law. The floating of Australian loans in the manner in which they have been floated in the past has been successful in a major sense, and I believe the Treasurer is entitled to have the freedom of movement that he has had in the past. Therefore, 1 oppose the amendment.
– Is there an amendment before us?
– An amendment has been foreshadowed, and it will be formally moved in committee.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - The amendment is not actually before the Senate. It has been circulated only for information.
– That is so. The amendment has been circulated for the information of honorable senators, and I am directing my remarks now to what will come up in the committee stage. I support the bill. I think it is desirable that the Parliament should fortify and underwrite the promises that have been made already to foreign holders of Australian securities. I think that our taxation law in that respect should be a law made in this Parliament, not one made within a department. I understand that in the past departments have been able to grant these tax remissions. After the passing of this bill, such remissions will be the subject of a statute. I think it is highly desirable that the bill should be passed forthwith and without amendment so that this 25,000,000-dollar loan can be negotiated.
.- I oppose the bill because, in very many countries, colonial imperialism is now being replaced by monopoly imperialism.
Apparently the object is to mortgage the people of this country to the creditors for the whole of their working lives to make them the slaves of the creditors. That is apparently the reason for borrowing abroad when such a course is not necessary. In most instances we are quite capable of organizing an economy based upon the principle of selfcontainment selfsupport rather than dependence on creditors, either internal or external. The technique is apparently to mortgage the wage and small salary earner as much as possible.
As 1 have said on other occasions, the working people, and others, are often misled by the terms that are used. There is no such thing as a national income; there is an aggregate of private incomes. There is no such thing as a national debt. There is an aggregate of private debtors. In this country the so-called national debt is assuming colossal proportions, and to the extent that that is taking place in other highly industrialized countries poverty is increasing. Recently a United States senator said that as the result of the expropriation of small farmers land approximately 26 billion people were not receiving enough to eat, and that side by side with this there were mountains of unsaleable food which the country was endeavouring to dispose of to other nations in the form of loans. Instead of the workers in primary and secondary industry receiving remuneration proportionate to the wealth that they produce, the wage and small salary earner receives a remuneration which is based on the cost of subsistence. To the extent that mechanization displaces manpower so poverty increases.
The object of this bill, and similar measures in other countries, is to perpetuate that state of affairs. India, for example, has self-government, but the poverty there is just as bad as it ever was because the people of India, in common with the people of Australia, are classdivided. The owners of land and capital are becoming wealthier and fewer in number. Honorable senators will see that this bill means a great deal more than appears on paper.
Turning now to what Senator Laught said, I am opposed to the Treasurer becoming a law unto himself. We are supposed to be living in a political democracy.
The fact is that political democracy begins and ends on election day. Thereafter, the government becomes an oligarchy, or dictatorship. That is happening in almost every country certainly in both the State and Federal spheres in Australia. I should be remiss in my duty if I did not direct attention to that state of affairs. If we do not understand the position, and this country becomes thickly populated we might some day have to contend here with the appalling poverty that is being experienced under similar conditions in highly industrialized countries at present. That is why I take this stand to-day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Proposed new clause.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted in the bill:- “2a. Section three of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section: - (3.) Notwithstanding the provisions of this Act or any other Act, no stock or security shall be issued by or on behalf of the Commonwealth outside Australia on or after the first day of October, 1959, without the approval of the Parliament.
It will be noted that the requirement to bring loan proposals to the Parliament for approval would operate from 1st October. That is to ensure that past loans are not affected and, in particular, that there is no hindrance to the loan which is being floated at the moment in New York. We have heard the argument that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) would be embarrassed if he were obliged to bring the draft of loan agreements before the Parliament for approval. Nothing could be further from the fact. I remind the committee that during the last financial year we had before us measures authorizing the purchase of equipment for Qantas and TransAustralia Airlines, and that these were approved. Also, from time to time, we have had before us proposals for raising International Bank loans.
– For ratification only!
– I do not care whether the honorable senator calls it approval or ratification, but if he refers to the debate of 1st November, 1956, on the measure which we are now amending, he will find that we acknowledged the need for freedom to negotiate.
– Would the honorable senator remind us of the effect of the 1956 amendment?
– The amendment did two. things: It authorized the Treasurer to obtain foreign currencies, and altered the need for the Governor-General’s approval as to amount, the terms and so on. Thereafter, the Governor-General could approve the amount to be raised and, for the rest, authorize the Treasurer to get the money on such terms and conditions as he chose. It really carried the discretion and freedom of the Treasurer one very great step further. From a cold business viewpoint, we recognize the necessity for that. The Treasurer can not be obliged to lay his hand down, when he goes into the money market, so that those with whom he is dealing know what his upper limit is in every, detail. That would be absurd. But I am not asking in this amendment - nor does the: amendment require it - that there shall be any disclosure of negotiations to trie Parliament before the loan is concluded. We ask that the same thing be done as was done with International Bank loans, with- the raising of loans in New York, some, privately, some through the International Bank. The amendment does no more than ask that the procedure, followed out, be made a regular feature of parliamentary life.
If one refers to the. acts that deal with these matters, one is. rather shocked to find such complete and unfettered discretion vested in the Treasurer - one individual. One. can concede that, so far as business common sense demands, such discretion should be granted, but there must come a stage, when there must be ratification or agreement by the Parliament. Loan agreements, have been expressed before to be subject to the approval, of or ratification, by the Parliament. There is no difficulty about that. The important thing from our viewpoint is that the purposes of the loan can be discussed, that the reasons for the loan can be examined and that the necessity for it can be probed. If the Treasurer is given completely unfettered discretion in these matters, we need never have a debate in this place upon any particular proposal. We get the opportunity at Budget time, perhaps-
– Would we be informed as to the terms?
– From my understanding of it, I should say you would have all the terms before you when the approval of Parliament was being sought.
– I wonder whether the Treasurer would concede an obligation to inform the Parliament of the terms?
– All I can say is that he did that very thing in relation to airlines equipment and matters of that nature.
– That was subsequent to obtaining the loan.
– But the loan was subject to the approval of Parliament. It had to be ratified. That was done without an obligation upon the Treasurer to submit it to Parliament. In fact, as the legislation stands now, no loan raised by the Treasurer need ever come before the Parliament at. all. The purpose of the amendment is to provide that at least at some stage, not an immature but a mature stage, each matter will come before the Parliament so that we shall be able to probe the reasons for the loan, the need for it and the conditions and terms of it, and so that we may either accept or reject it. But the important thing is that Parliament can bring its mind to bear upon borrowings which are now assuming very great proportions in this country. It is certainly not in accordance with the processes we apply to every other thing here and for which we are content that the Treasurer should be free to run loose without the obligation to come to Parliament.
– But what would be the position if the Parliament were not meeting for a couple of months? Do you think the money market will wait?
– I should say that the Treasurer has his loan programme mapped out well in advance. He knows the loan programme well in advance.
– He does not know -the money market.
– He ‘knows -how he is going to space ‘bts loan raisings. And where is the difficulty In calling the Parliament together at a few days’ notice to put through a bill? There is no real difficulty. I should imagine that the Treasurer would be able to space his joan arrangements and his efforts, having regard to the parliamentary sittings, which I might point out are predetermined at the beginning of the session.
– This makes it mandatory..
– it does make it mandatory. That .can be clearly understood. But nobody is in a vast hurry foi a week or two, and, in all these international agreements, a date is fixed for the payment of interest. They will not be at any disability. There will be nothing to make .investors go off the loan. The loan ls expressed -as being from a certain date, subject to the approval of the Parliament What other opportunity would we get to examine it? Take the present loan. The type of .thing we ought to be arguing is what real need there is for it and above all, what need there is for dollars for the States. Have they got any dollar .expenditure? Or will the usual thing take place- the proceeds of the loan are handed to the Commonwealth Bank which makes money .available in Australian currency in its place? Australian currency will go to the States. They will spend our currency, not dollars. I think that to justify a loan of dollars such as this the Minister should be in a position to say, “ Certain States want equipment which they can -obtain only from dollar areas and nowhere else. We are short of dollars.” In such a case, we would have a reason. We would apply our minds to it and say, “ We cannot object to that “. But I take it - I think everybody in the Senate will understand this - that the States will not handle any of these dollars; they will handle Australian currency and these dollars will be available, in the hands of the Commonwealth Bank, for all kinds of purposes including the repatriation of dividends and the payment of commitments of every kind, in dollars, by the people of Australia to America.’ Those dollars can be used to finance transactions .of every conceivable kind. I ,am arguing at .this moment .in the absence of information that .any of the dollars will find their way to the States. I think the Minister should answer that.
If the amount is wanted in Australian currency for the States, what an opportunity we have for (the people of Australia, if this loan is to be at 45 per cent, or 5 per cent.! We do not know what it will .be, but it certainly will not be less than 4j per cent, if we are to judge by last year’s New York loan. Imagine going to the people of Australia and saying, “ You can have the equivalent of 25,000;000 dollars in Australian currency, in bonds, at that rate of interest, or perhaps at a discount, without liability to taxation!” The .loan would be filled .in five minutes, .even if it were rationed out at £500 per person and all institutions were barred from taking part in it.
– What would happen to the rest of our loan raisings in Australia?
– I know the position, -but I am indicating that if it is Australian currency we -want there is no difficulty about it, and, although it is claimed in the second-reading speech that this money is required to support State works programmes, I think the Minister ought to indicate to us why they want dollars. They want cash, but I take it they want Australian (Currency. I shall let it rest at that at this stage.
– The amendment moved by .the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) is not acceptable to the Government. I shall deal, first, with the position relating to this particular type of loan. As was made clear in the second-reading speech, this is a loan which is being raised by the Commonwealth Government on behalf of the Australian Loan Council. The authority of the Loan Council, constituted as it is by the Financial Agreement of 1928, is carried into the Constitution at section 105a. The clause which has particular relevance to this question states that all decisions of the Loan Council shall be final and binding on all parties to the agreement. That is to say, they are binding on the States and also binding on the Commonwealth.
– The Minister is not quoting exactly, is he?
– No, I am not.
– He is paraphrasing, is he?
– Yes. It is clause 3 (n) to which I refer.
– I do not understand that. Is the Minister referring to section 105a of the Constitution.
– Yes. I then quoted from clause 3 (n) of the Financial Agreement. The Loan Council actually decides, in accordance with its authority, the precise terms and conditions of all the loans raised by the Commonwealth on behalf of the Commonwealth and the States, and, as I have said before, this is in fact binding on the States and the Commonwealth. In short, this matter does not come within the purview of the Parliament. The raising of this type of loan is governed by the Financial Agreement, and by the Constitution.
The other type of loan is one which is raised by the Commonwealth for other than Loan Council purposes. It is quite true, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, that we have had legislation ratifying Canadian loans and Swiss loans, as well as loans from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. We have also had legislation to ratify loans made for the ultimate use of Qantas Empire Airways Limited and Trans-Australia Airlines. But loans of that type, including those made for Qantas and T.A.A., all involved an appropriation from the Trust Account subsequent to their raising. There are indeed practical difficulties which cannot be overcome, despite what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition. I put it to the Senate that it would be an impossible situation to debate in a House of Parliament the terms of a loan either prior to or during negotiations for that loan.
– That is conceded.
– Well, if that is conceded, I suggest that the purpose of the amendment falls to the ground.
The Leader of the Opposition inquired as to the specific need for dollar resources. He asked: Did the States want them, and what did the States want them for? In answer to those questions, I can only put it to the Leader of the Opposition, and to the Senate, that there is, and there will be, a continuing requirement by the Australian Government for foreign currency for the very obvious purpose of keeping our overseas funds in as liquid and as large a condition as we can arrange.
– The remarks of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) that we have just heard really indicate that the broad purpose of the loan is one not connected with the works programmes of the States. In fact, it was put to us in the second-reading speech that the loan was required to support the States’ works programmes. I now find that it is required for other and general purposes. The Minister’s explanation of the matter only shows the need for these loans to come under review, so that we may know the real purpose of them. You may understand, Sir, the state of uneasiness on the part of the Opposition when, on behalf of the Government, a certain reason for the loan is put, and then, after pressure has been applied regarding the need for the loan and the details of the need, we are told that it is for other and general purposes. There is the ill. If the loan is for the purpose merely of upholding our balance of payments position and that kind of thing, this is a situation that cannot go on. There has to be a day of reckoning eventually.
– Who said that the loan was merely for the purpose of upholding our balance of payments position? I did not hear the Minister say that.
– He said that lt was for the general purpose of keeping the overseas funds liquid.
– That is an incidental purpose, surely. What we want is money for the States’ works programmes, and we have not got it all in Australia.
– The Minister said that he does not want dollars. I suggest. Mr. Chairman, that between us all we are demonstrating very clearly the need for measures of this type to come before the Parliament. There is complete power for this Government to assure that it can legislate in this way. We have done that before, at the instance of the Government. All that we ask is that the procedure be regularized.
Let me say to the Minister that if the Government wants funds for the States, what is wrong with realizing some of the £237,000,000 in the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve account for the purpose, amongst others, of supporting State works programmes? The securities are there and available to be sold. The Government began the year with £237,000,000 in that account. Certainly all of that money will not be expended during the current year, having regard to loan prospects. So, I. say that the debate so far merely convinces me all the more strongly that the amendment should be accepted.
– Since I apparently did not make the position completely clear, let me assure the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) that the Australian currency proceeds of the loan, that is, the proceeds converted into Australian currency, will go to support the States’ works programmes. I thought that that would be understood.
.- I wish to direct attention to a point that has not been made. In America, in England and in other countries, money is being depreciated down to the lowest level. The chances are that if America decides to revalue, or to put value back into the dollar, for the depreciated dollar that we borrow we shall have to pay back twice as much. That happened in 1925 when America went on to the gold standard again. The debtors had borrowed £1 notes worth 10s. in England, and when America went on to the gold standard they had to pay back 20s., with the result that thousands of people were rendered insolvent, and thousands of workers were reduced to the breadline. What happened then is likely to happen again. Consider what has happened in
Indonesia. All that this Government is doing is trying to follow the leader. I refuse to follow the leader into insolvency.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator McKenna’s amendment) be inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause 3 (Exemption of certain securities issued abroad from taxation).
– Proposed section 6b. reads - (1.) Where, by the terms or conditions upon which any stock or security has been issued by or on behalf of the Commonwealth outside Australia (whether before or after the commencement of this section and whether under this Act or otherwise), the Commonwealth has given an undertaking, howsoever expressed, . . .
The proposed section then provides that that stock or security, when held by persons not residing in or ordinarily residing in Australia shall not be subject to Australian taxes. I should like the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) to explain to me how exemption of these securities from Australian taxes has been granted up to date, in the absence of the legislative provision now proposed. Has the Government, in granting exemption from Australian taxation in relation to the interest paid onthese securities, been contravening the legal enactments of this country? In other words, is the Government, by this provision, seeking ratification of something that it has been doing and which is at present outside the law?
The proposed section then makes it clear that where the stock or security that has been issued by the Commonwealth outside Australia is held by residents of Australia the interest thereon shall not be free of Australian tax. Furthermore, if stocks or securities of the Commonwealth issued outside Australia form a part of the estates of deceased persons in Australia or are the subject of gifts or other dispositions of property in this country, estate duty and gift duty shall be payable. As honorable senators know, gift duty is payable in respect of gifts of £2,000 or more. The point I am making is this: If an overseas holder of Commonwealth stock or security issued outside Australiasay, in America, England or Switzerland dies, Australian estate duty and probate is not payable on the value of such securities. If, during his lifetime, these stocks or securities form the subject of a gift, Australian gift duty is not payable in respect of the amount involved.
– That is the recognized distinction between Australian and overseas bond-holders.
SenatorO’FLAHERTY. - That is so, but I think the provision is most unfair. At the present time, the only tax concession granted to bond-holders resident in this country is a rebate of 2s. in the £1 of interest received on their bonds. It is most unjust and unfair to grant only this concession to Australian holders, while making these tax-free provisions in respect of overseas holders of Australian Commonwealth securities. Will the Minister inform me whether the Government has considered granting to resident bond-holders the same tax concessions that apply to overseas holders of Commonwealth stock and securities?
SenatorPALTRIDGE (Western Australia - Minister for Shipping and Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation) [5.13]; - The answer to the first question asked by the honorable senator is that, until 1953, the income derived by overseas holders of Commonwealth securities was tax-free.
– That is right.
– As a result of the Estate and Gift Duty Conventions, doubt was raised as to the position beyond that year. Since 1953, I am told, either tax assessments have been issued but not collected, or if collected rebates have been made. A constant pattern has been maintained right through. As to the second question, I think Senator O’Flaherty has overlooked the fact that proceeds of these securities are subject to American local law, both as to gift duty and estate duty.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 15th September, at 3 p.m., unless sooner called together by the President by telegram or letter.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I know that honorable senators wish to get away, and I do not want to occupy much of the Senate’s time. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), to whom I wished to address my remarks, is not here. The matter I wish to raise relates tothe easing of import restrictions on American goods, which I believe will cause havoc among Australian printing and publishing companies,with resulting loss of employment for certain individuals.For brevity’s sake I shall ask a series of questions. I hope that the Ministers who remain will pass these questions on to Senator Henty so that I may get replies within a short space of time, as the Senate will be in recess for a week.
Is the Minister aware that a letter that has been circulated among newsagents suggests that Australia is now to be used as a dumping ground for unsold paperbacks of which, in the words of the letter, “ American publishers ! have fantastic numbers ready to come out here “? What steps are being taken by the Minister to ensure that these publications conform to customs regulations and comply with the various State acts relating to obscene publications? Can the Minister assure me that no soft-cover books will be permitted to come on to the Australian market until the appropriate officers of the Department of Customs and Excise have read them and are satisfied that they are free of all forms of depravity?
Have officers of the department in fact read books now being imported, or is it too short-staffed to police them in accordance with its true function? It may be that the Government will have to make fuller provision to deal with this problem, in view of the extra volume of material which, it now seems likely, will be coming into the country and will have to be dealt with. May I have the assurance of the Minister that a proper reading and full consideration will be given books of the kind it is now proposed to allow in from overseas? Is the Minister aware that the British Government, although easing its import restrictions, controls such fiction publications by imposing restrictions on the landed price which have effectively prevented the entry of these books into the United Kingdom? The Australian Government has made no such provisions so far. Will it do so?
Is the Minister aware that at present there are on the Australian market paperbacks of overseas origin which contain reference to sex, violence and pornography in all their forms? Have these books been admitted with the knowledge of the department? If not, why have they been permitted to circulate, in view of the obscene nature of their contents? There is ample evidence to support the view that the strictest censorship has been placed upon Australian writers and publishers, who have willingly conformed with government requirements, but I have in my possession books which indicate that almost anything, regardless of degree of pornography or obscenity, ls admissible ‘into the country through the Department of Customs and Excise.
Will the Minister investigate how such books as I now have in my possession are permitted to be on sale? These works are on .sale in such places, in such form, and within such a price range, as to be readily available to children and adolescents, and this constitutes one of the especially dangerous aspects of their entry into the country, unless it is fully and properly controlled. The books I have in my possession are from the bookstalls of Sydney. I shall not name them, as I do not wish to give a free advertisement to this sort of stuff. Before Christmas we shall have a tremendous volume of this material from America.
– It is absolute rubbish and trash. If the lady senators would leave the chamber for a few moments I would read extracts from some of the trash. These are English publications, which came to this country through the Department of Customs and Excise. The Minister can have and read them. Material of this sort will come from America in tremendous quantities. It will be distributed mostly by Gordon and Gotch (Australasia) Limited. This company is the distributing agent and has to distribute these publications.
Australian paperbacks are very strictly censored, not only by the various governments, including the Commonwealth Government, but also by Gordon and Gotch (Australasia) Limited itself. If we do not stop this literature from entering the country, in view of its obscenity, we do a grave disservice to the children and adolescents of Australia. I have asked these questions to ensure that all of these cheap paperbacks are looked at individually by the department for such signs of depravity or obscenity as appear in these books that are printed in England. Honorable senators who wish to do so may look at them afterwards. The relevant parts are marked, so they will not have to look through whole books. It will be seen that what I have said is completely justified. I do not want a flood of this sort of stuff coming on to the Australian market. Apart from being undesirable reading matter for children it will harm the publishers of our own paperbacks, who are turning out reasonably good books, if one likes that sort of reading matter, without the pornography and obscenities found in these books. I hope that one of the Ministers present will bring my questions to the notice of Senator Henty. I should like to have early replies.
– I regret that, because of an official engagement, the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) is not here. I shall certainly bring the comments of Senator Cole to his notice and ask him to reply to the questions during the recess.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 5.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 September 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1959/19590903_senate_23_s15/>.