23rd Parliament · 1st Session
The Senate met at 3 p.m.
– I have received advice that the President (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) is unable to attend the sittings of the Senate to-day. In accordance with Standing Order No. 29, the Chairman of Committees will take the chair as Deputy President.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid) thereupon took the chair, and read prayers.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General obtain from his colleague the report of the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission as to whether the achievement of one standard time for the States of South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales and Queensland and for the Australian Capital Territory and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, would effect economies and at the same time facilitate the operations of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, both at the present time and in the foreseeable future? If convenient, could the views of the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations on this subject also be invited?
– 1 think that the best thing I can do is to bring the honorable senator’s request to the notice of the Postmaster-General and ask him whether he can let me have a statement which I may either give to the honorable senator or read to the Senate.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Having regard to the fact that since the presentation of the Stoller report more than £4,000,000 has been made available by the Commonwealth to the States to assist in building or extending mental hospitals, will the Minister state the number of additional beds made available for cases of mental illness as a result of the grant? If he has not the information, will he make inquiries from the States concerned: in order to ascertain the number?
– I. shall ask the Munster for Health to obtain that information from the States for the honorable senator and make it available to him as early as possible.
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade to a passage- in the annual report of the Tariff Board. The board, after referring to the extent to which import licensing had given protection to industries in Australia, stated -
It is only prudent that manufacturers who have sound grounds for fearing an increase in competition in the absence of import restrictions should approach the Board in harmony with Government policy -
I like that phrase - for a review of the existing tariff rates.
I ask the Minister whether or not that is an indication of the early cessation of import restrictions, and whether there has been any announcement of Government policy on the replacement of import restrictions with import duties.
– I ask the honorable senator to put his question on the notice-paper. I think it will be appreciated that it touches not only on aspects of existing policy, but also on future policy, and I am sure that the Minister for Trade himself would want to comment upon it. rather than leave it to me to do so.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Navy. Is it a fact that with the completion of the building or the renovation of the naval vessel “ Parramatta “ at Cockatoo Island dockyard, no further orders are in sight? Is the Minister in a position to allow me to assure the workers at the dockyard that there is no possibility of the dockyard’s closing? They fear that there is a great possibility that it will do so.
– The frigate “ Parramatta “ is now in the process of being completed at Cockatoo Island dockyard, the* hull having been launched, and no order for the same type of vessel has been placed with the dockyard. The question of a naval construction programme in Australia, either at the Cockatoo Island dockyard or at the Williamstown naval dockyard, will have to await an announcement on the composition of the forces, in which all these matters will be properly traversed.
– Against a background of questions asked about airports in Melbourne and Victoria generally, 1 ask the Minister for Civil Aviation: What is the current position in regard to the provision of an all-weather jet runway at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) airport? J understand that recently it was necessary for an overseas jet airliner coming to the airport to be diverted to Brisbane because there was a cross-wind of approximately 30 miles an hour at the Sydney airport, where there is only a northsouth runway. Are there any immediate plans for the provision at Sydney of an eastwest runway, extending out into Botany Bay? If there are no immediate plans, could some consideration be given to making an arrangement with the Royal Australian Air Force for the diversion of aircraft to Richmond, for instance, rather than to Brisbane to the inconvenience of people coming into the Commonwealth? Would it not be possible to arrange also for customs officials to deal with the passengers at Richmond, which after all is only a short distance out of the city of Sydney?
– Dealing first with the recent diversion of a Boeing, I can only repeat what I said in reply to a question about diversions some little time ago. Tt is quite a usual practice in airline operation for an alternative port to be used when conditions make the use of the first terminal port unsuitable. On the occasion in question there was a cross-wind blowing at a rate greater than the specified cross-wind component for the aircraft concerned, and following what, I repeat, is normal airline practice, the aircraft went to an alternative port. Plans for the extension of work st Sydney airport, as in the case of Tullamarine about which I spoke yesterday, are receiving consideration from an expert interdepartmental committee, and just as soon as I am able to make an announcement as to what work will be done, where it will be done and in what order, I shall be pleased to do so, but I cannot do so at the moment.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Do available statistical figures confirm recent claims by educational authorities that over the next five to ten years there will be a considerable increase in the number of boys and girls leaving school and, consequently, in the number competing for Commonwealth scholarships at universities and similar institutions? If so, will the Government increase the number of Commonwealth scholarships awarded annually, at least in proportion to the expected increase in applications?
– I will be pleased to refer the question to the Prime Minister.
– Can the Minister for Repatriation inform the Senate whether dentures are supplied to ex-servicemen under the provisions of the Repatriation Act? If they are, under what conditions are they supplied?
– If it is considered necessary for dentures to be supplied to a returned serviceman - that is, if his need for dentures is accepted as being due to war service - they are supplied at the expense of the Repatriation Department. There are certain dentists who work on the same basis as the local medical officers. These local dentists do the necessary work. Dentures are supplied to ex-servicemen and kept in repair at the expense of the department.
– Has the Minister tor Civil Aviation any information to give to the Senate in respect of item 13 on page 13 of the supplementary report of the Commonwealth Auditor-General, relating to British Commonwealth Pacific Airline Limited, which is in liquidation? What interest has the Government in this airline?
When is it expected that the legal action in respect of a crash in 1953 will end? Can the Minister explain why legal costs amounting to £29,182 were incurred during the last financial year? Can he say where this money was spent?
– The litigation referred to arose out of a crash which occurred at San Francisco some years ago. Since then, action has been taken through a number of the courts in the United States of America. I am not too sure of the point these legal proceedings have reached, but I shall find out for the honorable senator. The liquidation of the company is held up pending the conclusion of that legal action. I am sorry I cannot give the honorable senator any indication at all of when this matter might be brought to finality. It was hoped by the legal advisers of my department that it would have ended last April, but a subsequent appeal has lengthened the period which will be necessary to bring it to finality.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior give the Senate particulars of the amounts spent by the Commonwealth Government on civil defence in the various States for the years 1957-58 and 1958-59? Can he say what major measures have been adopted to meet the needs of civil defence?
– I am afraid that I cannot give the honorable senator immediately particulars of the amount spent in the various States. I shall get that information from the department. I can, however, give the honorable senator a summary of what has been done by both the Commonwealth and the States in connexion with civil defence.
A similar question was asked by Senator McKellar last week and, with the concurrence of the Senate, I shall incorporate in “ Hansard “ a statement made recently by the Minister for the Interior. It effectively answers both questions except for the amounts spent, and I shall obtain that information. The Minister’s statement was as follows: -
Honorable members will know that last year the Government established an inter-departmental committee and invited it to provide a civil defence appreciation and proposals for a programme. The Government has now had an opportunity to consider the report of the committee and other relevant information provided by the Government’s defence advisers and I propose to outline in broad terms for the information of honorable members the bases on which the Commonwealth proposes to develop a civil defence programme.
These are -
A nuclear threat to Australia would arise only in the event of global war which is unlikely as a deliberate act of policy. But even in that event, it is unlikely that Australia would be a primary target for nuclear attack although the possibility of an attack in some form could not be ruled out entirely.
Despite the destructive power of modern weapons it is possible to set up a civil defence organization which can make an effective contribution to survival and rehabilitation following conventional or nuclear attack.
The civil defence programme should be consistent with the overall defence policy and programme and related at any time to the assessment of the strategic situation.
In these circumstances a substantial diversion of our national resources from the active defence programme to the civil defence programme is not warranted at the present time.
An active civil defence programme is necessary to ensure the orderly development of plans and’ preparations for a national civil defence plan.
It is a basic principle that the States are responsible for the development of their own civil defence planning and programmes.
It is the function of the Commonwealth to- provide information on the strategic situation; initiate plans for civil defence as required in Commonwealth territories; give national guidance; undertake a programme of public education on weapons effects; co-ordinate as necessary the plans of the States into an effective national civil defence plan; and to provide a limited range of specialized equipment for training purposes.
In broad terms the tempo of our civil defence preparations should be determined on the basis of expert assessment of the likelihood of war and nature of the threat of attack on the Australian mainland.
An appreciation of the threat is made regularly by the Government’s defence advisers in the light of changes in the strategic situation and current intelligence and our defence policies are modified from time to time to take account of any changes. Of course, for obvious security reasons, details of these assessments cannot be made public, but
I do not. think honorable members will disagree, with, the general assessment that global war is unlikely as a deliberate act of policy, and it is considered, that, there would be no threat of nuclear attack against Australia except in the context of global war. Even in this context it is considered Australia would not be an early or a primary target for nuclear attack.
Clearly the cost of providing against all contingencies would be prohibitive, and the task, enormous as it is, must be kept in its proper perspective and the demands for resources to be allocated to civil defence must be properly related to our other commitments.
Just as. our active defence policy and programme are based on the strategic situation as assessed by the Government’s defence advisers and are related to the estimate of the military threat to Australia in the light of enemy capabilities and intentions, so our civil defence policy and programme must also be based on these assessments. For this reason priority in our national defence effort has been centred on the need to act effectively in cold war pr limited war situations in which there is np threat of nuclear attack on the Australian mainland. And in these circumstances substantial diversion of national resources, to the detriment pf the active defence programme, has npt been warranted and is npt warranted at the present time. Substantially the Commonwealth’s policy has been to provide training facilities for students nominated by the various State governments. This has been achieved through the activities of the Commonwealth Defence School.
Since the School opened in July, 1956, 107 courses have been completed and 3,078 students have been passed through the school. The courses given include general information and study on the destructive effects of modern weapons, in civilian aspects, and specialized courses in particular fields such as fire-fighting, first-aid, communications, and other phases associated with civil defence.
This has been done with a view to ensuring a common background on which the State governments could complete their detailed programmes.
In May, 1957, the National Radiation Advisory Committee was appointed to provide guidance to the Government on any matter pertaining to the effects of ionizing radiation on the Australian community, whether arising from medical, industrial, scientific, international or other causes. This committee has provided valuable information in its two reports.
Nevertheless, the Government feels that in the light of recent technological developments a more active civil defence programme is justified to ensure the orderly and gradual development of civil defence plans and preparations and the steady enlargement of civil defence services.
Under our federal system. State governments exercise control over most of those functions which are essential to survival in major catastrophies, for example, maintenance of law and order, medical and hospital services, fire fighting, transport, provision of public utilities including water, gas, electricity, and so on. Control over these functions is the very essence of an adequate civil defence programme. Honorable members will agree, the.r-efo.re, that a more active civil defence programme at once raises the question of the. division of responsibilities between the Commonwealth and the States.
I do not propose to cover this aspect in detail. I hope to take an early opportunity to discuss the whole civil defence problem with representatives of the. State governments. However, I think I should state now the. Commonwealth view that, as a basic principle, the States should be responsible for the development of their own civil defence planning and programme with the Commonwealth providing national guidance and co-ordination fis necessary. Moreover, we should aim at the. development of common doctrine, organization and training and standard or compatible equipment where possible.
I mentioned earlier that the Government believes that the time has now come to pursue a programme of preparation for civil defence. This programme will be designed to ensure the orderly development of plans and preparations, and to keep them in balance with the active defence programme. As a first step, therefore, we propose to reorganize the Civil Defence Directorate to ensure that it is adequate to the task of planning an effective programme and maintaining proper liaison with the States. Moreover, the Civil Defence Directorate should be capable of rapid expansion in time of emergency in order to plan an effective part in a national civil defence effort.
The role of the Commonwealth Civil Defence Directorate would be to make available to the States, as necessary, information on the effects of nuclear weapons; to initiate planning for civil defence as required in Commonwealth departments and territories; to give national guidance; to provide liaison with and co-ordinate the stockpiling of items of essential equipment which are likely to be in short supply in emergency. We will, of course, continue to maintain the Civil Defence School at Mount Macedon.
Honorable members will know that comparatively modest measures, particularly self-help, can be most effective if the public is informed. We therefore propose in due course tq undertake a programme of public education on weapons effects. Suitable training manuals for civil defence personnel will be provided at Commonwealth expense. The State civil defence authorities will be provided with such special detection equipment for radiological monitoring as the Minister approves. The Government will consider the expenditure of Commonwealth moneys on other projects developed between the Commonwealth and the States and which are necessary to give effect to an adequate national civil defence programme. A civil defence organization will be established to the extent deemed necessary in the Commonwealth territories.
This, in broad outline, is our programme for the current year. An amount of £300,000 has been set aside in the estimates for civil defence. Much work will be necessary before the programme gets under way but it can be expected that as planning proceeds and the programme develops it will tend to gather momentum and perhaps to become more costly in future years. The job of planning is a long, detailed and unspectacular one and progress towards the goal of a national civil defence plan must proceed by logical and practical steps and the tempo should be reviewed from time to time in the light of assessments by the Government’s defence advisers of known enemy capabilities and intentions. The Government attaches great importance to the development of an orderly programme of civil defence and, in association with the States, it will pursue with energy the preparation of a national civil defence plan and will devote to it from time to time such resources as are warranted in the light of the strategic situation and our other pressing commitments.
– I ask the Minister representing the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Has his attention been drawn to a recent address by a distinguished prelate in Brisbane wherein he suggested an inquiry into the activities of business combines which, he said, were strangling small competitors and endangering the future social structure of the nation? Would the Minister care to comment on the views expressed by the distinguished reverend gentleman?
– I have not seen the address to which the honorable gentleman has referred, but I shall take a very early opportunity of doing so. I am sure that I shall read it with great interest. I shall then decide whether I will comment <on it.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation, refers to a press report concerning an aerial derby that was held in Western Australia for amateur women aviators. Is the Minister aware that one of the competitors got off course and became lost, and that ultimately a search party found the plane some hundreds of miles north of Kalgoorlie? Will he inform the Senate whether the Department of Civil Aviation approves of competitions of this kind? Does the department lay down conditions pertaining to safety and the tracking of aircraft engaged in amateur manoeuvres? Can he say what cost was incurred by the Government in searching for the lost plane that I have mentioned? Has the Government got any protection by way of insurance against unwarranted expenditure incurred in searching for planes that get off course and become lost in events of this kind? If there is no protection, will consideration be given to providing it by insurance or otherwise, so that the department will not have to bear the cost of searches or of superintending events of this nature?
– The event referred to by the honorable senator was no doubt the recent programme of aerial activities organized by the Women’s Air Pilots Association, which was held in Western Australia during the last week-end. It is a fact, as the honorable senator has stated, that one of the competitors who was en route to Western Australia landed some miles north of Kalgoorlie because of a navigational error. A search was subsequently organized and conducted by the Department of Civil Aviation, using one of its aeroplanes. The regulations covering safe flying are, of course, complied with by all people who fly aeroplanes, and licences are issued only to those persons who are considered qualified to fly. In the instance to which the honorable senator has referred, we must, I think, take the view that there was , a navigational error, the cause of which has not been reported to me. However, it did not reflect any lack of competence on the part of the woman pilot, who, I am told, is a very efficient pilot. The expense factor has to be watched in these cases. Needless to say, in the event of a search becoming necessary because of some irresponsible action on the part of a pilot, I would certainly be prepared to consider the possibility of recovering the costs incurred. In this case I do not think the circumstances were such as to warrant that action being taken.
– I desire to ask a supplementary question about the need to protect the Government against unwarranted expenditure such as that which has been incurred on numerous occasions in connexion with sea and air searches. Is there any way in which the Government can be insured against this kind of expenditure? The persons concerned put the public to expense because, after all. the cost is met by the taxpayers. If the expenditure were incurred by a commercial undertaking, there would be some means of recovering the money. Is there any way in which such expenditure can be recouped?
– I am not aware of the existence of any legislation, or of any administrative procedure, which lays down a firm policy in this connexion, but 1 can say that, in the event of some irresponsible action involving the Government in expense, I should certainly regard it seriously, and would take whatever action I thought was warranted to recover the expenditure incurred.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Postmaster-General has now furnished the following answers: -
What research is being carried out in connexion with tropical diseases and their effect on people living in the northern areas of Australia?
Is special attention being given to preventive medical care, especially with regard to children and young people?
Is it a fact that Queensland has the highest incidence of kidney disease of any State in Australia and, if so, what special medical research is being done in this field?
– The Minister for Health has now furnished the following replies: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has now furnished the following reply: - 1 and 2. I was approached by the New South Wales Minister for Health late in August indicating his concern that there were insufficient applications in the 15-40 years age group for poliomyelitis vaccinations, and suggesting that the vaccine bc made available to private doctors. A reply was given that, because of an implicit understanding that no policy change would be made without prior interstate consultation, I would await the views of the next meeting of the National Health and Medical Research Council in November.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Postmaster-General has now supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
In view of the uncertainty in the minds of many young men of national service age following press reports that the Government contemplates changes in or even the abolition of national service training, will the Minister advise the Senate whether there is any justification for these reports?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has furnished the following answer: -
As my colleagues, the Minister for Defence and the Minister for the Army, have already stated, the Government has not considered any variation of the national service training scheme.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answer: - 1, 2 and 3. The working hours of managerial staff at migrant hostels and other hostels operated by Commonwealth Hostels Limited are arranged to meet the varying requirements of hostel operations. There are no fixed daily or weekly hours, but managerial staff are granted time off at the rate of one and a half days per week. As additional compensation for the requirements to work hours which are not predetermined and to work as necessary during week-ends and on public holidays, managerial staff are granted an extra week’s recreational leave each year. All of the company’s managerial staff are accommodated In the hostels which they manage.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
In view of a press announcement that a new telegram system, known as Tress, will be introduced in Queensland immediately and will soon be extended to New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, will the Postmaster-General advise the Senate if and when the new system is likely to be introduced into South Australia and Western Australia?
Postmaster-General has now furnished the following reply: -
Tress was introduced in South Australia on 14th August and in Western Australia on 14th September.
– I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject: -
Proposed construction of Supreme Court Building at Darwin, Northern Territory.
I should like to point out that at the present time supreme court business in Darwin is being carried on in three converted Navy huts, which were established for the temporary use of the court during the war. The Public Works Committee was requested to go fully into the matter of the erection of a suitable supreme court building, with accommodation for crown law offices. The proposed building is estimated to cost £421,000. It will consist of a basement, ground floor and first floor. The committee was quite convinced that court proceedings were, and are still, being carried on under shocking conditions, and it has recommended the erection of the building as a matter of urgency.
We also found during our investigations that the time is not far distant when a second judge will be required for the Northern Territory, and provision has been made for his accommodation in the proposed building. The structure is designed to house three courts, one of them to be used as an inferior court until required later for use by the supreme court. Crown law offices will also be accommodated in the proposed building, as also will the offices of the Registrar-General and the Public Trustee. The designers of the building have achieved an imposing, aesthetic design in contemporary style, and the building will be suitable for the judicial activities to be conducted in it.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from 20th October, 1959 (vide page 1072) on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a first time.
.- When the Senate adjourned yesterday evening, I was discussing the means by which we could make Parliament more effective. The point I had developed. I think, was that while parties which were created for organizing members in Parliament could be tyrannical, they need not necessarily be so, and that it was quite possible for Parliament to be an effective body although organized on party lines. I come now to another threat to parliamentary government, that is, what is popularly known as bureaucracy, or in other words the power, the knowledge and the ability of the Public Service. In former days, say over 100 years ago, public services were commonly recruited by political . favoritism. You will remember the old story of the politician who said, “ Other things being equal, I prefer my own relatives “, and the second one who said, “ ‘ Other things being equal ‘ be hanged “. But that period has gone; our public services are now recruited by competitive examination, and in the higher ranks most exacting standards are applied. To-day, Parliament is threatened not by the inefficiency of the Public Service, but by its efficiency. One of the old copybook maxims that we used to write out was, “ Knowledge is Power “. Very often, when everything is known about a subject,, only one course is open. The only way, I think, in which Parliament can compete with die increased power of the Public Service is by having knowledge made available to it, and for its members to be as well informed and as active as the members of the Public Service.
The greatest power of the Public Service, of course, lies in its ability to pass regulations. Every member of this chamber who has conscientiously tried to follow any one of the constant stream of regulations that flow through must realize how impossible: it is to know what is being done. Occasionally, a regulation may seem to you to need looking over, and you consult with others, and sometimes you take action on it. As Senator Wright pointed out last night, our Regulations and Ordinances Committee is a bi-partisan committee. It includes members from both sides of the chamber, and it is empowered to go into all regulations but not all aspects of them. It has to follow certain principles that I think are now accepted. Where legislation is the appropriate method, regulation should not take its place; the regulation should not unduly restrict the liberty of the subject, and so forth. Very often regulations come up for which there seems to be no clear reason whatever. I shall recall one instance, because it will answer a question, that Senator Dittmer asked last evening of one honorable senator who was speaking. A regulation was disallowed by theSenate. The initiative was taken by the Leader of the Opposition, whose motion for disallowance could not have been carried unless he had the support of two senators from this side of the chamber. One of them was the late Senator George Rankin, and the other was myself. I shall briefly recall what happened about that, because it shows what we can do. The regulation was, I think, the third part of No. 13 of 1955. There was a good deal of criticism of various aspects of it, but the main criticism centred on a proposal for the removal of a limit on the value of a lease that could be granted. I think the figure was £10,000, but perhaps I am wrong about that. I listened very carefully to the
Leader of the Opposition, and I thought he made out a very good case. I forget who the Minister was but, after all, he was only representing the Minister in another place, and I do not think the people who brought in the regulation believed there might be genuine opposition to it. No sufficient reason was put forward for the alteration. The late Senator George Rankin was even more violently opposed to it than I was, and the regulation was disallowed.
This is what happened then: For three years nothing was done, and then, in 1958, after an election at which I was re-elected, another regulation was brought in, covering the same subject-matter, but no attempt was made by the department to increase the limit of leases beyond what it had been for years. So I think the action of the Senate on that occasion was completely justified. I point out that this action was not in any sense associated with party policies. The regulation was something that emanated from somewhere down in the department, from some comparatively junior officer. As I have said on many occasions before in this chamber, for some twenty years or so no regulation had been disallowed, and some of the gentlemen who were concerned with their own particular branch, and who could see reason for the regulation, had not considered all aspects of the subject and were somewhat careless and perhaps a little arrogant. They thought, “ After all, those people up there do not matter very much. They are not the government; we are the government.” That single disallowance, I think, has had a very salutary effect on that department and on other departments. I want to close my remarks about improving the value of the Senate and of Parliament in general by saying that all that is required is that we be alert, intelligent and industrious, that we take our duty seriously and have all the skilled assistance that we can get. I think the Senate should have a further group of officers, in addition to the highly skilled officers who assist us at present. People may say that that would swell the Public Service, but it could mean a reduction in some other parts of the Public Service. If we are to meet the Executive on equal terms in discussions of laws, regulations and other matters, we should have a great deal more skilled assistance than it is possible for us to have at present. The Library Committee, which is one of the most efficient committees of this Parliament, has gone into that matter over many years. Senator Kendall is a valuable member of that committee, and he is following everything I am saying. I think we will soon have a legislative reference section which will enable us to carry out our duties much more efficiently.
I propose to leave most of my remarks about particular departments until we come to the detailed discussion of the Estimates, but I wish to raise one matter relating to defence. When the estimates for the defence departments come up, I will have an opportunity to make some suggestions. You may remember, Sir, that the matter that I want to raise was dealt with yesterday in the answer to a question I had put on notice. I refer to the necessity for the fusion, as it were, of the three services. I am afraid that I cannot share the apparent optimism of Senator McKenna with regard to a decrease in the defence vote. That sort of thing has been spoken and thought about very often, but as long as there are other powers which threaten us, I shall not be prepared to rely simply on their goodwill.
Most people become paralysed when any talk of modern war crops up, because they think of the modern nuclear weapons and their enormous destructive power. It is quite possible that the huge and immensely destructive bombs will never be used. I think that force of some kind will be used for so long as any of us are alive. It is quite possible that a modern war on a limited scale will be fought, as little wars are being fought at the present time, without the use of the hydrogen bomb or any of the other tremendous weapons. But what is certain is that in any kind of war the three fighting services must be prepared to co-ordinate their activities. There was a time when the Army and the Navy were the only two fighting services, and they needed to cooperate in a few instances only - for example, if a landing was made, or something like that. To-day the position is different. If we are to train our officers properly, it is necessary that officers of each Service should understand the other Services and the kind of work that they will be called upon to do.
I am not critical of the people who are at the head of our Services to-day. Those I have met - 1 know some of them personally - are highly efficient and capable men. But the training of a man often determines his attitude to the problems he will meet in the future. I am sadly aware that in times of peace fighting forces of democratic countries have generally deteriorated. You remember the great Duke of Wellington, the man who gave the final blow to the Napoleonic empire. He was the hero of Waterloo. His influence prevailed in the fighting Services, or, at any rate, in the army of Great Britain for more than 40 years, and the effect was fatal. When Britain next had to fight a big war, its army was hopelessly inefficient, largely because of the paralysing hand of the good old soldier. One of the men who had been on Wellington’s staff was old Lord Raglan. He was the Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces during the Crimean War, and he had the disconcerting habit of always talking of the enemy as the French, although the French were Britain’s allies and the enemy happened to be the Russians.
I think it is necessary that we should think out, or that some one should think out, a solution to the new problems. I am sure that it will mean, in effect, a fusing of the three Services. You will still have ships and submarines, and you will still have aeroplanes and land forces, but the man who commands one Service must understand the work of the men who command the others. How can that be done? I hope that the suggestion that I make will be passed on by the Minister representing the Minister for Defence to his colleague, or that his colleague will read “ Hansard “. My suggestion is that we should train the officers together as far as that is possible. I believe that when officers are being trained at the cadet level they should meet at some time for common service. There is, of course, one obvious difficulty about that. Prospective naval officers leave school at the age of 13 years and begin their naval training when they are mere boys, but potential army officers do not go to the military schools until they are young men. Because of that, it might be difficult to combine training, but in some way, at the cadet level, there should be a common training and a discussion of one another’s problems.
More important still, I think there should be a staff college. If we cannot afford a staff college here, we should make arrangements for our people to go to the staff college of a friendly nation abroad - Great Britain or the United States of America. At the staff level, I think we should have highly trained commanders who understand the problems of the three Services, and who are able to combine the activities of the three Services. I will try to follow that suggestion up when we come to the debate on the Estimates.
I thank the Senate for the attentive hearing it has given to the very general speech that I have made. I think that discussions of this general nature are very fruitful in the Senate. 1 have followed the example of two or three people who preceded me in adopting that line.
– I rise, not to talk in a general way, as Senator McCallum did, but to refer to a particular problem. I take the opportunity to do this during the debate on the motion for the first reading of the Appropriation Bill because I think this problem is so important that it should not be discussed during the consideration of the Estimates, where it would be dealt with along with a number of other problems. I take this opportunity to discuss it in the presence of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty). To me, it is a serious problem and I would very much appreciate the comments df the Minister upon it.
There is at the present time under consideration in the Department of Customs and Excise a re-organization of the oil and petrol sections. The general plan is to withdraw the lockers and excise officers from the oil and petrol refineries and to set up an organization, comprised mainly of third division officers, in the head offices of the department in the States. Let me give a quick history of the position. Late in 1956, the members of the Custom;. Officers’ Association of Australia - which is comprised of fourth division men, and from which the lockers and excise officers mainly come - were concerned about a rumour that something like what is projected now would happen. In February. 1957, u delegation of the officers of the federal executive of the association represented the matter to the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs. Mr. Meere replied that the rumour was not soundly based. That was in 1957. The rumour continued to develop. In February of this year a delegation of the executive officers represented the matter to the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) who said that the proposals were still in the embryo stage and that he would make a decision eventually in the matter. A decision has been made, and the Minister has circulated a proposition which, in effect, says that the fourth division employees will be withdrawn and that they will be replaced with third division men.
I put a series of questions on the noticepaper a fortnight ago, and the Minister was most expeditious in replying to them. What comes out of all this, of course, is not only the problem of the displaced men - that is serious enough - but also the substantial change which is projected in the method of safeguarding the Government’s customs revenue. I think “ substantial “ would be almost an understatement. It is a very substantial change that is proposed. The complete withdrawal of the physical check hitherto applied at refineries and the introduction of a completely different method of assessing customs and excise dues is a matter of no small moment. Of course, when it comes to that sacred thing, Government revenue, we must be convinced that the new scheme will provide full and adequate safeguards. There also emerges from these proposals an example of empire building in the Public Service which I think should be a guide to less imaginative public servants. It would appear to me, from what I think is happening, that it is a fitting subject for full examination by our friend Parkinson and could quite easily make another chapter in the book “ Parkinson’s Law “.
It has been said that the officers now engaged in supervising will be withdrawn when the new plan is introduced and that they will be found positions of equivalent status within the department. However, the number of positions for excise officers and lockers will in fact be reduced by the number of officers withdrawn and the excise and warehouse branches will become de funct if the present scheme is withdrawn. First, I should like to deal with the answers Senator Henty furnished to me so expeditiously. He says that one of the main reasons for this change of organization is the savings that will be effected in a year. He said that approximately £50,000 will be saved in salaries each year. In his answer to me, the Minister listed 106 positions which would be abolished and 43 new positions which would be created. But I remind the Senate that already there has been an increase of one in the number of new positions, and it is only a fortnight since I received his answer. Only ten days ago, the department advertised in the “ Gazette “ for an additional locker. This means that there will be a further expenditure of from £800 to £1,000 a year in salaries. So, even before the basic organization has started to operate, it has started growing.
Under the present scheme, the oil companies, in effect, pay the wages of the lockers. They pay approximately £880 a year for each Commonwealth customs locker serving on stations in their refineries. They also pay all overtime. In actual fact, the companies have been paying, if not all then certainly a substantial part of the salaries of lockers in the past. They pay an annual licence fee of £70,000. As I have said, this works out at approximately £880 for each man in their establishment. This means that a substantial proportion of the expense of the present system is subsidized by the oil companies. In itemizing the proposed savings, the Minister mentioned one typist. Knowing the Public Service and the characteristics of public servants as we do, I think the Minister must agree that he cannot stabilize this new organization. He must agree that the automatic growth that follows the setting up of new bodies will apply here just as surely as it has applied in all other cases to our knowledge. To illustrate that, I repeat that only ten days ago there appeared in the “ Gazette “ an advertisement calling for an additional locker for this organization.
One point that interests me is the fact that the new organization will draw almost the whole of its employees not from the fourth division, from which excise men and lockers have been drawn hitherto, but from the third division, which comprises public servants who have qualified by examination. These fourth division employees are public servants who, through long practice in the work, have become experts, but they are ineligible for the top jobs in the new organization. Under the present system, the average wage for this maximum group is about £1,011 a year, whereas the average wage under the new set-up will be £1,327, an increase of £316 a year. It is interesting to see what the result of this change will be in the long run. First there is a lifting of the wage level in the proposal to replace an organization which I think the Minister must agree is doing its work well. Certainly I have heard no complaints about the present method of safeguarding the customs revenue from the oil industries. Apparently someone, in an effort to streamline the organization, as he puts it, has thought it necessary to lift the grading from fourth division to third division and in this way has laid a solid foundation stone on which to build the empire of the new organization.
In mentioning the savings of £50,000 a year, the Minister has ignored the automatic appurtenances that must follow. For instance, he makes no mention of a messenger. Surely one typist will not be enough. He ignores the fact that a chauffeur will be required. Under the new organization, there will not be a physical body present at the refineries carrying out inspections. From now on, men at head office will be required to make frequent forays into the country to examine, on the spot, problems that must automatically crop up. This in turn means the provision of cars, chauffeurs, travelling costs and other things which the Minister does not bring into the picture and which, of course, would reduce very substantially indeed his estimated saving of £50,000 a year.
The next question that I asked the Minister was whether the licence fee would still be paid. The Minister replied in the affirmative but said that the scale of charges had not yet been determined. Two licence fees are involved. The fee that the oil company pays, as a refinery subject to excise control, is £1 per annum, but for the bonds where they have lockers the companies have been paying as much as £70,000 per annum. Does the Government intend to continue charging the oil companies at the rate that has been charged, in effect, to pay the wages of the customs men working at the refineries, or is the licence fee referred to the sum of £1 per annum which is paid by persons subject to excise control?
This industry is conducted on a vast scale. The Minister says that his proposal will - to use his own words - “ save £50,000 a year “, though this is open to grave doubt, but the customs revenue on petroleum products amounts to £58,000,000 a year. The Minister sets out to effect a saving of £50,000 per annum in dealing with revenue on such a vast scale as that, but he has not yet shown beyond doubt that the new organization will be more efficient than the existing organization. I hope that he will be able to do so. His main concern so far has been to show that the new organization will be cheaper than the old. A revenue loss of only .08 per cent, would eliminate the estimated saving of £50,000 per annum.
I propose to describe in detail the work that the customs officers undertake. Honorable senators will see that they do indeed maintain very close supervision over the oil industry. One has only to think of the tremendous capacity of the tanks at present in use in Sydney. At Kurnell, for instance, there are 10,000,000 gallon tanks. Bitumen Oil has tanks containing 9,000,000 gallons of petrol. It is easy to see how a fractional loss in revenue - which could easily develop -would cut out the proposed saving. To my mind, that is very important, indeed. I sincerely hope that the Minister will look into the matter very closely before making a final decision, because the proposed arrangement does not seem to me to be workable.
One fact emerges. This has all the elements of an empire-building scheme that will be successfully put into effect. I asked the Minister whether any of the officers of the Organization and Methods Section which looked into the matter for more than a year - going from refinery to refinery - would be members of the new central organization. The Minister replied -
It is anticipated that one officer who has given much study and attention to this question over the past two years will be included in the organization.
The Organization and Methods Section, which has been set up in the Public Service, can undertake work of great value. It moves from one department to another for the purpose of investigating business efficiency and method, and it recommends where savings could be made and efficiency improved. That is a very good idea, but I should think that the success of the scheme depends on whether the section can remain independent and aloof - as a kind of police organization - though that is not quite the right description - which can move independently wherever the Government wants it to move, and report on aspects of various departments, as it sees them. However, here we have a member of the section taking a job in the new organization which the section has recommended.
I do not intend to mention names, but if the Minister and I are thinking of the same man, the gentleman who is to take the new position formerly worked in the Department of Customs and Excise. Three or four years ago he joined the Organization and Methods Section. He had been receiving, as an investigating officer, £1,300 or £1,400 per annum. As a member of the section he receives £1,600 per annum. He will now - and I hope the Minister and I are thinking about the same man - move into a new position with a salary of up to £2,500 per annum. He could hardly take less than the top joh - or he would not leave the Organization and Methods Section. Therefore, in four years, his salary will have increased from £1,300 or £1,400 per annum to almost £2,500 per annum. The vehicle that has carried him along is the Organization and Methods Section. I hope that my supposition is wrong, because the whole thing is bad in principle. The only way one can find out whether it is the same man is to put the position to the Minister in the way that I have done. I know that he is sufficiently honest and frank to deal with it on that basis. If a person can recommend the setting up of a new organization and then emerge as its boss - or in a position somewhere close to that of the boss - it is very bad governmentally.
– Would the honorable senator elaborate on that? Why is it so bad?
– Suppose that I am brought in to investigate an organization. I say: “ This is all wrong. I can give you a better organization. In doing so I .shall raise .salaries all .round and make the top job carry a salary £500 or £600 higher than my own while I am making the investigation. When I complete the investigation, I .shall take the top job myself “. Does the honorable senator think that that is all right?
– I think that the honorable senator is imputing improper motives to the officer concerned.
– As I said earlier, it is merely a matter of giving effect to Parkinson’s Law.
– Men of ambition will inevitably get on!
– This officer certainly is getting on. I am not being critical of his ambition. I could even admire him for it, and if he gets away with it he could well be Prime Minister within another five years. It has been good going so far.
– Perhaps his section could investigate the Cabinet and make suitable recommendations.
– Some very effective alterations could be made. The officer might suggest that he become Prime Minister - but I do not think that he would get the job. If what I have surmised has happened it is very disturbing. If the Organization and Methods Section is to be successful it must not appear that its members have an iron in the fire, or can derive advantage from any investigation that they make.
I took the opportunity last week to have a look at one of the big refineries outside Sydney to ascertain the sort of work that these customs men do. That refinery has an output of over 200,000 gallons a day - more than 1,000,000 gallons in five working days. In the summer, of course, the output is much more than that. This petrol goes out in lorries and in rail tanks. Under instructions from the department, 25 per cent, of the lorries must be physically dipped, but in actual fact nearly 50 per cent, of them are physically dipped. One hundred per cent, of the rail tanks that leave the refinery are physically dipped. I do not know how this is to be done under the new organization. It may be planned to install meters - I do not know. I cannot imagine a closer watch on the situation than the one that is at present applied.
Let us consider where losses can occur, lt is not the companies that have to be watched in this connexion. They are not trying to sneak a few hundred gallons in order to avoid the payment of excise. It is the employees that need watching. As a result of my personal experience in this industry over the years, I know that it is a very difficult business to control. From time to time, pilfering and losses in this industry have been severe. Even at this particular company’s installation during the last year or two a number of employees have had to be sacked because of pilfering. When the lorries return to the refinery they are dipped 100 per cent.; therefore, what goes out and what comes back is completely checked.
Under the new arrangement, the oil companies will be placed on an honour system. I do not know how that will work out, because the work that these men do is not easy. For instance, for the purpose of duty, all petrol is converted to 60 degrees Fahrenheit on the British and on the United States standard. As I have said, 200,000 gallons a day leaves the refinery 1 visited. If the temperature is one degree up, it means a loss of 120 gallons. I should like to mention the average degrees of heat during the year. For nine months of the year, the temperature is above 60 degrees. In August and September the average temperature is between 62 degrees and 63 degrees; from April till May, it is 66 degrees, and from January to March it is from 77 degrees to 83 degrees. So, of -course, cross calculations have to take place to bring these temperatures back, for the purpose of payment of duty, to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. I do not know whether this can be done by meters, although I suppose anything can be done by meters these days.
Then there is the question of transfers in this industry to be considered. Motorists might think they are buying different brands of petrol, but very often petrol at different stations comes from the same tank. As the lorries leave the refineries a cupful of additive may be put in some of the petrol; that, very often, is the only difference between petrol at different stations. There are very big transfers as between com panies. For instance, at the refinery I visited last week, at least two big transfers of petrol a week are made to another big oil refinery next door. The big tanks are dipped before and after the transfers, and the customs officers’ figures are accepted by both companies for the purpose of payment. So, as I say, there is no question of malpractice by the companies themselves. In fact, 1 have the feeling the companies consider that the fact that the customs men are on their premises is a safeguard to them. If anything goes wrong, such as leakage in special circumstances, the excise man is on the job straight away. He can discuss the matter immediately with the companies’ representatives and make a decision. But under the new system, no excise officer will be on the premises and the matter will have to be referred to the central authority, and a delay of days, or perhaps longer, may occur before these things can be properly checked. As I have said, this will lead to very serious trouble. I reiterate that it has been my feeling in most cases in which I have had a chance to talk to the oil company representatives that they rather appreciate the fact that a customs man is on their premises at all times.
I should like now to refer to another aspect of the matter. I know that the Minister feels there might be a basis of comparison between the present customs procedure at breweries and at oil refineries. I made a point of investigating the set-up at breweries to see whether it could form the basis of the new organization projected in relation to oil refineries. I am afraid I could not find any basis of comparison at all. At the breweries, of course, there is no evaporation. If there is any loss, it takes place in another way - not through evaporation. There is only a minute loss at the breweries, and consequently the duty involved is comparatively insignificant. Almost all the ingredients used by breweries in the production of beer are Australian, so that excise duty only is involved. Excise men are stationed at the breweries to check lorries leaving to make deliveries, and they submit the carters’ notes to the department. Of course, it is an offence for an unauthorized person to have a carter’s note in his possession. It is no longer necessary to affix stamps to barrels. But physical control is still maintained at the brewery.
I should like to thank the Minister for being present during my speech. He will appreciate that the proposed new organization is terribly important to men who have spent years as excise men and lockers and make the work their career. These men are competent, and they are far from overpaid. They cannot understand the reason for the proposed change. I have examined this matter quite seriously during the last few weeks, and I have very serious doubts about the new scheme being as efficient as the present practice. Likewise, I have very serious doubts whether it will be any cheaper than the present method. On the contrary, from the Minister’s figures and what we know otherwise, it seems that the new organization will cost more than the present practice.
I repeat that I am disturbed about people who make recommendations and profit personally from the adoption of those recommendations. I think this is a very serious matter, and I should like the Minister to tell us what he thinks about it. As I said before, it is a very serious thing when men can, in effect, set out to make jobs for themselves. In this instance, the present employees will be eliminated, because the suggestion is to appoint third division men. This will create an almost impossible situation for the present employees, who may not be able to pass the necessary educational examination in order to obtain appointment in the nsw organization. It just seems to be a case of doing something bigger, brighter and better so that somebody will be satisfied; I do not know. Again, I should like to say that I appreciate the Minister’s presence in the chamber. I shall be happy to get an explanation from him in duc course.
– I am grateful to Senator Armstrong for having informed me that he intended to deal with this matter in the debate on this bill. I am glad that he has shown an interest in it, although it is, I would say, a recent interest. However, I am sorry to say that he was completely wrong in some of his statements. I shall try to set him right at once. The Organization and Methods Committee to which he referred is a committee consisting of officers of the Department of Customs and Excise, and is not an outside body. It has never been anything else than a committee of customs officers with a long experience of customs matters. The officers were chosen because of their special aptitude for analysis and investigation and their knowledge of accountancy practices. For the honorable senator to say that a man from outside has made a job for himself is entirely wrong. Honorable senators will see that the first premise upon which the honorable senator has built his case is completely incorrect.
However, I give him credit for the interest he has recently taken in this matter. I think that I shall be in order in referring in this connexion, not in any way detrimentally, to a member of another place who has taken a great interest in this matter during the past twelve months. I refer to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who raised this matter on a motion for the adjournment of the other House. The honorable member for East Sydney said that when a tanker came into an installation and filled up the tanks, no one would be there to check the quantity of petrol delivered. He said that no dipping would take place, and that consequently there could be a huge loss of revenue. Well, Sir, I had forwarded to him nine months earlier a working manual, and on pages 38 to 45 the manual sets out clearly the procedure to be adopted when a tanker berths and discharges petrol into bonded tanks. Of course officers of the Department of Customs and Excise will be present to watch every step taken. Of course they will dip the tanks before the tanker comes in, and again when the unloading is finished, so that we will know how much petrol has been delivered. Of course they will seal the tanks afterwards so that they cannot be tampered with. That gives us a starting point, because we know how much fuel is in bond, and I think all honorable senators will agree that goods in bond are not released from bond until the department collects the revenue payable. That is the purpose of the department.
I want to correct the honorable senator also in relation to his statement that this procedure will save £50,000 per annum. That is the saving to the department. The total saving will be approximately £155,000 per annum. For the life of me, I cannot see how the Department of Customs and1
Excise can .be accused of empire building when, in fact, there was a very close examination of the proposal by the Organization and Methods Committee and later by the chief administrative officers of the department - the Collector in each State, the Comptroller-General, and the Assistant Comptroller-General. The new arrangement passed the scrutiny of those officers, whose first duty is to collect the revenue payable as customs duty. In the light of these tacts, how can the honorable senator say that this matter has not been given full and proper consideration? In the opinion of officers of the department who are best qualified to judge, the new arrangement will not result in any loss of revenue at all.
– Where does the other fi 00,000 saving come in?
– I was going to explain that. It is estimated that the saving to the oil companies will be about £112,000 per annum. That is additional to the £50,000 that the Government will save. If the honorable senator wishes to make a political issue out of that, I am prepared to give him that information in writing.
I first examined this proposal about two years ago, and I have watched the development of the scheme since then. It is an efficient scheme, which takes the procedure out of the horse-and-buggy days and brings it into the mechanical age. I realized that we would no longer require competent and valuable stable hands and grooms, and that we would want mechanics. I knew that some one like the honorable senator would try to play politics merely because the oil companies were involved. 1 sensed what would happen. I am a reasonably simple sort of fellow, and I believe that the department’s job in this matter is an administrative job-to collect the customs and excise revenues of the country in the most efficient manner and at the lowest cost to the taxpayers. I do not think that it is any mean feat on the part of the department to reduce the expenditure in this section of its activities alone by about £50,000 per annum, and the total cost to the community by about £155,000 per annum. After all, it is the community that pays. I am prepared to give to the departmental officers full credit for this feat.
The honorable senator also said that any transfer of bulk petrol from one company to another had always been made in the presence of a customs officer and that the officer’s figures were accepted by the oil companies. I do not think that the taxpayers of Australia should be called upon to pay the salary of a man to act as an umpire between oil companies. The amount of petrol transferred from one company to another is a matter for the companies themselves. The company buying the petrol will not pay for one gallon more than it receives. As I see it, this is a matter entirely for the companies themselves to arrange.
– Is there no chance of loss to the department in that transaction?
– You can bet yow lite that the amount that is accepted by the receiving company, and for which it signs on the dotted line, and for which it has to pay, is the amount that arrives at the destination. That is the position as I see it, from a practical point of view. I spent nearly two years on this matter. I did not treat it lightly because no responsible person would take such a re-organization as this lightly. During that period I visited most of the installations in the various States, with the exception of Queensland and Western Australia. I learnt a great deal about the oil industry. The experience was very interesting indeed. I question one or two statements that Senator Armstrong made about the effectiveness of the control that we have at the present time. Let me give an instance of this control.
At one installation that I visited, the customs office, with one officer, was situated at the exit where the road tankers went out. Two miles away there was a wharf from which barges departed with petrol. The customs officer was called upon to check the road tankers going out and also to check the barges going out from the wharf. He used to ring up the company and say, “ Would you please provide me with transport to go to the wharf? I want to check the barges going out for a while “. If any skullduggery were contemplated, what better knowledge could be had than that the man on the job was requesting the company for transport to take him two miles away to the barges, where he would be engaged in checking duties while, in the meantime, the tankers would be going out the gate? That rather inclined me to think that the effectiveness of the proposed system, as promulgated to me by the department after very long and close examination, will be adequate. Senator Armstrong seems to have done a fairly good job in the limited time that he has been investigating this matter. After all, he has only recently come into it. Nevertheless, as I listened to him I gained the impression that he did not know a great deal about the distribution of petroleum products. It will be remembered that he also referred to the position regarding another commodity, beer. 1 think that he is perhaps better versed in the distribution of beer than in that of petroleum.
– The disposition, not the distribution. I know where to put it.
– We shall take the honorable senator’s word for that. My assessment is that he knows a little more about beer than he does about petrol. The Government derives revenue of £58,000,000 a year from oil and petrol, whereas it gets £108,000,000 from the breweries. We do not have men in the breweries watching every gallon that is produced. We do not have men there counting the gallons of beer that go out and then, at night, making out dockets and saying, “ Hand over the cash “. The present system has been in operation for years. I heard no protest from the honorable senator when we streamlined the procedure in relation to the breweries and took away the old-fashioned methods that had been adopted for 50 years or so. We heard no protest when we improved the procedure in respect of a commodity which returns twice the amount of revenue that oil and petrol return. We have not lost a farthing-
– You have left the physical control to the breweries.
– We have no physical control over the breweries other than that exercised by officers who go and inspect the records of breweries. Since the breweries do not know when the officers are coming, the records have to be in proper order. That is the system we are putting into operation with the oil companies. We are taking out the grooms and the stable boys, as it were, although it is certainly not suggested that those people have not done a very good job in the past. No matter how much the honorable senator tries to play at party politics, he cannot prevent the streamlining of departmental methods when that is in the interests of the taxpayers and the consumers. I feel that Senator Armstrong has not got the grip of this industry that he should have, but since he is only seeking information I shall go a little further.
The honorable senator said that the instructions of the department were that 25 per cent, of the road-tankers going out should be dipped. He fortunately saved himself by the skin of his teeth in this connexion by mentioning flow meters in an abstract sort of way. At all modern distribution centres of the world, tankers are to-day filled by going underneath pipelines which go through a flow meter. If a tanker has to have 500 gallons from a tank, that quantity is recorded, and when 500 gallons have gone out it is not possible to get one drop more. The 500 gallons are registered on the meter. It is not necessary to have men standing there to read the numbers all day.
I realize that the honorable senator has taken up this matter on the part of men who, he thinks, are going to be dismissed. That is unfair, because I have talked to the union for nearly eighteen months on this matter. As should any employer of good men, we have guarded the future of officers who have been with the Department of Customs and Excise for a long time. The new system has been introduced gradually, bit by bit. We have purposely not filled positions which have become vacant, so that some of the officers of the department could go into them. We have had vacancies on the preventive staff, and in fact throughout the department, which have been purposely left unfilled so that officers could be given a chance to continue with the department. That has been done with the full understanding of the top-line executives of the department, right from the jump, and has been approved by the Public Service Board. 1 was astounded to hear the honorable senator say that a certain man who had taken part in this re-organization had made himself a job. Every one of these positions has been approved by the Public Service Board. The salaries also have been approved by the board. If a man in a department sets out to make himself expert in a particular aspect, or a particular section of a department, and through constant study becomes an outstanding man in the department, and if the Public Service Board approves of his appointment to a certain position, then I think he is fully entitled to occupy it. I commend such a man for his ambition and for the work that he has done in training himself for the job. All that the organization and methods people have to do is submit a report on ways in which procedures may be streamlined. The matter is then taken to the top level of administration. Those on the top level make the decisions, and in the final analysis, I am the one who gives ultimate approval.
– Was my rough sketch of his salary rises fairly accurate?
– The honorable senator apparently knows far more about his salary rises than I do. I have never checked them. All I know is that if there is a young officer in my department who is prepared to train himself and work to get on, he has my full support, bless his heart, as long as he also has the support of the Public Service Board.
– He was not in your department. He was in Organization and Methods.
– The organization and methods people are in the Department of Customs and Excise.
– But there is an organization and methods section in departments other than the Department of Customs and Excise, is there not?
– The only organization and methods committee that has ever made a suggestion in this connexion is the organization and methods committee of the Department of Customs and Excise.
– I am asking whether there are not others.
– I do not know. I have enough to do looking after my own department.
– You are not doing a very good job of that, I am afraid.
– That is a matter of opinion. Perhaps some day, when the honorable senator is a little older, he may in turn be a Minister, if he stays here long enough. I hope that he is a most suc cessful one, and I hope that I, too, am still here then, perhaps with a white beard, to remind him of one or two things he has said from where he is sitting now.
– Did not your department - not the board - make the appointment?
– Let me put the matter in its right perspective. The people in the Organization and Methods Section are all officers of the Department of Customs and Excise.
– When you appointed this man to the top job-
– He has not been appointed yet. Nobody has been appointed yet. As I said in reply to Senator Armstrong, one of them might be appointed, and I believe he will be. I say further that I hope he will be. I believe he knows this particular aspect of the work.
– My question was: Is it not the Department of Customs and Excise that will appoint him?
– The Department of Customs and Excise will appoint him to the position, finally. Of course, that is quite right.
– Not finally, but initially.
– Initially or finally, whichever you like. It is merely a matter of words. The Public Service Board first approves of the creation of the position and of the salary that the appointee shall get. I think I have made it quite clear that any young officer who is prepared to train and work in my department will get encouragement to seek appointment for the position for which he is training.
– A lot of other brilliant boys are not getting this break.
– That is the honorable senator’s opinion. We shall be losing a number of our senior officers very shortly.
– Because of this sort of thing.
– No, because of the effluxion of time, and because they will have reached the age of retirement. Most unfortunately, we shall be losing some of the best public servants in the Commonwealth because they are coming to the agc of retirement, and for no other reason. We are not losing them, as the honorable senator says, because of this sort of thing. They have been tempted by private enterprise to go into jobs at far higher salaries, but they have decided to stay in the department to see out their working days. Senator Willesee’s interjection that they are leaving because of this sort of thing is not justified. There are a few other matters with which 1 want to deal before passing on. From the rough notes I made of Senator Armstrong’s speech, it appears that I have answered most of the matters he raised.
– Would you tell us how you justify this flying squad? Is that to be the method of control?
– That is one of the methods.
– Why is this highpowered organization needed in your department?
– At present some officers are employed full-time sitting at these installations. They are being withdrawn and their place is being taken by a mobile force, which will be doing the necessary job just as it has been done in the breweries. We have a brewery at Kalgoorlie.
– A very good one.
– Yes, a very good brewery. But we have no officer of the Department of Customs and Excise at Kalgoorlie.
– I hope everything is all right.
– The man in charge of the brewery was so honest that if at any time during the course of a day he had sold the amount of beer he had notified to the Department of Customs and Excise in Perth he stopped selling for the day. I altered that position as I thought it was most stupid, from hi9 point of view and from ours, because the more beer he sells the more excise we get.
– Is he on the honour system?
– He has never been on anything else.
– Will the refineries, too, be on the honour system?
– No, the honorable senator has it wrongly.
– You admit that the Kalgoorlie man is on the honour system.
– His company is a most honorable company. I mention in passing that I altered the system by allowing that man to set up a security in Perth to meet any occasion on which his excise cheque had been exhausted. The department can call on that security, so he can supply his customers with beer, which I think is a common-sense approach. These problems have to be dealt with administratively on the spot as they are met. Commonsense administration is worth a lot in this connexion. To say that the oil companies have been put on an honour system is to misinterpret the position completely. We are replacing one set of controls with what we believe is a more efficient and cheaper set of controls. I believe that the new controls will operate satisfactorily to safeguard the revenues of this country. That, after all, is the prime object of the Department of Customs and Excise. To suggest that the department would endanger the revenues of the country is not to do justice to the top-level men in the department or to customs officers as a whole. Their one thought and ambition is the guarding of revenues and they do it very efficiently and well. I hope that as we develop they will come forward with more of these suggestions for streamlining procedures. They have done a tremendous amount to this end in the last three years and the alterations have been of great assistance to all those who do business with the department. It is good, sensible and sound administration to help your customers to do business with you more cheaply.
The honorable senator said that fourth division officers were not able to take their places in this organization. Some fourth division officers will be taking their places in it. As far as I know, there is nothing to stop any fourth division officer from becoming a third division officer, if he can pass the necessary Public Service examination. The third division is open to every officer in the department who can qualify. Therefore, it is not right to say that fourth division officers will have no opportunity of ever taking their places in this organization. If they pass examinations and become third division officers, this organization will be open to them, and in any event some fourth .. division officers are to go. into the organization. Some of these officers, through long experience - I am one who likes experience - have become very competent in some of the sections of the department, and they will be very useful officers.
– I enter this debate because I feel, as does the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), that it is a most important debate. It is a debate which probably is treated too lightly by the Government. The Appropriation Bill is not given sufficiently analytical treatment, notwithstanding the great importance that attends the collection and expenditure of money by the Commonwealth.
It is quite obvious that this city has become the real seat of government in Australia. The Commonwealth Government controls the finances of Australia. It controls the finances of the States. Even though the States may not be called mendicants, their policies are shaped, altered and interfered with by the Commonwealth Government, not only in the collection of funds, but also in the distribution of funds.
I think it is most important that the Leader of the Government in the Senate should give us as adequate and as wellintentioned a reply to the matters we- raise as Senator Armstrong received from the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty). I do not agree, however, with certain things that the Minister for Customs and Excise said in relation to the promotion of some public servants and the possibility of their appointment to certain high administrative posts. In saying that, I do not refer only to the Department of Customs and Excise. I think there is room for much improvement in the appeals procedure for officers who feel they have been unjustly treated in the matter of promotion.
At present, a Public Service Inspector, a representative of the department concerned and a representative of the union hear an appeal and determine it. In effect, it is no more than an appeal from Caesar to Caesar. It is a most unjust procedure for a person who feels that he has been denied promotion unjustly. I think that anybody who wishes to protect the interests of public servants would agree that there should be a tribunal with an independent chairman- preferably a judge - a representative of the department and a representative of the appealing employee. That procedure is not new, because it operates in Western Australia, in the railways department and many other departments.
– It operates in all the State departments there.
– Yes. The Minister has said that if an officer in the Commonwealth service feels aggrieved because he has been denied promotion, he can appeal, and if he has a good case he will be given the post to which bis seniority and efficiency entitle him. The position, in effect, is that he has no redress at all, once a determination has been made by the Public Service Board, in close collaboration with the department in which he has been working. This was indicated very clearly by the Minister when he said that although he did not know who was to get the position to which he referred, he hoped, trusted and, in effect, knew that he would be able to congratulate a certain man. He said that the efficiency of this man indicated that he should get the position. I would not like to be a senior officer appealing against this man, in view of the statement that the Minister has made in this Senate before the man is appointed. I would say that my. chances would be very slender indeed. I do not think the Minister’s answer di’d anything to dispel the feeling that injustices occur when public servants do not have a right of appeal to an independent tribunal in relation to appointments to senior position’s in the Commonwealth departments.
Be that as it may. I think the Leader of the Opposition struck the keynote of the debate when he referred to the fact that the Commonwealth Government is taxing the Australian people now at a higher rate, perhaps, than they were ever taxed before in the history of this country. The Commonwealth is spending a large part of this money on its own public works. It does not have to pay interest on this money, which in effect, is a forced loan, by way of taxation from the people of Australia. The Commonwealth lends a portion of the money raised in this way to the States for their public works projects, and charges them interest on it. In a mild sort of way, the Government has tried to defend this system, but it has not gone into the matter in any great detail.
When the Liberal Party wanted to get into office, its members spoke disparagingly of the octopus of Canberra. Let us examine the position as it exists under the present Government. The public debt of the Commonwealth has fallen by £168,000,000. It has declined from £1,817,000,000 at June, 1949, to £1,649,000,000 at June of last year. I am quoting the figures which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) obtained from the official documents. During the same period, the public debt of the States has more than doubled. It has risen from £1,008,000,000 to £2,391,000,000- an increase of £1,383,000,000 during the ten-year period in which this Government has been in office. Those figures tell the story of the Canberra octopus about which Government members warned Australia and which they said they were going to remove. Instead, the hold of the octopus has settled more firmly on this country. The sovereign rights of the States have been destroyed through restriction of finance. The Commonwealth is keeping the States in submission. It has become a money-lender to instrumentalities which have sovereign rights and from which, under the Constitution, it has received its power. If there is to be unification, let it be a just unification. There has been a great play on words about the difference between federalists and unificationists, but, no matter what may be said, the position is that this Government has so strangled the States that although they may have their sovereign rights constitutionally, economically they have no rights at all. Their taxation field has been reduced to a very small area. They are allowed only a certain amount of money for public expansion, and their expenditure in that field must be approved by the Commonwealth Government and carried out under Commonwealth conditions. Although the Commonwealth raises the money from the people of Australia by way of taxation, it passes the money on tq the States, charging interest, and thus building up the capital debt of the States. The States pay a premium, in interest, for money raised by the Commonwealth by taxation. The position is desperate, and a com plete review is urgently needed. I have made some study of the proceedings at conferences between State officers, State Premiers and representatives of the Commonwealth Government, and I should like to make some reference here to what took place. Some years ago, the States took strong exception to the cavalier treatment they received in Canberra in connexion with Commonwealth-State financial relations. At those conferences, the Commonwealth, by virtue of its preponderance of representation, was in a position to outvote the States. If, however, the Premiers and their officers were able by some means to obtain a majority of votes on certain points Mr. Menzies would veto the decision of the conference. In effect, the Commonwealth Government put proposals before the States and told the States that they must either accept or reject them.
The Prime Minister went so far as to offer to vacate certain fields of taxation so that the States might levy their own taxes for certain purposes. He knew very well that the States could not enter those fields of taxation, because the Commonwealth was already taxing the people to the limit of their capacity to pay. That being so, the people of Australia were unable to provide moneys required by the States for capital works. If moderate taxation had been imposed by the Commonwealth, the people would have had an opportunity to lend their savings to the States for capital works and development and receive from the States interest which the Commonwealth is now extracting from them for money which it lends to the States after having obtained it from the people by exorbitant rates of taxation.
Only a few years ago, this Government, being fearful of the very inflation which it had created, sought to stem that inflation by the introduction of compulsory capital levies. Honorable senators will remember the proposal put forward by the then Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, for drawing off people’s savings by means of compulsory capital levies for which, of course, the people would have received interest. Strangely enough, this proposal was objected to strenuously not by Labour supporters but by the very people whom the Government claims to be its supporters, and it fell through. But within a short time, the Government succeeded in drawing off that money by increasing the rate of taxation with the result that in effect it now has money which otherwise would have been credited to the savings accounts of the people; and it is paying no interest for that money. Despite the fact that it pays no interest, the Commonwealth is lending this additional revenue to the States and extracting interest from them.
I admit that we have enjoyed extraordinary prosperity during this Government’s term of office, but the Government has taken full advantage of that to extract more money from the people, and under those circumstances there can be no doubt about the reason why the loan market is not being fully supported. It is not being supported because high taxation has taken from the people money which otherwise they would have been able to save and lend to the Government through the loan market. Why, the market has failed almost to the point of repudiation because of inflation. People who bought bonds in earlier years at low rates of interest find now, with interest rates so high, that the bonds which they bought in all good faith will not return even their face value on the market to-day. Another very damaging effect which the Government’s policy has had on the Australian economy is that people are unable to invest in new industries and development in the way in which they should be able to invest. We have now reached the stage at which the Government is encouraging overseas capital to come here and take up the slack. By doing that, the Government is virtually handing over to outside capital assets which should rightly be owned by the Australian people. I do not quarrel with the encouragement of overseas capital, but I do quarrel with the Government’s policy which has kept the people of Australia so impoverished because of exorbitant taxation that they are unable to enjoy their fair share as the result of the nation’s development and the establishment of new industries.
I come now to the streamlining of Government instrumentalities. The Customs and Excise Department has been mentioned already. I wish to refer to another instrumentality which this Government has interfered with unjustly. I refer to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia - that great institution established by a Labour government - and the manner in which it is being handicapped and hamstrung by this Government. For many years the present Government, when in opposition, sought to destroy the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. But it was too mighty to be destroyed, as has been proved by the war. Although it is too mighty to be destroyed, it can be harmed, interfered with and obstructed very seriously, and the Government is seeking to do that, just as it is seeking to break down Trans-Australia Airlines. Despite all the Government’s promises at election time about what it would do for the Commonwealth Bank, about how it would improve the organization of the bank for the benefit of the Australian people, we now find that institution is being obstructed most seriouly. That this is so is borne out by the Commonwealth AuditorGeneral who points out in his report that the bank’s profits have declined. His report states -
The accounts of the Commonwealth Trading Bank and Savings Bank have been audited during the year, and the balance sheets at 30th June, 1959, have been certified. The respective profits for the last three years are shown in the following schedule. lt then goes on to point out that for the year 1957-58 the profits amounted to £24,790,401. Then this Government comes in with its interference and the profits dropped by £7,000,000. In contrast, the profits of the private banks have increased. Undoubtedly the Commonwealth Bank is still doing a mighty job for the nation by financing less remunerative undertakings, but we cannot ignore the fact that this Government has interfered with it to such an extent that the Auditor-General finds that its profits have declined by £7,000,000. Of course, many people say, “What does it matter if the Commonwealth Bank loses £7,000,000? We have no interest in the bank. We have only a few shillings in the Commonwealth Savings Bank, anyhow. We are more concerned about having to pay our money to the time-payment organizations which charge high rates of interest. And something ought to be done about those high rates of interest “.
Certainly, something should be done about the interest rates charged by hirepurchase companies, but at the same time the Government must appreciate that because the Commonwealth Bank is being obstructed in its true objective of financing necessary development the people of Australia are losing the advantage of £7,000,000.
I should like to direct attention to the position that has been created as a result of the way in which profits have been distributed in the last two years. Looking first at the central bank we find that, in 1957-58, a sum of £5,051,000 was paid into the Commonwealth Bank Reserve Fund. In 1958-59, the last year for which the audited accounts are available, only £2,100,000 was transferred. Thus, there was a loss of £3,000,000 to the reserves of our national bank.
The Industrial Finance Reserve went up by £100,000. Funds in the Trading Bank Reserve Fund were up by about £40,000. The National Reserve Fund was down by about £37,000. Let us look now at the national Debt Sinking Fund, to which reference has already been made. Three million pounds less was paid to that fund than was paid in the previous year. In 1957-58, a total of £12,592,000 was paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. It should, of course, have been used for such purposes as reducing taxation, but it was not. This year, the figure is down by almost £2,000,000. The actual amount paid in from the Commonwealth Bank Revenue Fund was £10,935,095.
Let us look at some further evidence of the way in which this Government streamlines its instrumentalities. We had an example before us to-day when the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) sought to justify the proposed increases in aviation fares and charges. He told us that charges in Australia were lower than those in any other country. There is nothing new in that. Australia, the most air-minded country of the world, has had the cheapest and most efficient aviation service for a long time. We have had fewer accidents than any other country. Trans-Australia Airlines has always had a better record in that respect than has any other airline in the world. We should be proud of that fact, and we should not use it as an argument for imposing higher charges in Australia. The efficiency of T.A.A. has, from its very inception, resulted in lower fares and better service than can be had elsewhere.
Before increased fares were mooted, the chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission, Mr. Warren McDonald, could see no reason for an increase. He went overseas, and on his return sought to justify an increase. He has been unable to do so. The Government pruned T.A.A. to the bone in order to make it the poorest possible competitor for Ansett-A.N.A., but it still made £250,000 profit last year. The imposition of an increase at this stage does not ring true. The Government’s policy appears to be to raise our charges to world parity, disregarding the fact that airlines in other countries may be less efficient, or may seek greater profits. The Government says, in effect: “ Damn the public. Let it pay more. It is not yet paying the highest possible charge.”
A similar attitude has been adopted in regard to postal rates. One saw that in the ill-conceived measure which the Government brought down in another place. That measure was amended, but it remains very unsatisfactory to the public. The telephone section of the Postmaster-General’s Department was making a profit, and other sections were doing likewise. It is not too much to say that if modern machinery and systems such as “ Tress “ were used to the full the department could, while continuing to provide a cheap and efficient service, make from an ever-increasing turnover sufficient profit to offset possible outgoings. Efforts could be made, in the interests of Australia, to keep down costs, but the Government has said: “ We are going to raise charges. We are going to re-orient this and re-organize that.” The Government’s excuse for this is not to be found in the balance-sheets of the department - which warranted congratulations from both sides of the Parliament - but in the fact that postal charges in Australia were below world parity. The Minister said: “ Our postal services are the cheapest in the world. In some other countries the charges are twice as great.” The Government seems to think that that is a reason for raising our charges to the world level. That is a very un-Australian approach. No doubt the Government is doing what some of its supporters expect it to do, but, for the majority, it has gone a little too far along the track.
The Government deserves censure not only for the way in which it is permitting a worsening of the Australian economy but also for the extent to which it is borrowing overseas. Departmental expenditure has been lavish. The Government has done little to check extravagant estimating by departments. I dealt with this matter extensively during the Budget debate, and my criticism demands an answer. Criticism has come not only from the Opposition, but also from the Public Accounts Committee and from other public bodies interested in finding out whether the Government is protecting, or fleecing, the people.
Last year, every department budgeted in excess of its needs. The disparity between estimated and actual expenditure ran into millions. It was not mere chicken feed. The overall figure was between £58,000,000 and £60,000,000. The Government has said, “ There has been great prosperity “. There may have been, but the Government has taken a very full slice of it into Commonwealth revenue. The way in which departments budget in excess of requirements displays either loose thinking, or a determination to present Commonwealth expenditure as running at a high level. The Government can then say, “ Look at our huge responsibility; we must tax you heavily “. Inevitably, despite the Government’s best efforts, the Budget figure of expenditure is not reached.
I agree entirely with the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) that there should be a thorough investigation of the accounting methods adopted by the Postmaster-General’s Department, and an adequate inquiry into the alleged justification for the proposed higher charges, which will place a burden on industry and act as a stimulus to inflation. Previous speakers have pointed out that in the Department of Customs and Excise, where apparently promotion can be likened to kissing going by favour, certain people have had a favoured run for promotion and that when other officers have appealed against certain promotions the appeal tribunal has not been an independent body. I know that there is extreme dissatisfaction in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in this connexion. The employees themselves and their union representatives feel that it is futile to appeal against promotions to the tribunal that has been established by the Government, and, of course, it would not be right of them to seek political intervention in individual cases.
I know of instances in which men have been promoted temporarily in order to enable others to shoot through later. The men so promoted temporarily have been denied permanent promotion because of some disability; they may have suffered a punishment for an offence during their employment. On occasions, this has been done to prevent senior officers from gaining promotion. In one instance, although a senior man who had an excellent record and had been congratulated on his service in the Postal Department was recommended for promotion, he was passed over by a junior officer who slipped through on the rails. Of course, he appealed, but the appeal was not disposed of expeditiously; the matter was fought out at length and ultimately, about six months before he was due to retire, he was told, in effect, “ We are sorry, old man - it is just too bad “. In that case, the Public Service Board and the departmental head had made their decision.
– Everybody cannot get to the top.
– I am not arguing that everybody can get to the top, nor am I arguing that everybody who gets to the top is not entitled to do so. But the Minister keeps asserting that promotion is based on ability, that it is not by favour and that there is no predetermination. This afternoon we heard of an instance in which, in respect of a job not yet filled, the Minister will be surprised if a certain gentleman does not get it. If he does, I should not like to be in the position of an officer who is more qualified by experience to be appointed to the position. I think the resultant appeal would be most humorous. I am not arguing that senior officers are not competent or that everybody should be able to get top jobs; I am emphasizing that when qualified men are passed over, they should have a right of appeal to a tribunal presided over by an independent person - some one entirely independent of the Commonwealth Public Service. In the Western Australian Public Service, the appeal tribunal is presided over by a judge or a magistrate, with whom are associated a representative of the appellant’s department and a representative of his association. If the game is fair and open, there is no reason at all why such a tribunal should not operate in the Commonwealth sphere. I suggest that this should be done, and that my suggestion is worthy of consideration. If a tribunal of this kind were established, we need have no fear that appellants would not receive proper consideration and that injustices would not be remedied. In my opinion, in many instances a considerable amount of engineering has been indulged in for the purpose of by-passing efficient and senior men. 1 come now to the subject of expenditure on defence. I believe - and the Labour Party has always believed - that anything pertaining to defence is of paramount importance and should receive close attention by the Government. If one is to judge by the amounts of money that have been voted for defence during the last ten years, this Government does in fact treat the matter seriously. However, I am not satisfied, and I do not believe that any thinking citizen of Australia could be satisfied, that adequate provision has been made for civil defence. For the past three years, I have directed attention to this matter. T have repeatedly directed attention to the fact that only £200,000 was being allocated for civil defence, compared with a vote of £200,000,000 for armed defence and fighting services. I contrast civil defence with offence - the provision of arms. Whenever the subject of civil defence has been raised in this chamber, we have been told that it is a State responsibility. It is pleasing to see that civil defence is now receiving some attention or, at least, the matter is being discussed.
The Government has established the Mount Macedon Civil Defence School. However, I do not think that instructors at the school themselves believe that adequate provision is made for civil defence. As the Government provides the money for this school, it should ensure that the instructors have a high degree of efficiency, and that the States and the persons who have received instruction have the facilities to comply with the requirements of an adequate civil defence organization.
– It is an indoctrination school.
– One can go there ami be indoctrinated to the point that he knows exactly what to do in the event of attack. But there are no actual civil defence services. I may liken the matter to one person saying to another, “ You can drive a motor vehicle. Therefore, I will give you two front wheels so that you can drive away.”
– But two wheels only do. not constitute a motor car.
– Applying that argument to the Mount Macedon school, we cansay that it is not a satisfactory civil defenceprogramme.
– As I said before, it is an indoctrination school.
– We want more than an indoctrination school in order to increase civil defence activities. This subject will have to be tackled much more realistically by the Government if it hopes to impress the people of Australia with its sincerity in relation to civil defence.
Mr. Khrushchev stated recently that if his proposal for disarmament and world peace were adopted, a considerable reduction could be made in defence expenditure and that in consequence the economy of various countries would be improved. While I agree with that contention, I think that the proposal should be fully examined.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– It has been suggested in certain quarters that defence expenditure may be reduced as a result of the proposal on disarmament that Mr. Khrushchev made when he was in America recently. I believe that Mr. Khrushchev’s proposal should be examined closely. If it were acceptable, I am sure that an announcement to that effect would be something that all the peoples of the world would like to hear. Most of the nations crave peace. But how often have we been confronted with the situation in which representatives of the totalitarian countries, as individuals, have placed before the Western nations proposals concerning disarmament and such matters considered desirable by the democracies, only to find that when the representatives of those totalitarian countries have gone home they have been more or less relegated to obscurity and their suggestions have never been proceeded with by their own countries. Mr. Khrushchev’s suggestion, which must be taken seriously and which holds out great hope for the future, should be given the closest examination. If at all possible, the nations of the world should agree to take action somewhat on the lines that he has suggested.
In conclusion, Mr. Deputy President, may I say that the matters that have been brought forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) in relation to the financial affairs of the States and appeals by public servants against promotions in certain circumstances are important matters. The legal position in respect of an appeal by a Commonwealth public servant against the appointment of another officer, as a result of which the public servant concerned is denied promotion or loses seniority, is the same as that of any other appeal. The determination of his appeal must be not only just but must also appear to be just. There is one way in which justice can be done and also appear to be done and that is by the appointment of an independent, legally trained chairman of the appeal tribunal to consider disputes between departments and employees of departments who are seeking promotion, and to consider them on the basis of the history and ability of the officers concerned.
.- The debate on the Appropriation Bill presents members of the Senate with an opportunity to discuss in broad terms items of Government expenditure which affects the various departments during the ensuing twelve months. It is my intention, in the short time that I have at my disposal to-night, to speak of broad national principles. It is true that speakers on both sides of the chamber have delivered thoughtful contributions to this debate and have discussed at length matters which are vital to the Welfare of 10,000,000 people. It is right and proper that this Parliament should consider the matters that have been raised, because it is the responsibility of the Parliament and of the Government to do what they can to encourage a way of life that will commend Australia to other nations of the world.
I believe that, as a people, we do not give sufficient consideration to the fulfilment of the obligations that we have to the future custodians of this country. Our responsi bility, as a people and as a Government, is to hand this country down to the future generations in a better condition than that in which we found it. The great heritage that has been ours, the traditions that mean so much to us, and our freedoms make this God’s chosen country. On that note, 1 say to the Senate that our chief and urgent requirement is not specifically confined to social services, to higher pensions or lower taxes, or to all those things that we discuss during Budget debates. The most urgent need of this country is more people.
If we lived in a world comprised of nations which all founded their way of life on Christian principles, we should have no need to be concerned for the future; but who can deny that there are in the world to-day forces at work which are determined to destroy the principles that we hold so dearly, forces which are preaching an ideology - I shall call it that for want of a better term - which leaves no place for Christian thinking and Christian principles? It is an ideology which makes no provision for the rights of the individual, but instead, declares quite blatantly that the rights of the state are sacrosanct and that the individual must be subservient to the State. For that reason, Sir, an examination of this Appropriation Bill cannot be confined to a policy that affects only the lives of Australians from day to day. If we lived in isolation in the world then, too, we would not have to fear for the future. Because of the natural resources of this grand country, we could build an economy that would lead almost to a Utopia. But our isolation has gone. In my time I have drawn great comfort from the thought that we are an outpost in the Pacific, that our isolation was our security, that war and chaos could not happen here because we were so isolated. We drew comfort, too from the might of the British Navy and its power to protect, us. That Navy, Sir, is no more a power in war. It has gone the way of all great navies. The march of modern science has completely outmoded that type of protection.
Because of the fact that we are a western outpost of democracy in an Asian area, our responsibilities are not merely confined to the people within our shores but extend also to those millions of people to our near north who are looking to this country and asking, ** Has Australia anything to provide for us in our search for a better way of life? “ For that reason, I suggest that we cannot talk about this legislation without considering how it is going to affect those people.
It is true that we have powerful friends. The Mother Country has always been ready to come and help us when we have been in need. Our American friends, too, have made magnificent contributions to the welfare of this country. They have supplied us with loans, know-how and equipment that have played a major part in the development of Australia. But I am sometimes inclined to wonder whether the striving for peaceful co-existence in this world would not be better served if those countries were to supply us with the people that we need. Tn democracies, people are not appropriated. They are treated as human beings with individual rights. Because Australia is a democratic country, we can bring here only those people who come of their own free will.
Against that background, let us have a look at just what this Government is doing to meet those obligations and responsibilities. First, I want to say that the new Australians who have come to this country have played a splendid part in developing it in the last ten years. I believe that our immigration policy is the correct policy. Is any one so irresponsible as to close his eyes to what could happen here in generations to come, when he remembers happenings in South Africa and some other countries? Would any one be so irresponsible as to say that we should open our doors now so that we might develop the country with no regard to the implications for the future? I say that our immigration policy is the correct policy. But immigrants are hard to get because of the prosperity of those countries from which we seek at least a substantial number of them. On that account, I should like to commend the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) for his courage in going to those countries and stating the case for Australia. His proved humanitarian approach to the problems of new Australians commends him to other peoples as a man who is well equipped to encourage migration to this country.
What can we do on the home front? It is true that Australian-born children are far and away the best immigrants that this country can have. If I may be permitted to introduce a note of levity into this very serious subject, at the outset I would say to my bachelor friends in the chamber that I would give very serious consideration to taxing them out of their blissful existence. From an Australian point of view, what can we do as a nation to encourage the increase of our natural-born population? No doubt it may be argued, with some justification, that we could increase child endowment. I suppose the time will come when that matter must have very serious consideration. We may talk of housing. Because of our constitutional set-up, with a Commonwealth government and State governments having sovereign rights - a situation which I heartily approve - the power of the Commonwealth is rightly limited. In many instances it cannot direct; it can only give a lead.
When I refer to housing, perhaps I should say in passing that this Government has proved to the people that it is housingminded. In 1949-50, an amount of £9,000,000 was made available for war service homes, of which only £8,000,000 could be spent because of shortages of materials. In 1958-59, a total of £35,000,000 was made available. To-day a returned man may start to build a house the day after his plans are approved by the War Service Homes Division. He will receive progress payments, and as soon as the house is completed he may occupy it. It is true that a man who wants to buy a ready-built house has to wait some .twelve months, but I remind honorable senators that this Government makes money available at 31 per cent, interest. In the circumstances, who would not be prepared to wait for twelve months and to have then the right of repayment over 45 years, or 50 years in the case of widows?
Senator O’Byrne last night referred to housing in general. I remind him that that is a State responsibility, but I should like to say something of housing in Victoria, where there is a very real problem. He did not give a complete picture to those who were interested in getting houses. He referred to £4,000 or £5,000 as being the upset price for a house. Taking charges for local government services into consideration, he said total charges might amount to £6 5s. or £6 10s. a week.
Apparently he has never heard of the Victorian Housing Commission, which has a record that cannot be bettered in the Commonwealth.
– What about the South Australian Housing Trust?
– If the honorable senator will listen to me he will have something to take back to the South Australian Government, because Victoria has a proud record. To-day a man can buy a Victorian Housing Commission home of three bedrooms on a deposit of £100, paying off the purchase price over a period of years at a rate that is not exorbitant. I remind honorable senators that Victoria’s housing problems are aggravated because we have over 40 per cent, of the total immigrant intake wanting to settle in Victoria. That is understandable. Who would blame them for wanting to settle in Victoria? That brings in its train housing problems, hospital accommodation problems and schooling problems that are difficult to overcome but that must be faced if we are to make this country safe tor the future.
My only criticism of housing - apart from the fact, of which Senator Laught reminds me, that there are not enough houses - is that all the houses are being concentrated on the coastline. This is because housing development follows the development of secondary industries, for the presence of which we are grateful. But I say to you, Mr. Deputy President, that it is just plain crazy for this country to develop all its secondary industries along its coastline. There is no need for me to remind the Senate that in this atomic age three or four weapons with atomic warheads could virtually annihilate our industrial centres on the eastern coast, with the result that our economy would be disrupted, our communications destroyed, and chaos would follow. If there were no possibility of developing secondary industries in safer places, we would have to face the position as something that could not be avoided, but there are in Australia numerous country towns that are crying out for secondary industries. They have the schooling facilities that can train young people for their chosen vocations, but all too often the young people are obliged to go to the cities to find employment. Specifi cally, I know, this is not a Commonwealth matter. We cannot direct; we can only give a lead. But because of our obligations to this country and to future generations, the time is fast coming when serious consideration must be given by all governments to a really worthwhile decentralization policy. Last night, I was interested to hear Senator Wood speaking about the great possibilities for development m Queensland and advocating that the Commonwealth should make available to Queensland a sum of £2,000,000 in order that roads might be made into the outback. He went on to say that he believed that 10,000,000 cattle could be raised annually in the area if roads were provided.
– How many?
– Ten million - quite a substantial number. That is a very worthy objective.
– Do you not regard that territory as a part of your country?
– I certainly do, and if Senator Wright will listen to what I have to say he will realize that I am trying to put this matter on an Australian and not a parochial basis. Of course, this is a very worthy objective, but just for the sake of the debate, 1 ask the Senate: Are we to have a haphazard policy of decentralization, or are we to plan our development in such a way that we may quickly get the best results from the handful of people we have to produce the commodities we need? At Portland, in Victoria - please do not charge me with parochialism, because I am merely using this by way of illustration - the Victorian Government and the Victorian people have spent £5,000,000 of their own money.
– Why are you crying?
– It does not take much to make some people cry. They have spent this money to develop an area containing some of the richest land in Australia. It is land that the Hentys, over 100 years ago, regarded as a most wonderful prize. Why they ever left it and went to Tasmania I will never know. That expenditure of £5,000,000 will provide, when the development is complete, an outlet for a most productive area. The land is held by a few people who have the knowledge and the know-how to develop it and intensify their production, but they cannot proceed at anything more than a snail’s pace because of our lack of population. Unless we can get the people necessary for projects such as that, and for projects such as Senator Wood has spoken of, we will not in the foreseeable future be able to meet the obligations that 1 believe we must meet if we are to face successfully the challenge that T fear will come.
Finally, I wish to describe very briefly a place that I believe is a classic example of potentiality. I take you to Alice Springs. I would say to all honorable senators, and to those outside the chamber who may be interested, that a trip through that part of the country is an education. There are some people who to-day describe it as the dead h:;rt of Australia. If they make such a trip, I. .;y will come back with the realization tha;: that is a misnomer - a description that should never have been applied to that area. I refer particularly to a small area of land - some 25 acres - on the outskirts of the lovely little town of Alice Springs. It is the land on which the Old-Timers’ Home is situated. Incidentally, that project was sponsored and is maintained by the Australian Inland Mission. It proves two or three things. It proves, first, that in spite of the adversities of the inland, men are bred there who are prepared to put their hands in their pockets so that those who have become incapable of caring for themselves because of age and infirmity may spend their latter days in peace. Bighearted men have built in that area some twelve homes for old-timers. The homes are available only to those men who have spent a lifetime in the dead heart of Australia - using the term that so many people use. They are supplied with power, light and refrigeration. Above all, there is some one who is prepared to take an interest in the physical well-being of the inmates.
My reference to the potentiality of this place concerns the 25 acres, watered from an underground supply. This area is producing profusely vegetables and citrus fruits of such splendid quality that they must be seen to be appreciated. The interesting feature is that the officer in charge of the project declares that, almost single-handed, he could supply the needs of the whole of the Northern Territory from that 25 acres. Visualize for a moment the possibilities of that part of the country if we had sufficient labour to develop it and if we had a demand for its products from people in the Northern Territory in far greater numbers than there are to-day. It has a tremendous potential which cannot be tapped until we get more people.
I have tried to direct the attention of the Senate to what I believe is the greatest and most urgent need of Australia. If we, as a people, accept the challenge presented by this great need, we will be able to hand this country to those who succeed us, safe in the knowledge that they will continue to enjoy the freedoms and privileges that we have enjoyed for so long.
, - Unlike Senator Wade, I propose to be completely parochial in my remarks and to talk about Western Australia. I draw some conclusions from what Senator Wade had to say, particularly his remarks about population. He has said that Australia’s greatest need is an increased population, but I would remind him that the population of any country is limited by its available water supply. We live in the driest continent in the world, yet we allow millions of gallons of water to flow into the sea every year.
I wish to deal in that respect with the north-west of Western Australia and to start at Carnarvon, on the Gascoyne River. At that place there are banana plantations. They are very small in comparison with plantations in other States of Australia, but they are very profitable, although the growing area is limited by the supply of water in the Gascoyne River, which is a sand river. Those who know anything about the back country will understand that term. The water is held in the sand and pumped out to irrigate these banana plantations. Quite recently, the State Government endeavoured to supplement the supply by placing clay bars across the sand to stop the water from draining away into the sea. That is inadequate. Surely something more can be done by the Department of Industrial Development to store the water and remove the sand. Why should more than three parts of the available catchment area be taken up with sand, when the sand could quite easily be taken out to provide room for more water to irrigate a greater area of river flats and so produce a greater quantity of food? Every time we ask for more money for the development of this area we are told that no money is available. But unless we develop this land, some one else will. There is no question about that. We cannot continue to hold that country unless we are prepared to put population into it.
Going on from Carnarvon, we come to a little place called Onslow, with a population of approximately ISO people. It is on the Ashburton River, which runs into the sea. The country surrounding Onslow is capable of producing much more than it is producing at present. It is capable of carrying a large population. It is running a few sheep to-day - very few in comparison with the number it ran some years ago. The water from the Ashburton flows into the sea, but no one takes any notice, although we should be using that water.
We pass on to a place called Roebourne, which used to be the seat of government for the north-west, but now it carries a population of 200. About 13 miles from Roebourne is Port Samson. There is no potable water at Port Samson. Every drop of water has to be carted from Roebourne, a distance of 13 miles. You cannot have a bath in fresh water. The only place where you can have a wash is in the sea, yet millions of gallons of water flow down the Fortescue River into the sea and nothing has been done about it.
We move on from there to Port Hedland on the De Gray River, where again the water flows into the sea. This place has been developed during the past three years and has almost doubled its population. A water scheme was established on the Turner River to supply the town with water, yet water restrictions are imposed there to-day. At the same time as water restrictions are being imposed, millions and millions of gallons of water that could be used for irrigation and other purposes to make this place self-supporting for its food requirements is flowing down the De Gray River into the sea.
Recently we heard a great deal about the building of a deep-water port at Broome. I submit that many other things should be done at Broome before a deep-water port is established there. The first and most important thing is to give the town potable water. Honorable senators might know that the water reticulated to the town of Broome is not even fit for washing clothes. It is red in colour, just as it comes from the bore, and any clothes washed in it are stained red. lt is unfit for drinking. The only drinking water in the town is rain water which the people themselves catch in tanks as it flows from the roofs of their buildings. I repeat that the first and most important thing is to establish a supply of potable water, and this may be obtained on the hills just north of the town.
The second thing needed at Broome if its present population of approximately 700 is to be retained is the construction of a road south of the river. A perusal of the map of the north-west of Western Australia will disclose that Broome is situated on the edge of the Sandy Desert. It has very little hinterland to support it other than an area that would normally belong to Derby, but which very often is cut off from Derby by the Fitzroy River. If we are to retain the present population of Broome it is essential that a road be built south of the river. I submit that the two projects I have mentioned should be undertaken before consideration is given to the spending of £1,000,000 on the construction of a deepwater port there. It is of no use having the port if there is nothing to ship from it.
The next place we come to is Derby. We have heard a great deal of argument about the building of a deep-water port there despite the fact that extensive investigation by the State Government, not recently but many years ago, established the fact that the most suitable place for the construction of a deep-water port is Point Torment or Black Rocks. Some of the business people of Derby who have a vested interest in the town would prefer the Government to build a jetty two miles long out into a pool that does not dry up when the tide goes out. They advocate the construction of this jetty despite the fact that research by the Harbours and Rivers Branch in Western Australia established that the proper place to build a deep-water port is Point Torment.
Just outside Derby there is the Northern Territory rice project where a group of Sydney businessmen has been experimenting for some time. These men have proved that rice can be grown sucessfully on the flats of the Fitzroy River, but they require money for the development of irrigation there. They cannot get any money from the Commonwealth Government. Although the Commonwealth Government is the authority which gathers the money from the taxpayers of Australia, it will not spend any in this area. The State Government, however, has provided £40,000 for the construction of a small dam across a creek to provide water for the irrigation of about 2,000 acres. In that area, thousands upon thousands of acres could be irrigated if the Commonwealth Government was prepared to spend money on the damming of the Fitzroy River.
Then we come to the Kimberleys proper. This area is being discussed a great deal at the present time. There we have a little town called Wyndham with a population of approximately 250. They have not even a power house. The women there have no chance whatever of enjoying the comforts of washing machines, electric stoves, electric refrigerators, or even electric light. They have not even a power house, yet the construction of a dam on the Ord River is under discussion. The Commonwealth Government has so little consideration for the country that it will not even provide the £16,000,000 necessary for the construction of the Ord River dam. All it will do is provide £2,500,000 for the construction of a diversion dam for the purpose of proving whether the country will produce anything. And this after sixteen years of experimentation by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization at the Kimberley Research Station has proved that cotton, sugar cane, rice, safflower, peanuts and sorghum can be grown successfully.
– What would you do with the sugar?
– Some might say that sugar would not be economical, because Queensland will plough 1,500,000 tons of sugar cane into the ground this year. I suggest that the question is not whether sugar cane is an, economical crop but rather whether Australia can economically afford to disregard the development of the northwestern area.
This brings me to a matter mentioned by Senator Tangney only yesterday. I refer to the broadcasting facilities in the area. The only available medium of disseminating information to residents of that area is Radio-Australia. If we do not populate the northern part of Australia we shall lose it. Certainly, if it is invaded by Indonesians or Malays the present residents of the north-west will be able to understand the language of such invaders, because almost half the programmes broadcast over RadioAustralia now are broadcast in foreign languages. That is the only radio service available to that part of the country, yet we hear much talk about the extension of television to country areas in the southern parts of the continent.
– Radio-Australia is a fifth column organization.
– It could be. Let mc emphasize that from the watersheds of the Victoria and Ord rivers more water drains into the Timor Sea than is taken down the Murray west of the Darling and on the eastern watershed of the Alps. Every year this huge amount of water is allowed to run to waste. I do not blame this Government alone for the neglect of this area. I also blame the previous Labour administration because, when we asked for £10,000,000 from the Chifley Government to develop the Ord River scheme, we were refused. To-day, the cost of developing that scheme would be double what it was in those days, and if the work is not done now it will probably cost four times the original estimate in ten years’ time. It does not seem right that after sixteen years of experimentation by the C.S.I.R.O. this neglect of the area should continue.
We have heard much about the desire of the Western Australian Government to export 10,000,000 tons of iron ore from Mount Goldsworthy through Port Hedland. One of the conditions of the contract for the export of this ore is that the company wishing to export it shall deepen Port Hedland to 31 feet at mean neap tides. I doubt if that is a practicable engineering proposition. I doubt whether, even if it were possible to get a ship with a 31-feet draught into the port it could be manoeuvred inside the harbour. I also doubt whether you could get 31 feet of water in the passage leading into the harbour. It means that at the top of the tide you must have about 55 feet of water - there is a rise and fall of about 24 feet.
These are problems which the State cannot hope to overcome unaided. Thensolution should form part of a plan for national development. The Department of National Development should have a look at the problems and then do something practical about them. Some weeks ago, Senator Dittmer made a plea for the setting up of a commission to undertake developmental projects. The other day Sir Richard Boyer spoke in the same strain. Various committees of inquiry have reported on the subject - there was one in 1949. Another report was made this year on the same theme. They were all placed in the same pigeon-hole, and nothing was done about them. The same thing will happen again if there is another committee or commission. The Government’s responsibility is to develop that part of the world, not to pass the matter off by referring it to a committee, whose report it will pigeon-hole, saying, “ We have not enough money to do that to-day “. I assure the Senate that if something is not done to-day the slogan, “ Use it or lose it “, which is current in Western Australia to-day, will prove prophetic.
This Government will not even give a licence to export iron ore from Western Australia. It claims that it wants to keep all available supplies for Australian industries - but it does not know the extent of available ore supplies. The Minister for National Development was unable to tell me what they were when I asked him a few days ago. The people of the north-west, an area where ore is available for export, have noted that manganese, which is used in the manufacture of steel, can be exported, though it is not available in great quantities. Western Australia can produce its own wealth for development if the Commonwealth Government will permit the export of iron ore from that State. An examination of the nation’s resources might reveal that the export of at least a certain quantity would be possible.
Every one who considers ore supplies in Australia thinks only of ore with an iron content of 60 per cent, or more, yet in other countries steel is being manufactured from ore with a 25 per cent, content. The fact that we could use low grade ore for this purpose has never struck the people of Australia. They look only at the rich ore, and not at the remainder. Shortly after the Second World War the Liberal
Government which was then in power in’ Western Australia alienated our richest ore deposits, which were at Cockatoo Island and Koolan Island. They were given to Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited in return for a small royalty.
– They we’re given in return for a very small royalty, and for as long as they will last. This wealth goes out of Western Australia and creates work in the South-eastern States. The richness of the west is being used to bolster the economy of those States, but nothing is being put back into the north-west. Before the last election I heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) say on the hustings that he did not propose to make promises or buy votes. However - in order to buy the seat of Kalgoorlie - he promised the people of Western Australia an extra £2,500,000 for the development of the north-west. That is the kind of thing that happens.
I should like to direct the attention of the Senate to what has occurred in the north-west. We have done nothing with it, though we have been there for a good many years now. To the contrary, we have left it Worse than when we came. It has been overstocked. The pastoralist has taken everything out and has put nothing back. The natural grasses have been eaten out until, to-day, the country is being washed away and blown away. At times, when driving between Carnarvon and Geraldton I have been obliged to stop because the dust storms have made it impossible tosee where I was going. That has been brought about by greedy squatters who have overstocked the country, arid who now want all sorts of government assistance towards its rehabilitation. The countryside should be rehabilitated in the interests not of such people, but of the whole of Australia. It should be rehabilitated by way of closer settlement, especially in the Kimberley area, where that is possible. The land could perhaps be used for secondary feeding - not for store cattle but as a fattening ground for cattle which could be slaughtered and exported from theWyndham meatworks. In that way the area could be built up.
There are also several rivers in the northern part of the Kimberleys which can be dammed for irrigation, thus making it. possible for the land to support a large population1. I- do- want to impress- upon the Senate that we cannot continue to exploit that part of Australia’ - to take out its wealth and give nothing in return; yet that is exactly what has been- happening. An example of what can- be done is provided at Wittenoom Gorge in the Hamersley Range’s. Most people who go to northwestern Australia see the work that is being done there. I give full marks to Australian Blue Asbestos and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited for the work that has been done. The Government cannot claim any credit for what Australian! Blue Asbestos has achieved,- because, at a critical period, when it needed assistance in order to carry on, the Government withdrew its subsidy. A thriving populationis there now and the output of blue asbestos has increased so greatly that Port Samson cannot handle the amount of shipping required. The State Government has built a road from Wittenoom Gorge to Port Hedland so that the two ports can be used. The Commonwealth Government assisted in the building of that road through its grant for main roads.
A large amount of money must be poured into that area of Australia if it is to be developed. We shall not get people to go there until we provide some of the amenities that are attracting them to the southern portions of the State. Nowadays there are few people with the pioneering spirit to put up with the hardships that the pioneers of earlier times experienced. The area to be developed is about six times that of the British Isles, but the educational facilities available are confined to a junior high school at Carnarvon and a similar school at Derby. There is not even a dentist in the area north of Carnarvon. A dentist comes round once a year, as part of the Victorian branch of the Royal Flying Doctor Service. The medical services there are very bad. However, I shall deal with that matter fully when the relevant measure comes before this chamber. I have mentioned some of the difficulties of the north. If the Government wants to retain that part of Australia for Australians, whether the crops are economic or not does not seem to me to matter very much. The point is: Can Australia, economically, afford to develop the northern parts of this continent? I say that it cannot afford to do so-. The only- way that we can: attract population- to the northern’ parts of Australia is by providing amenities and’ an adequate water supply for the people and: by increasing production.
’.- [ believe that the Appropriation Bill is- one of the major matters that are dealt with each year by this national; Parliament. The Commonwealth’ Government’s Budget occupies the paramount position of the Budgets of the seven Parliaments in this, country. I say that, as far as possible, it should be geared towards achieving the greatest national development - the greatest development of our potential. The two* preceding speakers spoke along these lines. Senator Wade said that it was to be expected that the debate on this measure would be parochial as far as the interests of the respective States are concerned. I agree with that contention, but nevertheless we should try, as far as is possible, to develop a broad national outlook. Reference was made in this chamber yesterday by Senator Wood to the International Sugar Agreement. Many people who, like myself, have taken an interest in public matters over the years have heard a considerable amount of criticism levelled at that agreement because it has been responsible for the Australian consumer having to pay more for sugar than he might otherwise have had to pay.
I hold the view, which I believe is held by many other people in this country, that that agreement redeems itself by reason of the fact that it has made possible the development of one portion of the northern part of this Commonwealth and brought to it a degree of prosperity that otherwise it probably would not have attained. I think that most of us have awakened to the absolute folly of our living, in the main, on the south-eastern seaboard of this continent and, like the ostrich with its head buried in the sand, shutting our eyes to the fact that much of the northern part of Australia is under-developed and underpopulated. T agree entirely with the contention that this state of affairs should not be allowed to continue and that we should do something to rectify it. During this session, it has been advocated in this chamber that a certain sum of money should be provided to develop a railway in
Queensland. We have heard also about other projects that are considered to be of the greatest importance in the development of the potential of this Commonwealth. I say without hesitation that if these projects are worth while in the development of our latent potential, then willy-nilly, in some way or other, the necessary money should be found to put them into operation.
Having said that, I would like to refer to a matter that was discussed by Senator Wright in this chamber yesterday. Might I say that as a newcomer I do not for a moment presume to say in what way this Parliament should be conducted, but, by the same token, as a newcomer I have very definite impressions regarding some aspects of parliamentary procedure in this place. It is true, as Senator Wright pointed out, that in the Tasmanian Parliament the select committee system was very widely adopted. Most contentious measures were the subject of close and exhaustive scrutiny by select committees of that Parliament which were mostly composed of members of both parties. They gathered a wealth of information, and they gave to people who were aggrieved and who thought that they would be affected by proposed legislation, an opportunity to come forward and state their views. In my opinion, those committees are a very important adjunct to democracy. 1 admit that the Tasmanian Parliament is relatively small and that measures that come before it are not so important or as farreaching as those that come before the Commonwealth Parliament. Nevertheless, scarcely an important measure came before the Tasmanian Parliament that was not exhaustively examined by a select committee and a report furnished, which could be called for.
Despite the fact that I have not been a member of this chamber for very long, as the Senate is supposed to be a house of review I think that that system could with advantage be adopted. Several weeks ago a budgetary measure - one to increase postal and telephonic charges - came before this chamber. At the time, I thought that if a select committee of the Senate had been appointed to analyse the measure exhaustively to ascertain its full implications and probable effect upon the community, such a committee could have placed before us a wealth of information on the subject. lt is correct to say, as Senator Cooke pointed out, that the State Budgets are of relatively small importance. During my term of membership of a State Parliament, in the main that Parlaiment in its Budget session cut up the cake; it had little responsibility for the collection of revenues. It has been said that some State governments which have been in office for over twenty years would not have remained in office for so long if they had been saddled with the responsibility for raising their revenue by taxation. However, they were absolved from that responsibility and they were able to expend the money, which they probably did to the best advantage of the parties they represented. I realize the very great difficulty that there would be in reverting to the old system, under which the States levied taxes. I am not blind to realities. In addition, I believe it is correct to say that some of the States have refused to accept again the right to levy taxes. I suppose they have proceeded in the belief that the present way is the easy way for them, and does not get them into so much trouble. Evidently they prefer that some other authority should collect revenues for them, but, so far as I am concerned, if it is at all feasible I should like to see the States placed in as independent a position as possible. Senator Cooke spoke of unification, but I do not know how far he proposes to go.
– Our present financial arrangements are leading to unification.
– I admit that. If we went the whole way, and brought about complete unification, it would not be possible, I believe, for any one parliament to legislate for the whole of the affairs of a Commonwealth of such geographical proportions as we have in Australia. It is true that most of the financial power has been centralized at Canberra. If I may say so, I believe that we operate under a weird system of finance as between the Commonwealth and the States. Under the existing arrangement, the States are responsible for greatly increased expenditure in giving effect to the immigration policy of the Commonwealth. I entirely support that policy and believe that we must continue with it. Indeed, if possible, we should do more, because if we do not, we may perish. However, because of their responsibility for heavy expenditure in providing for immigrants, the public debt of the States has doubled. In Tasmania it has quadrupled.
I have heard speakers in the Tasmanian Parliament say that if this trend continues for the next ten years and the population of the Commonwealth increases as we hope it will increase during that period, the budgetary position of the States will be chaotic. In the main, the Commonwealth Government holds the purse strings of the Commonwealth. On one occasion I heard the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) say that there was no field of taxation in which the Commonwealth Government could not take absolute precedence over the States if it chose to do so. Some members of the Tasmanian Parliament have expressed concern as to what must eventually be the position of the State debts if they keep on growing as they have grown during the last ten years.
Under the present system the Commonwealth Parliament raises money by taxation and lends it, or some of it, to the States. I understand that there is a proposal to lend some of the money so obtained to the Post Office, and possibly, as the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has indicated in his speech, to levy interest and sinking fund charges.
– The honorable senator never expected to see that happen?
– I can understand why loan funds are insufficient to meet the cost of the great developments that have taken place and to provide facilities for an enlarged population. I admit that I cannot suggest a remedy, but I look askance at any proposal to lend money derived from taxation and to charge interest on it. I do not know whether it would be possible to provide that taxpayers, who willy-nilly invest in Commonwealth public works because of the taxing powers vested in the Commonwealth Government, shall get some benefit from their contributions as, for instance, treating such payments as loans for which they would be given bonds. That is an aspect that might well be investigated in order to see whether it would be practicable. I view with the greatest concern the present set-up. under which State debts are growing rapidly while the public debt of the Commonwealth, which holds the purse strings in the main, is decreasing. That is a state of affairs which cannot continue indefinitely. There must be a day of reckoning in connexion with Commonwealth and State financial relations and the whole budgetary position.
I pass on to say that it is only seldom that one hears, either in this Parliament or in the Parliaments of the States, any reference to the tremendous burden imposed on local governing bodies in providing amenities for the people. For some years it has not been possible in Tasmania to obtain sufficient loan money for necessary public works, such as water supplies and sewerage. In the main, municipal councils have to rely on sources of revenue from which they obtained funds 40 or 50 years ago.
– Back in the horse and buggy days.
– Yes. They are confined largely to obtaining revenue from people who, fortunately or unfortunately, own property. Because of the financial stringencies that the States have experienced, more and more functions which rightly should be financed by the taxpayers generally and not only by the ratepayers, have been imposed on them. It seems to me that the financial problem in the Commonwealth, whether or not it will eventually resolve itself in one direction or another, requires the greatest concentration and consideration with a view to arriving at a system which fairly and evenly will apportion financial responsibility for the public works and the development that we must proceed with if we are to hold this country as a free unit of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
I wish now to say a few words about what Billy Hughes used to refer to as the “ humble potato “. I feel the greatest concern for my own State because of the decline in the potato industry. That concern is due mainly to the fact that the potato industry in Tasmania has been a friend of the small farmer, not the big property owner. It has suffered a tremendous decline during the last few years.
– There are too many people dieting.
– That is not all the story. There are in Tasmania areas of lane! which could be devoted to scarcely anything but the production of potatoes.
Unfortunately,, we have a potato marketing officer who attributes the whole of the blame to the Commonwealth Government because, he says, the Commonwealth Government has not provided an adequate and regular shipping service. L am more than 50 years of age and I say without hesitation that irregular shipments of potatoes to the Sydney markets have always been with us. I call to mind that in my boyhood days I used to hear it said - “forty-thousand or fifty-thousand bags of potatoes have gone to the Sydney market this week. It must slump next week.”
I admit that because of the advent of potato control during the war years, and because of the superior quality of the Tasmanian potato, the powers that controlled potato marketing throughout the Commonwealth kept potatoes from May onwards. It may well be that the idea then grew of merely taking potatoes to the market over two or three months and that, because they were needed almost at once, they should be shipped in bigger ships and in bigger quantities. Those ships have continued to trade in potatoes to the north-west of Tasmania. I admit that it is important and desirable that shipments should be not only regular but of a reasonable size.
– And at a reasonable freight.
– A reasonable freight rate is another factor. The freight on a ton of potatoes sent from Tasmania to the Sydney market is about £1 1 .
– Compared with £1 10s. a few years ago.
– Yes. Many factors have caused the increase of freight rates, but that is one of the things that are driving the industry out of existence. I have not a great deal of sympathy for those people on the mainland who irrigate their crops and grow bigger crops on that account, but for the sake of the people in Tasmania, who are in the main dependent on the production of potatoes, I hope that some way will be “found to provide permanence for an industry which means so much to the farmers of the northern part of the State.
I believe that it may not be exaggerating overmuch to say that in the Commonwealth Budget - the most important Budget in Australia; I would almost go so far as to say the only important Budget - the whole stress- and1 emphasis should be on the need to improve our production potential. If it is possible to do without a printing office to cost £3,000,000; if it is reasonable and feasible to carry on under the existing system, and if the money that it is proposed to spend in that direction can be channelled into developmental works, then I say, “ Let us do that and let us do without the printing office “. As I see it, the position is urgent. If we are to continue to hold Australia, we need the very maximum of developmental work that it is possible to achieve.
– Last night, we heard a great deal about Queensland sugar. To-night, we have heard about Tasmanian potatoes. As both of those things are forbidden to me, I do not intend to deal with them. Any one who has listened to the debates in this chamber recently cannot fail to be impressed by the fact that this is indeed a States’ House. Every honorable senator who has spoken, whilst stressing the particular needs of his own State, has made his contribution in the sense that what is necessary for the States is also necessary for the nation. I intend to proceed along those lines, and particularly in relation to the matters so well illustrated to the Senate to-night by Senator Cant, who has such a very good working knowledge of the north-western part of Western Australia. However, I wish to go a little further than he did in that regard.
The problems of the north-west of Western Australia are common to the whole of the northern part of Australia. It is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to canvass the possibility of appointing a northern development commission with full powers, such as the Snowy Mountains Authority has, to act and to do something to develop the northern areas of Australia. Various problems confront the hardy souls who stay in the north-west of Western Australia year after year. Those problems, which have been brought before this Parliament many times by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber, include the problem of the education of children in the north. As I have said before in this place, one of the greatest tragedies of the north, particularly for the womenfolk, is the fact that parents must lose their children from the time they are about eleven or twelve years of age. Until quite recently it was necessary to send them south to schools for secondary education, and once in the south they remained there to undertake jobs and did not return to the north. The second great factor that has hindered the development of the north is the Jack of health and hospital facilities. I remember travelling south some years ago with a woman who was expecting her fourth child. She had to travel from Wyndham to Perth for dental treatment just prior to the birth of the child. It was summer time, the weather was hot and most oppressive, and every one on the ship felt the greatest sympathy for that mother. That difficulty has been overcome to a small degree, thanks to the people of Victoria. I hope Senator Wade realizes that we do thank them for their assistance in the provision of dental services and their contributions to our flying doctor services in the north-west.
Yesterday I mentioned the radio facilities available to the people there. As Senator Cant stated, even the broadcasts from Radio Australia are often in a foreign language, which is, of course, not intelligible to most of the people living in those areas. I should like the Australian Broadcasting Commission to consider the possibility of having a radio station in the north, not only for purposes of entertainment, but also for the making of school broadcasts and so on. The people there are terribly isolated. It has been good to see in the last few years, the greater interest being taken by members of this Parliament in the north-west of Western Australia. Each year we have been having visits from many of them. Fortunately for them, but unfortunately for the north, most of these visits have been undertaken during the southern winter when travelling in the north is very pleasant. Members cannot get a true picture of the real disabilities confronting settlers unless they go to the north during the hot season when, day after day, the temperature is around the century mark, with a humidity of about 90 per cent. Only then is it possible to see how these people really have to live and how difficult it is for them to have very much pleasure from life at all.
The north has yielded a great deal of wealth to Australia, but unfortunately very little of it has been put back into development. A great deal of it has gone to the southern States. We do not mind that very much, because after all we are good Australians, but we do object to seeing so much go out of the country with so little being ploughed back into these districts.
In health services great progress has been made during the past ten years with the use of antibiotics and other modern drugs, particularly in the treatment of leprosy. Some years ago, I told the Senate of a visit I paid to a very wonderful institution in the northwest of our State, the leprosarium at Derby. At that time about 400 patients were there, nursed by four Sisters of St. John of God. It was not just a matter of nursing; for them it was a vocation. Their task was very difficult. The Government had built the leprosarium, and it was hard to find lay people to conduct it. These sisters volunteered and made it their vocation in life to nurse the lepers. The result has been that in the past ten years the number of lepers cured has exceeded the number admitted to the leprosarium, and now just a few over 100 lepers are in the institution.
If any honorable senator wants one argument against communism, he should have a look at that leprosarium and see What Christian charity can do. The work done has been marvellous. Natives from the bush have come in as lepers and been treated as human beings, perhaps for the first time in their lives. They have not only been cured of leprosy, which, since biblical days has had such a dreaded significance, but they have also been taught various trades and music. I spent three very happy hours listening to a concert by an orchestra iri which every member, except the Mother Superior, who acted as pianist, was a leper, not one of whom could read music. They played the music of Gilbert and Sullivan and all kinds of other pieces and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. A few years before, they had been just nomadic outcasts in the back blocks. Her Majesty’s Government saw fit to recognize the devoted work of the Reverend Mother of the mission by investing her With an honour, but no honour would be too great for those who undertake this work under such difficult conditions, climatic and otherwise.
The people at the leprosarium proved the very point made by Senator Cant and by Senator Wade with regard to the settlement at Alice Springs, namely, that with labour and water a great deal can be done to make those areas self-supporting. At the leprosarium there are gardens that are tended by the natives, gardens that are producing food of the kind that formerly had to be brought from the south, and that was quite a luxury because of the freight that had to be paid on it.
Western Australia has a very good State shipping service. It is one State instrumentality that my friend the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) must feel it in his heart to commend. The shipping service is not just a business arrangement, lt could not be. It is a service, as its name implies. It takes goods to the north-west at substantially reduced charges. It is very well patronized, but it is very costly to conduct. It is run at a loss. The Minister knows how difficult it is to conduct such services at a profit. It may suffer a loss financially, but it is run at a profit when one considers what it means in terms of health and happiness to the people of the north-west.
Very little technical education is available in the north, yet many of the natives at Broome and elsewhere are capable of being taught at handicrafts, and I feel quite certain that if some technical schools were provided in the area they would very soon prove to be well worth while. One may ask: What has this to do with the Commonwealth Parliament? The answer is that this very large area is only a couple of hours removed from the danger spots of Asia. It is the part of Australia that received, for the first time since Australia was born as a nation in 1788, the impact of foreign aggression on our soil. As we travel the north-west coast we still see evidence of the ravages of World War II., many of which were not known to the people of Australia at the time for reasons of security. As a defence measure, it is up to the Commonwealth to see that more is done to develop this northern part of Australia. A great deal of lip service was paid to the area during the war and immediately afterwards. Now we have been offered a few million pounds to be expended here and there. These amounts do not go very far in the tremendous area that has to be covered. A terrific amount of work has to be done to make the region safe, and to develop it as it could be developed if we had the capital, and the will, which is the main thing, to do it.
Then we come to another section of the same theme, namely, defence from the point of view of Western Australia. Last month my friend, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper), was in Perth attending the congress of the returned servicemen’s league. A motion was submitted reaffirming the necessity - which we have stressed in the Senate so often - to have a naval base on the Western Australian coast. We will not rest until such a base is established. It is absolutely necessary to have a naval base there so that Australia, as one of the guardians of the Indian Ocean, will be able to do its job properly in the event of hostilities breaking out. There are plenty of points on the Western Australian coast where a naval base could be built to great advantage.
After the outbreak of World War I., the construction of the Henderson naval base, just south of Fremantle, was begun. A sum of £1,000,000 was spent at that time. When you talked about £1,000,000 in 1914 or 1915, you were talking in terms of real money, but that £1,000,000 was sunk in the sea when it was decided not to go on with the job. We placed our hopes in the Singapore base before the last war, but Singapore fell, and what happened then? Whenever a marine disaster occurs in the Indian Ocean, or whenever any ships need docking in Western Australia, they have to make their way to the eastern States. That gives the Minister for Transport a headache on many occasions. I urge the Government to reconsider its attitude. This is not a party matter at all. I am speaking from the broadest Australian point of view There is a necessity to have a naval base established on our western coast, where it would be of the most advantage to this country’-
While on the subject of defence, I should like to refer to the lottery which now goes on under the name of compulsory military training. I feel that if we are to have compulsory military training, it should be compulsory military training of all youths. At the present time a lottery is held. I do not know whether it is those who win or those who lose who do their military training. Those lads who are chosen spend three months in camp and then they have certain obligations to fulfil, extending over a period of years. They have to attend week-end camps and do other training, whereas other lads of the same age escape that responsibility. That is not fair, to my way of thinking. Compulsory military training, if it is to be continued, should apply to all. It should not be a lottery as it is now. The present scheme makes us a laughing stock. We conduct our defence from the point of view of the lottery barrel.
Turning to civil aviation, I should like to direct the attention of the Minister to a few difficulties that have arisen under the schedules that have come into operation during recent months, particularly with regard to extra flights from the west. You will remember, Mr. Deputy President, that I raised in the Senate some months ago the matter of delays in the delivery of mail coming from Western Australia to Canberra, even though the time spent in flight had been lessened by the introduction of Electras and other new aircraft. I am happy to say that that matter was rectified immediately. However, there is now another difficulty. Trans-Australia Airlines, the national airline, now has a daytime flight from the west. It seems rather a queer schedule, because the aircraft arrives in Melbourne 25 minutes after the last plane has left for Canberra. If you disembark at Adelaide and go on to Sydney in an attempt to catch a plane from there to Canberra, you find that you are threequarters of an hour late. This means that you cannot get to Canberra by T.A.A.’s day flight on the day on which you leave Perth. You must obtain accommodation overnight in either Sydney or Melbourne. Surely to goodness it is not beyond the realm of practicability for the flight to begin from Perth, say, an hour earlier, or even half an hour earlier, so as to reach either Sydney or Melbourne in time to connect with an aircraft going to Canberra.
That would also help considerably in the speedy delivery of mail which is posted in suburban letterboxes in Perth and sent by air to Canberra and parts of the eastern States. I received a letter from the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) the other day in which he stated that since this new schedule had come into operation there was no advantage in sending mail by T.A.A. on the two days when T.A.A.’s night plane from Perth does not run. The mail is not delivered any earlier if it is sent on the day plane, so it is just as well to hold it over for the A.N.A. plane at night. This new schedule does not give any extra service to the people in the suburban areas, whose mail must be posted before four o’clock in the afternoon if it is to catch the midnight flight. These are very small matters, but they mean a lot to business people and others - in these days when speed is of the essence of the contract. I feel certain it would not take very much skill on the part of the Minister for Shipping and Transport - he has plenty of it - to rectify those anomalies very quickly.
So far as the Postmaster-General is concerned, I was very disappointed to find that the spirit of Scrooge had entered into him. I asked whether the concession rate could still apply for the sending of Christmas cards - something which means quite a lot to many people - and I received an answer in the negative. I think his decision will react against the Post Office. A number of letters have already appeared in the press on the subject. Some people have stated that they will not send Christmas cards this year, although I suppose they will send them just the same. It does seem to be a pity, this privilege having been enjoyed since the inauguration of the postal service, that it should be cut out at a time when the revenue of the Post Office is really buoyant, despite what has been said to the contrary. It is not too late yet, I think, for the PostmasterGeneral to have another look at this matter. If he reversed his decision, it would give a great deal of satisfaction to a large number of people, and I think he would lose nothing by it, because more cards would be sent if the old rate were retained, at any rate for this Christmas period. It would get people used to the idea of having Mr. Scrooge in the flesh amongst them.
A couple of years ago the Commonwealth Government drew down upon itself praise from some quarters and blame from others as a result of its move to help independent schools with their building programmes. That was done, of course, only in Canberra, where the interest on the loans was paid by the Commonwealth Government on behalf of the bodies which erected new schools. I think that was a step in the right direction, but it was only a small step. This is a terrific problem, associated with the immigration programme. We have heard a great deal about our immigration problems. We are all in favour of increased immigration, but we must remember that it imposes a financial burden on the States. They have to find money to provide extra hospitals, schools and houses for the people who are coming to this country. It is to be remembered, too, that the governments of every .State have been assisted greatly by the independent schools which have carried an onerous burden without any cost whatever to the Government. Many of the immigrants coming to this country have come from European countries in which, according to their conscience, they have sent their children to Church schools. We are subscribers to the United Nations charter of freedom of religion, and in Australia the Church organizations have an added burden of providing schools for the additional immigrants brought here by the Commonwealth Government.
I wonder what would happen if all these denominational schools were to close their doors for just one month? Why, responsibility for educating thousands of extra children would be suddenly thrown upon the States. I submit that the little it would cost the Government to assist these schools would be a mere bagatelle compared with the terrific amount these church schools spend on giving excellent education to students. I emphasize here that in speaking of these schools I am referring to the schools conducted by all organizations, not those conducted by any one specific organization. I know that the Commonwealth’s answer to all this is that education is a matter for the States. That may be so, but I point out that the Commonwealth Government has suddenly developed a “ U “ and “ non-U “ attitude towards education. The “ U’s “ are those attending universities and the “ non-U’s “ are the others. The “ U “ section represents about 3 per cent, of our school population. They acquire education to the university standard whilst the other 97 per cent, receive no assistance from the Commonwealth other than income tax rebates to parents who pay school fees. I submit that more must be done to promote greater co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States on matters relating to education. The easy way out, of course, is for the Prime Minister to say that the
Commonwealth allows for all these things relating to ^education in the financial aid it grants to the States. I do not think that is enough. There must be a .great deal more liaison between the Commonwealth and the States in connexion with education.
I am not advocating the standardization of education throughout Australia. I do not want to see a situation in which the Commonwealth Government wants to know what every child in every school in every .State is doing every minute of the day. That would be ridiculous. All I ask is that the Commonwealth help the States in the enormous job they have now in providing and and equipping buildings, employing staff and’ providing all the amenities needed to give our children an education in keeping with modern living .standards.
I come now to a matter affecting Canberra. I refer to the need for the speedy construction of bridges connecting the north and south areas of the city. Because of the rain we have had here over the last couple of days, hundreds of workers werean hour late for work to-day. I hope that if these workers had their pay docked for that hour they will submit accounts to the Department of the Interior for Teimbursement. For a long time now we have been advocating the construction of these bridges. They have been recommended by theNational Capital Development Commission, and all honorable senators, Senator McCallum in particular, have been strenuously advocating the early construction of these bridges so that the flow of traffic between the north and south areasof the city might continue uninterrupted.
The problem is not merely one of motorists being anxious to get home. This afternoon, I watched at the front of Parliament House and saw one motor car unable to move for twenty minutes because the flow of traffic had ceased. On £he other side of the King George V. memorial I saw a line of traffic held up for some time waiting to get across the one small bridge open to it. This- hold-up of traffic could be a potential killer. I point out that the hospital is on the northern side of the river. It would have been impossible for an ambulance travelling from the south side to get throughthe line of traffic I saw this afternoon. If there had been an emergency case, this delay could have quite easily resulted in death as at. least, very serious consequences foc the- patient. D earnestly acquest- the Minister foE the Interior to get: on with this job. We have the. plans; ready; we have talked, about the work for some time, now and it is urgently necessary, that iti be done so. that, we may have adequate and safe means of transport between the north and south areas, of the. city.
Another matter to which. I should’ like to refer is the Canberra University College, a project very dear to my heart. I notice that there is still some doubt about the status of this college which is an appendage of the. University of Melbourne, lt is in a rather precarious position. Like the son who is faced’ with being cut off at any moment without, a penny, it does not know how to act. The students are worried about whether,, when they complete their courses, they will have the seal’ or imprimatur of the the University of Melbourne. T am sure the Canberra University College has reached a- stage- at which it should- be- given- the status- of a university in- its own- right. When the- Western- Australia University was given university status yeaTS ago it did not Have near the number of students, buildings, staff,, money or anything else possessed by the Canberra. University College to-day. In those days, the Western Australia University had’ to make-shift in old buildings in what we called’ “ Tinpot Alley “, although they did’ the job excellently. The important question is not so much where the buildings, are or what they are as what is taught, in them by the people who give of their very Best to the students. From that humble beginning,, the Western Australia University has gradually developed, until it is, in my view,, the best university in Australia. I say it is the best because^ it is the only one. which is free.. I could not have gone there if it had not been; amd there are. many others in the community who are La a. similar position. I should like to. see the Canberra. University College: given full university status. It has now more than surpassed! the standards that were necessary before a college qualified for university status, when the Western Australia University was given full status. I urge: that the. college be given the: full status, of an independent university for I am sura that not only the people of Canberra but also the people of Australia as a whole, will be. proud, to.- recognize graduates, from, the: university of. the capital city of this nation.
– in reply - In closing, this debate on the Appropriation Bill, I propose to direct my comments mainly to- those aspects of financial’ policy to which the- Leader of- the Opposition (Senator McKenna)- referred last evening.. Before doing- so, I should’ like to advert to one or two. references made during the course of the debate. The first to which I refer is that by Senator Cooke to the decrease in the profit achieved by the Commonwealth Bank this year. As- 1” understood Senator Cooke, his purpose was to indicate that this was just another example of how the policy of this Government, is pulling down, the standard and the earning, power of the Commonwealth Bank.
It is, tot be regretted that, before making that reference,. Senator Cooke- did not take the- trouble to acquaint himself with, the details of the matter to. which he- referred. Had he done so, he. would have learned that, with, the single exception of the savings bank,, which suffered a. comparatively, small drop- in-, profit, no- doubt because of. the operations of private savings banks, every trading branch of the Commonwealth Bank showed an appreciable increase in its profit. The.- reason for such loss of profit: as did- occur is: plain for all to see-.. It. is, set. out in a. convenient form - so that; he. who runs may read - in- the report: on. the central banking activity of the Commonwealth Bank. In the words: of the report -
The decrease in. the; net profits in 1958-5.9 resulted, mainly- from-, reduced income, in London investments following movements, in the United Kingdom bank rate.
It was an inescapable- consequence of a central banking function,, and had nothing to do with trading. I repeat, the trading activities of the bank showed increased profits in all except, one. department, and in that the loss was, in the main, an inescapable consequence of an alteration, in the United Kingdom bank rate..
Senator Cant, with, characteristic enthusiasm for the development of. the north-west, took us for a most interesting, trip around the ports of that part of Australia, but left the impression that this Government had been very hard-hearted and had done nothing to foster development there. As he spoke, some of the things that this Government has done in the comparatively short period since I have been privileged to sit in this chamber came to my mind.
Let me refer, first, to the encouragement given to beef production. For this purpose a sum of approximately £1,000,000 was made available under Commonwealth legislation for the development of roads and water supplies. The Nicholson road would not have been built but for the provision of that money. I refer, next, to the encouragement of Air-Beef - a most important experiment in inland killing which was made possible only by the support of this Government. The success of the experiment, I regret to say, was at one time jeopardized by the action of the then State Labour Government in withdrawing the concession rates that had applied at the Wyndham Meat Works. I think also of the assistance that the Commonwealth Government has given to oil drilling, which is of such vast importance to the north-west.
Senator Cant himself referred to the assistance given to the Wittenoom Gorge project. This has resulted in the development of a national asset which may be described as almost priceless. I trunk, too, of the assistance which this Government gives, justifiably, by way of subsidizing air operations in the north-west - in bringing the benefits of modern civilization to the people of that area. I remember the hundreds of thousands of pounds that have been spent on the provision and maintenance of airports.
Another senator from Western Australia, Senator Tangney, reminded me of the shipping service, which, as she explained, was necessarily conducted at a loss last year of some £800,000. The State Government was reimbursed for this loss through the mechanism of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. These things will, I hope, dispel the impression that Senator Cant’s remarks must have left - that this Government has not helped in any way the development of that important part of the Commonwealth.
– We must not forget last year’s gift of £5,000,000.
– In detailing the various fields in which assistance had been given I overlooked the most spectacular of all- the gift of £5,000,000 for the development of Western Australia. I thank my colleague for reminding me.
Last night, in discussing financial policy, Senator McKenna referred to the increase in the public debt of the States and compared it with the decrease during the last ten years in the public debt of the Commonwealth. He said that the States’ debt had stood at £900,000,000 in 1945 and £1,000,000,000 in 1949, but was now almost £2,400,000,000. The public debt of the Commonwealth, he added, was virtually the same as it was in 1945, and some £168,000,000 less than it was in 1949. On that premise the Leader of the Opposition proceeded to develop an argument which, I felt, was designed to create the impression that the Commonwealth Government had deliberately pursued a course with the object of making a profit at the expense of the States.
The situation has to be examined rather more deeply if it is to be seen in its true perspective. It is necessary to look somewhat further back than did the Leader of the Opposition. In 1939, the public debt of the Commonwealth was £317,000,000, while that of the States was £898,000,000 -just on £900,000,000. The Commonwealth debt of that year was made up of a war debt of £186,000,000 and capital works indebtedness of £131,000,000. The Commonwealth’s debt to-day is £1,649,000,000. I regret that I must use so many figures. It is made up of a war debt of £1,144,000,000 and a capital works debt of £503,000,000. In other words, the Commonwealth’s indebtedness for capital works is three and three-quarter times greater than it was twenty years ago. The total States’ debt over the same period has risen from £891,000,000 to £2,391,000,000. The States’ debt is less than three times what it was in 1939. I think that that puts in proper perspective Senator McKenna’s proposition that the State debt for works has been increasing at a greater rate than has the Commonwealth’s debt. But let us have a look at the movement over the last ten years to which he referred and find out why it is occurring. It has occurred by virtue of the fact that during the last ten years non-reproductive war loans have been falling due, and they have been discharged whenever possible. I suggest there is nothing wrong with that. . The honorable senator himself, in his speech last night, advanced the proposition that nonreproductive debts should be retired at the first opportunity. This Government has done just that. While the war debt - the segment of the public debt on Commonwealth account - has been reduced, Commonwealth debt for other purposes, I repeat, has increased - and it has increased at a greater rate than the debt for capital works within the States. It should not be forgotten that the increase which has occurred in State debts has occurred because the States themselves have sought that money - justifiably, but nonetheless they have sought it. History shows that they sought on many occasions more than they actually got.
Senator McKenna appears to suggest that by reducing the Commonwealth debt whilst that of the States increases, the Commonwealth has deliberately set out to enrich itself at the expense of the States. The fact is that the Commonwealth, as is wellknown, has been adopting the politically and financially more difficult course of financing its capital works programme and its services from revenue. It has been doing that in order to support State works and housing programmes, for the simple reason that loan raisings have not been sufficient. I shall deal more particularly with that point if my time permits. It is quite fantastic to put forward a proposition that if loan funds had been available, then this federal Government - or a federal government of any other colour, for that matter - would have financed to the extent it has from revenue the programme which I have referred to and kept taxation at a necessarily higher level. That is a fantastic proposition, and one that could not be borne out by a moment’s investigation.
Senator McKenna referred to the rise which has occurred in interest rates during the last decade. I point out that this is not peculiar to Australia. In every freeenterprise country in the world identically the same thing has occurred. Under conditions which have existed of great demand for funds, governments cannot hope to attract new money or even to retain money in current securities if they are not prepared to meet the market price for money.
The Leader of the Opposition then referred to the practice which has grown up of charging interest to States on funds which have been provided from revenue to support State loan programmes. In passing, Mr. Deputy President, it is interesting to note that last year, because of our successful operations on the loan market, it was only necessary to use that form of support to the extent of £4,000,000; and it is to be sincerely hoped that a continuation of our successful operations on the loan market will do away with the need to use any revenue at all to finance capital works. But let us have a look at some of the factors which, in my view, in the view of the Government and of that of the previous Labour Government, make it desirable that this should be treated as if it were loan money and that the States should pay interest on it.
First, it is desirable that there should be a proper lender-borrower relationship. If this is not so, the States could lose their present and historically untrammelled right to use their loan funds in a manner which they themselves determine. The Commonwealth has, of course, made specific grants to States, but where those grants have been made they have been made for specific and predetermined purposes such as roads, universities, hospitals and the like. Should the position develop where a State did lose that untrammelled right to determine its own loan programme, then I suggest that the only people who would be happy about that would be the people who support unification rather than a continuation of federalism. Further, the Commonwealth by reason of having to raise the funds for the States has a continuing and a strong incentive to seek increased loan raisings and so reduce taxation. In circumstances where interest-free money was made available to the States, I suggest that the States would not be so motivated and would not feel the need to be so motivated. Indeed, should those circumstances arise at any time, it would not be surprising that the States could well continue an attachment to a form of support which was interestfree.
With cost-free funds, States would have no inducement at all to keep down demands to a reasonable level to match a reasonable works programme, nor would there be so much incentive to use all the money so made available in the most economic manner. It should not be forgotten that the States do in any case obtain a return for their own Budget - this is a most important point - in interest and other forms of earnings, which flow from the creation of the assets which are established by the use of this money. Nor should it be forgotten that when the Commonwealth determines the level of its revenue grants to the States, the amounts required by the States for satisfaction of their debt charges is taken into account in the fixation of that grant. Further, it should not be forgotten that under the terms of the Financial Agreement Act the Commonwealth meets half the sinking fund charges on State works debt. In other words, the Commonwealth already meets half the cost of repaying these special loans. Finally, I come back to the point that in submitting their requirements to the Loan Council the States, by implication, express a willingness to pay interest. From the standpoint of the States, the money having been made available, it makes no difference at all to them. Their original request was that the money should be provided by loan, and they were prepared to pay interest on it.
The next point made by the Leader of the Opposition concerned what he referred to, I think, as the burden of financing capital works from revenue. This is an interesting point. The usual, the orthodox approach, of course, is that since capital works yield their benefits over a lengthy period it is appropriate to meet the cost from borrowings rather than from taxation. The borrowings will be repaid over the years during which the economy, by virtue of the asset that has been created, develops greater capacity to pay back. The argument is frequently advanced that it is wrong in principle that taxpayers should be called upon to bear the burden of financing expenditures the benefits of which will accrue to some extent - possibly to a large extent - to later generations. That is the traditional and the orthodox approach. For my part, I express a marked preference for following that line, and so does the Government; ‘but it is interesting to note that in recent years, in a number of countries, it has become not unusual, when those coun tries have experienced a buoyancy in their finances and there has been an availability of money, to finance a proportion of capital works from revenue as a matter of course.
– What countries are those?
– The United States of America is one which finances a proportion of its works from revenue. That policy was also pursued in England for a few years immediately after the war. The interesting fact is that when funds are raised by loan they are drawn away from investment in other sources within the economy. The effect of investment is therefore the same, whether the money is raised by taxation or by loans. In each case investment is effected by a re-direction of the money which is used for the creation of the asset concerned.
– That is rather >an unusual connotation Of the term “ investment “
– No., it is not.
– It is not investment in any sense of the term.
– Of course it is. The over-riding fact is that in recent years there has been no practical alternative to using revenue for capital works. The Government would be very happy indeed if sufficient loan moneys were available for that purpose. I repeat the hope that the successful loan operations of last year will continue and will decrease the need for this kind of financing and possibly do away with it altogether..
– Would the Minister say mat the practice of financing works from revenue has also a deflationary effect?
– That would depend of course on the nature of the investment and whether a reasonable return could be received within a reasonable time. If capital were diverted and not invested in an asset which was worth while, of course we should then have the opposite result from the one to which the honorable senator has referred. Bad investment, no matter what the source of the money, is always inflationary. Good investment is always deflationary.
I wish now to refer to the loan market. As I .have mentioned on a number of prior occasions in the Senate - I mention it again not to voice criticism but merely to place the matter on record during the post-war years the Labour government consistently charged to Consolidated Revenue expenditure on capital works even though, in some of thoseyears, loan moneys were available and were in fact used to retire treasury bills. In the post-war years, proceeds from loans were more than adequate to finance the requirements of the State governments. Demands for expansion in the private sector of the economy were small by comparison, for a number of reasons which will be well remembered. The economy was then in a straight jacket. Private investment was restricted very greatly. I refer, too, to the fact that private investment was also affected by the many shortages of commodities, which meant that it was neither possible to purchase goods nor to invest. In those days, loan raisings by semi-governmental bodies and by local government authorities were relatively small. The position, in the circumstances of those times, was one in which funds available for investment were plentiful in comparison with the opportunity for investment. The Government had no competition in borrowing. I repeat that at that time the Labour government was using loan money to retire treasurybills. [Extension of time granted.] I thank the Leader of the Opposition and honorable senators for their courtesy. I shall be as brief as I can be.
In recent years, we have seen a completely different climate in respect of loan raisings in Australia. There has been a substantial indeed, an exciting stepping up of private investment in this country. Borrowings by semi-governmental and local government authorities also have advanced. State works and housing programmes have grown very substantially. Ten years ago the borrowing programme was £70,000,000. This year, it is £220,000,000. The loan market has had to meet those requirements at a time when un-reproductive war loans have been falling due and have had to be redeemed. Last year, the extent of such loans was about £70,000,000.
In the light of all these circumstances, the amount that the Government is raising by loan cannot be regarded, on any reckoning, as inconsiderable. Of course, we should welcome an increase. Fortunately, there is evidence of an increasing interest in the publicmind and by the investing public in Commonwealth securities. I refer particularly to the success of the special issue bonds,which last year, the year of their introduction, yielded £27,000,000. We have, of course, not confined ourselves to local loan raisings. We havehad considerable successes abroad. Strangely enough, although the overseas loans have had the effect of reducing the demands on revenue from taxation while adding to the resources available for development, my friends of the Labour Party have consistently opposed such loans. The Leader of the Opposition last night was good enough to suggest that we should adopt an imaginative policy in respect to loan raisings. He offered to give us some information as tohow we might increase them, and particularly how we might get away from financing capital expenditure from revenue. I am very happy to take him up. We shall leave no stone unturned to improve the financial position of Australia and to increase the availability of loan money. I should be delighted to accept his offer, and I ask him to let us have, at the first suitable opportunity, the benefit of his views on how loan raisings can be increased.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) agreed to-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) agreed: to -
That clauses 3 and 4 and the First Schedule be postponed until after consideration of the Second Schedule.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) agreed to -
That the votes in the Second Schedule be considered in the following order: -
Department of Civil Aviation, £12,140,000.
Department of Shipping and Transport,. £1,240,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Shipping and Transport, £2,898,000.
Construction of Jetty for Handling of Explosives, £690,000.
Commonwealth Railways, £3,983,000.
Department of Air, £60,161,000.
Department of Supply, £20,986,000.
Department of the Treasury, £11,539,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of the Treasury, £418,400.
Refunds of Revenue, £29,000,000.
Advance to the Treasurer, £16,000,000.
Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve, £37,000,000.
War and Repatriation Services - Miscellaneous, £157,700; Miscellaneous credits, £163,000.
Department of Customs and Excise, £4,636,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Customs and Excise, £32,700.
Department of Social Services, £3,483,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Social Services, £2,154,000.
War and Repatriation Services - Department of Social Services, £16,000.
Department of the Army, £65,554,000.
Grants to Rifle Clubs, £35,000.
Department of Health, £1,991,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Health, £1,186,000.
Payments to or for the States, £1,030,000.
Department of Immigration, £2,039,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Immigration, £9,369,000.
Department of the Navy, £42,612,000.
Attorney-General’s Department, £2,011,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Attorney-General’s Department, £29,500.
Department of Labour and National Service, £2,336,000.
Administration of National Service Act, £175,000.
Post Discharge Re-settlement Training, £1,000.
Department of Primary Industry, £1,860,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Primary Industry, £785,000.
Bounties and Subsidies, £13,500,000.
Repatriation Department, £83,021,000.
Department of the Interior, £5,115,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of the Interior, £138,300.
Civil Defence, £300,000.
War and Repatriation Services - Miscellaneous, £287,000.
Australian War Memorial, £94,300.
Australian Capital Territory, £4,191,000.
Department of Territories, £310,000.
Northern Territory, £5,881,000.
Norfolk Island, £32,000.
Papua and New Guinea, £13,142,000.
Cocos (Keeling) Islands, £36,000.
Department of Works, £3,915,000.
Postmaster-General’s Department, £105,066,000.
Broadcasting and Television Services, £9,626,000.
Prime Minister’s Department, £3,228,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Prime Minister’s Department, £4,608,400.
Reconstruction and Rehabilitation, £2,459,000.
Department of External Affairs, £2,582,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of External Affairs, £2,012,000.
Economic Assistance to support defence programme of SEATO member countries, £718,000.
International development and relief, £6,259,000.
Department of Trade, £2,164,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Trade, £663,000.
Department of National Development, £1,931,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of National Development, £1,288,700.
War Services Homes Division, £1,121,000.
Australian Atomic Energy Commission, £2,186,000.
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, £6,772,000.
Miscellaneous Services- C.S.I.R.O., £144,000.
Department of Defence, £1,258,000.
Recruiting Campaign, £310,000.
Department of Civil Aviation.
Proposed Vote, £12,140,000.
– I should like to direct my remarks to Divisions Nos. 261 to 273. I have before me the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, which contain a summary of revenue, whereas the bill that is now before the committee does not contain such a summary. For the purposes of my remarks I shall have to refer to the summary. Perhaps the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) might mention later why the summary appears in one document but not in the other.
The Department of Civil Aviation is growing in importance every year. It deals with a most expensive and most important sector of our financial, industrial, and commercial set-up. The maintenance and operation of civil aviation facilities are of the highest order, and the department deserves very great credit for keeping abreast of developments throughout the world and for incorporating the latest facilities into our airport services. The Darwin airport, which has been developed most recently, will be capable of handling the biggest aircraft that are flying to-day. The proposals to build an international airport in Victoria and to extend the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) airport are very commendable. I should like to direct the Minister’s attention to air navigation charges. During 1958-59, the department received £579,043 in revenue from air navigation charges for the facilities that are provided for various airlines. This was exclusive of the very high charges paid by the airlines in fuel taxes. The committee will remember that a special tax was imposed on the aviation kerosene used by turbo-prop aircraft. Last year T.A.A. alone paid in the vicinity of £400,000. Of course, it is only through the provision of facilities such as are provided by the Department of Civil Aviation that these airlines are able to operate at all. We really do not get a true picture of the revenue received by the Commonwealth as a result of the activities of the Department of Civil Aviation, which provides these facilities for the arlines, when it does not show the revenue obtained through the tax on fuel used by the airlines.
Another matter to which I should like to refer is the dividend paid by the Australian National Airlines Commission. The payment in the nature of a dividend for 1958- 59 is shown as £218,500, but a figure of £254,000 has been quoted. I believe it was very remiss of the Government not to have presented the annual report of TransAustralia Airlines to us, so that we could examine the report while we are debating this very important section of government activities. The revenue to be received by the Department of Civil Aviation from the Australian National Airlines Commission in the coming year is estimated to be £195,000,000. In view of the fact that recently provision has been made lor rather extensive increases in air fares, the decrease in the estimated revenue from the Australian National Airlines Commission is perhaps a little contradictory. If we had the annual report of T.A.A. before the committee, we could examine the details of that airline’s activities, and we would be much better informed.
I should like to mention also a mattei that has come up for discussion frequently in the last few weeks. I refer to the propriety of increasing air fares without the Ansett-A.N.A. company being obliged to present to the people some sort of report and balance sheet. This subsidiary company of Ansett Transport Industries Limited is trading as a proprietary company, and is not obliged to publish a balance sheet. However, it is of interest to see the annual report of Ansett Transport Industries Limited, in which the company states its overall profit for last year, and in which it is stated that during the year to 28th
June, 1958, revenue from all sources jumped from £7,000,000 to £16,000,000.
The report states -
This figure will be further increased in the current year, as the accounts before you present only nine months of trading since the acquisition of Australian National Airways and five months of trading since the acquisition of Butler Air Transport and Queensland Airlines.
Of course, the company has also acquired another airline in South Australia. Provision is made for T.A.A. to present its report and balance-sheet, but there is no way in which the Parliament can examine the accounts of the airlines section of Ansett Transport Industries Limited. We do not know whether the increases in fares are justified, or whether enough is being paid towards the expenses incurred by the Department of Civil Aviation in maintaining and operating the services and facilities that it provides. In the course of the annual report of Ansett Transport Industries Limited, the governing director, Mr. Ansett, said -
Private enterprise, through your company, now controls an airline system larger than the Governmentowned internal airline and is in a position to withstand competition from that organization despite the many privileges our competitor enjoys. There is no doubt that the rapid progress of the Government-owned airline towards a complete monopoly of internal air services has not only been halted - but the balance is slowly swinging back in our favour.
Later he said -
The time may be ripe for the Government to consider disposing of its interests in T.A.A. - not to this company - as without doubt healthy competition has brought improved air services to the public, but to a public company to be formed with adequate protection to insure continued competition.
– That was in the annual report?
– Yes, the only one we have at the present time.
– Was not one issued within the last month?
– It does not seem to be available. Trans-Australia Airlines has not presented its annual report for this year either. I believe that we should have these annual reports before us. After all, we are examining the expenditure of £12,140,000 of the taxpayers’ money. As has been stated frequently over the past, few weeks, a large amount of assistance. both direct and indirect, has been given to the airlines. We really should have before us more details of the activities of both these major airlines.
The rationalization scheme has reduced the number of airlines that may operate and use the /facilities provided by the department. All the facilities are provided by the ‘department, yet we have -the spectacle of one of .the major airlines not being -obliged :to -present .any statement of its affairs to Parliament or., for that matter, *to : the public, other than in ±e form of a general statement .of the combined activities of .Ansett Transport Industries Limited.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired. Before calling Senator Laught, let me say, for the benefit of the committee and in order to facilitate the debate, that it is permissible for honorable senators to speak on any of the items in which Senator Paltridge is interested, provided that they nominate the item on which they wish to speak.
– I desire to speak on Division No. 363, Ship Construction. I am very interested in the memorandum which the Minister was good enough to circulate relating to the activities of the Department of Shipping and Transport. He referred to Division No. 363, and in particular to the activities of the Australian Shipbuilding Board. He said that the board’s activities are concerned with the design and construction of merchant ships mainly for the Australian trade, the repair and maintenance of merchant ships, and shipyards, dry docking and repair facilities for them. I compliment the Minister upon the personal interest he is taking in shipbuilding. As a South Australian, I can testify to the great shipbuilding activities being conducted at Whyalla, and I feel it only just that I -should link the personal interest of the Minister with those activities. Of course it is well known that the Commonwealth provides a splendid subsidy for shipbuilding in Australia.
I should like to ask the Minister whether provision is being made at present for the construction of a ship, or ships, to be used in connexion with the Australian Antarctic Territory. I was encouraged re- cently to read in :the Adelaide “ News “ -that we may build .our own polar ship. The statement was :to the .effect that the Department of External Affairs was examining the design of a ship which may be built in Australia, and one estimate of the cost was that it would be somewhere between £lj000,000 and £1,500,000. Antarctica has become a very important part of the world in recent days. I remind the Senate that on 16th October twelve nations engaged in scientific research in Antarctica began private discussions in Washington to hammer out a treaty that will preserve the south polar region permanently for peaceful purposes. I am proud to say that Australia was one of those nations and that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) was present at the discussion.
It should be remembered that Australia claims a very large part of Antarctica. She claims that portion of this great southern continent which extends from a point south of Madagascar right across the area south of Australia to a point south of New Zealand, with the exception of a small strip of a few hundred miles which is claimed by the French. Admittedly there is a Soviet base at Mirny on this part of Antarctica but, except for that part, Australia has carried out a considerable amount of investigation and research in Antarctica. I have always been amazed at the fact that Australia has no ships of her own for service to this part of the world. The practice has been to hire Scandinavian ships year after year. At the present time the Scandinavian ships “Thala Dan” and “Magga Dan” are under charter to Australia.
Here it is appropriate to refer to the report of the Auditor-General for the year ended 30th lune, 1959, in which he makes the interesting statement that since 1947 the sum of £2,844,474 has been spent on Antarctic Research and that the amount spent on this work for the year just concluded was £526,927. That figure includes £136,809 for salaries, £187,823 for equipment and running expenses, £29,235 for buildings and fittings, £29,019 for aircraft and £144,041 for the charter of the two Scandinavian ships “ Thala Dan “ and “ Magga Dan “. The Auditor-General points out that the £144,041 spent on the charter of ships includes £62,563 for “ Thala Dan “, £44,351 for “ Magga Dan “ and £37,127 for expenditure on ice insurance, victualling, overtime, bunkering and survey and dock work. The hiring charges for “ Thala Dan “ were £662 a day and for “ Magga Dan “ £645 a day. The AuditorGeneral’s final comment was -
It is a matter for consideration whether, from the long-term viewpoint, it would not be more economical to buy or build suitable vessels in connexion with Antarctic research.
So, I have the authority of the AuditorGeneral to invite the attention of the Senate to the proposal I am submitting. I am encouraged to find that we have in Australia all the organization necessary for the building, dry-docking and repairing of ships*, and I put it quite earnestly to the Minister that it is high time his department asserted itself in this matter, and it is high time that he, as a senior Cabinet Minister, presented to Cabinet a proposal for the building in Australia of a ship or ships for use in Antarctica.
There are many reasons why we should have such a ship. First, I point out that the Russians have ships specially prepared and equipped for their research work. I distinctly recall that two years ago a ship rejoicing in the name of “ Ob “ called into South Australian ports. Many South Australians went aboard her and noticed that she seemed to have a reasonably full complement of Russian scientists of the highest order. This and other Russian ships were working regularly between Antarctica and the Australian mainland, yet Australia did not have one ship of her own which she could send to that area. Although it may be convenient at the present time to charter ships from Scandinavia, 1 remind honorable senators that there could come a time when, perhaps through the closing of the Suez Canal, the wrecking of the ships on the way out or some other cause, the Scandinavian ships might be unable to do this work for us. In such circumstances, the brave Australians waiting in Antarctica for relief could not be relieved and, in the eyes of the world, we would appear foolish if we were not able to service adequately the vast territory that we proudly claim we do serve.
If we are to enter upon a period of peaceful development of Antarctica, it is essential that we have ships to contact many parts of the area. Here it is interesting to note that any agreement arrived at with regard to Antarctica will relate also to all the area of sea as far north as the 60th parallel, which is approaching very close to the south of Tasmania. If we are to protect our own interests and, as an inspecting nation, to watch what goes on in this area of sea, it is essential that we have our own ship, or ships, for such work. If we are to be a contracting nation - as we appear to be, since Mr. Casey has attended this conference - we should have reasonable equipment with which to carry out our contractual obligations. Service in such a ship would provide magnificent training for young Australians fired with the spirit of adventure - the spirit of Mawson and others who have gone south. It might be possible for men of the Navy to be drafted for duty in this area. It is important that our naval personnel should have opportunities to sail in these waters, which, I believe, will become of great importance to Australia.
Let us look for a moment at the twelve nations that are attending this conference on Antarctica. They are Argentina, Belgium, Britain, Italy, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the Soviet Union, the United States, and Australia. They include some of the great maritime nations of the world. Australia claims to be one of the great trading nations. - I believe that it ranks seventh or eighth. It is a tragedy that wa have no ship or ships capable of visiting this area which we have claimed as our own, for which this Parliament has approved a system of law, and for which we shall be providing about £1,000,000 a year, perhaps even £2,000,000 a year, within a few years. I ask the Minister, most earnestly, to do all in his power to have these ships built for the specific purpose of giving noble service to Australia.
– I wish to refer to Divisions Nos. 261, 262 and 263 - Department of Civil Aviation. I take this opportunity of complimenting the department upon the conduct of civil aviation in Australia. Beyond doubt, it has a very proud record in this field. Australia is blessed with good flying conditions, but our air services have, in any event, been very efficiently developed. One cannot but compliment those who have been responsible for the provision of the necessary technical services for the laying out of aerodromes, for our safety, for inspection and for the host of other things demanded of an efficient national service. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) carries a heavy responsibility. Civil aviation has become such a vital part of our economic structure that, when it is compared with land and sea transport, it is seen as one of our most important departments. Civil aviation expenditure has increased by £1,200,000, but some increase in administrative costs would naturally be expected as a result of the proposed increase in staffing.
– Is that so? I thought that the number had decreased.
– Reference to the schedule setting out the salaries payable to members of the administrative staff reveals that though the figure for 1958-59 was 3,763, that for 1959-60 is to be 3,849 persons, an increase of 86. I note that 25 of the additional employees are in the general class which includes assistant directors, engineers, surveyors and various technical officers. There is an increase in the staff classed as accounting machinists, clerical assistants and so on, and also in the group classed as chief finance officers, finance officers, &c. I should be glad if the Minister would indicate exactly where the increases are being made, and the classification of the officers concerned.
I want to refer now to the importance of transport to the economy of Australia. The department’s administrative costs bearing in mind the increased staff and the making of reasonable provision for development and expansion have been kept reasonably in hand. Despite this, it has apparently become necessary for the Minister to say, “ We must increase air freights if we are to continue to give you an air transport service “. The proposed increases will operate harshly against those sections of the people who now rely on air transport for the provision of services. Transport has always been a difficulty in Western Australia, which is far removed from the greatest Australian market, and has not yet recovered the trade that it previously had with the Near East and the markets north of Singapore.
Tasmania is similarly placed. Air and shipping services are its normal means of transport. Though various concessions have been made as to shipping, backloading on TransAustralian Railways and the like, I should like the Minister coming as he does from Western Australia and being ever mindful of its welfare to give the Senate an idea of the effect of the heavily increased charges upon that State. Secondary industry in Western Australia is always behind scratch in trying to compete with manufacturers in the eastern States, who have the great Australian market at their doorstep, and who can recover their outlay with comparative ease.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative. (The Temporary Chairman having reported accordingly) -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 October 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1959/19591021_senate_23_s15/>.