23rd Parliament · 1st Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid) took the chair at 1 1.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That all other business be postponed until after Messages Nos. 83 to 86 from the House of Representatives transmitting bills for concurrence have been dealt with.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The legislation I now bring before the Senate seeks the approval of the Parliament to the new revenue grant arrangements which were agreed upon unanimously at the last Premiers’ Conference.
As honorable senators know, there has been much controversy in the past regarding the allocation of financial resources as between the Commonwealth and the States. In an attempt to cut the Gordian knot, efforts were made in recent years to devise a satisfactory basis for re-introducing State income tax and thereby make the States responsible for raising the bulk of the moneys they spend. These efforts did not meet with success. In the meantime, other aspects of the arrangements for Commonwealth assistance, including the amount and distribution of that assistance amongst the States, were being questioned. Accordingly, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his election policy speech last December, stated that it was proposed to convene a special Premiers’ Conference to discuss further the question of State income taxation and the whole problem of Commonwealth-State financial relations. That conference was held in March and the discussions were continued at the annual Premiers’ Conference in June. Printed reports of the proceedings of those conferences are available to honorable senators.
The discussions at the March conference covered systematically all the main aspects of Commonwealth-State financial relations. There was, in particular, further extensive discussion of the question of resumption of income taxing by the States but - and I say this regretfully - we came no closer to finding a practical solution to that intractable problem. Indeed, it appeared that the only feasible way of improving existing financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States would be to recast the system of revenue grants. The Premiers therefore agreed that the Commonwealth should examine this highly complex matter with the aim of putting precise proposals to them at the annual meeting in June.
We went into this problem in great detail and gave a lot of intensive thought to it. We also had the benefit of a number of very useful suggestions from the States, and I am glad to say that at the June conference the Commonwealth was able to place before the Premiers a scheme which, with only minor modifications, met with their unanimous and warm approval. This scheme is the subject of the present legislation.
Before discussing the bill in detail, I might refer to the main problems which the new arrangements are designed to solve. In the first place, it had become quite apparent that the formula in the States Grants (Tax Reimbursement) Act 1946- 1948 for determining the amount of the tax reimbursement grants each year was inadequate. As a result, annual wrangles have taken place with the States regarding the amount by which the formula grant should be supplemented each year. Our first concern, therefore, was to devise arrangements which, so far as could be foreseen, would make a reasonable contribution each year to the States’ financial resources and thereby enable them to discharge their important responsibilities without having to come, cap in hand, to the Commonwealth for additional assistance each year. With these considerations in mind, the new arrangements provide, not only for larger grants in 1959-60 than each State would otherwise have received by way of the old formula grants and the supplementary grants, but also for a more liberal formula for increasing the grants in subsequent years.
Secondly, it was clear that the existing distribution formula, under which the total grant has been distributed among the States in recent years on an adjusted population basis, was no longer generally acceptable. This was, understandably, one of the most difficult problems to solve because it was necessary to arrive at a basis which would be appropriate not only for 1959-60 but also for subsequent years. This problem was met by agreeing upon the grant to each State for 1959-60, and by providing that each State’s grant for that year would be varied in subsequent years in proportion to the movement in its own population and by reference to the annual increase in average wages for Australia as a whole. In future, therefore, the total financial assistance grants will be an aggregation of six separately calculated grants. This constitutes a change from the existing arrangements under which a total grant for the six States combined is determined on the basis both of movements in the total population of the six States and increases in the level of average wages for Australia as a whole, and then is distributed between the six States on an adjusted population basis.
Thirdly, it was necessary to determine the extent to which the basically weaker position of some States should be met outside the main revenue grant arrangements by the payment of special grants recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. For many years, three States had been regular claimants before the Grants Commission, but last year two others - Victoria and Queensland - sought to enter this field. With five claimant States, the Grants Commission machinery as we have known it would have been patently unworkable, and it was clearly necessary to decide which States should have the right of access to the Grants Commission. Suggestions had also been made that the special grants recommended by the commission should be much more marginal in magnitude than they had been in recent years.
In discussing this matter with the Premiers, the Commonwealth made it clear, in the first instance, that it considered that the payment of special grants, upon the recommendation of the Grants Commission, should be continued. I am sure that alt honorable senators would wish to join me in paying tribute to the work which the commission has done over the years. I am confident that it will continue to play a very important part in the future in safeguarding the position of the financially weaker members of the federation. So far as future arrangements are concerned, the Commonwealth suggested that the six States might be regarded as falling into three categories. The Commonwealth suggested that it was highly desirable that not more than two States - Western Australia and Tasmania - should be regular applicants for special grants. At the other extreme the two wealthiest States - New South Wales and Victoria - fall into an entirely different category, and the Commonwealth suggested that these two States should not participate in any special grant arrangements. The States of Queensland and South Australia fall into an intermediate category. The Commonwealth considered that these two States should not be denied the right of access to the Grants Commission machinery, but that the main revenue grants to those two States should be increased substantially and so enable them, in the normal course of events, to avoid applying for special grants.
The conference adopted this approach and the Premiers concerned gave an undertaking that their States would not exercise the privilege of applying for special grants in future unless special or unexpected circumstances arose which endangered their budgetary position relative to that of other States. I am sure all honorable senators join with me in acknowledging the able and determined efforts of the Premier of South Australia in developing that State to the stage where it could appropriately assume the status of a non-claimant State. Sir Thomas Playford has just cause to feel proud of his achievements in this regard. I might add that the opportunity was taken to incorporate in the new revenue grants to Western Australia and Tasmania a large part of the special grants which they would otherwise have received, thus reducing the amount of the special grants to those States to marginal proportions.
Turning now to the details of the bill, it will be noted that the legislation provides for the repeal of the old tax reimbursement legislation and for the payment in the current financial year of financial assistance grants totalling £244,500,000. The amount payable last year under the tax reimbursement formula was £174,563,000 and to this was added a supplementary grant which brought the total of the tax reimbursement grants last year to £205,000,000. The new financial assistance grants proposed for 1959-60 are therefore £39,500,000 more than the tax reimbursement grants paid last year. To keep the matter in perspective, however, I hasten to point out that this increase of £39,500,000 will be offset to the extent of nearly £13,500,000 by a decline in the special grants which have now been recommended by the Commonwealth. Grants Commission.
The fall in the special grants reflects, of course, the fact that the financial assistance grants were designed to assist South Australia to avoid recourse to special grants and to reduce the dependence of Western Australia and Tasmania on special grants to marginal proportions. I might mention that legislation to give effect to the Grants Commission’s recommendations will be introduced shortly. In effect, therefore, the present legislation, together with the special grants legislation, would authorize a net increase in general revenue grants to the States this year of about £26,000.000. In recent years, the amount paid to the States by way of tax reimbursement grants and special grants recommended by the Grants Commission has shown an average annual increase of about £17,000,000. It will be seen therefore, that the new arrangements will involve a substantial increase in the revenue grants to the States. Although, in the present circumstances, this increase of £26,000,000 is a heavy burden on the Commonwealth budget, the Government considers that such an increase is necessary if the new arrangements with the States are to begin on a sound basis. With the concurrence of honorable senators, I incorporate in “ Hansard “ the following table which compares the financial assistance grants and special grants which would be payable in 1959-60 with the tax reimbursement and special grants paid last year: -
In future years, the financial assistance grant payable to each State is to be determined by increasing its grant for 1959-60 in accordance with a formula based on movements in population in that State and increases in the level of average wages per person employed for Australia as a whole. For purposes of the new formula, it was decided to adopt a suggestion by Tasmania that, instead of using the actual in crease in average wages each year, an increase 10 per cent, greater than the actual increase in average wages should be used - thus introducing what has been called a “ betterment factor “. This betterment factor will result in a somewhat greater increase in the grants in future years and it should place the States in a better position to improve the standard and range of the services they provide.
As to the distribution of the grants among the States in 1959-60, the Commonwealth put forward the view at the Premiers’ Conference that no large changes in the previous distribution of the total of the Commonwealth’s revenue assistance to the States appeared to be warranted. The Commonwealth proposed initially that the financial assistance grants for 1959-60 should amount to £242,500,000 and that this amount might be distributed among the States in 1959-60, on a basis which, for the most part, did not differ significantly from the actual distribution of the tax reimbursement and special grants in 1958-59. The Premier of New South Wales, however, pointed out that on a per head basis, the grant to his State in 1959-60 would then be only 4s. 8d. greater than the grant to Victoria as compared with a differential of 14s. 4d. under the previous arrangements. The Premier of South Australia suggested that the proposed distribution would leave South Australia at least £1,000,000 a year worse off than it would be if it still had recourse to the Commonwealth Grants Commission. In this connexion, he pointed out that the 1958-59 grants - from which the proposed distribution was derived - did not include an adjusting payment of approximately £1,000,000 in respect of 1958-59 which, under the Grants Commission procedures, South Australia might reasonably expect to receive in due course. The Commonwealth met these representations by increasing the proposed grants to New South Wales and South Australia by £1,000,000 in each case, thus increasing the total financial assistance grants for 1959-60 to £244,500,000.
As I have mentioned, the grant to each State in each subsequent year will be calculated by varying its grant for the previous year in proportion to the annual movement in its own population and by increasing the result by 1.1 times the annual percentage increase, if any, in average wages for Australia as a whole. Thus, whereas the tax reimbursement legislation provided for the determination by one formula of a total amount to be paid to all States and then for the distribution by a second formula of that amount amongst the States, the total of the financial assistance grants in any year under the new arrangements will be an aggregation of six separately determined grants. In contrast with the old arrangements, the grant to each State will increase each year in direct proportion to the annual increase in its own population.
I should mention at this point the possibility that, when the next census is taken, some revision of the estimates of State populations for preceding years may be found necessary. While inter-census estimates of the Australian population as a whole can be made with a high degree of precision, the difficulties in recording interstate migration prevent the same degree of accuracy being achieved in estimates of the State-by-State distribution of that population. If the next census, which is to be taken in 1961, were to indicate that there had been appreciable discrepancies in the estimates of State populations for 1959 and 1960, it might be necessary, for purposes of calculating the grants for 1961-62, to revise the population estimates for 1959 and 1960, and thus enable the grants for that year to be determined on the basis of a consistent series of population figures. As this particular problem was not discussed at the Premiers’ Conference, and as it cannot be foreseen at this stage whether any adjustments to the population estimates consequent on the census would be large enough to affect significantly the grant to any State in 1961-62 we have not attempted to make any provision for this contingency in the legislation.
Honorable senators will note that no provision is made in the bill for deduction of any arrears of State income taxation from the amounts payable to the States in any year under the new arrangements. The arrears of State taxation that are now collected are very small as it is almost two decades since the States levied their own income taxes. In any case, the general revenue grants which the Commonwealth makes to the States have long since lost their relation to the income tax proceeds the States collected in the period before uniform taxation was introduced. I might add that, as these grants can no longer be regarded as being in the nature of a tax reimbursement or a form of compensation to the States for their vacation of the income tax field, it is proposed in future to refer to these payments as financial assistance grants rather than tax reimbursement grants.
The new grants arrangements proposed in this bill are based on the assumption that the States and their authorities will continue to meet pay-roll tax and that the distribution of taxing powers as between the Commonwealth and the States will remain unaltered. In the event of any change or proposed -change in respect of such matters as these having a major effect on the finances of the States, the arrangements would be reviewed toy the Commonwealth. The arrangements will, in any case, be subject to review at any time after the lapse of six years from 1st July, 1959, should the Commonwealth or any State government so desire. All statistical calculations under the bill are to be performed by the Commonwealth Statistician, who shall, where practicable, confer with the official statisticians of the States. As under the tax reimbursement arrangements, he will be required to perform his calculations of the grants payable in any year before 31st December of that year. The figures of population and average wages which he shall take into account within the formula are defined in the same way as under the previous arrangements except for two small technical changes. The proportion accorded to females in the determination of average wages per person employed has been increased slightly, consistent with the trends in wages of male and female employees in recent years, and members of the Defence Force serving overseas are excluded from the population figures.
In conclusion, let me repeat that, in granting an increase of £26,000,000 in the revenue grants to the States in 1959-60 as compared with the amounts paid in 1958-59, the Commonwealth has placed a heavy burden on its own Budget. However, it has been prepared to do this in a determined endeavour to produce a new system of grants to the States which would bring a real and lasting improvement in CommonwealthState affairs. The large increase in the grants for 1959-60 under the new arrangements represents a very generous contribution to the resources of the States. Furthermore, in future years, these grants should increase at a rate fully in keeping with the demands which national expansion will impose on the finances of the States. As I have mentioned, these arrangements have the unanimous support of the States and the arrangements themselves were worked out in an atmosphere of mutual
Understanding and co-operation that augurs well for Commonwealth-State relations in the future. Firmly believing that these new proposals constitute a sound and definite improvement in our financial arrangements with the States, 1 commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the payment during 1959-60 of special grants totalling £7,299,000 to the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. These grants have been recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in its twenty-sixth report which has already been tabled. The bill also authorizes the payment of advances to the States of Western Australia and Tasmania in the early months of 1960-61, pending the authorization by Parliament of the special grants for that year. A similar provision was included in last year’s legislation.
Before considering the Grants Commission’s recommendations for 1959-60, it is necessary to say a few words about the decisions reached at the Premiers’ Conference in June, 1959, as these have an important bearing on the future role of the commission. Under the arrangements agreed upon at that conference, Western Australia and Tasmania will be the only States which will continue to apply regularly for special grants. South Australia, which for a period of 30 years was a regular claimant under the Grants Commission arrangements, has now emerged to the status of a non-claimant State. It was agreed that, while South Australia and Queensland should not be denied some right of access to the Grants Commission, these two States should exercise this privilege only in special or unexpected circumstances which endangered their budgetary position relative to that of other States. The new revenue grant arrangements were also designed to bring about a substantial reduction in the size of special grants thus making these grants more marginal in nature. With this in mind, the new financial assistance grants agreed upon for Western Australia and Tasmania were very much higher than the amounts which those States had been receiving by way of tax reimbursement grants.
Honorable senators will recall that last year the States of Victoria and Queensland were seeking additional Commonwealth assistance by way of special grants. This development threatened the whole system of special grants which was designed originally to assist the financially weaker members of the federation which were handicapped by basic difficulties. Under the new arrangements, the circumstances under which States may seek special grants have been clarified and the Grants Commission will be able to discharge its important responsibilities in the knowledge that all members of the federation are agreed as to the place which special grants should occupy in the system of CommonwealthState financial relations.
In accordance with the arrangements decided upon at the June Premiers’ Conference, the Government of South Australia has withdrawn the application which it had previously made for a special grant in respect of 1959-60. It was agreed at the conference, however, that the commission should be asked to advise whether any adjustment should be made to the special grants which had been paid to South Australia in respect of 1957-58 and 1958-59. The amount included in the present bill as the special grant to South Australia is a final adjustment to the special grant paid to that State in respect of 1957-58. It is hoped that the commission will be able to make a further recommendation later in the current financial year concerning the adjustment to South Australia’s special grant for 1958-59.
In arriving at its recommendations for 1959-60 the commission has continued to follow the general principle of financial need as enunciated in its third report. According to this principle the special grants are designed to enable the claimant States to function at a standard not appreciably below that of the non-claimant States, providing they make comparable efforts in raising revenue and controlling expenditure. The application of this principle requires a detailed comparison of the budgets of the claimant States with those of the non-claimant States, taking particular account of differences in levels of expenditure and in efforts to raise revenue.
Under the procedures at present adopted by the commission the special grants recommended each year are composed of two parts. One part is based upon the commission’s estimate of a claimant State’s financial needs for the year in which the grant is to be paid. This part is regarded by the commission as an advance payment, subject to final adjustment two years later when the commission has completed the examination of the audited budget results, of the States for that year. The other part of the grant represents a final adjustment of the special grant paid two years earlier.
The special grants recommended for payment in 1959-60 and those paid in 1958-59- are compared in the following table, which,, with the concurrence of the Senate, I will have incorporated in “ Hansard “: -
In total, the special grants now recommended for payment in 1959-60 are £13,451,000 less than the grants paid to the claimant States last year. Leaving South Australia aside, the special grants recommended for Western Australia and Tasmania show a reduction of £8,600,000 on the special grants paid to those States in 1958-59. Further details relating to these grants are given in the commission’s report. Although the claimant States will receive considerably smaller amounts by way of special grants in 1959-60 than in 1958-59, their total revenue grants, after taking into account the new financial assistance grants, will be substantially greater than the total of the tax reimbursement and special grants received in 1958-59.
The special grants recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission have been authorized by the Parliament on each occasion in the past, and the Government considers that the commission’s recommendations should be adopted again this year. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till “Tuesday, 10th November, at 3 p.m.
With your concurrence, Mr. Deputy President, I should like to inform honorable senators that, in all probability, it will be necessary for the Senate to sit for four days in the week in which we resume, so that we may deal with the business before us. I ask honorable senators to be prepared to sit on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of that week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization been directed to the annual report of the C.S.I. R.O., which claims that an increased rainfall of 19 per cent, was achieved over a target area located in the Snowy Mountains? May this be taken as an indication that rain-making experiments are making satisfactory progress? If so, can the Minister indicate whether generally useful results might be achieved by concentrating on the drought-stricken areas of western Victoria?
– I am a little behind in my reading, and I have not seen the C.S.I.R.O. report to which Senator Wade refers. I am, of course, fairly closely in touch with the rain-making experiments that are carried out over the Snowy Mountains area, and I am interested indeed to note that a 19 per cent, increase in rainfall has been claimed. I refrain from comment upon the claim, because this is a matter of such importance that I should like to be fortified with the advice of the Snowy Mountains Authority. Of course, if we could increase by 19 per cent, the rainfall over the Snowy Mountains area, the benefits that would come from more water in storage would be very great indeed. I do not know whether increased rainfall could be produced over the dry plains of Victoria, because conditions have to be favorable for these experiments to be successful. I think it would be necessary to know a good deal about geographical conditions before expressing an opinion. At the moment, to quite a material extent the experiments are being concentrated on the Snowy Mountains area, which has very good natural conditions for these experiments to proceed satisfactorily.
– Does the Leader of the Government expect that, due to the dissatisfaction caused in the Government parties over the non-contentious subject of tourism, he will have two or more fighting factions to placate or vaporize when the Senate resumes in November?
– I can only assure Senator Benn that, in relation to dissatisfaction in the ranks of the Government parties, the wish is father to the thought.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs aware that a motion picture film entitled “ Operation Teutonic Sword “, which the West German Embassy in Canberra claims was a propaganda film produced in East Germany, has been screened at the Canberra University College? Is the Minister further aware that the West German Embassy in Canberra has stated that this film aims at undermining the reputation and authority of General Speidel, and that specific references in the film to that officer, who is the commander of West Germany’s land forces in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, are untrue and that the whole film is a falsification of the facts of history? Has the Minister made any inquiries into the circumstances in which the film was shown at the Canberra University College, having regard also to the fact that it was banned in the United Kingdom? If not, will he undertake to make such inquiries and inform the Parliament whether the nature of the film warrants a ban against its being shown any further in this country?
– I only know of the charges and counter-charges on this contentious matter that I have read in the press, and as the two points of view are most indignantly expressed by their respective advocates, I myself hesitate to express any opinion. In those circumstances I think the question should go directly to the responsible Minister, and I therefore ask that it be put on notice.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade give us any information as to the nature of the body that supervises the operation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade? Has it come to his notice that a sub-committee has recently been appointed to inquire into the question as to whether import licensing is infringing the terms of that agreement? Has the Minister made any assessment of that problem? If so, will he give the Senate any information upon it?
– I did notice the newspaper report. Of course, the basic principle of Gatt is that import licensing restrictions shall be imposed only for balance of payments purposes. The Australian Government is quite firm in the contention that that is the sole reason for the imposition of import licensing. I speak without consultation with Mr. McEwen, but I am quite certain that he will be able to satisfy any committee appointed by Gatt of the bona fides of the Australian Government on that issue.
– As a supplementary question, 1 ask the Minister whether he has seen the press notice in relation to this matter, with particular reference to the allegation by the Australian representative in Tokyo that measures other than tariffs are being used by certain nations to protect their trade. Can the Minister indicate what measures were referred to by our representative?
– I am sorry to say that I am not so up to date as to have picked up the press report to which Senator Vincent refers. Therefore, without that background I should hesitate to give an answer to the question.
Broadcasting and Televising of Proceedings
– I direct a number of questions to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it a fact that the development of television has reduced to a low level the number of listeners to broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings? Is it a fact that the broadcasting of question time proceedings is still fairly popular? Will the Government consider the televising of question time, say for ten minutes or so once a week, not only for its interest but also for educational purposes?
– Replying to the last question first, I should think that the televising of parliamentary proceedings would add a new horror to parliamentary life. I do not know whether I represent a majority view, but I can give an assurance that if I do not, I would advocate my minority view with all the force that I have. As to the falling off in listeners to broadcasts because of the advent of television, I assume that Senator Brown’s contention is correct, but I was most interested to read the report of a recent conference held in Queensland at which statistics were produced showing that despite the competition of television there had been a substantial increase in the issue of broadcast listeners’ licences. As to the other question, I am aware that the broadcasting of question time is one of the most popular parts of parliamentary broadcasts.
– Is it a fact that the report on the operations of Commonwealth Railways for the year 1958-59 shows that a profit of £1,249,088 was achieved after taking into account an amount of £767,238 which represents freight concessions on the haulage of coal from the Leigh Creek North coal-fields to the South Australian Government’s power house at Port Augusta? I ask the Minister whether he can supply the Senate with the following information - What is the basis of the concession? When was the agreement made? Who were the parties concerned? How long has the agreement to run? Having regard to the terms of section 44 of the Commonwealth Railways Act, why has provision not been made by the Commonwealth to pay to the Commonwealth Railways the amounts involved in the concession? What is the total of these outstanding concessional amounts included in the sundry debtors amounting to approximately £3,000,000 as at 30th June, 1959? What is the nature of the current discussions referred to by the commissioner in the report?
– It is a fact, as stated by Senator Wedgwood, that the reported profit of the Commonwealth Railways includes an amount of £700,000 carried in the sundry debtors’ account. That represents the difference between the rate actually received by the Commonwealth Railways for the carriage of Leigh Creek coal and the standard freight rate which is usually applied on that line for coal haulage.
The origin of this matter, of course, goes back to the construction of the standard gauge line to Leigh Creek when an agreement was reached between the Commonwealth Government and the State Government that efforts would be made to develop that important coalfield in South Australia. If my memory serves me correctly, it was agreed that a concession rate of lis. 6d. a ton should be charged. The difference between the lis. 6d. and the standard rate was refunded yearly from the Treasury to the Commonwealth Railways until the standardization of the Une was completed and diesel traction was used. That introduced entirely new circumstances and an entirely new set of costs. Since the completion of the standard gauge and the introduction of diesel traction, investigations have been going forward as to the actual costs involved so that the measure of the Commonwealth’s subvention of the concession rate can be gauged. That is the nature of the discussions which are now going forward between the Commonwealth Railways and the Treasury. I have not in my mind what the total amount held in sundry debtors account is for the period of three years, but it would probably now be £1,500,000.
– My question to the Minister for Civil Aviation really follows the one which was asked rather facetiously yesterday in connexion with the same subject; but this question is quite serious, ls the Minister aware of the growing tide of criticism and dissatisfaction with the new austerity rules on passenger airlines, particularly on longer flights, as evidenced in letters to the “West Australian “ and in reports by travellers arriving in the west who, after a long journey from Adelaide, have only tea and biscuits during their many hours of flight? Does he not think that this austerity campaign, together with the extra cost of air fares and the cost of bus transport from city depots to terminals, and the decreased standard of meals on the long distance aircraft will result in bringing about a great deal of customer resistance and thus defeat its own ends?
– I am very certain that the measures recently introduced will not produce the type of customer resistance which will lead to a down-turn of patronage of airlines or their revenue from passengers. I say that for the simple reason that, despite this new arrangement, the service on Australian airlines remains comparable with the best service in the world. It is quite idle to say otherwise. Indeed, any one who has travelled on overseas airlines will know, as a matter of fact, that the meals provided now on Australian airlines are at least equal to and probably better than the meals provided on most overseas airlines. As for the bus travel concession which has been withdrawn recently, I should say that bus travel to airports is something which is probably unique to Australia.
– By way of preface to a question addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, I refer to the promise made yesterday by the Australian delegation at the Colombo Plan Conference at Jogjakarta in Indonesia to the effect that our numerical target of Colombo Plan students is an intake of about 500 in the year, so that the total number of students in Australia will be increased to about 1,000 compared with 835 at the end of June, 1959. Whilst heartily commending such extension of the student training portion of the Colombo Plan, I should like the Minister to ascertain and let me know to what extent the Commonwealth and, for that matter the States and private concerns, are making possible the services abroad in Colombo Plan and other areas of distinguished Australians experienced in, say, medicine, law, teaching, government administration, journalism, agriculture, technology, and so on.
– Offhand, I could not give Senator Laught all the details for which he asked. I know it has been the settled policy, so far as the Colombo Plan is concerned, to aim at three objectives - the provision of material that could be used by our friends, the introduction into Australia of students from overseas, and the provision of expert knowledge from Australia for the use of our friends overseas. I am sorry I cannot give him the break-up showing the extent to which that is now operating, but if he puts the question on notice I shall see that the information is obtained.
– By way of supplementary question, I should like to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration whether he can tell us the numbers and categories of non-European students being given educational instruction in Australia at the present time.
– I think there are 900 Colombo Plan and over 5,000 other Asian students at present receiving instruction in Australia in secondary schools, high schools and in post-graduate and undergraduate courses at the universities. Whilst this number may appear to the world to be small, it is, owing to our limited accommodation, a great number for Australia. And we feel that we are giving the young people of Australia and our young friends from overseas a tremendous opportunity to mix together, to work together and to get to know one another.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate in a position to say whether the statement on defence to be made by the Prime Minister during November will be made in the Parliament, and whether the Parliament will be given an opportunity to debate that statement before it goes into recess?
– The question is one relating to such high policy that I beg leave to refrain from giving a direct answer to it. However, I think I should say that we in Australia have adopted the procedure of laying down a defence policy covering a period of years. One of those periods is now expiring. The Prime Minister has stated that he hopes to have the new policy, or the altered arrangement, completed before he goes overseas at the end of November. I am well aware that arrangements are in hand to enable that to be done. As to whether, when it is done, the Prime Minister will make a statement on the floor of the Parliament about it is, of course, for the Prime Minister himself to say.
– I desire to direct a supplementary question to the Minister for the Navy, concerning the joint peacetime operation that was engaged in recently by the combined forces of the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the forces were commanded by a naval officer or an Air Force officer? If they were not commanded by an officer of either of those forces, by what means was co-ordination obtained? Can the Minister say whether useful information was gathered that might lead to better co-ordination between those two services and also, possibly, the third service - the Army?
– I think the exercise to which the honorable senator refers is one which took place about a week ago. It was not an exercise of co-operation, in the sense that it was not an exercise in which the Navy and the Air Force together sought to achieve a common object or gain a common end. The exercise, in fact, consisted of the fleet putting to sea and the Air Force seeking to find the fleet and to attack and sink it. As the object of the Air Force was to seek out the fleet and sink it, and the object of the fleet was to destroy the Air Force, the scope for co-operation would appear to have been limited. However, in reply to the specific question that has been asked, I inform the honorable senator that the naval forces were commanded by a naval officer, and the air forces by an air officer. The joint orders for the operation were drawn up with the co-operation of the Air Force and the Navy. The sort of information which would have been gained was information as to the effectiveness of devices in both the ships and the aircraft. The Air Force would gain information on the co-ordination of attacks, and the fleet would gain information in relation to air attack tactics. The result would be valuable in the overall interests of defence.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, without notice, concerning the impending trip of the Prime Minister to Indonesia. Will the Minister discuss with the right honorable gentleman the possibility of his following the pattern that was adopted by the Prime Minister of Japan, when he visited Australia last year? It will be recalled that Mr. Kishi brought some private members of the Japanese Diet with him. Will the Minister suggest to the Prime Minister the desirability of an allparty delegation from this Parliament accompanying him on his forthcoming visit to Indonesia, so that our nearest neighbours in the Pacific may have an opportunity for discussions with members of all political parties in this country?
– I shall be pleased to direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the suggestion that has been made by the honorable senator.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - I am sure that all honorable senators share my pleasure in the honour that delegates to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference to be held here next week have done us by sitting in the galleries to observe our procedure this morning.
Their visit to us is a privilege that we greatly appreciate. It is a privilege because we know the value of Parliament as an institution and appreciate the great benefits that flow from the parliamentary system not only in this country but also in the countries from which our visitors come. The parliamentary system is identical in all’ these countries, and it is a great power for good. I should like to extend to the visiting delegates a very warm welcome. We assure them that they enjoy the goodwill of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, and we welcome the opportunities that we shall have of extending hospitality to them during the next week.
Honorable Senators - Hear, hear!
Senate adjourned at 12.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 October 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1959/19591029_senate_23_s16/>.