23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question without notice. I refer him to a statement in to-day’s press, attributed to the Commonwealth Statistician, that over the period of five years from 1955 to 1959 the Australian marriage rate has fallen from 7.84 per thousand to 7.39 per thousand, involving a loss to Australia of many thousands of marriages. I ask the Minister: Does he agree that, in view of the importance of the marriage institution generally and its association with the birth rate in particular, any decline in Australia’s marriage rate is to be deplored? Secondly, will the Government seek the reasons for the decline and consider measures likely to stimulate the marriage rate, including marriage loans, additional loans at cheaper interest rates for co-operative housing, war-service housing and other housing, and also increased child endowment?
– I did not see the figures to which Senator McManus has referred, but I knew that there had’ been a decline in the marriage rate. I believed it to be due mainly to the change of the average age level of the population. Because of the fall in the birth rate some twenty years ago, the number of people of marriageable age in Australia now is smaller than it was a few years ago. It is also much smaller than it will be a few years hence. Expressing the position in another way, the fall in the marriage rate is running parallel with the fall in the number of people of marriageable age. However, the demographers estimate there will be a large increase in the number of those eligible for education at schools and universities a few years hence. Therefore, the number of people of marriageable age will increase in the near future. With regard to proposals to increase the marriage rate by inducements I, personally, have some doubt whether any one will take such a serious step as marriage because of incentive pay ments, if I may use that expression. Mowever, as this is a matter of policy I will avoid the question on that ground.
– I ask the Minister for National Development a question. I preface my question by stating that the press has announced to-day that British Petroleum Limited has decided to erect a lubricating oil refinery at Kwinana, in Western Australia, at a cost of approximately £10,000,000. It is expected that between 750 and 1,000 persons will be employed on the construction of the refinery and that ultimately permanent employment will be available for some 200 people. Can the Minister say what proportion of Australia’s refined lubricating oil needs will be met by this refinery and how much Australia will save per annum in foreign exchange as a result of refining our lubricating oils locally?
– I am sorry, but I do not keep the figures in relation to this matter in my mind. The proposal is to build, for the first time in Australia, a plant to refine lubricating oils. It is also proposed to build a second plant in Sydney. My recollection is that when the first proposal was under consideration it was expected that the plant at Kwinana would supply 40 per cent, to 50 per cent, of the Australian market. I believe that the two plants combined will provide all of Australia’s requirements. This is a new venture in the petroleum refining industry and one that fills a pretty important gap in our manufacturing industries.
I am sorry that I do not remember the extent of our imports of lubricating oils, but the figure is substantial. If I were to guess I would say that at present we import about £10,000,000 worth a year.
– I ask the Minister a supplementary question. Will he take adequate steps to ensure that sufficient steel is available for this important construction?
– There is a shortage of some types of steel. I do not know whether the steel that is required for this particular plant is in short supply. I would think that an organization of the efficiency and size of British Petroleum Limited would have cleared the air on that issue before undertaking construction. I remind Senator Branson that even if local steel should be in short supply, import restrictions have now been lifted and steel could be obtained from overseas, although it would, of course, be at a greater price than Australian steel.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Treasurer. Realizing that cardiovascular disease is the cause of the greatest number of deaths, the National Heart Foundation is seeking £1,500,000 for research and other purposes. Will the Minister inform the Senate what amount the Government has contributed to the foundation up to the present? What is the total amount that the Government proposes to contribute?
– The Commonwealth’s general provision for medical research is through the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University and the Medical Research Endowment Fund. For the first institution the Government is providing £490,000 a year and for the latter it is providing £240,000 in the current financial year. In response to a request for assistance towards the cost of launching the National Heart Foundation appeal the Government has granted £10,000 to the foundation. 1 understand that the National Heart Foundation desired to set itself up as a completely independent entity, and it asked the Commonwealth Government to donate £10,000 towards the initial expenses of the foundation. This request was met in full.
– I desire to ask a supplementary question. Did the chairman of the National Heart Foundation express a desire that the foundation receive no moneys from the Commonwealth Government in addition to that £10,000?
– It may be as well to place on record the letter from the Prime Minister to Mr. McDonald, the chairman of the National Heart Foundation. The letter is dated 16th December and reads -
F refer to your letter earlier this year seeking a grant from the Commonwealth towards the initial expenses of the National Heart Foundation of Australia.
Your specific request was for £10,000 towards the campaign for an Australia-wide appeal for funds to be made in April-June, 1961.
As r indicated at your conference in Canberra in February, which I had the privilege to attend, i have nothing but admiration for the task which the Foundation has set itself. I have therefore been very pleased to approve your request for £10,000. ( do so in the knowledge that this will be the full extent of the Commonwealth contribution in keeping with the wish of the Foundation to establish itself as an entirely independent organization.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Can he say whether any provision is likely to be made in the forthcoming Budget for a start to be made on the standardization of the gauge of the Peterborough division of the South Australian railways? If so, what is the nature of the provision? Has the South Australian Government been advised of the Commonwealth proposal? I base my question on a Canberra report in the Adelaide “ News “ of 7th April which indicated that a start would probably be made next financial year, and that the Commonwealth Cabinet has before it two reports, one from the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner and another which is a reply by the South Australian Railways Commissioner.
– The question, which originated from a newspaper report, raises two fundamental issues. One is a policy issue and the other is a specific budgetary issue. I am sure I do not have to tell the honorable senator that where policy issues are concerned, it would be beyond my competence to answer the question; and where a specific budgetary proposal is concerned, I just would not do so, even if I knew the answer.
– Has the Minister for Customs and Excise seen an article written by Mr. Andrew D. Osborn, librarian of the University of Sydney - that is the Fisher Library - which argues that a large importation of second-hand books is necessary for Australia’s cultural development, and states that if the regulation of the Customs Department which requires the submission of lists of all books imported continues in force, the second-hand book trade will undoubtedly cease to import second-hand books? Will the Minister inquire into this matter and try to find an alternative to the present regulation?
– I did read the article in the press this morning with a great deal of interest. It deals with two separate things. It refers to a second-hand bookseller who imports second-hand books, and it then refers to the university library which also imports second-hand books. I disagree with the author when he says that a bookseller who imports second-hand books in quantity for sale finds any difficulty at all in complying with the customs regulations. The law requires that before books may be cleared through customs a list of titles must be supplied so that we may know what is in the shipment.
The second part of the question relates to importation of books in large quantities by the university library. This has been a matter of some difficulty between Mr. Osborn and the department. We have leaned over backwards to try to assist in finding a solution to this problem, and we are still prepared to do so. According to law, the university library was asked to supply the titles in a parcel of some 5,000 books. The librarian said that it was beyond his physical capacity to provide a list of titles, and he asked us to allow the books to come in without any examination at all being made by the Department of Customs and Excise. It was suggested that because they were imported by the university we must take them as read, and that that was all there was to it, irrespective of the contents of the parcel. I am sorry. The law, as it stands, applies to the university as well as to anybody else. Therefore I am not prepared to accept the university’s proposal, which seems to be the only proposal up to date that will satisfy Mr. Osborn. I repeat that we have leaned over backwards to try to assist and that we are prepared to continue doing so. We have offered to allow some of the books to be processed immediately, upon receiving a list of their titles, but we must ask the university to observe the law. We shall help the university authorities in every way, but the law is the law.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware that great losses and many hardships are caused annually in various parts of Australia by such national disasters as floods, cyclones, droughts and bushfires? Also, is he aware that the high cost of insurance with private insurance companies is, in many cases, too great for the average outback settler? Will the Minister consider the establishment of a fund similar to that which was controlled by the War Damage Commission during the war, to which reasonable payments could be made by those persons living in danger areas, to insure themselves and their properties against heavy losses?
– The proposal of the honorable senator is not a new one. Indeed, as she said, during the war a fund somewhat similar to the one she now suggests was established. The suggestion does, however, raise a number of points of policy, and therefore I think it would be better if the Treasurer had an opportunity of examining it and preparing an answer to the question.
” HANSARD “.
– My question without notice is directed either to the Leader of the Government in the Senate or to you, Mr. Deputy President. By way of explanation, may I say that several totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners have asked me whether it would be possible to obtain direct from Parliament, on application, copies of “ Hansard “. In many instances, such people are dependent for their copies on the generosity of other people who have finished with them. I ask the Minister, or you, Sir, whether it would be possible to meet the wishes of the pensioners in this matter.
– I can only say that the conditions under which “ Hansard “ is made available are prescribed, and that 1 do not recollect all of them. I think that a short answer to the question may be that each senator and member of the House of Representatives may place on the mailing list of “ Hansard “ the names of a certain number of people. I doubt very much whether that quota is fully availed of by all members of the Parliament.
– No. It is not big enough.
– Well, that proposal falls to the ground. I shall have to ask for the question to be placed on the noticepaper, so that I may see what should be done about the matter.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has the Minister any information concerning the policy of the Government in relation to the Parliamentary Library, which includes the Commonwealth or national public library? I understand that a statement in this respect is being made by the Acting Prime Minister, as the matter of policy comes under the Prime Minister’s Department. Since the Parliamentary Library is now under the control of the Parliament, not the Cabinet, will the Leader of the Government make a statement on the matter in the Senate?
– I have been furnished with a copy of the statement that my colleague, Mr. McEwen, proposes to make in another place to-day, and with the concurrence of the Seriate, I shall read that statement in this chamber later in to-day’s proceedings.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the
The failure of the Government to inform the Parliament, as to -
whether negotiations being conducted by the Government in relation to the undertaking controlled by the Australian Aluminium Production Commission relate to the disposal of the whole or part only of the undertaking to an overseas company, or to the granting of an interest in the undertaking to the said company, and
whether, and how, vital Australian interests will be safeguarded in the event of any change being effected in the existing control of the undertaking by the Commonwealth and Tasmanian Governments alone.
– I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 11.30 a.m.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Is the motion supported? (More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
– The terms of the subject matter, Mr. Deputy President, have been read by you and circulated in writing to the Senate. The urgency of the matter arises from the fact that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has admitted that negotiations are in hand affecting the future control of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission’s undertaking at Bell Bay, in Tasmania. We of the Opposition have very strong views on this matter and we desire to put them before the Senate before we presently are presented with an established fact in the form of a motion or resolution for approval of a sale that has already been completed. So far, the Minister, in reply to questions from both sides of the chamber, has done no more than indicate that some negotiations are proceeding in relation to this very important undertaking at Bell Bay.
I shall review very rapidly the establishment of the commission which was set up in 1944 by the Labour Government under the Aluminium Industry Act.
– Who passed the Aluminium Industry Act?
– The Labour Government, in 1944. That act provided that there should be a commission of four members, two to be appointed by the Commonwealth, one of whom was to be the chairman, and two to be appointed by the Tasmanian Government. A casting vote was given to the chairman. The act specifically imposed a duty upon the commission, as is shown in section 7 of the legislation, to proceed with aluminium production as urgently as possible in order to promote the naval, military and air defence of the Commonwealth and its Territories. The agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania, which formed a schedule to the act, provided, in paragraph 3 (i), a complete prohibition upon the commission from dealing with matters of policy relating to defence. It also prevented the commission from exporting or disposing of its products to aliens and others without the approval of the Parliament.
It is quite clear, therefore, that from the beginning it was the great importance of aluminium from the point of view of defence that induced the Government of the day to set up the commission and the two Governments, State and Federal, to come together and inaugurate the project at Bell Bay.
– What proportion of the product of the commission to-day is used for defence?
– I am not in a position to answer that. I merely remind the honorable senator that aluminium, apart from its other uses, is of vital importance in the aircraft industry, and that it is used to quite an appreciable degree in space projectiles.
The 1944 legislation also provided that the sale of the whole or any part of the undertaking was prohibited unless with the consent of both Houses of this Parliament and both Houses of the Parliament of Tasmania. The act and the agreement provided that the State and the Commonwealth should contribute on a £1 for £1 basis towards the cost of establishing the industry. It was thought that a total amount of £3,000,000 would be required, and each of the partners was to contribute £1,500,000. The agreement contains this very interesting provision in paragraph 3 (j): -
The commission shall not enter into or be in any way concerned in or a party to or act in concert with any commercial trust or combine but shall always be and remain an independent Australian undertaking.
That was the firm agreement between Tasmania and the Commonwealth. I shall come back later to its variation in 1952, and finally to its application to the events of to-day.
Long delay occurred in determining the right process to be used at Bell Bay. There were difficulties about the accounts, which were pointed out by the Public Accounts Committee, but eventually aluminium ingots were poured on 23rd September, 1955. In the meantime we were experiencing the effects of the serious inflation that this Government allowed to grow in the years 1950, 1951 and 1952. I remind the Senate that in those years the basic-wage rose, through cost-of-living increases, by 13s., 38s. and 31s. a week respectively. As a result, of course, the whole basis of the estimates upon which the undertaking’ was commenced was thrown into chaos, and costs amounted enormously. When more money was required Tasmania said it could not find any more. The Commonwealth agreed to find another £4,250,000 and such other moneys as might be required, but it insisted upon the preparation of an amendment to the original agreement. That appears as a schedule to the Australian Aluminium Industry Act 1952, and it made very important changes. In the first place, the number of commissioners was altered from four to five, the Commonwealth Government in future to have four out of the five and to have the nomination of both the chairman and the deputy chairman. The section providing for approval from both Houses of both Parliaments was deleted and a new one inserted in the act, and a corresponding new clause was inserted in the agreement providing that no sale of the whole or any interest in the undertaking could be made except by resolution of this Parliament. In other words, the Tasmanian Parliament was completely discarded, the sole decision coming back to this Parliament. The prohibition extended even to the case where Tasmania itself might conceivably have wanted to sell its interest.
– What reference did you give for that?
– Section 7 of the Aluminium Industry Act 1952 repeals section 9 of the 1944 act and substitutes the new provision. In other words, the State of Tasmania was completely ousted from any say whatever. Even if it wanted to sell its interest in the undertaking it had to get the approval of this Parliament.
– Is it still an equal partner?
– Let me tell the whole story. Clause 3a of the agreement provided that if the Commonwealth decided to sell, in effect, it had to give three months’ notice to the State of Tasmania. If that State objected the sale was not to proceed unless the State were repaid its capital contributions and whatever interest was due on them. The complete ouster of the State was emphasized in new clause 3a (2.) (b) of the agreement annexed to the 1952 legislation. It reads -
The State shall accept a payment offered by the Commonwealth for the purposes of the last preceding paragraph, and shall then have no further interests in the assets of the Commission or in the proceeds of the sale or disposal, and shall cease to be entitled to be represented on the Commission or to have any other rights under this agreement.
In other words, complete power is vested in this Parliament to oust Tasmania and its interests, regardless entirely of Tasmania’s wishes.
The significant thing is that when clause 3 was redrawn in 1952 it wiped out paragraphs (a) to (f) and paragraph (h) of the old clause 3, but it did nothing whatever to disturb the requirement that this industry had to be preserved as an independent Australian industry. In fact, the concluding clause of the 1952 agreement provides that in all other respects the principal agreement is confirmed. Therefore, in 1952 this Government, with the 1944 agreement clearly before it imposing on the commission an obligation not to be concerned with any cartel and to keep the industry always as an independent Australian one - with the whole clause under review - expressly confirmed that provision. That is a fact which 1 should like the Senate to keep in mind.
– Are you saying that paragraph (j) was not then affected?
– It was not then affected at all. It was preserved in its original terms. It is quite clear from what 1 have said that the Commonwealth used its financial power to treat its partner, the Tasmanian Government, in a very cavalier way, relegating it to the position of an insignificant, junior partner. In other words, at that stage, using its financial power, the Commonwealth moved in to take complete and effective control of the undertaking at Bell Bay. It is true, as Senator Henty was hinting a moment ago, that the Commonwealth contributed far more money than the State to the project. It contributed, in all, £9,700,000, and Tasmania contributed £1,500,000. It is fair to say also that Tasmania expended some £1,000,000 upon the provision of electricity to the plant. I do not deny that the Com monwealth was entitled to some greater power and interest by reason of its greater financial contribution, but I want the Senate to realize just how far it went with the financial squeeze when it embarked upon the 1952 agreement.
The commission has done quite well in the four years in which it has been producing. In the first year, 1955-56, it was producing for a part only of the year, and it made a loss, as one might anticipate. The loss was £144,000. In the next year, it made a profit of £52,000. In 1957-58, it made a profit of £25,000, and in 1958-59, a profit of £158,000. One cannot say that that is a magnificent return on a capital investment of £11,200,000. It is a return of only 1.4 per cent, of the capital invested. However, the commission did produce during 1958-59 about 12,000 tons of aluminium - approximately one-third of Australia’s requirements of that metal - and in that one year alone it saved us about £6,000,000 in dollar expenditure overseas. In its 1957-58 report the commission, dealing with the economics of the industry, drew attention to the fact that the present capacity of the Bell Bay plant is only about one-third of that of the smallest aluminium plant in north America. It stated -
The Commission believes that a substantial increase in the size of the plant would offer the only means of achieving a significant reduction in costs per ton of production.
That view was adopted by the Tasmanian Government, which immediately put through a bill authorizing it to provide another £1,500,000 for expansion of the plant, and an indication was given that the sum might be increased to £2,000,000. What was in contemplation was the expansion of the plant to a capacity of 16,000 tons - approximately one-half of the aluminium requirements of Australia. It is relevant to point out that, by world standards, the plant in Tasmania is very small. It produces, as I have said, about 12,000 tons a year, but 29 plants in the United States of America and Canada have a capacity of 33,00C to-s each. It seems to be a fair argument that you can get a better economic result if you have a larger production. At this stage, the attitude of the Federal Government was, “We agree that there ought to be an expansion, but we are not prepared to find any more money. If any more money is required, private enterprise will have to find it “. We in Australia recognize that our aluminium requirements - now 30,000 tons a year - are increasing by at least 10 per cent, a year, so that in ten years time, in 1970, we shall need some 60,000 tons a year.
Now let me return to the point of the Bell Bay undertaking being an independent Australian industry. I learned for the first time from the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) ir. another place quite recently that Mr. Chifley had written a letter in June, 1949, offering to British Aluminium the right to make the first offer if a sale of the plant were contemplated. As T understand the letter - I have not seen it - that did not involve any kind of obligation to accept the offer that was made. Obviously, the reason why the offer was made was that British Aluminium, then wholly British-owned, had assisted very materially in the establishment of the undertaking at Bell Bay by advising on the processes to be used and by helping generally in connexion with the establishment of the plant.
In the light of that disclosure of Mr. Chifley’s letter, and of the AttorneyGeneral’s statement that this Government would honour what the Chifley Government had committed it to, it is safe to conclude that the negotiations proceeding at the moment are between the Commonwealth Government and British Aluminium. But since Mr. Chifley wrote that letter the whole aspect of British Aluminium has changed. In January, 1959, Reynolds Metals of America moved into England. It joined with Tube Investments, which had no prior aluminium experience at all, in an undertaking there. Those companies, acting jointly, made a number of moves against British Aluminium. They made an approach to the directorate of the company in the first instance, and when that failed, they made a direct approach to the shareholders. As a result, in January, 1959, they moved into complete control of British Aluminium, on the basis of Reynolds Metals of America, 49 per cent., and Tube Investments of the United Kingdom, 51 per cent. They acquired at that stage some 94 per cent, of the shares in British Aluminium. It is fascinating to see the toughness with which Reynolds moved in on British Aluminium. It took the control of the company completely out of the hands of the existing directors and pensioned all of them off very smartly.
What was the effect of that move? Reynolds stepped into the shoes of British Aluminium, with its new partner, Tube Investments. Reynolds acquired not only an interest in British Aluminium. It acquired also a new refinery at Quebec in Canada with a production of 90,000 tons of aluminium a year. In Australia, it acquired a half interest in what we know as Comalco, which is the Commonwealth Aluminium Company. That company has two partners. One is British Aluminium, which is, to an extent, both English- and American-controlled. The other is Consolidated Zinc, which is predominantly controlled from England. So that the Reynolds organization - which is the effective body because of its know-how and drive - has moved into a half control of the Commonwealth Aluminium Company in Australia. Practically the whole of that company’s shareholding is abroad and not in this country at all.
Coming into Comalco has had a number of important effects for Reynolds Metals. It has let Reynolds Metals, through Comalco, into a five-year option on the Blair Athol coal deposits in Queensland; it has let the company into water rights in New Guinea for power production; it has given the company, in effect, a half share in the enormous deposits of bauxite at Weipa, in Queensland. Its partner, Consolidated Zinc, has in the meantime negotiated with the New Zealand Government. An agreement was announced on 19th January of this year under which Consolidated Zinc will explore the power potential of waters in the south island of New Zealand, with a commitment to proceed with an aluminium smelting works which it has been estimated will involve a capital expenditure of £125,000,000. So we see the hand of Reynolds Metals of America reaching into Britain, up into Canada and across to Australia, linked up with Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited at Weipa and Blair Athol and1 in New Guinea and New Zealand. As I understand the position, at the moment we are negotiating to hand over this vital industry - vital not only to our defence but also to our economy - to interests outside Australia. Those interests are moving rapidly into position to gain complete control of the industry. No longer shall we have an always independent Australian industry, as the act passed under a Labour government and the act sponsored by this Government demanded.
Early this year the Government, through the Governor-General, announced that it was opposed1 to monopolies. It stated that it was considering legislation to prevent restrictive trade practices in this country. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said that he has been alarmed and1 concerned at take-overs in industry and the development of monopoly interests. If this deal goes through we are handing this vital industry over not just to a monopoly, but to a monopoly that is part of a world-wide system and is controlled and operated entirely from abroad1. We of the Opposition say that if the Government must sell this undertaking, why not sell to Australian interests? Why not canvass that possibility? If that cannot be done - and the Minister for Supply suggested in 1952 that the Government’s ultimate intention was to sell to Australian industry - I put the proposition that tenders should be invited from all over the world if there must be a sale. We of the Opposition do not approve the sale of this undertaking at all, but at this stage I make those points.
Aluminium is vital to us in defence and is also vital to our economy. Aluminium is a great dollar saver. If properly developed the aluminium industry could be a great earner of overseas funds. We see aluminium as a metal second only in importance to iron and steel and all of us know how vital iron and steel are in every aspect of life in this country. The uses of aluminium are increasing all over the world in many interesting ways. We in Australia are fortunate in that we have the largest bauxite deposits in the world. Our deposits of bauxite, from which alumina comes and ultimately aluminium, are reliably estimated to be about 3,000,000,000 tons - sufficient to look after our own supplies for thousands of years and the world’s civilian requirements for a few centuries. The Opposition is disturbed by the Government’s record of selling one undertaking after another, most of which had a defence significance. I cite the sale of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, Amalgamated Wireless (Austral asia) Limited, Glen Davis, our flax interests and now our aluminium industry. Each of those industries or undertakings had considerable defence significance. Last but not least, the Government has disposed of our whaling interests.
In 1952, Mr. Beale suggested that ultimately the Commonwealth’s aluminium project should be sold to private enterprise in Australia. He talked about it again in 1956 and was rebuked by Mr. Cosgrove, the then Premier of Tasmania, on 29th March, 1956. This matter has been in the air all the time and we realize that it is in the mind of the Government. We also realize that unless the Government is called to halt it will go merrily on its way and dispose of one more vital industry. The employment opportunities presented by the aluminium industry are enormous. Employment is provided in the mining of the bauxite, the production of the alumina, the conversion of the alumina into aluminium and the vast industry that fabricates the aluminium into alloys and various manufactured forms for use in industry. I repeat that the aluminium industry can be a great income earner for Australia, but the important thing is to ensure that employment opportunities are given in Australia. We want to ensure that those employment opportunities will remain in this country and will not be transferred to other countries. In other words, we want to make sure that our great bauxite deposits are not merely exported at something like £2 10s. a ton. We should be going ahead with the production of aluminium at £270 a ton, and providing opportunities for its fabrication in this country.
– The Queensland Government has blocked the export of bauxite.
– The Queensland Government has no power to prevent the export of bauxite. That is a matter entirely under the control of the Commonwealth, and I propose to advert to that in a moment.
I am very delighted to know that the Australian Aluminium Production Commission no longer needs the British Aluminium Company Limited. The commission terminated the advisory services of that company towards the end of 1958-59, and said that the commission’s officers now have sufficient know-how. That is a very satisfactory stage for us to have reached.
I summarize the case for the Opposition by saying, first, that this vital industry at Bell Bay should remain government-owned. Secondly, if it is to be disposed of, it should be Australian-owned. Thirdly, if the industry is to be sold, let the five great aluminium giants of the world compete for it. If the industry is to be sacrificed and Australian interests are to be betrayed, let us get our full 30 pieces of silver. Let us get the best. I make the point that Senator Maher made. I want to see safeguards. I want to see Australia pledged to restrict exports until Australian needs are fully satisfied - until this country is selfsufficient in the matter of aluminium. I want to see the Bell Bay undertaking expanded. We of the Opposition want an assurance that the Bell Bay undertaking will continue in existence and we want the preservation of the principles which a Labour government and this Government affirmed in 1944 and 1952 respectively when they said that the aluminium industry had to be an independent Australian industry.
I refer the Leader of the Government (Senator Spooner) to the views held by his colleague, Senator Paltridge, who affirms the principle, with which the Opposition does not agree in its entirety, that we should have competing interests in aviation. I invite the Leader of the Government to talk to Senator Paltridge and, at the worst, to find some virtue in a government-owned concern competing with these great world giants in aluminium, who regard our requirements as mere petty cash. They will exploit our bauxite deposits for their own advantage and no doubt they will develop an export market that suits them, whether it be in bauxite or in aluminium.
We have engaged in this debate in order to give the Leader of the Government an opportunity to tell the Parliament what is afoot at the moment. I do not ask that he disclose details of terms, prices and conditions, which, while negotiations are running, must be kept secret, but I invite him to give the Parliament some indication of what is afoot. Is it proposed to dispose of the Commonwealth’s interest only or of the whole undertaking? Is the British Alu minium Company Limited or some other organization to be invited to come in and make a third partner with the two governments? That is the first series of questions. The second series of questions relates to the safeguards that I have already said the Opposition thinks should be included in the deal.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– Mr. Acting Deputy President, I commence my reply to Senator McKenna’s criticism with two simple statements. The first is that what is being attempted at Bell Bay is the logical way in which to develop, increase and make more important the Bell Bay enterprise. I will develop that theme later. What is under contemplation is the logical method to bring about a better and more efficient Bell Bay for the benefit of those employed in it and for the benefit of the Australian economy as a whole. The second thing, as I have said previously in the Senate, is that although it is unrealistic to think that you can conduct negotiations such as this openly, yet there has been no secrecy at all about what is happening in terms of general principles or general arrangements. What is being done, or rather what is being attempted to be done - let me qualify my statement forthwith - is being attempted in the interests of the Bell Bay enterprise, those who depend upon it and those who benefit from it. Consequently there is no hole-in-the-corner atmosphere about this. What is being done is being done out in the open, and press statements and general information have informed everybody of the course that is being adopted.
I shall recapitulate the history of Bell Bay. It started in 1949 and was estimated to cost £3,000,000, the two governments concerned each to find £1,500,000. In the final analysis, instead of costing £3,000,000 it cost £11,200,000, of which the Commonwealth found £9,700,000. I repeat that the Commonwealth Government found £9,700,000 out of a total of £11,200,000. I think it is fair to say that that simple statement showing the extent to which the
Commonwealth found the funds for Bell Bay refutes any suggestion at all, which the Labour Party has attempted to make to the people of Tasmania, that the Commonwealth Government has not supported this Bell Bay venture.
Bell Bay has a nominal capacity at the present time of about 12,000 tons a year, lt is producing about 11,500 tons a year, but not at a price which is comparable with world parity prices. As well as providing the finance to enable the venture to be established, the Commonwealth has found a market whereon the output from Bell Bay is being sold at a price some £37 10s. higher than the purchaser could obtain the same ingots from overseas. Even though this high price is being obtained, profits at Bell Bay are, in truth, only nominal in relation to the capital invested.
Senator McKenna stated that the course of events has shown that in the various rearrangements that have been made Tasmania was treated by the Commonwealth in a cavalier fashion. I can say only that over the few years which I have administered the Australian Aluminium Production Commission this is the first occasion on which I have heard any such suggestion. 1 believe, on the contrary, it would be true to say that the Tasmanian Parliament and the Tasmanian people are appreciative of the fact that it was only the strong right arm of the Commonwealth that gave this venture its opportunity, and that gave it in an eminently fair, reasonable and decent way. That is the atmosphere in which this venture has been accepted by the Tasmanian people. lt is not altogether true to say that the disadvantage from which Bell Bay suffers is the rate of output of the smelter. Senator McKenna quoted figures to indicate the size of smelters overseas. Those figures, of course, were correct. lt seems to be generally agreed that the minimum size of an economic smelter is round about 30,000 to 40,000 tons, in contrast with the 1 1,000 tons smelter at Bell Bay. Many smelters overseas are much larger than 30,000 to 40,000 tons. That is not the only disadvantage from which Bell Bay suffers. It has a big disadvantage in obtaining its raw material. Aluminium production is basically dependent upon the cheapest power that is available.
Our predecessors in government went into partnership with the Tasmanian Government. We have remembered throughout that the Tasmanian people have more invested in this venture than the £1,500,000 1 mentioned earlier. They have had to provide roads, housing, schools, power and so many other ancillary things. It has been my endeavour, as I am sure it was my predecessors’ endeavour, to keep that fact well in mind, and to work in a businesslike way in conjunction with the Tasmanian Government. Since this matter was first introduced in another place, I personally - although it is necessary as a general rule to keep in reasonably close personal contact with the Tasmanian Premier - have not been in touch with the Tasmanian Government in relation to this matter. The Tasmanian Premier and I have both got our jobs to do in our respective governments and I thought I would let the smoke and dust die down. I did not want to say something or have the Tasmanian Premier say something to me which might undermine the good personal relationship which is necessary in order to bear a joint responsibility in such a large venture.
I should be surprised if the Labour Party in Tasmania and the Labour Government of that State subscribe to the sentiments that have been expressed in this motion, particularly to the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that the Commonwealth has acted in a cavalier fashion. I would be surprised if they hold the view that the Commonwealth has not been generous in relation to Bell Bay. The present negotiations that are being conducted involve not the Commonwealth Government alone, but the two governments concerned. I am certain that the only thing that a critical discussion like this can do is to bring harm to Bell Bay, harm to the Tasmanian Government and harm to the people who work at Bell Bay or derive benefits from it. I have never previously heard any suggestion that the Commonwealth treated Tasmania in any cavalier fashion. Whatever damage is done to Tasmanian interests, to Bell Bay or to the Tasmanian Government as a result of this debate will be the responsibility of the Labour Party.
Let me now trace the present situation. Tasmania, of course, is always seeking additional industrial enterprises within the limits of the electrical power it can make available. It has not a great number of large-scale enterprises and it wants more. That is something that we all understand, and it is an aspiration with which all who sit on either side of the chamber are sympathetic. Tasmania realizes that the Commonwealth investment in Bell Bay is infinitely greater than was originally contemplated. 1 do not know whether what I am about to say will be news to honorable senators opposite. My recollection is that in relation to the proposals for the expansion of Bell Bay the then Tasmanian Government, before even coming to the Commonwealth Government, talked to overseas people about the prospects of bringing in additional capital. My recollection also is that one morning a group representing an American concern knocked at the doors of Bell Bay - figuratively speaking - and said, “ With the consent of the Tasmanian Government, we want to make an inspection “. A representative of the commission asked me whether this was to be permitted.
So let honorable senators opposite not create the atmosphere that this is something that we are forcing upon the Tasmanian Government. The size of the plant is not the only question. From ail the experience that one gathers, it appears that the manufacturing of aluminium is not an easy business. The processes are apparently pretty closely guarded in some respects. When the Tasmanian Government approached us we said, in effect: “ We have a lot of money in this undertaking. We are sympathetic with your ideas of expansion. There is still much to be found out about the efficient conduct of the plant. If you want to go ahead, we as a Commonwealth are not prepared to put money into it, but we shall stand by and help.” This was very proper indeed. The matter was left upon a flexible basis. There was confidence between the two governments and - I hope I am correct in saying - a belief on the part of the Tasmanian Government that the Commonwealth’s approach in the past had been decent and generous, and that Tasmania could look to someone to help in the future on some fair basis, confident that the Commonwealth would do what was right.
There has been no secret about this. It is nonsense for the Opposition to attempt to establish that anything has been done in a secret fashion. I shall not weary the Senate with all the press statements that I have made about it. In November, 1958, in a press statement, I expressed the view of the Commonwealth Government that the necessary capital should be provided by the introduction of private enterprise to the project. I went on -
Mr. Cosgrove accepted this view and his acceptance has since been confirmed by Mr. Reece. As a result, a large overseas aluminium company has been invited to consider investing in the expansion of the Bell Bay plant.
In a further statement, I said -
The Commonwealth Government believes that this extra expansion should be effected with private capital, not with Government funds. Mr. Cosgrove agreed with this view and, following our discussions, he wrote me a letter in which he told me that he had raised the matter with the Tasmanian Cabinet. He assured me thai his Government would favour the admission of an outside partner into the Bell Bay project.
– Is that a public statement?
– I am quoting from a press statement that I made, and that appeared in the Launceston “ Examiner “ of 13th September, 1958, which is over eighteen months ago. I could cite a number of similar statements, and also leading articles from Tasmanian newspapers, in which the whole area of this matter was canvassed, and in which everything was stated except the name of the negotiating company, the British Aluminium Company. Both governments felt that that should not be shouted from the house-tops.
Honorable senators opposite have tried to create the atmosphere that things were not being done according to Hoyle. I remind them that the legislation provides that if any arrangements are made - remember that I say, “ if “ - they must be confirmed by the Parliament. I repeat Senator McKenna’s statement that if Tasmania does not agree with any arrangements it has the right to require to be paid out, with interest accrued to the time of completion of the transaction. That completely safeguards the situation.
We inherited the Bell Bay project. We took it over as something that the Commonwealth Labour government had started. That government did not lay a decent foundation for its arrangements. We inherited a slipshod, unbusinesslike arrangement, bad or inefficient estimating of the costs of the project, and an incompetent market survey of the cost of production and the possibilities of selling. There was no proper technical knowledge of the venture and there was great argument subsequently about the provision of power. We have cleaned up the mess. The Bell Bay project is a reasonably efficient organization to-day. It still has some distance to go before coming fully into its own. It is a good plant producing a good product, handicapped by the fact that its price is high. When we came to the question of further development of the plant, we found that the Australian Labour Party had tied our hands and had entered into an arrangement that the first offer would be made to the British Aluminium Company. I do not really complain of that, lt is one of the facts of life that in the give and take of negotiations, this was one of the terms and conditions. It was one of a number of terms and1 conditions that caused us a good deal of trouble and worry, and we had to have a great number of variations made.
– Under the original agreement, did the British Aluminium Company have an option?
– No. My recollection is that under the original agreement that company had the right to make the first offer. There was no option.
– If the undertaking was to be sold1, it was to be offered first to that company.
– Yes, the words were to that effect. The Leader of the Opposition said that we had treated the Tasmanian Government in a cavalier fashion. 1 very much doubt whether the Tasmanian Government ever knew of its obligation to the British Aluminium Company. This obligation came as a surprise to me when I was trying to sort out the position. I do not suggest that that is extraordinary. One cannot master immediately all the papers relating to a subject. When I came across this, it came as a surprise to me. I think it came as a surprise to Tasmania. So honorable senators opposite must not think that they can get away with the charge that we have been treating Tasmania in a cavalier fashion. If there was any such treatment, the boot was on the other foot. The Australian Labour Party has more for which to apologize to Tasmania than we have.
Senator McKenna made a strong point of the contention that the constitution of British Aluminium had changed so materially since the arrangements were made in 1949, but that is not the only thing that has changed. The whole outlook, the whole approach to this industry has changed as a result of the discovery of vast bauxite deposits. Circumstances are now different altogether from those that existed when the legislation was first introduced. Australia to-day has perhaps more bauxite deposits than any other country of the world. The task to-day is to attract capital to Australia with which to develop those vast deposits, because the development of the deposits and the establishment of an aluminium smelting industry would require great capital investment which it would be quite foolish for any government to contemplate embarking upon. If I were to make a guess and pluck figures out of the air, I should say that the cost of a comparatively small smelter would be between £150,000,000 and £200,000,000. There is in Australia sufficient bauxite for five or six smelters of that size, if there were the trade to warrant their establishment. The trade has to be sought not within Australia but in exports markets overseas.
At one stage of his speech, Senator McKenna resorted to the theme song of the Australian Labour Party, the sale of the people’s assets. May I remind him that on each occasion that we have sold a going concern it has prospered, after the Government got out of it, to an extent that was never contemplated at the time when the Government was interested in it. Do honorable senators opposite think that we would ever have had the Kwinana refinery in Western Australia if this Government had continued as a partner in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited? Do they think that Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited would have gone ahead in the way that it has gone ahead, or that Commonwealth Engineering Limited would have made the progress that it has made? A condition precedent to good, rapid development is to get the red tape of government out of your hair.
That is somewhat of the nature of the problem we are discussing. 1 hope that honorable senators noticed that I said “ somewhat “, because this is a matter of such extraordinary consequence and of such complexity that I am not venturing at this stage to suggest a solution of the problem. I am not saying that the Commonwealth Government is going to sell its interest in Bell Bay. I am not saying that the Commonwealth is going to continue in partnership in Bell Bay. We have to negotiate that through. For my part, I think it would be better if the Commonwealth sold its interest, but there are vast figures involved. The Commonwealth interest in the undertaking is £9,700,000.
– You might have to give it away.
– The honorable senator may take my assurance that that will not happen. At this stage, we have to negotiate along and see how the position develops.
I have no inhibitions about overseas capital coming into this undertaking, because such great amounts of capital are wanted if we are to have a world-standard aluminium smelting organization in Australia. I have no inhibitions, as I have said, about overseas capital coming in, but I should like to see, in any venture, a place kept for Australian capital. To Senator O’Byrne, who has raised the parrot cry of “ monopoly “, I say that we have perhaps more bauxite than any other country in the world. As to the Weipa and Gove deposits, that bauxite is held by Consolidated Zinc Limited, and as to large deposits in Western Australia, it is held by the Western Mining Company, while the deposits at the back of the Weipa area, in the Cape York Peninsula, are held by Alcan and other big overseas interests. Our primary task at this stage is to get those various deposits developed so that manufacture may result. If the various deposits are developed, there will not be any monopoly. Australia can be the world centre for the production of aluminium, instead of the centre being in North America, as it is at the present time.
My time is running out, Sir, and as so frequently happens when we prepare notes, 1 have not used my notes but have said something else. I think we must look at this matter in the light that, if we handle it properly and to advantage, it can well be a new phase in development in Australia. A large-scale industry requires large capital investment. Tasmania has a vital interest to see this plant developed, and we have gone along with Tasmania in the proposal. Our view has been that great sums of money are needed; we want to see some one else come in. Tasmania has said, “ We would like to see the plant increased in size at this stage “. We have said, “ Yes. That is your view, and you are our partner. We will go along with you. You find £2,000,000 of the £3,000,000 needed, and we will agree that we will not take repayments of principal and interest. We will let the commission contribute the other £1,000,000 that is needed for the £3,000,000 programme.” Instead of agreeing to that, we could have obtained a reduction of our Commonwealth debt to that extent.
Although there are complications in the negotiations, I have found no indication, to this stage, that Tasmania is not satisfied. According to our different political views, we are running along in a partnership which is yielding a satisfactory general result. The suggestion is that we should invite world-wide tenders. We on this side of the chamber are old-fashioned, just as I am sure honorable senators opposite are old-fashioned, and we believe that our first obligation is to honour the undertaking that the Government of Australia gave, not only according to its words but also according to its spirit. The way in which we see the matter is that we have a responsibility first of all to explore completely the possibilities of doing business with British Aluminium, because that was the spirit of the arrangement that you people made in 1949. We are not bound to accept any offer. Of course we are not. We are bound to deal in a decent way, giving adequate opportunities, and that, I am sure, is what the Government will do. I am also sure that that is what the Opposition would do, too, if it were in government.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) has developed an old theme that he uses when his case is weak. He uses it quite often, because quite often his case is weak. He takes the line that this discussion can do only harm to Tasmania, and that if harm is caused to the Bell Bay undertaking it will have been because the Australian Labour Party took the opportunity to discuss this matter.
Before dealing with the details of the matter which is the subject of this adjournment motion, I would like to say a few words about the Minister’s contention that when the Menzies Government took over in 1949 it found the Bell Bay organization bereft of business ideas and with no solid foundation, and that it had to clean it up and make it efficient. Let us consider the men who were entrusted with the development of the Bell Bay aluminium industry. The chairman of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission was Mr. George Watson, whose career was, 1 suppose, considered in this country as one of the great success stories of private enterprise. He was a mining engineer who went to Malaya and made his way and his fame there. He came back to Australia, and then he was the managing director of the Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited - one of the biggest firms in that line of business in Australia, with branches in other parts of the world. Mr. Watson stayed with the commission until the Bell Bay plant was actually in operation.
Another member of the commission was Mr. Walter Scott, a business executive adviser. He is so good that he does not have to go into business for himself. He makes his living by telling the top private enterprise leaders how to run their businesses and they pay him very substantial amounts of money to do so. His ability is recognized not only in Australia; within the last twelve or eighteen months he was made the world president of the Institute of Business Management. He was the second gentleman who. according to the Minister, mucked up this organization. Then we had Mr. Percy Nettie, an assistant secretary to the Treasury. He was the direct representative of the Treasury on the Australian Aluminium Production Commission. The other member of the commission was with the undertaking ever since its formation, and is still there. That is Mr. Benson.
These four gentlemen received advice from the British Aluminium Company Limited, the organization with which the Government is now negotiating for the purpose of selling the undertaking. If there was any bad advice given in the days when the industry was established, it came from the British Aluminium Company.
– When did that organization start to give advice?
– In 1944.
– Well, in a general way, and by 1946 the British Aluminium Company was prominently in the picture. In 1947 that company helped to purchase plant overseas. Do not shake your head, because I know.
– Have a look at the report. You do not know what you are talking about.
– You will have an opportunity to reply to me. I say that the British Aluminium Company gave advice regarding the purchase of plant, lt was on the advice of that company that plant was purchased in Europe at that time. From that point on, the British Aluminium Company assisted in setting up the business and continued as an adviser.
Who was responsible for the actual physical building of the plant? It was Mr. A. J. Keast. He was one of the leading men in the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. He came from Broken Hill with an outstanding reputation in the field of construction of this kind of plant.
– Who put him in?
– It does not matter. You contend that the plant was no good.
– He was put in to clean it up, and he did.
– Well, well! He went from Bell Bay to the Mary Kathleen enterprise.
– That is right.
– Yes, that is right. Those are the kind of men who were available to us when we established this organization. When the Minister charges us with having been slipshod, he insults all those people who were associated with the establishment of Bell Bay.
– It was the Menzies Government that put in Mr. Keast, and he did the cleaning up.
– I take it you will be following me in this debate?
– I wish I was!
– Then let us move along. I could not be silent when those insults were levelled at men outside this Parliament whose reputations are very high indeed. As I listened to Senator Spooner I wondered when he would finally get around to answering the very direct questions that Senator McKenna had put to him. If the Government is determined to sell some part of this organization, what part has it in mind? Surely the Government has made up its mind. Perhaps the Government intends to get right out of Bell Bay. Let me remind honorable senators that these negotiations with British Aluminium have been going on for a considerable time. That company has had its experts in the factory, assessing what value they can finally place on it, for at least twelve months, I suppose. My information is that an offer was made to the Government by British Aluminium within the last month, and that that offer has been sent back to the company for its further consideration. In other words, as I see the position, if the Government had an obligation - and it certainly was not a strong obligation - to give British Aluminium the first right of refusal, that obligation has been satisfied.
The British Aluminium Company, which advised us in the early stages of the undertaking, and with which we entered into an arrangement for the development of hydroelectric power in New Guinea, with the idea that perhaps some day we would establish an aluminium industry in that country, no longer exists. It was taken over, as Senator McKenna has told us, by the Reynolds organization, through the agency of Tube Investments. If the Reynolds company had changed the name of British Aluminium - and frequently when these take-overs occur the name of the organization taken over disappears, and the only name that is heard of is that of the parent organization - would the Government still have accepted the obligation in respect of the Reynolds corporation that it originally had to British Aluminium? I suppose it would have, although I do not know.
A completely different situation has developed, and this is the main point that is worrying members of the Opposition. If we can get the Government to tell us what it intends to do, or if we can stop the Government from doing what it seems to be contemplating, then this debate will have achieved very valuable results. The Minister has been very cagey. Although he says that there has been no hole-and-corner approach to this matter, he has been very careful to tell us nothing. Surely the Government has made up its mind. Is it getting out of Bell Bay, or does it just want extra capital? If the Government wants to get back its investment of £9,700,000 and is trying to find a buyer for the plant, that is one matter. If it wants additional capital, that is another matter entirely. If the Government is merely seeking additional capital, we will still have £11,000,000 of Australian money in the enterprise, and this will help to prevent the development of the kind of monopoly that we fear. It will not stop it completely, but it will make it more difficult to achieve than if the Government sold all its interest to British Aluminium, or, let me say for the sake of simplicity, to Reynolds. This organization has laid the basis for an aluminium monopoly in Australia that will rival our great iron and steel monopoly. All the iron and steel in Australia is made by one manufacturer, and almost 80 per cent, of steel fabrication is done by the same organization, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, or its subsidiaries. The same sort of situation will develop in the aluminium industry.
Consider the situation at the present time. With the Zinc Corporation - which is 80 per cent. English-owned - the Reynolds organization controls the Weipa deposits, which contain, according to world-renowned experts, 2,500,000,000 tons of bauxite. It also has rights over the deposits at Gove, where there is another 500,000,000 tons. If the Reynolds people are allowed to buy the Bell Bay organization, they will also obtain rights over the Wessell Island deposits. When the Minister speaks of the rest of the bauxite deposits, let me say that when we have disposed of the three that I have mentioned, there is very little left indeed.
As far as bauxite is concerned, this organization has Australia almost tied up. An announcement appeared only this morning in the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ to the effect that Comalco has made plans for building in Gladstone a plant to take some of the Weipa bauxite. This plant will cost about £20,000,000. But the great advantage flowing to the Reynolds organization, if it gets hold of Bell Bay, is that it can, by controlling the output of Bell Bay, so organize its business as to develop the deposits at Weipa at its own convenience, in co-operation with the Queensland Government. If some other firm gets hold of Bell Bay, then the Reynolds people will have to move forward to retain their share of the Australian market.
The Reynolds Company is already strongly entrenched in aluminium fabrication in Australia. The Commonwealth Aluminium Company is half owned by British Aluminium. It is in the fabrication of aluminium that the greatest profits are obtained, and this is why Bell Bay is not the story of success that it should be. Honorable senators opposite have said that if the Bell Bay undertaking was given to some outside enterprise, we would see a picture of great development. Of course we would. But this Government has sabotaged the development of Bell Bay in the last five or six years. To make money it will have to increase its output and get into the fabrication of aluminium.
– Labour sabotaged it in the technical agreement.
– Tt must get into fabrication. Up to date it cannot even roll an ingot of aluminium.
– But Labour forbade it to; you know it.
– I know nothing of the kind. I know that the profit in aluminium is not in the production of ingots but in the secondary handling of the metal afterwards. Only in the last few weeks I read the balance-sheet of this Australian aluminium company. With a capital of £1,100,000 its profit was £466,000 - not a bad investment - half of which, as I say, is owned by Reynolds of America because of the tie-up. That was one of its acquisitions in the take-over of British Aluminium. They are coming to New Zealand with a project to spend £125,000,000. After all, if we are to make money at Bell Bay we have to spend money. At present it is an uneconomic proposition, despite the fact that this year it made £158,000 profit.
This monopoly must be prevented at the outset. It is no use the Prime Minister, through the Governor-General’s Speech, saying that he is going to bring down legislation to control monopolies and restrictive trade practices if, at the same time, he deliberately sets up an organization that must develop into a monopoly if it acquires Bell Bay along with all the other things that I have enumerated and the tie-up with bauxite deposits throughout Australia. This is very important. My judgment of the Government will be made when I see what happens finally at Bell Bay. If an organization acquires the undertaking it must automatically lead to monopoly in aluminium and all those fine words in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech will prove to be, as we believe, mere window-dressing for the next elections.
One other aspect is important. Senator Spooner, speaking for the Government, has consistently said that so far as he is concerned nobody is going to look over his shoulder while these negotiations are proceeding. But surely the Government can say what it wants to do - either to sell its interest or to get additional capital. The decision having been made, there is no further reason why this should be kept a secret. Whom do we protect in this matter? Not the reputation of the Government, Ministers or former Ministers. The people who need protection are the Australian taxpayers who have put in their £10,000,000 through the agencies of the various State governments, just as shareholders in any business. What happens in all these takeovers that we see going on in Australia to-day? As soon as an approach is made by a company to another company with an offer to purchase its shares, under the rules of the stock exchange that offer has to be made public. Then, if any other people are interested they may pay more for the shares. That is what happens. We have seen it happen constantly and the end result is that interests who want the business, because of competition, are willing to pay more for it. And the highest price is obtained for whom? For the shareholders, who, after all, are the ones who own the company. In this case the shareholders are the taxpayers of Australia who have put their money into Bell Bay. My colleagues and I are concerned that if the Government must sell, it shall sell at the best possible advantage, excluding the fact that it must not sell to an organization that will set up a monopoly.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Anderson). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- I believe that this motion of urgency may well be regarded by future generations as one of the most untimely and uncalled-for ever presented to the Senate, for I am sure that every honorable senator would be loth to upset negotiations that might have a great bearing on the future prosperity of Tasmania. It must be patent to all who approach this matter without a biased mind that the members of the Opposition are even to-day flying in the teeth of the Labour Government of Tasmania. Therefore, when they ridicule my suggestion that this debate might have some adverse effects upon the future development of that State, it is a serious matter. I am sure that if honorable senators opposite had informed themselves of the facts of the situation they would not have been guilty of indulging in the cheap and unfounded criticism they have presented to the Senate to-day. One of the most important statements issued on this subject by the Minister has been freely admitted as having never been seen by honorable senators opposite - yet they had the temerity to come into the chamber and to try to castigate the Government.
It is rather strange that members of the Opposition seem to be allergic to agreements. Quite recently, they moved a motion of urgency about an agreement concerning our airlines. With a great blare of trumpets they started to inflame the public mind on what they suggested was to be the action of the Government, though when the facts were known to the people they readily agreed that the Government’s action was wise - and the people have since supported the course that was followed by the Government on that issue. In this chamber quite recently we heard an honorable senator on the Opposition side ask a question of the Minister concerning the railways. It was loaded with a clear innuendo that the Minister himself should find about £2,000,000 from his own resources to right some imaginary wrong in the agreement. When the Minister was in a position to say that the agreement was originated by a former Labour Ministerthere were some red faces among honorable senators opposite. And there will be more red faces among them when the matter that we are now discussing has been finalized. Bell Bay is a national undertaking and we, as members of the National Parliament, have to approach this and similar problems on the basis that what is good for Australia is also good for Tasmania, and, conversely, that what is good for Tasmania must be good for Australia. This and similar projects involve the money of the Australian taxpayer, and that is of paramount importance.
As I have listened to the debate so far I am bound to comment that one would think that this project was the brainchild of a federal Labour government. In my efforts, to do justice to the subject I sought the genesis of this scheme at Bell Bay and to my surprise I learnt that no less a person than the immediate past Premier of Tasmania claims the credit for originating the project. I shall quote from a statement by the Honorable Robert Cosgrove from broadcasting station 7HT on Sunday, 22nd August, 1954. He said -
Years ago during the early period of the second World War when Australia was becoming, interested in the manufacture of aircraft, I had a dream that this great country of ours could produce aluminium, the most important component in a modern aeroplane.
That, I suggest, is the contribution of a statesman. Again I quote -
And so I made an approach to the Federal Government-
I remind the Senate that it was a federal Labour government - in 1941 that an aluminium industry should be founded in Tasmania. Everybody laughed at me. They said it could not be done and even if wecould produce it, there would be no sale for themetal.
That was said by a Labour Premier of Tasmania in an approach to the federal Labour government of the day. I should like to direct particular attention to his next remark. He said -
Eventually we got the Commonwealth to sign an agreement, the Aluminium Production Commission was set up and Bell Bay, on the eastern bank of the Tamar was selected as a site.
Although he approached a federal Labour Government in 1941, not one sod had been turned by 1949, when this Government came into office. The first efforts to establish the industry were made in 1952.
Sir, this attack has been made on a threepronged basis. Accusations have been made that we are about to sell the Bell Bay plant, that we are about to sell it to overseas’ interests, and that we are secretly negotiating. Let me have a look at the first allegation - that there has been a decision to sell the Bell Bay plant. The original agreement, as the Minister has said, involved a proposed capital expenditure of £3,000,000, of which Tasmania was to supply £1,500,000 and the Commonwealth Government a like amount. To-day, the Commonwealth Government’s investment stands at £9,700,000, while the Tasmanian Government’s investment still stands at £1,500,000. I concede that the Tasmanian Government has committed itself to a greater expenditure than that, because it is involved in additional expenditure on the provision of roads and services. Despite the expenditure of £9,700,000 by the Federal Government, to-day the industry is not in a position to pay its way unless it receives what amounts to a tariff protection of £37 10s. per ton. Are the people on the other side of the chamber advocating the maintenance of a policy that is inflicting upon the aluminium consumers of this country an extra charge of £500,000 a year as the only way of solving this problem? They are not prepared to consider the expansion of this industry by private enterprise, thus relieving the people whom they claim to represent of additional expenditure of £500,000 a year. This Government is determined to put the industry on a basis that will permit it to stand on its own feet and produce an article that can compete with other products on the world’s markets.
– How could it do that?
– lt could do it in two ways. The industry could compete on the world’s markets to-day if the Tasmanian Government were in a position to supply it with power at a cheaper rate. This is not a criticism of the Tasmanian Government, but possibly ways and means could be found of supplying power to the Bell Bay plant at a cheaper rate than at present. The other method is to increase production. There is a demand for aluminium products in Australia to the value of some £40,000,000 or £50,000,000 a year. But. as the Minister has said to-day, an increase of production would involve an enormous capital expenditure. As an Australian, I would object most strongly to this Government sinking in industries that could be run profitably on a proper basis, huge sums of money that have been received from taxation. I say to honorable senators opposite, who are virtually asking this Government to increase taxation in order to provide the millions of pounds necessary to develop this industry, that I know of scores and scores of undertakings throughout Australia which, with Government financial aid, could be developed without any tariff protection and which would play a major part almost immediately in the promotion of peace and goodwill in the world to-day. Therefore, I say that the Government is perfectly justified in what it is doing. In fact, the Government would be irresponsible if it did not approach the development of this industry along the lines of private enterprise.
– Why did you get the Government to put money into the Horsham Engineering Company?
– If Senator O’Byrne would like a debate on that subject, I shall try to arrange it. As far as T know, there is no Commonwealth money invested in any engineering company.
I come now to the second point - the criticism that has been offered by the Opposition of the alleged intention of the Government to sell the Bell Bay plant to an overseas company. The history of this aspect of the matter is very interesting. In 1958. when the Premier of Tasmania approached the Commonwealth Government with the most worthy objective of expanding and developing this industry, he was told by the Commonwealth Minister that the only suggestion that the Commonwealth had to make at that stage was the inclusion of a proposal to sell the plant to an overseas company. It was the Premier of Tasmania himself who found out that a former Labour Prime Minister of Australia had written into an agreement a clause to the effect that a certain British company should have the first right of refusal if this industry were ever offered for sale.
– That is not. nonsense; it is a fact. I am not criticizing the former Prime Minister for that, but when honorable senators opposite charge us with wanting to sell to overseas interests, I remind them that we had no alternative but to offer the plant to overseas interests because of a provision in an agreement under the signature of no less a personage than a former Prime Minister, a man who then led the Labour Party. It is arrant hypocrisy, Mr. Acting Deputy President, for these people to get up and charge this Government with wanting to sell to overseas interests when it was laid down in the original agreement that this company should have the first offer. It is true to say that this Government has adhered to that agreement.
I have been informed that a company with a very large content of Australian capital is interested in taking over this organization. It may well be that if the negotiations are not unduly hindered or hamstrung by this type of discussion, some worthwhile project will emerge from these negotiations.
– What is the name of the company? That is what we want to find out.
– Perhaps you know the name. The Opposition has accused the Government of secrecy in this matter. Perhaps that is because of the secrecy surrounding the name of that company. Any one who is well informed on public affairs knows that Australia has invested £11,200,000 in this industry. It is amazing to hear responsible people on the other side of the chamber suggesting that this Government should declare to all and sundry the steps it is taking to develop and extend the industry. It is also amazing to hear them Suggesting the adoption of a policy that would do nothing but embarrass the
Labour Premier of Tasmania. As I said a moment ago, an amount of £11,000,000 is involved. Surely the magnitude of the negotiations demands that they be conducted on a businesslike basis.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- There is a question that has arisen from this debate with which I would like to deal in the early part of my speech. It is significant that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has not given any indication to the Senate, first, whether the Bell Bay undertaking is to be run on a threeparty basis, that is, by the Tasmanian Government, the Commonwealth Government and private enterprise; secondly, whether the Federal Government is going to sell out its interest to private enterprise so that Bell Bay will be run by private enterprise in conjunction with the State Labour Government of Tasmania; or thirdly, whether that Government is going to be forced to sell its interest so that the Bell Bay plant will be run entirely by private enterprise. This matter is in need of clarification by the Minister.
Senator Spooner said that, in 1949, the estimated cost of establishing the Bell Bay undertaking was £3,000,000, but that as time went by the Government found that it had to provide £11,200,000 to establish the industry in Tasmania, and the Tasmanian Labour Government provided only £1,500,000. Those figures sound rather impressive but Senator Spooner and Senator Wade, who also mentioned those figures, did not tell us that inflation, for which this Government is directly responsible, caused the cost of the project to rise. I do not know whether the Government is aware of this fact, or whether it has merely endeavoured to suppress the information, but the Tasmanian Labour Government has intimated that it is prepared to provide a further £2,000,000 for the expansion of this industry. Some of that money is already being spent on expansion at Bell Bay. Why has not the Commonwealth Government told us of this? Apparently this information had to be ascertained by a member of the Opposition and transmitted to the Government.
The cost of services supplied by the Tasmanian Government in connexion with the industry at Bell Bay runs into many millions of pounds. The Commonwealth Government is well aware of that. The Tasmanian Government has provided hospital and medical services, schools and housing, all of which are costing it a considerable amount of money. But the Commonwealth Government is not prepared to tell the Opposition just what stage its negotiations for the sale of Bell Bay have reached. According to Senator Spooner, the Government is not even prepared to tell the Tasmanian Government, because Senator Spooner said that he had not been in touch with the Premier of Tasmania since negotiations commenced. That is an admission by the Minister that this Government is suppressing information vital to Tasmania.
The Minister has been most discourteous throughout this issue when replying to questions put to him by those who sought to find out what stage the negotiations had reached1. It cannot be disputed that a Labour government first introduced a bill into the Parliament to provide for the establishment of Bell Bay. The bill was introduced in 1944, and at that time the constitution of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission provided for two members on the commission to represent the Commonwealth, one of whom was to be chairman, and two members to represent Tasmania, one of whom was to be vicechairman. When the Liberal Government assumed office in 1949, it amended the act and’ reduced Tasmania’s representation on the commission by one member. The original act provided that disposal of the Bell Bay undertaking could not take place until both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament and both Houses of the Tasmanian Parliament agreed to the sale. In 1952, the Liberal Government amended the act to make it possible to dispose of the Bell Bay undertaking with the approval of only the Commonwealth Parliament. It is apparent that even in 1952 this Government contemplated the sale of Bell Bay at some future date. The original act brought down by a Labour government made no provision, in the event of the Bell Bay undertaking being disposed of, for the British Aluminium Company Limited to have first offer, but once it assumed power in 1949 this Government altered the act, and has been contemplating the sale of Bell Bay ever since.
– Trans-Australia Airlines will be next.
– That is another story which I will not have time to develop today. We have only to look at the reports of the commission for 1957-58 and 1958-59 to see how the industry has progressed since it commenced to produce aluminium. In the year 1955-56, during which the industry operated for only nine months, a loss was incurred, but between 1956 and 1959 a profit of £236,885 was made. That is an indication that the industry is established on a very firm basis. In 1957, the industry had a bank overdraft of about £608,000. That overdraft was reduced to £96,000 in 1958 and, according to the report for the year ended June, 1959, the overdraft has been completely wiped out. So we can see that the industry is established on a very sound footing. If we want further evidence of this we have only to look at the industry’s present assets. In 1958, its assets amounted to about £12,000,000, but twelve months later they had increased to about £12,500,000.
I am deeply concerned lest the aluminium industry should be lost to Tasmania if this undertaking is handed over to private enterprise.
– Bell Bay would become a ghost town.
– At present the industry employs 740 people at Bell Bay, and if those people were to lose their jobs the effect on the economy of Tasmania would be bad, not to mention the effect on the economy of Australia as a whole. One of my colleagues reminds me that Bell Bay might develop into a ghost town. We all know that when a national industry or a mine closes down, the town in which it is situated subsides into a ghost town. The closure of Bell Bay would not only entail considerable loss to the economy of the State but would also create an employment prbolem. Those affected would be not only the 740 employees who are directly employed at Bell Bay but also the people who are indirectly employed in the venture. One could not estimate in any circumstances the number of employees who are indirectly associated with the Bell Bay aluminium industry. Whichever way we look at this problem, considerable danger to Tasmania is involved in the proposal of the Commonwealth Government to get out of Bell Bay and possibly turn the venture over to private enterprise.
Production at Bell Bay has increased considerably over a period of years. The fourteenth annual report of the Bell Bay Aluminium Production Commission discloses that the production of metal has increased by 6 per cent. In a number of places throughout the report it is stated that the Bell Bay operators and technical staff have now gained the know-how that is necessary and can produce without the technical advice of the British Aluminium Commission. The peak weekly production for 1955-56 was 490 tons. In 1956-57 it was 513 tons, in 1957-58 it was 600 tons and in 1958-59 it was 700 tons. One is not stretching a long bow when he says that productivity and know-how at the establishment have increased considerably.
Paragraph 26 of the report discloses that the commission’s technical officers have carried out investigations which have not only improved the efficiency of Bell Bay but also have been of considerable interest to overseas producers.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- I was a member of the Tasmanian Parliament when the establishment of the Bell Bay enterprise was considered. At that time it was proposed that Tasmania should invest £1,500,000 and that the Commonwealth Government should invest £1,500,000 in the industry. I remember quite well that at the time the venture was supposed to be primarily a defence industry. It was claimed that it was necessary to have an aluminium industry in the Commonwealth for the purposes of defence. Whether the increase is due to inflation or not, since the industry was first established, instead of providing £1,500,000, the Commonwealth Government has provided £9,700,000 towards the establishment of Bell Bay, which is now, of course, a going concern.
It is true, as Senator Poke pointed out, that the State Government has been compelled to find large sums of money for housing and roads. It has constructed a sealed road to the aluminium works. The State Government has to do that sort of thing for every industry that is established in the State of Tasmania. That is the natural consequence of development and the natural consequence of an industry being established in any area. All those things have to be provided and the money must be found by the State authority, whether the industry concerned is established by the State itself or by private enterprise. In all the circumstances, I do not think it can be said for one moment that, the Commonwealth Government has been niggardly in its expenditure on the aluminium works at Bell Bay.
I could not help but note Senator Poke’s statement that Senator Spooner said he had not been in touch with the Premier of Tasmania since these negotiations were first mooted. I noted what Senator Spooner said, and my recollection is that he said he had not been in touch with the Premier of Tasmania since these negotiations were proposed for discussion in another place.
– That is what I did say.
– To take the matter just a little further, only last week in the State Parliament the Premier of Tasmania had something to say on this matter. It seems to me to be a great pity that members of the Opposition in this place do not take a leaf out of his book.
– How do you know what he said? The Tasmanian Parliament has not a “ Hansard “.
– His statement was published in the “ Mercury “ of Friday, 29th April.
– Get something authentic.
– Apparently the honorable senator does not believe in newspaper reports. But this report was never contradicted by the Premier or by any one else. The Premier said that he had been kept fully informed of all negotiations and that the correspondence which had passed between the various parties had been supplied to him. He said that the Tasmanian
Government’s views on statements made to the Federal Government by outside interests had been placed before Senator Spooner, and he thought, before the Federal Cabinet. As 1 have said, Mr. Reece seems to me to have much more common sense than has the Opposition in this place. He went on to say that negotiations between the Commonwealth, and certain interested parties were not yet concluded and so, he said, it was not possible to add anything further at present.
– That does not say he approved of these negotiations. There is nothing in that report to indicate that he approves.
– There is nothing to indicate that he approves; but the report does contradict the statement made by Senator Poke and shows the commonsense of the Premier when he says that at this stage of the negotiations it is not fit and proper to say anything further about them.
We heard a lot from Senator McKenna and other honorable senators to the effect that the company that is supposed to be just about to come to Australia would create a monopoly. It seemed to me to be very significant that a member of the Australian Labour Party, the party of which nearly all Opposition senators are members, should say, in relation to the New Zealand Government -
In January of this year an agreement was signed between that company and the Prime Minister of New Zealand which gave Consolidated Zinc the right to investigate the power potential in New Zealand and ultimately to erect an aluminium smelter in that country to the value of £125,000,000.
Apparently the New Zealand Labour Government is not concerned about what has been called an overseas company being given the right to create a monopoly in New Zealand. That Government is showing good common sense in seizing upon the possibility of attracting capital to New Zealand to establish an industry that is essential to that country.
During this discussion we have heard it said that for the Bell Bay project to continue it is necessary that its products should be given protection amounting to £37 10s. a ton. I do not take a lot of notice of that. I believe that many industries in this country are similarly protected. As a primary producer, I am fairly well used to buying farm machinery under such conditions. It seems to me to be in keeping with conditions applying to most other industries that a measure of protection should be afforded to the aluminium industry.
The cost of power has been mentioned. 1 think it amounts to .47d. a unit. It must be borne in mind that this industry, unlike most other aluminium industries in the world, takes its power from a power system. I understand that most such industries in the United States and Canada generate their own power. Because that power is concentrated on one industry, the costs of generation are cheaper than if the power were taken from a system such as that which operates in Tasmania.
If it is necessary to have additional capital for expansion, and if expansion is the key to reduced costs of production - whether or not that is so, we want the industry to expand - in my opinion, it is the bounden duty of the Government to make every effort to get that additional capital from private enterprise. If it does not do that but goes on investing Commonwealth money in the aluminium industry at Bell Bay, it must take that money from Consolidated Revenue.
– Plenty has been taken from Consolidated Revenue for the Snowy River scheme.
– That is in a different category altogether. It is a public utility. This is an industry which should be operated, if possible, by private enterprise. If this Government continues to invest the necessary millions of pounds to expand production at Bell Bay, the money will come from Consolidated Revenue. It will not be taken from loan funds. If it were taken from loan funds the investor would receive some return for his money. If it were taken from Consolidated Revenue it would return to the subscriber, that is the taxpayer, absolutely nothing. So it is the bounden duty of the Commonwealth, if possible, to sell the aluminium production project at Bell Bay to an enterprising company. If the Government can raise additional capital from private enterprise for the expansion of the project, it is the Government’s bounden duty to do so. Let us not forget that for ten years this Government has been elected by the people of the Commonwealth to put that policy into operation.
In spite of all that has been said about the danger of an overseas company or any other company taking over the Bell Bay works,I think it can be truly said that the big companies that operate in Tasmania, such as the Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited and Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited, have a record of efficiency that is second to none in the Commonwealth. They have done a remarkably good job for Tasmania. I do not think it can be said that before a company can confer a benefit upon a State it must be owned by a government; that is, that it must be a public enterprise.I do not subscribe to the idea that it would be a retrograde step if the Bell Bay works reverted to private enterprise. In all probability it would be a step towards greater efficiency.
– Have you any guarantee that it would stay there if it went to private enterprise?
– It would either stay with the private enterprise or go out of existence.I have sufficient faith in the present Commonwealth Government to believe that it will see that that does not happen.
– I hope you put that in the contract of sale.
– As this Government has put £9,700,000 into an industry, and having regard to the way it has treated the people of Tasmania since it has been in office, I have no fears that it will do anything to cause this industry to go out of existence. Let us bear in mind that at the present time the Deputy Premier of Tasmania, and three or four departmental heads, including the hydro-electricity commissioner, are in the United Kingdom attempting to attract industry to Tasmania. They are seeking the establishment of private enterprise industries. I do not think for one moment that that delegation to the United Kingdom would look askance at any company that wanted to invest capital in Tasmania and set the wheels of industry going. I agree with Senator Wade. I cannot for the life of me see what can be achieved by raising this matter.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- The matter before the Senate relates to -
The failure of the Government to inform the Parliament as to -
whether negotiations being conducted by the Government in relation to the undertaking controlled by the Australian Aluminium Production Commission relate to the disposal of the whole or part only of the undertaking to an overseas company, or to the granting of an interest in the undertaking to the said company, and
whether, and how, vital Australian interests will be safeguarded in the event of any change being effected in the existing control of the undertaking by the Commonwealth and Tasmanian Governments alone.
So far, neither the Minister in charge of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, nor any other speaker on the Government side of the chamber has answered one of those questions that have been put to the Government to-day.
This matter has been raised for the purpose of trying to obtain for the Parliament and the people of Australia information about what is happening in regard to the aluminium industry. At the outset of my remarks, I want to say that the Premier of Tasmania is not in favour of the sale of the undertaking to overseas foreign interests. I say that with all the force at my command. It is a complete prevarication to say that the Premier of Tasmania wishes to sell the undertaking. The gunis at his head. He wants to retain the industry in Tasmania. As the statesman at present guiding the destinies of Tasmania, he has a great interest in maintaining the industry in that State. Since we have been subjected to bragging about the amount of capital that the Government has invested in the Bell Bay works, I remind honorable senators opposite of the true position. Because of the disastrous inflation that the Government has allowed to develop in this country, the cost of aluminium is at such a high level that it is not competitive. Therefore, the Federal Government, by means of its policy, has been sabotaging this great industry which means so much to Australia.
On the subject of Tasmanian investment in the industry, I point out that the 1958-59 report of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission stated -
With the approval of the Minister, the Commission, towards the end of the year, prepared estimates of the cost of increasing the productive capacity of the Bell Bay works to 16,000 tons of metal per annum. Earlier in the year legislation was passed by the Tasmanian Parliament authorizing an increased investment of £1,500,000 by the Tasmanian Government in the Bell Bay undertaking for the purpose of its expansion.
In the light of that statement, it is apparent that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) and other honorable senators opposite who have spoken, deliberately avoided reference to the full extent of Tasmanian investment in the undertaking. It appears that the Tasmanian Government has directly invested £3,000,000. In addition to that investment, the Tasmanian Government has also provided several millions for the development of the HydroElectric Commission’s works at Trevallyn. lt has dammed the South Esk River and has bored a tunnel through the hill and constructed a generating station at Riverside so that direct current may be continually available to the Australian Aluminium Production Commission. That means that the State Government has diverted £10,000,000 to general investment in the industry. In addition, it has constructed a magnificent road from Launceston to the Bell Bay works, at a cost of between £250,000 and £500,000. It has built in the vicinity a housing estate, the cost of which could well be £1,000,000, to house the employees of the undertaking. Schools, wharfs, a 35-mile water pipeline and other facilities also have been provided. That has been done as a part of the Tasmanian Government’s contribution to the success of the undertaking. Yet, we hear the Minister trying to deceive the people of Australia by saying that the Commonwealth has put in £9,700,000 and the Tasmanian Government has put in a miserable £1,500.000. That is quite untrue.
If ever the Government has shown the degree of deception to which it will resort in order to fool the public of this country, it has been shown to-day. The Government has completely disregarded the promises that it made. When the Governor-General, in this chamber, not so long ago, read a speech setting out the Government’s policy, he placed particular accent on the proposal of the Government to introduce legislation to try to curb restrictive practices. Yet, here we have the Government engaged in negotiations with one of the organizations which resulted directly from the Sherman Act of 1945, which was introduced by the American Government in its efforts to curb restrictive practices and to dissipate monopolies. Now we have the Reynolds organization, which was enabled by that act to enter the rat race, coming to our country. No doubt its activities will contribute to the same set of conditions operating in this country as those which led in America to the introduction of the Sherman Act.
Let us have a look at this sacred cow of private enterprise. What is private enterprise? Theoretically, it is supposed to be the activity of a man who is prepared to put his capital into an organizaton, to work towards the achievement of financial security for himself and his family, and to contribute to the development of his country. All of those are very noble objectives. But what is happening to-day? The little man is only a cipher in the community. He is in the middle of the squeeze. He is the butt of all the Government’s extra charges. He and his staff are obliged to spend much of their time in preparing forms for the Government. He must pay higher postal charges and other such charges, but he cannot benefit from the taxation concessions as the big monopolists can. I want to try to define what the Government means when it speaks of private enterprise.
– It means monopoly enterprise.
– Not only that. It also means international monopoly. Australian monopoly is bad enough, because monopoly in its traditional form never gives the public a fair go, but international monopoly is worse. The only motive of monopoly is greed. In this respect, there is a sharp division between the philosophy of the present Government parties and that of the Opposition. If an enterprise has as its purpose the betterment of the people and the development of the nation, it does not matter who runs it, as long as it is run efficiently. Fortunately, in many parts of the world, and even in the United States of America, the people have awakened1 to the fact that private enterprise, as practised by the small man, cannot be confused with the enterprise of big monopoly capitalists. Every one must know how ruthless the big monopolies are. All honorable senators are no doubt aware that take-overs are on the march to-day. Surely no one on the Government side will contradict that statement.
The Sherman Act was introduced to curb monopolies in the United States and to try to prevent them from restrictive trade practices; yet we now see the Reynolds organization, which was set up as a sop to the other aluminium monopoly which operated at the time of the introduction of the Sherman Act, coming in here under the guise of the British Aluminium Company. It is using the old traditional name “ British “, but of course it is not British. It is an American combine. This Government is negotiating with it. It will be to the everlasting shame of the Government if it sells out this important industry, which is essential to Australia in time of peace and also in time of war. As Sir Robert Cosgrove has said, and as Senator Armstrong has reminded us to-day, the aluminium industry was commenced during the war because we were unable to procure aluminium when we needed it most. We could not rely on overseas supplies because of shipping and other difficulties, and the only alternative was to establish our own industry.
The proposal of the Government to establish a monopoly in the aluminium industry is consistent with its policy over the years. Senator Spooner referred to the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and stated that if the Government had retained its interest in that organization we should not now have the refinery at Kwinana. I remind him that since the Commonwealth Government went out of the oil business we have seen one of the worst types of commercial activity developing in the community. We have one-brand petrol stations Operating, in which men are working sixteen to twenty hours a day and are deeply in debt to the oil companies. We see the stupidity of competition in give-away campaigns and the like. All these things are nationally wasteful, but they are the things that Senator Spooner says are good for Australia, because they give scope for private enterprise.
Consider the position with relation to television. Amalgamated Wireless (A’sia) Limited was sold to private enterprise, and we all know of the restrictive practices that occur in the television industry. Some companies in Sydney are not allowed to publish the prices of their sets and their hire-purchase charges; if they do so their supplies are cut off by the television ring.
What is the position with regard to banking? Since the Government has allowed an open go in the banking field we have seen all the ramps and rackets in the world, with rising interest charges and hirepurchase charges, and with lend-lease schemes - goodness knows how they work, but they are just another method of tax evasion. All these practices are being indulged in because the Government has said, “ Let private enterprise take over “.
Let me suggest that if the Aluminium Production Commission gets into the hands of the aluminium cartel you people opposite will hear about it at the next election. This is too important an industry to be sold down the river as so many other national enterprises have been. We can recover from the sale of Amalgamated Wireless (A’sia) Limited and some of the other enterprises that have been disposed of, but this is a vital industry. It is concerned with magnificent resources that nature has bestowed on us, such as at Weipa in the north of Queensland, where we have 3,000,000,000 tons of high quality bauxite. Those resources are involved indirectly in this deal, as are our resources at Wessell Island.
I put it to the Senate that this adjournment motion involves more than meets the eye. It is concerned with a clash of basic philosophies. It involves consideration of the question whether we should just tag along behind overseas interests. We have done so with, regard to our foreign policy, and we have been left up in the air as a consequence. We do not know where we stand with regard to foreign policy. I believe that we will be in a similar position if we! tag along with the international aluminium monopolists. They will let us down just as badly as they have done in the past when it suited them.
We have a magnificent opportunity at this time in our history to try to salt back every penny possible of our capital in national developmental projects. We should invest in our own industries and should encourage the people to do so. We should try to hand on to following generations the great assets that we have to-day. The Government traditionally adopts a niggardly approach to developmental schemes. We have only to remember the parsimonious attitude of honorable senators opposite towards the Snowy Mountains scheme to realize this. We all remember that when the Chifley Government inaugurated that scheme, honorable senators of the then Opposition refused to attend the opening function. Yet to-day the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) stands up here in all his glory and speaks about our grand achievements in the Snowy Mountains project. If the present Government had been in power when the Snowy Mountains scheme was inaugurated, we would never have had that scheme. The Government has adopted a similar attitude in regard to many other avenues of endeavour in Australia.
The aluminium industry is vital to Australia. The amount of money that has been invested in it so far is not sufficient to give us the fullest economic development.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) 15.39].- The Opposition in this chamber is using one of the forms of the Senate for the purpose of bringing pressure on the Government to disclose the current trend of negotiations concerning the future of the aluminium industry in Tasmania. I have no doubt that Opposition senators gave some thought to this motion before they introduced it. But, to their discredit, they are echoing, parrot fashion, the expressions that were voiced in another place, where a similar motion was brought forward a fortnight ago by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and failed.
We are asked to adjourn the Senate because of a complaint by the Opposition that the Government has failed to give sufficient information as to negotiations being conducted, and has failed to say whether those negotiations involve the whole or part of the Bell Bay undertaking, or whether it intends to grant an interest in that undertaking to a private company.
We have just listened to Senator O’Byrne, who seems to have a phobia about the word “ monopoly “. I am very interested in monopolies and restrictive trade practices. I am pleased that the Governor-General’s reference in his Speech to legislation in the course of preparation on this matter made an impact on Senator O’Byrne. He knows the eagerness with which we on this side welcomed that announcement. The fact that the Government is preparing such legislation shows that it is earnestly trying to maintain trade on a properly regulated basis, uncontrolled by monopolies and unrestricted by vicious trade practices.
How idle it is for Senator O’Byrne to use this kind of argument in a discussion of the practical future of the aluminium industry. We have been told that it has been necessary to maintain a tariff of £37 10s. a ton on imported aluminium in order to put the Australian industry in a position in which it can compete with overseas producers and monopolies about which Senator O’Byrne entertains such fears. It is obvious that in order to maintain the Australian industry we are compelling our consumers here to pay higher prices for aluminium products because of the effects of the tariff of £37 10s. a ton. Do not run away with the idea that I am arguing against the effectiveness of tariffs in giving proper protection in certain events. In this instance, however, the Opposition’s argument springs simply from a phobia.
Senator McKenna told us that this industry was established because of defence requirements. Let us remind ourselves that reports were made about the production of aluminium in Australia as long ago as 1941. Quite obviously, any government charged with the maintenance of the security of the country at that time would have investigated the possibility of establishing an industry to produce aluminium, especially for its use in the construction of aircraft. But that is only half the story. As was the case with many other commercial undertakings when General MacArthur was here, and before he came, the Labour Government used every effort to exercise the defence power to further its own ideas of socialistic commercial enterprise. I concede that basically the aluminium undertaking was a defence concept, but it was established by the Labour Government at the time when the brains trust was operating and the emphasis was on socialization.
A perusal of the report of the Public Accounts Committee will show the shocking efforts that were made to estimate the costs of the industry in the early stages. That report shows clearly that the charge is wellfounded that the industry was based upon a wholly imprudent assessment of its future as a commercial proposition. But the situation has changed. Aluminium is still vital for defence, but its use in other spheres has greatly expanded. Having spent £11,200,000 on this undertaking, it is important that we now apply ourselves to ensuring that its future development is in the best interests of the Commonwealth.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting we were discussing the Labour Opposition’s motion to adjourn the Senate in protest against the failure of the Government to make Parliament sufficiently informed on any negotiations that are proceeding with respect to the aluminium industry. I had referred to the fact that the establishment of this industry had some defence elements and also to Senator O’Byrne’s reference to the possibility of a monopoly being established as a result of these negotiations. But what we have to consider to-night, Mr. Deputy President, is the appropriateness of making a protest that Parliament has not yet been informed on these business negotiations. The position of the aluminium industry to-day is vastly different from what it was in 1944 in both the defence and commercial aspects. A most awkward situation arises for any government that is saddled with the responsibility of doing the best in the public interest if all the arguments which the Government may feel impelled to advance against any possible negotiator are put to it from the opposite side of the chamber in public debate in Parliament.
Everybody knows that negotiations of this character are conducted by those who wish to acquire an interest in the undertaking, taking into account ordinary commercial considerations. It is the greatest disservice possible to a government that is responsible for doing the best in the public interest to intrude in this way by a debate that has nothing but a party political purpose, and to advance considerations which, if answered from the fund of information that the Minister has at his disposal would, 1 have no doubt, be a blessing to the prospective purchaser. Not only is it a great disservice to the public interest, but it also shows a characteristic want of confidence on the part of honorable senators opposite in their Labour colleagues who constitute the Tasmanian Government, for it has been publicly stated on many occasions over the past two years that that Government is in close consultation with the Minister as to the course of these negotiations. Surely it would have been more becoming for the Leader of the Opposition, a Tasmanian senator, sufficiently to acquaint himself with Tasmanian affairs and the activity of the Tasmanian Labour Government and then, if dissatisfied with that government’s conduct in. the matter, to have declared that he lacked confidence in his Tasmanian colleagues - for that is precisely what the motion means.
Let it always be remembered, Mr. Deputy President - it is in the agreement which forms part of the Commonwealth amending statute of 1952 - that no sale or disposal of the interest in the undertaking at Bell Bay shall be made by the Commonwealth or the commission unless three months’ notice has been given to the Government of the State of Tasmania. Look at the position This Government has an investment of £9,200,000. From it we had a loss in 1955-56 of £144,000. The following year produced a profit of £52,000. The next year the profit was £22,000 and last year a profit of £158,000 which was made possible, I may say, by concessions that the hydro-electric commission was good enough to give to the commission in that area. It is obviously, therefore, an undertaking whose commercial potential will not automatically sell the business to any wouldbe purchaser. But is not the obvious interest of the Commonwealth and the people in this matter, first of all, to protect the public investment in the industry? Is it not also essential that we protect the employment potential that it represents to the people who have established themselves in support of this industry? Is anybody so guileless as to believe that that potential can be protected without ensuring that the continued operation of this undertaking will be profitable, remembering always that we have to pay proper wages? Thirdly, do we not hold it as our responsibility to keep faith with the Tasmanian Government, which has put money into the scheme through the hydro-electric commission, roads through the Department of Public Works and houses through the Treasury, in support of this industry?
Those matters make it obviously necessary to get more capital to increase the output of this undertaking above the present level which, by comparative standards of other aluminium factories, can only be described as meagre and very small indeed - 11,000 tons a year. The output must be increased to the stage where it will ensure prosperity for the industry. How can. that be done other than by putting more capital into the undertaking?
– What sort of capital?
– A senator on the ether side asks me what sort of capital. He thinks that you wave a wand and get money that way; but the fact is that what men are paid with enables them to get goods - and that is real money. To show that Labour parties, when they are genuine and purposeful, have no inhibitions about seeking foreign capital, as my colleague Senator McKellar reminded me, the Tasmanian Government has a deputation abroad consisting of the Deputy Premier, Mr. Somerset of Burnie, Mr. Binns and Mr. Knight - all canvassing Europe to get capital to establish additional industries. To those considerations one must add the potential threat by way of competition with the establishment of an industry with a reserve of 3,000,000,000 tons of bauxite. Considering that as a potential competitor with our own aluminium industry, surely we are bound to make an arrangement that will ensure the development of this potential step by step with those other resources to which I have referred, so that the capital already invested and the employment potential in this industry will be guaranteed.
– This motion should do some good if it is not a party political one, for it purports to seek certain information. The information that honorable senators on both sides should be able to pass to the Govern ment could make the motion of value. What we in Tasmania want to know is what the future holds for the aluminium industry. We know that it is a most important adjunct to the life of the northern part of the State. It has opened up areas that would not otherwise have been opened up for very many years to come. This very important industry is bringing to Tasmania quite a lot of kudos, because big firms overseas have seen that an industry established thousands of miles from the source of the raw material it needs can make reasonable profits. We do not want to waste any time in recriminations or in discussions about who did this or that, and who were responsible for certain failures. We should forget about those things. This subject is very important, and we should discuss it on a State basis, because the Senate is supposed to be a States’ House.
To-night, I want to express the Tasmanian view of this industry; I want to be parochial and look at it from the point of view of a Tasmanian. I want to know how the action of this Government in relation to the aluminium industry will affect Tasmania. I want to know whether, under the present set-up, this industry will expand rapidly. As far as I can see, if the Commonwealth Government is not prepared to expand it rapidly, or if the Tasmanian Government is not prepared to take it over and expand it rapidly, the only thing to do will be to hand it over to an organization that will expand it. That is the sensible attitude for Tasmanians to adopt. We want this industry to be expanded rapidly. The Government will not do that, because it is not its policy to do so. I am not prepared to wait 20, 30 or 40 years for another sort of government to come into power to do it; I want it done now. As far as I can see, this industry will be expanded only if it is taken over by private enterprise.
Honorable senators may ask, “ What about the State Government taking it over? “ The Commonwealth Government could invite the State Government to take over the industry and to repay the capital expenditure on it by the Commonwealth on suitable terms, but that would not be satisfactory to me. We would, in that event, still have this industry in the northern part of Tasmania, but it must bf! realized that the plant at Bell Bay is relatively small and that it would not assist the development of the northern part of Tasmania to the same degree as would a much bigger plant. A great expansion of the industry is what I am interested in, and it is what the people working at Bell Bay are interested in, particularly those people living in Georgetown who, through the housing co-operatives that we started in Tasmania, are buying their homes with money supplied to the co-operatives by the Commonwealth Government. They do not want this industry to stagnate; they want it to expand in order to provide them and their children with an assured future. The expansion of the industry would be accompanied by the establishment of other industries associated with the aluminium works. I believe that this will come about. If the aluminium industry is taken over by private enterprise, I believe that other industries will be established nearby to utilize the material produced by the aluminium works.
As I have said, Mr. Deputy President, I am particularly interested to learn whether the aluminium industry in Tasmania will be expanded rapidly. Under the present set-up, 1 cannot visualize a rapid expansion taking place. I know that £1,000,000 has been spent here and another £1,000,000 there, but that is not sufficient. The aluminium industry - a tremendously important industry - is growing rapidly in many parts of the world. In Canada, which is really the home of the aluminium industry, cities have been established near bauxite deposits so that the raw material required to produce aluminium will be readily available. At these cities, electricity undertakings have been established. It has sometimes occurred that these cities have become too large, and then the processing plants have been moved elsewhere. In that way, progressive cities have been established in Canada that otherwise would not have existed. In this swiftly growing industry, swift and good returns are assured to people who invest in it. That is what 1 want to see happen in the northern part of Tasmania.
I think the Government should assure this Senate, particularly the Tasmanian senators, that if private enterprise takes over the Bell Bay aluminium industry and thereby gains control of many of the bauxite deposits in Australia, the industry will not be shifted from the northern part of Tasmania to, say, north Queensland or New Guinea. An essential requirement of the aluminium industry is a supply of electricity at cheap rates. 1 do not think that electricity would be available at a cheaper rate in north Queensland, but just across the Torres Straits, in New Guinea, there is a tremendous potential for the generation of cheap electricity. As we know, hundreds of millions of pounds are invested in the aluminium industry overseas. If the Australian aluminium industry, in which only £12,000,000 or £13,000,000 is invested, were taken over by private enterprise, that amount would be regarded as only a flea-bite. The loss of that sum certainly would not deter aluminium interests from transferring the industry from Bell Bay. I urge the Government to insert in any agreement that it enters into with private enterprise a stipulation that in no circumstances will the industry be transferred from the northern part of Tasmania to anywhere else, such as Weipa or New Guinea. There should also be inserted in the agreement an undertaking by the private interests that the industry will be expanded where it is at present located. In the absence of such a provision, the aluminium interests could maintain the industry in its present location, just jogging along with a production of from 12,000 tons to 16,000 tons a year, and establish larger plants at the places I have mentioned, to the detriment of the northern part of Tasmania. This motion is good if it enables us to speak on this subject and fulfil our obligations to the States which we represent in this place. If the Government takes notice of the points of view that have been expressed from both sides of the chamber, the motion will have served a useful purpose.
– I am firmly behind any proposal that will attract private capital to develop the aluminium industry at Bell Bay, to increase the output of ingot first to 28,000 tons and then to 40,000 tons, and to develop fabricating, rolling and extrusion mills. I hold that view very strongly. Having said that, I can imagine nothing more asinine than to propose that the Government should be asked to disclose confidential negotiations that are being undertaken at present to attract private capital into this industry - negotiations that we are undertaking with the British Aluminium Company Limited because we are honouring the agreement made by the Chifley Labour Government to negotiate first with that company if we propose to sell the undertaking or wish to attract outside capital.
By its socialist dogma the socialist party has done its best to ruin the aluminium industry. I want to traverse briefly the history of the industry because it is interesting to see what complete suckers honorable senators opposite have been in the hands of overseas interests. In order to develop that theme I turn to the report of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission for the year ended June, 1946, in which the commission said that in normal circumstances it would have been able to go round the world and get help from people with the know-how in other countries of the world - in Canada and America - but the act - put through by the socialist Labour Party - forbade it to have anything to do with any trust or combine and thus eliminated that means of securing experienced assistance from the Canadian or American producers. The commission’s hand was disclosed by an act of Parliament, and it was unable to go to the Canadians or the Americans for advice. The only people to whom it could go was the British Aluminium Company Limited.
– Why was the commission forced to go to that company?
– I will tell the honorable senator in just a moment. The report to which I have referred stated -
The circumstances which prompted the British offer of technical assistance to the Commonwealth during war-time have however, apparently altered with the cessation of the war, and negotiations by the Commission for consultative services have not been successful. From latest information, this avenue of technical advice may now be considered closed, and the commission will need to pursue a policy of relying upon other independent engineering and operating advice, combined with the resources of Australian technicians, in developing its plans.
So, having disclosed your hand, you find that you cannot go to the Americans or the Canadians. You can only go to the
British Aluminium Company Limited, and that company says that it is not prepared to do business with you. That is what you get for disclosing negotiations, and now the Labour Party is asking this Government to disclose details of current negotiations.
– Those Labour men must have been terrible fellows.
– They were not too good; I have had a look at some of them. For three years the British Aluminium Company Limited stood out and the commission had to go to those dreadful Americans. It went to a group called the Dorr company. The Dorr company had done some work in analysing bauxite, and it said that it would help to set up a plant, but for three years nothing was done at Bell Bay. At last the commission had to turn to the British Aluminium Company Limited, and that company said that it would assist on certain conditions. Those conditions were agreed to by the Chifley Government, and that agreement has delayed the expansion of the industry into fabricating and extrusion plants at Bell Bay. The conditions agreed to were that if ever the industry were offered for sale the British Aluminium Company Limited was to be given first chance to negotiate, and that the commission could not undertake fabricating at Bell Bay because the British Aluminium Company Limited had a fabricating plant in Sydney. So the Australian Aluminium Production Commission was sold down the drain. It was not allowed to fabricate. Senator Armstrong said that fabrication, extrusion and rolling were profitable aspects of the industry, but the undertaking at Bell Bay was not permitted to engage in those activities.
– That shows what a monopoly the company was.
– It was Senator O’Byrne’s party that negotiated the agreement. Being a Tasmanian, he should have know what he was doing. The commission went first to the American Dorr company, and then it had to come to terms with the British Aluminium Company Limited. Senator Armstrong said that the Labour government engaged the services of Mr. Keast. I do not know how long it is since Senator Armstrong has been to Tasmania - probably Senator McKenna has been there more recently than Senator Armstrong. 1 remind Senator Armstrong that it was Mi. Howard Beale who, after seeing the mess down there, said that we would have to get one of the best constructional men in Australia, and he engaged Mr. A. J. Keast, who got to work and, by his energy and drive, built up the aluminium industry until it came into production. Then he went to Queensland and did a magnificent job at Mary Kathleen. That is the man whom this Government put in and this Government found £9,700,000 to develop the industry. This Government pulled the industry out of the mess it was in. Nevertheless, the Opposition says that the Government is not interested in the industry.
The Tasmanian Government was our partner in the first place on a 50-50 basis. After the Public Accounts Committee had shown what a mess the undertaking was in, Mr. Keast was appointed and helped to get the industry going. The Tasmanian Government is now finding £2,000,000 to increase output to 16,000 tons. It is not correct to say that the Commonwealth is not finding any additional money. The expansion will cost £3,000,000, and the Commonwealth, by forgoing interest on loans and repayment of principal, is finding an additional £1,000,000 to increase the ouput of the industry to 1 6,000 tons. But even that output is not enough. We want to see the output raised first to 28,000 tons and then to 40,000 tons.
Statements have been made to the effect that overseas interests are selling aluminium ingot in Australia at below their own domestic prices. All I can say is that I have never received any complaint that they are selling below their own domestic price. If they were, that fact could be raised in relation to the Customs Tariff Industries Preservation Act. If overseas interests are selling ingots at below their own domestic price that matter should have been brought to the attention of the Government, and it would have been dealt with immediately. If it is a fact that these ingots have been sold below the domestic price of the country of origin, the commission has been remiss in not taking the measures that exist for its protection. The position is that the commission has been selling in Australia every pennyworth of the ingots that have been produced.
The plant at Bell Bay has an alumina plant which can produce three times the amount of ore that can be smelted. That is the whole trouble; the plant was erected on such a higgledy-piggledy basis. It was erected with three times the amount of alumina plant in relation to furnace capacity. Sales of alumina have been made overseas in an attempt to keep the alumina section of the plant going sixteen hours a day or on a two-shift basis. The Commonwealth Government has done everything it can to look after this industry.
For the Senate to ask that the Government disclose to the Parliament confidential negotiations at this stage is ridiculous because the Government has to come back to the Parliament before the negotiations can be finalized. The attitude of the Labour Party shows really and truly why the Labour Party, when it was in charge of this industry, because of its complete dedication to the political dogma of complete socialism, got itself into the awful mess that it did. It then had to go cap in hand to the British Aluminium Company and ask that company to take up the consulting work on the terms which the company itself laid down.
– If you sell the Bell Bay plant will you see that it is kept going in Tasmania?
– The position is that we are trying to attract capital to it with a view to developing it. The statements that have been made over and over again by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) and by Mr. Reece, the Premier of Tasmania, show very clearly that both of them know quite clearly where they are going. They know what these negotiations are all about, and I am surprised that the Labour Opposition is not more closely in touch with the Premier of Tasmania and with the Tasmanian Government. Honorable senators opposite are going in opposite ways. Of course, we know that that is a habit with them. Always, half go one way while half go the other way. But surely they should be on side with the Tasmanian Premier and the Government of Tasmania because this is an industry which is of vital importance to Tasmania.
– Are you going to keep it in Tasmania?
– I am more a Tasmanian than you are because I live there. I have lived there for 50 years and have not cleared out yet.
– I have lived there for 58 years.
– You are a deserter now; you have left Tasmania. This is an industry that is of vital importance to Tasmania. It employs a great number of people. If fabricating plants had been established in Tasmania even more would have been employed. Georgetown is a thriving town because of the aluminium industry, and I hope to see it thrive even more. A large amount of the female labour there could be used if a fabrication plant were erected in that Ctiy, but the trouble has been that the commission has been debarred from erecting such a plant there. Labour members of Parliament have gone to Georgetown and said to the commission that a fabrication plant should be erected there, but the trouble is that a Labour Government entered into a contract with the consulting authority that no fabrication work was to be undertaken by the commission.
– Your Government has had plenty of time to alter the position, and you have the numbers.
– You forget that a contract is a contract. You forget that a contract was made many years ago. I realize that you have very little honour for contracts, but we on this side of the chamber believe that we should honour all contracts, even those made by a socialist Government.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– As 1 have only four minutes at my disposal, I do not propose to make a party political speech. Honorable senators on the Government side have wondered why the party seated on this side of the chamber is apprehensive about the future of this undertaking. We have cause to be apprehensive for solid reasons. We are fully aware of the record of this Government in disposing of the people’s assets. We have not forgotten what it has done since it has been in office. We recall very well that during the war Australia’s industrial shortcomings were discovered by the Australian Labour Party which immediately undertook to overcome those shortcomings and prepare for the future. Some of the industries which were established by the Labour Government and placed upon a sound basis were disposed of by this Government at giveaway prices. We have not forgotten that only last week the Government sounded the death knell of the flax-growing industry in the Commonwealth. We remember too how it disposed of Glen Davis. We also recollect very clearly how it disposed of its interest in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, the whaling station in Western Australia and its interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited.
Is the Government asking us to forget those things when we know that it is secretly negotiating with a company to which I shall refer in a minute or two? A short time ago the Government negotiated with an American corporation in an attempt to sell, if it possibly could, the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. If it had done that it would have placed the health of every citizen of the Commonwealth in the hands of an American corporation. It had no compunction in attempting to do that. We are also aware that the Government is constantly endeavouring to disintegrate the assets and goodwill of Trans-Australia Airlines. On the day that T.A.A. becomes bankrupt there will be a ball held in King’s Hall. Government supporters will invite their friends and relatives and their theme song will be make merry and dance because T.A.A. has become bankrupt.
Senator Henty spoke about suckers; but I have never seen such a sucker as Senator Henty when he was speaking a while ago about the British Aluminium Company Limited. Is he so innocent that he is not aware of the shareholding interests in British Aluminium Company Limited? Does he not know that the shares of that company were taken over by Reynolds Corporation Limited and that there is no British capital now in the company known as British Aluminium Company Limited. Let me tell honorable senators opposite that the company with which the Government is negotiating is the Commonwealth
Aluminium Corporation Proprietary Limited which is commonly known as Comalco.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The time allowed under Standing Order No. 64 for this debate has expired.
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 obtain the approval of Parliament to an increase in Australia’s International Monetary Fund quota and International Bank subscription. The increase in Fund quota is one-third, from 300,000,000 dollars to 400,000,000 dollars, and the increase in bank subscription is also one-third, from 400,000,000 dollars to 533,000,000 dollars.
Last year, the approval of Parliament was obtained for an increase of 50 per cent, in Australia’s fund quota from 200,000,000 dollars to 300,000,000 dollars and an increase of 100 per cent, in Australia’s bank subscription from 200,000,000 dollars to 400,000,000 dollars. Those increases were part of a general move, in which all fund and bank members were entitled to participate, to enlarge the resources of those two international institutions.
At the same time as the general increase in fund quotas took place, certain member countries obtained special increases in their quotas over and above the general increase of 50 per cent. Those countries included Canada, Japan, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Denmark, Mexico, Turkey and a number of others who sought increased quotas because of changed circumstances since their original quotas were determined.
In January of this year the Government decided to apply for a further increase in Australia’s quota. It was obvious that such an increase, if it could be obtained, would represent a considerable strengthening of Australia’s external financial position and would enable the Government to move with greater confidence towards the freeing of imports from quantitative restrictions; and it was felt that the fund board could be expected to receive sympathetically an application by Australia for an increase because of the exceptionally wide swings to which the Australian balance of payments is subject. This expectation was fulfilled. The fund board, after considering the case, recommended an increase in Australia’s quota of the full amount requested and, by vote of governors of the fund, the increase was approved subject to the formal consent by Australia which is provided for in clause 3 of the bill before the Senate.
The increase in Australia’s fund quota represents a sizeable addition to the country’s total international reserves. The amount of assistance a member country can obtain from the fund is directly related to the size of its fund quota. Under the fund articles of agreement, a member may apply to the fund for drawings of foreign currencies up to an amount equal to its fund quota plus that part of its subscription to the fund which it has paid in gold. The special increase in Australia’s quota to 400,000,000 dollars will increase Australia’s potential drawing rights on the fund to 473,000,000 dollars or £211,000,000.
Australia’s own holdings of gold and foreign exchange, which represent our first line of international reserves stood at £547,000,000 at the end of December. With potential drawing rights in the fund of over £200,000,000 the total of our first and second line reserves will amount to some £750,000,000. We are therefore placed in a strong position to meet future fluctuations in our balance of payments.
The International Monetary Fund and the International Bank are twin institutions with a common membership. Fund members who seek an increase in their fund quotas are expected at the same time to make a proportionate increase in their subscriptions to the International Bank. Accordingly, when the Australian application to the fund was submitted, a parallel application was made to the bank for an increase of one-third - from 400,000,000 dollars to 533,000,000 dollars - in Australia’s holding of the capital stock of the bank. This increase was duly approved by vote of the board of governors of the bank on 6th April, the same date as fund governors approved the fund quota increase.
The terms and conditions under which Australia can take up the special increases in its fund quota and subscription to the capital stock of the International Bank ar contained in resolutions by the boards of governors of the two institutions. The texts of these resolutions are included as schedules to the bill. In the case of the fund, it will be necessary for Australia to increase its subscription by 100,000,000 dollars. A gold payment of 25,000,000 dollars or about £11,000,000 will be required. The balance of Australia’s increased subscription is payable in Australian currency and, as in the case of our earlier fund subscriptions, this will be met by the lodgment of a non-negotiable noninterest bearing security with the Reserve Bank as depository for the fund in Australia. Payment against this note would be required only if another member country were to draw Australian currency from the fund. In the twelve years Australia has been a fund member no Australian currency drawings have been made. Drawings by fund members have so far been made only in United States dollars, Canadian dollars, sterling, deutschmarks, Belgian francs and Dutch guilders.
In the case of the International Bank, Australia’s increased subscription will be 133,000,000 dollars or about £60,000,000. A payment of 1,330,000 dollars or about £600,000 will be required in gold or dollars. An amount equal to 11,970,000 dollars or about £5,000,000 will be subscribed in Australian currency by lodgment of a note similar to that lodged with the fund. Release of this portion to the bank for use in its lending operations will be a matter for discussion with the bank management in due course. The balance of the increased subscription - 119,700,000 dollars or about ^3. onn 000- will remain uncalled.
The bill provides for all payments necessitated by the increase in Australia’s fund quota and International Bank subscription to be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Australia has already benefited greatly from its membership of these two important international institutions. It looks forward to continuing close and fruitful collaboration with both of them in their respective fields in the years ahead.
I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 28th April (vide page 625), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I found the consideration of this bill most interesting from both the legal and the practical viewpoints. Australia, being an island continent, is vitally interested in preventing pollution of the sea adjacent to its shores, particularly by heavy oils. The fact that these oils do not evaporate and that they remain on the surface of the sea constitutes a rapidly growing problem of world-wide dimensions. As they are let loose they befoul shipping, fishing gear, coastal resorts and harbour facilities, and are very destructive of marine life.
The general adoption of oil as a method of ship propulsion and the increased tonnage of oil tankers now operating in the world have accentuated these troubles greatly in recent years. The United Kingdom Government, which was greatly concerned about the pollution of the North Sea, convened a conference of the maritime nations of the world at London in 1954. The conference met in April and May of that year. There were 32 countries represented at the conference by direct representatives, while ten countries sent observers. United Nations agencies, including the Food and Agriculture Organization, also sent observers. In due course, the 32 nations agreed on a convention. That convention is the first of the schedules to the bill that we are now considering.
Article XV. of the convention provided that it should come into operation twelve months after the date on which ten countries, of whom five had a tonnage of 500,000 tons of tankers, had accepted the agreement, lt took a long time for that rather simple condition to be fulfilled. Great Britain, which apparently had a paramount interest in promoting the convention, ratified it on the last day on which the conference took place in 1954. Five countries ratified or accepted during 1956 and five in 1957. With the acceptance by France in July, 1957, ten countries set the convention actually on the way to operation. The tenth subscriber having accepted in 1957, the convention became operative twelve months later, in July, 1958, for those ten countries. In the meantime, two other countries, the Netherlands and Finland, had accepted the convention.
It is a matter for very great regret that the operation of the convention was delayed from 1954 to 1958. That means that there will be a long delay before Australia is in a position to enjoy the advantages of this international convention. 1 repeat that Australia will be one of the chief beneficiaries under this international agreement. Although the convention became operative for some ten or twelve countries in 1958, it is only now that we are taking the first steps in this Parliament towards acceptance of the convention. It is not being accepted and put into operation by means of this bill, because on the approach that the Government has made to the matter, complementary State legislation is required, lt was with some dismay that I learned that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) had announced in another place that it would take up to two years to get the necessary model legislation through the State Parliaments. I think that we are at a disadvantage in this debate in not having before us an example of the type of model bill that the Commonwealth proposes to submit to the States. It would certainly be helpful to a consideration of the matter if we had that before us now. Our continent has a real interest in keeping the seas around it clear of heavy oils. Many tankers come to our shores and the discharge of oil by them can constitute many problems for us. Apparently, it will take from 1954, when the convention was first mooted and in fact adopted by 32 nations, until 1962, to have it really in operation. Having regard to our very keen practical interest in the clarification of the seas that surround us, that is altogether too long a time.
It is also very unfortunate that of the 32 countries that signed the convention in 1954, so far only twelve have in fact accepted it. That is decidedly unfortunate, because if some of the maritime nations are free to run without any international shackles on them in the matter of oil pollution, that can do a lot of damage, despite the proper behaviour of the twelve nations who have subscribed to the convention. I hope that steps will be taken to induce the other nations to join as rapidly as possible. The nations that r.re outside the convention at the moment are some of the greatest maritime nations of the world. They include the United States of America, Russia, Japan, Greece, Italy, and the various countries whose flags have been resorted to as flags of convenience by a lot of the great tanker countries of the world, such as Liberia, Costa Rica, Panama and Honduras. Shipowners have avoided the more stringent regulations of countries like the United States and Great Britain and have resorted to tho-e countries for merely formal registration so that they may carry their flags and claim registration in them. If those countries are not roped into this convention it will be a very unfortunate thing from the point of view of protecting the sea lanes of the world from pollution.
– Those countries own nearly all the tankers, too.
– I thank Senator Kendall for that observation. I thought I had said earlier that the greater part of the tanker tonnage of the world is registered in those countries. As the honorable senator appreciates, the ships registered in those countries could be the greatest offenders in regard to sea pollution.
The agreement prohibits oil discharge in certain areas close to the shores of the various countries. In the case of tankers throughout the world, they may not discharge within 50 miles of the shore. An exception is made in favour of Australia. We have the exceptional advantage that the prohibited area extends to 150 miles from our coastline. except in the north and north-west, from Cape York round to Port
Hedland, where, owing to the juxtaposition of other lands, the limit is SO miles. We enjoy a very special advantage. In some parts of the world - I am thinking of the Adriatic Sea - the prohibition extends to 30 miles from the shore for tankers. In the case of other shipping it extends to 50 miles, and there is power, by following certain procedures, for a member country of the convention to extend that distance to 100 miles.
The convention imposes an obligation on member countries not to discharge oil in those prohibited zones. If a fault occurs in any way on the part of a ship that is registered in Australia, no matter whether the offence occurs in extra-territorial waters near to Australia or in any other part of the world which is declared a prohibited zone, the penalty has to be enforced in Australian courts in accordance with Australian law, the Australian law being set out in the bill that we are now considering. If the offence is committed by a ship registered in any other convention country in waters adjacent to Australia, the penalty has to be enforced, not in our courts, but in the courts of the country where that ship is registered. The penalty for a wrongful discharge of oil under our act - not under the convention, the penalties being left to our legislation - that may be imposed on both owner and master of a ship is of the order of £1,000.
Article VI. of the agreement imposes an obligation on the parties to it to impose penalties for offences beyond territorial waters - that is, beyond the three-mile limit - which shall be not less than those imposed in respect of offences committed in territorial waters, or within the three-mile limit. We must, as a Commonwealth, be prepared to impose penalties not less than those imposed by the States. This is one reason why the Government has felt impelled to seek the aid of the States in the matter of legislation.
It occurs to me that perhaps the external affairs powers of the Commonwealth might have been invoked to legislate for both territorial and extra-territorial waters. That power has not been adequately explored by judicial decision. In the case of R. v. Burgess ex parte Goya Henry various views were expressed by the court, but the majority of the court suggested a number of tests which I think this convention might well have survived. The majority of the court suggested the application of tests such as these: Has the subject matter sufficient international significance? I think we can answer “ Yes “ to that one. Has the subject matter itself an external aspect? Nothing could be truer than that the sea has a definitely external aspect and an international aspect. Does the subject matter affect the external relations of the Commonwealth? Again I answer, “ Of course it does “. The pollution of the sea in the neighbourhood of any country must cause disruption of the relations between the country offended and the country offending. Finally, how many nations are concerned in the treaty? Even with the present limited subscription of twelve nations, 1 would say that the convention had attained such a magnitude that our High Court might well say it had sufficient prominence for this Parliament to invoke the external affairs power. lt is interesting for me, as a member of the Constitutional Review Committee, to recall that the committee unanimously recommended that there should be a power in the Federal Parliament over navigation and shipping concurrent with that of the States. In reaching that unanimous conclusion the committee adverted to the difficulties that were being experienced in Australia in giving effect to International Labour Organization conventions relating to shipping. There are some 20 of those conventions, and practically none of them has been applied in Australia, because it would be necessary for all six States to bring down legislation in each instance, and it is not easy at any time to persuade all the States to agree. Interestingly enough again, the Constitutional Review Committee in one lengthy paragraph referred to this particular convention that we are talking about. It pointed to the delay that was being experienced in implementing such an important convention, owing to the difficulty of getting six States to come into line on the matter.
Apart from the six States, the Government’s task has been made even more difficult by reason of the fact that around the Australian coastline the authorities in charge of our main ports are 27 in number. In fact, there are many more major ports than that, but there are some 27 port authorities administering the ports. They have an association, and they were, very properly, consulted. One can appreciate the long and tortuous course that has had to be followed after the Government decided that it could not apply this convention under its own external affairs power. If it could have done so the process would have been infinitely quicker. 1 do not suggest that it is beyond doubt that it would have survived challenge. I cannot imagine that it would be challenged if the power were used, because 1 subscribe very strongly to the view expressed by the Constitutional Review Committee that it would be quite illogical to have a division of legal power in relation to a subject matter, covering the sea, navigation and shipping, which is itself, by its very nature, indivisible. I accept that proposition most warmly. 1 have referred to the fact that every time the States increase their penalties, we, the Commonwealth, dealing with extra-territorial waters will be bound to increase our penalties in like manner. The position will be all right as long as the States agree to stay in line in the fixation of uniform penalties, but I invite the Minister to say presently what the position will be if, through some special circumstance, one State or two States step out of line with the others, and that State or States increase penalties for offences in their territorial waters within the three-mile limit. Does it mean that the Commonwealth will have to increase the penalties, in accordance with the provisions of the convention, for offences committed in extra-territorial waters adjacent to the territorial waters of those States? Will the increased penalties then apply only to the waters off the coast of those States, or will they be general?
These are difficulties that arise immediately you have seven different Parliaments dealing with the one subject matter. The problem may or may not arise, but it is not necessarily a theoretical problem. We have had other cases in which the States have decided to implement an overseas convention, have agreed upon the terms at the beginning, but then bit by bit have departed from them. I think the Minister will have some recollection of his experiences in that regard in the aviation field from time to time. It is quite under standable that different circumstances arise in different States, and that they cannot at all times fit into the one pattern.
The convention imposes an obligation upon ships of member countries at ali times to keep log books in relation to the discharge of oil. Those log books can be inspected. Copies can be made and certified by the master at the request of the country visited whenever a vessel enters the territorial waters of that country, lt is further provided that those certified copies of entries in the log books relating to oil shall have evidentiary value in the courts of contracting countries. The penalty for obstructing an officer making a proper examination is £100. 1 indicated earlier that if an offence is committed in the prohibited zones adjacent to Australia by the ship of a country other than Australia, the prosecution must take place in the country in which the ship is registered. When that prosecution takes place any of these certified extracts from the log books shall have evidentiary value in the courts of the country in which the prosecution takes place.
Two very good features of the agreement are to be found in Articles VII. and VIII. Article VII. provides that within a year after the convention becomes binding on a country that country must legislate so as to prevent the discharge of heavy oil, fuel and lubricating oil, into bilges the contents of which are discharged into the sea without being passed through an oilywater separator. That will impose, in effect, an obligation upon ships registered in Australia to provide this type of separator. I noticed no similar provision, so far as I recall, in our own legislation. I may have overlooked it as it is some time since I adverted to the terms of this bill. The other aspect, in article VIII., is that an obligation is imposed upon a member country within three years of the convention becoming binding on it to install at each main port in its territory facilities for the disposal of oil refuse. Once that is done there would be no need for a ship in waters adjacent, to Australia to discharge oil into the sea. Again I think no provision has been made in this Commonwealth legislation for installing those facilities. I realize that that is within territorial waters and that one might expect the matter to be covered in the legislation of the State. That is one other reason why, 1 repeat, it would have been advantageous if we had before us the model type of bill that the Government proposes to submit to the State.
I ask the Minister whether thought has been given to the possibility of State legislation requiring visiting vessels to use these storage facilities before leaving port. Has any thought been given to that matter so that we would know that a vessel clearing Australian ports would be under no necessity to discharge oil into the waters adjacent to our shores? It is a thought to which the Minister might address his mind in drafting his model bill for the States. It has to be acknowledged that the provision of these oil facilities pursuant to this agreement will involve the various port authorities in a good deal of expense. I am concerned to ask the Minister whether the Government has given any thought to extending financial aid to the port authorities to provide these most desirable facilities. Not only is there no lack of power in the Constitution of the Commonwealth to do that directly under the overseas and interstate trade power, but also, I suggest, even a primary responsibility might rest on the Commonwealth in this matter pursuant to those powers and the power that it now may exercise having entered into this convention.
Article XVII. provides that a member country may not denounce the convention for five years and that the convention will continue to be binding until the expiration of a period of twelve months after it has, in fact, been denounced. Article XIX. rather interests me. lt gives power to a member country to suspend the operation of the convention during a war, irrespective of whether the member country itself is at war. The one comment I want to make is this: Here are law and order being pushed out of the picture in that situation. It seems to be an interesting acknowledgment that war is a most uncivilized proceeding because all the normal rules of decent behaviour are cast overboard in the emergencies of war. Article XI. of the convention somewhat surprised me because it provides that, as between member countries, the convention shall not relate to ships for the time being used as naval auxiliaries - I take it that covers normal private vessels which for the time being are supplementing the naval service - ships of under 500 tons gross tonnage and ships for the time being engaged in the whaling industry. No doubt, most of them being oil burners, they would be in a position to pollute the waters. I note that in the second schedule of the bill a resolution urging governments that are not within the convention to bring themselves within it has been subscribed to by the Commonwealth Government. My reading of the bill is to the effect that our measure does extend to naval auxiliaries, whaling ships and those in the third category, namely, ships under 500 tons gross tonnage. If that is not right I should like the Minister in due course to tell me so.
The Minister will note that we advert to the resolution only in the preamble of the bill and not in its substance. He will find it on the first page in the last paragraph of the preamble, which states - . . Australia should give effect to the Convention and to the resolution set out in the Second Schedule to this Act.
As I read the bill, 1 believe we have given effect to the resolution, and 1 should like the Minister to tell me later whether 1 am correct. I was in a little difficulty for some considerable time in trying to ascertain the scope of the bill - whether it purported to apply to territorial waters as well as to extra-territorial waters - and I was surprised to find the answer in the third and fourth schedules of the bill. Clause 7 prohibits the discharge of oil into a part of the sea described in the third schedule to the bill and the prohibition for non-tankers is contained in the fourth schedule. On referring to those schedules one finds that they are identical with the prohibited zones referred to in the annexure to the convention, except that it goes on to provide “ but not including any part of the territorial waters of Australia “. So we find that this bill in its prohibition at the Commonwealth level is to apply to zones adjacent to Australia but only beyond the three-mile limit. It does not purport to have any effect in territorial waters.
I can say to the Minister at this stage that the Opposition will support the bill. It sees it noi as perfect but as containing the element of compromise between the various nations with their differing interests. However, it is an improvement on no regulation in this matter. The measure is a useful start. Australia’s participation in the convention, in the view of the Opposition, has been delayed too long. There are too many major countries outside the convention. They should be pressed to join through the United Nations maritime agency and in any other way that can be conceived by the Government. I can say at this stage that the Opposition considers that the motion for the second reading of the bill should be supported. In committee there will be one or two matters in relation to the bill and the agreement that I should like to traverse briefly with the Minister. I shall not deal with them now.
– in reply - I express the pleasure of the Government that the Opposition joins with us on this occasion in supporting the bill. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) is completely correct when he points to its deficiencies and says, in effect, that whilst it is not a perfect instrument it is an effective start. T believe that to be true. It is also, as he said, virtually a compromise between countries that are desirous of making a start in this important matter of doing away as far away as possible with oil pollution. I express the very firm belief that a start must be made in this matter. Although this convention does not have the unanimous consent of all the countries that we would like to see participating in it, it will be an effective contribution to a solution of this problem if the nations which have agreed to ratify the convention do so and put into effect within their own waters, both territorial and extraterritorial, the provisions of the convention although those provisions will apply only to vessels which belong to the convention countries.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) expressed some disappointment because we in Australia will not be able to ratify the convention until the time - it may be two years from now - when the States have passed the necessary complementary legislation. But, Sir, that is one of the very many disadvantages or impediments inherent in the constitutional system under which we live in Australia. I will attempt shortly to explain it as it affects this piece of legislation.
The Leader of the Opposition commented on the possible use of the external affairs power in connexion with this legislation. In point of fact, as it applies to extraterritorial waters, it is an exercise of thai power, However, due to the fact that we have six sovereign States in Australia, and because those States, within their own territorial waters, not only exercise these powers, but have available the physical facilities with which to deal with this problem, it was considered that this was the best way in which to treat the matter.
I have some personal knowledge of the lengthy - sometimes frustratingly lengthy - negotiations which have occurred in bringing the matter to this point. The Port Authorities Association, representing the States’ view in this matter, has had the convention and the proposed legislation before it for many years. It is an unfortunate fact that the Port Authorities Association - which is a most useful body in Australian maritime affairs, and a most efficient one - only meets at quite lengthy intervals. In the consideration of a matter such as this, discussion and negotiation have been taken to a certain point at one meeting and then deferred until the next. Consequently, much of the negotiation was done by letter and confirmed at subsequent meetings. That is why it has taken so long to get to the point where we can speak in terms of a model bill.
I, too, regret the absence of a model bill from this debate. It would have been, I think, a much more interesting and a much more informative debate had I been able to present to the Senate with this legislation the actual model bill which the States have now agreed to enact. The fact is that the drafting of the bill has, by consent of the other members of the Port Authorities Association, been left to the State of New South Wales, where the Maritime Services Board is in charge of the matter. The Maritime Services Board has, unfortunately, only reached the point where it has issued instructions for the draft to the parliamentary draftsman. Ag’reement has been reached as to the bill itself, but it has not been finally drafted. That is the explanation of the absence of a model bill at this stage of the proceedings.
The Leader of the Opposition asked: What would be the position if any one State increased its penalties? Would it then be necessary for the Commonwealth to follow the lead given by that State and to increase its penalties? The answer is: Yes, but the circumstance is considered to be most unlikely, first for the reason that the penalties in the State legislation are considerably less than the penalties provided in the Commonwealth legislation, and secondly, because this is a type of agreement which I suggest with all sincerity would not be made the occasion for causing any one party to it embarrassment in any way. This, I suggest, is a type of agreement between the States and the Commonwealth which is a very good example of the Commonwealth and the States getting together to bring about a desired result. I suggest that any derogation from that very desirable state of affairs would not be lightly undertaken or, indeed, undertaken at all, by any of the States or by the Commonwealth.
asked for a reference to the part of the legislation which made provision for the installation of separators in ships. That is provided for by regulation under clause 13.
– To be provided?
– Yes. The reason for that is that these separators will follow a number of different designs and patterns, and the installations in ships or in ports necessarily will be specially designed in some cases to meet the needs of those ships or those ports. Similarly, the model bill provides for receivers to be installed.
I think the Leader of the Opposition sought information as to whether there was any provision making it mandatory for a ship to discharge from its separator into the receivers before clearing port. I am told that the practical manner of doing this is to clear bilges before entering port, and the separators, on entry to port, would contain just the separated oily substance, which would be immediately discharged into the receiver. It is a matter of such common practice - it helps in the loading of the ship and in the operation of the ship, I understand - that a master would invariably follow that practice without any other form of compulsion.
This bill makes no provision for financial aid to the States or to port authorities. The reason for that is that financial assistance of this nature would naturally fall into the category of Commonwealth-States financial assistance generally and would be a subject for discussion at a meeting of the Australian Loan Council or at a Premiers Conference if the expected expenditure were such as to impose any great strain on the port authority. I am sure the Leader of the Opposition will agree with me whenI say that the port authorities are not without ability to raise revenue. These further facilities that they provide will no doubt be charged for on a basis that will amortize the liability over a period of years.
Provision is made for the granting of exemption to whalers and the like, by regulation under clause 13 of the bill.
– Is it proposed to exercise that power? If you leave the bill as it is now those exemptions will be included in the prohibitions. Is it proposed to exempt the types of ships to whichI referred or would it be wiser for them to remain subject to the act?
– I cannot answer the question offhand. I will attempt to get the information and answer the honorable senator in the committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I see that my good friend Senator Kendall wishes to speak. I thought of giving him precedence, but I do not know where he proposes to begin and I think it may be better if we have an orderly debate. I propose to begin with clause 6. Has the honorable senator anything prior to that?
– I refer to clause 6, which states -
Except as otherwise provided by this Act, the ships to which this Act applies are ships registered in Australia.
That, 1 take it, excludes our warships of every class and kind. They are not obliged to be registered under the Shipping Act, and, not being registered, they do not become bound1 by this convention or the act. They do, however, I take it, fall within the spirit if not the letter of the resolution referred to in the second schedule whereby governments of countries that accept the convention agree that they should, by legislation or otherwise, apply the provisions of the convention, so far as is reasonable or practicable, to all classes of ships.
Can the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) tell me whether anything - and if so, what - is contemplated with regard to our warships to ensure that they comply with the spirit and terms of the convention? They will not be bound in law, but I would like the Minister to tell us what will happen in practice.
I refer also to clause 7, sub-clause (5.). Clause 7 deals with the prohibition on the discharge of oil in certain prescribed sea areas and sub-clause (5.) reads -
Sub-sections (I.) and (3.) of this section do not apply to the discharge from the bilges of a ship of a mixture containing no oil other than lubricating oil. 1 notice that a similar exemption is provided in Article V. of the convention, which provides -
Article III shall not apply to the discharge from the bilges of a ship -
after the expiration of such period-
The period being twelve months - of an oily mixture containing no oil other than lubricating oil.
Article I. defines oil as -
Since the convention clearly has in mind lubricating oil in addition to the other types of oil, I wonder why we have this exemption in Article V. of the convention and in sub-clause (5.) of clause 7 of the bill. Sub-clause (4.) of clause 7 of the bill reads -
Sub-section (I.) of this section does not apply to the discharge of sediment -
that is residue arising from the purification or clarification of oil fuel or lubricating oil, if the discharge is made as far from land as is practicable. 1 direct attention to the imprecise nature of the term “ as far from land as is practicable “. 1 should like to know the Minister’s interpretation of that phrase.
– What is your interpretation?
– I am not giving my interpretation. The Minister is the expert on shipping.
– Not any longer.
– I thought that once you had qualified you never ceased to be qualified. I see the term to which 1 have referred repeated in a number of places in the bill, and it strikes me as being a very imprecise term. I visualize a ship coming from Newcastle to Sydney, for instance. Surely one would not expect that vessel to run out to sea 150 miles or so in normal circumstances to discharge sediment. Will the Minister comment on the use of that term in the bill and in the convention.
– Have you not heard the term before, Senator McKenna?
– Yes, and I have always regarded it in the same way as I regard it now - as decidedly imprecise and exceedingly loose. All I seek is the Government’s interpretation of the term because the Government will have to apply it in due course.
– The term has the same meaning that it had when you used it.
– Will the honorable senator remind me in which act we used that term?
– You used it in half a dozen acts.
– Again, the honorable senator should be precise. I expect precision from a lawyer. I am wondering whether sub-clause (4.) (b) of clause 7 affects oil refineries. Can the Minister say what will happen? Is there a residue from the oil refineries scattered around the Australian coast that must be dumped? Has it to be dumped in extra-territorial waters or is it burnt or consumed on the spot? Is there a problem there with which this bill deals or with which the model bills of the States will deal?
I have several other matters that I wish to raise, but 1 do not want to burden the Minister with all of them at once. I think 1 have given him sufficient for the moment.
– I address myself first to the position of naval vessels. The bill follows what I understand is quite usual practice inasmuch as this type of legislation does not apply to naval craft. I assure the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) that the Department of the Navy is very much aware of the need for this type of preventive measure, and that the closest liaison exists between the Department of Shipping and Transport and the Department of the Navy. It may be taken for granted that the Department of the Navy will exercise the greatest care and, to use the Leader of the Opposition’s own term, the greatest sympathy, and will exercise the right spirit when dealing with the discharge of oil.
The other question, and one which I find most teasing, relates to the phrase “ as far from land as is practicable “. The Leader of the Opposition asks: What does that phrase mean in precise terms? Indeed, if I were in his situation I think I would be asking the same question myself. I take him back to our earlier discussion of the bill and remind him that this convention itself was the best compromise that could be obtained among the signatory nations. Although attempts were made to give greater precision to this aspect of the bill, it was not possible to reach any agreement at all as to what a suitable mileage might be. In the spirit of the convention the signatory countries agreed to adopt this form of words. We carry them into our bill because, this being an exercise of the external affairs power, we have to use the language of the convention.
Another relevant matter is that lubricating oil is not considered to be nearly the menace that fuel oils are. Senator McKenna asked whether a problem similar to this arises from the operation of refineries around the Australian coast. I know that he understands that that has nothing to do with the discharge of oil from ships.
– Only if the oil were taken to sea and dumped.
– I can tell him of my own knowledge - I am not advised on this by the department - that residual oils are disposed of on land by either burning or some other method.
I shall now answer the question that was posed during the second-reading debate, and for which I was not then prepared. The question was: What is the intention with respect to exemptions? The intention is to exempt as few ships as it is possible to exempt. I am informed that the Department of Shipping and Transport has in mind a tonnage of about SO tons which compares with the exemption granted in the United Kingdom to ships of about 80 tons.
– The Senate is very much indebted to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) for opening up this very interesting discussion. I intend not to ask a question but to discuss a small matter. If the Minister does not object I propose to give a practical reason why naval vessels will not discharge oil. Any naval officer, be he a first lieutenant or a senior engineer officer, who allowed a skerrick of oil to get into any harbour would have a black mark placed on his record that would last for life. That is a practical reason.
I should like to raise another point which might be of interest. One of the first things I looked for in this bill was to ascertain what would happen to people who purposely discharged oil for the purpose of the safety of the ship. Sub-clause (6) of clause 7 provides -
It is a defence if a person charged with an offence against this section proves -
that the discharge of the oil or mixture containing oil was for the purpose of securing the safety of the ship . . .
It might be of interest to know what is done in such a case. If a vessel is running in very heavy seas with the wind on either quarter, it is necessary sometimes to pour oil very slowly from either side of the bow of the ship. That oil spreads out and stops the waves from actually breaking over the stern of the ship. That is the reason for the use of the phrase, “ securing the safety of the ship”.
Without wishing to delay the committee I should like to refer to the practice of a lighter coming alongside a ship to take the discharge of bilge water and oily substances. That is a common practice in the maritime service. When a ship comes into port she has already pumped her bilges dry, The bilge water is discharged into a lighter which is built for that purpose and is supplied by the harbour authority of the particular port.
– I refer the Minister to clause 8 which deals with powers of inspection, but first I direct his attention to ArticleIX., paragraph (2) of the convention. I am concerned with the opening sentence only which reads -
The competent authorities of any of the territories of a Contracting Government may inspect on board any such ship while within a port in that territory the oil record book required to be carried in the ship in compliance with the provisions of the Convention.
If the Minister will now refer to clause 8 of the bill, he will see that it reads -
For the purpose of ascertaining -
in the case of a ship registered in Australia - whether the provisions of this Act or of the regulations have been complied with in respect of that ship; or
in the case of a ship registered in a country to which the convention applies other than Australia . . . a person appointed to be a surveyor under section 190 of the Navigation Act 1912-1958 or a person authorized by the Minister to act under this section may -
The clause goes on to provide that he may go on board, take extracts and do other things. I do not question the Commonwealth’s power to inspect the books of a ship registered in Australia, even though it is in extra-territorial waters. You could exercise jurisdiction there. However, if you seek to exercise any power over a ship of another country in extra-territorial waters you must find the power for doing so in the convention itself and rely upon it as an exercise of the external affairs power. Under the convention there is power vested in an officer to inspect while the ship is in port, and only while it is in port. The convention does not even provide that power while the ship is in territorial waters. I direct the Minister’s attention to the fact that the power sought to be conferred upon our officer in clause 8 is not limited in the way that the power given by the convention is limited.
The rule of law is that if we adopt a convention we must follow it with meticulous accuracy. Can the Minister say anything on this point? Under clause 8 it appears to me that we purport to give to our officer power to go on board any ship registered in Australia or in a country to which the convention applies and inspect the machinery and equipment of the ship and any oil record book carried in the ship. I am putting to the Minister the proposal that whilst we can do that in extra-territorial waters to ships that are registered with us. we can only do it to ships of another country pursuant to the convention when those ships are in port in Australia. That is the point with which I am concerned. I am suggesting that there might be a flaw in the bill because it is not de-limited in the terms of the convention so far as ships not registered in Australia are concerned.
I now refer to clause 10 of the bill which reads -
Nothing in this Act shall be taken to subject the Crown in right of the Commonwealth or a State to liability to be prosecuted for an offence, but this section does not affect any liability of the master of a ship of which the Crown is the owner to be so prosecuted.
I recognize that this bill does not deal with the question of civil damages for the discharge of oil. That is unimpaired and untouched by the bill. We are now dealing only with criminal responsibility, as it were, for breach of the prohibition. One could understand that we should not want the Crown prosecuted, but the Opposition is concerned lest this clause be so construed as to exempt such a body as the Australian National Line from prosecution. The master of a ship of this line would be liable to prosecution. Prohibitions are imposed in earlier clauses against both the owner and the master. Both would be liable and punishable. In this instance, where the Crown might be involved, only the master of the ship is to be punished. There is no offence on the part of the owner. The Opposition believes that ships of the Australian National Line should be as severely bound by the provisions of the law and of the convention as are any other vessels.
– Would they be considered Crown ships?
– That is by no means clear. In the Australian Coastal
Shipping Commission Act, one finds many things to indicate that the commission is, in effect, the Crown. For instance, the Minister has the most enormous powers. He has power to direct the line to establish a shipping service. It cannot fix any rates or charges without his concurrence. It must dispose of its profits as the Treasurer indicates. Its employees come under either the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act or the Seamen’s Compensation Act. The Minister determines the classes of persons to be employed by the commission. So all the way through the Crown is mixed up with the commission and has an overriding power. Many of these matters lead one to the conclusion that the commission is in effect, the Crown, that it is an instrumentality of the Crown and that its ships may be completely exempt. There is another very important pointer in section 44 of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act, which reads -
Ships belonging to the Commission shall not be deemed -
to be ships belonging to Her Majesty for the purposes of section seven hundred and forty-one of the Imperial Act known as the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894; or
to be Government ships for the purposes of section eighty of the Imperial Act known as the Merchant Shipping Act, 1906.
I have had a look at those two provisions. The clear implication is that without such sections in the act the ships of the commission would be regarded as Her Majesty’s ships or as government ships. The honorable senator provoked me into this discussion by asking a question. There is a very powerful argument in favour of the proposition that the commission is an instrumentality of the Crown in those circumstances. I certainly would not be dogmatic about it because I know of no judicial decision on the status of the Australian National Line. My view is that, in effect, the commission would be the Crown and that it would not necessarily be bound as a body and be liable to prosecution if one of its ships offended. We submit that the Australian National Line should be in no better position than the ships of private owners.
– Replying first on the last point raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), I say that the ships owned and operated by the Australian National Line are not regarded as Crown ships. They are owned and operated certainly by an instrumentality of the Commonwealth, but their ownership is regarded as being outside the ambit of Crown ownership which extends to such vessels as light-ships, tugs and supply ships. The best analogy I can draw is that the Australian National Line is a commercial entity and falls into the category of commercial owner rather than Crown owner.
– You consider that it would be liable to prosecution?
– Yes. The Leader of the Opposition raised another interesting point in respect of the wording of the convention as to inspection of oil records while a vessel is in port. The answer I am given by my officers is that it is not a practical proposition to board and inspect while a vessel is at sea, and that this in an operation which is necessarily conducted in port.
– My complaint is that the bill is wide enough to enable a ship to be picked up in extra-territorial waters, but you do not tie the power down to the narrow limits of the convention.
– I appreciate that. It is not tied down because it is not practical to board and inspect at sea.
– In other words, there would be no attempt to board except in port?
– That is so.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment: report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 3rd May (vide page 690), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of this bill is to repeal the six acts mentioned in clauses 3 and 4.
Under these acts, the Commonwealth Government, on behalf of the United Kingdom Government, used to collect dues from foreign ships which, on their way to Australia, derived some benefit from lighthouses and buoys in the Bahamas and Other islands in the West Indies. The United Kingdom Government does not wish the Commonwealth to continue to collect Such dues because the United Kingdom has signed the International Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone 1958, article 18 of which states that no charge is to be made for vessels using the beacons and lights in the area of which I have spoken. The Opposition offers no objection to the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 3rd May (vide page 661), on motion by Senator Sir Walter Cooper -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The bill before the Senate proposes to amend the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953 in three ways. It seeks to provide that public works that are to cost more than £250,000 shall be referred to the Public Works Committee; that no work which is estimated to cost more than £250,000 shall be commenced unless it has first been referred to the committee; and that the committee may review its own reports so long as the actual work on which it has reported has not been commenced.
While those proposals are commendable and have the support of the Opposition, particularly my support, I think that the Senate should be reminded that the Public Works Committee had no part whatever in the preparation of the amendments. After a struggle that has extended from 1936 to the present time, some progress is at last being made towards making the committee the efficient body that was envisaged by those responsible for the first Public Works Committee Act being placed on the statute-book. In this connexion, I wish to quote to the
Senate some passages from “Hansard” of 11th September, 1913, at page 1155. The Prime Minister, Sir Joseph Cook - at that time Mr. Joseph Cook - stated -
After moving, on 12th December, 1913, that the bill be read a second time, Mr. Cook is reported, at page 4244 of “ Hansard “, to have said -
This bill is founded largely on the Public Works Committee Acts of the States of Victoria and New South Wales. I think it is patent to every one at this time of day that the methods of conducting our public works policy are crude, inefficient, and altogether inadequate for the purpose of securing the taxpayers against loss and waste. We are spending in public works every year from £3,000,000 to £4,000,000; and Parliament, I am afraid, is not so well informed as it ought to be regarding the expenditure of this money and the projection of the various public works. Every one knows that we pass bills through this chamber, sometimes, in circumstances which do not permit of full and detailed investigation of the projects to which they relate; and, consequently, 1 fear that Parliament occasionally knows very little of the actual details of the expenditure of large sums of public money. It is in order to remedy that defect, as well as to insure a more efficient spending of the money, and the wiser disposition of our public works policy, that this committee is proposed . . . I do not hesitate to say that, in the State of New South Wales, a similar committee has saved the country millions of money . . . The function of the committee is to be the eyes and ears of Parliament … the committee goes out as really a scout to obtain information for the Government-
Then Mr. Andrew Fisher interjected, “ Not for the Government, but for the country “, and Mr. Cook went on - to inform Parliament, so that Parliament may assume its responsibility with an enlightened mind and judgment.
I have read those excerpts from “ Hansard “ in order to convey what was in the mind of the Government of the day regarding the way in which the Public Works Committee should function.
During the depression years, there was no great expenditure on public works, and the Public Works Committee Act was suspended. In 1936, a new act was passed, but it excluded the mandatory, or Executive Council, power that gave the Minister discretion to refer works to the committee. It can be seen, therefore, that for 24 years, from 1936 until the present time, the mandatory provision was not included in the Public Works Committee Act. In the intervening period, references were made at the discretion of the Minister.
In 1939, and again in 1940 and 1941, the committee made representations to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who promised that consideration would be given to the inclusion of a mandatory provision in the Public Works Committee Act. In 1942, the Cabinet approved certain amendments, but the Cabinet direction was not given effect. In 1945, on three or four occasions, the committee made representations to the Prime Minister regarding the mandatory power, and it was decided that no action would be taken. Towards the end of 1946, the committee again approached the Prime Minister. In 1953, legislation was introduced to rectify an anomaly in relation to the position of the chairman. Prior to that time, if the chairman died or was otherwise prevented from acting, there was no provision for his place to be taken automatically by the vicechairman. A suitable amendment was then introduced. We also asked at that time that a mandatory provision be included, but unfortunately this was not agreed to.
Again in 1953 and 1954, and in fact, on other occasions until 1957, we sent deputations to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). 1 may say, in fact, that I have been associated with this committee for ten years, and throughout that time we have tried to emphasize the necessity for the introduction of a mandatory provision to cover our investigations. For some reason or other there has been a very subtle but very powerful antagonism towards the Public Works Committee, although we have been unable to find out where that antagonism has emanated from. Various Ministers for Works, and also Prime Ministers themselves, who have to rely to a great extent on their advisers, have met the committee over the years, have given it a good hearing and have promised that something would be done about this mandatory provision. At one stage it even reached the point of a Cabinet recommendation. However, on every occasion during the last 24 years when action has been taken, something has happened to prevent the reintroduction of the mandatory provision into the legislation. It now appears that at least one of our objectives has been achieved. The mandatory provision is now being included but, to my disappointment, it is subject to considerable limitations.
The members of the Public Works Committee are appointed by the Parliament. The committee appreciates the responsibility that is placed on it, and I feel certain that over the years the work the committee has done has been recognized by the Parliament, although, perhaps, not fully understood. However, the members of the committee are seised of the importance of their work, and they do their very best to carry out the job they have been asked to do by their colleagues in the Parliament.
I refer now to the provision which increases from £25,000 to £250,000 the minimum estimated cost of works which may be made the subject of investigation by the committee. I believe this to be a very sound amendment because, with the increase of costs over the years and the provision of more substantial buildings, works involving expenditure of less than £250,000 do not warrant so much planning and preparation by architects, engineers and others that they should necessarily be investigated by the Public Works Committee.
Let me now refer to some of the limitations to which I have made brief reference. The bill provides that the committee shall have works referred to it for examination, or may itself initiate the investigation of works, only if those works are in or of the Commonwealth. The Attorney-General’s Department has ruled that works in or of the Commonwealth do not include works in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. In the Territory of Papua, which is to all intents and purposes in and of the Commonwealth, and in our trust Territory of New Guinea, which is on the threshhold of great development, major public works will have to be carried out, but in respect of them the committee has been by-passed. It was not able to suggest to the Minister, when the bill was being prepared, that some provision should be made for it to fulfil its functions under the act and, acting as the eyes and ears of the Parliament, investigate all major public works carried out by the Commonwealth with taxpayers’ money. I am greatly disappointed at the fact that it has been decided to continue this limitation.
In recent years a very important government authority has been established in the Australian Capital Territory. I refer to the National Capital Development Commission. This commission is not obliged to refer works to the Public Works Committee, and even with its extended authority the committee cannot initiate an investigation of works carried out by that commission.
There is a further limitation with regard to defence works. I believe this to be quite in order, and that the Minister should have the right to say whether the Public Works Committee may investigate defence works. I agree that the Minister should have power, for security or other reasons, to prevent investigations by the committee. But after all, if the members of the committee are not reliable enough to investigate the expenditure of Commonwealth funds on public works in all fields, then I suggest they are not reliable enough to do any governmental work. However, I concede that the Minister should have the right to say what is a defence work and what is not. There are, nevertheless, many kinds of defence works, such as military barracks and messes, which may cost £300,000 or £400,000, to which the eyes and ears of the Public Works Committee should be directed. It is disappointing to find out that after all these years although the mandatory provision has been re-introduced it has been made the subject of such substantial limitations.
There are proposals in existence at the present time for the provision of substantial buildings for various embassies and legations in countries overseas. I do not believe that the Public Works Committee should travel abroad to conduct its investigations, but I do think that the proposals for these works should be submitted to the committee. With the experience we have gained over the years we would be able to give opinions on designs and costs. If there were any obvious anomalies the committee could make recommendations so that a sub-committee, or an individual such as a Minister, could look into the matter.
– It would not be necessary in those cases to travel to the countries concerned?
– No. If the details were presented to the committee here at Parliament House it could at least from its experience weigh them in relation to projects that had been submitted in the past, and the committee would have a very good idea whether the work was justified, whether the design was according to usual practices in such cases, and generally the committee would be able to give its imprimatur to a proposal and present it to Parliament in the form of a recommendation in its report. It is a very important part of the democratic process, in my opinion, that these matters should be scrutinized by the Public Works Committee. As I have often said before in this chamber, the Public Works Committee is not only a valuable part of democratic government in the same way as the Public Accounts Committee is a most important standing committee, but also its members in their own way assist in government and establish bulwarks against unwarranted criticism of governments in their expenditure of public funds.
The only other matter I wish to comment upon is the clause in the bill relating to the funds to be made available annually for the activities of the Public Works Committee which, I feel, should have been consulted on this aspect. In 1950 the act was amended to provide for an increase of funds from £2,000 to £5,000 in respect of the total annual expenditure on the committee’s activities. At present the scope of the committee has been widened and major public works are being undertaken. In the Northern Territory such works include the court house, the high school and the wharf. There are other projects in the Northern Territory, in Western Australia and all over the Commonwealth. The present limitation of funds available to the committee to the sum of £5,000 a year is not realistic, and it could well be deleted.
I should very much like to see the committee’s wishes on that aspect met by the Government.
– Must that amount cover witnesses’ expenses as well?
– Yes. Fortunately, in the ten years that I have been associated with the committee, it has met with wonderful co-operation throughout the community from various persons who have come before it to give evidence. The committee has authority to call for papers and persons - to subpoena them, if necessary, though that authority has never been exercised. Indeed, we have found that the public become interested in the committee’s activities and generously give of their valuable time to help it in its work. I want to pay a tribute to those hundreds of very fine citizens - professional men - who at cost to themselves prepare submissions and give their time to appear before the committee. They feel, as do the members of the committee, that they are contributing towards efficient government and that they are sharing in the building of this great nation. It has never been necessary to make provision for witnesses’ expenses. The act makes provision for a scale of up to £5 5s. witnesses’ expenses for a day’s sitting, but my experience is that witnesses have never made any claim.
There are other factors, such as the high cost of accommodation, that should be considered. The committee has found in some instances that members were charged £7 7s. a day for accommodation, which was far in excess of the amount provided for this purpose. However, most members are so wrapped up in their work that the monetary side does not interest them. I am quite certain that most members of the Public Works Committee would be actually out of pocket in this way; but I do not want to develop that point except to say that provision should be made, if necessary, for sufficient funds to cover the activities of the committee where it wants to extend its inquiries. I hope that Government members of the committee who may speak in this debate will go into some detail on some of the amendments that the committee itself has pressed for over the years. They may see fit to request or even to move that some alterations be made to the measure, even to the extent of deferring its passage so that the Minister may have time to confer with the chairman and one or two members, or even the whole committee, to try to put this matter on a solid basis once and for all and so avoid continual representations to the Minister and to the Prime Minister in repetition of the process that has been going on for the past 24 years in order to achieve ends that obviously are to the benefit of the Minister, the committee itself and the nation as a whole. I commend those clauses of the bill that effect some improvements, and I hope that some of my suggestions will be adopted.
– This bill proposes to make some amendments to the Public Works Committee Act 1930-1953, and it is pleasing to note that the Opposition supports it. Indeed, it is proper I should refer to the fact that Senator O’Byrne, who has just concluded his remarks in leading for the Opposition, is a member of the Public Works Committee and also to note that the nonparty spirit that prevails in the committee itself in its approach to its tasks is reflected in the Opposition’s approach to this measure. The bill has three main points. It proposes to increase the powers of the committee in three ways. First, it will remove the minimum limit of £25,000 as the cost of a proposed work which the Minister may move in Parliament to be referred to the Public Works Committee. Secondly, it provides that no public work estimated to cost more than £250,000 shall be commenced unless it has been referred to the committee for report. Thirdly, the measure will give the committee power to review its reports on projects provided they have not already been commenced.
Much of what Senator O’Byrne has said is historical and factual. It is true that the Public Works Committee itself, over a period of 24 or 25 years, has been pressing for the re-inclusion of the mandatory clause in this legislation. I think that I should give to the Senate the historical background of this matter. The Public Works Committee was constituted by the Public Works Committee Act 1913, and that act contained a mandatory provision. The committee functioned quite satisfactorily under that act up to the time of the depression. It went out of existence in about the year 1932 simply because no public works of any extent were being carried out by the Commonwealth. Consequently the committee did not have a role to play. The committee was reconstituted by legislation in 1936, but, significantly, a mandatory provision was not included in that legislation. Since then, any reference of a proposed work to the committee for examination has been on what might be termed a casual basis.
Some honorable senators may ask: What is the function of the committee? In order to get an appreciation of its functions,I think we should turn to the principal act. As section 14 (2.), which defines the functions of the committee, is fairly brief, I shall read it to the Senate. It provides -
In considering and reporting on any work, the Committee shall have regard to -
the stated purpose thereof
That is, the purpose for which the proposed work is to be carried out -
I think that that is a fairly straightforward definition of the functions of the committee and of the type of work it does.
I have said that since 1936 references to the committee have been made on a casual basis. Very often, references have been made to the committee without rhyme or reason. There have been extraordinary situations in which proposed works of a certain type have been referred to the committee for investigation but other proposed works of a similar type have not been referred to it. SinceI have been a member of the committee - a period of only four or five years - the committee received a reference to investigate a proposed new radio and television studio in Perth. Subsequently, the committee submitted its recommendation to the Parliament, which was adopted. Within twelve months, there was a similar proposal in relation to Adelaide, but that work was not referred to the committee.
It might be noted that the financial provision in the last Budget for public works, excluding defence works, was of the order of £44,000,000. This indicates the volume of new work that is being carried out in the Commonwealth under the control of the Department of Works. Any scrutiny of proposed public works that the Public Works Committee can carry out might result in substantial savings to the taxpayers. Indeed, it has been claimed that an investigation that was made by the Public Works Committee in Brisbane many years ago resulted in a saving of expenditure of the order of £1,000,000.
Sir, I have mentioned that since 1936 references to the Public Works Committee have been made on what I have described as a casual basis. I well recall an occasion when, as a matter of urgency, the committee went to Darwin to investigate two proposed public works - a high school and a court-house. The investigations were handled with expedition. While the members of the committee were in Darwin, they noticed a site being cleared, and they were told by members of the administrative staff and by other local people that this was being done preparatory to the erection of a new post office. Although the construction of the new post office involved the expenditure of a large sum of money, the proposal was not referred to the committee for investigation. Why the proposals in relation to the court-house and the school were referred to the committee but that concerning the post office was not referred, nobody could tell us. There seemed to be no logical reason why those two of the three proposals were referred to the committee for investigation. I could relate other instances of references to the committee of certain proposed works and of other works being carried out nearby not being referred. This is one of the reasons why we have always advocated the inclusion of a mandatory provision in the legislation, so that, all things being equal, and excluding defence projects, all public works estimated to cost above a certain amount would be referred to the committee for its scrutiny.
I wish now to deal with a couple of matters that were raised by Senator O’Byrne.
They were, I think, matters of substance. I have said that in the last Budget provision was made for the expenditure of about £44,000,000 on public works. The bill now before us contains a mandatory clause - with which we are all very pleased - but there are certain limitations to the activities of the committee even in relation to works of the type which normally would be referred to it. I feel bound to say, in supporting what Senator O’Byrne has said, that those limitations are not such as could be removed by this measure. The limitations, which relate to works in Papua and New Guinea and to works undertaken by the National Capital Development Commission, could be removed only by other legislation. If we think about this matter logically, we realize that the further any building project is from the base, so to speak, the more necessary it is for that project to receive close examination. We know that large sums of money have been spent on very big projects in Papua and in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. I would think that it would be most desirable, in the interests both of the taxpayers and of good government, that there should be the closest scrutiny of proposed works in those areas.
– What provision excludes such works from reference to the committee?
– I understand that it is section 21 of the Acts Interpretation Act. Therefore, nothing we could do by amending the bill before us could resolve that situation. Even if the members of the Public Works Committee had a will to correct the matter, I am advised that there is nothing they could do in relation to this bill to resolve that situation. The difficulty lies in the definition of the words “ in and of the Commonwealth “. By virtue of the Acts Interpretation Act, in New Guinea, and also in Papua, although it is not a Mandated Territory, the limitation would apply. Therefore we could not exercise any supervision over the expenditure of large sums of money on public works in those areas.
Let us turn now to the management and control of Canberra itself. We have a National Capital Development Commission, and I want the Senate to note that of the sum of £44,000,000 that is to be spent by the Department of Works this financial year, no less than about £12,000,000 is to be spent in Canberra. Yet the expenditure of that £12,000,000 need not necessarily come under the survey of the Public Works Committee after this bill is passed. To remedy that situation would require an amendment to the act under which the National Capital Development Commission functions.
I want to refer to another matter that 1 may have an opportunity to develop in the committee stage. Proposed new section 15a will give the committee power to review its report. The proposed new section will read - 15a. - (1.) Subject to the next succeeding subsection, where the Committee has made a report concerning a proposed public work, the Committee …. may, of its own motion, review the report and make a further report to the House of Representatives concerning the proposed work. (2.) The Committee shall not undertake the review of a report in accordance with this section after the proposed work has been commenced.
A limitation is to be found in sub-section (5.) of proposed new section 15a, which reads - (5.) For the purposes of this section, a proposed work shall be deemed to have been commenced if a tender for the carrying out of the whole or a part of the proposed work has been accepted.
I direct the Senate’s attention to that subsection because in that form it contains some limitations. It becomes a very nice point of judgment as to when the tender for the carrying out of the whole or a part of the proposed work has been accepted. We are passing legislation which should, in normal circumstances, meet all situations and we could well have a situation where the committee, having reported to the Parliament and the Parliament having accepted its report, may subsequently wish to review the matter. However, it would be easy for the department concerned to frustrate the will of the committee. We all know that in the case of a big project costing £1,000,000 or even much less, all site work has to be done in most cases a long time before the main work is commenced. It may be that derelict buildings on the site must be cleared. That work could be done by tender twelve months or two years before the main work is undertaken. In that intervening period of twelve months or two years the whole pattern of the locality could change, and, whereas previously the committee had approved of the proposition because it was appropriate to the area and properly located, two years later it may be unwise, uneconomical and stupid to erect the particular building on that site. Because a tender had been let for part of the work, involving an amount of hundreds of thousands of pounds, the committee could be frustrated in its request to have the matter referred back to it. I agree that we cannot have the committee chasing these matters after the department has committed itself by way of tender to a major project. But I think that that sub-section of the proposed new section needs some slight adjustment and, although I have not the requisite skill in this regard, I think that the sub-section would be improved if it were to read -
For the purposes of this section, a proposed work shall be deemed to have been commenced if a tender for the carrying out of the whole or a substantial part of the proposed work has been accepted.
I have merely included the word “ substantial “.
Senator O’Byrne referred to the principal act inasmuch as it fixes a limit on the amount of money that can be allocated in connexion with the work of the committee. It is true that the committee has never used to the full the amount allocated to it for expenses, but if we expand and extend the functions of the committee, which is the purpose of this bill, the expenses of running the committee must increase. I have taken some advice on this aspect, and I am told that nothing can be done by way of amendment to this bill because the bill does not specifically deal with this subject. Perhaps this matter could be dealt with in some other way, but no doubt other complications would arise because money would be involved.
I have criticized some of the details of the bill, but 1 do not want to finish on that note. This bill is excellent as far as it goes. It makes it mandatory that the Public Works Committee shall do a job of work for the Parliament and the people. The Government is to be congratulated on introducing the bill. It will mean that the committee will have a much heavier task to perform. I feel that this bill is the culmination of representations that have been made by various committees over a period of 24 years. Only good can ensue, and I think the good will be reflected in savings to the community and to the taxpayers which, after all, is the main reason why the committee functions, as is indicated in the original act. I am happy to support the bill.
.- The Senate is indebted to the two senators who have made speeches this evening. Senator O’Byrne on this side of the chamber and Senator Anderson from the Government side have dealt with this very important matter. The bill now under discussion is one of the most important measures that the Senate has had before it for some considerable time in that it deals with the internal expenditure of funds of the Cornwealth.
Whilst I appreciate very much that the amendments proposed in the bill are of a tangible nature, I regret that after all these years, during which no amendment has been made to the bill, the Government has not now gone far enough. I regret also, as we have heard from our representatives on the committee, that it was not consulted about the work it had undertaken. It is also regrettable that there appears to be some antagonism on the part of departments towards parliamentary committees. Why that is so, I do not know. It may be that departments resent members of the Parliament investigating their activities. I do not know whether that is the reason, but departments leave themselves open to that charge when they display continual antagonism towards investigation. Honorable senators will remember the difficulties that were placed in the way of the Public Accounts Committee when it was first formed, and the antagonism that was displayed towards it even in this chamber as the result of the investigations it made. A parliamentary committee does not make an attack upon the officials administering a department when it inquires into any matter. It simply investigates whether government money is being spent in the right direction.
This bill provides that defence buildings shall not come within the purview of the committee. I can understand, Mr. Deputy President, that the defence of a harbour or some work of that description might be declared exempt for security reasons, but I wonder whether this all-embracing prohibition against the committee to look into defence work includes the pentagon building that is now being built in Canberra. I was wondering whether the committee had investigated that building.
– It was not referred to the committee.
– ls that one of the works that are excluded, as was mentioned by Senator Anderson? I am not going to criticize that erection at all; but the fact remains that an enormous amount of money is being spent on such buildings. I understand that a tender for £1,900,000 has been let and that the cost of these buildings will be considerable. I would not think that the erection of offices should be deemed to be a defence work.
I do not know why buildings of that description and other buildings have been excluded, because, after all, the Public Works Committee is composed of members from both the Opposition and Government sides who have had considerable experience. Neither the Opposition nor the Government has been inclined to change the personnel of the committee very rapidly. Senator O’Byrne from our side has been a member of the committee for at least ten years, and I know that honorable senators from the other side of the chamber have been on the committee for a number of years. As a result of the experience they have gained in visiting various parts of the Commonwealth they have acquired considerable knowledge. They have had the opportunity to examine plans and specifications that have been placed before them. They have had the opportunity to examine expert witnesses who have described the various requirements of buildings and so on. These members should be in a position to offer advice to the Government.
I do not suggest that the committee should overrule an architect or a designer of a building; but as a result of their experience, members of the committee might be able to effect a considerable saving in the construction of a particular building.
– Senator Maher is an expert on that.
– I will be pleased to hear Senator Maher’s point of view on this matter, and I shall be particularly pleased if he supports the point of view I am expressing. I repeat that members of this committee acquire very much knowledge as a result of continually inspecting buildings. When we see projects costing many millions of pounds being exempted from the scrutiny of the committee, it is no wonder that we find instances of waste of money. It is regrettable to hear a statement made by a responsible member of the Senate and of the committee that even Cabinet decisions have been ignored.
The honorable member for Warringah, Professor Bland - a former chairman of the Public Accounts Committee - in an address which he gave the other evening pointed out that the Parliament was losing control over the Executive, that the Executive was losing control over public servants and so on. Is it any wonder that statements of that description are being made? In the Melbourne press yesterday it was stated that buildings leased at a rental of some thousands of pounds were being wasted because they were not occupied for a considerable period of time. In to-day’s press we read of an amount of money being illegally paid out. Perhaps it would have been paid out in any case, but the fact indicates a complete disregard of the power of this Parliament.
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.
– I believe it is most important that I bring before the Senate something that affects the welfare of Australia. It has reference to Victoria, and in particular to the Central Gippsland Trades and Labour Council. I hope that most honorable senators have received from Mr. Jim Orr a summary of what happened in the Central Gippsland area. Once again it is proved conclusively that the Communists and the professed Labour Party in Victoria have had unity tickets. Once again they joined to put out moderates in the unions in Victoria. This is very dangerous to Australia and to Victoria in particular. The Communists, supported by the A.L.P., virtually control the power supplies of Victoria. As honorable senators will have read in the circular -
In 1948, R. Dixon, Communist Party Federal President, stated, “The key of all Communist Party plans, particularly in the event of war, is to control the trade unions and the Labour Council at Yallourn. From there, we can turn out every light. We would have real power and we would use it.”
That is the Communist outlook, and that is what the A.L.P. in Victoria has sanctioned. It is time that the people realized just what these unity tickets are doing to sabotage Australia. The Communists and the A.L.P. are joining together. The proof is there and nobody has denied it. We know it; even the officials of the A.L.P. know it but they are afraid to do anything about it. They think that if they do not join with Communists, Democratic Labour Party members in the unions will take charge of the unions.
– The lesser of two evils.
– I know that the honorable senator would much rather support the Communists.
– The lesser of two evils.
– That is what the honorable senator believes?
– That is right.
– That is all I want to know. You would rather support the Communists?
– Than the D.L.P., yes.
– There is the admission.
– The D.L.P. supports the Liberals.
– At least, the Liberals will not sell Australia. We do not mind supporting the Liberals, but we could not support the A.L.P. in view of the attitude that it takes. It would sell Australia down the drain for its own selfish political purposes. I am pleased that at least one person in the so-called A.L.P. has shown what it really desires. Others are not so precise.
– Who was it?
– Our friend, Senator Cant. At least, he was honest in saying what he did say. There are many other members of the A.L.P. in Victoria, in both the political and industrial fields, who have the same belief but who try to hedge on it. On this occasion they say that there was no unity ticket, although it has been proved that the Communists and members of the A.L.P. joined in the R.S.L. Hall to formulate such a ticket. They thought that they would be very smart. In an effort to show the people who accused them of running a unity ticket that they were not doing so, they got to work and printed two “ how-to-vote “ tickets. Here we have them. One of them is printed with the numbers showing how they wished the votes to be cast, leaving out the Communists.
– Who were the Communists?
– If the honorable senator does not know them, it is time that he did.
– When you are in the
Parliament, you should name them.
– The honorable senator to-day received a letter naming them. He should read it. There you have a “ howtovote “ ticket without members of the Communist Party on it.
– The D.L.P. published it. That is an old method of sabotage.
– Then we have one without any printed numbers at all. At the top appears, “Defeat D.L.P. Groupers”. I am sure that we would send out those! This card has no numbers. Why is that? It is because it was known that, with very strong Communist backing, the votes would number only about 100, in any event. One “ how-to-vote “ ticket was numbered in pencil, with Communists included. That is the way in which they hoped to get away with this unity ticket, and they did get away with it. The results are shown in the voting, which was consistently 44 to 48.
– What is the point about those tickets? Does one show A.L.P. and Communist candidates in one bracket?
– The one showing Communist and A.L.P. members was not given numbers. One was not printed. The other was printed in an effort to prove that there was no unity ticket. These are the tickets, and this was done by the A.L.P. and the Communist Party.
– It is against Labour policy.
– Then why defend it?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order!
– If the Labour Party wants to run against the Australian Democratic Labour Party, we do not mind. If the Labour Party candidates win, well and good, but for goodness sake, let the party end its cowardice. Let the Labour movement say, if it wishes, “ We are the Australian Labour Party. We will not support the D.L.P. “, but let it also say, “ Nor will we support the Communists.”
– That is what we do say.
– That may be what you say, but you do not give effect to it. If you do as I suggest, you may not win for a while, but perhaps you will win later. The Labour Party should live up to the standards that a Labour Party is supposed to adopt, and act according to the party rules. From what I can see, the sooner the Labour Party gets rid of the Victorian executive that panders to the Communists, the better it will be. If that were to happen, perhaps the party would return to sanity.
– Do you think that the D.L.P. should arrange the executive?
– At least, the D.L.P. would not sell the party down the drain.
These matters should be brought forward, because the position is becoming worse. We think that support of the Communists in giving them power over functions that are very important in the industrial world is too dangerous. Let us hope that for the welfare of Australia the unity tickets will be discontinued. At present, unity tickets are still being operated although an attempt is made to camouflage them; and they are a disgrace to anybody who professes to believe in Labour principles.
– I have listened with interest to what Senator Cole has had to say on this subject, lt appears that a circular relating to this matter was on my table, having been delivered to-day, but I had not looked at it until the last few minutes.
– It is very important. You should read it.
– I think the honorable senator will recognize that I have had enough to do in this place to-day without moving through all the correspondence on my table. I certainly shall read it. 1 note, on glancing at it, that in the very first paragraph, what purports to be figures given by the returning officer are shown. I see the name of one lone Communist amongst those who were elected. Do I understand the honorable senator to say that the Communists now control that body?
– Read page 3.
– I do not want to delay the Senate while I read the document.
– If you do, you will understand how Communists get control of all the executive positions.
– I shall be very interested to have a look at it. I have risen merely to affirm Australian Labour Party policy in the matter of unity tickets. That policy has been determined not only by the federal conference of the party but also by decision after decision and instruction after instruction by the federal executive of the party with the active intervention of the leaders of the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party. Dr. Evatt and I, and also others, played a most prominent part in the matter recently, not long before Dr. Evatt retired. The attitude of the A.L.P., I state unequivocally, has been completely opposed to the principle of unity tickets with Communists in trade union elections. The matter to which Senator Cole has referred apparently arose very recently.
– Only a few days ago.
– 1 had no prior knowledge of it. I assure the honorable senator that I shall look at the matter with interest. I am confident that if there is any justification for what he alleges, the proper action will be taken by the A.L.P. in consonance with its policy. I express no opinion in the matter at the moment. I merely indicate that on a glance at the first paragraph of the document, and without having read the whole of it, it does not appear to me that there is Communist domination.
I say to the honorable senator that there have been cases - quite a number of cases - in which unity tickets, or what purported to be unity tickets, were issued by members of the Communist Party without the authority of the members of the A.L.P.
– That is not the case this time.
– That does happen, and it has happened. I am not judging this matter at all. I pass no judgment on it because I lack information about it. I merely say to the Senate that I shall take a keen and personal interest in it at the very first opportunity. As I have said, I have risen merely to affirm that the A.L.P. is no supporter of unity tickets of the type referred to.
.- 1 wish to say a few words in regard to this matter because I have made some inquiries into allegations that the party has allied itself with Communists in this important area. I am concerned because, as a past president of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council, I know the importance of Yallourn. I am advised that of the candidates who stood for election purporting to be members of the Australian Labour Party, all were members with the exception of Gardiner. It was the intention of the A.L.P. to run a full A.L.P. ticket for all of the offices. There has been some disputation between the Melbourne Trades Hall
Council and the Yallourn Trades Hall Council in regard to certain matters, and I know that there has been some feeling between the two bodies. As a result, it was natural that with the elections coming on there should be a contest. lt was the intention to run a full ticket of accredited A.L.P. candidates. One man did not attend on the night of nomination and was not nominated for a position. Consequently, one Communist, or an alleged Communist, was, I understand, nominated. The A.L.P. did not have a full team, and he was elected.
– By whom was he nominated?
– He would have been nominated in the ordinary course.
– By the A.L.P.
– No. Let us be fair. I point out that the procedure is that on a certain night nominations are invited for offices in the trade union movement, and you have to be present to be nominated. I understand that one A.L.P. member was not present and therefore was not nominated. Consequently, instead of there being a full A.L.P. ticket there was one vacancy. If Mr. Gardiner was elected it was neither the fault nor the intention of the Labour movement. I understand that that was the position as disclosed by the inquiry into what happened in regard to the Trades Hall Council elections.
– Was the Communist’s name put on the Labour ticket?
– They had to vote for somebody, and evidently they voted for him; but that was not by design. The intention was to have a full A.L.P. ticket. I do not know whether all the members of the La Trobe Trades Hall Council were D.L.P. supporters. I could not say that. I have risen to rebut the allegation that is constantly being made that we of the Labour Party are conniving at this sort of thing. I have been advised that the facts are as I have stated them in the Senate to-night.
.- I would not have spoken to-night but for some very remarkable statements that have been made on this side of the House, obviously in an attempt to defend the actions that were taken on the occasion in question. Let me begin by pointing out that the Australian Labour Party did not ban unity tickets only last year. They were banned ten years ago, and for years before that. The only difference between the situation at present and the situation as it was when I was associated with that party is that in those days we expelled the people who allowed their names to be placed on unity tickets. We carried out the party rules. To-day those people are not expelled. Today the Australian Labour Party helps to elect Communists to trade union positions. People who run with Communists on unity tickets are even elected to State A.L.P. executives in Victoria, and New South Wales. Senator Ormonde knows that that is right.
– No, I do not.
– Yes, you do. You sat on an executive with a man who had run on a unity ticket, and he has never been touched.
– Who is that?
– You know who he is all right. Just ask the secretary of the Postal Workers Union. Everybody knows that it is contrary to Labour traditions and policy to have any association with Communists, and everybody knows that it does not do the A.L.P. any good to associate with them. Even Dr. Evatt said, before he retired from another place, that what was happening in Victoria constituted a running sore. Will it not continue to be a running sore while members of the Australian Labour Party in Parliament do not say straight out what Dr. Evatt said, and try, instead, to find excuses for what is happening or to explain it away in some way? I was out at La Trobe during the recent by-election, and I attended the Ringwood polling-place, lt is the biggest in the area. When the Leader of the Australian Labour Party arrived to inspect the polling-booth he was greeted with acclamation by a team of officials of the Waterside Workers Federation who had got their positions through unity tickets. The man in charge of handing out the A.L.P. ticket was expelled from the A.L.P. when I was assis tant secretary of it because of his association with communism. He is now back in the party and is a respected member of it.
– And don’t forget that you are out!
– I am out, yes, and Labour principles are also out of the party now. I am out, and in the days when we were in the one party we did not have unity tickets. We did not have peace congresses in those days. They could not charge the Victorian A.L.P. with Communist affiliations because we were clean. We were fighting communism. But what do you find to-day? You find men who allege they are members of the A.L.P. meeting in a returned servicemen’s league hall and picking a ticket I do not doubt Senator Sheehan’s statement that he was told certain things, but I tell him that he was not told the truth. He says there is only one Communist on the ticket. Would not one be too many? There is one who admits to being a Communist, but after all it is a question to-day who is and who is not in the A.L.P. I can remember a deputation coming to Canberra to ask the A.L.P. federal executive to take action against corrupt union ballots in the Building Workers Industrial Union and against the victimization of decent Labourites. You people of the Australian Labour Party then passed two acts of Parliament to curb the activities of the Communist secretary of the Building Workers Industrial Union, a man called Chandler. I moved a motion to send a deputation to Canberra, and Mr. Chifley and Senator McKenna brought down legislation. To-day that man is in the Australian Labour Party and I am out. I say that 1 have not changed; it is the Australian Labour Party that has changed - and you know it.
I also say this: It hurts you members of the A.L.P. at times when you do not get the preferences of Democratic Labour Party candidates - and that is natural. I do not enjoy asking electors to give preferences to the Liberal Party.
– But you always do!
– Yes, and I will continue to do it if you do not clean your party up. On the day that you stop giving first preferences to Communists in union elections and Trade Hall Council elections, you will see a different attitude. lt is a matter of pounds, shillings and pence these days. Jackie Brown, of the Australian Railways Union says, “ Let me run a unity ticket and become secretary and 1 will pay affiliation fees to the A.L.P.”. I see that Senator Kennelly is trying to interject. Brown would not pay those fees when Senator Kennelly was secretary, because in those days there were no unity tickets. But to-day he will pay affiliation fees in return for being given his job through a unity ticket.
– But he paid those fees while you were there.
– Not while I was assistant secretary, because it was not until the industrial group defeated him that the group came in, altered the constitution of the union and re-affiliated that union with the A.L.P. You know that that is true. Brown got out at the time when you were secretary because we carried a rule to the effect that no official of an affiliated union could campaign against the candidates of the A.L.P.
I conclude by saying, as I have said before, that a person once made the remark that politics is the science of the possible. I simply say this: It will never be possible for the A.L.P. to form a government while it tolerates what even Dr. Evatt described as a running sore. It is a waste of time and it is quite foolish for members of the party to do other than condemn unity tickets, because, after all, unity tickets are opposed to their federal policy.
– That is right. You agree with that?
– I agree, but what is the good of having a policy if you do not follow it?
– There are difficulties.
– That is where our friend comes right to the crux of the situation. You want the money that they will pay to the party in affiliation fees, and therefore you will not stick to your principles and wipe them out. How can you expect to form a government when you proclaim, by your action in tolerating unity tickets and not expelling those whose names are placed on them, that you cannot be trusted to stick to your own policy? What trust can people have in you? How can you hope to go to the rank and file of the Democratic Labour Party behind our backs and get their support when they, working in the La Trobe by-election, could see a long line of unity ticket people from the Waterside Workers Federation in charge of the biggest booth in that electorate? Can you wonder that our vote went up? Your vote went up too, but not enough.
You had a dinner the other night to celebrate the achievements of one of the early Labour governments. The old Labour Party won votes because people knew where the Labour Party stood. They could be sure that it would do what it said. Andrew Fisher was given praise because he set out a policy and carried into effect every item of it. But from your point of view there is now a disastrous position in Victoria, because thousands of people in that State know that although your executive professes to be against unity tickets they will tolerate them. There is a man called Butler who even organized the unity ticket in the Amalgamated Engineering Union election and is now on the Victorian A.L.P. executive. In these circumstances people feel they cannot trust the A.L.P., and that is the misfortune of the A.L.P. at the present time. If it is prepared to show courage and tackle the problem of unity tickets it will certainly get votes and preferences. The people are not fooled. They can see what is happening. There has been any amount of publicity given to it, and I say without any heat at all that surely the Australian Labour Party has not fallen so low that it cannot tackle a few Communists in trade unions.
– It has not fallen so low, either.
– I am pleased to hear Senator Ormonde say that that is the case, but as he said a few moments ago, there are difficulties. Difficulties are made to be overcome. Why not have a go? Why not stamp out unity tickets?
– Stamp out the D.L.P. and you will stamp out communism.
– Communism existed before there was ever a D.L.P. here, and the honorable senator knows it. The whole trouble to-day is that you will attack the D.L.P. You will go into every newspaper in Australia to attack it, but you will join with the Communists on this kind of thing. While that continues to happen the
Labour Party, though it may have the best policy in the world and may spend money like water on elections, will never win an election until the people feel that its leaders can be trusted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 May 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1960/19600504_senate_23_s17/>.