23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for the Navy read that the deaths of ten pearl Shell divers occurred in the last three years while the divers were engaged in their work at a place known as Darnley Deeps, about 75 miles north-west of Thursday Island? Will the Minister consult with some of his officers to see whether they possess any information which could be made available to pearl shell divers and which might prevent further deaths from occurring at this place?
– I will ask the appropriate officers of the Department of the Navy whether they have any information of the kind requested by the honorable senator. However, I think it unlikely that they do have such information, since the task of the Navy in regard to pearl shell fishing is merely to see that no poaching occurs and that the fishing is done at the agreed times and in the agreed areas. If it is thought that the lugger owners do not have a full knowledge of diving procedures, and that divers are being brought to the surface in a way that causes them to suffer from the bends, or something of that kind, I shall see whether the departmental officers can make information on diving procedures available to those interested in obtaining it.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has the Government any plans to develop Woomera, in South Australia, for use in the launching of space satellites? If so, is it intended that other Commonwealth countries and nations will participate in such development?
- Mr. Thorneycroft, the United Kingdom Cabinet Minister responsible for space research, is at present in Australia, engaging in discussions upon this matter. In these circumstances, much as I would like to oblige Senator Laught, I do not think I should offer any views.
– Will the Leader of the Government furnish to the Senate a list of the Ministers who travelled overseas during the financial year 1959-60?
– What about the boys at Surfers Paradise?
– I am referring to Ministers of the Crown who travel overseas on State business. Will the Leader of the Government inform the Senate of the number of trips made by each Minister, in cases where more than one trip was made, and of the number of persons who accompanied each Minister on each trip?
– Perhaps the information is contained in the Budget papers that are now before the Senate. If it is not, I shall be very happy to obtain it if the honorable senator will put his question on the notice-paper.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. By way of preface, I point out that in yesterday’s “ Herald “ a correspondent stated that our wheat marketing scheme this year would cost the taxpayers of Australia £6,700,000. In view of that statement, I ask the Minister whether it is not a fact that payments from the wheat stabilization fund are made not from money provided by the taxpayers but from amounts that have been contributed to the fund by wheatgrowers themselves.
– I take it that the honorable senator, when speaking of the “ Herald “, refers to a newspaper published in Sydney, known as the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, which is one of the two “ Heralds “.
– That is so.
– I think that what the honorable senator has said is correct. I might perhaps add that, over many years, as a result of the legislation under which wheat is marketed in Australia, the amount of money contributed by wheatgrowers - in the sense that they have accepted for their wheat a lower price than they might otherwise have got for it - is greater than the amount contributed to wheatgrowers from the pockets of the Australian taxpayers.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs able to inform the Senate of the steps being taken to counteract the attempts of Moscow and Peking to pose as the champions of the African people, particularly those of the Congolese Republic? Can the Minister say whether the Government is in contact with any other nations of the free world, particularly the United States of America and Great Britain, with a view to devising means by which the propaganda and material assistance from the Communist countries can be counteracted? Is it the opinion of the Government that every effort should be made to raise the standards of living of the African people and so preserve them from the blight of communism? Will the Government do its utmost to work in conjunction with the other interested free powers towards that end?
– The Government is in constant touch with its Ambassador to the United Nations for the purpose of keeping abreast of developments in the United Nations in relation to the Congo question. The Government, of course, believes that the future of Africa is of great importance to the world and that the future of Africa is indeed, as the honorable senator suggests, bound up to some extent with the economic well-being of the people who live in Africa. The Government also believes that the future of Africa can best be assured for the good of Africans if the new type of Communist colonialism is kept out of that area. The Government is in constant touch with other nations; and that is the attitude it takes in respect of affairs in the Congo.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs whether Australia recognizes a government of the new Congo State and, if so, which government.
– In order to give a proper answer to that question I should like it to be placed on the notice-paper. The situation at the time when the question is studied might be a little clearer than it is at the present moment.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. In view of the recent adoption of the FN rifle by the Australian Military Forces, will the Minister for the Army consider making available to the general public, particularly members of rifle clubs and primary producers, surplus .303 rifles and ammunition?
– The Minister for the Army has already answered, in another place, a question on the lines of that asked by the honorable senator. 1 forget the terms of the Minister’s answer, as it was given some eight or nine weeks ago. If the honorable senator will place his question on the notice-paper 1 shall have an answer prepared for him by the Minister for the Army.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether he is aware that many persons living in rural and semi-rural areas in Australia are forced to pay the travelling expenses as well as the usual medical fees of doctors who attend them in their own homes. Thus, the cost of such visits exceeds greatly the amount that can be recouped under existing medical benefit schemes. Is there any method by which at least portion of such expense can be recouped by the patients? If no attention has yet been given to this problem, will the Minister please consider it in the light of the circumstances I have mentioned?
– This problem of the cost of travelling from outlying areas to hospitals is not a new one. It has been raised in the past by the honorable senator herself. So far as I know benefit funds do not accept responsibility for travelling expenses, but if the honorable senator will put her question on notice I shall ask the Minister for Health to have a look at the matter.
– I point out to the Minister that my question related to the cost of having a doctor attend at the home of the patient. It did not relate to the cost of the patient travelling to hospital for attention. The travelling expenses of a doctor attending a patient at home sometimes mean the payment of three guineas or four guineas in addition to the usual professional attendance fee.
– I think the same answer still applies. If the honorable senator will put the question on notice, I shall obtain an answer for her.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service whether it is a fact that Australia, with a work force of 4,100,000 people, has reached an all-time record of employment. Further, is it a fact that less than .3 per cent, of the Australian work force is drawing unemployment benefit? Is Australia so desperately short of labour that over 30 per cent, of factory employees work overtime? Will the Government consider easing our position of over-full employment by increasing this year’s intake of migrants to approximately 130,000?
– I understand from the last figures that I saw that unemployment in Australia is less than 1 per cent, of the work force. Considering this in the light of the previous Government’s view that 5 per cent, of unemployment would be a very good position, I should say that we have reached an all-time record level of employment in this country. The working of overtime in factories could, I suppose, be an indication of a shortage of labour; but it could also be an indication that a number of Australian workers like working overtime and indeed seek jobs in which overtime is made available to them. The Australian Government’s immigration target has been made clear by the Minister for Immigration.
– I ask the
Minister for the Navy what steps have been taken to prevent further action of the kind which recently occurred when one Navy vessel apparently attacked, holed and nearly sank another Navy vessel.
– I think the honorable senator is referring to an incident in which H.M.A.S. “ Anzac “ demonstrated that she had the range of H.M.A.S. “Tobruk”, although the direction of the shell was not that expected. The answer to the question is that an inquiry is being held to find out how the accident occurred, in the hope that naval manoeuvres will be as free from such happenings in future as they have been in the past.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. As certain stud breeders claim that the virtual embargo on the importation of stock into Australia, imposed because of the danger of introducing the disease called blue tongue to our herds, is having an adverse effect on the quality of stock bred here, will the Government again examine the situation for the purpose of ascertaining whether this claim is well founded? If there is evidence that our stock needs an infusion of fresh blood, will the Government consider lifting the embargo, always provided that proper safeguards are maintained?
– As the last sentence of the question suggests, it is most important that we should protect Australian stock at all times. I have always been reluctant to suggest the removal of quarantine regulations, because of the dangers inherent in their removal. We must protect our stock from disease. However, these are matters for the Minister for Health. If the question is put on the notice-paper, I shall ask my colleague to give further consideration to the problem and convey his decision to the honorable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. As we are now within two months of the commencement of what could well be one of the largest grain harvests of recent years in South Australia, will the Minister suggest to his colleague that an early survey be made of the grain position in South Australia, wi.h particular reference to adequate storage facilities for grain pending export?
– I shall bring this suggestion to the notice of the Minister for Primary Industry and ask him to supply the honorable senator with the facts as far as he knows them at present and with information as to the action he intends to take.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration: Is it a fact that over 800 immigrants of both sexes left these shores in one vessel to return to Great Britain, whence they came some time ago? What was the reason for their returning? Was it that they could not find suitable jobs in Australia?
– There may be a number of reasons why immigrants return to England. I have noticed with a great deal of interest that a large proportion of those who return to England are only too happy to come back to Australia if they can finance the return journey. I remember quite well the case of an Englishman and his family who went to Tasmania and were lucky enough to win a first prize in Tattersalls consultation. The first thing they did then was to bolt home to England. As the man went on to the steamer, he said, “ This is the last I will ever see of Australia “. About two months afterwards, he was back again. I asked him why he had returned, and he replied, “ It was not the England I left. I did not know what sunshine was until I came out here, and I have come back to it. “ As I say, there may be a number of reasons why immigrants return to England, but I have not a clue to them. However, it takes all sorts to make a world.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy whether it is a fact that the Navy is considering the use on its vessels of rope made from plastic material instead of rope made from fibre. If it is, has any test been carried out with plastic materials? If the Navy does decide to make this change, will it buy plastic materials made in Western Australia? If it cannot get such materials in Western Australia, will it endeavour to get them in other States?
– It is a fact that the Navy is considering the replacement of ropes made from yarn with ropes made from artificial fibres. Two types of rope made from artificial fibres are under consideration and tests are being carried out on both types. If the Navy decides to buy rope made from artificial fibres, it undoubtedly will follow the practice laid down by the Treasury of calling for quota tions for the supply of such material. Should Western Australia be able to submit the lowest tender and guarantee a reasonable delivery time, no doubt that State will have a chance of securing the contract.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen a press report which appeared, I think, in last night’s Melbourne “ Herald “ to the effect that trade union officials in Brisbane claim that their telephones are being tapped? If he has, will he make a statement to the Senate in order to allay the justifiable fears of these trade union officials that the recent telephone tapping legislation was aimed at trade union activities?
– I shall reply to Senator Sandford in two sentences: I have not seen such a report. If there was such a newspaper report, it was incorrect.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation say whether it is a fact that important visitors who enter Australia through the golden gateway - the Perth airport - are unable to buy apples at that airport? Is it a fact that many other Australian airports do not display Australiangrown apples? If that is so, will the Minister consider ensuring that apples are displayed at the various airports?
– I have heardI suspect from the same source as Senator Scott - that recently a distinguished visitor to Australia was unable to buy a Western Australian apple at the Perth airport and that he felt rather inconvenienced. The fact is, of course, that the transportation of fruit from one State to another is controlled, as it should be, by State regulations. I imagine that that deters concession holders at airports from stocking fruit. It may not be a commercial proposition for them to stock fruit solely for consumption at airports. In all the circumstances, I do not know whether the matter is one of sufficient importance to provoke an inquiry on my part.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the fact that since the war, 4,500,000 head of cattle have died in Australia as a result of drought conditions, and in view of the fact that recent experiments carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization showed that a beast can hold its own on21/2 lb. of wheat and a little limestone each week, will the Minister consider developing a plan whereby part of the huge wheat surpluses being stored in silos throughout Australia at considerable cost could be made available at minimum cost for stock feed in drought areas, particularly as it is expected that there will be a record wheat harvest in the current season?
– I will bring the question to the notice of the Minister for Primary Industry and request him to reply direct to the honorable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Works. Will the Minister make a statement clarifying the extraordinary position that has arisen between E. S. Clementson (N.S.W.) Proprietary Limited, the principal contractor for the Commonwealth offices building in Sydney, and Arcos Proprietary Limited, which has sub-contracted for the supply of steel? According to newspaper reports, Arcos Proprietary Limited has refused to deliver structural steel supplied to it by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited because of its proposed use in this building. Is the Minister in a position to make a statement about this matter and so clarify it?
– I am unable to make a statement in relation to the matter raised by the honorable senator. I suggest that he place his question on the notice-paper and I shall obtain a reply from the Minister.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, refers to the current system of telephone numbers under which numbers composed of letters and figures have been eliminated. Is the Postmaster-General satisfied that the use of five or six figures in a telephone number is more efficient and easier than the directly opposite system in use, for example, in London? As many of us try to carry frequently-used numbers in our heads, will the Minister give consideration to the system used in many other countries in which two or three letters are printed against each of the ten digits on the dial, which means that the main letters of the suburb to be called - for example, DK for Deakin or BND for Bondi - are dialled and fewer figures need to be remembered?
– I ask the honorable senator to place her question on the notice-paper, because I face the same difficulty as that which confronts her. I can only assume that since letters have been replaced by numbers in telephone systems throughout the world, there must be some advantage in using them. If we have the question answered properly all of us will be better informed.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, on notice -
– The Minister for Trade has now informed me as follows: -
The task of selling overseas is becoming increasingly difficult due to rising fruit production both in our European markets and in competitive countries in the southern hemisphere. Steps were taken this year to gear the industry to meet a new competitive situation. Measures taken were an all-round reduction of forward selling prices, the elimination of certain sizes and varieties considered unsatisfactory to the European trade, a raising of minimum colour standards and a stepping up of publicity in the United Kingdom and Europe. In addition the inspection services administered by the Department of Primary Industry ensure that only good quality fruit is exported.
The Government, through its Trade Commissioner Service, is constantly exploring new outlets for Australian apples.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works, upon notice -
– The Minister for Works has supplied the following information - 1.It is not a fact. All claims under the rise-and-fall clause in contracts let in the Australian Capital Territory, like those in the various States, have to be supported by time or wages sheets and are certified by a responsible departmental officer. The department has no knowledge of any false claims.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
How many people receive age and invalid pensions in South Australia and, of them, how many arc in receipt of the special 10s. supplementary allowance?
– The Minister for Social Services has supplied the following reply: -
On 1st August, 1960, there were 55,864 age and invalid pensioners (49,445 age, 6,419 invalid) in South Australia. Supplementary assistance was payable to 5,860 of these pensioners.
Senator VINCENT (through Senator
Which States were represented and inter- vened in the recent margins and basic wage cases?
Were the pastoral and/or agricultural industries represented and to what extent did these industries intervene in the proceedings?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answers: -
Graziers Association of New South Wales.
The Graziers Federal Council of Australia.
Pastoralists Association of West Darling.
Graziers Association of Victoria.
Graziers Association of Riverina.
Tasmanian Farmers, Stockbrokers and Orchardists Association.
Pastoralists Association of Western Australia, and also
The Stockowners Association of South Australia (which was not then a registered organization).
The Graziers Federal Council of Australia intervened to oppose the 1960 basic wage application.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following information: -
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– I supply the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Is it a fact that in Canberra the delay in approving home-building plans is about five months? If so, will the Minister examine this matter, see where the delay is, and rectify it?
Minister for the Interior has furnished the following reply: -
No. Until recently the time taken for examination and approval of building plans in Canberra averaged about three weeks. However, due to the greatly increased number of building plans submitted in recent months as a result of the accelerated development of the city, the time taken for examination and approval has unavoidably increased. Urgent action is being taken to obtain additional staff for examination of plans with a view to overcoming the present lag.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Minister for the Interior has furnished the following reply: - 1 and 2. The air-conditioning unit in the new Commonwealth Bank building is still going through the warranty period of six months During this stage it will need adjusting from time to time to suit conditions and in order to maintain an even temperature. There is no defect in the system.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The Minister foi Trade has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
Is it intended that the Commonwealth Bureau of Agricultural Economics should proceed with the important economic survey of the Australian sheep industry? If so, when will a start be made with the survey and when is it expected that the report will be available to interested organizations?
– The Minister for Primary Industry has furnished the following information: -
The Bureau of Agricultural Economics is at present proceeding with its survey of the Australian sheep industry. This survey was originally commenced in 1954 and has covered the financial periods 1952-53 to 1957-58. The present stage of the survey will cover the periods 1958-59 and 1959-60.
The current survey work was commenced in Western Australia on 22nd August and in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia on 12th September. Work will be started in Tasmania in mid-October.
The Bureau is aware of the need to report promptly on the current situation in the Australian sheep industry. The resources being utilized are expected to be sufficient to enable the collection of data to be completed by early December, the analysis to be completed by the end of March, 1961, and a report on the financial aspects to be published in June, 1961.
– On 30th August, Senator Benn asked me the following question: -
I wish to direct a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Is he aware that the Postmaster-General’s Department refuses to remove telephonic installations from the homes of persons who find, because of the increased rentals charged for telephones, that they are unable to pay the increased costs? Is he also aware that in such cases those who apply to have their telephones removed are informed that they signed a contract to retain their telephonic installations for a certain time? Will the Minister inform me what policy has been laid down in these cases?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply: -
The Postmaster-General’s Department will remove the telephone apparatus from the premises of a subscriber who desires to relinquish his service, and it is not the practice to refuse any such requests. Every telephone service provided is subject to an agreement between the subscriber and the department, and the general conditions and the period of lease differ appreciably with particular circumstances. Capital costs of providing telephone services can be very high in some instances and where a subscriber desires to cancel a service and the line cannot readily be used for another subscriber, it is sometimes necessary, in the public interest, to require payment of rental for the minimum period specified in the agreement. This action is taken in relatively few cases.
– I lay on the table the following papers: -
Tasman Empire Airways Limited - Annual Report and accounts for year ended 31st March, 1960.
Honorable senators will know that Tasman Empire Airways Limited is owned by the Australian and New Zealand Governments in equal partnership. I am pleased, therefore, to report that the airline, after providing £154,000 N.Z. for income tax, made a profit of £108,471 N.Z. The directors of Teal have recommended payment of a 5 per cent, dividend, and this will absorb £81,140 N.Z. I might add that Teal carried a record number of passengers on its services last year, especially across the Tasman, where traffic increased by 15 per cent. This traffic growth is continuing and the company expects to have another satisfactory year in 1960-61. I commend the report to the attention of the Senate.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table the reports of the Tariff Board on the following items: -
Sensitized photographic papers and transfer media.
Laboratory and scientific glassware, and firearms. 1 also lay on the table the reports of the Tariff Board on the following items: -
Roll film box type cameras.
These reports do not call for legislative action. The board’s findings have in both cases b;en adopted by the Government.
– by leave - I desire to inform the Senate that during the absence of the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) at the session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) will act as Attorney-General.
– by leave - I wish to make a short statement dealing with negotiations conducted between Australia and France in connexion with the Australia-France bilateral air agreement.
Since terms setting out the broad basis of an air agreement between Australia and France were initialled by me in Paris in February of this year, the French authorities have conducted a further negotiation with New Zealand. This negotiation had some effect upon the Australian arrangements with France, as concessions were made by Australia in February in order to obtain traffic rights to Tahiti and beyond to Honolulu for the jointly owned airline, Tasman Empire Airways Limited. When
New Zealand obtained traffic rights for such a service in its own right by giving the French designated airline rights into New Zealand it became obvious that some compensating change should be made in the arrangements between Australia and France.
Discussions for this purpose were held at the official level in Paris on 8th, 9th and 10th September, and as a result it has been agreed that our airline, Qantas Empire Airways Limited, may operate an additional service from Sydney to Tahiti to match the operation of a similar regional service by the French designated airline. Operational and technical agreement also has been reached on the details of the French airline’s service through Sydney with a Douglas DC8 jet, and the necessary licence for this service has now been issued.
– by leave - Two important international agreements providing for the settlement of a long-standing problem between India and Pakistan were signed in Karachi on 19th September this year. The agreements are the Indus Waters Treaty and the Indus Basin Development Fund Agreement. The Indus Waters Treaty, which provides for the division of the waters of the Indus basin between India and Pakistan, was signed by the Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Nehru, the President of Pakistan, Field-Marshal Ayub Khan, and the Vice-President of the International Bank, Mr. W. A. B. Iliff.
The Indus Basin Development Fund Agreement sets up a fund, under the International Bank, of more than £400,000,000 to finance irrigation and associated works in Pakistan resulting from the treaty settlement. Contributions will be provided by friendly governments comprising Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States over and above the amounts to be contributed by India and Pakistan and by the International Bank. Australia has pledged £6,965,000 in the form of grants of free foreign exchange. Legislation will be brought down in due course to appropriate the amount of the Australian contribution. The Development Fund Agreement was signed on behalf of Australia by the
Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan, Mr. A. R. Cutler, V.C., and by representatives of the other contributing governments and of the International Bank.
The Indus and its five main tributaries make up one of the great river systems of the world. Under this plan, the waters of the three eastern rivers - the Ravi, Beas and Sutlej - will be for India’s use, while Pakistan will have the waters of the three western rivers - the Indus itself and the Jhelum and Chenab. Both countries will benefit tremendously from the system of dams and canals which will provide for increased irrigation, flood protection and hydro-electric capacity.
I am most happy that Australia is associated with this scheme which will contribute so materially to the economic development and well-being of both Pakistan and India and, I hope, lead to closer political relations between these two countries.
I should also like to pay tribute to the International Bank. The skilful diplomacy of its representatives helped greatly in concluding these agreements.
The Prime Minister has taken the occasion of the signing of these agreements to address messages to the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Nehru, and to President Ayub of Pakistan in the following terms: -
I send my congratulations to you on the achievement represented by the signing of the Indus Waters Treaty to-day. We in Australia are delighted at the success of the negotiations and welcome the prospect of future association in this great enterprise.
Debate resumed from 31st August (vide page 306), on motion by Senator McKenna -
That the following paper: -
Bell Bay Aluminium Works - Proposed Sale - Ministerial Statement - be printed.
– On 31st of last month, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) made a statement in the chamber announcing an agreement whereby the Australian Aluminium Production Commission at Bell Bay would, with the legislative authority of the Commonwealth Government, dispose of its under taking, minus certain mineral leases. He indicated that the agreement had been reached in principle only and that there was to be a good deal of detail sketched in by the contracting parties. I moved the rather formal motion that the paper be printed simply to give the Opposition its only opportunity for an adequate discussion of this very important matter. The fact that I had to take that action draws rather pointed attention to the Government’s apparent reluctance to initiate a debate in relation to this sale.
I recall that, on 4th May last, when it was known that a sale was in contemplation, I formally moved the adjournment of the Senate and spoke at some length in order to attract attention to the matter. I have refreshed my mind regarding what I then said, and I confirm it now.
I propose to address my remarks to seven main headings. First of all, as the originator of the Bell Bay aluminium smelting project, the Australian Labour Party welcomes the assurances that seem to be given as to, firstly, retention, and finally, expansion of the Bell Bay project to produce 28,000 tons per annum - the present figure is 12,500 tons - and ultimately, it is thought, 50,000 tons per annum. We congratulate the State Government of Tasmania upon the part it played in forcing the expansion of these works and upon its decision to retain its very important interest in these smelters at Bell Bay.
The second point to which I shall address myself is that the Commonwealth Government should have retained its interest in either the whole or part of the Bell Bay undertaking. The third point is that the Government has handed a rich Australian aluminium empire over to overseas interests which, according to announcements in the press to-day, are now engaged in cutting up the booty.
My fourth point is that if the Commonwealth has determined to sell the undertaking, an opportunity should have been given to Australian interests to acquire it or, failing that, to ensure that the best possible price was realized, world tenders should have been invited.
The fifth point relates to the extraordinary nature of the terms of sale under which the payment of the principal of the purchase price is postponed for a period of sixteen years. In those terms we also see some unprecedented clauses dealing with interest. Those clauses provide not only for the postponement of the payment of interest upon the principle outstanding but even for the cancellation of arrears of interest that may have accumulated under the agreement.
My sixth point is directed to the refusal of the Government to produce documents relative to the transaction despite the fact that Ministers have discussed their contents in the Parliament. The seventh and last point with which I am concerned is the very extensive field of matters not determined at this stage in the agreement and as to which the Senate and the electors have no information.
I come back to the first point which relates to the establishment of the industry. There are matters connected with that which I think should be discussed. In the publicity that I have seen - and there has been a good deal of it - in relation to the sale of this undertaking, I have seen very little, indeed scarcely any, reference to the fact that the undertaking at Bell Bay flowed from a decision of the Curtin Labour Government back in August, 1943. The decision received legislative authority by an act of Parliament passed in 1944. Annexed to that act was an agreement made between the State of Tasmania and the Commonwealth Government as equal partners in the proposed new undertaking.
I wish now to refer to the speech that was made by the then Minister for Supply, Mr. Beasley, in introducing the legislation in 1944. In the course of his secondreading speech, he had this to say -
The Government, for reasons that it considers wise, believes that it is advisable to take one step at a time in connexion with this project. Therefore, the arrangement with the Government of Tasmania deals only with the erection of the smeltery. That appears to be the length to which that Government is prepared to go to have the industry established within its borders. This legislation will not prevent the Commonwealth from engaging in further development in connexion with rolling plant mills and the fabricating section of the industry.
Mr. Beasley then went on to point out that the Commonwealth itself was already engaged in aluminium fabrication in a number of plants, particularly at Granville in New South Wales and at Wangaratta in
Victoria. The Wangaratta works were owned exclusively by the Commonwealth Government. Mr. Beasley came back to this point when he said -
This legislation does not provide for the expansion of activities beyond the manufacture of ingot aluminium, but should the Commonwealth wish to enter the wider field at any time, it will not be prevented from doing so.
Further on he said -
It is also wise to decentralize such projects so that all the eggs may not be in the one basket.
The point I seek to make is that it was at the behest of the Tasmanian Labour government of the day that the project was confined to a smeltery for the production of aluminium ingots. No fabrication works were forecast at that time, but, as Mr. Beasley was careful to point out, the Commonwealth was quite free, if it saw fit, to embark upon the fabrication of aluminium, and, in fact, it was so engaged. It was a matter of the utmost importance in wartime, of course, that aluminium supplies should be assured, to say nothing of the importance of that metal in peace-time.
– Was any metal obtained from the undertaking in war-time?
– No. I propose to recount the history of the matter and to direct attention to the many years that it took this Government to pour the first ingot. It was just on six years from the time that this Government took over, with a flying start.
– In the initial stages did not the Chifley Government buy second-hand plant for Bell Bay?
– I have no knowledge of that.
– I shall refresh your memory on it.
– I shall listen in due course to the honorable senator if he cares to cast his information into the ring. I want to stay on the theme of how the project was to be limited to ingot aluminium production and to nothing else. Leaving out the non-relevant parts, section 7 of the Aluminium Industry Act 1944 provided - it shall be the duty of the commission . to do all such acts and things as arenecessary for the production of ingot aluminium.
That section came under the review of this Government in 1952, when the duty of the commission was expressed in even more restricted form. This Government struck out the words “ ingot aluminium “ and put in their place the words - aluminium in primary form, including aluminium in the form of ingots, rolling and extrusion billets and wire bar.
That amendment authorized the commission to turn out primary aluminium in various broad shapes - bars, &c, as well as ingots. The Tasmanian Government was faced with the large capital expenditure involved in generating the electricity required by the undertaking.
– The rolling of bars is a step further than the making of ingots.
– It is a different step.
– It is a step further.
– The result is still aluminium in primary form.
– You were saying that we restricted the commission more than did the previous Government, which is not quite correct.
– That is a minor point to take up. The term that was used by the Labour Government was “ ingot aluminium “. The generic term used by the Menzies Government was “aluminium in primary form “. The other words that were inserted do not alter the position. They were -
In other words, the function of the commission was confined, in even more explicit terms, to the production of primary aluminium. I merely indicate that the two governments were in agreement in that the effect of their legislation was to confine activity to the production of primary aluminium. That was done, according to Mr. Beasley, with the concurrence of the Tasmanian Government.
I come now to the report from which Senator Henty quoted on 4th May, 1960. I refer, in particular, to paragraph 30 on page 7. There the difficulties involved in the establishment of this industry were quite graphically portrayed. I do not propose to read the whole of the paragraph, but shall select appropriate passages only.
The commission pointed out that bauxite investigations were necessarily lengthy, that the investigation of technical processes for the production of aluminium presented an equally complex problem, and that many and varied ideas were covered by upwards of 1,930 patents. It is a staggering piece of information that 1,930 patents are involved in the production of aluminium and that presumably there are about that number of patentees to deal with. The commission referred to the wide range of processes tried for the production of aluminium and to the need to investigate the merits of rival processes. It drew a picture of the grave difficulty involved in getting the industry under way from a flat-footed start such as we had to make in Australia. I stress that this is a report of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, not an ex parte or political statement. I come now to the portion of the report from which Senator Henty drew his comments. Perhaps I should do the honorable senator justice by reading exactly what he said, as reported at page 726 of “ Hansard “ for the first period of this session. He said - . . I turn to the report of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission for the yea 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 nf 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.
I cross swords with the honorable senator on his interpretation of what the commission itself said. The impression left on my mind after hearing that speech and reading it later was that the commission was not free to seek advice. That is certainly not correct. I need only direct the Senate’s attention to the fact that the commission in 1949 entered into an agreement with the British Aluminium Company Limited to provide expert advice. Under the provision that stood since 1944, this Government engaged A.I.A.G. as a new consultant. The honorable senator’s interpretation of the provision forbidding any association with a combine or trust is quite wrong. The prohibition contained in clause 3 (j) of the agreement was directed to trading operations with trusts and combines. The mere fact that the commission has twice engaged consultants shows that that provision was not the trouble. The real trouble, of course, was the obstruction and the unco-operative attitude of the aluminium giants of the world, which did not want this little country to start off in the aluminium field, despite the fact that we were contemplating an annual production of only 12,500 tons, as compared with a world production in their hands of about 4,000,000 tons per annum.
– You should read paragraph 37 of the report again.
– The Minister need not be worried. I intend to read it fully.
– My interpretation still stands.
– I hope to show the honorable senator where his interpretation was wrong. The commission stated -
In normal circumstances, it would be reasonable for a new industry to secure the advice, experience and assistance of long-established operators-
These are the words that matter - by inviting them to take a share in the enterprise. Of course, they were completely forbidden by the agreement to do that. But that did not prevent the commission from seeking their advice and help and engaging them as consultants if they were prepared to co-operate. The commission makes that very plain in paragraph 38.
– Carry on with paragraph 37.
– I do not mind doing that. I shall read it all. It continues -
In the case of the aluminium industry, where experience of a difficult and well-guarded technique is confined to a closely knit group of producers, the advantages of such a combination are obvious, but the restrictions imposed by the Act-
– The honorable senator will note that it reads “ imposed by the Act “.
– I know. That is not quite accurate. It was actually imposed by the agreement attached to the act, not by the act itself. The paragraph continues - which specifically prohibits the Commission from associating itself with any trust or combine, eli minated this means of securing experienced assistance from the Canadian and/or American producers.
Of course, the commission was forbidden to invite the other groups in. This was a contract made between a State government and the Commonwealth Government in time of war. It was quite proper that the commission should be forbidden to bring in any external partners, particularly from amongst the few giant aluminium monopolies of the world. That is what the agreement annexed to the act prohibited, and that is all the commission is talking about.
– There is a little more to the paragraph. You may as well complete it.
– I intend to read it all; it helps me. It continues -
However, attempts were made to revive an offer made by the British Aluminium Company Limited during war-time to act as technical consultants to the Australian Government. British Aluminium Company is an independent concern financed by British capital, its only association with the “ Alcoa “ group (United States of America) or the Canadian corporation (“ Alcan “) being through the pre-war cartel, which exercised a world-wide influence on aluminium marketing.
In the very next sentence the commission says that nothing in the agreement under the act prevented it from seeking and getting advice, if only the aluminium giants would supply it. Paragraph 38 reads -
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 I suggest that Senator Henty did not put the position accurately in presenting his interpretation of what the commission said. It is perfectly true that the commission was forbidden to sell part of the undertaking, but it was not prohibited in the slightest degree from getting all the experience and advice it could from the few people who were in the field if only they were willing to supply it. So I differ strongly from Senator Henty in the interpretation he has put upon the document.
– Why did they run back to the British Aluminium Company in 1949 and make a technical agreement?
– They went back to the British Aluminium Company in 1949 because they were the only people who were prepared to help them.
– You would not listen to the Americans or the Canadians. You would not take them in, but you took in the British Aluminium Company on its conditions.
– We did not take it into partnership at all. As the honorable senator knows, it was given no interest in the concern; it was engaged merely as a consultant. Our own kinsmen of the British Aluminium Company - it undoubtedly was a British-owned concern, having a full register of British shareholders - were so wrapped up in their own interests that they were not prepared to help little Australia to get even a modest start. After three years of negotiation - between 1946 and 1949 - when they saw that the Australian Government was determined to go on they very reluctantly agreed to help. If I may say so, something in the nature of a shot-gun wedding took place, the bride - the one who was being wooed - being the one who held the gun. The commission, according to Senator Henty’s interpretation, laid down the conditions, but in view of the difficulty I have had in following the honorable senator’s interpretation of documents that I have been able to examine, I certainly do not intend to accept his interpretation of a document that the Government will not permit me to see. I am not interested in anything that any member of the Government may say about what Mr. Chifley wrote unless the Government is prepared to lay the document on the table. I have had one experience of the interpretation that can be put upon documents relating to this matter, and I would not be prepared to accept anybody’s statement about what was done by Mr. Chifley. I shall come back to that point before I conclude.
As I indicated, in 1949 the British Aluminium Company Limited came along and helped. It entered into a ten-year agreement to act as a consultant. In that period the industry has come into production. When the present Government assumed office in 1949, all the difficult preliminary arrangements had been made. I am not suggesting that there were a lot of physical facilities at Bell Bay, but all the preliminary work had been done. The process had been determined, the plant had been ordered, and this Government took up the project when the worst was over. It was able to get some technical know-how from 1949 onwards. Even so, almost six years elapsed before the first aluminium ingot was forged in September, 1955.
– How many millions of pounds were spent?
– I shall not overlook the money. 1 may surprise you with what I say about that, too. I repeat that it took this Government almost six years, after having a flying start, to get the first aluminium ingot forged. I am not denying the difficulties that are associated with conjuring out of the air an industry as complicated and as technical as this industry is - one which bristles with patents and is dependent upon other people’s know-how. I am not complaining about the delay of those six years in putting it into production. But I do not intend to listen to any complaints about the delay that took place during the six years of negotiation conducted by the Labour government. We had on our hands a war which was going at top speed in 1943 and 1944 and which concluded in 1945. For three of the six years of negotiations, I repeat, we were at war. Until 1949 we were unable to get any assistance from the aluminium giants - Alcan, Alcoa, Pechiney of France, and the British Aluminium Company Limited. It was only the Labour government’s dogged determination to establish this industry that enabled us to get the necessary know-how, even after a very long haul.
The Premier, the Tasmanian Government and everybody else in Tasmania, as well as I, are very happy at the thought that this industry is to be not only retained but also expanded forthwith. Over a period of some four years production is to be expanded to 28,000 tons a year, and ultimately to 50,000 tons. The point I am taking is that under the agreement as recounted to us by the Minister, Tasmania is to have a one-third interest and Consolidated Zinc is to have a two-thirds interest in the new company to be formed. Tasmania has had to protect itself by a provision that it is not to be called on for further capital or loans beyond the £3,000,000 now being distributed. As far as the position can be foreseen now, that means that Tasmania will have a constantly diminishing interest in this undertaking as it grows. Its interest will not grow. It must diminish. Its partner, Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited, with the Zinc Corporation Limited of Great Britain behind it, must find the bulk of the capital required to carry out expansion. Tasmania, the State with the smallest numbers and, I suppose, the State that is the weakest financially, may not be able to keep pace with its partner. That means that Tasmania’s share in the enterprise will dimmish with the years.
I readily congratulate the Premier of Tasmania on his confidence in remaining in the industry and in forcing the expansion. It was when he insisted on expansion that the Commonwealth declared that it would not find any further moneys. The matter has been taken from that stage only by the determination of the Tasmanian Government, and with some help, I concede, from the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth did not attempt to withdraw moneys that it might have withdrawn. It did help by guaranteeing an overdraft for the commission to enable production to expand to 16,000 tons annually. I think that the Tasmanian Government is to be congratulated on its discharge of a national duty that properly should lie at the door of the Commonwealth Government. Unquestionably the Premier of Tasmania would have preferred the Commonwealth to retain its interest in the industry and carry on with the State Government. The Tasmanian Government was faced with the position created in 1942 by the Commonwealth - it could be ousted with nothing more than the return of its capital and interest. The Tasmanian Government had to face being thrown out of the undertaking altogether or accepting this sale.
Now let me pass to the second point - that the Governmentshould have retained its interest in the undertaking. This Government picked up where Labour left off, recognizing, as I thought, the importance of aluminium to the defence and economy of Australia. Ultimately the Commonwealth advanced far more to the undertaking than it originally contracted to advance. At the end the Commonwealth had contributed £9,700,000 and Tasmania had contributed £1,500,000. But it is pertinent to comment that throughout the years this Government was contributing to the undertaking we had the raging inflation that the Government let run and which added so materially to costs. In the first three years the basic wage rose by £4 2s. despite this Government’s promise to put value back into the £1. So, although expenditure on this project rose to £11,200,000 ultimately, the Commonwealth Government, which is responsible for the national economy, can blame nobody but itself for that additional cost.
A moment agoI promised that I would come back to the matter of the respective investments of the Governments concerned. Yesterday I made inquiries from the Premier of Tasmania and I was surprised to hear him claim that he has spent as much as the Commonwealth, £1 for £1, in and about this industry by providing electricity, water, roads, houses, schools and other amenities. He claims that he has spent as much as the Commonwealth if you take into consideration the building of the town and the provision of the facilities that I mentioned, without which this undertaking could not function at all. So the provision of £1,500,000 is only part of the expenditure incurred in respect of this undertaking by the Tasmanian Government. I think that point should be completely appreciated. I did not know until yesterday that expenditure in Tasmania had soared to such a figure, but there can be no complaint that the State has not played a substantial part and one co-extensive with that of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Government, when it exercised the financial squeeze of the State in 1952, took Dower to dispose of the entire undertaking without reference to the Tasmanian Government. All that the Commonwealth had to do was give three months’ notice and it could sell. It moved into a most dominating position at that time.
I propose to quote again paragraph 3 (j) of the agreement attached to the 1944 Aluminium Industry Act. It reads -
The Commission shall not enter into or be in any way concerned in or aparty to or act in concertwith any commercial trust or combine butshallalways be and remain an independent Australian undertaking ….
That means that it should remain an independent Australian industry. Trie Government had that agreement completely under review in 1952. It did not alter a line or a word of the provision that the commission should always be and remain an independent Australian undertaking. The Government bears out not only what the Labour government laid down but the position for which we now contend. It would have been far better and more acceptable if the Commonwealth Government had stayed in this industry to some extent. After all, the Government is not hard-up; this year the Commonwealth is budgeting for a surplus of £15,000,000. It would have had to find only a share of the capital contribution over a four-year period. It need not have cost the Commonwealth anything. If it had decided to retain a one-third share and allow Tasmania to have a one-third share and outside interests the other onethird, it could have halved the proceeds it is to get from this sale and would not have required any fresh capital. There would not have been any trouble about that. No heavy commitment would have been Involved. But there is this ever-present desire on the pan of this Government to be obsequious to wealth and capital, whether here or abroad.
The Government is completely lacking in an Australian outlook. The Opposition condemns the Government for getting out of this industry. We feel that it should have stayed in this industry to see that it remained, substantially at least, in the hands of Australians, particularly as it is an industry manufacturing a metal that is vital to our defence and our economy. If outsiders had to come in they could have come in on a minority base and not a majority base. Now the entire undertaking is to be sold to a company in which Tasmania will have a one-third share and Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited will have a two-thirds share. In other words. Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited will have effective control unless the Minister can say anything to the contrary when the ultimate agreement is drawn. In that one act the Government has destroyed the role of the commission and this undertaking as an independent Australian undertaking. The Government has handed it over to the complete and effective control of overseas interests.
– Eventually overseas interests may get the lot.
– Yes. Until to-day, the position was that the British Aluminium Company Limited, which was taken over by force majeure by the Reynolds Metals Company in January, 1959, was combining with Comalco, the Australian company, and its other partner was Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited, which is wholly owned by the Zinc Corporation Limited of Great Britain, which has an Australian content of only 12 per cent. Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited was given the right to obtain a two-thirds share of the undertaking. Let us see what the British Aluminium Company Limited and Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited own. They have tied up completely a major bauxite deposit in Australia at Gove in the Northern Territory - an area of about 500 square miles. They have also tied up the largest bauxite deposits in the world at Weipa - an area of about 2,270 square miles. Through Comalco, they also have another 1.480 square miles of mining lease in the Cape York Peninsula to the north of Weipa. Between them they have completely sewn up the matter of power. They have taken over the water rights to the Purari River where power is to be developed. The British Aluminium Company Limited has taken over this Government’s interest in that undertaking, Comalco also has a five years’ option over the Blair Athol coal deposits in Queensland and one of the partners in it, Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited - the purchaser in this case - has taken over the rights to the lakes of the south island of New Zealand with a contract to erect smelters, ultimately, if it decides to proceed, costing something like £120,000,000.
– Was that right in New Zealand given by a Labour government?
– It was. At this moment I am not criticizing that. I do not begrudge the New Zealand Government’s making an effort to attract to its country an industry with the terrific potential for employment that this industry offers. My objection is to the door being opened for overseas interests to exploit Australia’s natural resources and export our opportunities for employment to New Zealand. That is one of the bases upon which we object to what has been done. This industry, which develops the product from the raw material stage to the fabrication stage, offers vast opportunities for employment. The bauxite may well be mined and exported lo New Zealand and yield about £2 10s. a ton, whereas if we kept it in Australia we would get raw aluminium or primary aluminium at £270 a ton and the great work of fabrication. The thing to be guarded against is exporting our raw materials at £2 10s. a ton and failing to exploit our employment opportunities in Australia, particularly in the north of Queensland where we need population more than anything else. We are fortunate in having the greatest deposits of bauxite in the world.
When one looks at our bauxite deposits and our power resources for producing aluminium, one finds they have been centred in one set of hands. To-day, the companies concerned are neatly dividing the booty. British Aluminium is to take the Purari River rights and the bauxite deposits in Gove. Comalco, which will now be solely Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited is to have the New Zealand rights, the right to buy out Bell Bay, and the colossal areas in Weipa and elsewhere in the Cape York Peninsula. Those are the elements of this situation which disturb the Opposition. We find that the smelter at Bell Bay - although it is to be retained and expanded, as far as we know - is right in the vortex of international monopolies, completely under the domination of overseas interests.
In the Governor-General’s Speech last March we heard that the Government would consider legislation to balk monopolies and correct restrictive trade practices. Yet it walks straight into this situation and places these enormous, critical resources in the hands of overseas people, with not a word about restrictive trade practices legislation. The Government is creating monopolies instead of helping to prevent them. One looks in dismay and disgust at the spectacle of these international giants with their wide ramifications coming into Australia and controlling between them all the active potential of this industry. Having tied the Government up in principle, they have now got it bound down and have proceeded to cut up the industry among themselves.
Let me come to the fourth point I raise, which is the question of world tenders or Australian interest. On the 31st August, the very day the Minister’s announcement appeared in the Australian press, a Melbourne group wired the Premier of Tasmania. I heard this first from the group at the time, and I had it confirmed by the Premier of Tasmania yesterday. The Melbourne group wired him offering to arrange to provide wholly Australian capital on the same terms and conditions as were agreed upon with Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited, guaranteeing the knowhow, and guaranteeing just as speedy an expansion of Bell Bay. That is on record. The Premier of Tasmania, of necessity, said that he could not negotiate because the agreement with Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited had been concluded in principle and nothing could be done. If, as the Minister for Customs and Excise said, there were a commitment to the British Aluminium Company Limited by Mr. Chifley, there was no commitment to Comalco and there was no commitment at all to Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited. The Minister may argue that the British Aluminium Company Limited, assigned its rights to Comalco, which in turn assigned them to Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited, and that the Government had to honour that commitment. I say it did not have to honour it. For all I know, in Mr. Chifley’s letter there may well have been a prohibition against assignment. If this Government had done what it should have done in the interests of Australia and Australians, unquestionably, the moment it broke with the British Aluminium Company Limited it would have said, “ We are now free of the burden we say Mr. Chifley imposed. We will now try Australian interests.” Had the Government done that, it would have found Australian organizations that were interested; but it did not do that.
I believe the Minister for National Development and the Government have a great deal for which to answer in that respect, because the moment the terms were known Australian interests immediately declared, “ We will buy on the same terms and guarantee the know-how “. How much better that would have been for Australia! When the commission’s association with the British Aluminium Company Limited ended, the commission said it was then independent, had the know-how and there would be no further trouble about its production. If the Government was not prepared to sell to Australian interests, it could then have broken with the British Aluminium Company Limited, and gone on the world market. Why did it not call for world tenders? Why did it not, as 1 said in this place some little time ago, go for its full thirty pieces of silver if it wanted to sacrifice this industry and the best interests of Australia in relation to it? It would have been very interesting to see the offers that might have been made by Alcoa, Alcan, the French company Pechiney, the swiss company A.I.A.G., the British companies and Kaiser of America. I ask the Minister whether any approach was made on that basis. Above all, when the negotiations with the British Aluminium Company Limited broke down, why was the matter not concluded? Why was an approach not first made to Australian interests, or failing that, why were world tenders not invited if the Government was determined to sell this industry. If it was so determined, at least it might have got the highest price for us.
On 4th May I spoke along these very lines, warning the Government and recommending very strongly that once the break with the British Aluminium Company came Australian interests should be sought, and failing that, world tenders should be called. I believe the Government is under an obligation to explain why neither of those courses was taken.
I now come to my fifth point, the terms of sale. The Minister for National Development explained them very fully. The sale price is £10,973,000. The deposit is £2,500,000. There are four annual instalments of £250,000 each, eleven annual instalments of £625,000 each, and a final instalment of £598,000. The balance of £8,473,000 is to be paid over sixteen years by Consolidated Zinc Corporation, a company that made £2,600,000 profit in Australia last year. It is not a povertystricken company. It is a powerful organization that has the backing of its parent organization, the Zinc Corporation of Great Britain, which is one of the most powerful organizations in the world and certainly one of the most powerful organizations in the mining world. Why allow this extraordinary length of time for payment by, in effect, a powerful overseas interest?
I turn now to interest payments. No interest is to be paid until the new projected company earns a 61/2 per cent, profit. Then the arrears are to accumulate. If, at the end of the time, any interest is owing, the debt is to be wiped off. 1 have never in my life heard of such a cock-eyed: arrangement for dealing with a wealthy company. It is an amazing deal.
– The honorable senator is not taking into account the value of the asset that is being sold.
– I am. It is a going concern, capable of expansion. All those connected with it are confident that, with increased production, it will be a highly economic and productive concern. How much account did the Minister take of goodwill, and of the prospects of the concern?
– Remind me to answer that.
– I have enough to think of myself. The Opposition takes the view that, under all the circumstances, a very bad deal has been made, particularly when we consider the long time allowed for payment and the extraordinary arrangement relating to interest.
I want now to make a comment upon the Government’s failure to produce documents for which I have asked. Senator Henty dealt at length with matters contained in documents that I have asked the Minister for National Development to produce, but he has declined to produce them. He adopts the attitude that he himself did not put them in issue. I do not think he would deny that he briefed the AttorneyGeneral in another place. I do not know whether he briefed Senator Henty, but Senator Henty quoted - or purported to quote - at length from documents, so the Minister cannot shelter behind the statement that these documents should not be produced because he himself did not put them in issue. His fellow Ministers have put them in issue.
The Opposition wantsto see a copy of the agreement made between the commission and the British Aluminium Company
Limited in 1949. We want to look at the letter that Mr. Chifley is said to have written, and also at the agreement referred to by the Attorney-General which purported to vary the first agreement. If those documents are not produced, I shall say that it was scandalous for Ministers to quote from them. I shall say that it was completely unfair, just as it was unfair that, on a motion for the adjournment of the Senate, a Minister of the Crown, Senator Henty, occupied the last quarter of an hour of the time allowed for the debate, knowing that he could not be replied to, and launched a vitriolic attack upon the Chifley Government. That is one of the reasons why 1 have taken the Minister for National Development to task to-day. It is improper and unfair that these documents are not produced. No Minister should have quoted from them if they are confidential. If the Government persists in its refusal to produce the documents, I hope that we will not hear anything about them in this debate.
Vastly important questions have not been answered. The hundreds of people on the staff at Bell Bay are to be taken over by the new company. They want to know whether their length of service with the commission is to count for superannuation and long-service leave purposes. Those are questions in which the people at the works are interested.
– Those questions are being answered in the works.
– I am asking the Minister to answer them in the Parliament.
– You are trying to draw a red herring across the trail and cause trouble at Bell Bay. The purchaser has said publicly that it wants the staff to go over. You are trying to create a difficulty.
– I am trying to protect the staff.
– Let me read to the Minister the statement which he made, and which I do not think is good enough. I shall quote his exact words. They were -
On taking over the plant the new company would offer employment at not less than the current rates of remuneration to all the employees of the commission, and would also ensure to them rights in relation to superannuation, furlough, recreation and sick leave. 1 am asking whether those rights are to be the same as those they enjoy now. The Minister has carefully used the words. “ at not less than the current rates of remuneration “. He does not refer to equal rights in relation to superannuation. He merely refers to rights. That provokes the question I have asked: Will the employees be protected in that matter? The Minister should answer. The purchaser is not yet in possession of the works; so the employees cannot take notice of any statement by that company.
I am interested to know the form that this agreement is to take. Is the commission to sell to the new company? Will the new company allocate shares to the Tasmanian Government and the Consolidated Zinc Corporation? If not, what other form is the agreement to take? Is it contemplated that the public will be given an opportunity to subscribe for shares, or will any Australian interests be given such an opportunity? The Minister has not told us when he expects this deal to be concluded. What steps have been taken to ensure supplies of bauxite? I know that the supplies come under one ownership, but what steps have been taken in the agreement, to which the Government is a party, to ensure that bauxite supplies from Weipa will be available, if required, at Bell Bay? The Minister should say what is to happen to the mineral leases that are not being sold. I assume that they are the commission’s leases in the Wessel Islands, but I do not know. Where are these leases, and what does the commission propose to do with them, since they are not included in this sale?
It staggers me that the Government seeks to bind a new company to a promise that after four years it will not seek any protection from the Tariff Board, except in abnormal circumstances. Who can define abnormal circumstances? What a weird thing the Government is doing! This is a new undertaking but the Government is seeking to deny it access to the Tariff Board. The situation has to be looked at, in my view, in the light of circumstances existing at any given time.
We of the Opposition see this as one more of the many sell-outs we have experienced at the hands of this Government. We are disgusted that overseas interests are allowed to control the aluminium industry in this country. Whatever short-term advantage may accrue from having overseas capital invested in this country, the long-term disadvantage will far outweigh that advantage. I record the Opposition’s strongest protest against this sale, as well as the terms of the sale.
– Senator McKenna commenced his remarks by making his usual logical approach to a problem. I wrote down with a good deal of satisfaction the seven points that he proposed to make, saying to myself, “ Despite my imperfections, this at least gives me the foundation on which to base my reply.” But I say to the Senate, and with great respect to Senator McKenna, that having logically set out his method of approach, like the horseman in Stephen Leacock’s book, he got on his horse and galloped off in all directions at once. Quite frankly, I have experienced a great deal of difficulty in finding the points that Senator McKenna made, let alone answering them, but I shall do my best.
Before discussing Senator McKenna’s remarks point by point, I think I should do better to try to give a broad picture of the factors involved in this problem, so that we may get it in correct perspective. I do not think, with respect to Senator McKenna, that there was a great deal of virtue in his going back through history; nor do I think there is any great virtue in attempting to suggest that as the Australian Labour Party was the inaugurator of Bell Bay, that party is entitled to the credit for Bell Bay. I did not hear him or anybody else in the Labour Party make that claim when we had all the problems and difficulties of building the Bell Bay works. I did not hear him make that claim when there was such great criticism of the management of Bell Bay, nor did I hear him make it during the years when the undertaking incurred losses or made only the barest margin of profit.
– That is a very poor argument.
– It is not intended to be an argument. It is intended to be a statement of the facts of life in this connexion. I prefer to approach the matter on the basis of a particular set of circumstances and of deciding the best thing to do, in the national interest, in those circumstances. To go through historical records and to claim that such and such happened in certain circumstances and something else in other circumstances, shows, I think it is fair to say, the desperate plight of the Opposition in trying to find ground on which to criticize this transaction.
Let us look at the matter in the broad before we start to look at particular aspects. We are discussing the sale of a plant. It is a great transaction, involving £11,000,000, but I doubt whether the sale of the plant is the most important matter of which we should be thinking when we look at the transaction. It was only yesterday, comparatively speaking, that we found that Australia possessed some of the richest bauxite deposits in the world. Our task, nationally, is to develop those deposits for the benefit of the country as quickly as we can and in the most efficient manner.
– For the benefit of overseas investors.
– Nonsense. As so frequently happens with mineral deposits, we are discovering that our bauxite deposits are not all in the one place. We started by finding them at Weipa. We then found them at Gove and in Western Australia. We have reason to believe there are further deposits in Cape York Peninsula, behind Weipa. Therefore, we should start off on the basis that this company, which is buying a two-thirds interest in Bell Bay, made possible one of the greatest opportunities for industrial development in Australia when it found the Weipa bauxite deposits. In those circumstances, the company is given scant justice when derogatory remarks are made against it.
Senator McKenna gave us quite an harangue about the company to which I have referred, and others, tying up sources of power. Let us put the matter in what, I suggest, is an infinitely fairer way. Let us make a more reasonable approach to the subject. It was not the Australian Labour Party or the Liberal Party that found the bauxite deposits. They were found by a company which spent its own good red gold in investigating Australian natural resources.
It found those deposits and it then invested more money on further exploration and investigation of the resources that may be available to us. As I understand it, there are two stages, the first being to produce the bauxite, and the second to produce the alumina. If, as in Australia, there is a quantity of bauxite which ranks as one of the greatest in the world, it is useless to go about the task of developing it in a halfhearted way. The resources cannot be properly developed unless there is also developed an international industry that is going to sell throughout the world. It is unrealistic to think that we in Australia could use all the bauxite that is available to us. We have to see developed in Australia an industry that will sell, on the international market, far more than Australia can consume.
From that development two consequences flow. First, the industry has to produce at world parity prices. Senator McKenna referred to giants and monopolies in the aluminium industry. All I say to him in that respect is that the aluminium world has changed since the days when Labour was in touch with it, if Labour’s picture of it in those days was a true one the aluminium industry to-day is one of the most fiercely competitive industries in the world. Aluminium is being produced to an extent far greater than the demand for it warrants. Despite that, aluminium smelters are being erected, adding to the condition of oversupply. If we can have aluminium produced in Australia and sold at world parity prices we shall be doing well indeed. One of? the reasons for the Government’s point of view is that it is looking, not to to-day or to to-morrow, but to the years ahead. We want to see our bauxite resources developed, in an international way, into an industry which, without overstraining the mark, will rival the big aluminium industries in other parts of the world.
One of the principal components in the production of aluminium is the cost of power. When we hear Senator McKenna criticizing the people who aim to develop our resources in the best possible way, merely for investigating all the available sources of power that there arc in Australia, it shows what a completely unrealistic approach the Opposition is making to this matter. Even if Blair Athol were tied up and there were an option on the New Guinea resources, what would be the limit of Australia’s capacity to produce electric power? We have the greatest coal deposits in this part of the world. Blair Athol is not the beginning and end of it. There are plenty of other opportunities. There are plenty of other competing interests in the field. I try to be fair, particularly in a big matter like this, but when the Leader of the Opposition talks about selling out the undertaking to monopolistic interests and tying up Australian resources, one becomes indignant. Here we have a set of circumstances that are known to the Government. Certainly they were not disclosed publicly until this morning, but the great bauxite deposits of Australia are now divided amongst four great groups. They are Alcan at the back of Weipa, Consolidated Zinc at Weipa, British Aluminium at Gove and the Great Western Mining Corporation in Western Australia. To talk in terms of monopoly when we have these four major interests in competition with one another and when, as I believe, the door is only opening to the discovery of all the resources we have in Australia, is unrealistic. At Weipa a plant of some 240,000 tons capacity is needed to provide an economic foundation for the industry. To establish that plant will take a great deal of time, and time is the one thing we are short of in northern Australia. A market for 240,000 tons of aluminium a year has to be found. There is not a market for that quantity in Australia, but Bell Bay does provide a starting point. With Bell Bay, another smelter in Queensland, and a third somewhere else, there will be, with the Australian trade, a good foundation for competitive production. The local producers will have to compete because they will not be protected. With the foundation of the Australian trade behind them, they can look overseas for further markets. In view of all the circumstances, and especially in view of the fact that we are getting such a satisfactory price for Bell Bay, I wonder how the Opposition has the heart to criticize the transaction at all.
– How do you know it is a satisfactory price?
– In answer to that I ask where anybody in this chamber has seen one word of criticism of the transaction other than that offered in the Senate this afternoon or by some other member of the Labour Party elsewhere. Not one word of criticism has ever been offered by any newspaper, any government or any other responsible body - not even by the employes at the project. No person who has any knowledge of the circumstances has offered one word of criticism. That is the first part of my reply to that interjection.
As a second point, I take the facts of the situation. In this undertaking there is £11,200,000 invested. Its net profit last year was, I think, £158,000, or 1.4 per cent, on the capital invested. Until to-day, I gave Senator Armstrong credit for having some commercial knowledge, some commercial standing, and some commercial reputation, but when he interjects, “ What about the goodwill? “-
– I did not say anything about goodwill.
– Somebody interjected “ What about the goodwill? “
– It was not me. You are losing your grip.
– I am not losing my grip. You are losing control of the situation. How you can have goodwill with a net profit of £158,000 on a capital investment of £11,200,000, I cannot imagine. What we have done has been to sell at a reasonable price, bearing in mind the possibility of criticism of that price, and we have brought the facts and circumstances before the Parliament.
One other ground of criticism, as I understand it, was that we were selling to overseas interests. Let us try and get the discussion on to a factual basis there. First of all, one-third of the purchase price is being found by the Tasmanian Government. I have heard hard things said about Tasmanians, but I have never yet heard them described as overseas people. I cannot imagine that anybody could describe an investment by the Tasmanian Government as an overseas investment in this transaction.
– Who described the Tasmanian Government as an overseas interest?
– You talked about a sale to overseas monopoly interests. You talked about there being no Australian capital in it; you did not acknowledge the fact that, right from the word “ go “ onethird of the capital has been held by Australians!
– Were they their own agents?
– I shall come to that. At the moment, let me deal with the question of overseas capital. The Opposition makes no acknowledgment of the fact that, superimposed upon the one-third which Tasmania is providing, is 12 per cent. Australian capital in Consolidated Zinc, a company which has an Australian board of directors and Australian management. Under those circumstances, it seems a strange concept indeed to label this as a sale to overseas interests. The fact is that over 40 per cent, of the money is being found in Australia. I just say to the Opposition that that horse will not gallop; there is too much of a sense of humour still residing in the Australian people for them to take that sort of allegation seriously.
A short time ago there was an interjection to the effect that Tasmania is being forced into this. Having apparently named the wrong interjector earlier, I hesitate to say who made this interjection. There has been no pressure on the Tasmanian Government in connexion with this. This transaction is running the course that was set before Mr. Reece became Premier of Tasmania. Before Mr. Reece became Premier we had this problem of expanding Bell Bay. We knew all the pros and cons and at that time there was an arrangement between the two governments to seek overseas capital for the expansion. There has been no variation of that position. When the agreement was reached to expand the capacity from 12,000 to 16,000 tons, there was a split of financial responsibility. The Tasmanian Government undertook to find a certain proportion and we undertook to provide a certain proportion. With all respect to Senator McKenna, I do say that he makes a completely irrelevant and unfair allegation when he says that we must not give too much weight to the fact that the Commonwealth Government is finding £9,700,000 out of the £11,200,000 because the Tasmanian Government has also found money for housing, power and so on. I emphasize that the original arrangement was that each Government would provide one half of the total cost, and - if my memory serves me correctly - that Tasmania would provide in addition such ancillary services as power, housing and the roads that were needed. To attempt at this stage to establish the proposition that there has been a variation of the terms and that the performance of the Commonwealth in finding £9,700,000 is not as meritorious as its performance should have been is to make a quite fallacious and unfair approach to the problem. This is not the case merely of selling to overseas interests. It is a case of just being sensible. I venture the prediction that ‘before these bauxite resources are developed to their full extent there will be a great deal more overseas capital coming into Australia, and a very good thing that will be, too. It is difficult to forecast the range of the programme that lies ahead.
An amount of £11,000,000 has been invesed in the Bell Bay undertaking. The investment of another £9,000,000 is necessary to increase production to 28,000 tons per annum. The investment of many more millions of pounds will be necessary to increase production to 40,000 or 50,000 tons. What is the position? Is the Labour Party telling the people of Australia that they’ should forgo this development in Tasma”ia. Do honorable senators opposite so resent Ihe introduction of overseas capital that they would agree to Tasmania’s not getting the benefit of this development? Do they say to people overseas, “ We have these vast, unused resources. We have not the canita.1 to develop them but we are not going to allow you to develop them in our interests “? Does the Labour Party say to the people of Australia that we should not have overseas capital to develop these great national resources? Does it say that because of some cranky, ideological idea that is quite outside the realms of reality in the world in which we live?
– These are only Aunt Sallies that you are putting up to knock down.
– They are not Aunt Sallies. They are simply the facts of life. How s:!lv can the Labour Party be in its approach? Senator McKenna criticized the interest arrangments in relation to the Bell P.t- i.! undertaking and 1 should like to reply to him on that aspect. I do not want to decry the value of our assets. We have put £11,200,000 into the undertaking. In any fair appraisal of the situation, it is necessary to look at the facts. We are unable to meet competition with our products. We are selling them at £37 10s. a ton more than the world parity price. If they had tariff protection, the door would be left open to the difficulties I have outlined in developing our resources in a worthwhile way.
Senator McKenna made the point which I was going to make - that smelting is not an easy process. Plants become out of date and need the investment of much capital to keep them up to date. This plant is ten years old. A lot has happened on the technological side of aluminium smelting in the last ten years. We have sought the advice of Swiss experts. It is fairly well known that their preliminary inquiries show that it is necessary to have a smelter of a different type and size from that which is at present installed.
– Somebody gave you wrong advice at the start.
– Honorable senators opposite should examine their own consciences about that. It is only the Labour Party that does not change with the times. Ten years is a long time in the life of any plant, and machinery wears out. Whatever may be the reason, the profit was only £158,000, representing only 1.4 per cent, of capital, without any allowance or deduction for taxation. These are considerations that need to be taken into account in relation to interest arrangements. It is true that the value of money has fallen. It could be said that although the plant cost £11,000,000 to build ten years ago, it could not be built for that amount to-day, but we must take into account that a degree of obsolescence has developed in the plant since it was built.
– What is the company’s estimate of the commercial value of the plant now?
– One does not get an estimate of what a plant is worth when it is being sold for £11,200,000. That is what it is worth. If an accountant is employed to capitalize a net profit of £158.000 a year, using any basis of capitalization, and he arrives at a sale price of £11,000,000, he is a better accountant than any I know.
– There is a great potential.
– It is a strange concept that we should sell an undertaking on the basis of potential profits. We had to approach this matter against the background that we must develop this industry. If it is to be an international industry, we must eventually reach the situation where there is no protection, with all the risks that follow that policy. In those circumstances, I do not know how we can expect to get the full amount invested, plus interest charges. If we capitalized the present profit, we should arrive at an amount far short of the capital value.
– You expect interest on the money that is outstanding.
– You expect interest on the money when you sell at a reasonable price.
– Do you say that the purchasers are paying more than a reasonable price?
– I say that they are paying the full value. The net result of the transaction is that we have got some one to take the risk of increasing the size of the plant, we are getting our national assets developed and are getting them developed by the right people, we have got Australian capital and management in the venture, and we have worked out a formula under which we will get interest on our capital investment in a partnership atmosphere after the investor has received 61/2 per cent, on his capital investment.
– If he does not get the 61/2 per cent.-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! The honorable senator will have an opportunity to speak later.
– But honorable senators opposite interjected while the Leader of the Opposition was speaking.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order!
– We have sold this undertaking at a price which is far in excess of that which could be obtained by capitalizing the profits, on a basis which has an element of partnership in it, and under an arrangement whereby those who put the risk capital into it will receive the very modest return of 6i per cent. Upon that obligation being discharged, we will get interest upon our investment. Upon our computations, if all goes well we will get an overwhelming proportion of the interest charge upon our capital investment. The alternative would have been to accept a different price, with the buyer taking all the risks. Under the formula we have arrived at, we will get it both ways. We will get a return of the full investment of £11,000,000-
– You are making a monopoly of it.
– What nonsense! You refer, by way of interjection, to making a monopoly of it when we are talking about interest rates. You are so devoid of criticism of this transaction that your only hope to achieve anything lies in being rowdy and obstructive.
– No! You do not believe that, do you?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! Senator Kennelly. - We are only trying to pin the Minister down on the one point.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! The honorable senator will cease interjecting.
– I have no desire to walk away from this point, Mr. Deputy President. It is only by entering into an arrangement of this kind that we shall be able to recover the original capital investment plus the interest. If we attempted to sell this undertaking - it does not matter to whom - on the basis of a straight out price, we would have had no chance of getting back the original £11,000,000 investment. What we have done has been to make certain that we will get a return of the £11,000,000 invested, and we will have an element of partnership in getting interest upon it. On our computations, the other party is bound down to a return of 6i per cent. There are very few honorable senators on the other side of the chamber who would willingly invest money at 6t per cent. But having bound the other party down to a return of 61/2 per cent., we will get the surplus. According to our estimates, when the capacity of the plant is increased to 28,000 tons a year, the undertaking will be able to pay interest plus the arrears of interest. We anticipate that in the first four years we will not get our interest in full, but we are hoping to get a substantial portion of it.
May I remind honorable senators opposite, who speak in strong terms about interest charges, that although this venture has been in existence for ten years it has not paid one penny in interest. The earning capacity of the undertaking has not come within cooee of being able to carry the interest charge.
– Your argument is that because it did not pay interest-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! The honorable senator will cease interjecting.
– With respect, Mr. Deputy President, you should give us a go.
– You will get a go, all right.
– We will attend to you. You are easy to deal with.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order!
- Senator McKenna referred to the availability of the papers associated with this matter. He said that I and two other Ministers had referred to the arrangements that were made by the Chifley Government with the British Aluminium Company.
– I excluded you.
– After promises about the production of papers are made here, they are changed.
– That is the difficulty with which I have been confronted throughout this debate. When I answered most effectively a question about interest, Senator Dittmer interjected and referred to the establishment of a monopoly. Now when I proceed to deal with the production of papers, Senator Kennelly interjects and refers to some other matter altogether.
– It involves the same principle.
– The fact of the matter is that you are not prepared to rise and discuss the matter.
– We will do so.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! 1 shall not call for order again. Honorable senators have been given a fair spin. I am determined to take action to maintain order.
– Let me deal with this matter of producing the papers. This is a large transaction which has most important implications for Australian industry, for Tasmania, and for the development of bauxite resources in other parts of Australia. I have already attempted to amplify that point. I claim that the transaction is most satisfactory and from every angle is in the interests of the Australian people.
– Are you not going to produce the papers?
– What I say in reply to that foolish interjection is that this is not a case of producing papers. I challenge the Opposition to criticize this transaction on its merits. The point is not what is in the papers. The point is not what L said or what somebody else said. The point is this transaction which is outlined in the statement that is before the Senate.
The present plant is of uneconomic size and is not operating profitably. The transaction converts the Commonwealth’s interest into an interest in a large size plant, which means that the number of people employed in the plant in Tasmania will increase substantially. The development of this plant will mean the development of that part of Tasmania. Those are the issues that must be traversed. The issues are: Is it a wise deal? ls the price satisfactory? And do we get national benefits from it? I made a statement to the Senate on this transaction and I made no mention in that statement of any prior obligation entered into by a prior government, not that I intend to forego any support that I may have from that prior arrangement, if I need support. I think this is a matter of such consequence that it should come before the Senate and should stand or fall on its merits as a national transaction.
– It must be good because the press has not criticized it.
– I do not know how that interjection is material. I believe that the merits of this transaction, if they are reasonably approached, will stand up to any criticism or argument. I will not tabic the papers in this matter in order to give the Opposition an opportunity to divert this debate from the merits of this great transaction to some subsidiary issue. I say to the Opposition that it knows that this is a good transaction and it is seeking some means whereby to divert an argument away from the merits of the transaction. It is seeking something in a file of papers.
– Why be secretive if the transaction is so sound?
– It is not a matter of being secretive. If the Opposition is against this proposition, let its supporters stand up and prove that the transaction is wrong on its merits - not by fumbling over a set of papers in which they might conceivably find some argument. I sympathize with honorable senators opposite in their endeavour to b; critical of this transaction, because there is no loophole in it that 1 can see. There is no way in which it can be criticized if you look at it from the point of view of whether the sale of the asset is satisfactory and whether it is a good thing in the national interest.
– I take it that we cannot expect the papers from you. We will not get your papers.
– I have said that. I hope I have covered all the points that Senator McKenna raised.
– Senator McKenna wanted to know whether you had approached anybody else.
– 1 hope that I made it clear that we were satisfied with the transaction. We had a responsibility to put the transaction before the Parliament. We have dealt in no direction other than with this particular company-
– Did you deal with Comalco first?
– This company is a lineal descendant of the British Aluminium Company Limited. The line of succession is British Aluminium Company Limited, Comalco and Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited.
– The British Aluminium Company Limited is now out.
– I do not understand the relevance of that remark. I believe that I have answered effectively all the criticism that has been directed at this transaction. The real argument here, in my opinion, is a clash of political beliefs between two political parties. The Opposition’s attempt to bolster its case with frequent interjections is an admission that it cannot argue the case on its merits. It is actuated by its outmoded political philosophy. This is a clash of socialization of the means of production distribution and exchange on the one hand and the belief that Australia should be developed by private enterprise and private investment on the other. That is the real clash between us.
– We stand for democratic socialization.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order!
– When we stand for free enterprise we stand for free enterprise. We do not have socialization one year and democratic socialization the next year. We do not water down our platform to suit the opportunity to obtain votes. We stand on our principles.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! Senator Dittmer is again interjecting. The Chair has been most patient. In view of my warning, I name the honorable senator; and I call on the Minister to propose the appropriate motion.
– Mr. Deputy President, that duty devolves upon me, but may I say that I was a participant in the argument. A certain atmosphere developed; and I feel sure that the honorable senator would like to avail himself of an opportunity to apologize to the Chair. I hope that you, Sir, will look a little more leniently at what was undoubtedly a heinous offence but to which I perhaps contributed. I ask that the honorable senator be given an opportunity to apologize.
– Mr. Deputy President, I should like to address you briefly on this matter. I think the Minister has been quite generous. You, Sir, were very forbearing throughout what after all was a bit of a free-for-all, which frankly I think the Minister enjoyed quite as much as the rest of us. I think the debate was entered into in that spirit and not in any spirit of defiance of your authority. You granted a good deal of indulgence, and perhaps it was trespassed upon about half an inch too much. I might say that in the past I have heard voices raised much more frequently than I have heard Senator Dittmer’s to-day. I think we might take the usual suspension of the sitting as it is right on the time for it. If we ponder the matter during the dinner suspension we might reach a happy solution.
– If Senator Dittmer wishes to take a certain course, we could conclude the matter now.
– Mr. Deputy President, I appreciate your courtesy to me and I appreciate the tolerance of the Minister for National Development. I know how irritating interjections can be. I do apologize to the Chair.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I accept the honorable senator’s apology.
Sitting suspended from 5.46 to 8 p.m.
– According to my computation, I have ten or twelve minutes left. I shall try to finish my speech in that ten or twelve minutes. I shall not invite interjections and I shall not reply to them. I have been here long enough to know that when the Labour Party finds that it cannot reply to a good argument presented in a good speech, it attempts to destroy the effect of the speech by interjections. Let me repeat a point that I made in reply to an interjection during the afternoon. I said that basically this issue involves a clash of principles. The Liberal Party believes that the development of Australia can best be brought about by the encouragement of private enterprise. The Labour Party is pledged to socialism. But the difference between the two parties is that we stick to our principles and the Labour Party does not.
The Labour Party tempers its principles to every wind that seems likely to blow votes in its direction. It had socialization as a plank of its platform but, when it found that socialization was not popular and was not winning votes, it watered its socialization objective down by saying that it believed in socialization only to the extent that it was necessary to eliminate exploitation. It found that its original platform was not popular and was not acceptable to the people. In the same way, the Labour Party turned its back on unity tickets when it suited it to do so. In other words, it is a party of expediency, not a party that sticks to its principles. What is most hurtful to the Labour Party is that the Liberal Party’s policy has been implemented successfully and has been of great advantage to Australia.
Each one of the transactions in which the Commonwealth has withdrawn from a business concern has proved successful. The concern has gone ahead at a faster rate than previously, with great national advantage to Australia. The capital of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited increased from £709,000 to £2,200,000, and that of Commonwealth Engineering Limited from £630,000 to £1,000,^00. The withdrawal from Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited led to a capital investment of the order of £45,000,000. Those are the facts. The Liberal Party sticks to its principles and implements them successfully, to the benefit of the nation as a whole, but the Labour Party turns according to the way in which the wind is likely to blow.
What has happened in other places is going to happen at Bell Bay. What has the Government done at Bell Bay? It has honoured the arrangement that the Labour Party made when it embarked upon this scheme. It has cleaned up the mess that the Labour Party left behind it. The Government put another £9,700,000 into the venture and agreed to another £1,000,000 being invested so that Bell Bay could go ahead. Now the Government has carried through the successful sale of the undertaking, with the support and cooperation of the Labour Party in Tasmania. I ask honorable senators opposite to try to laugh that off. I have not heard any one make that point in this debate so far. This transaction will not only have great consequences in the development of Tasmania, and particularly in that part of Tasmania which has the opportunity for development because of the natural resources that exist there, but it will have great consequences in the development of other parts of Australia as well.
When we boil down or condense the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, we find that he made two main points. Firstly, he made the point that the Government should not have sold its interest in Bell Bay at all, and secondly, that it did not get the best price, or did not get a fair price for it. In answer to the argument that we should not have sold, I reply that the Government sold the Bell Bay undertaking so that it could go ahead. The Government did that in accordance with the principles that it always adopts. It sold Bell Bay so that the undertaking could go ahead and so that Tasmania could share in the progress that other parts of Australia will enjoy as the result of the discovery of bauxite in Australia. The Labour Party would have left Tasmania high and dry and unable to share in the development that will take place in other parts of Australia.
Tremendous capital sums are involved in this transaction. Eleven million pounds has already been invested at Bell Bay. A further £9,000,000 will be spent to bring production up to 28,000 tons a year, and another £8,000,000 or £9,000,000 will be spent to bring production to 40,000 or 50,000 tons a year. That means that about £30,000,000 is to be invested in Tasmania. That is one of the greatest events that has happened in the industrial development of that State. If we add to that amount another £34,000,000 which is to be spent on the development of the Weipa reserves in the north of Queensland, the total amount involved in the two transactions is £64,000,000. This is only the commencement of the story. I am quite certain that in the fullness of time, if things go well, further development will take place. Not only will other smelters be established in Tasmania and in Queensland, but smelters will be established by 0:her competing interests. We have now got four competing interests, one at Weipa, one at Gove, one in Cape York behind Weipa, and one in Western Australia. These four great bauxite deposits just cannot be developed with Australian capital only. The vast sums required are not within our resources, and even if they were within our resources, we have not yet in Australia the technical know-how, nor have we access to markets throughout the world in the fiercely competitive aluminium industry.
The greatest disservice we could do to Tasmania and Queensland would be to put up the Labour Party’s warning sign, “ Overseas capital not wanted in the development of these areas. This is the home of socialism. If you attempt to develop these natural resources with overseas capital, at world parity prices, we will put all the forces of government into competition with you.” There would be no surer way to hold back the development of this great new venture in Australia than to implement Labour Party’s policy, which, I suggest, it would not have the courage to implement if it were in power. It would water down its platform in some way.
We shall develop this industry with 40 per cent, of Australian capital, and I only wish we could say the same of all the other great developments that have occurred in Australia during the lifetime of the Menzies Government, as a result of the encouragement of private enterprise, and in complete defiance of the outmoded policy of socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. What overseas capital would come to Australia if the policy of the Labour Party were adopted? Labour would let this great and glorious opportunity go by default. Firstly, it would not have the capacity or ability to evolve a transaction such as this, and secondly, it would be inhibited by its outmoded policy of socialism. It would not have the courage to go ahead. That is the answer to the first question posed by Senator McKenna. That is the reason why the Government is selling Bell Bay.
The question of the price paid and of competitive bids has been raised by the Leader of the Opposition and by way of interjection. Let us look at this in a calm way. What we have to sell is a plant ten years old, an outmoded plant, a plant which is in the course of being enlarged by the addition of new machinery of a different style and character. It is a plant belonging to a difficult and technical industry. Despite good management and good staff, the undertaking is unable to produce at world parity prices. Despite the artificial arrangement whereunder we get the ore at a benefit of £37 10s. a ton, it cannot pay interest on its capital investment. It earned only £158,000 last year, which is 1.4 per cent, on capital. In that situation, it is quite impractical to sell it at the cost of the investment without taking some of the burden off the shoulders of the purchaser.
This is a plant, a business and an undertaking which, if sold for cash, would bring a price millions of pounds less than the price at which we are selling it to-day. There is no one on the opposite side of the chamber who does not, in his heart of hearts, admit that to be the situation. We have evolved a formula whereunder we get our investment back - win, lose or draw. We get back the £11,000,000 that we put in. We take some risk on the interest. No one can assess that risk because it turns on the fortunes of the new venture. Our assessment to-day is that we may have to forgo interest for the first two or three years, while the plant is being expanded to the level of 28,000 tons. We hope, we believe, and the estimates indicate, that we shall get our interest in full thereafter. To the complete chagrin of the Opposition, this is a first-class sale, judged by any set of commercial, political or national standards. It will stand up to any examination. It opens the door to magnificent new development in Australia.
There is one last point 1 want to make and which I hope the Tasmanian press will report. It relates to the interests of the employees. When we came into this matter, naturally we said to the purchasers, “We will want to protect the interests of the employees “. They said, “ Do not concern yourselves on that score. We have been through this plant. You have a good management and a good staff. We want to ensure that they come over to us. Not only do we want to ensure that they come over to us, but we hope that they will come over as a happy, contented group. We hope that, as this plant grows, as it will grow, they will take the opportunities for promotion which will become available on a greater scale than at the present time.”
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy President,I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 7th September (vide page 457), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the following papers: -
New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, for the year ending 30th June, 1961.
The Budget 1960-61- Papers presented by the Right Honorable Harold Holt in connexion with the Budget of 1960-61; and
National Income and Expenditure 1959-60 - be printed.
– When the debate was adjourned, I was discussing a matter of government principle, such as we have heard so much about to-night. It will be remembered that Senator Wright referred forcibly and vehemently to a matter of principle, and I want to challenge him, on some of the points he made. The honorable senator attacked the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, as was consistent with the policy of the Government. 1 had pointed out that during the regime of this Government there had been seven amendments of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and that every one of those amendments had worsened the position of the trade union movement in appearing before the commission. Senator Wright forecast further amendments and further curtailing of the powers of the commission to try to ensure that it would not grant increased wages to trade unions whose representatives appeared before it. I do not think I am being ungenerous when I say that about Senator Wright’s speech, because I think that anybody who reads it can come to no other conclusion.
Senator Wright made two points. First, he criticized what he called, I think, the suicidal policy of automatic quarterly adjustments of the base rate of wages, and secondly, he criticized the propriety of adding to the wages bill of the Commonwealth an additional £18,000,000 because of two decisions of the commission, one concerning the 15s. a week increase of the basic wage and the other, the 28 per cent, increase of margins for metal trades workers. The first matter that I want to deal with is. the statement that the commission is to blame for the general application of the margins increase. In that respect, the commission made a definite decision and. related it to a specific number of people. It involved no wild injection of inflation into the community. The commission knew the nature of the claim before it; it heard specific evidence from people working in the metal trades; and it awarded a 28 per cent, increase of the marginal rate. It was a matter of simple arithmetic to work out how much that decision would cost the employers. Naturally, since the Commonwealth is a large employer, it would be involved. The commission stated that the decision was arrived at on a needs basis, because of the reduced purchasing power of money. It made the point that the decision was not to be taken as having general application.
Following that, the Federal Cabinet decided to give the decision of the commission almost general application to the Public Service. It awarded varying percentages. In certain instances, margins of public servants, such as those on the lower scales, were increased by 28 per cent. It is amazing that, at the time, Mr. Menzies stated that a ridiculous situation had been brought about. He said that he did not know of any other wage structure in the world which included such a practice. But having said that, he proceeded to apply the commission’s decision to public servants. If he thought that it was ridiculous to do so, why did he do it?
The first point I want to make is that fi 2,000,000 was added to the Commonwealth wages bill not as a result of the decision of the Arbitration Commission, but as a result of Mr. Menzies’s decision. On the one hand he complained, and on the other he applied the decision to the Public Service. Of course, he did not satisfy any one by doing that. His own employees appealed to the commission to grant the full 28 per cent, to all public servants. Having regard to his half-hearted action, the appeal was understandable. The Prime Minister took action in a field in which he was completely unrestricted. He did not go before a court or a commission. He chose to take a decision that had been given in relation to men working in the metal trades as sheet-metal workers, and so on, and apply it to other people. Had he done that and stood by his decision, there might have been some force in Senator Wright’s comments. But when the 1960 basic wage appllication was being heard by the commission, the Commonwealth Government, for the first time in the history of the commission, sent an advocate into the court to represent it and to argue its case.
The Commonwealth was entitled to do that under the law as amended by this Government, but it was not entitled to use the weight of propaganda, put out by the Prime Minister and other Ministers, to try to have the issue prejudged long before the case went before the commission. The Prime Minister was not entitled to say that in his opinion there should be time to digest the two wage increases that had already been made. I submit that such a statement was not in the best interests of the workings of arbitration. In fact, it was quite unfair for for the Government to use its undoubted prestige in that way. As Senator Courtice points out, it was a blow at arbitration.
It was also wrong for the Government, having said that wage increases were causing inflation in the community, to give almost general application to the margins decision of the commission. It will be recalled, Sir, that of the £18,000,000 that was added to the wages bill of the Commonwealth, only £8,790 came before this Parliament for its approval. For the most part, the rest of the increases were granted by regulation. When that matter was pointed out to the Government by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, not only did the Government ignore the matter, but it was horrified to think that such a suggestion should be made. The suggestion was then made to the Government that if increases of Public Service salaries were to be made they should have the imprimatur of this Parliament and not merely that of the Cabinet. That report, like so many others from this body, is lying in the pigeonholes of Parliament House. Where is the honesty in this policy? I do not quibble at the Government’s appearing before the commission and arguing as to what rate should be paid, but when the Government puts before the commission for its consideration matters with which the commission is not rightly concerned, I submit the action is completely dishonest and strikes a blow at arbitration in Australia.
It has been the policy of this and other governments to set up special bodies todeal with wage fixation in Australia. There was no need for the Parliament to dothat. Parliament itself could have acted asthe wage-fixing authority, just as other parliaments in the world do. But the Australian Parliament did set up the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, a supposedly impartial authority..
Having set up this tribunal, the Government should allow it to operate in an impartial way as a wage-fixing body. There should be no attempt whatever by the Government to use it as an economic instrument to further the Government’s policy, as this Government is using it. Further, the Government is using the commission in this way although it has dubious constitutional power - that the commission’s decisions are applicable beyond the borders of any one State. Although the Government strenuously denied in 1950 that the commission would be used as an economic instrument, the fact is that to-day that tribunal is being used as such an instrument, and is not being allowed the freedom it should have to decide upon base rates, increases in margins or any of the other matters that should rightly come within its pro zince.
To further illustrate my assertion that the commission is being used as an economic instrument to further the Government’s airs, I mention the Government’s action in arguing that the lifting of import controls should be considered as one reason for not granting increases. Such action as that would be tolerated only in the kind of atmosphere created by the Menzies Government.
I come now to the question of quarterly adjustments. Because there has been so much misconception about this question, because there has been created an atmosphere that something heinous has been going on, because it has been suggested that the lower paid employees have been given much more than they deserve, I propose tracing the history of quarterly adjustments. Nobody should run away with the idea that the basic wage represents anything more than the mere needs rate. Senator Henty should know something about the beginning of this matter, for I think the base rate was fixed originally in 1906 under the Excise Tariff Act which provided, amongst other things, that if an employer paid a fair and reasonable rate to his employees that employer could obtain exemption from tariff commitments. The method of obtaining the exemption was to apply for a certificate from the Arbitration Court. The first employers to make such an application were Messrs. H. V. McKay and Company, harvester manufac turers, and the decision in that case later became known as the harvester award. This company went before Mr. Justice Higgins, who discovered that there was no precedent for determining what was a fair and reasonable rate. He could discover no guide from this Parliament as to what should be considered fair and reasonable. And this man had been asked by a large manufacturing company to issue a certificate of exemption from tariff on the grounds that it was paying its employees a fair and reasonable rate of wages! Eventually, he laid down a principle which, until 1953, was proudly looked upon by Australians as a just measure of what should be paid to the lowest paid worker in the land. Mr. Justice Higgins said that in arriving at his decision he had looked for what could fairly be considered to be the normal needs of the average employee, regarded as a human being in a civilized community. Could anybody ask for any lower base than that?
Many references have been made to the basic wage, and in this instance the basic wage was fixed by Mr. Justice Higgins, after examining the budgets of nine Melbourne housewives. In deciding upon the basket of commodities, as it were, he considered such things as groceries, bread, rent, meat, milk and so on, but did not consider clothes, boots, furniture, loss of employment, insurance, charitable donations and so on. I want it clearly understood that right from the start the base rate was never a high rate. It was only what was looked upon as being sufficient to provide a sustaining diet. Another consideration entered into Mr. Justice Higgins’ calculations. At that time, the McKay company was paying its lowest paid workers 6s. a day while the Melbourne City Council and one or two other boards in Melbourne were paying 7s. a day. Although Mr. Justice Higgins was basing his opinion only on the few items I have mentioned as being in the basket, he was faced with the position that at that time there were people in Australia who were living on 7s. a day. He therefore fixed that rate for the H. V. McKay company before issuing a certificate of exemption.
A short time after, the court awarded the same amount to marine cooks who had sought a fair wage from the Commonwealth Government. This rate eventually became known as the basic wage. Here it is interesting to note that, like so many acts passed by the Commonwealth Parliament, the legislation to which I refer was declared ultra vires the Constitution although this particular provision continued to guide the court. This position continued until 1921 when the court was asked to make an adjustment. Let me emphasize again that the base rate was never considered to be a high rate. Right from the very start, it had been a mere subsistence rate. By 1921, different people were basing decisions on different grounds. They were arriving at different ways of adjusting the basic wage. In that year, what was known as the Powers 3s. was applied. In arriving at the amount of 3s., Mr. Justice Powers took into consideration the movement in money over the last preceding quarter. At that time Australia was beginning to feel the effects of inflation following the 1914-18 war and it was necessary to do something to preserve the Higgins concept which had been accepted by the Courts up to 1921. With this end in view, Mr. Justice Powers considered the fall in the value of money during the preceding quarter. He said that the purchasing power of the worker had fallen by 3s. and, in order to preserve the Higgins concept, he added 3s. to the then ruling basic rate. And so the principle of quarterly adjustments crept into the Australian arbitration system. This system continued until 1930 when we had another example of how the trade union movement has been denied its rights. In that year wc had a further example of how the court can be restricted by a government. The then government argued that it was useless fixing the basic wage on the Higgins principle unless proper regard were had to the ability of the community to pay. The result of all this was that the rate was reduced by 10 per cent, and this later became known as the 10 per cent. cut. It was in 1930 that the courts first departed from the Harvester concept and based decisions on what was considered to be the rate that industry could afford to pay. This system went on until 1934. All this history is interesting because people have varying opinions as to what criteria the commission must use in arriving at its decisions. The fact is that, although the commission has the right to use whatever criteria it wishes, it has followed the one principle down through the years.
In 1934, Mr. Justice Beeby said -
It is impossible to accurately relate wages to production. The only possible thing we can do is to take existing wage rates and increase or decrease them on a rough estimation of the variation in the national income.
I mention this because so many people eulogize the commission as a great and important influence on our economic life in that it sets down exactly what should be paid, what industry can afford to pay, and all the rest of it. I suggest that what Judge Beeby said in those days is not less true to-day. It is a sheer impossibility to say what industry can afford to pay. One can make only a rough estimation in an effort to bring about justice. In 1937, the principle was again referred to when the basic wage was reduced by 5s. It is significant that in 1934 and 1937, although this was not the criterion used, the wage fixed approximated to the old Harvester award plus quarterly adjustments, even though in 1930 the court had said that it could award only what industry could afford to pay.
These adjustments continued and there have been significant instances where governments stepped in and put themselves above the arbitration courts to insist upon increases. In Western Australia, in about 1940 or 1941, a judge found that there should have been an increase of about 2s. 6d., but he refused to grant it because, he said, inflation would ruin the country and the worker would lose. The State Labour Government stepped in and instructed him to award the increase which was indicated by the C series index as being necessary.
Then there was a period of wage pegging, beginning in 1942. This pegging was partially relaxed in 1946 in order to provide an opportunity for varying the basic wage upon new criteria. In 1946 there was an increase of 7s. It is significant that the increases themselves became adjustable. Although the needs principle was departed from in 1930, the adjustments continued. After the 1950 case, about which Senator Wright was so irate, there was an increase of £1 in the basic wage, which he said torpedoed the Budget of that year. That amount also became adjustable. It was not until 1953 that the needs principle was abandoned.
The principle then ceased to be the maintenance of purchasing power and became the capacity of industry to pay. It was argued that if a rate were fixed on 1st January, it should not be altered until there was a further review in the following year. After adhering to one criterion for 21 years, the conclusion was reached that quarterly adjustments should not be made. Like Senator Wright, I do not agree with many of the court’s decisions, but I am afraid that we disagree on vastly different grounds. The adjustments in accordance with the index were not loadings upon the wage- The index was a measuring rod of the purchasing power of money. All the court did was to take that measure and apply it to the wage. In the depression days, when the purchasing power of money was rising every day, wage rates were reduced each quarter. In periods of prosperity they were adjusted upwards.
Then this Government stepped in and made numerous amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. We have heard many critics of quarterly adjustments. They argue every year before the court. They say that the abolition of quarterly adjustments brings stability to industry and avoids violent wage increases. In place of quarterly adjustments we have a long, slow, cumbersome and costly procedure. Judge Beeby said in 1934, “ Goodness knows how you will do it “. An examination is made of the economy and all sorts of conflicting evidence is heard. As in the recent case, the Commonwealth Government places the political situation before the court; that is all that it did. How can it be said that in this way we arrive at something which is more stable?
Let us look at the position since 1956. In that year and also in 1957 there were increases of 10s. In 1958 there was an increase of 5s. In 1959 there was an increase of 15s. In 1960 no alteration was made. Can any one tell me that these results, arrived at after long, costly hearings each year, are so much more stable than the results achieved by making automatic adjustments to a wage that has been determined? The Government has intro- duced a system of annual hearings, in place of periodic hearings when the court has been approached by one of the parties to an award, coupled with quarterly adjustments.
The Government, in spite of all its amendments to the legislation, has not been able to completely hog-tie the commission. The matter of interpretation is still left to the commission. Finally the matter of the purchasing power of the basic wage has to be considered. I have no doubt that if the Government puts enough advocates before the commission it will be able to convince somebody - itself at least - that the basic wage should be halved. It is argued that an increase of 3s. in the basic wage will not maintain its purchasing power and that the capacity of industry to pay must be considered. Finally, one is forced to consider how much money can buy.
It seems strange that one finds the members of the Liberal Party starting to gird their loins for another attack on the commission. In the last eleven years, just about every eighteen months the Government has made amendments to this legislation. The Government has made it more difficult in each instance for the unions. In no case has it hog-tied the employers. The Government always talks about inflation and about how something must be done about it. Inflation is not our creation. If ever the Government destroyed one of the good things that Labour established, it did so when it destroyed arbitration. Present conditions bear no relationship at all to our conception of how relations in industry should be governed.
Why does the Government want to amend the conciliation and arbitration legislation? Is it to keep alive the dictum laid down by Mr. Justice Higgins? Surely to goodness nobody would want to argue with that. He refers to the normal needs of an average employee regarded as a human being in a civilized community. Surely the Government does not want to destroy that principle. If it does, let one of its spokesmen please rise and say so. Let him say that the Government does not believe that the standard of living of the ordinary worker without any skill should be retained at the level determined by that principle.
I dealt with the history of the matter only because I wanted to establish beyond all possible doubt that this started from a humble beginning. Judge Higgins frequently said that he never wanted his determination to be taken as a criterion and that there should be other criteria. He was commanded by act of Parliament to give a decision on a specific point. In giving the decision he fixed what later became known - not by his wish - as the basic wage. As I said earlier, it was once our proud boast that we could say to any other country, “ You may talk about culture, but we will not let the family of any person in our community who can work the required number of hours a week, whether they be 48, 44 or 40, fall below a certain standard of living “. We could say that until 1953, when, by amending the legislation, the Government destroyed that one of our proud boasts.
Senator Wright dealt with the last increase of 15s. in the basic wage and the 28 per cent, increase in margins. He then
Said, “ Further nonsense broke out in the community “. After the Government establishes a commission, and has its own advocates appearing before it, doing everything to prevent employees obtaining an increase, the Government then criticizes the increase as nonsense. After all, ever since the Liberal Party has been a party it has bemoaned and bewailed every increase in Wages. I ask only one simple question. When is the climate right for a wage increase? Surely it was not right in the 1930-33 period. You all agree on the need for decreases in those days. We hear about prosperity, for which you take great credit. Honorable senators opposite never tire of telling us that Liberal policy and the great free-enterprise system have been responsible for the benefits that are enjoyed. But when it comes to giving those benefits to the more humble people in the community, the Government bemoans the fact and abuses the powers of the Parliament in an effort to prevent those people enjoying the benefits.
– The Government goes to the Arbitration Commission.
– It does worse than that. It uses its authority and the prestige it enjoys as a government to pre judge the issue before one word of evidence is heard by the commission. The Government has authority to go to the commission, but I suggest that it is quite unfair of it to do so. Both sections of industry should be allowed to go to the commission without any intervention by the Government. For the Government, after it has created this condition of inflation and has made a rod for its own back, to argue that wage rises will lead to further inflation is quite foreign to the Australians’ idea of fair play. When all is said and done, if the Government thinks the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is not doing a good job, it can take to itself the responsibility of wage fixation. If it were to do that, it would not be doing anything new in the world. I have often wondered, Mr. Acting Deputy President, whether the electors through the Parliament should not determine what the spread of prosperity should be. I do not know that I have come to a conclusion about that matter, but I have certainly concluded that, when a government passes the buck and hands responsibility for the fixation of wages to another body, it should allow that body to arrive at a decision. The Government should abide by that decision and not regard that body as being a pseudo-economic body.
There need not be any increase of the basic wage. The Government has abused the system of wage fixation in its successful efforts to have automatic adjustments stopped. If the Government had fought inflation effectively, it need never have worried about having to meet an increase in the basic wage. It was this Government which destroyed the system of price fixation. I am not saying for a moment that price fixation was the panacea for all our troubles, but it was an effective measure against inflation. I know that price control was not perfect; I know it had its problems. I wonder whether any one has stopped to consider whether, if the Chifley Government had been allowed to control prices for another three years, the position would have been different to-day. If price control had been retained, the basic wage would be onethird less than it is now, and the Government would not be bemoaning the difficulty of competing in the Asian market.
I repeat that it was this Government which destroyed price fixation. After it abandoned price control, it said it would put value back into the £1. The Governmen still resolutely refuses to do anything about controlling prices. If it wants to have an open slather economy on the one hand, we as members of the Australian Labour Party say that it should allow an open slather for all. In 1951 we as members of the Labour Party, led by Senator McKenna, offered to go on the platform with supporters of the Government and advocate the re-introduction of price control. But, of course, the Government scorned our offer and told us that it had inflation under control.
If the Government says that the lower paid worker should not get a basic wage rise, it has a duty to do something about child endowment - a benefit that was forced on it by a decision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court in 1940. The Government refuses to do anything further about child endowment. What is it doing about the land boom in Australia? The worst thing a government can do is to allow people who want to marry and set up a home to be exploited. It is true to say that the family unit forms part of the foundation of a nation, but this Government does absolutely nothing to help young couples who want to get married and who go in search of a block of land. I note that the New South Wales Government is considering throwing open large areas of land for the building of homes by young people. But I repeat that this Government has done absolutely nothing to prevent this exploitation of young couples.
During this debate I have heard many references to the number of refrigerators and other home appliances that are owned by the people. I point out that these appliances are not owned by the people but are hired to them. Indeed, a total sum of £450,000,000 is owing on these articles. This Government is forcing people into acquiring appliances on those terms. Its action in not allowing the Commonwealth Bank to enter into competition with other organizations in this field has opened the way for the charging of exorbitant rates of interest. If the Government wants to move into the field of arbitration and peg wages, it has a duty to correct matters at the other level. The Government is using two economic bodies to effect its purposes.
I heard Senator Wright say that we should do something about the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission before it ruined the Australian economy. This Government has been responsible for at least seven amendments of the arbitration legislation. Does the Government intend to amend it to conform to the dictum of the late Judge Higgins so that the ordinary people may have a decent standard of living? Every one knows that the Government does not intend to take that action. When honorable senators opposite talk about an amendment of the arbitration legislation, they have in mind making it tougher, making it harder, for people who are in receipt of what is merely a base wage. Why does the Government not attack the cause of inflation instead of attacking the effect? Wage rises are only the effect of inflation.
I have tried to confine my remarks to that aspect of the arbitration machinery which has to do with wage rises. What the Government has done in the penal sphere is legendary. The Government has destroyed all chances of success in the field of conciliation. How can there be any conciliation in the delicate field of human relationship when, once there is any trouble, the employer is waiting, with a big stick in his hand, to force the worker before the Industrial Court? Because of the legislation this Government has forced through the Parliament, the court is forced to take action and there is no hope of conciliation. The Government has been very badly advised on the subject of conciliation and arbitration. The Labour Party keeps very close to the trade union movement, which has never set up a professional body of advocates in the true sense of the term. Unions only go near a professional advocate when a matter of general application arises.
But the employers have set up professional bodies, and that is where the Government gets its information. The Government is getting its information from people who have a vested interest in delaying the hearing of cases and in holding down wage rates. Just as a lawyer is paid to do a certain job, so these employer bodies have a job to do. The word “ conciliation “ can just about be forgotten. Conciliation was destroyed by the action of the employers in setting up these professional bodies and by the Government in putting a big stick in the hand of the employers. The moment any trouble occurs, there is no chance of conciliation. The workers know they are being stood over with a bludgeon. 1 do not know what else the Government can do to the arbitration legislation. It has made seven attempts to alter it, and evidently it is still not satisfied. The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court was set up to deal with disputes which extended beyond State boundaries, but the Government has turned it into an economic body to assist it to pursue its own economic policy. 1 entered into this debate in order to put the other side of the case. Senator Wright challenged every decision of the commission except those that gave no wage increase at all. The parties that now comprise the Government have never, since 1907, agreed to a wage increase. In their view it is wrong to give increases but it is right to refuse them. The Government can talk as much as it likes about economic policies and inflation, but determinations of the Arbitration Commission affect the living standards of thousands of families in the community. Surely those people are entitled to a fair share of our prosperity. Their wages were decreased during the depression years and surely not even the Liberal Party will deny them an increase now. The dictums laid down by great jurists such as Mr. Justice Higgins should be enshrined in the legislation as a standard for all arbitration tribunals in Australia to follow.
– The living standard is much higher to-day than it was in years gone by.
– That is all the more reason why the wages of the workers should be increased. The Government’s action in using the Arbitration Commission for its own purposes is wrong and if it ever again meanders to the commission it will face strong opposition from the Australian Labour Party.
– I have listened to a number of speeches in this debate. Many of them were of a very high standard. I was particularly impressed by some of the speeches from this side of the chamber. One of those was the speech delivered by Senator Dame Annabelle
Rankin, one of my Queensland colleagues. I pay a tribute to her continued fight for adequate medical treatment of elderly people. For years I have heard her speaking on the subject of geriatrics. I think she was the first person to raise this subject in this Parliament. I know that she always brings a warm human approach to the problems of old people. Queensland is very proud of the work she has done. She is a pioneer in this field and I hope that the Government will pay some recognition to her for her fight on behalf of old people.
I thought that Senator Lillico, the relative newcomer from Tasmania, made a very good speech. I do not think anybody will deny that he is an acquisition to the Senate. His contribution to the debate was a thoughtful one. I know that in his maiden speech here he made a great impression and when he spoke during this debate I noticed the earnest attention that was given to him by honorable senators in the chamber. Irrespective of what side of the chamber we support, I think we must admit that men of Senator Lillico’s calibre cannot fail to improve the standard of the Senate.
Senator Wright made an outstanding contribution to the debate, despite what Senator Willesee thinks of some of his arguments. Senator Wright’s contribution was thought provoking. He made a fearless approach to a subject about which many people are timid. Senator Wright and other honorable senators, including Senator McKellar, warned the Government that it should be cautious as troubles may lie ahead. Senator Wright dealt particularly with the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I know that some people feel that the commission is untouchable. I listened carefully to Senator Wright’s remarks about the commission and I think there was a lot of merit in what he said. One point that interested me was his remark about the constitution of the commission. He felt that the commission should not be comprised entirely of legal men. I agree with him in that regard. Senator Wright said that the commission should be formed on a broader base in order to include people with other than legal training. I cannot see anything wrong with his argument. If a person has training in a particular field, that does not mean that he is good for everything. If I wanted to talk over a business problem the last man I would approach would be a legal man. He is not trained in business methods. We know that very often lawyers become judges but the mere fact that they have legal knowledge does not mean that they necessarily know a lot about other matters. Very often they live in a world that does not fit them to judge the requirements of industry. The same thing applies to people in other professions. For example, if I wanted to discuss details of a sales promotion scheme I would not go to an accountant. Accountants are too prone to dot their i’s and cross their t’s. A salesman must have imagination. He must be able to see the rosy prospect and go to it. There are differences in the make-up of people. One person has imagination; one is a man who just works and dots the i’s and crosses the t’s. It certainly makes one wonder when one thinks of arbitration which deals with the requirements of industry, and the work and wages of the people. 1 am not one of those people who think that legal men, because they become judges, are the beginning and end of everything in such an adjudication. I cannot help but think that, over a period, the adjudications which have been made may not have been conducive, as some of us hoped they would be, to the faster development and enrichment of this Commonwealth.
Senator Vincent, who is a legal man, took Senator Wright to task and quoted certain statements which indicated the representations which were put before the commission. Therefore, he said, it has made a fair assessment. I have had a look at the Commonwealth Conciliation and A rbitration Commission’s basic wage judgment of 1959. Just let us see how correctly the members of the commission saw the position, throwing their minds twelve months ahead. On page 7 of that judgment Mr. Justice Kirby said -
The serious droughtof last year - that would be 1958 - has been succeeded by a good season and the falls in wool and other important exports are being replaced by upward movements which might well become gains. The world slump is in process of being replaced by what appears to be a steady recovery covering those portions of the globe with whom we are most concerned namely North America, Europe and Japan. The recent rises (which can even with caution be described as steady rises) in the price of our wool on world markets seem to confirm internal evidence of the movement from recession in those three important spheres. As those portions of the world with whom we trade emerge from depressed economic circumstances the demand for our goods might reasonably be expected to increase and within increased demand it is reasonable to expect increased prices for our exports.
That was Mr. Justice Kirby’s opinion of what would happen in the ensuing twelve months. If we look back at that assessment, I think the present situation shows that it was not correct. So, it appears to me that there is definite evidence that legal men can be astray in their thinking.
– But it was correct when he gave his judgment.
– In what respect has it been shown not to be correct?
– It has not proved to be correct. The price of wool has gone down.
– He did not know that when he gave his judgment.
– He was forecasting and his judgment was incorrect. Senator Vincent spoke about certain people not appearing before the commission to present their cases. In particular, he castigated rural interests. If I remember rightly, Senator Wade from Victoria interjected on that occasion.
Now let me deal with the judgment of Mr. Justice Foster. At page 19, he said -
Mr. Aird pressed the view that a basic wage rise will increase costs to farmers, and so tend to discourage them and to reduce their investment and thus bring about a reduction in primary production … I do not lose sight of Professor Lewis’s support of Mr. Aird’s argument.
That, of course, undermines the statement of Senator Vincent in this regard. Mr. Aird put the case and he was supported by Professor Lewis who was formerly a most able officer of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. So, the statement made by Senator Vincent in support of the commission does not hold water when it is looked at in that way.
I know that the Australian Labour Party always makes a grand play about the increasing of wages. Its members make out that they are the people who are responsible for high wages and they are the people who always plan them. I think the proper approach to this question is to ask what is the best for the nation in general. I have always held the view that it is no good just having one section of the community prosperous. We want the prosperity to be shared by people in all walks of life. I believe we have to be very careful to see that whatever body we set up to fix wages does not eventually make it much more difficult for the employee section as well as the employer section of industry. That can very easily be done. Some of my rural friends will support me when I say that in some of our primary industries we have reached a position which could be dangerous. Therefore, while we might like to increase wages in Australia, we have to remember that in fixing wages, the commission has to take into account whether or not we are pricing ourselves out of world markets. If we did that the ultimate serious disadvantage to the employees of this nation could well more than outweigh any benefit they might momentarily receive.
– Do you think we can do anything about prices?
– I will talk about that later. I am very glad that my Opposition colleague from Queensland is on the ball. I think we can do something and I will talk about that later.
– You are the first one on your side to say so.
– In regard to the danger from increasing our internal wages to too high a level, let me take the case of the sugar industry. I think Senator Courtice, being a fellow Queenslander, will recognize the seriousness of the position which could arise. The sugar industry is very valuable and important to Queensland. A couple of years ago it forged ahead to first place in the industries of Queensland, surpassing even the wool industry. So, one can realize that it is of great importance, particularly as it does more than anything else to populate the northern coastal regions of Queensland. There is a string of very fine cities and towns along the Queensland coast, and if the sugar industry was affected in any serious way, those areas would be in great danger.
– You grow sugar in the south too, do you not?
– Yes, sugar is grown in the south, but the bulk of it is grown in the north. The economy of the whole of Queensland would be affected if the sugar industry was endangered in any way. While we might increase the price of sugar in Australia, a great proportion of the sugar produced has to be exported. Therefore, it has to be produced within a certain price range so that it may be sold in competition with sugar from other countries. Australia has certain advantages in the British market, but even there we are experiencing difficulty because of the rising cost of the production of sugar in Australia. It is not the fault of the sugar industry because the Queensland sugar industry - or you might term it the Australian sugar industry - is the most efficient sugar industry in the world.
– They work on a subsidy.
– There is no subsidy paid to the sugar industry and I am surprised that my Western Australian colleague should say that. No subsidy has ever been paid to the sugar industry by the Commonwealth Government.
– What about that proportion which is exported?
– The sugar that is exported is sold on the world market under the International Sugar Agreement which allocates the sales of sugar to various countries.
– The Australian consumers subsidize it in the price they pay.
– I remind my Victorian colleague that the sugar-grower, the sugar miller and everybody who lives in the sugarproducing areas where there are no manufacturing industries subsidize very greatly the secondary industries which produce processed goods including canned foods, as well as the products which are used on farms, and which are mainly bought from the southern States.
– They do not subsidize secondary industries.
– People in the sugarproducing areas subsidize secondary industries because they are built behind a very high tariff wall, which is the equivalent of a subsidy. If there were no tariff wall, we could import many things needed by the sugar industry at a lower price than we can import them at the present time. We never argue about that, because we are prepared te to> a broad Australian view of this matter. Let fav> however that if the sugar industry 01 Queenland collapsed, the great secondary J°dVstries °f *e southern States of Austral w°uld teeI ihe depression that would ensuie” They WOuld then be longing for the restu!ratl0IT of the prosperity of the sugar industry.
The sugar industry is important not only to Queensland but to Australia generally, because it is a great earner of the overseas exchange which this country so badly needs. It would be a real loss to the nation if the sugar industry found difficulty in disposing of its product. Recently Sir George Dunnett of the British Sugar Board was in Queensland investigating the industry. His theme was the need to keep our costs down because of the serious situation that is developing. Beet sugar can be produced overseas cheaper than cane sugar can be produced in Australia. When we talk about rising costs, we must remember that the real problem is the effect that those rising costs have on the prices at which we sell our surplus products overseas. It is imperative that wage-fixing tribunals should realize the necessity for a proper balance between wages and costs so that we can dispose of our surplus products overseas.
– Could beef cattle be fattened in conjunction with the sugar industry, as a second string?
– That is something to which consideration is being given at the present time. It is a matter of economics. Probably other fodders would be better and cheaper propositions for the fattening of cattle, but cattle will eat sugar-cane. I know I am being led off the point I was making, but if honorable senators want this information I am prepared to give it to them. Cattle will eat sugar-cane and the farmer has difficulty in keeping stock out of his cane fields if his fences are not in good condition. Senator Courtice will agree wilh that.
I come back to the point I was making, namely, that the sugar industry is important not only to Queensland but to the economy of the country. Honorable senators can see the problem that will occur if we allow costs to rise and ignore their effect on the prices of our exports. When Sir George Dunnett made his survey of the Queens land sugar industry he could not, because of its efficiency, suggest any way in which costs could be reduced. That is a striking illustration of the efficiency of the industry. It is so efficient that many people come from other sugar-growing countries te inspect the Queensland, industry. I think that Australians generally should be proud to know that we have in the tropical regions 0£ the northern part of Australia people engaged in an industry which elsewhere is not con“:dered t0 be a white man’s industry under troPic»J and sub-tropical conditions. I thin.’ honorable senators should be pleased to kno7v that *om. PeoP!e can maintain an efficient ina.l,stry In these regions and make a success of it.
– It is a protected industry. There is a consumer’s subsidy.
– Let me remind honorable senators from other States that Queensland would not have become a member of the federation unless-
– It could not have stood out.
– If the Commonwealth wanted the Australian sugar industry to be a white Australian industry, the industry had to be assured of protection. The sugar industry is protected in exactly the same way as the industries in Victoria, in which Senator Wedgwood is interested, are protected. We contribute to them by purchasing their products at prices higher than we would have to pay elsewhere.
Senator Willesee spoke about the inflationary trend that has occurred under this Governm,ent. It is no good denying that there has been inflation and that there still is an inflationary trend. The present Budget attempts to dampen down spending in order to arrest inflation. I do not know why the term “ dampen down “ is used; I think it would be easier to speak of reducing spending in order to slow down inflation. Let me remind Senator Willesee that in 1947-48 and 1948-49, under a Labour Government - before he came into this chamber - inflation was increasing at the rate of 10 per cent, in each of those years. The rate has never been as rapid since, but there still is inflation. Both types of government have known what inflation is. We do not want to put our heads in the sand and ignore the fact. In introducing this Budget, the Treasurer stated that its purpose is to dampen down expenditure and thus slow down inflation. Whilst 1 support the motion for the printing of the Estimates and Budget papers, and support the Budget as a whole, 1 am * not one of those - as honorable senators should recognize by now - who is prepared to support everything that my own Government says. I do not think that this Budget really tackles the problem as it should be tackled. I do not think it gets to the heart of the problem. I know the object is to reduce expenditure and demand and so reduce the inflationary trend. However, we should bear in mind two important points, firstly the need to reduce production costs, and secondly, the need to increase overseas earnings.
Having considered the Budget, I propose to make the same suggestion as 1 made last year. I feel that we could do something in this matter by the abolition of the payroll tax. I know that that suggestion is not new, but I believe that such action would be effective. Having calculated the percentage of the average adult basic wage that can be attributed to the effect of the payroll tax, I believe it would be possible to reduce that wage by 7s. 6d. a week by abolishing the payroll tax. This tax is a direct load on the cost of production of goods. It is a charge on wages and salaries, and helps to increase the cost of goods.
– What is your authority for the figure of 7s. 6d. a week?
– My own. If the payroll tax were abolished, the 2± per cent, loading that is imposed on the wages and salaries of people engaged in industry could be taken off. and that should cheapen the cost of goods. If a rise in wages of 7s. 6d. adds to costs and increases the price of goods, the removal of payroll tax should have the reverse effect.
I know that the Federal Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) indicated in the course of his Budget speech that pay-roll tax could not be abolished, but I think it could be. Various statements have been made on the subject. For instance, Mr. Henley, of the Taxpayers Association, stated that the Government would not lose the whole of the amount now collected in pay-roll tax, that there would be off-sets and that it would be found that there were not large differences between the off-sets and the amounts previously collected. As we know, the State governments must pay pay-roll tax on the wages and salaries of their employees. The Commonwealth Government has to give money to the States to help them meet expense of that kind. Mr. Henley also mentioned other interesting points. He said that there probably would be increased profits and that more tax would be collected in that respect. He referred to various other avenues through which the loss of revenue could be made good. I believe that an attempt should be made by the Government to abolish pay-roll tax. I know that it would be rather a big thing for the Government to forgo £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 a year, but this is a time when a really strong effort should be made to arrest price increases. In my opinion, the abolition of pay-roll tax would be the best means of starting the desired trend.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the States would reimpose the tax the moment it was taken off by the Commonwealth, as has happened in other cases?
– They did it with entertainment tax.
– There is no entertainment tax in Queensland, although there may be in other States. I should say that any State government which reimposed the tax would be loading the industries of that State and putting them at a disadvantage in competition with the industries of other States. I should be surprised if any State reimposed pay-roll tax in another form.
I am of the opinion that the abolition of the tax is the quickest and most effective way to reduce costs and so reduce the price of goods, with immediate advantage to the community. There can be no question that the inflationary spiral has been accelerated by the increasing costs imposed on industry. That, to my way of thinking, has been the basic cause of the inflationary trend. If we could arrest that trend we might be able to start a deflationary trend which would be all to the good.
– Inflation has been with us ever since we created money, has it not?
– That is often said, but 1 can remember that in my earlier days there was quite a degree of stability in industry. We did not then have the continued inflation of which we hear so much to-day. If the honorable senator looks back, he will remember that the economy was then stable. There are many disadvantages in having an unstable economy. Consider the case of people who want to build homes for themselves. In days gone by, because of the stability of the economy, they could save at a certain rate, and by a certain time they would be able to acquire a home’. These days, owing to the rapid increases of costs, it is very difficult for people to save sufficient to cope with the growing price of homes.
– Yet, there is more private home ownership to-day than ever before in the history of Australia.
– But I think the honorable senator will find that fewer homes have been paid for than in days gone by. I think many more homes are now purchased on time payment than there were previously.
I do not think anybody will deny that a stable economy is desirable. It enables people to judge their needs and to plan ahead. It is difficult for people to do that to-day, having regard to increasing building costs. I think it should be the aim of all of us to try to bring about a stable economy and, if possible, a deflationary trend. If those objectives were achieved, we might find that our great primary industries were not up against it, as they are now. I am not the only one who thinks along those lines. I congratulate Senator Wade on his progressive move in proposing to bring forward for debate in this chamber, which I hope will occur in the near future, the subject of the wool industry. It is good that we have in this chamber men who can see the pitfalls ahead and who try to solve our problems. The task of reducing prices is one that I think should be tackled. Another important task is to earn extra income overseas. Recently, the Federal Department of Trade sponsored a National Export Convention which was held in Canberra, with a view to coming to grips with the problem of expanding exports by £250,000,000 a year in the next five years, and to achieve full recognition by all
Australians that this must be done if the desired pace of development is to be maintained in the next decade.
– Who said that?
– That was advocated by the National Export Convention, the first of its kind ever held in Australia. It was attended by more than 200 participants and brought together leaders of commerce, industry, Government and Labour, to consider ways and means of expanding Australia’s export income.
– Was that a statement by Sir John Anderson?
– The statement appeared in “ Canberra Comments “, an organ of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia. As I mentioned before, the convention was sponsored by the Federal Department of Trade. The Minister for Trade, (Mr. McEwen) said that Australia needs overseas funds to pay for her essential imports. If Australia were to try to live within her present level of overseas earnings there would be a drastic slowing down in her rate of development. Australia’s future growth and the maintenance of her high living standards would require her exports to rise, not only by a few millions a year, but in a short space of time, by hundreds of millions.
We have a very big job in front of us. It calls for imaginative thinking and drive on the part of this Government and the people of Australia. If we do not meet the requirements to which Mr. McEwen referred, we may be in a very serious way, from the point of view of our overseas earnings. There are several ways in which that desirable state of affairs may be attained. This Government should give a lead to industry. I think it was Senator McKellar who stated recently, when he was referring to the overseas earnings of our primary industries, that 80 per cent, of those earnings was consumed by our secondary industries in the purchase of goods, such as materials and machinery, by industries such as those in Victoria, the State from which my colleague, Senator Wedgwood comes. I am sorry she is not in the chamber to hear what I have to say about her highly industrialized State. Our primary industries help to bring in money to keep the secondary industries going. Having regard to the fact that those industries consume so much of the earnings of the primary industries, there is a challenge to the secondary industries to earn more overseas. I believe that a national appeal should be made by the Commonwealth Government to try to make the secondary industries realize that they might do more. Because of high costs, many of our factories cannot compete on oversea - markets with the secondary industrir -d other countries. But the industrie- °* countries, such as those of r -* °* other have been able to compe* JWM Britain, tries could do so tr- –5> our indusindustries need ^ If our secondary to supply A1’ -««0*e money from overseas themsel” .-s^iian consumers and to keep pre^ «es going, those industries should be ^ared 16 sell their products at cost, or at Jiear cost, in order to help win overseas credits for this country.
– Should there be price control?
– I am not suggesting price control, but I am suggesting that a lead could be given by this Government by way of a serious appeal, with a view to making secondary industry aware of the necessity to do what I suggest. I believe that if our leaders got the leaders of industry together and discussed the matter with them, offering them some encouragement and guidance, industry would do something. I spoke in this strain some years ago. At that time, I mentioned that the Holden car was being sold overseas at a cheaper price than that for which it was being sold in Australia.
– Holdens can be sold cheaper in Japan because our high sales tax does not apply there.
– If secondary industry needs money for its own equipment and supplies, then surely it can put its shoulder to the wheel and help primary industry to bring more credit to Australia.
– Five years ago the Prime Minister appealed to secondary industries to do that, and they took not the slightest notice of him.
– The sugar industry sells its product cheaper overseas.
– It does, and that example could well be followed by secondary industry. Senator Kendall said that the Prime Minister had appealed to secondary industry some years ago. He did make an appeal by way of a public statement, but such appeals are of nf . x mined effort at er- - e- Some made. Confer ^ragement should be efforts mar’’ MCes should be held’ and that as - -* m otner ways« I mention merjt one avenue by which this Govern- . could foster overseas earnings.
Another avenue is the encouragement of the investment of greater amounts of overseas capital in Australia. The investment of overseas capital in Australia can be of great help to the nation although I do feel that the Government will have to consider making some effort to ensure that Australians will have the opportunity to enjoy some share of the returns from the industries that overseas capital helps to establish here. Whether it is made mandatory or whether it is done in other ways, I do think it essential that something be done to ensure that Australians have a share in the returns from those industries. It has to be remembered that after an industry has been established, we have to face the problem of the payment of dividends to overseas shareholders.
– If you made it mandatory, the overseas people would not invest here.
– They would be slower in investing, but the money would come in eventually because business is looking for investment to-day and at the moment Australia is one of the most stable countries.
Another means by which external earnings could be bolstered is the development of the tourist trade. Ever since I have been a member of this Senate, I have advocated the development of the tourist trade. In my opinion, the Commonwealth Government is not doing all that it should to foster overseas tourist traffic.
– What should be done?
Senaor WOOD. - The answer to that is very simple.
– Cut down the defence vote by £20,000,000 and spend it on the tourist industry.
– Senator Kendall has made a very wise suggestion, although I do not suggest that the amount should be £20,000,000. I feel that if £1,000,000 were spent on publicity overseas a tremendous increase in tourist traffic to Australia would follow.
Development of the tourist industry benefits not only those who make a living from providing accommodation and catering for the other needs of tourists, but also the country as a whole. Britain has recognized the importance of the tourist industry to its economy. In the same way, the Commonwealth Government could enjoy the benefit of a great deal more revenue by way of taxation on the money spent by tourists. At the present time, approximately 70,000 people visit Australia as tourists while another 3,000 call here on cruises. It is estimated that those 73,000 people spend about £3,500,000. Yet the Commonwealth Government contributes only £100,000 a year towards the development of the tourist trade! The total amount spent by the Government and other bodies is only £150,000 a year. By spending more on publicity, the present benefit to Australia could be increased many times.
Whenever I have mentioned this subject on previous occasions, I have been met with the reply that we do not have the necessary hotels in Australia. Let me emphasize now that in recent times there has been a great transformation in the hotel position.
– Especially in Adelaide.
– For its size, Adelaide was a city that was badly served by hotels for years. I know that Senator Hannaford has done much to encourage an improvement in this direction. There is now a very large hotel in Adelaide and several smaller hotels have been built. In Sydney, the Chevron-Hilton has just been opened. As yet, it is only partly completed, but, in a year or two, even judged by world standards, this will be looked upon as a large hotel. In Melbourne, the Hilton and the Pan American Airways hotel, the Southern Cross, are in course of construction. Hotels are also being built in the other capital cities and smaller towns throughout Australia.
– What about motels?
– I shall deal with them in a moment. Over the next two or three years, approximately £40,000,000 will be spent on new hotels in Australia, according to articles published recently in the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ and the Melbourne “ Herald “.
– How much will be spent in Victoria?
– About £15,000,000 in Melbourne, and about £20,000,000 in Sydney. Very shortly the dampeners will be deprived of the opportunity of saying that Australia does not have the hotels to cater for tourists. We shall have ample excellent accommodation for them.
Then we have the development of motels throughout the country. In almost every case these motels are providing modern accommodtion with private toilets and showers to each room. Australia should be proud of the tremendous improvement that has taken place in the standard of accommodation available to travellers. In many areas roads and services are being improved. Indeed, people everywhere are becoming tourist conscious. But I feel that we have now reached the stage where it is essential that something more be done to build up the tourist industry. Not only would this benefit those engaged in the industry, but it would greatly improve tax returns to the Commonwealth Government, for more tourists mean not only more profit to those who cater for them, but also more tax revenue as the result of higher consumption of tobacco, drink and so on.
– What about the consumption of sugar?
– More sugar would be consumed, and the more sugar that is consumed at the higher home-consumption price, the greater the benefit to Australia. I repeat that Great Britain and other countries have come to appreciate the tremendous benefit that can accrue from the spending of money by tourists. After all, it has to be remembered that the money left behind by tourists does not remain in the pockets of those to whom it has been paid for services rendered to tourists. That money is turned over again and again with the result that more and more profit is made from it and more and more employment is created by its expenditure. The tourist trade is important. Never let me hear these Jeremiahs saying that we cannot build up an international tourist trade here. We can do it, but it will take money and it will be to the advantage of the Commonwealth Government to spend more money on advertising this country overseas. The need for that is demonstrated by the fact that many visitors to Australia impress upon us just how little the people overseas know about this country. I remember that when the Australian High Commissioner in London, Sir Eric Harrison, returned to Australia, he said that a businessman in England had wanted to know whether we spoke English out here.
– Did they know in Australia House?
– I do not know about Australia House, but that indicates a lack of knowledge of this country. The quickest way of building up the tourist industry, now that we have more hotels and motels, is by expanding our publicity. I do not know of any way in which the Commonwealth can increase its overseas earnings quicker than by developing the tourist industry. We have the attractions and the facilities here. All that is needed is the publicity. The travel agencies throughout the world, which are keen on business, will see that the people are supplied with information which has been furnished by our own National Travel Association. Hotel people are responding magnificently, and I cannot help feeling that we have the ball at our feet. We have a great country and the opportunity is here. It is necessary for the Government to get on to it and tackle the job properly. As a nation we have concentrated a great deal of our thinking on international affairs, which, of course, are important, but I think that our own internal affairs are most important to us. Let us devote a little more concentration, energy and drive, to the development of our internal affairs. If we do, we shall build up a larger population, which will make us more powerful and give us a stronger voice in international affairs. After all, we are still comparatively a very small community by international standards.
Let me now deal with our three spheres of government - Federal, State and local. There is no doubt that the Federal Government is much the most fortunate. This is the parent parliament and it collects the taxes. The States depend to a very large extent upon what the Commonwealth Government passes to them. Local government bodies collect rates on properties but they have a very difficult task. They receive inadequate recognition; yet they are very important because they deal at first hand with the amenities and requirements of the people. A recent publication of the Australian Council of Local Government Associations shows that over a period of years local government bodies are losing the race. They are not receiving funds in the proportion that is their due. Something more should be done for local government upon which is imposed the necessity to provide services which make conditions happier and better for our many migrants, and’ which plays a very important part in the closer life of the community. I know that many honorable senators have served in various ways in local government. I can see in the chamber a former mayor of Launceston and a chairman of the Horsham Council. I see also a South Australian senator who was active in local government affairs. I know that the average parliamentarian has an affinity for local government. I plead for more consideration of local government when the Commonwealth is parcelling out money in the Loan Council and at Budget time.
I come from Queensland, which is a very big State. It has a better distribution of towns, cities and villages than has any other State of comparable size. Because of the spread of those centres throughout the State, Queensland requires a greater proportion of money than it has received. It has a small population and must provide services in sparsely settled areas. In those areas are very important people. They grow wool, meat and other primary products which are of vital importance to our economy. As a local government man, I have always believed it to be of the utmost importance to make conditions as attractive as possible for people in the outback and far northern regions. They should have assistance in the provision of good roads, which to them would be a blessing but to us are an absolute necessity. Also where possible they should have a water supply, which we take for granted. Queensland deserves special consideration. I opposed the existing Commonwealth Aid Roads scheme because of the changed formula for the allocation of funds in which Queensland was put at a disadvantage, losing almost £1,600,000 a year. Victoria, which has billiard-table roads nearly everywhere, got that money.
– It was our money.
– Senator Wade, being a Victorian, wants to help his State filch that money from Queensland. If he lived in Queensland he would be able conscientiously to put a stronger case for Queensland than he can conscientiously put for Victoria. Queensland needs as much money as possible for roads. A basis of distribution which had stood the test of time for many years, was changed, and that was a serious blow to Queensland. The number of motor vehicles registered was introduced into the formula, and1 this will continually favour the industrial centres at the expense of the primary producing States. There will be in the secondary industrial areas a quicker rate of growth than there will be in the primary industrial areas, because of the denser population. We will be more and more at a disadvantage as time goes on.
A more realistic outlook should be taken of the requirements of such States as Queensland. Recently the Queensland Government approached the Commonwealth for £1,500,000 to meet half the cost of building roads from the Channel country to three towns in western Queensland - Dajarra in the north, Winton in the centre, and Quilpie in the south. That proposal was turned down by the Commonwealth Government.
– The Commonwealth made available £20,000,000 for rebuilding the Mount Isa railway.
– In reply to Senator Laught, I say that the Commonwealth made a gift of about £16,000,000 to South Australia for the Leigh Creek railway whereas Queensland is getting a loan, which is to be repaid with interest, to rebuild the Mount Isa line, which will contribute as much to our external credits as does the whole of the Australian wheat industry. This is a wonderful investment being made by the Queensland Government and people in order to help the Commonwealth. All the Commonwealth did was to arrange the loan. That money is being paid back with interest. Where is the generosity in that?
Let us get back to this matter of the Channel country roads. If these roads were built, stock would be saved in time of drought. The Commonwealth Govern ment should adopt a better approach to the requirements of these areas, because beef is a very big income-earner for Australia. Queensland is the largest beef-producing State in the Commonwealth. If the Commonwealth Government cannot see that the saving of stock for export would be of real value to the country, it is displaying a lack of business sense and should spark itself up a little. The Commonwealth made a very bad decision when it decided not to provide assistance for the construction of these roads. However, the Queensland Government is going ahead with the project. I think it was the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) who said that the Commonwealth Government was helping Queensland in this matter. The Commonwealth is not passing out moneys to Queensland. These roads are being built with loan funds, for which the Queensland Government is paying.
– What is wrong with that?
– My colleague from South Australia asks, “ What is wrong with that? “ If I were to run through the list of gifts that South Australia has received from this Government and if the people of Queensland knew about them, there would be an outcry. (Extension of time granted.) I thank the Senate for giving me an extension of time. At some other time I shall give South Australian senators more details about those gifts. To a businessman, the provision of funds for the construction of the Channel roads would be a business proposition. This Government should approach the matter in that light.
– That is tripe.
– It is not tripe. I am quite prepared, when I have the time, to give details of the gifts to South Australia.
– If it is such a wonderful thing for Queensland to have these roads, what is wrong with their being built with loan funds?
– The money is not being provided from federal aid road funds but from loan funds.
– They have built many roads out of loan funds.
– The Minister for Customs and Excise is sparking up now. On one occasion I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he would give me a list of the things that had been done for Queensland and a list of the things that had been done for the other States, but he refused to do so. Some day I shall read a list of what has been done for the various States, and it will be seen that Queensland has received less from this Government than have the other States.
– Western Australia is at the bottom of the list.
– No, Western Australia is not below Queensland.
– Do not back down.
– I am not backing down. I know my facts.
– You do not know them. You say you will assess them later.
– I know my facts. It is all right for Commonwealth Ministers to tell the States to do this and that. The Minister for Customs and Excise is a downtoearth businessman, and if he were not in the Ministry he would agree with me. If he were to say that it would not be worth while for the Commonwealth Government to spend £1,500,000 on roads to save millions of pounds’ worth of stock from starvation, I would be surprised at his business acumen. But I know that he is a very sound businessman. There is no reason why the Commonwealth should not have granted funds for the construction of these roads.
I have spoken about the activities of government in the Commonwealth sphere; but I also say that the State governments should be careful to collect whatever revenue they can. I do not think it is right for the State governments to lean continually on the Commonwealth Government. Over the years we have seen State governments trying to pass the buck to the Commonwealth Government. I am not prepared necessarily to subscribe to all the opinions of the Government of which I am a supporter, or of a government which is of my colour of politics. I did not enter the Parliament to approve of everything that was being done. The State governments have responsibilities and they should live up to those responsibilities. I very much regret to say that the Queensland Government is not living up to its responsibility in a certain direction. Honorable senators know as well as- 1 do that we represent the people of the States from which we come and that at various times representations are made to us. In Queensland we have the problem of what is known as border hopping. That is a practice indulged in by people who operate motor transport to avoid the payment of road tax.
– Does section 92 of the Constitution not allow that?
– It allows genuine interstate operators to cross the border without payment of tax. A person who operates normally from New South Wales to Queensland is a genuine interstate operator. But in Queensland the border-hopping system has developed. People who operate vehicles from Toowoomba or other places in the Darling Downs area drive down to the Queensland border and then back up to Brisbane and do not pay road tax. That has developed into what I say is a racket. I regret to say that the Queensland Government has not faced up to this problem resolutely, with the result that each year it is losing many thousands of pounds in road tax. Motor transport operators have made serious inroads into rail transport revenue. Because they are not paying road taxes they are able to undercut opposition operators who are paying the tax and also the railways.
– What should the Queensland Government do about it?
– All it has to do is to have a truck operating from, say, Toowoomba to Brisbane followed. If the owners are not genuine interstate operators, they should be prosecuted and fined. If the Queensland Government had done that vigorously, it would have collected a considerable amount of revenue in fines. It is not policing these operators as vigorously as it should, with the result that railway revenue is going down the drain, and road taxes are not being collected. It is estimated that in the last two years or so there has been a loss of £5,000,000 in revenue.
– The Queensland Government could have used that for the roads you were talking about.
– I agree. What I am trying to emphasize is that the State governments have a responsibility to do their part. I am not suggesting that revenue should be used just for the construction of these roads, but it is money the Government could have collected.
Because of an increase in the size of the teaching profession in Queensland, 700 married women will be paid off from the teaching staffs in that State. Many people engaged on the construction of railways in Queensland have been paid off. Worse still, people engaged on irrigation schemes have been paid off. It is a bad thing to have to pay off people who can produce so much wealth for the country. The Queensland Government could increase its revenue by prosecuting people who are evading road taxes. The State Government knows what is going on but it will not face up to the problem. It is a sorry spectacle when governments are too weak to carry out their obligations. I regret having to make those remarks but road users who are paying taxes have no redress against road users who are evading the payment of taxes. In any event, courts are so congested with cases that an offender may not be tried for more than twelve months. When eventually he does appear before the c’ourt he is often dealt with as a first offender, and gets off with only a small fine. The people who are paying their road taxes are being strangled out of business by people who are cheating the Government. I speak very strongly on this matter and I hope that the Queensland Government will take measures to remedy the situation and give a fair go to the people who are prepared to abide by the law. If my remarks do not bear fruit I will have something more to say at a later stage.
I have spoken at length to-night, and some of the points that I have raised will not meet with the approval of everybody. That is inevitable. I hope that there is something constructive in what I have said. Problems are looming on the horizon and those problems relate to our internal position and the position of our primary industries. Serious thought must be given to the internal problems that confront us. To a large extent they are more important than our external problems. Serious thought must be given to improving the position of our primary industries as well as our secondary industries because the former can do much to earn overseas revenue for us. Australia is a land of great opportunity. Patriotic fervour is needed to achieve our goal in the world. The challenge exists and 1 hope that we will meet it. I support the motion before the Senate and I hope that any criticisms that are made in the course of this debate will be worthy of consideration by those people who are in a position to consider them.
– In the Budget debate one can cover a wide field. Initiating it the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) said -
Thus, in the matter of the Budget, the Government is following through the broad programme of economic policy measures announced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) last February. One of the main courses of action then proposed was to strengthen resistance to the rise in prices and costs and, in particular, to prevent large increases in the factors which affect costs generally. That was why the Government intervened in the basic wage proceedings and advised the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission of some of the consequences of granting further large wage increases before the economy had had time to absorb those made not long before.
That brings one immediately to the Government’s action in approaching the Arbitration Commission and virtually instructing it not to grant an increase in the basic wage on the pretext that the economy could not absorb it. We have never heard the Government or any of its supporters give any indication that it proposed to tackle the real cause of inflation - rising prices and profits. I was interested to hear Senator Wood to-night say that the inflationary spiral commenced in 1948. It is politically dishonest to take only the years between 1948 and 1950. In 1948, the Labour Government held a referendum in which it sought power to control prices on a national basis. But supporters of the present Government opposed the granting of that power, and the referendum was lost.
It cannot be denied that when the Curtin and Chifley Labour Governments used the Commonwealth’s defence power to control prices, the economy of this country was the most stable in the world. Is it not obvious that if you control wages and at the same time allow prices and profits to rise to any limit you have no hope of maintaining a stable economy? What does the Government propose to do about controlling prices and profits? The Government sees no wrong in the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited making a profit of more than £20,000,000 or issuing bonus shares to the value of £32,000,000. General Motors-Holden’s Limited last year made a profit of £15,000,000. The previous year it made a profit of about £10,000,000. Those profits were made on an original capital of less than £2,000,000. If something is not done to control such activity throughout the economy how can we maintain a stable economy and defeat inflation?
The Menzies Government was represented before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and opposed the wage increases sought by the unions. If the Government acclaims the great prosperity we are enjoying, as it does right throughout the country, is it not perfectly reasonable that the workers should be given their just share of that prosperity? The action taken by the Menzies Government on that occasion was unprecedented in Australia’s political history. Another aspect to which I wish to refer is the personnel of the Commonwealth Industrial Court. I hasten to assure you, Mr. Acting Deputy President, that I do not cast any reflection at all on the personal sincerity and integrity of the personnel of the court; but are the workers inspired to have confidence in the arbitration system when they find that the Commonwealth Industrial Court is presided over by a former senator who was not long ago AttorneyGeneral in this Government?
– Whom we admire.
– I am not casting any reflection on him personally, but it is not conducive to industrial harmony for the workers to realize that their cases are being judged by people whose whole training has been in an anti-working class atmosphere. It stands to reason that the workers cannot have complete confidence in an institution which is presided over by a person with that type of political training.
We must also take into account the fact that over the past few years the Commonwealth Industrial Court has been fast becoming an institution of coercion. We talk about conciliation and arbitration, as it was originally called, but conciliation in any form at all has long since disappeared from that institution. It is now operating as an institution of coercion. Take the recent case of the Seamen’s Union which was fined about £1,300.
– Because its members broke the law.
– Action is never taken against the employers. In any industrial turmoil at all the trade unions and the workers generally are always blamed by the powers that be. It stands to reason that if this method continues and if this institution is allowed to develop as an institution of coercion there can be no industrial harmony.
As everybody knows, the main problem in the economy to-day is the inflationary spiral, lt has been referred to as a profit inflation. The reason for that is perfectly obvious; profits in every sphere of business activity are soaring to astronomical heights. Yet, under this Budget a paltry increase of 5s. a week is given to the pensioners, bringing the full pension to the princely sum of £5 per week! The Government claims or implies that the pensioners should be satisfied with that paltry handout of 5s. a week. It is true that an increase of 10s. a week is being given to certain classes of repatriation pensioners.
When Senator Lillico was speaking in this debate, he said among other things that inflation can be controlled only by the concerted efforts of the people. I wholeheartedly agree with him in that respect; but can we find a concerted effort to control inflation in the action or inaction of the Menzies Government during its period of office? Everybody knows that in 1949 the party led by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) gave a solemn promise to the people of Australia that it would put value back into the £1. It is laughable to think of that now. That promise, like every other promise made by the Liberal Party, has been repudiated. Admittedly this Government has retained office since 1949, but every election has been fought by the Government parties on some extraneous matter which has taken the minds of the people away from the real issues at stake. Although a double dissolution was obtained over the banking legislation in 1951, throughout the subsequent election campaign banking was hardly mentioned at all by the Government parties. The whole election was fought on communism. When we came to the 1954 election there was the timing of the Petrov commission and the red herring of communism again obscured the real issues at stake during the election campaign.
As I said in connexion with the infamous phone tapping legislation which was recently passed through this Parliament, something similar is likely to happen before the next federal election. I believe I am justified in being a little afraid of something like that happening when 1 refer to a statement on which I asked a question to-day. The statement which appeared in the Melbourne “ Herald “ yesterday said:
No official comment is available on complaints by trade union leaders in Brisbane that their telephones are being tapped.
But on the basis of past experience it is probable that the security service is still bringing an average of one telephone service a month under scrutiny. Any tapping is being done under warrant under the strict provisions of the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Act, introduced last May.
Under this act a warrant specially issued for security reasons must be given to the AttorneyGeneral personally by the Director-General of Security. The possibility that the legislation would be used against Communist officials or left-wing union officials working with Communists was foreseen when the legislation was passed.
The Government has refused to furnish a return showing how many warrants for telephone tapping are being issued, or the names of people whose lines have been tapped.
When that phone tapping legislation was being discussed in this Parliament, I and other honorable senators expressed a fear that the legislation was aimed wholly and solely at union activity for the obvious reason that the bill stated that its purpose was to prevent sabotage, espionage and subversion. I mentioned that for the purposes of the legislation sabotage and espionage could be completely discarded because it was quite clear that if anybody intended to engage in sabotage or espionage he would not use a telephone, or if under special circumstances he was compelled to use a telephone, obviously he would use a code. It is not likely that A would telephone B and say, “ I will meet you down at Flindersstreet station. We will blow it up to-night.” A code would be used. Therefore, I repeat my statement, which is turning out to be true, that the main point in that legislation was subversion, and that any trade union activity or any criticism of the Government could come within the definition of subversion. The events enumerated in this latest press report indicate that that is exactly what that legislation is aimed at. It is aimed at the activities of the trade union movement in particular, and, of course, other activities may come within its ambit later.
Senator Lillico said that the economy was in danger. I think the words he used were, “ God help Australia if we are unfortunate enough to get another Labour government”. I said by way of interjection, and I repeat it now, “ God help Australia if we had not had a Labour government from 1941 onwards during the war “. It is history, and it cannot be denied, that in 1941 the Curtin Labour Government did not have a majority in either House. The Liberal Government from which Labour took over - if it called itself Liberal then, but at any rate the antiLabour Government - had the numbers in both Houses, but its leadership was such that it lost the confidence of its supporters. Everybody knows that the Labour Government came into office in 1941 without a majority in either House, and it steered this country through the gravest trial that it has ever faced. It did that not only with the approbation but also the admiration of its allies. All that is history now.
In reply to an interjection from this side of the chamber, Senator McCallum said that at the time Mr. Curtin assumed control in October, 1941, he praised the efforts of the Menzies Government. It is perfectly obvious that as the country was engaged in total war and the enemy was almost at our back door, an incoming Prime Minister would not say, for the benefit of the enemy, that the defences of the country were in a deplorable condition. It is perfectly obvious that for tactical reasons he would not say that. However, it does not alter the fact that after two years of total war from 1939 to 1941 about 200,000 people were still unemployed in Australia. I think Senator McCallum also said that Mr. Curtin, after he assumed office in 1941, received assistance from Mr. Menzies. I remind honorable senators that not very long after Mr. Menzies was appointed to the War Advisory Council, he resigned, apparently because he could not get his own way. It has been said of him that he cannot lead and will not follow. Very soon after he was appointed to the War Advisory Council he resigned from it. We have to be realistic; and I make these statements because of what Government supporters have said in relation to these matters.
I mentioned earlier that inflation is the bugbear of the country at the present time. It robs those on fixed incomes, and the pensioner in particular, of their share of the productivity of the country. The workers are being deprived of their just share of the prosperity that is claimed by the Government to exist at the present time. Not long ago a very statesmanlike statement was made by the Treasurer. It was couched in military parlance. He said that the Government was making a two-pronged attack on inflation. The first prong was that to which I have already referred, namely the approach by the Government to the Arbitration Commission in order to prevent the workers from receiving an increase in the basic wage. The second was the removal of import controls. One does not need to be a Philadelphia lawyer to know that if you remove import controls a greater flood of imports will naturally occur. These imports will come from cheap labour countries. The effects of the Japanese trade treaty are being felt at the present time and will continue to be felt to an increasing degree. With the entire removal of import controls the effect will bs felt to an increasing degree. It is perfectly obvious that if this country is to be flooded with goods from cheap labour countries unemployment will occur throughout Australia.
This Government is doing nothing about that matter. It shelters behind the excuse that it is handicapped by constitutional restrictions. It did make some pretence of being concerned about its lack of constitutional power when in 1956 it set up an all-party committee to consider the Constitution. As a matter of fact the terms of reference can be briefly summed up by saying that the committee was appointed by resolution of the House of Representatives on 24th May, 1956, and was charged with reviewing such aspects of the working of the Constitution as the committee considered it could most profitably consider, and to make recommendations for such amendments of the Constitution as the committee thought necessary in the light of experience. That committee was an allparty committee comprised of six members from the Government side and six members of the Opposition. It was appointed in 1956 and it made extensive inquiries throughout this country. It brought down unanimous recommendations to the Government which it presented in 1958 and 1959.
– Not unanimous.
– They were almost unanimous. There was only one man out, and that is near enough to unanimous. The report was presented to the Government in 1959, but nothing has been done about it. It stands to reason that if the economy of this country is to be efficiently controlled more constitutional power must be obtained by this Parliament, but this Government has done nothing whatever about that problem. I believe I am correct in saying that I do not think it has even considered the report. That is borne out by an interjection by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) to the effect that the report was only a socialistic report. I remind honorable senators that the committee which brought down that report, and almost unanimously made recommendations for constitutional reform, was comprised of members from the Government side in equal numbers with members of the Opposition. It was comprised of prominent Government supporters and Opposition members.
If the Commonwealth Government is to control the economy efficiently it must have power to make company law uniform throughout Australia. It must also have power to prevent restrictive trade practices and to control hire-purchase interest rates. It must have power on a national basis to control the economy of the country and keep it on a stable basis. As it is now 10.30 o’clock I ask for leave of the Senate to continue my remarks on the next day of sitting.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I was under the impression that the Senate proposed to rise at 10.30 p.m. I have no desire to delay honorable senators, particularly as this matter has been debated in both Houses of the Parliament. I may say that Senator Wood thwarted me by using some of the material that I had intended to use. However, I shall have other comments to make about particular matters when the Appropriation Bill is before the Senate.
This Government appointed a committee to consider constitutional reform, which I think is one of the most important matters confronting the nation to-day, and if the Government were sincere it would consider the report of that committee and submit certain of its recommendations to the people at a referendum. I have no doubt that all parties would support a referendum to obtain for the Commonwealth the powers that the committee thought it should have. Obviously, we cannot continue with the present limited powers of the Commonwealth, particularly in regard to restrictive trade practices, over which the Commonwealth
Government has no power whatever. When the constitutional position is considered, we must agree that the words of Mr. Scullin, spoken in the 1930’s, are just as true to-day as they were then. He said, “ We are political mummies in a constitutional tomb “. Because of the complexity of our economy, our constitutional position is becoming worse every year. We constantly see matters arising for consideration that were never thought of in previous years. It is absolutely necessary for this Parliament to be clothed with greater constitutional power than it has at present. I commend to the Government a very close scrutiny of the reports submitted to it by the all-party committee on constitutional reform and I urge it to attempt to secure more power for the Commonwealth Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I am sorry for any inconvenience that Senator Sandford may have suffered. We thought that the arrangement was for the Senate to sit on to conclude the debate on the Estimates and Budget Papers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.34 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 September 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1960/19600920_senate_23_s18/>.