23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - It is with very great regret, Mr. Deputy President, that I inform the Senate of the death of Mr. T. F. Timson, the member for Higinbotham in the House of Representatives. I think, Sir, that most honorable senators are aware that our late friend and colleague, Frank Timson, passed away suddenly while at Seoul, Korea. He had led the Australian delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Union meeting in Tokyo which had been held towards the end of September and early in October. It is a source of great satisfaction to look back at the messages that were received from members of the delegation, expressing their appreciation of the capable way in which he had led our delegates to that important meeting. The meeting in Tokyo having ended, he then led an Australian goodwill mission to Korea, where his untimely death occurred.
I propose to record Frank Timson’s parliamentary career. He was elected to the House of Representatives as member for Higinbotham at the general election of 1949. He was re-elected at the subsequent general elections of 1951, 1954, 1955 and 1958. In 1953 he was elected Temporary Chairman of Committees of the House of Representatives. Those of us who knew him well know that that appointment gave him very great satisfaction, because Frank was always tremendously interested in parliamentary affairs and parliamentary procedure. It is pleasant to remember how pleased he was at the time he received that appointment.
From 1956 to 1958, he was a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs. He led the Commonwealth parliamentary delegation at the inauguration of the Legislative Council for Papua and New Guinea in 1951, and this year, he was one of the two councillors representing Australia at the spring meetings of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Council and Study Committees which were held in Athens. After the meeting at Athens, he went to lead the delegation to Tokyo, and from there to Korea.
It is always difficult, Mr. Deputy President, to find the appropriate words to say on an occasion like this. One gives the record and recites the contribution that Frank Timson has made in the Commonwealth Parliament, but the bare record itself is so inadequate. I think it is correct to say that there was no more respected and popular member on either side of either of the two Houses of Parliament than Frank Timson. It was not only what he did in the Parliament itself that earned him such respect, but the fact that he took such a leading role on our side of politics in all the study groups, committees and social activities that aTe part of our parliamentary life. It seemed to be almost inevitable that, when he joined any such group, he would be appointed one of its office bearers. Those who were closely associated with him will remember that almost always he was chairman or the secretary of a group or committee, or otherwise helped those concerned in these activities.
To us who knew him so well, it is sad that he has passed on at the early age of 51 years, when we all thought that life held so much in store for him. It is not that Frank Timson would have worried about that so much; he was never at any stage during his parliamentary career a seeker of office. I think that one of our nicest memories of him will always be his selfeffacement. He was always hesitant and reticent and never pushed himself forward to take a leading role. He was always being asked to do something - to assume some position. His ability was as undoubted as his sincerity. He never took on a job without applying himself completely to it, mastering it and trying to give service in it.
In saying these things, one tries to express in words one’s own impression of Frank Timson. I just want to say, as one who in the hurly-burly of this political life does not see nearly enough of his fellow parliamentarians as he would like to see, that the outstanding impression that Frank Timson always left with me was one of gentlemanly sincerity. He was a most courteous chap.
I do not remember an occasion on which he was upset or off balance. He always had that friendly, gentlemanly, courteous air of sincerity. He was always eager to help, to co-operate and to play his part in giving a helping hand.
Mr. Deputy President, Frank Timson leaves brothers and sisters. 1 am sure that the members of this Senate would like them to know that in this time of their great sorrow they are in our thoughts and that we are thinking of the cross they are carrying. We hope that what we think of Frank Timson and the things we say about him will ease the burdon of grief that they are carrying.
Mr. Deputy President, I formally move ;
That the Senate expresses its deep regret at the death of Thomas Frank Timson, M.B.E., member of ihe House of Representatives for the division of Higinbotham, places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service and tenders its profound sympathy to the members of his family in their bereavement.
– I second the motion. I subscribe very readily to every word that the Leader of the Government used in supporting the motion. All members of the Opposition learned with grief and shock of the sudden passing of Mr. Frank Timson when he was far from Australia engaged on duty representing the members of the National Parliament. The details of his history, given by Senator Spooner, show that almost the whole of the last twenty years of his life was devoted to the service of his country. He served with ability and distinction in various capacities in several theatres throughout the long years of the last war. He rose to the rank of major and was honoured by Her Majesty the Queen for distinctive service during the course of the war. For the past eleven years he has served the nation in this Parliament as the member for Higinbotham. I have heard from those who served with him during the war of the high quality of his service. I have heard from fellow parliamentarians who were in close association with him of the quality of his work in the National Parliament. All that I have heard confirms the assessment that I was able to make for myself of him. Although criticism of a member’s words and actions is of the very essence of living in and about this Par liament, I have never heard, nor do I know a member of the Opposition who has ever heard, one word of censure applied to the late Frank Timson. That rare record was due to the warm, human and truly friendly nature of the late member and to the fact that always he was a gentleman. We of the Opposition deplore his passing at the zenith of his powers. We offer our deepest sympathy to his bereaved relatives, to his colleagues of the Government parties and to the electors of Higinbotham.
– The members of the Australian Country Party desire to be associated with the motion before the Senate. We regret the death of Thomas Frank Timson, who was a member of the House of Representatives for a Victorian electorate. He died on Sunday last after a very short illness. I am sure that news of his death came as a great shock to all those who knew him, especially the members of this Parliament. He always appeared to me to be blessed with good health, and when I first read of his death in the newspapers I thought that he must have met with a fatal accident.
Looking back over the past eleven years one is reminded of the great character that Frank Timson always displayed. One of his chief characteristics was his great friendliness. Whatever subject was under discussion, he was always keenly interested. It is to be deeply regretted that so promising a career has been cut off at such an early stage. I understand that Mr. Timson was only 51 years of age.
His military service during World War II. was very distinguished and he was honoured by the Queen for it. I came into close contact with him in the work that he did on behalf of his former comrades after the war. In his quiet way, he did much good work in Victoria. He was one of the regular visitors to the Anzac Hostel, which is a repatriation hospital in Melbourne where ex-servicemen who are very severely incapacitated are looked after. I met Mr. Timson on quite a number of occasions when he was visiting men in the hostel, and I found out that his other work on behalf of returned soldiers was quite extensive. It was done quietly, with no ostentation, and very few people knew about it. We all regret that a man of so much ability should have passed away at such an early age, and we offer our deepest sympathy to his brothers and sisters in their very sad loss.
– The Democratic Labour Party associates itself with the expressions of regret that have been uttered at the passing of Mr. Timson. We respected him as one who was always assiduous and conscientious in the performance of his parliamentary and other public duties and we held him in very high regard because of his kindly and attractive personality. We all regret his passing and we offer our sympathy to his relatives.
– I should like to join in this tribute to Mr. Frank Timson, who was a friend of mine for the last eleven years. I first met him before he entered this Parliament, while he was in the process of standing the first time to gain a seat in it. There is little that one can add to what has already been said. His service in the Army was full of incident and excitement, from the time when he was an intelligence officer with the Sixth Australian Division in the Middle East to the time when - if my memory serves me aright - he stood on the deck of the battleship “ Missouri “ and saw the signing of the instrument of surrender by the Japanese at the completion of the war.
He was a good man - kind, intelligent, hard-working, courageous and, above all, friendly. There are not so many men of that calibre, either in this Parliament or in Australia, that we can afford to lose any of them. I regret the death of my friend. It may serve to remind us of those words of John Donne, “ Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” In this case, it tolls for all of us.
– As a Victorian, and one who had a great fondness for the late Frank Timson, I join with other senators in the expressions of condolence to his brothers and sisters. Frank Timson was a grand man. I do not believe that any man either inside or outside the Parliament could say otherwise. He was courteous and never seemed to get ruffled. I am certain that Victoria and the nation as a whole are poorer for his passing. I personally tender to his relatives my sincere sympathy at his untimely death.
– I wish to associate myself with the motion, which expresses regret at the passing of Mr. Frank Timson. I knew him very well indeed. For some time he had been my co-delegate on the executive of the Victorian Division of the Liberal Party, and his room in the Commonwealth Parliament Offices adjoined mine. He was a valued parliamentary colleague, and, privately, he was a much loved friend of my husband, my family and myself.
During his school days, when in the Forces, and later in his parliamentary life, Frank Timson never made an enemy. His gentle, kindly nature won him many friends. His upright character and integrity earned for him the respect of all sections of the community. To me, Frank Timson’s loss u a personal one; but I believe that his name will remain as that of one of the great Australians who have been members of this Parliament. He died serving the country that he loved so well.
I should like to express my sympathy to his brothers and sisters and to say, for myself, “Vale Frank”.
– I should like to be associated with the motion of condolence which arises from the death of a member of the House of Representatives and a friend of mine, Mr. Frank Timson, while on parliamentary duty in Korea. Frank was one of a number of us who came to the Parliament in the early 1950!s, and as parliamentarians we grew up together. I had the pleasure and Hie honour to be closely associated with him on a Government members committee which travelled not only through Victoria but throughout the length and breadth of Australia. Wherever Frank went he made many friends, and his advice was always sought. He played a very great part in the parliamentary life of Canberra. We who knew him so well will miss him terribly. ‘As I indicated, I wish to have my name associated with the condolences that go to his sisters and brothers in Victoria.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable senators standing in their places.
– I suggest, Mr. Deputy President, that as a mark of respect to the memory of the late Thomas Frank Timson, M.B.E., the sitting of the Senate bc suspended until 8 p.m.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- The sitting will be suspended accordingly.
Sitting suspended from 3.25 to 8 p.m.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is he aware that the general efficiency of the service given by Trans-Australia Airlines appears to be deteriorating rapidly, and that the service was never worse than it is at the present time? Is he also aware that the customers of T.A.A. are losing confidence in its service because of the increasing number of occasions when flights are delayed, without any explanations being made? Will the Minister appoint a company of efficiency experts to examine the general administration of T.A.A., the management of and the methods observed in the workshops, and the system of recording necessary repair and maintenance work on aircraft?
– I am somewhat taken aback by the question asked by the honorable senator. It is not within my knowledge - indeed I would reject any such imputation - that the service given by T.A.A. has reached the level of inefficiency. On the contrary, I think it is generally agreed that T.A.A. gives a service of very great efficiency, and I would remind the honorable senator that it was only last year that the organization earned for itself the distinction of winning an international award for efficiency in airline operations. To me that does not spell inefficiency within T.A.A. , which is a vital organization in which every one, from the chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission to the most junior employee, takes a pride. I certainly would not consider asking a firm of efficiency experts to examine T.A.A.
It comes as a great shock to me to hear - even from Senator Benn, who, as far as I know, has no technical knowledge - that the workshop organization of T.A.A. is deficient in any way. I will refer the question to T.A.A. and ask for comment in detail on the imputations contained in it
– My question also is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. I invite the Minister’s attention to the fact that the Postmaster-General’s Department in South Australia provides for three clearances only on week days of the principal letter pillar at the Adelaide airport, and that there is a gap of nearly eleven hours between the mid-day clearance and the evening clearance. Will the Minister discuss with the Postmaster-General the possibility of making more frequent clearances of such an important letter pillar? It would appear that a letter posted after mid-day at the Adelaide airport on one day would not now, in the ordinary course, reach the General Post Office in Melbourne until an hour or so before lunch the next day, despite there being a number of available air services in the meantime. Could separate post office bags be made available at principal airports for use until just prior to the departure of an aircraft, so that letters for carriage by that aircraft could be posted in them? I understand that, in the case of surface mail, that practice has been followed at principal railway stations for many years.
– I am not familiar with the details of the mail services ex Adelaide airport; but from what Senator Laught has said, I gather that there is some cause for complaint. I will be only too pleased to discuss the whole question with my colleague, the Postmaster-General, in order to see whether any improvement can be effected.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister for Customs and Excise, by referring to the statement of Mr. G. T. Cuthbert, chief electrical inspector for Victoria, that since the lifting of import restrictions, considerable quantities of electrical goods are being imported into Australia from certain countries and the goods do not conform to our standards and are dangerous. For example, in some electrical goods the earth wires are coloured red instead of green, which is the normal practice in Australia. I ask the
Minister: Has the Department of Customs and Excise any powers or responsibilities regarding such imports which are likely to be dangerous? If it has not, with whom does the responsibility lie to inform prospective Australian customers and overseas manufacturers of the danger, with a view to remedial action?
– The honorable senator’s question is very interesting. I should have thought that the responsibility for standards would lie within the jurisdiction of the State governments. However, I am not satisfied with that answer, which I have given off the cuff. If the honorable senator will put the question on the noticepaper, I will ascertain the facts in relation to this matter, which has not previously been brought to my notice.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for National Development, relates to a question which I asked him a few weeks ago in regard to the then newly-announced discovery of iron ore at Augusta in the south-west of Western Australia. Can the Minister comment upon the press statement in the “ West Australian “ last Thursday in which it was announced that Japanese interests proposed to request a licence to export iron ore from this deposit with a view to establishing a sponge iron industry centred on this deposit? Can the Minister throw any further light on this question now, following the lapse of time?
– The Government has received an application for a licence to export 500 tons of iron ore - I think that is the figure - for the purpose of making experiments overseas in order to ascertain whether the iron ore is suitable for transformation into sponge iron. The application before the Government is not from any Japanese interests; it is from a trading firm which is known in Australia. The application is being made for the export of this trial parcel entirely for experimental purposes. I have not heard previously that any Japanese interests are associated with the application. My information was that the company made inquiries about the country in which the experiments could be best carried out and decided finally to have the experiments carried out in Japan. I do not know any more than that. The only information I have is that the decision was made that it was better to have the experiments carried out in Japan than elsewhere. That application for the export licence is before the Government. A decision has not yet been made on it.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. Does the Minister know whether the material that may be exported for these experiments is haematite or limonite?
– I am sorry that I cannot answer the question offhand. I noticed that the newspaper report directly named the Augusta deposits, but my recollection is not clear as to whether there was a request for exports to be made from particular deposits. My recollection is that the request was for the export of iron ore of a lower grade, such as of ore with a 30, 40 or 45 per cent, iron content, by contrast with the standard grade of, I think, about 60 per cent., that is used in the Australian steel industry. I am sorry that I cannot differentiate between the two types of iron ore that Senator O’Flaherty has mentioned.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, is concerned with the critical position of the dried fig industry in South Australia. I preface the question by stating that I am aware that South Australian supporters of the Government in the Senate and in another place have already approached the Minister for Trade on this matter, and I am informed that the Minister, while agreeing to a tariff inquiry, which may take some time, has rejected other proposed channels of assistance. I ask: Is the Minister aware that in the case of some growers figs represent more than 25 per cent, of the total crop and are not, as has been suggested, just a side line? Does the Minister know that there are in the Berri and Barmera packing sheds approximately nine tons of the 1959 crop and 45 tons of the 1960 crop still unsold? Does the Minister also know that a large shipment of Turkish figs is on the high seas, on the way to Australia, for which merchants are eagerly waiting because they can secure far greater profits from imported figs than from locally-grown figs? Finally, in view of this position, will the Minister take urgent and immediate steps to preserve an Australian industry against foreign interests?
– The honorable senator commenced his question by stating that representations had already been made to my colleague. He immediately placed me at a disadvantage, because I have not heard of the representations. Having implicit confidence in my colleague, I am sure that he will do his utmost to assist this industry. In the circumstances, I think it is better to let Mr. McEwen answer the question himself, and I therefore suggest that the honorable senator place the question on the notice-paper. I am certain that what Mr. McEwen can do in the matter he will do.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation, is on similar lines to that asked by my colleague, Senator Laught. By way of brief preface, may I say that at midday yesterday in Hobart I had an important letter for delivery in Melbourne. As I was flying to Melbourne by Ansett-A.N.A. aircraft that evening, I thought it best to take the letter with me and post it at the airport. On arrival at Essendon airport at 6.30 p.m., I found there was no collection of mail from the airport after 3.45 p.m. I therefore ask whether the Minister will request the Postmaster-General to provide an improved mail collection service for Essendon airport, as there is no clearance of letters after 3.45 p.m. on week-days, only one clearance on Saturdays, and none at all on Sundays. I point out that a letter posted at mid-day in Hobart would be delivered in Melbourne earlier than one posted at Essendon at 4 p.m. on the same day.
– Yes, I shall bc pleased to discuss this matter with my colleague, the Postmaster-General. For myself, I have no knowledge of the mail services referred to, but I shall take the matter up and let the honorable senator know what can be done to effect an improvement.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. During the last two or three weeks, there have been two eyewitness reports from Tasmania and one from Victoria of the sighting of air-borne objects known as flying saucers. Will the Minister inform the Senate whether these reports of air-borne objects have been accepted officially by the Department of Defence, or whether the air-borne objects are part of our defence system? Can he say whether investigations have been carried out to test the authenticity of these numerous reports so as to allay the concern that many people may entertain because of their growing frequency?
– Perhaps, Mr. Deputy President, this question could more appropriately have been addressed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. I have seen the newspaper reports but I must say that 1 have read them with some reservation. 1 have not heard any official comment upon them. I have heard a little lighthearted exchange of views, and I think I can say, on behalf of the Minister for Defence, that he does not accept the reports as something that should cause us to go to the length of remodelling our defence programme.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Acting Prime Minister has furnished the following reply:- 1 and 2. Official records have been examined and indicate that the “ Montevideo Maru “ sailed from Rabaul on 22nd June, 1942, and was torpedoed and sunk by an American submarine on 1st July, 1942, off the coast of Luzon.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
Paragraph 9 on page 2: Comparison of weighting patterns.
Appendix A on page 7: Comparison of index movements.
Appendix B on pages 8 to 10: A list of items of the new index, wherein items not included in the C series index are marked with an asterisk.
SenatorBROWN asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Because of the many and varied statement’s made recently concerning foreign capital invested in Australia, will the Treasurer inform the Senate of the amounts of such capital invested during the past ten financial years?
SenatorPALTRIDGE. - TheTreasurer has furnished the following answer: -
Capital inflow into Australia can be defined in a number of different ways. In the following table, giving figures of capital inflow over the past ten years, it has been interpreted to include the following: -
Foreign capital subscribed to government loans raised in overseas countries less repayments and redemptions of such loans.
Foreign capital invested in Australia through the ploughing back of profits earned by Australian subsidiaries and branches of overseas companies.
Net remittances of foreign capital to Australia for investment in companies in Australia or inpublic authority securities domiciled in Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The following answer has been supplied: -
asked the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
What was the total amount incurred in respect of car expenses for each federal Minister, including the Prime Minister, during the financial year 1959-60?
– The following answer has been supplied: -
Detailed information has not been dissected and it is not available to the honorable senator.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for two months be granted to Senator Maher on account of absence overseas.
Motion (by Senator McKenna) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence be granted to Senator Cooke for two months on account of absence overseas.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) proposed - That the bill be now read a first time.
– I did not wish to delay the Senate by speaking to the motion for the first reading of this bill, but I have tried unsuccessfully to obtain information in connexion with some matters that concern the appropriation of funds, and 1 take this opportunity to raise them again in order to see whether the Ministers will obtain the required information for me. On 28th September, upon notice, I asked a question in relation to the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. As I daresay every honorable senator knows, that bureau sends out forms to every business man in Australia, whether he be in business in a big or a small way, and irrespective of what he sells or buys. There are many thousands of such people throughout Australia. The information sought on the forms is required every three months. It would not be so bad if the forms were sent out every twelve months, because it would then be merely a matter of copying information from an income tax return. The forms contain a kind of threat in relation to failure to fill them in.
On 28th September, I asked the Minister representing the Treasurer whether it was compulsory for these forms to be filled in every three months, but so far I have not received a reply. Surely the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) should be able to give a reply to a simple question of that nature within that time. If he does not know, or if other Ministers do not know, whether it is compulsory, how is the general public to know? I asked the question because, if the forms are to be filled in with accuracy, it will cost business people a considerable amount of money to take stock every three months, and this cost will be added to the price of goods that they sell. We know that businesses take stock every twelve months for income tax purposes. To ask them to take stock every three months is to impose an extra burden which, in the end, the general public will have to carry. A business man in a very small way would incur at least an extra expense of £40 a year, a business of intermediate size would incur an extra expense of £100 a year, and a big business would incur an extra expense of many hundreds of pounds a year, in taking stock every three months. I do not know whether it is compulsory to fill in the forms, but a couple of friends have asked me to find out. The Minister has not yet given any reply. I raise this matter because I believe that this is an extra burden on the people that could be avoided. It reduces productivity and it requires the collection of extra revenue in taxation.
I also asked how many people were employed by the Commonwealth Statistician, but so far I have not a reply to that question either. The Bureau of Census and Statistics must employ many thousands of persons. When we think that the employment of 1,000 persons costs Australia at least £1,000,000 a year, the total cost must run into many millions of pounds. I have repeatedly heard honorable senators opposite say that figures prepared by the Bureau of Census and Statistics are near enough to being accurate. But here we have a form which asks people to give an estimate. What kind of statistics will we get if we ask people to make an estimate when they are not in a position to give a factual statement of stocks sold, stock on hand, stock to be bought, and matters of that nature? However, I shall not dwell upon the subject at this stage, because I shall have an opportunity to deal with it later. I raise the matter now because, if I do not get a reply soon, I shall speak at some length on it during the debate on this measure.
– in reply - I regret that as yet no answer has been furnished to Senator Aylett. I shall certainly do my best to see that he is provided with the information he seeks before we consider the detailed estimates for the Department of the Treasury. May I say that I have a nostalgic memory of the form to which he refers. When Labour was in office and before I was elected to the Parliament, I had rather harsh thoughts about these forms which were sent around by the Bureau of Census and Statistics.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this measure is to appropriate from revenue amounts which are required to meet expenditure on the ordinary services of departments. The bill provides for the appropriation of £475,533,000 for the services of the year 1960-61. The sum of £266,856,000 has already been granted under the Supply Act No. 37 of 1960, so that the total estimated expenditure from annual appropriations for ordinary services during 1960-61 is £742,389,000. The amounts for the several departments are shown in the schedule to the bill.
The expenditure proposals of the Government have already been outlined in the Budget Speech, and further explanations that may be sought by honorable senators will be provided at the committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
.- Through you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) to outline the procedure that it is intended to follow in considering the estimates for the various departments.
– I propose to do so after the committee has disposed of clauses 1 and 2.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 agreed to.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) agreed to -
That clauses 3 and 4 and the First Schedule be postponed until after consideration of the Second Schedule.
– I move -
That the votes in the Second Schedule be considered in the following order: -
Prime Minister’s Department, £3,681,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Prime Minister’s Department, £5,696,000.
War and Repatriation Services - Reconstruction and Rehabilitation - University Training, £20,000.
Department of Trade. £2,141,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Trade, £857,800.
Department of National Development, £2,158,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of National Development, £1.604,700.
War Services Homes Division, £1,170,000.
Australian Atomic Energy Commission, £2,393,000.
Department of Defence, £1,342,000.
Recruiting Campaign, £486,000.
Postmaster-General’s Department, £109,688,000.
Broadcasting and Television Services, £11,346,000.
Department of Civil Aviation, £12,401,000.
Department of Shipping and Transport, £1,306,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Shipping and Transport- £3,841,000.
Construction of Jetty for Handling Explosives, £520,000.
Commonwealth Railways, £4,594,000.
Department of Air. £63,278,000.
Department of the Treasury, £12,907,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of the T reasury, £586,500.
Refunds of Revenue. £26,000,000.
Advance to the Treasurer, £16,000,000.
Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve, £125,743,000.
War and Repatriation Services - Miscellaneous - Department of the Treasury, £92,500.
War and Repatriation Services - Recoverable Expenditure, £133,000.
Department of Customs and Excise, £4,934,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Customs and Excise. £40.700.
Department of Supply, £21,221,000.
Department of the Army, £65,639,000.
Department of Health, £2,248,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Health, £1,027,400.
Payments to or for the States, £577,000.
Department of Immigration, £2,205,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Immigration, £9,252,000.
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, £7,570,000.
Miscellaneous Services - C.S.I.R.O., £166,000.
Department of the Navy, £44,716,000.
Attorney-General’s Department, £2,346,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Attorney-General’s Department, £93.500.
Department of External Affairs, £2,943,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of External Affairs, £2,158,300.
International Development and Relief, £5,552,500.
Economic Assistance to support defence programme, South-East Asia Treaty Organization member countries, £650,000.
Department of Labour and National Service, £2,497,000.
Post Discharge Re-settlement Training, £1000.
Department of Primary Industry, £2,012,000.
Miscellaneous Services- Department of Primary Industry, £797.000.
Bounties and Subsidies, £13,500,000.
Reconstruction and Rehabilitation, £1,794,000.
Repatriation Department, £93,868,000.
Department of Social Services, £3,829,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Social Services, £1,730,000.
War and Repatriation Services - Department of Social Services, £16.000.
Department of the Interior, £5,779.000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of the Interior, £123,600.
Civil Defence, £300,000.
War and Repatriation Services - Department of the Interior, £330,000.
Australian War Memorial, £95,500.
Australian Capital Territory, £4,881,000.
Department of Territories, £354,000.
Northern Territory, £6,822,000.
Norfolk Island. £32,000.
Papua and New Guinea, £14,647,000.
Cocos (Keeling) Islands, £54,900.
Christmas Island, £100.
Department of Works, £4,289,000.
I think that every honorable senator is in possession of a copy of the list in which the various departments under each of the five Senate Ministers are detailed in three stages. The purpose of the arrangement suggested is to provide for an orderly debate. We have had the experience in the past of the debate getting somewhat out of hand, and it has been thought that by putting the matter down in black and white in the form that is before honorable senators now we will avoid that on this occasion. I might say further that, for the convenience of the Senate and for the convenience of Ministers, it would be preferable that, within each stage, the items should be debated in the order in which they appear on the list. We can dispose or the items one by one as we proceed. In the first stage we have Divisions Nos. 121 to 130, “ Prime Minister’s Department. £3,681,000”, and Divisions Nos. 622 to 626, “ Miscellaneous Services - Prime Minister’s Department, £5,696.000”.It would be in order, I think, for honorable senators to skip from one item to another within those two headings but in the main it is suggested that we keep to the order set out in the list before us.
I suggest further that,to prevent the inconvenience which has occurred in other years, honorable senators referto the Appropriation Bill rather than to the printed Estimates. In that way our page numbers will coincide.
– The proposal outlined by the Minister for Civil Aviation has been made known to the Opposition and we are in agreement with it. We think that it will meet the convenience of Ministers and their officers and make for an orderly debate.
– I should like to ask one question. It is said that certain work has to be completed by the week ending 20th October.In view of the unfortunate occurrence that caused the Senate to adjourn this afternoon does the Minister still propose to adhere to that programme?
– The answer to the very pertinent question asked by Senator Kennelly is thatI should like to adhere to the time-table proposed. However, I recognize that we lost some hours this afternoon, and 1 will not be unreasonable in regard to that.
.- When the Minister for Civil Aviation was explaining how the Senate should discuss these matters, he mentioned certain headings and suggested that, if necessary, honorable senators could discuss any matters under heading No. 1 and No. 2.
– Headings No. 2 and No. 3.
– First ot all, we have the proposed vote for the Parliament. Then there is the proposed vote for the Prime Minister’s Department. The proposed vote for Miscellaneous Services is a separate heading altogether. I take it that the Minister means that we can discuss the items mentioned in Division No. 625, which comes under Miscellaneous Services, when we are discussing the Prime Minister’s Department.
– I am sorry if I did not make myself clear. I might not have explained the position as well as I should. The proposal is that the first proposed vote that appears on the list at page 6 of the bill -“Parliament.. £1,312,000 “-be discussed first of all. Then 1 referred to the second and third votes. The second is the vote for the Prime Minister’s Department and the third is the vote for Miscellaneous Services - Prime Minister’s Department. I suggested that honorable senators could skip from one to the other, because both deal with the Prime Minister’s Department. I am now reminded that within that second group we could include, not only headings Nos. 2 and 3, but also heading No. 4, as that comes under the Prime Minister’s Department.
– I should like to bc quite clear on what the Minister proposes in relation to the miscellaneous section. If he will refer to page 97 of the bill he will follow my question. Division No. 622 contains a large number of items dealing with the Prime Minister’s Department. Then we have Divisions Nos. 625 and 626, also dealing with the Prime Minister’s Department. Is the Minister proposing that we take each of the items in Division No. 622 in order? The difficulty is that an honorable senator who rises will not know whether any other honorable senator is interested in a prior item in that division. put it to the Minister that there could not very well be a firm rule about the order in which those items should be debated unless each item were called. If we were to call each item, it might prove to be a laborious process. I think we should have an understanding on both sides of the chamber that there will be some elasticity in moving from one item to another in a division.
– There certainly will have to be some elasticity. The proposed vote for the Prime Minister’s Department is shown on page 9 of the bill. Then on pages 97 and 98 there are Divisions Nos. 622, 625 and 626, which deal also with the Prime Minister’s Department. While we are discussing the proposed vote for the Prime Minister’s Department, any honorable senator, if he cares to do so, may speak, for example, on Division No. 121, on page 9 of the bill. He may be followed by another honorable senator who speaks on one of the items listed under Miscellaneous Services. I think the adoption of that procedure will enable consideration of the Estimates to proceed in an orderly manner, while not imposing any undue restrictions on individual honorable senators.
– Before I put the motion I wish to make a request from the chair. If an honorable senator follows the suggested procedure, I ask that he indicate the division on which he is speaking in order to keep the Chair informed of the matter being debated. Otherwise the debate will get completely out of hand.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed Vote, £1,312,000.
– I address myself briefly to the estimates of the Parliament.
I am concerned about one major question only. I refer to the work of the Constitutional Review Committee. Back in October, 1958, that committee submitted quite a large number of recommendations affecting the Parliament. In November, 1959, it gave all its reasons and arguments in support of the recommendations. The recommendations in relation to the Parliament had almost the unanimous support of members of the committee. On some of the recommendations members were unanimus. There were five or six such recommendations. For two years the Government has had an opportunity to consider those recommendations affecting the work of this Parliament, the relationship of the Houses, deadlocks, terms of senators and the prevention of gerrymandering in the divisions of the House of Representatives. We in the Parliament have been afforded no opportunity to debate the recommendations, nor have we had any decision from the Government about what it proposes in the matter.
I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner), when he is replying to the debate, to tell honorable senators what is the attitude of the Government to the recommendations of the committee, particularly about the Parliament. Has the Government given consideration to the recommendations? If it has not, I think the Minister should be prepared to tell us why not, and, if possible, to inform us whether some effort will be made by the Government at a referendum, though not at the next election which will be held within approximately a year, to seek an alteration of the Constitution. The view I put, which is not my own view alone, is that in the interests of constitutional change it is not wise to bracket an election with a referendum for constitutional reform. Therefore, my thought would be that if the Government concurred in that view, it would seek an opportunity to hold a referendum at a date other than the date of the election. In the circumstances there is not very much time. Major matters affecting the work of this Parliament are involved. The Government has had an exceedingly long time to consider the recommendations. I invite the Minister to tell the Senate something about what is in the mind of the Government as to the future. 1 also point out that the committee indicated that it had not completed a review of the whole of the Constitution. It was contemplated that the committee would be reappointed to conclude the work that it had carried a very great distance. I should like the Minister to indicate whether there is any thought on reconstituting the committee to complete its survey of the Constitution.
– I speak of Division No. 101- Senate, and Division No. 102 - House of Representatives. I seek some information, in the first place, in relation to the expenditure under those divisions. I notice that last year this chamber cost the country £77,665 and that the proposed expenditure for this year is £82,500. I invite the Leader of the Government to explain why there is an increase of about £5,000 under that division, particularly as there is a considerable reduction in the proposed expenditure for the House of Representatives. I turn now to Division No. 102. I note that last year the House of Representatives cost the country £166,396, but this year the proposed expenditure is only £102,000. I ask the Minister whether he can enlighten the Senate about why an increase in the expenditure on the Senate is expected, while there is a very considerable reduction in the proposed expenditure of the House of Representatives.
I also wish to refer to the matter of the sittings of the two chambers. For many years now - in fact, for all the years I have been in the Senate - it has been traditional for the Parliament to commence each week’s sitting on Tuesday and sit for three days each week - Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday - rising on Thursday evening, whereupon all honorable senators and honorable members catch the first available aeroplane to their respective States, if there is one available, and go home for the weekend. I suggest that that happening every week imposes an unnecessarily huge burden of expenditure on the country. I suggest to honorable senators and to interested members of the other place - if they are interested - that a very much better method of handling Parliamentary sittings could be evolved in justice to all honorable senators and members who come from far and near. I admit that there is a great temptation for representatives from Sydney and Melbourne to welcome the present method of Parliamentary sittings. It is very convenient for a representative from Melbourne who, after the Parliament rises on Thursday evening, finds himself home within a matter of an hour and a half.
– They are not much better off than South Australians.
– It is not quite as convenient for representatives for South Australia, but it is particularly inconvenient for honorable senators and members from Western Australia because there is some difficulty in regard to distance. I suggest to those honorable senators and honorable members of the other place who are greatly convenienced by the present method, that it is not the only consideration which should actuate their views on this matter of parliamentary sittings. It is fairly well known that this matter has been considered by both sides of the Parliament recently and that the Opposition, in particular, was not very happy about the suggested changes.
I suggest that on the ground of public expenditure there is a very strong case for a re-organization of the sitting days of Parliament. We must remember that there are 182 parliamentary representatives, most of whom go home every Thursday afternoon or Friday morning and come back on Monday by aeroplane in every week while Parliament is sitting. That item of public expenditure, the loss of time in travelling to and from Canberra, and a number of other factors associated with Government administration, which again is associated with Ministers leaving this city and going home during weekends-
– Plus the expenditure on staff.
– I could elaborate. I suggest that on the ground of public expenditure alone there is a very strong case to be answered for some better method of holding the public sittings of this Parliament. I do not propose to suggest what it is. I think each of us knows a better method so I do not propose to canvass the better methods. There are several of them. One is that Parliament sit for at least two weeks, five days a week, as is done by most parliaments, including the Parliament at Westminister. Surely that would be a much better method of handling the affairs of the nation. I throw the matter into the ring for the consideration of honorable senators because I suggest that it is time we did some thinking about this important subject.
.- I should have endorsed Senator Vincent’s remarks if he had gone a little further and suggested that we commence at 9 o’clock in the morning and finish at 5 o’clock in the afternoon.
– What about the Ministers?
– I know that the Ministers have a very strenuous job, but I suggest that the practice of arriving at the House at 9 o’clock in the morning and not getting away before 1 1 o’clock at night takes its toll physically. I should love to see. and would readily support in all places, the introduction of sittings from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. I hope that Senator Vincent will not merely throw the matter into the ring in an abstract form, but will state, next time he rises, what he thinks ought to be done.
I rose for a number of purposes, Mr. Temporary Chairman, one of them being to speak about the matter, mentioned by my leader, of the Constitutional Review Committee. The Government has delayed taking action on the report of the committee which it appointed and which sat for a considerable time. I regret that no action has been taken. On a great number of questions the committee made unanimous recommendations. Surely it would be possible to deal with those recommendations and to put aside the recommendations in respect of which, though a majority of members was in favour, a very important minority - important not in numbers but in wisdom - had dissented.
I think that, during this debate, we ought to consider the appointment of a committee to deal with some of the big questions that face the nation. I greatly regret that the Government has refused the offer of the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Calwell) to join in an all-party committee in connexion with the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. As honorable senators know, we had a debate in this chamber last week on the subject of that Territory. There were differences of opinion on voting rights and matters of that kind, but I do not think any honorable senator would fail to welcome an all-party committee to consider questions related to the Territory for which the Australian nation has a responsibility. I am certain that if an all-party committee were appointed and devoted to the subject similar time and energy to that which the committee on which I had the honour to serve devoted to constitutional reform, nothing but good would result.
A matter that also concerns me is the failure to appoint a committee to inquire into matters affecting the development of the north of Australia. Consideration of matters affecting national development should not be left only to those who are elected to govern by a majority of the people. The development of the north is a big job. 1 want to congratulate the Government on the magnificent work that has been done by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. However, we shall never make this country great if we always have to think back to events that happened five or six years ago. I give credit to Mr. East, who holds a very responsible position in Victoria as the chairman of the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission, for the thought that I am about to express. [ happened to be with Mr. East one day when he said: “lt seems a shame, now that the Snowy scheme is so far advanced, that the nation will lose a lot of good men, men of high standing in their respective spheres. We have a nation that needs rapid development.”
I shudder when I think what 50 years may mean to Australia in relation to the millions of people to the north of us, people who are not thinking of invasion or anything of that kind. We cannot expect people to continue to stand on top of one another, as it were, in some countries, while we have 3,000,000 square miles with only a handful of people around the coast. 1 am not complaining about what the Government has done or has not done. I am merely pleading for the appointment to a committee of people who are willing to give some time and some thought to a consideration of the best methods to adopt to develop our northern areas. Unless we do that, how can we logically expect to hold 3,000,000 square miles of territory when the population of Japan, for instance, is increasing at the rate of 1,000,000 a year and the people are practically standing on top of one another so far as arable land is concerned? I hope that some thought will be given to this matter. 1 say quite candidly that I enjoy the hurly-burly that we sometimes experience in this chamber, but I think, too, that there are times when we should turn our minds to matters of greater importance than the scoring of political points, although in that respect I do not think 1 miss many opportunities. Having said that, may 1 proceed to a somewhat lower plane. I am concerned about the future of democratic government in this country. It seems to me that four or five men in Australia control all the mass means of communication. They control the press and radio, and also the latest medium, television, and they seem to derive great pleasure from decrying those who constitute the Parliament of the country. I often wonder whether they want to see a change in the methods of government. Going a little lower, all that the Government seems to do is to recommend to Her Majesty the Queen that the people to whom I have referred be given honours. I say that the only newspaper in this nation that gives a decent amount of space to the doings of the national Parliament is the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, irrespective of party. I am not talking party politics at the moment. It seems a shame that in my own city of Melbourne, the second largest in Australia, which some people claim to be developing at an even greater pace than the capital of the mother State, all that we are served for breakfast and dinner, so far as this Parliment is concerned, are articles belittling it. I am not worried about the boys up in the gallery, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I am concerned about the people who control and run the press. I am concerned that, if we are to have a proper democracy in this country, some respect ought to be given to the institution that makes the laws that the people of this nation have to obey. I remember being in the Senate club room on one occasion and listening to the broadcast of a very important speech by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in which he described one of the principal reporters or the head of one newspaper as a liar. Those were strong words spoken by the Prime
Minister of this country, and yet I still see the individual whom he mentioned strutting around in this building. What means have the people to learn what their elected representatives - irrespective of the party to which they belong - do in this Parliament, which makes the laws that they have to obey, other than by the radio, television and - mainly - the press? It pains me to think that we are attempting to carry on this institution with satisfaction to ourselves - doing what we believe it is right to do - and all that appears in the press for the people to read, about the proceedings here, is that somebody had a fight in a party room or - as was the case last week - some one nearly had a fight in the House of Representatives. Surely we are supposed to be a grown-up nation. When our troops are needed abroad, the press tells us what a wonderful nation we arc. I agree with that, but I think such accounts are published to save the same people’s ill-gotten goods.
I was shocked to read in the press a little while ago a report which stated that the parliamentary refreshment-rooms incurred a trading loss of £40,000 last year. No mention was made of the fact that there is the same amount of overhead expense when Parliament is not in session as during sessions and that the people who mainly use these facilities in recess, according to the figures that were given in another place, are people who work for the press barons. Nothing is ever said about the fact that these press barons are being provided by this Government with rent-free accommodation in this building as, indeed, they were by previous governments. I and the party to which I belong want no favours; if I got any favours, possibly I would not be here. I say, from the point of view of the nation, that we should have something that is decent. I am afraid that what will hurt this country more than anything else is the fact that so much power resides in four or five persons and that it is ill-used. I am not worried about which party a newspaper supports at election time. Each newspaper has a right to determine its own policy in this regard. The newspapers are supposed to demand freedom, and freedom I believe they should have, but they exercise licence. I believe it is about time all sides here got something that would tell the people of this nation the facts.
Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I wish to comment briefly on Division No. 125 - National Library. This is the last occasion, Sir, on which we will be discussing only one institution under this heading. As you know, the Library Committee has for a good many years urged the setting up of a National Library. The National Library has grown up as a kind of adjunct of the Parliamentary Library, and this arrangement has worked very well. This committee, representative of both Houses, has always been presided over by the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives and has administered the affairs of the Library. This has been felt to be an anomaly. Some years ago an external committee - the Paton committee - recommended the separation of the Commonwealth National Library from the Parliamentary Library. The separation is now taking place. An interim council for the National Library of Australia has been appointed, and I should like to congratulate Senator Sir Alister McMullin on his appointment as our representative on that council. It has been largely due to his inspired activity that the separation of the two libraries has been brought about.
We will now have a public library administered as all State public libraries are administered, and the Parliament will have its own library which will become, I think, increasingly useful in the assistance it provides to members of the Parliament. I have no complaint to make about the present library. The members of the staff are always efficient and courteous but they are encumbered with too many matters and so are unable to provide quite the service that is given, for instance, by the great Library of Congress. Under the new scheme, I think we will get an equivalent service. There will be a revision of the functions within the Parliamentary Library and I think that in future all members of the Parliament will be able to obtain every service they need.
The only other thing I want to say is that I believe a building for the National Library of Australia will be erected very shortly. I hope that it will be a noble building. I shall watch it very carefully because there is a tendency to-day for many architects to provide what they call a functional building without paying any regard to the exterior. That happened, for instance, with the library of the Australian National University, but the parliamentary representatives on the council of the university brought about two revisions of the original plan until they got at least an acceptable building. I want something more than only an acceptable building for the National Library of Australia.
– The discussion of the Second Schedule to the Appropriation Bill affords to honorable senators an opportunity to analyse in detail the proposed expenditure by the various government departments for the coming year. The bill is transmitted to the Senate by the Speaker of the House of Representatives with a message that the House desires the concurrence of the Senate therein. It must be pointed out that while the Senate is asked for its concurrence, this chamber has power, not to amend the bill, but only to request the House to make amendments. Although this exercise that we carry out annually is perhaps educational, it must be remembered that in this instance the Senate is only an examining body; it can only concur or make requests. There is some doubt whether requests, if they were made by the Senate, would be accepted and made by the House. But at least we are afforded an opportunity - such opportunities do not occur many times during the year - to air our views on a good many of the subjects that exercise our minds.
I wish to refer to Division No. 106. I direct the attention of the Senate to the fact that last year an appropriation of £7,900 was made for the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, but the appropriation for this year is only £4,400. That seems to be a considerable reduction, particularly having regard to the fact that the committee has carried out very valuable work in examining matters referred to it. The information that it has gathered in those examinations has formed the basis of reports that have been presented to the Parliament. There must be some reason why the Government would seek to reduce the appropriation for the Public Works Committee.
– All of us will be looking forward eagerly to justification for that action.
– Yes, indeed. I point out to the Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth) that the reduction is a substantial one. Members of the committee felt that they had won their battle when the mandatory provision was inserted in the Public Works Committee Act. Prior to the amendment of the act the Minister for Works referred to the committee those works that he felt should be investigated by the committee. The Minister could refrain from referring other matters to the committee if he felt that it was not expedient for the committee to inquire into them. Since the introduction of the mandatory provision in the legislation the Minister or the officers of his department - I am not certain who is responsible - have found other ways by which to avoid referring certain matters to the committee.
I wish to refer to a statement prepared, for press release, by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) under the heading, “ £336,000 New Look for Army Ammunition Depot - Statement by the Minister for the Army, The Hon. J. O. Cramer”.
– What date was that?
– It is dated “22nd September, 1960- p.m. “ The statement reads -
A £336,000 project to remodel the Army’s ammunition depot at Bogan Gate, 250 miles west of Sydney, was announced to-day by the Minister for the Army.
Under the project modern brick buildings would completely replace temporary war-time built structures by the end of 1962.
The plan provided for: - new administrative offices, married quarters and living and eating accommodation for single members of the staff, a canteen-recreation centre, improvements to roads, water supply and sewerage.
The new amenities would greatly improve living conditions of the 50 Depot personnel and their families at remote Bogan Gate.
– How many?
– What is the cost?
– £3 3 6.000.
– Did the Public Works Committee inquire into that matter?
– The Public Works Committee desired to inquire into the expenditure of £336,000, but the Minister for Works informed the committee that the proposed work would be divided into sections. Engineering services would cost £45,000. Australian Regular Army accommodation - kitchen, messes and sleeping accommodation - would cost £80,000. Provision of eight married quarters with engineering services would cost £55,000. The Minister stated that Australian Regular Army accommodation - administrative offices, vehicle compound, canteen, assembly hall and paint and carpenter’s shop - would cost a further £80,000. The Minister further stated -
You will note that the cost of each project is less than £250,000. The projects represent development of an existing establishment, and accordingly it is considered that they do not require reference to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
– When is a project not a project?
– That is the question, and later I will have more to say about this matter. The total value of those projects amounts to £260.000 and under the act it is mandatory for the work to be referred to the committee.
– That is not one project.
– The Minister for the Army has announced a £336,000 project for remodelling the Army’s ammunition depot at Bogan Gate. The Government cannot have it both ways. Only recently we had evidence of the courageous stand taken by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, which directed attention to the Government’s glaring failure to refer a regulation to the Parliament. A very serious challenge is made to the parliamentary institution when action of that type is allowed to continue. Members of the Public Works Committee are disturbed at the failure of the’ Minister for Works to refer certain matters to the committee. The committee should examine those matters and submit its report, with its recommendations, to the Parliament. I do not know who has the power to say that a certain project shall be divided into sections. Every project that the Public
Works Committee examines consists of various sections - selection of site, engineering services, refrigeration, air-conditioning and other matters. If every project were divided into segments it would be possible to evade the mandatory provision of the act.
The Public Works Committee submits its reports to the Senate and to the House of Representatives. In respect of works expenditure the committee is the watchdog of the Parliament and the public. That is the purpose of the establishment of the committee. Individual members of the Parliament do not have an opportunity personally to investigate these matters. They place their trust in the various committees. The Public Works Committee submits its report on a particular proposal and the Minister for Works in another place moves that it is expedient to carry out certain work. The Minister never tells the Parliament whether it is expedient to carry out the work that was submitted to the committee ‘ for investigation or the work that the committee recommended in its report. Members of Parliament may be left with the impression that the Government has accepted the committee’s recommendations, but in point of fact in quite a number of cases the committee has made certain recommendations in respect of certain work, but those recommendations have not been accepted by the Government and the Parliament has approved of the work in the form in which it was submitted to the committee by the Minister. We say that the Parliament should at least be informed why it is not expedient to adopt the recommendations of the Public Works Committee.
– What are the instances of that?
– In the case of accommodation for administrative staff in Darwin, the committee recommended that the ground floor space of the four units should be enclosed at an estimated cost of £21,700. The motion submitted to the Parliament was that in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act it was expedient to carry out the works which had been referred to the committee and oh which the committee had reported to the Parliament the results of its investigations, namely the erection of proposed accommodation for local administrative staff at Darwin, Northern Territory. In speaking to the motion, the responsible Minister referred to the recommendations of the committee and pointed out that the estimated cost per unit, including the additional provisions recommended by the committee, was £225,000. He concluded by saying -
I concur with the committee’s recommendations and instructions will be issued accordingly.
In relation to the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s studios in Perth, a recommendation was made that the works be proceeded with, and a motion stating that it was expedient that the works be carried out was submitted to the Parliament, but there was no definite statement that the committee’s recommendations would be adopted. In relation to the technical high school in Darwin, the Edison telephone exchange in Brisbane, the nurses’ home in Canberra, and the main hospital block in Canberra, no statement has been made that the recommended alterations to the proposals have been agreed to. The Minister said that some of the matters were still being discussed by Cabinet.
The point I am making is that there is no clear-cut recognition by the Cabinet and, in turn, by the Parliament, of the reports of the committee. I want to press the point that the Minister should be obliged to explain to the Parliament why recommendations of the committee are not accepted. If the original proposal is being carried out, he should say that it is expedient to carry out the proposal referred to the committee. The Parliament and individual members should not be left under the impression that the recommendations of the committee are being adopted when in fact they are not being adopted.
Quite an amount of comment has been made in another place about setting up committees. I believe that the committee system is a most democratic system and that it should be not only encouraged but also enlarged. A matter that has just recently come before the committee is still on the business paper, but 1 should like to refer to it in passing.
Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- I wish to refer to the matter that was raised by Senator Vincent, namely, the sittings of the Parliament, but before I do so I should like to refer briefly to the remarks of Senator O’Byrne about the operation of provisions that, after long travail, this Parliament secured in relation to the workings of the Public Works Committee. If the documents from which Senator O’Byrne quoted show that any Minister displays a determination, by disintegrating a particular undertaking, to evade those provisions, I would remind the honorable senator that he does less than service to the Senate when he suggests that we go through a merely academic form of procedure here, because the proposed vote for that project will come before us in the supplementary bill to provide moneys for capital works and services. That is a bill which we have power to pass, to reject or to amend.
I should like, after those preliminary remarks, to say that I hope that the Parliament, to which the Minister is responsible in this chamber at least, will ask for - and I have no doubt it will be faithfully given - a proper statement on whether or not the provisions of that act are being complied with. The Public Works Committee scrutinizes proposals for works before they are actually put into execution, and makes recommendations upon them. If the impression is given to Parliament that the committee’s recommendations are being complied with and in fact departures from them are made, we have ample power, when the appropriate bill is before us, to see that this Parliament’s will is effective. I would regard myself as doing less than my duty if that authority, confided to us by the Constitution and the Parliament, were not vigilantly exercised. In the interval, both the Ministry and the Parliament will have an opportunity, which I hope will be availed of with the greatest goodwill on either side, to see that all the facts are forthcoming and that proof is forthcoming that the provisions of the act, which we secured to protect Parliament, are being complied with.
I was tremendously pleased to-night with the basis upon which the debate was developed. Senator Vincent, from our side, referred to a matter which I, with eleven years’ experience here, think must demand every honorable senator’s consideration; that is, the arrangement of the parliamentary sittings here. I think that the programme, from the stand-point of cost and efficiency, falls short of what the Parliament should adopt. We come here week after week. People from outlying States travel great distances which consume time and energy. Travel is a very tiring process. What is more to the point, we come and go at great cost. I suggest that our parliamentary sittings be arranged on a different basis. We could come here for a full fortnight and do a full fortnight’s work. A programme for sitting from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. would suit me just as well as sitting from 11 a.m. to midnight. I am one of those people who have a sturdy constitution and I have been in the habit for 35 years of working till midnight, no matter when I start.
– It will catch up with you.
– Quite so. I am not objecting to a shortening of the span of hours and beginning and ending our sittings in daylight, because committees could sit at night if that were necessary, and Cabinet meetings could be held at night. These would then no longer interrupt the parliamentary sittings. The holding of Cabinet meetings, as a matter of routine, while the Parliament is sitting puts a blemish on the performance of the Parliament. This practice reduces the efficiency of Parliament, because even to-day one of the chief purposes of parliamentary debates is to see that the representations which the humble private member wishes to make in the Parliament are heard by as many Ministers who carry the responsibility for executive government as can afford the time to hear them. The holding of Cabinet sittings as a matter of routine whilst parliamentary debates are proceeding does not enable the proper purpose of those debates to be served. It is a great disservice to the National Parliament that that practice is the order of the day here. If we sat continuously for a fortnight, the third week, in which the Parliament is not sitting, would provide a great opportunity for intensive Cabinet discussion. The Cabinet could meet at hours other than those when parliamentary debates should be listened to by
Ministers instead of, as frequently happens in the other House, there being a token representation of one, two or three out of seventeen Ministers, with those Ministers working shifts in the chamber as a mere routine without any continuity of consideration of what is being said during the debate. I make the plea that, from the viewpoint of economics and the efficient working of the Parliament, a better programme be devised than that of having weekly sittings. I should thing that the programme I have suggested would provide greater opportunity for efficiency in Cabinet and Executive discussions. It certainly would enable the Parliament to function with greater effect.
Provision is made in Division No. 115 for the expenditure of £310,000 for the conveyance of members of Parliament and others. To put that item in perspective, 1 point out that salaries and allowances for the permanent staffs of the two Houses will cost £74,000. It is prodigal, wasteful and irresponsible to devote such a large sum of money to expenses incurred in travelling to and from the Parliament. I venture to suggest, just as a shrewd calculation from the turnip country, that if the programme I suggested were adopted a saving of the order of £100,000 a year would be effected.
The other matter to which I wish to refer is that of parliamentary superannuation allowances. I hope my remarks will strike a chord in the memory of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). Not two years have passed since the Government, without actuarial assistance or assessment, introduced a bill to improve the retiring allowances of parliamentarians by advancing the contribution by 10s. a week and by increasing the allowances by 50 per cent. Senator Spooner will recall that at that time he challenged my audacity in engaging in a bit of simple arithmetic and in predicting that the basis of contribution would be altered from 60 per cent, contributed by the Government and 40 per cent, by the member to a 70-30 basis. In other words, I predicted that 70 per cent, would be paid out of the public purse and 30 per cent, by the member. The Minister will recall that since then the Commonwealth Actuary has submitted his report. In that report he points out that 28 per cent, is being contributed by the member and 72 per cent, from the public purse.
– I rise to a point of order. I ask you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, whether Senator Wright is in order. Will we not get an opportunity later to discuss this matter under another heading?
Order! I was just trying to relate Senator Wright’s remarks to a particular item. 1 must confess that I was having some difficulty.
– I am referring to Division No. 101, Sub-division No. 1, and in particular to item 01 - salaries and allowances. I had almost concluded what I wanted to say. It is proper that the Parliament should have a precise explanation of considered policy in regard to the adoption of a different basis of contribution, seeing that the actuary’s report shows that the basis of contribution has been altered from 60-40 to 72-28.
.- I was very interested in the remarks of Senator Vincent and Senator O’Byrne. I believe that Senator O’Byrne has just cause for alarm, because, according to the appropriation proposed for this financial year, the Public Works Committee will be doing only four-sevenths of the amount of work it did last year. Of course, that is not uncommon when governments have been in office for a number of years. When governments first assume office all committees are given quite a volume of work to do; but, after those governments have been in office for a number of years, for some unknown reason they seem to keep as much as they can from the various committees. That practice has been most pronounced in the case of the Public Works Committee, which is the watchdog of the Parliament in respect of expenditure upon public works. Does the Government propose to tell us that its works programme for 1960-61 will be three-sevenths less than that for last year? Of course, it will not. If the Government’s public works programme for this year is to be on anything like a par with that of last year, it is quite evident that, if possible, it does not intend to allow the committee to inquire into all the activities that it should inquire into.
This is not the first time that we have heard complaints of this kind from members of the committee and other honorable senators. I hope that the Government, having had such a long term in office, does not intend to adopt the attitude of almighty Hitler and say that its advisers know best and that the rank and file of the Parliament should know as little as possible. That is what its attitude will amount to if the Public Works Committee is to be chiselled out and the Minister for Works takes over the responsibility. 1 agree with Senator Kennelly when he says that the press allows matters of great national importance to go by the board but that it publishes details about a bit of a fight in either House of the Parliament. If the parliamentary refreshment rooms show a little loss, that is headlined in the press and the public is told about what is provided free for members of the Parliament in Canberra. But the press does not tell the general public that its representatives are occupying 5,000 square feet of space in this building at public expense. If we were to convert that into terms of city rentals, we would be amazed to see what the public is providing free for the press in this building. The press does not tell the public that its representatives are provided with almost the same facilities as members of Parliament. It does not tell the public that a special bar and refreshment rooms are provided for pressmen.
– A special bar?
– They have their own bar downstairs. Naturally, if any loss is incurred, it is spread over the facilities that are enjoyed by members of the Parliament, and those enjoyed by the press. So, if a loss is incurred and the press has a lot to say about it, let it tell the public that pressmen are sharing in the amenities that are provided in this building.
– They get food at the same price as members of the Parliament.
– Of course they do, and the food probably comes out of the same pot. One sort of food is not served to members of Parliament and another to representatives of the press.
The press does not inform the people of Australia that the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms have to provide for functions given by Ministers to visiting dignitaries from other countries. It is right and proper that such people should be treated well when they are in Canberra. They have to be provided for. Sometimes they come here when the Parliament is sitting, and at other times they come while it is not sitting. No refreshment rooms can be run at a profit when they have to provide for such functions, sometimes on very short notice and frequently not knowing whether to cater for one party or a dozen parties. I think it is quite wrong for the press to refer to losses incurred by the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms in large headlines when some matters of great national importance do not receive any mention in the press at all. I just mention this matter in passing. I have been a member of the Joint House Committee for many years since I have been in this Parliament. There have been periods when I have not been on the committee, but for the greater portion of my time in this Parliament I have been a member of the committee and therefore I know what I am speaking about.
– The press have built you up into a national figure.
– I did not quite catch the interjection, but if the honorable senator wants to know why I am making this statement about the press, I shall tell him. I realize that the press has a useful function to perform in this country, but sometimes, instead of performing that function, it has taken the line of writing down the Parliament and members of the Parliament. I say quite frankly that the press of Australia spends more time on writing down the democratic institution of Parliament than it does in attempting to write it up. The Parliament provides members of the press with free office space, and they do just as they like. No curb is put upon them.
– Surely one of the duties of the press is to criticize.
– I admit that. The press would be lacking in its duty if it did not offer constructive criticism, and when I refer to constructive criticism I do not mean a barrel full of lies.
I wish to refer to another statement made by Senator Vincent. It is entirely a matter for the Government as to how it arranges the programme of the Parliament, but at the same time-
– You are quite wrong. It is not entirely a matter for the Government.
– The Government has the numbers. If it wishes to gag a debate, as it did the debate on the Papua and New Guinea Bill the other night, it can do so, and the Opposition is not in a position to stop it. The debate on the Papua and New Guinea Bill was being broadcast but the Government did not like a debate of that nature going over the air, so it applied the gag. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), or one of his lieutenants, was dealing with a similar subject in another place. The matter was being debated in the United Nations and the Government applied the gag in this chamber. What could the Opposition do about it? I am aware that it was the Parliament that was dealing with the bill, but when the Government decided to apply the gag, the Opposition was unable to prevent the curtailment of the debate. A number of my colleagues on this side of the chamber desired to speak on that bill, but because the gag was applied they could not express their views. I repeat that it is not the Parliament that controls the business which comes before us; it is the Government. If the Government wants to change the programme, it does so.
If Senator Vincent would like to see different arrangements made, it is up to him to see what he can do in the caucus meetings. If some honorable senators opposite want us to sit here from 9 a.m. until 1 1 p.m. or midnight, we on this side of the chamber will certainly fight such a proposal. There is a limit to the number of hours a person can work without damaging his health.
– What about doing the work by correspondence?
– That might suit Senator Vincent and other Government supporters but it certainly would not suit the members of the Opposition. The Government might prefer to carry out the business by correspondence so that the public would not know what went on. If Government supporters want to change the hours of sitting, they have the numbers to do so, but they> should not do anything that is unreasonable. 1 do not think there is anything reasonable in the suggestion made by Senator Wright. I would not care to work the hours that he suggested and I would not care to ask anybody else to do so. You cannot burn the candle at both ends. If Senator Wright attempts to do so, it will catch up with him some day, healthy as he is at present. He is entitled to work whatever hours he likes, but he is not entitled to try to force those hours on to his colleagues. Because one person may be prepared to risk injury to his health, there is no reason why he should try to force others to do the same thing. Certain fundamental principles apply to every walk of life. In regard to Senator Wright’s own calling, it is interesting to consider how long lawyers sit in court. They receive the highest fees and work the shortest hours. There is no such thing as a twelve-hour day in the courts.
– You should be the last one who should say that lawyers are not worth their fees.
– In reply to that interjection, I say that some are worth their fees and others are not. It is regrettable that some States have one law for the legal fraternity and another law for the rest of the community. I will leave the subject at that.
Coming back to the sittings of the Parliament, I think that a great deal of time is wasted in this Parliament because the Government does not bring forward business at the right time. For instance, the Senate has been sitting for some weeks but for more than a half of that time it has not had a bill before it. For a considerable time we had before us a motion asking us to give consideration to a certain matter. No one can tell me that there is any substance in a motion asking us to give consideration to a matter. If a member of the Senate wants consideration to be given to a matter, it is his duty to raise that matter in his caucus meeting, whether it be a Liberal Party caucus or a Labour Party caucus. It will then be for the party concerned to place something concrete before the Parliament so that members on both sides can take part in a logical debate. Senator Vincent wants to know how time and expense can be saved. If he is power ful enough in his own caucus, he should try to prevent inconsequential motions from being put to the Senate, just for the sake of keeping the Senate in session.
Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– At this stage I should like to reply to the points that have been raised in the debate in committee. Subject to the concurrence of the committee, I propose to reply generally to the requests for information and, generally speaking, to resist the temptation to enter into the exchange of opinions on matters that are raised.
asked about the position in relation to the report of the Constitutional Review Committee. In answer to that question, I can do no more than give the answer which the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) has given from time to time, namely, that the report is under consideration and that in view of its size and the complexity of the problems that are raised in the report, a good deal of thought and deliberation is required before conclusions are reached upon it. That is the reply that has been given by the Attorney-General, if my recollection is correct, and I repeat that as being the present position in regard to the report. As far as the Government is concerned, the matter is still under consideration by the Attorney-General.
Senator Vincent raised a query as to why the expenses of the Senate had increased while the expenses of the House of Representatives had decreased. The explanation lies in the method of treatment of the items, Inter-Parliamentary Union conferences and Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conferences. The Senate vote bears the cost of Interparliamentary Union conferences, and the House of Representatives vote bears the cost of Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conferences. The Budget contains provision for an Inter-Parliamentary Union conference this year in an amount of £8,000. That accounts for the increase in the Senate vote because the appropriation for the same item last year was £2,600. The increase in the Senate vote is due to the fact that this year the InterParliamentary Union conference will require a greater expenditure than last year. On the other side of the picture, the House of Representatives vote is reduced because last year there was an appropriation of £68,000 for a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association gathering, whereas no such gathering is contemplated this year.
I express no views upon the interesting exchange of opinions about parliamentary sittings. I believe that my function is more to answer inquiries than to buy into arguments. However, I venture into one matter. Senator Kennelly mentioned a remark made to him that the Snowy Mountains authority is losing its staff because work is falling off. I challenge that remark. The Snowy Mountains project as a whole has not yet reached a stage at which the members of the professional staff are not fully occupied. They will be fully occupied for some time to come.
– Does that include the planning staff?
-Yes, I believe that to be true. There is no diminution of work. Indeed, I am fortified in my recollection because honorable senators will remember that we sent a comparatively small mission to the Mekong River project in Thailand. I think it was a group of ten or twelve engineers and geologists, and we had some difficulty in depleting our staff to the extent made necessary hy the sending of that mission.
Senator McCallum spoke about the National Library. I do not think his remarks call for any answer from me. Senator O’Byrne asked for information about the reason for the reduction of the proposed vote of the Public Works Committee. The answer to that question is just in the incidence of staff changes. The secretary of the committee retired and was given pay in lieu of furlough to the extent of £2,800. A new secretary had to be appointed and there was an overlap between the appointment of the new secretary and the retirement of the previous secretary, which involved about £600. So the difference does not indicate any fall in the volume of work; it is merely caused by the incidence of those changes in comparatively highly paid officers and the previous secretary receiving pay in lieu of furlough.
I said that I would not enter into the controversial matters. However, there was some comment about my colleagues, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth). I do not believe that these matters should be dealt with in generalities; they should be related to specific instances. 1 do not know anything about the two matters that were mentioned, but my experience is that if they are brought specifically before the Minister he will give an appropriate reply. I think it would be quite wrong for this Senate to proceed on the assumption that any Minister or department is adopting some devious track in order to avoid complying with legislation. Let us deal with such matters in the Estimates in an appropriate way, in specific terms rather than in generalities.
– We have to deal with the Public Works Committee now when the proposed vote for it is before us for discussion.
– I am very confident that you will get a good answer when the matter goes to the appropriate Minister.
One of the grounds advocated by Senator Wright as to why an alteration should be made in the sittings of Parliament was that it would be less expensive. Whether it would or would not be, I do not know. But I thought it might be interesting to mention that of the £310,000 provided for the conveyance of members of Parliament, £120,000 is the estimated cost of official hire of private cars and £181,850 is the estimated cost of air, sea and rail journeys not covered by passes.
– Will you give us those figures again?
– The estimated cost of official hire of private cars is £120,000, and the estimated cost of air, sea and rail journeys not covered by passes is £181,850. I do not express any opinion on those figures. They were available and I thought I would mention them and let honorable senators make their own computations as to how much expenditure would be avoided by Parliament not sitting-
– I do not wish to interrupt the Minister-
– Is the honorable senator taking a point of order?
– Yes, I am.
What is the point of order?
– I do not wish to interrupt the Minister, but I seriously suggest to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the matter on which the Minister is now commenting will come up before us under another heading for consideration. The divisions with which the Minister is dealing now do not provide for that expenditure at all.
– Order! The Minister is replying to a matter that was raised in the debate in relation to a specific item and there can be no doubt that he is in order. He is referring to a specific item - Division No. 115, item 01.
– I thought those figures might be of interest, and I give them without comment. I do not know exactly what they mean.
– Is that exclusive of departmental cars?
– My instructing officer says that he thinks private cars means official cars. It must be so, must it not? I was trying to differentiate between car hire and other transport costs. I thought the figures would be interesting.
Senator Wright referred to our old friend, the matter of retiring allowances. I have no figures, in this part of the Estimates, relating to that subject. I shall have to plead for mercy until the appropriate time to deal with the subject is reached.
– I wish to discuss the proposed vote for the Parliament under three different headings - first, with regard to the amount of the proposed vote. It amazes me each year, when we come to discuss the Estimates, to find how little the public really pays for the cost of the Parliament. On the basis of the Estimates with which we are dealing the amount works out at about 4id. per head of the population per annum. I am sure, Sir, that in this inflationary age, that is the best 4id. worth you could possibly get. Another matter that rather amazes me is the amount of work that is done by parliamentary committees for so little outlay. I do not think that people realize what the nation owes to the members of those committees, particularly the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee. For very little expenditure - for practically nothing so far as the members of the committees are concerned - those bodies are able to do much to safeguard the finances of the Commonwealth.
I should like to see the committee system extended to embrace other activities so that the Senate could play a much more important part in the government of the country than it does at the present time. In this respect, one thinks of the part that the Senate of the United States Parliament plays in the government of that country. We could have Senate committees working, as we have seen them work in past years, on special projects, bringing to the government of the country considered opinions from all sections of the Parliament on questions of great public interest. I am thinking at the present moment of a committee on social services, a subject which members of the Senate are particularly fitted to consider. I think that the appointment of a committee on social services, such as that which existed in the past, could not fail to be of great assistance to the conduct of the affairs of this Parliament.
I note that the proposed vote for the Parliament includes the sum of £76,000 for the Library. I join Senator McCallum in extending to the members of the Library staff our sincere thanks for the work they do for all members in connexion with our parliamentary duties. That also goes for the Parliamentary Reporting Staff. I think that the members of that staff are rather like magicians. They do not misreport us, but when we read in “ Hansard “ the reports of the proceedings, we find that generally speaking they are a big improvement on what actually took place. I am only sorry that our “Hansard” reporters have not disciples in the press gallery.
Item 01 of Division No. 115 refers to a proposed vote of £310,000 for the conveyance of members of Parliament and others. It is rather amazing to find that £120,000 of that amount is to cover car hire or the conveyance of members by car. The sum of £180,000 is set aside for the conveyance of members of the Parliament by air, by sea and by rail. I should like to know from the Minister how that amount is made up. What are the respective proportions of the £180,000 to be applied to air transport, rail transport and sea transport?
While members of the Senate are discussing the Parliament and deploring the fact that it does not meet more often and for fewer hours in the day, I think it is interesting to record that before the advent of air travel the Parliament met for four days a week. We travelled by rail and we stayed here until Friday. The Parliament always sat, in the first years that I was here, until 6 o’clock on Friday evening, and of necessity, we stayed here for practically the whole of the sessional period. That applied particularly to those members from distant States. The sum provided for the conveyance of members in those days was a mere fraction of the present cost. With the changing modes of travel, the expectations of the public concerning the duties of members of Parliament also have undergone a radical change. In former years, people did not expect us to go home to distant States every week-end for the purpose of attending small meetings, functions and so on. They realized that we were sent to Canberra to do a job, and they expected us to be here to do it.
Speaking personally, I think we have lost a good deal of the spirit of the Parliament since the advent of air transport. I do not think the members of the Parliament now know each other half as well as they did in past years when we were here for longer periods and the pace was a little more leisurely than it is to-day. We were, perhaps, able to give more time to the matters that came before the Parliament. We spent our time here and we became much more tolerant and much more appreciative of the other person’s point of view, when we met each other socially, at week-ends and at other times, than we are at the present time. I cannot help but think that with the progress of transport there has been a decline in the relationships between members of the Parliament and in the whole parliamentary life of members.
There is another point that I want to make, and it concerns the name of the Parliament. We see in the Estimates that an amount was set aside last year for the holding of parliamentary conferences. It will be remembered that we had the very great pleasure and worthwhile experience of meeting members of Parliament from other parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations. This year, some members of the Parliament are attending conferences where they are meeting members of parliaments of nations which are members of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. It is a funny thing that there is not a Parliament of Australia. We refer to the Commonwealth Parliament or the Federal Parliament, and it is rather difficult at times to make people understand what is meant. 1 should like to see this Parliament become known as the Australian Parliament, just as the Victorian Parliament and the New South Wales Parliament are named after the States of which they are an integral part.
I wish now to descend from the national level to the State level and the personal level. The last item in the proposed votes for the Parliament is concerned with the maintenance of Ministers’ and members’ rooms. I want to lodge a very fervent complaint about the new rooms that members of Parliament have been allotted in Perth. There was a grand opening of the building in which the rooms are situated and it was suggested that members were being treated royally. I point out, however, that while the rooms are air-conditioned, there is no natural light. There is only artificial light, and the rooms are not sound-proofed. I can hear every telephone conversation that takes place in the four or five rooms around me. I can hear every word that is spoken in the adjacent room. That is definitely wrong, because people come to discuss matters with their federal members and naturally they desire their interviews io be confidential. No matter how softly people speak, these conversations can be heard in the next room. In addition, the airconditioning has been so bad in those rooms - as Senator Robertson mentioned earlier this year - that the secretaries who are spending many hours a day in them find that they cannot work there without getting very bad headaches and eyestrain. I understand that one of the government departments was to take over rooms in the building, but it insisted on modifications of them before moving in. We are the only people in the building who have not got natural light In our offices. Last week, the lighting system failed and we could not see a hand in front of us. There was not even a glimmer of light.
– Are there windows in the rooms?
– No, there are no windows in them. You would not believe that that could be so unless you saw the rooms. Our offices comprise just’ a group of air-conditioned rooms. I do not know who designed them, but I do not think they would get an architect’s prize. These rooms even passed the Department of Health. I am surprised at that, in view of the conditions 1 have described. I do not think that any Western Australian member of this Parliament could say honestly that he or she could work in those rooms for longer than a couple of hours without getting a bad headache. I am sure that what I am saying will be borne out by other representatives of Western Australia. All the secretaries are complaining about headaches and eyestrain because of the conditions under which they work - unnatural light and the lack of fresh air. I would like to see something done about this matter.
The Department of Trade has one section of the building. In that section there are windows and natural light. Ministers have the front of the building and they also have natural light and very good conditions. But the members have these dives at the back. I do not know what I should call these internal or infernal rooms which are simply a menace to our health and to the health of those who are employed there. I should like the Minister to give me an assurance that the condition of these rooms will bc improved; otherwise members will be taking their work home or somewhere else rather than work under conditions which are detrimental to their health. Furthermore, as I have said, it is not fair to the people who come to interview federal members there. They cannot feel secure in the belief that what they say is confidential because they can be heard not only in the next room but in the rooms beyond that. We are jammed up together so closely that we can hear everything that goes on. If we were not honorable people, very often we could make use of that knowledge. I seriously tell the Minister that there is room for an inquiry into the state of the federal members’ rooms in Perth at the present time, and I urge him to see whether something can be done to improve the position - to bring the rooms to the standard of office accommodation that should be provided for members of this Parliament.
.- Early in this debate a comment was made about the current sitting hours and it was suggested that an alteration should be made. One of the two reasons that were advanced in support of a change was that greater efficiency would be achieved if we were to sit on rive days a week for two weeks, adjourn for a week, then return for two more weeks’ sittings, and so on. The other reason was that a saving of expenditure could be effected by the change. .1 want to question the two grounds that have been advanced in favour of changing the present sitting hours. First, a change has been advocated on the score of greater efficiency. No evidence whatever has been placed before this chamber to support the contention that there would be greater efficiency in carrying out the work of the Parliament if the sitting hours were changed.
I have found, when discussing this matter in the precincts of the Parliament, that it is impossible to have sitting hours that would satisfy all honorable senators. I find that groups of senators from the various States desire certain sitting hours. As it is impossible to adopt hours that would satisfy all honorable senators and members, I think it is much better to leave them with their peace of mind by continuing the present sitting hours.
The second reason for advocating the change is that higher expense is incurred under the present system compared with sitting for fortnightly periods and then retiring for a week. Again I say there has been no conclusive evidence submitted on that point. I would even say that if the latter arrangement were adopted the expenditure would be much greater than it is at the present time. If honorable senators go into the economics of the matter they will find, I feel sure, that we would need a greater number of “ Hansard “ reporters. We could not expect the shorthand writers to attend here on five days of the week and also to attend the various meetings and conferences that are held in Parliament House on their off-days. I would say that if the sitting hours that have been suggested by Senator Wright and Senator Vincent were adopted, it would be necessary to increase the present number of “ Hansard “ reporters by at least one-third.
Then there is the question of the work that has to be carried out by the Parliamentary Draftsman. We have been told in this Senate that priorities have to be awarded to the class of work the Parliamentary Draftsman and his officers perform. If we were to sit here five days a week for two weeks and then retire for a week, naturally we would deal with a greater number of bills and consequently there would be required a great number of draftsmen. This would accentuate the difficulty of the Solicitor-General’s office in carrying out the necessary drafting work.
Turning to the cost of transport, I believe that this aspect is scarcely worth talking about when we give full consideration to the item, because if all members of Parliament used the .services provided by Trans-Australia Airlines it would be found that one government department would be paying another government department the cost of the fares £.nd freights involved in transporting the members of Parliament to Canberra and back to their home cities and towns. The only cost that would have to be met would be the operating costs. At the end of the financial year under this present arrangement a dividend, a sum of money, is paid by T.A.A. into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Speaking from memory, I would say that the amount this year will be probably £500,000. That is paid in the form of a dividend, and so the cost of transporting members to this Parliament could be written off completely.
The alternative to members travelling long distances to this Parliament is for them to live here. I notice that neither Senator Wood nor Senator Vincent is in the chamber. I have sat on a committee with them. We called an expert witness before us - he was one of the leading architects of the Commonwealth, I would say - when the question of providing a new Parliament House was under discussion. I notice that Senator McCallum is smiling. He knows what I am going to say about this matter. The witness who gave evidence - a great authority on town planning and the construction of buildings, such as a new Parliament House - said that he could not envisage a new Parliament House being built in Canberra without provision being made for living accommodation for all the members of the Parliament. If living accommodation were available to members of Parliament in Canberra they would be able to settle down in the national capital for a period long enough to allow them to carry out their work in an efficient manner.
Some reference was made to-night to the comments of the press about parliamentarians and the work of the Parliament. All honorable senators know that the press seizes every possible opportunity to disparage members of Parliament and the work of the Parliament. I do not think that anybody in concerned about that. I will not whinge over what the press says about me on any occasion. How I carry out my parliamentary duties is the affair of the electors of Queensland. If I satisfy them I will not be worried about what a branch of the press may say. I recall that earlier this year the press referred to the cost of meals in the parliamentary refreshment rooms. I remind honorable senators that no attempt is ever made to hide from the public any ment rooms. Losses are always publicized, loss that may be incurred by the refreshEvery member of the community knows what losses are incurred by the refreshment rooms. Every member of the community knows what it costs to provide members of the Parliament with meals. Some reference was made to-night to what journalists get from this Parliament. The amenities provided for journalists in this Parliament are indeed simple. They may get a pie warmer and, down in the vaults, a bath in which to wash their feet, and other similar amenities. But what do their employers get from the Commonwealth Government? They get telegraphic concessions worth about £300,000 a year. What a story 1 could tell if I had more time! The newspaper proprietors pay for press telegrams only about 22 per cent, of the charge that is imposed on the citizens of the Commonwealth. Queensland Press Limited is the holding company that controls the “ Courier-Mail “ and the Brisbane “ Telegraph “. It also controls wireless stations in Queensland and probably has an interest in one television station there. That company in turn is more or less owned and controlled by Herald and Weekly Times Limited of Melbourne, which has a considerable shareholding interest in the Adelaide “Advertiser”. Telegraphic advice of news goes not direct from Canberra to Brisbane but to Herald and Weekly Times Limited in Melbourne. It is then transmitted to Brisbane. Herald and Weekly Times Limited receives the benefit of a substantial proportion of the annual press telegraph concession of about £300,000.
.- I wish to refer to Division No. 105 where the sum of £204,700 is sought to be appropriated for the Joint House Department. On page 147 of the bill honorable senators will see details of the officers employed in that department.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Temporary Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative. (The Temporary Chairman having reported accordingly) -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 October 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1960/19601018_senate_23_s18/>.