23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether the Government will make a grant to the Queensland Cancer Appeal in the light of the fact that the Queensland Radium Institute serves not only Queensland but also the Northern Territory and Papua and New Guinea. Does the Minister know that many of the patients treated are inhabitants of Commonwealth Territories?
– I have made some inquiries about this matter. I understand that the Commonwealth has not yet been approached about it. Naturally, if an approach is made the Commonwealth will consider the matter.
– Has the Leader of the Government in this place seen a statement in to-day’s press to the effect that car dealers will support an Australian Labour Party man in the Sydney electorate of Bennelong against the sitting member, John Cramer? Can the Minister tell me how their action in supporting a Labour candidate will help the motor dealers, especially when, if Labour gave effect to its policy, it would mean the complete nationalization of the motor car industry? I also ask the Minister whether in November last car registrations were running at about 1,000 a day and the purchase of cars was costing Australia approximately £20,000,000 a month in overseas credits. If those figures are correct, how long would it have taken for Australia to become bankrupt?
– I did read the newspaper report on this matter. It is possible for us all to make errors of judgment. I should imagine that this industry would make an error of judgment indeed if many of its organizations were to follow the example of the New South Wales Chamber of Automotive Industries. The prosperity of any industry depends upon the general prosperity of Australia. The activities of the motor car industry have been somewhat reduced, but as Australia grows on a firm foundation as a result of what this Government has done, the industry will develop in a way that could never be contemplated if there were a change of government and the socialist party were in office.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, in its decision relating to professional engineers on 15th June, 1961, made it clear that the claim for increased salaries for engineers above the base grade could be proceeded with before a bench of three members? Is it not a fact that one organization covering professional engineers has had such a claim lodged with the commission for three years? Would the Prime Minister agree that talks between the Public Service Board and the three professional associations broke down at the beginning of August? Why is it that, with one claim being outstanding for three years and all hope of conciliation being dashed at the beginning of August, the claim in respect of the higher grade engineers will not be listed before a full bench before late October or early November? Has the Prime Minister decided to appoint a committee of outside persons to advise on whether the principles enunciated in the professional engineers’ case should be extended to other professional classes in the Commonwealth Public Service? Finally, in view of the determination with which representatives of the Commonwealth Government, State governments and private industry fought the professional engineers’ claims, will the Prime Minister consider placing a union representative on the committee, if it is appointed, to obviate any suggestion that it may not be completely objective in its thinking?
– This decision is of such profound significance that I am sorry to say that I am not willing to answer questions on it without notice. I have had some experience of the matter and its farreaching consequences in the administration of the Snowy Mountains scheme. Perhaps I put that in rather an unfortunate way; it should not be interpreted to mean that I opposed the various increases that were given. I know that this is an intricate matter. Therefore, I should like the question to be put on the noticepaper so that it can be answered properly.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs seen a news item inlast night’s Melbourne “ Herald “ headed “ U.S. Switch on China Hinted “, which stated that a very high American source on Monday, 25th September, dropped a hint that the official attitude of the United States of America to red China may be changing? As this matter is of vital importance to Australia, because of our geographical position in relation to Asia and the fact that we recognize free China and are bitterly opposed to the policies of red China, will the Minister inform the Senate what effect this suggested change in policy by the United States could have on Australia?
-I saw the news item in the Melbourne “ Herald “ referred to by Senator Branson. I noticed that the alleged source was unnamed and that no facts were given to support the speculation in that news item. All I can say is that I have not seen any indication at all of a change in the policy of the United States in the way suggested. I direct Senator Branson’s attention to the fact that not long ago President Kennedy specifically re-stated the support of the United States for Nationalist China.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport or the Treasurer. Has an agreement been made between the Government of Western Australia and the Government of the Commonwealth in relation to the establishment of a standard gauge railway from Parkeston to Fre mantle? Is the Minister in a position to give the Senate, as a States house, the terms of such agreement? Will he inform the Senate over what period repayments will be made to the Commonwealth Government by the Western Australian Government? When is it expected that work on the stanward gauge railway, apart from survey work, will start?
– The latest informationI can give to the honorable senator is that the draft agreement drawn up by the officers of the Commonwealth and of the State has been reviewed by the Government of Western Australia. The Western Australian Government has notified the Commonwealth Government that the form of the draft agreement is acceptable to it. 1 am not sure whether anything has happened beyond that point; but the Prime Minister has said, on more than one occasion, that he appreciates the urgency of this matter and the Commonwealth Government has in mind that the provision in the agreement relating to the Western Australian Government and the Broken Hill Company Proprietary Limited should be ratified by, I think, 31st October. I shall inquire whether any further information is available, and I shall let the honorable senator know the result of my inquiries.
– Has it come to the notice of the Minister representing the Treasurer that the Liberal Party conference this week carried a resolution recommending the payment of a superphosphate bounty? Can the Minister give me any figures on the cost involved, or can he say whether any consideration has been given to the subject of cost?
– I am not in a position at the moment to give any figures that would be helpful. The matter does involve a consideration of policy. I shall inquire of the Acting Treasurer, and if 1 can provide the honorable senator with any information I will do so.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral saying that about ten days ago the Minister gave some information in the Senate on the subject which I propose to raise. Will the Minister inform me whether candidates in the forthcoming federal election will be granted any broadcasting and telecasting time by the Australian Broadcasting Commission free of charge? If free time is granted, will the Minister inform me on what basis the time will be allotted?
– I speak from memory when I say that the announcement made in the Senate a week or so ago advised the parties concerned that free time would be made available to Government and Opposition parties on an equal basis. That information was elicited by a direct question asking what time would be made available for a third party. The answer given on that point was that it was under consideration. There is nothing that I can add to that.
– I want to know about individual candidates such as myself.
– The announcement stated that time would be made available to the parties, and I think in the past the parties decided how they would use the time made available to them.
– Is it allotted on a national or a State basis?
– On a national basis, and the parties concerned make their own arrangements for representation.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government. Has he noticed a report in this morning’s * Sydney Morning Herald “ that Mr. Cahill, the president ‘of the New South Wales Chamber of Automotive Industries, has announced that his organization is going to provide financial and organizational support to Alderman Jensen in his contest for the Bennelong seat against Mr. Cramer? What is the Minister’s policy on that matter?
– It is not a case of what my policy is; it is a case of what is the policy of the Liberal Party in New South Wales. If Alderman Jensen were a Liberal Party candidate in New South Wales, he would be prohibited from accepting financial and organizational aid from a trade organization such as this. Right from the inception of the Liberal Party in New South Wales we have resolutely set our faces against accepting money from sources such as this. We do not think any political party should put itself into the position of accepting money from those with sectional interests to serve. We believe it is a basic responsibility of every political party to keep itself completely independent. Right from the inception of the Liberal Party in New South Wales, we have held the view that trade associations which try to foster their own interests in preference to the interests of the community generally adopt an unworthy and un-Australian attitude.
I express my own view when I say that the re-appearance of a sinister influence such as this in the public life of New South Wales will aid Mr. Cramer in his campaign. lt will certainly rally Liberal Party supporters to his side. It must create deep uneasiness in the minds of electors, even if they are not affiliated with the Liberal Party, to see a situation like this develop. Surely any party that is in power is not in power in order to foster the interests of any sectional group or of any one industry in preference to the well-being of the community as a whole.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Is it not a fact that, during the 1949 general election campaign, when bank nationalization was under consideration, the bankers’ associations stated that they were prepared to spend £750,000 on their propaganda and on contributions to the present Government parties? In addition, did they promise special conditions in return for the work done by bank officers in that campaign? Is it correct to say that, after the objective of defeating the Labour Government had been achieved, the promise made to the bank officers was repudiated? I remind the Minister that I raised the matter in the Senate, and asked the Government whether the banks would honour the contract made with their servants.
– I do not propose to become involved in any discussion of the source of party funds, beyond stating genera] principles. To my recollection, the allegations made by Senator Cooke are completely untrue.
– My question, which is addressed also to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, arises from the question asked a few minutes ago by Senator McCallum. Am I correct in my recollection that the Liberal Party, in its early days in New South Wales, received the editorial support of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ for its aims and objectives?
– Contributions to party funds of the kind mentioned by Senator McCallum were the cause of one of the bitter fights in the early history of the Liberal Party in New South Wales.
We deliberated on this matter and, right at the beginning, decided that our policy was not to take donations with any strings attached to them. We decided that we would not take donations from trade associations. We made that policy public. There was a good deal of opposition to it, but we persevered and we have continued to do so in New South Wales ever since. In that State, we do not accept assistance from trade organizations. From time to time there have been serious attempts to break down that principle, but we have refused to have it broken down. We have persevered with it. I throw my mind back to the early struggles that we had in the incorporation of the party. I am very appreciative of the editorial support that the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ gave to us in that battle.
– I also direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate on the subject about which he has been speaking. Will the Liberal Party in New South Wales conduct a television programme during the forthcoming general election campaign? If so, from where will the money come to pay for the programme, and how much will the Minister contribute from his own pocket?
– I do not think the question is really worthy of an answer. I make my contribution to a political party, and I hope that Senator Toohey contributes to his party. We collect our money from a great number of sources and from many thousands of people.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation any plans for the introduction of jet aircraft into Australia? If so, on what date will such aircraft be introduced? Has a survey been made of the landing facilities required for jet aircraft? What action is being taken at present by the Government to develop a landing strip at Tullamarine, in Victoria?
– I am sure every one will agree that the first two parts of the honorable senator’s question deserve a fairly full and comprehensive answer. If he can possess himself in patience for the space of 24 hours, I shall introduce the measure of which I gave notice earlier this afternoon, and I hope that in doing so I shall give a full answer to those parts of his question. Regarding Tullamarine, at the moment I have nothing to add to the answers that I have given to questions asked earlier in this sessional period. The Commonwealth Government has spent more than £2,000,000 on the acquisition of land at Tullamarine for the provision of an airport for Melbourne. The actual construction of that airport and its timing will be reviewed towards the end of 1962.
– I address a question to the Minister for National Development. Is it a fact, as stated at page 18 of the American magazine, “ New Leader “, of 14th August last, that engineers of the Aluminium Company of America have announced the discovery of a new process for refining aluminium from common clay and that this influential American financial magazine has urged that the company’s shareholders press for an ending of commitments in overseas countries, as it will be no longer necessary to operate smelters in proximity to deposits of bauxite? Will the Minister examine the truth of this report in view of its possible effect on our aluminium industry?
– I am indebted to Senator McManus for the information he has given. I had not previously heard of this development and shall have the newspaper report turned up. I ask him to place his question on the notice-paper so that the department may be able to look into the matter. We all are aware, of course, of a new process, which has reached the experimental plant stage, for the smelting of bauxite into metal, eliminating the intermediary process of the production of alumina. It is news to me that there is, if I understand the honorable senator correctly, a process which eliminates bauxite and produces aluminium from common clay. If the honorable senator will put the question on the notice-paper, we shall be better informed.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– My colleague, the Postmaster-General, has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
What was the profit or loss of the various overseas voyages made by Australian National Line vessels during the past two years?
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has furnished the following reply: -
For the two years ended 30th June, 1961, twelve overseas voyages have been undertaken by vessels of the Australian National Line, four each to New Zealand and New Caledonia, three to Japan and one to India. The Australian Coastal Shipping Commission regards the financial results of these voyages as confidential but it may be said that overall the voyages were undertaken principally as a means of keeping ships employed rather than to secure an economic gain.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following information: -
Judged by statements made by their officials, a number of unions are refusing to pay a levy made by the A.C.T.U. on three main grounds -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following replies: -
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– I have obtained the following information from the Joint Coal Board: -
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– I now furnish the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
Motion (by Senator McKenna) agreed to -
That Standing Order No. 127 be suspended to enable the discussion on General Business, Notice of Motion No. 1, standing in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, to continue without interruption until 5.45 p.m.
– I move -
That the Commonwealth Dwellings (Rent) Ordinance, No. 18 of 1961 made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910-1959, be disallowed.
The motion indicates that we are concerned with an ordinance made pursuant to the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910-1959 as a result of which rentals on dwellings throughout the Australian Capital Territory have been substantially increased in recent times. 1 should like to refer briefly to the history of relevant events leading up to the promulgation of this ordinance. In a letter dated 7th June, 1950, Sir Philip McBride, the then Minister for the Interior, directed attention to certain factors which operated to make the cost of housing in the Territory very much heavier than it was elsewhere. He referred in particular to three facts: First, that a country allowance had to be paid to tradesmen who came to the Territory to work; secondly, that a large amount of overtime had to be paid; and thirdly, that the costs charged to housing included the rather remarkable element of losses on hostels for workers.
The letter pointed out that those cost factors varied from 7 per cent, in 1946 and 1947 to 8± per cent, in 1948, 15 per cent, in 1949, and “latterly” - he was writing in June, 1950 - to 20 per cent. Sir Philip McBride announced then that in determining the basis of rentals for the future the cost of housing would be reduced by 20 per cent. The operative charge in respect of housing was 5 per cent, of the depreciated cost - that is, depreciated by 20 per cent. The situation then, as Sir Philip McBride pointed out, was that there was an amortization period of 70 years in relation to brick houses and 53 years for timber houses.
Having established that the Government acknowledged that there were unusual elements in the cost of houses in the Australian Capital Territory, I come to 1961 when the present Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) announced rent increases for Commonwealth houses and flats ranging from ls. to 29s. per unit. A little later he announced that the maximum increase would be raised to £2. He indicated that in relation to houses built prior to 30th June, 1945, there would be no change of the rents unless the premises were vacated by the then tenants. He said that the rents for those properties would be reviewed only upon some change taking place in the tenancy. In regard to houses built between 1945 and 1956, the Minister announced the adoption of the formula in the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement of 1945 for ascertaining rents. The formula - I shall deal with it in more detail later - operated on an amortization basis of 53 years. Therefore, the period of 70 years which was applicable to brick houses was immediately cut down, leading to a raising of rents in respect of that type of house. The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement of 1945 provided for the inclusion of an interest charge of 3 per cent. For houses built from 1956 onwards, the formula set out in the Com.monwealth and State Housing Agreement of 1956 was to be applicable, with the variation that interest was to be charged at the rate of 4 per cent, instead of 3 per cent. At that time, the Minister pointed out that the return to the Commonwealth on the full capital cost - not on the depreciated capital cost - of houses built between 1945 and 1956 would be 4.41 per cent., and 4.84 per cent, on the full capital cost of houses built after 1st July, 1956.
The Minister for the Interior first announced that these increases were to begin on 6th April this year, but on the 13th of that month he said that some doubts existed as to the validity of the procedure taken to increase the rents, and he postponed the operation of the increases that he had announced some time before. What the doubts were has not been explained, but L should imagine that it was considered that the unilateral decision of the Minister to increase rents did not operate to establish a new contract between the Commonwealth and the tenant, but merely represented an offer of a tenancy on the new basis. So, if the offer were not accepted, the Minister would have to go ahead and determine the existing tenancy by giving the appropriate notice, and then enter into a new contract with the tenant at the increased rental. However, since then an announcement has been made, or effective steps have been taken, to make these rental increases operative from 31st August this year. In fact, they are now under way in the Australian Capital Territory.
The machinery that was adopted, after long thought, for the purpose of implementing the increases is contained in an ordinance - the one referred to in my motion. It was issued on 18th July, 1961. In section 2 of that ordinance “ lease “ is defined as including an agreement for a lease or for the tenancy or occupation of premises. So, even the loosely-drawn arrangements which do not amount to a formal lease are included, in the term “ lease “.
I understand that about 5,800 houses are affected by the rental increases. I also understand that all those premises are on either a weekly or a fortnightly basis of tenancy, and that in fact no formal lease is in operation in relation to any one of them. There is either a mere acknowledg-ment in writing of acceptance of the tenancy or some other relatively loosely drawn arrangement. Section 3 of the ordinance makes it clear that the ordinance applies to a lease that entitled or purports to entitle a person to occupy premises from week to week or from fortnight to fortnight. So, the ordinance did not purport to deal with leases, but with the relatively short tenancy arrangements which are terminable either by a week’s notice on either side or by a fortnight’s notice. Subsection (2.) of section 3 contains this rather unusual provision, among others -
This Ordinance so applies -
On the assumption that that was put in the ordinance for a purpose - one must assume that - one comes to the position that power is taken to abrogate by law contractual relations between people. For that to be done, there would have to be very clear authority in the statute that authorizes the making of this ordinance. I have referred to the original ordinance - the Seat of Government (Administration) Act - and looked at the ordinance-making power. I find no specific provision in section 12 of that act which would authorize the making of an ordinance giving the power to disrupt contractual obligations or arrangements that had been entered into between the Commonwealth and any of its tenants in the Australian Capital Territory.
– Did you find any provi sion that said that could not be done?
– No, but I suggest to the Minister, in view of cases that have been decided by the courts and of which I have had some personal experience - having figured in cases on this point - that the courts will not construe a provision, particularly in subsidiary legislation of this kind, to enable the abrogation of contractual relations, unless the statute authorizing the making of the subsidiary legislation contains the clearest authority for that. So, the fact that I am unable to find anything which says that it may not be done is not the point at issue. The point is that there should be clear authority for the purpose.
I should like the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), when he addresses himself to the ‘motion, to indicate why there was a need for the Commonwealth, in section 3, to take power to set aside arbitrarily, capriciously and in derogation of contractual obligations, any term or condition of the lease. I take it that that power has not been included in the section for no reason at all. I should like to know at what it is aimed. On my reading of the statute and a consideration of this ordinance, I take the preliminary objection that in that respect the regulation is ultra vires the statute.
Section 4, which is really the operative section, provides that the Minister may from time to time - that means as often as he likes or as seldom as he likes - by order under his hand, direct that the rent payable under these tenancies be either decreased or increased to such amount as he specifies. It provides that he has to give notice of that. It also provides that he can keep on varying the rental subsequently. Sub-sections (4.) and (5.) of section 4 determine the points at which rental decreases and increases may take place. On the face of those sub-sections, a decrease may operate retrospectively. That is certainly beneficial to the tenant. I could not imagine anybody who would be upset about a decrease being made to operate retrospectively.
– You are not complaining about that.
– No. Also, to my horror, I find that the regulation-making power in the act which authorizes the making of this ordinance permits the retrospective operation of orders made by the Minister. That is not so much a matter for criticism of this regulation as of the act itself. In the survey that I have made of legislation affecting this matter, I was horrified to find how arbitrary are the powers given to the executive and the administration in relation to matters affecting the Australian Capital Territory. I repeat that I was horrified to find that the authorizing act, pursuant to which this ordinance is made, grants power for retrospective legislation to be made. Whilst under the ordinance decreases in rent, if any, can be retrospective, decisions imposing increases are not retrospective They are prospective, and are fixed according to a date named by the Minister, but not earlier than the date of the notice that he gives in the matter.
The last element of the ordinance to which I wish to refer is section 7, which reads -
For the purposes of the Land Valuation Ordinance, 1936->7, an order under section four of this Ordinance shall not be taken to be a determination of the rent payable under a lease.
On the face of it, that section looks as though it is a purely technical drafting provision, but it is seen to be far from that when one looks at the Land Valuation Ordinance to which reference is made. One finds in sub-sections (1.) and (2.) of section 5, in relation to a lease, that a tenant whose rent is subject to variation may appeal to the Minister, and may eventually have his appeal transmitted .to the land commissioner.
– That is a lease in writing.
– I am speaking of a formal lease as defined in the Land Valuation Ordinance. I point out to the honorable senator that the definition of the short tenancy agreements as leases projects them within the ambit of the Land Valuation Ordinance and entitles the tenants to the benefit of an appeal. Because the agreements have, for convenience sake, been deemed to be a lease, the Government might definitely, and deliberately, decide that the tenants are not to have any right of appeal. I concede that this is not a right they enjoyed before the making of this ordinance, but it is a right that would have accrued to them under the definition of a lease in the ordinance to which I have already adverted, but for the fact that section 7 completely negatives it.
– Surely this ordinance makes these tenancy agreements leases only for the purpose of this ordinance and not for any other purpose?
– I am not denying that. In fact I am directing attention to that fact. I am merely pointing out the deliberation with which the Government has faced the position. Are these tenants entitled to an appeal or are they not, in circumstances where the Government has unilaterally and arbitrarily lifted their rents by as much as £2 per week? The clear decision of the Government is that they are not to be given the right of an appeal.
– It restores the status quo.
– It does not really disturb the status quo. I have said that already in reply to Senator Vincent. I am merely making the point that the Government looked at the question whether these 5,800 tenants should be entitled to the appeal that they would be entitled to if they held formal leases, lt is particularly clear that the Government quite deliberately says that they are not to have the right of an appeal. It is not a matter of thoughtlessness or mere chance. It is a matter of deliberation on the part of the Government and a definite decision to deny these people the right of appeal in circumstances where very substantial increases have taken place in their rents.
I have referred already to sections 4 and 7 of the ordinance, and it is clear that if those sections are taken together they confer an absolutely arbitrary power upon the Minister, from time to time, as often as he likes, to any extent that he likes, and in any way that he likes, to vary the rentals upwards or downwards. One difficulty from the point of view of a tenant is that the movement will be upwards, ever upwards. I direct attention to the fact that although the Minister has announced that in calculating the rents the formula adopted in the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreements of 1945 and 1946 will be followed, even that provision is not written into the ordinance. It is no more than a statement of intention by the Government which is not written into the ordinance nor into any legislation. It is a mere matter of Government policy that can be changed for the worst, so far as the tenants are concerned, to-morrow or the next day. It indicates complete absence of protection for people, many of whom, as public servants, are compelled to remain in this area and are dependent upon the Government for the provision of their accommodation. So, I make the two points: The first is that there is a completely arbitrary power in the hands of the Government; and the second is that the tenants are not protected by the application of any formula at all except at the will of the Government.
I want now to make some general observations. I shall leave the ordinance itself for the moment. There is in existence - I have not been able to find whether it is a purely administrative provision or some kind of legislative provision - a proviso that relief can be given to tenants experiencing hardship in the payment of their rentals. It seems to me, in the limited time I have had to inquire, that this is a purely administrative procedure and not one that rests upon any legislative support. On that subject I wish to refer to a letter from Mr. Freeth, dated 18th July last, addressed to Mr. J. R. Fraser, M.P., in which Mr. Freeth adverts in the following terms to the existing arrangements for relief in cases of hardship. The Minister wrote -
The scheme was intended primarily to cover persons in the lower income group and those whose income had been deduced by sickness or unemployment. Generally it is found that the tenants who receive the benefits of this scheme are in receipt of social service allowances.
Consideration has been given to modifying the scheme to provide a greater margin of income giving entitlement to a rebate, but I regret that after carefully examining the position I am unable to approve any variation.
It appears, therefore, to be a purely ministerial act in the first place that no relief could be provided; and, secondly, we have the Minister quite recently in this letter indicating that he is not prepared to vary it. According to the Government’s outlook a person in distress must be a social service beneficiary, receiving sickness, unemployment or special benefit, an age or invalid pension, or something of that kind, before he can be granted any relief against hardship.
Mr. Fraser has had literally hundreds of cases of hardship submitted to him. He has passed on many of them to the Minister, the Minister’s comment on them being -
I have read carefully the extracts forwarded under cover of your letters and find that generally the tenants have indicated that they will experience financial hardship in meeting increased rents. Other than under the rental rebate scheme mentioned above there is no authority under which tenants may receive a reduction in their rents.
I shall read that last sentence again -
Other than under the rental rebate scheme mentioned above there is no authority under which tenants may receive a reduction in their rents.
Quite clearly that statement is wrong because under the very terms of the ordinance from which I have quoted the Minister has power at any time, and from time to time, to increase or .decrease the rental of any premises. In the very ordinance that is now under discussion he has the most complete authority and the most complete power, as I have already demonstrated. It is quite idle for him to say that he has no authority to give relief in a case of hardship.
– Perhaps the Minister is talking about the situation if this ordinance does not become law.
– He is speaking about the fact that he had no opportunity to grant relief, other than under some illdefined provision for relief affecting social service beneficiaries. He claims he has no other power. I am showing that he has complete and absolute power.
Let me be clear about the dates. I find that the ordinance was approved by the Administrator on 18th July, 1961, and that it was on that very same day that the Minister wrote this letter. Therefore, he wrote with the knowledge of the ordinance and, I have not the slightest doubt, knowing that it had been promulgated on that day. So honorable senators opposite cannot seek to find an alibi for the Minister by saying that he wrote on that day, but that what he said did not apply to the ordinance. The Minister wrote on the very day that the ordinance was promulgated. If honorable senators will refer to the motion of which I have given notice, they will find the date given there, and I have given it in this speech after a look at the ordinance. Therefore, that alibi is clearly not available.
The fact is that the Minister is not willing to look at cases of hardship unless the persons concerned are in the social service beneficiary class. The fact that there are cases of hardship is exceedingly well established. Obviously the Minister could vary rents administratively under the relief provisions, if he wished to do so. Being armed with the authority conferred by this ordinance, he cannot deny that he has the power now to vary rents for any reason or, let me say, for no reason. The Minister has complete and absolute power to increase or decrease. Do honorable senators opposite deny that proposition? Section 4 (1.) of the ordinance states -
From time to time during the currency of a lease to which this Ordinance applies, the
Minister mav. by order under his hand, direct that the rent payable under the lease be decreased or increased to an amount specified in the order, and the Minister may, in any such order, specify the commencing date of the order.
Does not that permit him to do exactly as he wishes to meet any cases of hardship? He claims that he lacks authority. I completely deny that.. It is quite obvious that the refusal to deal with cases of hardship, apart from those concerning people in the social service beneficiary class, arises from an unwillingness to deal with such cases.
– Would you say that the power given by this ordinance is a good power for a Minister to have?
– 1 have already said that I think that the power that the Minister takes is far too arbitrary. On that subject, let me say that 1 do not believe that the granting of relief should be a matter dependent upon the benevolence of a Minister. If there were a proper outlook on the part of the Government, the relief provisions would be written into this ordinance, so that there would be some element of right to relief. I am shocked to find how arbitrary are the powers that the Executive takes to itself, or that the Minister takes to himself, under the arrangements that I have been considering, affecting the Australian Capital Territory.
The “ Canberra Times “, in a leading article on 11th April, referred to the element of hardship. The leader writer wrote -
The fact is that a great many tenants - not all of them, but a great marry - are faced with real hardship . . . But surely it should be neither irresponsible nor futile to urge the Government to take a humane view, outside the normal line of demarcation, of pleas for special consideration in hardship.
Many such cases must exist among pensioners, people in the lower wage and salary brackets arid parents of larger families.
The demands of ordinary humanity, which many private landlords recognize of their own volition, should not be beyond the understanding of a Government instrumentality.
With that I completely agree. Mr. Fraser cited cases of hardship, and I will discuss two of them now, without giving particulars that would identify the people concerned. The first relates to a three-bedroom brick veneer home in Braddon, the rent of which has been raised by £1 9s. from £2 16s. lid. to £4 5s. lid. The tenant is already in debt, due to the illness of his wife and son. He is £70 behind with his rent. His wages are in arrears by £100. He is engaged by a small firm which is affected, by the credit squeeze and he has not been paid wages amounting to £100. He is repaying the £70 arrears of rent at £5 a week.. On the former rent, his outgoing under this. head’, were £7 16s. lid. a week, and on the new rent they are £9 5s. lid. Surely there ought to be provision for the’ Minister to exercise the power to grant relief in a case of hardship of that kind.
– There is power.
– There is power, but there is a denial by the Minister that he has it. I present that as clear evidence of unwillingness to help.
– The ordinance now gives him the power.
– I have already conceded that he has the power. I have drawn particular attention to it. I have also drawn attention to the denial in writing by the Minister that he has power. As the Minister really has the power, this adds up to an unwillingness to exercise the relief provisions. I repeat that this matter should not be left to the determination of a Minister. The circumstances should be such that people know that, under a regulation or an ordinance, they have a right to relief in certain types of cases.
The other case of hardship to which I shall refer is, 1 understand, typical. It concerns a four-bedroom house occupied by a Defence transferee from Perth. He has six children, ranging in age from eighteen months to fifteen years. On arrival in Canberra from Perth, not very long ago, the rent of the house was £1 13s. lid. a week. It has now gone up by £2 a week. This man showed that his weekly salary, after deduction of the former rent, was £20 14s. 9d. a week. Living expenses, including expenditure on food, electricity, fuel, water rates and education, and hirepurchase payments on a washing machine and a refrigerator, came to £20 14s. a week, leaving him, on the original rent, with 9d. net. The additional rent of £2 will bring his expenses to £22 14s. a week, giving him a weekly deficit of £1 19s. 3d.
This man expended £130 on transfer from Perth, including the cost of accommodation en route, new floor coverings, blinds and curtains for the new house, and a changeover of school uniforms. The Department of the Army reimbursed him £59, leaving him £71 out of pocket. To this must be added the cost of school winter uniforms.
Those are two typical cases of hardship in respect of which the Minister - quite wrongly, in my view - says he has no power to grant relief. What has been done in this unilateral and arbitrary way is completely unfair to the defence personnel who have been brought here in hundreds in recent months. I understand that before they came here they were shown the plans of the houses that were available and were given an indication of the rents that would be charged. No doubt those were factors which influenced their decision to come to Canberra, leaving the places where they had been domiciled hitherto. Nevertheless, in the space of a relatively few weeks, these people, in their hundreds, have been mulct in additional rents of up to £2 a week. I say that that is unfair, in that the increases have been applied alike to houses which are in good shape and to houses which are not. I refer in particular to the monocrete houses that have been erected in Canberra. I understand that, down the years, some 960 of them have been erected. About 340 of them are acknowledged to be damp, mouldy, dank and dangerous to health; but in this unilateral movement by the Minister the rent of all those houses has gone up by, I am informed, an average of £1 9s. a week. That does not show very much consideration for the 340 tenants who are living under conditions that are acknowledged to be unhealthy and unsatisfactory. All attempts to date to rectify the damage have failed. Despite that fact, the rents have gone up for 340 tenants, in accordance with a unilateral determination under the authority conferred by this ordinance on the Minister.
There is no attempt by the Government to justify the increased rents. No accounts are prepared, much less presented to the Parliament, which show whether a profit or loss is made on Commonwealth housing projects in Canberra. This has been the subject of comment by the Auditor-General time and again in his reports. I refer first to the report for the year ended 30th June, 1958, where, under the heading “ Housing “, the Auditor-General stated -
The only financial statement currently prepared by the Department of the Interior in connexion with these activities is a statement of ledger balances of the Australian Capital Territory Housing Trust Account, through which the advances mentioned in (c) above are financed. This statement is not designed to show the operating profit or loss of the scheme.
The Department was informed that additional accounting was necessary to enable competent authority to have accurate information regarding the profit or loss involved in various categories when rental, sale and advances policy is being reviewed, and that complete audited statements are desirable in the interests of public accountability.
The Department replied that for the purposes of departmental management additional financial statements are not required.
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, the matter has now been referred to the Department of the Treasury. 1 repeat the Auditor-General’s statement that the department had replied that, for the purposes of departmental management, additional financial statements were not required. That may be so, looking at the matter from the purely departmental viewpoint, but what of the parliamentary viewpoint, and what of the viewpoint of the various tenants who are at the mercy of an arbitrary decision made on a unilateral basis by the Minister? Are not the tenants entitled to know whether the increases represent some measure of additional taxation? Should it not be demonstrated to them by figures that are audited, proved and published as public information, that there is some basis and some justification for what is being done? We can see the arbitrary outlook of the Government and the department in the matter.
I have referred to the comment of the Auditor-General in 1958. In the following year, he returned to the subject. In the course of his report he stated -
During 1958-59, the matter of improved accounting has been under consideration by the Department and the Treasury.
At the time of compiling this Report, no proposals for improved accounting have been received, and the departmental accounts for 1958-59 are in the same unsatisfactory state as previously reported.
Still, the department was satisfied as long as it had enough information for its own purposes. It continued to disregard the Auditor-General, the Parliament and the proper rights of the tenants in the Australian Capital Territory. In the very next year, the Auditor-General stated -
Previous Reports have referred to the inadequate accounting for the various housing activities m the Australian Capital Territory. The position has not changed.
Coming right up to date, in the year ended 30th June, 1961, the Auditor-General adverted to the matter again and stated -
The Joint Committee of Public Accounts in its Fifty-second Report, agreed “that the interests of public accountability warrant the annual submission of complete audited financial statements covering the Commonwealth’s investment in housing in the Australian Capital Territory”, and added that any such statements prepared should be made available to the Parliament. At the date of compiling this Report, the responsibility for the preparation of financial statements for the housing activity bad not been determined.
The Auditor-General, over a period of four years, has constantly raised this matter and has been ignored by the Government and the department.
The Joint Committee of Public Accounts, in its fiftieth report, published in 1960, also referred to the matter. In paragraph 201 it stated-
Our inquiries into the matters raised by the Auditor-General in relation to the Department of the Interior have illustrated the breakdowns in administrative machinery that can occur when there is a serious lack of appreciation by governmental authorities of the points of view and respective responsibilities of each other. Many of the matters, relatively unimportant when initially raised by the Audit Office, became major issues as the parties concerned maintained rigid attitudes and determined efforts were not made to achieve a solution. In our assessment, there were faults on all sides - on the part of the Treasury, the Audit Office and the Department of the Interior.
Taken together, those comments constitute, in the view of the Opposition, a very grave indictment of the Minister, the department and the Government. I repeat: Surely, these 5,800 people in the Australian Capital Territory are entitled to know whether there is a firm base for the extra charges that have come out of the blue, or whether, in effect, they are being made the subject of some special tax.
The Minister, in answer to a question asked by the honorable member for the
Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) on 21st .April last, stated -
That means that all the houses we are talking about that have been built since 1937 have been paid for out of revenue. There has been no loan money included in the expenditure. Yet, we find, on referring to the Minister’s further statements, that interest is charged in computing the rentals. There is a debit of 3 per cent, for interest on the cost of houses built between 1945 and 1956, and a debit of 4 per cent, on the cost of houses built from then on. I say that that is completely false accounting. It is a falsification of accounts to include in the elements of cost an item of interest which in fact is never paid by the Commonwealth, the constructing authority. That invoking of the formula set out in the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, because of the element of interest it contains, is done for the purpose of claiming that there is some comparability between the building of houses under that agreement and the building of houses in Canberra. Of course, there is no such thing. In the one case, the States in fact pay interest, and it is proper that an interest charge that is paid should be added to costs and included as a part of the rent component, because interest on the moneys borrowed has to be met year by year. But in the Australian Capital Territory there is no such element of interest. That is a purely fictitious charge. It is merely a device to boost rental charges, adopted by a government with a money-lender’s outlook. That is the view I put. It is interesting to have a look at the component elements of the rental.
– If those houses were built out of Consolidated Revenue and there should be no charge for interest, you would expect them to be rent-free?
– Not at all. I should think that the honorable senator would know that there are the questions of maintenance, insurance and administration, for which charges have to be made. I give the honorable senator the figures se* that he may see the respective elements. The Honorable W. Kent-Hughes, on 4tfe
November, 1954, when Minister for the Interior, gave the following amounts per £1 as the various elements in rental: -
There are two elements in each of those lists that are completely fictitious, namely, interest and sinking fund.
– Do these figures make up each £1 of rental?
– Yes. Whether the house is of timber or brick, more than half of the rental is to recoup the Government for interest which it has never had to pay.
– How much did you say maintenance amounted to?
– For a brick house 5s. 3d. and for a timber house 5s. 7d. from each £1 of rental.
– That was in 1954?
– Yes. I shall bring the .figures up to date. Those are extraordinary elements of rental when it is realized that no money at all is involved. I think it is reasonable that some amount should be included for sinking fund over a 70-year period for a brick house and a 55-year period for a timber house .so that the Government may recover the cost over the life of the house. But what justification in fact or in truth is there for the inclusion of interest, particularly in a locality where, it nas been stated, .special circumstances add to cost? The Government creates one of the major elements.
– Would you not like a little interest on your capital?
– If I had any, I would.
– You would want more than .3 per cent.
– If I had any, I would. But I am certainly mot a govern ment concerned with housing its employees. Many of the tenants are employees of the Government. From moral, financial and accounting viewpoints, it is completely wrong to charge interest and pretend to be recovering it when in actual fact the Government has never been responsible for paying it.
On 21st April, 1959, Mr. Freeth replied to a series of questions by Mr. Fraser in these terms -
There is no break-up. However, for each £1 received by way of rent, for new houses the Commonwealth’s inescapable commitments are: - Insurance, 4d.; maintenance, 9s. 6d.; administration, 9d. The balance of 9s. 5d. is payable to-‘ wards interest and sinking fund.
In other words, that amount does not go the whole way in providing for interest and sinking fund. The figures show that over a five-year period the maintenance element had risen from 5s. 3d. and 5s. 7d. to 9s. 6d. That is a most extraordinary increase. It is rather Interesting to analyse the figures further. On 26th April, 1961, Mr. Fraser asked Mr. Freeth -
The Minister replied -
– You could not maintain a brick house of two bedrooms in Canberra for 9s. 6d. a week.
– This is 9s. 6d. in each £1 of rental. I cannot say about that. I have not any vested landed interests in the Australian Capital Territory. I know little of the exact conditions here. But that is snot my problem; it is .the Government’s problem. It is right on the Government’s doorstep. On Hie figures supplied by the Minister, when the fortnightly rentals amounted to £47,828 the Government received £1,243,528 in a year. The Minister said that there was an inescapable charge of 9s. 6d. in every £1 of rental for maintenance. That works out at £590,676 in a year. Looking at the same answer on 26th April, 1961, we find that in the year 1959- 60 the total amount actually expended on maintenance was nothing like £590,000. It was £307,723.
– Did that include such items as sewerage services and water supply?
– No. That was the amount expended on maintenance. That cost is rising at the rate of approximately £30,000 per annum. To bring the two figures together at the one point of time, let me add £30,000, being the increased cost for one year. We then find that on the Minister’s statement he is making a profit of £252,953 out of the amount he collects for maintenance. In other words, on his own figures, he has collected nearly twice as much as he has expended on account of maintenance. Is it any wonder that in the absence of other information, upon looking at data like this, tenants in the Australian Capital Territory are up in arms? They are entitled to know what is happening. On the new rentals the Government will collect £1,697,000 per annum, an increase of £450,000, or an average of about 30s. a week from 5,800 homes. The tenants are really entitled to some clear facts and explanations. The Minister and the Government are certainly put on firm inquiry to justify charging what the Minister claims is an inescapable maintenance cost, which in fact is not paid. For maintenance of government homes the Department of the Interior collects almost twice as much as it spends. The formula contained in the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is not applicable to houses built by the Government in the Australian Capital Territory. There should be a full inquiry into housing costs and rentals in the Territory, as well as into the cost of living. All those matters are closely related in this rather special community. The Minister’s suggestion that tenants who do not wish to pay the increased rents may leave their homes is, I suggest, heartless and futile because where else could those tenants go when their work is here in the Australian Capital Territory? It is well known that there is a long waiting list for government homes. The tenants of government homes are, therefore, utterly at the mercy of the
Minister. He is armed with complete and arbitrary powers, but he has declined to produce the documents and the facts demanded by the Auditor-General and required by the Parliament. As a matter of fairness to die people involved, those documents and facts should be made available. If tenants decline to pay the increased rents where will they live? How are they expected to live and pay the increased rents when the Minister has claimed - quite wrongly I submit - that in certain cases he has no power to give relief?
I have heard Senator McCallum say in this place that the Senate should in effect adopt the Australian Capital Territory, as its special care. I know that Senator McCallum is very warmly interested in the welfare and development of the Territory. Residents of the Territory are entitled to look to the Senate for special protection. Regard should be had to the fact that homes built prior to 1945 are, generally speaking, in well-established areas. They are in areas that are well serviced, and in most cases they are occupied by residents of long standing. In many cases they are occupied by senior public servants who have largely shed their family responsibilities. Their rents will not be increased. Homes built since 1945, and to which the increases will apply, are in most cases in the outer areas of the city, and are not so well serviced by transport and shopping facilities. In the main, the tenants of those homes have young families. If they are public servants they are probably relatively junior in the service. These increases will apply to people with young families, and that is where the real hardship will occur.
The motion for the disallowance of the ordinance is intended to cancel the increases made pursuant to the ordinance. Secondly, the motion is intended to ensure that proper and accurate accounts are prepared and exhibited publicly. Thirdly, the motion is intended to eliminate fictitious interest charges. Fourthly, it is intended to promote a full inquiry into housing costs and rentals. Fifthly, it is intended to provide relief by way of appeal from arbitrary decisions at. the ministerial level.
According to figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician, as at 30th June, 1961, residents of Canberra had the lowest savings banks deposits in Australia.
They have the highest wages and they pay the highest taxes per capita in Australia, but they have the lowest savings bank deposits. They also have the highest cost of living in Australia. On top of all that comes this burden of increased rentals.
I have developed my theme objectively and dispassionately. I hope that the Senate will address its mind to my argument and will feel that it has a duty to disallow this ordinance. I look for some support from honorable senators opposite.
– I think that we should address ourselves to the purpose of this ordinance, to the position that we are in at the moment and to the position we will be in when the ordinance is passed by the Senate. The Senate will note that I referred to the ordinance being passed, not rejected. The ordinance will do one thing only. At present tenants of government houses have a fortnightly tenancy under a lease. If any variation is to be made in the lease, notice must be given that the lease has expired and that a new lease is to be drawn up. There are some 5,800 government homes in Canberra. Honorable senators can imagine the amount of work that would be involved in drawing up new leases for all those dwellings. To overcome that difficulty and to streamline the procedure, this ordinance is designed to allow the Minister for the Interior to vary rentals. It is absurd to suggest that this ordinance should be disallowed because all that it does is give proper ministerial authority to vary rentals rather than go through the cumbersome procedure of drawing up 5,800 new leases every time a rental variation is made.
The Opposition has attempted to make political capital out of this issue. It has approached this question of rental increases from a political angle. I will deal with the justice of the present rentals later. That is a challenge that I am happy to accept.
Senator McKenna said that the ordinance would give to the Minister arbitrary and excessive power. Section 3aa (1.) of the Leases Ordinance 1918-1958 of the Australian Capital Territory states -
Any lease may, without prejudice to the period for which the lease is granted or to any covenant or condition of the lease, be granted subject to the condition or agreement that the rate at which the rent shall be payable for any period of the lease may be determined by the Minister or otherwise, and the rate may be determined accordingly . . .
That power has existed since 1933. It existed during all the time that Senator McKenna occupied the Treasury bench. The power contained in that ordinance apparently was not arbitrary then, but in the honorable senator’s opinion it is arbitrary and excessive now. That is the extent to which party politics have intruded into the logic of honorable senators opposite, particularly with 9th December looming so close. It is interesting to note that.
I have explained what this ordinance will do. I want to deal now with Senator McKenna’s remarks about the right of the Minister for the Interior to vary rentals. Senator McKenna said that the Government should make a clear statement of the position so that tenants of government homes would know where they stood. The Government has in fact made two policy decisions, under which the Minister is bound. The Minister does not vary rentals of his own accord. He varies them according to Government policy. The Government has publicly stated its policy with regard to rentals in the Australian Capital Territory.
The system of rental rebate is based on the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement of 1945, which takes into account the gross family income. The Government, not the Minister for the Interior, determines the policy applicable to this matter. The Government having determined its policy, the Minister acts accordingly.
The sole purpose of the ordinance we are now considering is to ensure that rents can be increased or decreased, as I said earlier, without termination of the existing fortnightly tenancy. The Leader of the Opposition stressed that the leases were made under an Australian Capital Territory ordinance and he said that, because that ordinance would have given tenants a right of appeal, the Government took steps to remove that right of appeal. I think I am quoting the honorable senator correctly when I say that. That has always been the case.
– The matter of the right of appeal was acutely before the
Government, but that right was denied. I did not claim that it had been in existence before.
– I did not say that you had said that. I was saying that all we have done has been to maintain the status quo in respect of the existing fortnightly tenancy leases. There was no right of appeal against those. They were subject to cancellation at any time from one side or the other. When tenants go into those properties they sign tenancy agreements acknowledging the terms of the tenancy and the amount to be paid fortnightly in advance. I point out that in no way are the existing rights of the tenants infringed. A tenant still has the right to terminate the agreement within fourteen days. That has always been the case. So an existing tenant retains his rights.
Senator McKenna cited some interesting figures in regard to rents. A little later 1 shall take him up on one or two of his statements. I shall deal now with the method of fixing rents, which is based on the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. However, there is a significant difference between the method employed here and that employed in the States under the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement. The Leader of the Opposition himself pointed out that in the Australian Capital Territory there is first a reduction of 20 per cent, from the capital cost of the property. That reduction of 20 per cent, includes an element of 14 per cent, which flows from the fact that it is realized that in a national capital the standard of housing is naturally a little higher than in the States and it is not equitable to expect people who are renting such houses to pay for the cost of that higher standard. It is realized further that Canberra is an inland city. For that reason, an additional 6 per cent is allowed to cover the cost of freight and other costs which are incurred because of the isolation of the city. For those two reasons, there is a reduction of 20 per cent, from the actual cost of a house before the rent is determined.
Under the new formula the Commonwealth seeks to levy rents for houses built between 30th June, 1945, and 30th June, 1956, on the basis of 4.42 per cent of the capital cost after the initial reduction of 20 per cent. For houses built after 1st
July, 1956, the basis is 4.84 per cent. I should like to direct the attention of honorable senators to the break-up of those two percentages. For houses built between 30th June, 1945, and 30th June, 1956, the allowance for amortization is 3.03 per cent, for maintenance 1.20 per cent., and for insurance, administration, vacancies and defaults, .19 per cent.
– When you refer to amortization, I take it you include interest with principal. Or are they separate elements?
– I understand that is a separate element. In respect of houses built after 1st July, 1956, the allowance for amortization is 3.65 per cent., for maintenance, 1 per cent., and for insurance, administration, vacancies and defaults, .19 per cent. Senator McKenna asked me whether interest was included.
– Is it included in the amortization charge?
– I am sorry; I was a little wrong there. The allowance for amortization includes interest on the capital over the period of 53 years. The formula for fixing rents in the Territory compares favourably with the fair rents procedure in New South Wales. In that State the Fair Rents Board works to a formula under which the annual rent is based on 6 per cent, of the cost of the land and building or, if the dwelling was built before 1939, the value at 1939. I remind honorable senators that we adopt a percentage of 4.42. In New South Wales, an additional 1 per cent, of the cost of the dwelling is added for repairs, and 1 per cent, for depreciation, making a total of 8 per cent. That is the basis adopted in New South Wales by a Labour government. A further charge is made to cover management expenses, and outgoings such as insurance, rates and taxes. Premises which were not let before 16th December, 1954, or which have become vacant since that date are not subject to the fair rents legislation. So surely it cannot be said that Commonwealth servants who live in Canberra and who pay rent which is based on a capital cost that has been reduced by 20 per cent, are being unfairly treated in comparison with Commonwealth public servants who live in Sydney.
The Leader of the Opposition has made much of the fact that the people of Canberra do not seek any preference in this matter; yet a great deal has been made of the fact that interest has been charged on the money used. The Opposition thinks that no interest should be charged on these properties. If that is not seeking a really decent preference, I do not know what is. If the Opposition is speaking, for the tenants, as it purports to be, then in fact it is seeking a preference because it is seeking interest-free properties.
I thought this matter was of great interest. It was suggested that because some of these houses had been built with money provided from revenue no interest should be charged because no interest is paid by the Government. But surely, if this money was not used for building houses it would’ be used to pay off other debts on which the Government is paying interest. That is a simple: proposition. The Opposition argues that because you have in your pocket £100 which has come from revenue, and which you could use on behalf of the taxpayers to pay off a debt that fs bearing interest,, you should not charge interest when you use it in a housing scheme. That is a fallacious argument. I ana game enough to say that if ever honorable senators opposite are in government they will promptly forget that argument and do exactly as they have always done before. I do not think there is any question about that.
The private landlord in. Canberra bases his charges on 5 per cent, of the full capital cost - not 4:.42 per cent, of the cost,, less 20 per cent. - plus li per cent, per annum for repairs, and 1 per- cent, for depreciation - a total of 7£ per cent. - plus the outgoings for insurance, commission, ground rent andi rates. The Opposition says that no- differentiation is sought between one section of the- Canberra community and another. Surely to ask that interest-free housing be provided for- one section of. the community,, whilst people renting private homes have to- pay rent- on the basis- I have just given, is, indeed seeking a preference. ft is interesting to get down to tin tacks and compare actual rentals paid in Canberra with- those paid in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. The cities in the eastern.
States afford the best comparison. I have here some interesting facts. In Canberra, three-bedroom brick veneer houses can be rented at from £3 L5s. to £5 5s. a week, according to the size and the standard. In Sydney, the lowest rental for such a house is £4 5s.. a week, and the highest is £4 15s. a week. I would like to know where a person could rent such a home for £4 5s. a week in Sydney. The rentals for threebedroom timber houses in Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane are exactly the same. They range from £4. to £4 10s. a week in each of those three cities. It is interesting, to see that, rentals in Canberra are quite comparable with, and no greater than, rentals in other cities in the eastern States.
If the Opposition wants actual proof of the really sympathetic attitude of the Government towards the people who live in Canberra, let us look at the rates they pay. The unimproved rate in Canberra is still 8d. in the £1. In Goulburn it is lOd. in the £1; in Queanbeyan it is ls. 2d. in the £1; and in Yass it is 9d. in the £1. The rates component, in rents for Commonwealth tenants has remained unaltered since the dwellings were first let. I should like to know of any other city in the Commonwealth of Australia in which the rates are the same as they were when these Canberra houses were built.
– I wish Sydney rates were comparable.
– And. what about the values of Sydney properties? Of course, the rate can be kept somewhere about the same if the assessment values are increased. That is. simple. The water and sewerage charge in Canberra is based on consumption, with a basic minimum of £5 per annum. Canberra people can use- 100,000 gallons of water a year for a charge of £5. Excess water is. paid for at’ the rate of ls. per thousand gallons. The excess water charge in Goulburn is not ls. per thousand gallons, it is 2s. 6d.; in Queanbeyan it is 2s. 6di; and in Yass it is. 2s. 6d. The minimum charge is not £5 in those towns; it ranges from £7 to £14.
I believe, that all these concessions rather point foi the fact that a> bit: of featherbedding has been, and. still, is, going on> in respect of: housing and- rentals in Canberra. L point out to the Senate that not all the tenants: are public servants.. Teachers*, professional men, shop assistants, other, workers and business, proprietors, rent properties in Canberra. Apparently the Opposition suggests, that, the Government; should subsidize one set of Canberra, residents, at the expense, of people in the categories that I have- just, mentioned.
Senator McKenna quoted1 from a speech made iti another place by the honorable member for the- Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser). I want to deal with the matters raised’ in- that speech because the answers to the points the honorable member made show- that either he was unaware- of the facts or he1 grossly misinterpreted and misused1 them. I am not prepared to- say which is true, but let me remind the- Senate of. the facts.. The- new rentals for houses built between 30th June-, 1945,, and 30th June;, 1956, are the weekly equivalent of 4.42, per cent, of the capital cost of the improvements; plus charges in respect of the: land; for- ground rent and rates,, excluding water’ charges,, which are levied separately.. Of the 4.42. per cent, ku respect of improvements; the’ maintenance component accounts- for 1.2 per cent., or about 5si 5d. in: each £1 collected in respect of that part of the rent attributable W the cost of the: improvements: on the land.. Of the total rent collectionsincluding ground rent and rates - the maintenance component would, of course;, be less- than 5s. 5d. in. each £1:.. Charges for ground rent and’ rates vary as between houses; and are; not Belated1 to costs’ of construction. However, on ani average, it would! be a near approximation to say that the proportion of total: rent collections attributable te the maintenance component would be about 5s.. in. the £1..
The new rentals for houses built after 1st My,. 1956,, are: the: weekly equivalent of 4.84 per cent., of the capital cost, plus charges, for ground rent and rates other than water- rates.. Of the 4.84: per cent., in respect, of the improvements,, the maintenance component is 1 per cent.; that is, about 4k.. 2d. m each £1 collected: in respect of: that part of. the trent attributable to the improvements.
The proportion of total rent collections attributable to the maintenance component would be about 4s. in the £1. That is where both the honorable member for the Australian CapitaL Territory in another place and the: Leader of the Opposition in this chamber completely fell into the trap, of basing, their facts upon, false figures. Based on an annual rent collection; under the new formula of £1,607,320^- the figure used by the honorable member for the Australian Capital: Territory - the amount to be collected on account of the maintenance component is estimated at approximately £330;000 and’ not £763477 as, the honorable member suggested.
In April, 1959, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory was supplied with answers to a number of questions which he asked about rental: housing in Canberra. He- was told,, among other things not relevant to the present issue, that the rents of new houses of all types of construction were being assessed: at the rate of 4s. 6d. per week for each 100 square feet of area, and that for each £1 received by way of rent for new houses 9sv 6d. was an “ inescapable commitment “ for maintenance. For the purpose of making his. point the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory has overlooked, either mistakenly or deliberately, the fact that the figure of 4s: 6’d1. a square was arrived at by applying the then rent formula to the average cost, less 20- per cent., of construction of houses built during the period 1945’ to 1954. The present method1 came into force in July, 1955. The honorable member has also overlooked the fact that in November, 1954 - before the 4s-. 6d;. a- square method was adopted1 - he had been- told that of each £1’ collected the amount attributable to maintenance was 5s. 6d’. for- brick houses and 5s. 7d’. for timber houses. He was also- told that the amounts attributable to interest and sinking fund were 14s. 2d. in the £1 and1 l’3s-. 4d. in the £1 for brick and timber houses- respectively.
The situation in April, 1959, was that the capital cost of new houses had risen far above- the average cost’ of construction during the period1 1’94’5 to 1954, but rents were not increased- Maintenance costs had risen and were naturally absorbing-, a greater proportion of the rent, collected from: new houses. Of each £1 collected”, from the base rents of new houses,, the amount required for maintenance had risen, from 5s. 3d. and 5s. 7d-. to 9s. 6d.r but the* amount available for interest and sinking fund had fallen from 14s. 2d. and 13s. 4d. to 9s. 5d. Rents for new houses were returning to the Commonwealth slightly less than 3 per cent. per annum on its investment. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory has applied the figure of 9s. 6d. in the £1 to the whole of the annual rent roll in force as at 26th April, 1961, and to the estimated total collections expected from the rent increases. This indicates that he has either no understanding whatever of the information supplied to him, or that he is deliberately misusing the information to produce a result which is not only false but also absurd.
I have tried to give the Senate a comprehensive account of this ordinance, and to show what it means. I have endeavoured to answer the questions posed by Senator McKenna during the course of his speech. I may have missed some of the points he raised - I do not think so - but if I have, speakers who follow me from this side of the chamber will no doubt reply to them. I am confident that the Senate will not disallow this ordinance.
.- The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) has made a very complete case for the increase in rentals by the Commonwealth Government of some of its premises in Canberra occupied by tenants. It is a great pity that the information he gave us was not made available to the tenants who are the people concerned. The Opposition has taken this case up because it honestly believes that the public servants, and others in Canberra occupying Commonwealth government houses, have a grievance. One would think, after listening to Senator Henty, that all the people occupying government houses are so many whingers and that they have been grizzling about nothing at all because the rentals are fair and fully warranted.
– They are getting their houses cheap and the rentals should be doubled, according to Senator Henty.
– Apparently they should be paying key money. After this legislation is passed there will be a blanket ordinance which will save renewing many leases held by tenants of Commonwealth government houses in Canberra.
– Did you say key money?
– Yes, key money. You have heard of it before. Let us consider a few facts. My party believes that the Commonwealth Government is entitled to fair rents for every house occupied by a tenant. We are fully aware that the money used to construct these houses was taken from the Consolidated Revenue Fund and that therefore the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory, as well as those of the States, contributed to those funds. Because the Commonwealth Government used that money to construct the houses that are now occupied by between 5,000 and 8,000 tenants in Canberra, naturally those tenants should be expected to pay a fair rental.
We know that when the Commonwealth Government undertook the task of constructing houses it took into account all possible calculated risks. The Government provided accommodation for people living in Canberra, and having done that it naturally assessed the rentals for those houses in the same way as a private house owner would assess the rental of a house for the purpose of making an income. The Opposition does not say that the rental of these houses should be assessed to cover bare costs and that nothing should go into the Commonwealth Treasury over and above the maintenance and other costs that Senator Henty mentioned a while ago. That would be nonsensical and I would not entertain the proposition for a second.
The point I wish to make is this: Rents should be fixed by an independent authority and not by the house-owner as has been done in this particular case. In the States we have independent authorities established for the purpose of fixing rents.
– Not for Commonwealthowned houses.
– I never said for Commonwealth houses because, if you know anything about the States, you will know that the Commonwealth does not own any houses in the States; they are owned by the State governments. I am suggesting what should be done to put these rentals on a fair basis. At the present time many people in Canberra are very dissatisfied because their rents have been increased. They want to know why the Government has increased their rents. Up to this point they have not been given the information that was available. I will admit that Senator Henty did give this afternoon some information that was not available before - information that could have been made available to all the tenants.
Let me get back to the point that rents should be fixed on an equitable basis. It is generally agreed that all the factors relating to a house - its life, construction cost and other things - should be considered fully and the rent fixed accordingly. If the Commonwealth Government were to appoint a commissioner to determine rents in Canberra - some one from outside the Australian Capital Territory and from outside the Commonwealth Public Service - it would find that there would be no dissatisfaction. Every citizen of this Territory would feel that the question of rents had been dealt with fairly and that what was decided was reasonable. At present, however, tenants believe that they have not been treated fairly. The people of Canberra do not whinge for nothing. In this case, many of them feel that they have a grievance, and they have every right to approach their representative in the Federal Parliament and ask him to ventilate the matter there.
We were told about the formula which was used for fixing these rents. If I heard correctly, the formula used was that specified in the housing agreement which operated between the Commonwealth and the States in 1945. Under that formula, family income was brought into account. The Government-owned houses in Canberra have been in existence for varying periods. Some of them have been up for twenty years and some for longer. Some of them have been up for only a few weeks. If, in fixing a rent for a house that was built fifteen or twenty years ago, you take into consideration the inflated salary of the occupier at present, you fix, in my opinion, an unfair rent. Housing costs have increased considerably during the last ten years, or during the life of this Government. As I have said frequently in this place, the basic wage has risen from £6 9s. a week in 1949 to £14 4s. at present. If you use a formula devised in 1945 to assess the present rent of a house constructed in 1944 or 1945, and if, under that formula, you take account of the cur rent family income, you do an injustice to the tenant of the house.
The costs mentioned by the Minister - which, evidently, are taken into account in fixing rents - are not major costs. If a house were built five or six years ago, as many houses in Canberra were, no repairs should have been needed so far. If money has been spent on the repair of such a house, there must have been a lack of supervision when it was being constructed. A house built five or six years ago is not due for painting yet. No money should have been spent on the repair of houses built in the last five or six years. The Government financed those houses from its own funds and supervised their construction. If they are in a bad state of repair now, that is the fault of the Government.
A few years ago the Government could have made a name for itself that would have lasted forever if it had entered the field of house construction boldly and provided far more homes for tenants, not only in the Australian Capital Territory, but in other places as well. It has the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and other agencies at its command, but to-day we find that Government houses are constructed in the way in which houses were constructed 60, 70 or 100 years ago. It should be possible now to provide cheaper houses. If a house is of brick-veneer or wooden construction, you find, so to speak, another house within the outside walls. Great expense is incurred in lining a brick-veneer or a wooden house. I believe that, at half the present cost, houses could be built which would be as decorative as the older, costly houses and provide the same degree of comfort.
I have already said that many tenants of Government-owned houses in Canberra feel that the Government has welshed on them. That is not a very pleasant situation. In transactions with its tenants and with the people generally, a government should be completely above reproach. If this Government, even at this late hour, can do anything to restore the sense of good feeling that should exist between it and the people of the Australian Capital Territory, that should be done. At present, as I have said, some tenants believe that the Commonwealth has welshed on them by increasing their rents. Everything should be done to dispel that belief, and the debate this afternoon gives the Government an opportunity to dispel it.
– I do not think that Senator Benn has done his cause much good by arguing that an independent tribunal should be appointed to fix rents in Canberra. Let me remind the honorable senator that in none of the States is there such a body to fix the rents of houses owned by the State governments or of houses built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement or similar agreements. The rents of such houses are not subject to the decisions of independent tribunals.
However, I do not think that that is the main objection to what Senator Benn suggests. I believe that the honorable senator would be criticized severely by tenants in Canberra if his suggestion were adopted. If such a tribunal were established, it would I believe, increase still further the rents of Government-owned houses in Canberra, because it would apply the formulae now used throughout the rest of Australia. The application of those formulae would be to the detriment of tenants in Canberra, who would find that their rents were increased further. Under the formulae now accepted by the fair rents courts in all the States, rents are much higher than they are under the formula now being used in Canberra by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth). Senator Benn, in calling for an independent tribunal to fix rents, has done his cause a great deal of harm, and I do not think that tenants in Canberra would endorse his remarks on that subject In fact, they would have been much happier if Senator Benn had kept quiet during this debate. If there are people in Canberra who do not want a fair rents court to be established here, they are the tenants of Governmentowned houses. The Minister probably would welcome an independent tribunal to fix rents, but I do not think that the tenants would welcome it.
Senator McKenna referred to a letter written by the Minister for the Interior in relation to the powers exercised by him in pursuance of this subordinate legislation. In my view, Senator McKenna misinter preted what the Minister said. Of course, no one will deny that the Minister has power under this subordinate legislation to increase or decrease rents. I suggest that what the Minister was saying in his letter was that he was not prepared to exercise that power except in accordance with government policy for the time being. Nobody will deny that, theoretically, the Minister could arbitrarily either increase or decrease rents, if he chose to do so. But the Minister has very wisely said: “ No. I am not going to do it arbitrarily. I am only going to consider alterations in rents in accordance with a predetermined policy.” That policy has been well and truly canvassed during this debate, so I shall not refer to it. 1 do not think Senator McKenna can import anything but that meaning into the Minister’s letter.
I wish to refer to Senator McKenna’s argument with respect to the interest component in Canberra rentals. I suggest that his argument was fallacious. If the honorable senator wants to argue that rents in Canberra should not include an interest component, he must also accept the proposition that no rent at all should be charged. After all, the money which comes from the Consolidated Revenue Fund is not paid back. That being so, Senator McKenna should argue that rents ought not to be paid at all, and that there should be no amortization. I do not think he is prepared to argue in that way. If he is not, then he must accept the argument that interest should be charged. As Senator Henty has quite properly said, it would be most unfair to tenants in the other capital cities of Australia if an interest component were not included in Canberra rentals. Therefore, Sir, I think that not very much weight attaches to Senator McKenna’s argument in that connexion.
Senator McKenna also suggested that subsection (2.) of section 3 of the ordinance was ultra vires. I do not know why he should make such a suggestion. All that the sub-section seeks to do is to relate the provisions of the ordinance to rents, and to rents alone. I suggest that this is an ordinance which is related exclusively to the fixation of rents. As the Minister has power to fix rents, he therefore has automatic power to exclude any other ordinance the provisions of which would prevent the operation of the provisions of the Commonwealth Dwellings (Rent) Ordinance. Therefore, I very much doubt the validity of Senator McKenna’s argument that the subsection is ultra vires.
I do not think that the disallowance or otherwise of the ordinance either would or could affect rental levels in Canberra. The Opposition has purported to be most concerned about the proposed increases -of rents. I put it to the Leader of the Opposition that even if this ordinance were disallowed, even if the Senate kicked it out, that would have no effect on the level -of rents paid in Canberra, either now or hereafter..
– Would the honorable senator explain that statement to me?
– Certainly. If the Senate denies the Minister the right to vary rents in accordance with this ordinance, he still will have the innate power to determine every tenancy of this nature in Canberra and to give notice of an increase or decrease in rent, as the case may be.
– Would you agree that if the ordinance were disallowed, the orders the Minister has made under it would fall?
– Yes, of course, but he could cancel to-morrow every tenancy in Canberra. as has been done in the past, and give notices of increases in some cases and decreases in others. He could alter the rentals in that way. So, in effect, the disallowance of the ordinance would not assist anybody in Canberra in having his rent reduced, because there are other ways and means of altering rents. If the Opposition wants to attack the level of rents, it should do so in some other way.
Let us have a look at the real intention of this subordinate legislation. It is merely to give the Minister the right, with respect to legal procedure, to increase or decrease rents and to do nothing else with respect to weekly or fortnightly tenancies without cancelling the landlord and tenant relationship between the parties. This is an effort to establish a simplified method of altering lease rentals for the tenancies. It does not go to the gravamen of the problem involved in the levels of rentals. That is another subject, but as the Opposition has sought to debate the matter I accept it as an issue that has been raised in the debate. I think we should say .something about it.
Most tenants object to paying rent and, of course, tenants also object to having their rents increased. I know that I object very strongly myself. I suffered a rent increase only this year, and I called my landlord all sorts of hard things. There is a big difference, however, between objecting to .a .rental increase and clamouring for, perhaps, the -stabilization of rents because of hardship. While many people iia Canberra might claim that the rents are too .high, I very much doubt whether many could claim that, because .of hardship, they could not afford to pay increased rent. The Minister has said that he will have a look at individual cases of hardship. I honestly feel that for a long time .the people in Canberra who pay rent have been spoon-fed. Let us have a look at the picture in the broad. These people live in one -of the most pleasant and gracious cities in Australia, if not the most beautiful. It is a city which has been built by the taxpayers, of course. The people of Canberra have the best streets in Australia, some of the nicest parks, and certainly some of ‘the best schools. The hospital and other services are of the highest Australian standards - all supplied by the taxpayers of Australia. We have the cheapest public transport in Australia, again subsidized by the taxpayers. They are the best-paid public servants in Australia - a,gain, paid by the taxpayers.
I do not say that those things are directly referable to rent levels, but I suggest that they are indirectly concerned with the rents that may be paid. This is a most pleasant city. It has the amenities of a large city, without the disadvantages. I think that those things are material when one comes to consider rents.
There are certain other factors that should affect rental levels. For example, the .general standard of houses built by the Commonwealth in Canberra is far superior to that of corresponding units in other capital cities. That is a factor that should affect rentals, but so far it does not. The increased rentals proposed are not as high as those of corresponding units in the various States, although I do not think that any one would deny that houses in Canberra are, by and large, much better dwellings.
– Not the monocrete houses. They are dreadful.
– I have seen monocrete houses in Brisbane which, I am afraid, are far worse than those in Canberra. I do not suggest that monocrete houses are very good, but those in Canberra are certainly better than those, in other capitals. Finally, an all-important fact that cannot be contradicted is that rentals paid to date are very much lower than rentals in other capitals. I should like to cite some figures, which include the increases now to be charged. In Canberra, the rental of a two-bedroom brick house will be between £4 Ss. and £4 10s. a week. In Adelaide, the same type of house, but not as good, is subject to a rental of between £4 10s. and £5 a week. In Brisbane the rental of that type of house is from £4 5s. to £4 15s. a week. A threebedroom house, in Canberra will attract a rental between £4 and £5 a week. In Melbourne the rental of a similar house, but not as good, is between £5 10s. and £6 a week, and in Adelaide the rental ranges from £4 5s. to £5 10s. a week. A brick veneer house - a type which I personally do not like very much - with three bedrooms, will attract a rental of between £3 15s. and £5 5s. a week in Canberra. For that type of house the rental in Sydney ranges from £4 5s. to £4 15s. a week and in Hobart from £5 10s. to £5 15s. It can be seen that in all these cases the Canberra resident, as well as having a better house, is better off financially. A three-bedroom timber house in Canberra will cost from £4 to £4 10s. a week. A similar rate applies in Sydney and Melbourne, but in Hobart the rate is £5 10s. a week.
Even with the increased rentals, I fail to see what all this fuss is about. As a general rule, no one can deny that Canberra tenants have better houses and are not paying as much in rent as is paid in other cities. They are paid higher wages, because the standard of living here is the highest in Australia. They are living in a city that is probably the most pleasant in Australia in which to live. Having regard to these factors, I cannot see anything indie Opposition’s argument that rentals are too high. Of course, there are individual cases which warrant consideration and they are being looked after. I am quite certain that if a case which warrants sympathetic consideration is put to the Minister in accordance with the policy laid down, that consideration will be given. I do not think that Canberra people have much to complain about, looking at the broad picture that I have tried to give in such a short time. The Minister is merely trying to bring rentals into line with those of State houses in other capitals. Why should not that be done? These houses have been built by the Australian taxpayers. The money has come out of their pockets. Is it fair and just that they should subsidize Canberra tenants to keep them in a group of people more privileged than any others? Is that the Opposition’s argument? I do not think that Canberra residents Want that.
There is a second reason why rentals should be brought into line with those elsewhere. Private enterprise is now operating in Canberra to a larger extent than ever before, thanks to the very wise policy of the Government. If rentals of government houses are to be forced below an economic level and subsidized by the Australian taxpayer, where will the private entrepreneur come in? How can he possibly compete? Would it be fair competition for the Government to maintain rentals at an uneconomic level? Where would the private entrepreneur land? He could not possibly exist here. It would be quite immoral for the Government to maintain rentals at a level that denied the private entrepreneur an opportunity to do business.
– The private entrepreneur came of his own accord. Government policy forced these people to transfer here.
– That is so, but most of them were extremely pleased to come here and pay the very reasonable rentals charged, because they were paying a darn sight more in Sydney and Melbourne. The figures I have given for comparison are those of State-owned houses in the capital cities. Those are not the best houses in those cities. For a house of a little better quality in Melbourne much more has to be paid. I can cite many instances to prove that statement. A hostess in an aircraft told me that she and three friends paid £14 14s. a week for a two-bedroom flat in Melbourne; and that is not uncommon. This matter does not require labouring any further. The Government is justified in applying reasonable and equitable rentals as between the landlord on the one part and the tenant on the other. For those reasons, I do not support the motion of the Leader of the Opposition.
Sitting suspended from 5.44 to 8 p.m.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! The time allotted for consideration of Senator McKenna’s motion has expired. I ask the Clerk to call on Order of the Day No. 1.
Debate resumed from 26th September (vide page 655), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the Senate will resolve itself forthwith into a Committee of the Whole for the purpose of considering the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1962, and the Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1962, with the exception of Estimates of Special Appropriations and of Expenditure from Loan Fund.
– Mr. Deputy President, the motion before the Senate seeks to initiate a procedure whereby the Senate will give consideration to the Estimates for the current year before they have been dealt with by the House of Representatives and before they come to the Senate as schedules to the Appropriation Bills. Last evening, the Opposition expressed its objections to this proposed procedure by taking three points of order and by moving dissent from your rulings on three occasions. The viewpoints of the Opposition were rejected by the Government, and we on this side of the Senate find ourselves unhappily bound by the Senate’s decision in all respects but in our minds. It is unnecessary for me to repeat the arguments that we advanced last evening, nor could I do so without reflecting on the resolutions of the Senate. In the circumstances, the Opposition rests content with having placed its viewpoints on record and by now recording its vote against the motion.
– in reply - The situation that has developed is rather unfortunate. The Government’s proposal represents a major improvement in Senate procedure, and was adopted after making investigations in all directions to ensure that it did not abrogate the Standing Orders, that it was not opposed to constitutional procedures and that it was not against parliamentary procedures in any way. I think it will be admitted on both sides of the Senate that the consideration of the Estimates is one of the major responsibilities and one of the biggest tasks that we undertake each year. So big is the task that, for machinery purposes, it is necessary for the Government and the Opposition to make arrangements from time to time about the order in which the estimates of various departments will be dealt with so that the deliberations of the Senate may be seemly and orderly. In the circumstances, it is a great pity that the Opposition only grudgingly accepts this innovation. It is an innovation that presents additional opportunities for the Opposition to do its work more effectively, just as it presents additional opportunities for Government supporters to do their work more effectively. I would have liked to see the Opposition support the Government’s proposal in spirit, and not in any half-hearted fashion. I am satisfied that when we get under way with our discussion of the Estimates the Opposition will join with the Government in the work involved. I think it is a pity that the Opposition raised any objection to the Government’s proposal. As senators we carry big responsibilities. The discussion of the Estimates is one of the major tasks allotted to us. I do not think any honorable senator is justified in criticizing what is in the view of all of us a substantial improvement on the procedure that has been adopted in the Senate in past years.
I do no more than record my disappointment that the Opposition has not officially and formally welcomed this change because of the benefits that flow from it.
Question put -
That the motion be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That the departmental estimates be considered in the order shown on the document that has been circulated to honorable senators.
It reads as follows: -
Capital Works and Services, £30,000
Prime Minister’s Department, £11,461,000
Capital Works and Services, £2,294,000
War and Repatriation Services - Reconstruc tion and Rehabilitation - University Training, £20,000;
Department of Trade, £3,667,000:
Capital Works and Services, £134,000
Department of. National Development, £8,450,000
Capital Works and Services, £52,980,000
War Service Homes Division, £1,173,000
Department of Defence, £1,696,000
Recruiting Campaign, £486,000:
Department of Social Services, £6,227,000
Capital Works and Services, £218,000
War and Repatriation Services - Department of Social Services, £17,000
Department of Civil Aviation, £13,253,000
Capital Works and Services, £4,936,000
Department of Shipping and Transport, £3,622,000
Capital Works and Services, £5,233,000
Construction of Jetty for handling Explosives, £289,000.
Commonwealth Railways, £5,037,000
Capital Works and Services, £1,470,000
Department of the Treasury, £98,685,000.
Capital Works and Services, £1,770,000
War and Repatriation Services-
Department of the Treasury, £141,200.
Recoverable Expenditure, £117,000
Department of Territories, £467,000
Capital Works and Services, £6,000
Northern Territory, £7,939,400
Capital Works and Services, £6,473,000
Norfolk Island, £52,000
Papua and New Guinea, £17,465,400
Capital Works and Services, £531,000
Cocos (Keeling) Island, £43,500
Capital Works and Services, £8,000
Christmas Island, £100
Repatriation Department, £98,751,000
Capital Works and Services, £512,000
Department of Customs and Excise, £5,227,000
Capital Works and Services, £146,000
Bounties and Subsidies, £10,000
Department of Supply, £21,519,000
Department of the Army, £64,537,000.
Department of Health, £3,576,000
Capital Works and Services, £639,000
Payments to or for the States, £400,000.
Department of Immigration, £11,633,000:
Capital Works and Services, £502,000
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, £8,600;000
Capital Works and Services, £1,029,000
Department of the Navy, £48,019,000.
Attorney-General’s Department, £2,437,000
Capital Works and Services, £256,000
Department of External Affairs, £12,086,000
Capital Works and Services, £371,000
Economic Assistance to support defence programme . SEATO member countries, £550,000.
Department of Labour and National Service, £2,615,000
Capital Works and Services, £102,000
Post Discharge Re-settlement Training, £1,000.
Technical Training, £154,000
Department of Air, £65,462,000
Department of Primary Industry, £2,945,000
Capital Works and Services, £7,000
Bounties and Subsidies, £13,500,000
War and Repatriation Services -
War Service Land Settlement, £1,500,000
Re-establishment Loans for Agricultural Occupations, £45,000.
Rural Training, £1,000
Department of the Interior, £6,664,000:
Capital Works and Services, £2,558,000
Civil Defence, £300,000
War and Repatriation Services - Department of the Interior, £297,400.
Australian War Memorial; £150,400
Australian Capital Territory, £5,005,600
Capital Works and Services, £13,929,000
Postmaster-General’s Department, £113,510,000
Capital Works and Services, £44,979,000
Broadcasting and Television Services, £12,921,000
Capital Works and Services, £2,929,000
Overseas Telecommunications Commission -
Capital Works and Services, £800,000
Department of Works, £4,810,000
Capital Works and Services, £1,396,000
The proposed votes shown in the document are arranged in exactly the same order as that to which we have been accustomed in past years. The various departments are listed under the names of the Senate Ministers who represent Ministers in the other chamber. All the departments that I represent are grouped together, all the departments which the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) represents are grouped together, and so on. As I said, the order is exactly the same as that to which we have been accustomed in previous years, with one exception. That exception is that in relation to each department the proposed vote for capital works and services is placed immediately underneath the proposed vote for the ordinary annual expenditure. In other words, honorable senators will see that on the first line of the document I have circulated there appears the proposed vote for the Parliament, namely, £1,322,000. The next item is that of capital works and services relating to the Parliament, against which is shown the sum of £30,000. I believe that this arrangement will afford a more convenient procedure for examining the proposed expenditure for the ordinary annual services and that for capital works and services at the same time.
Under the new procedure, honorable senators will have before them, not a copy of the Appropriation Bill, but a copy of the document, “ Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure “, which was circulated with the Budget Papers. The list that was circulated , to honorable senators a few moments ago shows the pages at which the proposed votes appear in the Estimates. In other words, the proposed vote for the ordinary annual services of the Parliament appears at page 6 and the proposed vote for the relevant capital works and services appears at page 238. I suggest, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that an appropriate procedure would be to take the proposed vote for the ordinary annual services and the proposed vote for capital works and services for each department at the same time. However, that is a matter for you.
– - I am happy to note that the Leader of the Government in this place (Senator Spooner) has had the order of events printed and circulated and, in particular, that references to the relevant pages in the Estimates are shown. I do not dissent from anything that the Minister has said other than to say that I should like him to consider dealing with proposed votes for the ordinary annual services apart from the proposed votes for capital works and services. I suggest that it would be very difficult to hold open simultaneously in such a bulky document two pages at widely separated points. I think the committee’s consideration of the proposed votes would proceed better if we were to consider first the proposed vote for the ordinary annual services and then the proposed vote for capital works and services. If one were to try to keep the document opened at two separate places, a great deal of digital dexterity would be required.
– I accept that suggestion. We will see how it works out.
– I think it should work very well.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in relation to each Division in the Estimates, the Chairman of Committees shall put the question - That the committee takes note of the proposed expenditure.
By adopting this method, we will be able to gauge progress. In this way we will be able to determine what stage we have reached. Honorable senators will have an opportunity to discuss each division of expenditure and to address inquiries to the appropriate Minister. As I said last night, if an honorable senator wants to make a request, I suggest that in the course of the debate he should indicate that that is his intention. Then, when the Appropriation Bill comes before us in due course, the formal procedures can be followed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed expenditure, £1,322,000.
– Before we proceed, I should like to set out the kind of debate which I think should ensue. Honorable senators have before them the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure. I feel that honorable senators should pivot their remarks on a particular item in the Estimates. The purpose in considering the Estimates is to debate whether particular items of expenditure are too great or too small, and so on. I think that if we conduct the debate along those lines rather than along the lines of a second-reading debate we will achieve a much more thorough consideration of the proposed expenditure. That is the way in which I think the debate should proceed. I commend that suggestion to the committee.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I should like some clarification of what you have just said. You said in the course of your remarks that the appropriate thing to do was to indicate whether a certain sum in the Estimates was too much or too little.
– I did not narrow it down that far.
– I suggest that the debate could not be narrowed down to that extent, for very many reasons. First, it would be against all tradition. In adopting these procedures to-night, we are breaking new ground. I think there should be even more freedom under the procedure we have adopted than if we were considering the Estimates as a schedule to the Appropriation Bill. Whatever may be your thoughts about restricting debate, I believe you should come down on the side of allowing the debate to run more freely than if we were confined within the four corners of a bill. I point out that the whole history of our consideration of proposed expenditure indicates that we are thus presented with an opportunity to raise questions of policy within the various departments. That has been the invariable practice, and I should not like to think that right at the outset you intended to confine the debate to much narrower limits than those to which we have been accustomed when considering the Estimates as a schedule to a bill.
.- I should like to make a submission on this matter. I do not understand your statement, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to be other than an indication that you would rule, on the subject of relevance, according to the Standing Orders. I would not imagine that the Standing Orders would preclude any honorable senator from offering observations on policy in relation to any item, if he felt so disposed. Having said that, I hope that we all will take advantage of this improved procedure to perform the chief and substantial function of the debate on the Estimates; that is, to demand justification for the expenditure and to see that we are satisfied that public funds are being expended soundly.
I rose merely to offer my submission that the Standing Orders and the Standing Orders alone should guide the directions from the Chair on the relevance of a speech to any particular item. If an honorable senator took the opportunity to make a policy statement on an individual item, I submit that so long as his statement was relevant to that item it would not be out of order. I wish to add that my idea in the debate on the Estimates is to see that the expenditure is able to stand up to criticism.
– I should like to make it clear to honorable senators that there is no desire to restrict the debate. I believe that this debate should be as full as possible. Senator Wright has expressed what I have in mind. Speeches must have some relevance to the item that the committee is debating. The paramount consideration is to make sure that the items of expenditure that we discuss are properly dealt with by the Parliament.
– I thought that we were about to embark upon a debate similar to the one we had last night, but I am pleased that the matter has been resolved. I want to refer to Division No. 105 - Joint House Department, and to the officers and attendants of the Parliament. Quite a number of officers are attached to the Senate. I am not complaining about that. They are necessary.
In addition to the officers - such as the Clerk, the Clerk Assistant and the men in the offices downstairs - we have attendants who run messages for us, do jobs all round the place and attend to the wants of senators. They are closely associated with the Senate itself. Generally speaking, those attendants have no jurisdiction over the comings and goings of senators in the precincts of the Senate.
In addition to those men, there are men attached to the Joint House Department. Apparently they are under the jurisdiction, in some way or another, of the controllers of the Joint House Department. They attend to the wants of senators in connexion with the work that is done here - such as delivering newspapers and that sort of thing - and they are responsible for allowing senators to enter and leave the precincts of this Parliament. That is the particular point to which I wish to refer.
I believe that this is the only parliament in the world where the elected members are not trusted to come into the building without somebody being there to let them in. I have travelled quite a bit in connexion with parliamentary business. I have visited other parliaments. This is the only parliament of which - 1 know where an elected member is not allowed to come into the precincts unless an attendant is there to see that he comes in and that he does not pinch anything.
– That is a ridiculous implication.
– That is the way it appears to me. A senator is not trusted with a key to enable him to come into this building. In every other parliament in the world the members are given a key so that they may come and go when required to do so in order to attend to their business. That is not the position here. I have raised this matter once before. I am raising it again because of the disabilities of certain members of the Parliament. When the Parliament is adjourned for a week, a member or senator who does not go home is not allowed to come into this building unless an attendant is at the door. He cannot use the facilities of the building, such as the lifts, because the back door is shut and he has to come in the front door. He cannot get up the front stairs.
The elected members are not given keys, as they are in other parliaments, and trusted to come in and go out of the building. Whoever controls the precincts of this place-
– Have you asked for a key?
– Yes, but we were told that we could not get keys. They were not provided. There is no question about making a request. I went on to the House Committee deliberately for the purpose of raising this question some time ago, but we cannot get keys. This is the position: Last week, the Parliament was not sitting, but people could come into this building and wander all over it. Nobody knows who they are. On Sundays somebody is employed to open the front door and let people come in to have a look around the building and wander around it; but there is no man at the back door to let a member of the Parliament into the building. He has to go round to the front door. As I said, the result is that he cannot use the facilities in the building.
– What is wrong with coming in the front door? That is what you do at home.
– I have just explained that some people who have disabilities are not able to climb steps. Were you not listening?
– The side door is always open.
– It is not always open. It was not open last Sunday. If you ask your colleague who is sitting alongside you, he will tell you that the door was not open and there was no attendant there.
– It is never open on Sunday.
– What I am saying is correct. The question I ask, Mr. Temporary Chairman, is why a reduction has been made in the appropriation for the Joint House Department, and why some of the rights - they are not privileges - of members of the Parliament have been taken away. I ask the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to take the matter up again with the people who control the attendants so that a member of the
Parliament will- have all the facilities available to him at any time when he desires them and they will- not be taken away at the whim of an individual who says that we are not to be trusted, and that we cannot come into this building unless he says we can.
Senator Sir WALTER COOPER (Queensland) [8.29]. - I should like to bring Division No. 104 - Library - to the notice of the appropriate Minister. Last year the appropriation for salaries and allowances was £45,000 and the expenditure was £30,758. I notice that this year the appropriation is £17,200. I should like to know why a much smaller amount is to be appropriated this year. The Library plays a very important part in the general work of this Parliament. When the Minister is answering the questions that are asked, I should like him to tell me why the appropriation under that item- has been reduced to the amount I have mentioned.
.- I wish to ask the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) a question, but before I do so I should like to state a few facts so that the question I ask will be quite clear. It will be necessary for me to refer to certain pages of the Estimates so that the Minister can understand my question. The departments are listed on page 3 with the amount to be appropriated for the services of each department. I shall not refer to any item on that page because, if I did so, Mr. Chairman, although you are very generous and broadminded, you might still rule me out of order.
I refer to Division No. 101. I am not singling out the Senate but merely using it to illustrate the fact that I shall mention in a moment or two. You will notice that Item 01. deals with salaries and allowances. The appropriation this year is approximately the same as that of last year. The next item deals with temporary and casual employees, and Item 03 refers to extra duty pay. Then, under the heading “Administrative Expenses “, the first item deals with travelling and subsistence, the next with the expenses of Standing and Select Committees and the final one under that heading with incidental and other expenditure. The first item to which I referred, was “ Salaries and Allowances as per Schedule, page 156 “. I direct your attention, Sir, to page 1156, and particularly to the section dealing with the Senate. You will note that the Senate is fully staffed and that the total appropriation this year is £35,264. Knowing the Senate staff as I do, I would say that its members will earn every penny of that appropriation. I now refer to the next item, and 1 believe, Mr. Chairman, that your eyes have already seen it. Before referring to it I pause for a second to say that we are now dealing with the Estimates of the Government. The item- to which I refer reads “ Less amounts estimated to remain unexpended “. Were I to examine all the sub-headings of these pages I would find a similar item. In the case of the House of Representatives the amount shown for that item is £4,585. In the case of the Library it is £4,211. The same item occurs right throughout the schedule.
The Estimates set out the amounts required for the services of the Government. They show in total what is required for those services, but if you subtract the amounts which appear alongside the item, “ Less amounts estimated to remain unexpended “, the total would amount to a very large sum. In effect we are asking the Parliament to appropriate more money than is actually required. My question relates to this matter, and I feel sure that the Minister will be able to supply me with an answer.
– I should like to pursue a little further the matter raised by Senator Sir Walter Cooper, f refer the Senate to page 156, Division No. 104, dealing with the Library. I notice that there is no provision for the chief reference officer, the chief preparation officer, chief clerk and accountant and clerk and supervisor, attendants, assistants and typists. Those officers appear to have been dispensed with. I am wondering whether provision for them appears under some other heading in the Estimates.
The other question I wish to raise is in connexion with Division No. 114 - Parliamentary Printing. I notice that the estimate this year for the printing of “ Hansard “, including cost of distribution, is. £11,000 less than last year, and that the appropriation for the item,. “Other Printing and Binding £9,000 “, is £21,000 less than the expenditure last year. I should like to know how a saving of £21,000 has been effected, and why the appropriation has been reduced to £9,000.
– I refer to Division No. 101, item 02, “ Standing and Select Committees - Expenses,. £9,000 “. I notice that last year the appropriation was £9,000 and the expenditure was £40,338, and that the appropriation for this year is £9,000. I wish to compare those amounts with the appropriation for the expenses of standing and select committees of the House of Representatives which appears under Division No. 102. Under that item the amount appropriated last year was. £300 and the amount expended was £882. This year the appropriation is £5,000. I understand that recently the House of Representatives set up a select committee to inquire into and report upon voting rights of aborigines. That committee has taken evidence in virtually all the States. This has involved a considerable amount of travelling. I should like to ask the Minister what allowances were paid to members of that committee by way of daily allowances and expenses and travelling expenses. I should like the Minister to advise me whether the same conditions applied to the select committee set up by the Senate to inquire into road safety which took evidence in every capita! city of the Commonwealth.
I believe that select committees of the Parliament perform an excellent job and that members of them spare no effort in taking evidence, studying the documents made available to them, and in travelling from place to place to obtain evidence to place before the Parliament. However, I suggest that the same, conditions should apply to select committees whether they are set up by either the House of Representatives or the Senate.
– Under the item relating to salaries for the Senate, I should like to raise what is for me a hardy annual. I refer to the conduct of the business of the Senate, and particularly to the Standing Orders. I have raised this matter previously in debates on motions for the adjournment of the Senate and by way of questions. On the last occasion I raised it, about two years ago, I took advantage of the elasticity of the Standing Orders to direct a question to the
President, which, of course, he was not bound to answer. He promised to give me a reply when he had given the matter mature consideration, but has been extremely busy since then with commitments overseas and so on, and has not yet been able to give me that reply.
Therefore, I raise the matter again tonight with Senator Spooner, the Minister in charge of this group of Estimates and also the Leader of the House. I ask him whether he will call the Standing Orders Committee together with the specific objective of examining the Standing Orders. I do not pretend to have all the wisdom in this matter. It may be that the committee, having examined the Standing Orders, would declare that they were quite adequate to meet present day needs, but I do not think that, is very probable, having regard to the- changes which have taken place in this Parliament since the Standing Orders were first written. If the committee did that, we should have to continue to work with the conglomeration of Standing Orders that we have to-day. In their present form, I am very hesitant about insisting on their being observed strictly. I think it would be a good thing if we could get a decision from the Standing Orders Committee one way or the other. If the committee decided that the Standing Orders were adequate, we should have to abide by them and no honorable senator would feel hesitant about insisting on their observance in view of the mature judgment of the members of the committee that they were all right.
I want to refer to one or two standing orders to make clear to Senator Spooner what is in my mind. First of all, let me remind him that there are 451 standing orders to govern the conduct of people who should be pretty well versed in the art of debate. The first to which I draw attention is Standing Order No. 377. Let me say, Mr. Chairman, that I do not intend to ask you to rule on it now. It would be most unfair to ask anybody to give an intelligent ruling on it at short notice. Standing Order No. 377 states -
The- President only shall have the privilege of admitting Strangers into that portion of the Chamber below the Bar.
We know what the word “ Bar “ means in that context -
Members of the House of Representatives’ shall have the privilege’ of. admission there without orders. The President may, by leave of the Senate, admit distinguished strangers to a seat on th floor of the Senate.
On the face of that, there would be nothing wrong with members of the House of Representatives moving about in this chamber below the Bar. As I understand it, the Bar is the wooden rail round the perimeter of the chamber. We can imagine the look on the President’s face if some members of the House of Representatives strolled in, sat down on the benches used by honorable senators and began to advise us, or even if they sat there without saying anything. When I sought to find whence this strange standing order came I was told that I should remember that the Standing Orders were not written geographically, so to speak, for this building, but for the building that the Parliament used in Melbourne before 1927. I hope you begin to see, Mr. Chairman, why I make a plea for a revision of the Standing Orders now.
– Does that apply in reverse? Can senators do the same in the House of Representatives?
– I have not looked at the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives. I am quite certain that this standing order does not mean what it says, so, for goodness sake, do not invite your friends from the other House to come below the Bar here. If you do that, you and they will be in all sorts of trouble. I speak subject to correction, but I understand that in the American Congress senators can enter the other House and viceversa. I do not want to see that sort of thing begin here. I do not know what significance this standing order had in Melbourne, because I was not very interested in politics before 1927. Possibly it had some significance when the Parliament was in Melbourne, but obviously it has no significance now.
Let me turn to Standing Order No. 332, dealing with an instruction to a Committee of the Whole. It states -
An instruction can be given to a Committee of the Whole . . . provided that such motion shall be carried by at least fifteen affirmative votes.
I agree that a certain number of affirmative votes should be required, but that standing order was written before 1949, when there were only 36 members of the Senate. It has no real application to the Senate to-day, with 60 members. An instruction to a committee to go outside the provisions of a bill and amend the relevant act is a serious matter, because it forces the government of the day to do something that it had not contemplated doing. Therefore, it is obvious that more than a simple majority should be required. The provision for fifteen votes occurs in many standing orders, but such a small number does not mean much now. We should either strike the provisions out of the Standing Orders completely or amend them so as to make them more applicable to the present Senate, with its 60 members.
Next let me mention Standing Order No. 180, which states -
While the Senate is dividing senators may speak, sitting, to a Point of Order arising out of or during the Division.
There is no provision for it in the Standing Orders, but, by practice, a senator wishing to speak to such a point of order covers his head, generally by placing on it the nearest piece of paper or book. He covers his head in that way in order to attract the attention of the President or whoever is in the Chair. This practice goes back to the House of Commons. It has never been a written rule of the Australian National Parliament or, as far as I know, of any of the State Parliaments.
– What does section 49 of the Constitution say?
– I do not think it says anything about putting paper on your head.
– It would not condescend to such frippery as that.
– If there is something in the Constitution about this matter, I should like to hear Senator Wright tell me about it. This procedure strikes me as having no real application to divisions in this Parliament. In the House of Commons the members formerly wore top hats. When a division occurred, they had to move across the chamber to the division lobbies, so during a division they were standing and in motion. While moving in the chamber, they were not allowed to wear hats. If they wanted to attract the attention of the Speaker during a division, the only way in which they could draw attention to themselves was to do exactly the opposite of what the other members were doing. They remained stationary. They sat down and put their hats on in order to attract the attention of the chair. If we want to attract the attention of the President in this chamber when everybody is sitting down, the obvious and natural thing to do is to stand up. I am not opposed to retaining some connexions with the traditions of the British Parliament - I am not opposed to tradition - but I feel that the practice prescribed in Standing Order No. 180 is out of date. 1 have mentioned those three standing orders to support my plea for a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee, but I could mention 30 or 40 more. I know that Senator Spooner is a very jealous guardian of the conduct of the Senate and of the institution of Parliament, particularly the Senate. I merely make the request that he call the Standing Orders Committee together, co-opting other members if he so desires, so that it can proceed with a long overdue review of our Standing Orders.
– With the leave of the Senate I shall reply to the queries that have so far been addressed to me. Senator O’Flaherty expressed his views on access to Parliament House. I think that the correct response to his comments is that Parliament House is under the control of the Presiding Officers. All I can say to the honorable senator is that I shall ensure that the views he has expressed are brought to the notice of the President.
asked why the vote for the Library had been reduced. I find, on inquiry, that this is in the nature of a bookkeeping entry. Consequent on the proclamation of the National Library Act, the National Library was separated from the Parliamentary Library. Previously, both lots of salaries were placed together under the one vote. Now, they are separated into two votes. Senator Benn asked why unexpended amounts are shown in the Estimates. By and large, this is due to the fact that the various departments have an establishment. They have a number of positions to which they are entitled to make appointments, but in fact, it does not always prove practicable to keep the staff at the full level for the whole year. Therefore, an estimate is made of the amount by which payments for staff will fall short of the full amount that might be paid, and that amount is deducted from the total estimate. So, the Parliament is not passing a vote in excess of requirements. An estimate is made of the extent to which payments will fall short of what they would be if all positions were filled, and the estimate is reduced by that amount.
Senator Branson referred to two matters. First, he asked why expenditure on the printing of “ Hansard “ this year will be less than it was last year. There is a slightly cynical note in the explanation that has been given to me. The explanation is that, as this is an election year, it is expected that Parliament will sit for a smaller number of days, and therefore the cost of printing will be less. The second matter mentioned by the honorable senator related to the big decrease, from £30,000 to £9,000, in the cost of printing and binding. The reason is that in 1960-61 there was a heavy charge of £21,000 for a special job for the Library - the binding of a number of volumes that needed to be bound. Such expenditure will not occur this year.
asked for particulars of payments to standing committees of the Parliament. I find, on inquiry, that members of the House of Representatives Select Committee on the Voting Rights of Aboriginals receive a travelling allowance of £4 4s. a day. While the committee is sitting, the chairman receives £3 3s. a day and members £2 10s. The members of the Senate Select Committee on Road Safety did not receive any sitting fees. Obviously, there is a higher sense of duty in the Senate than there is in the House of Representatives.
Senator Willesee referred to the Standing Orders. The questions asked by him are hardly ones to which I can give an adequate reply at the moment, particularly as I am relying on my recollection. I recall that about twelve months ago we had a series of suggestions from various quarters about ways in which the ‘Standing Orders of the Senate might be amended. The Standing Orders Committee met ‘and considered the suggestions. It said, in effect: “ We would rather trust to the devil we know than to one we do -not know. We are used to all these difficulties. We will continue in the way we have been going, instead of making alterations.”
– The committee did not report to the Parliament.
– 1 shall take that matter up with the President when he returns. I was not aware that it had an obligation to report.
.- One of the privileges of a member of the Senate is periodically to receive bound volumes .of the debates of the Senate. I suppose that every honorable senator, when he received his first two or three volumes, felt the same sense of pride that I did. That sense of pride becomes somewhat chastened when one has been a member of Parliament for four or five years, and the very large volumes of “ Hansard “ proceed to accumulate. I do not know ‘how .an honorable senator like Senator Sir Walter Cooper, who has been in Parliament for 30 years or more, gets on. I can only imagine that as the volumes accumulate he fights a losing battle to keep one room in his home in which to live.
The copies of “ Hansard “ are beautifully bound and printed. Their compilation is a credit to the “ Hansard “ staff; but they are printed and bound in the style of many years ago. I do not know what has been done in this way, but it seems to me that .an investigation could be made -with a view to introducing a method of printing “ Hansard “ that would be more in accordance with modern printing practice and would result in less bulky volumes. I do not think it is necessary for the paper to be as thick as it is. It should be possible to print “ Hansard “ on thinner paper, so that the volumes would take up less space, without in any way detracting from the fact that it is necessary to have “ Hansard “ printed in order that matters to which we want to refer are easily accessible.
I therefore suggest that investigations ought to be made. If the form of printing that I have recommended were adopted, honorable senators would find it more convenient, and it is .possible, also, that the cost of printing “ Hansard “ would be considerably less. Worthwhile experiments have been made in >recent years in the printing of reports of various commissions. We have a very efficient “ Hansard “ staff, and I suggest that it should make investigations with a view to producing “ Hansard “ in a way which, I shall simply say, is more in keeping with modern methods.
.- In rising to speak on the estimates for the Parliament, I want at the outset to say that this is a happy day for the Parliament of the Commonwealth and particularly for the Senate, and I welcome the improved procedure that we have decided to adopt for ‘dealing with the Estimates. Instead of waiting for the Appropriation Bill to come to us in the fading days of a sessional period, and then having to deal with it in a most unreal manner and in the briefest space of time, we are now able to deal with the Estimates in anticipation of the receipt of the bill. We are thereby giving ourselves a greatly improved opportunity to probe expenditure and to ascertain the ambit of the Government’s spending. It is appropriate that one should say that to the energy and initiative of our leader on the Government side of the Senate we owe a great deal for this contribution to the improved procedure for dealing with the Estimates. I for one feel very grateful that the Senate has approached this problem and decided that it will accept the fuller measure of responsibility that goes with this opportunity.
I want to say a word on the subject of the privilege of Parliament. I have a habit when I get an idea that something needs remedying with regard to our parliamentary procedure, I exercise my patience for something short of a decade and take the opportunities offered by the sessions during that decade to remind the Senate of the subject. I say that because this is a matter upon which 1 have -touched previously in debates on the .Estimates. I begin my reference to it by reminding the Senate that last year the Minister for Civil Aviation put the Senate under a great debt to him for his courage, which was prompted by his integrity, in appearing in a court in a prosecution for criminal defamation, whereby a quite unprecedented traducer of this Parliament was proved to be guilty of a crime and convicted, lt was very salutary indeed that that procedure was adopted and that the responsibility was discharged. Of course, it is characteristic of the approach that we -have seen on the part of Senator Paltridge that he would never permit a challenge of that sort to .go unaccepted; and he sustained the dignity and prestige of Parliament in those proceedings, which showed that the Australian jury and the Australian judiciary can be trusted to do justice according to law on the appropriate case.
But I remind you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that there were proceedings in this Parliament in 1955 when the course of events over very many years was interrupted and a case of breach of privilege of this Parliament was thought fit to be followed by imprisonment. I remind the Senate that on occasions like that when a House of the Parliament administers a judgment infringing the liberty of any person in the community, that person does not necessarily have a full right to be heard, either in the proceedings of the Committee of Privileges or in the House that considers the resolution of judgment. There is also a question of whether that person is given the .aid of legal counsel to prepare his defence and whether he is given full opportunity to hear all the evidence that is brought against him.
These are obvious defects, in the view of the requirements of natural justice, that prompted a select -committee of this Parliament under the presidency of Sir John Quick, as long ago as 1908, to recommend that .it was appropriate that Parliament should transfer and entrust those responsibilities of adjudication to the courts of justice. I remind the Senate of that, because it has just recently come to my notice that according to the 1955 Journal of the Society of the Clerks at the Table, in which a review of that 1955 case was made, shortly after the proceedings the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) expressed his readiness to promote the fullest consideration -of a review of the machinery for declaring and enforcing parliamentary privilege and said that he would promote it in co-operation with the Opposition during the next session of the Parliament. I take leave to bring that record before the Senate, because I should think that it would be appropriate that the Leader of the Senate would take it into consideration in the hope that there would be an initiation of a joint committee of both Houses of the Parliament to consider whether Sir John Quick’s conclusions were proper to-day. While expressing no final conclusion, 1 would hope that such a committee would think they were. 1 certainly think that the references 1 have made to experiences last year and during 1955 show that this is not a dead issue. It is an issue that may become very important at any instant to-day, and I think that we would be prudent to look to our procedures in advance and evolve a procedure which is most appropriate according to democratic traditions. I believe .that those observations are necessary for the preservation of the prestige of the Parliament and for the protection of the individual member of the community.
I want to say something on the subject of the reporting of Parliament, that is, the relationship between the Parliament and the people. I have entertained the viewpoint that we have always accorded the press of this country a place in the gallery of this chamber to afford it the opportunity to report such of the public proceedings of this chamber as are in the public interest. That is not synonymous with reporting proceedings which are so derogatory and disreputable, or so silly, or so eccentric, or so revolutionary, as to make news in the sense of augmenting sales of newspapers. I believe that the press of a country ought to recognize that one of its obligations is the sufficient reporting of Parliament to enable the public .to keep completely informed as to the general, substantial tenor of parliamentary proceedings. It is not matter of the interests of the individual member of
Parliament. It is a matter of the elector’s interest in knowing how his representative is discharging public responsibilities.
For my part, I have hesitated for twelve years to express the thought - Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan will know, because this has been the subject of consultation with him over a number of years - that the Senate should give a seat in the gallery to the press only on the basis that the report in public journals of the proceedings in this chamber should be not only fair and accurate but also adequate - not adequate in the sense of being complete, as “ Hansard “ is, but adequate to satisfy the legitimate interests of the thinking member of the public who wants to know the substantial proceedings and the ideas that representatives are capable of producing on the floor of the Parliament. I bring that subject to the attention of the Senate and couple with it this remark: I was greatly encouraged some eighteen months or so ago when the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ adopted a course of reporting by which, from day to day, whenever either chamber of the Parliament was sitting, a fairly substantial report of its proceedings was printed in the journal. That practice was adopted for, I should think, twelve or eighteen months, but in recent months it was discontinued. I have had no communication with the newspaper. I offer neither criticism nor compliment, but I express my disappointment that that kind of reporting has been discontinued. I hope that in the future the practice will be revived, if not in full at least in some limited fashion.
The one thing further that I wish to say may not be accepted in such a congenial spirit by the committee. I propose to refer to retiring allowances of members of Parliament. I remind honorable senators that in February, 1959, the ratio of members’ contributions to contributions from revenue was changed, inadvertently I think, or at least without a knowledge of the actuarial assessment of the position, from a 60/40 relationship to approximately a 70/30 relationship. That is, the member of Parliament now contributes about 28 per cent, of the total contribution towards his retiring allowance and general revenue contri butes about 72 per cent., whereas formerly the member contributed 40 per cent., and 60 per cent, came from general revenue. When this matter was dealt with in 1959, we did not have the advantage of the actuary’s report, although I say with some humility, but claiming to have had the best advice in the country as my authority, that on that occasion I made the prediction that the new relationship would be approximately what it is now. This is a matter that should be dealt with by the Parliament now that the full facts are before it. If we are to change the way in which contributions are made towards members’ retiring allowances, we should do so only after careful consideration of all the facts. I believe that as there was no intention originally to change the ratio of contributions, it should be restored to the former 60/40 ratio.
– Senator Wright raised several matters of importance, and the one in particular with which I wish to deal is the relationship between this Parliament and the press. I think we are indebted to Senator Wright for raising this matter. It is time that there was a re-examination of the relationship existing between the Parliament and the press in this country. Being a member of Parliament, and being in the fierce spotlight of public attention, calls for a greater sense of responsibility than is required of a member of the general public. Members of Parliament must accept a deeper sense of responsibility because of the position they hold in the community. But the press also has a great responsibility. It wields tremendous influence in the shaping of public opinion. The press should divorce itself to a far greater extent than it does at present from the hurley-burley and partisanship that exists between one contending political ideology and another. The press should face up to its responsibilities.
One thing that has troubled me considerably in the last ten years is that the press has, not by design perhaps or in any premeditated fashion, set out to undermine the foundations of the parliamentary structure in Australia. There can be no doubt that in the past ten years a situation has developed that has tended to bring into contempt and ridicule the greatest instrumentality in this democratic country - our parliament. If we travel far enough along that road, and if the press continues to undermine the structure of parliament, it will serve only the forces of revolution that may exist now or at any given time in the future. The press should carefully consider what it is doing. It must be aware of the great weapons in its hands and of the great influence that it has in the field of public opinion - an influence made greater by the fact that the control of our great newspapers is rapidly getting into fewer and fewer hands. The press should recognize that if it undermines the foundations of our democracy to such an extent that revolutionary forces are able to take over, not only would it defeat the purpose of democracy, but it would also build the device that would bring about its own destruction. I hope that the press of Australia will give some serious thought to this matter. It will be remembered that in other great countries in the past the press has wielded great power for good on some occasions, and on other occasions it has wielded great power for evil.
When I was a young man I read a book entitled “ The Brass Check “ written by Upton Sinclair. The plot of the book was set during a certain period in the United States of America. The book was written by a man who, as everybody who has read his works knows, was capable of exposing pitilessly the deficiencies of any system. The brass check was regarded in America at the time as the symbol of prostitution. It was suggested by Upton Sinclair in every page of his book that the press had great power and was misusing that power, and that in the process it was undermining the very foundations of the country. I do not suggest that we have reached that stage in Australia, but a greater sense of responsibility on the part of the press is needed. I think we in this Parliament are human enough to admit that if a member of parliament or a political party is involved in some sensational happening, or if some unseemly display takes place in the chamber, the press would publicize it because the people like to read about sensational happenings. Perhaps we cannot say with any degree of justification that the press should not expose the deficiencies of members of Parliament, but the press should bear in mind that it has a responsibility perhaps greater than ours, because it wields a power greater than ours. It should not misuse that power.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I wish to relate my remarks to Division No. 101. I remind honorable senators that during the last twelve months a number of noisy, boisterous, ill-behaved delegations, or socalled delegations, have visited Parliament House.
– Were they members of your union?
– I do not remember seeing any members of my union in those delegations. I concede that it is right and proper that people who are affected by legislation passed by the Parliament should be able to place their views before the Parliament in a reasonable manner. They should be able to let their views be known not only at election time but also between elections. But, Sir, members of delegations which visit this place must behave themselves. Above all, in my view, in a parliamentary democracy we cannot accept any form of intimidation or threats of strong action.
Not for 310 years, since the barbarous days of Oliver Cromwell, when the House of Commons was emptied at musket point, have we had such intimidation as that to which we have been subjected here recently. Not since that time have there been such disturbances and such threats in a British parliament as we had during the debates on the Crimes Bill and the Stevedoring Industry Bill, which was designed to grant long service leave to waterside workers, and the occasion when a so-called delegation was sent up here in regard to naval shipbuilding. The behaviour of many members of those delegations was far from exemplary. There was a disgraceful, noisy babble in King’s Hall which could be heard in this chamber and in another place. I myself was seized by the lapels of my coat and compelled to listen to a burly gentleman with whom 1 did not willingly wish to talk.
When I came into this chamber and was delivering a speech 1 had the benefit of a number of members of the delegation sitting in the gallery behind me and finishing my sentences for me. It so happened that there was some criticism of Communists and communism in what I was saying. There was so much disturbance that the President closed this gallery and put those agitating types in another place. Those persons hurled offensive epithets across the bar at the rear of the chamber. A form of threat, a form of intimidation, particularly when we were discussing the long service leave legislation, was levelled against me. I was subsequently told that one of the men - I did not know his name personally - was a well-known Communist. That did not surprise me at all.
The point I wish to make, Mr. Temporary Chairman, is this: If delegations are to come to Canberra, the Parliament might well consider setting out reasonable rules for the guidance of legitimate delegations so that they will be able to submit their points of view to members and senators, and so that those who are of the rabblerousing type and who are bent on causing trouble and discontent - persons who have no interest whatever in the welfare of the workers whom they profess to represent - will be kept in another place and made to behave themselves.
– I refer to Division No. 115- General Services - and in particular to item 02, “ Maintenance of Ministers’ and Members’ rooms, including salaries of staff, £283,500”. I understand that the maintenance of members’ rooms and so forth comes under the jurisdiction of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth). I should like to direct his attention to the situation in Perth. First, let me say that I should like to see this item split up to show the expenditure in the various. States instead of having a lump sum shown.
Approximately eighteen months ago, Western Australian members were transferred from their old offices to new offices in the new Commonwealth Bank building. 1 do not think the new offices have proved to be very satisfactory to ordinary members of the Parliament. Complaints have been made in this place from time to time about the air-conditioning and the artificial light in which we are compelled to work. Experiments are being conducted al the present time with a view to improving the lighting. 1 believe that some of the lights are now covered with blue gauze, as many of the secretaries have complained about the effect of artificial light on their eyes.
These new rooms are not noise-proof In my room I can hear everything that goes on round about. A great deal of fuss was made earlier in the year about one room which was treated in order to make it sound-proof. I do not know whether that room was treated as an experiment; but certainly nothing has been done to the other rooms. One cannot even conduct a telephone conversation without being heard in at least three or four nearby rooms. Other senators from Western Australia can bear me out in this matter. I can hear them, and’ I suppose they can hear me. I cannot conduct a conversation in a normal tone of voice. The result is that one has to lower one’s voice so much when speaking on the telephone that the person at the other end cannot hear what one is saying. It must be remembered that such conversations are supposed to be confidential. People who come to discuss confidential matters do not like to think that what they are saying can be heard in other rooms.
Four very fine suites have been provided for Ministers. We have three Ministers in Western Australia, and I am pleased- that they have been provided with very nice suites. A fourth suite has been provided for visiting Ministers; that also is an excellent suite. There is another room at the front of the building which has natural light. This is my nineteenth year as a member of the Senate. Having had such long service, and acting on medical advice F received because I was suffering from bad eyesight, I asked the representative of the Department of the Interior in Perth whether, if this room had not been allocated, I could have it. The reply I received was rather enlightening. He said
I could not have it because it was covered with a carpet which was up to ministerial standard. Because the carpet was up to ministerial standard - apparently it covered the whole floor instead of three-quarters or two-thirds of it - the room has been left vacant for eighteen months. It has been used more or less as a store room.
– Could you not have asked them for an ordinary member’s carpet?
– I have an ordinary member’s carpet which has seen better days. It has travelled through five or six different rooms with me. People who have come to see me on business have tripped on it, but I have been told that it will have to last for a few more years, as we have to be economically minded in these matters. But this room at the front of the building could not be given to an ordinary member because it had been furnished and carpeted up to ministerial level for visiting Ministers. We are always pleased to see visiting Ministers, but we do not think they should have specially furnished rooms when they do not come to see us very often - except perhaps in an election year - and never in such great numbers as to involve the use of all the facilities that already exist for Ministers.
Recently this room, which was to be carpeted and furnished to a higher level than a senator could expect to have, was taken over by an officer of the Department of the Interior. He is in the News and Information Bureau. I do not know whether he has a carpet at the ministerial level or not. The point I make is that for eighteen months the room was left vacant. It is the only room in the building, apart from the ministerial suites, which has the benefit of natural lighting. About twelve months ago I applied to the department in writing for the room. I mentioned the matter to the Minister personally, but he did not know anything about it. The answer that I received was that it would have to be. furnished and carpeted to the ministerial level, and therefore ordinary mortals were excluded.
The second point that I should like to raise is the library facilities available to members of the Parliament in the federal members’ rooms in the States. In the rabbit warren that we now occupy some rooms are not being used at all. One very big room, which has good facilities as far as light and air are concerned, would be an excellent room for this purpose. It is the library, according to the notice on the door. Recently, some very fine shelving to take the bound volumes of “ Hansard “, to which Senator McManus referred, has been built in that room.
– Are they ministerially bound or only ordinary-member bound?
– I think they are ordinary ones. We can use them if we wish to do so. Many pamphlets and various other publications that come to the offices of the federal members in the States are in the room. I think they are only ordinarily bound too; not up to ministerial standard. They are all higgledy-piggledy. You find a blue one here and a brown one there and then one bound in red - I was going to say a red one. No attempt is made to classify much of this very valuable literature. Nobody in authority there has the experience to enable him to deal with the literature. It just becomes a mass of literature, and anybody who wants anything has to go through the whole lot and make confusion worse confounded in looking for it. I receive from individuals, organizations and schools quite a number of requests for material on various subjects of public interest; but it is hopeless to try to look for it because there is nobody there who has the authority - I do not mean to be uncharitable - or who has been trained to deal with the classification of this material. I think that in an officer in charge of the federal members’ rooms we want more than a switchboard attendant and somebody to take messages for us. In our secretaries we already have people who can and do make our transport arrangements, answer our telephones and so on. I would like the Minister who is responsible for this matter to see whether more could be done to develop the library service that is available to members of the Parliament in the federal members’ rooms by having there somebody who can classify and attend to literary material. People take it out and forget to bring it back, if they are interested in it at all, and that is the end of that. It is very difficult to get any order in the matter when nobody is responsible for it.
I remember the late Sir John Kirwan, who was a member of the very first Federal Parliament, talking to me just before he died. He was horrified because he had gone to the federal members’ rooms looking for some material about the Federal Parliament, and had been shown into a room in which papers and pamphlets of all kinds were all over the floor and everywhere else. The late Senator Seward also had this matter very close to his heart. I am not critical of the officers in charge of the federal members’ rooms. I do not want anybody to think that I am. I believe that in the staffing of the rooms some attention should be given to employing some one who would be responsible for looking after the Library side of our rooms, because when members of the Parliament are in their home States they have just as much research to do as they have to do here in Canberra where we have the full facilities of the National Library made available to us. I hate to see so much material coming into the federal members’ rooms and being absolutely wasted, and even being thrown into rubbish bins because its value is not appreciated and it cannot be properly indexed and filed.
Those are the matters that I wished to raise. First of all, I ask how much extra expenditure is involved in Western Australia now that we are all situated in one building. I also ask whether anything can be done to improve the facilities that we have by making the rooms sound-proof, at least. I should also like to know the margin that is allowed for the furnishing of rooms and the covering of floors, from the ordinary senatorial standard to the ministerial standard.
– I should like to reply to the inquiries that have been made up to this stage. I think there is a good deal of merit in the suggestion made by Senator McManus. I find a little difficulty in deciding who is the appropriate authority to whom his suggestion should be referred. I am told that this matter in connexion with the printing and binding of “ Hansard “ should be decided between the Principal Parliamentary Reporter and the Government Printer. I take leave to doubt that advice. I think it rests with the Presiding Officer of each House. I will see that the suggestion is brought to the attention of the President.
I do not propose to reply to Senator Wright and Senator Hannan. Each of them expressed views on the privileges and conduct of Parliament. I do not think their remarks really call for a reply from me as the Minister in charge of these estimates. However, I might express the personal opinion that I concur very readily in the view that Senator Wright expressed that we derived a great deal of benefit when the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ regularly gave space to reports of the proceedings in each House of the Parliament. I express my regret that it discontinued that practice.
asked for a break-up of the expenditure on the maintenance of members’ and ministers’ rooms as between the States. I give the following figures in round thousands: - New South Wales, £92,000; Victoria, £56,000; Queensland, £37,000; South Australia, £31,000; Western Australia, £40,000-
– Forty thousand pounds?
– Yes, £40,000.
– No doubt that covers the transfer costs.
– The other figures are Tasmania, £18,800 and the Australian Capital Territory, £7,600. I cannot give any comparison between past years and this year of the figures for the individual States. I have only the comparison in totals year by year.
My understanding is that the facilities available in the federal members’ rooms in Western Australia come under the Minister for the Interior. I can only say that I will ask that the honorable senator’s views be put before the appropriate Minister.
Having answered the inquiries made up to this stage, Mr. Temporary Chairman, 1 submit for the consideration of the Senate that a good deal of time has been spent under the heading of Parliament, and that in some way you might test the feeling of the committee on whether the time is now appropriate to move on to the Prime Minister’s Department, which is a very big department. I think that would be a good idea.
Before we move on to the Prime Minister’s Department we have to deal with the Capital Works and Services of the Parliament. I again direct the attention of honorable senators to the need for making their speeches concise and for relating them as much as possible to the expenditure under consideration. Year after year, when the Estimates are being considered, prolonged discussion takes place on a few items, and then because the guillotine is applied - as has happened on previous occasions - many honorable senators who want to make inquiries about other items of expenditure have not had an opportunity to do so. In fairness to honorable senators who really want to investigate the receipts and expenditure of the Government I ask honorable senators to make their contributions as concise as possible and to relate them to the items in the Estimates.
– I refer to Division No. 105 - Joint House Department - Administrative Expenses. Item 07 relates to the publication, “ Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia “. I have no criticism to offer in respect of the £2,000 allotted to the publication of this booklet, but I should like to ascertain how much is recouped by the sale of this very fine publication that is made available at the door of Parliament House.
– The answer is £2,500.
.- I have a good deal of sympathy for the Leader of the Government (Senator Spooner) in his desire to curtail discussion, but I should like to point out that “ Hansard “ might be made more interesting. I am surprised that during the past twelve years a private enterprise government has not made an effort to popularize “ Hansard “.
– Put pictures in it.
– Senator Ormonde suggests that pictures should be incorporated in “ Hansard “. There is one picture I should not like to see in “ Hansard “ and that would be a picture of the Senate when a quorum is not present. “ Hansard “ contains a good deal of splendid educational material which would be productive of much good if we could circularize it to a greater extent. Could the Minister tell me the number of “ Hansards “ that are distributed? Sometimes I feel that our debates are a terrible waste of effort, except when we are on the air. We speak to one another day after day and no one takes the slightest notice. Even the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ has dropped us. A few “ Hansards “ go out. I know some people like to get them. One printer friend of mine almost went down on his knees to get me to put him on my “ Hansard “ list. However, eighteen months later, I called at his office and saw a huge pile of “ Hansards “ that had never been opened. A number of people in the country do get “ Hansards “, but I should like to know how many “ Hansards “ are distributed and where they go. I should also like to know whether it would be possible to improve “ Hansard “ by a number of deletions. I think a lot of stupid humbug, as well as a lot of splendid material, is put into it. Senator Henty, who is interjecting, has undoubtedly contributed to “ Hansard “.
I turn now to the Library. It has been suggested that the number of research officers should be increased. I should like to know whether any action has been taken recently in that direction. The officers of the Library play a splendid part in assisting members of the Parliament, but, because of limited staff, their work cannot be compared with that done in other parliaments of the world, especially ‘the American
Congress. The research work in the Library is very limited indeed. It is possible to find out how many million sheep were lost in a drought a certain number of years ago. Departmental officers will ascertain that information for you, but there is no real research work of the type that would improve the speeches of members of the Parliament. If a number of men and women were available to supply honorable members and honorable senators with material, they could give to the world the benefit of such research work, and, as a result, make “ Hansard “ more appealing as a means of spreading information. I ask the Minister whether anything has been done in this direction and whether anything is contemplated in the near future. Will Mr. White, the Librarian, be given increased staff to enable him to do the research work he wants to do so that members of the Parliament can improve their speeches?
– I wish to ask a brief question. The accounts of the Joint House Department disclose a loss on the running of the parliamentary refreshment-rooms. During last year the standard of the refreshment-rooms has fallen considerably. I think that the standard of the refreshment-rooms has declined considerably while the prices have gone up. That state of affairs must be reflected in the accounts of the refreshmentrooms, and I should like the Minister to give me the figures.
.- Senator Scott referred to Division No. 101 and asked for information about the expenses of standing and select committees. I am not concerned about the expenses, but I am concerned about the item itself. I have a clear recollection of a select committee being appointed to investigate road safety in the Commonwealth. I have a full knowledge of the work that was carried out by that committee in the various States. The members travelled throughout the Commonwealth. They paid a visit to Brisbane, where they collected evidence, and finally they furnished a very good report.
I should like to know whether it was ascertained, before the committee was formed, whether the Commonwealth Government had constitutional power to implement any of the recommendations which the committee might make. That committee was appointed last year and it has completed its work. More than £4,500 was spent investigating road safety problems in the various States, interviewing people, and compiling the report. Nothing whatever has been done about the report by the Commonwealth Government. It is my opinion that the Commonwealth Government has no power under the Constitution to implement any of the recommendations contained in that report. What I should like to stress is this: In future, before a select committee is appointed full inquiries be made of the Department of the Treasury as to whether there is constitutional power for the committee to be appointed to carry out its work.
The Minister gave me some information a while ago on a matter I raised, namely the item “ Less amount estimated to remain unexpended “ appearing in the various divisions of the Estimates. I thank him for his information. I do not desire to question that information because we are dealing only with the schedules. The procedure this year is quite different from what it was last year. When we were dealing with the Estimates last year, we had a bill before us, and that bill proposed the appropriation of a sum of money for the services of the Commonwealth. It appears to me to be quite idiotic to state in a bill the amount that is to be appropriated and then to have in the schedule, in all divisions - we have separated the bill from the schedule, and are looking only at the schedule - items containing the words “ Less amount estimated to remain unexpended “. That is a loose way of compiling estimates. I am quite confident that no parliamentary draftsman smiles when he sees such items. I do not see the need for them at all. After the completion of one financial year, the Estimates for the next year come before us for consideration. In the following April, usually, we are asked to deal with Additional Estimates, which take the form of a schedule to a bill. Later, we are asked to deal with an Advance to the Treasurer. Those are the three ways in which the Parliament provides the funds necessary for the carrying out of the services of the Commonwealth. If it is found that the funds provided for in the original appropriation are petering out, Additional Estimates are brought down. If it is found that those funds are running out, we have an Advance to the Treasurer.
Now let me deal with a matter relating to capital works and services.
Order! Items under that heading will come up for consideration later.
– I am referring to the Parliament.
– The item “ Capital Works and Services, £30,000” will come up shortly. That is being done at Senator McKenna’s request.
– Then I go back to another matter covered by the estimates for ordinary services. It has been discussed already. Queensland members of the Parliament are provided with office accommodation in Brisbane. Quite recently, two rather serious thefts were committed there. In the first instance, money was stolen from one of the persons employed in the offices, and I asked the appropriate Minister to take action to keep one member of the staff of the building on duty during luncheon periods to prevent strangers from entering and interfering with the staffs money. In the second instance, only a week or two ago, the pay packet of a secretary employed in the federal members rooms was stolen. The theft was quite a brazen affair. It occurred at about 5 p.m., when members of the Commonwealth Public Service were about. I do not want to keep on mentioning this matter and asking questions about it. I know that something can be done administratively. There is one entrance from the street to the building in which the federal members’ rooms are located. I understand that the door is opened in the morning by the housekeeper, who resides on the premises, and that it is left open and unattended during the day so that any one who wishes to do so may go into the building. I see no reason why the housekeeper should not remain on duty at the door at least until the public servants commence to arrive for their day’s work.
Order! This matter would be raised more appropriately under the estimates for the Department of the Interior.
– Unless I am making a great mistake, Senator Tangney dealt with the federal members’ rooms in Perth. I want to mention this matter, so you may as well hear me out on it now, Mr. Temporary Chairman. Otherwise, I will resume my seat and rise to speak on it later. If the housekeeper cannot remain on duty at the door between the time he opens it and the time when the public servants begin to arrive, what would be wrong with having a member of the Commonwealth Police Force stationed there to keep undesirable characters out and to get to know some of the people who frequent the premises regularly? What would be wrong with having a member of the Commonwealth Police Force on duty at the door at about the time when the public servants accommodated in the premises are leaving work, so that he could see that no undesirable characters entered then? Perhaps the Minister will be so good as to inform me later what action is proposed.
I referred previously to capital works and services, and I did so more or Jess deliberately. Honorable senators will notice that the Estimates distinguish clearly between items relating to capital works and services and other items. Can the Minister tell me the reason for that discrimination? Can he say why the ordinary services of the Commonwealth are provided for in one section of the Estimates and capital works and services are provided for in another? I should be pleased if he would tell me the real meaning of capital works, or works which require capital expenditure.
– I should like to ask you, Sir, to clear up something which seems to have caused some disputation. In discussing the estimates for the Parliament, can we refer to the maintenance of members’ and Ministers’ rooms in the capital cities? I will not deal with the matter now if it would be out of order to do so, but I should like to refer to the federal members’ rooms in South Australia.
– That matter has already been dealt with by Senator Tangney and Senator Benn, so you can proceed.
– Lest it be thought that silence on the part of South Australian members indicates that we are satisfied with the conditions in the federal members’ rooms in Adelaide, let me assure the Minister that there is a good deal of dissatisfaction. I do not think it can be said that South Australian federal members live in the lap of luxury in Adelaide. I believe that Senator Drury petitioned the Department of the Interior recently for a mat for his room and was provided with one of the coir mats that people usually put outside their back doors. Apparently the department considered that that was quite suitable. In the room that I occupy the mat is so worn and mouldy that it would be a disgrace to any place in which it reposed.
The point I want to make is that I cannot help feeling that there is a great waste of money on the maintenance of the federal members’ room in South Australia. The Minister referred to certain amounts allocated for federal members’ rooms, split up between the various States, but they cannot be regarded as reflecting accurately the cost of maintenance of the rooms, because the Minister admitted that those amounts included the cost of conveying members and other costs.
There is a unique set-up in South Australia. Some of the South Australian federal members are accommodated in a building on the corner of Hindley-street and King William-street. They belong to both the Government parties and the Opposition. Other members are accommodated in the Bank of New South Wales building, in rather more modern quarters. Perhaps they are a little more favoured than those who occupy the other place. The Minister for Immigration is accommodated in another building further down King William-street. The hit-or-miss practice of deploying federal members all over Adelaide not only contributes to additional and unnecessary expense, but is also confusing to the general public. I emphasize that a member of Par liament and his office should be readily accessible to the general public in order that people who wish to seek information from him may do so, and so that he may justify his election to Parliament by giving service to the public. I believe that the people of Adelaide are confused because of the difficulty in locating members of the Commonwealth Parliament in the circumstances that exist at present.
Insufficient facilities are provided in the C.M.L. Building in Adelaide, where the majority of federal members are accommodated, for the proper receiving of visitors. There are one or two interviewing rooms which are sometimes used by visiting members of Parliament and sometimes by visiting Ministers. On many occasions I have seen people, with legitimate reasons for seeking the advice of a member of the Commonwealth Parliament, having to wait in the passage for considerable periods because all the rooms were occupied. I suggest that two things should be considered for the improvement of conditions in South Australia in this respect. The first is that there should be a central point, which is known to the general public, at which all South Australian members of the Commonwealth Parliament, Government and Opposition alike, may be located. I think we should find that the amount of money required to provide such accommodation would be less than the ultimate cost of the loose system that exists at the moment.
The second, and probably the more important thing, is that better provision should be made for the members of the general public who come to seek advice and information from members. Provision should be made for them to be able to sit down and, if the member they wish to see is occupied, to wait with a degree of ease.
– Do you not take visitors into your office?
– Oh yes, but the honorable senator will readily recognize that if you have four or five visitors all wanting to see you on different matters, which often occurs, and all wanting to see you privately, only one can do so at a time, and the other three or four have to wait.
I cannot speak of the position in other States, but the situation in Adelaide is not at all satisfactory. The time has long since passed for consideration to be given to the provision of readily accessible accommodation and also suitable facilities for members of the public who are seeking interviews to wait in comfort.
– Senator Brown asked some questions about “ Hansard “. I inform him that the printing of the daily issue is limited to 2,000 copies of “Hansard” for the House of Representatives and to 1,500 copies of “ Hansard “ for the Senate. The weekly issue is 9,200 copies of the reports of each House. There is a final, or revised issue, of 1,300 copies. I am sorry that I cannot give details of the mailing list. “ Hansard “ is distributed according to a formula.
So far as the library research facilities available to members of the Parliament are concerned, I inform the honorable senator that the proposed new library arrangements make provision for that matter. It is impracticable to provide for it in the present circumstances because of the limited area that is available.
asked about the parliamentary refreshment-rooms. I cannot answer his question at the moment. The figures are not contained in the Estimates as they are now presented. I am told that the Auditor-General publishes the information in his annual report.
Senator Benn inquired about the powers of the Senate Select Committee on Road Safety. I think that when we in the Senate agreed to appoint the committee we knew that a great number of the constitutional powers relating to the matters into which the committee proposed to inquire resided in the States. However, there is a Commonwealth body which acts as a coordinating organization with the Road Safety Councils of the various States. I point out to Senator Benn that the depart mental estimates are shown in the Appropriation Bill in exactly the same way as they are shown in the detailed Estimates now before the Parliament.
An honorable senator referred to capital works and services, but I hesitate to embark on a dissertation on that subject. In brief, capital works and services, involving capital investment, relate to works that will endure for years. As honorable senators know, in accountancy we differentiate between capital and income. I hesitate to pursue the matter because it has been the subject, I understand, of a recent inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee, which has expressed views on it, in relation to governmental accounting. I have not read the committee’s comments.
Senator Toohey was in error in thinking that the figures I gave earlier had anything to do with the conveyance of members of Parliament. In fact, they related only to the cost of maintaining Ministers’ and members’ rooms. The South Australian figure is £31,350. That amount covers the maintenance of Ministers’ and members’ rooms, and includes the cost of rent, telephones, salaries, stationery and electric power.
– That was a relatively minor point. The main matter that I raised was the set-up that exists at present.
– I know that, but I wanted to put the record straight. On the question of providing central accommodation for members, and so on, I can only say that I shall bring those matters to the notice of the Department of the Interior.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman-
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
That the question be now put.
– May I speak against the motion, Mr. Temporary Chairman?
No, there can be no debate.
Question put. The Senate divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator I. A. C. Wood.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Parliament - Capital Works and Services
Proposed expenditure, £30,000.
– May I ask whether the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) will give an assurance that the new look which he has been at pains to expound here during the last two days does not mean that there will be a ruthless use of the gag? We were told last night that the new procedure was designed to give the Opposition a better opportunity to examine the Estimates in detail. It might humorously be suggested that when we are dealing with the estimates for the Parliament we should give ourselves sufficient time to talk about ourselves. I make the point, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that we are supposed to have, under the new procedure, more opportunity and more time to deal with the Estimates. Yet, without any warning at all, the Minister has suddenly applied the gag. In previous years he has used the guillotine, and we have protested about that, but this year, with this so-called new look-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable senator is reflecting on a vote of the committee.
– No. Sir, I cannot accept that. I am not reflecting in any way. We had all that out last night. My leader pointed out this afternoon that we were statute-barred from dealing with the decision taken last night. We have been chided all day because we offered some opposition to the procedure. We want to abide by the Standing Orders.
I thought that the Minister might have undergone a change of heart and would not apply the gag on this occasion, but he has already begun to do so. Even with the ruthless use of the guillotine, a schedule is provided and honorable senators are able to make arrangements with their friends to stand in for them. I ask the Leader of the Government where there is any advantage in the new look if we are not to have the additional time that we want. After all, even in these days of inflation an amount of over £1,000,000 is worthy of a decent debate. At this early stage of the debate the Minister has become testy, as he generally does towards the end of a debate. If he does this sort of thing when he is in a relatively good humour, what will happen later? I seek from the Minister an assurance that he will allow fuller debate on the proposed vote for the Parliament, and make use of the new look to allow us to have a decent look at the subject.
– I give Senator Willesee a courteous reply, although quite frankly I doubt whether he deserves one, in view of the tone of his remarks to me. We have devoted nearly two hours to debating the proposed vote for the Parliament. We started at about 8.20 p.m. and we have put in two hours on this line of the Estimates, which is more than we usually occupy, and more than we can afford to occupy if we are to give a reasonable proportion of the total time to each department. The honorable senator said that I moved the gag without warning. With respect, that is not correct. About half an hour or twenty minutes earlier I said that I thought the time was approaching when we should move on to the next line. The Senate disagreed, other speakers rose, and I allowed the other speakers to take their course. I thought we had reached a stage at which every one was satisfied; we must reach a stage of finality at some time. I thought I had given ample time and I sounded a warning note. I think the majority of senators thought that the line had been dealt with adequately. We cannot please every one. I shall not be moving the gag again tonight. Let us try to deal with the matter reasonably. The next line is of no consequence. I suggest that we should deal with it quickly and devote the rest of the time to the big departments. There will be no limitation for quite a while.
– The division before the chair relates to the provision of £30,000 for capital works and services in respect of Parliament. The debate must relate to that.
– As this is the first occasion on which I have spoken in this debate, I ask for latitude to congratulate the Leader of the Government upon this innovation in procedure which will certainly enhance the prestige of the Senate. I am very disappointed that the Opposition does not go along with us in that regard. This division Telates to an expenditure considerably smaller than that which we have just debated. There are between 80 and 100 divisions and if we were to occupy two hours on each of them we would require 200 hours to debate the Estimates, which is clearly impracticable. We have had a fair spin in this connexion.
I ask the Minister for some elaboration of the item which relates to buildings, works, fittings and furniture, under the control of the Department of Works. I do so because recently we suffered quite a big loss, amounting to more than £40,000, on buildings under the control of that department. Reference was made to this matter earlier. One of the features about it that was disturbing to many of us was the fact that the officer who was considered mainly responsible for the loss sustained appealed against the disciplinary action taken by the department, and the appeal tribunal exonerated him and annulled the penalty. I ask the Minister to give me some information about the amount shown in this division.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, we are dealing with Division No. 835, under which £30,000 is sought to be appropriated for buildings, works, fittings and furniture. I would like the Minister to give me the break-up of that amount so that we may discuss it further.
– The sum is made up as follows: -
Modifications to the Senate and House of Representatives chambers to improve lighting, including painting of upper walls and blanking of windows, £6,000.
Ventilation of the Australian Country Party room, £2,500.
Installation of additional compressor and pump to air-conditioning plant, £12,000.
Minor works, £2,900.
Furniture and fittings, £6,750.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Prime Minister’s Department
Proposed expenditure, £11,461,000.
– I wish to refer to Division No. 122 - Ministers of State, Leaders of the Opposition and Parliamentary Parties and Staffs. Apparently the staffs of Leaders of the Opposition and other members of Parliament are paid through the Prime Minister’s Department. They do not come under the Public Service Board. I would like the Minister to give me some information about how those staffs are paid through the Prime Minister’s Department, because whoever is responsible is very dilatory in paying amounts due, and in notifying officers in connexion with payments.
– The staffs are paid direct by the Prime Minister’s Department.
– I know that they are paid through the Prime Minister’s Department, but apparently in the States they are paid through some other authority. Surely somebody has a duty to inform the staffs what payments are due to them, and to make those payments promptly.
– I wish to refer under Division No. 121 to grants paid to the Boy Scouts’ Association and to the Girl Guides’ Association. The Boy Scouts’ Association is to receive £10,000 this year, but the Girl Guides’ Association is to receive only £5,000. Are there twice as many boy scouts as there are girl guides, or is there some other reason why the girl guides get only half as much as the boy scouts?
– Under Division No. 121, I direct attention to the National Radiation Advisory Committee. Last year, £2,500 was appropriated, of which £2,119 was spent. But this year, no provision is made for a grant to that committee. As the testing of nuclear weapons has been resumed, will the Minister tell me why no grant has been provided this year for the National Radiation Advisory Committee?
– I wish to refer to the Commonwealth Archives Office, which is dealt with under Division No. 124. This year, an amount of £50,400 is to be appropriated for salaries and payments in the nature of salary, whereas last year the amount appropriated was £13,395. Under the same division, administrative expenses for this year are estimated to amount to £24,500, whereas last year £2,069 was spent for this purpose. The total amount sought to be appropriated this year for the Commonwealth Archives Office is £74,900, whereas last year the amount spent was £15,288. Has there been some re-organization of this office?
Has some work that was formerly done by another department been brought within the scope of the Commonwealth Archives Office? I trust that the Minister will supply me with some information on this matter.
Division No. 125 relates to official establishments. This year, nothing is provided for salaries and payments in the nature of salary in respect of official establishments. I should like the Minister to furnish me with some information on this matter.
I turn now to Division No. 128, which deals with the Australian Universities Commission. I should like the Minister to tell me what are the functions of the commission and how it will spend the sum of £20,200 that is to be appropriated this year for salaries and payments in the nature of salary. Does the commission sit permanently?
Division No. 130 refers to the National Library of Australia. Here we find that this year no amount is sought in respect of administrative expenses, and nothing is sought in respect of salaries and payments in the nature of salary, but the sum of £415,000 is sought in respect of other services. I would like the Minister to explain what is meant by the term “ other services “. I am sure that other honorable senators also would like some advice on this matter.
Division No. 133 refers to the Public Service Board. Here we find that last year £609,255 was spent on salaries and payments in the nature of salary, but this year the sum of £642,300 is sought to be appropriated for this purpose. That is a big increase, and I would like to know something about it. Last year, the sum of £201,476 was spent on administrative expenses, but this year .the Government is seeking to appropriate for this purpose the sum of £220,400. That is a substantial increase. The total expenditure last year on the Public Service Board was £810,731, compared with an estimated expenditure this year of £862,700. On the figures it would appear that the staff of the Public Service Board is increasing in number.
– I can only say that the salaries to which Senator O’Flaherty referred are the responsibility of the Prime Minister’s Department. But, as is the case with all other government payments, they are paid through the sub-Treasury in each State. Senator Buttfield asked why the grant to be paid to the Girl Guides’ Association will be less than that paid to the Boy Scouts’ Association. It is difficult to answer such questions without inquiring into the history of the matter. Perhaps the initial grant to the Boy Scouts’ Association was made years earlier or years later than was the grant to the Girl Guides’ Association.
– It was years earlier.
– Well, years earlier. These grants are made in the light of circumstances existing when the decision is made. Like many other matters, they remain unchanged for a long period of time.
Most of Senator Benn’s inquiries about the Commonwealth Archives Office are answered by the fact that the expenditure last year was for only three and a half months. Previously, the Archives Office was under the control of the National Library; now it is under the control of the Prime Minister’s Department. So, because of the altered arrangements, we are getting distorted figures. The Australian Universities Commission consists of a full-time chairman and four part-time commissioners. The part-time commissioners receive a fee of £750 each year. There is a staff of five. The increase in expenditure this year is due to the fact that the staff was not recruited until the middle of last year and therefore expenditure was incurred for only part of that year. The function of the commission is to advise the Commonwealth on the allocation of funds to universities.
To give a comprehensive reply to Senator Benn’s questions about the Public Service Board, it would really be more appropriate to refer the honorable senator to the board’s annual report, which was tabled a week or so ago. I shall go through the items as best I can, although I confess that they do not make very interesting reading unless they are considered against a background of other information. There is to be an increase of £39,000 for salaries and allowances, £26,000 for the filling of positions previously agreed upon but remaining vacant, £5,900 for new positions, and £10,300 for higher living allowances. The really relevant figure is that of £5,900 for new positions and reclassifications. That is the real index of the growth of the board’s staff. The increase in administrative expenses includes an increase of approximately £5,000 for travelling and subsistence allowances. The other items, although comparatively small, add up to an appreciable total. They include an increase of £3,600 for office equipment, £500 for postage and telephone charges, £3,800 for examination costs, £7,000 for scholarship assistance, and £1,400 for typists-in-training.
I was asked why provision had not been made this year for the National Radiation Advisory Committee. Provision for this organization is included in the appropriation for the general expenses of the Prime Minister’s Department. Apparently this appropriation has appeared elsewhere in the Estimates previously.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) [10.36]. - I should like to obtain some information about Division No. 127 - Office of Education. In sub-division 3 - Other Services - there appears item 02, “ Commonwealth Educational Cooperation Scheme, £100,000 “. I note that last year the appropriation was £55,000 and the expenditure was approximately £50,000. In other words, it is proposed that this year the expenditure shall be double what it was last year. I should like to know whether the scheme is being extended or whether further activity is envisaged.
– I direct attention to Division No. 127 - Office of Education. In sub-division 3 - Other Services - there appears item 03, “ Oriental languages - Courses at Universities, £15,000”. That is the same amount as was allocated last year. I understand that during the last twelve months efforts have been made to stress the importance of studying oriental languages at our universities because of our trade and diplomatic relations with, and our proximity to, Oriental countries. This branch of education has been more or less neglected in the past and an effort is being made to increase the facilities .for teaching these languages, at our universities. But the amount that it ,is proposed to appropriate this .year is to be the same as was app’ropriated last year, despite the fact that there has recently been a rise in the salaries of University .staffs. I am wondering now whether the facilities for learning these languages’ are to be extended or curtailed in this financial year.
I refer now to sub-division 5 - GrantsinAid. I have been seeking in vain for information relating to a grant for research into education generally in Australia. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) should be aware of the great outcry in Australia at present for the Commonwealth Government to take an interest in education. The title “ Office, of Education “ is very misleading to the general public, lt carries the implication that this office is a department of education similar to the State Departments of Education which deal specifically with education at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels. The Office of Education, for which we are asked to appropriate approximately £3,500,000, should be able to produce something worth while with that money.
I ask why no commission like the Murray committee has been set Up to inquire into education generally. The findings of the Murray committee proved to be of very great benefit to the universities. They were saved from bankruptcy and enabled to continue developing as they should develop. We know that education in our primary and secondary schools is also languishing at present because of lack of money. The Commonwealth Government should inquire into the state of education in Australia. If everything in the garden is lovely, that would be borne out by the inquiry. If it is not, and if the complaints that are made are justified, such an inquiry would be justified.
This year, the expenditure “under the Commonwealth Scholarship. Scheme is expected to be £2,893,000. 1 should like to ask the Minister how the number of scholarships to be made available this year compares with the number made available last year. . How many of the students who have received Commonwealth grants have completed degree courses? Is any record kept of the number of students receiving Commonwealth’ grants who fail in their first” year and have to forgo their university courses? How many such students failed in .comparison with other students? The failure rate in the first year is a very big problem facing all universities. I wonder whether the financial assistance that has been given to students to enable them to study full-time at universities has had any effect on the failure rate in the first year at the universities.
.- I direct the attention of the Minister to Division No. 123 - High Commissioner’s Office - United Kingdom, subdivision 2, Item 04. - Cablegrams. The amount appropriated last year was £26,000 and the amount spent was £22,355. This year, the appropriation has been increased by almost 100 per cent, of the expenditure, to £39,700. Will the Minister explain that steep increase? The appropriation for Item 08 - Rent and maintenance, other office premises - has jumped to £50,100 from an expenditure of £17,157. Will the Minister explain that increase?
.- I wish to refer to Division No. 127 - Office o’f Education. Under the heading “ Other Services “ iri the summary, £3,072,000 is appropriated. I am sure that anyone who has had any dealings with the Office of Education has been impressed with the general efficiency of that office. Am T correct in saying that that appropriation relates to the expenditure incurred by the office in attending to educational matters under the Colombo Plan? If I am correct in making that statement, will the Minister be kind. enough to inform me of the number of South-East Asians who are or have been in Australia during the past twelve months receiving the advantages of Australia’s educational facilities? Does the appropriation include the amount that is paid in respect of Commonwealth scholarships? If it does, will the Minister be kind enough to inform me how many Commonwealth scholarships were granted in the la’st financial year, an’d the number that will ‘be provided this year?
– I should like to direct the Minister’s attention to Division No. 129 - Australian National University - Item 01. - “ Running expenses - supplementary grant, £2,875,000 “. The committee will note that that appropriation is about £800,000 moire than the expenditure last year. “ Running expenses “ is a fairly broad term. Could the Minister give in more specific detail a break-up of that amount?
In relation to the same division, I should like to mention that the report of the Auditor-General states -
A fire occurred iri a building of the Research School of Physical Sciences on 6th July, 1960. The cost to . repair the building and replace equipment and expendable research materials is estimated at £79,000. Expenditure in this connexion to 30th June, 1961, was £44,790. 1 would be grateful if the Minister would give me the detailed information for which I have asked. In addition, I wish to direct the Minister’s attention to the fact that this is the third successive year in which very high government expenditure has been incurred as the result of the loss of assets, buildings and records by fire. First, the archives Were burnt. I Understand that that was a very damaging fire. At the time it was stated that there had been a reduction in the staff of night-watchmen. When all is said and done, the buildings are not susceptible to fire. 1 wonder what caused the fire in that university building to be so expensive; With the loss of buildings, materials and plant.
Now, this year, very severe damage has been ‘caused by a fire iri a telephone exchange here in Canberra. It has disrupted telephone communications iri Canberra, and between Canberra and other cities. Will the Minister consider whether there is some deficiency in the protection of buildings against fire? If insufficient protection is given to government buildings in Canberra because of parsimony, it is a very expensive economy. If possible, I should like to have some information on that university fire, in addition to a general report on the breakup of the amount of £2,875,000.
– I should like to deal with the inquiries that have been made up to this stage insofar as I am able to do so. The first one was by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin in relation to the increase in the appropriation for the Commonwealth Educational
Go-operation Scheme from £55,000 to £100,000. In brief, the answer is that this scheme is,- in effect, getting under way. The scheme was planned at the Commonwealth educational conference at Oxford in July, 1959. It was in its initial stages in the financial year 1960-61, and it is now being developed. That explains the appreciable increase in the appropriation. It is really a developing scheme.
Within the framework of the scheme Australia will provide scholarships at universities and other institutions to enable students from Commonwealth countries to come to Australia to study. Awards also will be made to enable experienced educators to visit Australia. In addition, Australia is obligated to provide educational assistance to some of the under-developed countries of the Commonwealth of Nations. The answer to Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin’s inquiry, in brief, is that the increase from £55,000 to £100,000 is due mainly to the fact that the scheme was started in 1959; it really got under way only in the next year, and it is now commencing to operate.
asked why the appropriation for oriental studies had remained static. The answer is that it is not the Commonwealth’s obligation to run a school but to initiate such studies, to try to induce other universities to accept that responsibility so that oriental studies will become a normal part of the activities of other universities. So, one would not expect to see a variation in the expenditure in accordance with variations in cost. Senator Tangney also asked about research in education. A grant of £7,500 has been made for this purpose. The honorable senator asked also for particulars about the Corn.monwealth scholarship scheme. The number ‘of scholarships this year has been increased from 3,000 to 4,000. Whereas the number ‘of scholars who actually benefitted under the scheme in 1951 was 6.444, in I960 the number had risen to 12,000.
asked about the increase in the cost of cablegrams at the High Commissioner’s Office in London from £26,000 to £39,700. The increase has been due to book-keeping changes. Whereas previously the charge was spread over a number of departments, it is now the responsibility of the Prime Minister’s Department and is charged against Australia House. Were we to follow it through we would find that the extra charges against Australia House would be offset by reduced charges against other departments. Senator Branson also asked about rent. That is due entirely to additional office space being obtained in The Strand across the road from Australia House.
asked for information about the Colombo Plan and Senator Cooke sought information about the Australian National University. I shall have to defer replying on those matters until to-morrow morning.
.- I wish to refer to Division No. 133 which relates to the Public Service Board. I notice that the annual report of the board discloses an increase in the Public Service this year of 2,316 following a very creditable performance last year of an actual reduction of five. The total number in the service at 30th June, 1961, was 165,214. The total cost of salaries in the Public Service during 1960-61 was £189,457,000. My recollection is that the cost of salaries has risen by more than 100 per cent. during the last ten years.
We are faced with the situation that the appropriation for the managerial expenses of the Public Service Board is £862,700. I am not convinced that the most efficient and economical way of administering the Public Service is by a board. I have not made a comparison of the functions of public service commissioners and public service boards in the States, but it strikes me that £862,700 is an extraordinary amount of money to be paying for the administration of the board itself. I am at a loss to understand how that amount can be expended by the board in managing the service. In the report of the Public Service Board credit is claimed for the organization and methods section, and the Parliament apparently may expect the board to introduce improvements in organization and methods. However, it is truly alarming that the salaries and allowances of the service itself have risen to the figure I have mentioned and that the cost of the management of the board is now approaching £1,000,000.
I should like to mention the unique power that the board wields. In a desire to remove the Public Service from interference on the ground of political considerations we have given the service the independent protection of the board. We have given the board power to make regulations in respect of salaries and allowances. At the same time we have appointed the Public Service Arbitrator as an independent tribunal to hear appeals in respect of increases of salaries. But that very system of independence has enabled the board, within the last eighteen months, to put through regulations increasing the salaries of public servants in one year by approximately £15,000,000, and in the last year, if my recollection is correct, by something of the order of £1,500,000, as a consequence of the adjustment of the basic wage. I simply ask the Minister to give me an assurance that there has been a scrutiny of the board’s expenditure-
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The Chairman having reported accordingly -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 September 1961, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1961/19610927_senate_23_s20/>.