24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and’ Transport. Is he aware that 353 persons were killed in Queensland in 1960-61 as a result of road traffic accidents? Will the Minister supply me with information about the liaison that exists between the Commonwealth and the States with respect to problems concerning road traffic accidents?
– I think the Minister for Shipping and Transport should be afforded an opportunity to answer the question in detail, and accordingly I ask the honorable senator to place’- the question on the notice-paper. Meanwhile, I am happy to inform the honorable senator that a quite firm liaison is maintained between the States and the Commonwealth per medium of the Australian Transport Advisory Council and that council’s subcommittees, which consider a wide variety of traffic problems and suggested remedies for those problems.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry say what effect the recent restrictions imposed by the United Kingdom on the importation of Australian butter will have on the Australian producer? Are those restrictions likely to result in a surplus of butter on the Australian market? If so, what avenues can be utilized for the disposal of that surplus?
– The effects of the restrictions imposed by the United Kingdom on the importation of Australian butter have been two-fold. On the one hand the restrictions have caused the price of Australian butter on the United Kingdom market to rise, with resultant benefit to the Australian dairy industry. On the other hand, it is expected that the restrictions may create a surplus of some 20,000 tons of butter in Australia during the next full year. However, the Australian Dairy Produce Board is confident that it can find other avenues for the disposal of this butter. As we live in a world in which primary products are strictly competitive, I think it will be readily agreed that the board is wise not to disclose the plans that it has in hand for the disposal of any surplus that may occur.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation comment on the recent decision of the United States Supreme Court, by a majority of seven to two, that local authorities are liable for damages if aircraft noise and vibration make life miserable for home-owners in the neighbourhood of aerodromes? Is he aware that, according to the United States press, 809 cases for damages in relation to jet airports have been set in train in New York, 250 in Seattle and many others in cities such as Los Angeles and Dallas? Has this prospect of legal liability for noise and vibration already caused the use of certain American airports to be restricted in respect of times and direction of takeoff? Does the Minister consider that this matter of legal liability needs close examination in regard1 to jet airports scheduled for Australia which are close to residential areas and which may be rendered legally unusable?
– I would be very hesitant about giving an assurance that I would comment on the findings of a United States court on this matter. What I shall do is have a look at the judgment and see whether it refers to any circumstances which may make it possible for me to relate the judgment to Australian conditions. If that is possible I shall be happy to make some comment on it for the benefit of the honorable senator. It may, however, be useful for me to say that the establishment of jet airports and the use of jet aircraft in many countries have given rise to problems which, by and large, are of a greater intensity than those that exist in Australia. For example, the two airports in New York, sad to say, necesarily subject the people who live in the immediate vicinity of them to a noise nuisance that does not exist in respect of airports in Australia.
I am well aware, of course, that from time to time, complaints are made about noise from jet aircraft; but in comparison with complaints that are made about many United States airports the number of complaints received in Australia is negligible. The most recently developed jet airport in Australia happens to be the Perth airport. I was very interested to note the reaction to the first jet flight through Perth. Western Australian senators no doubt will recall that one newspaper made a pretty close canvass of the areas that it thought might be affected. After the first flight a quite small amount of critical comment on the noise was made. A survey made a month after the introduction of jet aircraft at that airport produced a result which, from the point of view of the civil aviation authorities, was most satisfactory. That survey caused the newspaper to comment that the introduction of jet aircraft at the Perth airport had been obtained at very small’ cost to the public in the way of inconvenience arising from noise. T acknowledge that not all airports in Australia are placed as favourably as Perth airport is in this regard; but I can assure Senator McManus that no Australian airport has the same noise problem as many airports in the United States of America and elsewhere have.
– Has the Minister for National Development seen recent press statements to the effect that large amounts of foreign capital are entering Australia and being invested in oil shares? Has he seen reports to the effect that the Australian Go-> vernment should take action to stop this inflow of capital to purchase Australian shareholdings in oil companies? Has he also seen statements to the effect that the Australian Government should take a more active interest on its own account in the search for oil? In view of those press statements, is the Minister prepared to make a statement in the Senate covering these two most important subjects?
– That is a Dorothy Dix-er, if ever there was one.
– I wish the honorable senator could give me the -answer. This question is, of course, attracting a good deal of public attention. The answer to it is not as easy to find as it might seem. Although we have very high hopes, we have not yet found oil in Australia in commercial quantities, or in a volume in any way approaching that which we need for our requirements. I do not think much imagination is needed to forecast that many millions of pounds will need to be spent yet on the search before it is successful. All the events of the past have shown that overseas capital must come forward to do the work. Of the total of £80,000,000 that has been spent so far on the search for oil in Australia, £64,000,000 has come from overseas and £16,000,000 has been provided locally.
We are apt to overlook the point that, even if our hopes are realized, many, many millions of pounds will have to be spent after oil is found in order to develop the deposits and bring the oil to the market. My department has made estimates of what that might involve in financial expenditure. I hesitate to repeat the estimates because there is such a big margin for possible error and the figures are so large.
– Would it be less - than £100,000,000?
– To think that it would require only £100,000,000 would be to adopt a completely unrealistic approach to the matter. I hesitate to repeat the estimates that have been given to me but I say to the honorable senator that if he thinks we could develop Australian oil resources for £100,000,000 he is right off. the target.
– The ‘ French spent over £200,000,000 in prospecting alone. ‘
– Yes. As Senator Dittmer says, oil was found by prospecting. Honorable senators should not think that we could develop oil resources in Australia for a figure anything like as low as £100,000,000, or even £1,000,000,000. It would be more than that. When you con?sider this matter, you run into the fact that the States have very wide powers in respect of it.
I finish my reply to the question, as I finish all the conversations I have on this subject - and naturally I have’ a good numberby saying that everybody wants to see Australian capital successfully used in the search for oil; but we can do ourselves a great national disservice if we start a heresy hunt against overseas capital coming into Australia to help us in this search.
Not only do we need great sums of money, but we also need a great reservoir of technical knowledge, skill and experience to make its contribution.
Senator Scott has asked, whether I will make a statement on the subject. I should like to think about that. There are so many ramifications that it would not be a statement that was needed so much as a kind of fireside chat, where there could be an exchange of the various points of view that arise in considering such a big problem.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. Can he give the number of arrivals last year of white Russians from China? Are these white Russians proving to be satisfactory migrants? If so, will he advise the Senate of the plans that are envisaged, or are possible, for the immigration of other members of this national group?
– As far as I am aware, no section of the immigration statistics gives the number of white Russians from China who arrived in Australia last year. I believe the statistics show that in the last twelve years between 13,000 and 14,000 Europeans came to Australia from China, and most of those would have been white Russians. They have been assimilated into the community quite well. We have made some concessions to enable members of this group to enter Australia. It is an anti-Communist group and, on humanitarian grounds, concessions have been granted to allow people who belong to it to enter Australia. I think that, on the whole, the programme has been satisfactory and that these people have been assimilated into the Australian community.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government ‘ and relates to the European Common Market. I should like to preface the question by saying that I have raised this problem on numerous occasions during the last five years and that the Minister has- given the impression that he resents my persistence. I feel that he does me an injustice, and that time will prove that my warnings have been fully justified. I notice that Senator Buttfield is laughing. Apparently she thinks it is a racehorse that I am talking about. My questions have related not only to trade, but also to immigration, civil aviation, freedom of movement for workers^ the European Investment Bank and equal pay for equal work, to mention only a few of the aims of the European Economic Community. They will have far-reaching effects upon the Australian community. The replies given have not been of a satisfactory character. I ask the Minister to tell me of just one instance in which the Australian Government has taken in relation to these momentous matters some action which will ultimately confer one benefit upon the Australian community. In his answer, I do not want him to make a general statement.
– Tell him what to say.
– If the Minister had a regard for the truth, he would say nothing, because the Government has done nothing. Secondly, I ask the Minister whether the institutions of the European Economic Community will in any way cut across the relationships legally expressed in the Statute of Westminster and which establish the sovereignty of each nation in the Commonwealth. This question is based on the assumption that the United Kingdom will join the European Economic Community. I am certain that, in her own interests, she will do so.
– There has been a little hilarity, but I should like to start my reply on a serious note by saying that I would be unhappy if Senator Hendrickson felt that I resented his insistence on asking questions about the European Common Market. I give him this simple reply: I do not resent his questions. This is a very great matter, and I would be the last to try to dampen down discussion of it. But I add to that simple reply the statement that quite often I have given a somewhat angry reply when Senator Hendrickson has couched his questions in terms which have been more than critical and in some cases insulting to members of the Government. We must remember two things. First, a Minister has a responsibility to do his best to give a good answer to a question. Secondly, he has a responsibility to reply appropriately when the question has a politically critical content.
The honorable senator has asked me to state one action which the Government has taken that has been of benefit to the Australian economy. The short answer to that question is along these lines: The United Kingdom Government has not yet taken any action other than to apply to join the Common Market and to request that negotiations be commenced. As yet there has been no actual decision other than the decision to apply to join the European Common Market. It is not a case of pointing to one action. Australian officials in London and on the Continent have been continually negotiating, talking, sorting out and discussing with not only the United Kingdom but also the members of The Six the form in which we would like to see the United Kingdom complete its negotiations. One cannot state this in simple terms. No one can say. for example, when the negotiations will finish.
It has been reported in the press that arrangements are being made for the Australian representatives to put their case at first hand to members of The Six. It would be quite wron.e to create the impression that this is not one of the major tasks upon which the Government is now engaged. It would be equally wrong to attempt to give a balltoball, a day-to-day. description of the way in which the negotiations are being conducted and of the changes of views from time to time on the part not only of the United Kingdom but also of the Continental powers and the Australian Government. This is a very big matter indeed.
I have already replied to the second part of the question, which suggested that the Government had been doing nothing. This matter does not come within the administration of my portfolio, but one of the major tasks I have to perform as a member of the Cabinet is to prepare myself for the making of a decision bv the Cabinet - even though, as I said, I am not the responsible Minister.
– It might be better if you were.
– I wish I were as good as Jack McEwen. The third part of the question, which relates to the effect of these negotiations on the Statute of Westminster, really should be answered by a lawyer. But, hoping the lawyers will not cry me down, I shall risk my limb by saying that I should think the negotiations would have no effect at all. The Statute of Westminster delineates, if that is the right word to use, the status of the dominions in relation to the Crown. That delineation would remain unchanged, even though there may be practical differences in relations between the Commonwealth and the United Kingdom Government.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior tell us when he intends to bring before the Senate the motion necessary to continue the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory?
– I shall have to ask my colleague, the Minister for the Interior, to give me his views on this matter. I shall convey the information to the honorable senator.
– I should like to ask the Minister for the Navy a few questions. Is it a fact that the Navy has ordered two guided missile destroyers from the United States of America, at a cost of £20,000,000 each? Is it a fact that these ships will not be delivered for from three to five years? Is it a fact that Rear-Admiral H. S. Mackenzie of the Royal Navy - a good friend of the Minister - has stated that any navy that does not go over to submarines will be obsolete and that the day of the surface vessel has almost finished? Will the Minister kindly give the Senate and the public his considered views on this matter?
– It is a fact that the Government recently ordered two guided missile destroyers, both of which will be delivered, not three to five years hence, but within three years. I have read in the newspapers that Rear-Admiral Mackenzie had said, not that any nation which does not go over to submarines will have an obsolete navy, but that any nation which, by the end of the century - that is, in 38 years timedid not go over to submarines would have an obsolete navy. That statement was made by a submarine officer. I do not think that the actions taken by the major navies of the world, which are continuing to build surface ships and continuing to plan to build them, indicate that all naval opinion is in agreement with that statement.
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Treasurer to a statement that appeared this morning in a leading newspaper. The research director of the Australian Bankers’ Association is reported as having directed attention to the fact that £700,000,000 of unused overdrafts was available in the various banks for use by manufacturers, primary producers and trade and commerce, and as having expressed the opinion that the flow of overseas capital to Australia would not be maintained if the United Kingdom joined the European Common Market, because then overseas capita] interests would have more incentive to invest in Europe than to invest in Australia. Is the Minister prepared to comment on those statements? Does he regard this position as showing a full return of confidence by the trading community, on account of the measures taken recently by the Government for the rehabilitation of industry?
– I did see a statement of this kind, but I do not think it was that to which the honorable senator has referred. The statement I saw had reference only to the fact that an estimated £700,000,000 of overdraft limits is currently not being availed of. Public attention has been focussed on this aspect of banking statistics, not only because the figures appear to be very large, but also because it is only during the relatively recent past - probably for not more than a year - that figures in connexion with unavailed of overdraft limits have been either recorded or made known to the public. It is a fact that the unavailed- of limits have risen during the past three months from about £650,000,00 to in excess of £700,000,000. That indicates that commitments are being contemplated by prospective borrowers or have, in fact, been entered into. To that extent it does indicate a confidence expressed by manufacturers and, indeed, by all classes of investors in the future commercial possibilities of this country. I could not agree more that such is the case.
The second aspect of the question concerned the possibility of a reduction of British investment in Australia in the event of the United Kingdom joining the European Common Market. This is an interesting speculation. It would appear that if the United Kingdom joined the Common Market, one effect might well be the investment of United Kingdom capital in the European area. But it is by no means sure that that would be so. Indeed, as recently as yesterday I had the pleasure of discussing this very aspect of the possible effect of the entry of the United Kingdom into the European Common Market with one of the United Kingdom’s biggest industrialists. He expressed to me the view that the result mentioned by the honorable senator would not necessarily follow. Indeed, he said that if the United Kingdom joined the European Common Market, the effect would be to cause some disruption - and in some cases a large amount of disruption - in the United Kingdom’s industries, and that some might go out of existence because they could not meet competition from other sources within the European Common Market. He went on to say that in such a circumstance it was possible that British capital might like to establish itself and its know-how in countries where it had available not only a home market but also a potential export market to develop.
I mention those points and I regret that I have done so at such length. However, the honorable senator asked an interesting question and I thought that he would appreciate getting the two views of what might emerge.
– There have been three mission ships. The first was the “Delos”, the second was the “ Straat Banka “ and the third was the one mentioned by the honorable senator, the “ Chandpara “. The first mission resulted in the placing of orders worth approximately £3,000,000. The second mission had a very similar result. No estimate can yet be made of the results of the mission of the “ Chandpara “ because full details have not yet been made available. In the main the missions visited countries in the Near East and parts of the Middle East. All of the missions were organized by Australian industry itself. The Department of Trade gave great assistance to the missions, but they were sponsored by industry itself. I think it may be said that the first two missions were a great success and the indications are that the third mission was just as successful.
– Can the Minister assisting the Minister for External Affairs say whether the Government of South Viet Nam has made any requests of an economic or military nature to the Australian Government through the South-East Asia Treaty Organization? If so, what are those requests and what action has been taken or is contemplated in respect of them?
– The Government of South Viet Nam -has made a number of economic requests and has been for a number of years in receipt of economic assistance, though not under Seato. That assistance has been given in accordance with Colombo Plan procedures. The assistance that has been given under the
Colombo Plan, has been designed to increase the living standards of the country and to improve its economy. The assistance has taken the form of demonstrating, better agricultural practices in certain places, perhaps providing machinery, improving the strain of live-stock and so on. The scope of the assistance is very wide. It ranges from the provision of railway carriages to the provision of a sawmill for the production of tongued and grooved timber for use in the local building industry. The assistance includes a project for pasteurizing milk, which has enabled germ-free milk to be provided for the first time in Saigon. The assistance covers a wide range of smaller things, the most important of which are windmills for installation in villages so that water, instead of being drawn by hand, may be pumped to tanks and reticulated to two or three points instead of the one previously served. These are not vast projects but they are of some significance in the general life of the people.
As for strictly military assistance, some requests have been made. The assistance provided has been largely of a kind designed to enable the villagers to resist attacks by the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong. It includes such things as barbed wire to enable the villages to be ringed in order to protect them from sudden attack by armed guerilla bands. We have also provided some communications equipment. Things of that kind have been supplied or are in the course of being supplied.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration seen an article taken from the London “ Observer “ and republished in the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ in which a barrister claims that Portugal is a police state every bit as brutal and corrupt as was Nazi Germany? As the barrister in question is a joint secretary . of Amnesty, a non-political movement set up last year to investigate the holding of political prisoners in a number of countries, will the Minister consider having withdrawn the deportation order that has been issued against three Portuguese sailors who are at present in this country? If not, why does the Government differentiate between people claiming to be political refugees from Portugal and people claiming to be political refugees from mainland China, as both countries have governments foreign to our democratic way of life?
– I listened to the question with great interest. It is an important question and one which I am sure the Minister for Immigration would prefer to reply to personally. Senator Kennelly may like to place it on the notice-paper or he may be satisfied if I ask the Minister for Immigration to write to him direct. *
– Do not worry about the -Minister writing to me. If I place my question on the notice-paper I am sure to get a reply, even if it takes four or five weeks. I have questions on the noticepaper now. They have been there for a month already.
– The honorable senator may do as he pleases. I leave the matter in his hands. I will see that he gets an answer to his question.
– My question, which I direct to the Minister representing the Attorney-General, refers to the European Common Market. Has he seen a statement published in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ this week and attributed to a responsible Minister of the United Kingdom Government to the effect that Britain’s joining of the European Common Market would not in his view diminish the constitutional authority of the British Parliament? The statement was made in answer to a question asked in the House of Commons. Does the Minister think it would be appropriate for Commonwealth law officers to examine this matter in order to assess, first, the authority that will reside in Westminster in future to legislate on economic matters having an indirect effect on the economy of Australia and, secondly, the direct consequence of constitutional limitations on. Westminster to the association of the free independent countries that we -call, the British Commonwealth of Nations?
– The question is extremely complicated and is one that requires a legal answer. Accordingly, I ask the honorable senator to place it on the notice-paper, so that a considered reply may be given.
– Has the Minister for the Navy seen the cartoon in to-day’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “ depicting Senator Gorton as the fighting strength of the Navy - a ragged, decrepit entity, incapable of offering any defence other than warning off critics? Will the Minister say whether the cartoon correctly depicts the fighting strength of the Navy?
– I have not yet seen the cartoon referred to, but will take the first opportunity to do so. Senator O’Flaherty has said that the cartoon depicts me as a ragged and not very efficient fighting machine. I leave it to the honorable senator’s judgment to say whether that is a proper personal description of me. I do not think it is. I am quite certain that the fighting strength of the Royal Australian Navy is something of which we all may be proud. Senator Brown now displays for my benefit a copy of the cartoon. It is not a bad caricature after all.
– Can the Minister for Health say what results have flowed from the recent discissions between the Premiers and Ministers for Health of Victoria and Tasmania concerning increased allocations to those States under the Mental Institution Benefits Act?
– I can inform the Senate that I had a very interesting discussion with the Premiers of Victoria and Tasmania about the additional needs of those States in catering for mentally-ill patients. At this stage I cannot say more than that the Premiers have agreed to supply me and my department with the additional information that we require in order to make what I hope will be a just assessment of the needs of those States.’ When finality has been reached, as I hope it will be, I shall be in a position to answer the honorable senator’s question in detail.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that the quotes that have been called for by the Australian Broadcasting Commission for television translators are for very high frequency units for operation on channels 3 and 6 of the V.H.F. band? Has the department considered the use of translators that receive on V.H.F. channels and transmit on ultra-high frequency channels in order to avoid using up the valuable V.H.F. channels? What is the cost of the simple converter that is needed to receive U.H.F. transmission on a V.H.F. television receiver?
– My technical knowledge is so limited that I have no alternative but to ask the honorable senator to place his question on the notice-paper. If he does so, I will ask the PostmasterGeneral to supply the requisite information.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, by saying that from time to time we read of boxers in various parts of the world being either seriously injured or killed. Will the Minister pass on to the Minister for the Interior the suggestion that as a lead to the Australian States he use his influence - whether this matter is the responsibility of his department or of some other body - to have tighter control of boxing in the Australian Capital Territory, perhaps, by setting up a committee of people who would ensure that boys taking part in preliminary fights in the ring would have at least a fundamental knowledge to enable them to protect themselves and who would check to see that such boys were in perfect physical condition before they engaged in boxing? I know that not a lot of boxing is done in the Australian Capital Territory; but if this suggestion were adopted it would give a lead to and set a standard for the States.
– I will be very happy to bring the suggestion made by Senator Willesee to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for the Interior. I believe most people will applaud the sentiments that Senator Willesee has enunciated. Whilst I would be the last person in the world to suggest that a prohibition should be placed on the manly art of self-defence, I believe that stricter control would be of great benefit to the sport. Referees have a very great responsibility to exercise in this sport. I am sure that the Minister for the Interior will be pleased to examine the suggestion that the honorable senator has made to tighten the control of boxing in the Australian Capital Territory.
– In directing a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer, by way of preface may I remind him that I asked a question on this subject twelve or fifteen months ago. On that occasion I referred to a financial institution in Australia - Lombard (Australia) Limited - operating, so far as public advertisements would indicate, very much in the way of banking institutions. Has the Minister noticed the accounts for the last financial year published recently by that group of companies? Does the Banking Act require that any banking institution shall have a licence to operate although it carries on operations of an interstate character? Does this institution have such a licence? If it does not, is section 92 of the Constitution the reason for its not having a licence? Does the Minister consider that there is any possible risk to investors if the operations of such an institution are contrary to the Banking Act and consequently illegal?
– I ask that the question be put on the notice-paper. I regret that the honorable senator did not receive a satisfactory answer to the question that he asked so long ago, as I understood him to say. I will obtain an answer to this question as quickly as possible.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the series of questions on the European Common Market to which the Senate is treated from time to time by Senator Hendrickson, carrying the implication that the Government has neglected the - development of the possibility of Great Britain applying to enter the European Common Market, will the Minister have Senator Hendrickson’s attention directed to the proceedings of the conferences between representatives of the governments of the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia, held within the last two or two and a half years, and the detailed information that is recorded about the assessment then made of the trade consequences to all those three Commonwealth countries of Great Britain’s entry into the European Common Market?
– I believe that Senator Wright’s summary of the situation is timely. Already a wealth of information on what is happening is available. The difficulty is to keep that information up to date and. as the scene changes, to put it in specific terms as at that moment.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister for National Development, by stating that recently the manager of West Australian Petroleum Proprietary Limited in Western Australia informed me that the drill that was searching for oil in Eneabba, in that State, went through 6.000 feet of water sand. I ask the Minister whether such information and other information of that type are collated by the Bureau of Mineral Resources. If the answer is in the affirmative, will the Minister say whether such information is made available to all people interested in the water resources of Australia?
– Was it good, pure water?
– Yes, it was beautiful water.
– The Bureau of Mineral Resources maintains a library - if that is the right word - of cores. An actual sample of the core to which Senator Scott refers eventually will be in the records of the bureau, if it is not there already, and available for all to see. I remind Senator Scott that the publication of information is determined by the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act. The company concerned has the right to retain information for its own purposes for a limited period which, speaking from memory, is six months, before the information becomes public.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate noted - I am sure he has - the buying of oil shares, in particular, by overseas interests since the Queensland oil strike? Does he recall that about five or six months ago an offer was made by two millionaires in Hong Kong to take over Broken Hill South Limited? This trend seems to pose a new problem in our search for oil and in our undertaking of other developmental works in Australia. I know that the Minister has given a lot of thought to this subject and has spoken about it many times in the Senate, but I ask him whether he has considered the possibility of using the law as it stands at present to prevent companies, particularly oil companies, from being taken out of the hands of Australians. If there is nothing in the law at present to prevent this, and since the matter is so important, does he agree that an investigation should be made with a view to enacting a law to prevent complete take-overs by overseas interests and, particularly, to prevent companies engaged in the search for oil from falling into the hands of foreign investors?
– Again, those are very difficult questions to answer. Senator Willesee asks whether a law could be enacted. Enacted by whom? I point out that the Commonwealth probably has not the power to do so. because the States administer the company acts. The honorable senator has spoken about take-overs of oil companies, but what are the facts? To what extent has there been overseas purchase of shares? Is it true to say that that has happened with a large proportion of shares? Did the shares so purchased stay overseas, or were they re-sold on the Australian market in speculative fashion? If we were to . take decisive steps in this matter, what effect would that have on other overseas investment in Australia? As Senator Courtice asks by way of interjection, what effect would it have on the search for oil in Australia? Would it prevent or discourage overseas interests from coming here?
– Those are the very questions that are interesting me.
– Yes, and they are questions to which we would be unwise to try to give dogmatic answers at this stage. Let me repeat what I said previously. The position is that at the moment our hopes of discovering oil in commercial quantities in Australia are becoming stronger. Let us first prove whether those hopes are justified. In that task, we have to play fair. We are not going to take on a programme on one basis and then change to another basis later on.
– You have to be fair to Australians, too.
– It is fair to Australians at the present time, because Australians hold the majority of the - licence areas. Australian companies are in the majority of those engaged in the search for oil, but we are leaning heavily on overseas interests for capital and know-how.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– -The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers: -
Long-term and permanent arrivals, seven months to -
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table of the Senate a report by the Tariff Board on continuous man-made fibre yarns.
I also lay on the table of the Senate reports by deputy chairmen of the Tariff Board on the question whether temporary duties should be imposed on -
Fibre glass textile materials.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize payment to the States of amounts totalling £10,000,000 in this financial year. These amounts are being made available in the form of non-repayable grants, and are additional to the financial assistance grants paid to the States under the States Grants Act 1959.
In his statement of 7th February, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) announced that Cabinet had, after valuable consultations with a wide range of industries and interests, reviewed the present state of the economy and ‘closely considered policy and appropriate action. He intimated that the Government was concerned both at the level of unemployment which was then evident, and at the weakness of confidence which existed. He went on to outline a series of measures which the Government intended to take to deal with this situation.
In referring to those measures which were intended to produce the quickest possible results, the Prime Minister said -
We will put before the meeting of Premiers next week an offer to provide forthwith a special non-repayable grant of £10,000,000 for employmentgiving activities, mainly in the works field. The detailed application of this sum, as a supplement in the current financial year, will be discussed with the Premiers. It is our intention that it should be supplied and allocated mainly on the basis of meeting employment needs.
In accordance with this undertaking, the Prime Minister put forward this offer at the recent Premiers’ Conference. At the same time, he suggested to the Premiers a’ form of distribution which, having in mind the purpose of the grant and the significant variations in the incidence of unemployment in the various States, the Commonwealth considered tq be appropriate. This suggested distribution had been drawn up having in mind the unemployment figures in each State and, in particular, those relating to Queensland and Tasmania. A further consideration was the extent to which the other measures announced by the Government would contribute to meeting th: employment problem in each State.
The Commonwealth offer, Including the suggested distribution of the total grant, was considered by the Premiers along with the other Commonwealth offers to advance additional amounts to the States for housing and to support an increase in the borrowing programmes of State local authorities and semigovernmental bodies. It was, in a sense, a package offer and was considered as such.
In the outcome, the Premiers accepted both the total . amount and the proposed distribution, which is now embodied in the bill before the Senate. The amounts to be paid to each State which are shown in the schedule to the bill are as follows: -
The grants, which I should emphasize will not involve the States in interest and repayment are intended to provide finance for employment-giving activities, mainly in the works field. However, each State will be free to exercise its own judgment and to use its share of the grant in whatever direction it thinks proper. But the over-riding general purpose of the grants is to provide employment.
As it is the intention also that the whole of the grant should be expended during this financial year the Government is naturally anxious that it should be in a position to commence to make payments of the grant to the States at the earliest possible date. For this reason, I would, in commending the bill to honorable senators, express the Government’s desire to have the legislation dealt with as expeditiously as possible.
Debate (on motion by Senator Dittmer) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 28th March (vide page 661), on motion by Senator Gorton -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this bill is to increase the levy now paid by the shipping companies and by the stevedoring companies from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 4d. a man hour. The Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) has stated that 9d. of the increase is necessary in order to make provision for annual leave payments to waterside workers. Until 1st July, 1959, these payments were made by the employers, who levied themselves, on the average, about 9d. a man hour to meet them. As from that date, the employers ceased to pay for annual leave and ceased to levy themselves. The responsibility for the payments became that of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. Of the lOd. increase, 9d. will be used to meet annual leave, payments. The other Id. of the increase will be used, no doubt, to meet the additional expense caused by increases in award payments and to provide a reserve for the Stevedoring Industry Authority.
The Labour Party supports the bill. It is extremely pleasing to me that in recent years improvements have been made of the working conditions of waterfront employees. Some 20 or 30 years ago, men had to be at the pick-up points from 8 o’clock to 10 o’clock in the morning. If they had not received work by then, they had to attend again from 2 o’clock to 4 o’clock in the afternoon. It is gratifying to- know that even this Government has gone some of the way in following the example set by its predecessor in making working conditions on the waterfront much better than they were. Let us hope that further improvements will be made as time goes on. There are still some people who are not altogether happy about the waterside workers being paid appearance money, but it is pleasing to know that such payments are now provided for by law and that the amount has been increased from 24s. to, I think, 28s. 3d.
It might be as well to inform those who are not altogether happy about the payment of appearance money of the trend that is developing in America. In the automobile industry in America to-day, the trend is towards, not a weekly wage, but a yearly wage. As a matter of interest, I shall quote from the “ Labour News Digest”, which is published by the United States Information Service in Sydney and contains extracts from American Labour union newspapers, periodicals and other sources. An article in this publication is headed “ Reuther Gains Significant Advance”. Walter Reuther is the worldrenowned leader of the United Automobile Workers’ Union in the United States. The article states -
The United Automobile Workers, under the leadership of Walter Reuther, has made another significant advance toward its long-sought goal of a “ guaranteed annual wage “ in current negotiations with the automobile manufacturers.
As every one knows, there are no institutions in America such as our arbitration! courts. The American unions seem ‘ to believe that they get on better by having roundtable conferences with the various leaders of industry, where they can work, out agreements amongst themselves. The article goes on -
The annual wage was first presented by Reuther as a major UAW demand in the 1950 collective bargaining talks. At that time the union settled for a modified version in the form of supplementary unemployment benefits. Under this plan, laid-off workers were assured of receiving 65 per cent, of their normal take-home pay, inclusive of state unemployment compensation, for periods up to 26 weeks.
This year the union has moved closer to its goal in agreements recently concluded with American Motors and General Motors Corporation. These agreements contain features which add measurably to the income security of the workers and are likely to provide a pattern for UAW settlements with other factors in the industry.
Two provisions in this connexion are specially notable: (1) supplementary unemployment benefits are extended to 52 weeks and maximum benefits are increased to provide laid off workers with close to 80 per cent, of take-home pay whencombined with state unemployment compensation;
Workers will be paid 65 per cent, of straighttime hourly pay for each hour not worked under 40 in a scheduled short work-week.
The UAW contract with American Motors also breaks new ground with provision for a “ progresssharing “ plan which gives employees a stake in the company’s profits.
I have read that passage to show the trend that is occurring in the United States of America and which no doubt will find its way here. The leaders of industry know well that unless they can keep the mass of the people working at a rate that will allow those workers to buy at least a portion of the goods that are manufactured, they themselves will suffer.
The employer is much wiser to-day than he was 20, 30 or more years ago, when we felt that he wanted all the profits and did not want to give the workers anything. To-day the employer realizes that if he is to keep his plant going the workers must get a share of the return. I believe that in the years to come, even in the immediate future, there will be a tendency for the employers to give much more to the employees. Only by doing that can we save trie country from turning to another way of life. In the two great Eastern nations, mainland China and Russia, industry does not suffer from a profit and interest burden and is therefore able to compete on favorable terms in countries which are not under their direct control but which we regard as being neutral. If we are to keep our markets and to keep industry going, there must continue to be a trend towards giving a greater handout to those who work in industry. I believe it is a very wise trend.
I do not want to be accused of reading speeches that were delivered many years ago, as did a Minister yesterday in respect of a reference to little capitalists and so on, but one can point to a change of attitude on the part of the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the present Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) since the introduction of the stevedoring industry legislation of 1947. Undoubtedly there has been a considerable change. I knew the waterside workers extremely well many years ago, and I have a great admiration for them. Some people will say that they allowed fruit to rot on the Hobart wharfs and so forth. They did, but they believed they had a just cause. But they blazed1 the trail for the black-coated workers in their efforts to obtain recognition. On that point, let me refer to a specific case. I , have a very close relative whose parents had to pay 2s. 6d. a week for the first six months to what is now the biggest firm in Melbourne, but which at the time was only a small firm, to enable her to be taught millinery. For the next six months no payment was made. I mention that just to indicate the trend in relations between employers and employees.
Although waterside workers may have caused a little upset here and there, we must look at things from their point of view. They are tough, hard men, but they are good at heart. I am amazed when I hear of them being attacked1 just because a ship is held up here and another is held up somewhere else. I admit that in years gone by these things caused me a little bit of worry; but I have a soft spot for waterside workers. In my sight they do not do much wrong. This bill will help the industry more than we think. It will remove from the minds of men the thought that perhaps there are better ways of living or better systems than we have to-day. I believe there is a better system, but it is not the system to which some people refer at election time. I think the present system of employment could be improved a great deal.
– You could improve it by using the New Zealand scheme.
– With all respect, I do not think it is right to split up the unions into separate little bodies. As time goes on you will be able to deal with them. I am speaking quite freely, openly and honestly when I say that already you have taken a great deal of the fight out of them. Nowadays we have time payment and hire purchase, and when the good lady at home is buying a refrigerator or a washing machine by these means it is harder to get the men to strike even on matters of principle. Under the New Zealand system, as I understand it, there is a separate union for each port. I do not know whether that system has been altered in recent times.
– They ran it as a company.
– There is a possibility of that being done satisfactorily. I am not arguing against it.
– Years ago, there was a guarantee of £8 a week.
– Unless I studied that system, I could not comment on it and say whether or not I supported it. The carriage of goods involves tremendous costs. As I stated in this chamber some time ago, transport costs in Australia, which account for about 30 per cent, of total cost, are higher than transport costs in almost any other country. It is said that the waterside workers have not done all that they should have done. We have all made mistakes. Possibly I may be biased in their favour. I want to know what their mistakes have been. When they believe they have something worth fighting for, they fight for it, and I give great credit to them for that. If they gave up that attitude, the game would be just wrapped up and they would be kicked about. People in all walks of life, including black-coat workers, have to thank the waterside workers and; the coal-, miners foi; many of the good, conditions under which- they work and live.
Some thought ought to be given to the penalties applied to waterside workers who participate in a general unauthorized stoppage. I have never known the waterfront to Stop, work unless the workers believed they had a valid reason. I worked amongst, them in years gone by. It is true that what they regard as. a valid’ reason and what honorable senators opposite regard as a valid reason- may be as far apart as the poles, but honorable senator;s opposite have not bent their backs in some of the small holds that we used to see in years gone by. L understand that recently there was a stoppage for eight days at Gladstone. Irrespective of what one may think about, watersideworkers, do honorable senators opposite believe that any body of men will stop, work for eight days unless- they believe they, have a grievance?
– Do” you think that Healy’s strikes were always- genuine?
– I cannot say that. For God’s sake, do not get into trouble about Jim Healy with your colleague who sits next to you.. I am. not speaking of Healy as a member of the Communist Party. Every one knew that he was a Communist. I mixed with members of that party because at certain times of my life I. had to do so. They did not infect me with communism. I liked Healy as a man. He improved- the conditions of waterside workers. They used to have to go to a pick-up point at 8 o’clock in the morning and stand in. a yard until 10 a.m. If they were not picked up, they went back at 2. p.m. and. stayed until 4 p.m. Conditions were really bad. I know the views of officials of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, such as Mr. Souter and Mr. Monk. Albert Monk and I were boys together in Victoria and we are good friends. He often told me that Healy followed the waterside worker’s line, not the “ Com “ line, and I honestly believe that that- was so. Honorable senators opposite may not have liked Healy or what he did. Possibly they had-, cause. What happened on the Fremantle wharfs may have seemed outrageous from, their point of view.
The existing legislation provides penalties for men who are on strike. I was reading’ recently statements made in’ another placeabout wages on the waterfront. I understand: that! last year the average wage of a waterside- worker was- £16 in Queensland. It was £21 5s. in Melbourne and Sydney.. I do not believe that a man will stop work for eight days without cause.
– The average was £15 15s. in Queensland.
– That is the working wage, not counting attendance money.
– I think it was the average wage, including attendance money and everything else. Surely the honorable senator does not think that a person- wants attendance money amounting to 28s. a day when his hourly wage is about lis. 6d.
– What about work at holidays and: weekends?
– It was the desire of one’s heart in years gone by, to get work on a boat, that was loading frozen meat, because the job lasted about ten days. If you. got night work on a boat loading frozen lamb or mutton, it would not matter whether the next fortnight was good or bad. I could not conceive that the men at Glad, stone would knock off for eight days without cause. They would not receive appearance money thereafter for 32 days.
There are strikes-. Fortunately, there are not so many as there were in years gone by, for which we are all pleased. There is a little trouble in another arm of transport in Melbourne, namely, the trams at Footscray. If a trammie goes on strike for a day, he is not penalized in respect of long service leave.. Honorable senators opposite ought to meet waterside workers, who are reasonable people. Perhaps my friends opposite did not like Healy. Well, they do not have to deal with him now. They have to deal now with another person, and 1 hope that they do not go to him with the dislike they had for Healy. I doubt whether those who disliked HeaLy ever met him. Honorable senators1 opposite take a dislike to a man because he joins a political party that is- as- foreign to me as it is to them. The men who. went on strike at Gladstone for six days lost attendance money for 32 days, amounting to approximately £45, in addition to losing payment for the days they were on strike. They will also have to make up an additional 100 days to entitle them to long service leave after 20 years. I do not think this attitude is getting anywhere. I do not want unauthorized stoppages on the waterfront or anywhere else, because the people who suffer most are the wives and kiddies of the workers. I do not want the waterside workers ever to give up the right to strike if they believe that they have good cause. In a case such as this it is about time the Government had a look at the matter and altered the law.
No doubt we have all heard in recent years the complaint about the slow turnround of ships. In this respect Australia was supposed to have the worst record in the world. But are the men always to blame? Is the equipment on the wharfs up to date? Why is there always a tendency to blame the waterside workers? In 1955, it required 40,358,012 man-hours to shift 24,919.000 tons of cargo. In 1961 it required only 30.269,218 man-hours to shift 27,886,000 tons of cargo. Tn 1955, 24,927 men were employed on our waterfront. The number employed last year was 21,589. In 1955, 11,375 vessels entered our ports, compared with 13,043 vessels in 1961.
Summing up these figures, I point out that 10,088,794 fewer man-hours were worked in 1961 than in 1955. Last year 4,438 fewer men were employed on the waterfront than six years aso; the cargo handled increased by 2,967,000 tons; and 1,668 more vessels entered our ports.
– Could you give the Senate the source of those figures?
– They came from Mr. Beitz. the president of the Waterside Workers Federation.
– Would you not say that much of that improvement was by mechanical aid?
– I am coming to that point, which I admit. Those figures show that more automation and mechanization will be brought into this industry, as exemplified by the modern methods of loading and unloading adopted on the “ Bass Trader “, for which I give great credit to the former Minister for Shipping and Transport, Senator Paltridge. No doubt ships coming into our ports from other countries will have improved cargo-handling equipment.
We must agree that no man in Queensland should take home only £15 15s. a week. He cannot live on that amount. Very soon those who are in a position to help the workers on the waterfront will have to give much thought to what is happening in the automobile industry in the United States of America. Whether we like it or not, the fact is that the best market is the home market. Though we all love to read about increasing our exports of manufactured goods, we must not be blind to the fact that as the years go by jobs here will be harder to come by because other countries - some friendly and others not our friends politically - will be looking for these markets. I have one other set of figures from the same source that are most interesting from my point of view. They concern export and import freight comparisons from the years 1947 to 1955 and disclose that whereas tonnage shipped from Australia to Ceylon increased in that period by 56 per cent., tonnage from Ceylon to Australia increased by only 2 per cent. This shows quite clearly that Ceylon was able to hold its economy stable and avoid inflation while we in this country unfortunately - and I am not saying this to seek political kudos - were not able to halt inflation.
– We must be drinking more China tea.
– I do not know about that, but this comparison seems remarkable. One extract from the annual report of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission for the year 1961 is of great interest. The report suggests that increasing charges levied by shippers are unjustified and that increased costs in the industry should be met by increasing efficiency, as done by the Australian National Line.
– Who said that?
– This is out of the last annual report of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission.
– Claiming that shippers will be able to cover increased cost by increased efficiency?
– Yes. I will show it to you. Let me read the precise extract: - . . costs per ton of cargo carried have been reduced substantially, reflecting a holding down of costs during a time of continually rising prices. This has been achieved by the introduction of new and more efficient ships, mechanization wherever practicable and constant investigation of new and existing methods. The effect of the introduction of these new vessels and the disposal of outmoded ships, such as those of the “ River “ Class, is shown in the marked improvement in the quantity of cargo carried in relation to deadweight capacity of the Fleet.
I am pleased that the bill has been brought down. It will pay the extra attendance money to the waterside workers that was granted to them under the recent award. The men would much prefer to work than to have the attendance money, but if they cannot get work, the money helps. Let us hope that some thought will be given to at least some of the matters that I have described as harsh. I do not think that they will help to keep peace in an industry where we want peace. I say, with some knowledge of waterside workers and particularly of their leaders over many long years: Let no one get into his head the idea that waterside workers want to stop work merely for the sake of going on strike. If they stop they do so for a principle in which they believe.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
.- The bill before the Senate is designed to increase the stevedoring industry levy from the present rate of 2s. 6d. a man-hour to 3s. 4d. a man-hour - an increase of lOd. That levy is charged in respect of every man-hour worked on the waterfront by registered waterside workers. The amount of the increase is important and the amount of the proposed levy - 3s. 4d. a man-hour - should alert the Parliament to the degree of importance attaching to this tax. The tax must be related to a wage rate of about Ils. a man-hour paid on the waterfront. It is on record that with the industry controlled as it is at present, waterside workers throughout Australia, whether they be in an A port, a B port or a seasonal port, earn an average of £22 8s. lid. for a working week of 28.5 hours. In this debate it is not relevant to refer to the efficiency, indolence or energy of waterfront workers, nor to the continuity of labour. It is of little relevance to refer to the amount of cargo that is handled in a man-hour on the waterfront. My friend, Senator Lillico, asks why is it not relevant to refer to those matters. They are matters that will be taken care of by industrial arbitration. Because we think we have the power to impose this tax on the pay-roll of the waterfront - to date the power has not been challenged - it is a complete mistake to enter into any discussion as to the efficiency or otherwise of the waterfront. Any increase in the through-put of cargo will readily be taken into account on any adjustment of the basic pay rate on the waterfront. We have industrial arbitration tribunals and we would be interfering with the functions of those tribunals if, in fixing the tax that is necessary to be imposed on the pay-roll of the waterfront, we were to pose as judges of those matters relevant for industrial consideration. It is a mistake to consider any major reformation on the waterfront, a subject to which Senator Kennelly devoted much of his speech. I doubt whether one would find in this Senate a single representative of the people who would not be anxious to improve conditions of work for the waterfront section of the population as well as any other industrial section of the population. Any advocacy imputing to sections of the Parliament opposition to improvements of that sort is out of date.
As Senator Kennelly said, the system that operates on the waterfront was established by a Labour government in 1947. Honorable senators will recall that that was a virulently socialistic government. It brought forward proposals that left Australia thunder-struck. The Australian people became so vocal over that government’s banking proposals that they deprived it of authority at the first opportunity. The organization that was established for the working of the waterfront has been continued by this Government which succeeded th? socialistic government to which I have referred. Some improvements have been made to the system, particularly along the lines of giving legislative sanction for the use of mechanical equipment for the loading and unloading of ships. Mechanical handling of cargo has increased and the amount of cargo entrusted to waterside workers has continually decreased. That is an important feature of waterfront activities, but the system that is in operation on the waterfront to-day is, for purposes relevant to this bill, the same as it was in 1947.
I mention that matter only because in another place the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) said that outright government employment on the waterfront would be socialistic. The present system of employment on the waterfront is a hybrid socialism. I do not think I would be out of order in using the idiom of Shakespeare to describe the present system as a bastard socialism.
To-day Australia is emerging from a rather saddening period of economic trial. The decline in economic activity stemmed from the fact that our overseas balances had become threatened. An important factor that influences the state of our overseas balances is the amount of our export earnings. It seems to me completely unreasonable to seek to stem that decline by increasing sales tax on motor cars and at the same time directly increasing a tax on exports. We know that 80 per cent, of our export income comes from the agricultural industries. Because of the internal factors that place the industrial prosperity of this country on such an artificial basis, the agricultural industries are very sorely prejudiced. The agricultural industries depend upon the prices that people in Europe, without such artificial industrial factors, are prepared to pay. It is of the utmost importance that we recognize at this time, about the end of March, 1962, that we are in a decade of increasing external competition and wisdom has to be concentrated on means to ensure the welfare of our export industries. Unless the assumption made during the fifties that the export industries can carry the ever-increasing load of internal costs is corrected, we will be heading for a crisis.
Because I believe that this bill highlights that issue and makes it transparently plain, I consider that it is one’s imperative duty to oppose the bill and see whether or not the Senate will divide on the motion for the second reading. I believe that it is imperative for the preservation of the agricultural industries, which are such an important factor in our exporting income, that they immediately be relieved of some of the present load of costs and certainly that that load should not be increased.
That is the issue, Mr. President, and in order to show the significance of it, I shall mention some facts that should be taken into account. Will you permit me to recall for the information of the Senate that the aggregate yield from this tax, or charge, over the period from 1956 to the present day has increased from £1,900,000 to nearly £4,000,000. Initially, the tax was imposed in 1951 at the rate of 4d. per man-hour. It was increased in various stages. After being 3s. per man-hour for a short period, the rate has been 2s. 6d. per man-hour from 1st July, 1959 up to the present time. With the concurrence of honorable senators, I incorporate in “ Hansard “ the following table showing the rates and the periods for which they operated: -
The rate began at 4d. per man-hour and under this bill it is to be increased to 3s. 4d. per man-hour. The degree of that increase is quite important in itself. Let me hasten to say that not by any means the whole of it is required for the administrative expenses of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority.
At page 85 of the report of the authority for the year ended 30th June, 1961, a table is set out. In fairness, I wish to refer to it in its entirety. It shows that in the financial year ended 30th June, 1961, of the total yield of the tax, namely, £3,844,499, 27.6 per cent, was for attendance money, 27.1 per cent, was for annual leave, and 15.2 per cent, was for holiday pay. The cost of the administration of the authority absorbed 15.3 per cent. In order to save
the Senate from the tedium of listening to my reading all these figures, with the con currence of honorable senatorsI incorporate in “ Hansard “ the following table: -
At the end of the last financial year, the authority was left with a deficit of £183,174.I bring that to the notice of the Senate because in the Minister’s second-reading speech reference was made to some imposts which were the product of decisions of industrial tribunals on annual leave, which is covered by this tax.
I hope that we in this Parliament will exercise our responsibilities and take note of the increasing costs that are imposed on industry from any source, including decisions of industrial tribunals. I shall revert to that aspect when I refer specifically to the last part of the Minister’s second-reading speech. Let the effect of these imposts upon the freights that people whom I represent in part - the primary producers of Tasmania - have to pay on their exports both overseas and interstate be noted. Let me take the simple example of apples exported from Hobart to England. When this tax commenced the freight on such apples was 8s. 4d. a case. To-day it is 12s. 2d. a case.
– But you would not suggest that that increase is all because of this impost, would you?
– That increase is not entirely the product of this tax; tout the increase in this tax is a not insignificant component in that increasing freight. Credit has been claimed for a stability in overseas freight rates since 1958. It is said that they have not increased. The freight on apples sent from Hobart to England was lis. 6d. a case in 1957. It stood at that figure until 1960. In 1961 it increased to 12s. 2d. a case. Within the last month the overseas ship-owners have announced a 5 per cent, increase in freight rates. It does not influence my judgment as a senator to hear one minister express regret at that increase and another to say that we must make strenuous efforts to reduce transport costs. I would like some people in Canberra to hear what the farmers, at the saleyards, at their meetings and at their social functions, say about the politicians who call upon them for greater efficiency as a means of reducing their costs when, double-handed, we increase their costs in this connexion.
So that this matter may be considered in its proper perspective, and because some people may say that the overseas shipping companies are exploiting the Australian exporter, I point out that it is on record that in 1957 the overseas shipping companies took out figures which established that the net return of 2,186 British shipping companies was 17.4 per cent, on capital. At that time, on the rates then being charged, overseas shipping companies were earning 1.43 per cent, on capital. If the calculation had been made without allowing for depreciation the return would have been 3.6 per cent. These figures indicate that freight rates charged by the overseas shipping companies yielded a much lower return than that of other companies. The freight rates to which I have referred are those charged for the carriage of goods from Australia to Great Britain, including apples sent from Hobart to London.
I am grateful to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) for furnishing me with figures for which I had asked relating to the freight on a ton of potatoes consigned from Burnie to Sydney. In
September, 1950, when this charge commenced to operate, the freight was £4 2s. 6d. In May, 1960, it was £7 17s. 6d. Overseas freights increased1 in that period by 50 per cent., while interstate freights increased by about 100 per cent. Again, not the whole of the increase was due to this tax that we are discussing, but the tax was a not-insignificant component of the increase. That means to me, Mr. President, that this Parliament would be recreant to its responsibilities if it voted at this time for an increase of tax on our exports, consigned either interstate or overseas.
It may be asked how the deficit which the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority would incur without an increase in the charge could be financed otherwise. That may be one facet of a very comprehensive policy problem, but nevertheless the problem has to be faced. The export industries are incapable of withstanding the surge of increasing costs of which this is a part. This charge is the direct responsibility of the Commonwealth Parliament. I should think that, at this particular time, the Government and the Parliament should certainly not increase this tax, this special payroll tax that applies to the waterfront, whereby every man-hour of registered waterside labour paid for on the waterfront is to be taxed, not 6d., as is the case with the pay-roll tax that still operates so far as the general community is concerned, but 3s. 4d. To my way of thinking that is an export levy which should be turned into an export subsidy or bounty of similar proportions. I believe that it would do less than credit to the proper judgment of the Parliament to vote for such a proposal. Those are the reasons why I feel impelled to vote against the measure.
– I listened with interest to Senator Wright’s comments, as I usually do, with rare exceptions. I sympathize with the primary producers of Tasmania, as with primary producers in other parts of the Commonwealth, because of the increases of freights that have occurred between 1950 and the present time. The honorable senator mentioned the increase that has occurred in overseas freight rates compared with the increase in interstate freight rates. He said that there had been a 100 per cent, increase in interstate freight rates. He is a man who should be possessed of an analytical mind, and I have no doubt that he has such a mind. I have no doubt, too, that he would not intend to suppress the evidence; ‘but he did not compare the basic wage of 1950 with that of to-day. After all, that is a matter of mere economic justice, associated with the social rights of the men engaged in this particular industry. They have never said that the basic wage of to-day confers extraordinary economic benefits compared with that of 1950. We might expect freight rates to increase. If, for any reason, there should be a special approach towards helping the primary producers of Tasmania, or those of any other State, it is a matter for the government of the day to devise the mechanism for such action to be taken. The honorable senator should have been frank and said, “ I am not blaming the men who work on the waterfront “.
Senator Wright suggested, naively, I thought, that the stevedoring industry charge is a special tax on particular people, namely the shipping companies. He tried to compare it with the pay-roll tax. He said that the stevedoring industry charge is to be 3s. 4d. whereas the pay-roll tax is only 6d. Do not forget that the companies which pay pay-roll tax provide, as a part of their business organization, for such things as long service leave, sick pay, holiday pay and so on. So, there is no comparable basis at all. I was extraordinarily surprised that such a brilliant intellect should have omitted those two matters in discharging his responsibility to clarify the position for the benefit of honorable senators.
The bill before us is both simple and brief. In the two features of it that I have mentioned lies, I think, its tragedy. There was a consolidation of the act in 1947. We have seen two subsequent amendments of it, and we have another proposed amendment before us at the present time. I listened to the debate of this bill in another place and I heard supporters of the Government say that they paid all possible tribute to the great percentage of waterfront workers, and that they ‘had a great regard for those workers. That is what they said, anyhow. At the same, time, they said that the waterside workers were under Com munist domination. They cannot resist it, can they, Mr. Acting Deputy President? On the Brisbane waterfront there are approximately 2,200 men. I know personally about 1,500 of them and am proud to know them. We are aware that criminals have sheltered on the waterfront, as they have sheltered in other places, but basically the waterside workers are decent Australians.
There is a tradition of bitterness on the waterfront. The Stevedoring Industry Commission was established early in the war under National Security Regulations primarily to facilitate the turn-round of ships. Subsequently, as honorable senators know, Mr. Justice Foster conducted an inquiry, and in 1947 new legislation was introduced re-establishing the Stevedoring Industry Commission on a statutory basis. A levy was imposed of, I think, 4id. per ton per man-hour. Since then, the levy has varied upwards and downwards. It has been as low as Hd. Through the years, these men have obtained certain benefits. Senator Kennelly and I probably disagree. I do not think Jim Healy alone obtained those benefits for the waterside workers, but Senator Kennelly was frank enough to say that he was the mouthpiece of the movement on the waterfront. I concede that, but I think that, irrespective of Jim Healy or any one else, those benefits would have been obtained, provided there was a reasonable man in control of the waterfront. There had to be a correction of injustices. As Senator Kennelly said, the days have gone when you could grab the lot if you were an employer. Every English-speaking country accepted that that is so and has adopted a socialistic approach in discharging its economic responsibility to the men and women who produce the goods.
What is the trouble on the waterfront? When I learned that there was to be an amendment of the stevedoring industry legislation, I hoped that it would be an allembracing amendment. As recently as 1961 an amendment was made, providing for long service leave in this industry. These people on the waterfront are decent Australians, in the main. As in any crosssection of the community, you get irregular types - some bad and some not so bad - but you get also a high percentage of very good types. What are the grievances of the men on the waterfront? First, they have no pension scheme; and secondly, the penal clauses of the act are extraordinarily harsh - almost criminally harsh. Certainly they irritate those affected by them, who are engaged in a hazardous occupation.
This legislation will have retrospective effect in that it will cover benefits, such as long service leave, sick leave, attendance money and so on, which have already been conferred. It seems to me that the charge proposed is extraordinarily high. To that limited extent, I agree with Senator Wright. The officials of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, in some measure, exercise an arbitrational power, but this is the
Only field of industrial activity in Australia Where the burden of the expense of such a function is placed on the industry itself. I think a reasonable contribution should be made from Consolidated Revenue. This industry is unique in that it has to meet, not Only the administrative charges associated with the industry, but also the expenses involved in carrying out an arbitrational responsibility.
Another quarrel that I have with this bill is that it provides for the charge to be on a man-hour basis. Most of the ports of Australia are backward parts, compared with world standards. I am not blaming the Labour Party, the Liberal Party or the Country Party for that. It just happens that that is the position. However, there is now a trend towards increased mechanization and the provision of bulk loading facilities. What will happen if that trend Continues? With fewer men employed, the charge will have to be increased if it is continued on a man-hour basis. I think it is a logical assumption that the stage will be reached that a few ports employing a few men will carry the burden. It appears to me to be inevitable, if the Government continues to approach this problem in the way it is doing at present and the process of mechanization goes on, that the legislation will have to be amended every two or three years to alter the charge that is made.
I think the Government has been remiss, but that is not unusual. It should have devised a formula to cope with the situation. The Opposition would have been happy to co-operate with the Government in devising such a formula. Speaking for myself, I would have been very happy to co-operate with the Minister in an attempt to devise a formula on a man-hour and a tonnage basis. That would have been the sensible approach, but the Government has not gone about the job in that way. It has used the bludgeon when it could have used the scalpel to do the job neatly and efficiently.
– Scalpels are not always used that way.
– They were, in my hands, when I used them. That would have been the sensible approach, in view of increasing mechanization and bulk loading. At present, coal, wheat and sugar are handled on a bulk-loading basis. Practically the whole of the sugar crop, outside of Cairns, is loaded in bulk. How can the Government logically levy this charge on a man-hour basis, in view of increasing mechanization?
I admit that the men on the waterfront are tough. They would not have got anything if they had not been tough. They were fighting tough coves, and they had to use tough methods. I am not suggesting that the shipowners were any different from other employers, but even Government supporters will concede that they were tough employers. The shipowners had millions of pounds to back them, but the men had only shillings. Very often their wives and children had to do without while they fought to obtain the economic and social justice to which they were entitled. It was said in the other place that on the Sydney and Melbourne waterfronts last year the men made £30 a week. On the Brisbane waterfront - Brisbane is an A class port - the men made only £20 a week. I heard an interjection from an honorable senator opposite when Senator Kennelly was speaking, to the effect that they earned well over the basic wage, and I said that the average weekly wage of a man on the waterfront in Queensland was £15 15s. When I mention £20 a week, I am referring to the port of Brisbane only. The men earned that £20 a week by working at night, in the rain, and on Saturdays. They denied their children their company on Sundays. That is how they earned £20 a week.
– Working 28.5 hours for the whole week.
– When were those hours worked? In the day or in the night? They were worked on Saturday afternoons, Sunday mornings and Sundays nights. Would the honorable senator appear in court in a similar way for a similar fee?
– That is outside the question entirely.
- Senator Wright is more capable than you are of dealing with this matter, so leave it to him and to me. We will deal with it. Afterwards, you can have a go at me if you want to. Leave the matter to Senator Wright now.
– You put yourself in the cheap Jack class by asking whether I would appear for that fee.
– I certainly will not bother about objecting to your statement. You were dealt with a couple of weeks ago on a cheap Jack basis, and you were lucky not to have to appear before the bar association in Tasmania. Irrespective of that interjection, rude and offensive as it may have been - we have come to expect such things from the honorable senator - the point is this: It is not a question of the hours worked; it is a question of when those hours are worked. If the men had worked those 28 hours in daylight, they would not have earned as much. The penalty rates assisted them in a small measure. When you think in terms of the hazards of this industry-
– Do you doubt that there are hazards in this industry?
– There are hazards in most industries.
– There is no greater accident rate in the metalliferous and coalmining industries - perhaps this does not apply so much to the coal-mining industry - than there is on the waterfront. There is not a greater incidence of chronic sore backs or of cut ligaments of the shoulder in other industries than there is amongst waterside workers.
– There are a lot of bent elbows.
– That is as the result of their own habit.
– They do not have any more than do farmers on sale days.
– And race-horse owners. A number of men are working on the waterfront because of the spirit of camaraderie that exists - the mateship which you, Senator Mattner, would appreciate. These men cannot “ get the H “ as they term it - exemption from duty in the holds - so their mates give them a light job.
– That is why they train race-horses.
– They do not train race-horses. Perhaps an occasional one does, but so do parliamentarians. These people have a real grievance. Some of these people have worked for 40 years in this hazardous occupation. When something happens, members of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority come in as adjudicators. Let me quote a concrete example; it could be multiplied. On one occasion on the Brisbane waterfront the men quarrelled with the employers. When the men walk off a job it is said of them that they are Com inspired, that they are Corns, and that they are half-baked Corns or are militants. On the occasion in question the men objected to the conditions under which they were working, saying they were dangerous. The employers said, “ We will get the Stevedoring Industry Authority’s representative down “. The authority’s representative came down to the wharf and, as these representatives do so often, he sided with the employers. Probably the authority’s representatives do it honestly; I am not saying that they are dishonest in their approach. But they are eager to see ships turned round. That was the Curtin approach, and it is still the approach to-day.
At that particular time there were two accidents in the gang concerned. One man claimed that he had sprained his ankle. Let us say for the purpose of argument that he may have been malingering. He said he was suffering pain, but no one knows whether he was or not. There was no radiological evidence to prove whether he was right or wrong. But there can be no doubt about the other case. As I said earlier, the men had quarrelled about the conditions under which they were working. But if they had walked off the job they would have been blamed and we would have heard it said all over Australia, “The Corns at Brisbane are in control “. In this second case, a man fell and fractured two ribs. That was proved radiologically, so it could not be said that be was malingering. In spite of that, the representative of the Stevedoring Industry Authority said that conditions were suitable for work.
Let us consider the subject of long service leave. Honorable senators opposite wonder why some of us are quarrelling about this brief, simple measure that is before the Senate to-day. When I rose in May last to discuss this matter of long service leave, the Minister in charge of the bill we were then discussing Ned Kelly-ed me and moved that the question be put. I rose on that occasion to present the views of these men. Some one said to me later “ Technically, you were in “. I said “ Technically, I was out, because the Minister had the numbers.” And I was out. But on this occasion he cannot get me.
– Do you intend to vote against the legislation?
– No. I am telling you what its weaknesses are. The Government, in its snide approach, is not game to collect the money, some of which it could obtain from Consolidated Revenue. I have no intention of voting against the bill. I am speaking like this only because of the Government’s inefficiency and the way in which it proposes to collect the money.
– You would take it from Consolidated Revenue?
– No, I would not take the lot from there. Do not sidetrack me. If the honorable senator had listened a while ago he would have heard me say that a group of intelligent people would have collected it on a reasonable basis. But such people do not happen to be on the other side of the chamber.
In relation to long service leave, I have perused a number of sheets. The number of debits that these unfortunate men have incurred is extraordinary. We endeavoured to point out what would happen when we were discussing the original legislation. Usually people forget the past, but with this Government the past is remembered. The authorities even go so far as to debit the men with the periods for which they have been in receipt of compensation. When men are injured and are off work in receipt of compensation, the period for which they are off does not count for long service leave purposes. If in the past, as a youth, a waterfront employee played his part in what is termed an illegal stoppage, he is debited to the extent of 30 days, I think, for each day he was not working. In addition, Mr. Acting Deputy President, you will recall - you voted in favour of this legislation - that they are debited four days’ attendance money, which is equal to £5, for each day they absent themselves. These penalties do not mean anything to the millionaires and those who own, say, £100,000 worth of assets. They do not have one cigar or one suit less. But they mean something to the children and wives of the waterside workers. The decent waterside worker does not mind a measure of penalization if he is in the wrong, but he does not like the vicious discrimination that this Government has practised against him and which it is prepared to continue to practise.
All these men are asking for is a fair go. This is an essential industry; we cannot do without these men. It is a hazardous industry, as an investigation of accident records will reveal. Yet the Government introduces a bill which the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) said in another place will mean an increase of only one penny in the charge. Actually the increase will be 10d., but the shipowners were prepared to face up to the payment of 9d. So the net result will be an increase of Id.
I hope that when the Government amends this legislation - that will be inevitable, because of increased mechanization - it will take note of the hazards of the industry, will be more tolerant and, as it does with anybody else, will regard the waterside workers as being decent, ordinary hardworking Australians who are seeking a place in the economic sun and who are eager to provide for their families. I hope the Government will decide to deal with the matter on the basis of there being an arbitral responsibility as well as an administrative responsibility and that in respect of the arbitral responsibility the Government will accept the financial burden.
I hope it will also look at two other matters that still irritate the men on the waterfront. I refer, first, to the provision of pensions, which they have sought for many years and to which I believe most of them are prepared to contribute. Let me say, in all fairness, that many of the shipowners, too, are eager for the waterside workers to have a pension scheme. The Government should, in decency, have a look at the penal provisions. The average man on the waterfront does not mind being punished if he is in the wrong, but he does not like being treated as a criminal or an outcast. There will be rebellion on the waterfront so long as the Government is prepared to perpetuate economic and social injustice.
– As Senator Wright said, some of the Opposition speakers have dealt with many matters that are scarcely relevant to the bill. Even so, I must take this opportunity to reply to Senator Dittmer’s statement that the waterside workers dislike being discriminated against but do not mind accepting a penalty if they are in the wrong.
– Providing it is commensurate with the error.
– That is an afterthought.
– Any reasonable person would have assumed that I meant that.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Anderson). - Order! The honorable senator has concluded his speech.
– I will not be misconstrued.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - You will have an opportunity to make a personal explanation later, if you have been misrepresented.
– When the Government introduced the legislation providing for long service leave, with its so-called objectionable penal provisions, the Minister for Labour and National Service stated that 40 per cent, of the time lost on the waterfront was due to unauthorized stoppages arising from matters that had nothing to do with terms and conditions of employment.
– Would you punish a child if you had not told him in advance that the action would be wrong?
– A body of men should not hold stop-work meetings, tying ships up for 24 hours or for longer, to discuss matters, such as the atomic bomb, over which the men have no control, over which this Government has very little control and which have nothing to do with terms of employment. When provision is made for a reward in the form of long service leave, and a union holds stop-work meetings, in contravention of the law, to discuss matters that have nothing to do with terms of employment, it is fit and proper that a penalty should be imposed. No one wants to decry the waterside workers as such, but 20,000 waterside workers, out of a total work force of 4,200,000 in Australia, have been responsible for 30 per cent, of all manhours lost.
Considering those factors, it seems apparent that the waterfront has been a source of trouble, penalizing the people and penalizing exports. Senator Wright mentioned the need for the greatest wisdom to be concentrated upon exports to boost them in every way possible. I agree entirely. During the controversy about the Government’s economic measures, many people have lost sight of the fact that, like an individual, the Commonwealth must trade in the world and pay its way. If we fail in that, the repercussions will be much more disastrous than the repercussions of the economic measures the Government was called upon to take. Whether or not one approves of those measures in their entirety, the fact is that some stabilizing action had to be taken to place Australia in a position - in my opinion, it is not yet in that position - to trade on a competitive basis in the world’s markets.
Senator Wright expressed the fear that this measure will have an adverse effect on freight charges. He detailed the rises in the freight charges for Tasmanian apples over recent years. Freight costs are important, not only to the export trade, but also to interstate trade. Tasmania is most vulnerable to the effects of any trouble that may occur on the waterfront or of any action causing an increase in freights, because shipping is almost our only means of transport, not only to other countries, but to the mainland States.
The increases over recent years in the freight charges on primary products sent from Tasmania to the mainland have been startling. Years ago, the freight charge on potatoes was from 8s. to 10s. a ton; to-day it is £8 a ton. Years ago the cost of transport to Sydney from Tasmanian ports, after clearing the ports, was about £2 a ton; to-day it is £11 a ton. These increases have penalized the Tasmanian primary producer and caused a decline in his production and his financial position. In fact, every one concerned in the State’s economy has been penalized.
Senator Kennelly had a lot to say about the new outlook of employers. I think it is a fair and reasonable proposition that they should be prepared to share the benefits of increased productivity. That is a good conception and I do not quarrel with it at all. In this instance, however, we are imposing a charge which will be passed on. We are not doing something which will lead to sharing the benefits of the productivity of the stevedoring industry, of the shipowners or any one else. This impost will be passed on to people who are, in the main, least able to bear it. I look askance at anything that we may suspect will have an adverse effect upon freight rates, whether to overseas countries or from one State to another. Increased freights impose a penalty upon primary producers, and the increases have been largely due to the attitude of waterside workers in the past. Both the producer who wants to export and the importer have been penalized. The figures indicate that the position is entirely unsatisfactory.
I take note of the Minister’s remarks in his second-reading speech when he said that it will be seen that 9d. of the proposed increase of lOd. a man-hour is the reimposition of the average levy that was formerly paid by the shipowners and is required for payment of annual leave. He went on to say that the extra Id. of the proposed new charge is to meet the net increase in other costs that have come about since 1958 and to build up some reserves, including provision for long service leave commitments. From that I take it that the actual increase amounts to Id. a man-hour. I am not clear what the position would ‘be should this measure be rejected. I take it that commit ments have been entered into in regard to annual leave, long service leave and these other benefits and that, like everything else in this world, somebody has to pay for them. If this levy were not imposed, somebody in some way would have to meet the commitments that have been incurred by decisions of industrial tribunals, by the long service leave bill that was passed by this chamber, and by other factors.
In those circumstances I propose to support the measure. I regret the necessity for it. I believe the time will come when the Government will have to take stock of the freight position. When I say that, I have in mind what one could call the weird financial set-up in this Commonwealth under which a State government, so long as it can get as large a reimbursement as possible from the Commonwealth, always throws the blame in these matters back to the Commonwealth.
I believe that the Tasmanian Government could have done infinitely more than it has done for shipping between that State and the mainland. I have in mind the position that exists at the port of Burnie where the potato-grower is subject to an impost of 5s. a ton to clear rock, level ground and build a shed in which to have his potatoes inspected. In my time in the Tasmanian Parliament the Government used to subsidize port inspections of Tasmanian potatoes, but that was withdrawn and the whole impost was placed upon the potatogrower. I speak about potato production, but I am well aware that that is not the only commodity involved. There are many other export commodities that are worthy of the utmost consideration.
I believe generally that this is a matter for both State and Federal Governments. More benefit could have accrued to Tasmania than the benefit that flowed from the action of the State Government in granting thousands of pounds to this and that sporting body in order to augment the prizes that were competed for at their events. That is the only comment I have to offer. I propose to support the bill.
[3.191. - in reply - Mr. President, I note that the Opposition in general is not proposing to oppose the provision in this bill to increase the manhour levy in order to meet the costs of the various amenities that are now paid to the waterside workers. Senator Kennelly indicated general acceptance of the proposition. He then spoke for some time on a general approach to wage matters - not merely on the waterfront, but wage matters generally and throughout industry. What he said, I think, would form the basis for an interesting debate, but it is not strictly relevant to the clauses of the bill before us and I therefore propose to wait and debate it, perhaps, at some future time.
Senator Dittmer said that he believed that these payments for various benefits - or a proportion of these payments which he did not specify - ought to be made from Consolidated Revenue. I am unable to see on what line of reasoning that submission is based. The waterside industry through the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority does pay for longservice leave, annual leave, statutory holidays and sick leave, but these things are all a part of the general industrial set up in Australia. Segments of other industries pay direct for these benefits for their workers. The employers - the owners of the industries - pay for these benefits. Because of the peculiar arrangements in the waterside industry, where a worker may work for one stevedoring company one week and for another company the next week, moving from employer to employer, the normal method of providing for this payment is not applicable and anstead, the industry as a whole through a central organization pays for these benefits on behalf of the fragmentary employers of labour, if I might so describe them. If this payment through the central organization in one industry is comparable with the payment made in industry generally, I cannot see why the taxpayer should subsidize payments in this industry specifically and not in any other industry which is faced with the same obligations towards its workers.
Senator Wright showed considerable agitation ; justified, I thought ; in his desire to keep the costs of our export industries as low as possible. However, I do not believe that the cost of our export industries would be reduced by failing to pass this bill to-day. This represents, as
I have endeavoured to show in my secondreading speech, an increase that is only Id. a man-hour more than the total levies up to July, 1959. In 1958 and 1959 a total sum of 3s 3d. a man-hour was collected from the various levies. Since then, because funds had been built up, the levy was reduced. In this case it is now being restored. Do not let us lose sight of the purpose for which it is being restored and being used.. These are the purposes that I have just enumerated when replying to Senator Dittmer.
The adoption of these amenities, together with other factors, has led to a considerable decrease in the amount of trouble that we used to have on the waterfront. Previously the waterside workers who made up, perhaps, 1 per cent, of our total work force, were responsible for 30 per cent, of all lost time in industry, but now, through co-operation between the workers and the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority and action that has been taken this figure has been reduced by a factor of at least ten. This reduction of trouble on the waterfront can do more to reduce prices of our exports than practically any other action I can think of. If it is agreed that these payments should be made, and if it is agreed that no case exists for them to be paid by the taxpayer in respect of this industry but not of other industries, then the levy is the only means by which they can be paid. If the payments were reduced or discontinued, I am quite certain that the ill effect upon export industries in particular and industry in general would be, in terms of cost, immeasurably greater than the advantages to be gained by keeping the transport industry in this country running smoothly.
Those seemed to me to be the three major points raised in this debate. This levy is not to be compared with the pay-roll tax. Pay-roll tax is a tax levied on all employers, originally for the specific purpose of paying child endowment. Pay-roll tax applies throughout the field of industry. The stevedoring industry charge is imposed to enable’ to be paid in this industry what is paid, although not so openly, in another industry. Nobody can possibly deny that levies of this nature add to the prime costs of any industry, but nobody can deny that in all industries the good relations that flow from improved working conditions lead to continuity of production and help ultimately to reduce costs. Certainly overseas freight rates have, since 1958, been relatively stable. Since that time I think there has been one increase and another slight increase may be due soon.
– An increase of 5 per cent.
– Yes, there may be a rise of that order. Those increases in a period of four or five years are not out of line with movements generally throughout Australia, nor are they out of line with freight movements in overseas countries. The levy is merely one factor that influences freight rates. To say that freight rates have risen more this year than they did last year and that this is applicable - I admit that Senator Wright said it was applicable only in some proportion - to this tax requires some qualification. Comparing the effort put in on the wharfs with the effort put in by the seamen and taking into account increases of the basic wage and new rates in seamen’s awards - looking at these things in relation to the effect which the overseas volume of trade has, for instance, on costs here or abroad, and at increased costs in other countries - one could, I believe, say that this particular charge is not a major cost in the general cost structure.
I assure Senator Wright that the Government is as concerned as he is to keep costs down - not only those of the export industries but all industrial costs. I believe that this bill will assist and not hinder that objective.
– The question is, “ That the bill be now read a second time “. All those in favour say “ Aye “; all those against say “ No “. I think the “ Ayes “ have it.
– Are there more “ Noes “ than one? Only one honorable senator calling “ No “, there will be no division. The question is resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– ! I rise to refer to one aspect of clause 3 of the bill, which prescribes the rate at which the charge shall be levied. Earlier in the debate 1 stated that, at a later stage, I would make specific reference to the last paragraph of the report of the second-reading speech of the Minister in charge of ihe bill. The Minister’s words might mislead the committee and induce it to approve of a rate higher than it would be prepared to approve if the facts had been clearly presented. I realize the difficul. y of conveying these things clearly and I impute to the Minister no intention to mislead. When we are told that up to July, 1959, the shipowners imposed a levy on themselves of 9d. a man-hour and paid the money into a fund out of which they financed annual leave and one or two other matters, it is important to remember that that amount was levied out of their freights and that they have continued to charge freights at either the same or an increased level both overseas and interstate since that time. In his second-reading speech the Minister said -
It will be seen that 9d. per man-hour of the proposed increase of lOd. per man-hour is the re-imposition of the average levy which was formerly paid by the shipowners and is required for payment of annual leave.
If the shipowners could afford 9d. out of the then existing freight rates, and if those rates have been increased, the additional levy under this bill obviously means an increase of 9d., plus a special Id. or a full increase of lOd. Let any honorable senator explain how that reasoning is inaccurate. In other words, in July, 1959 the freight rates were sufficient to enable a special levy of 9d. to be imposed for these special purposes of annual leave and other things. When the Government placed the responsibility for financing annual leave and other concessions on the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority the employer no longer had any responsibility to finance them, but he maintained the same freight rates, overseas and interstate, or increased them.
Let me show how freight rates have moved since 1st July, 1959. In 1961 the freight on apples shipped from Hobart to London increased from lis. 6d. to 12s. 2d. a case. In December, 1959, the freight on potatoes shipped from Burnie to Sydney increased from 151s. 6d. a ton to 154s. a ton. The rate was further increased in May, 1960 to 157s. 6d. a ton. So, according to my information, freights have actually increased in the interim. But even if freight rates had been maintained at a constant level, to levy a separate tax of 9d. on the pay roll of waterside workers’ labour is to make an imposition of 9d. on the throughput of the waterfront. This proposed levy is not in any sense a re-imposition of the earlier levy of 9d. except in the sense that it was financed by the freight rate when the tax was 2s. 6d. a man-hour and now, when the freight rate has not changed or has increased only slightly, the tax is to be increased to 3s. 4d. From the point of view of the producer, the net result of this bill is a straight out increase of lOd. a man-hour, is it not? That is relevant if the committee proposes to consider carefully the actual rate of tax to be authorized under clause 3.
– I would state the position this way: In July, 1959, the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority made a charge of 2s. 6d. per man-hour for the responsibilities that it then had. That charge was collected, as are all charges, by the employers, and they had the right to pass the cost of that charge on to their clients.
Sena or Wright. - Do you mean in the form of increased freight rates?
– It would probably be that way, but I would not say how their business should be run. They have the right to pass the charge on. They have always had that right. At that stage the ship-owners also levied 9d. per manhour. Clearly, they did not require any right to pass that levy on, but I would imagine that in fact they did pass it on or at least took it into consideration in assessing the costs of the services that they had to offer. So at that time an impost of 3s. 3d. per man-hour was passable on to the clients of the shipping companies.
– It was.
– That is-
– That is correct.
– I say most respectfully that it is not.
– If the 9d. per manhour that was being collected by the employers on one day had been collected by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority on the next day and passed on in the ordinary way, as it had been, there would have been a direct impost of 3s. 3d. per man-hour and there would have been no question about it being anything out of the ordinary. However, the levy was not imposed immediately. There was a gap of a little more than a year between the two imposts. I understand that the reason for that gap was that the shipowners were collecting the 9d. per man-hour in advance. They were collecting in one year for payment in the next year. Consequently, a fund was built up which enabled payments to be made for a year without the immediate re-imposition of the 9d. per man-hour. Then at the end of that year the extra 9d. is re-imposed instead of being reimposed immediately. I do not see what the particular objection is or how it can be stated that what is now 3s. 4d. is more than Id. more than what was 3s. 3d. That is all I can say.
– Surely the committee’s sense of reason is offended by that submission. In 1959 the freight on potatoes transported from Burnie to Sydney was 151s. 6d. a ton. That was sufficient to enable the shipowners to pay their operating costs, earn a profit and create a reserve of 9d. per man-hour, and then out of that reserve pay for annual leave. When the obligation to pay for annual leave was transferred to the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, the shipowners had shown that their freight rates were sufficient to provide 9d. per man-hour so easily that their reserve was more than sufficient to pay for the annual leave and they had a surplus of just a little more than £1,000,000. I believe that is an instance of excellent commercial integrity. The shipowners recognized that they held that money in trust and they passed it over to the authority to enable it, for as long as it lasts, to finance the obligation to pay for annual leave. The freight rate that then provided that reserve fund of 9d. per man-hour has not been reduced. The rate of 151s. 6d. a ton has continued as the rate payable by the shippers.
Now the authority asks that each ton of potatoes be taxed on the basis of an additional lOd. per man-hour. So the exporter of that ton of potatoes continues to pay freight at the rate of 151s. 6d. a ton which formerly provided the reserve fund at the rate of 9d. per man-hour, and now he will have to pay that freight rate plus the new impost of lOd. per man-hour in its entirety. So his actual costs will be increased by not less than lOd. per man-hour as a straightout, direct product of this measure. I ignore the increases in freight rates that have been made in the interim. I submit, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that it does us no good, even in the haste of a Thursday afternoon when the aeroplanes are zooming in, to ignore clear reason. This point requires an answer.
– In the light of clear reason, insofar as I can summon it to my assistance, I will endeavour to answer what Senator Wright has just said. The answer to part of what he has said is that he is basing his conclusions on completely false premises. For instance, it is quite untrue to say that the levy of 9d. per man-hour previously paid by the employers created a large reserve fund and left £1,000,000 or more, in the sense that a reserve fund is built up from an excess of income over what has to be paid out. In fact, what had happened was that each year since the inception of the scheme the employers levied 9d. per man-hour not for payment in that year but for payment in the following year. That is the way the scheme had operated since its inception.
So, when the employers no longer had to levy this 9d. per man-hour, they had in their hands a sum which had been levied in the previous year to pay for the coming year. That is not an indication that the levy was more than was required to pay for annual leave and that the employers were able to build up a reserve out of the levy. From its inception, the levy had been made in one year in order to be spent in the next year.
– Had the accumulated credit of £1,000,000 accrued over a number of years?
– No. The accumulated credit of £1,000,000 was collected in one year for payment in the following year.
– I do not see the materiality of that, but still I will listen.
– I do not think you need to do so because I have finished with that point now. I have said all that I can say about it.
– That does not affect the argument.
– In fact, it does not affect the argument; but the fact is that the charge has always been collected in one year for payment in the next year.
– You said that my premises were entirely untrue.
– So they are.
– I do not see the untruth in that respect, if it is immaterial.
– That is a difference in judgment, not facts. However, I still maintain, with my flag at full peak, that I have at least some modicum of clear reason in support of the argument that I have just put forward.
O’n the question of freight rates, Senator Wright was not discussing only this particular charge when he spoke of increases in freight rates, but all the rises in costs over a period of years which taken together have caused an increase in freight rates. As I mentioned briefly in replying to the second-reading debate, those factors include seamen’s wages, seamen’s conditions, the cost of ships, costs of repairs and docking, and a large number of other matters which together make up freight rates. One of those factors was this 9d. per man-hour which had been collected by the employers until July, 1959. It is quite true that since that time freight rates have risen. They have risen because of increases in all those other matters which I have put before the committee, such as seamen’s wages, ship repairs, the costs of docking, stores, and so on.
In deciding on those freight rises, notice was taken by those who decided on them of the fact that the 9d. was no longer being paid during that period. Therefore, it did not have an effect on freights, except to keep them down below what they would otherwise have been because of other factors sending them up. I can only go back to the point from which I started and say that, to me at any rate, it seems that if these sums of money were in the aggregate collected in 1959, making 3s. 3d., and they are now to be collected in 1962, making 3s. 4d., there is to be in total a levy of Id. more than there was in 1959.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Address-in-Reply: Acknowledgment by Her Majesty the Queen.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - I have received from His Excellency the Governor-General the following communication in connexion with the Address-in-Reply: -
I desire to acquaint you that the substance of the Address-in-Reply which you presented to me on the 13th March, 1962, has been communicated to Her Majesty the Queen.
It is the Queen’s wish that I convey to you and to honorable senators Her Majesty’s sincere thanks for the loyal message to which your Address gives expression.
Senate adjourned at 3.49 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 March 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1962/19620329_senate_24_s21/>.