24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIIin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it proposed to centralize in Sydney the maintenance work of the Department of Civil Aviation, such as sheet metal work, vehicle building, mechanical engineering and electrical and radio repairs? If so, when is it proposed to make the change from the present practice of employing the staff necessary to perform maintenance work in the capital cities of the six States, and at large centres? Should a positive decision be made to centralize all of the work now carried out in many places, will the employees currently employed be offered transfers to Sydney?
– The organizational facilities and working methods within the department are continually under review. This is particularly so on the engineering side as operational needs and airway facilities are themselves continually changing and developing. One of several reviews conducted during the past two years has included an examination of the airways engineering workshop.. Proposals for streamlining workshop facilities, which include the transfer of some work to Sydney, have been formulated but have not yet been fully resolved by the department; nor have they been discussed as yet wilh the Public Service Board. These proposals aim at making the most efficient use of staff, plant and supplies throughout the Commonwealth. It is likely that some little time will elapse before final decisions are made and actions consequent upon this review can be taken.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has he noted an article in to-day’s Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ in which the Leader of the Labour Party, Mr. Calwell, is reported to have amended his ban-the-bomb resolution which was carried by a seven to six majority of the
Labour Party executive? Has the Minister noted that Mr. Calwell is reported to have said that a leakage to the press had taken place about the original motion endorsed by the executive? Can the Leader of the Government explain how Mr. Calwell can reconcile this statement with the categorical denial he made in the press that a resolution to ban the bomb had been carried by the Parliamentary Labour Party Executive?
– As everybody else has done, I have followed the newspaper reports with fascinated interest. I shall give the sequence of. events as I understand them. The newspaper reported that a resolution to ban the bomb had been adopted by the executive and was to be recommended to the Labour caucus. That was accompanied by a cheery aside from Mr. Santamaria, who said that the A.L.P. had adopted the policy of Communist China. My recollection is that Mr. Calwell then stated that the newspaper report was incorrect. The next stage in the proceedings was that caucus, according to the newspapers, referred the matter to some body outside the Parliament. I took a dim view of that action. I thought that parliamentarians should at least have had the courage to make a decision on the matter. The final episode was that Mr. Calwell, after having denied the accuracy of the original newspaper report, uttered some criticism to the effect that the executive’s report to caucus - the actual document - had apparently been made available to the newspapers. Eventually we shall ascertain the Labour Party’s policy.
– Mr. President, would I be in order in answering Senator Lillico’s question correctly, because it has been incorrectly answered by the Leader of the Government?
– The honorable senator would not be in order.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. I refer to an answer that he gave to me on Tuesday last in which he stated that the Australian Broadcasting Commission had agreed to discuss with the Department of External Affairs any subject on which it proposed to produce a film for Intertel. The Minister said that that action would give the A.B.C. access to uptodate information and would minimize the risk of embarrassing the Government. I now ask the Minister: At which meeting did the A.B.C. agree to this action? What is the exact wording of the A.B.C. minute recording its decision? Since when has it been a part of the A.B.C’s obligation to avoid embarrassing the present Government?
– I think Senator Kennelly has misinterpreted the intent of the reply that I gave to his question earlier this week. I suggest that the embarrassment referred to is not confined to this Government. I think the embarrassment sought to be avoided is embarrassment on an international level. Any government must take great care to avoid a situation in which its activities may embarrass other governments. I understand that to be the interpretation placed on this issue. Senator Kennelly has asked for specific A.B.C. minutes. I have grave doubts whether they would be made available but I will place the request before my colleague and obtain his reaction to it.
– Will the Minister for Customs and Excise inform me what percentage of apples exported from Western Australia this year have been packed in the new paper-board carton that is manufactured in this country? Has the Minister any information as to the price of this new type carton compared with the type of package formerly used? Does the Minister think that this new cardboard carton will be used in future by our fruit industry in an endeavour to obtain extra export markets?
– My information is that about 30 per cent, of this year’s Western Australian apple crop will be exported in carboard containers. I also understand that the board for these containers is manufactured in Western Australia. The honorable senator has asked about the price of the containers. I can only say that some orchardists - not all - have advised me that use of the new container is quite a payable proposition. The enhanced price that they have been obtaining by being able to land bruise-free apples in the United Kingdom has well repaid the attention that has been given to this new packaging. I can only say that I am glad that the pioneering work of the Tasmanian fruit-growers is giving some assistance to industry in Western Australia.
– Can the Minister representing the Treasurer inform the Senate whether the Bills of Exchange Act contains any provision to prevent the banks in Victoria closing on Saturdays?
– I think recent events in Australia have made it perfectly clear that the hours during which banks shall conduct their business are governed by State statutes. I know of no provision in the Bills of Exchange Act that is relevant to this matter in any way.
– Does the Minister representing the Postmaster-General agree with the statement made by Mr. Kenneth Adam, the director of British Broadcasting Corporation television, that the story of Australian television is a melancholy one? Is it correct that 60 to 70 per cent, of the programmes of Australian commercial stations is American material? Is it true that in the five main cities in Australia only one of the ten most popular programmes is other than American? Could the sixth city not included in those cities be Perth? If it is Perth, could the higher standard of programmes in Western Australia be attributed to the fact that TVW7 is an independent station?
– In replying to the honorable senator’s question. I concede that it is one of the merits of the sunny State of Western Australia that it has a very efficient commercial television station. I have seen it in operation. It is building for itself a very fine record of service. I do not agree with Mr. Kenneth Adam’s statement that the Australian television story is a melancholy one. I point out to Mr. Adam and other people who fly into Australia and offer criticism at short notice that Australia encounters tremendous problems in telecasting. The wide open spaces alone make the planning of an adequate coverage very difficult. I believe that any one who is prepared to look at the programmes objectively must concede that as time goes by they are improving greatly. J cannot agree that only one programme in ten is Australian. The Postmaster-General has stated many times that he is giving every encouragement to Australian artists. People who are prepared to look at television objectively must concede that our programmes are improving and that the Australian content is something of which we, as Australians, can be quite proud.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration seen a statement, allegedly made by the honorable member for Swan last week-end and reported in the press and on the air, to the effect that the Government intended to alter the present contract between British migrants and the Commonwealth Government by extending the contract period of residence from two years to three years, because many migrants were using the Government-sponsored assisted passage scheme to come to Australia for a working holiday and had no intention of remaining as permanent residents? Can the Minister inform the Senate of the number of such migrant tourists in the past five years? Is it the practice of the Government to announce such a change of policy through a private member and not in a statement by the Minister to the Parliament?
– I did not see the statement to which the honorable senator refers and I have no “knowledge of it. The practice of the Government is not to answer policy questions at question-time. If the honorable senator will put the question on the notice-paper, I shall get an answer from the Minister.
Machines will eliminate at least 200,000 jobs a year in the next decade, according to a U.S. Government survey.
The report was made by the United States Commissioner of Labour Statistics, Mr”. Ewan Clague, and an associate, Mr. Leon Greenberg. It stated that some of the 200,000 persons displaced could be employed in producing and maintaining the machines, but that increased1 consumption and new products and services would be needed to prevent mass additions to unemployment rolls. Will the Minister advise the Senate what action, if any, is being taken to meet the effects of automation problems in Australia, apart from the placing of persons in positions by the Commonwealth Employment Service? Could a study be made on the lines of the United States survey in order that Australia would be well equipped to meet the situation when it arises?
– The Department of Labour and National Service has for soma time been carrying out studies of technological changes and automation and of their effects on labour problems and the economy generally. These studies are being extended. I shall get details of them from the Minister and give them to the honorable senator.
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has announced a proposal to inaugurate scholarships for the training of pilots to commercial aviation standard’s or to the standard of instructors. Can he inform the Senate of the training centres at which these scholarships will be made available? Is it proposed to give any assistance to the trainees in the form of parttime employment at the training centres to enable them to avail themselves of the scholarships? Will the Minister say whether decentralization of training centres away from the capital cities will be considered?
– The questions asked by the honorable senator are very interesting. The Department of Civil Aviation, in collaboration and in the closest contact with the Federation of Aero Clubs, is embarking upon this scheme, which we think will prove to be very sound, beneficial to the airline industry and, in particular, beneficial to people of the type who should1, we believe, be encouraged to undertake this sort of career. They will be assisted in much the same way as students taking up other avocations are assisted by governments, both State and Federal. I should prefer to consult with the department before I gave detailed answers to Senator O’Byrne. Naturally enough, there will be difficulties attendant upon any wide decentralization, but it is certainly not in mind that if enough students are available at suitable centres away from capital cities the aero clubs at those centres shall be excluded from the scheme. On the other hand, I am sure that the honorable senator will be the first to appreciate that where there is perhaps only one student at a smaller aero club, it is beneficial both to the scheme generally and to the student concerned that his training be undertaken at some other aero club.
– Has the Leader of the Government noted the report in to-day’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “ that a policy statement issued from the annual conference of the New Zealand Labour Party says that there are shortcomings inherent in public control of the means of production, distribution and exchange? Has he rioted that this statement also says that “ Capitalism has displayed vigour and viability surprising to many of its detractors “? Does he agree that the New Zealand Labour Party is far ahead of its Australian counterpart in its political thinking on this matter and has shown a refreshing ability to discard time-worn and discredited social dogma? Does he agree that public ownership of the means of distribution, production and exchange is closely akin to the ideals of the Communist Party?
– I did not see the newspaper report to which Senator Vincent refers but his precis of it leads me to commend the New Zealand Labour Party on its ability to do a little fresh thinking on the world’s problems. I am sorry to say that I detect no signs of such a change of heart, mind or approach on the part of the Australian Labour Party.
– My question without notice is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply. It may relate only to a minor matter, but it throws a garish light on the stupidity of our bureaucracy. As a preface to my question I point out that the other morning it was bitterly cold in Brisbane and 1 was well rugged up. The man who drove me to the aerodrome did not have his coat on. I asked him where it was and he said, “I am not permitted to wear a coat yet because it is not yet winter “. I ask the Minister whether he will prevail on the Minister for Supply to permit the drivers of cars in Brisbane - there may be other places involved also - to wear their coats when it is cold.
– I am interested to note that a Queenslander can admit that it gets cold in Brisbane. I have always understood from Queenslanders hitherto that they never suffer at all from cold and that theirs is the climate of the blessed. Nevertheless, Senator Brown says that a driver informed him that regulations prevented him wearing a coat. I shall certainly have the regulations examined, but I just cannot believe what I have heard.
– Did the Leader of the Government in the Senate notice a statement published in the press yesterday to the effect that the Commonwealth Government has not yet disclosed plans to keep the uranium industry alive when existing contracts expire? The statement was reported to have been made by Mr. K. W. Craig, chairman of directors of United Uranium N.L. It was also reported that he had said that the Australian Atomic Energy Commission must develop ore reserves to meet probable future power requirements. Is it a fact that the Government has plans for the development of Australia’s uranium resources, and that it has been stated on many occasions that there will be a need for uranium as a source of power in the world until the early 1970’s?
– The honorable senator’s question deals with a big topic, and it is difficult to deal adequately with it by way of answer to a question. I commence by saying that we have sufficient known resources of uranium in Australia to meet our requirements until about 1975. At the present time we would welcome export business in uranium. The great importance of uranium is that it is the fuel of the atomic era. While we know that we have the reserves I have mentioned, it would be of considerable advantage to Australia to know that over all the years to come this country would be one of the store houses or natural reservoirs of atomic, fuel. That is an important aspect of the matter.
The contracts that are expiring have all been profitable for the companies concerned. We have said to them that we will extend the tax-free arrangements relating to uranium until 1968, so that they will know that their profits are not taxable. They will thus have greater financial resources for the purpose of seeking, as some of them are doing, other mineral deposits, such as copper deposits, which they may work with their present plant until such time as the demand for uranium revives. Various dates, such as 1968 and 1970, have been mentioned in attempting to determine how long the need for uranium will last, but the general view is that when those dates are reached uranium might well be in short supply.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry state whether it is still the Government’s policy that sales of wheat on credit to overseas purchasers are exclusively within the province of the Australian Wheat Board, or whether the policy has been modified to provide that sales by the board on credit terms for periods extending beyond six months require the concurrence of the Government?
– The Government’s policy on this matter has not changed. The Government contends, quite rightly, that the sale of wheat on credit terms is exclusively a matter for the Australian Wheat Board. The board is the properly constituted authority for the sale of Australian wheat, which remains the property of the growers.
– The question I wish to ask arises from the question asked by Senator Vincent, to which the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry replied that the Government had not changed what he asserted was its correct policy, namely, that decisions on the sale of wheat on credit lay with the Australian
Wheat Board. Senator Vincent asked whether there had been any change of policy, requiring that the Government be advised when it was proposed to extend credit for a longer period than six months. Statements have been made in the Australian press during the last fortnight that the Government has asked the Australian Wheat Board to advise it of the circumstances of its sales under certain conditions. That does not amount to a change of policy, but I should like to ask the Minister whether the Government has asked the board to advise it about the circumstances of wheat sales, particularly where long credit is involved.
– I have no knowledge of the matter raised by Senator McManus. I think the best service I can render him is to ask my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, to give him an authoritative answer to the question he has asked.
– This matter has been published in the press quite freely during the last fortnight.
– I undertake to obtain a reply from the Minister for Primary Industry.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Some time ago it was stated that channel O would be allocated to the new television station in Melbourne, and representations were made to the Postmaster-General to the effect that the allocation of this channel would involve present owners of television sets in considerable expense. It was reported that, in view of those representations, the PostmasterGeneral had undertaken to have the matter reviewed. I now ask: Has a final decision been made concerning the allocation of a channel for the additional television station in Melbourne?
– The answer is, “ Yes “. The Postmaster-General has made an authoritative and detailed statement on the various matters raised relating to the allocation of channel O. I shall be happy to provide Senator Sandford with a copy of the Minister’s statement.
– I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Trade to a statement by the Premier of Tasmania to the effect that cheese and fruit from Europe are being marketed in Indonesia, that Australia is being deprived of this market because it has insufficient trade contacts in that country, and that such contacts should be made at government level. Will the Government undertake to have this matter investigated?
– I speak subject to correction, but I think Australia already has trade representation in Indonesia. I think the loss of business, if there has been a loss, has arisen from circumstances other than those mentioned by the Premier of Tasmania, Mr. Reece. All markets are important to primary producers. I ask Senator Lillico to put his question on the notice-paper so that the Minister for Trade may express his views.
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
Is it a fact that Lockheed Electra aircraft are not permitted to land at the Canberra airport? If so, why not?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows: -
The strength of the runways at Canberra airport is not sufficient to permit the operation of Lockheed Electra aircraft on a regular scheduled basis. Aircraft with wheel loadings comparable to the Electra have been permitted to operate at Canberra on some infrequent particular occasions. The pavement strength is not, however, sufficient for continued frequent operation of such aircraft.
– Earlier this morning during question time Senator Sandford asked me a question without notice as to whether there was any provision in the Bills of Exchange Act concerning days and hours of banking within the States. The position is that the Bills of Exchange Act 1909-1958 assumes that banks will be open on business days and defines what are non-business days. Non-business days for the purposes of the act are Good Friday, Christmas Day,
Sunday and bank holidays. The question whether banks should remain open on Saturdays in a particular State, therefore, really depends on whether Saturdays are bank holidays in that State. The Commonwealth Government regards this as a matter for determination by the States concerned.
– by leave - I rise somewhat hesitantly in relation to a press report in which I have been misrepresented. Every one knows my opinion of the average press controller, more particularly the controller of Queensland Newspaper Proprietary Limited, which controls the “ Courier Mail “ and the “ Sunday Mail “. These newspapers have waged a vendetta against me for many years. This has not worried me unduly. I refer to the “Sydney Morning Herald”, which on many occasions does reflect sparks of decency. There is an inaccuracy on page four of to-day’s issue, which contains an alleged report of a Labour Party meeting yesterday. I wish to correct that inaccuracy.
That newspaper reported that I moved an amendment to a motion allegedly moved by Mr. Harrison. It is not my responsibility to tell this chamber what motion I moved, if any, and it is not the right of this chamber to know, but I just want to advise the Senate, and the press, that I seconded no motion. If Mr. Harrison did move an amendment, I did not second it, and either the person who gave the correspondent of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ this wrong account of the Labour Party meeting is a liar or the report is a deliberate fabrication.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to-
That Government business take precedence of general business after 8 p.m. this sitting.
.- -I move-
That Standing Order No. 68 be suspended up till and including Thursday, 17th May, 1962, to enable new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m.
I do not propose to speak to the motion at length. All honorable senators know that this is an indispensable arrangement to enable us to deal expeditiously with our business. In order to finish the sessional period within a fortnight we need the flexibility in the arrangement of business that is contemplated in the motion before the Senate.
– Did you say indefensible or indispensable?
Senator SPOONER__ Indispensable.
– The Opposition objects to this proposal which is regularly moved by the Government as we approach the end of a sessional period. I point out first that the Government does not need the authority that would be conferred by the carrying of this motion in order to keep the Senate sitting throughout the night or day and night. It has that power, being in control of the Senate by virtue of its numbers. This motion is not directed, therefore, to giving the Government power to keep the Senate sitting very late at night or right through the night. I should like to make that point quite clear.
This motion is concerned with ensuring that the Government can introduce new business after 10.30 o’clock at night and compel the Opposition to proceed immediately with the debate. That, of course, is an injustice to the Opposition and to the people that the Opposition represents. We had a classic example of that exactly a year ago. There is some significance in my mind in the fact that the Minister asks for the suspension of the 10.30 o’clock rule to operate until 17th May. It is most extraordinary that it was on 18th May last year that the Senate, after this rule had been suspended, had some ten measures forced through the chamber in an all-night sitting that continued from 3 o’clock on 17th May until lunch time on 18th May.
– Twenty-five hours.
– The sitting was exceedingly long. It was a situation that reflected no credit on the Senate from the point of view of democracy, and I doubt if anybody in the chamber would attempt to justify what then happened.
We are approaching the end of the sessional period. It is generally understood that it will finish next week - at the latest on 18th May. The Opposition will be no party to a repetition of what happened last year, but I do say to the Government that the Opposition is prepared to co-operate in ensuring that the business is disposed of. If the Government has fixed its mind upon ending the session on 18th May let it put propositions to us that we sit earlier at reasonable hours. It will not find the Opposition unresponsive to an approach of that kind. It is not a matter of being unwilling to work and to deal with measures. As far as I can see there is nothing of extreme urgency to the nation in the measures before the Parliament. I think the Opposition will not be opposing the great bulk of them. I am speaking not merely of those measures that are before us but I am referring also to those that are listed elsewhere and which will come before us.
Having looked at the notice-paper in both chambers, I do not believe there was ever a time when this motion was less needed. In no circumstances will the Opposition agree to it. I repeat *e offer of co-operation if the Minister wishes, and I should like honorable senators to understand that the sole purpose of this motion is to force the Opposition into proceeding immediately to debate measures without time for consideration, conference or adjournment.
– Have you ever used it for that purpose when you were in charge of the Government?
– It is so long ago that my memory is rather defective upon the point. I will do some research on that, if the honorable senator will put his question on notice. I am addressing myself very briefly to this proposition. I note that after 1st July next the Government will not be able to command this position for the ensuing three years. Its action now, therefore, seems to be an exercise, for the last time of an expiring power. I think it is a pity that the Government should have seen fit to exercise that power on this occasion. How can the Government justify introducing this motion at a time when the Parliament is about to go into recess for approximately three months? What possible justification has the Government for forcing the pace and denying us the right of ordinary democratic procedures? I shall never forgive, nor shall I forget, the Government’s action in relation to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories legislation on 18th May last year. That was a vastly important measure that I had to digest in lieu of my breakfast after sitting up all night equipping myself to lead for the Opposition in the debate. As I have said, the bill was extremely important and we were required to proceed immediately to the committee stage, where we wished to move amendments. That legislation deserved thorough scrutiny by people who were fit to work - not people who were exhausted by a continuous sitting occupying 24 or 25 hours. We are not prepared to submit to or acquiesce in action of that kind.
The Leader of the Government addressed only one argument to the chamber. He said that this arrangement was indispensable. I flatly contradict that proposition. How can the arrangement be indispensable when we have the prospect of a three months recess after the end of next week? In those circumstances how can this action be justified?
– The Minister is probably repeating what you said when you were in government.
– I doubt whether I ever made such remarks and I certainly do not agree with the proposition. In the not-too-distant future I may have the privilege, if the fates so decree, of sitting on the other side of the chamber and of holding ministerial office. I say quite frankly that, in these circumstances, should I ever move a motion along the lines of that moved by the Leader of the Government the arrangement sought will, in fact, be indispensable. Will somebody on the Government side tell me why all our business must be concluded by about 17th May? What would it matter if we sat an extra week or an extra day! Will somebody on the other side tell me what measure is so indispensable that it must be dealt with, whether it be in the Senate or in another place, without giving the Opposition time to consider it? Will somebody support the argument by naming one piece of legislation that is so urgent that the Opposition cannot be given time to consider it? Unless that argument is supported and documented by particular cases, it must be rejected. This is merely another instance of the Government deciding to finish the business of the Parliament next week at all costs, and certainly at the cost of proper consideration of legislation .by the Opposition. We are told that the Government does not want all-night sittings, but in any case it could have them without passing this motion. The Government’s objective is to prevent proper consideration by the Opposition of measures that will come before the Senate. What more can we do, in fairness to the people whom we represent, than oppose this motion with all the force at our command?
– I have some very unhappy memories of the proceedings of the Senate last May, particularly insofar as they reflected on this chamber and particularly insofar as some of them reflected on those responsible for managing the business of this chamber. I have particular regrets concerning the way in which the legislation dealing with the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories was handled. Therefore I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) whether he will assure us that, if this motion is carried, ample opportunity will be given at all stages for honorable senators, whether they support a bill or oppose it, to consider the legislation that is introduced.
– in reply - I have now been a member of the Senate for twelve years. To my recollection the Leader of the Government in the Senate has moved a motion in the terms of my motion at the conclusion, of each sessional period of the Senate in those twelve years. One day, when I have a little time to spare - I should do it before the Senate rises - I must confer with Senator Sir Walter Cooper, Senator Gordon Brown and Senator Courtice to see whether, in the history of the Senate, a sessional period was ever concluded without the necessity to move a motion similar to the one now being discussed. I extend my congratulations to the Leader of the Opposi-lion (Senator McKenna). I do not know whether I would be able, if placed in his position, to evolve arguments against the motion in the meritorious way that he evolves them each time the motion is moved.
Another point should be elaborated: The Leader of the Opposition is perhaps not correct in stating that this motion is designed to enable measures to be debated immediately they are introduced. Some doubt exists whether a bill, even if it has been on the notice-paper for days or weeks, may under the Standing Orders of the Senate be introduced after 10.30 p.m. There is a difference of opinion as to whether that bill comes within the category of new business. I hold the view that it does not. I am of opinion that after 10.30 p.m. a bill that has been on the notice-paper for some time can be called on without suspending Standing Orders, but some doubt exists about the matter. I hope that, when a review of the Standing Orders of the Senate is undertaken, that doubt will be resolved.
– Is it not the practice to go on with a bill after 10.30 p.m. if it has been on the notice-paper? I think that has been the invariable practice.
– Yes. In this chamber the Government and the Opposition usually do things together in amity, although sometimes when we sit late we are not as friendly to each other as we would otherwise be. We had a discussion last night involving the Standing Orders which shows what may arise from time to time. The arrangement that is covered by the motion is necessary and desirable. It is commonsense.
I assure Senator Wright that at all times, I want to see measures before the Senate given all the attention that is necessary. At all times I want to see ample opportunities given for discussion of measures. I never have a desire to truncate debate. I want to see the business dealt with in an orderly, measured and decent way. He is a parliamentarian of much longer standing and with more experience than I have, and I think he would be the first to admit that, Parliament being Parliament, circumstances arise that prevent any leader giving an assurance in advance of what circumstances may arise.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 1260) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 3rd May (vide page 1105), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. President, the purpose of this bill is to authorize, for three years as from 1st April this year, the payment of a bounty of £2 a ton on domestic’ sales of sulphate of ammonia for use in Australia as a fertilizer. The bill also establishes an annual limit of £ 225,000 on the amount that can be provided as subsidy. I understand from the second-reading speech of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) that that amount has been fixed because £200,000 was spent last year on the manufacture of about 100,000 tons of this fertilizer. Another good provision is that the subsidy shall cease when a manufacturer of this fertilizer shows a profit of 10 per cent, or more. I am delighted that the Minister for Customs and Excise is in charge of this bill. For many years I have been waiting for him to say to Australian manufacturers of goods, when a customs duty is imposed on similar imported goods: “ When your profits reach 10 per cent, we will reduce the duty on the imported article “. Let us hope that as time goes by he will come to say that.
The Australian Labour Party supports the bill. I am interested to note that the Tariff Board’s report on nitrogenous fertilizers gives a rather good history of this product. I recommend, with respect of course, that all honorable senators read that report. It states that supplies of sulphate of ammonia were difficult to obtain, particularly during the Second World War, and that the government of the day assumed responsibility for the importation of nitrogenous fertilizers in 1942. The report also states -
The Government also controlled the distribution of supplies through a “ nitrogen pool “…
After World War II., several Government factories produced sulphate of ammonia and their output was distributed through the pool. . . .
In 1955 the Government withdrew from the nitrogen pool.
The Tariff Board’s report states -
Professor C. M. Donald, Professor of Agriculture, University of Adelaide, stated that nitrogen is the most widespread nutrient deficiency in world agriculture and that all but a few soils show a moderate to acute deficiency in this element. Furthermore, he said, the most useful single criterion of the fertility of the soil is the percentage of nitrogen which it contains.
– On which page is that?
– Page 7. It is most interesting, particularly to one who, unfortunately, has never been a farmer. The report refers to a matter of which most of us have heard, although some of us may have forgotten it. The report states -
Most of the fertilizer nitrogen used in the world is derived from the atmosphere, but smaller amounts come from the nitrate deposits of Chile or from coal. The current use of fertilizer nitrogen in Australia, according to Professor Donald, is about 30,000 tons of nitrogen per annum, a small amount relative to the area of arable crops in Australia.
The report includes some very interesting comparisons of the increase in the use of nitrogen as a fertilizer throughout the world. It states -
Professor Donald said that world consumption of nitrogen as fertilizer increased from 0.34 million tons in 1900 to 2.7 million tons in 1938 and to 9.4 million tons in 1959.
Although the use of nitrogen in the United States of America has increased seven-fold and in Britain six-fold since 1939, consumption in Australia has increased only 2.5-fold over the same period.
That brings to mind the fact that Sir Mortimer McCarthy, a very good exCommonwealth officer who was knighted for worth-while work, made a report on the dairy industry. That report makes one ponder a little about the number of inefficient producers in primary industry. I am not saying for one moment that there is no inefficiency in secondary industry. The report on the dairy industry was most important from Australia’s point of view, and it was particularly important to Victoria. It stated that many dairy farms were uneconomic. That may be due, not to any fault of the farmers, but to distance from markets, the area of the farms or the lack of a whole milk quota, with consequential complete reliance on butter fat production. One wonders whether our farmers are, to the same degree as farmers in the two great western countries, applying science to their industry.
– The question of moisture is important.
– I know. If sulphate of ammonia is so wonderful a fertilizer as appears from this report and from the few inquiries that may be made, one wonders whether we are using to the fullest extent what science has given us in the shape of this fertilizer. Professor Donald stated that its use in Australia had increased only 2.5-fold in the period in which it increased seven-fold in America and six-fold in Britain. Admittedly our climatic conditions are different, and many other factors may enter into the question. A person with my lack of knowledge of this matter, who speaks in the manner in which I am speaking now, is liable to get a severe pay-off when a practical farmer rises. To use an Australian term, he is putting his neck out a little. One remembers what big insurance companies did with land that lay idle for many years on the border of South Australia and Victoria. Speaking from memory, one of its deficiencies was copper sulphate.
– Not copper sulphate, just copper.
– How my friends come to my aid, because of my lack of practical farming knowledge One wonders whether we are too prone to rush to the aid of inefficient producers, both in rural industries and in secondary industries, instead of saying, “ This is what we believe your production ought to be “. Subsidies can come only out of one pocket, namely, that of the taxpayer. I want it to be clearly understood that, not having the knowledge, I would not attempt to say that there was great inefficiency in rural or secondary industries, but upon reading the McCarthy report on the dairy industry one wonders how widespread is this condition.
The Tariff Board report on nitrogenous fertilizers continues -
Superphosphate is by far the most important fertilizer used in Australia. Its use in proportion to nitrogenous fertilizers is about 19 : 1, whereas in Europe and parts of North America the ratio is nearer 1 : 1.
– Due to rainfall conditions.
– I am aware that I have a very limited knowledge of rural matters. However, I know that the yield of wheat from land in the Wimmera district of Victoria is much higher than that from the Mallee. I also know that one type of soil is rauch more productive than another and that better rainfall will give increased yields. However, great results have been achieved through intensive agriculture. This has been illustrated often, particularly in Victoria, since large numbers of migrants have settled here. The tremendous increase in production that these new citizens have obtained from the land by the intensive cultivation of small blocks has been very marked. I am speaking particularly now of growers who serve the fresh vegetable market in Melbourne. A big increase in yields of tomatoes grown at Shepparton has been obtained by Yugoslav farmers.
– They have plenty of water there.
– Yes, that is true, but I think it is more than a question of availability of water. To realize that, one has only to inspect the Werribee area in Victoria where tremendous quantities of green vegetables are grown. I acknowledge that adequate water has been available in this area for a long time, but since our new settlers have taken up land in the district and have practised intensive cultivation yields have been increased. These people have brought some of the scientific methods of their old countries with them, and I am glad they have. Another thing is that they know how to work.
– That is very important.
– I know that, and I have never disagreed with that. I have always believed, in theory and in practice, in a fair go.
– There is a great deal of pressure from farmers.
– That is not applicable to one side only. We are all a little culpable. We all feel these pressures at certain times. Quite candidly, I acknowledge that the greatest pressure group, not only in this country but in other countries is the rural community. For some reason or other, country people seem to hold the balance of power. Of course, honorable senators know what I would do if I held the balance of power, and I admit that these rural interests are doing just what I would do. All parties are only too prone to act in a way which will allow them to receive the plaudits and, at the right time, the vote of these groups, rather than to insist that prices must remain at a level which will give a fair return for labour and for capital invested. I was delighted to hear Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan and my colleague, Senator Courtice, outline the history of the sugar industry last night - if I may make passing reference to that debate. Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan recalled that after certain people had attempted, and failed, to put through legislation to protect the sugar industry Mr. Ryan succeeded in 1915 with the help of all sections. I think the honorable senator stated that before that time sugar refiners could say to growers, “ You will get so much for your crop; take it or leave it “. It is remarkable to note that a similar state of affairs existed in Shepparton, Victoria, last year, in relation to tomatoes. Processors said, “There is the price; take it or leave it “. It may be recalled that a strike was staged by growers, but it was not as well organized as I would have liked to see it. For instance, I read with the greatest satisfaction that bank officials in Victoria have said that if they are not granted Saturday mornings off by 26th May they will not attend. That announcement has given me the greatest joy I have had in politics for a long, long while.
When I heard what Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan had to say I wondered why, if such things could be done for sugargrowers, help should not be given to the people to whom I am referring who are undertaking intensive cultivation in this country. That kind of farming is hard work. It is not a matter of working eight hours a day. Many difficulties have to be overcome, including plagues of grasshoppers, and crops must be dusted frequently. However, I do not want to get any further away from this bill.
– You do not live up to your principles. You did not go on strike last night at 11 o’clock.
– I voted against continuing, and I heard a rather humorous remark passed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate when I was passing him. Of course, I cannot mention what he said. I do not think he would want me to refer to what he said in passing, in a very good spirit. I am sure that honorable senators opposite would not want me out of the Senate altogether so long as the Government has a majority. I think that most senators would prefer to see me here because it is far better to have the devil you know than the devil you do not know.
Returning to the bill, I point out that it is based on the recommendations of the Tariff Board. I agree with what the Minister has said. It is preferable, I suppose, to spread the cost over the entire community by paying a subsidy which will come out of Consolidated Revenue, than to compel farmers who use the fertilizer to pay more for it. Whether that view is held by the Government just because it is considered to be good politics, I am not in a position to determine. However, I do issue a warning to whoever has the responsibility of administering these matters that the task in the future is not likely to be easy.
We listened to a very important speech last night, and I had the pleasure of sitting close to our important guest. I thought that he delivered a wonderful speech from America’s point of view, because I like a man who says: “ If you want it, brother, you can have it. We don’t mind.” It was also a wonderful speech from the point of view of the Western world. I do want to be understood here. We also heard something about the Common Market. I hope that I will not do any one an injustice when I say that I took what was said to mean that some people are more wishful than we are that Britain should go into the Common Market. When I heard that my ears pricked up a little, and I thought that I could see the position from their point of view.
– Do they have nitrogenous materials?
– It appears that my colleague was not listening when I recounted the percentage of nitrogen used by the United States of America. In order that the honorable senator will not be obliged to interject again for the purpose of obtaining relevant information, when I sit down I shall hand him a copy of the Tariff Board report.
I hope that the legislation will achieve the purpose for which it is designed, lt certainly will result in cheaper fertilizer being made available to those who need fertilizer. It is interesting to know, Mr. Acting Deputy President, that approximately 400 people are employed in the sulphate of ammonia industry and that the capital involved in it amounts to £3,000,000. It is a small but important industry which uses industrial by-products that otherwise would be wasted. This morning, in an attempt to become more efficient in my occupation as a senator of the Commonwealth and to find out a little about the production of sulphate of ammonia, I contacted a very important person in one of the universities. Some one was kind enough to type out for me the following statement: -
As every one knows, sulphate of ammonia is made by mixing ammonia and sulphuric acid. Ammonia is readily obtained as a by-product of coal gas production.
That statement reminds me that in Victoria gas is produced mainly from brown coal mixed with oil. Australia will be using a tremendous amount of oil in the production of gas because of the very small market for the product that is left after petrol has been extracted from crude oil. I shall have to ring my friend again and find out how the production of gas from coal affects the production of ammonia.
– It is obtained from zinc in Hobart.
– I have the advantage of reading from an authoritative statement. I advise the Minister to be careful. I am referring to the production of ammonia. The statement continues -
When the coal is burnt the ammonia gases are trapped and converted into liquid ammonia. Sulphuric acid is obtained as a by-product of the ores used in steel production. Sulphur gas is given off when the ores are heated and is, by a fairly simple process, converted into liquid sulphuric acid. When sulphuric acid and ammonia are mixed together the liquid is then evaporated, leaving in powder form the sulphate of ammonia which is used as fertilizer.
– So are we.
– It has given me some knowledge of this subject. If sulphate of ammonia is as good a fertilizer as some people appear to think it is, I shall consider using it on 600 or 700 acres in which I am vitally concerned. I do not mean 600 or 700 acres of farmland. My friend, Senator Henty, knows the area to which I refer. It is parkland in the city of Melbourne. I say in conclusion, Mr. Acting Deputy President, that we on this side wish the bill a speedy passage.
– I rise to support the bill. I congratulate Senator Kennelly on the speechhe made. He raised some interesting points concerning the use of nitrogenous fertilizers in Australia. I have found it rather fascinating to compare the percentage of such fertilizers used in Australia with that used in European countries. I, for one, agree with Senator Kennelly that we in this country are not using a sufficient quantity of sulphate of ammonia, which is a very important fertilizer. I read in the report of the Tariff Board that a survey of sulphate of ammonia consumption had been made in certain European countries and also in England and the United States of America. The survey showed that some European countries were using 1 ton of nitrogenous fertilizer to 1 ton pf superphosphate. We in Australia use about 19 tons of superphosphate to 1 ton of sulphate of ammonia.
It has been proved at research stations in Western Australia that it is an economic proposition to use quantities of sulphate of ammonia, or other nitrogenous fertilizers, for cereal crops, particularly wheat, which are grown on new land in areas where the average rainfall exceeds 15 inches per annum. I do not remember the production figures, but they were given in the “ Farmers’ Weekly “ two or three weeks ago. It was stated in that journal that experiments carried out in Western Australia, in which 45 lb. per acre of sulphate of ammonia had been used on wheat crops, indicated that the return had been increased by £2 or £2 10s. per acre after the cost of the sulphate of ammonia had been taken into consideration. When 1 cwt. of sulphate of ammonia was used the net return was increased by between £4 and £5. Experiments in which 2 cwt. of sulphate of ammonia per acre was used also indicated increased returns. The experiments were carried out on new land during an average season. Leguminous crops had not been grown on the land before the experiments began.
A great deal of ley-farming is now undertaken. The farmer puts nitrogen into the soil by planting crops of clover, lupins, or field peas. After a pasture of clover has been growing for from four to six years and is then ploughed in, it is found that in areas where the rainfall is about 18 inches per annum, ten bags of wheat per acre can be harvested, whereas without the use of clover crops to impart nitrogen to the soil a farmer is lucky to harvest half that quantity of wheat per acre from the same land.
– Not all the gain would be due to the use of sulphate of ammonia, would it? Would not some of the increase result from rotation of crops?
– Using clover as an agent for nitrogen fixation, you get a buildup of nitrogen from year to year over a period of several years. It is not a matter of the rotation of crops or of planting the clover and ploughing it in every year. You plant it one year, top-dress it with superphosphate for, say, five years, and plough it in when the rains come. Then you sow the crop, and you can expect a yield 100 per cent, greater than if you had not used clovers to fix the nitrogen in the soil. That is being done to an increasing extent in Australia. Unfortunately, in many of our wheat belt areas the rainfall is so light - I am referring to levels of 11, 12 or 13 inches - that it is impossible to grow crops of clover to fix the nitrogen in the soil. However, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the State departments of agriculture are continually carrying out experiments at their research stations on plants that will put nitrogen into the soil. Within the last year or two a new nitrogen fixation agent known as barrel medic has been developed. It will grow in areas receiving only 12 or 13 inches of rain and will put into the soil the same quantity of nitrogen as does clover in the heavier rainfall areas. The method of ley-farming is being used increasingly in the lower-rainfall areas due to the work of the C.S.I.R.O. and the departments of agriculture in breeding .types of clover which W1 grow in those rainfall areas and perform the same function as other clovers in the heavier rainfall areas.
– I do not doubt the accuracy of what the honorable senator is saying, but would not the cost be great? The farmers v.ould need sufficient land to be able to spell some areas for four or five years. They could run sheep on the land, but would not the cost be heavy?
– What would a farmer in that position sow in a year?
– Let us say that the farmer had an area of 1,000, 1,500 or 2,000 acres.
– That is all right in Western Australia, but he would not have 2,000 acres in the Wimmera district of Victoria.
– I am talking of a total area of 2,000 acres. The smaller wheat farms in Western Australia, about which I know a little, comprise about 1,000 acres. You do not find many smaller than that.
– A few years ago wheat country was selling at £45 an acre.
– In the Wimmera?
– Yes, at a place called Lubeck.
– Those prices do not obtain in Western Australia. Land is about £15 to £20 an acre in the wheat belt area.
In low-rainfall areas, nitrogenous manures play the part of the clovers in the high rainfall areas. When a farmer is bringing a new area of land into use, he puts in nitrogenous fertilizers and, in normal conditions, can expect a net return over and above the cost of the fertilizers. That has been proved by the Department of Agriculture and by some of the farmers in Western Australia. It is clear that there will be an increased demand for nitrogenous fertilizers in Australia.
This bill has been brought down by the Government because it was recommended by the Tariff Board. It is interesting to note that, prior to the Tariff Board making its report, a deputy chairman of the board recommended to the Government on 17th May, 1961, that protection be provided by means of a temporary duty at the rate of 5s. per long ton unit of contained nitrogen in nitrogenous fertilizers, in addition to the existing rate of duty. That recommendation followed representations made by the manufacturers of nitrogenous fertilizers for immediate assistance. They believed that a state of emergency had arisen and that, if protection were not given to them, imports of sulphate of ammonia and urea would put them out of business. The Government accepted the recommendation of the deputy chairman of the Tariff Board. Until 1st April of this year tariff protection at the rate of 5s. per long ton unit of contained nitrogen in nitrogenous fertilizer applied. I understand that that means that a duty of 5s. is applied to each 22.4 lb. of contained nitrogen. In the case of a ton of urea the duty is £11 10s. and in the case of a ton of sulphate of ammonia, £5.
The increased cost was borne by the producers, although it did not apply to a great extent. To be fair, I suggest that the deputy chairman of the Tariff Board took into consideration the fact that the tonnage of nitrogenous fertilizers used in Australia in 1961 was equivalent to approximately 130,000 tons of sulphate of ammonia, and that 100,000 tons were manufactured in Australia, as against about 30,000 tons brought into Australia. So the duty would apply only to the 30,000 tons that was imported. The report of the deputy chairman was immediately placed before the full board, which has now recommended a bounty at the rate of £2 a ton, to apply as from 1st April of this year, on all nitrogenous fertilizer produced in Australia. It is pleasing to note that, following the announcement that the duty would be eliminated as from 1st April and that a bounty of £2 a ton would be paid on nitrogenous fertilizer manufactured in Australia, the price of sulphate of ammonia to the primary producer has fallen by at least £5 a ton.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.19 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was discussing the bounty of £2 a ton that is to be paid on nitrogenous fertilizer produced in Australia, in lieu of the recommendation of a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board that an import duty at the rate of 5s. per ton be imposed on all imported nitrogenous fertilizer in excess of 30,000 tons.
I wish now to refer to the quantity of nitrogenous fertilizer produced in Australia, the tonnage used in Australia, the tonnage produced overseas and the tonnage used overseas. According to Professor Donald the world consumption of nitrogen as a fertilizer increased from 34,000 tons in 1900 - some 62 years ago- to 2,700,000 tons in 1948 and 9,400,000 tons in 1959. This year we are approaching 10,000,000 tons. The second-reading speech of the Minister disclosed that Australia is producing at the moment in excess of 100,000 tons on which it is proposed a bounty of £2 a ton will be paid. On that production the bounty will amount roughly to £200,000, but a limitation of £225,000 a year for three years as from 1st April, 1962, has been imposed. I venture to say, considering the increased use of nitrogenous fertilizers in Australia, that in three years’ time the amount of £225,000 will not be sufficient to provide for the bounty of £2 a ton. 1 think that the Government should have increased the limit to at least £300,000 a year. Despite what the Tariff Board has said, and despite the opinion of departmental officers, I think that if we honour our obligation to pay £2 a ton bounty on the manufacture of nitrogenous fertilizer produced in Australia we will require a higher limit than £225,000 at the end of three years. That is the only criticism I have of the bill.
I notice that a profit limitation of 10 per cent, is to be imposed on companies manu facturing nitrogenous fertilizers, notwithstanding that the Tariff Board said that it did not think the companies would make a profit anything like 10 per cent. However, I presume that it is sound policy to impose a profit limitation. We would not like to be paying a bounty - no government would - and find that companies were making more than 10 per cent, on their invested capital.
It is interesting to note that the Government has taken cognizance of the fact that about 400 people are engaged in this industry and that the capital used in the industry amounts to £3,000,000. I believe there will be an ever-increasing demand for nitrogenous fertilizers in Australia but, according to the Tariff Board report, new companies that would enter the field intend to manufacture, not sulphate of ammonia, but urea. Urea contains roughly 46 per cent, nitrogen, compared with about 20 per cent, contained in sulphate of ammonia. Urea may be stored from year to year without becoming lumpy, but sulphate of ammonia, if stored in bags, becomes very lumpy and cannot be used without retreatment.
I would like the Minister to tell me how the Government intends to maintain the bounty at the rate of £2 a ton if the amount produced in Australia in any one year in the next three years exceeds 112,500 tons, because I am confident that our requirements of sulphate of ammonia will exceed 112,500 tons annually within three years. I have no doubt that the Minister has a satisfactory answer to my inquiry. I am confident that this measure has been introduced in order to reduce costs in our agricultural industries. This measure will bring about a reduction in the cost of sulphate of ammonia and other nitrogenous fertilizers used by our primary producers. The largest primary producers in this country are the sugar-growers of Queensland. The bill will be of considerable benefit to them. It will prove el considerable benefit also to the wheat-growers in the higher-rainfall areas who wish to use sulphate of ammonia. The bill will be of considerable benefit also to persons engaged in other primary pursuits, including fruit-growing. I compliment the Government on accepting the Tariff Board’s recommendation. The board took a very realistic view of the problem confronting primary producers who wished to use fertilizers extensively. I support the bill.
.- I compliment Senator Scott on his most interesting and informative contribution to the debate on this measure dealing with a bounty of £2 a ton on sulphate of ammonia fertilizer. Senator Scott referred to the tremendous importance to primary industries of nitrogenous fertilizers. This bounty may start a chain reaction that will greatly benefit Australia. Senator Scott referred to fixing nitrogen in the soil. It is a quirk of nature that, although so bountiful in most other respects, she failed to provide sufficient nitrogen in the soil in areas in which man finds it suitable to set about the task of adapting himself to his environment.
Australia faces a challenge. Ours is a huge continent with an uneven distribution of rainfall. We have a relatively narrow strip of coastal land with high or above average rainfall. Next we have a wider strip where the rainfall is suitable for most agricultural pursuits but only a limited amount of intensive cultivation. Then we have a vast expanse of country that is semi-arid and unsuitable for agricultural purposes. To a large extent the future development of our country depends on the application of science to agriculture.
In my view this bounty will provide temporary benefits only. I am glad to see that the bounty will be paid to the producer of the sulphate of ammonia. I am sure that those who administer this legislation will see to it that the bounty is used for the purpose for which it was designed - to ensure that the primary producer is able to fertilize his land as much as is necessary. The profits of the manufacturers operating under the bounty will be under surveillance. It is important to have that safeguard when agreeing to a bounty of this kind.
I am proud to know that a considerable amount of ammonium sulphate is produced in Tasmania. It is interesting to recall that earlier in the history of our smelting industries the fumes of sulphuric acid and sulphur dioxide were allowed to waft over the countryside. Anybody who has taken a trip to Queenstown will have seen the devastating effect of those fumes on the surrounding country. There, one can see many miles of countryside completely denuded of vegetation by the fumes given off in the smelting process.
Sulphate of ammonia is a by-product of the smelting process. Instead of being allowed to escape into the atmosphere the sulphur dioxide fumes are trapped, converted into sulphuric acid and, ultimately, into sulphate of ammonia. If the fumes of sulphur dioxide were not a valuable by-product, their disposal would be very expensive to the industries engaged in the refining of zinc, and the manufacture of coal gas and sinter gases. These fumes, which otherwise would go to waste, are an essential ingredient- of a very valuable nitrogenous fertilizer.
Under the bill a manufacturer of fertilizer who wishes to qualify for the bounty must be able to show that his profits are not in excess of 10 per cent, of his capital investment. That must be a difficult provision to police. Sulphate of ammonia is a by-product - virtually a waste product. However, because we can so easily produce this valuable fertilizer, with its high nitrogen content, we must pay regard to the agronomic advantages that accrue from its use. I believe that it will be only a matter of time before our scientists find a much more efficient method of applying nitrogen to our pastures and crops.
I and other honorable senators on this side of the chamber support this measure because it will make available to more people, at an economical cost, this most important trace element for their soil. The information that has been supplied in the Tariff Board report on nitrogenous fertilizers has made a very valuable contribution on this tremendously important economic problem. The information that a factory is being constructed to produce urea is very good news indeed. . One of the great disadvantages of sulphate of ammonia is its relatively small nitrogen content. It also has disadvantages in distribution. In areas where fertilizers can be used most efficiently, such as areas of land which are cultivated intensively - for instance, vegetable gardens, cane-fields and dried vine fruit farms - this fertilizer is of great benefit to those people who can afford to use it. Whether or not a man can afford to use it is always a matter of economics. In areas such as the big wheatlands in Western Australia to which Senator Scott referred, such fertilizers can be applied much more economically by crop-dusting or spreading from the air. The weight factor and the actual benefit that finally will accrue in the soil are most important. Other types of fertilizers, such as urea and the hydrosulphates that are being used extensively in the United States of America, lend themselves much more readily to that type of distribution.
At present we are making use of waste products from some of our major secondary industries. We are giving the producers of sulphate of ammonia an incentive to stabilize their industry, knowing that they have a certain continuity of future production. I believe that we are also triggering off the very essence of our primary production, namely the enriching of the soil. Whichever way the soil is enriched - whether by the catch-as-catch-can method of relying on the natural content of the soil, the action that takes place by natural photosynthesis or the chlorophyll action of the sun on leaves, or the sowing of legumes and using that most ingenious natural feature that legumes have in forming tiny nitrogenous nodules on the delicate roots that produce nitrogen in the soil - something is put into the soil to help the plant grow bigger and stronger and more economically.
Most of the important things that should be said on this matter have been said by the Minister and Senator Scott. I believe that a matter such as this brings to our minds how, in indirect ways, the whole of our primary production can be fertilized, so to speak.
– It is really good socialism.
– Yes. It is like the chicken and the egg. If you have not the egg, you cannot get the chicken. By triggering off fertility of the soil we are starting at the grass roots. In doing that we are carrying on throughout the world a tradition of agriculture that started when man came out of thickly timbered areas on to the plains. Man has gradually built up the fertility of his soil because he knows that unless he puts something into the ground he cannot expect to take things out of it. The soil is regarded as a bank into which farmers can put their resources.
The pleasing feature of this measure is that the Government has committed itself to ensuring that the benefit of this bounty will go to the places v/here it will be most effective - that is, into the fields of the farmers. I wish *o speak on one or two other minor matters. One is the very high cost of transportation of fertilizers generally. People who are seised of the importance of intensifying the production of areas of land realize the importance of fertilizers; and the government in power in this Commonwealth has a national responsibility to encourage their use. The limitation of this bounty to £225,000 a year is worked out on the present figures. When the urea factory goes into production, only half as much urea will be needed to supply the amount of nitrogen supplied by the use of sulphate of ammonia. Urea, in turn, may be superseded by other types of nitrogenous fertilizer with an even higher nitrogen content.
Therefore, it is with pleasure that I speak in support of this bill. I hope that the policy of the Government will be elastic enough to match any extra demand created by this bounty among a new group of farming people who find this fertilizer useful for application to their soil, if the bounty has to be reduced pro rata, as set out in the bill. I hope that in time this measure will bring great benefit and great dividends to the Australian agricultural community and the Australian economy as a whole. I support the measure.
– in reply - At this stage, Mr. President, I do not propose to try to answer the question asked by Senator O’Byrne as to which cams first, the chicken or the egg. I was very interested to hear his comments on arriving at the profit position for the purposes of this bounty. As he said, the manufacture of this fertilizer is based on by-products, and the costing of the operation is not straightforward. Because of the long experience that the Department of Customs and Excise has had in handling bounties of many varieties, it has become pretty expert in handling this type of costing, where a 10 per cent, profit limitation will apply on one product of a large manufacturing operation. Senator Scott mentioned that increased quantities of sulphate of ammonia may become available. At page eight of the Tariff Board’s report we find particulars of the capacities of the existing plants. They are: Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited, 60,000 tons; Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, 35,000 tons; Australian Gas Light Company, 5,000 tons. The total production is 100,000 tons. It does not seem as though those plants will be able to achieve any substantially increased production.
As Senator O’Byrne says, this matter is of particular interest to Tasmania, as 400 men are employed in Hobart in the manufacture of this nitrogenous fertilizer. It is quite an industry. Senator Scott referred to the matter of urea. The Tariff Board had that in mind. At page 17 it stated -
It would seem that although the total consumption of nitrogenous fertilizers will continue to increase in Australia, a larger proportion of the market will be supplied by nitrogen in forms other than sulphate of ammonia.
Of course, this bounty does not apply to urea; it applies only to sulphate of ammonia. Suppose a urea factory were established. After it had been in operation for twelve months and could produce particulars of its costs it would be able, if it so desired, to seek a reference to the Tariff Board for assistance. It would then be a matter for the Tariff Board to recommend whether assistance should be granted to urea. The position will be covered by the annual provision of £225,000 for bounty on sulphate of ammonia. The problem of the protection of other forms of nitrogenous fertilizers will be a matter for Tariff Board inquiry at some future time when production is under way.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.-I shall detain the committee for only a short time. I have heard a good deal about what this bill will mean to the Australian firms engaged in this industry and about what it will mean to the farmers. I want to make the point that a third group is interested in the prosperity of this industry, namely, the group comprising the people employed in the artificial fertilizer and chemical works. For some time, they have been endeavouring to obtain from representatives of the industry an agreement to provide improved wages and conditions, but they have been unsuccessful. The argument used against them has been the state of the industry. As this Parliament is proposing to give considerable advantages to business firms mainly concerned in this industry, I express a wish that the ordinary worker who produces the artificial fertilizers and chemicals be given at least a reasonable share of the advantages accruing, through a just wages agreement.
– I take this opportunity to ask the Minister to answer in more detail a question I asked yesterday regarding payment of the bounty. The Government has announced that it will be paid as from 1st April, 1962. Yesterday I explained that although this announcement had been made, nitrogenous manures bought in Western Australia since April had not been subjected to any price reduction. The Minister stated in his second-reading speech that the bounty would have a beneficial effect, in that a fall could be expected to the 1960-61 price level. He explained that when the bill had passed both Houses, payment of the bounty would be retrospective to 1st April. Retrospective payments will be made to producers of sulphate of ammonia, but I should like the Minister to explain how the beneficial effect will be passed on to the primary producers. There must be stocks of these manures on hand in the stores of the distributors, and certain quantities have been imported.
– I am interested in clause 9, which provides that the bounty may be reduced if the net profit on the production of fertilizer exceeds 10 per cent. I should like the Minister to inform the Senate what is meant by the expression “ capital used “ in that clause. That is the all-important feature in the ascertainment of profit. Does it mean shareholders’ funds or the replacement value of capital assets? The interpretation is rather significant in determining the percentage of profit on capital used. Incidentally, with great respect to the draftsman, I say that I do not like the term “ capital used “. It is a very vague and somewhat ethereal expression, and I think that a much better one, which could be understood by the people who are concerned in these matters, could have been used.
– I join with Senator McManus in hoping that this industry - indeed all Australian industries - will provide the best possible wages and amenities for their employees. I do not think he is being quite fair in saying that this industry has made a considerable gain. It was working on a temporary duty of £5 5s. a ton. That has disappeared, to be replaced by a bounty of £2 a ton; so one could not say that it is receiving a considerable advantage. The Tariff Board inquired into the industry, ascertained the disabilities under which it operated as against importations and recommended that a bounty be paid to overcome those disabilities.
– Will you agree that this legislation will give an advantage to the industry?
– It will not give an advantage equal to that which previously existed. The industry was protected against imports by a temporary duty of £5 5s. a ton. That has been eliminated, and the industry will now work on a bounty of £2, in competition with imports.
– That is an advantage.
– The industry is at a disadvantage in comparison with the conditions that operated previously.
– Still, it will get something out of the legislation.
– But it will be at a disadvantage of £3 5s. a ton. I join with the honorable senator in hoping that the industry will provide its employees with the best wages, conditions and amenities that it can afford. The point made by Senator DrakeBrockman is that the bounty is payable back to 1st July, and in fact he answered his own question. There will be stocks of imported sulphate of ammonia on hand on which duty of £5 5s will have been paid. Quantities will also have come in after that date and will receive the bounty. However, this will sort itself out, as is always the case throughout the commercial world.
– How long will it take?
– I cannot answer that question. First, it will be a matter of how long it takes to consume the stocks of imported sulphate of ammonia on hand. Most honorable firms will meet the position on the facts of the case and as soon as they are operating on stocks on which the bounty has been paid they will sell accordingly. I realize that there are certain firms that will always engage in some shenanigans here and there. However, these people are usually found out.
Senator Vincent referred to the 10 per cent, profit limitation. As I pointed out to Senator O’Byrne this is based on the capital actually involved in the production of this product. The department has had long experience in the payment of bounties on pyrites and a whole string of materials and its officers have become experts in ascertaining the actual amount of capital involved in an industry. I think the position is protected in this instance.
.- I should like to ask the Minister a question in connexion with clause 12. It provides that a balance-sheet, profit and loss account, manufacturing account and trading account and such other information in relation to the production and sale of sulphate of ammonia as the Minister requires must be made available. The Tariff Board’s report said that in this particular field the sale and distribution of sulphate of ammonia was not price competitive. Will clause 12 cover those distributors who, after all, have an Australia-wide monopoly over distribution, and is there sufficient authority to go past manufacturers right through to the distribution, which is in the hands of a monopoly?
– I refer to sub-clauses (1.), (2.) and (3.) of clause 8. When the Minister replied to my speech at the second-reading stage he mentioned that the Government thought that in no circumstances would a sum exceeding £225,000 be needed for bounty purposes for this industry. Yet I find in the bill provision for the Government to reduce the bounty payable to less than £2 per ton if the total of £225,000 is exceeded. In the circumstances, I ask the Minister: Why is it that the Government has seen fit to limit the bounty payment to £225,000? The reason he gave when he stated that the
Government believed that in no circumstances would a sum in excess of £225,000 be needed was that new plants in Australia are expected to be producing urea instead of sulphate of ammonia, and that the bounty payments does not apply to manufacturers or producers of urea.
– In answer to Senator O’Byrne I point out that clause 15 provides inter alia -
The Comptroller-General, a Collector or an authorized person may, by notice in writing, require a person whom he believes to be capable of giving information, relevant to the operation of this Act, in relation to the production, storage, sale or use of sulphate of ammonia to attend before him at the time and place specified . . and to produce to him such accounts, books and documents. …
I think that covers the position. We have full power to make these inquiries. In answer to Senator Scott’s further question on this matter, let me say that, personally, I like to meet a problem when it arises.
– Then why put such a provision in the bill?
– The Government was following the recommendation of the Tariff Board.
– I wish to make further reference to clause 9. It will be noted that sub-clause (3.) gives the Minister very wide powers for the purposes of the assessment of the rate of net profit. Sub-clause (4.) provides -
In making a determination under the last preceding sub-section of an amount of net profit, the Minister shall not regard any tax upon income as a deduction and may disallow any interest paid by the producer as a deduction.
Those two points are worthy of interest. I should like the Minister to tell me why he is not allowed to take into account the payment of taxation in determining net profits. That is mandatory. Secondly, why is a discretion allowed in respect of the payment of interest in the determination of net profit? Can the Minister inform the Senate what factors will be taken into consideration in the exercise of ministerial discretion in either allowing or disallowing interest in the determination of net profit? Can he, more importantly, explain to me why both these factors are not automatically deductible, if they are bona fide, in an assessment of this kind?
.’ - In reply to Senator Vincent, thi position is that the 10 per cent, profit is the net profit before taxation. That is the limitation placed on most of these bounty arrangements. The department has had long experience in administering bounties.
– Citizens have had long experience too.
– Exactly. I should think no complete rule of thumb can be arrived at to cover such things. Some of the industries covered present many difficulties and no rule of thumb can be laid down. However, having administered the payment of bounties for so many years, the department has become expert in arriving at a proper solution to the satisfaction of all concerned.
– I am not denying that there are experts in the department, but I should like to know the circumstances surrounding the provision to which I have referred.
– It applies to all similar bounties. I make no bones about saying to the honorable senator that the administrative details are such that no Minister is concerned with them unless dissatisfaction is expressed or disagreement arises. I can say that although many statutory bounties are administered by the department, not one case in which there has been disagreement has been brought to my notice.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 2nd May (vide page 1050), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Bill has two main purposes. The first one is to give effect to a convention which was settled at a meeting of nations at Guadalajara, in Mexico, on 18th September, 1961. The meeting was attended by representatives of some 40 countries and by representatives of other bodies, not of a governmental nature. The second main purpose of the measure is to make a machinery alteration to the act in respect of the assessment of damages where contributory negligence is alleged and established.
To explain the measure, it is necessary to say a word or two regarding the history of the liability of international air carriers down the years. I refer first to the original convention established at” Warsaw in 1929. There was a later protocol. Both were ratified by Australia in 1935, by the Carriage of Air Act of that year. The Warsaw Convention, in the interim, has been ratified by 56 countries which now are bound by the convention. The Senate will remember that in 1959 the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Bill was introduced for the purpose of ratifying a subsequent convention held at The Hague in 1955. We did not ratify the convention until 1959. Even when we ratified it, that did not bring the Hague Convention into force or effect, even so far as we were concerned, because the Hague Convention provided that it should have full force and effect only when’ 30 nations had ratified it. According to information given to me by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), some 22 nations have so far ratified it. The Hague Convention, which seeks to increase the limits of liability, may not be operative until the end of the year, when the other eight outstanding ratifications have come to hand.
In this bill we are presented with a third draft international convention. Australia has already subscribed to it. The passage of this legislation will amount to authority officially to ratify the convention. Ratification will be very much easier than with previous conventions, because this convention requires that only five ratifications need to be deposited to bring it into force and effect. 1 understand that the United Kingdom Parliament is already putting through legislation to ratify it, and I take it that we are the second in the field. I am very glad to see the Australian Government moving so quickly in the matter.
The Guadalajara Convention of last year, which it is now proposed to ratify, deals with the question of successive carriers. The position has been very well explained by the Minister in his second-reading speech. No matter how much time 1 took in addressing my mind to it, I probably could do no better than to read some extracts from the Minister’s speech in order to explain the purposes of the convention. Referring to the term “ successive carriers “, as expressed in the Warsaw Convention, where the liability of such carriers was under consideration, the Minister stated -
In these circumstances, each carrier is liable for damage occurring during the carriage which he performs. However, the convention makes no provision for any other case where the contract for the carriage is made by the passenger or consignor with one carrier, but the whole or part of the carriage is performed in fact by another carrier.
The Minister went on to say -
It has always been a matter of great uncertainty as to whether in such circumstances the references in the Warsaw Convention to “ the carrier “ were to the contracting carrier, the actual carrier, or both carriers.
Later in his speech he summed up the effect of the convention very well. Referring to Article II of the convention as the key position, he said -
This article provides that where an actual carrier performs the whole or part of such carriage, both the contracting carrier and the actual carrier are subject to the rules of the Warsaw Convention, the. former for the whole carriage contemplated in the agreement, the latter solely for the carriage which he performs.
Apart from that central provision, I should say that all the other provisions of the convention are of machinery nature. They deal, amongst other things, with matters relating to the right of contribution between the various successive carriers. As indicated by the Minister in his second-reading speech, Article II is the central feature, and I do not see the necessity to traverse that matter any further.
The other object of the bill is to correct in our law two sections which deal with the assessment of damages in cases where contributory negligence has been alleged by an airline operator against a claimant and where such contributory negligence has been established. Our legislation, in two places, provides that damages are to be determined by a court. The legislation overlooks the fact that in certain circumstances damages are determined not by a court, such as we know it, but by a jury. It is proposed to amend two sections, one amendment affecting the international convention and the other affecting our own domestic scene, to correct the position by including the word “jury” in the appropriate context, where a jury is the determining factor in the assessment of damages.
In regard to both of the provisions which come solely within the ambit of the bill before us, the Opposition has no objection whatever. However, a few thoughts arise from a consideration of the measure. Part IV. of the 1959 act dealt with the domestic airlines of Australia, excluding purely intrastate airlines, along the lines of the international coverage in the matter of liability of airline operators. However, that part of the act was expressed not to come into operation until proclaimed. At the time I thought the Government might delay the proclamation until the Hague Convention became operative, but I am happy that that was not the case. Part IV. of the act was proclaimed to come into force as from 1st July, 1959. That was done in the “Gazette” of 28th May, 1959. That prompt action on the part of the Government was pleasing to me. Greater relief was afforded in many ways to the dependants of persons killed, to persons injured in aircraft accidents and to those who had claims in respect of loss of or damage to cargo, registered baggage or hand luggage. We now have a system of law operating that is more beneficial than the relatively voluntary protection which previously had been accorded by the airline operators of Australia.
I am concerned about the matter of intrastate carriage, which is not touched by Commonwealth law. That matter is still at large. I concede that the Commonwealth has no jurisdiction in the field, and accordingly I am not passing any harsh judgment on the Government for not having provided for a matter that is not within its competence. However, having regard to the desirability of uniformity throughout the whole of Australia, I should like to know whether any discussions have taken place with the States on the question of applying the federal provisions to intra-state trade.
Have there been any such discussions? Has there been an approach to the States to bring about what I think every member of the Senate would concede is desirable uniformity? I should like the Minister to open up that subject in his reply and to state what has happened.
This leads me to the comment that I regret that the unanimous recommendation of the Constitutional Review Committee, lodged with the Government in October, 1958, has not been adopted.
– Would you advocate a reference of powers?
– I am coming to that. In its report of October, 1958, the Constitutional Review Committee unanimously recommended that power over civil aviation should be committed to the Commonwealth. In reply to Senator Vincent, unquestionably I would advocate a reference1 of powers. I do not want to embark on an argument now about the desirability of that, other than to point out that aircraft take no notice of State borders. If ever there were a matter in respect of which power should reside with the federal legislature, surely it is civil aviation.
– At times it might be difficult to determine on which side of a border an aircraft was flying.
– I agree. There are many difficulties. If a person suffers damage to his goods or injury to himself while engaged in an intra-state flight, one set of provisions applies, but if he happens to go over a State border during his trip, an entirely different set of provisions applies. I regret that the Government has not seen fit to take up at least that recommendation of the committee. I should have thought that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) would be the most ardent advocate of that power being vested in the Commonwealth.
– I am sure he is.
– If that is so, there is one small spark of hope in my life. Personally, I regard constitutional reform as one of the most important and urgent needs of this country. If we function at a time of economic stress under an outmoded Constitution, we are at a grave disability, compared with the rest of the world. I invite the Senate to consider the fact that many countries do not have to make obeisance to a constitution before acting. They are able to move immediately and to pose threats to this country and the other democracies. If we are not armed with adequate constitutional power to meet threats of that type, obviously we are at a great disadvantage. I should have thought that all members of this Parliament appreciated the clear need for power over civil aviation. I hope that Senator Vincent is a supporter of that proposition. If he is correct in saying that the Minister for Civil Aviation has seen the light - I should have expected him to do so - I hope they will get together and persuade their colleagues in the Government parties to initiate constitutional reform, particularly in relation to this matter.
Now I should like to deal briefly with two other matters. When the bill which became the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Act of 1959 was before this House, I moved an amendment to the motion for the second-reading, lt was designed to give an opportunity to claim damages to an unlimited amount, provided the claimant accepted the burden of proving negligence against the airline operator. Under that legislation, the limits of an airline operator’s liability are set at £7,500 for personal injury and at £7,500 for dependants in the case of death. That amount might have to be shared by claimants of all classes. Out of it, in certain cases would have to be satisfied the claims of a widow and of children. There might be children of tender age, whose education and maintenance would run over a period of perhaps ten or fifteen years. They would have to share the £7,500 with an employer - in fact, an insurance company - in a case where their father was injured and died after a long period of disability, during which he received workers’ compensation. The employer, nominally, has to be reimbursed for amounts he has paid by way of compensation, but in this country, in practice, it is a repayment to an insurance company. I do not think any honorable senator could be happy with the situation that, if a man dies in an aircraft accident, his wife and young children can claim only £7,500. Under the scheme adopted in Australia, under Part IV. of the act, mere damage has to be proved. The claimant has the benefit of not having to prove negligence, but a great benefit is conferred on the airline operator by limiting his liability to £7,500.
– A contractual arrangement could be made between the parties to increase the amount.
– That is so. Because airline operators were in a position to repudiate all liability on tickets, and did do so, as Senator Vincent knows, the legislature very properly stepped in to say that they must accept some liability. The difference between the view I am submitting and the action taken by the Government is that the Government has set the limit of liability far too low. I concede that it is a benefit to a widow and dependants not to have to prove negligence, but it is an even greater benefit to an airline operator, who may have been grossly negligent, to limit his liability in an individual case to £7,500. That could be expected to provide for a normal family for about fourteen or fifteen years.
– Why do you say it is limited when there is an express provision in the act for other arrangements to be agreed upon?
– I doubt if ten persons in a million read the contract and the conditions of carriage. Quite frankly, people do not address their minds to it. It is because matters can be arranged behind their backs that governments step in.
– That is not the same thing as saying that this act limits liability to £7,500, which I suggest is not true.
– It does limit the liability.
– Without proof of negligence.
– Yes, without proof of negligence. This covers the whole field. I should like to see written into this law the clear right for anybody who elects to proceed to recover damages, and assumes the burden of establishing negligence, to be completely free to go ahead. As I understand the legislation it covers the whole field, and it says to the claimant, in effect, “ You do not have to prove negligence “. It says to the insurance company, “ Your liability is limited to £7,500 in the case of personal injury or death “. That seems to me to be inclusive, and to cover the whole field. Is the honorable senator arguing that despite the provision in the act any claimant who assumes the burden of proving negligence may recover an unlimited amount?
– Then we are as one about that. I propose to move again the broad amendment that I moved in 1959, asking the Government to allow a claimant who feels that he or she - on behalf of himself, herself or his or her children - might be able to establish negligence against an airline operator, and believes that that would result in a verdict of the order of £15,000, £16,000 or £17,000, to be able to take such action. Verdicts of the amounts I have just mentioned are everyday occurrences in respect of motor car accidents.
– With negligence proved.
– Yes. On the point raised by the Minister, a claimant or prospective claimant can be sure, without proving negligence, of obtaining £7,500, but if he assumes the risk and burden of proving negligence he should be able to go a lot further. Why should not that option be open to a claimant? If a person brings an action for negligence and does not prove negligence, then he has to be prepared to be visited with some penalty in costs- for taking an unwise action. That is where the matter is under control.
I appreciate the wisdom in international agreements of making provision for claims without the necessity to prove negligence. The passengers may include people of all nationalities. The accident may take place in some remote area where it is impossible to prove negligence. There may be language difficulties, the difficulty of obtaining witnesses, the difficulty of transporting yourself to the area to locate witnesses, the problem of activating the courts and of obtaining counsel. Those difficulties, I would say, are insurmountable. In an international activity of that type I think it is very beneficial to be able to make a claim without proving negligence. In some cases it would be impossible to prove it. It would be an insurmountable difficulty for the ordinary person to establish negligence and 1 think that the provision for damages with out the proof of negligence is a terrific benefit to a claimant. It is proper in circumstances where you relieve a claimant of the necessity to establish negligence to have some limit of liability in favour of the airline, operator. All that is provoked by reason of distances and the diversity of courts and people.
However, when you come nearer home, what is the difficulty? We have one language throughout the country. Coroners’ courts are set up to inquire into every death. A court of inquiry inquires into the aircraft accident and witnesses are readily accessible. Technical officers establish the cause of every air accident and they publish their findings. Surely it is easy for a person to make up his mind whether there is negligence.
– Would you rely on the common law definition of negligence in those cases?
– Yes, just as in the ordinary position of negligence in tort. The claimant has the option. It must be admitted that in this country there is an opportunity to establish negligence. Why should not that opportunity be given?
The Minister might say that if that is done you throw an additional liability upon the airline operator. It will cost him more money for insurance if he is open to an unlimited claim for damages. That would be a fair point to raise. On the figures that the Minister quoted in 1959 I developed the argument to the Senate that it would cost another 9d. or lOd. per passenger in Australia.
– For any distance?
– I did not take into account distance but the total number of passengers who travelled in a year. That is not what I would call a completely precise assessment but it is a very good working one.
– Do you recall our passages on the previous occasion on the sensitivity of insurers?
– Certainly. I should like to say something about that. The Minister did say how sensitive insurers were to every accident that happened in the world. After every accident up go the rates; insurers are scary people. They want to make profits. But this is my point:
We in this country have a wonderful air safety record. Whilst insurers have international ramifications and do not confine their activities to one country, I think that Australia’s air safety record is such that we should be able to claim that we are entitled to some special consideration in the matter of rates. I would be very interested to hear what the Minister says on the question of how heavy a burden the airline operators in this country would have to assume where a claimant who contested negligence could assume an unnamed quantum of damages.
– Do you mean without prejudice to his right to obtain the £7,500?
– I would not cancel that right. I think it is valuable.
– You want to give a claimant both rights?
– Yes. I would not cancel the right of a claimant to an amount of £7,500 without having the burden of proving negligence. That is a terrific concession. It is a good point in favour of the claimant, because the real test every time is not the quantum of damages suffered - that is easily established or easily controverted if need be - but the proof of negligence on the part of an airline operator. The removal of the necessity to prove negligence will be an enormous benefit.
I ask Senator Anderson to consider the case of a young widow with five or six children, all under the age of seven years - that does happen - whose education may continue for a further fourteen or fifteen years. Supposing she receives the full amount of £7,500, this has to last her family of six for all those years. To Senator Anderson I put the rhetorical question: Would he expect that family to get by - to live reasonably and to be educated properly - in those circumstances? I know that his answer would be no. That family could not possibly get by under those conditions. Nevertheless, the limit is set. But the mother may well decide to attempt to prove negligence in the hope that she may obtain £20,000 or £25,000 damages, as she possibly could if negligence were established. Why should anybody deny her that opportunity? Surely she is entitled to seek the highest damages that she can obtain. Under this legislation the Government will give her one benefit but will take away from her a right. She should be allowed to go ahead, establish negligence and recover whatever the court deems proper.
– That is in fact what happens in common law cases.
– It does happen at common law. In 1959 when similar legislation was before us I referred to the case of a widow with a young family who had, in the very week in which I spoke, recovered about £16,000 in damages as a result of a motor car accident. Verdicts of that order are quite common. Those verdicts represent what the average Australian jury thinks is right. But in this legislation we are excluding the possibility of such verdicts being awarded. I think that is wrong. I had hoped that the views I expressed in 1959 would be considered by the Government before introducing this legislation. I am disappointed that that has not been so.
– Would you not consider that a good deal is also being added to the existing common law on this subject, assuming that the passenger is aware of the provisions of the legislation whereby he does not have to prove negligence and where, by entering into a contractual arrangement with the carrier, he makes it easy for himself to get a large quantum of damages without proving negligence?
– In theory that is an unexceptionable argument. Now let us look at it in practice. Let us examine the practical elements in Senator Vincent’s proposition. The passenger relies on his cover under this legislation and looks after himself by entering into another contract. Everybody has a different idea of what he is worth dead. Imagine almost 200 people from this Parliament gathered in the little room at the airport in Canberra on a Friday morning. Each of us must take out a separate contract. How long would we be there? Let us imagine the situation there being repeated all round Australia, with every prospective passenger making his new and separate contract. In theory the proposal may sound satisfactory, but who, when undertaking an air trip, thinks about dying? Nobody thinks about it.
– I have thought about it.
– I wonder how many honorable senators have ever taken out a particular cover for their trips around Australia.
– I have.
– An odd senator may do that, but I guarantee that it is seldom done.
– You take out a standing insurance policy.
– Of course you could. Members of this Parliament are probably the most air-travelled people in the Commonwealth. They may take out standing policies. They are knowledgeable. They know their legislation. But I wonder what percentage of the general public would bother to take out policies. I do not think it would be .01 per cent. The majority of people would not give this matter a thought. Suddenly their dependants could be faced with the stark fact that the bread-winner is gone and that they must battle out many years on £7,500.
– We could have insurance policies dispensed by slot machines, as is done in the United States.
– Yes, and if we did that I would not like to see the queue at the Canberra airport. I believe that you can obtain some insurance as you travel. But how many ordinary air travellers would consider taking out separate insurance? What are the statistics on this matter? The trouble is that people do not think about it. Very few people in good health think about dying within the next hour, but that is what happens if an air accident occurs. You are alive one second and dead the next. The traveller’s troubles are over but those of his wife and children are just beginning. I am concerned not for those who die but for those who are left behind. We must concern ourselves with them. This is a serious matter and I hope that the Government has given it proper consideration. If the Government has carefully considered this matter, will the Minister tell me why, at this second opportunity, the matter has not been dealt with in the bill?
I now pass to another matter outside the ambit of the bill and that is the limits of liability in favour of the airline operators in respect of loss or damage to cargo, registered baggage and hand luggage. In introducing the legislation in 1959 the Minister said that the limit in relation to cargo and registered baggage would be £100 and the limit in relation to hand luggage - personal belongings that a passenger may have with him or her in an aircraft - would be £10. I was under the impression that those figures were adopted because they were set out in international conventions covering the operation of international airlines. I want to read to the Senate what I said on the bill on 19th March, 1959. As reported at page 497 of “Hansard” I said-
I wish to address a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. This clause limits the liability in relation to registered baggage to £100 and, in the case of personal baggage, to £10. Those figures were fixed away back in 1929 and have not been varied in the international agreement. They now apply to Australia. Was thought given to increasing those limits, having regard to the great changes in money values in the interim? Having regard to the costs of clothing and equipment with which one travels nowadays, they seem to me to be unreal.
The Minister replied -
The matter was considered in its domestic application, but as the figures were not changed internationally, it was decided that it would be preferable to adhere to the international figures, despite the fact that they were fixed a long time ago.
On that occasion we were told that the £100 and £10 limits were fixed internationally. I was shocked to hear the Minister in his second-reading speech on the bill now before the Senate give new figures. He said -
These limits are at present, in round figures, £A.3,750 for death or injury to a passenger, £2 8s. per lb. weight for cargo or registered baggage and £150 for hand baggage.
Those figures have never been altered under the Warsaw Convention.
I am afraid that the Minister was misinformed very badly when he was led to tell us that the international limits of liability were £100 for registered baggage and £10 for hand luggage. The figures now turn out to be, the way he has expressed it, £2 8s. per lb. for registered baggage, apparently with no upper total limit, and £150 for hand luggage. I am certain that the Minister’s second attempt to explain the position is correct. Those are the figures. I can see how the difficulty arose. In Article XXII of the Warsaw Convention the whole position is set out in gold francs and in relation to registered baggage, weights are dealt with in kilograms. Then there is an arrangement for converting the gold francs of a particular fineness into other currencies. I say quite frankly that I did not attempt to convert the francs into Australian pounds, shillings and pence in 1959. I accepted what was put to us in this chamber. However, finding the difference between what we are now told and what we were told then, I have checked the figures and found that the Minister’s second explanation of the position is the correct one.
In those circumstances I am amazed that this bill does not correct the position. Heaven knows, the international standards are low enough having regard to the fact that they were fixed in 1929. They are a minimum. Surely we in this country, with our standards of income, living and so on, should not accept a standard far lower than the international standard. An obvious error has been made one way or the other. An obvious error was made when we were asked to support the two figures of £100 for registered baggage and only £10 for hand luggage under the 1959 act. Those figures should have been £2 8s. per lb. for the former, and £150 for the latter. That intention was plainly expressed by the Minister when we were debating the then current international standards, but through some error those figures were not adopted. As the Minister has found that out, why is that not done in this bill? That is the very pertinent question thatI ask. Since it is not done in this bill,I leave this question with the Minister: Will he attend to it forthwith in the interests of the Australian people and not leave damages to hand luggage with a limit of £10? I think of one’s watch, the personal belongings that one carries and a lady’s fur as examples.
We must also bear in mind that in relation to hand luggage the claimant has a burden to carry. He has to establish that there was no negligence on his part. A person could walk away carelessly and let other people steal his property; so he has to establish that he was not negligent before he can receive even the £10. That is a major matter that disturbs the Opposition.
Accordingly, in order to put in issue the two matters that I have raised - the question of unlimited damages when negligence is proved and the question of bringing our limits of liability on registered baggage and hand luggage up to the international standard - I move the following amendment: -
Leave out all words after “ That “, insert - “ the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to incorporate, in relation to Australian domestic air services within Commonwealth competence -
the general principle of unlimited liability at law for negligence on the part of airline operators in respect of passengers, cargo and baggage, and
at least the same minimal liabilities for safe carriage of goods, registered baggage and passengers’ hand luggage as at present operating under the Warsaw Convention “.
Honorable senators might ask why I do not move amendments to this effect in committee.
– You are not frightened of section 53 of the Constitution, are you?
– Not at all, and I do not think anybody was frightened of it last evening. I include myself. I say designedly that I have not attempted to draft amendments to be moved in committee. That could be done only on an instruction, of which notice has to be given. I did not want to embark upon the task of drafting the amendments that would be required to deal with the matter of negligence, and trying to anticipate the Government’s mind in relation to them. I have enunciated two broad principles that I hope the Senate will support. Let us adopt the! general principle of unlimited liability at law in this country if negligence is proved; and at least let us adopt the principle of raising our limits of liability in respect of registered baggage and hand luggage to the very low standards that operate to-day in the international sphere.
– in reply - Mr. Acting Deputy President, I want to say at once how much I enjoyed the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) on this subject. I always find him at his best and at his most interesting when he is speaking on a subject such as this. I acknowledge that I remember the long and, as far as I was concerned, exhausting debate in 1959 as a result of which we ratified the last international protocol. I recall particularly that the very active interest of Senator McKenna and Senator Wright led to the introduction of a number of amendments to the legislation which, as I said then and now repeat, in my view improved it considerably.
Having said that, I must say that I am disappointed that the Leader of the Opposition should have ended his very interesting speech on this occasion by submitting an amendment which we debated at length in 1959 and which the Government did not accept. I say at once that the Government will not accept this amendment either. I now want to traverse - not in any great detail - the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition. I was very gratified that he acknowledged the speed with which we proclaimed the 1959 legislation, despite the fact that The Hague Protocol was not ratified by the requisite number of states at the time we took that action and, in fact, has not been ratified by the requisite number of states up to the present time.
We also took action as quickly as possible in respect of negotiations with the States. I was able to state, in my annual report, at page 23, that we had had discussions with the States. Incidentally, I took (he matter to the Australian Transport Advisory Council and each member of the council agreed to recommend to his government the adoption of a model bill which had been prepared by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Draftsman. The motion carried by the council was as follows: -
That the council confirms its approval of the principles of uniform Commonwealth and State legislation covering the liability of air carriers and recommends that the draft model bill prepared by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Draftsman be now forwarded to the State Crown Law authorities for consideration and consultation with the Commonwealth Attorney-General, where considered necessary, before enactment in the several States.
I am further pleased to be able to report to the Senate that since that time both Western Australia and Victoria have passed the necessary legislation and that New South Wales is looking closely at it in relation, as I understand, to other State enactments which might be affected by the passage of the legislation. - -
– What is- the position of South Australia?
– I am sorry, but I cannot tell you. I want to say a word about the first part of the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition, because it reactivates the discussion that we had three years ago. After three years of experience, I and many other people think that the system adopted by us has proved to be of great value and of great importance to the air travelling public of Australia. I am fortified in that view. when I recall that this is the system adopted in the United Kingdom, which has taken the Warsaw international standards and practices into its domestic law. It is the system which applies - as I found the last time I examined the position - in no fewer than 23 of the American states, and in not one of the remaining American states does the system which the Leader of the Opposition now advocate^ operate. I mention these things to indicate that similar thinking in connexion with this type of legislation, as applied to air transport, has been going on in some of the major and most progressive countries in the world. We believe that the system that we have adopted represents a careful balancing of the interests of both carrier and passenger. First, the carrier is prohibited from contracting out of liability; secondly, the carrier is liable without proof of negligence and has no available defence except, of coarse, that of contributory negligence; and thirdly, as a quid pro quo, the carrier’s liability is limited to £7,500, which is sufficient to satisfy the average claim, and his insurance costs are thereby kept to a containable level.
I said that this provision had proved of use to the Australian travelling public. I have in mind, particularly, the case of aircraft VH-TVC, which crashed at Mackay with considerable loss of life. There was an actual instance where, without proof of negligence - which was the important thing in this case, as in so many other air cases - the estates of the victims were able to draw amounts of up to £7,500.
– And get payment quickly, instead of having to wait for months.
– And get settlement quickly.
– Why did you say “ up to “ ? I thought that the amount was automatic.
– As the Leader of the Opposition acknowledged, the extent of damage is a matter of proof. There is the case of a child, for example, as against the case of a bread-winner. This is one of the aspects that we discussed in 1959, and the Leader of the Opposition referred again to it to-day. I do not want at the moment to say any more about the system than that we have the States interested on this basis. It is desirable - in my view very desirable - that we get some sort of uniformity. For that reason alone, while we are making progress with the States, even if there were not more substantial reasons, I would be very hesitant about doing anything at all at this time. The big point I make in respect of this matter - I express it as a layman and if I do not express it in a way that is approved by the legal members of the Senate, will they please excuse me - is that Senator McKenna’s proposal in fact is that we should have together, flowing from the one act at the same time, two systems which are fundamentally and completely different from one another, one providing for a limited liability without proof of negligence, and the other providing for unlimited liability with proof of negligence.
– What is wrong with alternative claims?
– I merely suggest that, having regard to the interests of both passengers and airlines, we cannot have it both ways. On balance, and for the reasons I have advanced - they are very practical reasons, I think, and have been accepted in other countries - the principle that we lay down and adopt is far and away the better of the two.
May I go to the question of the cover for registered baggage and hand baggage? Open confession is good for the soul. 1 regret that the answer I gave to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) during the debate in 1959 was misleading to some extent. Looking closely into it, I find that it was not as misleading as it first appeared, but nonetheless it was not an answer of the type I like to give when questions are asked.
I might interpolate at this stage that the amendment refers to goods, registered bag gage and to hand luggage. I take it that “ goods “ means cargo. The honorable senator will recall that we dealt with the cargo question during the last debate, and that I subsequently had introduced in the House of ^ Representatives an amendment which he had in fact suggested here. We had to do something about its form because it provided that standards of compensation in respect of cargo would be fixed by regulations if regulations were found necessary and would be at rates not less than those! provided for at the international convention.
In regard to registered luggage, when I referred to the adoption of international rates, I had in mind negotiations which had been going on for so long between those parties in Australia which were interested, for example, my department, the air carriers, the insurance companies and others. What transpired was that after a long discussion a system was evolved which was based on the international rate. The Warsaw convention provided for a limit in respect of registered baggage and cargo of 250 gold francs per kilo. In- round figures that represents approximately £A.3 per lb. In the negotiations which lasted for so long we had taken as the norm the 65-lb international baggage allowance. Then we took the 35- lb. domestic allowance and applied the same rate per lb. domestically as was done internationally. In other words, the 35-Ib. domestic allowance came out at a figure of approximately £100 as against the £180 provided for in the bigger allocation of 65 lb. on the international routes.
Hand baggage came into a different category altogether. The £10 allowance fixed as the recoverable amount was set for the simple reason that after discussion with all those concerned and having regard to the habits of the Australian travelling public, it was decided that £10 was a realistic figure. It may seem small, but a good deal of negotiation took place. Reference was made to short flights such as between Melbourne and Sydney or on country routes oh which passengers do not carry a great deal of hand luggage. After negotiation it was agreed upon that £10 should be generally accepted as a reasonable figure. That was not related in any way to anything other than the practicalities of the situation.
I think I have dealt with all the points which the Leader of the Opposition made but I must say that the Government does not maintain a closed mind on this sort of legislation. I think we have indicated by our record and by our actions in these matters over the years that we are really achieving something in this field. In fact, our position is rather more advanced than that of many other countries. I say to the Senate that on this occasion we do not propose, having got this legislation to the point where it is, to leave matters rest there. We will keep it under review, as we want the law in this important field of transport to be as up to date as we realistically and reasonably can make it.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator McKenna’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I wish to refer to the terms and conditions printed on airline tickets. I am prompted to do so by the rather disorderly discussion I had with Senator McKenna, when he was trying to argue the merits of his case for an amendment of the act. As a matter of interest, I had a look at the terms and conditions that are printed on the tickets of the two major airline operators, and although I have very good eyesight, I find that even with my strong glasses I can barely read them. It follows that Senator McKenna’s argument in this context has some bearing. I suggest that members of the public should have brought to their notice the very important condition that they may increase the maximum amount of liability payable to their next of kin in the event of an air accident without proof of negligence.
I suggest to the Minister that his experts consider, first, the desirability of having the terms and conditions on airline tickets printed in such a way that people will be able to read them, and secondly, of making a little clearer the provision that an airline passenger may increase the liability of the airline operator under the provisions of the act by the payment of an additional amount. Not many people understand the provisions of the legislation and they will not be helped to do so if the conditions are not made a little clearer.
– I do not think that the charge made by Senator Vincent lies at the feet of the airline operators. I have in front of me a flight ticket issued by Ansett-A.N.A. In large red type I see the word “ insurance and in text of a reasonable size and perhaps only a little smaller than ordinary newspaper print are the following words: -
Personal accident and luggage insurance cover is available if required at a small charge. Details may be obtained on application.
That is an adequate warning - in fact, it is an invitation to people who desire to take out an additional insurance cover.
– I was not speaking about insurance. I was referring to liability under the act.
-I am also conscious that printed on the ticket there is a statement of the law and a reference to the present provisions of the act. That, I think, is sufficient to put anybody on inquiry and to inform him that additional insurance cover is available.
– I was referring to liability under the act, which is a statutory obligation that is quite apart from insurance. My learned friend has wrongly accused me of making an allegation which has no merit. I say, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that it is not possible to read the terms and conditions printed on the tickets unless you have a magnifying glass with you.
. - I think that if both Senator Vincent and Senator Laught were to take the tickets issued by the two major airline operators and look at them side by side they would see that Senator Laught was right about the ticket to which he referred and that Senator Vincent was right about the ticket he had before him. However, it is probably a matter that could with advantage be taken up with the operators.
– The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), in replying to the second-reading debate, seemed to indicate that it would be bad to accept the amendment that has since been rejected by the Senate because it proposed two different kinds of recovery. It proposed, first, that an automatic amount of damages or recompense, namely £7,500, should be provided. Because that amount would automatically be paid and negligence would not have to be proved, the Minister seemed to think it would be a bad thing to apply the law of negligence in that respect to air carriers. I fail to see that that is so, and I wonder whether he can enlighten me on the point.
I read the 1959 act again recently, and I have also read this bill. I am still not convinced that the normal law relating to negligence should not apply to airline operators who are in business, in the same way as it applies to accountants, doctors, garage mechanics, and so on. I admit that we move into a special field when we deal with aviation. Generally speaking, after an air crash there is very little evidence of the cause of the crash, and therefore the problem of proving where negligence has occurred is an extremely difficult one. However, in the circumstances, I should think that that would be a very good argument for allowing the law of negligence to operate. As we know, the reports of inquiries which have been held into some Australian air crashes have indicated a considerable degree of negligence. I have been intrigued to hear it said during discussions of crashes that the cause must have been pilot error. Is not that the same as negligence? If some one dies on the operating table because of a doctor’s error - you never hear that admitted in the medical profession - would it not be said that that was negligence on the part of the doctor? If there were some carelessness in the keeping of accounts for a principal and it was stated to be an auditor’s error, would not that be negligence?
Why would it be bad, even in the special field of civil aviation, to have different sets of - I hesitate to use the word - principles applying? We know why there is no provision for the automatic payment of compensation. That would involve all sorts of legal difficulties in connexion with a minimum amount. I should think that, because of the destruction of evidence, proceedings on grounds of negligence would be very rare indeed, but probably in the overall picture it might be a good thing for air travellers and for civil aviation generally if proceedings on those grounds were allowed.
I wish to pose a question relating to maximum amounts. We give full marks to the Government for moving in the Australian field without waiting for a sufficient number of countries to sign the convention to make it applicable to airlines throughout the world. The maximum amount has been fixed at £7,500, and that operates in Australia now. Is the department keeping an open mind on the question of the maximum amount, having regard to costs of living and so on? Is the matter discussed at various times between the airline companies and the Government? What are the Government’s views on the question of keeping the maximum amount moving, so that it will be a fair amount having regard to the times? As present, my feeling is that it is a pretty small, if not a rather mean amount.
– There seems to be an impression abroad that the airlines are evasive to a degree about paying compensation. In one case that was brought to me it was stated definitely that because the husband of the woman concerned had received workers’ compensation, the airline was not living up to the promise that was printed on the ticket. Could the Minister make this point clear?
– Senator Willesee asked: What is negligence? For example, is pilot error negligence? In replying to him, I shall be as precise as any one could be on this point. Pilot error could be negligence but, of course, whether it was negligence or otherwise would depend on whether the error occurred through inadvertence or a breach of properly accepted standards. I do not think I can go beyond that, other than to say that it would be a matter for legal judgment and that the decision would depend on the type or magnitude of the pilot error. The honorable senator also inquired whether the department was keeping an open mind on this subject and whether consultations had taken place.
– What machinery is there?
– In the international field there is the International Air Transport Association, which comprises the major airline operators of the world. Only a few airlines are not members of that association, and they are comparatively unimportant. This is one of the subjects that falls directly within the sphere of activities of this organization. Governments are interested, particularly in relation to government-owned airlines. Domestically, I think it can be said that the Australian Government - I do not say that in a political sense - has shown a continuing interest in this sort of thing. For example, the first arrangement made in respect of TransAustralia Airlines provided for £2,000 compensation. Some years later, after proper review, the Australian Government increased the amount to £7,500. I have indicated the sort of negotiations and contacts that we have with the States. I think it is fair to say that there is an active interest in this matter and a desire by governments, especially the Australian Government, to keep it constantly under review and up to date.
The honorable senator also asked why there could not be two systems applying to the airlines industry. One could reverse the question and ask - with justice and pertinently, I think - why two systems should apply to one industry - the only industry which would be so placed. In the cases of shipping, road transport and rail transport it is necessary for negligence to be proved. We say that, because of the peculiar characteristics of the airlines industry, it is better that that position should be reversed and that absolute liability for a limited amount should be accepted, without proof of negligence being required. On every examination of this matter, I think the appropriateness of this principle as related to air transport emerges. I have mentioned an unfortunate accident which occurred within the last year or two, but there are others which honorable senators will recall. Aircraft disappear in rugged country or go down into the sea, and the dependants of passengers do not have a chance to prove negligence. Under this system, compensation to the extent of a limited amount is available to them.
asked a question relating to workers’ compensation and its application to this industry. I am sure the normal practices relating to the recovery of workers’ compensation apply in this industry as in any other industry. There is no difference between the treatment of workers in this industry in relation to the compensation they receive, or the standards adopted for workers’ compensation, and the treatment of workers in any other industry.
– It is said that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I have come to the conclusion that it is also true to say that too much knowledge is a dangerous thing. When crossing the chamber during the division, I indicated to the Minister that I had nothing to say in committee. That remark was based on too much knowledge. There is nothing in the bill that enables me to talk on negligence or on the question of registered luggage and so on, so I acknowledge that the Minister has been most generous in going as far as he has gone. I shall be brief in my present remarks. I merely want to say that 1 should like the Minister to look again at the limits fixed for registered baggage. He indicated that this is based upon an assessment, as a result of a comparison with the international field, at roughly £3. The precise figure is £2 8s. per lb. On 35 lb. that would work out at less than £100. In fixing a limit of £100 the Government has been generous. The point I make is that people travel with more than 35 lb. of luggage and they are charged for it. Why should they not be in a position where they can get the benefit of some higher insurance? Supposing I travel with 70 lb. of luggage. Thirty-five pounds of that luggage is specifically charged for and 35 lb. is not specifically charged for. Why should I not have insurance cover for the two lots of luggage? I invite the Minister to consider whether there should not be cover against damage for the whole lot. Why limit it to 35 lb.?
I certainly do not like the idea of a £10 limit on hand luggage. I suggest that even the most junior young lady would have possessions of a value infinitely more than that in her handbag by way of accessories and one thing and another. When the limit is £150 in the international field, I suggest that £10 is right out of line in the domestic field. What would be the difference between hand luggage carried internationally and hand luggage carried in Australia - possibly a toothbrush, a shaving machine for males and a suit of pyjamas. There should not be very much difference between what an ordinary traveller on a domestic line would need for personal purposes and what a traveller on an international line would need. The person on the international line might need a few extra toilet requisites. Will the Minister give consideration to equating the limit of £10 on our domestic lines to something nearer the level allowed on international lines?
– The amount of £10 was fixed by negotiation prior to 1959. It is true that some people carry hand luggage valued at more than £10. I suppose the answer is that if you want to protect your hand luggage you should take out baggage insurance. Other people carry less than £10 worth of hand luggage. Consistent air travellers like myself carry much less than that amount. As I indicated in my earlier remarks I have not a closed mind on these matters, but the
Leader of the Opposition will appreciate that any change would involve negotiations with insurers, air operators and other people who might be interested. This is not like the law of the Medes and Persians. It can be looked into.
– I was interested in Senator McKenna’s remarks. I do not know whether too much knowledge is as dangerous as too little knowledge. Having regard to th,e talk I had with Senator McKenna about this bill and the amendment before I came into the chamber, I am not just certain what the position is. If the true position escapes others, it certainly does not escape Senator McKenna. I certainly appreciate the fact that Senator Paltridge has answered my questions slightly off beam. Instead of answering my questions about negligence he asked me another one on the same subject. We had a lot of discussion on this matter in 1959 but there still remains a doubt in my mind as to why this industry should be excluded from the normal obligation in respect of negligence. I know the worry it would give insurers, particularly in the case of international crashes.’ I recall the two aircraft that crashed in the Grand Canyon. I leave the matter there, but I should like to go on record as saying that some people still have some doubts about the matter. Maybe in God’s good time we will get around to a much more satisfactory basis than we have at present.
I have two specific questions to ask. I was interested in the point the Minister raised in his reply dealing with the possibility of taking action against the original carrier and the contingent carrier. The Minister mentioned that there are some countries - probably not large ones - which are not members of the convention. Does that affect us at all? Supposing we send goods into some country that is not a member of the convention, and during the final few yards of the journey some trouble happens. Are we still covered? Secondly, has the Minister gone into the cost of this type of thing to the two major companies. Have the companies worked out an allocation of money in their balance sheets? In other words, if the amount was altered to £10,000 or £15,000 would that represent a considerable charge on the overall costs of
Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett-A.N.A., just to take the two big airlines in Australia?
– I cannot give the honorable senator any figures on costs. They are available in reports, but I cannot recall them. Suffice it to say that airlines make something less than 2 per cent, on a ticket and this sort of additional cost would cut very heavily into their revenues. On the point about a flight being undertaken by an airline whose government is not a member of the convention, circumstances would vary from country to country and would depend upon the judgment given by the court in the particular country.
– I should like some information following the answers given by the Minister. Supposing I buy a ticket with Qantas Empire Airways and I want to make my journey in stages. At one stage I travel on an airline that is not a member of the convention. Am I covered to the amount of £7,500 as far as the domestic airline is concerned? My second question has to do with children. I take it that an adult ticket carries insurance valued at £7,500. What is the position of parents whose children are involved in an air accident? I take it that children under three years of age travel free in this country and that up to a certain age they travel at a concessional rate. It is not often that we are able to obtain this information. I should like the Minister to tell me what the position is.
– The reply to Senator Kennelly’s first query is that a person who purchased a ticket from Qantas and who, in the course of his travels around the world, used the airlines of other countries, would be covered. In reply to the second query. I point out that the amount of compensation paid in respect of a child is a matter for the judgment of the court.
– There is no minimum or maximum amount?
– The maximum would be £7,500, but the court decides the quantum of damages. For example, a child not an income-earner - not a bread winner - would not be assessed at the full £7,500 by the court. It would be impossible for me or for anybody else to say what the damages would be in that case.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– by leave - I lay on the table the following paper: -
Inter-Parliamentary Union - Report of Australian Delegation to the’ Fiftieth Conference held at Brussels, Belgium,’ September, 1961.
Copies of the report will be distributed to honorable senators.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from 2nd May (vide page 1052), on motion by Senator Wade -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. President, this bill is the outcome of a report presented to the Parliament by a committee of the House of Representatives which last year was entrusted with the task of reporting on the feasibility of extending the franchise to Australian aborigines. When the committee was formed I expressed regret that it was not a joint committee. I felt that the voting rights of aborigines was a matter that was important to honorable senators as well as to members of another place. I felt that the Senate could have gained a good deal of knowledge from participating in the committee’s inquiries. The national interest would have been served if honorable senators had been appointed to the committee. Having read the committee’s report I am sure that we in this chamber lost something by not being represented on the committee.
At the outset I pay a tribute to the members of the committee for the work that they did. In the past nineteen years I cannot recall any parliamentary committee that has acted as expeditiously as this committee acted or whose report has been so quickly implemented by any government. I pay a tribute to Mr. Browning, secretary of the committee, who was also secretary of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory. He did an excellent job. I saw the committee at work in Western Australia. Its members seemed to be engaged non-stop on their work. How they could travel something like 22,000 miles, interview hundreds of witnesses, visit many outposts including remote mission stations, and still be able to think clearly enough to make an immediate report is beyond my comprehension.
In some respects a great deal remains to be done so far as the aborigines are concerned. We cannot look upon this bill as an absolute salve to our consciences. It is by no means the ultimate in what we can do for the aborigines. The terms of reference under which the committee operated were much too narrow. But within the confines of those terms of reference the committee did an excellent job. I hope the day is not far off when a joint committee of both Houses of the Parliament will be formed to undertake a complete and thorough investigation of the way in which this Commonwealth Parliament should discharge its obligations towards the aborigines, who, after all, are the original Australians. The granting of voting rights to aborigines touches on only one of the problems confronting these people. We must do all that we can for them in the way of education, health, housing and other matters.
I am pleased to note that with only one exception the Government accepted all the recommendations made by the committee and has embodied them in this bill. However, I do not think that the bill will do a great deal for the aborigines. I do not think we can rest content in the knowledge that we have given the aborigines voting rights. This bill does not really give them anything. All it does is restore to natives in some States rights of which they have been deprived. Under the Constitution the right to vote is inherent in all Australianborn subjects of the Queen. Surely our aborigines are Australian-born subjects of the Queen. For the past 50 or 60 years the aborigines have had the right to vote, although in some States that right has been filched from them. This bill simply restores to aborigines in those States their rights as citizens of Australia and as subjects of the Queen.
The dictionary definition of an aboriginal is an original inhabitant of a country. Our aborigines are the original inhabitants of Australia. However, in some States they have been deprived of the franchise that is inherently theirs. This bill therefore seeks not to give, but to restore, that right to aborigines in those States where they have been deprived of it over the years. The States to which I refer are Western Australia and Queensland. Aborigines of the Northern Territory also have been deprived of the right to vote. It is in the Northern Territory that the largest numbers of aborigines are to be found. In New South Wales and Victoria aborigines have the right to enroll. Once having enrolled their obligations are the same as those of other citizens.
In one respect the Opposition disagrees with this bill. I refer to the provision which removes from aborigines in New South Wales and Victoria the compulsion to enroll for electoral purposes, and substitutes voluntary enrolment. Therefore, at the committee stage I intend to move an amendment to restore that position.
What actually will be achieved by giving the aborigines the franchise? We talk in a very loose way about the aborigines, halfcastes and other people of aboriginal blood; but so far it has been only talk. About 25 years ago in Western Australia there was a young journalist with a great deal of humanitarianism, a great deal of idealism and a great deal of interest in the native people and their welfare. At that time he was employed on the “ West Australian “ newspaper. He went out into the camps where the aborigines and particularly the half-castes were living in the south-western district and the Great Southern area of that State. He presented a report which appeared in the “West Australian” newspaper and afterwards appeared in pamphlet form. That did a great deal to arouse public consciousness of the plight of the aborigines at that time.
When that young journalist, still full of those ideals, entered this Parliament, he did his utmost to put some of those ideals into practice in the portfolio that came to him. I pay this tribute to Mr. Hasluck because, to my personal knowledge, over the past 25 years not only has he been an ardent supporter of an improvement in the lot of the aborigines but he also worked very hard to achieve it. When I read the speech that he made on this measure in another place, I thought that it would have been a very fine gesture to him if he had been able to introduce the bill into the House of Representatives; but, of course, that could not be done because he does not hold the. portfolio under which this matter comes.
I have the pamphlet that was written by Mr. Hasluck as an anonymous journalist in 1936 and in which he spoke about the halfcaste problem in particular. I believe that the concluding sentences of this pamphlet will commend themselves to every member of this Parliament. He said -
Whatever is done, it should be done at once. The conditions now existing are a reproach to the State, an outrage to human beings, and a waste of material. If there are any feelings of humanity in the community the present order will not be allowed to continue. If we recognize the claims that these people have on us by blood relationship we will lift them up instead of pushing them back to the blacks.
He was talking about half-castes. He continued -
If we remain indifferent to that appeal, we cannot escape the fact that we are faced with an embarrassing nuisance which grows worse every year. The half-caste problem calls for an immediate solution.
The terms of reference of the Select Committee on Voting Rights of Aborigines contained no reference to the half-caste problems. The committee really had to direct its attention only to full-blood aborigines. I do not believe that the problems of the full-blood aborigines and those in the nomadic tribes are as great as those of the half-caste aborigines.
According to statistics, which are very difficult to obtain because of the nomadic habits of these aborigines, only about 2,000 full-blood nomads are completely out of touch with the European civilization. The total number of Australian natives, as distinct from Torres Strait Islanders, who will be affected by this legislation is in the vicinity of 30,000. That, of course, is only an approximate figure. Of those 30,000, 26,000 are adults in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Terri tory, who at the present time are deprived of their voting rights, and the other 4,000 are younger adults who are about to reach the voting age.
As I said earlier, to give the aborigines a vote and nothing else is an empty gesture. Some of them will not know what they are doing. Of course, a great number of them will. I have travelled widely in Western Australia and met quite a number of the aborigines who will be affected by this legislation. I am pleased to see that the bill contains penal provisions to deal with people who try to intimidate the natives or make them think that they have to do exactly as the overseers on the stations tell them. Human, nature being what it is, I suppose that in some districts where there are large numbers of natives and very narrow electoral majorities something like that could happen. Whether or not we will ever stop such practices by legislation I do not know; but this legislation contains punitive clauses.
I am not one to under-rate the intelligence of the aborigines. To me, the value of this legislation lies in the fact that for the first time the aborigines will become a force in the community and people with a vote who will be able to direct attention to their plight. I believe that that is the main thing that will come from this legislation. For instance, in Western Australia where the natives, except those who have served in the defence forces, have not the franchise because they are deprived of it by State legislation and therefore have not the Commonwealth franchise, over recent years a good deal of public interest in the plight of the natives has been, aroused by men such as Mr. Hasluck. He made this his aim in life before he came into this Parliament and I have no reason to think that his interest has lessened since he entered this Parliament. Now we have quite a lot of public interest in the aboriginal question in Western Australia.
One of the greatest difficulties is lack of decent housing. I will say, however, that quite a number of the hovels portrayed by Mr. Hasluck in his book have gone, particularly those in country districts. Although I believe that there is definitely a segregation policy - we may not like to talk about it - I do not think it is based so much on colour as on hygiene. For instance, if we go to a picture show in some of our outback districts, we find that the whites sit in the deck chairs and the natives have to sit on the forms; but at interval it is amazing to see people scurrying to get back to their seats. As soon as the lights go out there is a general movement to get the more favorable seats. The first time I saw that happen at Meekatharra I was rather amazed at it. I discussed it with some of the natives themselves and some of the white people and found that the natives have not a great deal of resentment about it and that in the view of the European people it is more a matter of hygiene than colour. As the natives’ standard of hygiene improves, there will no longer be a need for any distinction either in the schools or elsewhere.
I believe that we have to build up a better consciousness of the native people among our white population. A few years ago, when Mr. Graham was the Minister for Housing in Western Australia, he decided that in all the new State housing settlements a certain number of houses would be set aside for natives. There was a great outcry from other people in the towns concerned. They did not want natives living next door to them. One of Mr. Graham’s sayings at that time has stuck in my mind. He said: “ Some of the white people who talk very loudly about the natives being their brothers do not want them as neighbours or as brothers-in-law “. 1 thought that was rather subtle. I believe it reflects an opinion that is held rather generally that people will talk in the abstract about aboriginal problems; but when it comes to the point of having a native family living next door to them, they become a little sceptical’ and wonder whether that would lower standards, whether the houses would be kept properly and so on. I admit that in some cases there is a deterioration after a short time in the state of houses occupied by natives, but usually after natives obtain possession of houses, as distinct from the miserable humpies in which they had previously been forced to live, they have just as much pride of possession as their European counterparts, and sometimes more.
At the New Norcia mission, one of the oldest missions in Australia - it was established in 1846 and is virtually a part of medieval Europe transferred to this new land of the south - little white-washed cottages were originally built for the natives. A few years ago, a number of new houses, comparable in standard with the ordinary suburban homes built by the Workers’ Home Board, were erected for native families. I called in at one of these houses one day, quite casually, and found that the housewife was just as proud of her home as is anybody else. She asked me to get her some curtain material in Perth. She had had some catalogues and had been looking at advertisements for curtain material. She was very upset because she had not, up to that time, curtains on her front windows. She was waiting to get something really worthwhile. The house was in a very tidy and excellent condition. I got the curtain material in Perth and sent it up. The next time I passed that way, I went in and had a cup of tea with her. The napery that she produced was better than much of the napery I have seen in other houses. In my office downstairs I have a tablecloth worked by the native children of the mission. I meant to bring it upstairs with me, but forgot to do so. People say that natives cannot be educated, and that they cannot do this and that. I have had that tablecloth for nearly 19 years, since I first came to the Senate. It was given to me by the children of New Norcia. Every girl in one of the native schools had done a little of the fancywork, so that I would have a tablecloth to which every child had contributed a portion of the work. It is still in excellent condition although it has been in daily use ever since.
I hope that one of the most important results of this legislation will be that the public conscience will be aroused by the force of the native vote, and that we shall ensure that the natives are educated in the ordinary school subjects - in which they can be quite well educated. Recently I judged a competition for children’s essays, which were identified only by numbers. Two of the best essays were written by children at a mission native school. Natives can be educated to a certain standard, but then the tragic question is: What comes next? There are no technical schools in the outback. Some native children have been coming down to Perth for their education and have been doing very well, but this is just touching the fringe of the problem. For instance, from time to time 1 go to Broome. We hear a lot about this queen city of the north. I am sorry that Senator Scott is not in the chamber. The greatest tragedy of Broome is not the decline of the pearling industry. It is the problem of the natives. There we have native children who attend mission schools until the age of fourteen years, but then there is nothing for them. There is no instruction in arts and crafts. Even if there were, there is no place to dispose of the work of natives, which would be quite a big attraction for tourists. There is nothing to keep the natives there. Some of the girls who cannot get work become the prey of the least desirable types of Asiatics and Europeans, with the result that there are very definite health and social problems, not only in Broome but also generally throughout the north-west.
It is a very sad story. We must do something about the health and education standards of these people, and give them a chance. In this bill we acknowledge that they are citizens of Australia. It has taken us a long time to do that. We acknowledge that they are equal to us as citizens of the Commonwealth and subjects of the Queen. But, having done that, this Government and the State governments will not, I hope, just sit back, saying, “ We have given them a vote. That is that.” If I thought that this would be the be-all and end-all of the Commonwealth’s contribution to native welfare, I would vote against the bill and have no part in it. But we are giving a voice in national affairs to the aborigines. Even if they do not use it to begin with, the fact that they have the right to vote will make them the equal of the white Australians with whom they work in many places. They will have to be considered, and more will have to be done for them. That is the main value of this legislation.
I think that the punitive clauses are necessary, because there would be a big temptation to use improper influence in places where there were groups of natives who were under-privileged or undereducated and who might not know what this was all about. We all know that this big temptation does exist. I am hopeful that the punitive power will not have to be exercised by the Government, but I am afraid that that is a pious hope. The native vote could have a very great effect. Look at the position in the House of Representatives, where there is a very slender margin. Look at the Kalgoorlie electorate. The character of that electorate has changed considerably over the past decade, with the decline in mining and the decrease in the mining population. Incidentally, the new mining development in the far north-west of Western Australia may rectify that position. I speak mainly of what I call the metropolitan areas of Kalgoorlie and Boulder, where there has been a population decline. We have suddenly awakened to the fact that Kalgoorlie is no longer mainly a mining electorate. Finding that it won the prize for wool promotion, we came up with rather a jerk and appreciated how the character of the electorate had altered. The aborigines in it who will be entitled to vote will now become a very important political force. If they only realize that, the battle to get further rights for them and better education, health and general standards, will be half won. No government will be able to remain inactive if the voice of the aborigines is heard. If their rights are neglected, it will not have been enough just to have given them a vote. Something much more will have to come from this.
I shall speak on the amendment when we come to consider it. In this bill, we are not giving anything. We are restoring a right to aborigines in those States where it has been taken from them over the years. But we are proposing to remove a responsibility from those natives who have accepted it for years in the major States of New South Wales and Victoria, where enrolment and voting ar.e both compulsory. The status quo in New South Wales and Victoria is not being maintained. This legislation will remove from natives in those States the responsibility to enroll, although the bill will extend a certain amount of responsibility to natives as a whole. I know that Government supporters will say that this is being done for the sake of uniformity. Talking to natives, one realizes that they do not want to be different from the white man. By this legislation, in those States where the problem is not so acute as it is in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, we shall make their position different from that of the white man. Up to the present, in those two major States, they have accepted this responsibility.
– But the law has never been enforced in either of those States.
– No; but those who have enrolled have accepted the responsibility. We say that we should not take away from them any responsibility that they already have. If our amendment is rejected, we shall not vote against the bill, but we suggest that the Government should retain the present provisions in New South Wales and Victoria, in accordance with the terms of the report of the Select Committee on Voting Rights of Aboriginals. There is a great deal more I could say on this bill but at this late stage of the sitting I do not want to delay the Senate any longer. However, I do commend once again the report of the House of Representatives committee. I think its members did a wonderful job, and the Government has acted with commendable speed in giving effect to some of its recommendations. It is quite a relief to find a report being acted upon so expeditiously; but I feel that we are facing up to only a small part of our responsibilities towards natives. In this measure we are merely giving them the right and responsibility to vote. That is only solving a very minor part of their problem. Further action will need to be taken to discharge in full our responsibilities towards the older citizens of this Commonwealth.
Debate (on motion by Senator Branson) adjourned.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Anzus Communique - Council Meeting 8th and 9th May, 1962, Canberra. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
– In supporting this bill I join with
Senator Tangney in the things she has said about the House of Representatives Select Committee which brought down a magnificent report. I find myself also in agreement with Senator Tangney in that I am a little unhappy that the Senate did not have representation on that committee. After all, the rights being granted under this legislation will affect only a very few House of Representatives seats within each State, but they will affect every senator from the States where there are a number of aboriginal people.
The report had the added merit that it was a unanimous report. The recommendation that aborigines be given the right to vote has a significance extending beyond Australia. I am convinced that if we had not done something in this regard quite soon the question might have been brought up before the United Nations. That would have been a deplorable state of affairs from Australia’s viewpoint.
The work of the select committee was absolutely outstanding. It was set up only on 18th April, 1961, yet it produced a report on 19th October, some six months later. The committee interviewed 327 witnesses, and it is of interest to note that 142 of them were of aboriginal descent. As Senator Tangney mentioned, the committee covered some 22,000 miles in order to accomplish its task. It must be remembered that in six months it had to interrogate many people who were not very fluent in the English language, and, indeed, some who were nomads. Naturally, it would take more time to elicit information from such people than from ordinary runofthemill white Australians. Senator Tangney also referred to half-castes. I direct the attention of the Senate to page 4 of the committee’s report where it is stated -
A definition of “ aboriginal native “ for Commonwealth electoral purposes (and in respect of section 127 of the Constitution)-
That section provides that aborigines shall not be counted at a census - was provided by the Attorney-General’s Department to the Chief Electoral Officer by memorandum dated 25th January 1929 and it is this definition which is still used by the Commonwealth Electoral Office. An “ aboriginal native “ is defined as a person in whom aboriginal descent preponderates and “ that half-castes were not aboriginal natives ‘ within the meaning of section 127 of the Constitution “. Your committee, by applying this definition, has established the fact that some thousands of such people in Queensland and Western Australia who are already integrated into the community and are not living in the tribal state have the right to be enrolled and to vote at Commonwealth elections, but are unaware of the fact
So, perhaps through ignorance, thousands of half-castes have been disfranchised. That, I agree, is deplorable.
The committee in its wisdom recommended’ that aborigines should have the right to vote, but that during the transitory period enrolment should be voluntary; however, once enrolled voting should then be compulsory. The report then recommended that penal provisions should be provided in respect of the franchise. As such provisions are already included in the existing legislation, the Government in its wisdom interpreted that recommendation as applying to enrolment. I think that interpretation is correct, and I agree with the proposal. 1 agree that penalties should be provided to cover undue influence and duress in respect of enrolment because they already exist in respect of actual voting.
The Government decided not to adopt recommendations (1.) and (2.) of paragraph 41 of the committee’s report. Recommendation (1.) relates to aborigines in New South Wales and Victoria but, as Senator Tangney has indicated that she will move an amendment at the committee stage in relation to this matter, I shall leave my comments on that aspect until we get into committee.
There is one point on which I seek enlightment from the Minister, perhaps when he is replying. It is proposed that the Commonwealth Electoral Office should seek the assistance of the Department of Native Affairs and the various missions to acquaint aborigines of their entitlement under the new legislation. From time to time, electoral officers will visit aboriginal settlements and areas of substantial occupation and congregation for the purpose of arranging entitlement. However, the committee is most strong in its recommendation about the actual enrolment, and in paragraph 82 states -
Your committee recommends that the matter of enrolment should not be left to welfare officers, private persons, organizations or political parties, and recommends that the administrative procedures of the Commonwealth Electoral Office be altered to provide for specially qualified electoral officers to receive personal applications for enrolment at places accessible to aborigines.
I find myself in complete agreement with the committee in that recommendation. I feel that it should be the responsibility of electoral officers to enroll these people. This would remove any fear of malpractice. In my reading of the ministerial secondreading speeches in the Senate and in another place, I did not find anything contrary to the principle that only electoral officers should enroll these people. I referred earlier to section 127 of the Constitution which provides that aborigines shall not be counted for the purpose of determining the number of people in Australia. I think that this section will have to be either altered or repealed on the next occasion that a referendum is held.
If we consider the method of determining the number of members of the House of Representatives, we find that section 24 of the Constitution provides that a certain formula shall be used to arrive at a figure by which the total population of a State is then divided in order to determine the number of seats to which that State is entitled. In this respect, there is an anomaly which has been mentioned by the Select Committee on the Voting Rights of Aboriginals. In paragraph 87 of the committee’s report, the following statement appears: -
Your Committee draws attention to the evidence of the Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth concerning the counting of aborigines for determining the quota for electorates, which reads as follows: -
They would not be counted for the purposes of Section 127. They would be counted to determine the quota for electoral purposes.
So, there is an anomaly when it comes to determining the effect on electoral quotas, such as in the electorate of Kalgoorlie. The redistribution commission has to take into account that the aboriginal people are physically in the electorate and are potential voters. Therefore, I make the point that section 127 will have to be repealed at a later stage.
I was delighted to find that the committee had exercised such common sense when it was considering the right of the aborigines to vote. The committee decided that simply because a majority of aborigines were not capable of exercising the right to vote that should not be the determining factor in, deciding whether the aboriginal people should be permitted to vote.
In other words, the committee took the view that a small minority should not be disfranchised because the majority could not conform. I think it was also wise of the committee not to adopt standards such as in matters of literary taste, housing, permanency of employment and the possession of a bank balance, because after all, such standards are not used in determining the right to vote of other people in the electorate.
In my remarks I shall draw rather heavily on the report of the committee because I think it is an excellent document. It is obvious that those concerned with its production applied themselves assiduously to their task. It is interesting to note that there are only some 2,000 aborigines left in Australia who are still in a nomadic state. Even that number is altering rapidly as the aborigines move into missions and settlements and gradually renounce their nomadic and tribal leanings. The important fact is that as soon as aborigines come within the sphere of influence of the missions and settlements, their children attend schools, and it is in the schools that integration commences. Some 32 years ago I attended a small State school at a Western Australian country town called Babakin. Twenty per cent, of the scholars at the school were native children. They sat side by side with us at the desks. There was no discrimination whatever. They played sport with us and entered into our lives just as if they were of the same colour as we were. There was no colour bar. The children were a part of our community.
The committee stated that it is abundantly clear that the tribes are making continuous contacts with European civilization and that in the course of a few years there will be no aborigines living in a completely tribal state. I must agree with that opinion. As development moves further out from the centres of population in the northern parts of Australia, the aborigines will be gradually absorbed in the community. The report states that there are approximately 46,800 full-blood aborigines in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. To that number must be added about 4,000 aborigines who qualified for the franchise in the past but who did not know that they had done so. The committee has estimated that some 30,000 adults of the 46,800 will now become eligible to vote under the terms of the legislation before the Senate.
– How many of those are in the Kalgoorlie electorate?
– On page 2 of the committee’s report, the number of nomad and non-nomadic aborigines in Western Australia is shown as 10,872. All the nomads would be in the Kalgoorlie electorate. They are shown as numbering 2,000. I hazard a guess that of the 8,872 non-nomadic aborigines in Western Australia, at least 4,000 would be in the Kalgoorlie electorate.
– Did I understand the honorable senator to say that they would be taken into consideration in a redistribution?
– I am led to believe that that would be so, and I am reinforced in my belief by turning to a statement made by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth), in another place, after the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) had raised that matter. Mr. Freeth said -
Electoral distribution is, of course, only vaguely relevant to the bill. However, I can answer the Deputy Leader of the Opposition very quickly. The redistribution of electorates is in the hands of a redistribution commission. When there is a movement of population from one electorate to another, the commissioners must take the trend into account. In other words, they have to take into account the probable changes in enrolment in the electorate.
I should think that the vital part of the Minister’s statement in reply to Mr. Whitlam concerned the fact that the commission would have to take into its calculations changes that had occurred in enrolment in the electorate.
– I take it from your remarks that probably 6,000 or more aborigines would be eligible to vote in the Kalgoorlie electorate.
– It must be remembered, of course, that of those 6,000 about 2,000 are nomadic natives.
Senator Tangney stated that despite the fact that half-castes might be ignorant, they were nevertheless entitled tto the right to enrolment and to vote. In the Torres Strait Islands there were 659 native people who had served in the Torres Strait Islands Regiment. They were fully entitled to exercise their vote, but the committee found1, on inquiry, that only 57 had enrolled for the division of Leichhardt. The committee stated that, according to the evidence presented to it, it would appear that several hundred Torres Strait islanders were unaware of their entitlement. We must all shoulder some of the blame for the fact that those people were not made aware of their rights.
I wish now to traverse some of the ground that we seek to cover in providing for the assimilation and integration of the aboriginal people. We should remember, I think, that never at any stage has there been a great number of aborigines in Australia. So far as I can ascertain from my reading and study of this matter, there have never been more than 300,000 aborigines. The origins of the aboriginal people are very vague, but most authorities now agree that they reached Australia in a series of migrations over a very long period of time and were for many centuries isolated from the rest of mankind. I think that ethnologists now agree that the Australian aborigines probably came from southern India, but it is interesting to note that they do not conform to the usual racial types. The peoples of the world are made up of three main racial groups - -caucasoids, negroids and mongoloids. The Australian aborigines do not come within any of those three groups, and I believe the anthropologists have classed them as Australoids, because they do not conform to the pattern into which the other three groups fall. When we talk of assimilation it should be remembered that there are many problems associated with it, and I am delighted that this legislation will do a good deal to assist assimilation.
Quite a number of good-hearted enthusiasts are apt to underestimate the great problems with which we confront aborigines in our efforts for their assimilation. First, we expect them to adapt themselves to a world that is fundamentally different from their own. After all, our way of life is based on individualism. As individualists, we believe in the private ownership of property, in the use of money and in the necessity to be exact and quite specific in our calculations and dealings. This is entirely opposed to the whole upbringing and culture of our Australian natives. In their tribal state, aborigines survived, often in very harsh country. Australia was a most inhospitable land once they got away from the coastal fringes. They existed by a form of the division of labour and the ritual sharing of food. Each member of the tribe had obligations to the tribe as a whole and to the members of it who stood in a particular relationship to him. Social customs admirably suited to life in a tribal state enabled the aboriginal to survive and they continue to flourish in a social context to which they are quite unsuited. Whereas we believe in individualism and private ownership, the aborigines believe in the division of labour and the ritual sharing of food.
Every one of us- has seen examples of the clashes that occur in a native’s mind. Often you will see him, by his own efforts, discover that he has a particular skill, and then develop it and earn more than other natives. Quite often this means that he can raise the status of himself and his family in the community and become established in a home. Then he comes up against the age-old custom. His brothers or cousins feel that they are entitled to come along and share his possessions. Then, of course, this poor fellow, who is between two worlds, is faced with the problem of which way to go. Will he come into our culture, which is comparatively new, and turf out his relatives and friends, or will the old law bc too strong for him and will he allow his relatives and friends to live with him? That has happened in a number of instances in my State. One of the main problems with the housing scheme is the fact that when the aboriginal is housed, or makes his own arrangements for housing, this question arises.
The process of the aboriginal coming to live within the community cannot be rushed. I have talked to people on stations who have built quite good small individual cabins for their native employees, but if one of them happens to die in a cabin it becomes taboo forever. One can never get other natives of that tribe to live in it, because they believe it is occupied by malevolent spirits. The concept of money and working for money is alien to tribal aborigines, because in the tribal set-up food could not be hoarded and personal belongings were a positive hindrance in tribal wanderings. So in their tribal state aborigines did not gather possessions. Their division of labour meant that each fit person worked as a hunter, or as a food gatherer in the case of the women, or as a specialist in magic. This wa9 for the benefit of the whole tribe, not of the individual.
I think the Commonwealth Government and the various State governments are aware of the . great difficulties that stand in the way of achieving assimilation. They recognize that while the process can be hastened by various means, it is still necessarily a slow one. I was very pleased to hear the way in which Senator Tangney spoke about the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) and his continuing efforts, during most of his adult life, on behalf of the aborigines. We must realize that aborigines are human beings and, by their nature, extraordinarily sensitive human beings. We are asking them to assimilate, in a generation or two, the culture that it has taken us, as a race, thousands of years to build up. They have behind them thousands of years of their own culture, which is entirely different from ours and based on a completely different concept. We are asking them to do this within a short space of time.
I think I would be remiss if I did not point out what the Government of my own State - I am not talking about one government as against another - has been doing in regard to the assimilation of aborigines. Unfortunately, the latest figures I have cover the position only to the end of 1960. Some 97 houses had been built up to that date for aborigines, 25 of which were in existing residential areas.
– Were they in suburban or rural areas?
– They were largely in rural areas - in towns like Narrogin, York and Wagin. I do not know of any dwellings built specifically for natives in the metropolitan area, although, as Western Australian senators know, we have a number of aborigines living in rental homes in the city.
– There are some homes in Norseman.
– In 1960, 3,140 native children attended primary schools and 234 attended secondary schools in Western Australia. Between 1950 and 1960, 22 children passed the junior certificate examinations and five obtained leaving certificates. Of two who matriculated, one studied science at the Western Australian University, and four scholars passed through the teacher training colleges. Thus it can be seen that in its own quiet way my State has been doing something about assimilation.
– A number have been trained as nurses, too.
– That is so. The problem of assimilation is a very real one, but it is not beyond the capacity of the Australian people to overcome. When one thinks of the many problems we have mastered in living in a free society, and of our achievements in relation to social justice and respect for the rights of other humans and the provision of equality in opportunity, surely it is within our capacity to deal with the situation of some 80,000 men, women and children in a community of 10,000,000. I am sure we could do it. It must be remembered that many of these people are so near and yet so far from complete acceptance in our Australian society. They are a shy people who are very easily hurt, and often their hurt is shown by resentment or even despair. Often they will give up if they are hurt. I think one of the ways in which we can help, each and every one of us - so many of us neglect to do so when dealing with native people - is to show some human kindness and some understanding of the fact that we are asking them to give away in a few short years the culture of thousands of years.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
.- The bill we are discussing which amends the Commonwealth Elector.. 1 Act is most interesting. I have, over a long number of years, given any bill that alters the electoral act very close scrutiny. This bill, of course, will give the aborigines an opportunity to vote by entitling them to enroll. It will also adversely affect the right to vote of aborigines in Victoria and New South Wales. Whereas, previously, as electors of those States they have been compelled to vote this bill will remove that compulsion. I have heard it said that the law has never been enforced as far as aborigines are concerned. I think it is a bad thing not to enforce a law. It is possible that at some time I may regret having made that statement, but in the main if you want people to respect a. law you must enforce it. . ,
The law making it compulsory for the ordinary elector to vote has not been enforced in the way it should have been. A number of loopholes has been left. The ordinary elector who does not vote generally gets a letter asking for his reason for failing to do so. Frequently people have come to me with letters of this kind and they have always been able to find ah excuse. I have not prompted them.
– The average person is in a good position to form a judgment as to what respect is due to a particular law.
– Unfortunately we are living in an age where the average person’s thinking is- done for him by the mass media of the press and television. Human nature is a strange thing. If the right to vote were taken away there would probably be processions, carrying of banners and all that sort of thing. I often wonder to what extent a number of people appreciate the right . they have. In a federal election 96 per cent, of the people vote, but of 4,500,000 the 4 per cent, who do not vote represent a considerable number. In a closely contested election for an electorate in which, say, 44,000 people are on the roll, 4 per cent, could be a very vital factor. Voting is compulsory and the law should be enforced even though some people do not take much interest in it. Many of them form their opinions from the mass media that are called newspapers but are in fact viewspapers.
One wonders just what this law will accomplish. It gives to aborigines an entitlement to vote. If they are enrolled, they are entitled to vote. Enrolment is voluntary in contrast to compulsory enrolment for other citizens of this country. I am delighted to see a clause in this bill which provides a penalty for any person who attempts improperly to influence the enrolment of an aboriginal. I wonder how this clause will be administered. We have already heard two very good speeches made on this bill, a most enlightening and interesting one by my colleague, Senator Tangney, and the other by Senator Branson. I am very sceptical about the effect this legislation may have in the electorate . of Kalgoorlie. I shall watch developments in that respect with very keen interest. .It could happen that 7,000 extra people could be placed on the roll in this one electorate. So as to be on safe ground I will say that the extra numb.er of voters could be to 5,000. If I were the member for Kalgoorlie I . would be very sceptical. I would want to know how the law of influence is to be administered.
– The law of improper influence.
– Who would know better than Senator Wright, the legal implications of the word “ improper “ when it comes to enforcing this law?
– That is the suggestion I wanted to convey to you.
– I am delighted that you have done so. I will be more delighted if you will rise afterwards and exercise your great legal mind by telling us how we are going to enforce this law. I listened to the speeches that were made last night. Although the system under which we live might be a bit awkward, it is not a bad way to govern a country, and we all want to retain it. We want at least to be able to know what the law means. The Minister, when he is replying, might be able tq tell us, after, obtaining advice from the departmental officers, just what is. meant by the word “ improper “.
– Could you hold a person’s hand?
– I do not want you to tell me what you know about this subject; you might give away too many secrets. I see that even Senator McManus has a smile on his face. He was secretary or assistant secretary of a political party in days gone by. I suppose that he, like all of us who have come up the hard way and have gone through the grind of running and trying to win elections, would know something about this subject.
– What do you know about improper practices?
– I would not know anything about improper practices in elections. God forbid that I should have done anything in my 40 years in the Labour Party to influence any one improperly.
– Do not look at Senator McManus.
– When Senator Cole was a member of the Australian Labour Party he knew that when you are in a fight you are bound by certain scruples. You knew then there was a certain amount of decency in the game. However, the thing to remember is that you do not pay on the second horse. You pay only on the winner.
I am sure that the people who advised the Government on this bill were well intentioned, but I would like to know what is meant by improper practices. What is the definition of the term in the bill? If we know what is meant by the term we will know what we cannot do.
– I would feel happier with your suggestion if the Government were to implement the committee’s recommendation in paragraph 82 on page 4 of its report.
– Paragraph 82 of the committee’s report reads -
Your Committee recommends that the matter of enrolment should not be left to welfare officers, private persons, organizations, or political parties and recommends that the administrative procedures of the Commonwealth Electoral Office be, altered to provide for specially qualified electoral officers to receive personal applications for enrolment at places accessible to aborigines.
Those words are very nice but I do not know of any clause in the bill - I have not read it very closely, I admit - that gives effect to that recommendation.
– I said that I was in agreement with you but that I wanted enlightenment on that paragraph.
– Well, we are getting closer every day. Now we have a member of the Country Party in agreement with the Labour Party.
– He is a Liberal.
– Well, he sits in the corner of the chamber. However, if it hurts him I will withdraw the accusation that he is a member of the Country Party. The committee’s recommendations are worthless unless embodied in legislation. I am very concerned about giving a vote to our aboriginal population. In another place - the major House, if I may say so - the parties are divided by one vote. In that situation the aboriginal vote becomes very important.
– After June only one vote will divide the parties in this place.
– Yes, not that I want to belittle the Senate. God forbid, I would never want to belittle a place of which I am a member! I do not want to deny anybody the right to vote. The right to vote conjures up visions of Eureka in Victoria and the suffragette movement in Great Britain. I think Victoria was the last State of the Commonwealth to give women the right to vote. This was done in 1909. The right to vote is the brand of citizenship. It is a right that we should exercise with care. But I almost weep when I think of the mistakes that are made at times by persons exercising that right.
Unless the closest scrutiny is exercised to see that there is no intimidation of the aborigines, their votes could alter the destinies of this nation. I suppose that Western Australia will be the State most affected if aborigines are given the right to vote. The large Queensland electorate of Kennedy also will be affected. No candidate relishes the thought of 2,000 votes over which he has no control floating around an electorate. I do not want to deny anybody the privilege of voting but I do not want to see that privilege abused. I can remember being told many years ago by the men who stormed around this country with the great Australian Workers Union that the practice in the early days on the big stations was that the first man to go into a polling booth placed a blank sheet of paper in the ballotbox. He then went outside and handed over his ballot-paper, which was marked and given to the next man to take into the polling booth to place in the ballot-box. In that way there was no doubt how the men voted. When the ballot-papers have been counted, it has often been hard to understand what happened to them. That was the reason behind the action that was taken in the outback stations of this country. But things have improved. The practice to which I have referred is no longer necessary. I know that it was against the law, but we knew what went into the boxes in the old days although sometimes the results of the ballot were hard to reconcile with the votes that we knew had been cast. I am a little afraid that if the aborigines are given the right to vote, the managers of the big stations in Western Australia and in the Kennedy electorate will have a strong influence over them. I would like the Minister to tell me how the Government proposes to go about enrolling the aborigines. I would like him to tell me also what is meant by the word “ improper “. I suppose all of us could tell some stories about elections. Some of us could go back a great number of years.
This bill removes the compulsion on aborigines in New South Wales and Victoria to enroll. The Government is taking something from them and making their status as citizens less than that of their fellows, although their fellows may be white. I believe that we should not take anything from them. If it was good enough to have compulsory enrolment for these people under the State laws, why does the Government now want to take something from them under a Federal law, however few in number they are in my State of Victoria? I cannot understand why the Government wants to do that. I do not think that is good.
The Government says that it wants to do that from the point of view of uniformity. Surely it does not want to give something to people who reside in the other States and take from people in New South Wales and Victoria something that they have had over the years. I admit the impracticability of making enrolment compulsory for aborigines throughout Australia; but I cannot understand why the Government should take from these people something that they already have.
– But that provision was never enforced, was it?
– My friend, we in this chamber are not responsible for the enforcement of State laws. That is not our prerogative. Should I draw from that interjection - a friendly one - an inference that the compulsory voting provisions will not be enforced if the aborigines do enroll?
– I am delighted to hear that. Once a Commonwealth law is passed, we should enforce it. Members of the Victorian State Parliament may have their reasons for not enforcing the Victorian law. I am pleased to hear Sena tor Branson say that his interjection is not to be taken as meaning that once aborigines are enrolled the compulsory voting provisions should not be enforced. Let us hope that that does not happen.
– That would be improper.
– It would be improper; I believe it would lower their status as citizens. In the world to-day certain people are attempting to use every opportunity to drive a wedge between white and coloured people. I believe that we are entitled to indicate how we have looked after our aborigines and what we are doing for the natives in New Guinea. We should not give them as citizens an inferior status. If I was a person from an overseas country arguing with an Australian I would say, “ Yes, you have taken the first step, but why do you make them inferior citizens? “ What would the Government’s answer to that question be?
– There is a transitional period.
– We have had a long transitional period since 1901, when the Commonwealth of Australia was formed, until . 1962. Let us hope that transitional periods do not always last as long as that, because we will not see many changesif they do. We all are anxious to see a few changes before the call comes.
We should not be so keen to advertise this legislation because we are only returning by half measures something that these people had when we took this country from them. We have to be fair about this matter. In one way, I am not disappointed that that was done, because I would not have been here if my parents had not arrived from another country. However, the fact is that all aborigines were entitled to vote when the Queen of the day gave constitutional authority to form the colonies, as they were then called. At that time the aborigines were classed as British subjects and under the law they were entitled to all the benefits and privileges of British subjects.
When we look at the history of voting rights in Australia, we see that it is 61 years since these rights were taken from the aborigines, and we are now returning them. When the States of Queensland and Western Australia gained independence, they legislated to take the aborigines’ right to vote from them. That was not done in Victoria and New South Wales. May I be pardoned for saying that Victoria looked a little further ahead. It did not legislate to take the right to vote from the aborigines. I admit that Victoria did not have very many aborigines, but the principle is the same whether it had one or ten. We should be concerned about this position. We should consider it and not preen ourselves, like the vain peacock, and say that we are giving the aborigines something that they have never had. When the Commonwealth came to consider entitlement to vote, it had to face the constitutional requirement that no person who was eligible to vote in a State election should be debarred from voting in a federal election. That is governed by section 41 of the Constitution.
I am delighted that a bill, such as this, to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act has been introduced; but how much more elated I would be if it had gone a bit further. We have faced a number of Senate elections. In round figures, 10 per cent, of the 4,400,000 votes cast in all the States are informal. If any one said that we did not believe in democracy - I suppose that word is abused more than any other word used in the political life of a ^nation - every one of us would get ^over-heated. Yet nothing is done about those informal votes. For the purpose of electing senators, we have the most farcical scheme that has ever been devised. If there are 26 candidates for the Senate in one State, the ballotpaper has to be marked with numbers from 1 to 25; we can forget the last one.
I remember a famous case affecting exSenator Blakey of Victoria, in the 1920’s, I think. Mr. Forsyth was a candidate for the Liberal Party. The party was not called by that name then, but it has changed its name so often that one may be pardoned for not being able to remember what its name was in a particular year. Mr. Forsyth died between nomination day and election day. If I remember correctly, he died about seven days before the election. A tremendous number of informal votes was lodged. The number was easily sufficient to alter the result of the election. Six candidates were listed on the ballot-paper and a tremendous number of people voted 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6, Forsyth’s name being fifth on the ballot-paper. One of our candidates was named Barnes. Senator McManus may be able to refresh my memory as to the others. I know that Blakey was third.
– Finlay was a candidate.
– Yes. If I had thought of it earlier, I would have ascertained, by courtesy of the Commonwealth Electoral Office, the number of persons who voted informally in the way that I have described. I think that there had been time to print new ballot-papers. The High Court of Australia ruled that the votes that were not marked consecutively should be disallowed, and Blakey lost his seat. That is most interesting to-day, in view of certain happenings in another State.
In all earnestness I ask the Government, in the interests of the Senate, to take some action in this regard, even if it is no more than the appointment of a select committee from both sides of this chamber to examine the position. We should ensure that this farcical position does not continue. I thank you, Mr. Acting Deputy President, for allowing me to devote a few minutes to this matter. I have taken the trouble over the years to have a look at the informal votes. During the war, I read in “ Mufti “, a servicemen’s journal, that an amazingly high percentage of men joining the Army could not read. I was amazed, in view of the fact that for 50 or 60 years we have had provision in all States for compulsory attendance at school, which is not the same thing, of course, as compulsory education. Is it any wonder that people cannot mark ballot-papers properly?
I hope that the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, who administers the Commonwealth Electoral Act, will consider the matter. It is not a question of favouring one political party or another. An examination of the final returns for all electorates, including the Prime Minister’s electorate and the electorate in which I live, which returns a Labour candidate, will show that although there may be some disparities, overall the distribution of informal votes is very nearly in balance.
We all sing the praises of the system by which we elect members of this Parliament. It is the national parliament, to which the whole world looks. Let us face the facts and have a talk, about the position. On both sides of the Senate are men who, earlier in life, spent many years in the administration of political parties. I believe that, with the aid of Commonwealth electoral officers, they could bring down some recommendations which, if adopted, would improve the position. I remember when the system was introduced. I remember who introduced it, during the Chifley Government’s term of office. When I got to hear of it, I said, “ It might be called the Hare-Clark system in the State from which it was copied, but to my mind it is the March Hare system “. It is fantastic. Having copied from Tasmania, why did they not copy the whole of the Tasmanian system? The Tasmanian Parliament is elected on the proportional representation system. If there are seven candidates for six divisions it is necessary to vote for only three in order to cast a formal vote. This chamber has rights equal to those of the other chamber, except in relation to money bills. No one on either side, irrespective of his political affiliations, can’ support a system whereby 10 per cent, of the’ voters lodge informal votes! Let no one tell me that those voters wish to do so. Until recently, when I decided that some of the younger people ought to have a go, I had acted as a scrutineer at elections for many years. On some occasions I have seen a mark drawn right across the ballot-paper, indicating that the voter did not want, any of the candidates, and I have read some uncomplimentary remarks on ballot-papers, but the percentage of informal votes of these types is infinitesimal in relation to the percentage of informal votes cast by people who merely lose count when marking the paper.
I earnestly ask the Government to appoint a select committee to examine the system. Twelve or eighteen months ago I heard a rumour, in the way that one does, that there was a move to have such a committee. I only wish that the honorable senator concerned had persevered, but one knows what happens in the political game. Let us have a system that will permit the people to vote for the candidates they want to represent them in the National Parliament. While we continue to make it almost impossible for voters to lodge formal votes, we are not doing all that we should do and, to a certain extent, we are making a mockery ‘of the word : “ democracy “. I hope that the bill will be carried as it represents a step in the right direction. I must say that I am delighted that I am not the member for Kalgoorlie as this bill will mean intensive work, intensive concentration and constant attendance at various electoral offices, particularly in Kalgoorlie, to keep an eye on the number of aborigines going on the rolls. I remember the time when the famous Hugh Mahon represented the electorate. .
– Will the honorable member for Kalgoorlie have to go to the corroborees?
– Some members believe that they must attend all the shows in the world. Thank heavens I have never held that view. Some people would attend corroborees, but if the honorable member for Kalgoorlie does not do that he will have to contact these new electors in some other way.
– If he does not, somebody else will do it.
– I have no doubt that he has good colleagues. When all is said and done it is the votes that come out of the box that matter. I have never worried once the . votes have been put in because one- can do nothing then. They cannot be altered. One should have enough brains to make sure that at least they go in all right. I hope that the Minister, when he is replying will amplify the meaning of the words that have been used. I regret that Senator Wright is out of the chamber as I thought I would have had very able assistance from him in my search for an interpretation of the words “ improperly cast “. However, I am sure that the Minisrter will give an honest interpretation, and I can only hope that it will be water-tight, so that when representatives of the party to which I have the honour to belong go into the far-flung areas of Western Australia - such travel is too hard for me these days - they will know how far they can go in seeking support. If they take my advice, they will not break the law, even though they may bend it a little. If they manage to encourage aborigines to place their names on the roll and the aborigines vote for this party I will say that the bill is all that I expected it to be.
.- The Australian Democratic Labour Party supports this bill because its members feel that the measure is based on a principle that is just and should be implemented. We are not unmindful of the doubts that have been expressed concerning the qualifications of at least some of the aborigines, not merely by persons who are opposed to them but, in some instances, by people who have spent their lives trying to help them. However, we feel that this is a just proposal and we therefore support it.
Many people in our community consider that more should be done for the aborigines, and we are very confident from our knowledge of politics that more will now be done for them. Now that they will have votes, more consideration will be shown than when they had no votes. We feel that this legislation will have a good effect on our relations with other countries the citizens of which at times accuse us of maintaining a colour bar. To those persons who cast doubts on whether some aborigines are fully qualified to record democratic votes, we say that any one who engages in politics will have grave doubts as to whether some persons who are not aborigines are fully qualified to record a truly democratic vote.
I think the big danger in this proposal lies in the fact that people who are not aborigines will try to take advantage ,of these people and attempt to obtain their votes by improper practices - a subject to which we have already had some reference. Many aborigines are people whom we can describe as under-privileged. That is not their fault, but because they are underprivileged they will be open to offers by unscrupulous people. They will also be open to intimidation. I hope that electoral officers and the Government will be fully awake and particularly observant so that they will be able to crush any attempts to take advantage of our aborigines when they do obtain votes.
I am not suggesting that the only people who will be approached with improper electoral suggestions will be aborigines. Senator Kennelly was quite right when he said that there are always people about who will attempt to procure a certain result in an election if they feel that it will be to their advantage. Improper practices are adopted at times in political elections. I am satisfied that most trade union elections are clean, but at times improper practices are resorted to. Any one who has had experience of these elections must admit that improper practices are resorted to not only in unions under the control of the Communist Party. I think that at times in politics, in unions, and in other places some people are prepared to do anything to secure the result they desire.
One of my most vivid memories is an occasion at the Melbourne Trades Hall when I met a trade union secretary who had just won his union election. I congratulated him, and I can remember the honest pride in his voice when he said, “ Frank, the thing that pleases me most about winning this election is that I would have won it even if I had run it fair dinkum “. I will not mention the name of the union. We have in the Senate a former returning officer for the clerks union in New South Wales in the person of Senator Ormonde, and I am sure that he can speak for himself. Senator Ormonde assures me that on all occasions when he was returning officer the result was the right one.
Speaking seriously, any attempt at improper practices in elections is to be condemned. All right-thinking persons oppose such practices whether in politics, trade unions or other spheres. Therefore, as I said before, I hope that electoral officers will be most strict and that the Government will impose penalties without fear or. favour if there is the slightest evidence that people are attempting to manipulate the votes of aborigines. Even taking into consideration all the doubts that have been expressed, I feel that the balance definitely is in favour of the proposal put forward in this bill. We support the measure and we are glad the Government introduced it.
– in reply - I am indebted to the Senate for the manner in which it has received this measure. I am also appreciative of the interesting and even entertaining speeches that have been made. Some of them almost merited the imposition of entertainment tax. It is true to say that the Government has been looking at this problem of the voting rights of aborigines for a long time. It is also true that many sections of the community have asked for the extension of the franchise to the aborigines. The Government, in its wisdom, finally decided to appoint a select committee to make a thorough investigation of all the relevant aspects of the problem. It has been good to hear the tributes that have been paid to the efficient way in which that committee approached its task. Its work provides a classic example of what can be done by men of goodwill in a short space of time. On behalf of the committee, I accept the commendations that have been laid at its door.
Senator Tangney wisely said that this measure is not the be-all and the end-all of the problems that face the aborigines. That is true, but the passing of this legislation will declare to the world that the Australian community is determined to ensure that our aborigines enjoy the same political rights as do other members of the community. It may be argued that this action is overdue, but nevertheless it is an indication to the world that we realize that people amongst whom we live, move and have our being should be granted voting rights: While I am on this subject, Mr. Acting Deputy President, I make the point that this measure is designed to. provide a better way of life for the aborigines, inasmuch as when it becomes law they will have- the right to choose their own parliamentary representatives.
Enlarging on the point that Senator Tangney made, to the effect that this is not the final solution of the problems confronting the aborigines, I point out that this legislation might well give a lead and encouragement to almost every section of the community which accepts some responsibility in the matter. It is good to see to-day, even in far-flung country areas, little groups of people banding together to foster the welfare of the aborigines and to provide funds for their advancement. In my own locality I cite the work of the local Apex Club, which has taken unto itself responsibility to build two homes for aboriginal families. That is a mighty fine approach to community effort.
The States, too, have a responsibility in this connexion. I think it is fair to say of all the State governments that they are facing their responsibility and are endeavouring to improve the standards of living of the aboriginal people. The
Federal Government, in the administration of the Territories, has a record that resounds to its everlasting credit, and particularly to that of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). His service in this field stamps him as a man of vision and as one who has set himself the task of improving the lot of the aboriginal people and providing for them the standards of living which other dwellers in the community enjoy. Therefore, Sir, I suggest that the individual, the community, the State governments and the Federal Government have a responsibility in the matter. Their interest is being awakened and enlivened by public opinion and by forces in the community which at last are realizing that we have a very real responsibility to the aboriginal people.
Senator Branson mentioned the matter of entitlement, and in that connexion he referred to the report of the committee, which states -
Your Committee recommends that the matter of enrolment should not be left to welfare officers, private persons, organizations, or political paries and recommends that the administrative procedures of the Commonwealth Electoral Office be altered to provide for specially qualified electoral officers to receive personal applications foi enrolment at places accessible to aborigines.
I do not want to mislead the Senate in speaking of this matter. I point out that this is a new venture so far as electoral officers are concerned. Plans are in hand, and while they may be considered the best approach that can be made to this problem, it may well be that the execution of those plans will show that they need to be altered. However, I believe it is fair to say, speaking generally, that the Government agrees with the intention of the committee’s recommendation, but is of the opinion that implementation of the recommendation is another matter.
As you know, Sir, electoral officers are people with special knowledge. So, too, are welfare officers. When this task is being undertaken we must attempt to find people with special knowledge in certain directions. I suggest that it would be impracticable to take from a capital city, such as Melbourne or Sydney, an electoral officer, no matter how well qualified academically he might be, and expect him to go into the wilds in the northern part of our country and do this job effectively. He would not know, and could not be expected to know, what makes the aboriginal people tick, as it were. The Commonwealth Electoral Office is planning to use visual educational aids to educate people who are in a more primitive state, and expects that it will need to increase its staff to handle these special tasks. Ultimately, there will be a concerted effort by all the good influences that we have in the land to bring this task to the successful conclusion that we want to see.
Senator Kennelly referred to the exclusion of aborigines from the compulsory enrolment provisions of the law as it stands at present. That is a matter which is to be discussed at the committee stage, and I shall reserve my comments until that stage is reached. The honorable senator also asked me to define the word “ improper “. I remind you, Mr. Acting Deputy President, that the honorable senator also appealed to Senator Wright, who has great legal knowledge to define the word. Much to my surprise, Senator Wright has retired from the fray, for the first time in my experience. Senator Kennelly, having spent a lifetime in dealing with party political affairs, has disclaimed even a nodding acquaintance with improper practices. That being so, Sir, I ask you, with great respect: How could I, a mere political stripling, attempt to define an improper practice?
– Those are nice words, but you are responsible for this bill, and I am not.
– If the honorable senator will wait a moment, I shall try to do what he has asked me to do, a task which Senator Wright has not been brave enough to attempt. In the short time I have had at my disposal, I have not been able to find that the word “ improper “ appears in the legislation. Great stress is laid on the words “ undue influence “, so for the sake of this debate let us say that in this context improper practices are undue influences. This is a matter that has attracted the attention of the Government. It refers to bribery in this connexion, which is defined as a promise or offer of any valuable consideration, reward, &c., to induce the enrolment or non-enrolment of an aboriginal. Further, it will be an offence for a native to accept a valuable consideration on account of his enrolment or refraining from enrolment. Under this clause, it will be an act of bribery to supply meat, drink, &c., for the purpose of influencing the enrolment or non-enrolment of an aborigine. By the provisions of the relevant clause a person shall be guilty of undue influence who threatens, offers or suggests any violence, injury, punishment, damage, loss or disadvantage to induce the enrolment or non-enrolment of an aboriginal native. I am informed that they are the clearest possible terms in which the law can be defined.
I was attracted by one statement that Senator Kennelly made when discussing this issue. I understood him to say that law enforcement is not the responsibility of this Parliament.
– No, I did not say that.
-I understood the honorable senator to say that our responsibility is to make the law. He also expounded on the wisdom - I stress the word - of having laws that can be obeyed, that must be obeyed. I suggest, Mr. President, that the Government has done everything it possibly can to implement in this legislation the spirit of the report and to guard against those features that some honorable senators fear will creep into this business. I can give the honorable senator an assurance that the Government, having done that, will, as far as its powers permit it to do so, do its utmost to ensure that the legislation is carried out in its entirety. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Section forty-two of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section: - “ (5.) This section does not apply to a person who is an aboriginal native of Australia except to the extent that such a person may, if he so chooses, comply with sub-section (1.) of this section.”.
– I move -
Leave out proposed sub-section (5.), insert the following sub-section: - “ ‘ (5.) This section does not apply to an aboriginal native of Australia who is entitled to have his name placed on the Roll for a sub-division of a Division of the State of Queensland, South
Australia or Western Australia except to the. extent that such a person may, if he so chooses, comply with sub-section (1.) of this section.’.”.
The Opposition’s amendment seems complicated but it is designed to deal with a specific situation. In Australia to-day there are two sets of rules pertaining to the rights of natives to vote. In New South Wales and Victoria, where the natives are not nomadic - where they have been more assimilated into the community generally and are not in their tribal state - compulsory enrolment and compulsory voting is provided. The Opposition does not want to interfere with that position. In Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory the inherent right of the aborigines to vote has been taken away over the years and is now being restored, in part, by the bill. It is provided that if they wish to enroll, they may do so. Having done that, having voluntarily achieved enrolment, they will be compelled to vote. The Government’s view is that they may enroll if they wish to do so. Perhaps that is all right as far as the nomadic people are concerned - for them this is a completely new conception - but we do not think the responsibility to vote should be taken away from those natives in the States of New South Wales and Victoria who are bound by the same electoral laws as other citizens.
Much has been said, both by the Minister and Senator Branson, about the need for uniformity throughout the Commonwealth and about the fact that we are trying to raise the status of the natives to a satisfactory level. Under the legislation as it stands, without the Opposition’s amendment, we are taking away from the natives in those States where they have become fairly well assimilated into the community, and are not in a savage or nomadic state, some of the electoral responsibility which at present they possess. That the electoral law has not always been enforced in those States is not the fault of the natives, but is due to the fact that little interest has been taken in this matter because of the numerical strength of the native population. I think there are about 500 aborigines in Victoria and 1,200 in New South Wales. As compulsory enrolment, has not been enforced, many of those who have been entitled to enroll have not done so. This legislation would simply continue that situation.
Actually something will be taken from the natives who have already gone to the trouble of enrolling to obtain the full responsibilities of citizenship. The proposal in the bill would create a second-class type of citizen.
The question may be asked: Why have two different sets of rules in regard to voting? It may be said that the amendment will create a difference between natives in some States and natives in other States. It may be said that we are differentiating between, on the one hand, the natives of Western Australia, Queeusland and the Northern Territory and, on the other hand, those who are in New South Wales and Victoria. My answer is that the nomadic type of aborigines would not worry much about this at first. They are to be found only in three States. They do not live in the two States, New South Wales and Victoria, where the natives already have a vote. The differentiation is therefore there already. We realize, as we were told this afternoon, that this legislation is more or less only transitional, but surely nobody knows better than we do how long temporary arrangements can last, whether they are in legislation, buildings or anything else.
The Labour Party therefore upholds the recommendation of the committee. It feels that the committee appointed by the House of Representatives did a great job and deserves the tribute of every member inthis chamber and in the other place. After months of hard work investigating the conditions of the natives the committee came to the conclusion which we are considering at this late stage of the sitting. We think we should give heed to the advice the committee tendered, which was based on the advice of the very best authorities that were available to it in the course of its survey. We feel that the committee recommended what is best for the natives and also what is best for the community. I therefore commend to the Senate the amendment I have moved, which has been circulated to honorable senators.
– I must rise to oppose the amendment. This legislation is trying to correct a position which has existed, unfortunately, for some 60-odd years. We are trying to bring some uniformity into the system of voting for aborigines. The legislation proposed by the Minister does not discriminate between the States. All natives in the Commonwealth will be treated on exactly the same basis, and I think that is highly desirable. If we were to accept this amendment we would be saying, in effect, to the natives in two States, “ You are different from your fellow natives in the other States”.
– There is a big difference in their make-up.
– I shall give some figures in respect of the natives in New South Wales which will show that they are not out of line with the natives in other States. In the past we have been criticized quite validly for anomalies which have existed. One law existed in New South Wales, but if you crossed the border into Queensland there was another law in existence. In other words a native living in New South Wales was entitled to vote, but ‘ if he moved into Queensland he was not entitled to vote. The amendment moved by” Senator Tangney would in effect compel the person living in New South Wales to vote, but as soon as he crossed trie border into Queensland it would no longer be compulsory for him to vote. I think that on that ground the amendment would introduce an inconsistency into the legislation. -r
The committee was informed that compulsion to enroll was not enforced in respect of the aboriginal people in New South Wales. Of the 1,042 aborigines on stations in that State who were entitled to enroll only 487 have done so. The honorable senator is suggesting that the other 600-odd should be forced to enroll and that if they do not they will be ‘-fined £2, and subsequently will be fined another £2 if they do not vote. I do not think they will take kindly to that suggestion. Instead of thanking us for taking a step in the right direction they will have a natural resentment at being forced to do something against their will. Of 1,042 more than 600 have not wished to exercise their right in New South Wales. That is a fairly large proportion. Perhaps if they can be taught that this is a privilege they will enroll; but I think it would be most unjust for us to act in a mandatory fashion and tell them that if they do not enroll they will be fined.
– Voluntary enrolment but compulsory voting.
– The recommendation was that the provision in respect of enrolment in New South Wales and Victoria should be tightened up. I understood from the amendment that you wish it to be made compulsory to enroll and to vote.
– I must say that I am opposed to that on the ground that at present we are going through a transitional stage. We should not force these people to enroll or to vote at this stage. I tried to develop that theme in my speech to-day. We should not try to force these people who have had their own culture for thousands of years to adopt overnight our culture which has taken us thousands of years to develop. I think it would be quite wrong for us to attempt to do that.
– I think Senator Branson is under a misapprehension. The amendment is to the effect that in New South Wales and Victoria there should be voluntary enrolment, but once an aboriginal enrolls voting should be compulsory. In the other States both enrolment and voting should be voluntary at this stage.
.- I should like the Senate to know that the Government was reluctant to depart from the recommendations made by the committee in its most excellent report. The quality of the report is conceded on all sides. Most careful consideration was given to all the recommendations, but the Government did depart from the recommendations in -this particular instance for a very good reason. It believed that it was in the interests of the aborigines to do so.
The point that I make is that had this report been accepted in its entirety a hardship might well have been inflicted on people who were living under more or less nomadic conditions. They would have been obliged to enroll in one State but not obliged to do so in another. These people have not the same facilities for receiving information and communications as have most of the other people of this land. An aboriginal could - find himself in a different position if he transferred from one State to another. In the State in which he was living at first it might not be compulsory to enroll; in the State to which he transferred it might be compulsory for him to enroll and by sheer ignorance he might put himself in a position where he was liable to a fine of £2. I suggest that to introduce a provision such as that would not be in the interests of the people we are trying to assist. It could well be that we would create a class within a class, which would bring about a most undesirable state of affairs.
The Government in its wisdom claims that uniformity is the best thing as far as enrolment for these people is concerned. As Senator Branson very rightly said, and I believe Senator Tangney made the same point, these people are in a state of transition. It is hoped I am sure by all members of this chamber, and by the Government, that the time will come when it will be possible effectively to compel people to enroll without imposing a penalty on them. The desire of the Government is to do everything possible to raise these people to a standard of living that will warrant compulsory enrolment. For the reasons that I have given the amendment is not acceptable to the Government.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 (Bribery).
– The amendments to this clause, circulated on behalf of the Opposition, were contingent on the earlier amendment being passed. As that amendment was not passed, the other amendments will not be pressed.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Bribery to include certain acts).
.- I take it that clause 5 will be policed as much as section 157 of the principal act has been policed. If so, the Government should forget about this provision, because section 157 has not been policed since Ford produced his first motor car. Section 157 reads -
Without limiting the effect ot the general words in the preceding section, “bribery” particularly includes the supply of meat, drink-
Nobody feels guilty about asking a man to have a drink at election time - or entertainment-
Entertainment could cover a wide field; a lot would depend on the candidate - after the nominations have been officially declared, or horse or carriage hire for any voter whilst going to or returning from the poll, with a view to influence the vote of an elector.
Let us be practical. That section is a farce. As I have said, it has been contravened continuously since the first Ford motor car landed in Australia. Does the Government intend to police this clause as closely as it has policed section 157? Why do honorable senators think that our party supported compulsory voting at elections? We did not want to pay for the petrol to drive our supporters to the polls. The amount of money spent on motor cars for the transport of voters in municipal elections where voting is not compulsory is shameful. But does any one think that the provision of transport influences a voter? During elections for the Melbourne City Council, when voting was not compulsory, it was nothing for a car to travel 100 miles to get three votes. The A.L.P. did not have a lot of money and in some wards it had to tell its candidates to fight the election as -best they could. Of course, Frankston was just a nice trip along the bay. Who would dream that the provision of transport would influence an elector?
I have the greatest respect and admiration for officers of the Commonwealth Electoral Office. I have always received the greatest assistance from them. They have always shown themselves to be completely honest. From my observation of them over the last 40 years, I am sure that the thought uppermost in their minds is the need to do their job. I do not criticize them in any way, but I would like the Minister to ask those officers to bring up to date the provisions of the act to which I have been referring. Even my good friend Senator Wedgwood is laughing about these provisions as much as I am. If clause 5 is to be policed in the way that section 157. has been policed it would be better to remove the clause from the bill. We will try to match the expenditure of the Government parties, although our funds are not as great as theirs.
– You did not do too badly last time.
– At the last elections the Government parties gave their second preferences to the Australian Democratic Labour Party. That was a wise precaution. I would have done the same thing. That action showed brains. The Government parties knew that their candidates would receive 96 per cent, or 98 per cent, of D.L.P. preferences. Victoria was the vital State. Anybody who did not know that did not know anything. If the Government parties could rely on getting 90 per cent, or more of D.L.P. preferences they did not need to spend much money. Under those circumstances I would enjoy myself on the beach on election day.
If this clause becomes law perhaps we should ask the Minister for progress reports on how inspections are proceeding.
.- 1 find it even more difficult to reply to the matters raised by Senator Kennelly in relation to clause 5 than I did to define the meaning of the word “ improper “. 1 will make two brief observations. Senator Kennelly has criticized those provisions in the act which includes the use of a horse and carriage - to-day it would be motor transport-among the factors that might influence an elector. He cited the case of some of his political opponents sending a motor-car 100 miles in order to get three votes. I suggest that if Senator Kennelly were running an election campaign - he is a past master at the art - he would think carefully before sending a motorcar even 30 miles unless he knew how the people for whom the vehicle was sent would cast their votes. I suggest in all seriousness that these days 90 per cent., or perhaps even 95 per cent: or 99 per cent., of voters have made up their minds how they will vote before they start out for the polling booths. ‘ That observation is perhaps not relevant to the bill Under discussion because I could not imagine anybody sending a motor-car 100 miles for three votes from our aboriginal friends.
Senator Kennelly has suggested that section 157 be deleted from the original act. He has invited me to give him progress reports from time to time on the policing of the section. I think it will be a long time before those provisions are taken out of the act. I say that for this very good reason: If Senator Kennelly or any other honorable senator, or any elector in Victoria or any other State cares to lay a charge alleging improper practices, it will be investigated.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wade) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Since the Menzies Government came into office over twelve years ago, the Australian dairy industry has experienced a considerable degree of security and prosperity which can be attributed in no small measure to the successive . stabilization plans administered by the Government. There is no question as to the marked progress the industry has made in the past decade. For example, butter production has increased in the meantime by over 15 per cent., while the total annual income of the industry has almost doubled. The Government’s, policy of maintaining the butter and cheese subsidy arrangement has contributed materially to this satisfactory position.
I do not suggest, of course, that there is no room for improvement. Undoubtedly there is in some directions, but that is a relatively long-term project which will need to be tackled in consultation with the State governments which are currently examining the ideas of the Dairy Industry Committee of Enquiry. The important thing, however, is to maintain a basically stable industry throughout and the dairy industry stabilization plan provides* such a basis of stability. The current stabilization scheme, which is the third five years’ plan without a break, is due to terminate on 30th June next and it is the Government’s intention that a new arrangement of similar duration should operate from 1st July, 1962.
Although the scheme itself, which is in the nature of an agreement between the Commonwealth and State governments and the industry, is not spelt- out in legislation it is still necessary to have legislation to provide for the payment of bounty during the currency of the new plan and to specify the procedure to. be followed in disbursing the bounty to butter and cheese producers. That is therefore the purpose of this bill. The Government has decided to allocate a sum of £13,500,000 as bounty for each year of the proposed five-year plan. This is an important departure from the previous policy and procedure whereby the amount of bounty to be allocated to butter and cheese producers was determined by the Government annually, and shortly in advance of each year of the then current stabilization plan.
The Government arrived at this decision in the belief that the industry was in need of this assurance because of the serious adverse developments that have occurred in the local and overseas markets in the past year or so. The industry is greatly concerned at the continuing decline in per capita consumption of butter here in Australia despite strong promotional measures taken by the industry in an endeavour to reverse the trend. Experts in market research who have investigated the reasons for this decline are convinced that the downward consumption trend has been due principally to a change in dietary habits and has not been caused by the butter price being too high.
The acute over-supply of butter in world markets, necessitating the imposition by the British Government of import quotas into the United Kingdom market, is also causing the industry concern, particularly in view of the likelihood of surplus stocks of butter building up in this country without any firm prospects of its satisfactory disposal in normal commercial markets. In the overseas marketing field the negotiations that are proceeding between the British Government and the European Common Market countries could affect the future prospects of our export trade in dairy products. It is quite impossible, of course, to forecast at this stage what the outcome may be, but naturally the industry leaders have their worries about it.
In all the circumstances the Government believes it is essential that the industry be assisted by the Government to a reasonable extent, and it considers that the most effective way of giving practical encouragement is to ensure that the level of the bounty will not be reduced during the next five years.
In deciding to allocate £13,500,000 a year to the dairy industry over the full five-year period of the new stabilization plan, the Government has not accepted the recommendation of the Dairy Industry Committee of Enquiry that the bounty be gradually reduced to the point of termination after a period of ten years. It is important to remember in this connexion, however, that the market developments overseas were not evident and could not be foreseen by the committee when it conducted the inquiries on which its report was based.
Since the report of the committee of inquiry was tabled in Parliament in November, 1960, it has been studied by State Ministers for Agriculture and discussed by them, in the Australian Agricultural Council. As I mentioned earlier, the State governments are now examining the dairy industry situations in their respective States. The constitutional responsibility for land settlement and production rests with the States and any plan for rehabilitation of the Australian dairy industry as a whole would need to be implemented in accordance with a co-ordinated national plan. The Australian Agricultural Council is the appropriate forum for the development of such a plan.
In making its recommendations on rehabilitation, the committee suggested that the dairy subsidy be progressively reduced in proportion to the funds provided for rehabilitation over a period of ten years. The Government does not consider it would help producers - in fact, we consider it would have the opposite effect - if we were to take away from them something they were already receiving before any alternative form of assistance could be expected to have a practical effect.
As honorable senators know there are other issues of varying degrees of importance that have been raised by the committee of inquiry in its report. Some of them will require further consideration in conjunction with the States and the industry and others have been taken into account in negotiations in respect of the new stabilization plan.
The importance of the dairy industry to the national economy, must be recognized, I suggest, by any Australian Government, and we are all anxious to see the industry placed on a stable and economic basis. In accordance with the intention announced some twelve months or so ago, the Government has now successfully completed negotiations with the industry and the State governments for a new stabilization plan for the dairy industry to operate for the five-year period commencing 1st July, 1962.
In addition to the provision of an. annual £13,500,000 subsidy in respect of butter and cheese the Government has decided to continue for the duration of the plan the principle of underwriting equalization values for butter and cheese at levels which will enable the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee to determine and finance initial interim payments to factories each year at higher rates than would be practicable on purely conservative estimates of potential market returns for the year ahead.
For the first year of the new stabilization plan, 1962-3, the values will be underwritten at a level which will enable factories with average manufacturing costs to pay producers 40d. per lb. commercial butter basis, which is the same rate as has operated for the past four years. Thereafter, the level will be reviewed before the commencement of each season. To the extent that the final subsidy and equalized sales returns in any year exceed the interim payments the producers receive the benefit by way of a final adjustment from the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee. The industry is most appreciative of this undertaking, as it considers the underwriting provision to be of great assistance to the equalization committee.
Honorable senators will note that the bill provides for butterfat products containing not less than 40 per cent, butterfat to be included in the definition of butter. This innovation is now necessary to meet new processes of manufacture within the industry. The butterfat products concerned have been manufactured in the past from butter on which bounty has been paid. However, a new process has been established which will produce certain butterfat products direct from milk or cream. These products would not have been eligible for bounty under the previous act. They will now be eligible for bounty on their butterfat content at the same butterfat rate as for butter within the £13,500,000 bounty.
During the term of the new plan, the industry will be free to determine domestic prices for butter and cheese. In previous plans, this has been the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government by arrangement with the States, although for all practical purposes the actual home consumption price levels have been determined on the advice of the industry.
Price control oyer butter and cheese is now inoperative in all States, and the Commonwealth and State governments can see no reason why the industry should not assume this responsibility. This decision, also, is in accordance with a recommendation of the committee of inquiry and has been discussed with the industry leaders. However, the dairy industry has expressed the wish to establish a formula to measure movements in costs within the industry to assist it in its deliberations on domestic price levels and the Government has agreed that the services of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics will be available to assist industry representatives who will comprise a cost index committee.
The legislation retains the provision contained in the 1952 and 1957 acts which stipulated that bounty could be paid only to factories which were members of an approved equalization body. The industry places considerable importance on this stipulation, as it is recognized that no stabilization plan would be possible if the equalization scheme, which is otherwise a voluntary arrangement, did not exist. .
During the negotiations on the new stabilization plan, the industry submitted a recommendation to the Government that assistance be provided on exports of processed milk products. The Government has taken a decision on this recommendation which is reflected in a bill that I suggest be considered by the Senate concurrently with the Dairying Industry Bill.
I would remind honorable senators that the industry is contributing at the rate of approximately £250,000 per annum by way of levies on production of butter and cheese towards its own stability through its research and domestic promotion campaigns. In addition it is using over £150,000 a year from its market realizations in the United Kingdom towards butter and cheese promotion on the British market.
Later, I propose to submit to the Senate two other bills dealing with finance for the Australian Dairy Produce Board which, I feel, could logically be considered concurrently. I commend the Dairying Industry Bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wade) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
In my second-reading speech on the Dairying Industry Bill 1962, I referred to the fact that consideration had been given by the Government to a recommendation by the dairy industry that some Commonwealth assistance should be afforded to exports of processed milk products if a serious decline in the value of that trade was to be avoided.
It has been evident for some time that Australian exporters of processed milk products have been operating at a competitive disadvantage with overseas processors, who are frequently heavily subsidized in their own countries, and that as a consequence Australia is having great difficulty in holding her share of export markets even though some of our processors have continued to operate in export markets at a loss. The processors themselves largely attribute this situation to the price they have to pay to obtain their milk supplies from dairy-farmers. They must compete with butter and cheese factories and therefore pay the producers a price for milk comparable with the price the butter and cheese factories are in a position to pay.
The suppliers of milk to the butter and cheese factories not only receive the Government bounty but also benefit from the fact that the factories they supply receive the equalized return from domestic and export sales, which is, of course, above the export price by reason of the relatively high home consumption butter price. In the export markets the milk processors have to compete with countries which subsidize their exports. The main competitor, the Netherlands, heavily subsidizes processed milk exports.
Some manufacturers have informed the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) - and there is no reason to doubt their statements - that if some assistance is not given to processors in respect of their exports they will either cease to produce for the export market or close down their factories altogether. The Australian Dairy Industry Council, which represents the butter and cheese sector of the industry, is afraid that if these processors cease operations, there will undoubtedly be a substantial diversion ofbutterfat to butter factories, thus aggravating the serious butter oversupply problem. In fact, any decline in exports of processed milks, with a resultant decrease in production, will be reflected in the diversion of the equivalent quantities of butterfat to butter and cheese production.
The Government is sympathetic to the problems facing our milk processors in export markets, and bearing in mind the substantial export earnings of the industry, which total about £8,000,000 per annum, and the social problems which would arise in certain rural areas if the factories concerned should close down, the Government has decided to assist the industry.
The purpose of this bill is. to provide for the payment of a bounty on exports of processed milk products in 1962-63 and to give effect to the Government’s decision by appropriating a maximum amount of £350,000. It. is intended that the. rate of the -bounty will be equivalent on a butterfat basis to the final butter bounty rate for that year.
I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wade) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Since the establishment of the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Board in 1924, the administration expenses of the board have been provided from charges imposed on butter and cheese exported from Australia. These charges were first imposed by the Dairy Produce Export Charges Act 1924 at a maximum of one-eighth of a penny per lb. on butter and one-sixteenth of a penny per lb. on cheese exported. The act provides that lower rates of charge may be prescribed by regulation after recommendation to the Minister by the board. Until 1952 rates lower than the maximum rates provided in the act were prescribed, but since that year the maximum rates have operated. However, notwithstanding levy collections at the maximum rates permitted, the board’s administration expenses have been greater than its income and the losses have had to be met from the board’s reserve finances, which are held in the Dairy Produce Fund.
The purpose of this bill is to increase the rates of export charge and to impose charges on some other dairy products which have recently been brought under the control of the Dairy Board, in order to provide the board with sufficient finance to meet its increasing operating costs. The bill does not introduce any new principle. Since 1924 when Parliament accepted the principle of financing the board’s operations by means of small charges on exports of butter and cheese, this means of meeting board administration expenditure has been recognized as the most satisfactory and practical one. A similar principle applies with other export authorities established under Commonwealth legislation.
The provisions of the bill now before the Senate are therefore little different from those of the Dairy Produce Export Charges Act 1924-1937, which it replaces. In fact the only differences of any significance between the two measures are changes in the rates of the export charge on butter and cheese and the application of a charge on other products of the industry which are now assuming some importance in the export field. To provide for these differences, it would have been possible for the present Export Charges Act to be amended; however, the necessary amendments would be lengthy and cumbersome. It has been considered to be a more simple procedure to introduce a new bill, thereby spelling out the full provisions proposed, rather than risk causing unnecessary confusion in the minds of honorable senators, by their having to read lengthy amendments in conjunction with the existing act.
The proposed rates of charge and other provisions were recommended by the Australian Dairy Produce Board with the full support of the Australian Dairy Industry Council. The council is virtually the parliament of the dairying industry and comprises the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation, the Australian Dairy Produce Board and the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee. When one considers the changes which have taken place in the functions of the board and in the costs of all items associated with its administration, including sales promotion activities and an active approach to new markets the reasons for the industry’s representations for a significant increase in the board’s revenue can be readily appreciated. For many years the board was only a regulatory authority. In 1955 it became a trading authority as well to the United Kingdom market. Until relatively recently the board’s chairman operated on a part time basis only. On the death of the late Sir Christopher Sheehy in 1960, Mr. E. G. Roberts was appointed as chairman. The position was placed on a full time basis, in line with some other Commonwealth marketing boards, and Mr. Roberts severed his former connexions, including the chairmanship of the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation; to concentrate on the vital task of marketing Australia’s surplus butter and cheese.
The board has re-organized its staffing set-up to provide for the employment of marketing specialists and has made provision for extensive promotional programmes to combat the expanding activities in this field of. our main competitors, in overseas markets. In addition, wage increases and mounting costs of such items as transport, office accommodation, equipment, printing, communications and other essential services are matters resulting in greater expenditure. Overseas selling missions are now part and parcel of export promotion, and the dairy board’s policy calls for increasing expenditure on this important phase of marketing.
Because of the increasing demands on board expenditure, I consider that the case for raising the board’s revenue is clearly established. Possibly the fact that the maximum rates proposed are four times the current maximum rates may elicit some comment; however, I would remind honorable senators that charges at these maximum rates will be applied only if it becomes absolutely necessary. Furthermore I think it is appropriate to mention that the maximum rates have operated since 1924 when a charge on export butter of one eighth of a penny per lb. would probably have been as significant as the proposed rate of one half penny per lb. would be to-day. It is proposed that until 30th June, 1963, the operative rates of charge in respect of the butter fat products will be half the maximum rates provided in the bill. At the end of this period there will be a review of these rates, which will take into account the Board’s revenue and expenditure position at that time.
With regard to the additional dairy products of some importance to which it is proposed that export charges should apply, I think I should point out to honorable senators that these products are integral and increasingly important parts of the industry. It is therefore equitable that they should be called upon to bear their fair share of the costs associated with their control and marketing, in so far as these costs are borne by the dairy board. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wade) read a first time.
Senator WADE (Victorian-Minister for
Health) [9.58].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill, which is consequential upon the Dairy Produce Export Charge Bill 1962, is to amend the Dairy Produce Export Control Act 1924-1958 insofar as it refers to the Dairy Produce Export Charges Act 1924-1937. Since it is proposed to repeal the export charges act a consequential amendment to the export control act is necessary.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table of the Senate reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Message received from the House of Representatives requesting the concurrence of the Senate in the appointment of a Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory in the following terms: -
That a Joint Committee be appointed to-
examine and report on all proposals for modifications or variations of the plan of lay-out of the City of Canberra and its environs published in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette on the nineteenth day of November, 1925, as previously modified or varied, which are referred to the Committee by the Minister for the Interior; and
examine and report on such other matters relating to the Australian Capital Territory as may be referred to the Committee by the Minister for the Interior.
That the Committee consist of two Members of the House of Representatives appointed by the Prime Minister, two Members of the
House of Representatives appointed by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, three Senators appointed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate and two Senators appointed by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
That every appointment of a member of the Committee be forthwith notified in writing to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
That the members of the Committee shall hold office as a Joint Committee until the House of Representatives expires by dissolution or effluxion of time.
That the Committee elect as Chairman of the Committee one of the members appointed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
That the Chairman of the Committee may, from time to time, appoint another member of the Committee to be the Deputy Chairman of the Committee, and that the member so appointed act as Chairman of the Committee at any time when the Chairman is not present at a meeting Of the Committee.
That the Committee have power to appoint sub-committees consisting of three or more of its members and to refer to such a subcommittee any matter which the committee is empowered to examine.
That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records and to sit during any recess or adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament.
That the Committee have leave to report from time to time and that any member of the Committee have power to add a protest or dissent, to any report.
That five members of the Committee, including the Chairman or Deputy Chairman, constitute a quorum of the Committee, and two members of a sub-committee constitute a quorum of the sub-committee.
That in matters of procedure the Chairman or Deputy Chairman presiding at the meeting have a deliberative vote and, in the event of an equality of voting, have a casting vote, and that, in other matters, the Chairman or Deputy Chairman have a deliberative vote- only.
That the foregoing provisions of this resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
Motion (by Senate- Spooner) - by leave - agreed to -
That the Senate concurs in the resolution transmitted to the Senate by Message No. 41 of the House of Representatives with reference to the appointment of a Joint Committee to examine and report on certain matters relating to the Australian Capital Territory.
That the provisions of that resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
That the foregoing resolutions be communicated to the House of Representatives by message.
Debate resumed from 8th May (vide page 1176), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of this bill is to amend the customs tariff, most of the proposed amendments being based on recommendations by the Tariff Board. They cover a variety of commodities ranging from musical instruments of the lute class to mechanically propelled work trucks. The Labour Party does not intend to oppose the bill, but it is not happy with the system whereby the Government seeks to make many amendments of the customs tariff at the one time. I think that both sides of the Parliament have a duty to make this institution function as it should function. I always remember being told, “If you cannot do a thing as you want to do it, at least appear to do so. Outsiders will then think you are doing it as it ought to be done.”
We are in the last days of this sessional period. I suppose that in this respect, Mr. President, the Senate can be likened to a horse’ when it hits the straight. I do not know whether you know much about horseracing, Sir, but judging by the look in your eye I think you may be interested in it at times, as I am, particularly in the big race that is held in my city each year. What ‘chance have we to give proper consideration to this bill? As honorable senators will see, there are nineteen bills on the business-paper, and there may be more before the Parliament rises. We are supposed to take an intelligent interest in the legislation which goes through this place. I know that that is not always easy, but nevertheless we attempt to do so.
The nineteen bills listed on the businesspaper . include some very important ones, such as that dealing with the dairy industry. In addition, there are one or two matters that are not of a legislative nature which we wish to discuss. For instance, we want to say something about the European Common Market. Of course, we on this side will have something to say about the bill which proposes to make gifts to the private trading banks. I thought that
Christmas was celebrated on 25th December, but as far as the banks are concerned, apparently they are to have Christmas about eight months earlier.
We should amend the customs tariff as the reports of the Tariff Board come in. Amendments should not be delayed until there is such a large number to be dealt with that it is not possible to give them proper consideration. I point out that the Government received the report of the Board dealing with poultry twelve months ago. The report was, in fact, presented on 11th May, 1961. I do not know why that matter has not been brought before the Parliament before now. I say, with great respect to the leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner), that he likes the Senate to meet. I agree with him that we are supposed to do a job, and I think we should attempt to do it. Perhaps it is a common failing of Upper
Houses that, in the early days of a sessional period, their members are apt to wonder why they have been brought together. I realize that most legislation has to be introduced in another place before it can be dealt with here, but these bills could have been presented to us earlier. If that had been the case we could have disposed of them before this. I think it will be generally agreed that in the early part of a sessional period we have to fill iri quite a lot of time. Certainly a number of interesting speeches are made on important topics, but the primary task of the House is to deal with the legislative programme.
I have a list setting out the Tariff Board’s reports on various items, the dates on which they were made and the- dates on which they were ordered to be printed. With the concurrence of honorable senators, I shall incorporate the list in “ Hansard “. It is as follows: -
I cannot find the dates on which the Tariff Board’s reports on the following subjects were ordered to be printed: - Onions in their natural state; ball point pens and pencils; polyethylene resins and moulding compounds; glucose; and continuous man-made fibre yarns. No doubt it was ordered that the reports be printed, but I have not been able to find when this was done.
I suggest to the Leader of the Government, with the greatest respect, that it would be of great advantage if we were given more time to study reports of this kind. We must take much more interest in trade, both internal and external, than perhaps we have taken in years gone by. Necessity is forcing us to do so. The Opposition does not oppose the bill.
– in reply - Unfortunately, these are money bills and must be introduced in the other place, although, as the Minister concerned is a member of this House, it would greatly simplify matters if they could be introduced here. The bills were introduced in the other House during the period from November, 1961, to April of this year. Senator Kennelly raised a very relevant point. Perhaps we could discuss the matter with members of theother House and request them to endeavour to deal with these reports in small batches, so that they would not all come forward at once, as on this occasion. Then the Senate could deal with them in more detail. I am sure the Tariff Board would welcome a discussion of its reports by this House, because it would be given an indication of what the Parliament thinks about the very fine work that the board is doing.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Consideration resumed from 8th May (vide page 1177), on motion by Senator Henty-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Debate resumed from 8th May (vide page 1 177), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– For the information of Senator Kennelly, let me say that the Tariff Board’s report on onions was ordered to be printed on 22nd February, 1962; the reports on ballpoint pens and pencils, on polyethylene resins and moulding compounds, and on glucose on 7th March, 1962; and the report on continuous man-made fibre yarns on 28th March, 1962.
– As this bill proposes only consequential amendments, I do not want to take up the time of the House by discussing it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Consideration resumed from 8th May (vide page 1177), on motion by Senator Henty-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Consideration resumed from 8th May (vide page 1178), on motion by Senator Henry-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Debate resumed from 8th May (vide page 1180), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill now before the chamber deals with five matters. To four of them the Opposition has no objection. It does oppose, and in committee will vote against, the proposal for an investment allowance in favour of manufacturing industries. This provision is contained in clause 7 of the bill. I shall deal first with the four matters to which there is no opposition. A tax clearance for persons about to leave Australia is to be abolished not only in relation to income tax, which is the subject matter of the present bill, but also in relation to five other taxes for which there are five separate bills. The Opposition supports that. .
However, I invite the Minister in charge of the bill when he replies to the secondreading debate, to indicate what the position will be in relation to those persons - notably entertainers - who come to Australia for brief visits, earn high fees and rewards, and then leave the country very quickly. I should imagine that the system of tax clearances has covered these people adequately up to date. I should like the Minister to indicate, in relation to that special type of person, whether any new precautions are required by the department in order to protect the revenue. It is obvious that the people in the category I have mentioned will come into the country and, apart from their immediate earnings, would have no stake or assets in the country. I am certain that the Taxation Branch would have addressed its mind to that problem, and I should like the Minister to say something about it.
The second proposal deals with prospecting and mining for minerals. The proposal is similar to the one we had in recent times relating to contributions of paid capital to companies mining for, and prospecting in relation to, petroleum. A similar provision is to be applied to all minerals apart from uranium, gold and oil which are dealt with in separate legislation and do not come within the purview of this provision. Expenditure on prospecting and mining by mining companies will be allowable deductions. The allowance provided under the bill will be reduced by one-third if a claim is made under section 78 (l.)(b). That is the section which the Senate will recognize as the one under which there was an allowable deduction in respect of onethird of calls paid to a company. That proposal is not objected to.
In relation to primary production, and the provision of plant and structures of various types used for production, it is intended not to vary the existing law but to extend it for five years from 1962 to 1967, spilling over under the terms of the legislation to the extreme limit to 1968 in certain circumstances. They are the provisions of section 57aa in particular. Again, there is no objection to that concession for the provision of new plant and certain structural improvements.
The fourth -matter which we support- is’ in relation to making gifts exceeding £1 tocertain United Nations Organization agencies an allowable deduction. A new one is admitted to the favoured list, the Australian National Committee for the Freedom from Hunger Campaign. Gifts made up to June, 1963, will be an allowable “deduction to the persons who make’ the gifts. The U.N.O.- appeal for children which would expire in the near future is to be extended contemporaneously with the Freedom from Hunger. Campaign gifts up to 1963. .On those four matters I have nothing to add other than to say that the Opposition supports them. I do not propose to canvass them further.
I come now to the investment allowances which is the real point of contention between the Government and the Opposition. These are designed, in the words of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), who introduced the legislation, to do a number of things. They are designed to encourage investment in manufacturing industry, to increase production in certain manufacturing industries, to keep costs down, and finally, to assist unemployment. Each of these items will emerge from time to time in the comments I have to offer. I cannot comment on them all at once. I prefer to deal with them as I comment on the various aspects of the bill. Clause 7 of the bill permits certain manufacturing industries to claim an allowable deduction for income tax purposes of 20 per cent, on new manufacturing plant for use in Australia to produce assessable income acquired on or after 7th February, 1962. I say to the Minister, in particular, that there is no time limit that I have noted applying to this legislation. I should like him to confirm my belief that there is no limit on the operation of clause 7 and that it is included without limit of time in the general provisions of the income tax laws.
Twenty per cent, of the cost of new plant will be allowed as a deduction against assessable income in the first year, that is in the year in which the plant is used or installed for the first time. The interesting thing about this measure is that ordinary depreciation on the full cost will be allowed as well. That, Mr. President, is the extraordinary consequence. The taxpayer will be able to claim in income tax deductions 20 per cent, more than the actual cost of the item. Let me give an example. Assuming that new plant cost £100. In the year of installation the taxpayer will be entitled to deduct £20 and then go back to the original £100 again and deduct another £10. Assuming the life of the plant is ten years, in the first year there would be a deduction of 20 per cent, of £100 and again 10 per cent, of £100, making £30 for the first year. Then from the second to the tenth years nine amounts of £10 will be allowed as deductions. In other words from the second to the tenth year, a period of nine years, there will be in successive years a total deduction of £90. In the first year £30 is allowed, and in the successive nine years £90 is allowed.
– Is that provision in the bill?
– It is one of the salient features of the bill.
– Can you cite the clause?
– It is clause 7, which, let me say, covers eight pages. It is a highly complicated clause. I refer Senator Scott to sub-section (5.) of proposed new section 62aa on page 6 of the bill. There is a provision also for ordinary depreciation. The provisions of sub-section (5.) are in addition to ordinary depreciation. The point I make is that in respect of an asset that has cost £100 the tax-payer will be entitled to deduct from assessable income a total of £120. That runs counter to all principles hitherto applied to depreciation for income tax purposes. I have never heard of such a provision in all my experience. We certainly know of the initial depreciation allowance provisions under which, in relation to an expenditure of near £100, the whole amount is written off over a period of years, but under this bill you get the completely extraordinary position that an expenditure of £100 will lead to a total of £120 being written off.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McKellar). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I was indicating that the provisions of this sub-section run counter to all income tax experience in this country to date. In particular I say that they run counter to sections 56 (2.) and 81 of the principal act. Section 56 (2.) reads -
The deduction allowable in respect of any unit of property shall not exceed the depreciated value of that unit.
A broad principle is laid down in the act. I have not noted how long it has been there but, speaking from memory, it has been there almost as long as I have known this legislation. It is that the deduction allowable in respect of any unit of property shall not exceed the depreciated value of that’ asset. The provision contained in subsection (5.) of the proposed new section is an exception to that principle. It introduces the most novel arrangement that I have encountered in the field of depreciation. In the example that I have given, the depreciation that will be deducted in the ninth and tenth years - the last two claims of £10 each - runs counter to the principle laid down in section 56 (2.) of the principal act.
– Those deductions will be in respect of something that has already been written off the books.
– Yes, it will have been completely written off the books. In practice nothing will be written off the books because there will be nothing to write off. In the income tax returns £10 will be claimed for each year in respect oi depreciation of an asset that has gone completely out of the books. I submit that it is an offence to one’s common sense that a tax-payer should be allowed to claim more in depreciation than the full cost of the asset. I put that as an example of the undue strain that is placed on income tax to achieve purely economic and social purposes which have no direct relation to the recovery of revenue.
– It will not mean that more will be claimed in depreciation than the value of the asset.
– With the investment allowances and depreciation, more is allowed to be claimed off assessable income - more by £20 in the case I cited - than the cost of the asset.
– But there is a distinction between depreciation and investment allowance.
– Only in words.
– And in principle.
– Only in words; not at all in principle. You get exactly the same position where you have given an initial depreciation allowance to primary industries and the pearling industry. This is toying with words. One concession may be described as an investment allowance and the other as a depreciation allowance, but the fact is that between them they enable the taxpayer to claim £120 in allowable deductions in respect of an asset that cost £100. This writing-off will appear in the returns prepared for the Commissioner of Taxation. It cannot appear in the books of the company because £20 of the amount is not there to write off. It is a pure quibble in my view to say that the 20 per cent, that will be written off as an investment allowance is not depreciation at all - that by giving it another name we can cure the monstrousness of the new principle that is imported. I claim that this is placing an undue strain on the income tax power of this Parliament. I have referred to that on quite a number of occasions.
Owing to the lack of general economic powers in this Parliament - a situation that is tolerated by the Government despite the fact that it has had a recommendation on this matter from the Constitutional Review Committee before it for years - the Government goes again to the poor old income tax legislation and works it to death to achieve every conceivable economic and social purpose. This leads to the type of absurdity to which I have just referred.
Clause 7, as I reminded Senator Scott a few minutes ago, is spread over eight pages of the bill. It adds a maze of complexities to an act already too complicated for any one who cannot devote years of study to it. The income tax legislation is to-day a job for the expert and the specialist who live with it day and night. Other people can hope to understand only a smattering of it. I confess my admiration for the draftsman and the officers of the Taxation Branch, whose calibre I know well, upon finding their way through so complex a provision. If honorable senators have looked at the bill they will have found it a very good sleep-inducer. This clause is one of the most complicated of any bill that I have picked up. The entire bill, particularly those provisions relating to mining, is complicated. The principal act is now a most bulky tome. Year after year we add to its volume and complexity, leaving the ordinary person in a hopeless plight in his efforts to understand it.
One of the bad features of this approach to the situation is that the effect of what is being done is not readily apparent to the public or to members of the Parliament. The real effect of what is being done is to pay a bounty to those who install new manufacturing plant in terms of this measure. It is a bounty, a subsidy or, if I may choose another word, a grant. But in the end result nobody in the community except the Commissioner of Taxation will know how much has been involved in making this 20 per cent, allowable deduction. And even the Commissioner of Taxation will not know until two or three years have elapsed and his statistics have been prepared. Nobody outside the Taxation Branch will ever know the firm or firms to which the money has gone. I believe that from a public viewpoint that is exceedingly bad. The Government intends to make a subvention to industry in this way. That should be done openly and frankly, and not in a way in which all the information about it is in the hands of the Commissioner of Taxation who properly is sworn to secrecy and who cannot tell any one who receives the bulk of it. That is a most undesirable position.
These are public moneys. In a moment I will say something about what this allowance will cost. In the view of the Opposition, it is completely wrong to confer a benefit on selected industries in respect of particular development and activity. We are told that the allowance is to help them to expand and develop and to reduce their costs. Nobody in Australia, except the officers of the Commissioner of Taxation, is to know who gets the money. Is that a principle that the Senate believes is good, when we are handing out not £ 1,000,000 but many million pounds of the taxpayers’ money? Have not the taxpayers a right to know who is getting their money? Have not we in the Senate a duty to watch where that money goes and to ensure that it goes into proper channels? As I put it and as I see it, this allowable deduction, in truth, is a subsidy to selected manufacturing industries - not to all of them, but to those that comply with the complicated conditions which cover eight printed pages in the bill.
I have indicated that the Government has given us no information about what this investment allowance will cost the country. I have seen no such information in the second-reading speech made by the Treasurer, and I believe I am correct in saying that there is no such information in the speech made by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) in this place. Is not the public entitled to know the Government’s estimate of the loss of revenue? I should think that that would have been one of the first things that Would have been put before the chamber with this measure. Accordingly, we of the Opposition are forced into making our own calculation. That is something that should not be thrown upon an opposition. Our duty certainly is to know, but clearly the responsibility of the Government is to tell us. The Government has immediate access to the relevant statistics. I will give the Senate the calculation that the Opposition has made of how much money is involved in this proposal. If that calculation is wrong, I invite the Minister to say in what respect it is wrong.
I refer to the statistical documents that are attached to the fortieth report of the Commissioner of Taxation. Bringing together pages 115 and 116, I obtain this information in respect of the year 1958-59. The latest statistics supplied by the Commissioner are up to that year. It is true that they are nearly three years behind, but they are the best statistics that are available. The total expenditure on plant and equipment by all companies during that financial year was £300,000,000. The! commissioner’s statistics show that £151,000,000 of that amount was expended by manufacturing companies. So, we see immediately that on the best available figures the manufacturing industry spent £151,000,000 in 1958-59. Twenty per cent, of that amount is £30,000,000. On the rate of company tax of 8s. in the £1, that means a loss of revenue of £12,000,000 in a year. I am unaided by the Government in that calculation of the cost, but the figure I have cited seems to me to be correct. I ask the Minister to tell me whether it is correct. If it is not correct, what is the Government’s estimate? I think the Minister, from his long experience, will readily concede that the nation and the Opposition, in particular, are entitled to know the Government’s estimate of the loss of revenue that will be incurred by granting this investment allowance.
Let me make it quite plain that the Opposition is not objecting to assistance to the tune of £12,000,000 a year, or whatever the correct figure is, being given to the manufacturing industry. We have no objection to its being assisted in that way; nor would we query assistance to it to the tune of the £12,000,000 that I suggest is the loss of revenue involved in granting this allowance.
– That would be in a full year, would it?
– Yes. I indicated that I took the full year 1958-59. I referred to the £151,000,000 spent on plant and equipment in that year. I said that if that spending were maintained in a full year now, the allowance would cost revenue1 £12,000,000 a year.
– We have no way of saying whether that money was spent on new plant or second-hand plant, have we?
– The honorable senator will find the statistics to which I have referred at pages 115 and 116 of the report of the Commissioner of Taxation. The best information that I can get is under the heading “ Companies with Depreciable Assets”. One of the many figures shown there is for purchases during the year. I can only infer that that means purchases of new plant and equipment. I certainly cannot make an affidavit to that effect; but I believe a reasonable assumption is that all of that expenditure or the majority of it was in respect of new plant and equipment. The only information that is available to the nation is that contained in those statistics. My belief is that the money would have been spent mainly on new plant.
Of course, those figures are nearly three years old. More than £150,000,000 a year may be spent on plant and equipment now;. Therefore, the £12,000,000 that I calculated in the way I indicated is, in my view, the minimum cost per annum. It would be the minimum for another reason. One can expect that this concession will stimulate industry into buying new plant. Whatever the average level of spending has been up to date, with this added stimulus one can expect an accelerated rate of buying of new plant. I repeat that the Opposition has no objection to the manufacturing industry being helped, and being helped to the financial extent involved in this bill. Nobody is under a greater duty to the manufacturing industry of this country than is this Government because it was through its misguided 1960 policies that industry was thrown into turmoil and into a depression spilling over into unemployment. We, as an Opposition, see in this matter the spectacle of a government having halted and retarded manufacturing industry and now doing penance for its sins and trying to make amends for them out of the pockets of the taxpayers. Unquestionably, industry has been depressed. Unquestionably, it needs help. But who threw it into the trouble? If I were the Auditor-General or the dictator of Australia, I do not know whether the Minister for Civil Aviation and the other members of the Government would be able to stand up to the surcharge that I would impose on them. I would surcharge them with the cost of putting industry back on its feet. Perhaps the
Minister can rejoice in the fact that I am the Leader of the Opposition and not the Auditor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia.
That is putting the position plainly, as the Opposition sees it. The people of Australia are asked to pay for the mistakes of the Government. That is an additional reason why, with suspicious minds, we think a subvention to industry has been concealed in this way. An amount of £12,000,000 represents 8 per cent, of £150,000,000. This is truly an 8 per cent; subsidy by the Commonwealth on new machinery bought after 7th February, 1962.
One begins to see the pattern take shape. Industry is wrecked by the Government and now is helped by the Government, but the Government says, “Do not let the people know how ‘much it costs. Do not let them know that the money is being taken out of their pockets in order to restore the damage that we have done.” That is the view that we take of the matter. The taxpayers are entitled to know what they have to pay because of the mistakes of the Government: Frankly, we do not like assistance to industry being camouflaged in this way.
One other aspect is that the Australian Industries Development Association, a year or two ago, assessed the value of the unused plant and capacity of this country at £250,000,000 and indicated at the same time that the plant lying idle was capable of employing an extra 100,000 persons. We went from that position into a complete depression and now the Government is providing this badly needed help. Surely, in the interests of the people who are out of work, the first stimulus to manufacturing industries, in fairness to them and in order to get men back to work, should have been to enable all the unused capacity of Australian industry to get into action, which would be the quickest way to absorb the unemployed.
But what does the Government do? It makes no effort to see that the unused capacity is put into action. It has decided to help the provision of new plant in futuro It is a good thing to get new, more efficient and more up-to-date plant, but it is not the only solution. For the past two years we have had a serious unemployment problem. The Government has been exceedingly short-sighted in not making sure, first, that the unused capacity of Australia when this concession was announced was put to use. That lag should have been taken up before bothering about the long-term plan to get more machinery and new plant. This will all take time. I am not saying that it should not be done, but it should not be the first step. The first step , should have been to pick up the lag and close the gap in existing industries. We criticize the Government, first, for not getting into action the plant that is lying idle. There is no, stimulus, because there is nothing provided for anybody who had the foresight and goodwill to put more plant into operation prior to 7th February this year. In the view that we take, that is the fault in this legislation.
The Government’s present approach to this problem has no relation to picking up the unemployed in that way. As a matter of .fact, the. Government’s proposal might add to -the numbers of unemployed. The Government pays lip service in its policy speeches to picking up the unemployed. It will be recalled that I said at the outset that the Treasurer had indicated that one of the purposes of the bill was to cure unemployment. What is likely to happen under this legislation, if manufacturing industry is keen and sensible? It will go for modern plant and for automation. The day of automation is with us. Obviously, the Treasurer hopes that manufacturers will do this, because he wants them to keep costs down. They are perfectly certain to go for the latest and most efficient machinery. What does that mean? A displacement of man-power in factories.
– Sell the tractors and get back to the pick and shovel. That is what you are advocating.
– I am doing nothing of the kind, and please do not distort what I say. I said that industry would be completely unwise if it did not go for the latest, best and most efficient equipment that will keep costs down. An automatic result of that will be displacement of labour. The honorable senator cannot deny that. Get in the automatic plant, and out go the men, out go the bodies into the street. I am not asking that the streamlining of industry be halted. That would be going back to the pick and shovel, for which Senator Scott misrepresents me as contending. Is the Government providing against that contingency? Allied with this proposal, is there any arrangement or plan to pick up and re-train the people who are thrown out of industry? Everybody in the Senate knows that the age of automation is upon us and that it poses one of’ our greatest social problems. It cannot be denied that here we find the Government encouraging that development, wanting modern automatic machinery in order to keep costs down. That is a good thing in itself. Inevitably, it must come. With the rest- of the world, we must face it. But we cannot ignore the great human problems involved in the displacement of labour.
It is all very well for the Treasurer and the Minister representing him in the Senate to say in their second-reading speeches that this proposal is good for the country and will help to cure unemployment. As strongly as I can, I am putting the argument that it may cause unemployment. The Government, with its usual lack of foresight, says nothing about it and, worse still, does nothing about it. In this measure, it may even make a contribution towards unemployment.
The Government must recognize, too - it does in words - that there is a vast responsibility upon manufacturing industry to pick up the great, accretion to our work force through migration and, above all, through the flood of school-leavers who are coming into the economy year by year. Those two factors alone constitute a great social problem. That is one reason, I say, why manufacturing industry must be helped. We shall be faced with the problem of school-leavers in increasing numbers year by year in the period that lies ahead. I suggest that the Government might have been very much wiser had it taken more serious note of the position of unemployment and the impact of this legislation upon it.
I do not approve of the allowance in the proposed form. It should have been fixed with some direct relation to the employmentgiving opportunities afforded by the use of new plant in industry. In other words, why should we not have a graduated scale? I do not suggest figures. An industry that installed new plant that increased employment to a certain specified degree could be given a 5 per cent, allowance. Plant which provided greater employment opportunities would attract a bigger percentage. Why should the allowance not be graduated from 10 to 20 per cent. - to take arbitrary figures - in favour of the industry that, in acquiring new plant, provided employment opportunities? Will anybody on the Government side deny that that would have been a better approach? From the viewpoint of mopping up the unemployed, a much more sensible and human approach could have been adopted. I should like the Minister to tell me where I am wrong in the argument I have advanced that automation may well add to unemployment. I should like to know why some particular benefit is not being given to those buying new plant that will lead to the provision of greater unemployment opportunities. I argue that this legislation may well lead to fewer employment opportunities. If manufacturers take advantage of it intelligently that is an inevitable consequence. Again, I think that we can expect that the greatest benefit from this legislation will go into very few hands. As a result of a lot of consideration of statistics, I am in a position to sum up very briefly the facts as I see them. According to figures published in the 39th report of the Commissioner of Taxation - the report for the year 1957-58 - from page 220 onwards, about one-half of the total sum of £12,000,000 involved in these benefits would go to 38 manufacturing companies earning more than £1,000,000 a year each. Of a total of 41,000 manufacturing companies 808 earned £50,000 per annum or more and 38 companies paid £43,300,000 in taxation out of a total of £82,600,000. These 38 companies pay more than one-half of the tax paid by all manufacturing companies. This simply means, if the cost estimate of £12,000,000 is correct, that more than £6,000,000 of the benefit of the legislation will, go to 38 great companies. My figures can be verified as I have made reference to their source.
Let me now bring these statistics up to date by reference to the latest figures.
They are for the year ended 30th June, 1959. These details can be checked on pages 122 and 123 of the report. It is revealed that £6,000,000 of the £12,000,000 benefit will go to 31 companies out of 828 in the class earning £50,000 and over.
Those 31 companies paid £33,000,000 out of a total of £81,000,000 paid by manufacturing companies. Therefore, something like one-half of the benefit involved will go to 31 companies earning £1,000,000 or more.
The Attorney-General has indicated that he is opposed to restrictive trade practices and he has been threatening - very mildly - to do something about them. The Government pretends that it is concerned to prevent monopolies, but here we find that half of this great benefit to industry will flow into the hands of 31 companies. Who they are will never be told. One cannot get this information from the Commissioner of Taxation and we cannot guess their names. Yet Government members claim that they are genuine in the concern they express about the concentration of power in monopolistic hands and say that they want to do something about it. The inaction of this Government over three years proves that it is not worried about pouring the great bulk of this money into the hands of relatively few companies. This, in the view of the Opposition, is a disgrace, particularly when it is done in a way which prevents us from identifying the companies concerned.
– The 31 companies referred to may have a high percentage of all shareholders in manufacturing companies.
– Undoubtedly they have a high percentage of capital. I suggest to Senator Hannaford that they are in a far better position to provide out of their adequate reserves any new plant they need without assistance from taxpayers. Not one assurance does this Government require from any of these companies that in return for this concession they will provide more employment opportunities. As I have already argued it may well be that they will provide fewer employment opportunities.
– By introducing laboursaving equipment.
– The development of automation will lead to fewer employment opportunities; there is no doubt about that.
I do not wish to be really dogmatic about my next statement, so I make it tentatively and invite the Minister to correct me if necessary. It is unquestionably true that the Government set out to cut back the activities of the motor car industry and the building industry with its economic measures of 1960. I am not concerned about the building industry at the moment as it is not particularly involved in this measure. However, let us consider the position of the motor car industry. The Government claimed that the industry was producing too many motor cars and had to be checked before production increased even further. I notice that whilst a manufacturer who uses a motor vehicle within his premises for internal transport cannot include such a vehicle as new machinery under this bill, the great motor manufacturing companies will be able to claim as deductions additions made to their buildings or their plant after 7th February. I am advised that that is the position. What does the Government want? Recently, it told the motor car industry that it was going ahead too quickly and struck it severely with blow after blow - sales tax increases, credit restrictions and the rest. Now the industry is being given this incentive to increase its plant. No assurance is sought that more people will be employed or that there is not already some unused capacity.
It takes a great deal of time to analyse and understand these complicated measures. That is why one needs to spend not merely hours but days in tracing the ramifications of the proposal. Only those in the Taxation Branch who are completely skilled in this type of thing can even begin to understand all the ramifications. One has only to glance through their work to see how complicated a task was set them by the Government.
Another argument against the proposal is that it affords a most unselective type of assistance. Industries that have a great deal of unused capacity are entitled to participate in this benefit. Industries which need streamlining are also entitled to it. A flat-rate benefit is provided to manufacturing industry of every type that fits within the framework of the measure, and that includes the great bulk of manufacturing industries. Let me sum up the position. -On this occasion, I do not want further comments like those I heard when I spoke on another measure and gave a number of reasons for our opposition. On that occasion, several Ministers - the one in charge of this bill was not amongst them - claimed that the Opposition had only one reason for opposing the legislation. They selected one argument which had been addressed to the Senate by another member of the Opposition and completely ignored the two, three or four arguments that I presented. I do not think that will happen with the Minister for Civil Aviation, but I want to make sure that it does not happen. I propose to repeat and summarize the reasons that we of the Opposition have for opposing this bill. I begin by repeating that we are not opposed to necessary assistance being given, of the amount involved in this measure, to the manufacturing industries of Australia. We say that the wrong method has been chosen to do that.
We say that it is unsatisfactory to have a blanket benefit such as that proposed. We contend, too, that it is not related to curing unemployment and that, without safeguards of the type I have indicated, it may indeed increase unemployment in the community. The proposal makes no approach to picking up the unused capacity of industry which was lying idle on 7th February last. It is an abuse of the income tax power in the terms I have already stated. It is against common sense to allow the writing-off of more than the cost of an article. Finally, it is a subsidy. Why has not the benefit been given openly as a subsidy for truly selective industries, instead of as a concealed benefit about which nobody will know the details? If it were given openly by way of subsidy, the public, the Opposition and the Parliament generally would know exactly where the subsidy was going and the effect that it had. Who can trace intelligently the effects of this concealed benefit, the details of which are known in the office of the Commissioner of Taxation and there alone? There ought to be an open, honest subsidy.
An honorable senator opposite may ask, “Where is the constitutional power to do that? “ I do not think there is any real difficulty in that respect. It is unquestionable that we may subsidize manufacturing industry with an interstate or an overseas aspect. Every great manufacturing concern in Australia probably has both interstate and overseas activities.
– What about those that have neither?
– I am coming to them. They are in the third category, and 1 have not overlooked them. There is a category of industry that is purely intrastate. We have no real power to appropriate money for such industry. It is in a field beyond us. But, of course, we must not overlook section 96 of the Constitution. The Government is very familiar with its use. It has used that section when it has wanted to help such things as universities. We have no power in respect of universities, either, but the Government may assist them by grants to the States, with or without conditions. So far as the small pocket of intra-state manufacturing industry is concerned, assistance can be given constitutionally and pro forma by grants to the States, the whole of the administrative work being performed by the Commonwealth, if it suits the Commonwealth to do it. So, I will not listen to an argument that the Commonwealth has no power. It has ample power. In regard to intra-state manufacturing industry, a subsidy can be made by medium of grants to the States. That has been done in a hundred and one cases. Section 96 has been used extensively by this Government.
– The Government is not using the argument that it should implement section 96 for this purpose.
– No. I am anticipating an argument that might be levelled. Instead of keeping the thought in my head and saying nothing about the constitutional aspects of the matter in the hope that Senator Vincent and others might not think about that aspect, I am putting it face up on the table. I only wish that the Government had made the same approach in putting the costs and other factors to the people of Australia.
– We have used section 96 for economic stimulation.
– I have just said that you have used it for all sorts of things, such as assistance to eradicate tuberculosis, and so on. The whole force of my argu ment-is that it is clearly possible to give direct help under section 96, as the Government has done on many occasions.
– To give grants to individual industries?
– Exactly, just as the Government is making concessions to individual industries.
So that there will be no misunderstanding of our attitude, let me conclude with the comment that if the bill were withdrawn in the light of the criticism we have offered, and it were desired to help industry and to relieve the unemployment position by providing £12,000,000, or whatever figure the Government considered necessary, the Opposition would support the proposal. I do not want to be misrepresented, nor do I want it to be said that we are opposing the granting of a benefit to industry. We support the provision of the amount involved as a benefit to industry, but we say that it should be given on a more selective basis. While we do not oppose the secondreading of the bill, at the committee stage we shall record our protest against the method of making investment allowances by voting against the clause which deals with that subject.
– I support this measure with enthusiasm. Its introduction follows meetings between members of the Government and representatives of various organizations in Australia, including, I understand, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, with the idea of taking steps to stimulate the economy to- the stage. at which the unemployment problem might be completely solved. There are five measures involved in this Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill. In. my. opinion, those measures are designed to increase employment. The first one, which relates to investment allowances, and which Senator McKenna has said the Opposition will seek to amend at the committee stage, provides for an allowance in the nature of an income tax deduction of 20 per cent, of the capital cost of new manufacturing plant, in addition to the ordinary depreciation allowances. The whole object of the provision is to encourage public and private companies, and also individuals, to invest in new plant and machinery in order to stimulate production for Australian needs and to earn additional export income.-
I was amazed to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) condemn investment allowances. Apparently, he and his Opposition colleagues believe that the more we invest in machinery for the production of foodstuffs, minerals and other commodities, the more unemployment we will have. In his second-reading speech, the Minister in charge of the bill in this chamber stated that the allowance, which was ohe of the economic measures announced in the. statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on the national economy, is designed to encourage greater investment in manufacturing industries, which in turn will ensure, both now and in the future, an increase in Output and employment.’ At present approximately 101,000 people in Australia are unemployed. The whole purpose of the allowance is to encourage private industry to step up production with the object of reducing the number of unemployed as quickly as possible. That is the purpose of the allowance, yet the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has stated that the members of the Opposition intends to oppose it because they believe that it will increase unemployment.
The Leader of the Opposition said that of 808 companies in the over £50,000 income group, 38 pay more than half of the total tax collected. Those companies were not named, which is fair enough. Let us look at the big companies. The bigger they are, the more shareholders they have. Large companies like the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and General MotorsHolden’s employ thousands of people throughout Australia. They are the firms which are paying the greatest amount of taxation in Australia, but they are also employing the greatest number of people. If they take advantage of this legislation, they will install additional plant and, of course, increase the number of their employees. The new machinery and plant will produce more goods and create more work in Australia. When he was speaking on this subject, I said to the Leader of the Opposition that if he really believed that by encouraging people to put in additional and more efficient plant unemployment would be increased, then, carrying his argument to its logical conclusion, he would have to agree that if we wanted to maintain full employment in Australia for all time we should do away with mechanization. Then we would get back to the days of the pick and shovel. It is true that if some countries which have large populations want to build a dam, the work is carried out by labourers, without the use. of machinery. They have many gangs of labourers filling baskets with clay, carting them and depositing them on the site of the dam. Of course, that means more employment, and that is the argument that the Leader of the Opposition is using, but where would that take us? We in Australia believe in mechanization. We believe this can become a great nation- if we encourage industrialization. When the Leader of the Opposition used the argument that, to encourage extra mechanization in Australia would increase unemployment, he astonished me. There is no such basis for such an argument.
The whole . idea is to get on with the developmental programme ‘ in Australia, which the present Government started and has carried on during, the twelve years it has been in. office. In my opinion, the very thought that cutting this investment allowance down will solve the unemployment problem in Australia is utterly ridiculous. The purpose of the investment allowance is to encourage people to invest in secondary industries in Australia, for two or three reasons. One of them is that we can become more efficient with modern machinery and will be able to produce goods which can compete on the export markets with the goods of other countries. That requires competency and efficiency. I understand, on advice that I received to-day, that transistors manufactured in Australia are being sold in a low-cost country, Japan, with profit to the manufacturers. Although our wages are higher, the plant producing the transistors is efficient and mechanized. Advantage is being taken of mechanization, and as a result the products of that plant can compete with the products of cheap labour in Japan. There are many other instances of this. The United States of America has a higher standard of living than Australia, but, because of mechanization, it can compete in the world’s markets against lower-cost countries.
I disagree with the assertion of the Leader of the Opposition that this 20 per cent, incentive allowance to industry will increase unemployment in Australia. One of the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition was rather interesting. He stated that, assuming a machine cost £100 and attracted this investment allowance, it would be found that in the first year the Taxation Branch would allow the person who installed it to claim as a deduction 20 per cent, of the cost plus the ordinary depreciation allowance of 10 per cent., a total of 30 per cent., and that during each of the next nine years he would be able to claim as a deduction a further 10 per cent, of the cost, making a total deduction of £120. It must be remembered that this investment allowance applies to the first year only. To obtain the 120 per cent, mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition would take a period of years. He made the point, and stressed it, that it takes a period of ten years. Over that period of ten years a person, or company, is entitled to an income tax deduction amounting in all to 120 per cent., as the Leader of the Opposition said. But the Leader of the Opposition virtually created the impression - I admit not deliberately - that this occurred all in a matter of a year or so. I stress the point that it is spread over ten years. That is a long time for a depreciation allowance to run. The investment allowance applies for the first year only.
– This is the first time I have seen 120 per cent, come out of 100 per cent.
– No one is denying that it is 120 per cent., but do not forget that back in 1948 the Opposition-
– How long ago was that?
– I seem to think it was the second last year the Labour Party was in office, but it was a long time ago. In order to encourage primary production the Labour Government provided for a depreciation allowance of 40 per cent, in the first year. The only difference between that and this piece of legislation is that that deduction did not at any stage reach 120 per cent. It cut out at 100 per cent. I am not denying that. All I am saying is that at one stage in the history of the Labour Party the primary producers of Australia under certain conditions were granted a depreciation allowance of 40 per cent. The then Government granted that for the simple reason that it wanted to increase primary production in Australia. The present Government wants to increase export income and employment. I ask for leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 11.33 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 May 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1962/19620510_senate_24_s21/>.