24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a few simple questions: Is it not a fact that thousands of pounds have been expended by federal governments to assist and encourage writers and Australian publications? Have similar sums been expended to aid and encourage Australian inventors? Is the Minister aware that an Australian citizen, Henry Dohan, has invented a process that makes ladies’ nylon stockings snag-proof and ladder-proof, and also reduces considerably the shrinkage of wool? Would not the overseas promotion of this remarkable process earn several million pounds of export income for Australia? Will the Government favourably consider rendering technical, if not financial, assistance to Henry Dohan, and thus help to produce much-needed overseas exchange?
– I always like Senator Brown’s “ simple “ questions. They are never as simple as they sound. He has raised this matter in the Senate previously, to the great interest of us all. Apparently Senator Brown has more information than I have on the technicalities of the matter. If my recollection is correct, on the last occasion the matter was raised the suggestion was that the Commonwealth might provide financial assistance. I could not smile favourably on that suggestion because this is a commercial enterprise and it should be financed in commercial ways. However, on this occasion Senator Brown has asked whether the Government will render any technical assistance to this inventor. I will ask my colleague, the Minister for Trade, whether it is possible for any such assistance to be given.
– I preface my question, which I address to the Minister for National
Development, by stating that many people are not aware of the recent amendments of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act in relation to the concession given to mining companies and to investors in such companies. In view of that fact, is the Minister prepared to make a statement in the Senate advising Australian interests of the adequate concessions now granted by this Government to the Australian mining industry?
– I am always a little hesitant to answer questions about taxation, because taxation is so technical in its ramifications that, in spite of one’s intention, one may say something that is not quite correct. Senator Scott suggests that I should make a statement in the Senate outlining all of the tax concessions available to Australian mining companies. There may be merit in that suggestion. I I shall have a talk with officers of the Department of National Development to see whether it is practicable to make such a statement when the Senate meets again in October. But I remind Senator Scott and those who may be interested in the recent taxation amendments that, if my recollection is correct, those amendments place all Australian mining companies on the same basis as companies searching for oil in that the amount of capital subscribed to such companies is an allowable deduction for income tax purposes, provided the company concerned so elects and provided that it agrees that the amount subscribed in that way is offset by reduced claims for writing off capital investment. The Government introduced this provision especially to help the tin-mining industry. People wanting to form tin-mining companies found it difficult to raise capital; and the Government thought that a provision such as this would be of assistance.
– Is the Minister for Health aware of the desperate plea for additional Commonwealth aid made by the New South Wales Minister for Health, who has stated that the present hospital insurance scheme could break down unless further financial aid from the Commonwealth was forthcoming? The State Minister claims further that without additional Commonwealth assistance patients’ fees would have to be increased beyond the capacity of the average patient to pay. In view of the seriousness of this matter, will the Minister confer immediately with the Government with a view to securing the increased Commonwealth financial assistance which is urgently needed by the States?
– I saw the report to which the honorable senator refers and I took the trouble to set down some details that are relevant to his question. I can see no prospect whatsoever of the hospital insurance scheme breaking down. In fact, the scheme is working particularly efficiently, especially in States which are taking full advantage of it. Patients’ fees for treatment in public hospitals are fixed by the State Governments. Apart from Queensland, where public ward treatment is free, the fees charged in New South Wales public wards are substantially lower than those charged1 in other States. For instance, the New South Wales charge is 44s. a day compared with 56s. and 60s. in the other States. For 3s. a week a family can be insured for a combined Commonwealth and Hospital Fund Benefit of 56s. a day, which is considerably in excess of the New South Wales charge. Raising the charge to 56s. a day would return approximately £2,000,000 additional revenue to New South Wales.
Seventy-three per cent, of the population of New South Wales is covered by hospital benefit insurance, and almost 80 per cent, of those persons are insured for combined benefits of 56s. a day or more. This would suggest that far from it being beyond the capacity of the people to pay higher fees than they are now charged in New South Wales, most of them are already subscribing for benefits of at least 56s. a day. The Government is aware that in spite of the assistance made available to patients through the hospital insurance scheme, the States are still experiencing certain difficulties, and it is examining this problem at the present time. Finally, I might say that when I recently met the State Ministers for Health I gave them an undertaking that as soon as I could get the view of the Government clarified I would invite them to discuss this point with me again. This is now being done. It is not easy to get together five State Ministers from the farflung points of this great land, but I hope to have an opportunity to discuss the matter with them in the very near future.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question without notice about the air-freighting of sucker lambs from Flinders Island: Is the Minister aware that Pacific Airways Limited has been airfreighting sucker lambs to Melbourne, Hobart and Launceston at rates economical to island producers, but has now been advised that it is not permitted to operate to Launceston? Is he aware that air freight to Launceston is 12s., which is approximately ls. less than the freight by sea, and that air transport is much more satisfactory? Is the Minister able to throw any light on the circumstances in which this company has been notified that it cannot continue to air-freight lambs to Launceston?
– This matter was brought to my attention in another context. I am aware that the company is apparently encountering some difficulties in freighting lambs to Launceston. I have made inquiries of my own department and have been told that no restrictions whatever have been placed by the Department of Civil Aviation on the lift of lambs from Flinders Island to Launceston. I am not aware of what may have happened outside the Department of Civil Aviation, but I can assure the honorable senator that the position in my department is as I have stated it. I have asked for further information, and if anything should be available during the afternoon I will inform the honorable senator.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation inform me whether all the land required for the new airport at Tullamarine in Victoria has been acquired by the Commonwealth Government? If not all the land needed has yet been acquired, will he say how much more land will need to be acquired? Will the Minister state the sum that has already been paid for acquiring land at Tullamarine and whether in the land already acquired there were any large holdings by individuals or firms? If there were any such holdings, what was their size, from what persons or organizations were they acquired, and what price was paid to each of the previous owners? Finally, can the Minister give any indication when this most urgently needed project will be commenced?
– The question seeks so much detail that I shall have to ask the honorable senator to put it on notice. However, I can tell him now that most of the land has been acquired by the Commonwealth. A few settlements which either are or will be the subject of legal action are outstanding, but the property not yet acquired is not great in area. As to the date of the start on the airport, I am afraid I have nothing to add to what I have already told the Senate on a number of occasions. Just as soon as I am in a position to give any fresh information I shall be happy to do so.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation who represents the Minister for Shipping and Transport in this chamber and who, until recently, himself administered the Shipping and Transport portfolio. It concerns railways. I ask the Minister whether at least one of the reasons given for the recent extraordinary behaviour of Government supporters in the South Australian Parliament in collaboration with Opposition members there and Opposition members in this chamber in an endeavour to bring about the downfall of the Menzies Government was that it was alleged that Broken Hill Associated Smelters Proprietary Limited faced an emergency in the town of Port Pirie. Is it a fact, also, that the main emergency confronting this valuable industry is the cost of rail freighting iron ore from Port Pirie to Broken Hill? Will the Minister give the Senate his opinion as to whether the South Australian Government could minimize this emergency by immediately reducing freight rates on the transport of iron ore from Port Pirie in order to rationalize the present charge of 4d. a ton mile to something approximating the charge of1d. a ton mile for transporting coal from Leigh Creek?
– I do not pretend for one minute to understand what motivated the members of the South Australian Parliament in what the honorable senator described as their most extraordinary behaviour last week. That is for those members to decide; they will probably be able to settle it with their own consciences. As to the rest of the question, freight, of course, is a matter for the State Government operating a State enterprise - the railways. Differential freight rates, preferential freight rates and other concessions have been introduced by all State systems at one time or another to meet urgent and pressing circumstances such as those which now are said to affect Broken Hill Associated Smelters Proprietary Limited. It would be quite in keeping with custom if, in an emergency, an emergency freight rate were struck. It is quite true, as the honorable senator says, that the South Australian railway system and, indeed, the South Australian economy, enjoy a large benefit by virtue of the fact that they have a very great concession in freight rates on South Australian coal hauled by the Commonwealth railways from Leigh Creek. Indeed, if my memory is correct, the freight rate charged by the Commonwealth Railways for that haul is substantially less than that charged by the South Australian Government for the haulage of coal on its own railways.
– Thank you very much. There are other aspects of this matter. The Commonwealth’s assistance to the South Australian Government in the purchase of locomotives must, when operating, have an effect on the freight rate. Another aspect of this haul should be taken into account: The line now in question carries the most dense traffic in the whole South Australian system, or at least it is the most remunerative traffic line. One would imagine that if an emergency did exist it would not be beyond the wit of the South Australian Government or the State department of railways to meet an emergency out of its own resources.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Does the Government concur in the proposal of the Australian trading banks which, of course, will include the Commonwealth Trading Bank, to charge customers for putting their own money into the banks - a proposal which, according to several well-informed sources, would add hundreds of thousands of pounds to business costs and produce additional costs for industry to bear? As major trading banks make a profit of more than £1,000,000 each - in one instance the profit is nearly £2,750,000 - does the Government consider this new proposal to be a monstrous proposition? Is this new attempt by the trading banks another shining example of the best method of putting value back into the £1, particularly when that £1 does not belong to the bank but is the customer’s own £1? Further, does this proposal mean that if an age pensioner pays a £1 Australian treasury note into the bank, the bank will debase the currency by crediting the pensioner with only the sum of 19s. 6d., or less, which means, in effect, that this is another form of indirect taxation?
– The honorable senator commences by asking whether the proposal has the concurrence of the Government. It is not a question of the Commonwealth Government’s concurring or not concurring in the proposal; unless, of course, the honorable senator, in tune with the usual policy of Labour, wants to transfer from the banks themselves to both chambers of this Parliament the responsibility of running the banks and conducting their day-to-day operations.
As I understand it, the proposed arrangement - I do not think it has as yet gone further than being a proposal - was the outcome of talks which took place between all the banks - the private trading banks and the Commonwealth Bank - and is a matter of internal day-to-day administration and therefore a question proper for the banks themselves to decide. I am sure the honorable senator loses sight of the fact that the proposal has a number of advantages from the customer’s point of view, not the least of which is the abolition of inland exchange after all these years. What I have read about the proposal seems to indicate that it is much more realistic than the system we have had in the past and that the cost of it, incidentally, will fall most heavily on businesses which, in another context, Senator Hendrickson is never slow to claim should be charged more for the service which they receive.
With respect to age pensioners and their accounts, I have no doubt at all that the banks will ensure that if old people, pensioners in particular, have savings bank accounts with them no steps will be taken that might hinder them in operating such accounts.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he has seen a press statement published in the “ West Australian “ of Thursday, 23rd August, in which the United States Ambassador, Mr. W. C. Battle, is reported as having said that new legislation was now before the United States Congress which was designed to lower international trade barriers and which would stimulate American-Australian trade. Because this question is of vital interest to wool and sugar growers as well as mineral interests in Australia, can the Leader of the Government inform the Senate of the terms of this legislation? If he cannot, will be obtain a copy of the legislation for the benefit of honorable senators?
– I have seen the press statement attributed to the American Ambassador. I did not see it in the “ West Australian “; I saw it in another newspaper, and I read it with a great deal of interest. I know something of the endeavours that are being made in this respect in the United States of America, and I know a good deal about the representations which the Australian Government is making through my colleague, Mr. McEwen, in connexion with this matter as it affects Australian interests. It is a very important commercial development; indeed, it is so important that I ask Senator Branson to put his question on the notice-paper because I think that it is something with which I should not endeavour to deal off the cuff. I think it is a question which warrants a considered reply from my colleague, Mr. McEwen.
– I ask the Leader of the1 Government in the Senate whether it is a fact that the Liberal Party in Western Australia has endorsed an alleged exCommunist for the Bunbury State seat, the election for which is to be held on 1st September next. Has the Liberal Party received adequate assurances that it is not being used to enable agents of the Communist Party to enter an Australian parliament? Has the Democratic Labour Party publicly announced that it will direct its preferences in favour of the endorsed Liberal Party candidate, despite the fact that he has been accused of being a member of the Communist Party?
– At the request of my leader, I have great pleasure in answering the question posed by Senator Cant. The facts of the matter are wellknown in Western Australia. The Liberal Party in that State endorsed for the Bunbury by-election a Mr. L. Williams. The campaign had proceeded for about three weeks when, according to newspaper reports in Western Australia, an anonymous letter was sent to the Democratic Labour Party alleging that the Liberal Party candidate, Williams, was a Communist.
– And was he a
– Order! The Minister is replying to the question.
– At once, Mr. Williams denied the allegation, hotly, spiritedly and emphatically. He said that when he was a lad of about fourteen or sixteen years of age he attended three Communist Party meetings, having been taken to those meetings by his father. Mr. Williams senior is now a member of the Labour Party. He has said that some years ago after he had been a member of the Labour Party for a number of years, he left that party and joined the Communist Party. During that period he took his boy to two or three Communist Party meetings. Mr. Williams senior has since rejoined the Labour Party.
– And his son has joined the Liberal Party.
– Mr. Williams junior has said that he certainly went to those meetings, having been taken to them by his father, but as soon as he was able to form a political judgment of his own he joined the Liberal Party and has been a member of that party ever since. He will go to the poll at Bunbury with the full confidence of the Liberal Party that he is a true-blue Liberal. He may be the son of a Communist; the one-time Communist is now a member of the Labour Party.
– Who wrote the anonymous letter?
– The anonymous letter, it is now avowed, was written to the Democratic Labour Party by Williams senior. I am glad the honorable senator reminds me of that, because something of a search is now going on to find out how it was distributed. Williams senior says that it was given by him to a member of the Labour Party. Is this not a typical example of political tactics? The letter was released by a member of the Labour Party, who remains anonymous, in the hope that he might thereby be able to smear the Liberal Party candidate, Williams. However, it will all be in vain because next Saturday, when the numbers go up, the Liberal Party candidate will be seen to have won the seat of Bunbury and the Brand Government of Western Australia will be safe.
– Has the Minister for Customs and Excise seen a press statement to the effect that Mr. Rylah, the Chief Secretary of Victoria, has failed to persuade the Commonwealth Government to ban imports of toy gambling sets? Is that statement correct? If it is, why has the Minister not taken the action requested by Mr. Rylah?
– Yes, I saw the statement attributed to the Chief Secretary of Victoria, Mr. Rylah, who wrote asking me to consider a proposal that toy gambling sets be declared prohibited imports. I gave a lot of consideration to the request, but finally decided against it because I thought that it would be unreal to prohibit imports while the articles could be freely manufactured and sold in Australia - something over which the Department of Customs and Excise would have no jurisdiction at all. I put to Mr. Rylah the proposition that if the State governments were prepared to pass legislation to prohibit the manufacture and sale of these articles I would examine the question of prohibiting imports. I was guided in my decision also by the fact that only one State had requested a prohibition. I felt that in a federal system, with six States, a request from only one State was not binding upon me at this stage. If Mr. Rylah believes that these articles should be prohibited in the State of Victoria his Government, as a State Government, has full sovereign rights to prohibit their manufacture and sale within that State. I suggest to those who made representations to Mr. Rylah that they go back to him and ask that as the Commonwealth Government is not prepared at this stage to prohibit imports of these articles he, as Chief Secretary of Victoria, should discharge his responsibility and prohibit their manufacture and sale within Victoria.
– I ask the Minister for Health: Is it a fact that there is a poliomyelitis epidemic in the Sepik district of New Guinea and that at least one child has died within the past two days? Also is it a fact that as there is insufficient oral vaccine in Australia to deal with such an epidemic, supplies will be flown from England to Sydney and will then be sent on to Port Moresby, where distribution to the affected areas will be arranged? As Salk vaccine has no value in an epidemic, what steps is the Department of Health taking to build up supplies of oral vaccine for use in any emergency which might arise in Australia or its Territories?
– I have read that there is an outbreak of poliomyelitis in the Sepik district of New Guinea. It is my intention to seek leave of the Senate, after question time, to make a statement on Sabin oral vaccine and Government policy in relation thereto.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Treasurer a question in relation to a topic which has been referred to by Senator Hendickson in terms which I greatly regret; I dissociate myself from those terms entirely, but the news of proposed trading bank charges is a matter of deep concern. I ask the Minister whether or not there is any requirement in the banking legislation that such charges should be submitted for the approval of the Treasurer before implementation. I ask the Minister whether or not these proposals have been discussed with the Treasurer and whether or not the Treasurer has given any approval of them. I ask the Minister whether or not the Commonwealth Trading Bank is a party to the proposed charges. I ask the Minister whether any assessment has been made of the general effect of these charges, in comparison with those which they are proposed to supersede, as a cost on industry. Lastly, I ask the Minister whether or not such charges have a direct relation to the established Government policy of controlling the interest rates charged by the banks, inasmuch as these charges seem to be related to the amounts standing to the credit of deposit accounts from time to time. As I understand the announcement, rebates will accrue for every £500 of credit maintained in the account over the relevant period.
– The question asked by Senator Wright is a long one and contains eight sub-questions. I think I should refer it to the Treasurer so that the honorable senator may receive a considered answer.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen a statement by the general manager of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited in which he said that in overseas trade the Australian steel industry was facing a very serious threat from Japanese steel, which is being produced cheaply in comparison with Australian steel? Has the Government any power to protect the Australian industry in its present difficulties?
– I am sorry to say that I have not seen the statement to which Senator Ormonde referred. The steel industry trades in a competitive world.’ There is great competition for steel markets overseas. The Australian steel industry has been very favorably placed because of its ready access to low-cost raw materials - iron ore and coal. I cannot think of any course that would be available to the Australian Government in order to enable the industry to meet international competition, other than what has been done already. I refer to the pay-roll tax incentive. If a certain proportion of the output is sold overseas pay-roll tax rebates are available. In practice, those rebates of pay-roll tax have proved to be a very powerful incentive and encouragement to export trade. I do not think we could do more than we are doing already. I have a great deal of confidence that the Australian steel industry will be able to meet international competition. It is a question of fighting for particular markets and, perhaps, offering special prices for special markets. Overall Australian steel is very good and very cheap.
– Automation is increasing in the Commonwealth Public Service. It is increasing in other directions, too.
– In the banks.
– Yes. I do not think that this will have any adverse effects on the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund. The fund is actuarily based and should not be affected by increases or decreases in the number of contributors. Mr. Parkinson might have some ideas about this matter. Because of the development of Australia, the increase in Australia’s population and the growth of governmental activities, as the years go by the numerical strength of the Public Service must increase despite whatever reductions may be caused by the use of more efficient mechanical methods of carrying out various transactions.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for
Trade. On 9 th August I asked a question without notice of the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport about the desirability of establishing a national overseas shipping line. That Minister then intimated that he would direct my question to the Minister for Trade so that a considered answer could be given to me. I ask the Leader of the Government when he expects to be in a position to answer my question?
– I have learnt from long experience never to predict when a ministerial colleague will answer a question. I did not notice that Senator Cohen had this question on the notice-paper.
– It is not formally on the notice-paper.
– I do not see it on the notice-paper. We will take the first step of putting it on the notice-paper to ensure that an answer will be given. I have noted Senator Cohen’s interest in the proposal that a national overseas shipping line should be established. I should like to hear him in this chamber one day address himself to the difficulties of that task. In Australia we face this situation: Because of costs around the Australian coast - I speak subject to correction - no passenger shipping service is able to operate profitably now; and, although I have no particular knowledge of shipping, my impression is that only the bulk trade around the coast is really profitable. How could we establish a national overseas shipping line when it would have to meet such costs? How could our ships carry primary products and other exports profitably in the face of such tremendously high shipping costs? What cargo would the chips bring back from overseas? Would they come back from overseas in ballast? The freight rates charged by the line’s competitors would be so much cheaper that one finds it difficult to see that there would be custom for such a line. The only answer to this, of course - if I may anticipate Senator Cohen - is that such a line would have to be subsidized. I do not believe that that is a sound foundation on which to build a young and growing nation. However, I shall be interested to hear Senator Cohen develop the theme at some time. i RAIN-MAKING.
– I direct a question to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Are rain-making experiments still being conducted? If they are, has the Minister anything to report to the Senate on developments since he reported on this subject some months ago?
– The C.S.I.R.O. is still conducting rain-making experiments. The nature of those” experiments is such that they must extend over a very long time and the data collected from time to time must be correlated to see whether any pattern emerges. So far, there is certainly nothing dramatic or greatly significant, of which I know, to add to whit was said in this chamber previously in reply to a similar question.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. I preface it by saying that at the present time the allowance paid to temporary electoral officers on polling day is only about half the basic wage. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the Minister for the Interior intends to increase this allowance to bring it closer proportionately to the basic wage, particularly in the case of ex-servicemen?
– If my memory serves me correctly, it was only in the last eighteen months or so that the Minister for the Interior answered a question similar to the one asked by Senator Aylett; and on that occasion the Minister pointed out that the rates applicable were those in general use. If the honorable senator will place his question on the notice-paper, I shall ask the Minister for the Interior to let us have his comment again.
– I address a question to the Minister for National Development. I refer to an announcement made about eighteen months or two years ago of the Government’s proposals with respect to financial arrangements for improvements at coal-loading ports in
New South Wales. How many ports were involved, and what were the proposals for each port? What work has been done in this respect?
– The three ports were Newcastle, Port Kembla and Balmain. The Commonwealth assisted the Government of New South Wales to do the work because of the appreciable potential export trade involved. The New South Wales Government has been good enough to supply the Commonwealth Government with regular progress reports showing the extent of the work that has been carried out. I shall give a short answer from memory. The work at Balmain is practically completed. The total cost in that instance has substantially exceeded the original estimate because it was decided, as the trade developed, to install larger coal-loading facilities.
At Newcastle progress has been somewhat slower than was expected because difficulties were experienced in the dredging of the bar and in the design of the coal-loading plant. However, although the work has been slower than was expected it has been pushed on as quickly as circumstances permitted. My recollection is not so clear about the position at Port Kembla, although it should be, as the Government desired that the work there should be completed sooner than the work at the other ports because very large quantities of exports are shipped from Port Kembla. I can give only the general assurance that the Commonwealth is satisfied with the progress that is being made at Port Kembla. Although I have emphasized coal, the facilities being provided will be of great assistance also in the handling of other cargoes.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Health a further question about the public statement made by the New South Wales Minister for Health relating to hospital finance. That Minister said -
The total cost of maintaining New South Wales public hospitals in 1960-61 was £37.502.000.
Of this, the local revenue of the hospitals yielded £9,693,000, and the Commonwealth provided £7,172,000.
The State had had to provide the balance totalling £20,750,000.
Does the Minister contend that those figures are incorrect? If not, will he agree that the request for additional financial assistance by the State of New South Wales is just and equitable, having regard to the fact that this scheme was designed to rest on three bases, namely, individual contributions with the help of the insurance fund, Commonwealth contributions, and each State to meet one-third of the total payments?
– I have not had the opportunity to check the figures cited by the honorable senator. I would not be so brave as to suggest they are incorrect, but I do say that the Commonwealth Government has never accepted responsibility for for providing hospital treatment. As far as I am concerned, I hope it never will, because the State governments are themselves better equipped to undertake that vast work. If hospitals were placed in the hands of the Commonwealth Government the huge band of workers who devote themselves to hospital work would be eliminated. It would be a sad day for Australia if that ever happened. The honorable senator said that at the inception of this scheme the Commonwealth contribution amounted to one-third of the total cost. That is true, but that was merely a coincidence. It was never agreed that the Commonwealth should pay one-third, two-thirds or any other proportion. The Commonwealth agreed to make some contribution in respect of the individual who is indigent and to encourage other sections of the community to insure themselves. New South Wales may be in some difficulties, but I remind the honorable senator that its hospital charge is 44s. a day whereas the charge in the other States is either 56s. a day or 60s. a day. As I said earlier, 80 per cent, of the 73 per cent, of people in New South Wales who are insured for hospital benefit are covered for a benefit of 56s. or 60s. a day. Therefore, I suggest that the remedy lies partly with the New South Wales Government.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development following his reply to the question asked by Senator Wright about coal-loading facilities in ports in New South Wales. When these facilities are completed what size vessels will such ports be enabled to handle? Can the Minister tell me also what reduction in freight rates for coal from Australia to Japan will be effected by the provision of these facilities for the loading of ships of from 40,000 tons to 60,000 tons?
– Unfortunately, one cannot always keep such details in one’s mind. The main purpose of improving these port facilities is to keep pace with modern trends. The whole system of bulk handling of overseas cargo has changed, particularly in the use of large vessels. My recollection is that at each of these ports berths and loading facilities will be equipped to handle ships of the order of 40,000 tons. The greater the carrying capacity of the ship the more economical, of course, will be the freight rates. My recollection is that the provision of these modern port facilities will reduce freight rates between Australia and Japan by about one-third of the existing rates.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health, and has reference to the chronically ill. What contribution does the Commonwealth make towards the cost of hospital treatment for the chronically ill? Unfortunately these people frequently find it necessary to enter hospital.
– Yes. I can give some information. I am surprised at the honorable senator’s point of view on this subject. I thought that most people knew that in 1959 the Government made provision for these people in what is known as a special accounts fund. Those who are chronically ill may be covered to the extent of £1 16s. a day in return for a payment of 9d. a week. To suggest that the Government makes no provision for the chronically ill is not correct.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Can the Minister inform me whether the apple industry of
Australia and the Government have carried out a survey to ascertain the cheapest method of packaging apples for export overseas? If such a survey has been made, what information is available to the industry at the present time?
– I think perhaps the question should be put on notice, but I have a lively recollection of the Minister for Customs not long ago waxing eulogistic over a new apple pack in use in Tasmania. I suggest that the honorable senator confer with Senator Henty and get the information from him.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster - General whether the Senate is to accept the press statement that the Government has rejected the claim of the various postal workers unions for the closing of post offices on a Saturday. Is it likely that after further submissions the Government will change its attitude on this matter? If it is not prepared to do that, in view of the fact that the combined postal workers’ unions have made it clear to the Government that by means of rostering they could provide a service that would meet the requirements of the Australian public, will the Cabinet consider directing the introduction of a roster system for skeleton staffs so that a majority of postal workers will be allowed to enjoy what most workers in this advanced society now enjoy, a free week-end?
– The question by Senator Cooke involves matters of policy which for obvious reasons are not usually answered at question time. The Government has declared its attitude towards the closing of post offices on Saturdays, and I am not prepared to speculate on what its attitude may be on any future occasion.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– I gave this matter considerable thought and have prepared the following answers: -
Circumstances under which variations to the tender price would be applicable during the course of the work are provided for in the contract documents on which all tenderers base their tender. These circumstances would be applicable to any tenderer who was awarded the contract. They cover in the main -
Provisions such as these are applicable to all major civil engineering contracts of the Snowy Mountains Authority and indeed for the majority of other organizations carrying out major works spread over a period of years.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied me with the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers to the questions: -
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
– I present the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the following proposed work: -
Proposed construction of permanent accommodation for the Australian Regular Army at Kapooka, New South Wales.
I should like to inform honorable senators that the committee’s recommendations and conclusions are: That Kapooka is a suitable locality for recruit training; that most of the existing accommodation at Kapooka is sub-standard; that there is an urgent need to provide new accommodation; that there bs provision for a heated swimming pool; that a modified fire alarm system is expected to result in the saving of £20,000; that the estimated cost of all work is £2,067,000; that the buildings and services proposed will meet the needs of the recruit training battalion at Kapooka; that implementation of the work is a matter of urgency; and finally, that careful consideration be given to the offer of town gas supplied by the Wagga Wagga City Council for all heating and cooking requirements.
– by leave - I desire to make a statement concerning the election of Australia to the International Civil Aviation Organization Council. Each three years the member states of the International Civil Aviation Organization meet in an assembly to consider major policy in relation to international civil aviation. This year the Fourteenth Assembly is meeting in Rome and Australia is represented by a delegation led by the Assistant DirectorGeneral (Policy) of the Department of Civil Aviation, H. W. Poulton.
One of the most important tasks of the assembly is to elect representatives to the council of the organization. This is the permanent executive body of the organization which has its head-quarters in Montreal. Australia has been a member of the I.C.A.O. Council since its inception in 1947. Until this year the council consisted of 21 members, but as a result of an amendment to the Convention on International Civil Aviation adopted by the Thirteenth Assembly of I.C.A.O. at Montreal in 1961 the membership of the council was increased from 21 member states to 27. Honorable senators will recall that the protocol amending the convention for this purpose was approved by this Parliament in the Air Navigation Act 1961.
The I.C.A.O. Convention prescribes that in electing members of the council the assembly shall give adequate representation to (1) the states of chief importance in air transport; (2) the states not otherwise included which make the largest contribution to the provision of facilities for international civil air navigation; and (3) the states not otherwise included whose designation will ensure that all the major geographic areas of the world are represented on the council. At this year’s Assembly it was decided that the 27 states should be equally divided between these three categories.
I have just received advice from Dr. Poulton in Rome that nine states only nominated for the first category - that is, those of chief importance to air transport - and that 90 member states cast votes for these states. The result of this vote was that Brazil received 89 votes, Italy 89, Australia and Canada 88, Norway 87, France, Holland and the United Kingdom 85 and the United States 84. I am sure that the Senate will share the pleasure I feel that Australia should have been elected by such a large vote to what is in effect the position of equal third most important state in international civil aviation. Statistically we were the sixth largest carrier of passenger and freight traffic in civil aviation in 1961 and per head of population were the second largest carrier of passengers. I think the vote in Rome recognizes not only this very significant performance by our own airlines but also the very high standards of civil aviation safety established by experts in my own Department of Civil Aviation.
In the vote for the nine states which make an important contribution to the provision of air navigation facilities there were twelve nominations and the following were elected: Japan, United Arab Republic, Lebanon, Mexico, India, Argentina, West Germany, Spain and Belgium. The vote for the remaining nine states to complete the council membership of 27 and to provide thereby adequate geographical representation on the council will take place to-morrow.
I would like the Senate to know that I have’ cabled my congratulations to the Australian delegation in Rome on the attainment of this very important result for Australian civil aviation.
Senator WADE (Victoria - Minister for
Health). - by leave - The Government has authorized the importation of 1,000,000 doses of each of the three types of Sabin oral vaccine for emergency purposes and pilot studies in the control of poliomyelitis in Australia. Additional supplies will be imported as required. The vaccine will reach Australia ready for immediate use. It will be stored at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, Melbourne.
The vaccine will be made available to the State governments free of charge, on the same basis as Salk vaccine has been distributed since 1955. For the present, however, Salk vaccine will remain the basis of poliomyelitis immunization. This was envisaged by the National Health and Medical Research Council in recommending the importation of Sabin oral vaccine. The council’s view was that at this stage oral vaccine should be used as a supplement to Salk vaccine in times of emergency. The council recommended that Salk vaccine should continue to be used as the major method of immunization because of its outstanding success in Australia.
The Poliomyelitis Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council has defined an emergency as a situation in which a State health authority considers a generalized outbreak of poliomyelitis to be imminent, or to have begun. In that event, the vaccine will be supplied to the State or States concerned for use in a manner approved by the National Health and Medical Research Council. This approval will include aspects of dosage and the age groups to be immunized.
Debate resumed from 23rd August (vide page 467), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the following papers: -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, for the year ending 30th June, 1963;
The Budget 1962-63- Papers presented by the Right Honorable Harold Holt in connexion with the Budget of 1962-63;
National Income and Expenditure 1961-62; and
Commonwealth payments to or for the States- be printed.
Upon which Senator McKenna had moved by way of amendment -
At the end of the motion add the following words: - “ but that the Senate is of opinion that their provisions do not serve the best interests of Australia in that -
they will not correct seriously adverse trends in the Australian economy including unemployment and decline in migrant intake;
they make inadequate provision for the development of Australia; and
they fail to provide social service and repatriation benefits - in particular child endowment - on ajust basis “.
And upon which Senator Toohey had moved by way of an amendment to the amendment -
At the end of Senator McKenna’s amendment add the following words: - “And- but that the Government be requested to make provision therein for adequate funds to enable the standardization of the railway line between Broken Hill and Port Pirie to be carried out in conjunction with the State of South Australia “.
– When the Senate adjourned last Thursday night I had just dealt with some of the comments made by the previous speaker, Senator Sandford. I had reached the point where I said I supported the Budget - as I believe most thinking people do, particularly those connected with the exporting industries. Built into this Budget is the principle of stability of costs. The whole Budget represents a continuation of Government policies aimed at the development of this country; also, it is an attempt to keep down rising costs, which have been a continual problem for many years. Sir, I recall to honorable senators the submissions over the years by representatives of the exporting industries, especially the primary industries, asking for Government action to meet this problem. I pointed out that over the years the Government had adopted certain economic measures. I referred in particular to the steps it took last year and in February of this year and explained how, as a result of those steps, there has been a levelling of costs to primary producers in recent quarters. I pointed out also that the export income of this country depended mainly on the prosperity of our primary industries.
I stated, as has been mentioned in this chamber on many occasions, that 80 per cent, of our export income is earned by our primary producers. I directed the attention of the Opposition to the fact that this export income earned by our primary industries fluctuates as the production of our commodities rises and falls with variations of seasons throughout Australia and with the rise and fall in prices received on the world’s markets. I pointed out, too, that if Australia were now receiving for its primary products the prices that obtained four or five years ago, this Government would not be faced with any economic problems now because our export earnings would be so much greater. It is because we have the problems to which I have referred that it is necessary for the Government to take certain steps from time to time to keep the economy of the country on an even keel. In view of these circumstances, it is futile for the Opposition to say that the policies adopted by this Government are stop-and-go policies. The Opposition contends that the Government should plan ten years ahead and that we should stick to such plans. In the face of fluctuations in production of primary exports and rises and falls in prices received on the world’s markets, how can we possibly plan ahead and stick to such plans? I have referred to the problem of rising costs and to the unsatisfactory prices being received overseas for our primary products. Both are factors over which the primary producers have no control whatever, and consequently they must ask the Government to take action on their behalf. But the primary producers do have control over the production of their commodities, and the improvement of their properties. I believe all farmers want to avail themselves of the vast amount of accumulated knowledge which our scientists and technicians make available from time to time, but it costs money to effect improvements necessary to increase production. Often, the purchase of new machinery and the carrying out of expensive work are involved, and all this leads to the great need for making ample credit available to our primary producers.
I admit that the carrying Out of required improvements presents no problem to the successful, well-to-do primary producers, but to the man who is caught in the costs squeeze to which I have referred, it presents a very great problem indeed. If he wants to improve his property or increase his capital investment, he must obtain credit. I think it is generally recognized by honorable senators that credit is available to primary producers on a short-term, year-to-year basis; but here again the producer who has no great accumulation of assets is confronted with difficulty. The man who has no great accumulation of assets requires credit on a long-term basis, and that is where our big trouble arises. I feel sure all honorable senators will agree that literally thousands of primary producers in this country know what they ought to be doing and are prepared to do what they should be doing if they could only get credit. Because they are unable to obtain credit on terms ranging from five to fifteen years, we are confronted with this great problem, and that is not good for a country such as ours which depends upon primary production for the greater part of its export earnings. It is essential that we develop a system under which adequate credit can be made available to meet the needs of these primary producers. It is true to say that the Government has made a start by establishing the Commonwealth Development Bank. That bank has done much to fill the gap, but I believe much more could be done. The private trading banks also have made a start with the term loans which they introduced last year. But this problem concerns not only the man on the land and the Government but also everybody in Australia, especially the financial institutions of this country.
When making his maiden speech, Senator Prowse referred to the fact that the Western Australian Government had made millions of acres of land available for settlement in that State over the past three years. When speaking to the States Grants (Additional Assistance) Bill, I referred to the development in the north-west of Western Australia and mentioned that the Commonwealth and the State are co-operating in providing money for the building of beef roads and the upgrading of other roads in that area. But it is useless for those two governments to expend money on these projects in that area if the men engaged in producing cattle there are unable to get sufficient credit to carry on. It is essential that we devise some means whereby credit can be made available to these producers. I am certain that once we do that we shall have no further worries, because once the primary producer knows that he will be able to obtain adequate credit he will play his part in the drive to increase production.
I turn to a matter that has been mentioned by Senator Prowse and Senator McKellar. They have expressed their concern about the proposed re-distribution of electoral boundaries, which is to come before the Parliament. I am just as concerned about the matter as they are. I believe that all sections of the community should have the right to representation in this Parliament. If the proposed redistribution is approved by the Parliament, it will drastically reduce the representation of that section of the community which is responsible for earning the greater proportion of the income of this country and so prevent it from maintaining an effective voice in this Parliament. I believe that that would be a bad thing for all of us. That section of the community can be represented effectively in the Parliament only by people who have a knowledge of rural conditions, and I am of the opinion that so long as country people are permitted to do so, they will choose such candidates as their representatives. In Western Australia, there are four rural electorates, and they are held by representatives of three political parties. That, I think, bears out the point of my previous remark. We are concerned about the danger that the proposed re-distribution presents to the voice in this Parliament of that section of the community which produces the greater proportion of our export income.
I turn for a moment to the subject of television. We in Western Australia who live outside the city areas are becoming anxious about the establishment of television stations in country areas. Under the fourth phase of the television programme, the Government has announced its intention to establish a national station in the NorthamYork area, a second station in the Bunbury area, and a third station in the southern agricultural areas. To my knowledge, there has been no definite announcement of the site of any of those stations. However, there is a suggestion that Needling Hills is the most suitable location for the Northam-
York station and that Mount Barker is the1 most suitable site for the southern agricultural areas station. I am alarmed by this suggestion because there are difficulties associated with both those suggested sites. The matter is causing some concern to Western Australian people.
The people in the Northam-York area believe that Needling Hills is too close to Perth for a television station to be established there. They think that reception will overlap reception from the television stations in the city area. People who live further east believe that the siting of the station should be more to the east. I know that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) is making a thorough investigation of this matter, but I hop: that consideration will be given to the suggestion made by the people who live east of the Needling Hills area. I am very glad to see that the Minister for Health (Senator Wade), who represents the PostmasterGeneral in this chamber, is present at the moment. I hope that he will convey my comments to his colleague. The suggestion that a television station may be sited at Mount Barker also raises a problem. It is believed that the mountain ranges known as the Porongorups will blot out reception. I asked a question on this matter only last week and the Minister representing the Postmaster-General gave me an assurance that it would be closely studied. If the mountain ranges are likely to create a problem, I hope that consideration will be given to siting the station further east.
A great deal has been stated in the past about the use of translator television stations. Whilst I believe that some translator stations will be necessary before Australia can be completely covered, I ask the Postmaster-General to consider the matter deeply before we rush in and establish translator stations in Western Australia, particularly in the Northam-York and Great Southern areas. I know that many people favour the establishment of such stations now in order that people who live to the east, the north and the south of Perth may have the benefit of television immediately. But to my mind - and mine is only a layman’s point of view - translator stations will not give the results that an established television station will give. I am very loth to advocate the establishment of translator stations at this stage without a closer examination of the matter, because I think that if we provide a temporary type of service it may become the permanent service, as is the habit of temporary services. I have made these comments in the hope that the Postmaster-General will not rush into the task of providing television for people in country areas by giving them a service that may be detrimental to their interests in the long run.
I had intended to speak on a number of other matters, but I am not in the best of voice because of the infection that is prevalent at the moment. I conclude by saying that I support the Budget introduced by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt).
– I rise mainly to support the amendment moved by Senator Toohey to Senator McKenna’s amendment to the motion that the Budget papers be printed. While the main part of my remarks will be directed towards Senator Toohey’s amendment,I wish to go on record as stating that I support the amendment moved by Senator McKenna on behalf of the Australian Labour Party, which is as follows: -
At the end of the motion add the following words: - “ but that the Senate is of opinion that their provisions do not serve the best interests of Australia in that -
they will not correct seriously adverse trends in the Australian economy including unemployment and decline in migrant intake;
they make inadequate provision for the development of Australia and
they fail to provide social service and repatriation benefits - in particular child endowment - on a just basis “.
To that amendment, Senator Toohey moved that the following words be added: - “ And - but that the Government be requested to make provision therein for adequate funds to enable the standardization of the railway line between Broken Hill and Port Pirie to be carried out in conjunction with the State of South Australia.”
There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind, nor, I think, in the mind of anybody who has been following the situation in South Australia in the last few weeks, that the amendment moved by Senator Toohey is in line with the majority opinion of all sections of political thought in South Australia. There is also no doubt in my mind that the two amendments together have the sup port of the majority of the people in South Australia. But, leaving that aside, I revert to the amendment dealing with rail standardization. In case there are any doubts in the minds of honorable senators I intend to place on record the introductory remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition in the South Australian House of Assembly, together with the introductory remarks of the Premier, Sir Thomas Playford. In order to cover all shades of opinion I shall also read part of a speech by Mr. Quirke, a recent recruit to the Liberal Party in South Australia.
Mr. Frank Walsh, the Leader of the Opposition, after obtaining leave of the House to move the suspension of Standing Orders in order to propose another motion, had this to say -
I thank members for their courtesy and move - That South Australian Senators be requested to consider moving in the Senate the following further amendment to the motion that the Budget Papers be printed, namely: “ but that the Government be requested to make provision for adequate funds to enable the standardization of the railway line between Broken Hill and Port Pirie to be carried out in conjunction with the State of South Australia “.
I think it can be agreed at the outset that the situation regarding railway gauge standardization, particularly of that section between Port Pirie and Broken Hill, has been explained many times. Its importance is well known to the people of South Australia and of the Commonwealth. It may seem that we are trying to insist on directing the South Australian representatives in the Senate. The Senate is recognized as representative of all States of the Commonwealth, and we should realize that the States have equal representation. Unfortunately, on some occasions we have to assemble as a parliament to fill the vacancies in South Australia’s representation that have been caused by death or other factors. Therefore, we do have the constitutional right to have some say in what our Senators can consider in the interest of the State they represent.
The Leader of the Opposition then continued with his arguments. The motion was then seconded, after which Sir Thomas Playford had this to say -
The Leader’s motion required the suspension of Standing Orders, but after the short time he gave me to look at it I agreed that it was a matter of great urgency and of great importance to South Australia. Although I have not been able to examine - closely its constitutional aspect, the motion appears to me to be in line with the purpose for which the Senate was established, and to be expressed in language to which I do not think any honorable member could object. Under those circumstances I am prepared later this afternoon if the Leader so desires, to let the motion go to a vote, and I will not oppose it.
The question did go to the vote, and the motion was carried unanimously, as stated by Senator Toohey in moving his amendment last Thursday afternoon. In order to keep the record completely clear on all shades of political opinion I shall read a brief comment made by Mr. Quirke, who, as I think most honorable senators know, was elected to the South Australian House of Assembly as an Independent, having previously been a member of the Labour Party, and then decided to join the Liberal Party to give the government party in South Australia equal numbers with the Labour Party. Mr. Quirke said -
I am happy to join with the Leader of the Opposition in this motion, but unhappy about the slate of affairs that has necessitated it. The Treasurer very well outlined the responsibilities of the Senate as may have been intended by the framers of the Commonwealth Constitution, but it has degenerated far from that and to-day is no more than a Party House. It has lost its effectiveness in the defence of the people of this State. That has been apparent for some time to any student of Commonwealth politics. When people go from South Australia to the Senate they think only of themselves as members of the Commonwealth Parliament and forget that they arc representatives of South Australian districts, as well as Senators from South Australa.
I do not agree with the latter remarks of Mr. Quirke, and I certainly think that his ideas of political morality have nothing whatsoever to commend them, but what I have read does indicate that in the South Australian Parliament there is complete unanimity both as to the importance of this project to South Australia and as to the fact that South Australia has been wrongly done by, inasmuch as the Premier’s request on behalf of the people received no consideration whatsoever in the framing of this Budget.
There is another indication of the depth of feeling in a report in the “ Advertiser “ of 27th August, under a Port Pirie dateline, which reads -
Alderman E. Connelly to-day presented to the mayor (Mr. H.B. Welch) a letter signed by eleven of the twelve members of the Port Pirie City Council. The only member who did not sign, Councillor D. Simmons, is on annual leave and absent from the city.
The letter said -
It is the desire of the aldermen and councillors whose signatures appear below that you should ask Mr. McKee, M.P., to express our appreciation to the Government and Opposition of the Parliament of
South Australia for the attempts being made to secure rail standardization, which has been promised for so long.
We are grateful to note that the Opposition and Government of South Australia appreciate the grave threat to the exports from South Australia from competition in other places.
The letter went on to state that the citizens of Port Pirie approved of this view.
There can be little doubt in anybody’s mind that the issue in South Australia is a real one and that South Australians are looking to the Senate to find, if it can, some way to force the Government to re-consider its refusal, as stated in a previous debate, to consider the seriousness of the position as it is viewed in South Australia. I desire also to quote passages from the two daily newspapers in South Australia, mainly because, from the time the matter became public, both newspapers have been taking a leading part in informing the public of what has transpired. They have interviewed various senators and obtained their views, and printed leading articles on the matter. The first leading article from whichI desire to quote appeared in the Adelaide “ Advertiser “ of Monday, 27th August. I shall not quote it all and I admit that some of the parts I shall omit might give some cold comfort to Liberal Senators from South Australia. The article is headed, “ Senate Move on Rail Plans” and reads -
South Australian opinion on the subject of standardising the Port Pirie-Broken Hill railway has been brought very pointedly under the notice of the Federal Government and Parliament. In combining to send to the State’s 10 senatorsa message asking them to seek the provision of funds for this rail project, the parties represented in the Assembly chose an effective means of expressing the general dissatisfaction felt here over the Commonwealth’s decision to postpone the work indefinitely.
After dealing with the question of making this a party political issue, the article continues -
In the long history of rail standardisation plans, no other State has been treated so offhandedly by the Federal Government. In railway matters, indeed, the story of unfulfilled Federal pledges to South Australia goes back even further. Part of the agreement for the Northern Territory’s transfer to the Commonwealth was that the AdelaideDarwin railway should be completed. It should not surprise Canberra that this State - the first to sign a standardisation agreement with the Commonwealth - is disinclined to wait another 50 years for a start to be made on modernisingthe Port Pirie-Broken Hill line.
This is no mere parochial plan. For years, it has offered advantages from viewpoints of defence and transport efficiency. Recently, it has gained new urgency. South Australia’s developing industries are more dependent on fast, reliable transport to eastern State markets. A line without break of gauge connecting with Sydney and Brisbane would be of considerable value, as compared with the longer southerly route, a long section of which is still broad gauge. Recognition of that fact doubtless underlies the approach to be made to Mr. Menzies this week by S.A. manufacturers.
The article then continues. In the “ News “ of the same date the issue was put very concisely in a much smaller leading article. The article presents the problem that undoubtedly faces Liberal senators in this debate. It is headed, “Memo to the P.M.” and reads -
Mr. Menzies can now be in no doubt as to South Australia’s displeasure at his shelving of rail gauge standardization in this State.
It has been put before him bluntly, and he must realize that only party loyalties by the S.A. Liberal senators will save him from a ignominious defeat in the Senate.
South Australia’s claims to standardization cannot be brought too often before the overlords of Canberra. It is no mere political stunt, but a vital issue in the State’s economic progress.
The future of the vast Port Pirie smelting works, faced now with lower world prices, could well be affected by perpetuation of the old narrow gauge line from Broken Hill.
The State’s rapidly expanding motor industry needs a uniform gauge through to Sydney to reduce transport costs.
And many other industries, important parts of South Australia’s growing industrial strength, are looking for better transport facilities to enable them to forge ahead.
The general feeling, an intense, almost angry feeling, is that we have been a Cinderella State too long. Mr. Menzies must expect to hear a great deal more about our rail standardization claims in the coming months.
Those articles show clearly that on both political sides and also in the only two daily newspapers in South Australia there is unanimity on one point - that the State has received a raw deal.
The differing comments made by Liberal senators from South Australia are interesting. The first senator to brave the questions of the press was Senator Buttfield. Her comments were reported in the “ Advertiser “ of 25th August in this way -
Senator Buttfield said the .Opposition had adopted “gangster” tactics in a threat to defeat the Federal Government, and the task of Senators had not been made easier by the State Government linking itself with the move. “These tactics remind me of those used by Indonesia in the West Papua issue - pointing bullets at the Government’s head and demanding their money or their life,” she said. “Last week, during the debate on the State Grants Bill, the Opposition tried to embarrass us and I said I was negotiating. This is still my attitude. “You don’t get anywhere if you defeat the Government in the House. We were elected to support the Menzies Government and, if something is wanted for the State, it is done with the Government through discussions outside the House.
That may be Senator Buttfield’s assessment of how things become law and how agreements are reached between the Commonwealth and the States, but it is certainly not mine. I am positive that it is not the view of the majority of Australians.
Another interesting aspect of this matter was the attempt to link the amendment moved by Senator Toohey with the attitude of the Indonesian authorities in their negotiations with the Dutch. Senator Toohey’s amendment was challenged about three or four times and then ruled to be in order. It appears to me that whilst Senator Buttfield is very loyal to the Commonwealth Government on this rail standardization issue and has indicated that she is prepared to vote in favour of the Government, she is not so loyal to the Government’s foreign policy.
I recall that when the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Calwell) made a statement expressing displeasure that Indonesia was pursuing its claims against the Dutch with sabrerattling, in this place and others he was accused of trying to get Australia into a war with Indonesia. It was said that his statement was foolish and put Australia in danger of a war with Indonesia. But since then, on this and other occasions Senator Buttfield has made similar statements, The harshest criticism of Indonesia that I can find by any responsible representative of this Government is that it was regrettable that the Indonesians should have engaged in warfare at the same time as they were negotiating with the Dutch.
It appears that Senator Buttfield does not mind being in opposition to the Government on the West New Guinea issue; but on this issue, when somebody from her own State attempts to carry out a request of the State Government, which undoubtedly is supported by the majority of the South Australian people, she claims that he is using gangster tactics.
– Does she think that the members of the South Australian Parliament are gangsters?
– As I am reminded by Senator Toohey, because Senator Buttfield said in her statement that the request was supported by the South Australian Parliament, undoubtedly she is claiming that that Parliament also is engaging in gangster tactics.
The next South Australian Liberal senator to brave the newspaper reporters was Senator Mattner. His comments were reported in the “Sunday Mail” of 25th August, under the heading “ S.A. senator speaks on rail issue “, in these terms -
It was nonsense to claim that four S.A. Liberal senators had been put in the predicament of having either (o vote against S.A. interests or cause the defeat of the Menzies Government, Senator E. W. Mattner said to-day.
A reported crisis over a further amendment to a Labor senator’s motion of censure against Federal Government budget estimates did not mean a thing, Senator Mattner, who is senior Liberal senator, said.
Senator Mattner made some further comments. The newspaper report continues -
Senator Mattner said today: “ Support for the Toohey amendment will not mean a thing. If carried it will only be tacked on to Senator McKennas formal censure motion against all Government Budget estimates.
Senator Mattner said that until “ I he thing blew up “ the South Australian Senate team had been making good progress in efforts to secure Federal aid for rail standardization. “ Now we have lost all the ground we gained, and will have to start negotiations all over again. “ I still feci, however, that the question of standardization will be resolved quite favorably, quite soon.”
The newspaper article then referred to Senator Hannaford; and I think this was his sole contribution -
Senator Hannaford said he would not comment on Senator Manner’s comments.
I think it is true to say that Senator Hannaford relied on a different argument. The other night he said in this chamber that he was elected as a supporter of the Menzies Government, and he’ proposed to support that Government as long as he was here even though he might be disappointed in it. I think those were his words. He has no comment to make now. He can correct me if I am wrong. He intends to support the Government even though he may be disappointed at its failure to provide money for the commencement of this rail standardization project. I think that Senator Hannaford can be admired for his forthrightness in stating that he proposes to support the Menzies Government come what may. However, his loyalty could not be stretched to the extent of supporting the comments by either Senator Mattner or Senator Buttfield.
After being quoted in three previous instances as not being prepared to comment, or not being available for comment, Senator Laught came into the picture on Monday, 27th August. Under the heading, “ Senator Laught Opposes Labour Move “, the following statement appears: -
Senator Laught (Lib., SA) said to-night he did not think the Opposition Senate amendment on the Budget, calling for financial support for the SA rail standardization project, would succeed.
He would vote against the amendment, he said, because he supported the Budget brought down by the Treasurer (Mr. Holt). [Senator Laught is one of four Liberal Senators from SA who will be asked to choose between the Commonwealth Government and the SA Government’s wishes.
The amendment moved on Thursday by Senator Toohey (Lab., SA) sought provision of adequate funds to enable standardization of the Broken Hill-Port Pirie line to be carried out in conjunction with SA.]
Senator Laught said: “ I am in complete support of this Government and this particular Budget, which has been carefully drawn up to continue the obvious recovery of the economy in Australia. “ Provision was made in the Budget for the rail project between Port Pirie and Broken Hill, although it was not as much as I had hoped.
Senator Laught was obviously referring to the amount provided in the Budget - I think it is ?1,300,000- towards the dieselization of the present rail tracks. If the standardization plan is carried out at some time in the future these tracks would have to be altered again.
After waiting for three days Senator Laught drops the bombshell, so to speak, that all this is much ado about nothing. According to him there is provision for the standardization of the Port Pirie to
Broken Hill line. Apparently he intends to fall back on the idea that the amount of money I have mentioned is for rail standardization. I ask honorable senators to take their mind back to a question that Senator Laught asked last Thursday fortnight of the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. He asked whether the answer given by the Premier of South Australia to the Leader of the Opposition in that State to the effect that there had been a complete breakdown in negotiations on rail standardization was true. In answering the question Senator Paltridge commenced by saying - I am speaking from memory - that he was not up-to-date with the negotiations that were being carried on between South Australia and the Commonwealth, and that his knowledge took him only as far as the occasion when negotiations broke down following the law suit instituted by the Premier of South Australia against the Commonwealth. Senator Paltridge went on to say that an amount of money was provided in the Budget towards the dieselization of the Port Pirie to Broken Hill line. Senator Laught interjected in a tone of voice that left no doubt in anybody’s mind that he thought that such a statement was silly. He said, “We passed that six months ago “. The point I make is that a fortnight ago Senator Laught emphatically denied that the amount of money mentioned by Senator Paltridge was for rail standardization purposes. However, in the dilemma in which he undoubtedly finds himself now, what he denied when Senator Paltridge made the statement previously suddenly becomes the truth.
– Get off the rails.
– The new senator from Tasmania suggests that I get off the rails and get on to something else. If he had been in the Senate a little while ago when the “ Princess of Tasmania “ was being discussed he would1 have found that honorable senators from Tasmania were very concerned about a means of transport that was essential to Tasmania. I admired the way honorable senators from Tasmania stuck to their guns in the interests of their State. That is what I am trying to do now.
Despite what anybody might think about the merits or demerits of the claims made by South Australia, I think I have satisfied everybody that there is unanimity in South Australia that provision should have been made in this Budget for this project, especially as only £800,000 is called for - an infinitesimal amount in relation to the millions involved in the Budget. All that South Australia is asking for is a gesture of good faith on the part of this Government. As I mentioned earlier, the Government and the Oppositon in the Assembly of South Australia unanimously carried the resolution calling upon the ten South Australian senators to move in this Senate along the lines moved by Senator Toohey last Thursday night. Despite claims by some Liberal senators, there is no doubt whatever that they are in the position of having either to support the Government and its Budget proposals or support the view that is being put forward by the South Australian Parliament and by people outside that Parliament, as disclosed by the leading article in the newspaper I have just read. Those honorable senators cannot dodge the issue by saying that it does not exist. I sympathize with them because they are in a spot.
– We do not want your sympathy.
– Senator Hannaford says that he does not want my sympathy, but he cannot stop me, if I so desire, from extending it to him. I do sympathize with him to a limited degree. Liberal senators from South Australia are being lambasted by members of their own party in South Australia for failing to support the motion carried unanimously in the South Australian Parliament. If I offer limited sympathy it may satisfy Senator Hannaford and it is limited only because South Australian senators opposite are the authors of their own misfortune. For too long they have praised the Premier of South Australia in this Senate and in the newspapers. Their actions, together with similar efforts by other people, have brought the Premier to the point where he was starting to believe - or does believe - all the clever things said about him. He has come to a position where he no doubt regards himself as the best negotiator, card player or anything else that may be ascribed to him when it comes to dealing with other people.
– I do not think he plays cards.
– When I referred to the Premier of South Australia as a card player I meant that he deals from the bottom of the pack. He has created a record in the State for the number of times that he has been Premier and he has won, it not every election, certainly the biggest proportion of them with a stacked deck - by gerrymandering of seats. The point I wish to make is that until the stage when honorable senators opposite found themselves in this position, the only record of negotiating that I could find was Sir Thomas Playford’s version. I cannot find any record of anything going through the South Australian Parliament about an approach to be made to the Commonwealth Government after the loss of the court case that was mentioned earlier. I can sympathize with honorable senators opposite to that extent. It has been said that Sir Thomas Playford decided to go it alone. He decided to negotiate a loan. As for this latest criticism about the Senate’s not being a States House, if any of the four South Australian senators opposite can say that the Premier of South Australia approached them for assistance in negotiating with the Commonwealth Government for a loan for rail standardization, I shall be surprised. I can speak on behalf of the six South Australian senators on this side of the House. The first we heard about it was when the answer from the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was published in full in the newspaper. The first we heard about it all was a question by Senator Laught in this chamber following a question asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the South Australian Parliament.
– That was the first tir-e you heard about standardization, anyhow.
– Senator Hannaford may think that but the only thing we did hear some few months ago when the Government Members Rail Standardization Committee was meeting in South Australia - a committee of which both he and Senator Laught are members - was the fact that South Australia was to be the last in Australia to receive rail standardization. The committee nevertheless got plenty of publicity and no doubt left the people of South Australia believing that the standardization of rail gauges in that State was to be carried out in some way in conjunction with, and at the same time as, rail standardization in Western Australia. If Senator Hannaford or the committee was misreported, they did not do anything about it.
– I was not reported.
– I challenge you again. Were you brought into the negotiations with the Prime Minister or were the views of your committee sought in this exchange of correspondence between the Premier of South Australia and the Prime Minister? By your silence you admit that they were not.
– I am silent because I am obeying the order of the President. I am an orderly senator.
– I do not think there is any honorable senator opposite who does not believe, as I do, that Sir Thomas Playford took nobody into his confidence. He took none of his parliamentary colleagues or opponents into his confidence in respect of the negotiations he was carrying out with the Prime Minister. I am making this point for one reason. If you are being loyal to something decided by the party of which you are a member and took part in the negotiations that brought about the decision, I can admire you; but if a decision was made over the head of the Government Members Rail Standardization Committee, of which you are a member, and you knew nothing about it, I would say that you are being loyal to somebody who does not deserve loyalty.
Earlier I mentioned that Senator Laught asked a question of Senator Paltridge, representing the Minister for Transport and Shipping. Senator Paltridge was frank enough to say that he was not up to date with the negotiations that were going on and that the last he knew about the matter was that the negotiations had broken down as a result of the court case. On the following Thursday or a little later I asked Senator Spooner, as the representative of the Prime Minister, whether from his own knowledge he would have been in a position to answer Senator Laught’s question at the time it was asked. Senator Spooner did not give a very clear answer.
– It was not a very clear question.
– The intention was perhaps not clear, but the question was directed to learning whether Senator Spooner was conversant with the matter prior to this announcement about the letter going back from the Prime Minister. Senator Spooner’s answer was clear enough and made it clear to me, at least, that he did not know whether or not there had been further negotiations or whether there had been an answer by the Prime Minister to Sir Thomas Playford. That is the point I wish to make. Two senior Ministers in this House have indicated to me quite clearly that they knew nothing of the negotiations being carried out between Sir Thomas Playford and the Prime Minister, yet the published letter from the Prime Minister to the Premier of South Australia was headed “ Government View “ and went on to say, “After discussion with my Cabinet colleagues we have reached the conclusion that the time is not appropriate. . .” &c, &c. We in South Australia have been used to having a one-man band in the person of Sir Thomas Playford, and unless a question is asked in this House, as it was on this occasion, he uses the media of radio, press and television to tell the people of South Australia what is happening. He does not tell Parliament. Honorable senators opposite have been placed in the same position here. I do not know whether they were a party to the decision to forget about rail standardization in South Australia, as revealed in the Budget. I know that honorable senators opposite gibe at representatives of the
Australian Labour Party and endorsed Labour Party candidates for various parlia-ments because they sign a pledge to be! loyal to decisions made by the party. On numerous occasions I have heard Liberal members of Parliament claim they are not so bound.
– You are not going to tell us that if you were on this side you would agree with that resolution?
– I hope to prove that we could not get caught in the same position as the four senators opposite. Our political set-up does not bind us to support anything that is not a policy of the party or some decision made at a duly constituted meeting of the federal executive, or our own State executive if it is a State matter, at federal conference, or in caucus here. In each instance the representation on those bodies is equal from each State of the Commonwealth, regardless of size. In other words, representation at those conferences is on the same basis as it is in this Senate. The point that Senator Spooner attempted to make, namely, that we would not vote in favour if we were caught in that position, has no bearing, at least with respect to this item, because implementation of the rail standardization agreement was approved by the Labour Party, from the top right down through the rank and file, before it was included in the election platform of the party at the last election. It was discussed in our own caucus and in every State, and every member of the Labour Party - or every Labour member of parliament, anyway - knew we were pledged to rail standardization.
I ask for leave to continue my speech at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 5.18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 August 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1962/19620828_senate_24_s22/>.