24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have received from His Excellency the Governor-General a commission to administer the oath or affirmation of allegiance to honorable senators.
Commission read by the Clerk.
– Can the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization say whether the services of the organization have been enlisted to combat the great menace of pith rush, especially on the soldier settlement areas on King Island? If they have not, could this matter be referred to the organization? If it has investigated the matter, has any method been evolved, other than the usual ones, by which this threat to settlement could be eliminated or reduced?
– The problem of pith rush on King Island is a matter for the Tasmanian Department of Agriculture and not for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, although some years ago representations were made to the organization on this matter. C.S.I.R.O. officers would be available for consultation with the Tasmanian Department of Agriculture on this question, if such consultation were requested. So far as the organization knows, chemical control would be uneconomic, and cultivation is the best way to keep the problem under control.
– Is the Minister for Health aware of a report by Dr. Howard Duncan to the effect that rheumatic diseases disable ten times as many people as tuberculosis or diabetes and seven times as many as cancer, and cause more loss of working hours than any other known disease? Can the Minister say whether any financial assistance is being made available by the Government, or is contemplated for research into these dread diseases, for it has been said that Australia is far behind the rest of the world in research in this field, although the incidence of rheumatic diseases is as serious here as in other countries?
– I am not sufficiently well informed on this matter to give the honorable senator a detailed reply. If he will put the question on the notice-paper I shall endeavour to find out for him what research is being undertaken in this field both here and overseas.
– By way of preface to a question, which I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, I understand that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission sponsors an annual service of remembrance at El Alamein war cemetery, in the United Arab Republic, on 23rd October, the anniversary of the battle of El Alamein. This year will be the twentieth anniversary of the battle, in which the 9th Australian Division, and units of the Royal Australian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force, played a significant part. Now that the Australian Government has an ambassador accredited to the United Arab Republic, will the Minister discuss with his colleague the desirability of Australia taking an appropriate part in the ceremony this year?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s suggestion to the notice of the Minister for External Affairs and ask him to reply direct.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. Is it a fact, as reported in the midday news, that Sir Tasman Heyes has just been awarded a very high honour by the United Nations for his work on behalf of refugees from tyranny throughout the world? If this is so, can the Minister give the Senate some details of this event, which is of great importance not only to the Department of Immigration, but also to all of the people of Australia in that an Australian public servant has been so honoured by an international body?
– My only source of information at present is, like that of the honorable senator, the midday news. I did hear the item that Sir Tasman Heyes had received a medal, the name of which I did not catch. As it will be of interest to the Senate, I shall ask the Minister for Immigration to give me the details and shall put them before honorable senators in due course.
– Does the Leader of the Government still hold to his archaic and doctrinaire philosophy that public enterprise cannot be run efficiently or succeed against strong competition, in the light of the favourable balance-sheets produced by the Australian National Line and Qantas Empire Airways Limited? In view of the high standard of service, the prestige enjoyed, and the revenue produced for Australians by Australians in these organizations, as a public service, in contrast with the activities of monopolistic private organizations motivated only by the pursuit of profit, will the Minister now concede the contention of the Australian Labour Party over the years that Australia and its people would benefit by the establishment and operation of such Australian-owned and operated instrumentalities, which will eventually become the predominant form of business activity in the Commonwealth of Australia, to its lasting benefit?
– It would be only reasonable for Senator O” Byrne in these circumstances to give me a copy of the question so that I could absorb it. First, I repudiate any suggestion that I am archaic or out of step. I am certain that in a vote in the Senate Senator O’Byrne would be the only one who would support that view. In brief, my views are these: One must preface an answer to this question by saying that there is a vast difference, of course, between governments. If there is a Liberal-Country Party government in office, these instrumentalities are run most efficiently and show good results. If there is a Labour government in office, with its customary inefficiency, all the instrumentalities proceed to lose money. In brief, I hold no doctrinaire views on this matter at all. My view simply is that where activities can be conducted by private enterprise rather than by governments, it is better for them to be so conducted. I hold that view if only for one reason: There are so many things to be done in Australia which can be done only by governments that it is better for us to apply government resources to such activities rather than dissipate them on undertakings that can properly be left to private capital investment.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. In the newspapers recently, great emphasis has been placed upon the build-up of armaments in Indonesia. I ask the Minister: To what extent is it felt that the Government is informed on the alteration in the armaments possessed by Indonesia over, say, the past three years? Is it considered that there is any secrecy about this bulid-up of armaments by the Indonesian Government? Will the Minister give the Senate his assessment of the increase?
– I do not believe that there has been any secrecy about the build-up of armaments in Indonesia. So far as I know, the quantity of arms secured by Indonesia from time to time has been stated quite publicly by Indonesian spokesmen. As the honorable senator has said, there has been recently quite a lot of press comment in Australia on the armament build-up in Indonesia, particularly naval armament and, to a lesser extent, on the expansion of the air force. However information about these build-ups was announced first some time ago. For example, an announcement about the cruiser that was recently given or sold to Indonesia was made first about a year ago. To the best of my understanding, the arms being supplied to Indonesia by Russia were provided as the result of agreements reached some time ago, and before the conclusion of the agreement between Indonesia and the Netherlands on West Irian. Russia, of course, is adopting its usual role of seeking peace by giving weapons to various neighbours. I know of no new commitments that have been entered into.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Would the Minister agree that in order to stimulate the economy in general, and industry and home-building in particular, one of the simplest methods would be to insist on a reduction of bank interest rates?
– The question that has been posed by the honorable senator would require a longer answer than one could give at question time if it were to be answered in full.
– Quite briefly, you do not believe in it.
– I do not understand Senator Cant. Briefly, however, money like any other commodity fetches its own price in the market place. It depends in the end always on the law of supply and demand. It is true that for national purposes, interest rates can be subsidized. It is true also that, within our economy, where interest rates can be cheapened or reduced, action by governments to induce that result is taken where possible.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, relates to the decision of Ampol Petroleum Limited to register the ship “P. J. Adams” in Hong Kong, thus permitting the company to employ Chinese labour. Does the Minister know that had the company registered the ship in London it could thereby have used British labour, and that there would have been no protest from any of the shipping unions or from the Seamen’s Union of Australia? Does he also know that, had the company adopted that course, it would have been acting in the best interests of all concerned?
– I shall refer the question to my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport. With respect to Senator Ormonde, I do not think it is correct to say that registration of the ship in London would have resulted in the same rates being paid for labour as those payable as a result of the Hong Kong registration. There is one point that should be remembered about the construction and the manning of this vessel. Its construction in Australia represents a notable feat for Australian industry and those engaged in it. If the Ampol company had not, at its own cost and to its financial disadvantage, undertaken the construction of the ship in Australia, the Australian shipbuilding industry and those engaged in it would not have had the undoubted benefits that have flowed from the construction of the ship in this country.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Health been directed to an article by Dr. R. Munro Ford, an Adelaide specialist, which appears in the current edition of the “ Medical Journal of Australia “, in which he states that thousands of people could develop new severe diseases from frequent inhalation of hair sprays? If the Minister has seen the article, can he say whether his department is taking steps to investigate the alleged health danger in the use of hair sprays, especially to employees in the hairdressing trade?
– I did see the article referred to by the honorable senator. Inquiries that have been addressed to my department lead me to believe that it was written with the idea of promoting interest in the opinion of the doctor concerned that damage might result from coming in contact with, or from using, hair sprays. My understanding is that the article was written with the idea of seeking information. I shall have another look at it, and if that is not a correct interpretation I shall advise the honorable senator accordingly.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. Is the Minister aware that the National Marketing Corporation of the Philippines has announced that arrangements have been made to import considerable quantities of tinned milk from . the Netherlands as part of the efforts of the
Philippines Government to prevent increases in prices of basic commodities? Is the Minister aware that the milk which the Philippines Government proposes to import is intended to replace more expensive American brands? In view of the fact that Australia spent £14,543 during the last financial year in maintaining a commercial intelligence service in the Philippines, can the Minister say what steps, if any, were taken by Australian trade authorities to secure this market for Australia?
– I have no knowledge of the particular circumstances to which Senator McClelland refers, but I have no doubt at all that the Department of Trade would be very closely in touch with the transaction. It would be, of course, a normal commercial transaction. The Philippines Government undoubtedly would buy on the best market. Whilst I have little doubt that our trade authorities in the Philippines would have been in touch with Australian producers, in view of the importance of the matter to primary industry I shall ask the honorable senator to place the question on the notice-paper so that an accurate reply may be obtained for him.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether his attention has been directed to a report in this morning’s press of the discovery in Arnhem Land of a deposit of very high quality bauxite, which is said to be larger in extent than that of Weipa in North Queensland and could possibly be the largest find in the world. Can the Minister give the Senate any further information relating to this discovery, and can he tell us whether the discovery was made through the efforts of the Bureau of Mineral Resources or by private prospectors?
– I have no knowledge of the newspaper report referred to. I have not seen it. There are two deposits of bauxite in Arnhem Land. The first is the Gove deposit, which was discovered by a company in the early days when New Guinea’s power resources were under investigation. The company concerned was the British Aluminium Company Limited. That deposit is held under arrangements with the Commonwealth Government under which, I think by the end of this year or next year, certainly in the comparatively near future, the company concerned is bound to bring forward a plan for the development of the deposit or its tenement will be challenged. The second deposit is alongside the Gove deposit. It is held under a similar tenement and a good deal of testing and prospecting work has been done in connexion with it. The company holding the tenement there is also under obligation to bring forward a plan for the development of the deposit in the near future.
The Arnhem Land deposits are of high quality. They are first class deposits. Although not nearly as extensive in size as the Weipa deposit, each of the deposits in Arnhem Land to which I have referred is large enough to support an aluminium industry. As I have said, although both are very large deposits, they are not as large as the Weipa deposit. I have no knowledge of a further discovery.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade whether he has any comment to make on the latest figures showing that Australia had an adverse trade balance of £45,500,000 in the first three months of this financial year. These figures show not only that the balance was adverse over the period of three months, but that imports substantially exceeded exports in each of the months of July, August and September. In view of this trading deficit, I ask the Minister what steps, if any, the Government intends to take to arrest the adverse trend.
– I have noticed, as have most other honorable senators, that for three consecutive .months we have had an adverse trade balance, and I accept Senator Cohen’s statement that the total is- £45,500,000. I have not the figure in my mind. I think we have got to accept an ebb and flow in trade transactions. One does not like to see an adverse result for three consecutive months, but, on the other hand, one should not get over-excited about it. In the nature of things we must accept the fact that there have to be periods of good results and periods of not so good results. We have had very good results indeed for the last eighteen months. We finished last year with very substantial overseas balances.
The position will be watched closely. We have got a very vigorous trade policy which is yielding us very good results, and I would hesitate to be unduly perturbed at this adverse flow.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is he aware that the majority of the 4,500 members of the Melbourne branch of the Waterside Workers Federation were working on the last two Sundays, after two daily unauthorized stoppages during the preceding week? Does the Minister recall that the rate of pay on Sundays is two and a half times the normal rate? Is it a fact that the normal Sunday roster is only about 500 or 600 men? Does the Minister believe that this tactic is being employed by the Communist controllers of the federation to disrupt Australian industry, increase freight charges, and, at the same time, drag out of the pockets of the Australian consumer and exporter heavy penalty rates for week-end work which could have been done without penalty during the week? If these are facts, when the Minister is examining any legislative anomalies in waterfront legislation, will he ascertain whether anything can be done to protect the community from such depredations?
– I am quite sure, as suggested by the honorable senator, that it is the tactics of any Communist-dominated trade union, whether it be the Seamen’s Union of Australia or the Waterside Workers’ Federation, to seek to damage the economy of Australia in order to create as much misery as it possibly can among Australian workers for the party political ends of the Communists.
– I rise to order. I want to know what information the Fascist Minister has that enables him to say that the Waterside Workers Federation is Communist-dominated?
– Order! The honorable senator will withdraw the words “ Fascist Minister “.
– I withdraw them; but I want to know now where he got his information that the Waterside Workers Federation is Communist-controlled.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order. Senator Gorton will continue.
– I am glad to repeat that it is my firm belief that every Communist-dominated trade union, whether it be the Seamen’s Union of Australia, the Waterside Workers Federation or any other union, seeks, as a general practice, to damage the economy of Australia for its own party political ends, and I agree with Senator Hannan. Whether his suggestion with regard to the Melbourne waterfront is true, I do not know, but I shall endeavour to find out from the Minister for Labour and National Service and supply the honorable senator with an answer.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. On 8th October the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics announced a new price index which covers 29 items compared with 20 in (he old index. In view of the importance to the economy of the consumer price index and its related effect on the work force and living standards, will the Government promote a review of the consumer price index in consultation with appropriate interests, including the Australian Council of Trade Unions? No such consultations preceded the adoption of the consumer price index.
– I shall send Senator Bishop’s suggestion to the appropriate Minister. I think we should all pause before we readily agree to consultations with the Statistician on the basis upon which he makes his computations. After all, the profession of a statist is a very skilled one. I think we can all rely on the impartiality of statists. It is their earnest desire to produce statistics in which both sides of this chamber can have .confidence as reliably showing the results of transactions.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and
Transport, relates to the manner of the manning of the ship “ P. J. Adams “. Is it correct to say that this ship is registered iti London as a British ship? Is it correct to say also that the manning of this ship, as is the case with some thousands of other British ships, is a matter exclusively within the responsibility of the British authorities and is completely outside the control, responsibility or influence of the Australian Government or any of its instrumentalities? Finally, assuming that the ship will be manned by coloured people in the manner indicated by the company concerned, is it correct to say that those people will be British subjects?
– I am not sure where this ship is registered, but I have in mind that it is registered in Singapore. I shall find out where it is in fact registered. However, if the ship is not registered in an Australian port, the manner of manning it is not a matter in which the Australian Government has any say.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service: Is it a fact that television entertainers are paid double time for working on Sundays? Does the Minister know that Senator Hannan is a member of Actors Equity, which union fought for and won that concession?
– I believe it is true that television entertainers are paid double time if they work on a Sunday. However, I cannot see the connexion between that matter and the question just asked by Senator Hannan because, as far as I know, television entertainers have not been accused of engaging in unauthorized stoppages on week days.
– Has the Minister for Health seen a report to the effect that, in a recent survey of the dental health of Children in New South Wales, no fewer than 85 per cent, of the children examined were found to be suffering from dental decay in some form or other? Although this survey was confined to one State, would it not be reasonable to assume that a similar high percentage of dental disease exists on a nation-wide basis? If this is so, and in view of the high cost of dental treatment, will the Minister consider the extension of the national health scheme to include dental health so that medical benefit funds could also pay dental benefits? What dental services are provided free to children in the schools in the Australian Capital Territory, a territory for which the Commonwealth Government is responsible?
– I think it is generally accepted that the teeth of the children of Australia are deficient. I have in mind the camp at Portsea in Victoria which accommodates every year hundreds of children from country areas. It has been found that the mouths of a large percentage of the children who go there could not be regarded as perfect. Senator Tangney has raised once again the issue of a dental health scheme. A scheme of that kind is a most desirable objective, but many great problems would be involved in implementing it. Speaking generally, a dental health scheme is not in the same category as a general health scheme. We have the national health scheme, under which a person may cover himself by insurance against the expenses of an illness. We have put that scheme into operation because we realize that a person who is fit to-day may be struck down by illness to-morrow. None of us would dare to say, “ I am well now and I will continue to be well for one year, two years or five years “. However, the considerations that apply to general health do not apply to dental health. Dental health presents a great problem, but so far neither governments nor, I believe, outside organizations have suggested an economic solution to it. The honorable senator asked what action the Government takes to care for the teeth of children in the Australian Capital Territory. I cannot reply explicitly to that question now, but I will write to her and give a detailed answer.
– Did the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry notice in the interim report of the Australian Wine Board a reference to a fall of about 250,000 gallons in exports of wine? According to the report, the board is making special efforts to examine trade possibilities in 51 countries throughout the world, with special emphasis on Asian countries. Does the Minister know, or will he find out, whether those efforts are being made through our trade commissioners and by general inquiries, or by the wine producers sending delegations to tap the market? Has the Commonwealth Government any special interest, either financial or otherwise, in those efforts?
– My understanding of the efforts that are being made to increase Australia’s wine export trade is that both media mentioned by the honorable senator are being employed. A good deal of energy is being expended through both ordinary trade channels and the Australian Wine Board. I will ask my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, to give me more details on this matter and I will pass them on to the honorable senator.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for Health, by saying that during the first sessional period of this Parliament I made representations to the Minister on behalf of the Muscular Dystrophy Association of South Australia Incorporated to see whether an official recommendation for research into muscular dystrophy could be made. On 9th May, 1962, the Minister kindly answered my representations by a letter in which he said -
Muscular dystrophy will be put on the agenda for the next meeting of the National Health and Medical Research Council to see if any member has knowledge of a research worker in Australia interested in this disease.
I now ask the Minister: Has that meeting of the National Health and Medical Research Council taken place? If it has, has the Minister any further information to make available to the Muscular Dystrophy Association of South Australia Incorporated? If the meeting has not taken place, can the Minister inform me when it will take place?
– The meeting of the National Health and Medical Research Council to which the honorable senator referred has not yet taken place. It is scheduled to take place this month. My understanding of the matter that he has raised is that this item will be included on the agenda for that meeting. Until the council expresses an opinion on it, I have nothing to add to what I said before.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Section 29 of the Air Navigation Act requires the Minister to lay before each House of the Parliament as soon as practicable after 30th June each year an annual report on administration and other aspects of civil air navigation. To-day we shall discuss the estimates of the Department of Civil Aviation. The annual report of the Minister is necessary for intelligent consideration of those estimates. Has the report been laid before the Senate? If it has not, will the Minister explain why he has not presented the report?
– The section referred to by the honorable senator was amended by this Government two years ago to provide that a report be made to the Parliament by the Minister for Civil Aviation each year. The first report was presented last year. The report for the year ended 30th June, 1962, is now in the final stages of preparation. I expect that this report will be presented to the Parliament substantially earlier in the ensuing year than the first report was presented. It is not possible, having regard to the scope of the material included in the report, to prepare it and have it printed and published as early as the honorable senator suggests.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: - 1.. Generally a single entitlement card is issued to a married pensioner couple to cover their medical needs, except in the case of pensioners living apart.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
The Committee recommends that Commonwealth and State Authorities should aim at the complete prohibition of tobacco advertising, and, in the meantime, recommends that urgent attention be given to the imposing of restrictions particularly to prohibit the making of unsubstantiated claims and to limit or prohibit the directing of advertisements towards the younger age groups.
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
– ‘Pursuant to section 14 of the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act, I lay on the table the following paper: -
Twenty-ninth report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission (1962).
In committee: Consideration resumed from 9th October (vide page 701).
War Service Homes Division
Proposed expenditure, £1,260,000.
– I move -
That the proposed expenditure under Division Nos. 931 to 939 - Department of National Development - Capital Works and Services, £47,230,000 - be reconsidered and taken in conjunction with Division No. 680 - War Service Homes Division, £1,260,000. 1 do this in order that I may have a chance to reply to the comments made last night on my department, and in order that I may carry out the undertaking I gave to Senator O’Byrne that I would answer some questions, I think on the War Service Homes Insurance Trust Account. I hope that after 1 have done that the estimates for my department may then go through.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Department of National Development - Capital Works and Services
Proposed expenditure, £47,230,000.
War Service Homes Division
Proposed expenditure, £1,260,000.
– J desire to speak to Division No. 680, sub-division 1, item 07, and to subdivision 2, item 15. The first of these reads, “ Less amount chargeable to the War Service Homes Insurance Trust Account and recoveries in respect of technical and other services, £263,000”. The second reads, “ Less amount chargeable to the War Service Homes Insurance Trust Account and recoveries in respect of technical services, £54,300 “.
The first amount is deductible from salaries and payments in the nature of salary, and the second is deductible from administrative expenses. Can the Minister tell us how this comes about? As the Minister has been so good as to let us have another look at these other matters-
– That is not what I said. I said that I would reply to last night’s questions.
– The resolution was that these divisions be taken in conjunction. 1 find that the Director of War Service
Homes, on page 1 of his report, stated that developments of major interest during 1962 included -
A big increase in the number of applications received for additional loan to enlarge, etc., existing War Service Homes. A total of 15,899 applications were received for this purpose during the year.
I had something to say about that last night. I am rather intrigued at the number of applications for additions made in one year. On page 25 of the report, I find that only 52 homes were enlarged and that from the inception of the scheme till 30th June, 1962, only 247 enlargements had been approved. Can the Minister give any information on the number and types of application made, particularly in view of the fact that more than 15,000 applications were made in one year and only 52 of them were satisfied?
.- I am particularly glad that the Minister has allowed the committtee to consider a little more fully this aspect of his most important department. The committee was very anxious to give full consideration to the matter last night and I had no opportunity even to obtrude a comment upon what I think is the most important project in Commonwealth Government developmental activity to-day, namely, the Snowy Mountains scheme. Only yesterday we had supplied to us the authority’s interim report for last year’s activity. As we are invited to vote about £12,000,000 out of revenue for capital construction and about £13,000,000 from the American loan for developmental construction this year for the purposes of this authority, I think it would be less than the occasion requires to allow this vote to go through without some specific reference to the work of the authority.
In a question that I asked some few weeks ago, I referred to the fact that Sir William Hudson had been overseas on a trip, as I understood it, gaining experience of the most important hydro-electric projects the world around. I hope that it will still be possible for the commissioner, at some convenient time, to make the knowledge that he gained in that respect available to honorable senators. I express the hope that that will be done, particularly as I value most highly the judgment and assesment of Sir William Hudson on matters of that sort.
The second thing I want to say in regard to this proposition is that I regret very much the method of presentation of estimates such as these and the way in which we are dealing with them. I make this observation in all goodwill. If a model of the project were set up in the Senate committee room, I am sure that if Sir William Hudson were not able to be present himself, he would detail one of his lieutenants with sufficient knowledge to attend. Then honorable senators who wished to adjourn from this place could go to the committee room for an hour and hear an instructive address on the work that has been achieved by the Snowy Mountains Authority in the past twelve months. We would then gain a realistic appreciation of .the work that was to be done to absorb the money we are being asked to vote. I believe that the authority itself would get satisfaction from the knowledge that the Parliament was taking an earnest interest in its activities.
We all have justifiable pride and confidence in the work of the Snowy Mountains Authority and we would gain tremendously from practical education in the work that is being undertaken. The interim report that we have of the authority’s activities in the past year reached us only yesterday. For my part, I am incapable of taking up this report and gaining a realistic understanding of it at such short notice, even with the aid of the detailed material in the report and the maps that accompany it.
The third matter to which I wish to refer is this: The interim report of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority makes pointed reference to the investigation made this year by the agencies of the International Bank into the proposal that the funds of the International Bank should be available to finance this work. I would be obliged if the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) would inform me whether that report has been presented to the Senate, and whether it is available for our perusal, because the report qf the authority relies very strongly upon the inferences to be drawn from the acceptance of that loan; inferences that relate to the soundness of the economics of the Snowy Mountains scheme, and the contribution that is being made by the scheme to national development.
The Snowy Mountains Authority is a Commonwealth agency in which I have unqualified confidence. I think it is the only Commonwealth authority about which I would be prepared to make that statement. Reading this interim report of the authority, one finds practically every relevant detail concerning this comprehensive undertaking. I have no doubt that that is due to the genius and ability of Sir William Hudson. It is significant that we find this comment in the forefront of the report -
The harmonious relations which have existed between management and employees since the inception of the scheme continued throughout the year.
That harmonious relationship has been engendered by devotion to duty from the top commissioner throughout every unit of the organization. That is the best factor to create harmony in an industry. I note that production of electricity has already begun, and the report states -
The total energy sent out during the year by Guthega, Tumut 1 and Tumut 2 amounted to 729,593,000 kWh., the average cost being 1.13 pence per kWh. From 1st April when Tumut 1 and Tumut 2 came into full operation 452,964,000 kWh. were sent out by these two stations, 31 per cent, above the guaranteed minimum, the average cost of peak load energy during the three months of full production being 0.86 pence per kWh. The estimated long term average cost of energy from these two stations is 0.95 pence per kWh.
I always have difficulty in keeping the annual achievement of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority in proper perspective. I keep reminding myself, as was mentioned by Senator Sir Walter Cooper last night, that the aggregate expenditure on this undertaking amounts to £197,000,000. But this year we are asked to vote about £25,000,000 compared with £16,000,000 last year. I have risen to take the time of honorable senators for this reason: This vote of £25,000,000 alone deserves very thoughtful consideration by us in the committee stage. In sanctioning expenditure of that sort, we should be given information about the main contracts that have been awarded and which will absorb this expenditure. From past experience of the record-breaking contract performances of the Snowy Mountains Authority, I have complete confidence in it. I have great confidence that Sir William Hudson’s organization will see to it that this money is spent economically. But I would like to be informed briefly of the major developments upon which the money is to be spent.
There is only one final point to which I wish to refer, and it is important. I should like the Minister to put it in its proper setting of comprehensive Government policy. It concerns a theme I have advocated in the Senate unavailingly, but this may be the occasion for the clouds to break and let a little sunshine through. For some time, I have advocated that more consideration be given to a policy under which the capital works in the federal sphere would be financed from capital moneys and taken off the revenue. I have instanced the expenditure of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, the whole of which has been raised from revenue up to date. It totals £197,000,000. That authority has now gone into production, and last year its revenue was between £1,000,000 and £2,000,000. It is a beginning. The charges it is making to Victoria and New South Wales have put the authority on the basis of paying the costs of production and developing a sinking fund towards the redemption of the aggregate vote of £197,000,000, all of which has come out of revenue.
This year we see the development of a different basis of finance, at least as to half the annual expenditure, as a sum of £13,000,000 is due to be raised by external loans from the International Bank. I think that is a great advance, and I should like the Minister to tell me whether or not we can expect the remainder of this scheme to be financed out of loans, or whether this is simply an accidental departure from custom and we may expect to revert to revenue finance for the completion of the undertaking.
.- Yesterday I referred to war service homes, and there are two or three points in connexion with this matter upon which I wish to enlarge. The first is the total amount that is to be made available in the current financial year for the provision of war service homes. At present there is a big lag in satisfying the applications for loans by ex-servicemen. The Government announced last February that it would increase from £2,750 to £3,500 the maximum loan available to exservicemen. I very much appreciate the fact that after more than two years of discussion in this place, during which I put forward the advantages to be gained by increasing the loan, the Government has acceded to our request. One would have expected it to follow the announcement by making available sufficient funds in the appropriation we are now considering. However, as I see the position, no such provision has been made. The amount of the appropriation is exactly the same as it was last year.
The report of the Director of War Service Homes states that the number of applicants has decreased. Of course, the requirement that applicants for the increased loan must provide a deposit is rather a restraining influence. Because of the credit squeeze, and for other reasons, it is very difficult for people to get ahead of their financial obligations. So many of them are committed to expenses to meet ordinary living costs, and overtime has been restricted. People are finding it quite a battle to pay their way. Many of them, of course, are deeply in debt through hire-purchase commitments. The 10 per cent, equity that applicants for the increased loan are required to provide represents quite a large sum for many exservicemen. Not only has that requirement affected the number of applications, but in addition there is the fact that because of the waiting time for loans from the War Service Homes Division many exservicemen have been diverted to other fields. If honorable senators go to the housing commission areas in the various States they will find that quite a large proportion of the occupants of the homes are ex-servicemen who grew tired of waiting for a loan and took the first available financial accommodation.
Consideration should be given by the Minister to the position regarding the discharge of existing mortgages. I feel constrained to refer to a case with which I am very familiar, because I think it is an example of what can happen under the present procedure. I am able to refer to the case because it is my own. For about sixteen years after the end of the war, I was not eligible for a loan from the War Service Homes Division because I was not married. I did not have on hand any proposals and was not able to nominate a person who would share the home with me.
– It turned out all right, though.
– My word it did. When the time came for me to apply to the War Service Homes Division, the element of time entered into the matter. We chose a suitable home, which we bought at auction. The Commonwealth Bank was very kind, as it always is. It is a wonderful socialist institution.
– I expected you to say that.
– Then I have not disappointed the honorable senator. The bank kindly agreed to finance the purchase of the home. As a matter of fact, I had to act very quickly. Not even my wife knew that I was negotiating to purchase it. If I had told her she might have mentioned it to some one else. The auctioneer could have got to know about my intention and made me bid more for it. I was able to get a very good bargain because I did not tell anyone that I intended to bid. In view of the bargain that I got, I am very pleased that I kept the matter to myself. When I applied to the War Service Homes Division for a loan, I was informed that I was eligible in all other directions except in relation to the existing mortgages. The division was not able to discharge them. That is the position that exists to-day.
The fact is that I was excluded from obtaining a loan under the provisions of the War Service Homes Act and was accommodated by the Commonwealth Bank. That may not suit the policy of the Government. I point out, however, that the rate of interest charged by the bank is different from that charged by the division. The Commonwealth Bank has been kind enough to charge me interest on the daily balance. I am to pay the money back as soon as I can and the bank will reduce the interest, which is a wonderful scheme. I am of the opinion that the Minister should consider favourably genuine cases such as mine. Of course, he may not consider my case a genuine one. There seems to be a prejudice against members of Parliament trying to do things for themselves. The general public thinks that a member of Parliament is always trying to do things in a certain way, but I believe that he should have rights equal to those of any other member of the community and should receive equal consideration.
If an eligible ex-serviceman has entered into a contract which precludes him from obtaining some of the benefits conferred by the War Service Homes Act, there are other benefits that could be granted. For instance, there is the matter of insurance. The insurance scheme that is operated in conjunction with the war service homes scheme is mentioned in the annual report of the Director of War Service Homes in the following terms: -
From the inception of the War Service Homes Scheme, a comprehensive Insurance Scheme has been provided under the Act for all War Service Homes purchasers and borrowers.
Though the administration of the Scheme has followed closely the practices of Insurance Companies, it has been possible to provide insurance cover at a much lower premium rate than that ordinarily payable under a householder’s comprehensive policy taken out with an Insurance Company. Indeed, the premiums charged, on the average, are less than one quarter those charged by Insurance Companies.
Despite the fact that premium charges are very low, the insurance cover embraces all risks covered under most Comprehensive Insurance Policies plus certain other risks for which Insurance Companies normally apply a premium loading.
The Scheme now provides excellent insurance cover for some 163,605 homes with a total insurable value of approximately £556,252,000.
The report indicates that the total sum insured is more than £547,000,000 for the whole of the Commonwealth. The premiums payable amount to £281,201. Adjustment of claims for the year to 30th June, 1962, amounted to £103,600, and administrative expenses amounted to £163,066. This means that the administrative expenses of running the fund are within a few pounds of the cost of adjusting claims.
According to the balance sheet, administrative expenses amounted to approximately £800,000, which means that about 12½ per cent, of the total administrative expenses of the division are accounted for by the insurance scheme. That seems to me to be anomalous. I ask the Minister whether there is not a little bit of loading going on, despite the fact that the premiums account for only about a quarter of the amount payable. Other insurance schemes which provide similar cover, or cover that is not as good, have administrative expenses in relation to the total value of claims of practically the same proportion. The ratio of administrative expenses to total premiums also seems abnormally high. I should like the Minister to tell me whether charges which should rightly be made against other sections of the War Service Homes Division are being made against this scheme for ease of accountancy. In one respect, I think that members themselves should be given every benefit that is to be derived from an insurance scheme such as this. It is more or less a cooperative insurance scheme applicable solely to ex-servicemen and others eligible for war service homes. Where there is a dovetailing of the bookkeeping work by which the member pays a monthly instalment which includes insurance premiums, interest and other charges it must tend to reduce the costs of administration, and to me it seems anomalous that £103,067 should be debited to the insurance account for administrative expenses.
The next item relates to fire brigade boards. I believe it is the responsibility of any insurance organization, and any insurance scheme, however it may be operated, to make a contribution to fire brigade boards because the fire brigade is in turn an insurance for the insurance organization. By having fire brigade boards the insurance organizations ensure that they will get quick relief and efficient protection in case of fire. The amount paid to the fire brigade boards was £34,370, and that seems to me to be high enough when compared with the total amount of premiums paid. If all insurance companies were contributing to fire brigade boards the same proportion of their income as is being contributed here, fire brigades would be able to install the most modern equipment and purchase all the latest devices for fighting fires without causing any financial worries to the fire brigade boards. I should be grateful if the Minister would be good enough to give me a break-up of the administrative expenses relating to the insurance scheme. I should like to know what formulais used in arriving at the contribution to be paid to fire brigade boards, and how the contribution paid in this instance compares with those paid by other insurance companies.
Further, I should like to know from the Minister whether it is possible to make provision for those ex-servicemen who are not eligible for assistance from the division to discharge existing mortgages, to insure under the war service homes insurance scheme.
– It is not my intention to re-open the whole debate on the estimates for the Department of National Development. I hope that I shall not be followed by other speakers, because there is a long list of other departments to be considered. We have already spent far more time on these estimates than we contemplated originally. If we enter into an open debate, we shall not be able to give to the other departments the attention we should like to give to them.
Running through the questions that arose last night, I mention first that Senator Bishop asked about permanent and temporary employees. To him I give the answer that one has always to give in these circumstances. It is that the personnel establishments of the various government departments are governed by standards set by the Public Service Board. The tide rises and falls in those establishments. In my particular department at the present time there is a large temporary staff engaged on the search for oil and other activities that may not turn out to be permanent.
Expenditure on the Bureau of Mineral Resources was mentioned. That varies from year to year, according to circumstances. First, deliveries of plant and equipment are not always prompt. Orders for scientific equipment are placed with the hope of obtaining delivery by a certain date, but quite frequently, due to delay on the part of the manufacturer, or to difficulty in making arrangements for shipping, deliveries are not made by the expected date, with the result that commitments provided for in one year spill over to’ the next year. Again, when providing for the purchase of scientific instruments and drilling equipment for which substantial sums are required, it is possible for the requirements for one year to distort expenditure for that year by comparison with that of previous years. Both those factors have operated this year. This year, we make provision for three rather large plant items which would normally not be of a recurring nature, although one cannot be sure of that. It is always my endeavour to ensure that the bureau is provided with as good and as up-to-date scientific plant and equipment as is possible.
Senator Murphy referred to the dispersal of gangs of construction workers on the Snowy Mountains scheme. There is no alternative to the present method on large construction works of that kind. In such undertakings we are called upon to do a particular work which requires a large labour force. Often we may be required to carry out a particular contract which requires more labour than others, and it would be simply impracticable to have an even level of labour all round on a large undertaking like this. This year the labour force on the Snowy Mountains scheme will reach a record level because of the number of contracts to be completed. We expect to have 5,000 employed on the scheme as compared with 4,000 last year.
Senator Cant referred to Division No. 936, which relates to expenditure under the Atomic Energy Act. He asked why the expenditure provided for last year was not achieved, and why the appropriation for this year is lower than that for last year. This money is being provided for the erection of buildings at Lucas Heights. Each year the establishment grows closer to completion as more and more buildings are erected, and the expenditure required for buildings becomes proportionately lower each year. The amount needed for capital expenditure this year is lower than that required for last year, and next year it should be lower than that required for this year because each year buildings are being erected as they are required.
Reference was also made to the River Murray Commission. The money asked for here is the amount needed. The work entrusted to the River Murray Commission is the maintenance of the locks and the waterway and the snagging of the river, and the amount required varies from year to year.
asked, whether New South Wales applied to the Commonwealth Government for financial assistance in connexion with the Blowering dam. The answer is that applications have been received from New South Wales, and the Commonwealth has not looked upon them with a very kindly eye. It is the fault of the New South Wales Government, not of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, that the Blowering dam has not been built, and I take the point of view that the attitude adopted by the New South Wales Government is not justified. New South Wales has benefited very greatly from the Snowy Mountains scheme. Because it has been able to obtain power from the scheme it has been able to avoid the tremendously large expenditure that it would otherwise have had to undertake in building power houses. If New South Wales had not been getting power from the Snowy, it would have had to earmark for the construction of the Blowering dam at least some of the money which it is now saving by not being required to erect power houses, lt is a great pity that this important work is being held up, and that the waters which would be impounded by the Blowering dam are not being used to the greatest national advantage. There is no question of New South Wales being in legal default in not building the Blowering dam, but it is in great moral default to certain areas of New South Wales and Victoria in not proceeding with this work in that the great quantities of water now becoming available from the Snowy scheme are not being used to the best advantage. There is now coming from Tumut No. 1 and Tumut No. 2 as much water as is at present used in the whole of the Murrumbidgee irrigation area. It would be better for us nationally if the Blowering dam was completed and that water was put to work.
I turn now to war service homes matters. I shall answer the detailed questions that Senator Cant raised this afternoon. He was
In error about the number of homes that were enlarged. I think 52 homes were enlarged. They are in a different category. These were loans to enlarge homes on which no previous loan was in existence. Last year 4,378 additional loans were granted to build rooms on to houses that were already covered by a war service homes mortgage.
Senator Ormonde commented on the insurance apportionment. I shall reply to him in general terms, lt is as fair an apportionment of expenses as can be found in most insurance covers. The apportionment has survived the examination of the Auditor-General. The fire brigade contribution and this apportionment cannot be too large, as in the final analysis the premiums are only about one-quarter of those charged elsewhere.
In speaking of war service homes generally I should like to go back to the genesis of the scheme. I think it is always well to consider matters against that background. The provision of a war service home is a repatriation benefit which has become increasingly generous as the years have gone by. Since the scheme was commenced in 1919 or 1920, it has been regarded as a benefit that is available to an ex-serviceman only once. He can get it a second time only in exceptional circumstances, and with the special approval of the Minister. That is the foundation of the scheme. 1 repeat that it is a benefit for an ex-serviceman only once and is not a recurring benefit. The other principle is that it is a benefit provided for an exserviceman who has not already got a home. The Government has accepted this responsibility under the repatriation benefits very generously. The annual report that has been circulated shows that a total amount of £470,000,000 has been provided for war service homes by successive governments of which not less than 89 per cent, has been provided during the years that the Menzies Government has been in office. This Government has provided £35,000,000 a year, which is a very generous appropriation when we remember that the war is now seventeen years behind us, and that the appropriation is almost as great as the total appropriation for civilian housing throughout Australia, lt must be remembered also that an ex-serviceman is protected in that he is given a priority under the civilian housing scheme in addition to the right that he has under the war service homes legislation.
The terms of war service homes loans are so generous that there has always been a big demand for them - greater than the funds that were available, and greater than the funds that could be fairly appropriated for this purpose, having regard to the demand of other sections of the community for social service and health benefits and so on. As the years passed and the demand declined the Government commenced to take up the leeway. It eliminated the waiting time on all new homes and reduced the waiting time in other directions. Then it increased the advance to £3,500, which reduced the need for a second mortgage. The position has now been reached - I take a great deal of pride in it - when 65 per cent, of all applications are concluded without any waiting time at all. I repeat that the increase in the loan to £3,500 has now almost obviated the need for a second mortgage. This is a first-class housing scheme. No other scheme provides funds ;n such a generous basis.
There has always been the limitation under the act that the applicant must find 10 per cent, of the cost of a home. At the present time an advance of £3,500 can be obtained at 3i per cent, on a deposit of £275. Having regard to those terms it is little wonder that many ex-servicemen try to get a second advance or wish to obtain the benefit of war service homes finance for various needs. I repeat that the principle of the scheme is that an advance is a repatriation benefit always available once, and is not available a second time without ministerial approval. The other principle is that it is available for those without homes rather than for those who already have a home and who are seeking to improve it.
It has been suggested that the Government should make the additional loans available on easier terms. It must be remembered that those concerned already have a home. The more money that is provided to enable additions to be made to a home the less money there will be available for those who have not a home. No alterations have been made in the formula. There has been a big demand for additional loans, but the division is adhering to the principle that its first responsibility is to provide for those who have no home rather than to improve the position of those who have one.
I have covered the question of interest rates. Some criticism has been made on this score. We have coped with that position by increasing the loan to £3,500. I think it was Senator McClelland who said that tt was necessary to increase the loan because of rising costs. There is truth in that statement, but I remind Senator McClelland that the War Service Homes Division led the field in this increase in loans. I do not think that any other lending authority - I speak subject to correction - has increased its loan to £3,500, as the War Service Homes Division has done.
Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– 1 rise for the purpose of enabling the Minister to continue his remarks. I hope he will say something about the discretionary power that resides solely with the Minister to discharge an existing mortgage, and state whether there is likely to be any amelioration of that policy in the near future.
– The discharge of an existing mortgage comes within the provisions I have already mentioned. The division receives a large number of applications from persons who already have a home and whose financial circumstances are quite satisfactory. From the point of view of these people it is most desirable that they obtain a war service homes loan at 3) per cent, in substitution for their existing loan at a higher rate of interest.
– Are not they entitled to it?
– They could get it only at the expense of some one else, because there is a limit to the resources that can be made available for war service homes. It is not right to suggest that the sky is the limit and that whatever is wanted for war service homes can be made avail able. That is not the case in any form of governmental activity. We discharge mortgages and grant second loans only in exceptional circumstances.
Reference was made to road-making costs. This problem affects only Victoria to any great extent. Until 1956 or 1957, I think, the payment of road-making costs was the responsibility of the sub-divider of the land concerned. In Victoria there are many home-owners who are liable to pay road-making costs, but the problem does not arise to any great extent in the other States. The people in Victoria who are affected by this problem had arranged or were in the process of arranging to obtain the necessary finance from their municipal authorities. That money is provided on more onerous conditions than apply to loans obtained from the War Service Homes Division, but the conditions nevertheless are very reasonable. Some of the people concerned have naturally tried to obtain the benefit of loans from the War Service Homes Division, but such loans could be1 made available only at the expense of other people who are in more difficult positions.
It is always possible to criticize any scheme, no matter how good it may be, but I put to the Senate the view that the war service homes scheme provides one of the greatest of the repatriation benefits that are available to ex-servicemen. There are approximately 157,000 war service homes in existence in Australia now, and about 80 per cent, of them were provided by the Menzies Government. That is a record from which, I think, we can derive a great deal of satisfaction. I believe that what is being done in relation to war service homes is being done to the satisfaction, not only of the community generally, but of ex-servicemen.
Proposed expenditures noted.
Department of Civil Aviation
Proposed expenditure, £13,543,000.
– I want to refer to three items in the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation. My first remarks will be applicable to Division No. 261, Administrative. We see that the strength of the staff of the Department of Civil Aviation has been increased by 136. This is not the only department in which that has happened. In almost every department there has been a great increase of staff during the last twelve months. This has happened under a government which said at one time that it would reduce the number of Commonwealth public servants and promptly sacked 10,000 of them, I believe. I should say that since then those 10,000 people have been replaced and a further 10,000 have been added. I have chosen the Department of Civil Aviation only as an example, because I do not want to refer to this matter every time I discuss the question of administration. As I have said, the staff of this department has been increased by 136, and I hope the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) will be able to justify that increase.
While I am on the subject of administration I want to refer to something that I consider is a gross insult to members of this Parliament - the way in which questions are dealt with by Ministers. I have one instance in mind which applies to the Minister for Civil Aviation, but I am not picking on him any more than I am picking on all the other Ministers. I believe that they are all equally to blame. When we write to Ministers, they apparently work on the basis that we are only private members and that two months can go by before replies are given to us. That has been my experience in relation to the letters that I have written. Up to six weeks or two months has passed before I have received replies, and even then I have been given replies only after I have written follow-up letters, in sarcastic terms, asking whether the Ministers were so overworked that they could not reply to my previous letters. I have four examples of this on my files. They concern four different Ministers, not just the Minister for Civil Aviation.
Much the same applies to questions placed on the notice-paper. I put one question on the notice-paper on 9th August and I received an answer only to-day. In the Tasmanian Parliament, questions on notice are answered within a week. All the questions on the notice-paper are cleared each week. I admit that there are occasions when a Minister cannot get the information that has been requested within a reasonable time. I put a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation on 22nd August, asking for infor- mation about certain firms. I could have written to each of those firms myself for the information, but I do not have a staff to which 136 extra bodies were added during this year. It would not have taken very long for a member of the staff of the department to find out what I wanted to know. The question was not a political question. It was asked only for the purpose of obtaining information for use in this debate, but I still have not received an answer. I do not know what the staff of the department does.
– I answered it by letter. j
– This is very interesting. When did the Minister write to me? It is nearly two months since I asked the question. I admit that in this respect the Minister for Civil Aviation is a little better than other Ministers, but if I ask a question in the Senate, I expect a reply to be given in the Senate. If the Minister wishes to extend me the courtesy of writing to me in reply, I am happy about that, but I still have not received his letter. Probably it is on my desk now.
Recently I wrote to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and at the same time wrote to a private institution, the Bank of New South Wales Limited; oh the same subject. Within four days I had received from the bank all the information for which I had asked. Two months after I had written to the Minister asking for information I wrote to him again, said that I knew he was very busy with Common Market matters and told him not to worry about my little query, but to forget about it. Incidentally, I received an answer to my first letter four days after that, but the department did not bother to answer my second letter. It sent me a reply to the first letter and disregarded the sarcastic comments I had made in the second letter. If the Minister for Civil Aviation has written to me in reply to the question that I addressed to him on 22nd August, I thank him very much, but the reply will be useless to me because I have not yet received it and the estimates concerned are being dealt with now. If the Minister wants his administrative staff to be increased, let him see to it that the staff is efficient. I think that the attitude adopted by Ministers is contemptuous, particularly if questions are important. If a senator asks a political question, I do not mind the Minister concerned shelving it.
– Political questions are never asked in the Tasmanian Parliament, are they?
– Political questions are asked there. They receive political answers, but they are answered within a week, generally speaking. Once every two or three weeks a question is not answered within a week. I say that there is no excuse for the delay that occurs in replying to questions that are asked in this Parliament.
My next comments are related to Division No. 262, item 01, Aerodromes. I am interested to know why the Commonwealth Government refuses to build the Tullamarine aerodrome. The Government has made statements about this matter in the press, but they do not convince anybody. The reason for the delay in building this aerodrome may be a financial reason, but the proposed appropriation for aerodromes this year, under Division No. 262, is £2,588,000. Surely the people of Melbourne deserve this aerodrome.
– They do not like the noise of jet aircraft there.
– They would not mind the noise if they” could have this aerodrome. Is there any truth in the rumours in circulation that this project has been opposed by Qantas Empire Airways Limited, Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett-A.N.A.? The reason suggested is that the two lastnamed operators get the passenger business between Melbourne and Sydney. I have heard this rumour. I believe that in some newspapers it has been said that TransAustralia Airlines and Ansett-A.N.A. are opposed to the provision of major airports in Victoria because they benefit from the terminal being in Sydney. I do not know whether that is true. I am not raising this as a political issue. I believe that Victoria should have a modern airport. Whether the Victorians wish to site it at Tullamarine or somewhere else is their business. Obviously, it is time Victoria had a modern airport.
Finally, I refer to Division No. 263, item 01 - Aero and gliding clubs - Grants. Last year the grant was £187,000, but this year it has been reduced to £150,000. I should like the Minister to tell the committee why the grant has been reduced. We in Australia sadly lack defence personnel. We could not stand up to a war on our own. Here is a chance to help to train young men and women as pilots. The cost of hiring planes for training has increased, and is still increasing, yet the Government has reduced the grant by £37,000. I shall leave my further remarks on this matter until after I hear the Minister’s reply.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I should like some information on two items. First, I refer to Division No. 261, sub-division 2, item 08 - Incidental and other expenditure. In 1961-62, the appropriation was £44,500, but only £40,754 was expended. Yet in 1962-63 the appropriation under this item is £51,000. In Division No. 263, item 09 we see the same pattern. In 1961-62, the appropriation was £4,000 and the expenditure was £3,276. Yet this year the department is seeking an appropriation of £9,500. I should like the Minister to explain the reasons for those increases.
– I refer to Division No. 263, item 06 - Aerodromes - Developmental grant. Last year, the appropriation was £350,000 and the expenditure was £234,149. This year, the appropriation is £275,000. I should like an explanation of the change in that appropriation. The Minister may be able to tell me whether that grant applies to the buildings and airport terminals.
I also direct his attention to the service from Western Australia to New South Wales and Queensland, via Melbourne. An aircraft leaves Perth at about midnight on Sunday night. It is due in Melbourne at half-past six on Monday morning. Depending on weather conditions, it may arrive at six o’clock. A passenger who wants to go on to Sydney or Brisbane has to wait for two hours. The first connecting plane leaves at eight o’clock. During last winter I went through Melbourne. While waiting there I sat in the airport terminal. The heating was not turned on until a quarter past seven. Until people started to come out from Melbourne the terminal was not heated. So, for the first hour that I was there I sat in the cold. The tea room* were not open, so I was unable to get a cup of tea or coffee. The service from Sydney to Brisbane is quite brisk. There is a wait of only 25 minutes in Sydney. On the return journey, a passenger leaves Brisbane at a quarter to twelve in the morning and arrives in Melbourne at three o’clock in the afternoon. The connecting plane to Perth leaves at ten minutes past six. So there is a three-hour wait. On the forward journey there is a two-hour wait in Melbourne; on the return journey there is a three-hour wait in Melbourne.
The terminal, which originally was designed as an international airport terminal, has no rest room for female travellers. The standard is not high enough for a terminal designed as an international airport terminal. Now it is a terminal for intra-state and interstate traffic. It is impossible for a female passenger to relax in a private room during these long waits, if she wishes to do so. I hope that the Minister will give an explanation of that position. If he cannot offer an explanation, I suggest that the time-tables be adjusted to reduce the time that a passenger travelling from Perth to Brisbane has to spend in the Melbourne airport terminal. I also suggest that a private waiting room or rest room for female travellers be provided. It is true that men may go to the bar, but there is nowhere for women to go.
Tn respect of Division No. 263, item 01, I raise the same question as Senator Turnbull raised. The grant is being reduced at a time when we should be endeavouring to train as many pilots as possible. If the Government cannot see its way clear to increase the grant to aero clubs, surely it should be maintained at the previous level. In the light of world events, this is not a time when we should be reducing this grant.
Under Division No. 263, item 05, £500,000 is provided for air services subsidies. I know that the Commonwealth Government pays subsidies to various airlines to enable’ them to provide a service to the public. I should like the Minister to give us the break-up of that amount and to tell us how the subsidies are paid and to whom they are paid. I am interested in the
Western Australian intra-state airline service in particular. I should like to know the amount that is given to each company and the names of the companies.
Under Division No. 262, item 03, last year the appropriation was £53,000 and the expenditure was £49,421. This year, the appropriation is £25,000. This appropriation is for search and rescue services) which is one of the important items associated with air travel. It is true that Australian airlines have a very good safety record, but safety cannot be dealt with lightly. This year the appropriation has been reduced by half. Search and rescue services should be kept up. They may never be used - we hope not - but they are a protection for the public, and the appropriation for them should be adequate to maintain them in a fit and proper condition. It may be that the proposed appropriation of £25,000, as against £53,000 last year, is sufficient, but I should like the Minister to explain the reduction.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) [4.55]. - I direct the attention of the Minister to Division No. 263, item 06, Aerodromes - Development grant, which has already been mentioned by Senator Cant. Last year, the appropriation was £350,000 and the expenditure £234,149. This year, the proposed appropriation is £275,000. In this chamber, previously, I have congratulated both the Minister and the Government on the splendid work that has been done throughout rural areas of Queensland in building all-weather airstrips. We have seen a great deal of this work in recent years to assist in the transportation of people and goods by air from the most distant parts of Queensland to the capital city. Allweather aerodromes have meant a great deal to the people of the outback. I should like to know whether that work is done by means of this grant, and whether the programme for additional all-weather aerodromes includes plans for some more of this excellent work in Queensland. Can the Minister provide a break-up of this amount under the various States and tell us of the forward planning? I presume that the next item, relating to a maintenance grant of £75,000, concerns these all-weather aerodromes throughout the vast area of the Commonwealth.
– I should like to raise two matters. The first is in relation to airline schedules from Perth. At present, on five days of the week we have three services to the east. On Monday there are two, at 8 a.m., and a midnight service. On Tuesday, we have only one service at midnight and none in the morning. On Saturday there are two at 8 a.m. and no night flight. Under the rationalization scheme, can something be done to ensure that there is at least one service, morning and night, from Perth? There would be no need to increase the total number of flights unless this was later found to be necessary. It would be more rational to have one morning flight and one night flight every day rather than to have two leaving at the same time on two days of the week, and three on other days.
The other matter I wish to raise has already been mentioned. I am pleased to have the support of Senator Cant. It is in regard to the provision of rest rooms at terminals. Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent on the provision of terminals, with the result that we have very fine, modern buildings. But, as I pointed out to the Minister last week - I think he thought it was only a joke - in these fine terminals there is no ladies’ rest room. Quite recently, I was going home to Perth on a Saturday. I have to leave Canberra at 8.30 a.m., arriving at Melbourne about 10 a.m. I could not get a connecting flight until about 4.30 p.m. To spend from 10 a.m. till 4.30 p.m. in the terminal building at Melbourne - on a Sunday - is not a very bright venture, believe me. Had I known there was so much delay, I could have gone into Melbourne, but the day being Sunday that might have been just as bad. I was only one of many people who were so inconvenienced. Among those travelling was a lady who had just suffered a bereavement. Another was an expectant mother. They had to hang around the terminal for all those hours. There was no private room to which they could go. Before the amalgamation of the terminals, Ansett-A.N.A. and TransAustralia Airlines each had its own terminal, and I understand there was a room for V.I.P.’s; I do not know whether it is still in existence. I do not think it is beyond the capabilities of architects who design these buildings to set aside a room for female pas sengers. As I have said to the Minister, even on country railway stations there is a ladies’ waiting-room. He said that they were not much good, but still they are there’.
The furniture In ultra-modern terminals is far from comfortable. Those of us who have to do a great deal of interstate travelling spend many hours in these terminals. We do not expect a great deal from them, but we do expect the minimum of comfort that is provided in bus and railway terminals. A new terminal is to be opened in Perth on Saturday, lt is a very modern building and we are pleased that it is being provided, but I should like to know whether any provision has been made for a rest room for women. The terminal buildings provide, of course, the usual toilet facilities, but in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide there is not a chair that can be placed in the area set aside for toilet facilities where women can wait. At Adelaide there is a very small room to which mothers can go to feed their babies, but not more than two mothers with babies can take advantage of that room at the one time. It is a very small room, with no ventilation, an annexe to the ladies’ toilets. We are building, at large expense, terminals with every other convenience, such as cocktail bars, but with no provision for female travellers. I should like the Minister to take special note of this, because not all travellers are young. They cannot all remain .hanging round the bookstall for a whole day. Even when there is no interruption to schedules, travellers often have to wait a couple of hours for normal connexions with interstate flights.
There is another point. On the day to which I have referred, I had to get a seat on a special flight. I did not mind, because we travel by air so much that it becomes commonplace, but others have to save for what is perhaps a holiday in a lifetime. I was amazed at the lower standard of service on the special flight. The fare was exactly the same as on Electra and ordinary Viscount flights, but the standards of food and service were so much lower that I could not help noticing that fact. Those passengers who had not travelled by air before may not have noticed it. When special flights are arranged, because there are excessive passenger bookings, the same standards of food and service as on other flights should be maintained. It is only a small point to us, but to persons who have saved for such a trip, many of whom will not do it again, it is important. They have to save because air travel is so costly. I was disappointed that they could not experience air travel to the best advantage.
Those are the three points to which I would like the Minister to reply. The first is the matter of real rationalization of airline schedules from Perth to the east. I know that the Minister will say that both airlines want to take advantage of the best passenger loadings that they can get. Other Western Australians can bear me out when I say that time after time on Monday nights we see people coming out to the airport in the hope of getting a’ seat and finding that they are not able to do so because there are no cancellations. The aircraft is always booked out on Monday nights, and people have to wait until Tuesday night for the next aircraft out. There is no service on Tuesday morning. On Wednesday there are two flights scheduled to leave at exactly the same time, 8 a.m.; they leave within a minute of each other. Surely, that is not rational. 1 doubt whether both would be booked out. I should like to know what objections exist to providing one service, morning and evening, to the eastern States, and whether more use could not be made of Electra aircraft, instead of the slow aircraft we sometimes have on this route.
It is not so bad on the night flight, but in an Electra you get in too early. I remember travelling on one aircraft that made a record flight of three and a half hours from Perth to Melbourne. We could have gone back to Perth in the time we were waiting for the next aircraft. One does not gain a great deal by speeding up an aircraft, but there would be an advantage if an Electra day-time service could be provided from the eastern States to Perth. Those who use this service every week realize how much time could be saved if a better service were introduced on a really rational time-table.
– Senator Turnbull referred to several matters. First, he spoke of the time taken to answer a question which he put on the notice-paper on 22nd August. I invite honorable senators to look at that question. It called for statistical information which had to be provided by five international airlines - Alitalia, Air Italy, Scandinavian Air Services, Qantas and B.O.A.C.
– It would involve only five duplicates of a letter sent by airmail. The Minister would get a reply in three weeks.
– If the honorable senator will possess himself in patience, he will find that that is not so. He might think that is the case, but in this instance he is wrong. To get him the information, it was necessary to write to the International Civil Aviation Organization. So that Senator Turnbull might get the latest information, that organization delayed a reply. The honorable senator put the question on the notice-paper six weeks ago. The answer is now prepared, and I suggest that the time taken was not unreasonable. The answer will be given to the honorable senator as soon as it can be roneoed and distributed. Senator Turnbull said very smugly that he could get the information in three weeks. If he can get the information so much more quickly, I suggest that the next time he wants this sort of information, he should resort to his own devices and get it.
– The Minister has the staff, and that is what they are there for.
– The members of my staff are not there for that sort of thing. The honorable senator also had something to say about staff. He referred to increases in staffs, and to the increase in the staff of the Department of Civil Aviation. On that point, his information was wrong. The figures he cited referred to the permanent establishments which ate permitted to the Department of Civil Aviation, and not to the appointments to the establishment. In point of fact, the total staff permitted to this establishment is 5,419, and the department is 438 below permitted strength. But I go further than that, because this matter received some publicity last year when the report of the Department of Civil Aviation was published. If Senator Turnbull wanted to criticize increases in the staffs of government departments, he made an unfortunate choice from his point of view when he referred to the Department of Civil Aviation. If the honorable senator looks at page 8 of the foreword to the report of the Minister for Civil Aviation for the year ended 30th June, 1961, he will find this passage -
It will be apparent from the survey of aviation development made in this introduction that the continued growth in the last decade of all forms of aviation activity has imposed significantly greater administrative burdens on all sections of my Department of Civil Aviation. Notwithstanding this, I am pleased to be able to report that the total staff employed by the department decreased from 5,324 at 30th June, 1951 to 4,983 at 30th June, 1961.
That fact was noted by a number of press correspondents when my report was published last year. So the honorable senator missed the mark when he criticized the Department of Civil Aviation about excess staff. The honorable senator also referred to Tullamarine, and said that there was no reason why an international airport should not be constructed at Melbourne, except finance. The implication, as I took it, was that finance was of little or no importance. Finance is important, and it remains a matter of great importance to this Government and to Australia. As a responsible Government, we have to plan our works most carefully in a properly justified order of priority. Senator Turnbull referred to certain rumours which had come to his ears.
– They were published.
– The honorable senator said they were to the effect that Qantas was opposed to the construction of a jet airport at Melbourne. I refer him to a publication by the Melbourne Airport Committee in which specific mention was made of the fact that Qantas supports the construction of a jet airport at Melbourne. I am sure that if the honorable senator had seen that report he would also have noticed that reference was made to other airlines. As recently as last week, Mr. Ansett of the Ansett-A.N.A. organization publicly signified his support of this proposal for a Melbourne jet airport.
Senator Cant had something to say about the development grant for aerodromes of £275,000 mentioned in Division No. 263. The proposed vote is about £40,000 more than actual expenditure last year under this item. This vote provides for reimbursements to local authorities for the develop ment of locally owned aerodromes on a fifty-fifty basis, and for the development of government-owned aerodromes in process of transfer to local authorities. I think that both Senator Wedgwood and Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin were interested in this vote, and Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin asked for an allocation between the States. The figures I have indicate that in 1962-63 approximately £127,000 will be spent in Queensland under this heading. Expenditure in other States will be: New South Wales, £121,000; Victoria, £6,000; Tasmania, £10,000; Western Australia, £5,600; South Australia, nil. This is the “ local ownership “ plan, and it has worked very well, particularly in Queensland and in New South Wales. It is also making some headway in Western Australia. Tasmania and Victoria are not greatly interested in or affected by this programme by virtue of the fact that those States do not have a great number of airports. Nevertheless, there have been acquisitions by local authorities in both those States. South Australia, which also has not a great number of aerodromes, is, I regret to say, the one State which has not adopted this scheme in any significant manner as yet, but I am hopeful that as its advantages become better known, that State will do so.
Senator Cant referred to the grant for aero clubs. Actually, we are adopting a new . system of subsidizing aero clubs. It has been worked out in close conference and collaboration with the Royal Aero Club Federation of Australia. In respect of the straightout grant, we are now adopting a system which provides for the allocation of a number of Commonwealth scholarships to the more outstanding applicants who apply for them. We are supporting those scholarships quite generously. The scheme is in its initial year, but I am pleased to be able to tell honorable senators that it is going very well indeed. Senator Cant also inquired about the air services subsidy, which is to be found in Division No. 263. I cannot give the honorable senator the actual allocation, but I can inform him that last year MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited received approximately £130,000 by way of subsidy. That amount does not include payments for mail carriage at a rate decided by the Postmaster-General’s Department, the Department of Civil
Aviation and the carrier company. The other companies in Australia which are subsidized, in addition to MacRobertson Miller Airlines for its services in the northwest of Western Australia, are Connellan Airways Limited, in the Northern Territory; East-West Airlines Limited; the AnsettA.N.A. subsidiaries which conduct services to remote parts of Australia and to the Bass Strait islands; and Trans-Australia Airlines for the services that it operates in the outback areas of Queensland.
There was also a query in respect of the search and rescue vote. I think that the query arose because the provision this year is something less than it was last year, or because it varies in some way.
– It is about 50 per cent, less.
– Yes. In recent years we have re-organized our system of search and rescue. Until a couple of years ago this function was the responsibility of the Royal Australian Air Force, and the Department of Civil Aviation paid an assessed amount each year to the Air Force to conduct the particular services. Two- or three years ago we evolved a system which contains a large element of self help. The various operators, for example, combine with the Department of Civil Aviation and are organized in areas. If a loss occurs or a search is necessary, aircraft of the particular companies and also the department’s aircraft combine to conduct a search.
– Is the Minister referring only to aerial rescue or to sea rescue as well?
– I am referring to air-sea rescue. The scheme covers sea rescue as well as land rescue. Senator Cant will no doubt remember that a light aircraft was lost in the Nullarbor area some few months ago. The search for it was conducted under the new plan.
asked questions about the time-tabling of aircraft. I do not think there is ever a satisfactory answer that can be given to the person who wants to catch a particular form of transport at 9.30 a.m. on a given day when there is no transport available, but the fact is that time-tabling of aircraft is conditioned by precisely the same factors which condition the time-tabling of any other form of transport.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I wish to ask the Minister a number of questions because the answers he gave to Senator Cant regarding Division No. 263 did not explain the position of gliding schools, a matter in which I am interested. 1 am also interested in Division No. 262, which relates to the maintenance of aerodromes. I should like to know the position of gliding schools, having regard to the reduction in the subsidy. 1 notice, from last year’s report of the department, that there were 1,037 active flying members in the gliding schools and that it was proposed to increase the grant from £4,000 to £6,000.
I take the view that gliding can be very useful commercially to Australia. In addition, it provides potential airmen for the Air Force. In appendix 18 of the report reference is made to the ratio of accidents to flying hours. It is obvious from the figures and from the granting of money to flying schools that the schools perform a useful service. The report states that the percentage of accidents per 10,000 flying hours had decreased from 16 per cent, to 12 per cent. 1 am interested to know whether the department is still concerned with the development of gliding schools. I know that gliding is very expensive for young people from working-class families. In many instances, those who are interested in gliding in South Australia have to travel some distance from the city to participate. Does the department propose to change the system referred to in its last report, or does it intend to continue to grant £6,000 a year, or perhaps more than that?
I should also like to know the policy of the department in relation to certain airfields that were constructed in the Northern Territory at very great expense during the war. I have in mind the airfields at Gove, Batchelor and 109-Mile. Have those airfields been allowed to go to rack and ruin,, or has the department in contemplation a comprehensive maintenance policy with a view to using them either commercially or for defence purposes?
.- 1 wish to refer to Division No. 262, item 01 - Aerodromes. While not accepting Senator Turnbull as a strange bedfellow, because of the way in which he couched his remarks, I desire to refer to Melbourne’s Tullamarine jet airport and the fact that it is not yet completely in existence. I gather from the proposed vote of £2,588,000 that it is not intended to complete the project this year. I urge the Government seriously to consider the priority, or lack of priority, it has been given. Melbourne is a city of almost 2,000,000 people. I suppose it is common ground in the Senate that Melbourne has become the economic, financial and commercial hub of the Commonwealth. I do not think that is open to serious challenge.
– Would you say it is the hub of exponents of engineering skill?
– We will get round to that later. We have given so much of our money to the building of other people’s bridges that we do not have enough left to build our own. Is it now also true that approximately 46 per cent, of overseas travellers reaching Australia have Melbourne as their terminal point, and that approximately 48 per cent, of overseas’ travellers begin their journey from Melbourne?
To what estimates are you referring?
– I am referring to Division No. 262, item 01, relating to aerodromes. I realize the financial and planning difficulties associated with aircraft requirements for domestic lines. I know that the authorities are faced with the difficult task of making our aerodromes meet international and internal requirements. I realize that there are many problems to be solved by the proper authorities, and I feel confident that the Minister and his department will give those problems the attention which they deserve. But I should like to stress the fact that the demand for a jet airport in Melbourne comes from responsible civic and political leaders, not from the irresponsible fringe who, in so many cases, clamour about this, that and the other thing. The demand for a jet airport at Melbourne is supported by the leaders of all political parties in the State Parliament. It is also supported by such responsible civic leaders as the Lord Mayor and, in temperate terms, it is supported by the committee to which the Minister referred. The civic, political and business leaders of the city are concerned to see that the priority of the Tullamarine project is upgraded. I ask the Minister, if he will, to take a favorable view of their plea and to see whether, despite the difficulties which I admit exist, anything can be done to upgrade the priority of this project. At all events, if he is in a position to do so, I should be grateful if he would outline to the Senate the department’s plan for the completion of the Tullamarine aerodrome.
– I wish to refer to the apprenticeship scheme in operation at Qantas Empire Airways Limited. I have a great admiration for that scheme. As one who has been successful in obtaining apprenticeship for three or four boys there, I am proud to be able to say that twelve months ago one of the boys whom I sponsored won the prize for apprentice of the year. I understand that the apprentices there are now becoming a little worried because Qantas Empire Airways Limited, along with other airlines, are changing over to jet repair work, and this will not require the same number of apprentices as work on the prop, aircraft. They are therefore worried that the intake of apprentices will be cut down severely, and I should like to know from the Minister whether there is any ground for their fears. I ask him, too, to -give sympathetic consideration to any problems that may arise from the conditions I have described.
I should like to know also whether the Minister can name the date when the seaplane service operating from Rose Bay will cease, and residents in the area will be able to sleep in until after 6 a.m. I know that the Minister promised to do something about two years ago, but nothing has happened yet, and these seaplanes still wake me up at about six every morning. I may mention that this area is in my electorate, and that I was elected by only a small majority. If the people can be relieved of this nuisance at 6 o’clock every morning, perhaps my majority will be increased at the next election. Certainly many people, including Senator Fitzgerald, who lives near the Rose Bay area, will be very happy if this nuisance can be eliminated.
Senator Sir WALTER COOPER (Queensland) [5.30].- 1 should like to take this opportunity of congratulating the Australian National Airlines Commission upon the profit of £394,000 paid by it to the Treasury for the last twelve months. It has done magnificent work in being able to show a handsome profit after efficiently discharging all its responsibilities. I should like also, to congratulate Qantas Empire Airways Limited for the magnificent work done by it as an international airline during the past year. I well remember the day when this company began operations in western Queensland with a very small capital immediately after World War I. Over the years, it has been able to build itself up until to-day it is one of the premier international airlines of the world. It is pleasing to note, too, that this airline paid out £663,108 by way of dividend for the year just concluded, and that in the same year it paid out £500,000 by way of repayment of a temporary advance. I should like to know whether it has any other large outstanding debts. 1 note that, under Division No. 866, item 02, £1,650,000 is set down as expenditure in 1961-62 for the provision of additional share capital. I should like to know whether that amount is still owing. If the total amount is not still owing, how much of it has been repaid?
– I did mention time saving when referring to the remarks of Senator Tangney and Senator Cant, and I have dealt only partly with the matters raised by them. During the course of her remarks, Senator Tangney again raised the question of putting more Electras on the east-west run. If I might express a personal view, I should like to say at once that I am completely with her on this matter, but one has to have regard to the commercial aspect of the operation. I regard it as unfortunate, as does Senator
Tangney, that the commercial aspect of the operation weighs very much in favour of the denser traffic in the eastern States than on the east-west run. I have spoken with operators about this matter on many occasions. I believe that they are doing their best. I know that if they were to exercise a strict commercial judgment we would probably have fewer Electras than we have at present, particularly in the winter months. I know also that the operators try to vary their allocation of Electra capacity as east-west traffic goes up and down with the seasons. I am sure that both Senator Cant and Senator Tangney will recall that various alterations are made to Electra capacities as the traffic varies throughout the year.
Senator Tangney mentioned also the provision of rest rooms at terminals. I want to assure her that when she spoke of this tha other day I certainly did not regard it as a joke. I wanted to make some inquiries. I regret her difficulty at Melbourne airport. I suggest that this was largely an unnecessary inconvenience. Had she consulted any of the hostesses, or the receptionists, I feel quite sure they would have made some arrangements for her.
– Others were involved. I am not speaking from a personal point of view.
– I was about to say that some arrangements could have been made for these other ladies whom she says were similarly inconvenienced. Both airlines have V.I.P. accommodation which they use very generously in making their clients comfortable. In addition to that the hostesses will look after the special needs of women. Furthermore, at Melbourne airport there is a mothers’ room with provision for changing kiddies’ clothing and bathing if necessary.
– As an annexe to the toilets.
– Yes, I know, but it is not an offensive or objectionable entrance. You can go through the door to the mothers’ room on one side. I am sure the honorable senator will be pleased to hear that the same facilities are being provided at the new Perth airport.
– There is no ladies’ lounge.
– 1 repeat that there is a V.I.P. lounge. If any ladies waiting for any length of time make known their needs to hostesses I am sure they will be looked after comfortably. It was in this connexion that I wanted to make inquiries of the airlines about the question Senator Tangney asked last week.
asked about certain airfields in the north. He mentioned Gove, 109-Mile and Batchelor. I think they are all defence airports coming under the responsibility of the Air Force. The Department of Civil Aviation has taken over some airports which are now used by Connellan Airways Limited and it maintains those airports, but the three that the honorable senator mentioned are, I think, the responsibility of the Air Force.
I can assure the honorable senator that the Commonwealth Government maintains an interest in gliding. Indeed, when our new aero quota programme was commenced eighteen months ago, the Gliding Federation of Australia reecived an increased allocation from £5,000 to £6,000. I might say that the federation has expressed in generous terms its appreciation of the action taken by the Commonwealth Government.
Senator Ormonde referred to the Qantas apprenticeship scheme. Reference is made to the scheme on page 12 of the recently released report of Qantas. It is a scheme in which the management takes a particular pride. I cannot speak with precision because 1 am not a technical man. I do not know whether jet aircraft will require the attention of fewer mechanics, but I express the view that if this is so the increase in business will ensure that there will be no reduction of the total staff employed on the technical side.
Senator Sir Walter Cooper referred to the profitable operation of Qantas Empire Airways and Trans-Australia Airlines. I share his pleasure that these public utilities made a profit rather than a loss. Over the past few years it has been my particular duty to watch these operations and I have found, almost without exception, a high degree of efficiency in the organizations in ensuring a close control of costs, which, of course, is one of the factors in successful commercial operation anywhere. The honorable senator asked also whether any further advances had been made to Qantas. The answer is “ No “. The £500,000 to which he referred was capitalized last year and all other outstanding advances have been capitalized.
– What do you mean by that? Do you mean they have been repaid?
– No, they have been capitalized. They were transferred from loans that were originally made to capital.
– What is the Government’s capital in the company now?
– It is now
– The Government holds all the shares?
– Yes, the Government holds all the shares in Qantas. The other question was about Tullamarine. 1 regret that I cannot answer Senator Hannan in the precise terms in which he posed his question. For all practical purposes the acquisition is complete. I have no information as to the details of the plan for the construction of the jet airport.
– You have not said anything about the Rose Bay flying base.
– This matter, of course, is tied up with the operational difficulty of providing a land-based service to Lord Howe Island. I am informed that - probably because of complaints made by the honorable senator - the take-off direction has recently been altered in order to reduce the noise in the Rose Bay area.
– I refer to Division No. 263 - Item 02 “ International Civil Aviation Organization - Contribution, £55,000 “. In the report which the Minister issued it was stated that as at June, 1961, there were 86 member States. Has this membership increased? On page 3 of the report it was stated that Australia’s contribution in 1961 was £42,000, which is 2.5 per cent, of the total contributions. I presume that that contribution is now to be increased to £55,000 as that is the amount shown in the Estimates. I understand that the fee is based on the importance of a country in the international civil aviation field. Where does
Australia rate in respect of other member countries? I would be interested to know that. As the amount this year is to be £55,000, have we moved up or down the list of importance, or have contributions been raised generally?
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I had directed the attention of the Minister to Division No. 263, item 02, which relates to Australia’s contribution to the International Civil Aviation Organization. Last year our contribution was just under £43,000, and this year it is proposed to appropriate £55,000 for this purpose. We are contributing 2.5 per cent, of the funds of the organization, on which 85 states are represented. I am interested to know whether, because of our increased contribution, .we have moved up the list of international importance or whether there had been a general increase of contributions to the organization because of increased activities.
I now direct attention to the excellent annual report by the Minister for Civil Aviation for 1960-61. It is the first such report to be presented. On page 3, the report deals with the South Pacific Air Transport Council. This body was established in March, 1946, as an ancillary to the Commonwealth Air Transport Council. It has performed functions similar to those of the parent body, but on a more regional basis. The fourteenth meeting of the South Pacific Air Transport Council was held in Melbourne in November, 1960, and was attended by representatives of the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Canada and the Western Pacific High Commission. At that meeting the council made recommendations to member governments concerning Nada Airport in Fiji. Major improvements to that airfield were completed on 17th February, 1960, the total cost of the work being approximately £4,500,000. Of that sum, Australia provided £1,800,000, or very close to onehalf. I am wondering whether Australia made such a large contribution because it used the airfield more than any of the other countries concerned.
I turn next to Division No. 263, item 08, which relates to aviation research. I shall relate the remarks that I am now about to make to that item. The Minister, in the report to which I have just referred, dealt with hovercraft, and had this to say -
Hovercraft, so far produced, are purely experimental vehicles designed for the purpose of answering the various engineering, air cushion confinement, performance and control questions which will need to be answered before a practical vehicle could be produced. The subject of control imposes special problems as, because of the low amount of friction developed between the vehicle and its supporting surface, any wind can have very extreme effects in regard to directional control. The Department has these vehicles under study and in co-operation with the Department of Shipping and Transport, the Department of Supply and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization will take all necessary action to facilitate their introduction into the Australian transport system when practical vehicles are designed and produced.
I do not know whether I am right in my belief that vehicles of this kind are in commercial use overseas. If they are, I would like the Minister to say whether they are satisfactory and whether there is a possible use for them in Australia.
I refer my remarks now to Division No. 262, item 03, which relates to search and rescue services. The proposed appropriation for that purpose is £25,000. The appropriation last year was £53,000. I believe that the reason for the reduction is that some of the civil airlines have undertaken some responsibilities in this field. I understand that the expenditure for this purpose by the Commonwealth last year was somewhat higher than had been expected. I should like the Minister to tell me how much the cost of this work is recovered and how the Government goes about recovering it. What is the method that is used? On page 64 of the report, dealing with this subject, the Minister stated -
My department maintains manned SAR marine craft at Sydney and Cocos Island. Special small outboard-powered dinghies are held at Darwin, Adelaide, Sydney, Hobart and Lae and 93 rubber droppable self-inflating ten-man dinghies are available at seventeen locations in the Commonwealth and Territories. Auxiliary marine craft are also available by arrangement at 37 locations. In addition, 237 packages of droppable stores in two sizes are distributed over 33 locations at strategic points throughout Australia and Papua-New Guinea.
It is that passage that prompted me to ask whether, and, if so, how, we recover some or all of the costs of search and rescue work.
Now I turn to page 80 of the report, and I pay a compliment to the Minister. Governments are often blamed for employing increasing numbers of civil servants. Honorable senators will realize that during the last ten years jet-powered aircraft have been introduced on air routes and that consequently the problem of air traffic control has become more difficult That is one of the functions of the Department of Civil Aviation. The department is responsible also for the maintenance of operational standards and for the installation and operation of complex electronic navigational aids and communications equipment. It is interesting to note that at 30th June, 1951, the department employee! 5,324 people and that, despite the growing complexity of air traffic problems, the number of staff had dropped to 4,983 in June, 1961 - the latest date for which figures are available. I think the Minister deserves our commendation. He has administered his department so efficiently that he has been able to reduce the number of staff by 341 despite the fact that the department is being called upon to do a much more complex job.
I refer next to a press statement issued by the Minister on 8th August in respect of aerodrome works in Western Australia. I am relating my remarks now to Division No. 262, item 01, which refers to aerodromes. In his statement the Minister said that other work to be done in Western Australia this year included -
Meekatharra - new terminal, building area and taxi way, and aprons, car parks, etc., at a cost of £63,500.
Broome - maintenance, sealing and strengthening of apron and taxi way, £43,000.
Wittenoom Gorge - new £30,000 Distance Measuring Equipment station and power house to improve aircraft guidance facilities in the area.
Derby - apron extension and water supply improvements, £26,000. - Port Hedland - new transmitting station and apron extensions £25,000.
Can the Minister tell us whether that work has started or, if it has not started, when it might be started and completed? I would be interested to have that information and I am certain that the people in the outback areas of Western Australia would also be very interested to have it.
.- I refer again to Division No. 262, item 01 - Aerodromes. I associate myself with the remarks made by Senator Hannan in this respect. I was pleased to hear the Minister say that the acquisitions for the Tullamarine airport have been completed. If he is not able to tell us that the work on the airport will commence at an early date, he might be able to assure us that in the Estimates for 1963-64 the people of Victoria will know that some of the money allocated under this heading will apply to Tullamarine.
I also refer to Division No. 263, item 01 - Aero and gliding clubs - Grants. I hope that the Minister will give the utmost publicity to the new scheme that he outlined earlier to-day. We all are very proud of the youth of Australia. In these challenging times it is necessary to stimulate the spirit of adventure in our young people. From time to time we complain about the spectator participation of many people in sport. More and more people are being drawn to this avenue of activity. The greatest encouragement should be given to the formation and activities of these clubs. I ask the Minister to make information on this new scheme available throughout the Commonwealth.
.- I refer to Division No. 262, item 02. I ask the Minister whether there is any truth in a statement I have heard that only a percentage of aircraft engaged iri passenger transport are equipped with the very latest and most up-to-date instruments to enable them to land in bad weather. I heard a pilot make that statement. He said that because aircraft were not equipped with the latest, up-to-date instruments very often they had to deviate to other aerodromes. If that is the position, what are the chances of bringing all aircraft engaged in passenger transport right up to date in that respect?
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I wish to revert to the items that I mentioned previously, and speak more or less in reply to Senator Paltridge in regard to Division No. 261 - Administrative. i have been in politics for quite a long while. I know that no Minister will allow any criticism of his department to be made without taking umbrage. In my earlier remarks I was referring to his department as one of several departments to which my remarks applied. I realise that his over-worked staff, by rushing around to answer a silly question asked by a senator, has produced a result in seven weeks. I think that is magnificent! I forgot to praise the Minister for that. His answer was that he had to write to somebody. I could point out to the Minister that he could have written or telephoned the head office in Melbourne - although I know the matter is not important enough to warrant a phone call - or he could have sent an aerogramme to Italy, Switzerland or Scandinavia. He would have received a reply within ten days. The balance-sheets would have showed him the profit or loss. The companies have the balance-sheets for whatever year you want. Surely any one in those companies would know the number of employees they have and the number of passengers their aircraft carry. If the information was secret, and they would not give it to him, they would have told him that, and he could have given an answer to that effect. I thank him for the courtesy of performing the extremely arduous task of writing to the international bureau of something or other and getting for me the correct information that I have not yet received. I point out that no one other than one of his departmental officers or a member of this Parliament would agree that his department is efficient in view of the fact that I have written to the Bank , of New South Wales and received an answer within four days. Yet after two months I have not yet received a reply from the department and have had to write and ask for one. That happens with other departments, too. The Minister has an excuse, as he told the committee; so I absolve him from any charge of discourtesy to a senator in not replying.
In regard to personnel and administration, we have heard a statement by the Minister that the number of employees of the Department of Civil Aviation has actually been reduced. Is that so?
– That is right.
– There has been a reduction of 340. Senator Branson mentioned that too. I am not surrounded by a party machine or private secretaries who can give me all the information I want. All I have is this book entiled “Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1963 “. The figures on page 189 show that in 1961-62 the number of positions in the department was 3,998, and this year the number is 4,134. A statement in small letters says that there is an amount estimated to remain unexpended. That is a wonderful bit of accountancy. Does this happen in every department? Does each department estimate what it is going to spend, and then estimate what it is not going to spend? I think that is wonderful. Any Treasury officer would be proud of that. In view of those figures, I presume that the number of positions in the depatrment has increased by the figure I mentioned, namely, 136. I also presume that the way I have to understand the position is that all those positions will not be filled. The report of the Department of Civil Aviation shows that it has reduced its staff by 341.
– In the ten years from 1951 to 1961.
– I am talking about the change from 1961-62 to 1962-63. The report says that there has been an increase of 341 in the number of positions; is that correct?
– A decrease.
– I can only go on what I read. The Estimates show that there is an increase in the number of positions. This is empire building if it is nothing else. I assume that these extra positions have been approved. That is the only way I can take it. Therefore, he will be able to increase the staff of his department by 136, if my arithmetic is correct. I may be wrong. I apologize to the committee if I am wrong. I am trying to do my best with the limited facilities available to me. At least I try to do my best. I will apologize to the Minister if I am wrong, but I do not get up in this chamber and say that I have written to a senator when I have not. I have received no word of apology, and I have heard no correction. I still have not received the Minister’s letter. Yet he blatantly said that he had written to me in reply to my question. 1 think every honorable senator in the chamber heard him say that. No such letter has been put on my desk. It may be in Launceston; I do not know. I left Launceston yesterday, and it was not there when I left. The Minister can make a deliberate misstatement and that is in order, but if I make a misstatement it is a shocking thing.
Let me refer again to Tullamarine. Yes, it is a financial matter. The nice, pious statement that the Minister for Civil Aviation made is typical of the words that roll off his tongue. He said, in effect: “ Our Government is a responsible government and will do the best for the people “. By golly, it nearly did not get back into office. I would not go too far along that line. I think it is overdoing the act to talk like that. After all, the people of Australia also have thoughts on what should be given priority. Do the rest of the Australian people think that the expenditure of £2,000,000 on the Canberra Lakes Scheme should have a higher priority than the Tullamarine airport? The Minister may have his views on priorities, but there are people in Australia who do not hold the same views as those held by the Minister and the Department of Civil Aviation. Therefore, what Senator Hannan said was correct. I support him in his request to the Minister at least to give real consideration to the possibility of starting this project, because most of the people of Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia would like to see Melbourne as the terminal. Only people going to Brisbane and Sydney would want to use Sydney as the terminal. If the Government thinks that the Tullamarine project has no priority in comparison with some other projects, 1 shall be glad if the Minister will tell us some of the other projects that are much more important than giving Melbourne an international jet airport.
– I shall refer first, if I may, to the remarks of Senator Turnbull. He repeated the statement that the information he sought is readily available. It could be made available, he said, in a few days, simply by contacting the Australian managers or the head offices of the various companies. I ask the committee to look at the question. First, he asked what was the ratio of passengers carried to employees in each of five international airline companies, including some of the biggest in the world - Alitalia, Air India, Scandinavian Air Services, Qantas and B.O.A.C. If the honorable senator persists in his illfounded belief that this information can be obtained in a matter of days, nothing I can say will convince him that it cannot be, but he can put the matter to a practical test. If he goes to the bother of taking this question to any of the Australian managers to whom he referred-
– I said that you could also write abroad. If you got no reply in Australia, you could write to the head offices.
– If you do not mind. If he takes this question to the Australian managers to whom he referred, they will inform him that statistical information of this type could not be made available. Look at the services - Alitalia, with its branch services, and Air India - with information collated three months after the effective closing date for statistical information. How could they get this to Senator Turnbull, as he says, in a matter of days? However, I do not make an issue of it. If he is so definite that it can be made available, he can get the information faster than I can despite, as he points out, the facilities that I have and he has not.
I appreciate his difficulty in interpreting some of the papers which come in with the Budget. I am sure that he would agree with me on this, if he agrees with me on little else: A stranger looking at the Tasmanian budget papers would experience possibly the same sort of difficulty as did Senator Turnbull in looking at these for the first time. But, of course, these difficulties can be resolved short of rising in the chamber and asserting that such and such ls the case. There are clerks available, even if Senator Turnbull would not think to ask some of his fellow senators for assistance. The establishment table to which he refers is a statutory requirement, which every department must lay before the Parliament each year, showing the establishment applicable to it. To-day I cited figures to show that the Department of Civil Aviation is over 400 short of its establishment quota. Senator Turnbull draws from that the charge that that circumstance indicates that I, as Minister, have been guilty of empire building. These situations to which he refers, I explain to him again with considerable patience, are permanent positions, and where these positions cannot be filled because there is no permanent employee, a temporary man is moved in to fill them. That is one reason why there is in the Commonwealth Public Service at any point of time a large percentage of temporary employees.
asked an interesting question on our contribution to the International Civil Aviation Organization. The basis of Australia’s contribution is 2.6 per cent, of the organization’s total budget. In 1962-63, this will require the payment of some ?A.55,000, although this figure contains some adjustments for previous years. The calculation of our percentage is brought about by two factors. One is the relative importance in civil aviation expressed in traffic carried and the other - which has the bigger influence on the percentage - is the national income per head of population. We were elected equal No. 3 in category A of the 27 nations on the council last year, but it should not be thought that this elevation to this high position of itself brought about an upturn in our proportion. The increase in the actual absolute amount paid by Australia comes from the fact that the total budget of the organization has grown rather in recent years.
asked also about the expenditure at Nandi, which, of course, is a most important point for Australia on the Pacific air route. It is here that the service which goes direct to Fiji across the Pacific to the United States joins with the service from New Zealand. It is an important point on Australia’s network and our proportion of the capital cost was 40 per cent., the United Kingdom’s 40 per cent., and New Zealand’s 20 per cent. There are other participants in the scheme who did not contribute capital-wise but do contribute to the maintenance of the Nandi airfield, which has been completed only in the last couple of years and has now reached a very high standard on an international basis.
Senator Branson then asked about the situation with regard to hovercraft. It is true that we keep closely in touch with what is going on. Some interesting developments have taken place even within the past twelve months in the United Kingdom, where most of the experimentation is being conducted. Four aircraft or shipbuilding firms are engaged in the production of prototypes. While the future application of these vehicles to such tasks as ferrying in relatively sheltered waters and transporting over large trackless or boggy areas is generally known, it is probably not so well known that the idea has possible applications to surface transport, such as railways, with the air cushion replacing the wheels. I mention this as a matter of interest, because in relation to this technical possibility, one also has to keep in mind that the commercial prospects of this type of vehicle are still very obscure.
Senator Branson mentioned that there had been some commercial use of one of these vehicles. I cannot remember the exact location, but it is true that one has been used to cross smooth water. Prototypes were used in England for this purpose and fares vere actually charged.
– Who controls them?
– I am sure that they are controlled by the civil aviation authorities, but I make “ this point emphatically: Their development to commercial standards is not far distant. However, a lot of work is to be dona before we get to anything like that point.
asked a question about search and rescue operations. Actually, there is no recovery of costs of search and rescue operations. If I misled the honorable senator when I was speaking of this matter previously, I am sorry. The reduction in the total charges is effected by virtue of the fact that operators themselves take part in a search and contribute in that way towards the ultimate objective of finding a lost aircraft or whatever might be missing. As to the works in Western Australia, I regret that I cannot give the honorable senator precisely the information he seeks. They are all planned but they come into operation progressively. Some of these works, such as that at Meekathara, are well under way now.
Senator Breen spoke of Tullamarine. This is not the first time that she has mentioned this matter to me; she came to me to discuss it the first time she arrived in Canberra. I am afraid that I cannot add anything to what 1 have said previously.
– Who is trying to block it?
– We have on the Estimates £190,000 which should clear up the acquisition. The land has been actually acquired, and we are awaiting a settlement. As to the aero club scholarship scheme, this received very good publicity when it was introduced. Certainly it had good publicity through the aero club movement in Western Australia. It broke new ground because it set up a scholarship scheme for flying comparable in a way to the Commonwealth scholarships for students at secondary schools and universities.
asked about the installation of modern navigation services. I can only assume from the depths of my own technical ignorance on these matters that he referred to the nose radar or aircraft radar. That is being installed and the operators are under instruction that all their aircraft down to the Friendship type must be equipped by 1st July next year.
– Only some of them?
– It ls a progressive thing and they have been installing this equipment progressively.
.- 1 refer to Division No. 261- Administrative - under the Department of Civil Aviation. I wish to revert to a matter that 1 mentioned at question time. This is the failure of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) to place before either House of the Parliament the annual report on civil aviation. Section 29 of the Air Navigation Act 1960 requires this report to be laid before each House of the Parliament as soon as practicable after 30th June in each year. This afternoon, the Minister for Civil Aviation suggested that it was not practicable. As I understand it - I might bo in error - he said that last year the report, which was the first report, was presented to the House much later in the year. In fact, according to the document that I have, that first annual report was presented to the1 Senate on 11th October, 1961.
This is a very serious matter. It is impossible for the Senate to consider these Estimates properly without a report from the Minister as to the activities in civil aviation during the year. This is a particularly grave default in the case of this department. It may fairly be said that the administration of the Department of Civil Aviation has raised a great deal of public disquiet. To say the least, there has been suspicion surrounding the administration of the Department. There have been suggestions, whether well founded or not, that the Minister was unduly favouring the Ansett-A.N.A. organization as against T.A.A. There have been attacks on the administration of the Department of Civil Aviation during the year. On 30th September, 1961, the situation was deemed by the Australian Labour Party to be so grave that the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Calwell) said that the Labour Party would strongly resist any move which might further shackle T.A.A. On 5th January, 1962, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Kennelly) described the Minister’s Christmas message to T.A.A. - that he was not favouring its competitor - as “ a death-t>ed repentance “. Nobody in this chamber has any doubt that there has been a great deal of public disquiet, as well as disquiet in this chamber, about the administration of the Department of Civil Aviation.
It is very wrong that this report has not been presented to the Parliament before we have considered the Estimates. Questions have been asked by Senator Turnbull and other honorable senators but they have not been able to ask them against the proper background of information. The Minister has been able to come into this chamber and the Estimates have been considered and can be passed without any consideration being given to the affairs of the department. That is wrong. What will happen? The estimates for this and other departments will take some weeks and nothing else will be done in this year. If the report is presented later this year, it may not be possible for the Senate to consider it properly. It is certain that the Estimates cannot be considered against the proper background of the activities of this department.
The Senate is entitled to a proper explanation from the Minister of the reason why the report has not been presented. It is not enough to say that it is not practicable to do so. Why could it not be presented in the form of a cyclo-styled document, even if some of the information had to be left out? Why have we not had presented to us the information that is available, even if that meant omitting some parts of the report?
– I refer to Division No. 262, which relates to the maintenance and operation of civil aviation facilities. I wish to comment particularly on the conditions at the Adelaide airport, and I should’ like to have some information from the Minister. The buildings at the airport are, to my way of thinking, well constructed and attractive. The roads are being developed, trees are growing and the lawns are being cared for. However, I direct the attention of the Minister to the fact that the buildings are hopelessly overcrowded at three material times during the day. They are overcrowded because of the time-tabling by the airline operators which results in aircraft arriving in great numbers at three main times each day. I refer to the periods between 6.45 a.m. and 7.15 a.m., between about 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., and after 8.30 p.m. and before 9.15 p.m.
The practical effect of this time-tabling is that there is barely enough seating accommodation for a quarter of the people who rightly congregate at the airport. As is well known, the arrival and departure of aircraft requires the attendance of many employees. In addition, there are the passengers arriving and departing and the people who go to the airport to see them off. Tt is barely possible to move in the airport buildings, especially between 1.45 p.m. and 3 p.m. I can give the committee some information on this matter, since I have the latest time-tables of the two main airline operators. The Ansett-A.N.A. timetable comes to my hand first. At 2 p.m. a Viscount aircraft arrives from Sydney with possibly 50 passengers on board. At 2.10 p.m. a Viscount aircraft arrives from Melbourne, and at 3 p.m. one leaves for Perth. The other operator brings in a Viscount aircraft from Sydney, also at 2 p.m., and one from Melbourne at 2.25 p.m., whilst an aircraft leaves for Perth at 3 p.m.
It can be seen that if those aircraft have almost a full passenger list, a total of 150 or more people arrive whilst about 100 leave the airport. In addition, there are the aircraft which leave for Sydney and Melbourne. A Viscount aircraft belonging to each airline leaves for each of those cities on most days of the week. The same thing occurs in the morning on most days of the week, when two aircraft leave for Sydney and two for Melbourne. The position is similar in the evening. There are no departures from Adelaide in the evening, but there are aircraft arriving - one from Melbourne and one from Sydney belonging to each operator. The Minister may say, “ That is a matter for the operators themselves to determine “. I remind him, however, that from time to time the* Government has referred to the coordination of air services. I also remind him that it has placed a very high officer in charge of co-ordination. I should like to know the results that have been achieved in recent months from the co-ordination or rationalization, or whatever word the Minister chooses to use. From a study of the time-tables and the conditions on the ground, very little, if any, improvement can be noticed by those of us who frequent Adelaide airport.
In addition to the congestion in the waiting room at the airport there is also congestion in the car parking areas. It is important to remember that additional attendants and officers have to be on duty during those peak hours. I should say that they would have very little to do for the remainder of their tour of duty. I believe that the tour of duty is normally from seven to eight hours. So, because of the lack of coordination or rationalization, the Department of Civil Aviation must lose in that employees are not being fully occupied in the skilled work that they have been engaged to do.
I wish to refer also to Division No. 263 - Development of civil aviation. Item 05 relates to air services, subsidy. In this connexion I suggest that the Minister explore the possibility of pushing out the frontiers of some of our air operations by extending them to other countries. It may be that the payment of a subsidy would be the way to achieve this objective. Honorable senators will no doubt excuse me if I refer for a moment or two to the report, which has come to my hand, of the Australian trade mission which went to South America in the period between April and June, 1962. I was interested to observe that on page 7 a most congratulatory reference was made to two officers of Qantas Empire Airways Limited who accompanied the mission. The reference is as follows: -
Nor can we overlook the services of the Qantas representatives who travelled wilh us. That the Mission finished as fresh as it did after eight weeks of constant travel and hard work . . . was due very largely to Messrs. R. Almaide and R. McLennan.
There are references throughout this excellent report to the possibilities for the development of Australian trade in South America. I take leave to refer to those possibilities by commenting on the part that Qantas could play. I do so because I can testify from my own experience as to the splendid impression that Qantas has made in other parts of the world. On Fifthavenue, in New York, for instance, the Qantas office is used frequently to explain the wide diversity of Australian trade and to show what Australia has to sell. Exhibits are placed in the office, which is right in the heart of New York. The representatives of the airline explain the situation in a most able way.
The report makes the following comment on the position in South America: -
Little is known throughout South America of Australia and its possibilities as an exporter qf a wide range of goods and raw materials. This position will gradually improve with the opening of Trade Commissioner posts in Lima and Caracas and an Embassy in Buenos Aires. . . .
I point out that the South American continent lies on the most direct route from the eastern coast of Australia and New
Zealand to London. The airfields in South America are highly developed. I believe that the subsidizing of an air service to South America could yield great results. The Department of Trade is subsidizing sea carriage to both the east and west coasts of South America at the present time. Obviously that subsidy is for the transportation of heavy cargoes, but air cargo is quite important, and I present to the Minister the possibility of using the Qantas organization, in conjunction with the Department of Trade, along those lines, and especially in connexion with trade publicity. I refer the Senate to the paragraph of the mission’s report headed, “ Exporters* Visits “, which reads -
The Mission strongly recommends that Australian exporters make personal visits to South America to assess the market potential. It is noteworthy that several members of the Mission went back to selected countries after the Mission disbanded and that others are planning an early return visit.
I do not think it would be asking too much to ask Qantas to give serious consideration to the inauguration of, say, a weekly service to the vast continent of South America where this trade mission achieved signal success, as is evidenced by the fact that members of the mission wish to return there to consolidate the work that has already been done. I believe that the establishment of the Qantas insignia there would also be of great assistance to trade promotion. I was interested to read this in the latest report made available by Qantas -
Revenue was well below expectations and tha load factor was only 47.9 per cent, compared with 53.2 per cent in the previous 12 months. The profit of £408,817 was achieved because of increased efficiency and reduced costs in all areas.
I should say that there could be an excellent opportunity for this most efficient organization to push into that field. As a matter of fact, I would prefer to see Qantas doing that instead of building a huge hotel in Sydney. I think that the development of its passenger potential and the linking up with trade missions and trade enterprises would be more in keeping with the charter held by Qantas than would be the building of a hotel in the city of Sydney, which already has a great deal of hotel accommodation, some of which, according to the reports I have read, is not paying too well at the present time. I suggest to the Minister that if Qantas is extending its operations, then it should extend in the directions covered by its own charter, and seek to establish a service for the transportation of passengers and freight to the great continent of South America, the only continent in which lt is not now operating. I understand that the shortest route to the United Kingdom from the eastern coast of Australia is through South America.
– I rise to express the anxiety I feel in connexion with two matters, which come under these Estimates. The first is one upon which I should like advice from the Minister as to information that resides in the back of my mind with relation to this big two-airline system - one private enterprise and the other Government enterprise - that we work under in Australia, and which is regulated by the authority of the Minister through various agencies. In particular, am I right in saying that the reconciliation of any difference between the two airlines in relation to time-tables, fares, administrative matters, or the purchase of equipment is ultimately adjusted by the decision of an officer called a co-ordinator? My understanding was that Sir John Latham, a former Chief Justice of the High Court, discharged the functions of that office for many years, but was called upon very infrequently. I thought at the time that there was a strong determination to keep that office in the realm where the parties would be inspired to have confidence in the decisions given; that to this end the services of judicial officers were to be invoked, and so as not to involve the judiciary, judges who had retired would be invited to act.
I mention these matters because, if some of the information I have is correct, it would seem that there has been a departure from that principle, which I very much regret. I mention it, too, because I think there are minds in the Senate which would share the disquiet that comes from any idea that the occupants of judicial posts should be placed in the position of administrative arbitrators in a field so pregnant with political considerations as the government of the two-airline system operating in Australia.
The other matter to which I wish to refer is the one to which my colleague, Senator Laught, has just made passing reference. It relates to the proposal by Qantas Empire Airways Limited to build a hotel in Sydney. Qantas has been referred to under these Estimates, and I think he would be niggardly indeed who would in any way qualify the congratulations that should go to that organization for its performance both in past years and the immediate past year. But Qantas does not make any great claims of its own for the outstanding nature of its performance.. In its annual report, it speaks in a spirit of relief that it has survived the commercial exigencies of the year and reminds us that the profit it has made on commercial considerations is marginal indeed. If I am correct in understanding that Qantas employs a capital of something like £18,000,000, then we ought to take it into true perspective when we consider that its turn-in of £408,000 profit- if that be the correct figure - is, as stated in its own report, marginal. Of course, by comparison with other international airlines, its trading difficulties during the last year were quite demanding, and I detract nothing from the congratulations that have been given to Qantas for having put up even that marginal commercial record for the year.
If it be true that, either from loan moneys or capital, Qantas is proposing to invest in an accommodation undertaking in the form of a hotel in Sydney, this committee ought to ask for - and I have no doubt it will receive - a direct prospectus proposal indicating just what capital expenditure is involved, and just what direct and indirect commercial advantages will accrue to the undertaking. This is an entirely new development so far as airlines in Australia are concerned, and it should be sanctioned by the Parliament only with proper vigilance because it is no answer merely to say that parliamentary sanction is required or that Qantas, as a commercial company, will finance it from the commercial market. Qantas has financed its present capital undertakings by government-guaranteed loans, and no doubt on future occasions when equipment replacement is required governmentguaranteed loans will be required again.
On any consideration the finance for a proposal such as I have mentioned must be sanctioned by the Parliament. I ask the Minister to afford the committee as much information as he has on this proposed undertaking to be conducted by the company, as if we were a board of directors confronted with a request to sanction shareholders’ money being put into the proposition.
.- The Department of Civil Aviation estimates that its expenditure for 1962-63 will be in the vicinity of £13,543,000. Of that amount the main expenditure will be for the maintenance and operation of civil aviation facilities. It is expected that that will amount to £7,310,000. A very important feature - the development of civil aviation - is expected to cost £1,251,000. The cost of meteorological services will amount to £967,000. Against that it is estimated that the revenue of the department will amount to £2,775,000. The department is concerned mainly with the operation of civil aviation facilities and is responsible for the high standard of air transport in this country. It has been said in the past that from a safety point of view our aviation services are equal to,, if not better than, any in the world. We have seen the development of airlines which have supplied a service to the public of a greater value per head of population than has been supplied by the airlines of any other country.
I want to comment briefly on the disparity between salaries paid by airlines to their staffs and those paid to responsible officers of the Department of Civil Aviation. I realize that a man who is in command of an aircraft must have a thorough training, and have all the desirable qualifications and qualities necessary to undertake the responsibilities of the commander of an aircraft. He must be paid a salary commensurate with his responsibilities.
– He has a short operational life.
– He has a limited operational life because of the medical standards laid down. Annie catches up with him - anno Domini. I believe that salaries should be equated to responsibility. Many of the commanders of our aircraft, both international and interstate, receive salaries between £3,000 and £4,000 a year. However, on turning to the schedule at page 189 of these Estimates I find that the men with the highest responsibilities in the Department of Civil Aviation receive much lower salaries. At that page are listed the salaries paid to aeronautical engineers, metallurgical engineers, airport surveyors and aircraft and airways engineers. Then we have the positions of Superintendent of Air Traffic Control, Supervisor of Air Traffic Control and so on. In that range there are 926 officers whose average salary works out at £1,900 per annum. The figures in the schedule do not show the variations between the salaries of the most senior officers in the group and those of junior officers. It is quite possible that a substantial variation exists.
Officers of the Department of Civil Aviation should be paid a salary commensurate with the responsibilities they carry. An officer who is charged to make decisions binding upon an officer of a civil airline on a salary of £3,000 or £4,000 a year should be paid a salary greater than £1,900 or £2,000 a year. Something should be done about this matter, and I take this opportunity to ask that the Minister consider the salaries of these men. Most searching investigations have revealed the high degree of responsibility they carry. They are men of the highest calibre. This is the first time I have applied myself to the task of considering whether they are being paid salaries commensurate with the responsibilities they carry. 1 hope that some attention will be given to the great disparity between the salary range of these highly responsible men in the Department of Civil Aviation and the salaries being paid by government and private enterprise to men engaged in the same sphere. From what I can gather from this section of the Estimates a higher responsibility is being carried by officers who are in a lower salary range. I hope the Minister will have something to say about this matter. I trust that he will think about it and see whether anything can be done.
– I refer to Division No. 263 and crave leave to make a number of requests to the Minister with respect to Australia’s pioneer airline, MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited. The committee might not be aware that this airline is the pioneer airline of Australia. Whilst in terms of capital and number of aircraft it might not be the largest intra-state airline of Australia, it is probably the most important in that it serves one-third of the Commonwealth of Australia. 1 take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the MacRobertson Miller company for its efficiency and for the services it provides in the tremendously large outback regions. lt is not generally known that the company is subsidized by the Commonwealth Government. I invite the Minister, for the information of certain people in Western Australia, to give us details of this subsidy, to explain the nature of it and to say how it benefits the company and the people of the outback areas that the company serves. It is not generally understood that, indirectly, this subsidy has an effect upon the costs of living in outlying areas extending from Esperance through to Wyndham and Darwin. I ask the Minister to explain also the extent to which the subsidy is designed to assist the carriage of freight.
As is well-known to people who use the MacRobertson Miller services, the company possesses one Fokker Friendship and a number of now rather ancient DC3’s. Obviously the DC3’s will not last for ever. The time must arrive when those magnificent aeroplanes will have to be discarded. 1 ask the Minister to tell us when that is to be expected and whether the company has any plans for re-equipment.
I do not think that I am acting prematurely in raising these matters now. They are really important matters, having regard to the increased interest in the activity that is going on in the north and north-west of Western Australia. This airline serves the Kimberleys area and other areas in Western Australia upon which much Commonwealth money is being spent for developmental purposes. The lifelines of those areas are the air services provided by this company. In many cases, particularly in bad weather, heavy goods can be moved only by aircraft.
– Senator Murphy spoke in tones of some indignation about the absence of a report by the Department of Civil Aviation. I do not know how sincere or how synthetic that indignation is, but the speech that the honorable senator delivered to-night sounded to me like a residual part of his recent election campaign. He says that he is very interested in the presentation of a report of this kind. If such a report possesses all the virtues that he claims, one would have thought that when a government that he supported was in power it would have done something about presenting to the Parliament each year a report of that kind, which he claims now is essential to a discussion of the Estimates. In point of fact, of course, the Labour Government did not do anything of the kind. It was this Government which evolved the idea of presenting to the Parliament a report of the activities of this department so that those activities could become known to the Parliament and the public. The honorable senator says that the report by the department for the last financial year should be here now. I regret very much that I am not able to put a final copy of the report in his hands, but I have here a proof copy. The honorable senator believes there is great virtue in a report of this kind. Let me point out to him that Trans-Australia Airlines, the object of his admiration, has not yet presented its annual report to me. When the honorable senator was talking about the report by the Department of Civil Aviation, he could well have given his attention to the lateness of the publication of the report by T.A.A.
He said something about the suspicion that surrounded my department because, as he put it, of the rumoured favoritism extended to Ansett-A.N.A. He used an expression that we have heard before in this chamber, although I had begun to believe that we were working it out of our systems. He said that the Government was intent upon crippling T.A.A. That is old hat here but, if it is raised, I suppose it must be answered. Senator Murphy ought to know that when this Government came into power T.A.A. was a small airline, equipped with a bucketful of DC3 aircraft. As my friend Senator Hannaford reminds me, it was making losses. During the last fourteen years this Government, which supposedly has been crippling this airline, has seen it grow to its present stature. This Government has reequipped T.A.A. in turn with Convairs, Viscounts, Electras and Friendships. Are those the actions of a government that is trying to throttle this public utility? TransAustralia Airlines is now a splendid institution - a utility which we have said over and over again we propose to retain in its place in a two-airline system. That is the thing that rubs Senator Murphy - a twoairline system. Trans-Australia Airlines is now a better airline than ever the Labour Party could have made it. It is a better airline under a two-airline system. What Senator Murphy really means to say when he grizzles about the actions of this Government is that T.A.A. would have been much better if the Government had not permitted private enterprise to work in this field. There is an exposure of the workings of the socialist mind. What Senator Murphy means is that if T.A.A. had been a government monopoly, it would now be very much bigger. I say to Senator Murphy, who is relatively new in this place, that everything that he has said is pretty well old hat, but that every time he says it we will reply to it, and m rather more detail than I have been disposed to give to-night.
Senator Laught spoke of the Adelaide airport. I appreciate the difficulties there in respect of traffic handling while timetabling remains as it is. Senator Laught has been devoting his attention for a long time to the question of time-tabling. I regret that the airlines have not yet been able to evolve a time-table which would give a wider spread of services to the public. I must confess that I do not expect that they will do so until the next re-equipment stage is reached. While the time-tables remain as they are now, the Adelaide airport will be hard put to cope with peak load periods. We have not overlooked that. On the design list this year we have a programme of modifications and extensions to the Adelaide terminal building. I remind Senator Laught that that building was opened only about four years ago, but it has proved to be too small to cope effectively with the expanding traffic. In addition, this year we are spending about £50,000 at Adelaide on a fire alarm system, a terminal radar building, a transmitter building and another technical building called a V.O.R. building.
Senator Laught then spoke about the possibility of subsidizing an overseas operation of Qantas Empire Airways Limited. He spoke particularly about South America. I regret that I am not so placed that I can say anything about that matter at the moment. I can assure the honorable senator that whilst the subsidy aspect of it is one matter the operational aspect of its is another matter that is being examined very closely at present. I am sure the honorable senator will be pleased to hear that. I know of his interest in South America.
asked a question about the rationalization of procedures. All the decisions that go to the committee that is chaired by the co-ordinator may go on appeal to a chairman. Originally the chairman was Sir John Latham; but the honorable senator probably will recall that we inserted in the airlines legislation that we passed last year a provision that this position should be filled by a judge of a federal court. In pursuance of that provision, Mr. Justice Spicer was appointed to the situation a few months ago.
Senator Wright then spoke about the Qantas hotel, as did Senator Laught. Senator Wright questioned the desirability of an airline company embarking on this type of enterprise. I believe it should be said, and said quite emphatically, that to-day the provision of hotel accommodation has become almost part of an international airline’s equipment. That might be a little hard to accept at first; but if we look back over the years it is not difficult to remember that, especially in the continental countries and the United Kingdom, railways had their own hotels to provide accommodation for their passengers. Now, after a space of years, the same thing has occurred in the airlines business. The airlines of the world, almost without exception, own and operate hotels, particularly in their base cities.
The Government gave consideration to this matter over a long period of years. This venture was not embarked upon lightly. We examined the question at great length and in great detail. I believe it can be said in truth that one of the important factors that led us finally to this decision was the fact that our own airline, Qantas, was in danger of suffering competitively because the opposition in its own country was taking steps to provide hotel accommodation. In this age the sale of travel is frequently - in fact, almost invariably - packaged with the provision of accommodation.
Accepting that position, we looked around to see whether it would be possible for private enterprise to provide the accommodation. It is a regrettable fact that the city of Sydney is not well provided with hotels. The successive reports of the Australian National Travel Association show the worsening situation in Sydney. Notwithstanding that, before this decision was taken the airline and I had discussions with various hotel groups to see whether it would be possible to work out an arrangement under which private enterprise would provide the accommodation. The result, however, was that no arrangement could be made that would permit Qantas to compete with the other airlines that have their own hotel accommodation in Australia.
Having reached that point, I believe that we have taken a decision that will meet at least partly the objections of the people who hold rigidly to the view that a governmentowned airline should not be in the hotel business. Senator Wright asked for a prospectus. I cannot give one to him. At the appropriate time a prospectus will be issued. It will invite substantial subscriptions from the Australian public to stand beside the airline’s subscription.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I am delighted to hear the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) say that the Government was so keen that Qantas Empire Airways Limited should compete with other overseas airlines that it agreed that the company should have its own hotel accommodation for its passengers. He said that he investigated the matter to see whether private enterprise could provide the accommodation. No doubt he read about what was happening to the Chevron hotel group, and also knew what was happening to the Chevron-Hilton hotel in Sydney.
– It is a bit like the bowling green in Albert Park, isn’t it?
– If you knew as much about the Department of Customs and Excise as I claim to know about Albert Park, you would be an expert Minister. I am delighted that the Minister is so mindful of the advantages that will accrue to Qantas from having its own accommodation, placing it on a par with its competitors. But has the Minister thought of putting the two domestic airlines on the same footing? He has shown commendable zeal in ensuring that Qantas is not at a disadvantage. Will he put the domestic airlines on an equal footing to promote the fair, free and honest competition about which we have heard so often? Qantas can build its £4,000,000 hotel. I shall delight in seeing it build something worth while and I hope that it fares better than the Hilton and Chevron people.
– I hope they do not tackle a bridge up there.
– You would be happy in your island if you had space to put a bridge. If you put the King-street bridge in Tasmania, it would run from Launceston to Hobart. Will the Minister be so solicitous as to ensure that the two major domestic airlines are placed in a position wherein both may enjoy the same freedom of trade? The Minister knows what I am alluding to. He knows that over the years various chairmen of the Australian National Airlines Commission have asked that Trans-Australia Airlines be given the same intra-state rights as its competitor. We are asking for no more. One is, therefore, really astounded to find that the Minister is so solicitous for the welfare of Qantas in relation to its competitors, whether they be owned by another country or by private enterprise. Will the Minister be so solicitous as to ensure that the governmentowned domestic airline is placed on an equal footing with Ansett-A.N.A.? If that were done, one could have some respect for the Government’s desire to have two airlines in this country in competition. It is hard for me to understand why the Government has failed to do this, knowing as
I do, from reading the reports, that T.A.A. has asked to be placed on an equal footing in regard to intra-state trade. There is fair competition only in two States, Queensland and Tasmania, where both domestic airlines have intra-state rights. It is true that T.A.A. has developed under this Government’s administration. It would have been a pretty poor state of affairs if it had not, in view of the tremendous growth in this country since 1949, the great increase in population, and the terrific impetus that air traffic has had.
The Government should not hamstring its own airline. A Minister charged with administering a department conducting a national enterprise is, I should say, bound by his oath of office to give it not preferential but fair treatment in relation to its competitor. That has been done in the case of Qantas. I ask that it be done with T.A.A. and if the Government then desires to have a two-airline system, in accordance with its beliefs, although others may have a different opinion-
– Others may like to have one.
– Yes, I am quite candid about it. It would be much fairer, in any event, to place them on the same footing. The Government talks about standardization and rationalization. T.A.A. is required to serve meals of the same standard as Ansett-A.N.A., and they are not the best. We could go through a whole string of things that were required in order to build up the profits of the private airline. I read in the press that the profits of Ansett Transport Industries Limited - which embraces much more than Ansett-A.N.A., of course - were just over £1,000,000 last year. I am not quarrelling with that. Any person investing money in an industry is entitled to a fair and reasonable return. I am concerned because the nation owns an airline and the Government goes out of its way to treat it differently from its competitor. I assure the Minister that if he brings down a bill to enable T.A.A. to operate intra-state in New South Wales, the Government of that State will pass complementary legislation. If that were done, it would be more in line with the Minister’s fine consideration for Qantas.
– It might build a hotel.
– It might build a charter for the airline; but let it compete with the freedom of action that the Minister has spoken about so often. Let us have free and fair competition with everything above board, and not one airline hamstrung in its intra-state operations. Then the Minister would be remembered as one who believed in fair play for T.A.A. in all its operations, rather than as one who was so solicitous for Qantas.
– I wish to make one or two observations on the reply of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) to the constructive criticism that was offered by Senator Murphy. Despite what the Minister has said in reply to Senator Murphy about the Senate not having the annual report of the Department of Civil Aviation at a time when the estimates for the department are being discussed, I join with my colleague in his reasonable request that in future when the Estimates are being discussed, these reports should be available to the Parliament.
Despite all that the Minister has said, I do not think that he proffered a valid reason why the report of his department’s activities should not be available to the Parliament. The Minister seemed to rely on the excuse that because Trans-Australia Airlines or the Australian National Airlines Commission had not presented a report, it was all right for the Minister not to present his report. But in case the Minister is relying on that argument, I refer him to the Australian National Airlines Act 1945-59, and to section 41 which states -
The Commission shall furnish all such reports, documents and information relating to the operations of the Commission as the Minister requires.
I do not know whether the Minister has “required” a report from the Australian National Airlines Commission for the last financial year. If he has not done so, I suggest that he has been remiss in his duty to this Parliament. If he has done so and the report has not been forthcoming, I suggest that hurry-up action should be taken by him.
It is significant that the financial year ends for the Australian National Airlines
Commission on 30th June. Now, three and a half months later, the Parliament still is not in possession of the annual report of the commission for the last financial year. In the case of Qantas Empire Airways Limited, the financial year ended on 31st March, 1962, and the report presented by Qantas for the financial year ended 31st March last is dated 2nd October, 1962. So nearly seven months after the end of the financial year, the report of Qantas Empire Airways has just been presented. In fact, more than six months of the new financial year, so far as Qantas is concerned, has elapsed before its last report has been presented to us.
I submit that it is not in the interests of the Parliament or the people of Australia that honorable senators should be deprived of this knowledge and information which would enable them to make a more constructive survey of the Estimates presented to this committee. I ask the Minister in all fairness and reasonableness - and this applies to other Ministers as well - to ensure in future that the reports of departments and government instrumentalities are in the hands of the Parliament before the Estimates are presented so that they can bc given adequate consideration. If the report of the Department of Civil Aviation is presented next week, or even to-morrow, its value will have been lost because the Estimates are being discussed now and honorable senators should have the information in their possession at this time.
Because the Australian National Airlines Commission has not presented its report - or perhaps because it has not been required by the Minister to do so - I am forced to turn to page 7 of the 16th annual report of the commission for 1960-61, where this statement appears -
The Commission is unable to expand its noncompetitive operations to any degree because of its lack of intra-Stale rights, which inhibits its operation in all States except Queensland and Tasmania. Its competitor, on the other hand, suffers from no such disability, and through a group of subsidiary airline companies has developed a non-competitive network which is already twice the size of that operated by T.A.A. T.A.A.’s main offset against the great advantage held by its competitor on non-competitive routes has been its operations on the routes which link Darwin wilh Alice Springs and Mount Isa. The entrance of Ansett-A.N.A. to those routes by the division of the current frequencies equally between both operators has, of course, made tha disparity even more pronounced. T.A.A.’s traffic over non-competitive routes will now total only about one-sixth of that carried by its competitor. This operational imbalance must have a marked effect on T.A.A.’s financial situation. 1 do not know what is the financial situation of T.A.A. for this financial year, or the financial year that has just passed, because the Parliament is not in possession of the commission’s annual report. That is information that we should have in our possession. If I had that information, I would not be taking up the time of honorable senators. As it is, I have to inquire from the Minister what the position is this year and whether the operational imbalance referred to in the report of the commission has ban corrected or not. I ask the Minister, sincerely and fairly, to expedite the presentation of these reports to the Parliament.
Before I sit down, I wish to refer to page 189 of the schedule of salaries and allowances attached to the Estimates. These set out the administrative details of the Department of Civil Aviation. I direct attention to the item “ Officers on loan from other Departments, £14,820”. Last year, the appropriation for this item was £2,406, and I should like to know the reason for the comparatively large increase in the proposed vote.
Senator Turnbull has criticized the department for its failure to answer correspondence adequately within a reasonable time. I join with Senator Murphy in criticizing the department for its failure to present the annual report so that it could be considered in conjunction with the Estimates. I also criticize the Minister for not ensuring the presentation of the report of the Australian National Airlines Commission as required by section 41 of the act to which I have referred.
– I feel that I should comment on some of the statements that have been made by honorable senators. When my time expired earlier, I was explaining the position regarding the Qantas hotel. I indicated that the public had been given an opportunity to subscribe to an issue. In the light of that eventuality, I am sure that Senator Wright, who is interested in this matter, would not expect me to speak now of the actual terms of the issue. However, I take the opportunity to tell him that the public allocation will be what I am sure he will regard as a surprisingly large one.
asked me to say something about MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited and the job it does in the northwestern and Kimberley areas of Western Australia. I do not know that I can say a great deal in a debate of this character. The airline is the successor to one of the pioneer airlines of Australia. It is a privately owned company subsidized by the Government. It is true to say that without the operations of this company in isolated parts of the Kimberleys and the north-west of Western Australia, communications just would not exist and development in those areas would not have taken the rapid steps forward that it has taken in recent years. The operations of the airline extend from Esperance in the south to Wyndham and, indeed, to Darwin, in the north. It conducts station runs. It carries mail and provides a service to stations that are very remote from the nearest point of communication. It does the same thing for the native missions which have been established in the area. lt has a fleet consisting of a number of DC3 aircraft and a Fokker aircraft. It is interesting to note that the Fokker aircraft has a higher annual utilization than any other Fokker in service in the world. The airline does a grand job for Western Australia and, I believe, is highly regarded by the people of that State.
I was not surprised when Senator Kennelly came into the debate. Indeed, I should have missed him if he had not done so. I always enjoy a debate with him, particularly when he takes the line that Trans-Australia Airlines should be admitted into the intra-state trade in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. I referred earlier in the evening to the fact that one honorable senator opposite had exposed a socialist mind. Here, we have another example of that, because what Senator Kennelly is in effect proposing is that a second airline should be admitted to the intra-state services in Western Australia, where one operator is already necessarily subsidized. Senator Kennelly proposes that T.A.A. should go in there so that the people of Australia might have the undoubted advantage of subsidizing two airlines instead of one.
South Australia is the only State where the intra-state airline operator is not subsidized, but that position would not continue if there were a second operator. In Victoria, the intra-state traffic was not sufficient to maintain an airline which tried to operate for a few years until three or four years ago. To-day, a coaching service to a few airports is undertaken by AnsettA.N.A., using aircraft which are not of the usual high passenger standard and which, I think, do not carry hostesses. In New South Wales, there are two airlines. The proposal that Senator Kennelly puts, no doubt, is that T.A.A. should go in there so that there would be three airlines. This proposal is put forward in accordance with a political belief that the government airline must be put in.
– It must also be a political belief of the commission, which has included the proposal in its annual report for a number of years.
– Senator Kennelly is not so naive politically as to believe that a government instrumentality such as T.A.A., once established, will not inevitably push for its own expansion. That is the position here. Let me put the facts fairly and squarely. If this proposal of T.A.A. is to be pursued, the net result will be to introduce within the four States concerned more capacity than is needed. There will be a situation in which the Government will have to subsidize air operations unless the operators are to go broke.
I rather appreciated the different tone adopted by Senator McClelland in speaking of the non-presentation of reports.
– He is just a little smoother.
– You think so? It is very much more pleasant.
– We both mean the same, though.
– I agree that it is better for every one to have the reports as quickly as possible. I cannot give the honorable senator the assurance that he seeks, but I undertake to keep the pressure up, and I hope that they will be presented in time next year. With respect to the Qantas report and the reference to the six months’ delay in presentation after the close of the financial year, it should be said, in fairness to Qantas, that it cannot close its books until after it has made a great diversity of adjustments to its accounts. This flows from the fact that it operates in a pool with a number of other airlines, and the transactions take a considerable time to finalize. After the end of the financial year there is always some difference of view as to the exact amount of pool moneys which should go to Qantas, or from Qantas to another airline, and it takes time to resolve the problem.
. -I refer to the administration of the Department of Civil Aviation.I wish to point to an inconsistency that I have noted. The following passage appears in the report of Qantas Empire Airways Limited: -
The swing from first to economy class travel continued during the year - encouraged no doubt by the reduced flight times and greater comfort of jet aircraft. First class passenger revenue was down 12.9 per cent, while economy class increased by 13.2 per cent, to give the net increase of 2.6 per cent, shown above. On the basis of passenger miles flown, first class accounted for 27 per cent, and economy class 73 per cent, of the total.
I am all in favour of a socialist hotel as visualized by Qantas, no matter how grand it is, butI think that inconsistency arises when it is proposed to erect a first-class, fabulous type of hotel for tourists from overseas. There is no local clientele for such a fabulous hotel. On the one hand the standard of passenger service is being lowered by reducing the first-class section in aircraft and increasing the second-class section, and on the other hand, when it comes to hotel accommodation, it would seem that a first-class standard is required. Can the Minister explain what appears to me to be an inconsistency?
– I start by saying to the honorable senator that Qantas Empire Airways Limited is not inexperienced in the conduct of hotels. As he will know, it conducted the Wentworth Hotel with considerable success for a num ber of years. Qantas has made a complete survey of the possible clientele of the proposed new hotel.
I make only two points. The first is that it is not to be assumed that a tourist passenger does not require first-class accommodation. On the contrary, experience has shown that many of them do. Experience has shown that while they travel tourist class, when they get to the point at which they propose to stay, they prefer to have first-class accommodation. My second point is that while the proposed hotel is to be a first-class hotel, varying rates will apply and the hotel will cater for the various classes of people who wish to pay varying tariff rates.
– I wish to ask a question with relation to administration. Now that the Minister seems to be in a cooler frame of mind, can he tell me whether he did or did not send me a letter? If he did send one, on what date did he send it?I should also like to know if there are any reasons why TransAustralia Airlines should not purchase a hotel to compete with its rivals. Can 1 take it that Trans-Australia Airlines proposes to purchase a hotel in order to compete on an equitable basis with Qantas Empire Airways Limited?
– I understand that the letter has not been despatched to the honorable senator. I do not think I said that I wrote it.
– I think you did.
– If I am on record as saying that I did,I do not wish to retract from that, but what I thought I said - and I shall be interested to read “ Hansard “ on this - was that I had to write about this matter, which is quite true.
As for Trans-Australia Airlines entering into the hotel business, the answer is emphatically, “ No “. That answer is based on the firm proposition that the conduct of traffic on an international airline is a completely different thing from the conduct of domestic traffic within Australia or any other country.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Proposed expenditure - Department of Civil Aviation - Capital Works and Services, £5,242,000- noted.
Department of Customs and Excise
Proposed expenditure, £5,462,000.
– I refer to Division No. 281, Sub-division 1, relating to salaries and payments in the nature of salary, and wish to speak briefly about the use of diesel fuel oil. I note that the excise on diesel fuel oil is ls. a gallon. I do not know what the ingredients of diesel fuel oil are, but 1 do know that diesel fuel oil is used by farmers for agricultural purposes and one can appreciate that, with the increasing mechanization of farms, more diesel fuel oil is being used.
I mentioned that the excise on diesel fuel oil is ls. a gallon. Because it is a comparatively cheap fuel, it is used in many motor cars and motor trucks, and it could happen that a farmer or some person in business would be entitled to purchase diesel fuel oil for a particular purpose without being required to pay the ls. a gallon excise. My understanding of the act is that if that person used the fuel so purchased in other vehicles for the conveyance of paying passengers he would be committing a breach. I have not the slightest doubt that the Minister and his officers have given consideration to all aspects of the use of diesel fuel oil, and I have read reports of court proceedings taken in various parts of the Commonwealth at different times. For instance, I read that in the city of Ipswich in Queensland one person was charged with misusing what is known as the certificate issued to him. I understand that this certificate authorizes the holder to buy diesel fuel oil free of excise. The person about whom I read was brought to book and was required to pay what in my opinion was a fairly heavy fine. I should say that there must have been a fair number of actions taken for breaches of the act. I repeat that I think the Minister has given consideration to all aspects relating to the use of diesel fuel oil with a view to ascertaining whether a better method of administering the act could be devised. The probability is that, having gone over all the ground, he finds that the system now in operation is the best to safeguard the interests of his department. As this is a national Parliament, I think the Minister should tell us something about his findings. Perhaps he could indicate the number of certificates that have been issued. That would give us some idea of the number of gallons of diesel fuel oil sold and used annually. I leave the matter in the Minister’s hands. I know it will not be new to him.
We know, too, that excise is paid on cigarettes and tobacco, and I want to speak about those requirements of the legislation which apply to the manufacture of cigarettes. As I understand the situation, the law requires that a certain proportion of Australian-grown tobacco leaf must be used in the manufacture of cigarettes, if the imported tobacco used in the cigarettes is to qualify for a rebate of duty. This is an inducement offered to the manufacturer to use Australian leaf. I have had an opportunity of smoking cigarettes manufactured overseas. There is a well-known make of cigarette called Rothmans. I have smoked the English Rothmans and the Australian Rothmans, and I would say that the company should pay some reward to the Commonwealth Government for compelling it to use a proportion of Australiangrown tobacco. In my opinion the imported cigarettes cannot be compared with those manufactured in Australia. I am speaking of my own experience. This is first-hand evidence. If I smoke five or six English Rothmans I have a cough that is equal to the bark of an Alsatian, but I can smoke the Australian-made cigarettes indefinitely and never get a cough.
Recently an honorable senator asked the Minister why employees in a cigarettemanufacturing factory somewhere in the south were idle. I think one of the reasons suggested was that the company did not have a sufficient supply of tobacco to carry on. The Minister gave a reply which seemed to me to explain the whole situation. I want to see the tobacco-growing industry flourishing in Queensland. Undoubtedly we do produce a good leaf up there, and I hope the production of leaf of such quality will continue.
– I have one or two points to raise in regard to the administration of the department, but before doing so I should like to comment on Senator Benn’s statement. I should say that his cough is purely psychological, whether he smokes Australian-made cigarettes or English-made cigarettes, because “ Choice “, the magazine of the Australian Consumers Association, reveals that Rothmans is the worst cigarette of all. Of course, the company spends a lot of money on advertising. From the point of view of the relish one can get from a cigarette, Rothmans give perhaps the lowest degree of satisfaction of all cigarettes on the market.
I desire to ask the Minister whether he has considered increasing the excise duty on cigarettes in an attempt to prevent lung cancer. This is a really serious matter, and what has been written about the subject is quite true. The College of Physicians brought out a completely unbiased report, and there is no doubt at all that all doctors now are convinced that there is a direct relationship between the smoking of cigarettes and lung cancer. Why should we tolerate this? The Department of Health appears to be dilatory in supplying an answer to the report. Although it has been aware of it for five months it has done nothing about it. I ask the Minister to consider increasing the duty on cigarettes, not to make their purchase prohibitive but to make people think twice before they purchase a packet of cigarettes. The Commonwealth is subsidizing hospitals and is paying people for what is, in effect, a selfinflicted wound.
The other matter I wish to raise concerns baggage declarations. This is a sore point with all travellers coming to Australia. For some unknown reason - I have inquired from several people but have not found out the reason - the department insists on continuing this baggage declaration in the case of people travelling by air. I understand that most of the important countries have long since, by agreement, abolished the declaration, but we still insist upon it. What useful purpose does it serve? I presume that if a person signs a declaration that he has no dutiable goods and is then found with such goods, he would be forced to pay double duty. Perhaps the Minister can tell me how much money has been raised as the result of false declarations being made. If no money has been raised in this way, how much is it costing this country to continue this sort of thing, and how much space is being occupied in the department? I presume that these declarations must be kept somewhere. Perhaps photostat copies are made. Anyhow, the Minister will be able to explain that.
The other point I wish to raise really concerns three departments, one of which is the Department of Customs and Excise. When a traveller arrives from overseas by air he has to have a health examination at Darwin, an immigration examination at Brisbane and a customs examination in Sydney. Why cannot all these examinations be made at .the one time? Such procedure would be so much simpler and so much more convenient for the traveller.
– I refer to the hire, maintenance and operation of launches and the supply of equipment provided for under Division No. 281. The appropriation last year was £8,800 and the expenditure £8,669. This year it is sought to appropriate £9,000. When we look at Division No. 876 we find that for the purchase of launches the appropriation last year was £66,000 and the expenditure £13,936. The appropriation this year for this item is £52,000. I should like the Minister to explain how this comes about. Although the increase in the appropriation for the purchase of launches is so high the appropriation for the hire, maintenance and operation of launches has remained static over a period of time.
I refer now to the flax fibre bounty. The appropriation for 1961-62 was £10,000 and the amount expended was £12,118. The appropriation this year for this item is £20,000. If my memory serves me correctly, during the past two or three years, legislation was passed by this Parliament discontinuing the flax fibre bounty. Nevertheless, during that period the appropriation for this has increased from £10,000 to £20,000. I should like the Minister to explain why the flax bounty is to be increased this year over what was expended last year, particularly in view of the legislation that was passed within the last two or three years discontinuing the payment of the bounty.
– I relate my remarks to Division No. 281, item 01, which refers to salaries and allowances. Is it a fact that for some time it was the practice of the customs authorities to send customs officers to Fremantle to join immigrant ships there and to t,ravel on those ships from Fremantle to Melbourne? When I was travelling on an immigrant ship recently I was told that that had been the practice, and that it had received the highest commendation from all people concerned with immigration and had served a very useful purpose. I have been led to believe that this practice has been discontinued. I hope that that is not so, but, if it is, I ask the Minister to reconsider the decision that has been made.
When I arrived in Melbourne on the immigrant ship on which I was travelling, I was pleasantly surprised by the very courteous way in which the customs officers there dealt with the passengers who were disembarking. The passengers went through customs in a short time and with no confusion. People who had come from countries where officialdom can be very harsh made the comment that that kind of reception in a new country was very comforting.
– I refer to Division No. 281. It is well known - if not, I shall advertise it - that during the last twelve months the Western Australian Government has erected a passenger terminal on the Fremantle wharfs. Accommodated in this terminal are the customs officers who inspect the baggage of migrants disembarking at Fremantle. Before the terminal was erected, certain people in Western Australia met migrant ships at Fremantle and assisted the migrants to go through customs. These people can speak both English and the native languages of the migrants, and they were able to assist the customs officers and also the migrants. When the new passenger terminal was put into operation, they were debarred from entrance to it. This meant that new arrivals were deprived of the assistance of interpreters, who could tell them what they could and could not bring into Australia. The customs officers found that this was an inconvenience, and whenever they encountered difficult cases they called in the unofficial interpreters to assist them to advise migrants on customs matters.
The customs authorities have continued to insist that these people mast not be permitted within the passenger terminal, but the customs officers at Fremantle, because of language difficulties, have had to invite them, as unofficial interpreters, to assist in dealing with passengers. In my view, it would be much better if the Department of Customs and Excise decided to admit these unofficial interpreters within the boundaries of the passenger terminal and allow them to circulate among and advise passengers landing at Fremantle. No complaints have been made against these people. I think the Minister will agree that they have never over-stepped the bounds of propriety and have never tried to do anything that could be called political or nonAustralian or that did not conform with Australian international policy. Their only purpose has been to assist the migrants to get through customs as quickly as possible so that there would be no delay in meeting friends or sponsors.
I believe it would be a good thing if the Minister decided not to leave it to the discretion of a customs officer who got into difficulties to say to one of these people, “ Even though you are excluded from this part of the passenger terminal, I ask you to come in because I want your assistance in dealing with a passenger “. I assure the Minister that that does happen. It would be better if the Minister were to say to these people, “ Over the years you have assisted us to deal with migrants from Yugoslavia, Germany, Poland and other countries. We will issue licences for you to enter the passenger terminal and assist the customs officers “. That would be better than telling these people that if the customs officers want their assistance, they will call on them. That system is only making a convenience of- people who meet migrant ships on, so to speak, goodwill missions.
The only alternative to what I suggest would be for the department to employ, at the various ports of disembarkation, English-speaking persons who are wellversed in the languages spoken by the migrants who come to this country. I have written to the Minister on this matter. I assure him that the only object of these people who want admission to the passenger terminal at Fremantle is to assist the migrants to get ashore, and to enable the customs officers to allow them to get ashore with the least possible inconvenience.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, 1 take this opportunity to answer a few of the questions that have been put to me so far in this debate. Senator Benn referred to the diesel fuel tax. He rightly said that we examined a number of systems in trying to get one that would work properly. Our normal customs procedure is to collect the duty before people take possession of the goods. We approached the diesel fuel tax along that line first. Whenever people bought diesel fuel they paid the tax, and then primary producers claimed a rebate in respect of the amount they used for purposes other than road vehicles. We found that that system imposed a great hardship on primary producers.
So we then adopted the certificate system, which is based on the old sales tax exemption certificate system. A certificate is issued to a person who purchases diesel fuel for purposes other than its use for road vehicles on public roads. When he purchases diesel fuel he quotes his certificate number to his supplier and does not pay the tax on fuel which he vouches is for use on the farm. He pays tax only on diesel fuel that is used to propel road vehicles along public roads. The revenue from the tax is used, as the revenue from the petrol tax is used, for the provision of better roads. Commonwealth aid roads grants are made to the States.
The Department of Customs and Excise has made a number of inquiries into the figures supplied and the use of the certificates. It is only human that some people will misuse their certificates. If they get away with it once, they misuse them more and more until they are caught. The number of convictions so far is 61, and there are 170,000 certificates. So the vast majority of the holders of certificates are playing the game. Naturally, we watch this position pretty closely and keep it under control as best we can. If we did not do that we would have a horde of inspectors going around every part of Australia. That would attract the attention of Senator Turnbull straight away. The departmental staff would have to be increased and he would be on my back. I do not want to have a horde of inspectors.
Senator Benn also referred to tobacco As he said, we work with the advice of the
Central Tobacco Advisory Committee. A small rebate is allowed on imported tobacco to manufacturers who use a certain percentage of Australian tobacco in the manufacture of cigarettes. That percentage is arrived at on the basis of a comparison of the estimated quantity of useable leaf in the Australian crop with the total demand of the cigarette manufacturers. Under the formula the percentage was 43 per cent, last year. That figure will apply this year. The crop that has just been sold, and which will mature in twelve months’ time, was about 2,000 tons light, so the percentage next year will be about 40 per cent.
Senator Turnbull raised a question about excise on cigarettes. As I understand the position, we cannot impose excise on the product of a local manufacturer unless a comparable duty is imposed on the imported product. We cannot increase the import duty on cigarettes or any other product without first getting a report and a recommendation from the Tariff Board. Under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade we must do that. The proposal that wc should increase the excise on cigarettes as a means of discouraging people from smoking is very interesting. I am loath to resort to compulsion. I do not like the idea of a government having to make regulations to compel people to do things. We want to have as little compulsion as possible. If, as Senator Turnbull says, cigarette smoking is such a danger to the community, there must be some better way by which we can educate the coming generations to smoke less than increasing the excise duty. I do not like that proposal.
Senator Turnbull also spoke about baggage declarations. We have made many examinations and experiments in this matter. The majority of people who arrive in Australia from overseas disembark at Sydney. Their friends are there waiting to see them. If we can do some of the preliminaries, such as the health and immigration examinations, first, all that is left is the customs examination. At the Sydney airport we have what we call “ operation supermarket “. The set-up is for all the world like a supermarket. We have increased the through-put of passengers considerably. I have received from travellers a tremendous amount of comment on the short time taken in getting through the customs formalities at Mascot.
When people arrive at their destination, and their friends are waiting to see them, 1 think it is better to dispose of the health and immigration examinations in another centre, and then put them through the customs as quickly as possible. Then they can join their friends. The system works pretty well. The system of doing all the examinations together gums up the works a bit and I do not like it. However, we are always open to suggestions. We will adopt any suggestion that will speed up the process, but we will not allow unauthorized persons into the customs section before we have made our examination. Senator Cant raised that point.
One honorable senator - I think it was Senator Cant - inquired about the money that is being spent on launches. The department is purchasing a new launch for Newcastle and finalizing the purchase of the new Melbourne launch. Provision for these launches is included in these Estimates. Because of the increased exports of coal from Newcastle, more and more overseas vessels are entering that port. We need this new launch to carry out our work there. Senator Cant asked why a sum of money is included in the Estimates for the flax bounty when it has been discontinued. In Australia we still have an amount of flax that was harvested when the bounty still applied. We believe that it will be used. Provision for the payment of bounty will not disappear until that flax is all used.
Senator Branson mentioned that the department sent customs officers to Fremantle to travel to the eastern States on migrant ships. We did that once or twice as an experiment. It worked very well. I believe that it was of great assistance to the migrants. The customs officers talked to them on the way over from Fremantle to the eastern States. The officers. were able to do their work at a more leisurely pace. Very often the migrants do not understand our language. Sometimes they make innocent mistakes. We are aware of that and we try to help them whenever we can. In practice, we found that because of the cost involved the system did not work out to our advantage unless there was a big group of migrants on the ship. I am examining the position to see whether the system is of assistance when a ship is carrying a large number of migrants. Senator Turnbull asked about the baggage declaration. It is true that some countries have abolished this declaration and others have not. We have not, because we use it in prosecutions when false declarations are made. Last year, 1 think, there were about 1,300 such cases.
– How much did you get out of it?
– I have not the exact figure. The amount in my mind is about £10,000 a month. That may be a little high, but I think it works out at about that figure. We prefer to retain the declaration for use as evidence in court, bearing in mind that people can make honest mistakes and that we do not want to impose hardship on such people. In order to let everybody know exactly what we are doing, we publish each month in the Commonwealth “Gazette” a list of all cases in which a fine is imposed, and the amounts of such fines. Listening on the blower in my room while Senator Turnbull was speaking, I heard him say that he wrote to the Department of Trade and Customs.
– That was an error. It will be corrected in “Hansard “.
– I have had only one letter from the honorable senator, and it was answered promptly. It was answered in a fortnight, which included two weekends. Senator Cant asked about assistants who are called in when our own interpreters are not present. We do not hestitate to call on these people. I have had to banish broadcasters and television people. With the advent of television, there was an opportunity for men with television cameras - not that they took the opportunity - to embarrass one of our customers - and all passengers are our customers - by televising the search of his luggage, which could cause a difficult incident. I have therefore removed all of these extra-territorials, if I may describe them in that way, from the customs section.
– I desire to acknowledge having received from the Minister the “ Report of Activities 1960-61 “ presented to a conference of collectors of customs held in Melbourne. I should like to refer to an item on illicit activities, which reads -
In recent years there has been an increase in the incidence of contraventions of excise law, particularly of the Distillation and Spirits Acts.
The unlawful activities relate mainly to possession of illicit stills and spirits. In the main, the basic material utilised by offenders is the grape, supplies of which are easily acquired by “backyard “ winemakers or illicit still operators.
The report went on to state that measures were being taken to endeavour to provide additional staff for the purpose of stepping up investigations. I know that those who are lawfully in wine manufacture have directed attention to this matter from time to time. I believe that a few years ago, in the annual report of the Australian Wine Board, reference was made to these backyard operators and to the spirit commonly known as grappa. I should like to know whether the department’s activities have been successful in stamping out this practice.
I should like also to refer to the Minister the matter of his head-quarters in Port Pirie. Has he received any request to transfer portion of the department’s property in Port Pirie to enable the South Australian Railways Department to move the line from the main street in Port Pirie? If so, has that transfer proceeded and have satisfactory arrangements been made by the department in relation to premises?
I should like to acknowledge the interest that the Minister showed some months ago in coming to South Australia and having a look at Customs facilities at Outer Harbour. He might recall that some minor matters needed attention. I believe that he intended to discuss these matters, as they were of a structural nature, with the landlord, namely, the South Australian Harbours Board. I should like to know whether his negotiations with that board have brought forth any result and, if so, what the result is.
– I have a brief inquiry to direct to the Minister in relation to duty payable on film imported for television or cinema exhibition. Can he tell the committee the rate or rates of duty payable on such film and the total amount of duty paid last financial year by importers of film? Was the duty levied for the purpose of assisting local film producers or merely to raise revenue? What is the purpose of the duty?
– Senator Laught referred to illicit stills and distillation. We have been able to secure additional staff and we get great help from the lawful industry and from people who find that illicit stills have been established next door. They do not like the risks of various kinds involved, and they help us. Altogether, we have had quite a successful year in overcoming this problem.
The transfer of the property at Port Pirie is under way, I understand. This has been of assistance to the South Australian Railways Department. I do not know exactly what we have done at Outer Harbour. If I remember correctly, we have carried the matter over into these Estimates. We have to spend a small amount. I think it is provided for in the Estimates amongst the chicken feed, and that the matter will be attended to during the year.
In reply to Senator Vincent, the duty we collect on films is paid to the Treasury. What is done with that revenue, I am not able to say. If the honorable senator will direct his question to the Treasurer, the Treasurer will say what he does with such money.
– I wanted to know the purpose of the duty.
– It is a revenueproducing duty, which we collect and pay to the Treasury. There are exemptions on films used for educational purposes. It is a revenue duty which we pay to the Treasury. If the honorable senator wants to know how the revenue is used, he should ask the Treasurer.
– I am not interested in what it is used for. I am interested only in the purpose of the duty.
– It is not for any purpose other than the production of revenue. If the honorable senator wants me to give him the actual tariff rates, I shall have a schedule prepared for him. It is very involved and will have to include such details as exemptions and the length of film. I shall get the information for him.
– I should like the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) to give me some information on Division No. 281 - Administrative - and the item “ Hire, maintenance and operation of launches, and the supply of equipment, £9,000”. I am not quibbling about the amount provided for this item. Last year, the appropriation was £8,800 and the expenditure was £8,669. Will the Minister inform me how and where that expenditure is incurred? I direct attention also to the item, “ Uniforms and Protective Clothing, £23,200”. Last year the appropriation was £16,180 and the actual expenditure was £15,254. Will the Minister give me some details of the expenditure involved in this item?
– The additional funds for uniforms and protective clothing are required to meet the cost of the issue of two pairs of footwear to a number of outdoor officers, uniforms to recruits and additional preventive officer staff, particularly for Fremantle overseas terminal and at Mascot airport. Funds are also required for replenishment of stocks of uniforms to enable adequate supplies of ready-made garments to be held to meet the requirements in all States. At present, stocks held are very low.
As to the hire, maintenance and operation of launches and the supply of equipment, additional work costing approximately £400 is to be carried out on the two launches in use on Sydney Harbour. The estimates for this item have been prepared in expectation that new launches will be available for Melbourne and Newcastle. We expect these launches to be available this year.
.- I wish to raise two questions. First, will the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) give an indication in general, national terms of the importance of the increase in the rates of tariff that are being recommended, first, by the Tariff Board and, secondly, by the Special Advisory Authority. We are all obliged to the Tariff Board and the Special Advisory Authority for the reports that come in from time to time, but I must confess that “reading only some of those reports, I have difficulty in finding from them the material upon which I can assess the importance of the increase of tariff involved. One has to note the quantity of the importation of a particular line of goods and the current duty, and then put it into terms of the general collection of customs.
It seems to me that as there has been no general review of the incidence of our tariff legislation upon the national economy since 1931, there should be mechanism and methods within some department - either Treasury or the Department of Customs and Excise - that would provide a graph showing the importance in a national sense of general imports and the increase in the rates of duty.
The question of the maintenance of our tariff wall has already assumed an importance from the decision of Great Britain to seek an entry into the European Common Market. It is assuming much greater importance now in relation to the attitude of countries generally to the freeing of trade from tariff barriers. If our tariff wall stands out like a pinnacle by reason of its height as against other national tariffs, our trade will be imperilled.
I should also like some comment from the Minister on the operation of section 35a of the Customs Act. I have no doubt that the relevant matter has been in the forefront of his mind over recent years for he will be well aware that within the last twelve months, the High Court of Australia has been called upon for a somewhat final interpretation of that section. To my way of thinking, it is a section that would bear reconstruction. The way in which it is administered is involved in the section itself, which states -
Where a person who has, or has been entrusted with, the possession, custody or control of dutiable goods which are subject to the control of the Customs -
fails to keep those goods safely; or
when so requested by a Collector, docs not account for those goods to the satisfaction of a Collector, that person shall, on demand in writing made by a Collector, pay to the Commonwealth an amount equal to the amount of the duty of Customs which, in the opinion of the Collector making the demand, would have been payable on those goods . . .
The person concerned is liable to pay the duty which, in the opinion of the Collector of Customs, has been lost by nonaccounting for the goods. If my recollection of the facts in the case that went to the High Court of Australia is correct, a quantity of tobacco was permitted by the customs officer to go into the warehouse of an importer. The importer, having been caught by this section before, placed the keys of the warehouse over night in the hands of the Collector of Customs to ensure that there would be no suggestion of sinister interference on the part of the warehouseman himself. Nevertheless, in this earthy world, thieves broke in and stole, or a fire occurred, and before morning those goods were lost.
That was a case in which the Collector of Customs said that the goods were not accounted for to the satisfaction of the Collector. Automatically, according to the interpretation of the law the High Court, as I recollect it, imposed a liability upon the importer of no mean amount. In that case, I believe it exceeded £4,000. This involves a principle in the formulation of our legislation. Of course, with regard to such a subject as customs, the legislation must be particularly strict to ensure that this sort of fiscal legislation is not easily evaded or avoided. But on the other hand, that does not justify a denial of a just application of the law to an individual. In this case, a man took all the trouble possible to ensure that his warehouse was as safe as he could make it. He safeguarded himself by placing the keys of the warehouse in official custody over night. Despite his precautions, thieves broke in. It seems to me that legislation which enables an obligation to be imposed upon a trader to pay duty in such a case warrants consideration.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Temporary Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the negative.
– Senator Wright has asked a very wide question. I should not like, at this time of the night, to commence to deal with the various aspects of the tariff as they come under my jurisdiction. My officers advise me that my department has no jurisdiction over the matter that the honorable senator has raised. I suggest that he take it up with the Department of Trade, which is the policy-making authority in that respect.
I point out to the honorable senator that section 35a of the Customs Act was introduced in order to simplify the procedure. Previously, security was demanded before goods were released from customs. No goods were released until security was obtained against the duty to be paid. To simplify that procedure and to allow a little more flexibility, goods were allowed to go into bonds belonging to private individuals. If the bond conditions are observed to the satisfaction of the collector, the necessary steps are taken by him. It was a longstanding practice of shipping companies to complain, for instance, that although there were supposed to be 100 cases of whisky on a ship out in the bay, in fact only 95 cases were landed, and if they were not able to account for the other five cases they had to pay duty on 100 cases.
– But that is a different case from the one I put.
– Yes, but that is the kind of case that comes up. The Customs Act is challengeable at law. If an importer considered that he was suffering real hardship and had a good case, I think he would dispute the collector’s claim, and the matter would be settled at law. That is the position as I see it. If there were the rare instance in which a man considered that he had a bona fide claim, I am sure he would be insured and that the insurance company would see to it that he was provided with the necessary funds to fight the customs authorities.
.- I do not wish to delay the committee, but I cannot let the subject rest on that basis. The circumstances to which I referred earlier were cited from the actual case that went to the High Court. That was not an isolated case. In my own experience during the last five years I have come across several such cases. I want the Minister to understand that it is the law which I am suggesting should be reconsidered. The High Court has said that it can give no relief according to the justice of the case. Once the Collector says that he is not satisfied with the account that is given - and it is in his uncontrolled discretion to say whether or not he is satisfied - a court of law must enforce the bond on Shylock-like terms. It is in that particular respect thatIbelieve we would do ourselves great credit by examining whether the law is so framed as to permit the courts, in cases where the facts so warrant, to give a just exemption from the imposition of the obligation. I rise only to make that point clear, and I hope that it will receive consideration.
– I thank the honorable senator.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Proposed expenditure - Department of Customs and Excise - Capital Works and Services, £171,000- noted.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I crave the indulgence of the Senate at this hour to refer to a matter in connexion with road safety. I direct my remarks to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) who represents the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman). I raise the matter because I have in mind that there is some urgency in it, and because it does not lend itself to condensation into a question to be asked at question time. On 9th August, I directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question relating to the use of safety belts in Commonwealth motor vehicles. Senator Paltridge was kind enough, on 2nd October, to send me a reply in which he incorporated the substance of his colleagues’s reply to the issue that I had raised.
It will be recalled that in my question I asked whether the Commonwealth would give some leadership in the use of safety belts by requiring their use in Commonwealth vehicles. The Minister has stated, in his reply -
This subject is at present under investigation by Commonwealth organizations which operate motor vehicles. The Minister for Supply, in reply to a Parliamentary question on 29th August, 1962, referred to the investigation committee recently set up in his department, which as you know operates the Commonwealth vehicle pools in the States. This committee recommended that the use of safety belts in Commonwealth vehicles should not be made mandatory for the drivers, and that some experience with the belts should be obtained before accepting or rejecting their use. About 100 of the Department of Supply cars have therefore been fitted with safety belts, and after a period of observation departmental policy covering the whole of the fleet will be formulated.
The outcome of these investigations is being awaited by other Commonwealth authorities concerned, and I too would prefer to wait for the result before commenting on the suggestion made by Senator Anderson in his question.
That answer clearly indicates that there is a departmental doubt as to the efficacy of safety belts, a doubt which, with great respect, I think is not warranted, having regard to all the research that has been undertaken and to worldwide opinion concerning the importance of safety belts.
I am constrained to read from the interim report of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority on activities during the year ended 30th June, 1962.
– We are always in the lead with everything down there.
– That is right. The reports states -
The installation of safety seat belts in all the Authority’s vehicles was completed as scheduled by 31st December, 1961. Failure to use seat belts incurs dismissal or other disciplinary action. Investigation into the more severe accidents involving the Authority’s vehicles has illustrated the effectiveness of safety belts. In no case of accidents where safety belts were in use were the occupants seriously injured. Undoubtedly some of these accidents would have involved fatalities or, at any rate, very serious injury had safety belts not been used.
At least one Commonwealth authority - and it is one of the most outstanding authorities of its kind in the world - whose vehicles are operating over very difficult terrain, has become aware of the efficacy of safety belts. I must say that I am disappointed with the Government’s attitude to the matter. If the Commonwealth is still in some doubt, and proposes conducting a test with 100 vehicles, I do earnestly hope that the 100 vehicles which are used will represent a good cross-section of road usage. It would be absolutely useless to fit safety belts to 100 vehicles travelling round the suburbs of Sydney, Melbourne or any other capital city, because the records of the Senate Select Commitee and every other road safety authority disclose beyond any shadow of doubt that the greatest danger occurs on open roads at speed, and that the greatest advantage is obtained from the use of safety belts not in built-up areas but on the open roads at speed. I do hope that when the Minister for Supply fits safety belts to these 100 vehicles, he will select vehicles which will be travelling on the open road, not vehicles used in the metropolitan areas of Sydney, Melbourne and the other capital cities. If he fits safety belts to 100 vehicles that will be used over the face of Australia,I have no doubt what the result will be, and I look forward to the day when all Commonwealth vehicles will be fitted with safety belts.
– I make no comment myself on the matter raised by Senator Anderson. I do know that my colleague, Mr. Opperman, has the matter under very close study and I undertake to bring to his notice the points raised by the honorable senator.
Question resolved in the affirmative..
Senate adjourned at 11.13 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 October 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1962/19621010_senate_24_s22/>.