24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT. (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIIin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Customs and Excise seen the report which states that Sydney Harbour is an open port for smuggling and dope-running? Is the Minister aware that this is because only 30 customs officers are engaged in searching ships in Sydney harbour and that three times this number are engaged in other ports throughout Australia?
– Yes, I did read the report with some interest. The figures that were quoted were not quite right. I consider that they were the basis of a good newspaper story but they were not factual. The total number of preventive officers in the Sydney area is 73, but of those seven are engaged in administrative work and 20-odd are engaged in searching baggage and so forth, which is part and parcel of preventive work. Speaking from memory I think there would be in the area about 40 men engaged in the preventive searching of ships.
The article stated that there were between fifteen and, I think, 30 ships a day. The average number of ships requiring preventive work is actually seven. The gangs, which the article stated consisted of five men, average between ten and twelve men in number.
– On each ship?
– On each ship. Although sometimes there are ships which require only five or six men, there is available a gang of from ten to twelve men. So I do not think it is quite fair to say that Sydney is a port in which the drug traffic is out of control. At the same time, in view of what I have said to this chamber many times, the preventive service needs strengthening. We already have this matter under investigation and we hope to get finality, with additional staff not only in Sydney but also in all other ports, because we are determined to keep this dreadful traffic at bay.
– Has the
Minister for Health seen a newspaper report wherein it is stated that a member of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council has described the Canberra ornamental lake as a “ potential cesspool and a carefully created hothouse of virus disease “? Can the Minister say whether there is any foundation for the fears expressed by this member of the council? Can he inform the Senate what action the Department of Health has taken to deal with the problem of pollution of the lake by sewage effluent? ls it expected that such action will make the lake suitable for swimming in?
– I have seen the report to which the honorable senator has alluded. Because of the lively public interest in this matter I asked my department for some factual information on it, and I am now in a position to say that the Department of Health does not regard the proposed Canberra lake as likely to create any hazard to public health except, possibly, in the event of its being used for swimming. The doubt regarding the possibility of the lake’s being unsuitable for swimming derives from the fact that sewage effluents from a number of treatment plants located along the banks of the Molonglo River discharge into the! river. The department is at present con. ducting tests of the Molonglo River. It does not expect to be able to reach a final decision concerning the suitability or otherwise of the lake for swimming until further tests have been conducted after the lake has filled. The question is whether it is necessary or practicable to arrange for the effluents now flowing into the Molonglo River to be diverted into the city sewerage mains. This aspect is being examined by the National Capital Development Commission.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. Has the Minister received a letter from the organizing secretary of the Western Australia Labour Day Committee requesting the use of the Western Command band at Perth Oval on 4th March, 1963? Has the General Officer Commanding Western Command made this band available on Labour Day in previous years? Will the Minister use his influence with the G.O.C. Western Command in an endeavour to have the band made available on Labour Day 1963?
– I am sorry to tell the honorable senator that I have no personal knowledge of whether or not this application has been received by the Minister for the Army. I shall certainly bring Senator Cant’s question to the attention of the Minister for the Army and get the Minister to answer directly whether or not he has received a letter in the terms that the honorable senator has mentioned. I shall also ask him to consider providing this band on Labour Day in Western Australia;
– I ask the
Minister representing the Treasurer: Is it a fact that the Premier of Victoria, the Honorable H. E. Bolte, has described the present financial year as the most outstanding year for loan raising that he has known? If this is correct - and there are other indications to support such a statement - will the Minister confirm the . belief that the confidence necessary to achieve such a result is proof of the soundness of the economic policies adopted by the Menzies Government?
– I have not seen the statement attributed to Mr. Bolte, but I am delighted that he has made such a statement. Generally, of course, it can be taken as an indicator of economic soundness that the investment market is active and buoyant.
– I should like to hear Sir Thomas Playford on this to get the other side of the picture.
– As a matter of fact, Sir Thomas Playford will, on this occasion, agree with Mr. Bolte. Not even the honorable senator who interjected would dispute the fact, to which Mr. Bolte referred, that this has been an outstanding year for loan raisings. I repeat, if I may, that the active loan market, as applying to both the public sector and the private sector, is an indicator of economic health. When one considers all the other indicators, such as the employment position, the quite remarkable growth in industrial building activity, car registrations and the like, and puts all those things together one cannot but agree - surely Senator Willesee could not disagree - with Senator Wedgwood that the policies of this Government have been very effective indeed in restoring the Australian economy to a commendable position of soundness and growth.
– Does the Minister for National Development recall that quite recently loan moneys totalling £45.900,000 were made available through the Commonwealth Treasury to the six States for housing purposes? Will the Minister inform me how Queensland’s allocation of £3,800,000 was calculated?
– My recollection is that there is no calculation. The total amount of money to be appropriated for housing is decided by the Australian Loan Council and each State decides how much it will take from the general loan moneys for housing. It is a State decision in each case.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for National Development, arises from an answer given by the Minister last week to a question asked by Senator Breen. The Minister said that the actual cost of one phase of the Snowy Mountains scheme was £16,500,000 less than the estimates. Has any comparison been made, by a person qualified to do so, of the cost of work on the Snowy Mountains scheme and the cost of work on similar hydro-electric undertakings carried out in Tasmania, where the work had been done almost exclusively by day labour? What would have been the effect on the cost of the Snowy Mountains scheme if the work had been carried out by day labour, as is done in Tasmania? The Hydro-electric Commission in Tasmania used to claim, at any rate, that the day labour system was working out cheaper than the tender system which is used in the Snowy Mountains scheme.
– I do not know that any such comparison has been made. I remember very vividly, of course, the situation that arose when the New South Wales Government attempted to carry out the construction of the Adaminaby dam by day labour. It became apparent that, using day labour, the work would not be completed within the scheduled time, and the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority was able to persuade the New South Wales Government to invite tenders for the work. As a result of inviting tenders, the work was finished about twelve months before the scheduled date, and at a cost of millions of pounds less than the estimated cost with day labour. I think that is about the best answer that I can give.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation. By whom are members of repatriation tribunals appointed? What is the period of appointment? What qualifications are required for membership of a repatriation tribunal? Is it a fact that most appointees, if not all, are persons who held commissioned rank? If so, what special qualifications are supposed to be held by such persons? Are members of repatriation tribunals, upon appointment or at any time, instructed on Government policy, or are they given a free hand in interpreting the Repatriation Act?
– To answer this question will involve a good deal of research, so I ask the honorable senator to put the question on the notice-paper. In respect of the tag to, or the last part of, the question, I take this opportunity to assure the honorable senator that his suggestion in relation to instructions concerning government policy, which might lead some one to believe that members of the tribunals are subject to direction by the Government, is not right, in fact. The members of the tribunal are appointed to administer the act as they interpret it. They are not subjected to Government pressure in any way whatever.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation, by saying that certain airline passengers have complained of the insufferably hot conditions that have been experienced in the Adelaide airport terminal recently. The constituent who directed my attention to this matter men- tioned that the temperature outside the building on 14th November was 95.5 degrees. Last Friday the temperature outside was 108.7 degrees, and the airconditioning system did not appear to me to be operating satisfactorily at that time. In view of complaints by airline passengers and other people about the ineffective airconditioning of the terminal building at the Adelaide airport on the afternoon of Wednesday, 14th November, when the cutside shade temperature reached 95.5 degrees, will the Minister obtain a report and, if necessary, give instructions for the air-conditioning plant there to be overhauled with the object of maintaining even temperatures under normal conditions, and thus removing the cause for criticism by responsible citizens?
– My experience is that when the temperature is 95 or 108 degrees in Adelaide it is hot not only at the airport terminal but everywhere. I do not know whether the air-conditioning plant is deficient or requires correction in any way. In view of the question asked by the honorable senator, I will ask the Department of Civil Aviation to have a look at the plant. I am sure that if it requires some rectification, the work will be carried out.
– Has the Minister representing the Prime Minister seen an article in the journal of the New South Wales Teachers Federation called “ Education” dealing with the White Paper tabled by the Prime Minister and entitled “ The Commonwealth and Education “? Has he noted that the council of the federation by resolution expressed its grave concern at the failure of the Federal Government’s White Paper to assess the urgent needs of education throughout Australia and to make any recommendation for the provision of additional funds to the States for education purposes? I ask the Minister whether he has seen this comment in the journal - . . this document makes no useful contribution to the task of solving the educational problems of Australia. It is the product of men who refuse to do other than examine the past and to preen themselves with platitudes and self congratulations.
As the Teachers Federation has a most close interest In and a profound knowledge of education, will the Minister give consideration to having another White Paper presented in which an attempt is made to assess the needs of education throughout Australia?
– The end of Senator Kennelly’s question contains a request to which I give a fair answer, I think, by saying, “ Let us first debate the pros and cons of the White Paper that is now before the Senate “. In that debate we might well answer some of the criticisms that emanate from the Teachers Federation. As I said last week, in reply to a question asked by Senator Cohen, one must remember that people with particular interests always want additional money for the interests with which they are concerned. It is quite natural for the Teachers Federation to call for more money for education. Although I have not read this article, I think I can say that the Teachers Federation would have presented a more balanced case by making some acknowledgment of the great amounts that the Commonwealth has put into university education throughout Australia, thus relieving the State governments of the expenditure that they would otherwise have been called upon to make in that field of education and giving them better opportunities to make additional funds available for school education if they so desire.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether he has seen a press report which attributes to Mr. Brand, the Premier of Western Australia, the statement that Western Australia’s iron ore resources are now officially recognized as being 8.000,000,000 tons. Is it a fact that these deposits would be sufficient to supply the world’s needs for the next twenty years and Australia’s needs, at present rate of consumption, for the next 1,400 years? Is it true to say that this makes Western Australia one of the four major sources of high-grade iron ore in the world? If these estimates are correct, will the Minister consider removing any existing restrictions on the export of iron ore from Australia?
– I did not see the report of the statement attributed to I.Ir.
Brand, and I have no information about lt. All I can say in reply to the honorable senator is that there is no doubt that these are very great iron ore deposits indeed and that they put Western Australia in the position of being an important source, if not the major source, of iron ore supplies. At this stage, I cannot say whether we shall remove the embargo on the export of iron ore. This is a very important matter. I think we must see the way in which events run. We must first find markets for this great national resource. When we see how the markets emerge, we shall have to confer with the State governments and decide what is the best policy to adopt.
– I ask the
Minister representing the Treasurer: Is it true that the Treasurer has refused to see a deputation from the National Ambulance Convention, seeking greater financial aid for ambulance services? If this is true, will the Minister intercede and request the Treasurer to meet a deputation from a body which renders such wonderful service to all sections of the community, particularly the pensioners, throughout Australia?
– I have no knowledge of the matter referred to by the honorable senator. If the National Ambulance Convention asked the Treasurer to receive a deputation and the Treasurer refused to do so, I am sure the Treasurer went to some pains to say why he refused the request. In the circumstances, I undertake to do no more than bring to the notice of the Treasurer the question asked by the honorable senator.
– I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise some questions relating to the customs regulations. Is it not a fact that goods manufactured in East Germany are not allowed to enter Australia unless the country of origin is clearly marked thereon as “ Germany (East) “? Are retail stores in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane dealing in instruments, cameras, optical goods, precision equipment and the like filled with East German goods simply marked “ Germany “? As it appears clear that these goods have been recently imported, can this be due to any oversight by the Department of Customs and Excise? In view of the importance of Australian purchasers being aware of the destination of their purchase moneys, will the Minister have inquiries made and, if necessary, take immediate action to correct the position?
– As the honorable senator has said, goods produced in the Soviet zone of Germany are marked “ Produce of Germany East “ and those which come from the Federal Republic of Germany may be marked “ Germany “, “ West Germany “, or “ Western Germany “. If the cameras and other articles to which he has referred are marked “ Germany “ although they actually came from East Germany, they could have arrived in Australia before the system of marking was altered. I shall have the position in Victoria investigated-
– In three States.
– I shall have the position in the three States concerned investigated and if the conditions are as the honorable senator has stated them, I shall see whether steps can be taken to tighten the procedures with a view to controlling the matter.
– Has the Minister for Health seen the third annual report of the president of the National Heart Foundation, made on 16th November, at Canberra, in which he stated that differing State workers compensation laws constituted a problem in successfully implementing the foundation’s rehabilitation programme? If the Minister has not seen the report, will he undertake to examine it? Will he confer with his colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, to see whether this problem can be overcome through Commonwealth initiative and leadership of the kind used in the promotion by the Chifley Labour Government of the antituberculosis campaign?
– I have not seen the report referred to by the honorable senator. Rather than ask him to place his question on the notice-paper, because of the late stage that we have reached in the sessional period, I undertake, with some reservations, to confer with my colleague, as he has suggested, and to write to the honorable senator directly concerning the matters he has raised.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Has his attention been directed to a statement attributed to Dr. Darling, the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, made at a symposium to-day, on the need for a separate Australian Broadcasting Commission second television channel in the capital cities to be devoted to educational telecasts, some of which, he suggested, could be commenced about the normal breakfast times and be continued at intervals throughout the day until the evening? Will the Minister ask the Postmaster-General to cause Dr. Darling’s remarks to be studied immediately and most carefully by his department and also in conjunction with representatives of the Commonwealth Office of Education, the State departments of education and the Australian universities? Will he also ask the PostmasterGeneral to make a statement on the matter to Parliament at the conclusion of such study?
– If I understood the honorable senator correctly, he referred to an address given by Dr. Darling at a symposium being held to-day. I did not hear the address and naturally have not seen a report of it, but I do know that Dr. Darling recently returned from an overseas trip that he had undertaken for the purpose of studying aspects of television. Also, I am aware that Dr. Darling is one of the great educationists of this country. He has always shown a lively interest in this facet of his responsibilities as chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I should not be at all surprised to learn that he was displaying an interest in the need to set aside some time for educational telecasts-
– A special channel.
– I did not say anything about special channels, because as we in this place well know, television channels are at a premium. I shall certainly bring this matter to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral, with a request that he study the honorable senator’s remarks and at some future date make a considered statement on the proposal for the benefit of the Parliament.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Health five short questions. (1) Is it not a fact that the public has been gravely disturbed because of the evil aftereffects of various drugs which are freely sold on the market? (2) What steps are being taken to safeguard the public? (3) What department or body is responsible for the purity and harmlessness of drugs? (4) Is there any department, body or organization that investigates the claims of the sellers of drugs regarding their efficacy or curative powers? (5) What action is taken if the drugs are not as advertised?
– I am aware, of course, that there is some public concern over the effect of some of the drugs that are on the market to-day. I repeat what I have said previously that in the main - I use that word advisedly - these side effects are the result of excessive use of the drugs. There are other factors, of course, but in the main that is one of the chief causes of the serious side effects which are causing concern to the public. We have a poisons advisory panel of the National Health and Medical Research Council and this advisory body has been most effective in persuading the authorities in the States to adopt uniform legislation to cover drugs that have serious toxic effects and come within the category of poisons. I believe that most States have drawn their legislation, or have passed it and in some instances are implementing it.
There will be some public benefit from a uniform approach to this problem. The Commonwealth Government exercises jurisdiction only over those drugs sold on its behalf for repatriation purposes, pharmaceutical benefits and the like. These drugs are tested by our National Biological Standards Committee in Canberra. We have a very extensive testing laboratory in Canberra where attention is concentrated principally on drugs which are added from time to time to the pharmaceutical benefits list. We also have a pharmaceutical benefits advisory committee which thoroughly investigates all drugs that are added to the list.
In reply to the honorable senator’s final question, I can only say that we are considering further measures to which I have referred previously in this chamber. I hope to announce later in detail what those measures will be. They will be designed to tighten up the regulations and to assist the medical profession and the pharmaceutical profession to give a better service in respect of these drugs under discussion.
– I preface a question to the Minister for National Development by stating that an article was published in the United States of America recently stating that the Atomic Energy Commission of the United States had received authority from the United States Government to purchase uranium ores and stockpile them after 1964 until about 1970 when it was considered a demand would recur. Has the Commonwealth Government any plans to keep our own uranium mining industry going for the period between 1964 when sales contracts will run out, until 1970 when a demand is expected to recur, particularly for privately-owned mines and not those run and controlled by the Commonwealth Government?
– I give Senator Scott a welcome home. I rather suspected that I would have a question from him on mining. I have not seen the statement giving the United States Atomic Energy Commission power to purchase and stockpile uranium. I am engaged at the moment upon consideration of a report which sets out the fact that that commission is recasting its contracts and is taking deliveries spread over a longer period than that contained in the original contracts. Maybe there is a stock-piling programme side by side with that, or maybe there is confusion between the two things. The American commission may not be stock-piling. It may be spreading out contracts over a longer period, as indeed the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Commission did. What we did in Australia was to extend the taxation concessions over a longer period, to give Australian mining companies better opportunities to recast their affairs.
I could not hold out hope that we would stock-pile uranium in Australia, because we have some very big mines and the stock-piling of. their output over a period of years would involve a very substantial capital outlay. We are hoping that those mines may be able to turn to and work some other mineral deposit - copper or something of that kind - in order to keep the plants and mining settlements in existence. As Senator Scott knows, we have taken a decision to plough back the profits that we earn at Rum Jungle and keep that plant going, at the same time intensifying the search for copper deposits in that area.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Treasurer a question which relates to the financial disasters that have taken place in Australian States during the past year. I refer to the losses sustained by the Adelaidebased Reid Murray group of £4,000,000, by the Latec organization of £3,200,000, by Australian Motor Industries Limited of £2,500,000, by the Standard insurance organization of £2,000,000, by the Korman and Rockman empire of £2,000,000 and by Chevron Sydney Limited of £2,000,000. All of these tragic affairs have affected people in various parts of Australia and all of these companies have engaged in fringe banking and dishonest advertising, offering returns of 9 per cent, and more, which they cannot possibly meet. As banking is a Commonwealth responsibility under the Constitution, would it not be possible for the Commonwealth Government to take action which would safeguard the little people, many of whom have tragically lost their life savings? Will the Minister study the terms of the legislation introduced by the British Government this week to safeguard small investors from get-rich-quick financial companies and to curb activities of firms in the nature of misleading advertisements and the offer of excessively high rates of interest?
– The question, as I_ understand it, falls into two parts. One is whether the Commonwealth Government would be prepared to accept the proposition that fringe banking of the nature of that in which some, if not all, of the institutions referred to have engaged, is in fact banking within the meaning of the Constitution and our own banking legislation. This raises questions of basic constitutional and legal importance. There is no certainty that this does constitute banking. There is grave doubt, indeed, whether a Commonwealth attempt to legislate in respect of those banking functions would be valid. It is a question of constitutional interpretation for the legal experts. There is no decision which would indicate that the Commonwealth could proceed.
On the other aspect of the question, I say quite directly to the honorable senator that if he sees in these financial collapses any association with government, it is the function of the various State governments to exercise their authority under their own company law. I for one do not accept the proposition - if the honorable senator puts it forward as a proposition - that governments are in any way culpable for the collapses to which he has referred. I think that the causes can be traced to factors which lie well outside the scope of governments or government administration.
– By way of preface to a question which I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, I remind him that in a recent debate when we were considering an alteration of the status of the Australian War Memorial board, I pointed out two deficiencies, namely, that on a board of twelve persons there were no women, in spite of women’s outstanding service in seven wars, and there were no contemporary artists, in spite of the fact that artists are given the task of carrying out, in an artistic sense, the ideas of the board, rather than being allowed to express verbally their own ideas at the source, and try to persuade hard-headed conservatives to accept their modern ideas. Has the Minister had an opportunity to convey these thoughts to the Minister for the Interior? If he has, what was the result of the conversation? If he has not had an opportunity, will he make every endeavour to discuss the subject with the Minister for the Interior and give an answer to the Senate before the end of this sessional period?
– The points raised by the honorable senator in the debate have been conveyed in writing to the Minister for the Interior, but as yet I have not been furnished with his considered thinking on the matter. I shall be very happy to discuss with him the advisability of having a statement made later this week on the points raised by the honorable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Air. Is it a fact that a member of the Royal Australian Air Force stationed at Lee Point, near Darwin, tried on Saturday last to put an advertisement in the “Northern Territory News”, calling a meeting to set up a local branch of the Nazi Party? Has this airman stated that the National Socialist Movement is developing rapidly in the southern States of Australia and that its main aims include the purpose of getting rid of all Jews in Australia by deportation? Is there any connexion between the National Socialist Movement in Australia, referred to by this airman, and any Nazi organizations abroad, and in particular the British National Party led by Colin Jordan? I ask the Minister whether he is in a position to make a statement about the facts of the matter.
– The honorable senator has asked me to make a statement concerning the facts of the matter. The only fact that I can quote in this case is that the airman referred to is now held in protective custody in Darwin, at his own request obviously, because this is a country that will not tolerate the sort of philosophy that this gentleman has been accused of propagating. 1 think I had better leave the matter there, Mr. President.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Am I correct in understanding that members of the Security Council were unanimous in adopting the nomination of U. Thant for the office of
Secretary General of the United Nations? If so, is the Minister able to inform me whether the Soviet representative made any announcement as to the reasons for abandoning the policy of troika and adopting that nomination?
– I know of no announcement made by the Soviet representative in relation to this matter, but I shall have inquiries made to see whether there was one which has not come to my notice. If there was one, I shall inform the honorable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. On Wednesday last I asked a question concerning the disabilities of 160 soldier settlers on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. I referred to a conference which had been held with the Minister and I sought information about whether the Government intended to provide assistance to these settlers. Is the Minister in a position to reply to the question that I asked?
– My colleague, Senator Gorton, brought this question to my notice, and I sought the advice of the Minister for Primary Industry so that Senator Bishop might be informed of the position. The Minister informs me that the matter is presently being discussed by the Commonwealth and South Australian governments and finality has not yet been reached.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer able to give the Senate any information relating to a request made by the Premier of Queensland for a special meeting of the Australian Loan Council? Can he inform the Senate whether the request has been received, whether there is likely to be a special meeting of the Loan Council, and whether the other five States, which are also dissatisfied with the loan distribution on this occasion and whose Premiers have made public statements to that effect, will be able to supplement their representations in relation to the loan distribution, as it was approved by the Loan Council in accordance with the Commonwealth’s policy?
– Two months ago I was aware that some Premiers had made a request to the Treasurer for the holding of a special meeting of the Loan Council. I assume that that is the request to which the honorable senator has alluded and, if that assumption is correct, I am able to tell the honorable senator that the Treasurer received the request from the Premiers concerned and replied in the negative.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General and concerns a reply to a request that I made on behalf of a group of residents for the provision of a letter receiver at Beaumont, South Australia. The reply is signed by V. G. Reeves, as Acting Director of Posts and Telegraphs, and contains the following clause: -
I have written to Mr. Wilson, the Federal member for the district, advising him of this matter. . . .
I ask: Is this not a breach of the undertaking given by the Leader of the Government in this chamber on 9th August, and reported at page 89 of “ Hansard “, that requests of senators would not be communicated to members representing the electorates concerned?
– If the honorable senator would be good enough to give me the correspondence I will have a look at it and see what the position is.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry any information regarding the drop in the overseas prices for crayfish tails exported from Western Australia to America? Can he advise me whether the industry in Western Australia is perturbed about the report of continued reduction in the prices and whether the industry is worried about the possibility that it may have to close down?
– Rather than speculate in my reply to the honorable senator - and I use the word “ speculate “ advisedly, because I heard some reference to this matter in another place at question time to-day - I think that’ the best service I can render the honorable senator is to say to him that I will bring his representation to the notice of the Minister for Primary Industry and ask the Minister to reply direct to him.
– I direct to the1 Leader of the Government a question concerning a matter raised by Senator Kennelly earlier to-day about the White Paper on education. Will it be possible to have a debate on this paper and on education before the Senate rises at the end of this sessional period? If not, will a debate on education be given urgent priority for the next sessional period?
– In a matter like that I am in the hands of the Senate. My own thinking is that we have so much on our plate to finish by the end of these sittings that I should not like to have what I think is a pretty important debate without having adequate time to deal with it. I would be very keen to see the Senate debate this White Paper and will do all I can to put it down for discussion when we come back after the recess.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: - 1 and 2. The United States of America has established no base in Australia, but United States authorities have use of the following facilities in Australia: -
Space research and tracking facilities - Department of Supply, on behalf of United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration at Woomera and Muchea, and on behalf of the United States Navy at Salisbury. Staff of four Americans, 100 Australians.
High altitude atmospheric sampling - Department of Supply, on behalf of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, Mildura. Staff of seven Australians.
Joint R.A.A.F.-U.S.A.F. weather station, Alice. Springs. Staff of fifteen Americans, two Australians.
Upper air sampling operations (United States Air Force) - R.A.A.F. base, Laverton, and Department of Supply Airfield, Avalon. Staff of 220 Americans.
Aero space disturbances and effect on radio communications (United States Air Force) - R.A.A.F. base. Pearce. Staff of fourteen Americans.
Negotiations are in progress for the establishment of a United States Navy Communications Station at Northwest Cape in Western Australia.
At service establishments Australians provide logistic support for United Slates groups stationed there.
Normal security restrictions apply at the places listed, other than at the N.A.S.A. and Mildura stations.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers: -
Steps to improve the medical officer position are under review, including consideration of conditions of service. In addition, as announced recently by the Minister for Defence, he some weeks ago set up a Medical Services Rationalization Committee whose first task is to examine the requirements for a military hospital for the teaching of medical and nursing officers and other ranks; and for teaching and research in military medicine which has emerged as a specialist branch of medical science. This high level committee is under the chairmanship of the Director-General of Health, Dr. W. D. Refshauge, and its members include the three Directors-General of Medical Services for the Navy, Army and Air Force - RearAdmiral Lockwood, Air Vice-Marshal Wilson and Major-General Clyne - together with Professor Sidney Sunderland of the Melbourne University. This committee has already commenced its work and is examining many of the matters referred tq in the article in the “Medical Journal of Australia “.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
As women form a large proportion of the nation’s work force, will the Minister consider appointing women among the delegates to the International Labour Conference to be held in Melbourne from 26th November to 8 th December, and among the advisers to the delegates?
– The Minister for Labour and National Services has supplied the following information: -
A woman is included in the Australian Government delegation to the Fifth International Labour Organization Asian Regional Conference. She is the officer currently in charge of the International relations section of my department and attended the 1961 and 1962 sessions of the International Labour Conference in Geneva. As a matter of interest, no overseas delegation attending the conference includes a woman.
Senator TURNBULL (through Senator
O’Byrne) asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What is the present practice in regard to purchase of paintings, sculpture, &c, by the Commonwealth?
Did the Commonwealth Government recently purchase for £150 a painting exhibited in Brisbane? If so, is this a common practice and does the Commonwealth purchase exhibits in all States?
Where are paintings thus purchased hung; in particular, where is the Brisbane purchase to be seen?
How many pictures and statues have been purchased by the Commonwealth within the last year and at what cost?
Are these purchases made on the advice of any committee; if so, what are the names of the personnel on that committee?
The Commonwealth Art Advisory Board advises the Commonwealth Government on the purchase of works of art for inclusion in the national collection. Purchases are being made on the advice of the board.
Yes. A painting by Margaret Olley was recently purchased in Brisbane. Works by Australian artists from all States are represented in the purchases that have been made.
Many of the paintings acquired are hung in public buildings, others are stored for eventual permanent hanging. No decision has yet been taken as to where the painting purchased in Brisbane recently will be hung.
In the past twelve months about55 paintings have been purchased at an approximate cost of £10,500. No statues as such have been bought, but some purchases of objets d’art have been made.
These purchases are made on the advice of the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board - Sir William Ashton (recently retired), Sir Daryl Lindsay, Mr. Robert Campbell, Mr. William Dargie, Mr. Douglas Pratt and Mr. Russell Drysdale.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
Senator PALTRIDGE: The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has advised as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
Will the Minister accept genuine excuses of ignorance of social service entitlement as a “ sufficient cause “, under section 119 (3) of the Social Services Act, for late lodgment of claims?
– The Minister for Social Services has supplied the following answer: -
Where the ignorance was induced by a mental disability, being the incapacity for which sickness benefit is claimed, or resulting from the incapacity for which sickness benefit is claimed, consideration is always extended to the claimant
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
– I move -
That Standing Order No. 68 be suspended up till and including Thursday, 6th December, 1962, to enable new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m.
I doubt whether there is any need for me to remind honorable senators that this is the usual motion that is submitted towards the close of each session in order to enable us to expedite the business of the Senate.
– I thought you were going to say that there is’ no need to remind us of what happened on 16th May last year.
– I shall be quite willing to reply to any argument that is advanced on that point, if you are unwise enough to raise it. I never like to forecast what is likely to happen in the last week of a session. I always find that what we have in mind never seems to turn out in practice in quite that way. On the present forecast, it seems that the last week of this session should not be as heavy as last weeks of sessions with which we have had to contend previously.
On my computations, ten bills have yet to come to us; and they, with the two bills that we have in hand, make twelve bills in all for this week’s work. It is true that, strictly speaking, one of those bills - the Repatriation Bill (No. 2) 1962 that was mentioned this afternoon by my colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) covers nine other bills. They are all on the same topic and they should not require separate consideration.
I commend the motion to the Senate. I hope that to-day we will conclude our consideration of the Tariff Board Bill (No. 2) 1962, the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Bill 1962 and the motion for disallowance of Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations. I believe that if we can set a quota for each day, introduce bills promptly as they come in, exercise a little self denial and speak briefly and to the point, we will not have as unpleasant a final week as we have had sometimes.
– The introduction of this motion is, in effect, service by the Government of notice that this is the last week of the session for this year. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) has said that this is a procedure that is quite usual in those circumstances. I acknowledge *t once that Opposition senators will welcome the termination of this sitting; but we are not prepared to facilitate that termination at the cost of inadequate time for debate or at the cost of sittings extending into the small hours of the next day. The carrying of this motion means that no member of the Opposition can leave the Senate after the normal time for rising for fear that new business may not only be introduced but also be proceeded with immediately. Our objection is less to the introduction of new business than to proceeding to debate it without a recess.
I agree with Senator Spooner that, although many bills await attention, a large number of them can be grouped, many of them are formal, and a number »f them - perhaps most of them - are bills to which we offer no opposition. Three of them are important. They are the Tariff Board Bill (No. 2) 1962, which is now on the business paper; the National Health Bill 1962; and four associated wool bills. No doubt one general debate at the second-reading stage will cover all the wool bills. I understand that arrangements have been made to enable those important bills to be available on successive days. I hope that that expectation will be realized. That means that we would expect to have the National Health Bill to-morrow and the wool bills on Thursday.
– At what time?
– I hope to have a full measure of debate each day.
– Yes, but at what time are we expected to receive the wool bills?
– I hope and my expectation is that they will be received in time to be put on the notice-paper for Thursday. So my hope is that they will come to the Senate on Wednesday evening at the latest and that they will appear on the notice-paper for Thursday morning. In that event notice would be served in the Senate and there would be a recess before the debate need proceed. I hope that that will be the position.
I am sure that the Leader of the Government will not mind my saying that he and I have talked about the desirability of not running these important bills together. After inquiries that he made about the state of business in another place, to my pleasure he was able to tell me that those bills would fall in something like that order and at those intervals. I hope that that arrangement can be honoured. It is not completely under the control of the Leader of the Government in this place, of course. It rests entirely with another place. If the situation so falls, I can see a good deal of order in the concluding stages of this session.
However, I must say that we of the Opposition will resist with every device that is available to us a repetition of what happened in May, 1961, when we debated in this place continuously from 3 o’clock on one afternoon until 12.17 p.m. the next day without recess and without opportunity to study bills that were introduced for the first time after 10.30 p.m., pursuant to a resolution of the type that we are considering now. I hope that, apart from the Opposition, there are even supporters of the Government who would be prepared to resist a repetition of that. I reiterate to the Senate that we will resent and resist the continuance of debate beyond midnight, into the small hours of the morning. The hours of sitting are lengthy and arduous, and we all are heavily concerned with matters outside the chamber as well as inside it. In the final analysis, what does it matter if we sit one more day this week or one more day next week as long as there is reason in the approach to the business?
I do not think there will be grounds for the complaint that we do not address ourselves briefly and effectively to the legislation that is to come before us. But we must not deny to anybody who is interested in a particular meaure even if we are not opposing it, the right to discuss it, to put a view point, and to make suggestions. So, whilst generally I agree with what the Leader of the Government has said, I certainly am not prepared to deny to any member of the Opposition the opportunity to speak freely, and to the point, of course, on any measure that we may not be opposing. I think my own form towards the end of a session is well known. Very frequently I let measures of no consequence, or measures which we are not opposing, go through without a word of debate. However, there ought to be no reproach if, on a measure of that type, some honorable senator on the Opposition side or on the Government side is moved to express himself. That is a right that clearly should not be denied to him. With reasonable co-operation between the Government and the Opposition, there ought to be no need for undue stresses in the current week, and I indicate that the Opposition, at least, is prepared to co-operate. Having made those! comments, I say that we shall oppose the motion.
.- I am in general agreement with what the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has said. As I do not anticipate an intense rush of business during the week, I do not oppose the motion. I only wish to be heard to say that I hope every opportunity will be given for deliberate consideration of the wool bills, which I regard as being of first importance to the country.
.- I join with my leader, Senator McKenna, in opposing the motion. I visualize some extremely late nights, but I cannot see any good reason for sitting after midnight on any night this week. After all, we must give some thought to our health. It must be remembered that sitting in the Senate from 3 p.m. till 11 p.m. or midnight does not constitute the whole of our day’s work. Almost every member of the Senate arrives at Parliament House at 9 o’clock or earlier each morning. Very few arrive later than 9 a.m. I have a vivid recollection of the extremely long sitting we had last year. I know that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) was criticized even by members of his own party on that occasion. He had led them to believe that the Senate would be rising at 1 a.m. Instead of rising at 1 a.m., it rose at 12.17 p.m. If our business cannot be completed at a reasonable hour on Thursday night, there is no reason why we should not sit on Friday to conclude it. I cannot see that it would make any difference whether honorable senators got away from Canberra on the 8.45 a.m. plane on Friday or whether they left by the 5.45 p.m. plane.
The Senate will be considering some important bills this week. For instance, it will consider the Australian Coastal Shipping Bill, which in my opinion, is a most important piece of legislation. Those of us who wish to discuss shipping should be given every opportunity to speak on that bill. The programme has been arranged on many occasions to suit the convenience of honorable senators on the Government side. We, too, should be given an opportunity to discuss particular matters. As one who has had some experience of a State Legislative Council, I appreciate the difficulty in which the Leader of the Government in the Senate is placed. I know that rushes to get legislation through do occur. I shall certainly co-operate, as my leader has said we will, but I urge Senator Spooner to see to it that we do not sit later than midnight. I do not think he enjoyed hearing what was said about the Senate last year. I know he would not have been pleased if he had heard what some of the members of his own party said about him on that occasion, although we all say in the heat of the moment things that we might not say at other times.
I submit that it would be only fair for the Senate to rise at midnight. I am sure that that would not mean that any honorable senator would be denied an opportunity to debate any question be wished to debate. I am not suggesting that debate should be curtailed in any way. I do not think it should be. If we cannot finish at a reasonable hour on Thursday by rising each night at midnight, let us sit on Friday. Do not let us push ourselves to the point at which we are virtually exhausted. It is possible that if we have one very long day, others will follow. I do not want to make threats, but we could certainly make the proceedings extremely interesting then. However, we want the proceedings to be conducted in the way in which they should be. I urge the Leader of the Government to agree to our rising at midnight, as was suggested by the Leader of the Opposition. Even if it does mean sitting on Friday, let us have a break after midnight on Thursday. Speaking for myself, I can promise to co-operate as much as any other honorable senator.
– in reply - I disagree in principle with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) only in relation to their attempt to place upon the shoulders of the Government the responsibility for the long sitting to which they have referred. If ever any one set out to create trouble and difficulty, if ever any one set out to obstruct, to filibuster and to prevent the Government from getting on with its business, the members of the Opposition did on that occasion. No matter how often that episode is referred to, I shall take the opportunity to place on record the fact that the primary responsibility for it rests with the Opposition.
– You wanted to rush the business through. You told your own party that you would finish at 1 a.m.
– You would not let us.
– I know we would not.
– You spoke and spoke and spoke not for the purpose of being intelligent but in order to be obstructive. Senator Kennelly having admitted that he was in the wrong on that occasion-
– I was not in the wrong.
– Let us turn to other aspects. I have said that 1 am always careful never to forecast what will happen during the last week of a sessional period. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, we could have an interesting and a good week if we could get the Tariff Bill (No. 2) to-day, the National Health Bill to-morrow and the wool bills on Thursday. They could be the major pieces of legislation for each day, but, of course, the fact is that we are in the hands of the other House. We cannot deal with any of these measures until they come from there. Let us hope that we will be able to run to the programme I have outlined.
My hopes have been dashed. I have just received a memo reading, “ Representatives not proceeding with the National Health Bill to-day “. I presume that comes from the Parliamentary Draftsman. That is news that Ihave received since coming here. I do not know what business the House of Representatives is dealing with in place of the National Health Bill, but it may be that we can still run to the programme I have suggested.
Question put -
That the motion be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 29th November (vide page 1627), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This seems to be the opening of the last round, irrespective of what the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) may say. Whether he wants us to pass bills without giving them any thought or consideration, I do not know.
– I did not say that.
– Keep it clean.
– The Minister may have it as he wants it. The purpose of this bill is to further amend the Tariff Board Act which seems to have been amended on at least six occasions since 1950. I wonder whether that is in keeping with the Government’s stop-go economic policy. The past and present measures relating to the tariff which have been introduced by the Government illustrate the difficulty it has in determining its attitude to protection of local industry. In considering this bill, I believe it is worth while to have a look at the policy of the Government in regard to the tariff and allied matters during recent years.
Apart from the operation of the tariff, the Government had a rigid system of import licensing which had certain disadvantages. It was designed to protect our balance of payments overseas. It certainly was not devised to help the industries of this nation. Licences were granted to those who were already importers at the time licensing was imposed, so that imports tended to fall into a stereotyped pattern rather than to show evidence of innovation. Because of the high premium which import licenses commanded, new and sometimes inefficient industries were able to set up behind the import licensing barrier. Since many industries were without even the prospect of external competition, there was greater scope for price-fixing arrangements, or price adjustments, within the industries concerned to cover up lack of efficiency. These evils arose from the stress that was placed on the role of import licensing as a method of protecting our balance of payments position. Had the system been administered in such a way that it protected efficient and economic industry, there would have been a different emphasis and there would not have been the disadvantages associated with the high costs that the system created.
In February, 1960, in order to curb rising prices, the Government announced a four-point programme which included the virtual abolition of import controls. The Government’s theory was that competition from lower-priced imports would force reduced prices and increased efficiency on local industry. Instead, because of a high level of monopolization, there was price fixing by interested parties in certain industries, such as we see every day on the part of the oil companies and the companies that supply electric cables. Price-fixing cartels were formed. As we know, once such a cartel has been formed no company which sells the commodity concerned will do so for less than the fixed price. As a result, the system of free enterprise with the element of competition in it, about which we hear so much from supporters of the Government, is nothing but a myth.
The prices of most commodities remained as they had been previously, although retail profits increased. We see to-day remarkable instances of the way in which the profits of some companies have risen. One must agree that, over all, prices have been steady in the last twelve months, a matter which is pleasing to all of us, but nevertheless that fact does not seem to have much influence with many industries in Australia. One wonders whether the increase of profits is the result of additional demand created by the migrants who are coming to this country. For my part, I hope that it is due to greater efficiency in industry. One has only to read the newspapers published in any of the States to see that large companies are still making profits that, to the average person, seem to be excessive.
– Are you thinking of the balance-sheet of I.C.I, published this week?
– I cannot recall any in particular. I think that report was published in the Melbourne press on Thursday. When one comes to Canberra and reads the newspapers published in other States also, I am sure all will agree with me. If these profits are due to increased efficiency, I am pleased but I believe the people should share in the benefits of that increased efficiency. My complaint with major industries is that they receive valuable help from science but once a firm pays for a licence to use some scientific method or buys it outright, only one section of the community gets the benefit. If investors in industry are prepared to buy the latest equipment, they are entitled to a reasonable return, but unfortunately often the result is excess profits.
It is true that the volume of imports increased greatly when controls were abolished and many of our industries suffered. This bill does not go all the way in meeting that position, but at least it will help because it provides that the Tariff Board can introduce quantitative restrictions. I am very concerned about the imports of boots and shoes and textiles. Surely we have enough leather in Australia to be able to supply the footwear needs both of males and females. God forbid that I should try to condemn our young ladies to be out of fashion, but 1 hope the time will come when we will not see in Melbourne and other big cities a great volume of footwear for women imported from Italy and other countries. I hope the Tariff Board will look at that matter.
The boot industry in Victoria is important. It is the largest industry of its kind in Australia and during the Second World War and since then it has done good business. In the old days, it was common practice for the boot industry to shut down for three months each year. The employees would finish about November and go back to work about February. The industry has had a good run since then, but it is feeling the pinch now. The officers who control the bootmakers’ union are responsible men and there is no fear of them being tagged by my colleague who sits on the back bench opposite. They are lily-white politically. At the moment, they are concerned about the footwear industry.
In recent years, we have heard a lot about the textile industry. Last week, an honorable member referred to the towelling industry and the imports of towelling from the Far East. I do not know whether it is coming from China. I realize that if a nation trades with us, we have some obligation to buy at least some of its goods; but surely we should not buy to such an extent that our own industries are affected, because the only hope we have of employing our people lies in our secondary industries. The day is long past since there was any increase in the number of workers in primary industries because science has taken the place of man-power on the farms to a large extent. I am not denying that when a new industry is started, such as the production of cotton after the Second World War, some people must be employed, as they are also in the rice industry at Leeton. But in relation to volume of production, there is very little increase in the number of workers in Australian primary industries compared with the great masses of workers that flow in and out of the factories of our big cities.
I believe we have an opportunity to do now something that I have advocated for a long time. I have said in this Senate before that the United States of America puts a quota restriction of something like 5 per cent, on certain imported goods which could be supplied by home industries. In the United Kingdom, the Government does not impose a percentage restriction but it controls imports more or less. As far back as 19S0, I was told that the United Kingdom Government allowed only a certain amount of money to be spent on imported pottery that would compete with the British pottery industry. No doubt, if the United Kingdom Government gives such protection to one industry it does so for others as well.
This bill will enable some restrictions to be imposed, and though I am rather surprised that the Government has risen to the occasion, I hope that some good will flow from this legislation. Before I diverted from my notes I was referring to the marked increase in imports when controls were lifted. That increase in imports caused great harm to many of our industries and that, in conjunction with the credit squeeze, caused the Government severe losses in the last general election. I am one who believes that as long as men are kept working and given decent conditions there is not much desire for a change of government. But the moment there is uneasiness about work or conditions, irrespective of the poli tical party which is sitting on the right of the President, all the ills are put at its feet and it has to suffer. The worst feature was that the imports that were rushed into this country and that caused such great damage to local industry were paid for by the expansion of bank and hire-purchase credit. The lifting of import controls not only failed to bring prices down but also wrecked for the time being the balance of payments. When the imports were in full flood, they did not achieve for the Government what its advisers expected and our balance of payments was not protected.
Having created what I believe is fairly described as a disastrous situation, the Government applied in November, 1960, the credit squeeze, which was designed, through withdrawal of credit, to make people too poor to buy goods. That, too, caused a flood of unemployed. No one can say other than that its results were disastrous. With the great falling off in the public’s ability to buy, some industries faced grave cuts in output.
– What had been the increase in costs in the twelve months before that date?
– I regret that I have not those figures at the moment. I do not believe in answering an interjection unless I have the relevant figures. It is true that there was an increase.
– Then it is not of much use to concentrate on the credit squeeze alone.
– I do not want you or any one else to tell me what is not good. You will have your opportunity, my friend, to state your case, and I shall listen to you as I almost always do with a great deal of interest - I do not say pleasure. The Government saw the outcome of its actions. It did nothing in 1961 to remedy the position. It believed that it had no need. It had a majority of 32 in the place that matters. It said, as usual, “ Things will right themselves “. Of course, the Government was brought up with a very severe jerk in the election that followed. The Government got away with it, but the result of the election brought about a change in its policies. The Government found that its position was due to its handling of the industrial position and its failure to introduce quantitative restrictions which are now being applied only to industries that are likely to be affected by imports. The Government very soon decided to attach a special adviser to the Tariff Board to recommend the imposition of temporary duties until a matter could be referred to the board for full consideration.
– Is it not fair to say that the Special Advisory Authority was appointed in August, 1960?
– I do not think that he was.
– I have just reminded myself that he was.
– If the honorable senator can establish that the authority was appointed then, I do not mind. I hope that he will not merely assert that I am wrong. If the honorable senator shows that I was wrong, then I will admit that my argument in that respect was not appropriate.
Australia is trying to increase its population. Our gain may be 80,000 people a year in excess of departures. Each year we have from 50,000 to 60,000 school leavers. We cannot find them work if we are to allow floods of imports. I do not think that we can rectify the position by building tariff walls. If we relied on tariff walls alone, Mosstrooper in his heyday would not have been able to jump them.
I have read the Minister’s second-reading speech very closely. I am hoping that this measure will help the position. In my opinion quite a number of quantitative restrictions will have to be introduced. I do not want them to be introduced to save inefficient industries. I believe that in the immediate future we shall- attempt, by trade, to enter the markets of Asia, and that Asia will attempt to enter the markets of Australia. There will be great difficulties. It is of no use to bring people here unless we can give them work. Senator Cant referred to the position of some migrants at Northam, Western Australia. In the same press in which I read the report of what he said I read that there were likely to be jobs for some of those chaps with the Commonwealth Railways, 80 or 100 miles away. We do not make happy and contented people in that way. If one forms an opinion from what he reads in the press, he is taking a tremendous risk, irrespective of the newspaper. I am alluding to the press in my own State, the Flinders-street press. It is commonly said that the “ Sun “ is for those who cannot read and that the “ Herald “ is for those who cannot think. If we can place any reliance on what we read, we may be hard pushed to get even 80,000 immigrants here in a year, should the European Common Market go the way feared by the people who are most anxious to bring the United Kingdom into it. One person who has just returned from a visit to Italy told me of the wonderful expansion of industry in that country. That was different from my recollection of the position in Italy but, of course, it is some years since I was there. My recollection of Italy’s employment position when I was there was reinforced by the number of Italians who migrated to Australia, because I cannot visualize a man uprooting himself and his family, leaving the environment that he has lived in all his life to migrate to the other side of the world, so long as he can find work and happiness in his own country. I certainly would not leave my country under those conditions, and I do not think many people would. Still, there are a lot of adventurers among emigrants. I do not use that term in a derogatory way. Some people like to move about; but these are individual cases. You do not find great numbers of people uprooting themselves in order to emigrate if they are happy in their own countries. My ancestors came to Australia only because of their dissatisfaction with the laws and the bad times in their own country, which forced them to emigrate. The same considerations move many European people to emigrate, though not so many British people.
I have attended naturalization ceremonies and have spoken to new citizens of Australia at the functions that succeed the actual ceremonies and have asked them why they came to Australia. More than one person has told me that he left his Mother Country because he was concerned about the future of his children. Such people have told me that we in Australia have been lucky so far in that we have had no real physical contact with war in our country. I concede that to be true. On the whole, people come here because the conditions in their own lands are not good enough to keep them there. The only way to make such people contented here is to have jobs available for them.
Many years ago I proposed to a certain Minister for Immigration and Minister for Information that he bring out 20,000 building workers to this country with the promise that, on condition that they remained in the building industry, the first house that each of them built would bc for his own occupancy, either on a purchase or rental basis. Some people thought that that was not the best thing from a political point of view, because local people might have asked why these immigrants should have preference in housing. But if a country is short of building workers they have to be enticed to come to that country.
One can understand the despair of families - particularly the womenfolkwho have to live in huts after their arrival in Australia. We have such a settlement of huts just out of Footscray in Victoria. The places there are separated by only a very light partition, and a family cannot exchange a harsh word among its members without three or four people outside knowing all about it. We cannot attract all the people we want to attract unless we can offer them better conditions than that. We have to be able to give people work when they get here. Remember, the moment a person gets a job he not only becomes a worker and a consumer of his own products but also becomes a consumer of the products of other workers. That is one of the reasons why countries with much larger populations than ours can rely so much on the home market. For instance, the home market for industry in the United States of America, which has a population of about 184.000,000, must be tremendous though, admittedly, the Americans also have to export as we do.
One thing that amazes me is the changed attitude of the Australian Country Party in respect of tariffs. I find it remarkable that this party is taking a stand on tariff policy. Of course, politics makes strange bedfellows. One can understand that as long as a party’s candidates can rely on getting the No. 2 position on the ballotpapers in many electorates nothing else matters to it. The Leader of the Government in the Senate is the most fortunate leader I have ever known. He may have five or six critics in the Country Party corner who say that they do not agree with the Government’s policy, but he always knows that they will vote for it. Personally, I would not care what anybody said about my policy so long as I could count on their votes in support of it. The Leader of the Government and I may not have much in common politically, but I am certain we have that much in common.
– I would not swap you corners.
– I do not want to be hard and rude, but I have a point of view and I am always prepared to express it. I say, in a joking way, that the Country Party members always remind me of a mugwump, a bird so-called because it sits on the fence with its nug on one side and its wump on the other. That is because I have yet to discover, from their speeches, how members of the Country Party will vote.
I wonder if the alteration in Government thinking about tariffs was the cause of the resignation a few weeks ago of the chairman of the Tariff Board, Sir Leslie Melville. I regret that resignation, because I think that Sir Leslie Melville is an outstanding citizen of Australia, and I regret that the country has lost the services, as chairman of the Tariff Board, of a man of that character. We are told that he resigned in order to take up a better position. I always believe that a man can eat only three meals a day, and if he wants to eat even that many after he is 50 years of age he is silly. The statement that Sir Leslie Melville resigned to take up a better position does not go down with me, and it does not go down with a lot of people outside either. I ask myself whether the Government’s change of policy in relation to tariffs produced the resignation. It is true that, as the Minister who introduced the bill in another place said, quantitative restrictions are not new in principle. The United States of America, France, Italy, West Germany and many other countries have such restrictions, and the Minister in the other place said in his second-reading speech that they are also in vogue in the Soviet Union. It surprises me that he had the temerity to mention that country. I thought it was taboo.
It is true, as the Minister said, that restrictions of a variety of types are practised. I wish to ask whether he can define with precision what he meant when he said, “I would expect the need to use quantitative restrictions would arise on a very few occasions “. The bill specifies that unless there is a recommendation to the contrary, quantitative import restrictions shall not continue in operation for more than three months. If quantitative import restrictions are imposed, I cannot imagine what vital change the Government expects to see in the circumstances of the industry concerned in such a short space of time. I believe that the restrictions should remain in force, so long as the Tariff Board is satisfied that the industry is efficient. I do not think any member of the Opposition would suggest that we protect an inefficient industry. We cannot afford to do so now, and we certainly will not be able to afford to do so in the future if Britain joins the Common Market. We will have to compete on the world’s markets and our industries will need to be efficient to do so. It is not going to be easy if we want to retain our standard of living in this country. It is true, as has been said, that there are plenty of countries where we could sell our products, but I am concerned about where payment is to come from. When all is said and done, no country can turn itself into a charitable institution. The money has to come from somewhere to pay the growers or the manufacturers of the export goods. It worries me to know that the Minister believes that the need for quantitative restrictions would arise on only a few occasions. I believe that the need will arise on many occasions. I think honorable senators must agree with me in view of the type of imported articles that are sold in our shops.
I saw in my own home a very nice woollen bunny-rug that was given as a present. It was made in the United States of America. I hasten to say it did not belong to any of my own people, although I would have taken no responsibility if it had. Is there any need for such articles to be imported into Australia? We heard a lot about imported canned chicken. I think the Minister’s answer to a question about the importations was that some firm in Bendigo had started to can Australian chicken. I do not know why Australian companies could not have thought of doing that before the imports of American canned chicken came into Australia. The majority of company executives and directors take a trip overseas each year. That is not a bad thing. They can deduct the expenses for taxation purposes, which makes it a lot easier for them than for a lot of other people to take trips overseas. I am not saying that they should not go or that they should not be allowed to deduct the expenses for taxation purposes, but I marvel that America had to export canned chicken to this country before any Australian thought about canning chickens. That is only one item. If you walk into our big stores you will see many others. I am amazed by the number of imported things that are sold in our stores that could be made in this country.
I do not see the reason for imposing quantitative restrictions for three months only unless there is a special direction by the Tariff Board. I think the Minister will have to change his idea that the restrictions will be imposed on only a few occasions. I would think that they will have to be imposed more frequently than that, with the board scrutinizing very carefully the efficiency of the industries concerned. Of course, I should like to see prices control introduced as well. I realize that an industry cannot survive unless it receives sufficient returns, but the fact is that returns and prices dove-tail. If we wished to restrict the import of boots and shoes into Australia because they are manufactured here, the Tariff Board would consider the efficiency of the Australian industry, but it should consider the price at which the articles are sold. One reason why the board might decide not to impose quantitative restrictions could be that the consumers would be adversely affected. Day by day the Government is coming found more and more to the Labour Party’s way of thinking, whether it likes to admit it or not. It is a remarkable fact that the Government parties have brought in more of the reforms that Labour has preached than Labour has brought in itself. That is because the Government parties have had more opportunities to do so. This Government confers a knighthood on every press magnate and fawns all over him. Tell me of one person in control of a large newspaper organization in this country who has not received a knighthood. I often ask myself why the Government does this. I assume it is because these people have helped the Government and have made & lot of money by gulling the people at election times. I am not worried about the small people, but have a look at the big press magnates in any State.
– Are there any of them on this board?
– If the Government thinks it can obtain votes, that is all it is concerned about.
– I thought we were discussing the Tariff Board.
– I know you do not like this digression.
– I do not like or dislike it. I do not see how it is relevant.
– I know you do not like it. I do not want to be unkind, so I will stop there. During debates we have had in the past, and particularly in the debate about a week or a fortnight ago, we have been led by the Government to believe that the Tariff Board is a free and independent institution. We have been told that it makes its recommendations as it thinks fit. But what did the Minister say in his second-reading speech?
– The board’s advice is not always accepted.
– The Leader of the Government in the Senate said that the members of the Tariff Board should give an eye to Government policy. I do not say that any government should say “Yes” to any board willy-nilly; but it is pretty blatant when the Minister who introduced this bill in another place says that the board should keep within its sights the objectives of Government policy.
– If you were in government, would you not do that?
– No. What I would do does not matter because at the moment I am not a member of the Government. All I am concerned about is that until very recently every one said that the Tariff Board was a free and independent body and brought in the recommendations that it thought should be made. I am not saying that any government should accept its recommendations willy-nilly. I do not believe that the Government should accept a recommendation of the Tariff Board if it is against the policy on which the Government has been elected. But I believe that it is wrong to say, before the board brings in its recommendations, that it should keep within its sights the objectives of Government policy.
– Is not that better than rejecting the recommendations later?
– The board needs to have a purpose.
– It is funny how you can make excuses. You amuse me. You want the Tariff Board to be a free and independent body, but then you forget all that you have said about its freedom and independence. You want to tell it before it brings in its recommendations-
– You said that yourself.
– No, I did not say that. If you would listen you would understand what I say. I said that the board should be free and untrammelled in its duty of assessing a case and bringing down a recommendation. It is up to the government of the day to say whether it will accept that recommendation in whole or in part, or reject it. No one would object to that. But when the Government says, before the board brings down a recommendation, that it has to keep within its sights the objectives of Government policy, can any one say for a moment that it is free and untrammelled? Of course he cannot
I do not know why you want a board at all if you say to it: “ Here is the policy of the Government. Investigate this industry, but keep within your sights the policy of the Government.” I do not think any responsible person would argue that the board was free in those circumstances. Let it be free. Let it bring down whatever recommendation it wants to bring down. That does not mean that the Government has to accept the recommendation. It certainly has not. The Government has a responsibility to the people df the nation who elected it. If that procedure was followed, the position would be much better.
I hope that these amendments will do some good. I believe that it is the duty of the Government to say openly what policy the board has to carry out. That is much better than saying that the board should keep the policy of the Government within its sights. That would be far better because every one would know the policy. If the board makes its recommendations in the light of the fact that the Government has said to it, “ You have to keep the policy of the government of the day within your sights “, that is a wrong principle. As far as I am concerned, the board is only an inquiry agent to which the Government says, “You inquire into the boot industry of this nation on these grounds”.
– That is what you would have, is it?
– Is that what you say the present system means7
– What else does it mean? I ask Senator Wright to direct his legal mind to this matter for a moment and ask himself, “ Does this make the board free and untrammelled? “ It does not.
– That is the chief purpose for which I propose to intervene in this debate.
– I am delighted to hear that. Having heard Senator Wright say that, I will sit down.
– I intend to support this bill because I agree in principle with the amendments that it sets out to make. But I do not believe that it is complete. I consider that there are things which should have been attended to and which are not attended to. So my main purpose will be to make some suggestions for further improvements that I hope the appropriate Minister will consider.
First of all, I wish to say that I have listened very attentively to Senator Kennelly for very nearly one hour. I do not think that he was in his usual good form. He was struggling for quite a long time to get on to the bill itself. It was only when a few interjections were made that he began to liven up and to speak in the way that we all like to hear him speak. He made one or two statements that I should like to answer. He said that he thought that free enterprise and the competition which comes from free enterprise and which we on this side of the chamber maintain does follow are all a myth. All I say to him is that he should go and have a look at the opposite of free enterprise in action in Russia, where there is practically no private enterprise. I say “ practically “ because nowadays there is private enterprise in the agricultural industries. The Soviet Government has to allow private enterprise1 in order to create an incentive for the peasants to produce their goods.
– And to achieve their targets, too.
– They do not achieve their targets. The Soviet Government has had to use private enterprise in order to create that incentive. In the secondary industries, which are entirely under government ownership and government control, prices, not being competitive, are completely unrealistic. They are not based on the cost of production, as they are under our free enterprise system. The results are that if the government wants people to have things, they are cheap; if it does not, prices are exorbitant and many commodities are not available to the people in Soviet Russia. Some goods are produced for export only. Most of those that are available are of poor quality and highly priced. That is certainly not a system that I should like to see here in Australia.
– Were you over in Russia?
– Yes, I was over there.
– It is all right for you to go, but if I went to Russia your friend up in the back row would die. I do not want to cause any deaths.
– I am not critical of anybody who goes overseas. I believe it is very good for us to go and look at other countries. Then we have a proper basis for our statements. Having seen socialization in action, I hope that we never get away from our system of private enterprise and free competition, with the consequent lowering of prices and the raising of quality that follow, from that system.
Senator Kennelly also said that he hoped that under the new amendments the Tariff Board would inquire into the footwear industry. I am glad that he does not want us to be unfashionable. I would hate to see that. I think Australian shoes are fashionable, but I have one criticism of them. 1 hope my comment will be accepted by the industry as a constructive criticism. People like myself, who happen to have narrow feet, cannot buy Australian shoes that will stay narrow. They all spread and go out of shape. For that reason I am jolly glad to buy - at a higher price, I must say - shoes that come into Australia from other countries, because they tend to retain their shape. I hope that eventually the Australian footwear industry will reach the stage where, because more people are willing to buy its products or perhaps as a result of some added protection or increased population, it will make sufficient shoes to be able to give sizes of both toe fittings and heel fittings. That is something that has not come to Australia. I hope it does come.
– Do you think they should cut out the spike heel?
– No doubt they will cut out the spike heel when fashion changes, but at the moment I think it is a very elegant fashion.
– Would you mind elaborating what you said about narrow shoes. Are they instruments of torture as well?
– No. I do not know anything about men’s shoe fittings, but if you really understood women’s shoe fittings you would know that they range from C fittings to B fittings and from B fittings to A fittings, double A fittings, triple A fittings and quadruple A fittings. If you happen to have a narrow foot, you buy a quadruple A fitting.
– What if you happen to have a bunion?
– You would buy a fitting to suit. Australian shoes have all those toe fittings, but they have no similar fittings for heels. I maintain that is the reason why our shoes go out of shape. Senator Kennelly did admit that we must have reciprocal trade. I hope that while we continue to have that reciprocal trade we shall import a certain number of shoes from England, France, Italy, and, especially, America. I have yet to find better shoes than those made in America.
Senator Kennelly referred to the credit squeeze and suggested that it had caused unemployment. I was waiting for him to say how it had affected the inflation which was running at the time. He must admit that inflation has now been checked. I was very interested to hear Senator Scott, who has just returned from a visit to Brazil, say that whereas inflation was running at 8 per cent, in Australia at the time the credit squeeze was imposed, it is now running at 80 per cent, in Brazil and that that country is bankrupt. Thank goodness, the Australian Government had the sense to impose a credit squeeze when inflation was running at a low rate, instead of letting the country get to the stage of bankruptcy before doing anything.
– Or is Brazil’s bankruptcy the result of Senator Scott’s visit there?
– No. Perhaps it will be on the up and up now that he has been there to put them right. Reverting to the main subject covered by the bill, I support the measure in principle because I believe that quantitative restrictions are necessary in those instances where tariff protection is either too slow in taking effect or is inadequate to deal with the practices of overseas companies in reducing their prices and virtually dumping their goods here. Because of those practices, I think that quantitative restrictions are essential. I am also in agreement with the provisions of the bill which have followed the appointment earlier this year of special advisory authorities with power to impose quantitative restrictions. By this bill, we will empower the Tariff Board to impose quantitative restrictions. What is more important, the board will be empowered to state the periods for which the quantitative restrictions will apply. That is a very desirable power. I also support the provisions designed to reduce the time lag in the production of reports by the board, and to make for greater flexibility in the administration of the board.
I regret that nothing has been done to make possible periodical reviews of tariffs. In my view, it is important that tariffs be reviewed periodically, but nothing has been done to provide for that. Some five or six categories of tariffs were reviewed in the 1930’s, but, so far as I know, that is the only time in the history of Australian tariff-making that any tariffs have been reviewed and reduced. I believe that quantitative restrictions are only a shortterm remedy for what is a long-term problem in Australia. As Senator Kennelly pointed out, our short-term problem is unemployment. We need to get our people back to work. For that reason, it is quite right that the Government should refer to the board certain industries that are now experiencing trouble or are not employing as many people as they did before the credit squeeze was imposed. Their positions should be reviewed with a view to seeing whether the imposition of quantitative restrictions will enable them to re-employ their former employees. But I maintain that our main problem is in the long-term. I think honorable senators on both sides will agree that we must go on developing Australian industries and continue to bring more people into the country, but I do not agree with Senator Kennelly that before bringing people here we should first offer them jobs. To do that is not always practicable. I believe that skilled people overseas have enough confidence in a progressive country like ours to believe that they will be able to get jobs here and therefore they are willing to come here without first being offered employment. A few of the unskilled immigrants have experienced difficulty in getting employment. I hope that their problems will soon be overcome; but it would be impossible to hold jobs vacant while we arranged for immigrants.
– I did not say that we should.
– You said that we must first offer them jobs. I wrote down what you said, and we can look at “ Hansard “ to see what you said. You said that we must first offer them jobs. I think that would be completely impracticable. If you did not mean that, you should say what you do mean. We all agree that we must have a vigorous immigration policy, but Senator Kennelly does a good deal to impair that programme from time to time when he criticizes certain aspects of it.
I do not think he means to hinder our policy, but I remind him that every word he utters in this chamber is published overseas, and often what he says does much to hurt the Government’s immigration policy. If we are to have a vigorous immigration policy, we must ensure that our industries are capable of employing people in the long term. That is why I say that it is of no use having policies which only affect the position in the shorter term. If our industries are to expand, we must continue to import raw materials and capital goods for their expansion, and we must be able to export at competitive prices. Our long term problem is competitive prices.
It is my belief that tariffs tend to force up prices, and it is here that I differ from honorable senators opposite. I think that, generally speaking, tariffs are undesirable if their effect is to force up prices. I believe that on occasions they do have that effect. It is obvious that, living in a young country which is establishing its industries, we must have some form of protection. The basis of the Government’s policy is that before industries can be protected they must be efficient and economic. For that reason, I join issue with Senator Kennelly, who concluded his speech by saying in a critical manner that the board is directed to have the Government’s policy in its sights. Of course it is, but I emphasize that the Government’s policy is to see that industries are efficient and economic. The Tariff Board is asked to keep that point in mind and to guard against protecting industries which have no possibility of becoming efficient and economic.
– The words “ efficient and economic “ are not contained in the bill.
– It is provided in the Tariff Act that industries to be protected shall be efficient and economic. That is the basis of my remarks. We should see to it that industries become efficient and remain so. It is obvious that if a tariff is too low there will be appeals against it. But what happens when a tariff is too high? A competing industry may complain or appeal, but the industry which is enjoying the benefit of the high tariff will never appeal against it. Tariffs which have been too high have been granted over the years. Certain of those high tariffs which were imposed very many years ago have never been reviewed.
I believe that three great problems are embraced by the need for periodical tariff reviews. The first is that of current referrals to the board. The second relates to tariffs which have been in existence for very many years, and the third relates to industries which are receiving protection by the removal of by-laws to an existing tariff. Let me refer briefly to those three problems. First, I shall deal with the problem of current referrals to the board. It may be divided into two sub-sections. The first relates to those industries whose problems are being referred to the board at the moment because of the unemployment situation. There are so many of those that the board is extremely extended in attempting to deal with them. There are also quantitative restrictions which may have been imposed by the special authority. They often have to be referred back to the board. For example, an industry such as the paper industry, has been referred to the Tariff Board five times in one year-
– For emergency tariffs?
– Tariffs and emergency tariffs. The matter has gone backwards and forwards five times in a ‘year. It is the_ system of references by the Minister and those which have, by law, to be referred back to the special authority, which is making it impossible for the Tariff Board to attempt any review of out-dated tariffs.
Some of the tariffs were imposed by the Scullin Government and have never been reviewed. Having regard to the present system, I do not think that it will ever be possible to review them. I suggest that the Minister have a look at those tariffs to see what can be done to bring them up to date. At present, there are people growing rich by advising others not to appeal against tariffs because to do so might mean the imposition of a lower tariff. That is an undesirable situation and one which I believe should be rectified as soon as possible. Obviously, industries need sufficient time to become established. They also need to be able to plan ahead. I am not suggesting that the tariffs should be reviewed in two years, three years or five years, but perhaps every ten years, or even longer than that would be practicable, but a review is certainly desirable.
Finally, there is the problem, which is created for industries receiving protection, by the removal of by-laws of the existing tariff. Subject to certain conditions, the Minister may admit under by-law goods which previously came under a blanket protection; because they came within a whole agglomeration of products, they were not specifically mentioned by the tariff. If there is an appeal against such admission, the Minister may use his discretion to waive the by-law and allow protection to be given to those goods. When that is done, the goods are moved’ into a category which was previously regulated by the Tariff Board although the particular goods had never been reviewed. In my opinion, there should be some way in which those goods can be reviewed or referred to the Tariff Board, perhaps even within two years of the Minister having waived the by-law, to see whether it is then reasonable to assume either that their production is efficient, or that the goods are still not available in Australia or from the United Kingdom in sufficient quantities.
My claim is that all three categories I have mentioned should come up for review. I believe that if industries are to be efficient and are to remain efficient and economic, they must know that the rates of tariff which apply to them will be reviewed. That is the only way in which the Minister can be assured that the tariff is operating properly. I believe that quantitative restrictions should be limited as to time, as they are under this bill, but I think there should be some way in which the tariffs themselves are limited, and that the Minister ought to be obliged to have a look at them or to refer them to the Tariff Board at some time, instead of never, as at present.
.- Senator Buttfield seemed to be rather concerned about industries which in the past had been favoured with certain tariff rates that had not subsequently been reviewed to see whether they were either too high or too low. If she examines the principal act she will find that one1 of the functions of the Tariff Board is, of its own volition, to review its work and, if necessary, to furnish recommendations to the Minister. Therefore, on that point she has no complaint whatever.
The purpose of the bill under discussion is to amend the Tariff Board Act 1921-60 in a certain way. The main features of the bill are to provide the Tariff Board with authority to make recommendations relating to quantitative restrictions and to give the board greater flexibility to act in certain administrative matters. I think it is generally known that at the present time the board is encumbered by certain administrative restrictions. If this bill is passed by the Parliament the board will have more freedom to give expression to its wishes to do certain things. Australia has not had quantitative restrictions in the past. This is something new, and I hope that the system will be found to be workable. I support the measure, although I say that it should have been introduced two or three years ago.
It is an odd feature of our tariff legislation that nothing has been done by the Government in regard to tariff matters until a crisis has threatened, or until some serious economic danger has been at hand. It has been only then that governments have been prepared to take action. If we look back to the 1920’s, or even to 1901, to the time of federation, we find ample evidence to support that statement. Prior to federation, the States enacted their own tariff legislation. They imposed customs duties and administered their own customs laws. There was no Tariff Board operating in those days. The States administered the tariff in the same way that the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is administering it at present. As we know, that Territory collects between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000 a year from customs duties, and there is no tarfl board functioning there.
I think it was the Hughes Administration which introduced the Tariff Board in 1921 and clothed it with powers that are almost similar to those which the board has to-day. From then on, the Tariff Board has been required by successive Ministers for Trade to make investigations of certain industries and to furnish reports to him. The Ministers who have administered the tariff legislation have always held a position of importance. There is nothing in the act at present which requires the Minister to act on the recommendations of the board. If he wishes, he may have the recommendations pigeon-holed. For all practical purposes, that means the end of the board’s work in a particular respect.
When this bill has been passed - and I am sure it will be passed, because the Opposition is supporting it - there will be three ways, generally speaking, in which the Tariff Board legislation will be used to protect industry. First, there will be the operation of the general tariff rates; secondly, there will be the system of quantitative restrictions; and thirdly, there will be the special advisory authorities who will make investigations and furnish reports. It has been found from experience that the system of fixing general rates of tariff is not now satisfactory. It is too cumbersome and too slow, lt is difficult to relate it to present international trading conditions.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting, I said that the general tariff scheme is wanting in several ways and for certain reasons. One of these was the time lag between the period when the Minister referred a matter to the Tariff Board for investigation and report and the time when the board furnished its recommendations to the Minister. That is the process provided for in the act whether industries are entitled to tariff protection or not.
One can understand the problems of the Tariff Board and the time involved in carrying out investigations and furnishing reports to the Minister. One understands that the Tariff Board has to be very punctilious in its inquiries and in what it says to the Minister in its reports, because the reports become a permanent feature of the whole structure of tariff fixation in the Commonwealth.
Of course, there are other matters to be considered also. Australia has become more industrialized since 1920. If we compare industrialization in 1901, when the Australian States entered into a federation, with industrialization in 1920 or 1921, wh’en the Tariff Board legislation was introduced, we find that industrial activity increased beyond all expectations. Although the Minister has the task and responsibility of asking the Tariff Board to conduct the inquiries, the great work associated with fixation of tariffs has fallen on the backs of the members of the Tariff Board.
I believe that the Tariff Board is a conscientious body. I examine nearly all the reports that are furnished to the Minister by the board. I take a keen delight in studying the contents of the reports because I am interested in having the secondary industries of Australia protected adequately for a certain reason. The basic reason is the provision of employment for our people. That is the most important thing that we have to consider at this period of our development. But perhaps there are others too. So the general tariff scheme has to be buttressed in some way.
Quantitative restrictions will have a buttressing effect on the general tariff scheme in Australia. The term “ quantitative restrictions “ actually means what is says. Other countries, including the United States of America, have adopted quantitative restrictions and have used them to the detriment of Australia. Of course, we had an experience of import licensing and I want to repeat that the present Government will never take any action under the Tariff Board Act unless it is faced with a crisis. There has to be an impending economic, financial or employment crisis or it will not be moved to change the tariff provisions. Why is that so? I believe the answer is that in their hearts, the members of the Government and its supporters do not believe in protection. I know that members of the Australian Country Party do not wholeheartedly believe in protection. When this bill is passed, the Tariff Board will have power to inquire whether goods should be restricted by quantity from coming into Australia. The board’s reports will go to the Minister just as do those in respect of general questions relating to tariff. The Minister or the Government will be able to make a decision and then some action may be taken immediately to restrict the quantity of goods to be imported into Australia. I support that scheme. It is better than nothing. However, to me it seems to be a method of filling up the gap that has been left by the abandonment of the import licensing scheme.
I never supported the import licensing scheme in any period of its operation because I found that people who were not entitled to licences had been receiving them and were hawking them around Sydney and other places. They were offered to big importers and tradespeople so that they could import goods. Of course, those who used the licences in that manner had to pay for them. The scheme got out of control. It became unmanageable.
I remember very well bringing some people to Canberra to interview the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs of the day, Senator Spicer. I allowed the deputation to state its own case to him and left the room, but I knew what information was supplied to him. I was not surprised later to learn that import licensing was to be killed for ever. It was to be given a death blow. I have always attributed that death blow to the hand of Senator Spicer; as he was then, because he was informed that goods were being imported on false or counterfeit licences. The crimes that were committed under that scheme have never come to light.
I do not want to refer to these matters in detail because I have been over them before. I remember when persons engaged in the retail meat industry in Australia could not obtain sausage skins, yet barrels of sausage skins were on the wharfs and people who were not interested in the meat industry at all were selling sausage skins by the barrel. I know of people who were living on the Gold Coast in Queensland arranging to have sausage skins sold by the barrel in Brisbane. We do not endorse that sort of scheme, and I was glad to see it go out of existence. I earnestly hope it is never re-introduced.
As to special advisory authorities, I think the Government was wise to make provision for their appointment because, as I said earlier, the general tariff scheme is not satisfactory because of the time lag. Under this proposal, the special advisory authorities have full power to go about and make investigations and to submit recommendations to the Minister. I can recall speaking about this matter, or a somewhat similar matter, in the early part of this year, when I pointed out that Australian manufacturers of handkerchiefs had applied to the Tariff Board for an increase in the duties applicable to handkerchiefs and that their application was rejected; but the
Special Advisory Authority, after appointment by the Government, made a full investigation and furnished a report to the Minister. Subsequently an increase in duty was applied to imported handkerchiefs, so there is a prospect of Australia’s manufacturing all the handkerchiefs that we require.
Prior to the investigation, we manufactured only 50 per cent, of the handkerchiefs used in Australia. What an idiotic position! We are capable of building over the Molonglo those magnificent bridges across which we travel when we come to and leave this Parliament. We can tunnel for miles through mountains on the Snowy Mountains project, but we are incapable of making sufficient handkerchiefs for our own use; to me, it does not make common sense. If the position can be corrected under this Tariff Board legislation, let it be corrected.
I mentioned the time lag associated with these reports as justification on the part of the Government for establishing the Special Advisory Authority. I investigated this matter to see exactly what the time lag was. Under the migration policy, the Government is bringing migrants from other countries. It offers them work. The very fact that it brings them from other countries constitutes a contract of offer of employment to them. Very many children are leaving school with hope in their breasts of gaining some useful employment so that they may preserve the dignity they have enjoyed since childhood. What have they found? No employment whatever! So if anything can be done under this tariff scheme to improve the employment situation, the legislation will justify itself on that count.
I interested myself in the time lag and this is what I found. On all the matters referred by the Minister to the board for investigation and report in 1956-57, the average time lag was fourteen and a half months. That is a long time for an industry to be operating against an adverse tariff, for a manufacturer to be doing his best to keep his staff employed, to make progress, and to see on the market every day imported goods similar to those that he manufactures. In 1957-58 there was a time lag of twelve months; in 1958-59, fifteen months; in 1959-60, fifteen months; in 1960-61, ten and a half months; in 1961-62. ten and three-quarter months.
Of course, there is a story to be told about 1960-61, because that was when we had credit restrictions operating and there was not a demand for goods m the Commonwealth during that year. Consequently, there was a lower quantity of all classes of goods* imported. The time lag in 1960-61 was reduced considerably, I take it because there were fewer matters to be investigated. I remember that when we got the Estimates, I examined them and, looking at the figures for the Department of Customs and Excise, I found that it was anticipated that the department’s revenue would increase this year by £12,000,000. I put the question: How can you increase customs revenue by £12,000,000 without bringing more goods from other countries into the Commonwealth? So this year has been an importer’s holiday. It is one of the sad pictures of the Commonwealth’s financial position to see what is happening in regard to the importation of goods.
The balance of payments is directly related to this question. The Government, by its neglect to give industries, and secondary industries in particular, adequate protection, has brought about a sad situation. I just state by way of a fact that in 1951-52, there was a trade deficit on current account of £550,000,000. Seeing that situation, the Government introduced import licensing. This is what makes me sad. It was not done to help manufacturers and others engaged in secondary industries. It was not true protection. I have a suspicion that what the Government is doing now with this legislation does not constitute the true protection for which Australia is clamouring, even shrieking, at present. The Government is being forced to take this action as a financial action rather than as an industrial action for the benefit of the people of the Commonwealth. At 30th June, 1958, the trade deficit on current account was £152,000,000; at 30th June, 1959, £181,000,000; at 30th June, 1960, £225.000.000; at 30th June, 1961, £369,000,000; at 30th June, 1962, when credit restrictions were in full force, only £8,000,000. It is expected that at 30th June, 1963, there will be a deficit of £300,000,000, and I do not doubt that at all, because those persons who compile the estimates of the Department of Customs and Excise are experienced officers. They know there is to be a bigger inflow of goods and that revenue from customs duties will increase by £12,000,000. These are facts that can be investigated by everybody.
The Government tried to buttress its financial position, this imbalance of trade, by borrowing overseas. It borrowed from the United States of America and from London. Just how much longer that can go on, I do not know. When you view international trade, you look at maps, but one has only to be observant as he walks through retail shops and chain stores to see for himself the goods being imported. One needs only a little knowledge of our own export trade. We sell wheat to the United Kingdom. Nobody will deny that. But we import from the United Kingdom biscuits made from our own wheat. We export sugar and fruit to the United Kingdom and we import jams and confectionery from her. We export hams and meat to the United Kingdom and we have imported from the United States of America and Canada tinned hams and tinned poultry. We export wool to many countries and from them we buy manufactured textiles. You have only to look around the shops to find evidence of that fact. We export rutile, which is used for hardening steel, and we export steel and iron ore - but we are not making our own cutlery or any of the goods manufactured from steel that we use. Look at the steel tools that are on sale in our chain stores! They include even chisels that are imported. We import two-foot wooden rules from Sweden and Denmark. We are evidently incapable of making two-foot rules for ourselves! In the chain stores one sees many similar items that are imported. For instance, we import floats used by plasterers. In our stores you will see very few goods that have been manufactured in Australia.
– I saw a moving picture the other night which showed that we were exporting hand tools to Sheffield.
– I do not know what kind of tools we would export to Great Britain, except, possibly, picks and shovels. What I have said is true, and some day when the Minister for National Development is visiting Brisbane and can spare half an hour I will take him round the chain stores and show him the imported goods that are on sale. I could show him the same in Sydney, because that position applies all over the Commonwealth. The Minister says that he saw a film showing that we were exporting hand tools to the United Kingdom. The hand tools exported by us may be tools that have gone out of use elsewhere. They may be so oldfashioned that we are the only country producing them. I say that the goods manufactured in Australia will bear favorable comparison with any imported goods, and no doubt the goods produced here will improve as time goes on.
If the Government intends to maintain the immigration policy it must apply a rigid protection policy for our secondary industries. It has no alternative. If we are to provide employment for the people of Australia, including the children who will be leaving school from next year onward and immigrants, we must progressively manufacture in Australia everything we require. We must supply our own market here. I look forward to the day when I will be able to use to a greater extent than I do now goods that are manufactured in Australia. I am not using as many Australian-manufactured goods as I want to use for the simple reason that they are not available.
Some mention has been made of the independence of the Tariff Board. I am not going to enter any argument about that, because I have been able to examine the functions of the board and I think that it can do its work independently. The board has to hear evidence and make investigations. To do so it would have to have knowledge of the rules of evidence. But it would not make its decisions based on evidence only because, in preparing the report which it furnishes to the Minister, it would have to use its own knowledge of the industries concerned. I think there is scope for the board to act independently.
I heard something said in the Senate this afternoon about the members of the board being required to keep within their sights the economic policy of the Government. I do not see anything wrong with that. It may be a sin to some people, but to me it is not. What I should like to see inserted in the act is a substantial provision on the following lines: -
It is the duty of the board, within the limits of its powers, to ensure that the objective of the board is directed to the greatest advantage of the people of Australia and that the effect of the decisions and recommendations of the board will, in the opinion of the board, best contribute to the stability of the industries of Australia, the maintenance of full employment in Australia and the economic prosperity and welfare of the people of Australia.
If that were part of the act the board would be able to work objectively. It would have a goal. So I do not find fault with the board on the lines of anything said here or in another place regarding its independence having been impaired or about its members having to keep the Government’s economic policy within their sights. I see nothing wrong with that at all, because you could not allow the board to operate indefinitely according to the wishes or the private opinions of its members. Such a body must work towards some objective and the objective, so far as I and my party are concerned, is to give protection to Australia’s secondary industries so that the employment of the Australian people will be assured.
.- The Senate is considering a very interesting bill to amend the Tariff Board Act. I think that all honorable senators would agree that the Tariff Board is an important agency in the government of this country. lt is interesting to recall that the board was established more than 40 years agoin 1921 - due to the efforts of the then Minister for Trade and Customs, Mr. Massy Greene. The debates of that time illustrate how far we have advanced since then. At that time the tariff was simply a patchwork of piecemeal details and, due to the efforts of the board over 40 years, there has evolved a development of the board’s functions which the original act did not define. The government of that day left the board, out of its experience and skill, to enunciate the principles that should guide it.
It is well known that the board early adopted the principle of establishing an added degree of protection for industries that applied to it for such protection, provided these industries were established on an economic base and were operating efficiently. All three major political parties in the Commonwealth have come to subscribe, almost implicitly, to the recommendations made by the board.
That has certainly been the case during the twelve or thirteen years I have been in the Parliament. Such has been the confidence held by all sections of the Parliament in the board that it is a noteworthy occasion when a recommendation by the board is rejected. It is almost universal practice for its recommendations to command acceptance from the Government. The board does not advise the Government to accept its recommendations. Such acceptance as its recommendations receive is due to the Government’s appreciation of the soundness of the board’s views.
Now, Madam Acting Deputy President, we drifted in 1952 into another situation altogether whereby our stabilized tariff, built on the principle that 1 have mentioned, was threatened with undermining by a different - and condemned - principle of administration. That was forced upon us, it was said, by the imbalance of our overseas debits and credits at the time. Overnight the whole inward trade of this country was, by regulation, subjected to the decision of the Minister for Trade. His decision affected each consignment of goods. He expressed his decision in the form of a licence given to a trader - a licence that was subject to any conditions that he, the Minister, saw fit to impose. That was an administrative system which was condemned, I believe, by both sides of the House. I rarely find pleasure in the submissions made by Senator Benn, but to hear him so roundly condemn this system to-night was evidence of the possibility even of his enlightenment.
We endeavoured to improve that system in 1956 by giving the traders of this country the manoeuvre of a procedure of review if they were dissatisfied. The efficacy of that consisted only in the fact that those operating the system in the department knew that any decision they might make that was unjustified or dishonest was capable of review. That was a breath of fresh air that was blown in through the portholes of the ship of import licensing. But the anxieties that were involved, and the pressures that were built up because there were vested interests based on trading experience in the year of commencement and an exclusion of new traders who were entitled to their place in the sun, eventually convinced the Government in 1960 that the system should be discarded. The change followed several references to the way in which the import licensing system was building up to he an artificial protection auxiliary to the tariff and based upon principles which were inconsistent with and corrosive of the principles the board was trying to establish.
Following that - not after the last election but in August of 1960, four months after the wholesale discard of the import licensing system - section 17a of the act was introduced, whereby a deputy chairman of the board was given the special authority and duty to examine any industry in an emergency situation and to recommend whether or not a special temporary duty should be imposed. We gave sanction then to special procedures to enable that decision to become operative even though the Parliament was in recess, provided that the Parliament, when it resumed, had ample control over the decision.
So the boom of 1960 continued. It developed proportions that were alarming. Ill-fated measures were designed to correct it in November 1960, with the depressive results experienced in 1961. In February of 1962 the Government decided that a deputy chairman was not the proper official to deal with emergency situations and that temporary duties were no longer sufficient. Therefore, the act was amended to enable the Government to appoint special advisory authorities, outside the structure of the Tariff Board, who would have the right to advise emergency quantitative restrictions. As Senator Buttfield explained most clearly in her speech, the Minister of the day was given the right to refer to such an authority any industry in an emergency, and to repeat the reference a number of times.
Now we have this bill, which vests in the Tariff Board authority to recommend, not merely duties, but also quantitative restrictions. This bill requires that the imposition of quantitative restrictions shall be preceded by a recommendation of the Tariff Board. It would be well for the Senate to consider what would have been the economic fate of this country if that provision had been adopted in 1955. Instead of an arbitrary licensing system, there would have been inbuilt, as many of us advocated, a pro cedure under which it was essential, before granting import licences, not that officials of the Department of Trade should be applied to, but that some responsible, independent authority such as the Tariff Board should pass judgment. What could have been done then to reconcile an import licensing system with an adequate tariff, based upon the principle of economic and efficient industry? Instead, the Government allowed, under the cloak of the unmanageable administrative anomaly of import licensing, an avalanche of inflation to develop. The disadvantages of the harvest that has been reaped in the last seven years cannot be calculated, but it is no use sighing over past fallacies. I refer to them only because last week’s debate showed a reluctance to accept these principles even now.
The other thing about this bill is that, due to the efforts of one of our colleagues in the lower House, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), we now have a breath of fresh air blown through the bill. The public can know who ari) the beneficiaries of quantitative restrictions. The bill now includes a provision whereby the classes of goods subject to quantitative restrictions, the names of the licencees, the periods for which the licences are given and the total values of the goods subject to the licences must, at reasonable intervals be published in the “ Gazette “. That is a very acceptable instalment of improvement. As far as I am concerned, it will suffice for this year. I hope that other improvements, obviously the sequel to that, will dawn upon those responsible, and that they will accept them ere long.
Why is it essential that the Senate should debate this bill? I think the Senate would wish to debate the bill -most purposefully because the Tariff Board has been the agency in this country over the last 40 years to which the manufacturing side of secondary industry is chiefly indebted for its security. Everybody is eager to see an advancement of our manufacturing industries, not to the extent that I believe prejudice has induced Senator Benn to advocate, but to a degree whereby they would become, not merely an integral part of our internal economy, but useful units, in our export economy. But at the same time as we note the advancement of our manufacturing industries we should note that it is the transformation of our economy from a purely primary producing economy to one consisting of primary and secondary industries that has been responsible for the re-thinking of the mutual trading relations between Great Britain and ourselves. A re-orientation seems to be proper, in the view of the British Government, in consequence of that transformation. If we make our own manufactured goods and do not provide a market for British manufactures, Great Britain can no longer trade with us in respect of our primary exports to the degree that it has since the signing of the Ottawa Agreement.
The Tariff Board provides the security for our manufacturing industry. Realizing, as every member of the Parliament does, how dependent employment is on the manufacturing industries and how the primaryproducing industries, because of their energy and skill, are able to produce more primary products than are required with fewer and fewer of the units of the work force, anybody with an ounce of public responsibility must bend every effort in order to ensure that our secondary industries provide the greatest employment potential that it is possible to reconcile with the stability - internal and external - of our country.
The first prerequisite to enable the Tariff Board to continue that service is to maintain its independence untarnished and unimpaired. It is, as Byron said, “ something in the dearth of fame though linked among a fettered race that makes one feel a flush suffuse the face “ when one reminds oneself of the contribution made in this respect by my colleague in another place, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly). Anybody who has had the pleasure of reading his speeches in the other House over the last four months, or hearing him bring to the discussion of the independence of the Tariff Board zeal and an understanding ought to acknowledge a debt to the forthrightness of his contribution to the Parliament. I do not go with him the whole way, as I said on a previous recent occasion; but his contribution in this respect is unique because it has broken, as it were, a sequence of occasions on which the Parliament has acquiesced in regard to Tariff Board matters in the last fifteen years.
Why was it opportune that he should bring these matters to our attention? The reason was the very system of weaving into the Tariff Board structure a deputy chairman who had the obligation to consider repetitive references for an emergency duty and who was superseded, in February of this year, by a Special Advisory Authority who had the obligation to consider repetitive references for quantitative restrictions. As Senator Buttfield pointed out most forcefully, if the Minister receives a report on an emergency duty from that authority in one month and in the next month refers the same industry back to the authority, and does that again, the pressure built up on that authority from a political source is hard to resist. That very unit, inter-related to the Tariff Board structure, is a threat that might undermine the independence of the board.
We live at a time when tranquility is the keynote of modern politics. The situation that we have witnessed recently would be apt to pass unnoticed, but I want to notice that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), out of his great parliamentary experience and acknowledging the right of the Parliament to see important papers, after proper consideration tabled correspondence between himself and Sir Leslie Melville. On 17th September, 1962, Sir Leslie wrote to Mr. McEwen. saying that he had been asked by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development to join the bank’s Development Advisory Service and he would like to do that; that he would have to retire from the Tariff Board; and that he regretted breaking their personal association which he had always found so pleasant. He went on to say -
However, as you know, the Tariff Board Act has been drastically changed since I agreed to become the Chairman of the Board and I have no liking for the present arrangements.
Not even the dull political understanding with which I am equipped is needed to see expressed very strongly in that letter an apprehension by the chairman of the board that these procedures were likely to undermine the independence of the board.
We have received a communication dated 13th November this year from the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council. I understand that this communication was produced by Mr. Chislett, the economist of that council. It is called “Tariff-making in a Climate of an Uncertain Tariff Board “. The author of the document refers to the history of the board and to recent ministerial utterances. He notes particularly the utterances of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Trade on 17th October last. He quotes a passage which, in Mr. McEwen’s speech on that date, was open to misunderstanding. Mr. McEwen, at the conclusion of that speech, said -
The Tariff Board, for its part, has a vital and important role in advising the Government in this direction. Obviously the board in effectively carrying out its advisory duties must keep within its sights the objectives of government policy - the objectives I have outlined in my remarks to-day and as given in Government statements from time to time.
Mr. McEwen, in his speech, had outlined the national objectives in these terms -
At the very roots of our national objectives is steady population increase. Hand in hand with that must go solid economic growth at a rate sufficient to provide work for the growing population. I have said before, and I repeat, that we must look to manufacturing industry as a principal source of increased employment.
Those were the objectives to which he referred, but unfortunately he added to that statement, as matters that the Tariff Board must keep within its sights, the following words: - “ and as given in Government statements from time to time “. That was calculated to produce the interpretation that Mr. Chislett put on it, namely, that from time to time the Government would make statements of political objectives and that they were to be harkened to and no doubt given effect by the Tariff Board.
Mr. McEwen took an early opportunity to correct that misapprehension. In his closing speech on this bill on 14th November, he made it clear that he was not expecting the board to hearken to day-by day, month-by-month, or year-by-year emphases of Government policy or differences of interpretation on particular matters. What he was saying was that in order to be a real unit of public achievement in relation to the economy in which the Tariff Board existed, obviously it had to retain realism and to keep in mind the overall, broad national policy objectives of the Government. Let me quote Mr. McEwen’s own words. He said -
I was not referring to the day-to-day changes in policies that come in a dynamic economy such as the Australian economy. I was referring only to the longer term policy objectives of the nation as enunciated on a limited number of occasions by leading spokesmen for the Government.
Later, he said -
But, Mr. Speaker, the board’s advisory function must be related to an objective, and this objective, obviously, must be the overall government policy.
He then made it clear that he was referring not to short-term changes in the application of the policy, but to - the basic policy as enunciated in general statements from time to time by the principal spokesmen of the Government, such as, for example, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) or, may be, the Minister for Trade. What nonsense it would be if an authority established by the Parliament who advised the Government were to purport to act without any consciousness of the broad policies of the Government to which its advice is directed!
It is most satisfactory to me to be able to bring into proper focus Mr. McEwen’s own interpretation of a statement that excited some anxiety in all sections of the community. I believe we can take that as sufficient re-assurance that this Government stands four-square behind the imperative duty of the board to exercise an independent function. This Government would be ill served by sycophantic advice from the Tariff Board, as from elsewhere, but it would be greatly assisted by independent advice stemming from honest judgments by the board members, based on their own experience and special skill. If any recommendation proceeding from a judgment of that character is politically unacceptable by the Government, it will be the duty of the Government to accept its political responsibility and say, “ This instance requires, not a politically independent view such as that, but one modified to suit the situation “. If political modification is required, it is only proper that that modification should be the exclusive responsibility of the Government. I hope that every speaker in this Senate will assure the board that what is required of it is independence - to express views that will effectuate an adequate tariff to assist economic and efficient industries, to express views not divorced from the national objectives of the government of the day, but related to them.
I now address myself to the second matter upon which I rose to speak. That is the special provision proposed in this bill under which, for the first time, quantitative restrictions can be recommended by the Tariff Board. When we are in committee, I shall ask to be shown where in the bill the principles which the Minister said in his second-reading speech were applicable to the board’s authority in this respect are expressed, if they are expressed in the legislation. Mr. McEwen said that he expected that the need to use quantitative restrictions would arise on very few occasions. He said that the Government intended that the Tariff Board would consider protection by means of quantitative restrictions only in those cases in which the tariff alone would not be an appropriate means of protection. He also said -
In short, the legislation is to authorize the Tariff Board to recommend quantitative restrictions as a last resort.
That is very satisfactory. It is certainly written in the Minister’s speech, but do we find it in the bill? I will seek that information in committee, without pretending that I have studied the bill phrase by phrase. The great aspect of satisfaction about this provision is that an independent body, one with responsibility for tariff-making in the country on the principles that I have outlined, is now to be the authority to recommend quantitative restrictions. The authority is no longer to be a departmental officer, or a political Minister. It is to be an independent body which has some experience, and some reputation to maintain for reconciling such a recommendation with the proper economics of the industry concerned. Had this provision been built into import licensing years ago, there would never have developed the pressures which grew to such an extent that their quelling in I960 and 1961 so troubled” the economy of the country.
The other factor about which I wish to speak is one to which I have made reference already. Due to the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Mackellar, there is now a requirement that all recommendations of this character shall take their place on the public record. I hope the day is not far distant when, once the Tariff Board has recommended quantitative restrictions, there will be an opportunity for everybody to apply for his share of the restricted quantities. Then, after the board has heard the applications, not necessarily orally; and with no more publicity, if you like, than is given to proceedings before the special authority, each applicant will know that his case has been considered in competition with those of others, and those whose applications have been rejected will have the right to refer their cases by way of review to another authority. In addition to adopting procedures which make for health in administration, and which this bill now proves, after seven or eight years of denial, are completely practicable, we shall be demonstrating that our administrative capacity is equal to bringing into being procedures which guarantee that everybody who is interested in a competitive way in an industry will be entitled to considerations and that, upon rejection of his application, he may seek a review of it. We need not complain because shortcomings still exist. It is a great advance in the thinking of those who have produced this bill that quantitative restrictions will now depend upon the recommendations of an independent Tariff Board, and that the results of the recommendations will go on public record for everybody to see. A condition of health will surround this particular system, which, hitherto, has been denied to it. For those reasons, I support the bill.
– The measure before the Senate, though simple in form, affects vitally the traditional policy of the Tariff Board as we have known it down the years. It could be said that, following experience gained over the years, the board was set up as a special authority to act as the watchdog for Australia’s industries and to apply a brake to the unrestricted importation of goods which could damage our industries. As the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) pointed out in his secondreading speech, a special advisory authority has been appointed to provide temporary protection for Australian industries against serious damage by competition from imported goods, and it has been necessary to provide the additional safeguard of quantitative restriction of imports.
Many words have been spoken about the policy that was introduced by a previous government for the exact purpose of providing governmental and departmental control over imports through the licensing system. That policy certainly served its purpose over a period, but as the economy has developed, and with it most of our economic troubles which have flowed from the rapacity of the individual and the power of monopoly groups, counter measures have been brought into operation. Despite the fact that Government supporters have spoken over the years against interference with the freedom of the individual, they have found that if they allowed the individual free rein he would wreck the economy, and wreck it pretty quickly. So, we have seen a virtual reversal of the traditional Conservative or Liberal policy. The supporters of the Government have reached the stage of thinking where they now admit that an authority, whether it be the Department of Trade itself, a special authority, or the Tariff Board, must have responsibility and power to protect Australian industries against serious damage.
It has been pointed out that other countries throughout the world use this same procedure of quantitative control of imports and that it is not a new method for a country to adopt in managing its economic affairs. Some of the worst features that exist in our economy to-day have been brought to the notice of the Government, which should convince it of the need to set up a special authority. I refer to internal price rings and price fixing. Just as surely as the Government has found it necessary to appoint a special advisory authority, after a fairly comprehensive investigation of all the factors involved, so will it inevitably have to take measures to assert authority within the economy over people who could seriously damage the ordinary flow of business and our developing prosperity.
In extending the power of the Tariff Board to recommend quantitative restrictions, the Government has had as a guide the rapid success - that is my personal view - of the action taken by the special authority in regard to the timber industry. Timber was one of the commodities that was seriously threatened because of the opportunities that existed for the countries of Asia, with very different labour conditions and cost structures from those of Australia, to land good-quality timber products on the Australian market and thus threaten the very existence of our important timber industry. I assure honorable sena tors that the timber industry of Tasmania was very pleased indeed with the immediate effect of the action taken by the special authority, although the industry considered that the degree of restriction imposed was insufficient. Nevertheless, it saw that at least an authority existed which could quickly and effectively stop the flood of imports that were coming in and competing against the local products.
It may seem on the surface, perhaps, that we are missing advantages that could accrue to traders in this country by being able to find cheaper sources of supply of goods which they could sell for a profit, but the Government has an obligation to the people of Australia, and so has this Parliament, to see to it that our standards of living, our wage structure and our whole industrial complex are protected. This measure certainly puts into the hands of the Tariff Board an effective means of protecting Australian industries. On previous occasions it has been pointed out in this chamber that a completely new set of economic conditions is evolving in Australia. We are no longer to be treated as essentially a primary-producing country. The Tariff Board, in earlier reports, has pointed out that, although we are inclined to think that the bulk of our wool is exported, in fact Australian woollen mills are the seventh largest purchaser of our wool clip. This is most important because not only do our mills use an Australian commodity, but they also provide competition so that buyers from other countries have to pay a fair price for the wool they buy in Australia. The industry is also important because it is decentralized and, besides providing employment, it gives Australian consumers goods of high quality. The Government is in duty bound to ensure that these manufacturers are given every opportunity to hold their market in Australia and to expand.
One must give full credit to the Tariff Board for the great care it has shown in inquiring into every aspect of the industries that come before it. The Tariff Board shows the same thoroughness whether it is inquiring into hardware or textiles but it appears that over the years there has never been a defined path for the Tariff Board to follow. In the past, one of the main purposes of these investigations has been to keep in operation industries that were running efficiently and were supplying a commodity that was needed on the Australian market. But we have gone beyond the stage where the Tariff Board can properly fulfil its function and yet be so restricted in its activities.
The Tariff Board is now to be given power to restrict the quantities of any commodities coming into Australia and so it will now play an important part in making economic policy. Therefore, the board should be in very close liaison with Government policy. I do not share the fears expressed by previous speakers that cause them to mistrust people in public office. There is only a thin line of demarcation between members of the Tariff Board and members of the Public Service. I have a very high regard for the members of the Public Service and I feel that perhaps the only difference between members of the Public Service and members of the Tariff Board lies in the business background of members of the Tariff Board. This may be more comprehensive than the orthodox background of a man who entered the Public Service on leaving a school or university.
Men of wide business experience have been able to give to the Tariff Board the wisdom of their experience. All concerned have as their objective the advancement of Australia and I think too much play is made on whether the proposed authority should rest with the Department of Trade, the Tariff Board or the Special Advisory Authority. The main factor is this: If Australian industries are threatened, there is a great and final responsibility on the Government to see that those industries do not become the victims of the trade practices which are generally adopted both internally and internationally. We have only to look at some of the activities of the big international oil companies to realize how powerful they can become. They can make or break governments. They can organize revolutions. They can overthrow people in authority, as has been seen in some areas of the Middle East. Knowing that, we would be recreant to our responsibilities if we did not realize that something similar could happen in any industry that becomes part of a monopolistic set-up.
Besides having this power to impose quantitative restrictions, the Tariff Board should have authority to bring before the notice of the Government price-fixing activities and excessive charges. Somewhere along the line, this has to be done. The Government must be advised of the activities which could have an undermining influence on the stability of the economy. I foresee that when the inquiry is made into the economy by the special committee that has been foreshadowed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) it will come out strongly in favour of maintaining the stability of the economy either by legislation to counteract restrictive trade practices or by taxes on excess profits or something of that nature.
I see this bill as a progressive measure. It is not new in principle, but it is based on a principle that has been played about with because of the blind approach of many conservative-minded persons towards restraints on the rapacity of individuals. We live in an interdependent community. Maybe we cannot protect all sections of the community, although we are seeing the light in comparison with previous generations. Our objective should be to see that every person has some redress against injustice or hardsdhip. Many business people could suffer similarly. It seems unjust that persons who have applied themselves to building up a business enterprise and who are prepared to play the game by their clients, can be manoeuvred into a position where they lose their equity and yet have no redress.
If the Government is sincere about the need to preserve the private enterprise system, it must be consistent because the trend to-day not only in Australia but also throughout the whole of the Western economy, is towards greater and greater accumulations of capital. With that accumulation of capital comes the power of finance. Financial power is greater than government power, and it is the Government’s responsibility to match financial power, because the Government is responsible to the people, whereas financial powers are not responsible.
Other amendments relate to the period for which temporary quantitative restrictions are applied on the recommendation of the Special Advisory Authority. They must be removed not later than three months after receipt of the Tariff Board’s final report, unless the board recommends their extension. That is a very important amendment and virtually gives to the Tariff Board the same elasticity as has been granted to the Special Advisory Authority. The Tariff Board, of course, is under great difficulty in producing its reports, because it has to rely upon individual contributions and the assimilation of evidence. Because of the increased tempo of business activities and competition, more and more organizations are applying to the board, which, in its annual report, strongly recommends that the provision of increased staff should be accorded a high priority. The Government has been very remiss in not giving the board a go-ahead signal to organize on the highest possible level. The board should not be having arguments with the Public Service Board over a thin line of demarcation in various minor matters but should be given the staff required and, should difficulties arise between these two boards, the Government should make a decision. I hope that technical differences with the Public Service Board in regard to the status of staff of the Tariff Board will, if not already resolved, be a matter for urgent solution.
The Minister said that expanding production and trade, a constantly improving standard of living, and the provision of employment for a continually growing work force are in the forefront of the Government’s mind. The achievement of these most laudable objectives can be assisted by the effective functioning of the Tariff Board. Its importance in achieving a balanced economy is growing year by year. The board will fully realize how much it can contribute to the expanding of production, the improvement of living standards, and the maintenance of full employment in the exercise of the authority that it already has and the added authority to be placed in its hands as a result of this measure. We on this side are pleased that this additional authority is to be given to the board and I hope that the measure has a speedy passage.
– in reply - I thank the Senate for its support of the measure. It is such an important measure that I think I should reply to some of the criticisms. I shall do so as briefly as I can, taking first a couple of points in relation to which I have the papers in front of me. Senator O’Byrne rather left an impression that the board was in difficulties in getting the staff it sought. It is relevant to point out to him that the project staff - that is, the skilled officers who get together most of the material - at the end of June, 1962 was double the size that it was at 30th June, 1960, and it is expected that within the next few months it will be three times the size it was at 30th June, 1960. There has been no meanness, no parsimony, i:i the approach of the Department of Trade or the Public Service Board.
I should like to reply to one or two general principles that Senator Wright stated. He drew a contrast between the method of controlling imports under this legislation and the introduction of import licensing in 1952. That argument is not complete unless one contrasts the two different circumstances in which import licensing has been under consideration. In 1952 it was a massive operation. Import licensing was imposed for balanceofpayments purposes. It was really a big matter. In 1962, import control is for protective purposes only, in different circumstances. As stated in my secondreading speech, the power will be employed for protective purposes, in effect as a last resort. It would not be fair comment to say that what is being done in 1962 from an administrative or machinery point of view only could have been done as well in 1952. I am not talking in terms of principle. I am talking in terms of actual administrative effort in 1962 by contrast with 1952.-
I shall now try to weld together the various points that were made by Senators Kennelly, Buttfield, Benn and O’Byrne. If I do not mention the various senators specially, it is because I have tried to incorporate under the appropriate headings what each of the speakers has said. The first point that was made concerned criticism of the number of changes in tariff policy that have occurred. I will not detail the changes that have been made, although I have the list in front of me. Senator Wright dealt with them, and there is no purpose in my going over the same ground.
There should be no question of apology for, and no ground for criticism of, any changes in tariff policy, because we are living in a changed world to-day compared with the world of ten years ago. We in Australia have had a very great increase in population; we have had a great move forward in our manufacturing industry; we have had big discoveries of new national resources; and it would be simply unwise not to move forward in those conditions which had made alterations in tariff policy necessary.
By and large, what has been done over the period has been to hold fast to the principles under which the tariff has been applied. That principle is the giving of protection to Australian industries which operate efficiently and economically. It includes the improvement of machinery under which the principle is applied. The addition of quantitative restrictions to the tariff measures is really the only new principle that has been added in the last decade, which has been a decade of change not only in Australia but throughout the world. Australian manufacturers have developed their industries in conditions in which we are looking to them to export more. A condition precedent for economic manufacture for export is the expansion of the local market and expansion of production in Australia. On the other side, Australian manufacturers have had to compete with these very same conditions abroad, in which their overseas competitors have also expanded their productive capacity and are selling in export markets at prices which are lower than the general prices because the goods that they are exporting are surplus to their home market requirements.
The constant theme in tariff policy in Australia, I suggest, has been and will continue to be the protection of efficient and economic industries, allied with the independence of the tariff-making authorities.
– Are you satisfied that that is the case, though?
– I will come to that in a minute. I have no doubt about those two facets of that central theme, because they are basic to our tariff policy. Let us look back into history. The establishment of the Tariff Board marked the beginning of a new era in tariff policy in Australia.
Prior to the board’s establishment tariffs were the subject of lobbying in this Parliament. The Tariff Board has made a name for itself, and under successive chairmen it has established a procedure whereunder, as I think Senator Wright pointed out, it is a very rare occasion indeed on which a government exercises its prerogative and refuses to adopt a recommendation made by the board.
Then we had criticism of the removal of import restrictions. That action was part of the overall policy that has led to the present healthy position of the economy. It was part of the programme which has resulted in the stabilization of costs of which we have had the benefit over the last twelve or eighteen months, lt was part of the programme that has led to the improvement in our overseas balances. I make the point that although during the period in which import restrictions operated manufacturers received priority for their requirements, the removal of import restrictions had two effects. The first was that it exposed Australian manufacturers to competition which they had not experienced for twenty years or more. On the other hand, among the beneficiaries of the removal of import restrictions were the manufacturers themselves, because a substantial proportion of the increased flow of imports that followed the removal of restrictions consisted of plant, machinery and materials for use in secondary industry. We made changes to deal with the position that had arisen, and these have culminated in the bill now before us.
There has been discussion on the point that import restrictions will not be used often. I think it might be interesting to the Senate to hear the facts of what has occurred up to the present stage. Since the special advisory authority machinery was introduced in March last there have been 90 applications for special protection. In only two cases has the Special Advisory Authority recommended import restrictions rather than increased duties. In 23 cases temporary increases of duties were recommended. The statement that import restrictions will not be used often is only an expression of opinion, but it is an expression of fact to say that the board knows, because it has been so advised, that import restrictions are to be used only as a last resort. I repeat that in dealing with 90 applications this independent authority thought it desirable or practicable to recommend import restrictions in only two cases.
Then there is the criticism that the Tariff Board may not be independent. I think that, by and large, Senator Wright replied to that on my behalf. He mentioned a number of the views that have been voiced. There is a misconception about what the independence of the Tariff Board means. It surely would be incongruous to have a board which adopted the personal views of its members regarding what was or what should be national policy on such large matters as immigration, full employment, development of natural resources, increasing the standard of living and the stabilization of costs and prices - all of which are matters of government policy and the majority of which would be matters of government policy whichever political party were in office. We contemplate that the Tariff Board, acting as an independent authority, not being influenced from day to day, shall, in making its determinations, consider questions of national policy. As a matter of interest, this is not a new attitude or a new development. Even the first annual report of the Tariff Board indicates that the Minister for Trade and Customs of that time requested that special attention be given to the interests of primary producers. In 1926 the Tariff Board in its annual report said -
In dealing with requests of Australian industry the Board has kept in mind the policy of the Commonwealth as expressed by the Parliament.
I see no merit in any suggestion that the board has to be so independent that it has to evolve a separate national policy of its own, distinct from or opposite to that which is advocated by the Parliament and the government of the country.
The final point with which I wish to deal is that mentioned by Senator Buttfield in relation to the review of tariffs. Section 15(2.) of the Tariff Board Act gives the board specific power to review previous decisions. Over the last eighteen months there have been four specific references to the Tariff Board for a review of duties previously imposed. In the first one the board recommended the removal of the existing duty. In the second one the board also recommended the removal of the existing duty. The third and fourth matters were referred to the board on 8th November and 12th November respectively - within the last few weeks.
– That only goes to prove that all of these matters ought to be reviewed.
– I do not know. I can only say that there is provision for that procedure to be adopted. The point I am making is that, first, the board has power to do that, and secondly, in practice it has done so.
– Is that done at the instigation of the Government or of any particular body?
– These were requests made to the Minister by interested parties that the duties should be reduced. The matters were referred by the Minister to the Tariff Board, with the results that I have quoted.
– In practice it is done only in cases where there is an appeal. What about those cases where there is no appeal and the tariff is too high?
– I am pointing out that there is provision in the act for these reviews, and I have cited four cases. I have not gone back very far to show that this is indicative of what has happened over a period of time. In these four cases action was taken.
The third point I make is that regularly the board itself, after conducting an inquiry, makes a recommendation that the circumstances of the industry be reviewed two years hence, or three years hence, after it is possible to see the effect of the duty that it has recommended.
– Only in a very small percentage of cases does it do that.
– If Senator Buttfield has the facts she no doubt is right. My own recollection is that it happens in quite an appreciable proportion of cases. I know that my own personal reaction from time to time has been along these lines: “ While I accept the Tariff Board’s recommendation, really I doubt the wisdom of the board proposing to review the case. It is doing this so frequently that there is a possibility that it is creating more work than it can handle “. I have never looked at the actual statistics, but that has been my impression.
– It would be less than half.
– If it is less than half, I would regard that as a very substantial proportion.
– Well, considerably less than half.
– I thank the Senate for its support of the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to clause 3, which amends section 1 1 of the Principal Act. Proposed subsection (4.) reads -
An inquiry conducted by the Board relating to-
a revision of the Tariff; shall be held in public and evidence in the inquiry shall, subject to this section, be taken in public on oath.
I submit that proposed new sub-section (5a.) more or less circumvents proposed sub-section (4.) to some extent. Proposed new sub-section (5a.) reads -
In an inquiry … the Board may, if it thinks fit, permit a person appearing as a witness before the Board to give evidence on oath in the form of a written statement and, where evidence is so given, the Board shall make available to the public in such manner as the Board thinks fit the contents of the statement . . .
I do not mind, and never have minded, the board withholding from publication evidence which a manufacturer may give that could be used against his interests. It may be evidence relating to costs and other matters. The proposed new subsection continues -
. other than any matter -
I have no quarrel with proposed new subsection (5a.) (b), but I think that the Govern ment is giving much greater protection to the person who writes out his evidence than to a person who gives oral evidence. If he objects to all or any of his evidence being made public, it is not made public. I think that it is only necessary to provide that the board should withhold that portion of the evidence that, if he had given it orally, would have been regarded as being given in confidence.
I do not want a manufacturer to be put in a position where he would be helping his competitors and injuring himself, but if I am reading this proposed new sub-section correctly, it means that the board cannot publish any written statement a person gives if that person objects to its being published. If, instead of standing up in the witness box and giving evidence, I submitted a written statement containing matters affecting my case - some of which I would not want made public if I thought it would help my competitors - I would only have to object to its being made public and the board could not make any portion of it public. But the board has the discretion whether or not it publishes the evidence of a person who puts his case verbally. Why is there the distinction between a man who gives his evidence orally and the man who gives his evidence in writing?
– First, no fundamental change is made in existing procedures in relation to evidence that is confidential and evidence that is not confidential. The same principles will still apply. The board makes the decision whether or not evidence shall be treated confidentially. The provision reads, in part, “… the Board may, if it thinks fit . . . “. If the board says that evidence will be accepted confidentially, whether it is given orally or in writing the same set of circumstances exists. The decision is taken by the board on whether it will accept the evidence confidentially. If the board decides that it will, whether the evidence is given orally or in writing it is still treated confidentially. If it is not confidential evidence and it is given in writing, in order to streamline the proceedings that written statement is as public as if the evidence were given orally.
.- I am interested in the subject raised by Senator Kennelly. As light seems to have dawned on me, I shall state my interpretation for the purpose of seeing whether it is correct. Before we read proposed new section 1 1 (5a.) we have to go to section 1 1 (5.) of the principal act which reads -
If any witness objects to giving any evidence in public which the Board is satisfied is of a confidential nature, the Board may take such evidence in private if it considers that it is desirable in the public interest to do so.
There is power for the board to take evidence in private. But, first, there has to be an objection by the witness; secondly, the board has to be satisfied that the evidence is of a confidential nature; and, thirdly, the board must consider that it is desirable in the public interest to take the evidence in private. The amendment will enable the board to take evidence in the form of a written statement. Proposed new sub-section (5a.) then reads -
. the Board shall make available to the public in such manner as the Board thinks fit the contents of the statement other than any matter -
This is one of the peculiar convolvuluses of parliamentary draftsmanship that we have in Canberra. Proposed new sub-section (5a.) (b) incorporates all the provisions of subsection (5.) of section 11 that safeguard the situation. That is to say, the witness has to object; the board has to be satisfied that the evidence is of a confidential nature; and the board has to consider that it is desirable in the public interest not to publish the evidence. If those three conditions are satisfied, the board may take the evidence in private. Under the amendment, the board will be bound to make the written evidence public unless it comes within the three conditions, all of which are incorporated by virtue of proposed new sub-section (5a.) (b). Therefore, I believe that the amendment safeguards the position as amply as if the evidence had been given orally under the principal act.
– Can Senator Wright tell me whether there would be any need for paragraph (a) at all?
– Possibly there would be no need for it if the whole section 1 1 (5.) had been used. But I am not here to interpret the mind of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Draftsman. The gods forbid!
I wish to refer to another matter to which I made an indirect reference in my second-reading speech. Will the Minister tell me whether words are expressed in the bill to ensure that the Tariff Board is to invoke quantitative restrictions only after it is satisfied that a duty is inappropriate and only as a last resort?
– There is no such provision in the bill. That follows a Government decision on the matter, which was the subject of careful consideration at the time when the matter was before the Government. I will try to recollect the discussion and the arguments. First, we considered this question: How do you define precisely this term “ last resort “? A matter like that has to be put in absolute or precise terms. Secondly, if you try to define it, do you not in some way affect the efficiency of the board in these commercial matters? The task of the board is always to evaluate the relevant circumstances and make its decision. There were other arguments of the same kind.
The final decision was to put this in the second-reading speech. The effect of it in the second-reading speech is hardly as high as being a direction to the board, but it is a clear indication in more colloquial terms than a specific instruction in the legislation. The result of doing it this way is that we will have something more flexible and more effective than a specific instruction in the legislation.
– I wish to ask the Minister a question with reference to a statement that he made a while ago. He said that under the emergency tariff legislation 90 applications for emergency tariffs were made and only two of them were granted by the board. Did the Minister say that?
– Only two applications for quantitative restrictions were granted.
– Yes, that is right. Does that not indicate that the Government might have been wrong in bringing down this legislation? The Special Advisory Authority has rejected all but two of the 90 requests.
– To which clause does this refer?
– We are taking the bill as a whole, so it does not matter to which clause it refers.
– The honorable senator’s remarks have to be related to a clause.
– I was under the impression that the Government introduced this legislation to deal with industries faced with an emergency which had lodged an application for protection, but it would seem now that all but two of 90 applications by such industries were rejected.I should like the Minister’s views on that matter.
.-I was very regretful upon hearing what the Minister had to say in reply to my request because by section 18a, inserted by the legislation which we passed in April of this year to give the special emergency authority power to make recommendations as to urgent action, we provided that the special emergency authority was to make certain declarations. Paragraph (b) of that section reads -
if such urgent action is necessary - whether, having regard to the public interest, the protection can appropriately be provided by means of a temporary duty or, if it cannot be so provided, whether it can appropriately be provided -
When we are vesting the main board with authority to impose quantitative restrictions, and when it is our purpose that quantitative restrictions shall be used only as a last resort if a duty is not thought to be appropriate, all we have to do is to use the language which we employed in relation to the temporary authority we granted in April last. If that is our purpose, it is infinitely more urgent and important that we see that the condition with regard to the temporary authority be similarly expressed in relation to the permanent authority which we propose to give to the main board to carry out its general operations.. Such disquiet does this point generate in my mind that I should think that the appropriate thing to do now would be to report progress with a view to amending clause 5 of the bill by incorporating in it the language used in the legislation passed last April. To ask the board to take notice of what is said in a Minister’s second-reading speech is simply to make an inroad upon the very independence which we want to ensure to the board. The board is the agency of the Parliament. The Minister acts in all matters as the servant of the Parliament. The last thing the board would want to have to do would be to take note of speeches that we or Ministers make. The only authority to which it should listen is the voice of the Parliament expressed in the words written into the legislation, and those words in this instance should be the same as those written into the legislation passed last April with relation to the temporary set-up. It is because I did not trust my own scrutiny of the bill when I failed to find that language there that I rose tonight for the purpose of seeking information. Having been assured that the language to which I refer is not contained in the bill under discussion, I want to press for the Minister’s urgent consideration the suggestion that he should accept an amendment along the lines of the language that I have read from the April legislation because it is a hundred times more important that this language be inserted in legislation relating to the operations of the main board with respect to a permanent set-up than it was in relation to the temporary arrangement.
.- I should like to know whether the Minister made a slip of the tongue when he referred to the board’s learning of the Government’s intentions from the second-reading speech of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). I make so many slips of the tongue that I freely pardon any one else who does so.
Surely the Government would not ask departments or government instrumentalities to take Ministers’ second-reading speeches as the true indication of the Government’s policy in connexion with matters so important as employment, the protection of industry and so on. The Minister must admit that to do so would be to bring these important matters down from the high plane on which they should be discussed. I say with the greatest of respect that if the Minister made a slip of the tongue he should now rectify it. I was very concerned about this very point when I read the second-reading speech of the Minister for Trade delivered in another place.
. -I am sorry, but I cannot add a great deal to what I have already said. The purpose of this provision is to give the Tariff Board a view of the policy that is to be adopted while not giving it a formula which the board would, perhaps, find it difficult to live with. It must be remembered that the Tariff Board has a variety of courses open to it. In cases such as this, it can recommend a higher duty; it can recommend a bounty; it can recommend quantitative restrictions for a period; or it can recommend a combination of duties and restrictions. Its duty is to make a recommendation which is in the nature of a commercial recommendation. For that reason, while not stating our desire in specific terms, we sought to make clear what was required.
.- I do not think the Senate should deal with a matter as important as this in that way. We have ready at our disposal the language by which we can make it quite clear in the legislation that quantitative restrictions are to be employed only if a duty or a bounty is not appropriate. Through you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I ask that the bill be not rushed through heedless of the need to give proper consideration to this matter. I suggest that the proper parliamentary course to take is to report progress, consider the matter and deal with it again to-morrow or the next day. I ask the Minister whether he will comment upon that request. I submit that the Tariff Board should not be placed in the position of having to read through second-reading speeches made to-day, possibly again next year, and possibly eighteen months later, and, if they vary, to decide what are its directions from those varying speeches. It is an independent board whose duties are defined. It is guided by the statute. I ask the Minister - I hope I can do so without causing any heat - to have sufficient respect for the Senate to give it an opportunity to consider this matter which, I am sure, has come to the Senate as a surprise.
– I am sorry, but I do not think that is a fair request to make. This is an important bill. A lot of thought has been given to its preparation. It is expressed in terms that are considered to be those most appropriate. Senator Wright has said that this has come as a surprise to the Senate. The bill has been on the stocks for some time. The point made by him has not previously been taken. I should certainly like to see the Senate put the bill through in the form in which it has been brought forward by the Government.
– Then, I am bound to move -
That the Temporary Chairman do report progress and ask leave to sit again.
I believe that it is not a proper answer to my request to say that the bill has been on the stocks for some time. We have read the second-reading speech. The Minister, without directing attention to the fact that words used in April of 1962 had not been included in the bill, has assured us that it is the intention of the Government that quantitative restrictions shall be used only as a last resort. I feel that we will do less than justice to our consideration of the measure unless, at this stage, we report progress and consider the matterI have raised.
Question put. The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator T. C. Drake-Brockman.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Clause 5 reads as follows: -
Section fifteen of the Principal Act is amended -
by inserting after sub-section (1.) the following sub-section: - “ (1a.) Where the Minister has referred to the Board for inquiry and report the matter of the necessity for new or increased duties on any goods, the Board may, in its report, recommend the restriction of the importation of those goods (either in addition to or in lieu of new or increased duties on those goods) for such period as is specified in the report.”;
As an amendment, I move -
In paragraph (c), after proposed sub-section (1a.), insert the following new sub-section: - “ (1b.) The Board shall so recommend only where, in its opinion, no other form of protection is appropriate.”.
For the benefit of those honorable senators who joined us for the division, I remind the committee that in the second-reading speech the Minister stated that it was the intention of the Government to apply quantitative restrictions only in cases where no other form of protection was appropriate, and that quantitative restrictions would be used only in the last resort. In April last, when dealing with a temporary provision, we found language of sufficient force to express that purpose by stating that the special advisory authority should report to the Minister -
Whether, having regard to the public interest, the protection can appropriately be provided by means of a temporary duty or, if it cannot be so provided, whether it can appropriately be provided -
by means of the temporary restriction of the importation of those goods; or
by means of a combination of both a temporary duty and the temporary restriction of the importation of those goods.
My amendment will give precise effect, by expression in the bill, to the language used by the Minister in his second-reading speech. I ask the Government to accept that amendment so that the Tariff Board will not be put in the humiliating position of taking its guidance from parliamentary debates. It should be in the position to take its guidance from the voice of Parliament as expressed in the legislation. That is why we print acts of Parliament. That is the purpose of my amendment.
– I rise to ask a question rather than to make a statement. I take it that the effect of the proposed amendment is that quantitative restrictions should be imposed only when no other form of protection is appropriate. But might we not reach a position where the truly appropriate form would be a combination of duty and quantitative restrictions? Would not the amendment as it is set out now mean that that combination of duty and quantitative restrictions could not be effective? The amendment, as I understand it, provides that quantitative restrictions are to be available for use by the Tariff Board only when no other form of protection is appropriate. On a quick consideration it seems that the amendment would bar combining bounty and quantitative restrictions, subsidy and quantitative restrictions, or high tariff and quantitative restrictions, and I wonder whether that is intended.
– If that is the real effect, is it one that Senator Wright desires?
– The Leader of the Opposition has made a very sound point. The hastiness of drafting the amendment led me to overlook that point which is expressed in the language I read out from the April legislation. lt does refer to the case where quantitative restrictions could be employed if they, in combination with a duty, were appropriate. My language here is insufficient. I would be most grateful if the debate could proceed or if we could have an interval to allow a little more attention to be given to drafting the amendment to suit the situation.
– When the Minister for National Development was replying to a question earlier, I understood him to say that there should be a duty or a bounty in addition to quantitative restrictions. In answer to a question by the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Wright said that his amendment did not cut across that wish. That being so, I believe that if a duty or a bounty could suffice to keep an Australian industry prosperous, there would not be any need for quantitative restrictions. I recall that the Minister said that quantitative restrictions would be used only as the last resort. I hope the Government will give Senator Wright time to redraft his amendment so that it states exactly what he said in answer to the question raised by the Leader of the Opposition.
.- I ask for leave to withdraw the amendment with a view to resubmitting it in a form designed to overcome the difficulty mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I move-
In paragraph (c), after proposed sub-section (U.), insert the following new sub-section: - “ (1b.) The Board shall so recommend only where it is of opinion that other forms of protection are inappropriate or that a combination of some other form of protection together with quantitative restrictions is appropriate.”.
I wish to convey the meaning of my amendment to the Senate. It now would ensure that the Tariff Board should recommend quantitative restrictions only where it is of the opinion that other forms of protection are inappropriate or that a combination of some other form of protection, together with quantitative restrictions, is appropriate. That covers the point made by the Leader of the Opposition. I would submit that this gives exact expression to the words in the speech of the Minister for National Development. I am sure it is the purpose of everybody on this side of the Senate to give effect to the policy expressed in the Minister’s speech in a matter of such importance as this is. When questions of the independence of the Tariff Board are canvassed, we should be particularly jealous of our duty to see that we make plain in the legislation the functions and the duties which we ask the Tariff Board to discharge.
– It is not only a case of getting appropriate words. We have had an experience already of the difficulty of getting appropriate words in haste, as it were. It is a case of putting the Tariff Board in the best position to do the task that it has to do, and after a good deal of consideration we rejected or declined - whatever the right word is-
– What were the reasons?
– I outlined some of the reasons previously. There has to be a good deal of flexibility in any commercial transaction. This board can turn its attention in a number of directions. As I said previously, it can deal with the matter by duties, by bounties, by import restrictions, or by combinations of those measures. I can only say that it was the judgment of the Government and its advisers that we would get the best results in the manner in which the bill is at present before the Senate.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to obtain the approval by Parliament of an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of Western Australia providing for financial assistance to the State towards the cost of construction of a new jetty at the port of Derby. This is one of the State developmental works referred to in the Budget speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) as being projects in connexion with which the Commonwealth had undertaken to provide State governments with special financial assistance as a means of furthering the important national objectives of the stimulation of increased export earnings and the development of northern areas of Australia.
For some years the Commonwealth has been actively participating in the financing of developmental projects in the north of Western Australia. Under the provisions of the Western Australia Grant (Northern Development) Act 1958-1959, the Commonwealth undertook to provide up to £5,000,000 towards the cost of developmental projects undertaken by the State in the area north of the twentieth parallel of latitude during the five years commencing 1st July, 1958. Expenditure under the act to 30th June last amounted to £3,568,000 and a further £1,432,000, is being provided this financial year, to bring the total Commonwealth payments to £5,000,000. The projects assisted under the act include the Ord River diversion dam and certain port improvements and investigations. In addition to the £5,000,000 grant, the Commonwealth is also providing substantial sums for expenditure on cattle roads in the area.
Subject to ratification by this Parliament, an agreement has been made between the
Commonwealth and Western Australian governments under which the Commonwealth undertakes to provide special financial assistance to the State of Western Australia of up to £800,000, of which up to £300,000 is to be provided in 1962-63, towards the cost of replacement of the Derby jetty. The text of the agreement is set out in the schedule to the bill.
Derby is the major port at present serving the West Kimberley region for the shipping of live cattle to the abattoirs at Fremantle and for the discharge of supplies and materials. Its importance as a supply centre for the region will no doubt increase with the development of agricultural and the pastoral industry in the area. The existing jetty at Derby is old and extremely costly to maintain. Its design and condition are such that it cannot meet the present-day requirements of shipping. The State Government plans to erect on the south side of the existing jetty a composite steel and concrete single-berth jetty with modern cattle-loading and cargo-handling facilities which, it is hoped, will go far to eliminate present maintenance and port operating difficulties. The works are estimated to cost approximately £800,000 and to be completed within two years.
The Commonwealth’s decision to assist this project followed a request from the Government of Western Australia for financial assistance to enable these important works to be commenced in 1962-63 and carried through to speedy completion. The maintenance and development of ports are, of course, matters that come within the province of the States, and the Commonwealth has no intention of intruding into State rights and responsibilities in respect of port facilities. Nevertheless, in view of the important contribution which the new jetty is expected to make to the development of the Kimberley region, with particular reference to the beef cattle industry, the Government decided that special Commonwealth financial assistance for the construction of the new jetty should be provided.
The terms and conditions under which the financial assistance will be made available to Western Australia are set out in the agreement between the State and the Commonwealth, the text of which is, as I have said, set out in the schedule to the bill. Under clause 3 of the agreement the Commonwealth undertakes to provide to the Slate amounts not exceeding £800,000 towards meeting the cost of the jetty works, of which up to £300,000 is to be provided in 1962-63. The State undertakes, in accordance with clause 6, to repay to the Commonwealth one half of the total amount advanced by means of payments spread over fifteen years. The balance of the amount to be advanced is not repayable to the Commonwealth. Repayments do not commence until December, 1964, by which time the Western Australian authorities expect the works to be completed. Interest is to be paid on the repayable advances at the long-term bond rate applying when each advance is made.
The requirement for the State to repay one-half of total Commonwealth advances under the agreement arises from the consideration that the new jetty will be a revenue-earning State asset coupled with the fact that the provision of the new jetty will result in substantial savings to the State on maintenance expenditure.
The State has undertaken to ensure that the works are carried out in conformity with sound engineering and financial practices and as expeditiously as possible. Provision is made for the variation of the works described in the schedule to the agreement if circumstances so require. The agreement also contains appropriate provisions relating to the furnishing of estimates, the supply of information, audit and the giving of notices. All of these provisions are similar to those in other comparable Commonwealth-State agreements relating to special developmental projects in the States.
In conclusion I should like to point out that, in agreeing to make available this financial assistance, the Commonwealth Government is providing a further indication in a practical way of its desire to promote the development of our northern areas and of the potential of those areas from the viewpoint of increased export earnings. We believe that the provision of improved jetty facilities at Derby will make a significant contribution to the achievement of those aims in relation to the West Kimberley region. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Tangney) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this bill is to seek the approval of Parliament of the granting of additional financial assistance to the State of Western Australia for the construction and improvement of roads in the north of the State which will facilitate the transport of beef cattle. As the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) mentioned in his Budget speech last August, the Government has in recent years agreed to assist State governments with a number of special developmental projects which are designed to increase export earnings and which will contribute to the development of outlying areas of the Commonwealth, with particular reference to the north and the northwest. Roads to facilitate the transport of beef cattle in northern areas have a prominent place in these special assistance measures.
Transport by road is undoubtedly an economic and efficient way of moving cattle from the beef cattle producing areas in the north to fattening grounds, to railheads and to export points. As compared with droving, it avoids the losses, often substantial, involved in the movement of cattle on the hoof over long distances and inhospitable country and enables cattle to be delivered in better condition. It also enables cattle to be turned off from the producing areas at younger ages. Moreover, the availability of good roads and reliable road transport in the beef producing areas provides an encouragement to the further development of cattle properties and thus to an increase in their carrying capacity and production. Since beef is an important and growing source of export earnings the provision of beef cattle roads should produce significant national benefits from the balance-of-payments viewpoint.
In addition, development of the beef cattle industry in northern areas by the provision of roads contributes in an obvious and important way to the general development of those areas. The roads, although constructed primarily for the transport of beef cattle, serve other developmental purposes. The importance of adequate transport facilities to the general development of our sparsely-populated and widespread northern areas is, I think, fully recognized.
With these considerations in mind the Commonwealth made a grant to Western Australia in 1961-62, over and above the regular Commonwealth Aid Roads assistance, of £500,000 for the improvement of certain beef cattle roads in the Kimberley area of Western Australia. The State itself also in 1961-62 spent considerable sums on other roads in the area. Conscious of the need to further this important work the Government decided to make a further grant in the current financial year of an increased amount for the same purpose, and provision was made in the 1962-63 Budget for a further grant of £700,000 to Western Australia in 1962-63 for beef road purposes. This decision was subsequently the subject of close discussion between the Commonwealth and Western Australian Governments. It became clear from these discussions that it would be highly desirable, so as to assist in efficient long-term planning of the State’s beef roads programme, for the scheme of Commonwealth assistance to be extended beyond the current financial year. In response to the State’s request, therefore, we agreed to make further grants to the State, in addition to the £700,000 in 1962-63, of £750,000 in each of the three succeeding years for beef road purposes.
In summary, therefore, the Commonwealth will be making grants to the State totalling £3,450,000 for beef road works over the five-year period 1961-62 to 1965-66 inclusive. For its part the State has undertaken to spend over the same period from its own resources at least an equal amount on roads in the north of the State. This means that a total roads programme involving some £7,000,000 will be carried out over the five-year period in the north of the State. The undertaking of this programme will have a tremendously beneficial effect on the development of the area in general and of the beef cattle industry in particular.
The State’s overall programme contemplates the improvement of the Great Northern Highway between Broome and Wyndham, including the section between Halls Creek and Wyndham on which part of the Commonwealth’s grant of £500,000 in 1961-62 was spent; the improvement of the road between Wyndham and Nicholson, to which portion of the Commonwealth’s grant in 1961-62 was also devoted; and the construction of a new road from Derby through the King Leopold Ranges to the northern part of the west Kimberleys - an area which is not. served by roads at present. The last-mentioned imaginative undertaking will result in the opening up of country which has so far been virtually untapped.
It is proposed that the Commonwealth’s grant of £700,000 in the current financial year will be spent on further improvements to the roads from Wyndham to Halls Creek and Nicholson where, I understand, there has already been a remarkable increase in the number of cattle carried by road, following the improvement of the road made possible by the Commonwealth’s grant of £500,000 in 1961-62. The particular roads on which the Commonwealth’s grant is to be spent in future years will be subject to the Commonwealth’s approval from year to year.
I mentioned earlier the State’s undertaking to match the Commonwealth grants by the expenditure of an equal amount from its own resources on roads in the area. The bill contains a provision - clause 6 (3) - to reflect this arrangement. The requirement for matching expenditure by the State is expressed in the bill in relation to the four-year period as a whole and not in relation to each individual year; and it is in relation to all or any roads in the area and not necessarily only in relation to roads on which the Commonwealth’s grant is to be spent. There is thus abundant flexibility in regard to the matching arrangement.
Other provisions in the bill are similar to corresponding provisions that were included in the legislation approving the grant of £500,000 in 1961-62, and relate to such matters as the standards of road construction, the submission of returns by the State, the provision of working advances to the State and the exclusion from State expenditure, for the purposes of Commonwealth Aid Roads matching arrangements, of expenditure reimbursed by the Commonwealth under this legislation.
The provision of this further assistance for Western Australia and the provision of an additional £3,300,000 for Queensland for the sealing of beef cattle roads in that State - in respect of which legislation will be considered by the Senate shortly - mean that the Commonwealth will be engaged on a scheme of financial assistance for beef road development in the north of Australia - in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and Quensland - amounting to no less than £16,000,000 over the next few years. This is tangible and substantial evidence of the importance the Government attaches to beef cattle roads as a means of developing our northern areas and of increasing Australia’s export earnings by the development of beef production from those areas. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cant) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 29th November (vide page 1624), on motion by Senator Wood-
That Regulations Nos. 1 and 2 of the amendments of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations, as contained in Statutory Rules 1962, No. 82, and made under the Customs Act 1901-1960, be disallowed.
– During the week-end I have had the opportunity to study closely the debate that has taken place on this motion. I must say that I appreciated the opportunity to do this. From that study three main issues became apparent to me. One was that in every contribution made to the debate the desire was expressed that the overall wishes of the Parliament should prevail in this matter. There were two other facets. One was a desire to make it necessary for consultation on the part of the Minister before a decision was made, and the other was that all honorable senators wished that some condition should be imposed that would protect the position on release. Broadly, I found that those were the three main facets of the debate expressed by those who made their contribution to it.
I gave consideration to those three facets and endeavoured to have a regulation drafted which would cover the position. I then submitted the draft regulation to members of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. We agreed that the following draft regulation covers the position. I intend at this stage to read to the Senate, in draft form, the proposed regulation to be included in the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations. It is as follows: - (1.) This regulation applies to blasphemous, indecent or obscene works or articles and advertising matter relating to blasphemous, indecent or obscene works or articles. (2.) The importation of goods to which this regulation applies is prohibited unless a permission in writing to import the goods has been granted by the Minister. (3.) No permission under this regulation shall be granted by the Minister unless he has received a report from the Chairman of the Literature Censorship Board constituted under the Customs (Literature Censorship) Regulations or the Director-General of Health. (4.) A permission under this regulation may be subject to conditions imposing requirements or prohibitions on the person to whom the permission is granted with respect to the custody, use, reproduction, disposal or destruction of the goods, or with respect to accounting for the goods.
In the broad I think that covers the issues.
– There is one other matter relating to the undertaking of the Minister to make an annual report.
– I am coming to that in a moment; I have not overlooked it. There was one other suggestion to which I have undertaken to give consideration when the regulation itself is being made. It is in addition to the point that Senator McKenna has just raised. The undertaking which I gave to Senator McKenna and the Senate will be adhered to. I will make a report annually to the Senate along the lines requested by Senator McKenna, setting out the number of books involved and the purposes for which they are required.
– Could I ask a question?
– Will that provision be included in the proposed new regulation?
– I did not think there was any necessity to put it into the draft. lt is an undertaking which the department is only too happy to adhere to. Already machinery has been set in motion to see that the report is made annually. I do not think there is any necessity to write it into the regulations at this stage. I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that the undertaking will be adhered to.
I should like to say that I appreciate the co-operation of the committee in enabling mc to arrive at this solution. I think I can fairly say that in no way does this alter the opinions that have been expressed by all of us. We hold to those opinions, but this is, I think, a proper parliamentary practice. We have been able to arrive at what we believe to be a satisfactory solution to the conflicting opinions expressed. I appreciate the co-operation of the committee and its assistance in permitting me to do this.
I ask the Senate to allow the present regulations to stand. If it does so I give an undertaking that I will not use the discretionary power contained in the regulations in any way until the new regulation is introduced in one or two weeks’ time along the lines that I have suggested. That is the simplest way of overcoming the difficulty that has arisen. The prohibition will be there, but I will not use the discretionary power, and the status quo will be maintained until such time as the new regulation is in force.
– Does it mean that the prohibition that stands in the First Schedule will come out of the Second Schedule and you will then have this new regulation?
– It will stand in the schedule, but I have given an undertaking not to use the power of discretion. I cannot put it into the First Schedule. The regulation must be withdrawn. I think it best to give an undertaking not to use the discretionary power until such time as the new regulation is introduced.
– It is a bit untidy to have two bites at it, in the Second Schedule and then in a further regulation. It will qualify the entry under the Second Schedule.
– We will take it out of the Second Schedule.
– It will come out of the Second Schedule? That is the question I asked.
– Yes. It will be covered by a new regulation.
– That is the answer to my question. The present regulation we are talking about is to be cancelled, in respect of that point, and will be replaced by a new regulation. That is clear.
.- - In view of the statement of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), I should like to say, as chairman of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, that the committee appreciates very much the opportunity the Minister gave to it to discuss with him this proposed regulation and the co-operation that it has received from him. I am sure that his co-operation is appreciated also by honorable senators.
As was stated in the debate previously, no one at any time suggested that the Minister had done anything but a very good, down-to-earth, realistic job on this particular problem. However, the committee felt that from the stand-point of parliamentary practice it was desirable that certain things should be done and that the responsibility of having solely to make the decision on a matter like this should be taken from the Minister. The backing of the opinion of others, the committee thought, would relieve the Minister of a great deal of worry. At the same time we would be writing into the regulation a constitutional parliamentary principle. We appreciate sincerely the very kind manner in which the Minister dealt with this matter in his discussions with the committee. In those circumstances, I ask for leave to withdraw my motion.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
Debate resumed from 29th November (vide page 1599), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of this bill is to give the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission greater flexibility in borrowing power and to enable it to carry on its functions more successfully. I do not propose to go to great lengths, at this time of night, in tracing the history of the commission. I direct the attention of the Senate to the reason why it was set up originally. That takes us back some time. In 1939, on the eve of the Second World War, Australia had a mercantile marine that was completely run down. Fifty per cent, of it consisted of ships of more than twenty years of age. It was a slow, decrepit fleet. The ships became sitting ducks in the submarine warfare that went on around the Australian coast. Altogether, an inefficient fleet of obsolete ships was left to Australia by private enterprise, with which to enter into a major war.
The shipbuilding facilities throughout Australia had been allowed to drift away so much that no ship of more than 500 tons was built between 1934 and 1940. Our repair facilities were so small and inadequate that when this island nation found itself committed to taking part in a major conflict one of the most necessary arms - its mercantile marine - was totally unfitted to assist it to engage in that conflict. That was what happened to this nation as a result of allowing private enterprise to run our mercantile marine.
– That is not correct.
– Why is it not correct?
– Because we had quite a number of ships that served right through until the end of the war.
– The honorable senator is interjecting on something about which he knows very little. I happen to have studied this matter very closely. I can say to him, first of all, that 50 per cent, of the ships were more than twenty years old.
– That does not make any difference. Ships are not finished when they are twenty years old.
– Fifty per cent, of the ships that we had were more than twenty years old and had a speed of about 1 1 knots. They all were sitting ducks for the submarines that were around the Australian coast. If the honorable senator knows anything about shipping, he knows very well that we had a totally inadequate shipping force. We did not have one really modern ship on our coast. If he tries to contradict the statement that I have just made, I reply that we received from private enterprise a legacy of a totally obsolete and inefficient mercantile marine.
– It is very easy to say “ rubbish “. I am putting facts to you. If you have facts to refute them, I ask you to stand up later and give us your evidence.
– All right.
– That will be interesting.
– Order! I ask you to proceed, Senator Arnold.
– Thank you very much, Mr. President. The point I am trying to establish is the legacy that we received as a result of private enterprise being allowed to control one important arm of our services.
I remind the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), who was formerly Minister for Shipping and Transport, that he did not want this baby. This line was an unwanted baby that was thrown into his arms, and he had to carry it. I hope that the Minister will not deny that. If he does, I will give him the evidence to prove that it is true. I have very vivid recollections that when the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Bill was passed in 1956 the Minister was a very new Minister, I was much thinner than I am now, and we had a very good verbal clash. I am much more sympathetic with the Minister on this occasion. This unwanted baby was thrust into the hands of the Government, and the Government had to do something about it.
That arose in this way: With the war coming to Australia, we were forced to develop our ship repairing and shipbuilding facilities as fast as we could. We needed the ship repairing facilities to care for our shipping that was being attacked around the const, and also vessels of the Australian, United States and British navies. We had to build up those facilities as rapidly as we could. In the process of building up the repairing facilities, we also built up a new shipbuilding organization. As time went on and we were able to catch up with the problems that we had inherited, we built ships for use around the coast to take the places of the inefficient ships that I mentioned before. We designed certain classes of ships, built up our shipyards and built up our shipping strength.
Because we had a number of new ships, it became necessary to set up a board to control the ships. So the Australian Shipping Board was constituted to run that line of ships. After a number of years, in 1956, we still had the problem of what we could do with the ships, and we set up the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission.
– Surely you are congratulating the Government on expanding it, are you not?
– I am congratulating the Government on its good fortune in accepting a socialist enterprise and finding that it could be run quite efficiently. I am also reminding Senator Wright that the present Minister for Civil Aviation said very woefully in this chamber that there was nothing else he could do with these ships. He said, in effect, that the Government had hawked the ships around, but nobody wanted to buy them; so it had to do something about running them itself.
The Government entered into an agreement with the private shipowners, which protected them very well. The Government took over many of the responsibilities that the private shipowners should have shouldered. The Government line was hampered in many ways. It was not allowed to do any of its own stevedoring. It was not allowed to make passenger bookings; they all had to be done by private enterprise. Quite a number of hampering restrictions were put on the line. But it was using good, Australian-built ships - some of the best-built ships in the world. I challenge anybody to argue that point. Shipping experts from all over the world came to
Australia and they all agreed that the Australianbuilt ships were as good as or better than ships built anywhere else in the world.
With those ships and with a direction that it had to take up the burden around the Australian coast, the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission was launched. Over the years it has been a very successful enterprise. If the Government is seeking congratulations, I am quite prepared to hand them out, although it is a bit unusual to seek congratulations after something which has been wished upon you has proved successful. But that is by the way. The Australian National Line has been very successful and has met a great need around our coast. Now that the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission has reached the stage at which it has not enough fluid money with which to finance the operations of the line, the Government has decided in its wisdom to increase its overdraft limit from £1,000,000 to £5,000,000. That is all to the good, but I see no reason why this successful enterprise, with all its valuable equipment, should have a legislative limit placed upon its overdraft. I should think that, like private enterprise, it should be allowed to negotiate with the bankers who are always willing to back ventures which they believe to be sound. I should think that the commission should be allowed to make use of whatever money it can raise. However, the bill is a good one in that it docs free the commission to some extent.
Now that the line has proved so successful, I suggest that it should be allowed to do many other things. First, I think that its ships ought to be allowed to pick up all the trade offering around the Australian coast. Although the amount of trade that overseas shipping may pick up around the Australian coast is limited by permit, it is my view that these permits are granted to the overseas shipping lines far too freely. We are now refining oil in Australia. That oil should be carried around the Australian coast by Australianowned tankers. I am terrified at the thought of the position in which we could find ourselves should we become involved in another conflict and not possess one oil tanker of our own. Even the newly constructed tanker, the “P. J. Adams”, is not an Australian ship in the true sense. I do not know where it is to be registered. I am disappointed at this because the company for which it was built has been claiming for many years that it is an Australian company. It has advertised extensively that it is Australian and it has exhorted us to buy Australian goods. This company has even gone to the expense of spending thousands and thousands of pounds in promoting golf tournaments and the like, yet, in order to save a paltry £40,000 a year it has chosen to man its ships with Chinese seamen, the lowest paid labourers in the world, and refuses to conform to Australian standards. To say the least, the company is displaying a very poor spirit of patriotism. This is a typical example of what could happen if private enterprise should gain control of our mercantile marine. It is a clear indication that if private enterprise does gain control in this field we shall speedily revert to the position in which we found ourselves before the war. We should be very careful to prepare for all future eventualities. We ought to be making plans now to guard against the effect upon shipping services arising from a future conflict or any other serious disturbance overseas. But we are not doing that. Indeed, Australia would not now have this coastal shipping line if the Government could have sold the ships. Because the Government could not sell them it has been compelled to carry on the line which, because it has been operated by efficient men, has proved successful. The Government should first ensure that we are adequately served by our own oil tankers on the Australian coast. At present, our oil is being transported by tankers owned by overseas companies and, should we become involved in a conflict, that service could be withdrawn from us very quickly. Either the overseas companies could cease coming to Australia or they could increase their freight rates to such a figure that it would be very difficult for us to meet the cost Although we may be refining our own oil, it would be of no use to us if we could not transport it round the coast in our own ships. For that reason, the Government’s first responsibility is to ensure that we are properly supplied with our own tankers for the transportation of oil around our coast.
The second point to which I wish to refer relates to a matter that I have placed before the Senate on previous occasions. I suggest that we ought to be establishing our own line to transport our goods to other parts of the world. I know that ships belonging to the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission have made some journeys to other parts of the world in cases of emergency. For instance, our own ships transported jarrah to the East recently. They have also made other journeys overseas, thus proving that ships of our own line could transport all of our goods overseas. At present we are at the mercy of overseas shipowners for the transportation of our exports. It has been argued that we are protected to some extent in that we have some representation on the Conference Line, but I point out that this line consists of Japanese, Swedish and other overseas shipowners and our representation is very small. That body determines what the freight rates between Australia and other parts of the world shall be. I do not think it is good enough for this Government to allow Australia to be placed in the position of having to accept the determinations of this body as to what we shall pay for the transportation of our goods round the world.
– The Australian Overseas Transport Association determines the Australian freight rates. It represents the bargaining side for Australia as against the foreign shipowners.
– This foreign organization to which I have referred determines the rates and Australia’s representation on it is very small indeed.
– Australia has equal representation on it.
– Australia’s representation is by no means equal to that of foreign shipowners. That body determines the freight rates to be paid by Australia. Australia is at the mercy of these overseas shipowners and will continue to be so until it has its own line to transport its goods to overseas markets. Only the other day I read that the cost of transporting steel from Australia to Hong Kong was 140s. a ton as compared with only 130s. a ton from the United Kingdom to Hong Kong, and the haul from Australia to Hong Kong would be only two-thirds that from the United Kingdom to Hong Kong. The freight rates which Australia is required to pay for the transportation of her goods overseas are so high as to cost us out of overseas markets.
– Is not that due to the costs incurred in Australian ports?
– Of course it is.
– No. I have referred to the fact that the rate charged for transporting steel from Australia to Hong Kong is 140s. a ton as against only 130s. a ton from England to Hong Kong. The difference has nothing whatever to do with costs incurred at point of loading. Recently, an increase of 5 per cent was made in the freight rate for transporting canned fruits overseas. At about the same time, the exporters of dried fruits from Canada were able to achieve a 20 per cent, reduction in freight rates to overseas markets, lt is true that the United States of America subsidizes its shipping very considerably, and that most other countries of the world also subsidize their shipping. 1 sec no reason at all why Australia should not do likewise if it is necessary for Australian shipping to compete with that of other countries.
Recently, I saw some figures showing the subsidies being granted to Australian industries. I noted that a subsidy of £13,500,000 a year is given to the dairying industry, £2,700,000 for petroleum search, and £12,000,000 to the wheat industry. I could refer to other subsidies to indicate what we are doing for the various sections of Australian industry. Is it not somewhat absurd to be paying a subsidy of £12,000.000 a year to the wheat industry and then to see the freight on wheat, which is sold overseas in competition with wheat from other countries, being jacked up, with the result that the wheat is made much more expensive? The same position applies to the butter, cheese and other commodities that we export. We add to the cost of freight to export them to overseas markets, and then we have to subsidize the industries concerned.
– What extra amounts do we add to freights in those cases?
– The growers have to pay additional freight to get their goods to the selling points. If we had an Australian fleet it would be a good thing for Australia, even if it were necessary to subsidize it in order to transport our goods overseas. Our main interest in having an Australian merchant fleet is to protect Australia. I remember the time when we were totally unprotected, simply because of the policy of “ Let private enterprise do it “. That policy has failed us before and we must not allow it to fail us again. I believe that the Government ought to make preparations to ensure that we have adequate shipping for our future protection.
I saw recently figures showing the subsidies which other countries grant to their shipping industries. The figures indicated that in the last six weeks the Italian Government had made available £90,000,000 to assist in taking old ships out of service and to modernize the merchant fleet. The Government of that country had provided £140,000,000 to help to build new ships. The result is that the Italian merchant fleet is being equipped with modern ships with a speed of between 25 and 30 knots. This fleet will serve Italy very well in case of a conflict in the future. Italy will not be in the situation that Australia faced in the first few weeks of the last war, when our ships could not escape from even the slowest enemy craft. Italy is preparing to ensure that she has a suitable mercantile fleet.
I ask the Government to extend the operations of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, which has already been so successful. It has shown the Government that it is capable of making a profit. I understand that in the last financial year the commission made a profit of nearly £1,500,000. It is capable of discharging its task of transporting our goods around the Australian coast. I ask the Minister and the Government to consider assisting the Australian National Line to develop. The time is ripe for such development and to allow it to operate more freely. The commission should be given a little more money to play with. The Government should assist our ship-building industry by undertaking the construction of modern ships. I do not expect it to undertake the construction of a great many ships in the one year. I suggest that it should lay down a programme to extend over a period of years. That is what the Australian shipyards need. A programme should be planned to include, say, the construction of a 20,000-ton ship at Newcastle, of another one in Queensland, and of yet another at Whyalla. Other ships could be constructed as well, and the programme could go on for year after year over a period of years, without the Government being committed to such exorbitant expenditure that it could not be met. The result of such a pro gramme would be to build up our shipyards and to provide us with ships that could compete with those of other countries and ensure us of adequate protection in the event of a future conflict. I support the bill.
– I ask for leave to make my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 11.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 December 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1962/19621204_senate_24_s22/>.