24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin) took the chair at 11 a.m.., and read prayers.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Health been directed to a recent press report concerning the tendering system for drug supplies? An expert in this field, Mr. F. J. Boyd, who is chief pharmacist of the Victorian Mental Hygiene. Department, is reported to have said that 500,000 aspirin tablets supplied in a recent order to a hospital were of only half the strength they should have been. If the report, which indicates a racket in the supply of drugs, is correct, can the Minister state the action that his department proposes to take to curb the rackets that undoubtedly exist in this field?
– My department can take no action in this field because it docs not call tenders for its supplies. The report referred to by the honorable senator relates to a State matter. I understand that hospitals in the State concerned call tenders for their supplies. There is really no need for us -
– The department could use its influence, could it not?
– I suggest to the honorable senator that with his knowledge of State governments he should appreciate that those governments resent, and quite properly, interference from a Commonwealth department in matters in which Commonwealth advice should not be proffered. The solution of this problem is in the hands of the State governments and I have no doubt that they have all the machinery and the knowledge that would be required to stamp out undesirable practices.
The honorable senator has raised a pretty important question which has been considered fairly closely by those responsible for education in Australia. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has carried out a series of experimental programmes, as a result of work done by the Department of Education in New South Wales and by education departments in other States. The commission has gone to a good deal of trouble to obtain expressions of opinion from education authorities. It has by no means concluded its inquiries. The Commonwealth Office of Education has not itself actually done any work in the field although, because of the importance of the development, it is keeping in close touch with what is going on in other parts of the world. So far as Australian authorities are concerned I should think it is a bit too early to express views on what their final decision might be, but Senator Sir Walter Cooper can rest content that the matter is being thoroughly examined by educational authorities in Australia.
– Does the Minister for Health recall my recent questions regarding the registration of the Governor Phillip Hospital at Penrith, following my visit to the hospital with Mr. John Armitage, the honorable member for Mitchell? Is the Minister yet in a position to answer them? In particular, will he say whether his promised further inspection of the hospital has been made? If so, what is the result?
If not, when will the inspection be made? Finally, how does the Minister justify refusal to register that hospital as an approved public hospital in view of the registration as such of Neringah Hospital at Wahroonga and the Lottie Stewart Hospital, at Dundas?
– I recall the points raised by the Leader of the Opposition concerning the Governor Phillip Hospital. I took some notes on the matter but have not had the opportunity to present them to the Senate. The main burden of the honorable senator’s contention, as I understand it, flows from the comparison he makes of Governor Phillip Hospital with the two other hospitals which he named and which he says have received approval. The question is: Recognizing that the Governor Phillip Hospital is such a fine institution, how can we logically withhold recognition from that hospital? The solution to the problem is not so simple as it may seem. The equipment in the hospitals mentioned may be identical; the buildings that house the equipment may be first class and completely acceptable from the point of view of the standards on which we make our judgments; the nursing staff in the three institutions may be similar and adequate. But the final decision might well rest upon the type of patients in the various institutions. For the purpose of hospital benefits one of the qualifications is that the patient must be in need of hospital treatment as it is generally understood and not merely of nursing care. That may well be the deciding factor. People in nursing homes could well be catered for in their own homes if the facilities were there for their care. Hospitalization is in a different category. That is possibly one of the main reasons why recognition has been withheld from the Governor Phillip Hospital. However, let me say to the honorable senator that his submissions have been noted and that I have arranged for another inspection of the hospital in the very near future. When that inspection has been completed I will be in a position to give the honorable senator more details about the recognition or nonrecognition of the hospital and the reasons for whatever action is taken.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the
Acting Minister for External Affairs. In view of the vital importance of cocoa production to Papua and New Guinea, can the Minister inform the Senate whether an international cocoa agreement was concluded by the United Nations cocoa conference which was held in Geneva in September? If so, can he say whether satisfactory arrangements were obtained for the Papua and New Guinea trade?
– The international conference on cocoa at Geneva began on 25th September, and it is still in progress. Australia has representatives at the conference to watch the interests of Papua and New Guinea.
– Can the
Leader of the Government in the Senate tell us whether a message of congratulations has been, or will be, forwarded by the Australian Government to the victorious Australian Kangaroos rugby league football team upon its magnificent win over England by 28 points to 2? The Minister will recall my earlier suggestion that congratulatory messages should be forwarded on behalf of the Australian people to representative teams abroad when they are successful. Such a message would be accepted by our football team with great pride and honour.
Although I agree with Senator Fitzgerald about the importance of the occasion, I doubt whether we should send messages of congratulation or commiseration to our sporting teams overseas upon their wins or losses.
– Has the Minister representing the Treasurer seen a statement in to-day’s press, attributed to the Leader of the Opposition in another place, that when the credit squeeze is applied early next year, as it most surely will be if the Government is returned to office, unemployment will become increasingly worse? In what circumstances does a government impose credit restrictions? Under what conditions was the credit squeeze applied in 1960? What is the state of our overseas balances at the moment? Are they increasing? When the last credit squeeze was applied, were our overseas reserves declining?
– One must not lose sight of the fact that we are now in the election season and one expects that from now until 30th November the Leader of the Opposition will be indulging in quite a number of colourful exaggerations and distortions. I did see the statement to which the honorable senator has referred. I think it is fair to say that all the economic pointers indicate that the economy is in a state which is extremely desirable and from which the people of Australia and the Government may derive considerable satisfaction and comfort. One has only to look at the level of unemployment - that economic indicator to which the Labour Party directs particular attention on some occasions but to which it has directed very little attention in recent times - to learn that the economy is safe and sound. The state of the great basic industries, including those which arc engaged in the production of steel, fuel, power, building materials and motor vehicles, indicates just how sound the economy is. Rural output is high and is increasing. Wool prices are steady and tending to rise. The wheat harvest will be very large. Sugar is at record export prices. Retail sales are up. There is money available for housing. What is more, prices are stable and have remained stable for over two years. The honorable senator has asked about our overseas balances. Front line reserves are in excess of £600,000,000 and second line reserves are in excess of £200,000,000. The total figure now has not been exceeded at any other time in the past twelve years. The wind sets fair for the Australian economy, as Mr. Calwell knows, and the statement he made a day or two ago merely indicates the extent of his fear and the fact that he whistling in the dark.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Has his attention been directed to a statement in the press to-day that Indonesia intends to increase the transmitting power of two radio stations in West Irian to balance broadcasting from Australia and the Pacific areas? 1 under.stand that these stations are located at lota Baru and Merauke. Will the Minister ascertain, and report to the Senate, whether ii the opinion of the Postmaster-General the power of the existing Australian shortwave station broadcasting to South-East Asia is adequate, and also whether the power of the Australian radio stations in Australian Papua and New Guinea is adequate for the purposes of the Australian Broadcasting Commission?
– I have not seen the statement referred to by the honorable senator but, because I know the real value of our overseas broadcasting operations in propagating the doctrines of democracy, I ask the honorable senator to put the question on the notice-paper so that I may get a considered reply to it.
– I direct a series of questions to the Minister for Health. Is the Minister aware that, over the centuries, man, in his search for good health and in the hope that his sufferings would be eased and his diseases cured, has taken into his long-suffering stomach roasted grasshoppers, crushed lice, dried toads, skinned mice, oil of puppies and earthworms, droppings of various animals and a thousand and one other peculiar remedies? Is it not true that certain humans to-day are still treating their stomachs harshly because of ignorance and an ingrained belief that certain chemicals and substances will overcome the causes of disease and bring them good health? Is it not a fact that Australian children’s teeth and dental health generally are among the poorest in the world? Is this not due to faulty food and drink and the lack of certain substances in the water they consume? Is not the Department of Health fully aware of this? What steps in publicity are being taken to inform the public of the wrong living that often is the cause of bodily sickness? Is not the Minister aware of the good work done by the pamphlet “ Eat Better for Less “, and will he consider the publication of a pamphlet entitled “ Eat Better for More Health - and Less Sickness “? Because the Minister worships at the shrine of private enterprise would he rather leave the whole matter in the hands of private enterprise, which often has a vested interest in selling healthdamaging drugs and detrimental, doped foods and drinks to the public?
– 1 must confess that 1 have not a personal knowledge of the remedies referred to by the honorable senator, who suggested that lice and grasshoppers had been taken into the human body in an effort to effect cures. The honorable senator asked whether it is true that people to-day are harshly treating their stomachs. Some people most certainly are, and I am not looking in any one particular direction when I give that reply. To be a little more specific, I think it is true to say that to-day there is a psychology abounding that the moment one gets an ache or a pain it is an occasion for some modern method of treatment, although it may well be that an oldfashioned remedy would, in the long run, be just as efficacious and perhaps have no side effects. I speak as a layman, but I believe that that is the considered opinion of people who have an academic knowledge in this field.
The honorable senator referred to the teeth of the present generation and suggested that faulty foods were affecting them. I am not an authority on this subject, but from my limited knowledge I believe that the sweets and drinks taken by modern children play a very big part in their dental caries problem. The honorable senator asked what publicity my department has undertaken to inform the people on the matters he has raised. My department has been active in its publicity campaign and I outlined to the Senate recently the steps that have been taken. But what I have not been able to get through to the honorable senator is that the State authorities have a very well organized system of conveying their findings to the people. The States have a responsibility to the people and are doing very worthwhile work in this service.
The honorable senator suggested finally that we might produce a pamphlet “ Eat Better for More Health “, to supersede the somewhat controversial one that was entitled “ Eat Better for Less “. I can assure the honorable senator that “Eat Better for Less “ has been superseded by a pamphlet which indicates how people may cat better for more health, though it does not bear a title in those terms.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the
Treasurer. Is the Government satisfied with the present state of affairs in which efficient Australian secondary industries arc rapidly passing into overseas control?
– The honorable senator’s question assumes that there is something inherently wrong in the transfer of a plant from Australian ownership to overseas ownership. This is a generalization that is altogether wrong. Judgment on the purchase by an overseas company of an existing Australian business or plant can be made only on the merits of each individual case. Every honorable senator will be aware that many of these commercial arrangements, either take-overs or partial mergers, have been of great benefit to the Australian economy.
– Mr. McEwen did not say that.
– He has never said anything different from what I am now saying, and if the honorable senator thinks differently he has not understood what Mr. McEwen has said. I repeat that each individual case must be judged on its merits and that many of these arrangements have been of infinite advantage to the Australian economy and the Australian people.
– I wish to ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Does the fact that Senator Paltridge has just opened the general election campaign for the Government mean that the Senate will rise earlier than previously intended so that we can go back to our electorates?
– I thought that Senator Ormonde would have more stomach for the fight than that.
(Question No. 91.)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows: -
The recommendation referred to by the honorable senator envisaged a central cancer registry in each State along the lines of the Victorian Central Cancer Registry, which has been established for a number of years. The scope of this registry, whose sponsoring authority is the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria, includes all types of cancer seen in ten major teaching hospitals in the metropolitan area. Details of cancer registries in other States are shown below.
New South Wales has ten registries, located at large hospitals where special attention is given to a particular type of cancer. The collection of data by these registries is not integrated and six of them mainly deal with gynaecological cancers.
Queensland has one registry, which is located at the Queensland Radium Institute, Brisbane. The types of cancer registered are those treated by radiotherapy.
Western Australia has one registry, established in 1958 and located at the Royal Perth Hospital. The sponsoring authority is the Department of Public Health in association with the Cancer Council of Western Australia. Measures are currently being taken to extend the scope of the registry to include the Children’s Hospital and Fremantle Hospital.
It could be said, broadly, that all the registries arc carrying out their functions adequately, but within the limitations of their charters. Many registries deal only with one type of cancer.
The Medical Statistics Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council is currently engaged in drafting a uniform form for recording of data at registries in order that results can be comparable, additive and more easily processed statistically. This work should be completed by May, 1964.
It is relevant to note the recommendationsof the 55th session of the National Health and Medical Research Council in May, 1963: -
That the Medical Statistics Committee should meet with representatives of the Australian Cancer Society to discuss the nature of the records that should be maintained by the State central cancer registries. (This task is well under way.)
That, pending establishment of central cancer registries in each State, the work being done by various bodies in the field of cancer registration should be supported and co-ordinated by the States concerned.
(Question No. 92.)
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers: -
(Question No. 124.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade has supplied the following answers: - 1.I have seen the press items referred to.
We have been given no indication by the United States Government that it is currently contemplating action to restrict imports of beef and veal into the United States of America. Nevertheless the Australian Government is very much aware of the sensitivity of the United States beef market to imports. These statements in the United States Senate are a further reminder of this sensitivity and of the need for countries exporting cattle and beef to the United States to follow marketing policies that will avoid disturbing that market.
(Question No. 139.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answers: -
(Question No. 151.)
asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following replies: -
Motion (by Senator Sir William Spooner) agreed to -
That Government business take precedence of general business after 8 p.m. this sitting.
[11.39]. - I move -
That Standing Order No. 68 bc suspended up till and including Thursday, 31st October, to enable new business to bc commenced after 10.30 p.m.
The position is a simple one. The House of Representatives is to be dissolved on the date mentioned in the motion and it is necessary for Standing Order No. 68 to be suspended to enable the business before the Senate to bc dealt with.
– I propose to be briefer than is usual on occasions such as this. We of the Opposition oppose the motion. We do so because its adoption would permit of legislation by exhaustion, for one thing; and also, it would give the Government an opportunity to press on with matters without the Opposition being afforded adequate time in which to con.sider them and be ready to debate them. I have put forward the reasons for those two points of view on many occasions in this place and I do not intend to repeat them on this occasion. I face the fact that this is election season, to borrow the words of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge). The season is definitely open, which means that all political parties, governmental and otherwise, have a natural desire to go before their masters as soon as possible and to have election issues determined and resolved.
I think it is fair to say that the Opposition is prepared to co-operate in speeding the business of the Parliament, but also, I face some other facts. I recognize that the Appropriation Bill, which is a very big measure, has yet to come before us. It will involve consideration of the Estimates, which is a duty to which the Opposition must address itself. I am informed, and I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir William Spooner) to correct me if I am wrongly informed, that the Government proposes to introduce some 29 bills between now and the end of the session. I do not know the nature of the bills or whether they are controversial, but I say that in relation to each of them we demand an opportunity for proper and leisurely consideration in order to determine our attitude. We demand also an opportunity for debate, and we do not want the debate to be carried on in the small hours of the morning. I was particularly discouraged by the events of yesterday. I thought that yesterday the Opposition gave a very good exposition of co-operation. The Senate had before it the Wine Overseas Marketing Bill. After listening to the discussion on that bill I wondered how the word “ wine “ was spelt and whether it had an “ h “ in it. The bill was concerned merely with a change in the name of the central wine-makers organization. Yet, the debate ran for hours, with Government supporters participating in it very freely.
The Disabled Persons Accommodation Bill which was debated after the Wine Overseas Marketing Bill, and of which I happened to be in charge, went through without one unnecessary word so far as I was concerned. I point out that five amendments were moved, and there were five, divisions. I say quite frankly that I could not have given a better example of readiness to dispose of a matter upon which we were at issue with the Government. However, that did not complete the cooperation which we were prepared to give, because I acquiesced in consideration of the estimates for the Department of Health being resumed at midnight. The Government had no right to do that without acquiescence. Many of us on this side of the chamber, including myself as Leader of the Opposition, were waiting eagerly to hear from the. Minister for Health (Senator Wade) answers to the various matters we had put before him. But what did the Minister do in the small hours of this morning? Despite the acquiescence and co-operation he had received from the Opposition, he gagged the debate. In fact, he gagged himself and left the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters without answers to the numerous questions they had asked. That was an example of arrogance which was not at all characteristic of the Minister. It rather shocked me. There was no time wasted in the debate on the estimates for the Department of Health, and Government supporters were in the discussion as freely as were Opposition members. Vastly important questions were waiting to be answered but to our utter disappointment the Minister denied us those answers. This afternoon, when I repeated one of the questions in which I was interested, the Minister had the audacity to say that he had not had an opportunity to put the answer before the Senate. He denied himself the opportunity; he gagged the debate. He had his opportunity last night.
When I find arrogance of last night’s type, and the Minister then getting up audaciously to-day to say he had not had an opportunity to put information before the Senate, I have to re-consider my own position in the matter of co-operating with a government whose Minister is capable of that behaviour. I do face the facts of life - the fact that we have a lot of legislation and that an election is in the offing. However, I say that mis motion is not necessary. If the Opposition is properly treated and properly approached it is not necessary to have late sittings into the small hours of the morning. The Opposition will co-operate in re-arranging times cf sittings and debates to avoid such an eventuality. I think I can give an undertaking on behalf of the Opposition that we will speed the passage of bills that we are not opposing, but we do demand time to consider them in order to determine our attitude. We are not prepared to go on sitting into the small hours of the morning.
With that particular consideration, and with the general observations I ‘ am used to making on occasions such - -as this incorporated in my remarks, arid in particular having regard to the events of last night, which we resent most keenly, we oppose the motion.
Senator Sir WILLIAM SPOONER (New South Wales - Vice-President of the Executive Council and Minister for National Development) [11.48]. - in reply - I thank the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) for those parts of his speech which suited me, and I will reply to those parts which did not suit me. ] think 1 should comment by repudiating his criticism of my colleague who was in charge of the estimates for the Department of Health. In the years that I have been in the Senate I have not seen a Minister deal more courteously and more exhaustively with the estimates of his department than did the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) in the present discussion on the estimates. I think that that is a fair statement of the situation.
I do not think that any department’s estimates for years have occupied the attention of the Senate for as long a period as the estimates for the Department of Health were before the Senate this year. It is grossly unfair, in the circumstances, for the Leader of the Opposition to brand my colleague as being arrogant in moving the gag. Never was the closure moved with more popular support on both sides of the chamber than it was moved last night. May 1 test the matter another way. I do not remember, thinking back a long time, the closure being moved in the Senate and the Opposition not calling for a division upon it. When the closure was moved last night there was no demand by the Opposition for a division. My colleague has been branded as arrogant - which is so grossly unfair - but the action that he took last night received the full support of the Senate.
As to the general proposition, may I remind the Senate that this is, of course, an annual end-of-session discussion. Like the Leader of the Opposition I also should like, to have considered as incorporated in my remarks what I usually say on these occasions. I remind the Senate that with the adoption of the new procedure of dealing with the estimates over recent years the Senate is in a much better position than it was previously. The situation is that we have the estimates before us. Within reason, and by and large, we can keep pace with the business as it comes from the House of Representatives, and we are not confronted with a deluge of legislation at a time when we are also dealing with the estimates. We have a problem, but to me it docs not seem to be insuperable. There is a legislative programme before the Parliament and it is a legislative programme in each House of the Parliament. The Senate has half the number of members that the House of Representatives has. What grounds have we to complain if all we are asked to do is cover the same ground, to do the same amount of work, when we have only half the number of the other place? I see no ground for complaint by the Senate. I see no reason too, why we cannot do what we have to do in the way in which I claim it has been done over the last few sessions. We have had some late nights. I do not think there is a parliament that can avoid some late nights at the end of a sessional period, but the sittings have not been unduly harsh, and if we pull together they need not be unduly harsh on this occasion.
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.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 16th October (vide page 1204).
Department of National Development
Proposed expenditure, £12,652,000.
– I desire to address my remarks to Division No. 411. I ask the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) whether he is aware of the progress in the New South Wales Parliament of the legislation in relation to the Chowilla dam. I understand that an agreement is being negotiated between the Commonwealth and the Governments of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia and that in due course this Parliament will be asked to consider the ratification of that agreement. Naturally, it is not appropriate that it should come before this Parliament until the parliaments of the respective States have dealt with it. Can the Minister tell me what progress has been made in New South Wales and Victoria? Having listened to a radio broadcast this morning, I understand that the New South Wales Labour caucus has approved the proposal, but, of course, the agreement still has to be approved by the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council. Can the Minister give me any idea when the State legislation is expected to be passed by the New South Wales Parliament? No doubt he will use his good offices with the Premier and other leading people in that State to ensure that the legislation is passed quickly so that the matter may be dealt with by this Parliament before it rises.
As a South Australian senator, I cannot stress too strongly the importance of bringing the Chowilla dam project to fruition, lt seems a pity that there should have been such a long delay. Whether there will be further delay is now in the hands of the sovereign Parliament of one of the States. Of course, 1 understand the problems of administration and the delays that are sometimes associated with parliamentary government. Nevertheless, I stress the importance of pushing on with this work.
Has the Minister for National Development had any further reports from his departmental officers about the technical aspects of the construction of the dam, par- ticularly about whether downstream of the dam wall the natural gums and the planted orchard trees will suffer damage as a result of seepage or the passage of water underground? Has the generation of electricity been seriously considered by officers of the Department of National Development? I raise this matter because Sir Thomas Playford, the Premier of South Australia, recently stated that he expected that there would be some output of electricity following the storage of water at the dam site. Quite recently I have been in the Snowy Mountains area and 1 realize that normally electricity is generated by the use of water which falls from a height. J realize that at the dam site at Renmark on the river Murray water will not fall from a great height. There will be a great width of water rather than a great height of water. I assume that water spread so widely and for such a distance behind the dam wall would provide the potential for the generation of electric energy. I should like to know whether that possibility has been considered very fully by officers of the department. If so, can the Minister give us some assessment of the value of the water that will be stored, from the viewpoint of the generation of electricity?
– I should like to make a few remarks about the competition that the coal industry is experiencing from the production of oil.
Order! To what division is the honorable senator addressing his remarks?
– I am relating them to Division No. 417. We cannot talk about national development in glowing terms when we consider that the coal industry, which probably has more to do with national development than any other basic industry, is going backwards while the rest of the economy is going forwards. It may be thought that, because the figures indicate that the industry is producing a record amount of coal, it is holding its place in the economy. Actually, it is not holding its place in the national economy. Whereas coal used to be and to provide 80 per cent, of the motive power in Australia to-day it provides about 58 per cent., and the proportion is receding every year. It has a lesser part of the market pattern in Australia than it has ever had before and its share is declining rapidly. 1 do not think that that can be good for the economy, and it is certainly not good for the coal industry.
At one time fuel oil was not a competitor with coal. Petrol came here refined, but today it is refined in our own refineries. Over 60 per cent, of the crude oil becomes petrol and the rest is residual oil, which becomes a competitor with coal. This problem is not peculiar to Australia; it is world-wide. The coal industry in the United Kingdom, the United States of, America and Germany has had the same problem, but the governments of those countries have done something actively to assist the coal industry. So far as I can see the Australian Government has done nothing.
– What have the governments of those countries done?
– In England I think there is a tax of £2 10s. a ton on crude oil, to the advantage of the coal industry. In the United States of America there is the same sort of impost on fuel oil. No law was passed in the United States of America, but under threat of a law the oil companies agreed to produce less residual oil. That is an advantage to the coal industry. In West Germany, which is probably one of the leading industrial countries of the world, there is a tax on the sale of crude oil in the interests of the German coal industry. The oil industry was ancillary to the coal industry in that country, with great benefit.
I ask the Minister why the Government docs not do something to protect the coal industry from its competitor - oil. The Tariff Board itself - the Government’s own organization - has asked that the Government take action to protect the coal industry from over-production of fuel oil which, after all, is only a waste product of oil. It seems to be quite wrong that a basic industry like the coal industry must be continually threatened by another industry through the medium of its waste products.
I know that in the new circumstances around the world we must import oil and have oil refineries here. But surely production of the waste product of an industry like the oil industry should not be permitted in such quantities that it affects a basic industry like the coal industry, particularly when the coal industry is indigenous. In the event of a war we could be thrown back completely on the coal industry. Oil might not always be available.
It cannot be said that the coal industry has not contributed towards its own rehabilitation in the modern sense of the word, and I think the Minister for National Development will agree with me. If it is accepted that modern methods mean replacing men with machines, then that has certainly happened in the coal industry. Six years ago 19,000 men were employed in the coal industry in New South Wales. Today, there are only 12,000 men employed, and employment is falling at the rate of about 500 a year. It will continue to fall because it is well known that certain mines are marked for extinction in the next year. We do not hear anything about oil companies becoming extinct. They are getting bigger and better every day.
On the production front, I think the coal-mining industry has done a marvellous job, and I know the Minister thinks so too. Output a man-shift in 1952 was 2.92 tons. By 1954 it had increased to 3.19 tons and by last year to 6.43 tons, or an increase of 120 per cent, over the whole period. In June, 1952, machines loaded 30,000 tons of coal a day. This has increased to 66,000 tons a day and nearly ill coal is mechanically loaded. So the industry has done a great deal to modernize itself. Yet it is still faced with the con tinuing threat from the oil companies. These companies are only selling their waste product in competition with coal and they can continually undercut the selling price of coal. It does not matter to what low level the coal industry reduces its prices, oil undercuts it. That is what is happening now. I know at least two mines which are selling coal for 30s. a ton, which is almost the depression price.
We do not want to see this degeneration occur in this industry. You cannot have good conditions and a satisfied work force if you have to be in a tough competitive race like that. While it may appear anomalous, we have this very modernized industry in probably the toughest struggle of its existence because it has to compete with an oil industry where human labour is its least cost. I have been to the Clyde cracking works at Granville. A ship comes up the harbour with crude oil and moves into the wharf at the Shell Oil Company plant. One man hooks the pipes on and the oil starts to flow from the ship into the piping system. Hardly twenty men handle the product until it goes out the other end into petrol trucks to be taken to garages, service stations and industry. The coal industry cannot compete with that sort of thing unless it gets some protection.
I know that the Minister has told me that the Government’s policy is to encourage the oil companies to export more crude oil. That may be part of the solution, but I ask the Minister to give me some reasons why the Government so resolutely objects to giving the coal industry of Australia the sort of protection it should get from the fuel oil that is flooding the market. I remind him that different types of protection have been given to the coal industry in. the United States of America, the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Even a conservative government in England is protecting the socialized coal industry from the influx of oil and the over-supply of crude oil. I think the Commonwealth Government should do the same thing for, in particular, the New South Wales coal industry. We must keep in mind that the man-power employed in this industry has been reduced to 50 per cent, of what it was ten ; or twelve years ago. Honorable senators are aware of what conditions were like in the industry in those days. The coal-mining industry has been almost strike free during the period of transformation from man-power to machine power. I think the Government ought to make its contribution to the protection of the industry and see that it is not depressed any further.
[12.17]. - Senator Laught sought information about the Chowilla dam project. Before work can proceed on the dam three agreements are necessary. Alterations must be made to the River Murray Agreement, arrangements have to be made with regard to the Menindee storage, and an agreement relating to financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and New South Wales is required. Eventually those three agreements will have to come before the Parliament in the form of bills. The present situation is that two of the three agreements have been signed. The third agreement has been sent to the New South Wales authorities with a request that it be dealt with urgently. We cannot proceed further until we get it back from New South Wales. It would be incongrous to bring in two of the bills without the third. I hope to get the three bills before Parliament this session, but whether I shall be successful will depend on whether we get the agreement back from New South Wales in time to prepare the legislation. Because of their importance, I will do my best to bring the bills forward this session.
I should not like to express a view about the use of Chowilla dam to generate electricity. Senator Laught mentioned the circumstances, but I should think that the probabilities are against it because the water level will not be high enough for electricity generation. However, I think it would be wrong for me to get too far into that matter because the Chowilla proposal as a whole is still in its early stages. The investigation required for this project is not complete and plans and specifications have not been prepared. When the engineers come to examine the possibilities there may be, as so frequently happens, opportunities that arc not readily apparent.
In reply to Senator Ormonde the first point I make is that despite the fact that oil has made some inroads on coal use, I do not think I exaggerate when I say that the coal-mining industry in New South Wales has never been in better condition than it is at the present time. The conditions of employment have never been better and the industry as a whole is reinvesting and putting in more modern plant and machinery. That, to a considerable extent, is because the industry has been able to win export trade in coal. The total output of the industry has increased. It is producing and selling a greater volume of coal, but, comparatively, it is getting a smaller share of the market. The competitor gaining the business at the expense of coal is fuel oil, but just as important is the power produced from the Snowy Mountains scheme. That scheme now has generating capacity of 660,000 kilowatts and further powerhouses are under construction. -My recollection is that New South Wales takes three-quarters or twothirds - at any rate, a very large proportion - of the power and that has reduced the remand for coal in New South Wales.
We have to look at the fuel oil situation in the same way as we look at the Snowy Mountains power. It is basic that if Australian manufacturing industries are to develop they must get the most economic fuel. There is competition between the various fuels’. Senator Ormonde suggested that the Government should make a judgement and come down on the side of the coal-mining industry. But the oil-refining industry is as great an industry as the coalmining industry. Some £250,000,000 has been invested in oil refineries in Australia in the post-war period. I would hazard a guess that the oil industry has a greater number of employees than the coal-mining industry. The real test is the use of Australia’s overseas funds.
We expect, and in my opinion we will eventually reach, a situation in which the refineries will produce a greater proportion of motor spirit and, consequently a smaller proportion of fuel oil than they do at present. But even that will not solve the problem because even if the refineries produce the amount of motor spirit, they will still be producing fuel oil in excess of Australia’s requirements. This is a situation that has to be negotiated. The Government cannot adopt a policy which will arbitrarily increase the cost of fuel in Australia to the detriment of all Australian industries for the sake of one particular Australian industry. 1 hope that it will be possible to negotiate arrangements which are equitable to both industries. A good deal of basic work has been done already and I am engaged in further negotiations at the present time.
– I should like to refer to Division No. 417. I shall relate my remarks to the Joint Coal Board. Some of the ground was covered by a previous speaker. I, too, am interested in the sale of coal overseas. Senator Ormonde said he believed that a penalty should be imposed on fuel oil in order to help the coal industry. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) has replied that Australian industry must have cheap power. I think we all agree with that. Two or three years ago, Australia was exporting to Japan and other countries between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000 tons of coal a year. I understand that our exports of coal are now well under 1,000,000 tons a year. As a result of some inquiries, I have found that the countries wilh which Australia is competing may be - and I think they are - subsidizing the cost of freight and, in some instances, they may be subsidizing the cost of mining coal. I ask the Minister whether that is a fact. If it is a fact, what action can the Australian Government take to protect our sale of coal overseas?
The other matter to which I wish to refer, Mr. Chairman, is related to the Department of National Development. I should like to mention the great development that is going on in the north of Western Australia and, no doubt, in other farts of Western Australia in relation to fie exploitation of iron ore deposits. The Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner), a week or so ago, h answer to a question, informed the Senate fiat Australian deposits of high-grade iron ce exceeded 8,000,000,000 tons. Following tie lifting of the export embargo, the State
Government threw open some reserves and allowed people to peg claims. In the Hamersley Range, in Western Australia, huge deposits of high-grade iron ore have been found by several companies. One of them is the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and others are Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Proprietary Limited, New Consolidated Gold and Garrick Agnew Proprietary Limited. At this moment, those companies are busily engaged in searching for port facilities on the Western Australian coast in order to facilitate the export of iron ore.
I believe it is vitally important to the industry as a whole that the deepest and best port on the Western Australian coast as near as possible to the major deposits should be found and used for the export of iron ore. To-day, four companies are looking for sites. What a tragedy it would be if three of them decided on ports which provided a depth of less than 40 feet which would not allow ships of a capacity greater than 14,000 tons to enter to take coal whilst the fourth company decided on a port which provided a depth of 70 feet or more which would take vessels of up to 100,000 tons capacity. The company using the latter port would have a tremendous advantage over the other companies. It could cost those companies about 15s. a ton more to ship coal to Japan, the United States of America, England, or Europe than it would cost the company that could ship in larger vessels. Consequently, the other three ports would be put out of business. Knowing full well that the State also has a responsibility in this regard, I suggest to the Minister that the Department of National Development in conjunction with the Mines Department or any other government authority in Western Australia should take steps to develop the best site. I suggest that, if necessary, money could be provided at a low rate of interest for the development of a port. To-day, a number of countries have huge deposits of iron ore which they are anxious to sell.
– They are selling on a market that we have missed - Africa. The manganese market was lost.
– I am saying that all is not lost. At the moment, the requirements of the steel industries of the world are being filled by other countries. But I believe that those industries arc anxious to negotiate contracts with operating companies in Australia and that they have, in some instances, negotiated contracts. There is no doubt in my mind that the steel industries of the world will buy iron ore in the future in countries in which they can obtain the best price. The four companies that I have mentioned should not compete against each other. They should compete and will have to compete against other countries. If we are to compete-
– Does not your government believe in competition?
– I am talking about competition between countries. We believe in competition between the Australian Labour Party and the Liberal Party and we believe in competition in industry; but we have to see that industry is allowed to compete with industries overseas. In the north-west of Western Australia four sites for possible ports arc being examined by different companies. They include Cape Keraudren, which is 60 miles east of Port Hedland; and Port Hedland itself, which has facilities to take vessels up to only 4,000 tons. Then there are Depuch Cape Lambert and Cape Preston. The companies are vigorously examining each of these sites in order to get the best available. I believe that the best site on the coast should be made available for development by all the companies concerned so that the biggest ship that the world might have could use it. There is no doubt in my mind that vessels of 100,000 tons will be used in the orecarrying business before the 1970’s. I believe that there are vessels of between 60,000 and 70,000 tons now. I should like the Minister to comment on this point. He has shown a very keen interest in iron ore exports. I am sure that he is eager that Australia should be able to compete with other countries in the sale of not only coal, but also iron ore.
– I refer to Division No. 411. I should like to know how far the secretary of the department and his staff have, under the direction of the Minister, proceeded with the establishment of a northern Australia development and settlement organization or a northern Australia development authority, call it what one will. Over the years representations have been made to the Government by individuals and groups of individuals for the establishment of a permanent authority. Repeatedly Labour has made such representations to this Government, but the Minister has constantly resisted the suggestion. I know that an authority was appointed under Mr. Curtin’s administration and that this was subsequently headed by Dr. Coombs, but it was rather in the nature of a committee of inquiry; there was no suggestion of permanence about it.
More recently, north Queensland chambers of commerce have made representations on this matter. The Western Australia Government, through its Minister for Mines and Development, Mr. Court, has sought the appointment of such an authority. The Queensland Government, through Mr. Nicklin and, more particularly, through Mr. Evans, who was then Minister for Mines and Development, has thoroughly investigated the benefits that might accrue to Queensland from the establishment of such an authority. Both Mr. Nicklin and Mr. Court have made representations to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). I take it that the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) was present at the conferences. As recently as last week, I understand, a deputation led by Sir Douglas Copland saw the Prime Minister on this matter.
The Prime Minister has stated that his Government will give the matter consideration. Let us hope that this consideration is not typical of many of the activities associated with the functioning of successive Menzies Governments, which have gone in for stunting and stinting. Let us have a direct and sincere assurance that there will be serious consideration of the establishment of such a statutory authority. It need not necessarily have complete control of enterprises. It could have a measure of authority not dissimilar from that of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization or the Snowy Mountains Authority. It could be of tremendous value , in an advisory capacity, co-ordinating the various activities that must be associated with the development and settlement of northern Australia.
Let us hope that the Minister will pay due regard to the people who know something about the problems, disabilities and difficulties of the area in which they live. There is no need for me to detail the potentialities of northern Australia and the assets, as at present revealed, with which the country has been endowed by nature. Let me mention them shortly. I shall take a line which follows the border between Queensland and New South Wales.
– You are getting away from the estimates that are before the committee.
– What I am about to say is in justification of the establishment of this authority. I make this submission with all due deference.
– There is no suggestion in these estimates that such an authority be established.
– An assurance has been given, and the Minister has stated that investigations are being made.
– Let us keep to the estimates and talk about that later.
– An assurance was given. I want to know just how far the investigation will go. I am not giving an assurance that the Government will establish such an organization. I have a feeling that it will not, and that it will play these people for suckers, as it has done for many years. That is why I referred to the Government’s stunting and stinting.
– There are some suckers, too!
– Though I disagree with you, Mr. Chairman, 1 know that it is your responsibility to rule and I accept your ruling. I appreciate the tolerance that you have extended to others on many occasions. One realizes the justification for the establishment of such an authority when one thinks of the enormous mineral deposits of MountIsa - a structure unique in Austalia, and one of the great mineral deposits of the world; the only commercial oil field in Australia, with possibilities of others; the test beef cattle in Australia; a significant percentage of the wool industry; a large belt of agricultural country; unlimited potential for irrigation in the Fitzroy Basin; and the possibility, according to the C.S.I. R.O., of producing cotton at a competitive world price.
I should like to know how far investigations into the establishment of a northern Australia development and settlement organization or a northern Australia development authority have proceeded, in view of the fact that representations have been made not only by Labour governments but also by the anti-Labour governments of Western Australia and Queensland, the north Queensland chambers of commerce and a delegation of distinguished Australians. I hope that the Minister will explain at some length his activities in this direction and his attitude. If the Minister’s answer is favorable, this will at least let the people of the north know that they will be fortunate. But I think that they will be unfortunate, because I expect the answer to be unfavorable.
– I wish to refer to war service homes.
– If reference is to be made now to war service homes, it might be appropriate to group the three votes, of which the one that we have been considering is the first. I do not mind if the three are taken together.
– Very well, that procedure will be followed.
Department of National Development - Capital Works and Services
Proposed expenditure, £47,995,000.
War Service Homes Division
Proposed expenditure, £1,437,000.
– I direct attention to the report of the Director of the War Service Homes Division, which refers to the average cost of homes in the various States. In 1962-63 there were increases in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, and a decrease of £803 in the Australian Capital Territory. In view of the fact that last year there was strong criticism of the very high cost of building in this Territory, it is very gratifying to learn that there has been a substantial reduction. The report refers, at page 27, to the average cost per square of homes for which contracts were let during 1962-63.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– 1 wish to inform honorable senators who may not have been in the chamber immediately prior to the suspension of the sitting, that the committee decided that the following divisions: - Divisions Nos. 411 to 418, Department of National Development; Divisions Nos. 931 to 939, Department of National Development, Capital Works and Services; and Division No. 680, War Service Homes Division - would be considered together.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I had pointed out that during the last year there had been quite a spectacular reduction in the average price of homes erected by the War Service Homes Division in the Australian Capital Territory compared with the average cost in 1961-62, in respect of both land and dwellings. I stated by way of illustration that in New South Wales the average cost of dwellings only was £4,063, whereas in the previous year it had been £3,536. In the Australian Capital Territory the average cost fell from £7,528 to £6,725- a fall of £803. At page 27 of the annual report of the Director of War Service Homes figures arc given for the average cost per square of homes for which contracts were let during 1962-63. The costs range from £408 in New South Wales to £318 in South Australia and £314 in Western Australia.
In order to compare the costs with those in the Australian Capital Territory, I looked in the report for the relevant figures for the Territory but found that they had not been included. I feel that there must be an explanation for their omission, because there seems to be something radically wrong with the whole price structure in the Territory. It is stated that higher freight costs have to be borne and that the majority of homes in the Territory are constructed of brick. It is said that Canberra bricks are not favoured and that bricks from Goulburn and Sydney are, and that basic costs of building materials are higher. Of course, those factors account for a considerable part of the overall cost of a home, but all the way through it seems that, although there is a sufficient degree of competition in the building industry in the Territory to bring costs down to a fairly competitive level, there is not a great deal of evidence that building costs in the Territory compare favorably with those in the States.
I should think that the War Service Homes Division would have gone into this matter very carefully. Levels of salaries and wages in the Territory are more or less the same as they are elsewhere, particularly for those who would be likely to be applicants for war service homes. Nevertheless, an ex-serviceman in the Australian Capital Territory who served overseas for the same purpose as an exserviceman in a State of the Commonwealth, and who was transferred to Canberra would find himself saddled with a debt of £6,725 for a war service home. In Victoria, the total commitment of an exserviceman, on the average, for a war service home is £3,892. In Queensland it is £3,841, in South Australia £4,303, in Western Australia £4,050, and in Tasmania £3,616. The average cost in the Australian Capital Territory, therefore, is almost double the average cost in Tasmania.
I should think that adequate facilities and machinery would be available to a highly organized body such as the Department of the Interior, and also to other bodies which arc associated with the development of Canberra, to enable enlightening information regarding building costs in the Territory, particularly in relation to war service homes, to be readily available. It seems that a discriminatory burden is being placed on people in the Territory who are eligible for war service homes, although they may have been obliged to come here to continue their careers in the Public Service. They have no alternative but to meet the costs that apply in the Territory. I do not know how the Department of the Interior could approach this problem or whether it has gone into the matter to ascertain the reasons for the difference in the average cost of homes, but there is certainly clear evidence that costs in the Australian Capital Territory, so far as the building of homes is concerned, fir exceed those in the States.
The other matter I wish to raise relates to an attitude that has been developing over a period among members of the real estate profession, particularly in Tasmania. I do not know whether similar conditions exist in other States, but I know that in Tasmania people who have homes to sell are very reluctant indeed to display an interest in offers to purchase by persons who wish to acquire the homes through the War Services Homes Division. Because of the long waiting time for an advance to be made, and because of other factors which apply to the purchase of a home by means of war service homes finance, it is almost impossible for the purchase of a home to be made through an agent. Real estate agents feel that the machinery is cumbersome and slow and that there is room for disputation with the vendor on receipt of finance from the division, or if the vendor has to make arrangements to go into another home. It is unfortunate that such a position should exist. It should be a simple matter for a relatively clear and decisive blueprint of operations to be worked out.
The Director of War Service Homes has stated in his report that the initial heavy influx of applications, which resulted in the increase in the maximum loan in 1961-62, cased during 1962-63, and that the number of applications to build or purchase homes fell slightly from 17,049 to 16,150. The report says that in drawing conclusions from these figures it should be kept in mind that on the basis of past experience about 40 per cent, of the applicants concerned will not proceed with their proposals for various reasons. I am submitting that the number 1 have just referred to includes the 40 per cent, who will not proceed for various reasons. It is a difficult problem for a man to find a house that suits him, but then he has to suit the War Service Homes Division as well. First he has to make an inspection ind then discuss the matter with the vendor and with the agent. When those things are settled; - they are usually major exercises - the matter of obtaining finance becomes the tig unknown quantity.
By now the whole administration of the Var Service Homes Division should have teen developed on a fairly even pattern. There should be procedures whereby the dvision can inform the applicant, the agent aid the vendor of the time in which it could reasonably be expected that the business can bt transacted, and how fong it will be before irc applicant can obtain finance, if the divison has accepted him as being eligible for finance. It would appear that there is a continual shortage, of funds. There does not seem to be any improvement although the repayments into the Consolidated Revenue Fund are increasing. Last year there was an expenditure of £37,509,000. This year the appropriation has been reduced even though the loan available was increased to £3,500 during. 1961-62. It would appear that the division expects applications to continue-
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Senator Sir WALTER COOPER (Queensland) [2.27].- Will the Minister be good enough to enlighten me on Division No. 4 1 S - Australian Atomic Energy Commission. This year the amount to be appropriated is £3,933,000. Last year the expenditure was £3,258,639, and the appropriation was £3,361,000. Why is an extra amount required this year? What are the activities of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission? Is it engaged purely in research work or does it engage in commercial activities as well? Docs it sell anything on which it makes a profit?
– I. desire to ask the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) a question in relation to Division No. 934 dealing with capital works and services carried out under the War Service Homes Act. Under item 01, “For expenditure under the War Service Homes Act (for payment to the credit of the War Service Homes Trust Account)”, £37,500,000 was appropriated last year and the whole of that amount was expended. That would suggest that there was no overappropriation. This year the appropriation is £35,000,000, or £2,500,000 less than the amount appropriated and expended last year. Does this mean that £2,500,000 less is to be expended this year on war service homes? If it does, what is the reason for this reduced expenditure at a time when the Government has increased its allocation to the States for home construction? Is the demand for war service homes slackening campared with what it has been in previous years?
I was interested in the remarks of Senator O’Byrne about the waiting time that applicants for war service homes face at present. In Adelaide considerable hardship is caused to applicants because they have to arrange private finance until such time as they can obtain a loan from the War Service Homes Division. The applicant obtains this private finance at heavy cost which, in fact, means an increase in the price of his home. This could be caused by two reasons. There could be an inability on the part of the division to make the necessary money available, because of restricted finance, or the delay could be caused by faulty administration in arrangeing the loan, inspecting the building and other such things. It is somewhat alarming if, at a time when there is an appreciable increase in the number of applicants for homes, the expenditure for this year is to be decreased by £2,500,000.
– I wish to refer to Division No. 417 - Joint Coal Board. Some two and a half years ago the Government set up the Coal Utilization Research Advisory Committee. That committee met regularly and heard expert evidence. The purpose of the committee’s investigation was to inquire into coal utilization and find more ways of using coal so that the coal industry could compete with its rivals. In March, 1962 the committee brought down a report in which it said, inter alia, that a national coal research council should be constituted. Among other things the committee said -
This Council should comprise representatives of the coal producers and the major coal using industries. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Department of National Development, and the Joint Coal Board, together with representatives from the Universities.
The committee suggested that type of council to ensure an adequate research programme. The general idea, of course, was to have a permanent committee which could engage in an extensive coal research programme, something we have never really had in a broad national sense in Australia. Various aspects of the coal industry had been investigated but not apparently with the completeness suggested by the committee. Twelve months have elapsed since the report was tabled in this place. I know there will be some complications in the handling of the matter by the States, but I shall be interested to know whether the
Minister has in mind any set period within which the recommendations of the committee are to be put into operation.
I should also like some information about what is known in the industry as the stowage fund. Nine or ten years ago a levy of so much per ton was struck. That money was to be paid into a stowage fund to finance the stowing of coal for the preservation of the coal seams, particularly in the Hunter River area. Experiments were carried out in certain areas, but I do not think they were as successful as was hoped. I do not know how much stowage is being done now. Whatever has been done, apparently it did not save the Cessnock field from serious deterioration. I should like to know how much money remains in the fund. I understand that at one stage there was approximately £2,000,000 in it. Who owns this money? Is it owned by the Government or by the coal-owners? The levy was added to the cost of coal, so the public really paid it, and in my view the coal-owners do not own the money. I should like to know what is to happen to that fund.
In considering the state of national development we ought to know what are the mineral reserves of the country. I stand to be corrected, but I understand that very little real mapping of Australia’s coal reserves has been undertaken by the organization that was set up by the Joint Coal Board. Is it the intention of the Government to extend this activity of the Coal Board? I should think that it is an activity which the board could extend all over Australia. It is odious to think that we do not really know what are our reserves of the various types of coal. I think it is true to say that the mapping and boring section of the board’s staff is not very big. I repeat that the board would do well to extend ils activities in this direction.
One of the experiments that the Joint Coal Board undertook - the committee to which I referred earlier examined the project - was what was known as the gas turbine project. The idea was to find a new use for coal. It was thought that this was one way in which the coal industry could be helped compete with the fuel oil industry. I understand that gas turbines met with some success overseas. The committee examined the situation in Australia to see whether there was a a place here for gas turbines. 1 should like to know whether the Minister can give me any information about the matter.
I am interested also in the mine workers housing scheme in which the Joint Coal Board was heavily involved in about 1950. In those days when coal was in great demand, the board was erecting homes and was also providing finance for the erection of homes. I hope I am wrong, but I should imagine that quite a number of mine workers who availed themselves of the board’s home-building scheme have lost their homes because they have had to leave the coal-fields. Perhaps the board made arrangements for them to transfer ownership. I should like to know whether the board’s co-operative building scheme is still in operation and whether mine workers are still able to build homes with finance that is provided by the board.
When the Joint Coal Board was first established it adopted as one of its prime objectives the maintenance of the health of the mining community. It set up what T thought was a remarkably successful medical service. It had doctors working in each area, and great reforms were introduced in regard to working conditions. I have an, idea that the staff of the board’s medical section has been depleted. I hope I am wrong in saying that. I realize, of course, that there are fewer men to be cared for now than there were in 1950 and 1951, but this was a very worth-while activity, and it would be a shame if it has been allowed to decline. I ask the Minister whether it is a fact that the number of -medical personnel employed by the board has been heavily reduced. Does the Minister think that the present medical staff is sufficient? Is sufficient money being allocated to maintain the service that was given formerly? The board’s medical service had a lot to do with the almost complete eradication of pneumonoconiosis from the industry, but I imagine that with i depleted medical service the young people who are now entering the industry are takhg the same health risks as were taken by heir grandfathers and fathers in the early lays of the coal-mining industry when every second mine worker who went underground contracted miners’ phthisis, pneumonoconiosis or silicosis. As I indicated earlier, the incidence of most of those industrial diseases has been considerably reduced. That is reflected in the reduced cost to the employers of compensation. I should like to see the. improved standards of health maintained. I would be grateful to the Minister if he were to endeavour to reply to my questions.
[2.45]. - I shall answer the last speaker first. Senator Ormonde referred to the Joint Coal Board. Its services are being maintained at as high a standard as always and it is regarded as being just as important as ever. The number of members is now five instead of six only because the number of employees in the industry has fallen. The housing scheme to which Senator Ormonde referred is in the form of a subsidy on building society payments. I am told that not one home has been lost, and that workers who have been displaced have been found alternative employment.
The turbine research project is being continued and, as Senator Ormonde knows, this work has been going on for more than ten years. At present there is a little better prospect of success than there was previously. The present balance in the stowage fund is £717,000. It belongs to the owners. The stowage experiments have not been successful and what will be done with the balance of the fund is a matter for discussion.
The report of the Coal Utilization Research Advisory Committee has been circulated. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) wrote to the Premiers and discussions have been held on departmental and industrial levels. These discussions have proceeded to a stage where there is a good indication that a research authority can be established. It was contemplated that there would be a ministerial meeting during November at which we hoped to reach finality, but for reasons associated with the House of Representative’s election it is hardly likely that we will be able to meet in November. However, the matter is ready for the next stage - a meeting on the ministerial level.
Senator Cavanagh referred to the provision for War Service Homes. The Government has regarded £35,000,000 as a reasonable annual provision for war service homes. Last year the maximum loan was increased from £3,500 to £3,750, and to meet the consequent increased demand for finance last year the total amount provided was increased by £2,500,000. The demand for war service homes is naturally falling as the years go by, and £35,000,000 is considered a reasonable provision now. Over a period of time this will enable us to eliminate or reduce the present waiting times.
Both Senators O’Byrne and Cavanagh referred to delays in the allocation of war service homes. Senator O’Byrne spoke in terms of agents preferring to deal elsewhere. I make this point in reply to that comment: The War Service Homes Division does not take responsibility for the commercial transaction in the purchase of a home. The purchaser takes his own responsibility for the condition of the home and its value on the market and that sort of thing. At the same time, while the division does not take responsibility it does tender advice and make inspections of the home to be purchased. That sometimes results in the purchaser thinking that he might get better value or might be better advised to go elsewhere.
Senator Sir Walter Cooper mentioned the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. The principal reason for the increase in the provision for the commission is a change in the form of accounting. We are proceeding with the operations at Rum Jungle and stockpiling the output. The cost of stockpiling, instead of being charged in accounts direct to Rum Jungle is now being charged through the Atomic Energy Commission accounts.
It would not be quite fair to say that the whole activities of the Atomic Energy Commission are devoted to research. That is its main activity, but at the same time it is constantly watching the trend of nuclear power costs and providing a source of information to which industry can turn for knowledge on developments that are likely to occur. It has to some extent indulged in commercial transactions - if that is the appropriate term - in that it produces and sells certain radio-isotopes.
Senator O’Byrne raised the question of the cost of war service homes in Canberra. The answer is found in the small number of war service homes provided in the national capital. Last year there was a demand for only twelve homes and the demand this year is for ten. The war service homes wanted here are of a different character from those provided in the States. Whatever the reason, the demand in Canberra is for a higher standard of home or a larger home than is required in the States. So much is that so, and so dissimilar are the two types of demand, that the Director of the War Service Homes Division in his report does not compare costs in the Australian Capital Territory with those in the States because it would not be a matter of comparing like with like. Senator Dittmer referred to a Northern Australian development authority.
– I prefer a settlement organization because development is not necessarily synonymous with settlement.
Call it what you will, the fact is that it was stated in the press that representations would be made to the Government by the Queensland and Western Australia Governments. We have been waiting to receive those representations but none has yet been made to us by the two governments. I do not know whether they have found it difficult to make a joint proposal work because of the different conditions in the two States. I wonder whether events are moving ahead so much that they do not want to make an approach.
– Only the written representations have not arrived.
One should always be careful in giving a reply. I rely on my recollection that there have been neither written nor oral representations.
– Has not the Premier of Queensland or the Premier of Western Australia seen the Prime Minister?
– I do not think there has been a joint approach. Each has made his own representations. The Government has provided substantial amounts for northern Australian development. I have a feeling that the probabilities are that the State governments concerned are doing very nicely as the present development programme proceeds, and they may or may not go on with a joint scheme. In the meantime, we have had reports from the National Council for Balanced Development and, of course, we have our own ideas and our own programme.
Senator Scott raised the question of an export trade in both coal and iron ore. He referred to the subsidy on the coal trade in other countries. There is a general principle that nations should not subsidize goods for export. That is in the terms of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. So we do not subsidize goods for export. We have, however, made our contribution to the coal export programme which enables shipping charges to be dealt with. I know that the New South Wales railways after taking a lot of things into consideration, will quote competitive prices for coal freights.
Senator Scott raised a further point as to whether or not there should be a combined Commonwealth and State inquiry to find one port in the north of Western Australia which could be used for all iron ore exports. I can only say that that is a question of which I would want notice. I would need to think about that before giving an answer because the proposal has wide ramifications, first of all as to the size of the port and, more importantly, the location of the port in relation to existing iron ore deposits. There could be circumstances - I am not saying that this is so - under which advantages from lower port charges because of the establishment of a larger port could be offset by higher freight rates because of the longer haul. I content myself by saying merely that this is an interesting suggestion which has not come forward before from either the State Government or the State Department of Mines.
. -Mr. Chairman, it is not often that I am in doubt, but on this occasion I am. I do tot hesitate to say so when I am in doubt. The first thing I should like made clear to me is whether honorable senators are within their rights in this debate in discussing that which has been done or that which is proposed to be done in the financial year 1963-64. Other honorable senators have expressed doubt on this question. I think some of them may have been confused. They thought from what was said this morning that they could discuss only that which had been done. However, when we look at the document before us we find that it relates to proposed expenditure between 1st July, 1963, and 30th June, 1964; that is what we are discussing. I should be extremely grateful if my doubt could be resolved.
– Is that question directed to the Minister or to me?
– To you, Sir.
– The committee is dealing with the proposed expenditure for the year 1963-64. During the debate there has been a very wide range of discussion, which I think is inevitable, but honorable senators could assist the Chair much more than they are doing by not making speeches that are in the nature of secondreading speeches. They should try to relate their remarks to the relevant estimates.
– As to what it is proposed to spend or to what has been spent?
– I am prepared to allow some reference to what has been spent in the past, so long as such reference is not too wide.
– In speaking on expenditure for the future - we are not so much concerned with sins of the past–
– We are concerned with the proposed expenditure for 1963-64. Surely that is a sufficient interpretation.
– Thank you, Sir. Although my next question is ultimately one for the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner), perhaps you, Mr. Chairman, could help me on a point of procedure. When referring to coal should I direct my remarks to Division No. 411, which relates to administration, or to Division No. 417, which relates to the Joint Coal Board? I want to pose a question about coal, but what J have to say does not necessarily involve the Joint Coal Board. I intend to speak about coal production in Queensland, but in so doing I shall have to refer to the production of coal in New South Wales, which is associated with the functioning of the Joint Coal Board. Therefore, Sir, I would be happy if you would advise me to which division I should refer.
– Could you not relate those remarks to the Bureau of Mineral Resources? Try to connect your remarks with the relevant estimate as Well as you can. I will not be too hard.
– Thank you, Mr. Chairman; I shall be grateful for your tolerance. The Minister for National Development knows that Queensland has had no real help from the Federal Government although that State has the best quality hard coking coal in enormous deposits at Moura. It is expected that in the not very far distant future between 1,000,000 and 2,000,000 tons of this coal will be exported annually to Japan alone. We know that New South Wales has hard coking coals and a big range of soft coking coals. I think it was Senator Scott who spoke of the decrease in coal exports, but that decrease was brought about largely by the decline in the export of soft coking coal. A major reason for that was the difficult condition in which the Japanese coal industry was placed. Mass unemployment Was associated with the coal industry in Japan, where they have soft coking coals. The Japanese authorities, unlike Our present Government, were interested in the employment of people and decided to assist those associated with the production of local soft coking coals. This activity in Japan was in no small measure the cause of the decrease in Australia’s exports of coal. In fact, our exports of hard coking coal have not decreased. The probabilities are that there will be a big increase in the export of hard coking coal, such as that produced at Moura, because it is in tremendous demand.
I should like the Minister to inform me whether anything is being done, or is likely to be done, to make a survey of the resources of hard coking coals and soft coking coals in Australia. I know that the Minister is in a quandary now because he cannot say with certainty what will happen after 30th November, but at least he Can tell the committee what the Government intends to do if, by some mischance, it continues in office after 30th November. I know that the Minister will have some information on, this because there has been an intensive investigation at the coal-fields at Moura and Kianga. The coal from Kianga is not of a quality similar to that from Moura. I venture to suggest that no honorable, senator, other than Senator Ormonde, would know more about the coal industry than Senator Sir William Spooner. In the light of the importance of this product it is essential that we should know what coal resources are available if we are to continue to export this product. Coal is needed in Australia for use in major heavy industries. Perhaps we are exporting something that, in the process of time, Australia itself will need. I do not suggest that that is necessarily so, but I would be happy, and I think many other Australians would be happy, to be assured by the Minister that if our coal resources are not unlimited they are relatively unlimited.
I should like now to refer to Division No. 934, which deals with war service homes. I do not propose to speak at any great length on this subject. I did notice, and this was mentioned also by Senator O’Byrne, that the proposed vote is £2,500,000 less than the estimated and actual expenditure last year. Why is there to be a decrease? It is apparent to all honorable senators that there will be an increase in demand for war service homes with advancing years because the last war is now nearly twenty years behind us. I cannot understand the denial of requests made by individual applicants. I know it will be said that the purpose of this vote is to provide accommodation, but is it to be characteristic of the Government that it will determine the type of accommodation that certain people are to have, or are these individuals entitled, in line with the so-called philosophy of the Liberal Party, to have a right of choice. I have in mind a number of cases in which tie applications fulfil every obligation. I sympathize with those who get into difficulties, but in this particular case I am n»t espousing the cause of those people. I an not espousing the cause of those who haTe ignored their responsibility, justifiably or otherwise. I am talking about people who have observed their responsibilities aid who, in the process of time, mostly ky intention, have increased their families. Then the mother and father decide that they want to extend the home. They want to extend it in their own way. I can see nothing wrong with their doing that provided that they observe the financial limitations under the war service homes scheme.
Let me illustrate my case with one concrete example. It concerns a family in which a baby arrived. The parents needed another bedroom. The other children, boys and girls advancing in years, were entitled to a room of their own. The parents desired to connect the house with the sewerage system which was being extended by the local council. There has been remarkable progress in the extension of this amenity in Brisbane under a Labour administration. If the local council had been under a Citizens Municipal Organization administration war service homes finance would have had to be used to provide a septic tank. The parents of whom I speak had their own ideas concerning the addition of a room to their house. They were wedded to a measure of aestheticism. But the War Service Homes Division said, in effect. “ No. You cannot have that. All that you need is a room of a certain size which will cost a certain amount. Together with the installation of sewerage the cost will be about £400. It would cost £900 for what you want to do.” That was the attitude adopted by the War Service Homes Division although the expenditure proposed by the couple concerned was £1,500 less than the limit. I could give hundreds of similar instances.
The vote proposed in the division under discussion is £2,500,000. Will the Minister tell me whether the people who occupy war service homes have the right to extend them in accordance with their own wishes? Are the officers of the division so coldblooded in their approach to this problem that, although only a few hundred pounds may be involved, they will not meet the wishes of the mothers and fathers of Australian children - men and women who have served this country in time of war? These people have established their right to these homes. The Government has repeatedly boasted of what this department has done. Now, as has been admitted, there is an increasing demand for war service homes. Perhaps it might be conceded that the division should not arbitrarily interfere with the choice of these people when they seek to have a home of a shape and size of their own choosing provided that it can be financed within the limits that have been determined.
– I desire to refer to Division No. 680- War Service Homes Division. I have been interested in the annual report of the Director of War Service Homes which has been submitted to the Parliament by the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner). At page 16 of the report is a photograph the caption to which reads as follows: -
The Division has assisted six applicants to purchase home units registered under the New South Wales (Strata Title) Conveyancing Act in this block at Bexley, New South Wales.
The photograph is of a rather fine building of two stories with a basement. This brings to my mind a question which I raised in a previous year. A paragraph on page 6 of the report reads -
A total of 253 eligible persons were granted assistance in New South Wales in 1962-63 to purchase home units registered under the New South Wales Conveyancing (Strata Titles) Act 1961. New South Wales is the only State at present to have legislation in operation creating a home unit title which meets the requirements of the War Service Homes Act.
At page 17 there is an amplification of that statement in the course of which it is stated -
The demand for assistance to purchase home units came mainly from widows and childless couples. The individual home remains the first choice of the family man.
I applaud the interest of the War Service Homes Division in the construction of strata title buildings. But I deplore the fact that New South Wales is the only State, apparently, which has a title system for home units which meets the requirements of the War Service Homes Act.
– It is the leading State.
– That may well be. The State Government of New South Wales has shown imagination in recognizing this comparatively new form of title. I ask the Minister whether there is not any way in which the War Service Homes Division can overcome existing problems to enable persons in other States to enjoy the privilege of owning home units. I realize, as Senator Dittmer said, that the last world war ended nearly twenty years ago and, consequently, people who are now eligible for war service homes would be aged between 40 and 60 years. In the majority of cases those who are getting on in years might not desire to undertake the pioneering work associated with a new home, separately constructed, such as work on a garden and surrounds. It appears to me that the idea of the strata title is something upon which the Government should focus a great deal of attention. I realize that each sovereign State has its own system of lands title registration. But is there no way in which the requirements of the War Service Homes Division regarding titles could be varied so that the client who wishes to have a home unit could benefit?
There, will be more and more of these people as the years go by. The Commonwealth, of course, has sovereign power in the Australian Capital Territory and in the Northern Territory so there should be no obstacle to prevent the Government from taking appropriate action in those Territories and, perhaps, in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, in view of its influence in that Territory. I think that the demand for home units is a trend which the Commonwealth will have to accept. I think it will have to take measures to enable persons in States other than New South Wales to enjoy the privilege which has been rightly brought to our attention on page 6 of the report to which I have referred. I offer the view that it might be possible under the existing laws of the other States for the Commonwealth to protect its rights by the entry of a caveat on the title. That possibility needs to be explored. In recent years the Commonwealth Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) has been most active in seeking conferences with the States on certain matters over which the States have sovereign rights, but in which, in his opinion, it is important that there be some uniformity. I suggest that the Minister should consider using his good offices or the good offices of the Attorney-General to go into the whole question that is raised by this statement in the report in relation to strata titles.
The Commonwealth must keep abreast of the changing pattern of habits of people. This is an instance in which we could provide great service to ex-servicemen and to women, whether they be ex-service personnel or widows. I suggest that the Minister should take particular note of the position of widows who are living in group accommodation where strata titles could be given. I should like to know the thinking that has been done on these lines in relation to the requirements of eligible persons living in States other than New South Wales and, particularly, in the territories over which the Commonwealth has sovereign power.
Senator Sir WILLIAM SPOONER (New South Wales - Vice-President of the Executive Council and1 Minister for National Development) [3.18]. - To use a metaphor, a lot of water has flowed under the bridges in relation to the question of strata title homes. Basic to the administration of war service homes is the need to get a good security, a good first mortgage. We have found that in some States not only the acts but also the arrangements whereunder the flats become available do not provide security. Senator Laught would know as well as I do that in many instances control of the home unit is to quite a material extent in the hands of the company concerned instead of in the hands of the owneroccupier. We have taken the view that if this was the choice of home of an eligible applicant, we should do our best to meet him, but only in circumstances providing good security for our advance.
There have been lengthy legal discussions between Commonwealth and State authorities to see whether the two points of view expressed in the two categories of legislation could be reconciled, but without success. I do not know whether I should say this, but it is a fact that the purchase of home units by war service home applicants does not seem to work out as successfully as the purchase of ordinary houses. We have had a few problems that do not make us feel like pushing ahead with applications of this type. We prefer to let them take their course. There is no restriction upon making an advance on that class of home so long as the legal position is satisfactory. The legal position is out of our hands. It rests with the States. I understand that there has been no demand at all for advances for home units in the Australian Capital Territory.
In reply to Senator Dittmer, I say that the Commonwealth Government has made some contribution to coal programmes in Queensland. We subsidized Callide coal. The Bureau of Mineral Resources is doing a good deal of work on the problem. We have made coal-loading arrangements in the port of Gladstone. I was in central Queensland a couple of weeks ago and I had a look at the Moura open-cut coal-field.
– It must have impressed you.
– It impressed’ me very much. I hold the view that nobody knows how much coal there is in Queensland. I think that Queensland has great coal deposits which have not yet been found and developed. In my view, there is no reason for us to contemplate any restriction of exports of Queensland coking coal.
– I should like to raise certain matters concerning research which, I think, would fall under Division No. 411, item 3, and perhaps also under Divisions Nos. 414, 417 and 418. We know from consideration of proposed expenditure by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization that certain research is being conducted by the Commonwealth. We know also that that organization has apparently not carried out its function under the appropriate act of establishing industrial research associations outside the organization.
It appears from the studies of those who are interested in this matter that in Australia, apart from what has been done by the Government, only about £4,500,000 or £5,000,000 is being spent each year on research by private concerns and institutions. Those persons to whom I have referred consider, on estimates made of the position in countries in a situation similar to that of Australia, that about ten times this amount ought to be spent. That is a very, very serious matter. These statements have been made by me on a number of occasions earlier and they have not been challenged. Somebody should be doing something about it. If the C.S.I.R.O. is not doing anything about it, the Department of National Development ought to be doing something about it. It ought to be stirring up research outside the department. Perhaps much more should be spent under item 3 of Division No. 411 than is being spent, and also under the other items in the division. The expenditure could be categorized in the estimates. Activity should be undertaken by the Department of National Development to ensure that the necessary research is conducted. Because that is not being done we undoubtedly are suffering. Our future is being prejudiced by the lack of scientific research.
Research, which should extend not merely to fundamental matters, could appropriately be carried out in the universities and elsewhere. It is important that all kinds of industrial and applied research should be undertaken if we are to have a vigorous community that is able to keep up with communities overseas. It is of no use to say, “ Look at the estimates. A little more is being spent, or almost as much is being spent as was spent last year or the year before.” The world is changing rapidly. New nations are emerging. People are thrusting ahead and demanding education. Countries which are very close to us geographically are making advances in industrial development, but we are going along in a very sleepy fashion. Much more ought to be spent by the Commonwealth on the research covered by these estimates. If the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization does not intend to engage in this particular activity, perhaps the ball could be passed to the Department of National Development. The Minister might care to say what is contemplated by the department in respect of the matters I have mentioned.
– I wish to refer to Division No. 412 which relates to the Division of National Mapping. Some time ago I read in a press report that a number of representatives of the United States Government were in Australia to assist in mapping regions in the north of this country. I know that it is not their purpose to map the whole of the north of Australia. There was a report that our mapping was inefficient and inaccurate and provided an incomplete record. Would the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir- William Spooner) be kind enough to advise me whether those representatives of the United States Government are acting in association with the Governments of Western Australia and Queensland and, if they are operating in the Northern Territory, with the Commonwealth Government, or whether they are acting entirely in association with the Commonwealth Government? What is their purpose in being here? We are extremely grateful for any scientific information with which we are provided, of course, and must of necessity be grateful for it. Are these persons interested only in the topography as it is revealed to them? Are they concerned with geological mapping or geophysical surveys? What is their authority? How many persons are involved in the mapping? I should be grateful if the Minister could supply me with information on this matter.
While I am on my feet, perhaps I may be permitted to deal with another matter. If I do so it will save the Minister physical effort, although I know that it is never any mental toil for him to answer questions. I wish to refer now to Division No. 411 - Administrative. Here again, I am in a quandary. I do not know whether I am in order in raising at this stage the matter that I want to discuss, but I feel that it comes within the ambit of the term “ national development “. 1 know that the Commonwealth has been interested in seeking sources of supply of fish and crustaceans. When we think of the great length of coastline of this island continent we must appreciate that there is vast scope for research into methods of effecting national development. I am wondering whether the Minister, as a representative of the Government and as the person in control of the Department of National Development, visualizes our embarking on a programme of marine biological research. Let me pose some comment in support of my contention in this regard. I listened with interest to Senator Murphy who spoke of scientific advances and research. The world of the present and of the future is vitally concerned with science. Scientists in every field of science and research are able to assist their fellow citizens greatly. I think of the parsimonious approach that is being made by the Government in mis respect. I do not think that the representatives of the Government are meanminded; they just do not know.
– Order! The honorable senator is getting away from the estimates.
– I am trying to pose the question whether marine biological research comes within the ambit of national development.
Then the honorable senator should keep to that matter.
-Would you like me to limit my remarks, Sir, and not embark on a dissertation on the deficiencies of the Government, which are many? Actually, I could not discuss the Government’s deficiencies fully in the time available to me. I ask the Minister, with due respect, whether his department intends to go beyond the field of research covering fish and crustaceans. My mind turns to the Great Barrier Reef, a natural structure which is unique in the world, and to the millions of tons of marine life there and the innumerable marine specimens. The portfolio of national development is a most important one. Has not the Minister, who has done extraordinarily well within the limitations of an inefficient government, a responsibility to say whether the Government will authorize him to embark on a programme that is really worthwhile for an island continent and its people?
Proposed expenditures noted.
Proposed expenditures - Department of Civil Aviation, £15,537,000; Department of Civil Aviation- Capital Works and Services, £7,027,000; Parliament, £1,385,000; Parliament - Capital Works and Services, £17,000; Prime Minister’s Department, £14,360,000; Prime Minister’s Department - Capital Works and Services, £2,467,000; and War and Repatriation Services - Reconstruction and Rehabilitation - University Training, £13,000 - noted.
Department of External Affairs.
Proposed expenditure, £13,502,000.
Department of External Affairs - Capital Works and Services.
Proposed expenditure, £1,419,000.
Economic and Financial Support Assistance to Members of the South-East Asian Trade Organization and Protocol States.
Proposed expenditure, £1,000,000.
Aid to India.
Proposed expenditure, £675,000.
– Do I take it, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that you are dealing now with the Department of External Affairs?
– I understood that following the departments in which the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) was interested we would deal with the Department of Civil Aviation.
– We have dealt with that.
– You are not sneaking things in under our guard, are you? How mean can you get?
– With the greatest respect I do not think you should make a farce of the debate, but if you want to do so I will allow you. If we are now dealing with the Department of External Affairs I have something to say.
– We are now dealing with the Department of External Affairs, Divisions No. 141 to No. 190 in Document A and Divisions No. 841 to No. 845 in Document B.
– Have you completed consideration of the estimates of the department of Civil Aviation?
– order! Senator Kennelly has the call.
Senator KENNELLY__ Over many seeks I have tried to elicit some informa- tion from the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick). I do not know whether I will be any more successful on lis occasion in regard to this apparently oscure matter. I should like to know that constitute forbidden strategic exports to China. I do not wish to upbraid anybody; I know that everybody can make mistakes. First, I was told that a list of these exports was in existence; then I was told that there was no such list. I was informed also that if an exporter wishes to export goods which come within this category he has to make an application to the department. I asked whether any applications had been made but I obtained very little information. Then I asked whether any applications had been refused and what strategic materials were involved in such refusals. I was told that it was not the policy of the Government to make the information available.
I do not want to be over-hard, but I think all this is just a little bit phony. We can export iron and wool and those products are not considered to come within the category of strategic exports. The people of Australia and I ought to know what constitutes these exports. Quite candidly, I find it difficult to understand the non-strategic character of such products as steel and wool, exported to a country with which we do not have diplomatic relations as against the apparent strategic character of other products. I have in mind the border dispute we have read about between India and China. Fighting has taken place in the region of Tibet, which has a very cold climate. Wool could very well be regarded as a strategic item. However, I should like to know whether any applications to export strategic materials have been refused.
We know that Australia does not export such things as ammunition or guns, but I wonder whether the items to which I have just referred - steel and wool - could be considered to foe strategic exports. The Government raises its head, as it were, in horror, when we mention mainland China. In case any one has any illusions let me say immediately that the philosophy of mainland China and the philosophy in which I believe are as wide apart as the poles. However, I do not think that we should fool ourselves in this matter of strategic exports. It is not my habit to disbelieve people. Although I have been told that there is no list of such materials, that does not prove that no such list is in existence. I think we ought to know what materials are allowed to be exported, and we ought to know also whether there have been any occasions when exporters have been refused permission to export certain materials. Personally, I do not think the occasion ‘has ever arisen, but if it has I see no reason why the Government should not give us the information.
There may be some products the export of which would have a direct bearing on the welfare of Australia. It may be that the Government would not allow copper or uranium to be exported. I should like to know whether any person has ever made an application to export those commodities. The Government should not hide behind a mass of word’s that convey no information at all. It will not affect the export of any material for us to know that the Government has refused to grant an export licence. It amazes me to think that we cannot obtain the information I have sought. I again ask the Minister for the reason why this information is not available. If he can convince me that it is not in the interests of Australia to export certain materials to a certain country because that country does not follow the same political philosophy - I use that term for want of a . better - as we follow, I then ask him whether that principle would apply to Russia. Although Russia and China may not, as it were, dot the same i’s and cross the same t’s, they have philosophies which are more or less akin.
I do not think that honorable senators ought to be fobbed off with the sort of answers that I have received in reply to the questions I have asked. The attitude of the Government makes one think that it had something to hide. I do not think that it has anything to hide. It would be in the best interests of the Government to say quite plainly that it does not think it. is in the best interests of the free world for certain materials to be exported. Are we to understand that the Government, when it is asked a question that it prefers not to answer, will fob off the questioner, whether he be in this chamber or anywhere else, with an answer that would be an insult to a child? Honorable senators, and people outside the Parliament, are entitled to have this information. I again ask the Minister for the Navy whether we can obtain that information instead of being treated as children. When all is said and done, the Minister for External Affairs is the custodian of the affairs of his department only as long as the people want him to be. He must remember that changes can be effected. He has a duty to provide the information I have sought.
If the Minister for the Navy, who represents the Minister for External Affairs in this place, were to say that it was not in the interests of the security of this country to make a public announcement about this matter, the position might be different. It seems to me to be childish to suggest that we should send steel and wool to certain countries but that we should not send other commodities. If, in view of the unsettled conditions that exist in the world, I adopted the same view as that which has been adopted by the Minister and I did not want to help a certain nation, I feel I would be discharging my duty to this country if I were to say, “ You will get no material whatsoever that could be of assistance to you in the event of your attacking any nation in the free world, of which we are a part”. I do not want to take the matter any further. To fob off senators as has been done in this case is to bring the Parliament into disrepute. It is making a joke of the Parliament. I think we are entitled to have this information.
– Senator Kennelly will have to extend to me a little amount of tolerance, because what I propose to say is my recollection of the background to the matter he has raised. A list of materials which could not be exported to Communist China was. compiled following the Chinese attack upon Korea and United Nations’ resolutions relating to that event. Various nations, including the United Kingdom! the United States of America and certain European countries, compiled a list of what they regarded as being strategi materials which, in the terms of the Unite! Nations’ resolution, could not be exporte to Communist China. By agreement between all of the countries concerned the list was not made public. I understand that certain alterations have sine been made to the list.
The practice which is followed is thi any exporter who wishes ito export i Communist China a commodity whi might be considered to come within ts terms of the resolution makes an application for an export permit and only in tit way does he discover whether it can be exported. To the best of my recollection, wool is not one of the items on the list. 1 repeat that the list, which applies not only to Australia but to various other countries, has not been made public, as a result of agreement reached by those countries. That is why the answers that have been given to the honorable senator have indicated that it is not the policy of the Government to make the list public. 1 think that is all I can say in reply to Senator Kennelly.
Senator Sir WALTER COOPER (Queensland) ‘[3.50]. - I refer to the provision that is made for salaries and allowances for members of the Australian Embassy in the Republic of Indonesia. I note that the appropriation in 1962-63 was £81,385 and that the proposed expenditure this year is £55,100. I note also that the appropriation for local allowances in the last financial year amounted to £32,069 whereas the proposed expenditure this year is only £11,700. I should like the Minister to indicate why that item of expenditure has fallen to such a degree.
– I im informed that the reason for the ciscrepancy is an alteration of the exchange tate between the preparation of last year’s estimates and the preparation of this year’s estimates. The result has been to the benefit of Australia.
.- bt me analyse the reply that the Minister for the Navy gave to me a short time ago. said that the United Nations had decided that certain goods should not be eported to mainland China by member countries and that the list cannot be seen. What are the facts? I should say that in rand figures 110 nations would be mem.bers of the United Nations. I should say, to, that any committee appointed by the United Nations would have to report sooner or later to the parent body. With gmt respect, does not the Minister’s answer san to have been light-hearted? Many countries which are members of the United Nations have adopted a philosophy which is nuch the same as that which has been adopted in China. Now the Minister tells this Parliament and the people of Australia that a list of goods which should not go to China has been decided upon. Probably that decision was taken by a committee rather than by all the members of the United Nations. But one would have thought that sooner or later all the nations that are members of that body would have made a report to it.
– I think I might have misled Senator Kennelly, or he may have misinterpreted what I had to say. This list was not compiled by a United Nations body. What I meant to say - and the “ Hansard “ record will show whether or not I did so - was that the compilation of this list was the result of a United Nations decision which labelled Communist China as an aggressor in the attack on Korea and called on the nations to take action against China. The meeting of nations concerned in Europe was a meeting of those nations implementing the. decision of the United Nations Organization, but it was not a meeting of the United Nations nor was an act passed through the United Nations. I want that to be clear.
– Fairly recently a number of members of the. Commonwealth Parliament toured countries of South-East Asia. On his return to Australia a member of the House of Representatives commented upon the accents of officers of the Department of External Affairs in positions overseas at various embassies and consulates. He was under the. impression that each officer had a plum in his mouth and that that was responsible for his accent. I am positive that every honorable senator who has been abroad has made a similar deduction, because these officers always try to speak with a Cambridge or Oxford accent, or the accent of some school in the United Kingdom. It is remarkable how they copy such accents. They gabble on as if they had been to Cambridge or Oxford for years and years. As a matter of fact, I know that their wives laugh at them when they use this form of speech.
There must have been somebody in die Department of External Affairs in the past who was a scholar at Cambridge and who evidently had the responsibility or the duty of approving the appointments of these people before they went overseas. They must have assumed that it was most essential that they have this accent. We know that you can teach a parrot, a galah and other speaking birds to copy voices. I think you will agree, Mr. Chairman, that there is nothing better than an Australian accent for Australians whether they are in an embassy overseas, in this Parliament or anywhere else. I am only saying this to put a little spice of common sense into the officers of the Department of External Affairs who are overseas. For goodness sake, let them speak naturally. Let them use the voice they used in the office of the Department of External Affairs in Canberra.
Overseas, you find these officers holding various positions in different zones, and if a conference is held somewhere in which members of Parliament take part some young fellow appears as a counsel. It always appeared incongruous to me that experienced members of the Parliament had to have some whipper-snapper out of the Department of External Affairs to sit near and advise them what the situation was abroad and elsewhere. You see this sort of thing and experience it. I am only saying this for the purpose of giving advice to the Department of External Affairs. When its officers are overseas, let them act like normal citizens. Do not let them assume that they must have some foreign accent to carry out their duties efficiently.
– It would1 be just as proper for me to refer to Senator Benn as an obfuscated, bumblefooted old bonehead as that he should refer to members of the Department of External Affairs staff as whipper-snappers. I do not make that reference to the honorable senator, but recently I have travelled from Australia to Europe and back. I visited some seventeen countries in fifteen of which Australia has representation. I received courtesy and assistance from distinguished members of the Department of External
Affairs in the embassies and consulates there - not distinguished in the sense of superiority, but in the sense of courtesy, knowledge and dignity and of friendliness in their relations with everybody with whom an Australian senator might wish to come in contact. They were quite obviously respected in the places where they represent Australia. I rise, therefore, to discharge a simple duty and to state the facts as I experienced them.
I have no elocutionary attainments of my own but something of an accent that was referred to recently as coming from the scrub, and of this I am conscious. But I have not detected1 in the slightest degree any affectation on the part of our officers overseas by simulating what has been sneered at as a Cambridge accent. In Singapore I noted the degree to which the officers there understand the movement in the economy and the importance of international relations and trade in that country. The officers there were able to introduce me to many valuable contacts. At Karachi I had a similar experience in practically every aspect of that inscrutable centre of life. Then I went to Israel, Rome, Geneva and Brussels where I saw the same degree of understanding of the delicacy of the task our representatives have to perform there. What did impress me was the pride which each member of the embassy staffs seems to take in representing Australis. Not expecting recognition of any sort I was impressed by the very ready and dutiful extension to me of most impressive courtesies in common with other members rf Parliament. These officers wanted to do to more than their duty, and they regarded it as their duty to see that persons from Autralia who carry responsibility should enjoy all the benefits of the knowledge and experience they have gained. They enale visitors to make contact with public inanitions, whether of commerce, diplomacyor law, the International Labour Organization in Geneva or the European Economic Community agencies, as in Brussels.
I had the privilege in Brussels of beng introduced to one of the chief legal advisors to the European Economic Communityso that I might discuss a subject which is very important in my estimation - the constutional arrangements of that community.
Mr. Chairman, it is a great disservice to this Parliament in its relationship with a department such as the Department of External Affairs for an honorable senator with an incubus of handicapped understanding to get up here and burble away this denigration of officers whose experience and knowledge are of terrific value to our country. In every place I have mentioned, and in those places where we called on the return trip - Copenhagen, Berlin, Paris, Vienna, Athens, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Djakarta - we found not just one officer but many officers who are rendering distinguished service. Far from trying to get away from their nationality, they all, from the highest officers in the embassies down to the messengers, displayed a spirit of pride in representing Australia.
I say these things when, as you know, Mr. Chairman, my character is more to criticize than to compliment. Before I heard from Senator Benn this criticism that I resent so much, I had already placed on record in a letter to the secretary of the Department of External Affairs the sentiments that I have now expressed publicly on the floor of the Senate.
– I should like to pose a question in relation to Division No. 141. For eighteen months Australia’s representative at New Delhi in India was an acting high commissioner. I could not understand why the Government should so callously disregard the prestige of India, its nearness to us, the size of its population, and the part it can play for good or evil, particularly in view of the earlier neutralist attitude of its Prime Minister.
Subsequently the situation was rectified and Sir James Plimsoll was appointed. He is perhaps the most brilliant man in the Department of External Affairs, and I include the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) in that assessment. The prestige that he enjoyed at the United Nations was equal to or surpassed that of any other delegate. I am wondering how long it is proposed to leave Sir James Plimsoll at New Delhi. If any one can do anything worthwhile there, he can do it. T think that every delegate to the United Nations, and every member of the Australian staff there, will regret his absence from that forum. I would be interested if the Minister would tell me how long it is proposed to leave Sir James Plimsoll in his present position. I know that there is usually an accepted period of appointment to such an office but that can be changed in the light of changing circumstances. I should like the Minister to inform me also why the Government was so indifferent to the prestige of India as to leave an acting high commissioner there.
When I think of the qualifications that are required of those entering the Department of External Affairs I wonder how long it will be before the Government recognizes the justification for a commensurate salary. I concede that salary is not the entire reward of those in the department, but it is well known that the the department seeks the best honours graduates and is finding it difficult to induce young men and women to join its service. The background of these people is such that they can command other better-paid positions and in the light of the difficult financial circumstances associated with successive Menzies Governments they have preferred to go into other avenues of employment. When honorable senators think of the tremendous part that is played by our diplomatic officers they must realize that we need men and women of extraordinarily high calibre with good credentials, of good character, interested in their country and able to uphold its prestige overseas.
In passing I would say that each of us is entitled to speak from his own experience. Senator Benn has spoken from his experience, and Senator Wright has spoken from his. I want to speak from my experience. I think that Australia has every reason to be extremely proud of its officers in the Department of External Affairs. When referring to Sir James Plimsoll I said that he had a prestige which was equal to, if it did not surpass, that of any other delegate. Although I do not know all the officers of the department, I know that this applies also to the vast majority of them. Some of our representatives may have an accent different from mine, because I am one of the common people, but that could be because of their association with people from other countries. I do not care if their accent is different.
When we think of diplomats such as Sir James Plimsoll, Sir Laurence Mclntyre, Mick Shann, Mr. Carter, Mr. Critchley at Kuala Lumpur and Mr. John Hood, the new Ambassador to Israel, we realize that the prestige that they enjoy is of the highest. They are entitled to all credit. I do not think there is anything that officers of the Department of External Affairs would not have done for me on my recent trip. But I am not speaking selfishly; I also know of their prestige from inquiries that I made. Many of them I knew beforehand; most of them I knew from their background. I made inquiries in many countries and I found that the reputation of Australian officials was nothing but the highest. Australia has every reason to be proud of its representatives abroad. Australia also has every reason to be grateful to Dr. Evatt for his vision in expanding this department. I know that the then Opposition, which after 30th November will again constitute the Opposition, attacked Dr. Evatt when he sought to expand the Department of External Affairs. They claimed that he was an internationalist. With his brilliance of mind and broad outlook, perhaps he was a greater internationalist than a nationalist, but at least he was a great internationalist. He was responsible in no small measure for the expansion of the Department of External Affairs. As a result of that expansion, these men were engaged, some when the late Ben Chifley was Prime Minister, and many of them subsequently by the present Government or its immediate predecessor. I think that, one and all, they are doing an excellent job but I do not think that the Government should rest content with that.
The Government will have to find successors to these officers. Some of them are approaching the age of retirement. The Government of the day has a responsibility to seek such successors but it will not be able to obtain suitable persons who will do credit to Australia unless it is prepared to approach this problem’ in the right way. Up to the present, the Government has not met its responsibility to grant the young men and women who seek to enter this department an adequate salary. The officers of the department have been waiting for years for an adjustment of their remunera tion, but the Government has done nothing in this respect. These officers have) not leaned back in the breeching because the Government has been dilatory in its approach to their problems. They have a sense of loyalty and a tremendous sense of responsibility. So, I ask the Minister whether any consideration is being given to the determination of remuneration adequate to the positions that they occupy and commensurate with the talents that they use. What does the Government intend to do with regard to the position of High Commissioner in New Delhi, India? I do not think that the present Government will have the opportunity, after 30th November, to attend to the appointment of an acting High Commissioner at New Dehli. I again pay a tribute to the officers in our diplomatic service.
– Mr. Chairman, may I continue my debate with the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) concerning exports to mainland China? I understood him to say that the decision to which he referred had been made by the United Nations. If I am incorrect in that respect, I apologize. Subsequently, the Minister said that the decision was not made by the United Nations but by some nations which are members of the United Nations. Can I take it that is was the decision of those nations which considered North Korea and China to be aggressors in the Korean war? Can I take it that it was out of that situation that the decision by certain nations to limit certain exports to mainland China arose? Are those nations acting independently or are they acting as a group of nations connected with the United Nations? If they are acting as a group associated with the United Nations one would have thought that, sooner or later, their decision would have to be conveyed to the governing body. It seems to me that the information supplied by the Minister does not dovetail with the facts. If I remember correctly, there were some 40 members of the United Nations which supported Korea against invasion. No doubt those are the nations which have prepared the famous list of which the Minister has spoken.
Surely the Minister is not attempting to tell the Senate that a number of nations has agreed upon a list of banned exports to China and that this list is kept secret. If he has been advised to that effect surely this is one of the few occasions on which he has taken advice that does not dovetail with the facts. I understand the Minister to have said that a number of nations had agreed on a list but that no one could be permitted to see it. No doubt, if the list were made available in this country it would be made available in other countries. For example, if the list had been published in New Zealand which sent as many troops to the Korean war as we did, it would have been published in Australia, also. I understood the Minister to say that there was a solemn bond of secrecy among a certain number of nations. Without wishing to reflect on the Minister personally, I say that he has given the most phony answer that I have ever heard. When we ask for a list of banned exports to China we are told that we cannot see it because a certain number of nations have agreed that it is to be kept secret. Apparently the only way to find out whether the exportation of a given commodity is banned is to apply for an export licence. Then one would probably be told that the commodity that it was desired to export was on a list of banned exports which had been compiled by certain nations which are members of the United Nations and, therefore, could not be exported. But the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is allowed to export steel and the Australian Wheat Board is able to export wheat.
– Is the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited exporting steel?
– Can you state the quantity that is being exported?
– No. I obtained that information from a copy of a speech by the chairman of the company. All I want to say to the Minister is, “Do not treat the Parliament and the people of this country as fools “. I am not blaming those who believe that the actions of mainland China could adversely affect this country. Possibly they are looking 20 or 30 years ahead, and they may have some ground for their belief. If I believed as they do, I would say that steel should not be exported to China. I would say that wool should not be exported to China. 1 would agree to the export of wheat only because I think it would be humane to keep the people of China alive in famine years. As I have said, the information supplied by the Minister does not dovetail with the facts. I do not accuse, the Minister of advising the Senate other than in the way in which he has been advised. I suppose that I would be out of order, Mr. Chairman, if I were to say that this attitude is damn stupid. I regret that that is so. We do not seem to be able to make any progress in this matter. There seems to be a wall of silence that we cannot penetrate. I do not think that anybody could believe that the facts are as they have been stated by the Minister.
– Mr. Chairman, I rise because I think that the subject in which Senator Kennelly has shown such persistence is worthy of the attention of the Senate. I want to develop the debate a little further because I think it is in the national interest so to do. I was very interested to hear the Minister disclose that the list originated at the time of the Korean War. In that context, the first matter that occurred to me was whether due consideration - Or, at any rate, some consideration - had been given to whether the considerations which resulted in the preparation of a list of banned materials then were applicable to the situation to-day. I do not say they are not. There are considerations into which I would not insist on probing, if those responsible for security and defence think that a collective agreement for the secrecy of this list among those who would ban exports of strategic materials to red China will baffle red China.
I concede the possibility that preventing complete public disclosure of that list to red China may be of some great disadvantage to red China. If it is a disadvantage from the point of view of building up strength in war material, this is a course that we, exercising a proper sense of responsibility, ought to support with a solidarity not divided by any party politics.
But there is great force in what has been urged upon the committee, namely, the unwisdom in the parliamentary system that we operate of denying to members of Parliament, as representatives of the people, information that affects our relationship with such an important country as red China. The suggestion from the Minister that a list like this should be kept secret can only come if it is supported by a deliberately considered decision, made by the Government and adhered to by the other parties to the agreement on this ban list, that there is real strategic value in keeping the list secret from red China because she would possibly get advantage from it. If it is simply that, in the thirteen years that have followed the Korean War, this arrangement has just gone on and on without deliberate reconsideration, it is time that the matter was taken into real consideration and that Ministers in this Parliament recognized the responsibility to inform the Parliament that they have taken a deliberate decision to continue the secrecy or to modify it in some way.
I feel that this is very important, having regard to the circumstances of the Pacific war. We remember the propaganda - I think it was mainly propaganda - that was blown up in regard to some circumstances that preceded the onset of the war with Japan. Australians are entitled to take an intelligent interest in a matter of this sort. If we are exporting steel to red China at present, I should think that any decision to maintain a secret list of strategic materials should be accompanied by some explanation why steel is not on the list.
I rise on this matter because I believe that our parliamentary system is very precious and that it is to be supported by a proper recognition of responsibility by us who seek this information and by Ministers who have to say whether or not the information is properly to be given. The matter is of transcendent importance to our security, having regard to the extraordinary position of significance that red China occupies in the Pacific. We in this Parliament need to keep ourselves continually vigilant as to the threat that may emanate from that quarter to this country at any time within the next twenty years. This is a matter in which the decision announced should be very carefully considered. The Ministry might consider that the list is not so secret that it could not be disclosed to the Leader of the Opposition, either in the Senate or in another place, on the ordinary terms on which security documents are afforded to the Opposition in a parliamentary democracy, or it may be that the list should be modified. It is important for public understanding of what Australia is really doing vis-a-vis red China to know the reasons for maintaining secrecy of the list and for permitting exports of such commodities as steel.
– I regret that I was not in the chamber at the beginning of this debate. I am keenly interested in what I have heard since I re-entered the chamber. I should like the Minister to indicate to me how the transactions are worked. I take it that a dealing with China would originate with a Chinese merchant wishing to buy from Australia and an Australian exporter making a contract, before there would be any approach to the Government. At the point where, perhaps, a contract has been concluded and export is about to take place, the exporter runs into the difficulty that the commodity is on the secret list. Inevitably, that will be communicated to China. We can credit China with real intelligence. I guarantee that the Chinese know the contents of that list. If they went around the countries which I have heard described as X countries, placing orders with any degree of intelligence, they could compile that list in a very limited period. Am I wrong in assuming that that is the way in which transactions arise?
I invite the Minister to consider the matter from the viewpoint of Australian business interests. Is it proper that our nationals should be free to enter into contracts in blind ignorance of the fact that the commodities that are the subject of the contract are on the secret list? Is is not damaging to their personal good faith and to the country’s good faith that they should be committing themselves to business interests in China? How much loss may be involved in their preparing orders for delivery to particular specifications, perhaps applicable only to Chinese requirements and not to general purposes of trade? I can see in the keeping of a secret list no end of confusion, trouble and ill feeling. Is the Minister in a position to give a broad, general reason, other than the need for secrecy? If the need for secrecy arises out of a clause in a contract between ourselves and X countries, and we have each pledged ourselves not to publish or disclose the list, surely, in this day and age it is time that we revised the contract. From what I have heard to-day, I do not see any reason for keeping the list secret. To do so must cause a lot of harm. 1 should think we would be fooling ourselves if we thought that the Chinese had not, by the simple method1 of exploring in various countries, obtained complete knowledge of the kind of goods that are on the list. 1 find myself in the difficulties which are experienced in this matter by my colleagues on both sides of the chamber. If we are considering the export of strategic materials, surely commodities such as steel and1 wool are of the very essence of strategic materials and are at the very foundations of warlike developments and accoutrements, ls the Minister not in a position to give us a general indication of the items on the list? Do they include drugs, machinery, nuclear power, or bauxite, as Senator Kennelly reminds me? Why should the export of some things be permitted1 while the export of other things, about which we are not told, is not permitted? The Minister must realize, as a member of the Government, that the Government is not in business on its own account. It is in business on behalf of the people of Australia. The business community is entitled to be informed of the goods on the list, for its convenience and in order to prevent financial loss and damage to its prestige; and the ordinary people of Australia are entitled to know the nature of the agreement with other countries to which they have been committed1. 1 am shocked to learn at this late stage that we are bound to other countries, whose names are secret, to prevent the export of goods which are included in a list which also is secret. The whole thing is incomprehensible to me. 1 think the Minister ought to be at pains to try to give us some ) understanding of it. I assume in the ! Government’s favour that it has a good
F.9600/63.- S- f521 reason for keeping the list secret. Will the Minister explain why that reason cannot be made public?
– I fully understand the point raised by Senator Wright regarding the utmost necessity - everything else being equal - for a parliament in a democracy to know the reasons why things are being done by the Government. 1 am just not in a position to argue at this stage whether or not the list of these materials should be made public. Perhaps it should be; perhaps it should not be. All I can say, in reply to the question that was asked by Senator Kennelly, is that to the best of my knowledge and belief, a list was compiled by a number of nations which agreed that they would not make it public. To the best of my knowledge and belief, the list has not been published by the British Government, which was one of the governments concerned, or by the New Zealand Government, or by governments of other countries which produce the same commodities as Australia. I very much regret it, but I cannot go further than that because I do not know and, even if I did know. I would not be able to disclose the reason which actually motivated the countries concerned when they reached that decision.
– Were not the strategic materials decided at the Paris conference?
– I understand they were.
– Would, not the proceedings of the conference have been published?
– The Paris conference was one at which people came together. I understand there have been alterations since then.
– But the nature of the materials would have been known at the time of the conference.
– Yes, but to the best of my knowledge there has never been a published list of them. That is the only reason why the nature of the commodities is not being made known now. T do not think I can go any further than that.
Some steel has been exported from Australia to China - not a great amount, but some. Approval had to be obtained for each shipment to be exported to China, and on each case it was necessary to record the particular type of steel. To the best of my recollection, it was a thin type of steel for use in making tinplate, tin cans and other things requiring steel of such a calibre. I think that if this matter is regarded by the Opposition as one of really significant principle it should be taken up with the Acting Minister for External Affairs, or with the Government by means of a debate. All that 1 can do here is to indicate again that to the best of my knowledge and belief the list has not been made public by the countries concerned for reasons which probably are the ones indicated by Senator Wright, although T cannot even say with certainty that those are the reasons, nor can I say how they were arrived at, though I imagine they had a good deal to do with the decision.
I know that from time to time the Australian Government has considered making public the list of items. I understand that the Government considered doing so after Senator Kennelly first raised the question here but decided that it would be better not to do so. Another point which can be made is that we have not had complaints from the Australian business community of trouble because of this position. I am handicapped here and cannot go further than to say that that is my understanding of the matter.
Senator MURPHY (New South Wales) i4.42]. - I wish to refer to Division No. 150, which relates to the Australian embassy in Japan. I refer particularly to item 01 in subdivision 1, which refers to the salaries and allowances shown in the schedule at page 144 of the bill. The schedule reveals that in 1962-63 there were thirteen persons engaged at the embassy in Japan and that the number of positions provided for in 1963-64 also is thirteen. We note that, elsewhere in the. estimates, commercial intelligence in Japan is attended to by the Department of Trade. Only five persons are provided for in this respect, the number being the same as last year. It appears from the list of consulates shown in the estimates that there is no Australian consulate-general in Japan, as there, is in the United States of America.
In the background of this matter there is the tremendous provision which is made in relation to the Australian High Commissioner’s! Office in the United Kingdom. Provision is made for expenditure of approximately £1,200,000 and for a staff of- some 366 persons. The number last year was 361. Provision also is made for migration officers and commercial intelligence officers in the United Kingdom. In view of the increasing importance of Japan to this country and of the development of our trading and other relations with that country, it seems that not sufficient provision has been made to deal with those relationships on a satisfactory basis. Why are there only thirteen persons in the Australian embassy in Japan whilst there is such a large, number of persons in the High Commissioner’s Office in the United Kingdom? It is notorious that there has been a change in relationships. Whether it is good or bad from the viewpoint of history there is no doubt that the United Kingdom is becoming relatively less important to Australia. It will, without doubt, remain an extremely important country to us in the future, but its relative importance to Australia is decreasing whereas the relative importance of Japan to Australia is increasing.
Although it is apparent, as it was last year, that there is this dramatic alteration in the relationship between Japan and Australia,’ that change is not reflected in the amount provided in the estimates for staffing our embassy in Japan. The staffing of our embassy should be an indication of the activities that are contemplated in Japan on behalf of Australia. I should like an explanation from the Minister of why no provision is made for the increased activities one would expect because of the increasing number of persons going to Japan from Australia and the increase in all the activities which will flow from the dramatic change in our relationship with Japan and the closer ties, through trade and other avenues, which now exist between the two countries.
I should also like from the Minister information about a matter which was touched on in an indirect way by Senator Benn. There seems to be a policy of discrimination against Australian citizens in favour of persons from the United Kingdom in the filling of minor secretarial positions in our embassies. It has been suggested to me that in Europe, for instance, because of the proximity of the United Kingdom there is a tendency on the part of Australian embassies to employ people from the United Kingdom in the minor English-speaking positions rather than employees from Australia. This has been done, no doubt, to save money, but the small economies which might occur cannot be compared with the irritation which is being experienced, apparently, by some people. Senator Benn is one whom 1 have heard complain about this. Apparently it was not Senator Wright’s experience. Some people have complained bitterly of treatment they get at, say, the Australian embassy in Italy. After explaining that they are Australians and asking for newspapers from home, they are given English newspapers and not Australian newspapers. That is only a little thing, but it is the kind of thing which is symbolic of an attitude of not looking towards Australia to the extent that, perhaps, the department should look towards Australia.
I endorse the remarks of Senator Dittmer. I think the staffs of the Australian embassies are held in the greatest respect by Australians travelling abroad. By and large the staffs do their very best to make Australians comfortable. The offiicers make visitors feel that they are being looked after and do everything to facilitate their visits overseas. I do not want to sound as though I am derogating from the excellence of staffs of our embassies in raising the matters that I have raised this afternoon, but those criticisms have been made to me.
There is only one other matter I wish to raise. I should like to know how many posts of ambassadors are vacant.
– As honorable senators will know, recently Mr. Brimblecombe and Mr. Mclvor, members of the House of Representatives, and I were fortunate enough to go to Nigeria, and we took the opportunity of doing what was virtually a world tour. The officers of the Department of
External Affairs and the Department of Trade could not do enough for the three of us on our tour. It was not an organized tour by any means. I was a little unfortunate in that I could not meet Mr. Mclvor and Mr. Brimblecombe until we arrived at Chicago. Prior to that I had been at Honolulu and San Francisco. Then the three of us went from Chicago to Washington, New York, London and into Germany. From there we went to Rome, Israel, India, Hong Kong and then came home.
I was never more agreeably surprised in my life to find what our Australian representatives are doing, not just for people like us who are members of the Commonwealth Parliament, but for any Australian citizen who approaches them in a reasonable manner. Many people who travel are not, in my opinion, as courteous to officials as they might be. I was astonished at the knowledge of these officials and their aptitude in introducing us to the people who really counted. This was particularly noticeable when we went into Germany. At that time the European Common Market was a hot subject over there. We had the opportunity of meeting the German Minister of Agriculture, and talking with him, and of travelling far and wide, visiting some of the large factories in Germany. From there we went into Holland and then travelled down to Nigeria in Africa. I cannot speak too highly of the treatment we received and I am only too happy to associate myself with the remarks of Senator Wright and Senator Dittmer in this respect.
Many of our Australian travellers do a great disservice to Australia when they come back and, for some paltry reason, criticize this great body of men and women in our embassies. Many of the complaints are due to the conduct of the travellers themselves. I have much pleasure in informing the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs, and also the Minister acting for the Minister for Trade, of my appreciation of the services of these officers, and I think I speak for the three of us. No one could have been treated with more consideration and courtesy, and we could not have had greater opportunities of meeting the people we wished to meet than we had. It was all due to the assistance we were afforded by officers of the Department of External Affairs and members of our trade delegations.
– I should like to record my appreciation of the courtesies that were extended to me and other members of the delegation with which I travelled to South America, by members of the trade posts and diplomatic posts. I should like to point out to the Minister for the Navy that the people who rule the South American countries have a different psychology from ours. I believe it would be to our advantage, therefore, if we were to give diplomatic status to our trade representatives. In many of these smaller countries we have only a trade representative and not a representative who is a member for the Department of External Affairs. Trade officials are doing an excellent job in these countries. Peru is a case in point. However, they lack the status that is enjoyed by members of our diplomatic service, even though they are doing almost the same kind of work that is done elsewhere by those members. Indeed, in some places they stand in for the Department of External Affairs; but, in the sight of the people who govern these countries - they are generally in the higher bracket - our trade representatives have not the status of diplomatic officials. I should like to see these officials of the Department of Trade, who represent Australia so efficiently-
Order! We are discussing the Department of External Affairs.
– I know that. I am trying to bring the two departments together.
– These people are under the administration of the Department of Trade.
– That is so, but I am asking the two departments to get together with a view to giving these people some diplomatic recognition. It would mean a lot to Australia to have a diplomatic representative in these areas. I have been told that applicants for appointment to the diplomatic service must have parents who were Australian-born or British-born. I do not know whether the requirement extends to grandparents. I have sought information about this in the past, but I have not been satisfied.
– I am told that that is not so.
– I should like to make certain of that, because I have had answers to the contrary in the past. Because of adverse conditions in certain parts of the world, the diplomatic service has a difficult task to perform. I should like to add my congratulations to the Department of External Affiairs upon the wonderful job it is doing. I am sure that, when the testing time comes in those countries, the members of our diplomatic service will uphold the great traditions that have been established in the past.
– I wish to relate my remarks to Division No. 142 - Antarctic Division. When I was elected to the Senate four years ago I raised the subject of ship charter. At that time two ships had been chartered - the “Magga Dan” and, I think, the “Thala Dan “. I thought that the amount we paid for the charter was quite high, considering that our shipbuilding yards were in need of work. I have raised this matter ever since when we have been considering the estimates. I have wondered why we should have to hire ships to go to Antarctica. I had been told that the Government was considering building its own ships, but we still find that it is paying approximately £170,000 a year for the hire of vessels. I understand that almost three years ago plans had been prepared for building suitable vessels. I should like to know why contracts for the building of vessels for use in Antarctica have not been let to Australian shipbuilding yards.
The next matter 1 want to raise relates to our embassies overseas. 1 do not know whether we have an embassy in Yugoslavia. I remind the Minister of the difficulties we are having in this country with Croatians. I ask him whether any attempt is made to tell intending migrants, whether they be Croatians or otherwise, that when they come to Australia they must leave many of their national habits behind them and that they are going to a country where private armios have not any standing and where the type of organization that they are interested in and have been brought up to respect is not an object of respect in Australia. I do not want to offend any new Australian. It is very important that we should have a balanced view of the problems of assimilation that are experienced by new Australians. However, I point out that at naturalization ceremonies new Australians arc told that they are expected to be good Australian citizens and are expected to observe Australian standards and ideals. I know that the Government does have a good look at prospective migrants to ensure that Communist elements do not come to Australia–
– This matter really comes under the administration of the Department of Immigration.
– I know that, but I was trying to link this matter up with the administration of Department of External Affairs. Our diplomatic representatives in the areas concerned should spend some money to let prospective new Australians know what will be expected of them in Australia. I know that probably this matter should be raised when we are considering the estimates for the Department of Immigration, but I believe that our consulates overseas could be more active in explaining to migrants that they must measure up to certain standards. I thought the Minister for the. Navy and the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) treated the Croatian question rather lightly in this chamber a few days ago. I felt that the Government had not had a good look at all the evidence that was available in Australia of the activities of certain sections of these people. I felt that they almost sympathized with the views of these people and even encouraged them to proceed along the lines that they were following.
– They should have a look at Minto in New South Wales.
– They should have a look at a lot of things. I think the Wodonga affair was rubbished off a little. But the fact is that there was a group of people in camp at Wodonga and they were associated in a newspaper photograph with the use of Australian equipment. Tha
Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) said it was only a bit of fun, but they had all the regalia and all the marks on their lapels of the organization they represented. They are in Australia and were fostering a movement that is not really accepted by the majority of their own people. They are a minority group organized to keep alive hates they were not prepared to leave behind in their own country. I think that in the interests of our entire immigration plan we have to have a close and strict look at the extreme right as well as the extreme left, and I think the aid of our consulates in various countries could bc enlisted to educate many people who are considering coming to Australia.
– At the risk of returning to a subject which otherwise might not be discussed further, but because I consider it to be significant, I want to say a few more words on the questions raised by Senator Kennelly as to the list of goods which can be exported to Communist China, and the comments made upon that subject. I think and hope that I shall be able to make clearer the precise position as it exists. There is a list of articles on the export of which to any Communist country there is a complete embargo. This list is published by the British Board of Trade and has been adopted by Australia. Items on this list arc known to be forbidden exports. There is a list in Australia of items which are freely exportable to Communist China, and this list can be obtained by any exporter from the Department of Trade or from customs posts in any State. But there is a vast and varied list of goods which are neither on the export embargo list nor on the list of items freely exportable. The export of goods in this intermediate range is the subject of application to and decision by the Government at the time of application, whether or not at that time the goods are considered strategic. Goods in this intermediate range have not been listed by Australia and have never been listed by any of the countries which adopt this practice. I realize I have gone back into something dealt with previously, but I think it was perhaps important enough for me to make the position clearer than I had managed to make it before.
asked about the number of persons employed in Australian posts in Japan. The number of Australian officers of the Department of External Affairs at any particular post abroad is the subject of a constant and continuing review, and the number of people required at that post is the subject of advice from the head of the mission, as it is at any other post. The numbers required are first subject to advice from the man on the spot and then the subject of discussion as to whether that advice should be accepted by the Government. That is what happened in the case of Japan.
The use of Australians in all positions abroad would involve a great deal of expense, and it is difficult to see what advantage would accrue to Australia out of that expenditure. Australian personnel are employed abroad in all sensitive positions of trust on secretarial and clerical staffs.
Officers of the Trade Commissioner Service to whom Senator Cole adverted are given diplomatic status when they are stationed in capital cities where we are represented diplomatically. Diplomatic status depends not on Australian rules but on internationally accepted principles. Senator Cole also referred to the rules governing recruitment into the Department of External Affairs. The answer is that a man must be an Australian citizen to be recruited but does not need to have been born in Australia so long as he is an Australian citizen. There is at least one officer of the department who, although an Australian citizen, was not born in Australia.
On the matters raised by Senator Ormonde, I indicated in answer to a question recently that the acquisition of an Antarctic vessel to work under the ownership of the Australian Government was not by any means simple. An Antarctic vessel is not used all the year round. Such a vessel built in Australia would have to be run all the year round or laid. up for part of the year at great expense. The costs of refitting a ship of this kind, of supplying a crew and paying for maintenance and management would, if we were regarding this purely from an economic aspect, be greater than the cost under the present system. But that is not a final or decisive argument. The matter is not under Government discussion at the moment although I am sure it is the subject of fairly constant thought by those in the department who are concerned with it.
Senator Ormonde referred to matters that were the responsibility of employees of the Department of Immigration rather than the Department of External Affairs. My own opinion is that undoubtedly it would be better if all Australians were more concerned with Australia than with anything else. In my view it would be very bad if there were any legal compulsion to prevent people who are Australians from expressing their views - provided they acted within legal bounds - as to what they think should happen in parts of the world from which they have come to Australia.
– I should like the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) to say what is to happen concerning the provision for a High Commission in Malaya and a High Commission in Singapore. This provision is shown in the schedule covering salaries and allowances at pages 152 and 153 of the documents before the committee. A staff of eight is provided for the High Commission in Malaya and ten for the High Commission in Singapore. I take it that since the formation of Malaysia the necessity for these two separate establishments, and therefore the foundation for the double expenditure, have gone. Presumably there is to be some consolidation in a High Commission for Malaysia. What is to happen then to the staff? If one adds the staff of eight for Malaya and ten for Singapore one reaches a total of eighteen. Is it intended to retain a staff of eighteen for a High Commission for Malaysia? That is somewhat large when one considers that there are only thirteen for the whole of Japan. Returning again to that subject of Japan I ask: Is there a press attache” in Japan? Have there been recommendations from those on the spot in Japan over a number of years that there ought to be a press attache’ there? What happens in respect of such recommendations? At what level are they considered?
– May I ask the Minister whether be will take the opportunity while we are considering the estimates of the Department of External Affairs to comment upon the news in the Melbourne press this afternoon to the effect that Indonesia is strengthening tits forces in West Irian as a measure associated with its opposition - I shall not use the word “ hostility “ because objection was taken to its use the other day - to Malaysia? I ask for the information on this occasion because as the Minister will recall, some eight or ten days ago I asked a question, based on a newspaper report, about interference, off the Philippines, with fishing vessels belonging to fishermen from Sarawak or Borneo. The process of putting a question like that on the notice-paper submerges it and the information reaches the member of Parliament only after the significance of the whole incident has passed.
We have reached the stage when perhaps it would bc advisable to innovate somewhat and to have the significant cables relating to events in this area posted somewhere in Parliament so that members can see what is going on. I make that suggestion, not for the purpose of alerting our country unduly, but for the purpose of giving to the Australia-minded an outlook on external events which now take great significance to our security. I think in Australia we are, intuitively, an insular people. We have not been accustomed to looking at external affairs with any degree of interest. I myself have an absorbing interest in this area. We have a duty to be vigilant. I should very much like the Minister, if he has not the information at the moment, to take an opportunity later during the Estimates debate to give the information that I now seek.
I want to satisfy one other pang of curiosity that resides in my mind. I hope that this will not provoke any embarrassment on the part of those who discharge anxious responsibilities on behalf of the Government. I have not been able to understand why American interest in this area has not been more effective than it has appeared to be up to date. I should have thought that, with Indonesia’s progress so dependent upon assistance from the United States, that country was in a unique position to exercise influence to ensure that non-peaceful activities are neither indulged in nor threatened. In that way she would promote the prosperity of the area into which her money is going. Is Sir Garfield Barwick in his visit to the United States at the present time taking the opportunity to have talks with representatives of the United States directed towards this end? It is, I think, to the complete good of this country that the people and the Parliament should be kept informed of the situation. The information should be in proper balance and not be such as to create undue anxiety. That would enable us to develop a narrative understanding of the trend of thinking in responsible government circles in Indonesia. I believe that by a true divination of the policy that is entertained by the Government of Indonesia we will be able to gauge the activities that we should support to prevent any involvement of our country and any attack upon its security - not directly perhaps but through those parts of the world to which we have undertaken obligations.
– I can inform Senator Murphy that it is proposed to retain roughly the same staffs at Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, though it is possible that one or two people from Singapore will be moved to Kuala Lumpur. The honorable senator was lumping the two places together. Approximately the same number of people will still be required.
There is no press attache in Japan.. This subject was a matter of discussion in the department when Sir Laurence Mclntyre came down from Japan just recently while the Japanese mission was here. The provision of either a press attache or an information officer is under consideration.
– Has that not been recommended on a number of occasions over the years?
– I have no knowledge of it, and the former counsellor at our embassy in Japan has no knowledge of it. That is all I can say.
I come now to the points raised by Senator Wright. I do not think I can comment on this afternoon’s news because
I certainly do not know, and I doubt whether the department would yet be able to say definitely, whether the press reports referred to by the honorable senator are true. Until such time as that information is available I cannot comment.
I understand the references that the honorable senator has made to the influence that the United States may be able to exert in the area. I should not like the honorable senator to think that the United States has not been quite active in the area in endeavouring to exert influence for the very ends for which the honorable senator thinks it should be exerted. I am sure that Sir Garfield Barwick in his recent visit to the United Nations took the opportunity to discuss, among other things, what could best be done to bring about the result which is so desirable for all of us. The honorable senator will have noticed, I am sure, recent newspaper reports of the audiences between President Soekarno and the United States Ambassador. That, I think, does indicate a level of activity.
Proposed expenditures noted.
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed expenditure, £17,642,000.
Department of the Treasury - Capital Works and Services.
Proposed expenditure, £2,289,000.
War and Repatriation Services - Miscellaneous - Department of the Treasury.
Proposed expenditure, £16,000.
.- In dealing with the estimates of the Treasury, 1 again wish to raise a matter which I have previously raised by way of question in the Senate. It relates to gift duty. During the course of the Budget speech, a fairly satisfactory adjustment was announced in regard to death duty in that the value of estates which may be exempted from death duty has been raised from £5,000 to £10,000. Am I not correct in believing that gift duty is imposed as an anticipatory death duty, and that, for some odd reason, those who devised the gift duty thought that family transactions should be the subject of the only capital tax which, inter vivos, is levied in this country? It is levied upon a species of transactions which particularly prevails within the family. Yet, death duties are levied in such a way as to temper their incidence when devolution exists within the family and to increase their incidence when descent goes to strangers. For about ten or eleven years the Commonwealth has levied death duty on all gifts made, I think, within eighteen months of death, exceeding £2,000, either in the hands of the donor or the donee, lt seems to be completely anomalous that an adjustment in the death duty rate should be made as I have indicated - an adjustment with which I agree and which is most welcome - without a corresponding adjustment to the gift duty rate.
This month is pregnant with opportunity for a Liberal government. 1 sincerely hope that the Government’s term of office will extend into another Parliament. But risks have to be run. Consequently, while there is time, surely we should appreciate that gift duty is the only capital tax that is levied, inter vivos. Surely we should realize that it is a tax which is especially incident upon families. Surely we should appreciate that it is thoroughly obnoxious to anybody of liberal principles that transactions consisting of the distribution of property should be selected for taxation. A society built on an aggregation of large individual properties is anathema. Europe teems with countries in which such conditions exist. The social revolution that is going on in England is reducing huge individual fortunes. Yet, in Australia, we maintain a gift tax which is specifically designed to maintain estates so that they may be fat and fruitful when the owner dies and so that the yield of death duty will satisfy the Treasurer.
The other purpose of this gift duty is to induce people not to give their property to members of their families so that the owner of large aggregations of property will have a big income which will attract a higher rate of income tax. That principle is thoroughly offensive to anybody who subscribes to liberal principles. I want to know, first, why we still entertain the notion that gift duty should not be adjusted to a rate corresponding to that of death duties; and secondly, I want to know why, contrary to the resolution of the federal council of the Liberal Party last year, gift duty is continued at all.
– 1 am aware of Senator Wright’s interest in the subject which he has raised and concerning which he has asked a question in the Senate. An answer to the question was provided by my colleague, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) who pointed out that the incidence of rates of these two taxes - gift duty and death duty - was purely coincidental.
– No it is not.
– I am repeating what the Treasurer said in his answer to the question.
– I realize that. I am just indicating my inability to accept it.
– Notwithstanding that fact, 1 feel that I am justified in repeating what the Treasurer said when the specific question was asked. As to the rest of the points raised by the honorable senator, he will recognize that he is discussing a matter of policy. I do not, at this time, venture to make any comment on it at all.
.- The consideration of the estimates presents honorable senators with an opportunity to bring grievances which they feel that they have to the attention of the Government which has the privilege of formulating financial policy, year by year. This must become quite a forlorn process if, when we seek information, it is said that the question concerns a matter of policy. Surely, when the Budget is presented it is not expected that it should be accepted without complaint if questions concerning expenditure are not answered. The matter that I have raised relates to a continuing process and, therefore, although it may be a matter of policy, it is also a matter of grievance. I think that a government that wishes its estimates to be passed should provide a satisfactory explanation of why a specific grievance continues to exist.
– The particular point of interest to me is Division No. 209, Advance to the Treasurer, £16,000,000. It is proposed to appropriate this amount for a purpose to be decided at some time in the future. As a similar appropriation was made last year, it would appear that this is a usual procedure of the Parliament. It seems to me that we. do not know what the proposed vote of £16,000,000 will be used for. The explanatory note reads -
To enable the Treasurer to make advances which will be recovered willim the financial year; and to make moneys available to meet expenditure, particulars of which will afterwards be submitted to Parliament, or pending the issue of a warrant of the Governor-General specifically applicable to the expenditure.
There is nothing to show how the sum of £16,000,000 which was appropriated last year was expended. There is a note at the foot of the page which reads as follows: -
Expenditure is shown throughout the Estimates under the heads to which it has been charged.
I suppose that. the separate expenditures could be reckoned if we took the time. Was the appropriation last year fully expended? It seems that there is no reason to assume that the proposed appropriation is not intended for expenditure on the same items, and there appears to be no reason why the items should not be shown. It is proposed that we advance £16,000,000 for certain purposes, but we do not know what these are. Perhaps the Minister could give us some more information.
.- The item “Advance to the Treasurer” serves the following purposes: - To make advances that will be recovered within the financial year, such as advances for expenditure overseas on behalf of Commonwealth authorities, advances to paymasters for counter ‘cash advances, and advances to make moneys available to meet expenditure particulars of which will afterwards be submitted to the Parliament. The procedure for parliamentary examination of this expenditure is that the statement is tabled in the House of Represenatives and referred for consideration of the committee of the whole House. The Joint Committee of Public Accounts then examines the expenditure and issues a report which is tabled at the time when the debate on the statement is resumed. The statement for 1962-63 was tabled in the House of Representatives on 14th August.
After the statement has been agreed to by the House of Representatives, it is submitted for approval to the Senate. I think the honorable senator will see that this expenditure and its various component items receive the attention not only of both Houses but also of a committee of both Houses, namely, the Joint Committee of Public Accounts.
.- When the Treasury asks for a vote of £17,000,000, I am not disposed to let it go without one or two inquiries. I ask the Minister to recognize my continuing interest in a document that was presented to the Parliament some two or three years ago - the report of the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation. I remind him that ] have blown hot on some recommendations of that report and cold upon others. Although we had the report brought to public and parliamentary notice with an unblushing declaration that the provisions recommended were to operate as from the day of publication, the report has now gone into a process of incubation, which has lasted for some 2i years. There arc some things mentioned in that report, condonation of which for that long time amazes me. One was the manner in which the provisions of the Income Tax Act can be manipulated to permit building on a lease to the tune of £1,000,000, and then the writing off the whole of the capital cost against income over the period of the lease. I regarded that as a matter which, with proper Treasury responsibility, should have been stopped within one month, even if one had to go to the inconvenience of dealing with it in isolation.
I raise the matter pointedly now because in the quiet way in which I move from time to time 1 hear some unpointed remarks to the effect that this process is assuming large dimensions in one State and in a certain big city. If indeed it be the position that transactions are continuing, whereby people are manipulating the lease provision of the Income Tax Act by taking a lease, building a £1,000,000 structure on it, and then writing off what is essentially a capital asset as a deduction from income, neglect to remedy such an anomaly would need a lot of justification. So I ask the Treasurer whether that matter has received attention. Will the anomaly be remedied, or was the committee in error in regarding it as an anomaly?
We are approaching the end of this Parliament and amongst the bills that will be trundled before us in the next two or three weeks will be one to amend the Income Tax Act. This is a matter of growing complexity. I simply take this opportunity of asking the Treasurer’s representative to note the desire of some senators to have the bill in sufficient time to understand these complex matters before we are asked to debate it.
– The report of the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation has been in the hands of the Government, as the. honorable senator said, for about two and a half years. It is recognized, I think, as a most comprehensive and in some ways complex document. Some of the recommendations have been adopted. The adoption of some was announced in the recent Budget speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt).
Senator Wright referred particularly to what he described as the manipulation of the lease provisions of the act. I am able to inform him that this problem, along with certain o’.her questions of rather more complexity than many of the matters dealt with in the report, has been referred to Mr. O’sullivan, who was recently appointed as a special consultant for the purpose, amongst others, of inquiring into the recommendations made by the committee. The matter may therefore be said to be under active consideration.
– . In relation to the Treasury vote, can the Minister tell me what contributions are paid by the Treasury to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund? What are the proportions of total contributions to the fund paid by the Treasury and by individual officers? I should like also to have some information about the present size of the fund. Were there any actuarial references in the last report of the Superannuation Board to the sufficiency of the present contributions to maintain the solvency of the fund.
– I regret that I have not the information that the honorable senator seeks. The best that I can do is to undertake to get the information for him as soon as I can.
Silting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
.- I wish to refer to the proposed expenditure for the Department of the Treasury and particularly to Division No. 191 - Administrative. Item 03. of sub-division 3 relates to interest on trustee moneys lodged at call for payment to the credit of the head of the trust fund concerned. I wish to raise with the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), who represents the Treasurer in this chamber, a reference in the report of the Auditor-General to the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund. This perhaps is an opportune time for honorable senators to be given information regarding this fund. It would appear from the reports issued by the Auditor-General and various departments that the balance in the fund has been increasing from year to year. On 1st July, 1962, there was £473,258 in the fund, and on 30th June, 1963, there was a balance of £515,243. Contributions by members amounted to £47,742.
– Are you referring to the annual contributions of members?
– Give him a chance to make his speech.
– Pension payments to members who have retired or been defeated amounted to £68,349, and contributions by members amounted to £47,742. Interest on investment of the members’ own funds amounted to £22,102. I believe that honorable senators should give serious consideration to the actuarial position of the fund.
– When you say “ the. members’ own funds “, you recognize, of course, that the contribution has been stepped up by the Treasury from 60 per cent, to 70 per cent.?
– These are the members’ contributions.
– It is not the members* own fund.
– Yes. It is referred to as the members’ own fund.
– It is not. It is a public fund.
The CHAIRMAN__ Order!
– It is the members’ fund, and when payment is to be made the Commonwealth makes its contribution. I proceed to point out that when the fund was established, the method of election to the Senate was different from that now observed.
– Is the honorable senator referring to the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act?
– I am referring to the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund, under the estimates for the Department of the Treasury.
– Which division?
– No. 191.
– I am just enlightening him.
– Order! Senator Dittmer, when 1 am asking Senator O’Byrne a question you will be quiet.
– That covers it.
– Order! I warn you that if there are any more interruptions from you I will name you.
– You have warned me often and I have apologized often.
The CHAIRMAN__ This is the last time
I shall warn you. Senator O’Byrne, will you state the number of the division to which you are referring?
– No. 191.
– Order! I name Senator Dittmer.
– Order! I suspend the proceedings of the committee in order to report to the President that an offence has been committed by Senator Dittmer.
In the Senate:
– As Chairman, Mr. President, I have to report that, in the committe proceedings after repeated warnings to Senator Dittmer, and having told him that I would name him if he interrupted again, he continued to interrupt and accordingly I named him. Since then he has continued to interrupt.
– Mr. President, I ask that Senator Dittmer be requested to stand in his place and make any explanation or apology that he thinks fit.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - 1 call Senator Dittmer.
– The explanation, Mr. President, basically does not concern the subject before this chamber. If. I have offended any particular senator or group of senators I shall apologize. I still think I was right. I am grateful for the tolerance of the Senate. If you, Sir, think I am in the wrong, then it is for the chamber to deal with me, but I feel that in this particular case I have the right, as the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir William Spooner) has indicated, to make an explanation. If the Government docs not report facts, I think an honorable senator from cither side of the chamber has the right to make a statement by way of interjection. Other people have made interjections. I have heard honorable senators digress in such an extraordinary way that I have grown accustomed to following the pattern they have set.
If you, Sir, feel that I have transgressed, I apologize. I do that to you because of the extraordinary tolerance you have exhibited to me. In the closing stages of this Parliament, it would not be part and parcel of my nature, as you know, humble as I am, to transgress against any rules, by-laws or standing orders. Perhaps the Leader of the Government in the Senate will point out where I was wrong. The Chairman staled that I had been warned repeatedly. Many other honorable senators have been warned repeatedly. I did not realize that I had been repeatedly warned because I interjected only three, times. That is not repeatedly, although it may be a number of occasions. Let us face the issue. Once, twice or thrice is not repeatedly. In any case, Mr. President, I humbly apologize to this honorable chamber if I have offended, but 1 think I have certain rights in repre senting not only the party on my side of the chamber but also the electors. I have helped the Government on many occasions, as honorable senators opposite well know. I say again that I apologize.
Motion (by Senator Sir William Spooner) put -
That Senator Dittmer be suspended from tha sitting of the Senate,
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative. (Senator Dittmer thereupon withdrew from the chamber.)
In committee: Consideration resumed.
When considering the estimates for salaries and the cost of administering the department, we should be able to discuss this matter in a quiet and reasoned way. A certain measure of politics is involved. I should like to have the matter removed from the sphere of politics and have it debated by honorable senators - by my peers. This fund was established before the new method of proportional representation was adopted. The actuaries calculated that there could be a big swing in the Senate each year. They estimated that as many as 33 senators could retire at each swing of the political pendulum. But immediately after the institution of the fund a new form of proportional representation was introduced. That meant that not only was there elected to the Senate a compensating number of senators who started to contribute to the fund but also that the number who would retire each year was considerably reduced. Consequently, the risk of large payments from the fund was considerably reduced. As a result, the fund is growing annually to a degree that I am sure was not envisaged in the legislation.
I believe that a very close review of the fund ought to be made. I hope that honorable senators, rather than find excuses for dodging the issue, will give it the closest consideration, particularly at a time like the present. When all is said and done, contributions to the fund are an insurance against loss occasioned by defeat. I am not pushing my own barrow, because I shall not be immediately involved in the forthcoming election. I repeat that I “believe the matter should be considered by honorable senators sitting as a Committee of the Whole and that they should express their views to officers who finally should be answerable to the Parliament. This matter affects personally the members of this Parliament, yet they do not seem to be able to have their voice heard in relation to it. Whenever they raise the subject, members of the press and others try to villify them for doing so. I repeat that the matter should be reviewed. I hope the Minister will accept my comments in the spirit in which they have been uttered.
.- I am pleased that Senator O’Byrne was required to relate his observations to the proper head of expenditure. He at last made it quite clear that he was referring to Division No. 191, sub-division 1., for which the provision of no less than £1,080,100 has been made. We approve the expenditure of a sum of money of that order because within the Department of the Treasury there are very competent officers. I submit that it is beneath the standard of responsibility required in this chamber that any honorable senator should impugn the competence of the officer who advises the Administration about the fund to which Senator O’Byrne has referred.
We should be reminded that when the fund was instituted the officers of the Department of the Treasury were supported by the provision that the fund should be actuarially reviewed periodically. For individual members of the Parliament to pit their judgment against the judgment of an experienced actuary would be the height of irresponsibility. Those who administer superannuation or life assurance funds are required to take certain safeguards for the continued preservation of those funds. The security of the fund in question is based upon the report of an actuary, an advanced mathematician, who has the responsibility of ensuring that it will be preserved, not merely for Senator Justin 0’Byrne., generation, but for those who will be members of the Parliament for the next five, ten or fifteen years. 1 protest against the irresponsibility which is implicit in the honorable senator’s submission. If he wants to have the fund reviewed, let him call for the Actuary’s report. Let it be tabled and then let us debate it. If the Actuary makes a certain recommendation, then the honorable senator will have a basis for his argument. If the Actuary makes another recommendation, then the person who challenges his report must justify his argument. To delve into a matter in which honorable senators have a financial interest would render quite futile our approving the payment of salaries to men of competence such as the officer in the Department of the Treasury who advises on the administration of the fund.
.- The matter which Senator Wright has raised is of the utmost importance, especially because on this issue he must be absolutely wrong. If we may praise officers of the Public Service, we must also be able to criticize them.
– Order! Is the honorable senator relating his remarks to Division No. 191?
– Yes. I repeat that we must also be able to criticize officers if the occasion arises. Otherwise, we all might as well go home. This is one place where every aspect of the Public Service must be open to criticism as well as to praise. It is not to the point to suggest that on some occasions the interests of members of the Parliament might be involved. That is understood. In regard to any legislation or any matters of administration that come before the Parliament we must be able to criticize when necessary. Indeed, it is our duty to do so. Senator Wright should know that, and I think he does. I now intend to criticize.
I understand that under this head of expenditure would fall the administration of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. That administration is certainly open to criticism. It has been criticized in the courts. It has been criticized by members of the legal profession who have had something to do with it, and it has been criticized by employees
In the Public Service who have been unfortunate enough to have had cause to attempt to obtain benefits under the act. The administration of the act is a public scandal.
– How do you like that, Senator Wright?
– That is legitimate. Let us hear about it.
– The administration of the act has been such as to call forth criticism from all those classes of persons. The act has been administered harshly. In many cases persons have not been given the real reason, or at least an adequate reason, as to why claims have been rejected. When persons have appealed to the County Court or to the District Court, to which they are entitled to bring their appeals, often the commissioner or the delegate under the act has indulged in practices which have been described by responsible persons as nothing less than sharp. I refer to the practice of altering determinations, even after an appeal has been brought. I do not want to go into individual cases, but I assure honorable senators that there has been a great deal of responsible criticism of the administration of the act. I think that the act ought not to be administered by the persons who are administering it. This act has been dealt with by people in the Treasury. They have not the background of dealing with the legal rights of persons and, in many ways, they deal with them in a way in which I think persons who were used to dealing with litigation claims made against’ departments would not deal with them. 1 share the view of a large body of persons who think - and have thought for some time - that the administration of this act should be removed from the Treasury altogether. When adverse claims are being made against the Commonwealth apparently the officials dealing with these matters are not accustomed to the litigious atmosphere involved in such situations. They are not used to accepting the notion that the Commonwealth might be wrong even though, although they have opinions to the effect that the Commonwealth is right, the injured person has received opinions to the contrary. All the time the attitude taken is more the attitude of an administration which is contrary to the spirit in which this kind of act should administered. Some other department - perhaps the Attorney-General’s Department - could much more appropriately deal with these claims than the Treasury can. That is the criticism I wish to make of the administration.
There have been some extraordinary examples of how the rights of persons are dealt with. There is a case in which a woman employed by the Services Canteens Trust at Richmond, New South Wales, was injured. She had a claim against the Commonwealth and a delegate of the commissioner under the act was appointed to determine the claim. He was the official in charge of the establishment. The claim was determined in favour of the employee and then, believe it or not, an appeal was brought by the Commonwealth, or in the name of the trust, which in effect is the Commonwealth under the act. The appeal was actually lodged not in Sydney or in an area where one might reasonably think it would be lodged, but in Melbourne. The injured person was required to contest the appeal lodged under this act.
– In what court?
– The County Court in Melbourne. The injured person’s solicitors endeavoured to. get the matter transferred, and so far as I know it is still hanging on, and has been for more than twelve months. That is the sort of thing that can happen under this act. In fairness I might say that the position was complicated because, for some curious reason, a private insurer was concerned in the matter, although this was a claim under the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act. But you get things, perhaps not generally so bad as this, which are outrageous. Most criticisms have been made of the administration of this act by the legal persons concerned with it, including judges of the District Court in Sydney and, I understand, judges in other parts of the Commonwealth. The administration is thoroughly unsatisfactory and something should be done about it.
There is one other matter which also concerns administration. It has come to my attention because it again concerns administration in which the Department of the Treasury is involved. I refer to litigation conducted by the Commonwealth. Apparently for some time there has been an administrative procedure of limiting the discretion of those conducting litigation on behalf of the Commonwealth so that no decision can be made, even by the Deputy Crown Solicitors in the respective States, to compromise in some matter that involves more than £1,000, without reference to the Treasury. That, of course, might well sound reasonable if there were time to do it, but in litigation often a compromise has to be made on the spot during the currency of a case. It is quite absurd that those concerned on the spot with the conduct of some litigation on behalf of the Commonwealth are so limited that not even the counsel conducting it, those instructing him, not even the Deputy Crown Solicitor of the State in which the litigation is being conducted, can exercise their discretion in matters involving over £1,000 without reference to Canberra. That, of course, means reference to some person, often low in the administration, who cannot possibly have the background knowledge and experience - either of litigation in general or in a particular matter - to exercise discretion properly. It probably means that they are tied to what they are advised, but it is unnecessary red tape and, in practice, it costs the Commonwealth a lot of money.
Something should be done to remove some of this red tape - first, by increasing the amount of discretion which apparently has remained at the same level for some time, and otherwise to remove some of the tentacles which the Treasury extends into this field as well as into many other fields. There seems no reason why persons in the Treasury, unversed in these matters, should have to be consulted and their consent obtained before those who are knowledgeable and sufficiently competent to be entrusted by the Commonwealth with the conduct of these matters are not allowed to use their discretion on behalf of the Commonwealth.
.- I say nothing as to what has fallen from Senator Murphy regarding the Commonwealth’s conduct of litigation. I do not think that that falls for consideration under the Treasury estimates. But I do want to say something about his observations on the other matter. I refer to the administration by the Treasury of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Fund. Nobody making a fair interpretation of anything I have said would ever dispute the propriety of criticizing officers who had fallen short in their duty of administration. Nobody would for one moment suggest that I would put forward the view that this Parliament has not the right - and I think the duty - to criticize properly any officer of the Public Service concerning the discharge of his official duties. With regard to the remarks that fell from Senator Murphy at the outset, when he attributed that point of view to me, I feel that he does me less than justice, because I was speaking of a matter where the statute required that anybody who should advise upon the benefits to be paid out of superannuation funds should take, periodically, an actuarial report. I think it is beneath the dignity of Parliament and displays a gross irresponsibility to suggest that we should listen to private opinions on these matters without first going through the process of obtaining an actuarial report.
Coming to the question of the administration of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, as I understand it that is the function of one sub-department of the Treasury. Even though the criticism comes from a person of the experience of Senator Murphy, I should have thought that prudent preliminaries to the presentation of such an argument to this committee would have required a careful listing of particular instances wherein the officer was alleged to have fallen short of his duty. Particulars of those instances should have been presented to that officer through his Minister. In addition, particulars should have been circulated to honorable senators so that their judgment might be brought to bear upon them. I am completely unimpressed by a generalized criticism of an officer in respect of a matter of this character.
– I named no particular officer.
– The honorable senator’s criticism must ultimately be directed to the officer who carries the final responsibility for the administration of this act. We all know who that officer is. We all have our own ideas about his capacity and reliability.
– We do not know the officer so will you name him? You have made an assertion; will you name the officer?
– I see no harm whatever in naming him.
– Name him! That will enable us to understand your reasoning.
– There is no reluctance on my part to name him, and I should think that the attitude of this officer indicates that he would not wish to be a shrinking violet in such matters.
– We do not know him. I do not want you to refer to the officer without naming him.
– I understand that the officer who bears the ultimate responsibility for the administration of this part of Treasury business is Mr. Hewitt.
– That is not right.
– I may be wrong.
– You do not know what you are talking about, as usual.
– Give us the facts.
– Instead of barking, either tie yourselves up or go back in. Let me be heard and then I will listen to you, if you have anything equally responsible to submit.
– To you it would not be equally responsible.
– With respect, I ask that 1 be allowed to make a statement when the honorable senator has concluded his remarks.
– The responsible member of the Treasury staff, whoever he is, is entitled to be informed of the particular cases wherein it is alleged that he has fallen short in his duty. He is entitled to have an opportunity to consider the allegations so that his Minister can answer these generalized charges. That is an elementary requirement of natural fair play.
– I did not criticize the officer; I criticized the system.
– Order! You have already spoken.
– In fairness to this committee and to enable it to make an intelligent judgment, those who advanced the criticism should give us an opportunity to hear what the Minister has to say. I do not wish it to be said that I am defending any officer, nor am I expressing any rejection of the proposition that this act has, in some circumstances, been very conservatively administered. However, I do offer a mild protest against the introduction to committee proceedings of charges of this sort. The process that I suggested would be much fairer. If there is substance in the allegations I will be very interested to consider them, whether they are presented to-night or on a later occasion.
– I believe that the submissions advanced by Senator Murphy are of such importance that . they should receive the attention of this committee. I strongly deprecate any assertion that Mr. Hewitt, or anybody else in the Treasury, has been responsible for bureaucratic decisions under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. If the administration of this act is proved to be unsound in law then no honorable senator should attack some individual in the department. Departmental officers act under instructions from the Government and have to conform to rules in making decisions. However, Senator Wright’s assertion that criticism of the Public Service is below the dignity of the committee is an extraordinary statement. I have been a public servant and an auditor of accounts and I have been criticized, not only by Parliament but by my immediate superior. I had a duty to do and I did it within the confines of my conscience. If we should become so small that we introduce the names of individuals into a debate and hold them responsible for government policy, then that would be a weakness. Senator Wright is a learned man and I am not, but I think he will agree with me that no individual public servant should, in meeting his obligations to Parliament and in implementing the policy of a government, be held responsible for his actions. Whatever he does may be open to criticism, but he is following instructions and is loyal to Parliament. I think those remarks are sufficient to clear Senator Murphy of the charge that has been levelled against him.
There are occasions when criticism of the administration of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act should receive the attention of the Senate. Such an instance would be where a person has not had an opportunity of being defended and has suffered considerably as a result of the administration of the act. We of the Opposition feel that the administration of this act does need revision. I should like to refer to the case of Lieutenant Lovett in Western Australia for whose widow and dependants the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) has, he says, the greatest sympathy in their efforts to obtain compensation. The widow’s main complaint seems to be that the assessment made by this government department denied her reasonable compensation. To contest the assessment she would have needed legal assistance, which she could not afford. As her representative in this chamber I was not able to gain access for her to any tribunal which would give relief. That is a matter that should be considered by this committee, but not in relation to Mr. Hewitt, who might be the most generous minded man in the community. He is restricted, as I know a public servant can be, by the provisions of the statute under which he operates and by departmental policy. So I say that it is very small of honorable senators to engage in such criticism as this.
I wish to submit for the consideration of the Minister another matter which I hope will also have the attention of Treasury representatives who are present. It concerns the operation of the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund. I do not intend to give to the Senate full details of the matter which I have before me. I do not think that would be advisable due to the restrictions under which officers- have to administer the relevant legislation and to the bureaucratic application of the Government’s policy. In view of those considerations I shall not name the individual about whom 1 am concerned because he may have to return to his department as an employee. Consequently, without his permission, I would not name him publicly. However, I shall give the Minister the name and other particulars if he so desires in order that action may be taken, to better this man’s condition. This man was invalided out of the Public Service. It is obvious that he broke down under the strain of his work. During the war, he worked in the department which dealt with communications. As a result of heavy strain he was absent on sick leave for some time. When he returned he had a major collapse and was retired as an invalid.
The pension which he received from the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund was not adequate to enable him and his family to live at a reasonable standard. During the period that he had been absent from work a salary increase was granted to public servants. This had been delayed for between eighteen months and two years as a result of the processes of arbitration. When he returned to work he found that he was no longer entitled to the amount of pension to which he would have been entitled bad he remained at work. This was because during his period of absence he had not contributed to the fund at the rate appropriate to the new salary which he would have been receiving had he remained at work. Had this man been healthy enough to have remained at work and had thereby continued to contribute to the superannuation fund at the increased rate he would have been able to obtain a higher pension when he finally retired. Why the differentiation? I do not think that any Commonwealth public servant would, of his own accord, apply the provisions of the superannuation legislation with such viciousness. As an ordinary person with a limited amount of intelligence, I can only assume that this state of affairs has resulted from departmental policy in the administration of the act. These matters should not be judged from the point of view of a Mr. Hewitt, or a Mr. Smith, or anybody else who might have a prejudice. In my judgment, a situation of this kind is probably due to the way in which the relevant Minister administers the act. If we are to do our job properly we should adopt the approach which has been adopted by Senator Murphy - an approach free of personalities and designed to obtain justice. As a result of the policy of the Administration, justice is hard to obtain through the courts. There is a lot to be corrected.
The Minister for the Navy has told me that he is thoroughly sympathetic with the case of a man who lost his life and who had a proud record in the Department of the Navy. But his wife could get no compensation, merely because of a ruling which could not be Challenged. Then there was the case of the young man who was injured at a cricket match. After appealing from the lower court to a higher court he received compensation of £30 in respect of an injury, he received in the match in which he had been instructed to participate as a member of one of the services. Will honorable senators believe that although an amount of only £30 was involved the Government lodged an appeal in the High Court in order to deprive the man of that degree of compensation? The resulting proceedings would have cost the nation no less than £500 or even £1,000. Particulars of that case can be supplied to the Minister. I do not want this man to be victimized. He is a junior public servant. Therefore I shall not bring personalities into the matter. I want to have it rectified on the basis of principles of justice. If justice is to be obtained by people such as this person, there must be a review of departmental policy with respect to compensation payable to members of the armed services and other public servants. It is very expensive for ordinary working people to obtain justice, and there is a very serious demand for a review of this situation. Senator Murphy, who is a Queen’s Counsel, has well dealt with this situation. I am only a layman who has handled such matters only as a trade union representative trying to protect the rights of people. The Goverment should review the position in order to make it possible for people to obtain protection within the law in cases of the kind I have mentioned.
– I want to advert to one or two remarks made by Senator Cooke in relation to the Department of the Navy. First, I shall deal with the particular case of Lieutenant Lovett, because this strikes to the root of the whole dis cussion. This incident concerned a lieutenant in the Navy who fell over a balcony and so hurt himself that he later died. The Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation, Mr. Hewitt, in pursuance of his proper duties! examined the case and discovered that this incident took place when the officer was not on duty. Consequently the commissioner held that the officer was not covered by the legislation acceded to by this Parliament. That decision represented a perfectly proper exercise of duty by a public servant. The case was brought to my attention by, amongst others, Senator Cooke and the widow.
– We are not arguing about individuals.
– Yes we are, because this strikes to the root of the particular point you have made. This recommendation having been made by the officer responsible, it was then a matter which could have been challenged by the widow in the courts of this land. I, myself, went to the extent of providing the widow’s solicitors with all the documents in the case including the depositions taken from the lieutenant himself.
– She could not afford to take legal action.
– On some advice she did not take the remedy which was offered. But the point that emerges from that short resume of the case is that there is an act of parliament which lays down conditions under which compensation is payable to Commonwealth employees. That is an act which cannot be transcended by the judgment not only of a particular public servant but also that of a Minister. That is quite rightly so. That act, having been applied to the best of the intellect of the public servant appointed to apply it and of the Minister appointed to administer it, there is still a right to anybody who feels aggrieved to take a case to a court and have that court decide whether the act has been correctly interpreted by the public servant or the Minister. I do not believe that there is a fairer way in which this sort of difficulty can be dealt with. I have been listening to this debate, partly in absentia and partly in this chamber, lt is quite wrong, I believe, that when there exists a situation in which there is an act, a ruling under the act, and a right for a person who feels aggrieved to go to a court, for a particular individual in the Public Service who does his duty according to his light - and who, in the particular case we are discussing, does it well - to be attacked, or for a Minister to be attacked. There is a right of recourse to legal justice through a court which will decide whether or not the ruling is right.
.- I also wish to express in very strong terms my criticism of the administration of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. I confess that I find it difficult to follow the objection of Senator Wright to the way in which Senator Murphy raised this matter. Surely it is not necessary for a senator who raises a matter for the consideration of the committee in this debate on the Estimates to supply a number of particular cases before he can make some general observations on the administration of the act.
In this case, as I see it, the vice lies not so much in the particular decision made by a particular officer in relation to a given case as in the system itself, under which claims for compensation by Commonwealth employees are determined. Senator Gorton, in a sense, put his finger on the difficulty without realizing it, because he vigorously defended the way in which the act is administered by - as he put it - public servants. The case that we make in relation to the administration of this act is that it should not be administered by public servants at all. The position under the Commonwealth Act is very much different from the position under the various State compensation acts. Under each of the State acts there is an independent tribunal, whether it be called a workers’ compensation board, as in my own State of Victoria, or a workers’ compensation commission, lt is a tribunal independent of the applicant employee and of the employer. When claims come to be determined, they are made in a public hearing. The tribunal acts . as a judicial body, examining the evidence in public and com ing to a determination on it. From the determination of a workers’ compensation board, subject to the particular statutes, there is an appeal to the Supreme Court or, in some cases, to the High Court.
Under the Commonwealth act the system is entirely different. An officer of the Commonwealth is himself the judge in these cases where the Commonwealth is always the respondent. It is that situation which gives rise to the Treasury mind being applied to the determination of applications under the act. That is the vice of the matter. Why should there not be an independent tribunal for Commonwealth servants who are injured whilst at work or in the course of their employment, in the same way as there is a tribunal under the various State acts? Surely that is logical, and what is needed.
I associate myself in general with those criticisms of the way in which the act is administered that came from Senator Murphy. Let me give one of two examples to. show how the act is administered to the detriment of Commonwealth public servants. First, there is no right to any hearing before the delegate’ of the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation. You put your application in, you wait for the result, and when you get it you are not given any reasons. The only way in which a Commonwealth public servant can get a hearing in which his case is tested and subjected to examination, and in which he can produce witnesses, including medical witnesses, in support of his claim is where, having had his application rejected, he is strong enough and courageous enough to fight the Commonwealth of Australia on appeal and he goes to a County Court. It is there for the first time that he makes his case publicly, as an appeal against the determination of the commissioner, and he makes it in ignorance of the reasons for the rejection of his application in the first place. What kind of a system of justice is this? Is it any wonder that it calls for the kinds of strictures that were invoked upon it by Senator Murphy?
That is the difficulty that he faces in the first place. He goes to a County Court judge in Victoria, or a District Court judge in New South Wales, or a similar judge in other States, and he has his case litigated. He still does not know the grounds for the rejection. It may be that he loses his case on appeal. What is to happen about costs? This is the first opportunity that he has had to have his case examined by somebody independently of the Treasury mind operating upon his application.
I make no specific criticism of the commissioner, of the delegate, or of any individual officer. The fact is that these applications are heard and considered in that context. If the applicant loses, the practice of the Commonwealth is to apply for costs against him.
– Is that not so in Workers’ Compensation Board cases in Victoria?
– Very rarely would such an application be granted. In any event, in the case of the Workers’ Compensation Board in Victoria you make your application, the respondent employer gives the grounds for resisting the application, and then it is possible for the board to say, “ These are the issues “. If a case is unmeritorious, an applicant may have costs awarded against him.
– Is there not a procedure in Commonwealth cases to appeal to a County Court to get the grounds of defence?
– I believe not. It is an appeal against a determination. It is not an original process.
– It is an original process.
– I hope the honorable senator will not contradict me, unless he is in a position to do so. The employee is the appellant, and he has to give the grounds upon which he is appealing. It is not an original proceeding at all. The form which it actually takes in the court may be that of an original proceeding, but the process is an appeal against a determination. Let me deal with the question of costs. The position has been very well put recently by Judge Frederics of the County Court in a case in Victoria.
– Are you not getting away from these estimates?
– With respect, I am dealing with precisely the same subject on which four other senators have already spoken.
– You are getting even further away from the estimates than they did.
– I suggest that I am not getting further away.
– In my opinion you are, and I am asking you to get back to the estimates.
– Costs are a matter of administration. On the question of costs the attitude of the Commonwealth in administering this act is to be deplored. That is surely squarely within the matter in the estimates that is under discussion. What the learned judge said in dealing with an application for costs by the Commonwealth summarizes the whole argument that I want to put on this aspect and on a number of other aspects. He said -
I must confess that I am surprised an application has been made for costs in this case, but having been made, it must be dealt with, and my discretion must be judicially exercised.
I pause to ask honorable senators to note that the learned judge of the County Court was surprised that the Commonwealth, acting in the administration of this act, had made an application for costs. He went on to say-
I propose to exercise that discretion in favour of the appellant-
That is, the employee - and refuse costs, and for this reason. As I understand the position when an application for compensation is made under the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act, the application wilh medical certificates and perhaps other matter, is put before the delegate, who considers it privately and then gives his award, which states either that compensation has been granted or compensation has been refused. He gives no reasons whatever for the decision and in this case he simply found . . . that it was not an injury by accident under Section 9, or disease due to the nature of the employment under Section 10.
In those circumstances, what has the appellant to do? He does not know what consideration or what reasoning has been applied to the matters he has put before the Commissioner and consequently, the only thing he can do is to appeal to this Court.
In these circumstances, I do not think the appellant should have to pay costs when he loses. In my view the only time when he should be required to pay costs is when he has to put forward a case which, on any reasonable basis, could not be allowed. The appellant being, in my view, forced into the position he is in, of having to appeal, and having satisfied the Court as to the truth and the merits; of his application, should not have to pay the costs in these circumstances.
– He got the protection of the court, did he not?
– He had the protection of the court, but what I am saying is that the attitude of the Commonwealth in the matter was deplorable. The practice of the delegate of the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation in asking for costs should be discontinued because the system does not give the applicant an opportunity to know the reasons for the rejection of his application.
There is another aspect of the question of costs, lt was raised in part by the case to which Senator Cooke referred. In recent times, the Commonwealth has been applying the provisions of the act in a very tough manner. It has conceded nothing. When a case goes to an appeal and the worker wins, there is a very strong possibility of the case then going to the High Court on the Commonwealth’s appeal. The practical position in which that places the worker is that his application is refused by the delegate of the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation, without his knowing the reasons. He must take advice which, presumably, will be legal advice. If he is a member of a registered organization of employees within the Public Service he may seek advice from that organization.
– He would have to pay for legal advice.
– If he sought professional legal advice, presumably he would have to pay for it. He would have to face the position that, in an arguable case and without knowing the reasons of the Commonwealth for rejecting the application, he would have to appeal. He would know that if the case turned out to be a debatable one he could find himself in the High Court, with legal expenses running into many hundreds of pounds.
That is the great weakness in the administration of this system, lt does not really afford the person concerned the protection which a workers compensation statute of the normal type affords.
– Perhaps the solution is is to be found in Shakespeare’s advice to kill all the lawyers.
– You could try to do that, senator, but you would not solve the problem of the employee who finds himself in this particular difficulty. That is the fundamental criticism in this matter. As Senator Murphy has said, this situation has the proportions of a scandal because of the obvious inequality of employer and employee. There is no independent tribunal to interpose itself with a sense of justice between the worker and the employer, as there is with all claims by injured workers in non-Commonwealth employment.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- The committee is discussing a motion to take note of the appropriations-
– To take note of proposed expenditure.
– Yes. A new set of rules seems to have been applied as a result of this change of procedure. There is quite a degree of difficulty in establishing the right of an honorable senator to make an observation without taking note-
– Arc you challenging my ruling?
– I am making some comments on it, Mr. Chairman.
– Are you challenging it?
– If, at a later stage, I wish to challenge it I shall exercise my right to do so.
– If you wish to challenge it you must do so forthwith.
– The position is that while I was in the process of raising a matter and taking note of proposed expenditure under the estimates for the
Department of the Treasury, the Minister representing the Treasurer in this chamber was very busily engaged in trying to advise you and other people that I was not in order referring to the matter. After I had been asked to state the division to which I was referring, I said that I wished to speak on the administration of the Department of the Treasury, with specific reference to the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund. I mentioned Mr, Hewitt. Senator Wright attacked me for having the termerity to criticize an indidual public servant, but I was not impressed by the upstart from Tasmania.
– Order! Senator O’Byrne, you will withdraw the word “ upstart “.
– I withdraw the word “ upstart “. Senator Wright seemed to think that he was brow-beating some of his former students in the courts of Tasmania. He spoke of integrity. I say to him: “ You have no integrity of your own. Among your own colleagues you have none, because you have no loyalty to them. Yet you try to give us lectures on integrity.”
– Order! The honorable senator should deal with the estimates.
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. Even though the honorable senator does not realize the offensiveness of the statement he made, I regard it as completely offensive and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– Order! Senator O’Byrne, you will withdraw the word remark offensive and I ask you to withdraw it.
– Which remark?
– That I have no integrity among my colleagues.
– I shall not withdraw the remark because I have seen evidence of the way in which he has repeatedly betrayed his colleagues.
– Order! Senator O’Byrne, you have been asked to withdraw the remark.
- Senator Wright is not denying the truth of what I said.
– Order! Senator O’Byrne, I call on you to withdraw the remark.
– If you mention the remark that you wish me to withdraw, I shall withdraw it in deference to the Chair. I have in my hand, Mr. Chairman, the last available report of the Commonwealth Actuary upon the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund.
– Order! Is not this the matter which was ruled out of order earlier?
– I wish to ask some questions. I am taking note of the appropriations.
– We are not dealing with appropriations.
– Then I am taking note of the estimates.
– Order! I ruled that your remarks concerning the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund were out of order. Therefore, any further reference to that matter also is out of order.
– I am asking a question, Mr. Chairman. I have not really referred to the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund.
– Do you object to my ruling, Senator O’Byrne? Let us get that clear.
– Yes I do object to it.
– Very well. Will you state your objection in writing forthwith? (Senator O’Byrne having submitted in writing his objection to the Chairman’s ruling) -
– Order! Senator O’Byrne has objected to my ruling. I shall report the objection to the President.
In the Senate:
– As Chairman, Mr. President, I upheld a point of order in the committee proceedings that any reference to the Parliamentary Retiring allowances Fund was out of order: Senator O’Byrne has objected to my ruling and has submitted his objection in writing.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - 1 would be pleased to hear further argument on the point of order.
– During the course of the debate in committee I wished to raise a matter under the heading of the Department of the Treasury. lt concerns the Administration of the Parliamentary Retiring Alowances Fund. 1 was informed that the particular item did not come under the section of the estimates that was before the committee. I have been trying to find out whether there is any way in which I can speak to the appropriation which finances, the administration of this fund, but I have not been allowed to refer to that. During the debate I was condemned for specifically mentioning the name of the officer of the Department of the Treasury to whom members of the Parliament are referred when any questions are asked privately about this fund. There does not seem to be any specific place in the estimates which we are debating in the committee whereunder this matter can be discussed. I think that this is a matter that warrants the full discussion of the Senate in committee at a time when the committee is discussing the estimates of the department. 1 do not believe that any matter should be kept secret. It is nearly four years since any official document on this fund was printed for the information of the ordinary back-bench senator, and I think, therefore, that the matter should be openly debated under the estimates for the Department of the Treasury which the committee of the whole is debating.
I feel that I have established my point that under the heading of the Department of the Treasury activities of this nature should be discussed, and that under the heading “ Administrative “ a senator has the right to debate this matter.
– As Senator O’Byrne has said, when the committee was considering the estimates of the Depart ment of the r Treasury Senator O’Byrne addressed himself to Division No. 191, sub-division 3, item 03 - Interest on trustee moneys lodged at call (for payment to the credit of the head of Trust Fund concerned). That deals with interest on certain trust moneys. The trust moneys concerned include a payment on a balance which is known as the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund, but the actual interest payment referred to is a charge against the Treasury which is transferred to the credit of this fund.
The Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund is referred to on page 15 of the document, “ Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1964”. The reference is found in Table No. 5 which is headed “ Estimated Expenditure - Special Appropriations for the year ending 30th June, 1964”, under the sub-heading, “Parliament”. It is not this bill but the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act to which reference is made there. As I understand it, it was on that basis that the Chairman ruled that the submission of Senator O’Byrne was out of order.
– I was not present when the original ruling was given by the Chairman, but I think there has been some confusion about the matter. As I understand the position, Senator O’Byrne wanted to debate a matter concerning the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund, but the Chairman ruled against that. During the proceedings that I heard a moment or so ago Senator O’Byrne said he wished to ask a question. The question he wished to ask was: If the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund does not come under the estimates for the Department of the Treasury, where is it to be found in the various appropriation documents? ‘ At that point the Chairman ruled that he could not proceed.
It seems to me that two rulings arc involved. Senator O’Byrne is not contesting, I take it, the first ruling that the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund does not come under that particular appropriation. His point is . that there, is a Treasury officer associated with this fund whose salary range comes under Division No. 191, and that this is one of his activities as a Treasury officer, even though the fund is constituted under a separate control. Senator O’Byrne wished to ask where, under some other heading of the estimates, he could find a reference that would be appropriate to the work of that officer. I do not think that Senator O’Byrne had fully developed the point. I heard him say that he wished to ask a question, and it was at that point that the Chairman ruled that Senator O’Byrne could not proceed. It is that ruling that the honorable senator is objecting to and not the ruling that he may not debate the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund itself under the heading concerned. He is objecting .to the ruling that he may not ask a question as to where the activities of a Treasury officer in another field can be found mentioned in the estimates. In the circumstances, I think it was a most reasonable question. I doubt whether he had proceeded far enough to enable the Chairman to understand the merit of his question. If he had, I think that the Chairman might have ruled differently.
The Chairman should recognize that his original decision is not in dispute and that Senator O’Byrne has strictly not been allowed to develop the one question he wished to ask. I think that the Chairman will remember that Senator O’Byrne said, “ I wish to ask a question “. I have learned from Senator O’Byrne that the question was as I have just stated it to the Senate. In the circumstances, it seems to me that it was a reasonable question based upon the fact that there is a Treasury officer involved. The Treasury officer’s salary is dealt with under the particular item the committee is considering.
Apart from every other consideration, surely it is a matter of ordinary courtesy and routine for the Chairman of Committees to allow an honorable senator the very small degree of latitude necessary for him to ask a question of that nature. I think we are rather in the middle of a storm in a tea cup. I should like to make it clear that there is no dissent from the Chairman’s original ruling. We dissent from his refusal to allow Senator O’Byrne to proceed with a question of the nature which 1 have indicated;
– My recollection of the events is quite different from that which has been outlined by Senator McKenna. I believed that Senator O’Byrne objected to my original ruling. When he received the call on the last occasion he immediately started to criticize the ruling. I think he will admit to having done that. Then he went on to say, I thought with great discourtesy, that Senator Paltridge was endeavouring to advise the Chairman. That is quite incorrect. Senator Paltridge did not come near me and give any advice at all. He raised a point of order. I discussed the matter with the Clerk and I upheld the point of order.
When Senator O’Byrne got the call on the second occasion he started to come back to this matter. I pointed out to him that I had ruled that he was out of order. I asked him whether he intended to dispute my ruling. He said he might come to that later. I said, “ If you intend to dispute my ruling, you will have to lodge an objection now “. He did not lodge an objection at that stage. I am not suggesting that Senator McKenna was not correct when he said that Senator O’Byrne was trying to ask a question. But Senator O’Byrne did not ask the question in the manner that Senator McKenna so clearly set out. In my opinion, Senator O’Byrne was rambling and 1 had the idea that he was trying to discuss the matter that I had ruled to be out of order. When I asked him again whether he proposed to challenge my ruling he said, “ Yes “. I asked him to put his objection in writing. That is my recollection of the events.
– Mr. President, may we have the written objection read?
– Order! The objection reads, “I object to the Chairman’s ruling “.
– In the first place, I addressed my remarks to Division No. 191, sub-division 3, item 03. My attention was drawn to the fact that under that heading I could not discuss the matter to which I had referred. The Chairman ruled that I was out of order. When I rose to speak on the second occasion I specifically stated that I wished to address my remarks to Division No. 191 - Administrative. I was not then referring to Division No. 191, sub-division 3, item 03. I was developing a query as to whether I could discuss the subject I had in mind. 1 said that 1 had in my hand a document that was published in 1959. I wanted to know how 1 could get some information about it. The Chairman then said that he had already ruled that I was out of order in seeking that information. He would not allow me to proceed. He charged me with having challenged his ruling. That is how the situation arose.
– Order! The objection is not upheld. I support the Chairman’s ruling.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
.- I was addressing the Chair at an earlier stage in relation to the administration of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. I merely want to add this further observation in summary of the argument I was advancing. There is a tremendous degree of inequality between the Commonwealth of Australia as a litigant and a Commonwealth public servant as a litigant. When we consider the resources of the individual officer or employee as against those of the Commonwealth, the inequality is so great that that disability should not be increased by the Commonwealth pursuing the policy it has pursued in relation to costs. That disability must be added to many others which employees who work under the Commonwealth act suffer in comparison with employees who seek their compensation under State acts.
This is perhaps not an appropriate occasion on which to review the comparative benefits that are enjoyed by employees under State acts and those under the Commonwealth act. It is sufficient to say, speaking broadly, that in many cases entitlement under the Commonwealth legislation is less than that under comparable State legislation and that the coverage of the Commonwealth act is much smaller. There are many circumstances in which employees covered by State acts would be eligible for compensation ‘ but in which employees covered by the Commonwealth act would not be eligible. I refer particularly to the group of cases known as the heart cases. They include cases in which, because of the definitions of injuries and disease in the State acts, employees have succeeded and others in which, because of the definition in the Commonwealth act, employees have failed. They are disabilities inherent in the act itself. The particular matters of which I have complained and about which Senator Murphy complained earlier must inevitably arise in the course of administration of the act. No amount of talking to protect the integrity of particular officers - and that is not under challenge - can answer the fundamental criticism that this act must be completely revised and redrafted, and that there must be proper provision for some independent tribunal to hear employees’ claims.
– I want to deal quite briefly with this matter, which has occupied a good deal of the committee’s time. Having listened to honorable senators who are members of the legal profession, I believe that their comments fall into two quite distinct sections. The case submitted by Senator Cohen was clearly a criticism of the system which the act established and under which the officers in question carry out their duties. AH I wish to say in reply to that criticism is that the system was established by an act of this Parliament which has been on the statute-book for many years. I am not implying for one moment that Senator Cohen or any other honorable senator, or indeed any other member of the Parliament, has not a right to criticize it and should not do so. I shall take advantage of an early opportunity to bring Senator Cohen’s comments to the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) because I think some aspects of what he said should bc studied and answered. Before I pass from that point, may I say that I think every honorable senator will agree that the debate on the proposed expenditure for the Department of the Treasury has taken a quite unusual and unexpected turn. Consequently, I have not had the advantage of having beside me officers who might have been able to give me more specific advice and who might have been able to help me in addressing myself to the argument that was submitted by Senator Cohen.
But there is another aspect of it and nothing that Senator Cohen or any one else has said can disguise it. Earlier in the debate, there were allegations of maladministration by officers. This is an entirely different kettle of fish. Because these charges of maladministration have been made, I intend to look most closely at what has been said and to trace - as far as it is possible to trace them - the basis and the reasons for these charges against these particular officers. I shall see what can be done if the charges of maladministration can be supported. In fairness to the officers I want to say that I doubt very much that these charges can be supported in view of one particular case referred to in the committee to-night.
As Senator Cooke has said, the widow of a Commonwealth public servant came to see me about the matter. It is rather a pathetic case, but let me say immediately that in my view and in the view of others who looked at it, it does not run to anything like justifying a charge af maladministration, harshness or anything else against the officer concerned. He acted well within his functions as an officer under an act passed by this Parliament.
– The statement by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) is very different from the story of the widow concerned. However, that is by the way. I believe the Minister to be a very generous and sympathetic person. But I still believe that in the department there is something to be corrected. I am not challenging in any sense the decision of the Commonwealth officers charged with the duty of administering the act. But we in the Opposition believe this matter is worthy of examination and correction.
The Minister has been generous enough to offer an examination of the administration of this act as a result of the case put forward by the Opposition. Accordingly, I ask him to get from the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Courtnay) the details of a case involving a junior officer in the Commonwealth Public Service who was awarded compensation of £60 on appeal to a superior court. The Commonwealth Government has chosen to appeal against the decision to the High Court of Australia. The cost to the Common wealth of the appeal over a matter of £60 probably will exceed £500. Rather than pay the compensation awarded by a superior court to an employee the Commonwealth Government is prepared to spend an excessive amount on an appeal to a still higher court. This is being done either to stop the boy getting compensation which has been awarded to him by a proper authority or to save the personal ego of an officer charged with the administration of an act which was fought for and obtained by the Opposition to protect the employees. If the Minister will give us the information I have sought we will have achieved something.
– I shall see that Senator Cooke’s remarks are brought to the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge). Honorable senators may be interested in some elaboration of Senator Cooke’s remarks on this case. If the case is the one I am sure it is, it relates to an employee who was injured during his lunch hour, not while he was engaged in sports but while he was watching sports in progress. Consequently, it involved an acceptance of a liability by the Commonwealth Government which it had never accepted before and which would have immense and far-reaching effects when applied throughout the Commonwealth Public Service.
– How many times has such a case arisen before, and how many times is it likely to be repeated?
– It has not arisen before and that is why it is of such significance.
– I fear we have not left the matter which was discussed by the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) while the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) was out of the chamber. I asked for information about a case in which an appeal had been lodged by the Commonwealth Government. The way the estimates are being dealt with amounts to contempt of the Senate. I asked the Minister for the Navy to give me precedents which would justify the cost to the Commonwealth of an appeal against the award of £30 compensation to a Commonwealth employee. I assume that the decision in this case would set a precedent which would become what is known in law as a common rule. The Minister did not answer my question properly. Therefore I ask the Minister, through you, Mr. Chairman, to cite other cases where there has been such a claim. Will the Minister tell me how many appeals there have been, involving excessive expenditure by the Commonwealth, to cheat a junior officer out of damages awarded to him? This officer was advised by his superiors to attend a sports function arranged by a Commonwealth authority. How often does the Government expect a similar case of injury and compensation to arise to justify the cost of an appeal?
Proposed expenditures noted.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is unique. It deals, it is true, with the stevedoring industry - an industry that hitherto has been the subject of much controversy. The uniqueness of the bill resides in the fact that on this occasion it gives effect to the agreed wishes of allparties engaged in the industry. This bill, and the negotiations which led to its introduction, can well mark a turn - a turn for the better - in industrial relationships. For this reason I have no wish to dwell on the past. Our eyes must be turned to the future. The bill itself is short. But it is important that I sketch some of the background to it.
This bill and the other matters I will refer to have their origin in a conference held in Sydney on 30th May under the chairmanship of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon). It was attended by representatives of the stevedoring employers, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Waterside Workers’ Federation, the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority and the Department of Labour and National Service.
The conference decided that a small working party comprising representatives of the employers, the federation, the A.C.T.U., and the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, under the chairmanship of the Acting Secretary of the Department of Labour and National Service, should examine in more detail the matters raised at the conference. That working party met on a number of occasions over the following two months and its discussions were both frank and constructive. Its report - unanimous, I emphasize - was considered by the full conference on 30th July. That conference decided to refer the report to the organizations represented for their consideration. I am pleased to say that these organizations endorsed the report in toto.
I feel the Senate will be interested to know something about the conclusions reached, because if they are carried through there are real grounds for hoping that the? stevedoring industry will face a brighter industrial relations future. In the first place it has been decided that in all ports industrial relations committees, comprising representatives of the stevedoring employers and the federation, should be established. A major function of these committees will be to anticipate possible disputes and to deal with them on the spot if they should arise. It was accepted that once a matter in dispute had been brought to the attention of the committee in a port, work should continue without interruption, subject to the protective clauses of the award, until a decision had been reached by either the committee or a board of reference. It was taken as essential that when a decision was finally given it should be acted upon, subject to the right of appeal. In the event of a committee not being able to settle a dispute, there would be resort to a reconstituted board of reference. It was agreed that the employers and the federation would seek a variation of the waterside workers’ award to give effect to these arrangements.
Redundancy among waterside workers because of the introduction or extension of mechanization was another matter dealt with. The Government has approved in principle that financial assistance towards travelling costs and removal expenses should, in certain circumstances, be given to waterside workers who become surplus in a particular port as a result of mechanization and whose services are required in another port.
Perhaps the most critical issues considered by the conference concerned section 52a of the Stevedoring Industry Act. This is the section which provides that the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority may declare a port stoppage if one-third of the registered waterside workers in the port, or 250, whichever is the less, are involved in an unauthorized stoppage. As a result of this declaration the men concerned lost their entitlement of four days’ attendance money.
The conference recognized that in some ports the operation of the section was no longer achieving the objectives the Government had in mind when introducing it. It considered that the development of the better industrial relations engendered in the various discussions would be improved if the operation of this section were suspended for a period of twelve months, after which the position could be reviewed. It was nevertheless agreed that if the circumstances in any port or ports justified it the operation of the section could again be restored, provided that before considering such action the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority would confer with the parties and the Government.
The conference felt also that greater rank and file interest in participating in this new industrial relations attitude would be likely if all existing attendance money debits were, as it were, frozen as from the date of the suspension of the operation of section 52a.
The bill now before the Senate gives effect to these two conclusions. In the first place, it suspends the power to make declarations under section 52a as from 17th September. It does not, however, say that the suspension is to operate for a specified period of twelve months. We all of us hope that in fact the suspension will be indefinite. But if our hopes are not realized and the question of removing the suspension has to be considered, the agreement come to at the conference about prior consultation. , will certainly be honoured.
Secondly, the bill freezes, as it were, the attendance money debits which registered waterside workers had accumulated as at 17th September, 1963, because of the application of either section 36 or section 52a of the act. So, as from that date waterside workers who become entitled to attendance money payments in accordance with the provisions of their award will receive them, subject to any action that may be taken in future under section 36 of the Stevedoring Industry Act.
Over the years the stevedoring industry has received much attention at the bands of the Parliament: this has been the case under .this Government and the previous Labour Government. The industry is, as we all know, a vitally important one: upon the state of its health - upon the state of the relationships among those concerned in it - depends the free flow of our growing trade and commerce. Industrial relations and efficiency on the waterfront can powerfully affect our costs and prices.
In the search over the years to create a favorable situation on the waterfront, successive governments have pursued a variety of courses. Now we are making another attempt. I trust the optimism that the bill will make a real contribution to the problems of this industry will not be proven misplaced. The grounds on which this optimism is based are -
First, I believe that those participating in the discussions made a genuine attempt to reach a better understanding of each other’s problem.
The Minister for Labour and National Service has been greatly encouraged by the spirit of reasonableness, the constructive attitudes and the evident sincerity which prevailed throughout these discussions.
Secondly, whilst none of the members of the conference was so starry-eyed as to imagine that what has been agreed will solve all waterfront problems in the immediate future, or for that matter that there will be no stoppages whatever in future,I share their confidence that a substantial improvement in the situation can be expected. We all must be encouraged by what has happened since the holding of the first session of the conference, at the end of May. In the four months since then - June, July, August and September - the total man-hours lost due to unauthorized stoppages were, roughly, less than one-eighth of those lost over the preceding four months. Moreover, the performance during these last four months also compares favorably with that during the same period of 1962, when nearly four times as many man-hours were lost.
Thirdly, the Minister believes that a system has been developed for closer relationships by the parties immediately concerned in this industry. This bill represents the Government’s contribution to the successful outcome of the package deal arrived at by the conference. Now the Government looks to the parties to carry out their parts of the agreement. This legislation is, by its very nature, of a transitional character. The way in which the industry functions over the next twelve months or so under this new deal will have a profound bearing on the question of whether any further legislation is needed. If all parties continue to show the same spirit of co-operation over the next twelve months as they have during the period of the conferences and if this can be further consolidated, the stevedoring industry may indeed have entered on a new era - an era which can bring great benefits to the nation and all engaged in the industry. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Reports on Items.
– I present reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Ceramic flooring and wall tiles. Sunglasses, spectacle frames, &c.
I also present a report by a special advisor)’ authority on the following subject: -
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Customs Bill 1963.
Excise Bill 1963.
Message received from House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the Senate to this bill.
In committee: Consideration resumed (vide page 1266).
Proposed expenditure, £3,181,000.
Proposed expenditure, £263,000.
– There are several matters which I wish to raise. One of them concerns bankruptcy which is related to Division No. 215 - Bankruptcy Administration. The report of the committee appointed by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) to review the bankruptcy law of the Commonwealth is a very valuable one. It was rendered in 1962 but it has not yet been acted upon. I desire also to raise the matter of copyright law which relates to Division No. 211 - Administrative. A committee appointed by the AttorneyGeneral to consider what alterations were desired to the copyright law of the Commonwealth, the Copyright Law Review Committee of 1959, made its very valuable report some years ago. The committee was appointed because some years previously the Government had indicated in the Governor-General’s Speech that a revision of the copyright law of the Commonwealth was long overdue. Nothing has been done in this Parliament about the bankruptcy laws of the Commonwealth apart from a trifling amendment which was considered earlier this year. These are two aspects of the work of the Attorney-General’s Department which have been neglected.
There are many others which have been neglected and I should like to know the reason. I should like it to be clear that
I am not attempting to criticize any particular officer. Ultimately, this is a criticism of the Government or, perhaps, of the Attorney-General who is responsible to the Parliament for the administration of the department. What has the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton), who represents him in this chamber, to say on this matter? Why have these matters been neglected? Why have other revisions of the law been neglected? A matter which has been mentioned on another occasion is the state of the general law in the Territories. These and other defects in the laws of the Commonwealth are matters which come either directly or indirectly under the Attorney-General’s Department. It is notorious that there has been a great deal of inattention and neglect in this department. Perhaps the Senate might be given an explanation for this inattention and neglect. Would the Minister inform me when it is proposed that the High Court of Australia shall be moved to the Seat of Government? When is it envisaged that it will take up its seat here as the principal registry in the principal place in which its functions are carried out?
– When the bankruptcy report to which Senator Murphy referred was received it was circulated to a very large number of bodies including the various law societies, the Law Council of Australia and a number of accountancy bodies. Some, but not all, of them have submitted their views on the report. Some of the submissions are of considerable complexity. All the submissions have been closely examined in the Attorney-General’s Department and a report on them is in the process of being prepared for Cabinet. On the question of copyright, ali that I can tell the honorable senator is that the matter is with the Attorney-General and is still under his consideration. No date can be set for the move of the High Court to the Australian Capital Territory.
I should like to advert to a point raised by Senator McClelland1 at question time. I indicated that I would provide an answer to his question when the estimates were being discussed. The honorable senator asked, in effect, what was being done to provide more accommodation for the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The answer is that the commission has offices in Phillip-street, Sydney. With the removal of other offices to the new Commonwealth Centre, extra space has become available in Phillip House. Alterations to provide increased accommodation for the conciliators and members of the staff of the commission are at present in progress.
– I desire to raise one matter that relates to the administration of justice in Australia. I refer to Division No. 214 - High Court. I raised this matter last year following a speech in the Estimates debate by Senator Toohey. The substance of the matter, as we put it then and as I should like to repeat now, is that the time has arrived for the abolition of appeals from the High Court to the Privy Council. I spoke at some length on the matter last year and I do not want to repeat in detail the various arguments that were put in support of the view, which we say is unanswerable, that these appeals should now be discontinued and that appropriate legislative arrangements should be made to give effect to the change.
The problem arises out of the circumstance that Australia is, in the second half of the twentieth century, no longer in the position vis-a-vis the United Kingdom in which it was at the turn of the century. We have matured as a nation and gone through two world wars. Australia as a Commonwealth has come to take its place in the family of nations. It belongs to the United Nations and the Commonwealth of Nations and it has its own effective voice in a number of international arrangements. In short, its claim to nationhood is so firmly established that the final result of litigation in Australia should no longer bc in the hands of a body of judges, however distinguished, 12,000 miles away in London.
As I said, I do not want’ to repeat, except so far as I have done so already in this very summary form, the arguments that were put more fully last year, but I do want to direct attention to the fact that during the past twelve months since the matter was last raised in this chamber a very significant development has taken place along the road to the eventual abolition of these appeals to the Privy Council. The development is a pronouncement by the High Court itself on this important subject. In 1963 in the case of Parker against the Queen, His Honour the Chief Justice, Sir Owen Dixon - although his was a dissenting judgment - gave utterance to a pronouncement which he indicated he was making after consulting his brother judges, some of whom were not sitting wilh him on that appeal, and with their concurrence. The pronouncement was in these words -
Hitherto I have thought that we ought to follow decisions of the House of Lords at the expense of our own opinions in cases decided here, but having carefully considered Smith’s case-
That was the case of Smith against the Director of Public Prosecutions, decided in England in 1961 -
I think that we cannot adhere to that view or policy.
The significance of that declaration by the High Court lies not simply in the reversal that it effects in a rule of precedent but also in the time and the manner of its making. 1 do not want to trouble the committee with any discussion of the precise legal points that were in issue in the case of Parker against the Queen which the High Court had to consider, lt is sufficient to say that on one view of the matter it was not necessary for the High Court to refuse to follow Smith’s case, in order to decide the particular case before it. But it was clearly the intention of the court to state quite specifically that from now on, where there is a conflict between the view of the House of Lords and the view of the High Court, the court will follow its own view of the matter. That may mean, of course, that occasions could arise where there would be a conflict between the view of the House of Lords and the view of the Privy Council, which the High Court is still bound to follow because it is in the direct line of precedent. That may lead to some extraordinary result, but there can be no doubt about the authority of the statement made by the learned Chief Justice, lt seems very clear now that the High Court has staked out its own independent position in relation to these matters.
I do not want to argue this question at any length but there seems to me to have now developed a situation in which the final independence of the High Court can best be guaranteed by abolishing appeals to the Privy Council. I ask that the Government take this matter under early consideration, because there can be no doubt whatever that the broad feeling of the community and a very strongly developed view in the legal profession as a whole would be in support of the abolition of these appeals.
.- I refer to Division No. 216- Conciliation and Arbitration, and particularly to penalty clauses under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I cannot discuss the matter at length, because consideration of the estimates has caught up with me and I have not my material with me. I should like the Minister to say whether the Government’s attitude to penalties for breaches of awards by unions has changed. I was glad to hear the second-reading speech on the Stevedoring Industry Bill, which indicated to me that there might have been a change of heart by the Government on this question, which affects unions very severely. In this day of grown-up conciliation and arbitration penalties do not serve the purpose for which they were intended. The Government’s realization that that is true is, perhaps, shown by the secondreading speech to which I have referred. I should like to know whether the Minister has evidence of a change of heart and, if so, whether he can state what the position regarding penalty clauses will be in the future.
I want to refer also to marriage guidance councils, under Division Noi. 211 - Administrative. Is the Minister able to inform the committee whether marriage guidance councils have been successful or otherwise? Approximately how many of them are in operation? Could he give us a short history of their functions and can he state whether they are having the effect of reducing the divorce rate in Australia?
– I wish to address a few remarks to the administration of the High Court, under Division No. 214 and under the same heading as the matters to which
Senator Cohen referred. I am interested in this question of appeals to the Privy Council. As honorable senators may recall, I have raised the matter on, I think, live occasions since 19S8. I can look at it, of course, only through the eyes of a layman. I feel that in this day and age there should be no need for Australians, in our present state of national maturity, to have to go to a final court of justice which is some 12,000 or 14,000 miles away. I am glad that Senator Cohen has raised this matter. On the first occasion on which I referred to it in the Senate my suggestions met with a certain degree of hostility from some supporters of the Government. I have been pleased to see that hostility dissolving to a considerable extent as I have raised the matter in subsequent years.
I wish to say, as I think I have said on previous occasions, that whatever views I may express in the matter, I have no intention of reflecting in any way on the integrity or the functioning of the Privy Council as such. It is an excellent body which is composed of jurists who undoubtedly have splendid qualifications. My thoughts are directed to the question of whether we in this country should have to go to Great Britain, at the present stage of our country’s development, to have our final thoughts on legal matters determined. As I have mentioned before, in addition to the impracticability of the position that exists at present, a very real burden is placed on people who wish to have recourse to this final court of justice. I refer, of course, to the financial burden which is placed on litigants. Everybody knows, and it has not been contested, that the ordinary man in the street would find it difficult, if not impossible, to meet the financial commitment associated with appealing to the Privy Council, which is the final court of appeal so far as the Australian legal system is concerned.
I should mention that suggestions have been made and canvassed, mainly by members of the legal profession, I think, that rather than sever completely the link with the Privy Council we might try a variation of the present procedure. It has been suggested that something might be possible along the lines of a dominion circuit, so that selected jurists from the various Com monwealth countries could travel from one country to another and deal with matters which formerly were dealt with by the Privy Council. The fact that suggestions such as that have been made clearly demonstrates that amongst members of the legal profession there is a popular belief that a change is needed. In my view, a Commonwealth circuit would not be the answer to the problem. I think that it would be only something in -between retention of the present structure and departure from it altogether.
Without in any way reflecting on the Privy Council, I say that we in Australia have grown up as a nation and ought to be able to have our own courts of justice. We have men with ability and we have the necessary legal structure. I hope that before very long the Commonwealth of Australia will do what some of its sister dominions have done and say that the link with the Privy Council, which perhaps was necessary at one time, is not necessary to-day, and that as a consequence we will determine for ourselves the processes of justice as we need them and as they should apply in this country.
– I wish to add a few words to the points that have been made by Senator Cohen and Senator Toohey on the question of the abolition of appeals to the Privy Council. At the Imperial Conference of 1926 it was declared that the members of the British Commonwealth were equal in status and that none of them was in any way subordinate to any other. Since that time we have had the Statute of Westminster. The United Nations organization has come into being, and Australia has been a member of it. The question is not whether the judges of the Privy Council are better than the judges of the High Court of Australia. They are not, but it would not matter if they were. The question goes deeper than the trouble and expense caused to Australian litigants in having to pursue their rights across 12,000 miles. There is involved the question of the dignity of Australia as a nation. The existence of this system of appeal to the Privy Council is inconsistent with the dignity of Australia.
If we are to hold Australia as an independent nation equal in status to the United
Kingdom and in no way subordinate to it, we cannot tolerate the continuance of a system under which persons in the United Kingdom, not elected by any one in Australia or appointed by or responsible to any one in this country, may nevertheless sit in judgment and make decisions which have the most profound influence on the laws of Australia and on its development. Under this system, great constitutional issues can be and have been determined by such persons sitting in England, persons who have been described by judges of the High Court of Australia as being completely unfitted by their education and upbringing to understand even the elements of the federal system which operates in Australia. The question is one of the independence of this nation. The existence of this system of appeal impairs that independence.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Temporary Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative. (The Temporary Chairman having reported accordingly) -
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 affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 October 1963, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1963/19631017_senate_24_s24/>.