25th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. By way of introduction, might I say that I am generally happy about the Minister’s administration of the censorship laws. I think that he has a sophisticated approach to this question, which is showing results. My question is: How is the Minister getting on with the State Premiers and Chief Secretaries? He promised to confer with them and I saw mention of the fact that there were to be meetings. I do not think that some of those State Ministers are as sophisticated as they might be. Can the Minister tell us anything about this matter?
– I hope that the honorable senator will not get too many false ideas about my sophistication. I am happy to say that there was a meeting of State Ministers, who have submitted to the Commonwealth a proposal in which they express their point of view on a combined Commonwealth and State series of proposals on uniform censorship. I have agreed to meet the State Ministers to discuss these proposals on an exploratory basis. The proposals of the States have been publicised; the Ministers themselves publicised them at the time of their meeting.
There is some delay in fixing a date for our meeting. It will be appreciated by all that, with the various State Parliaments and the Commonwealth Parliament in session, the making of this arrangement is difficult. We have to try to find a date which is reasonably acceptable to all of us. I hope to be in a position very soon to state what the date will be. It will be recognised, of course, that these discussions will be exploratory and will be between the Ministers concerned and me, as representing the Commonwealth in this particular field of administration.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry give an indication of the prospects for
Australia’s wheat harvest, following the recent drought? Is the Government concerned at possible effects on our overseas balances of a diminished wheat harvest, bearing in mind that the drought has already halved our butter exports in the last quarter?
– I have not seen the latest figures for the overall anticipated yield of wheat in Australia. As the honorable senator realises, the harvest is very much down in New South Wales. The Minister for Agriculture in that State is on record as making an estimate of 40 million bushels which, I think, is very optimistic at this stage. However, that is just a personal view. I think I should obtain from the Minister for Primary Industry the rest of the information for which the honorable senator has asked.
– Does the Minister for Civil Aviation know that a Trans-Australia Airlines official, during a visit to the northwest coast of Tasmania this week, promised to investigate the almost simultaneous arrival of aircraft of both airlines at airports on the north-west coast? Will his Department impress on both airlines the apparent lack of consideration of the travelling public shown by the aircraft of both airlines following one another and taking identical routes, namely round and round the circle from Melbourne to Burnie to Devonport and back to Melbourne? Could not the routes be alternated so that the aircraft would go in opposite directions?
– I have no knowledge of the promise, as referred to by the honorable senator, to reconsider the position on the north-west coast of Tasmania. As I told honorable senators last week, I already have the matter of simultaneous arrivals and departures in hand with the Department. We have requested the airlines to review the position and they have given an undertaking that they will make experiments in Tasmania and in north Queensland, on the Mount Isa route, in order to see what can be done in the matter. Perhaps it was because of that that the official who visited the northwest coast of Tasmania, whoever he was, gave this undertaking, if it was given.
Senator Lillico mentioned the matter of the Melbourne-Burnie-Devonport-Melbourne route, which both airlines follow. I took this matter up with the airlines. I asked them whether they could revert to the previous system under which the aircraft of one airline went from Melbourne to Burnie to Devonport, and the aircraft of the other airline went from Melbourne to Devonport to Burnie. They both agreed to examine the position. I have not received an answer from them as yet.
– This report was in yesterday’s “ Advocate “.
– I did not see that report. I cannot give the honorable senator any further information on the matter.
– Can the
Minister representing the Minister for the Interior say what Commonwealth Government assistance is being given or has been given to the film industry in Australia? In view of the great talents and ability in this field of activity possessed by Australians and of the great natural advantages of this country, would not the Minister agree that financial and other forms of assistance to the Australian film industry would be of great benefit to all Australians and would greatly help people overseas to know this country?
– If I have understood the honorable senator’s question aright, I do not think it is one for the Minister for the Interior. However, I will undertake to forward it to the appropriate Minister and to obtain the relevant information.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. When he, his Department and the airlines are considering the matter of aircraft of both airlines being scheduled to leave airports at about the same time, will consideration be given to the number of occasions on which passengers who intend to travel with one airline would receive great assistance, when they heard that the aircraft on which they were scheduled to travel was delayed, if they were transferred to the aircraft of the other airline, which was on the point of departure, so avoiding the wasted hours to which Senator 0’Byrne referred in a recent debate?
– I am sure that that matter will be taken into consideration. If seats are available on the aircraft of the opposition airline, which is leaving within a few minutes, and if passengers can be transferred to that aircraft, that saves them waiting perhaps for half an hour or an hour until the other aircraft is put back into service. That is one of the advantages, but there are disadvantages. On the whole, I believe that people would prefer to have extended schedules if they could be arranged.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Mr. Justice Stanley Taylor of the New South Wales Industrial Commission is due to retire soon. Will the Government consider giving suitable recognition to what is generally agreed to be his outstanding service to the nation over many years in preserving industrial peace on the Snowy Mountains scheme?
– I suggest that the honorable senator place his question on the notice paper. He linked the outstanding service of Mr. Justice Stanley Taylor to the Snowy Mountains Authority to the granting of suitable recognition therefor and this matter clearly requires consideration by the Minister.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Will the Minister inform the Senate what progress is being made with the establishment of the Commonwealth poisons register? When is it anticipated that the register will be ready for distribution to poison information centres which are to be set up in all States?
– I can only say that progress is being made with the establishment of the register. I had hoped to have additional information as a result of inquiries I made this morning but I have not been able to get it yet.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation following the reply he gave to Senator Lillico on some changes in air service timetables and experiments by the two major airlines with staggered timetables. The Minister stated that north Queensland would be one of the areas in which the experiment would be made. Can he give some details of the proposed changes in the timetables for the north Queensland air services? Specifically, can he name the airports to which the amended timetables will apply and state what the variations will be?
– I have no details of the proposed new timetables. The two major airlines have advised me that they will try to work out a trial system in the areas I mentioned so that they may study the reaction to the staggered timetables. The airlines themselves will make these arrangements and I have no doubt that they will reach a satisfactory conclusion.
– Can the Minister say when a decision will be reached?
– No, but I understood it would be almost immediately.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Works as the Minister representing both the Minister for Territories and the Minister for Labour and National Service. I ask the Minister: Has he seen a report in today’s Press which refers to the need for organised trade unionism in Papua and New Guinea and the disorganisation which occurs to the work force because it does not have access to normal industrial tribunals? Would the Minister arrange that the Department of Territories or the Department of Labour and National Service discuss this matter with the Australian Council of Trade Unions for the purpose of canvassing to what extent facilities and assistance might be offered by the Government to the people in Papua and New Guinea?
– I would suggest that the honorable senator follow one of two courses: If he requires the responsible Minister in another place to make the actual arrangements for something to be done, 1 suggest he should directly approach that Minister. If he wants to get a reply from the Minister to a question, he should place the question on the notice paper. Either one of those courses would be more satisfactory than asking me to arrange something.
– I asked whether the Minister has seen the report.
– I have not seen the report. I thought that the nub of the question was: Would I arrange something with whichever Minister is responsible? I cannot do that. The honorable senator can put the question on the notice paper or approach the Minister directly and get an answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Can the Minister give some positive information as to whether Government action will be long delayed in the introduction of steps to deal with the encouragement of greater Australian production of television programmes and thus save Australian . overseas financial reserves?
– I gave an answer to Senator Wright on the substance of this matter last week. I cannot add any more to the statement that I made then on behalf of the Postmaster-General.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral on the same subject as the question addressed to him by Senator Webster. I ask the Minister: Did not the PostmasterGeneral in April this year receive a deputation from representatives of the National Television Committee? Did he not give an undertaking to that deputation that he would place before Parliament during the current sessional period some considered views of the Government on this question?
– I am not in a position to say what deputation the PostmasterGeneral received. As I said in reply to Senator Webster, I made a statement last week on behalf of the PostmasterGeneral. In any case, the sessional period is still current
– Mr. President, my question is directed to you. Would you ask those who are responsible for the supply of the rather primitive writing instruments which we use in the Senate to inquire whether it would be possible, without undue cost to the Commonwealth, to supply a type of writing instrument which is more in keeping with the age of electric light and television?
– I am not very clear as to the honorable senator’s problem.
– My suggestion is that we be provided with a more modern type of writing instrument, for example, the biro which is now in such common use.
– I shall have a look at the matter to ascertain the cost involved.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Can the Minister give an assurance to the Senate and to the public of Australia generally that protection is being afforded to the public from the sale of harmful pills and drugs at this time and that an investigation will be carried out into the harmful effects of these pills and drugs by the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee?
– Obviously, I cannot give that assurance, but I shall convey the question to the Minister for Health who, I am pleased to be able to say, will be back in Australia towards the coming weekend.
(Question No. 558.)
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice-
In each case -
– The Department has furnished three lists which cover 16 pages of very close type and which set out the name of the applicant, the date of the application, the number and type of aircraft involved, and the date on which the permit was issued. Preparation of this information has involved quite a deal of work in going back over the applications that have been made in the last five years. I only hope that the honorable senator will find this information to be of some use. It has taken the Department a considerable time to amass. We will not complain if it is put to good use. The following answer is provided -
The information sought is set out in detail in the following three lists which comprise -
List 1 - Applications granted;
List 2 - Applications deferred or under consideration; and
List 3 - Applications refused.
(Question No. 648.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply has furnished the following answer -
Not all of the orders for electrical equipment on behalf of the services are placed through the Department of Supply and I am not aware of the particular orders referred to by the Vice-President of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. In respect to electrical equipment purchased through the Department of Supply, every effort is made to encourage local industry by ordering from Australian sources wherever it is practicable to do so-
DECIMAL CURRENCY. (Question No. 655.)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has provided the following answers - 1 and 2. The Decimal Currency Board is not a price-fixing authority and I am assured that it has made no request to either wholesalers or retailers to increase prices of certain commodities or to round off £.s.d. prices to amounts which will be exactly convertible into decimal currency. Since the report mentioned by the honorable senator was published, representatives of retail organizations have denied that the Decimal Currency
Board asked them to adjust their prices. The representatives confirmed that several price adjustments have been made to facilitate the changeover to decimal pricing, but indicated that reductions in price outnumbered increases.
(Question No. 664.)
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The following answer is now supplied -
(Question No. 668.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has supplied the following answers -
(Question No. 671.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister has supplied the following answers -
New South Wales - Montagu Island.
Victoria - Gabo Island.
Tasmania - Goose Island.
South Australia - St. Francis, Evans, Flinders, Pearson, Four Hummocks, Williams, Althorpe, Neptune, Winceby and Troubridge Islands, Dangerous Reef and portion of Kangaroo Island.
Western Australia - Rottnest, Breaksea, Figure of Eight and Gull Islands.
The State of Queensland, in which there are 30 island lighthouses serviced by the Commonwealth, regards all coastal islands as bird sanctuaries.
The following islands on which there are lighthouses serviced by the Commonwealth are frequented by protected birds, and though not proclaimed, may be regarded as havens for them:
Tasmania - Maatsuyker, Bruny, Tasman, Swan, Deal, Hogan, Waterhouse and King.
Victoria - Cliffy and Citadel.
Western Australia - Eclipse, Rosemary, Legendre, Bedout and Adele.
Motion (by Senator McKellar) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to extend the class of persons entitled to benefits under the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act 1962-1964.
Bill presented, and read a first time. Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to extend the operation of the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act to servicemen who become involved in the action of hostile forces in areas outside’ Australia but who, as the Act presently stands, would not be eligible for repatriation benefits.
Honorable senators will recall that the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act was designed to meet special conditions of peace time service not hitherto encountered in Australian experience. Its broad purpose is to provide repatriation cover for serving members of the forces whose service outside Australia in warlike operations or in disturbed areas involves them in hazards additional to those of normal peace time service. Eligibility under the Act has, therefore, been provided in respect of death or incapacity arising out of service whilst allotted for special duty in a proclaimed special area. Areas may be proclaimed and allotment made with retrospective effect. The benefits provided are generally the same as those in respect of the two World Wars and for the Korean and Malayan operations.
The operation of this legislation has been generally satisfactory, but following the Government’s normal practice it has been under continuing review. As a result the Government believes that although this has not occurred up to the present, there could be situations in which members of the forces serving outside Australia suffer incapacity or death as a result of the action of hostile forces but would not at present have immediate access to repatriation benefits. To illustrate, the Act does not provide for the possibility that an action may become extended beyond a declared area, or that personnel may become casualties from hostile action whilst going to or from a declared area. In addition, there is a possibility that service personnel not immediately concerned in special operations may unexpectedly become involved in isolated incidents Such circumstances may not justify the use of the procedures for a general retrospective declaration of an area and retrospective allotment of special duty of the personnel concerned. None the less, it is clear that serving members so involved should have equal access to repatriation benefits with those who are allotted for special duty in special areas. It is also important that they should know and be assured of this cover without its being dependent in any way on subsequent administrative action.
The Bill, therefore, provides repatriation cover for those involved in contact with hostile forces in circumstances such as those I have indicated. The provision to be made will ensure that those who suffer death or incapacity as a result of action by hostile forces will receive repatriation benefits whether or not they had been allotted for special duty in a special area. It is proposed that the incapacity in respect of which benefits will be available will include any subsequent incapacity or death arising therefrom which is attributable to the member’s involvement with hostile forces.
The Bill gives effect to the Government’s belief that members of the forces serving outside Australia and who are subjected to special hazards, whether allotted for duty in a special area or not, should receive repatriation cover and should have foreknowledge of this fact. I commend it to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator McKellar) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend section 3 of the Native Members of the Forces Benefits Act* 1957, and for purposes connected therewith.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
, - I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to remedy an anomaly in the provisions of the Native Members of the Forces Benefits Act which has come to notice in the course of administration. Honorable senators may recall that benefits for Torres Strait Islanders who enlisted in special units for the defence of that area during the 1939-45 war were originally provided by act of grace, but were given a statutory basis with the introduction of the Native Members of the Forces Benefits Act in 1957. Other Australian Aboriginals who served under normal enlistment conditions had already been covered under the Repatriation Act. It will be recalled, too, that over the years the rates of benefit have been increased and the range of benefits extended so that now, in all practicable respects, the repatriation system available to the Torres Strait members of the forces is identical with that available to other Australian ex-servicemen.
When the legislation was first introduced to provide repatriation benefits for and in respect of these ex-servicemen, it was thought that only natives of the Torres Strait Islands themselves had been enlisted for service in the Torres Strait Island units. Hence the definition of “ native member of the Forces “ refers to “ a male aboriginal native… of an island in Torres Strait “. In the course of administration, it has been discovered that of approximately 700 servicemen enlisted in these special units, some 40 were aboriginal natives of the mainland. Thus, they are technically not covered by the legislation. This Bill remedies that situation by expressing the definition so that it includes a mainland aboriginal native who served in one of the Torres Strait Island units.
There is sometimes difficulty in determining the ancestry of these ex-servicemen and it appears that some pensions have been granted to mainland Aborigines who served in the special units in ignorance of the fact that the persons concerned were not covered by definition. The Bill, therefore, includes a provision to validate such grants. The Bill is a routine one of machinery character and I commend it to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Sandford) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Henry) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 9th November, at 3 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Henty) proposed -
That Government business take precedence of general business after 8 p.m. this sitting.
– - I offer no opposition to this motion and will facilitate its passage. I rise only to bring to the attention of the members of the Government the need for providing the period allotted by the Standing Orders to private members’ business inthe remaining weeks of the session. I ask the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) to ensure that, when the legislature programme for the remainder of the session is considered, provision will be made for the discussion of motions and other business that private members of the chamber wish to bring before the Senate for decision.
– in reply - The final week of the Estimates debate will be in a fortnight’s time. The Government proposes that discussion of the Estimates be finished by the Thursday night. If the debate has not been finished on Thursday,I shall ask the Senate for leave to propose a motion similar to this.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from 27th October (vide page 1272).
Proposed expenditure, £1,706,000.
.- There are a few matters in regard to the conduct of the Parliament on which I should like an opportunity to comment. First of all, these estimates have reference to “ Hansard “. I think that we are all indebted to our “ Hansard “ reporters for the splendid service which they give the Senate, but what I desire to refer to is the continuance of the practice of printing the bound volumes of “Hansard” in the old fashioned way in which they have been printed for some 50 or 60 years. Any honorable senator who has been in the Parliament for a long period realises that the size of these volumes becomes an embarrassment after a time. Five years ago I pointed out in the Parliament that other Parliaments had taken action to print “ Hansard “ in a more compact form. I fail to see the necessity for the thick kind of paper that is used in the volume for “ Hansard “. Surely the debates could be printed on thinner paper. Surely it is possible to provide a “ Hansard “ which would give us all the necessary coverage but would not be the kind of old fashioned book, which in my estimation has been out of date for the last 30 or 40 years.
– The honorable senator must live in a new flat.
-I do not know what anybody who lived in a flat would do after being a member of the Parliament for 20 years, because the volumes would take up so much space that I doubt whether there would be much room left in his flat. I strongly urge that the people responsible for the printing of “ Hansard “ consider whether it would be possible to publish a book which would be more compact and more in keeping with modern times.
As one who has his office in the Commonwealth Parliament Offices in Melbourne,I wish to refer to reports that at some future date we are to be transferred to the Customs House block in that city. I would like the Minister to give us an idea of the possible date of the transfer, if he has any information on the matter. I understand that members of the Parliament were polled on whether they would like to move to the Commonwealth office block in Queen Street or to the Customs House block. I understand that the result of the poll favoured the latter.
– This matter comes under the Department of the Interior.
– I thank the Minister. I will reserve my comments until later. In view of the Minister’s statement, I will reserve my remarks on another matter, namely, that the drivers of Commonwealth cars which convey members of the Parliament at various times are not able to become permanent public servants. I believe that that is wrong. They should have the same rights of permanent employment as other public servants have. I will deal with that matter under the estimates for the Department of the Interior, too.
I refer now to one or two matters in connection with the conduct of the Parliament. About a fortnight or three weeks ago, when the notice paper was becoming extremely bulky, I intended to make some strong criticisms of that fact. But apparently the Ministers anticipated what was coming, because suddenly there was a tremendous burst of energy as a result of which a large number of questions were dealt with. The notice paper is now down to normal size. Allowing for the presence of Senator Mulvihill in the Senate, that is a pretty good achievement. I do not believe that question time in the Senate is as interesting as it should be.
– What about the question that the honorable senator asked th e President today?
– I may be as much at fault as anybody else. Question time in the Senate suffers by comparison with question time in the House of Representatives. Obviously, one reason for that is that most of the Ministers are in the other House and each Minister in this chamber represents four of five other Ministers. Whereas the Ministers in the House of Representatives are often familiar with the circumstances of questions and can answer them off the cuff, the Ministers in this chamber are not in that position.
I believe that question time should be one of the most interesting periods, particularly when it is broadcast. I make two suggestions. One is that more of us assist Ministers by letting them know in advance if we intend to ask a question which will probably require reference to another Minister. My second suggestion is that the Ministers in this chamber might say to the Ministers whom they represent: “I would like you to brief me each day on matters that appear to be of moment - particularly ones that appear in the Press - because I will probably be asked questions on them.”
The next matter to which I wish to refer is the question of amendments. I have been in this Parliament for about6½ years. I believe that it is regrettable that amendments are accepted so rarely by the Government. I do not accept the proposition that all of the amendments that the Government has rejected have not been worthy of recognition or acceptance. At times I have felt that amendments moved in this chamber have represented an improvement; but the attitude of the Government has been that it will not accept anything from the other side. That does not apply in other parliaments. Some people may think that it is a sign of strength to always roll the Opposition, whatever amendment it moves. I believe that it is a sign of weakness. I realise that once again the problem of Ministers representing other Ministers arises. The decision is made by a Minister in another place. He may not have heard the debate. He may not be very sympathetic with the Senate. He makes the decision and the Minister in this chamber is bound by it. I should like to see more done in the direction of giving sympathetic consideration to amendments, because .all the ability and all the brains are not on one side of the chamber. I hope that the Government will adopt a more sympathetic attitude towards amendments in the future.
– Why does not the honorable senator include a plea for the acceptance of amendments that emanate from this side of the chamber?
– Senator Wright has touched upon a very strong point. I must agree that amendments that emanate from the Government side of the Senate on occasions have received as much unsympathetic consideration as those that come from this side, but that strengthens the point I have been making. My final point is this: When the Senate is under fire and people suggest that we are not as good as those in another place, it is desirable to seize every opportunity to show that we are just as good as or possibly better than, those in another place. I should like our debates which are broadcast to be given the benefit of a little more management, if I may put it that way. I have been in this chamber some nights when the proceedings have been broadcast and have noted that the subjects under debate were deadly dull. Anybody who had said to himself: “The Senate is on the air tonight and I will listen in to see what sort of organisation it is “, would conclude after, listening to the proceedings that everything the critics said about it was right.
These critics are influenced by the dullness of the debates at times on very dull subjects. Some people suggest that sometimes it is tactical for the Government to avoid sticky debates when the proceedings are being broadcast. I do not think that is so. There might have been one or two occasions when things were managed that way but generally the Government has been prepared to have differences battled out in public. I suggest that arrangements should be managed so that, on the one night of the week when our discussions are on the air, if possible - and it. might not always be possible - we shall have a debate which will interest those who want to hear what is happening in the Parliament. I. hope the Senate can be given an opportunity to show- that it is a House of Parliament well worthy of public approbation.
– The proposed vote for the Parliament is £1,706,000 and under that heading I propose to make some general observations. Parliaments are subject to a disease. Its prevalence is world wide and affects this Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. I refer to the general erosion of the authority and functions of the Parliament by the encroachment of the Executive. We have seen it going on for years in this Parliament although I believe the disease has been arrested in this Senate but not cured. There are many reasons for the disease. Perhaps it is inherent in the system we have inherited of ministerial responsibility to the Parliament. The effect of this is a parliament dominated by the Government and when there is a majority in a House always ready to support the Government, the Government is encouraged to do things that it would not do if it were not in a secure position.
In this Senate, the even balance of numbers mean’s that the Government is not always in such a secure position, lt is not always able to predict what will happen to its legislation. It is not always able to rely upon an easy majority to ensure that there will be no criticism of its administration. The Senate has shown a disposition to criticise the Government when it should be criticised. It has shown a disposition also to see that the authority of the Parliament is maintained over subordinate legislation. In many ways we are entitled to be proud of the Senate.
I should like to refer to the item in the estimates dealing with standing and select committees. The Regulations arid Ordinances Committee of this Senate is considered generally by those who are acquainted with this subject to be the most effective committee of its kind in all the parliaments of the world. The most dangerous encroachments upon the liberties of the people have occurred in recent times under delegated legislation. I refer to laws made outside the Parliament by authorities, generally the Executive, to whom the lawmaking power has been delegated by the Parliament.
The most important control over delegated legislation in this Parliament is disallowance or regulations or ordinances by either House. The House of Representatives, in practice, has abandoned any supervision of delegated legislation. On the other hand, the Senate has again and again asserted its authority over regulations and ordinances. In this field the Senate has demonstrated its intention and capacity to guard citizens against oppression by the Executive. The Senate and the people of Australia are greatly indebted to the Chairman and the members of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, and to former member of the Committee some of whom are in the Senate and some of whom are no longer in the Parliament.
Turning to other matters, the Senate as a whole is constituted of enthusiastic members who want to carry out their functions properly and who would like to do more than they are doing to provide a service to the nation. The human resources that we have, both in Ministers and senators, are therefore the best we could reasonably expect. But the material resources available to enable them to do their job properly are hot good enough. We need proper staff and facilities in order that v/e may operate at the optimum efficiency. One great lack in this Parliament is a proper legislative reference service. We have not anything approaching the facilities available, for instance, in the United States Congress, and we have not anything approaching the minimum facilities that we ought to have.
The work of the Parliament is becoming increasingly complex. There are more and more issues, both domestic and international, confronting members. We need a proper source of information. That source of information ought to be developing at a rate comparable with the increase in the complexity of the problems with which we are faced. The source of our information, for the most part, is the Library. I would say of the present staff that they lack nothing in willingness to help members, but they are too few in number and too little time can be given to major requests for information. The turnover in staff, which is obvious to all who use the facilities of the Library, results in a succession of willing but inexperienced officers who are unable to provide the kind of assistance that is sought. Larger and comprehensive collections are needed. We know that the Presiding. Officers of this Parliament are eager to ensure that proper resources and facilities are provided, but there seems to have, been a serious under-estimating of the demands that would be made. From inquiries I have made I understand that over recent years proposals have been put forward for improving the position and that we may expect a considerable improvement in the resources available. That improvement is long overdue.
The developments that are necessary in the reference service demand the appointment of staff of high integrity and quality. A permanent career service should be established so that persons of ability will come to serve the Parliament and not look upon the Library as being merely a stepping stone to other positions in the Commonwealth service. Such developments cannot be undertaken without the expenditure of money. Senior staff will require adequate support such as is already generously provided for research, investigation and advisory groups within every administrative department of the Commonwealth. Conditions of service must be such that suitable staff will be attracted and held so that the accumulated experience will be available to the Parliament when dealing with the many intricate and difficult matters that come up for consideration. The importance of the Parliament having its own adequate source of information on legislative and public affairs, independent of and supplementary to that of the Executive, cannot be too strongly emphasised. Such a source of information is in the interests of sound parliamentary government and the preservation of our democratic system.
I turn now to the position of Ministers in the Senate, to which reference was made by Senator McManus. When answering questions, Ministers have, for the most part, demonstrated a commendable frankness and an appreciation of the proper role of the Senate in the Parliament. But it seems to be obvious that, if we are to retain this system of having Ministers in the Senate, there are too few of them. We have five Ministers here as against four times that number in the House of Representatives. The tasks that are placed upon Ministers in the Senate are insuperable. One Minister in the Senate is required to represent four Ministers in the House of Representatives, but only one in four Ministers in the House of Representatives has to represent ons
Minister here. I do not think that the suggestion made by Senator McManus - that is, that each Minister in the Senate should consult every day with the four or five Ministers in the House of Representatives that he represents - is sufficient to overcome the problem. There are just too few Ministers in this chamber. I have little doubt that this state of affairs is taking a toll of the health of Ministers. We have seen what has happened to Ministers in this chamber. When Ministers represent not only a great department of State but also an impossible number of Ministers in another place, their health must suffer. If the present system is to be retained, more Ministers ought to be appointed in this chamber.
One way in which we might be able to relieve Ministers would be to extend the committee system on the Senate. We are now considering the Estimates. It is quite obvious that with all the will in the world we cannot do justice to the estimates of each department. We collectively deal with the estimates for each department one at a time. Would it not be better if the Senate were able to operate through a number of committees working simultaneously, with six or seven senators considering the estimates of a particular department of State? There is no need for us to preserve the practice of dealing with the Estimates as a Committee of the Whole. Why not let us deal with the Estimates through a number of committees? Officers of the departments could be brought before the committees and asked questions. Matters could be dealt with in a reasonable way instead of our being faced, as at present, with the problem of time. Ministers naturally are eager to get through the current Estimates before the end of the first week following next week’s recess. All the problems that arise out of the time factor could easily be overcome if we were to change our procedures slightly. We have many competent senators who are able and willing to serve on such committees. It is a tragedy that we do not make more use of the talent that we have in this chamber.
-(Senator DrakeBrockman). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
. -I welcome this opportunity to discuss the estimates for the Parliament. I wish to refer
B.nm/6S.-S.- 156) to two matters relating to committees of the Parliament. Both bring into bold relief a problem, if it is not almost a disease, that is facing the Australian Parliament I think it is right to say that one of the greatest responsibilities of the Parliament is that it should inform itself, that it should be informed and that it should inform the public.
I now relate my remarks specifically to Division No. 101, Senate, and the provision that is made for printing, binding and distribution of papers. You, Mr. Chairman, will recall that in May 1964 a joint select committee of this Parliament tabled a report on publications and printing. The Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary and Government Publications was set up by the Parliament to report to the Parliament. I, Senator Murphy and Senator Breen were privileged to be members of that Committee. I know the sincere and hard work that was put into the Committee’s deliberations and the hearing of expert evidence from interested people in many fields who were well versed in the subject into which we were inquiring. I cannot be contradicted when I affirm that the Committee presented to the Parliament a very sensible report. It was a report which, in the main, if it were put into effect would be of great benefit, not only to the Parliament, but also to people and organisations who take an interest in what emanates from the Parliament and the Government.
I am told that effect is slowly being given to some of the findings of the Committee. The Committee discussed all aspects of the matter, including the desirability of a uniform size for publications, their quality, the economics of publication, methods of distribution and the availability of government publications. My complaint is that, although a period of 18 months has elapsed, we in this Parliament do not know what the Government intends to do with this report or even what it thinks about it. Too many reports of committees go into pigeon holes. I firmly believe that if the Parliament appoints a joint select committee and the Committee reports to the Parliament within a sensible time, the Parliament has a right to know from the Government what the Government intends to do with the Committee’s report.
There are many other reports of committees to which I could refer, but I do not intend to do so. I want to emphasise the point 1 have already made. I have made the point in relation to the report of the Government Publications Committee because I am absolutely certain that much good could come from putting into operation the recommendations contained in the report. One of the main planks of the Committee’s recommendations was in respect of the availability of Government publications. The Committee recommended that an establishment somewhat along the lines of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office in the United Kingdom should be set up in each State. I believe that that is long over due. The expenditure involved would not be a waste of money. It is very difficult for informed members of the public to obtain copies’ of public documents that they want to see. There are many thousands of members of the public who would become regular and avid readers of such publications if they were suitably displayed and readily available. I return to the point I made in my opening remarks. One of the principal responsibilities of a Parliament is to inform itself and to inform the people. I believe most sincerely that it is the right of the Parliament to hear a statement from the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) as to what is happening to the report of the Committee. As I have said, the report was tabled in the Parliament in May 1964.
While I am addressing myself to the estimates for the Parliament I wish to refer to the proposed provision for the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. As a number of honorable senators will know, for a short period I had the privilege to be a member of the Committee. At the time I became a member I did not know much about its work. I knew of the work it had to do but I did not know its attitude or its worth. Again I say without fear of contradiction that the Public Works Committee is a very valuable one from the point of view of both the Parliament and the public. I was very impressed by the completely non-party, non-State attitude adopted by its members. I was more than impressed by the way in which senior departmental officers who were called to give evidence before the Committee answered questions put to them. If they did not know the answer to a question they made a note and later reported back to the Committee. There was co-operation. They made me think that there was a great desire within our Commonwealth Departments to do the right thing by the taxpayers in regard to the many and vast public works that are undertaken year by year. ‘ I believe that because of the reputation this Committee has established over the years, departments and, in some cases, even Ministers consider what will be the attitude of the Committee as a result of the searching inquiry it makes when projects are placed before it. I believe that the same attitude is rightly adopted by a Government when it has an evenly divided Senate. There is a restraining influence, and that is the kind of influence which the Public Works Committee exerts.
I do not intend to go into detail. I merely say that I was lucky to be a member of the Committee when many varied projects were placed before it. In some instances the inquiries by the Committee resulted in a saving to the taxpayers of considerable sums of money. On other occasions the expenditure of additional money was recommended by the Committee because it was thought, after hearing evidence and studying it, that additions to or improvements, in the projects would be desirable. I see great value to the Parliament and the people in such a committee and I believe that it is only right that the Committee should be properly treated. As honorable senators know, the Committee functions under an act of Parliament which lays down the conditions under which it shall operate. Perhaps I am naive but I am one of those who think that unless an act of Parliament is being obeyed it should be amended to fit the whims and wishes of the Parliament.
Briefly, the situation is that the Government must commit to the Public Works Committee for inquiry proposals for projects costing more than £250,000 unless the proposals involve a defence requirement. No-one in his right mind would object to a government having the right to proceed immediately with a defence project or even to keep the details of it from other bodies including committees of the Parliament. That right should be maintained. I am ready to admit that there” could be, in respect of other projects, a certain urgency that would make it proper for the Government to proceed with them and not to submit them for consideration by the Committee. The Government has the right, by Order in Council, to authorise this to be done. Nevertheless, I believe there are projects now being undertaken that should have been referred to the Committee. The Parliament should demand either that they be referred to the Committee or that the act of Parliament under which the Committee functions be amended.
I can well imagine someone saying: *’ Look. With all the projects costing initially more than £250,000 that we have to undertake throughout the Commonwealth, the members of the Public Works Committee would never do anything else than sit on the Committee if all those projects were to be referred to it”. That argument would not carry any weight with me. We could have two Public Works Committees. They would pay for themselves over the years because of the work they did. The Parliament must rule this country. I have great faith in the work of the Public Works Committee. It operates at comparatively small cost to the taxpayer, and I believe the taxpayer reaps dividends in the long run because of the work done by dedicated members of the Committee in co-operation with the Departments and their senior officers. I believe the Committee is as important as the departments.
The question of the facilities for travel which are available to members of Parliament was discussed in a weekly column in one of the Tasmanian newspapers during the weekend. Amongst other things it said: “And also the annual jaunt by the Public Works Committee to Darwin in the summer “. I had only one experience or a socalled jaunt to Darwin in the summer with the Committee. After a day or two at Wollongong and a night in Sydney, we flew to Darwin via Mount Isa. We sat morning, afternoon and night, except when we were carrying out inspections in the morning and afternoon of the areas in which the projects were to be constructed. The attitude of the people in Darwin reminded me of the words of the old song, “ Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”. We even heard evidence at night and at the crack of dawn the next day. We left Darwin and I reached Hobart the same night. If that is a jaunt in the eyes of the Tasmanian newspapers, it is not in mine.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– If the Senate falls down at all, it falls down in its attitude to public relations. I believe the Senate should have a public relations department of some kind to bring its activities before the public eye. The debates in the Senate this week have not been reported to any extent in the newspapers of Australia. Yesterday was an interesting day in this chamber but we got only two or three paragraphs in the newspapers. I am always looking for my name to appear, but I did not even get a run on the Admiral.
– The honorable senator did, but only in Victoria.
– Well, I thought it was a good story. We have to provide news; we must not forget our news value. We have a responsibility in this regard. News must be made; it just does not happen. For example, the other night Senator McManus went to some trouble to get certain very senior newspaper reporters in the Press Gallery.
– I did not.
– I am suggesting the honorable senator had something to do with it. He introduced the subject of unity tickets at the end of the day, and the Press was very good to him. At least there was a full attendance in the Gallery. However, something went wrong.
– Senator McManus was accused of getting the “ Daily Telegraph “ on side, but it did not even report him.
– Something went wrong, because Senator McManus’s story about unity tickets did not hit the front or even the back pages. Something else happened which was news. An international conflagration broke out between Senator McManus and Senator Cohen. That was news; that was the big story. The point I make is that we in this place must produce news here. We cannot blame the newspapers all the time for not reporting the debates in the Senate. Therefore, we need some form of management in the field of public relations.
The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) made a real mistake the other night and I was horrified by it. While he was in the Senate introducing the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation we heard on the radio news the announcement that £29 million was to be spent on the purchase of aircraft. That announcement apparently came from the Prime Minister’s Department. Possibly the Minister did not know anything about it. There was an opportunity for good public relations.
We do not have very much power of initiative in the Senate. We lose out because we do not have very many Ministers or the most important portfolios here. I cannot express a view on that because it is a matter for the Government. However, we must get some real publicity for the Senate. News is the major concern of newspapers. A story must have news value; otherwise it will not be printed. In the case of Senator McManus, the Press thought it was important news that Senator Cohen was standing one step above and behind Senator McManus and threatening him. I am not suggesting that we should create situations like that all the time.
– What about a glass of water?
– The incident of the glass of water indicated that there are people in the Labour Party who can be insulted and who will retaliate, although not in the good old style of slapping a person across the face with a glove and then fighting a duel.
We have certain difficulties in producing news in the Senate because this is a revisionary chamber, a secondary chamber. Most of the subjects we discuss here have been already discussed in the other place. Therefore, the Senate does not have the first class news value that the other chamber has. However, if the four or five Ministers who are in the Senate made proper use of their portfolios and their powers of initiation, they would hand direct to the newspapers important announcements that have to be made and we would get publicity comparable to that given to the other place. The Senate has a lot of enemies in Australia and even in the Parliament.
– The Labour Party wants to abolish it.
– I know tha Labour Party wants to abolish the Senate. I looked at the constitutional position regarding this matter before I came into the chamber and learned that it would be very difficult to do so.
– The policy is to abolish it at the appropriate time, anc) there never will be an appropriate time.
– That is so. The Senate is a most important part of Parliament and of the democratic institution, but the Press lets down the Parliament and our system of democracy by not giving the Senate more space in the newspapers.
– The. honorable senator should never have left the Press.
– I shall deal with the Press now. While we in this chamber have a responsibility, the Press also has a responsibility. I do not want the boys in the Press Gallery to think that I am being critical of their youth. I was a young newspaper man myself. I know that the training of apprentices is very important in the Press industry - and it is an industry. However, in the Senate Press Gallery we see almost regularly boys under 20 years of age who report our proceedings. I think that is wrong. I do. not think it is even good training for the boys. I am talking generally.
When I first came to this Parliament at least some adult pressmen always reported the Senate, a practice which is in conformity with the rules of the Australian Journalists’ Association requiring that there must be so many apprentices and so many journeymen employed. I believe that of recent years there has been a tendency for the newspapers to depend on their very junior reporters to cover the Senate. Those boys ought to see what goes on in the other place, for their own benefit. They may wish to do so. I cannot see how young apprentice journalists can understand what is happening in the Senate. I sometimes wonder myself what is happening and I have been in politics for a long time. They have a responsibility. They take information back to their senior reporters. I think the senior reporters ought to look in at the Senate more often. I believe that the President should talk to the newspaper proprietors about this matter.
I appreceiate that the newspapers have the problem that normally politics is not very good news in Australian newspapers. That is a challenge to the Parliament to present its material in a more newsy fashion and to convey a different picture to the public. I have discussed this matter with the management of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ on a few occasions. At one time that newspaper devoted a double page spread to the Commonwealth Parliament. For a couple of years it attempted to give full cover to Parliament. I leave this thought with honorable senators: The newspaper could not sell any advertising space on those pages. Advertisements are printed on those pages which will interest the reading public. It is an almost foolproof axiom and a foolproof measure of the value of news, that it must be of interest to the reading public. Parliament should do more about public relations. We should not merely have in Parliament the officers representing the departments by distributing handouts. We need more than that. Public relations is a more scientific field of endeavour today than it used to be. It is really part of the Parliamentary system, because I believe that the art of politics is talking and getting your message over to the public. It is necessary to get the right image of the Parliament before the people.
I turn now to lesser matters. Twelve months or two years ago I referred to the 500,000 visitors who come annually to this Parliament. When I mentioned that there is nowhere for them to have a cup of tea, I was asked: “ Would you turn Parliament into a dining room or a refreshment room? “ I was laughed at. But it is true that there is no place within cooee of Parliament House where a member of the public can have a cup of tea. Selected people who have friends at court have no difficulty in gaining access to the best refreshment rooms in Parliament House.
– Would the honorable senator like concession rights to King’s Hall?
– At least a place should be provided outside in the parkland for the public to have afternoon tea.
– Perhaps they could boil a billy down at the bridge.
– I do not know about that. This is a serious matter. Half a million people come here and sit around with their tongues hanging out because they cannot get anything to eat or drink? It is unfair. A lot of visitors come to Parliament House and I do not know where they go for a cup of tea. I think the National Capital Development Commission should study this matter. The Parliament and the Government ought to do something about interesting the Commission in providing facilities close to Parliament House for the general public. Great surrounding park areas are untouched and will remain untouched for 100 years. I cannot see why nice kiosks could not be erected to cater for the needs of the public, as is the case in any other modern parliamentary setup.
I turn now to the control of Parliament and to question time. Last year I visited the House of Commons. I think that the method of conducting questions and answers in the House of Commons leaves the Australian system for dead. Most honorable senators are aware of the English system. A particular day is set aside for a particular subject. There are no questions without notice. They would very seldom be answered, anyway. In the House of Commons all questions are on notice. A day may be set aside for questions related to civil aviation. When the Minister rises to reply for his Department, he must know his portfolio very well.
– There are supplementary questions.
– That is so. At least three supplementary questions can be asked. If a Minister attempts - I hope honorable senators will excuse the term - to get away with breaking something down, members have the right to debate the answer immediately. It is debated on the spot. I think it leaves our system far behind. I am all in favour of our Parliament’s changing its system of conducting question time.
I agree with Senator McManus that Parliament ought to be very much more interesting than it is. So it would be if Ministers did not have to refer matters to other Ministers. I know that certain technical difficulties arise. It is all part of the public relations proposition I am putting. The book that is sold at the front doors of Parliament House has not been changed for many years. I do not know how old it is. Some of the things in it are historic and wonderful, but they are out of date. The book sets out how in some situations it is necessary for members to cover their heads. It is set out in old language. We should study these matters.
Even “ Hansard “ is old fashioned. I know that the format of “ Hansard “ cannot be altered. 1 congratulate and thank the “ Hansard “ staff very much for the way they look after my speeches. My unfinished sentences are always nicely rounded off in “ Hansard “. We should think more of “ Hansard “. I have a lot to thank the “ Hansard “ staff for and I think a lot of other senators have, too.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I wish to be advised on two points. My first query relates to the appropriation for incidental and other expenditure incurred by the Parliamentary Library. The annual appropriations for other items of administrative expenses for the Library have varied little but the appropriation for item 03, “ Incidental and other expenditure “, this year is almost double that of last year’s appropriation. I wish to be informed of what is included in that category for the current year. My second query is related to the conveyance of members of Parliament and others. To the best of my knowledge the appropriation for this item is not explained in other parts of the Estimates.
– That is under the control of the Department of the Interior.
– I doubt whether that comment is correct.
– I wish to say a few words about the Standing Orders of the Parliament. If they are read every day that the Parliament is sitting their meaning becomes very clear but, unless they are read frequently, they become very confusing. On occasions it is necessary to turn up the Standing Orders hurriedly and a relevant standing order cannot be located. Sometimes the search for a particular standing order must be abandoned. I am seriously suggesting that the Standing Orders should be rewritten and reprinted so that they may be more easily read. I think that would assist honorable senators a good deal. I also believe that a new index is required.
It should not contain too much information but should give brief particulars of the subject to which each standing order is related.
Speeches made in the Senate have been broadcast for a number of years, but I cannot find in the Standing Orders anything relating to the period of time that honorable senators are permitted to speak on a day when the proceedings in the Senate are broadcast.
– It is only a gentleman’s agreement.
– I know it is a gentleman’s agreement, which is all right providing all the senators are gentlemen. The matter should be brought up to date and included in the Standing Orders, so that we will know what it is. I refer also to the arrangement whereby leaders of parties have the privilege of occupying one hour in making an address on any subject. I think that this should be positively limited to one leader and that no deputy leader should be permitted to occupy an hour in making an address upon the same subject. I am strongly opposed to that, especially when the debate has been in progress for three or four hours and we have another speech lasting an hour inflicted upon us. I am quite in favour of the leader of a party being granted one hour to make his speech.
I understand that something has been said in another place about the system of government in the Commonwealth. Actually, the people of Australia have grown up accustomed to the system that is in operation and have wholeheartedly approved of it. Probably that is because they are so familiar with it and they are not fully acquainted with any other forms of government. I want to see the present form of government continued in the Commonwealth. I do not want any hifalutin systems with presidents and committees and other things. Any honorable senator who has had the experience that I have had with committees would say that the committee system should be jettisoned and we should have the British parliamentary system of government. The axis of this form of government, the main thing in our lives, is the annual Budget. A while ago I heard Senator Marriott say that the Government of this country must govern, that the Parliament is the Government. That might be all right, but I have always maintained when I have been away from the Parliament that the Reserve Bank of Australia is the real power of government in the Commonwealth.
I wholeheartedly support the system of an annual Budget, with the Estimates being submitted to us in the present form, although they are not clear, they are not sufficiently elaborate, and insufficient information is given in them. Notwithstanding those faults in the Estimates, I say that we have a good form of government under the present system. We could improve on it. The Estimates that are furnished to the Canadian Parliament differ vastly from ours. Nevertheless, I support our form of government and I do not want it changed. 1 believe in the party system. I do not support Senator Ormonde in his idea of having the Senate and the House of Representatives establish their own daily paper just to create a good relationship with the public. I can assure him that if he seeks contributions for that purpose I will not contribute a penny towards it.
– I should like to make some further observations under the estimates for the Parliament and then, by way of some criticism which is intended to be constructive, to deal with the operation of the Parliament. One matter concerns the doctrine of ministerial responsibility. This has been converted into one of ministerial infallibility. It arises from a false notion that the Minister must always protect his officers and never admit mistakes, even to the point of being less than frank with the Parliament.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– The position would be better all round if Ministers were to admit mistakes made by officers. We should expect officers who make decisions to learn to make correct ones even if occasionally they make incorrect ones. Mistakes are an inevitable concomitant of delegation. At the moment the mistakes - they must occur in any human institution - occur at the top of the departments and there is more resistance to admitting them. It would be easier if there were more delegation throughout departments and if Minister were prepared to admit mistakes that are made in their departments.
I have had the experience of putting on the notice paper a question asking a Minister to state what mistakes and instances of serious inefficiency have occurred in his department during a particular period; and the answer has been that there has been none. That is just nonsense. We know that in the departments there must be instances of inefficiency and there must be maladministration. It would be much better for the nation, the Parliament and the Minister concerned if he were to say what had happened and what action had been taken to correct the position. We all would have more confidence if we knew that that was the situation. We do not expect Ministers and officers to be infallible, lt is foolish of them to pretend that they are.
In my view the Budget is presented far too late in the year. I cannot see why we cannot do what is done in the United States of America, where the Budget is prepared and presented well before the commencement of the financial year. It is only a fiction when a Budget is presented to the Parliament and consideration of the Estimates takes place at a time such as the present, or even a few weeks earlier, when we are already into the financial year. Very little information is presented with the Budget. The documents accompanying the Appropriation Bill do not contain the explanations which governments are able to present even in more complex administrations such as that of the United States.
In addition, we have this unfortunate convention that the Budget must not be altered by the Parliament; otherwise it would cause the fall of the government. By continuing such conventions, which once served a useful purpose, we are destroying our parliamentary system. Why should a government have to fall because the Parliament says: “ We think a few million pounds should be spent by this department rather than by that one “, or “ We think this item should be reduced “? The convention of reducing estimates by £1 has become a shackle on the Parliament. We ought to be able to indicate a view that certain changes should be made in the estimates without in any way causing the Government to fall if the Parliament indicates its concurrence in that view. The way in which amendments are treated as want of confidence motions can fairly be described as a confidence trick on the people. This is not peculiar to this Parliament; it applies elswhere. It is time we had a good look at it and did away with some of the cobwebs that prevent us from properly exercising our legislative functions
– Did the honorable senator say that he could not see why the Budget could not be presented before the end of the financial year?
– Before the beginning of the financial year. We are in what is properly called the financial year 1966. The Budget and Estimates for this year ought to have been presented well before the commencement of the year. In the United States, to which I refer in particular, the Budget is presented well before the commencement of the financial year. Usually it is presented about January or February, and the financial year commences in the following June. So it is presented about three or four months before the commencement of the financial year. If that is done in the United States, it means that it can be done elsewhere. Why can it not be done here? Is it suggested that our problems are more complex than those of the United States?
– We would not know the actual expenditure in the previous year.
– That has to be estimated. The people preparing the Budget know the appropriation for each item and how the expenditure under each item is going. Answering the important point that the Minister just made, I say that the fact that we did not know how much had actually been spent would mean that we would not frame our appropriation for each department on what had been spent but rather on what ought to be spent. In that event we would not have the wrong use of finances that we have now.
As everyone knows, towards the end of the financial year departments spend money that they do not need to spend, simply in order to ensure that they will receive similar appropriations in the next year. That is not good management of our finances. The way we go about these matters tends to produce maladministration in finance. If the Government is to be condemned, it ought to be condemned for permitting that kind of conduct to continue year after year. I hope that nobody will say that it does not occur. Every member of this Parliament and every person in the Public Service knows that it occurs. Although there is not a call for money to be spent before the end of the financial year, it is spent in order that this ridiculous procedure might be followed. That is my answer to the proposition that the Minister put to me. This practice hurts the finances of this country; it does not advance them.
It would be much better to frame appropriations on the basis of estimates of what ought to be spent rather than to pay attention’ to what has actually been spent. Of course, the latter is not a consideration that should be left out of mind. A reasonable look at our budgeting procedures indicates that there ought to be a complete revision of them.
– Exactly the same thing as the honorable senator mentioned occurs in the United States, except that the public servants there spend the money before 31st December.
– That is not so.
– Tell me why it is not so.
– If the honorable senator had paid attention to what I said, he would know that I said that the American Budget is presented well before the commencement of the financial year. I suggest that he investigate what is done in the United States.
– What the honorable senator is complaining about happens whether the Budget is presented in August, as in Australia, or in January, as in the United States.
– My reply to the interjection is that no doubt this is an evil which occurs everywhere in the world, including the United States of America. Departments will tend to build up their expenditure unless they are carefully watched; but the way we go about our budgeting procedures encourages this kind of conduct rather than tending to curb it.
I turn now to the way in which this Parliament is conducted and specifically to statements that are made on matters of public administration. Far too many statements of policy are made outside the Parliament when they could be made inside it. Too often in the case of matters that have not arisen suddenly a statement is made to the Press on Friday after the Parliament has risen when such a statement could well have been made to the Parliament during the week. Ministers could well give some close consideration to this matter.
My next point relates to the anomalous position of the statutory corporations. We have not evolved procedures for examining these bodies properly. They have been set up deliberately with a certain and varying degree of independence but in any community they need to be subject to some form of supervision. At present, there is no responsibility on a Minister to give an answer concerning a statutory corporation because he is not administering it, and we have not evolved any other procedure for due examination of the affairs of such bodies. I am not saying that we want to interfere in any way with the day to day management of these bodies because we have set them up on this independent basis in order to avoid such interference, but they must be brought under proper scrutiny in respect of their general conduct and policy. So far, we have not adopted any procedure which would enable this to be done and it is long overdue.
I want to refer now to the officers of the Parliament, not only to the career officers but also to others who serve the Parliament. All honorable senators will agree that these people are highly efficient, that they are most polite and that they have a great regard for the Parliament. From the Clerk down to the waitresses, the various attendants and other persons in the employ of the Parliament, they do their utmost to render service to it. I am disturbed about what seems to me to be some underpayment of some of these officers. No complaint has been made to me but my own inquiries reveal that the Transport Officer of the Senate, who has a very difficult job. is paid only some ?47 gross a fortnight. That is his basic salary. When overtime is payable there is some addition to this amount but even that is not large. This seems to me to be a most exacting job.
-(Senator DrakeBrockman). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- I am bound to acknowledge that I was somewhat intrigued by the comments of Senator Murphy. I listened to him carefully, as I try to listen to all speakers in order to try to understand their points of view. The suggestion that intrigued me most was his view that it would be more advantageous if financial statements were presented to the Parliament before the beginning of the financial year to which they relate. Senator Murphy said this was done in the United States of America. I acknowledge at once that I do not know the system that operates in the United States and therefore I am not in a position to contradict the honorable senator’s statement, but I should like to analyse his proposition. The basis of the financial statements that are put before the Parliament, and I am referring to both the Senate and the House of Representatives, is somewhat complicated, but the first of these statements is headed “Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the Service . .” and the financial year under review is then shown. Another document which is always read in conjunction with this debate is the report of the Auditor-General upon the Treasurer’s Statement. No debate of this nature would be satisfactory unless the participating members of the Parliament used the report of the Auditor-General as a guide on many aspects of expenditure.
Let us analyse the procedure a little more carefully. As soon as a financial year is ended, the heads of all departments are required urgently and promptly to submit a consolidation of their expenditure for the year that has passed. This is subject to careful scrutiny by the officers of the departments and also by the Auditor-General. Then, on the basis of the amount of money that was spent in the preceding year and the recognition by the responsible Ministers that the departments had an adequate or an inadequate supply of funds, the officers within the departments prepare estimates of what they want to spend in the year upon which they are entering. Admittedly, a fair amount of basic ground work is done before the end of the financial year because there is fairly general knowledge of what the costs have been. But the estimates are prepared by each department and then they have to undergo the scrutiny of the responsible Minister who has to approve tha estimates submitted by his officers. This procedure applies in practically all our parliaments.
The departmental estimates then go to Cabinet. The Treasury is always a very active participant in these discussions and rarely does a Minister get for his department the amount of money he believes to be necessary to cover all the services he wants to supply. The fact is that the commitments are greater than the capacity of the purse to supply them. As a result, the normal practice is that subsequent to this first meeting of the Cabinet, all Ministers are required to cut down on certain items and to tailor their proposals for expenditure within the limits of the finances available to them. Having in mind that background and the desire of all Ministers to do the best they can for their departments, I cannot see that it would be possible for us to conduct this debate satisfactorily unless we knew precisely the amount of money that had been spent in the year preceding the one we are now discussing. We have to know also that there has been an adequate scrutiny of all aspects of the spending of each department and that the AuditorGeneral has certified that his officers have examined the expenditure.
The Auditor-General points out in his report whether there have been any irregularities in the expenditure of the preceding year and these items must be the subject of trenchant criticism should the AuditorGeneral show that there have been discrepancies or errors in them. How we could conduct such a debate if, in fact, we did not have the basic figures before us for the year that had just ended, frankly, I do not know. We have to bear in mind that the estimates vary, and they must of necessity vary because circumstances change from month to month. Ministers are required, perhaps, to allocate a little bit more money to one section and take a little bit off another section to keep within the bounds of what they have been allowed. But these are estimates, and that is all they can be. I make that point again because it is important. The figures relating to what we have spent to the end of the financial year are not estimates. They are statements of fact. As far as I am concerned, if I am going to participate in a debate on the financial affairs of the Government, I would be very loath to do so if I were presented with a set of figures as estimates of what the Government had spent. This would be quite inadequate for the purposes of Parliament. The alternatives are that we have an estimate of what we are going to spend, or as Senator Murphy suggested, we have an estimate of what we have spent. If we had a debate based on nothing more positive than estimates of what we have spent, I suggest that such a debate would be sterile. The only other possible alternative I can see is that the Parliament must have two major debates on the Estimates or on the finances of the Government. On the one hand it would have a debate on what had been spent, and on the other hand it would have a debate on what was to be spent. To the best of my knowledge, this practice is not followed in any other parliament. With all due respect to Senator Murphy, I doubt very much whether such a policy is followed in the United States of America. Of course, in the United States of America it is quite likely that the Budget debate takes place in January, February or March. I think that is what was suggested. But if that is so, we should go a little further and discover whether the financial year which the United States Government adopts ends in accordance with the calendar year. As far as I can see, that would be the only possible explanation of how such a debate could be carried out in January, February or March. With the best will in the world, I think that the suggestion that has been made by Senator Murphy would be clearly impossible of implementation, would be most undesirable and, in addition, would cause a great deal of dissatisfaction amongst all members of the Parliament.
I now refer to one or two other matters. I was most interested to hear Senator Ormonde state that approximately half a million visitors pass through the Federal Houses of Parliament each year. I think that his figure is fairly accurate. I have been rather interested in this matter myself. I have sought the figures, and the figures which I have obtained more or less coincide with those which Senator Ormonde mentioned. I think that this is a remarkable fact in itself: Out of a population of 11 million, approximately half a million people visit the Federal Parliament each year. That figure indicates a great deal of interest on the part of the people in their national capital. That in itself is a very healthy sign. Admittedly some of these visitors are tourists from overseas and some are people who have been here the year before. But no doubt a huge percentage of them would be people who have come to Canberra for the first time or for the first time in a number of years. As I have said, I think this is a very healthy sign. Of course, they do not come to Canberra only to see the Houses of Parliament. They come here to see a city which I think has grown into one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Some 10, 15 or 20 years ago most people thought that Canberra would become a sprawling nondescript sort of place. But it has grown into a beautiful and sophisticated city. It is a city of which every Australian has reason to be proud. I am delighted to see that its growth is being carefully planned.
Turning to the Houses of Parliament, I believe it is a very great honour to be a member of the Senate. I recall a comment that was made in another parliament during a rather heated debate. A parliamentarian said to an interjector: “I will fight here under any rules that you lay down. Whether we use the Marquess of Queensberry’s rules or the dog and goanna rules, I will follow them.” He would have, too. My experience in this chamber has lead me to believe that the dignity of Parliament has been very much upheld in the Senate. 1 think that most visitors to the Parliament - at least, many to whom I have spoken - have commented on the high standard of debate and the high standard of dignity that prevails in this Parliament. I think this is something that we must guard very jealously.
Senator Benn referred to the Standing Orders. He said that there is no precise, reference in them to the amount of time that is allocated to a speaker when the proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast. If I remember correctly, he said that there was a gentleman’s agreement and that this was all right as long as everybody acted as a gentleman. We will have a dignified debate and a good debate in this chamber as long as senators act in a gentlemanly fashion. I think that one of the basic necessities to be considered in this regard is that all senators should do everything within their power to tell the truth when they make a speech. I think that is the fundamental basis upon which the dignity in this chamber will be upheld. I am very conscious of that need.
I suppose that sometimes we all speak a little hastily if we are angered about something. But I think that most of us try to be accurate in our comments. I can only express the hope that this state of affairs will continue. On another occasion and at a more appropriate time I probably will refer to a couple of comments that have been made in this chamber within the last month or two that have not been in accordance with that high standard of truthfulness. Indeed, I would say that they have very seriously transgressed that standard. I suppose this is something that one must expect when newly elected senators are settling in. But I can only express the hope - and I express it most sincerely - that this sort of thing will not continue and that in the future the senator to whom I am referring - and I am quite sure he is conscious of it-
– You and I are all right, but sometimes I doubt you.
– This is very interesting because up to this moment I had thought that our confidence in each other was mutual. I am most disappointed to know that it is not the case. Let me be very clear on this matter. I would not for one moment suggest that the honorable senator has said or would say anything that is incorrect. I hope that he feels the same way about me. Any comments that I have made certainly do not apply to any honorable senator who was in this chamber before I came here. I hope that the experience of some of the colleagues of the honorable senator to whom I referred before the interjection may make him stick a little more closely to the truth and then possibly we will continue to uphold the dignity of the Senate.
Senator WOOD (Queensland) [2.44J.- First, as Chairman of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, I would like to express appreciation of the very fine commendation which Senator Murphy paid to it for its work in scrutinising the regulations and ordinances which come before the Parliament. It is a Standing Committee of the Senate and it has functioned for a number of years. As Senator Murphy pointed out, this is an aspect of parliamentary activity which the other place has neglected. As a result, the Senate has come into its own in this regard and has completely fulfilled the function of scrutinising the regulations and ordinances that are issued from time to time by the Executive. This is very important work. It has brought approbation, not only from Senator Murphy, but also from other sources such as the “ International Law Reports”, the London “Times” and Dr. Kershaw, a Canadian professor who recently came to Australia and who has written a book on the subject. Senator Wright has drawn my attention to the fact that a couple of legal personalities have commended the Committee for its work. Just recently he mentioned another person who delivered a lecture or address in Great Britain on the work of this Committee and who now, I believe, is a professor or lecturer at one of the Australian universities. These facts show that, if a committee is set up with personnel who have the spirit to do the right thing by the Parliament, it can perform a valuable work.
The Senate is a very important House. It could play an increasingly important part through the work of committees. Senator Murphy suggested that a committee should be set up to supervise the activities of statutory corporations. I know of no real scrutiny that is made of the work of these corporations. Many corporations have been set up. They include the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the Australian Dairy Produce Board and other primary production boards, and the Australian National University, on which I understand about £5 million a year is spent. Other corporations that come to mind are the Joint Coal Board, the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia), the River Murray Commission and the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. No committee has been set up to make a close scrutiny of the activities of these corporations. I was very pleased to hear Senator Murphy advance that suggestion. I had listed the matter for discussion today, and I was pleased to learn that somebody else was thinking on the same lines. There are many other corporations that I have not mentioned. Indeed, I am sure honorable senators would be amazed at the number that do exist. There is a real need for the Senate to take up this work. I am quite confident that such a committee could play as important a part as does the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. May I say that the members of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee are enthusiastic, regular in attendance, and diligent in their work. No fees are paid for the work done by this Committee. Members of the Committee work in an honorary capacity, and as a consequence a very fine service is rendered to the Parliament.
I refer now to the work of select committees. 1 know that governments are somewhat afraid of select committees and the suggestions they advance from time to time. Nevertheless, I believe that senators could be well employed on investigating matters that are of real importance to the country generally and to the Parliament. The recommendations of the select committee can be implemented only by the Government itself. This Government has been neglectful in not giving more earnest consideration to the reports of select committees. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson), who is sitting on the front bench at the moment, was the chairman of a committee that inquired into road safety. Earlier Senator Marriott referred to the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Parliamentary and Government Publications. Reports have been presented by other committees. The Government would do justice to itself if, when committees presented reports, it discussed those reports and at least made some adjudication on the committee’s work. If the Government told a committee that it could not agree with its findings or if, when it did agree, it said so and acted upon them, greater satisfaction would be given. There is a thought abroad that, when a committee is appointed, the Government says: “They are playing at so and so. Let them do it.”
Honorable senators are just as important as are the Ministers. All are here as a result of the vote of the people. Very often it is only as a result of luck in selection that some people are appointed to ministerial rank and others are not. Perhaps someone is preferred before another in certain respects; perhaps one has more ability in a certain direction than has another. Basically we all are parliamentarians and we all have the same basic right to have our views considered. It is only right that the recommendations of a committee that is appointed by the Senate or the Parliament should be seriously considered by the Government. Failure to give serious consideration to the recommendations of a committee is a reflection, not on the committee, but on the Government.
I have been struck by the responsibility that is cast upon Ministers in this chamber. I feel very sorry for Ministers when they have to answer questions that are asked during the Estimates debate for departments other than their own, or when they are dealing with legislation that has been initiated by other Ministers. I would not like the job of handling bills that had been initiated by other Ministers. There is no reason why Ministers who sit in another place should not sit in this chamber and answer questions asked by honorable senators when the estimates for their departments - or legislation that they have introduced - come before us. To do that would give quite an uplift to the Senate and would be a forward move. From investigations I have made, I understand that only a small alteration of the Standing Orders would be needed to make that course possible.
The Senate is a House of Review, and I think that, as far as possible, it should be kept as such. Indeed, my own view is that, as the Senate is a House of Review, we should not have Ministers appointed from this place. When I say that, I am not being disrespectful to the present Ministers. Rather do I believe that we have a batch of very good Ministers in the Senate. This is not a personal matter. I know that other members of the Parliament have the same thought. I must say that some of our Senate Ministers do their work admirably. We appreciate the courtesy that they extend to us all. I am speaking now of the Senate purely as a House of Review and as a States House. A former Leader of the Government in this place agreed very strongly with the view that, in order to make the Senate a real House of Review, no Ministers should be appointed from this place. But the fact is that we have Ministers here. Their task is made quite onerous and difficult because of their having to handle in detail estimates that are the responsibility of, and legislation that has been introduced by, Ministers who do not sit in this chamber. Consideration should be given to altering the Standing Orders to enable Ministers who are not members of the Senate to sit in this chamber at the appropriate time to explain to honorable senators details of legislation and estimates that fall within their responsibility. 1 have read of comments that have been made in the other House of the Parliament. It has been sud that today the private member takes a back seat and that it is the Executive which runs the country. I know that there is a lot of truth in what has been said, but all I want to say on this matter is that the private member of the Senate and of the House of Representatives has only himself to blame if that is so. All members of the Parliament have the same powers and the same rights in the Parliament. If we think that things are running along lines that we consider to be the wrong ones, we as individuals should take a strong stand. We all have been given very strong powers by the electors. When we enter the Senate or the House of Representatives we have a right to exercise those powers individually. If our conscience tell us we are. too much under Executive control and that the Ministry is not doing the right thing, the power rests with each of us as individuals to do something about it. If we feel strongly that the democratic rights of members of the Parliament are being encroached upon by too much Executive control it is up to each of us to show our feelings in a forceful way and attempt to bring the Executive back to a more democratic attitude to the Parliament by using our vote in each house.
I have always been keen to keep the standards of the Senate on the highest possible level. I believe that we have here a very fine chamber and that in it there are many senators who are of a higher calibre than those who were here when I entered the Senate in 1949. I believe that the standard is being raised to a great extent because the various political parties are able to select men and women of high quality to fill the first and second places on the ballot papers. The political parties know that the men and women selected will be able to give the country the benefit of their ability when they enter the Parliament. I think that the proportional representation system of election is a very good one notwithstanding the fact that I understand it was initiated by Mr. Arthur Calwell, the Leader of the Opposition. In my opinion, this system gives the three major political parties in the Parliament an opportunity to bring to this chamber men and women of quality and ability and in that way to raise the stature of the Senate to the level which I think was envisaged by the, founding fathers. They were earnest and keen in their desire to make the Senate the custodian of the rights of the States and a proper House of Review.
– Senator Wood has addressed himself to a theme with which I wholeheartedly agree, although I think many honorable senators may not agree with the way in which he developed it. Nevertheless it is a theme which has been pursued increasingly in this Parliament during the Estimates debates over the years. It is concerned with the idea that there should be some form of parliamentary reform. In the days when I was new to the Senate it was considered almost traitorous for anyone to suggest that there should be changes of that kind. We have always met with that rather negative type of argument. It is said that this is the way democracy works in other countries and that we should not dare to interfere with it because if we meddle with democratic institutions we are likely to finish with a dictatorship. Nobody is attacking the democratic system, but from what Senator Wood has just told us and from our own experience we know that people are increasingly coming round to the idea that the methods of procedure in this Parliament are not like the laws of the Medes and the Persians. The parliamentary procedures can be changed and I think it is pretty obvious that they ought to be changed.
The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), in his capacity as Leader of the House, recently stated that it is probable that the Parliament will continue to sit until within about nine days of Christmas and that there is a great possibility that we shall assemble again in about the middle of January. Nobody could object to that arrangement because, after all, one of the main functions of a member of Parliament is to attend the sittings of the Parliament. At the moment, consideration is being given to increasing the size of the House of Representatives. Under the law of the land it follows that there must be a corresponding increase in the size of the Senate, but there is no certainty that because a change is contemplated it will necessarily come about. If we consider the history of referendums in Australia I think we must be rather pessimistic about the success of a referendum proposal in that respect. However, as the law stands, if the clamour for an increase in the size of the House of Representatives were to bear fruit there would need to be a corresponding increase in the size of the Senate. I pose this question to honorable senators: What have this chamber and the House of Representatives gained from the increase in the size of the Parliament in 1949 except more frequent breaches of the Standing Order which relates to tedious repetition? That is inevitable.
Senator Wood dealt with the question of committees and his views seemed to lean somewhat towards the American system. I believe that if we make a fresh approach to the way in which we handle our business in this place, and if the size of the Parliament is increased, the old idea of a member of Parliament attending the Parliament for three days a week will disappear. Instead, it will be necessary for us to spend almost every day of the year in Canberra merely to allow the great democratic processes to operate, with everybody having his say. I wonder whether the proposal to increase the size of the Parliament is the correct approach. Perhaps I am in a minority on this matter, but I think that inevitably we must face the question of change in parliamentary procedures if the people are not to lose faith in democratic institutions. Loading members of Parliament with all kinds of tedious and tiring parliamentary work will not make people think more highly of democratic institutions.
I do not think that we have been nearly vigilant enough over the years in watching the procedures that we adopt. On this occasion I shall be merciful in my comments, concerning the Standing Orders. I think that this is the tenth consecutive occasion on which I have mentioned the subject during the debate on the Estimates. The Standing Orders Committee is about to present a report and, in my view, it will be most welcome. No doubt when the report is presented it will disclose that the Committee considers that amendments are necessary of the Standing Orders which were evolved in 1927 when the Parliament came to Canberra from Melbourne. Forty years later we are getting round to doing something about them. I do not blame the members of the present Committee for failure to do something about the Standing Orders. They were not even here in 1927. I blame myself as much as anybody else, although I have harped on the subject for the last nine or ten years.
Honorable senators may be aware that the Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications has met only once in the 65 years the Federal Parliament has existed. It met in 1907. Immediately following that there was an amendment of the Electoral Act. It seems obvious to me that that rendered the work of the Committee no longer useful. This seems to be proved by the fact that it has not met since 1907. Yet, each year we go through the procedure of solemnly asking the various political parties to nominate members for places on the Committee. Perhaps it will be said that this is pettifogging comment. However, if that example is multiplied and if we take into account the delay that occurs through bureaucratic and parliamentary processes we can see that the delay in achieving reform can be almost interminable.
Basically, the matter of determining the sitting times of the Parliament rests entirely on Ministers. We never have a legislative programme placed in front of us at the same time as bills are introduced. It seems to be possible for civil servants to prepare bills for Ministers while Parliament is sitting and Ministers call for bills while Parliament is sitting; but it seems impossible to have bills prepared while Parliament is not sitting. That is beyond me. Why is it that after the Parliament meets, say in August, we have to wait for almost three months before bills are introduced? I have never been able to understand why they could not be prepared, say, three months before August. While the basic responsibility in this connection rests with Ministers, we also have a part in it.
On a previous occasion when I spoke on this subject I said that in this electronic age surely it was time that we had a different system of counting in divisions instead of the corroboree type of procedure that applies at the moment. As honorable senators know, when we cross the floor to vote in a division we must weave our way past one another. I complained on a former occasion that Senator Paltridge took up too much room in the passageways, and now we have Senator Bull and Senator Lawrie on the.
Government side who are likely to do the same thing. It is rather disturbing to reflect that Senator Lawrie is an ex-topline Rugby player. In the other place divisions are much more numerous than they are in the Senate. Each division takes up to six minutes, and if we multiply that by the 20 or 30 times on which divisions are held on some days we see that in total a considerable period is involved. Surely the time of the Parliament could be saved in this respect. To my mind, the present system is so outdated and ridiculous that it is laughable. If the size of the Parliament is increased it will be even more ludicrous.
During the legal convention in Sydney earlier this year one very forceful comment was given wide publicity and, I think, was supported by a leading article in a daily newspaper. It was to the effect that it is nearly time that wigs and gowns were thrown out of court. For some time they have not been worn during Arbitration Commission hearings. The judges have tried to get away from the rigid rules of evidence and all the trappings associated with courts so that in this complex human industrial field they can get evidence flowing along smoothly.
If we ever get round to looking at the forms of the Parliament, we should consider whether those handsome young men sitting on your right and your left, Mr. Temporary Chairman, should take off their Davy Crockett hats and their black gowns and sit in this place as others do in the Arbitration Commission and in other places where justice is dispensed. I do not think wigs and gowns add anything to dignity. I have seen judges sitting on benches without any of these trappings and I have seen Presidents in the Senate who have not worn a wig and gown. I do not think they were one whit less effective without them. I have mentioned these matters in passing because in our party rooms and in the corridors we are discussing them more and more.
Now let me turn to another aspect. We do not get any respect from the public or from anyone with a sense of organisation when we have sessional periods of four or five months and end by rushing legislation through the Parliament at 3 and 4 o’clock in the morning. I have raised this matter on many occasions. 1 believe that it is a sheer impossibility to deal, in the last 24 or 36 hours of a sessional period, with the complicated bills which always flow in then from certain departments. The business of the Parliament should be properly organised. The Government should say to the departments concerned: “ If the bills are not available four, five or six weeks before the end of the sessional period, they can wait until the Parliament next meets “. Throwing down legislation in the dying hours of a session makes a mockery of the Parliament. lt is no use saying that democratic systems are under attack when changes are suggested and that they will fail if changes are made. They will fail if control falls into the hands of a body of bureaucrats. We will get more criticism from the public if we do not make necessary changes that we will get if we do make such changes. It is as plain as the nose on your face, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that if we do not face up to the problems quickly we will be in trouble. In this complicated age, we will find increasingly complicated bills presented to the Parliament. We may shortly have bills relative to the law of space and so on. It will be a sheer impossibility for laymen such as ourselves to make an intelligent contribution to the debates unless, as you suggested a few moments ago in your capacity as a back bencher, Mr. Temporary Chairman, we adopt a committee system. As the chairman of a parliamentary committee, Sir, you know how much quicker work progresses, how much more detailed consideration is given and how much more valuable debate there is in a committee than in the Senate. The American nation relies completely on the committee system. We do not.
If we could make Ministers understand that they are only the custodians of the affairs of particular departments for a brief period and not for all time, they would no doubt accept the help and guidance of committees and leave the departments they administer and this Parliament a little better for their having occupied ministerial positions. We would be getting somewhere then. I was encouraged to rise when I came into the chamber and heard your remarks, Mr. Temporary Chairman. There is much talk in the corridors and in another place on these subjects. As to upholding the traditions of this Parliament, if the traditions are good let us all be conservatives but if the traditions are bad let us all be radicals and take from our parliamentary institution anything which is bad, over-burdening and completely out of date.
– The Budget has been mentioned during the discussion of these estimates and I have been provoked to reply to one or two statements made by Senator Murphy. I admit I was wrong in interjecting, but when replying to my interjection the honorable senator quietly rebuked me and said that I knew very little about the American Budget. I had dared to say that our Budget was more correct than was the American Budget.
We have one or two points of agreement. It is true that the American Budget is presented earlier than ours, as the honorable senator suggested. But it covers a period of 18 months and it cannot be, and has never been, presented as an accurate state- - ment of federal finances for a period six months before its presentation and 18 months after that. I repeat that it has never been regarded as an accurate statement of federal finances. That is the system the honorable senator wishes to have introduced in Australia.
I did not make those remarks without knowing that I could substantiate them, and I shall. It is not surprising that the figures in the final balance sheet rarely approximate the estimates that are made. I have here a document which shows that American Budget estimates of expenditure, receipts and surplus deficits since 1947 missed the final mark by amounts ranging from 200 million dollars to 12.9 billion dollars. There was an estimated surplus of 5 billion dollars and an actual deficit of 12.4 billion dollars in 1959. Surely Senator Murphy must be aware of those figures. He told me that I knew nothing about this. I challenge him to prove that the figures I have cited are wrong.
President Truman under-estimated Budget receipts in 1947 and 1948 by 16.7 billion dollars. There were no changes in tax rates during that time. The President and his advisers made a further mistake in 1949. Receipts fell 4.2 billion dollars short of the estimate, helping to turn a projected surplus of 4.8 billion dollars into a deficit of 1.8 billion dollars. Does the honorable senator still advocate that we should change our system to that system? Estimates of both income and expenditure proved to be erratic in 1951, 1952 and 1953. In 1952 receipts exceeded estimates by 6.9 billion dollars, due in some measure to an increase in tax rates. At the same time, expenditure fell below the estimate by 5.1 billion dollars because of the few difficulties in the defence programme. I remind honorable senators that I said in an interjection that in America there is also over spending and under spending.
President Truman, who left office in 1954, called for an expenditure of 77.6 billion dollars and receipts of 67.8 billion dollars. Immediately President Eisenhower came into office he cut down the Budget estimates by 60 billion dollars. However, receipts fell by 3.4 billion dollars less than he had expected. The biggest gap between estimates and results in the post-war era occurred in 1959, when the shortfall in receipts was 6.1 billion dollars, which combined with an increase of 6.7 billion dollars in expenditure to produce a deficit of 12.8 billion dollars. As my time is limited, with the concurrence of honorable senators I incorporate the following table relating to United States Budgets in “ Hansard “-
I have presented the above table to illustrate my point that the Australian Budget gets nearer to the mark than the American Budget, which is presented six months in advance and deals with a period 18 months ahead. I think I have shown that at least we are not as wide of the mark.
As happens in Australia near the end of a financial year, if the proposed expenditure has been overestimated in the United States, towards the end of November and December of every year a great deal of spending occurs. It is true, as Senator Murphy has said, that the American Budget is presented in January, six months before the end of the financial year. It seems that the practice of over estimating is the same the world over. In Australia towards the end of the financial year we have, as it were, a supplementary budget. We discuss expenditures and government finances are carried on until the Budget is passed. There is practically no difference from the American system in our review because we have a further right of review towards the end of our financial year. We review wha t has “happened in the previous 10 months, whereas the Americans review a period of 18 months. I much prefer our system of presenting a budget.
.- I wish to direct attention to the increased appropriation in respect of InterParliamentary Union conferences representation. Last year the expenditure was £13,132; the appropriation for this year is £35,200, an increase of almost 200 per cent. When the Minister replies, I would be pleased if he would explain the different circumstances that have brought about that increase. I was tempted to rise by the remarks of Senator Willesee. He said that since the number of representatives in this Parliament had been increased 15 or 20 years ago, it was doubtful whether much had been gained by the increase, except the repetition of speeches. I am not disputing the correctness of that statement. He also pointed out that a further increase in the numbers of the House of Representatives is in the offing in order to break the nexus with the Senate. A referendum is to be held so that it will not be obligatory for the Senate to contain about half as many representatives as the House of Representatives.
The founders of the Constitution set great store by the Senate. From a reading of the reports of the conventions that framed the Constitution, it seems that at that time the people believed it to be most admirable that there should be a more or less independent house of review in the Commonwealth Parliament, composed, as it was then put, of men with some experience who could review legislation apart from party politics. Of course, those times have gone. The introduction of the party system to the Senate and the very rigid discipline that is applied has made it impossible, in the main, for the Senate to function as a House of review. It cannot. Nevertheless, I believe that the Senate serves a purpose as a safeguard for the smaller states by giving them added representation. While at least one half of the Senate is rigidly disciplined and bound to vote in a certain direction-
– Which half is that?
– Admittedly, both sides of the Senate are committed to party politics.
– I wanted to know only which half is rigidly disciplined.
– If I were to go back into history, I would say that the introduction of Labour senators, pledged to vote in a certain direction - and they comprised approximately half of the Senate - made it necessary for that organised Opposition to be met by a similarly organised Government, if it were to survive. It became impossible for the Senate to function as a house of review. I recall that in my days in a State Parliament there were five or six Labour members of the Upper House. Frequently it was said: “ How on earth can those people review legislation when they are pledged to support it or oppose it before it even enters the Upper House? “ I concede that any government must be certain of having its legislation passed here, unless the Senate is to become just a source of frustration for the elected Federal Government.
The design behind the referendum that is to be conducted is to bring about an increase in the numbers in the House of Representatives without increasing the numbers in the Senate. I take it that the relationship between both Houses was written into the Constitution to prevent the Senate from being submerged, as it were, by the other House. I query the necessity to increase the numbers in the House of Representatives. I invite honorable senators to compare this Parliament with that of the United Kingdom. Surely there must be infinitely more electors represented by each member of the House of Commons than is the case in the House of Representatives. The United Kingdom has a unified Government. It has only one Parliament. I believe that members of the House of Commons must represent many more electors than are represented by members of the House of Representatives.
– What the honorable senator says cannot be right. Compare the number of members in the House of Commons.
– The population of the United Kingdom is so much greater. It is five times greater than the population of the Commonwealth.
– And the number of members of the House of Commons is about five times greater.
– It is three times greater.
– It has 600 members.
– In addition, Australia has six other Parliaments. The United Kingdom has only one Parliament.
– In the United Kingdom there are county councils which have just as much power as the State Governments.
– I know, but I am talking about Parliaments. Let me make another comparison. The Dominion of New Zealand has had about 70 members of Parliament for many years. I do not think that the number has been increased for a long time, but during the time that the number of members has remained about the same the population of the Dominion has more than doubled. This makes me look askance at any proposition that the membership of the Commonwealth Parliament should be further increased - more so in view of the fact that we have, in addition to this Parliament, six other Parliaments, the members of which claim that theirs is a fulltime job; I have heard them make that claim many a time. It seems to me that if this proposition goes on and on surely Australia must have more members of Parliament than any other country in the Commonwealth of Nations. I rose merely to say that. I was prompted to say it because of the remarks that were made by Senator Willesee. It seems to me that the advisability of further increasing the membership of the Commonwealth Parliament is at least questionable.
– We have just listened to a most remarkable speech. One marvels at the thoughts of a senator who says that there is npt party rigid discipline on both sides. Whether or not it is good, that is the position into which this Senate has degenerated. That is how we find ourselves. When the Bill relating to the New Zealand-Australia Trade Agreement is discussed here Senator Lillico will, I think, do as I do. He will vote as his party says, as a loyal member of the party.
– Do not be too sure of that.
– I shall be pleased if he does not, but I think that I shall not have that pleasure. This is the day of party politics; let us face it. To be quite candid, this is the only way, I believe, in which the Parliament can really function. I could imagine the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) - even with the Senate as it is at the moment - bringing down legislation and not knowing whether or not he would get any support. Taken to its logical conclusion, this would mean that his fellow Ministers, as members of the Senate, would be free to do what they wanted. We want the Senate to function and we want it to function in the manner in which the electors desire. It may be true, as Senator Lillico said, that when the Senate was first formed there, were not party affiliations. I am trying to recall history as I speak. I believe that, at the first election for the Senate, representatives of the ruling parties were elected. I believe that proportional representation does give a minority an opportunity to have its representatives here.
– Even though they are missing now.
– When all is said and done, it is not very easy for any one to sit here in this atmosphere hour after hour. I pardon those who may be called away on important affairs outside.
– They have done their job in the last fortnight.
– That is right. I cannot see how this chamber could work if everyone of us come in here to express his own point of view. We would all be speaking in divers tongues. We are sent here as representatives of parties. The people voted for us as representatives of parties. They know what to expect of us when we get here. They know that we will follow policy as closely as we ought to do, to keep our word not only to our own party but also to the electors themselves. They know that we will do as has been done here for some years. I cannot see any other practical method whereby the Parliament could function if the position were otherwise. I like to hear some independence expressed at times. It gives me a lot of pleasure. I shall not say any more because I am in a peaceful mood at the moment and I do not want to get into any trouble.
Senator Lillico seems to be very upset at the thought that before the next increase in the number of members of the House of Representatives a referendum to break the nexus between the Houses will be held. When the Constitution was brought into being, each State was to have equal representation in the Senate. That policy has been carried out. 1 ask Senator Lillico whether Tasmania is not better represented or whether Victoria is not better represented by having 10 senators here. It is ail right as long as every State has the same number. There is no thought that some States shall have more senators than others. We have 10 from each State. The numbers of electors in electorates varies considerably. In my own State the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) represents, I think, about 110,000 electors and my colleague, Mr. Pollard, represents about 106,000. It is true that the number of electors in electorates in inner suburbs is down to 32,000 or 38,000, but let us remember that the number of bodies in each of those electorates is about 60,000 or 70,000 as a result of the big immigration scheme that this country has adopted. What group of persons gives a senator the greatest amount of work, although none of us would complain about it? The answer to that question is: The newcomers to this country. And most of them are not electors.
As long as the Senate returns equal representation from the States, in my view it does not matter how many members there are in the other place. The smaller States would not be affected because, whilst the number of members from the smaller States might be fewer proportionately, no party can govern without having some percentage of members from the smaller states. 1 was fortunate enought to be a member of the Constitutional Review Committee. I think we sat for about three years. It was the most interesting committee of which 1 have been a member. If I remember correctly - I hope I am right; I am speaking from memory - the decision of that Committee on this matter was unanimous.
I sincerely hope that the people of Australia will endorse that decision. If the Government brings down legislation to implement it - from what I read, I believe that it will - it will have the support of the three main political parlies, or practically all of the political organisations in this country. To my mind, it will not affect in any way the potato grower in Tasmania or the wheat grower or wool grower in the more populous State of New South Wales.
– How will it affect the pea grower?
– I will leave the honorable senator to deal with the pea grower when the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement is before us. He knows much more about the pea grower than I do. I will listen with great interest to his contribution.
We have to give the people the representation that they deserve. 1 sincerely hope that honorable senators will not make up their minds too soon on the referendum legislation that is to come before us. If it means only the breaking of the nexus between this chamber and the House of Representatives, I sincerely hope, in the interests of the people, that it will be approved. When all is said and done, some peculiar things will be done in the next redistribution. We do one thing in respect of 300 sheep and we will do another thing in respect of human beings voting to elect members of the Parliament.
Taking all of these things into consideration, I would be very disappointed if this referendum were not carried, because it would be in the interests of the people. The nearer the ordinary person can get to his parliamentary representative and the more members there are to enable him to do that, the greater respect he will have for the parliamentary institution. It is no good just turning our eyes to the north and saying: “They are coming; they are coming “. We must try to build up, not our own personal prestige - we are just passing phases - but the prestige of this institution. There is no better form of government than ours. In conclusion, I ask my friend. Senator Lillico, to think of the great United States of America, where each State has only two senators. As long as little Tasmania is certain of having the same number of senators as big New South Wales has, I do not think Tasmania will suffer at all.
.- In discussing the estimates for the Parliament, let me say that I do not find it at all tedious to listen to debates, as I have done continuously since 11 o’clock this morning. I believe that the subject matter now under consideration should excite from us a thoughtful discussion at least once a year, expecially in the face of the challenge that presently besets our Parliament. There is an especial challenge to the efficacy of this Parliament, which has the responsibility for national questions in Australia. I wished to refer to one or two of the comments that have fallen from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly), but I prefer to follow a theme that has engaged my mind and to give expression to it. I refer to the operation of the system of responsible government in this Parliament.
Great publicity was given to a speech which was made by the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr. Calwell) a couple of weeks ago and in which he expressed the view that there would be an improvement if we adopted the congressional system of the United States. I believe that that view is so unreal and fantastic that it is not worth discussing, having regard to our traditions, the basic conception of our Consitution and the very real respect in which the system of responsible government is held. Under that system, out of the elected parliamentarians, members of a ministry are appointed. They have the responsibility of executing the laws of the country and are responsible to the Parliament for their administration.
It is undeniable that over the last 50 years there has been an almost unchecked tendency for the Cabinet or the Executive to gain ascendency. The extent of that tendency is such that the Houses of Parliament are in great risk of becoming merely registering devices for decisions of the Cabinet. In our own sphere the Cabinet is presided over by a man of outstanding capacity and now of great experience. The position, instead of growing better, is reaching the stage where the risk is a reality and where each House of the Parliament, if it followed the line that Senator Kennelly would have it follow, could become simply obligated to registering decisions made in the Cabinet.
Let us never forget that, ever since the Cabinet system was established, our law has demanded a unified outlook on the part of members of a Cabinet and the maintenance of secrecy as to their deliberations. The same demand has developed in respect of our jury system. Every member of a jury is sworn never to disclose the confidences that he has had with his fellow jurymen. Although we require secrecy and a unified voice in respect of Cabinet deliberations, if we were to carry those two demands into every House of Parliament we would destroy the very essence of integrity of thought and judgment that the people expect their elected representatives to exhibit.
Senator Kennelly has put forward the view that we have drifted into the days of party politics and a system under which members of both Houses of the Parliament are required to vote according to Cabinet decisions taken secretly or according to caucus decisions also taken secretly without the freshening effect of public scrutiny. In passing, I say the Press seems to have a much better faculty for gaining information as to what takes place in the party room than it has for displaying interest in the public debates. But we shall do a disservice to the Parliament if we ever advance the view that a member of the Parliament is obligated to follow the secret decisions of Cabinet or caucus. I put on record, in the report of the Constitutional Review Committee, that I thought the time was overdue to make it an offence for any member of Parliament to put his vote in pawn to an outside executive, cabinet, caucus or political party.
- Senator Kennelly comes into the chamber refreshed after some relaxation in a room along the corridor. He has not been following the debate but he has made an unhelpful speech and does not attempt to follow the point of view of other senators. 1 demand for the members who participate in the debates in this chamber reciprocal participation; not merely audience but speech. The party system is fine in that it enables people of a general political philosophy to exchange their respective points of view on particular subjects but when they come into the chamber they should retain sufficient spirit to put forward a point of view that might lead to an improvement in the measures before the Parliament.
In the House of Representatives, this principle of ministerial responsibility has been aggrandised by those who occupy power in terms, as Senator Murphy said this morning, that require a recognition of the infallibility of the Ministry. On the other hand, the Wilson Labour Government in the United Kingdom, during the recent financial debate in the House of Commons, accepted quite a few amendments on its taxation proposals which were the web and fabric of its Budget and were really essential to its party outlook. The United Kingdom Government was influenced by debate during the two or three months these measures were under discussion in the House of Commons. It accepted substantial amendments; not merely amendments of phraseology but substantial amendments. In this Commonwealth Parliament we have a nonsensical position whereby under a system of responsible government the members in another place parade themselves as self confessed cyphers with no right to bring forward amendments and no spirit to debate measures in an independent way. That is the way to ruin even the House of Representatives which sometimes can muster from a membership of 124, only 5, 10 or 15 members to carry on debates. Whatever may be said about the Senate, in the past fortnight when we have been debating the Estimates the attendance has rarely been below 20 and on the average has exceeded 30.
The Senate is a second chamber which fulfils a twofold function. First, it is a States’ House, and never let it be denied when one considers the potential of voting in this chamber that we have a reserve power here for the defence of real State interests. Often it is not expressed on the occasions when the crisis demands it, but as a reserve power, the interests of the States are still enthusiastically represented in this chamber. The Senate is also a House of Review. It is completely to destroy that essential quality of this House when one political party in this chamber insists that its members should adopt in identical terms every proposal that the party has put forward in the other chamber. Senator Kennelly will throw aspersions across the chamber and say that we who sit on the Government side are tied. Senator Kennelly shows some reaction to that statement but I shall not allow any heat to develop on this matter. I have been a member of the Senate since 1949 and my record as to independence of judgment will stand scrutiny. I have only to mention the recent debate on regulations affecting IpecAir Pty. Ltd. In that connection, any fair minded man in this Parliament or in Australia will admit immediately that there are those on this side of the chamber who will not submit to any application of rigid party discipline. I point also to the amendment submitted recently to the repatriation legislation. I walked out of the chamber and withdrew my vote on that measure as I did on the Stevedoring Industry Bill in 1956 and on the sales tax legislation in 1 960. I will do so again.
– But the honorable senator made sure that his party had the majority.
– I withdrew from this House of Review to enable a vote that would assist the Government to prevail. That was exactly in accordance with the true spirit and purpose of a House of Review. I would be usurping the functions that the Constitution does not entrust to this Senate if, on such occasions, I joined with other members of this chamber to defeat twice expressed Government proposals. I would not do so unless my confidence in the general theme of government was destroyed and when that occasion comes, if it does, I hope there will be men on both sides of the chamber who, on an international issue or an issue of fundamental principle in politics, would send the bill back twice to the House of Representatives. However, such an occasion has not yet arisen, in my experience. I hope that, if it did, there would be men with sufficient appreciation of their parliamentary responsibility to discharge their duty by casting a vote adverse to the Government.
So I can accept all the stigmas that are cast at me in the Press about “ backing down “, the references to rebels and all that nonsense. The journalists in the Press Gallery have to reach the understanding that the Parliament is above party. When you vote with the Labour Party on an issue like I.P.E.C. you vote because of a fundamental principle as you see it. I say that without disrespect for my colleagues who voted the other way, although I voted on that issue because I was strongly convinced that I was voting for a principle. That will be my attitude to amendments to such measures as the repatriation legislation if one is frustrated for more than one year in obtaining amendments that are really thought to be desirable. I have said these things because I absolutely repudiate the idea that members of my Party are expected by their electors to toe the Party line. We are members of a party which concedes it to be our duty when we come here in accordance with the general political philosophy of the Party to exercise an independent judgment.
The CHAIRMAN__ Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– In the light of what has been said about democracy in this Parliament, I should say that the Australian Labour Party is a democratic party. Its platform and its policy are formulated through conferences and councils the members of whom have been elected by the rank and file of the Party itself. Those decisions are arrived at after discussion. They are ones which are publicised. They are made available to all members of the Party. Any member of the Party may initiate proposals for alteration of the policies. When we seek party endorsement and are selected and then elected, we come here on the understanding that we are expected to stand by the platform and the policy of the Party. No-one compels us to stand as candidates supported by the Party, it is a matter for ourselves. In doing so, we indicate to the public that if we are elected this is the platform and policy that we are going to stand by. That is the system we have found through history which gives an assurance to the public of what kind of policy is going to be supported by the Party’s representatives in Parliament. I see nothing wrong with that.
Then we have the notion of the obligation to stand by decisions of caucus. As I understand it and without reference to the documents, the obligation on the members of my Party is first to the platform and the policy of the Party, and subject to that, it is to stand by decisions which are made by members of the Party when, after discussion together, they arrive at decisions on matters which come before Parliament. If there is an error committed in this Parliament by the parties - I think this refers to all of them - it is probably because too many decisions are made unnecessarily. We have a platform and policy and that is clear. But I think that, too many times, parties make decisions to oppose something or to support something, or to do various other things when it is not necessary to make these decisions. There ought to be many more matters on which members of parties ‘ can come into the chamber prepared to listen to what is said and make up their minds afterwards. Those are matters which are not already covered by the platform and policy of the parties. This is something which is quite workable.
We know and the public is entitled to know - I shall take my own Party - that we will stand by those principles that have already been publicised. We have a platform and policy on certain matters. We are expected to stand by them because we have undertaken voluntarily to do so. But on other matters - and this applies, perhaps, to all parties - we tend to fall into the habit of making decisions when we could well start to adopt the habit of not making decisions on various matters until we have heard discussion on them. This would mean that there would be a lot more freedom and that perhaps more intelligent decisions would be made in the Parliament. That would be entirely consistent with the notion of the parties in Parliament and it would be entirely consistent with carrying out the obligations which persons have voluntarily and democratically undertaken to their parties and, through those parties, to the electors who have sent them here.
Senator Mattner made certain remarks about the matter of Budgets. With all respect to him, I think that he has confused the two aspects of the question we are considering. One is the matter of supervision of expenditure, and the other is the matter of appropriation for the future. As he said, it is true that there are discrepancies in countries, such as the United States of America, between what has been appropriated for a particular financial year and what has been spent. That must occur in any system. All sorts of things can go wrong. A country may be involved in situations of war or it may run into periods of recession. That is to be expected. But on top of that, one must expect that the earlier a budget is presented the more discrepancy there will be between the estimates and the actuality. This is something that has to be faced. Senator Mattner said that it is a great tribute to our system that our estimates are close to actuality. But this is because we consider these matters when we are already into the financial year. If we carried the matter to its logical and absurd conclusion, if we waited until the financial year was over before we made our estimates, we could not be wrong. We would not be just 97 per cent, right; we would be 100 per cent, right. But this is idiocy. The inevitable result would be that the Appropriation Bills would no longer be subject to alteration by the Parliament. What is the good of our looking at these matters as matters of appropriation? We are already well into the financial year. It would be absurd for anyone to turn around now and say: “ Do not let us spend so much on this item “, when we have already set about spending it. The departments have been spending the money.
– But there is no logical inconsistency in reducing a vote from £70,000 to £50,000 if the Parliament wishes.
– I agree with that, but we would have to adopt this other procedure. Because we have adopted these conventions we think that we must not reduce an estimate by £1 or by £10,000 otherwise it must involve the fate of the Government. We reach the absurd position that the Estimates regarded as appropriations, are a complete farce.
– They are not regarded as appropriations.
– I would like to know whether, no matter how good a case was put up in regard to particular estimates, the honorable senator and his colleagues would be prepared to support a proposal that the Estimates should be reduced, say, in respect of a particular item. The honorable senator would not think of doing it. The Government would be horrified and it would say: “This involves the fate of the Government.” Even if we could produce the most cogent evidence-
– A request to that effect from this place would not involve the fate of the Government, even on present conventions.
– That is what the honorable senator says, but that is not how the position is regarded by the Government. No-one ‘ looks upon these matters as real appropriation measures and says: “ Let us have a good look at them. If we can prove to the satisfaction of the Government that there ought to be a change in a particular estimate, the Government will agree to it.” That approach to the matter is completely foreign to the conduct of these debates. It ought not to be so. We ought to be looking upon these matters as real appropriation measures. We ought to be bending our minds to saying: “How much should be expended by this particular department? “ We are not doing that. It means that consideration of these measures as truly appropriation measures has entirely failed; it has broken down. We ought to be doing something about it. Perhaps more attention would be given to debate on appropriation measures and perhaps there would be more chance of inducing a government to change its attitude if the Estimates had to be presented before the commencement of the financial year in question.
– Let us suppose that we deferred consideration of the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department until we got a documented statement about what was being done with the report of the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television. Let us suppose that we deferred it for three days. Would that not be a good beginning?
– I should think it would.
– It is about time that Ministers indicated that the reports of Senate committees were being properly considered.
– I have no doubt that if the honorable senator was willing to put forward such a proposal, honorable senators on this side of the chamber would be prepared to give it great consideration. I refer now to the method of dealing with bills. In my opinion, an entirely wrong procedure is followed when a complicated measure like the Trade Practices Bill comes before the Parliament. Having, over a period of years, published legislative proposals relating to trade practices, the Government has allowed the legislation to lie on the table so that people may consider it and so that bodies outside the Parliament may make submissions in regard to it. That is not the right way in which to deal with the matter. In my view, there ought to be public hearings in relation to such bills. We ought to have committees of both Houses before which could be brought persons who have views on such legislation. These people ought to be brought before appropriate committees, be they select committees or Committees of the Whole, to state in public exactly what their view is. If people have proposals to advance, why should those proposals not be stated in the open instead of being advanced in a hole in the corner manner?
In regard to the Trade Practices Bill, we read in the Press that amendments are being suggested in the party rooms of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party. But the Australian Labour Party has not been told what the proposed amendments are. We are expected to make up our minds on the amendments without knowing what they are. Do honorable senators not think that it would be much better if the legislation were to be thrown open to public discussion and made the subject of public submissions to committees of the Parliament? Members of the Parliamentary parties could then make up their minds about the legislation.
There are some other matters about which I should like to speak. I shall confine myself to mentioning the salaries of attendants and other persons who work in Parliament House. I know that this is not the place or the occasion to discuss such matters in detail, but I do think that consideration should be given to the money that is being paid to some of the attendants. I believe that there is some underpayment. Indeed, I was quite amazed to learn of the the low level at which these officers, and the transport officers, are being paid. I have no doubt that the same is true of other officers.
.- I wish to speak briefly about two matters. Several honorable senators have spoken about the need for the greater use of committees in the work of the Senate. I should like to be heard in general support of the views that have been expressed. If one looks at page 200 of the second edition of Mr. Odgers’ book “ Australian Senate Practice “, one finds that some 28 select committees have been appointed by the Senate since the establishment of the Commonwealth. Since 1940 only seven select committees have been appointed by the Senate. Since I came here in July 1962 only one select committee has been appointed. The previous select committee, which was appointed in 1959, was concerned with the subject of road safety.
I strongly agree with the view that we have not made sufficient use of this method of informing the minds of honorable senators and of making a studied contribution to the work of the Parliament. The appointment of a select committee is a very useful way in which to attempt to have the combined wisdom of members of all parties applied to a situation which cannot be disposed of by a debate in the Senate lasting for a few minutes or even a few hours. From’ time to time since my election to the Senate the Opposition has put forward proposals for the appointment of select committees. I recall that earlier this year when we had before us the Electoral Bill, when we were discussing the subject of one vote one value, and when we had to consider the effect of our decision in the light of the report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, we moved for the appointment of a select committee. During the recent debate on the Repatriation Bill, Senator Wright threw out the suggestion that a select committee might well be appointed to inquire into the operation of the onus of proof clause in the Repatriation Act. The Opposition moved an amendment to the motion for the second reading of a bill with a view to having a select committee appointed to inquire into certain aspects of social services. All these are matters which could usefully engage the attention of senators who often feel frustrated and who believe that they are not playing a sufficiently active part in the work of the Parliament.
– That result will be achieved only when the fear of party advantage ceases to be paramount.
– 1 do not think that a Senate select committee is a useful medium to use when we have before us what might be described as a hot political issue. It is obvious that on such occasions there might be such a strong clash of party viewpoints that the usefulness of the committee would be very limited. But I believe that in the kind of situation I have mentioned there is great scope for the appointment of either a Senate select committee or a joint parliamentary committee. For the first time in the history of any Australian political party, my own party recently adopted a science and technology policy. Among the proposals that were agreed upon was a recommendation that a standing parliamentary committee on science and technology should be appointed to advise the Parliament, or to deal with problems referred to it, in relation to this very broad and novel field of interest for governments and parliaments.
– Was it to have an executive or advisory character? I have not read that part of the report.
– Is the honorable senator referring to the proposal of the Labour Party?
– I thought the honorable senator was referring to another proposal.
– I was referring to a proposal recently adopted by the Federal Conference of the Australian Labour Party that there should be a parliamentary standing committee on science and technology charged with reviewing policy relating to science and technology. That, par excellence, is a matter which could be referred to either a Senate committee or a joint committee of both Houses of the Parliament so that some informed work in depth could be carried out.
I think there is a slight lack of realism in the debate. We have to appreciate, as I have found in this place, that we cannot have, a select committee appointed unless the Government wishes it to be appointed. There have been strictures by honorable senators on the application of the party system in the Senate. The plain fact is that we could not have a select committee appointed against the wishes of the Government unless one. or two individuals were prepared to force a select committee on the Government.
– That has been done in this House.
– I have not seen it happen.
– When the Australian Labour Party had a majority in the Senate it had a select committee composed of senators from the Opposition side. I cannot remember the details.
– I do not recall that. In any event, a select committee consists of four members from the Government side and three from the Opposition side. It was many months after notice of motion for the appointment of the Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television that the Government finally gave its approval.
We must not delude ourselves into thinking that the Senate merely decided that we ought to have a select committee. The Government scrutinises such proposals very carefully and I know of no occasion on which the Government has merely left the appointment of the committee to the good judgment of senators to decide. If we are to have greater use of committees we must have a different approach on the part of the Government. The Government must say: “ Let honorable senators discuss and evaluate material on a matter of broad public interest”. There is no reason why the subject matter of a select committee’s inquiry has to be something that is tied directly to the legislative process. The United States of America, of course, has adopted this system in a very comprehensive way. We get very valuable material from some of those committees which of course have elaborate machinery to carry out the type of investigation that is necessary if there is to be a constructive and worthwhile report at the end of the committee’s deliberations.
There is one other matter to which I want to refer. It has been mentioned previously in this discussion and concerns the problem of providing research facilities whether that is done by appointing additional officers in the Library to undertake research or whether it is done by the appointment of officers of the Parliament to be available to honorable senators in the gathering of material and information. I think it is extremely important in these days when the work of the Parliament is becoming more and more technical and the obligations that fall upon individual parliamentarians are heavy and the matters that come before us are complex, that substantial contributions to debates should be made after proper deliberation, study and research. It is very difficult for the individual senator to undertake such research himself. There are very few senators who can claim to be experts. Some of us are better informed on some subjects than are others. Some of us have huge gaps in our knowledge of matters of public finance, economics and a whole range of public activities. These gaps have to be filled in some way or other. I think that the sensible way is by the provision of officers of the Parliament who can render practical assistance, independent assistance, to senators and members of the other House when they have to tackle debates either on legislation or on statements made by Ministers on matters of great public importance. I would like to see something done along those lines.
.- I wish to say a few words in reply to statements made by Senator Kennelly. First, I want to refer to the matter of parliamentary representation. Senator Lillico referred to the number of parliamentarians that we have in Australia compared with the number in Great Britain and New Zealand. I think it was Senator Cohen who said by way of interjection that in Great Britain there were more representatives in relation to the population than there are in Australia. I understand from figures which have been given to me and which have been checked, that in the United States of America there is one member of the House of Representatives for every 400,000 people. Yet we in this country say that our electorates are too large. It would appear that in a country which is recognised as a great democracy there are fewer parliamentary representatives in relation to the population than there are in Australia. Therefore, it is nonsense to speak of breaking the nexus in order to have a bigger House of Representatives.
I look upon Senator Kennelly as one of the more thoughtful members of the Opposition, but I do not agree with his statement that it does not matter if there are more members of the House of Representatives proportionately than there are members of the Senate. I say that it matters to the smaller States. In fact it makes quite a difference to them because at the party meetings there are fewer people proportionately from the smaller States than there are from the larger States. I said recently in this chamber that if the House of Representatives continues to increase in size while the Senate remains static at 60 senators we will find that more and more the States of Victoria and New South Wales will run this country. As a Queenslander I am opposed to that process because I believe that it is a contradiction. It represents a tearing up of the Constitution of the Commonwealth. As Senator Wright pointed out recently, before Federation took place a great Convention was held. Evidence was placed before the Convention and deep consideration was given to the desirability or otherwise of Federation. At that time it was considered that there should be a certain relationship between the two Houses of the Parliament. Now, people are speaking of putting forward a proposal and of telling the people that it would be quite all right to break the nexus. As I have said, I think that this represents tearing up the Constitution.
The other matter to which I want to refer deals with a purely party political question. Senator Kennelly said in reply to Senator Lillico that both sides of the House are tied hand and foot by party decisions. That is not correct. As a Liberal senator I say quite clearly that in this House I support the policy that is put before the people, the general policy of the party. That is all that can be expected. Many matters come before this chamber that are never mentioned in the policy. I will not be bound by the decision of a majority on anything on which we are not pledged to the public. As a senator I am here not to be a rabbit and to vote according to the way in which some people think I ought to vote. I vote according to my view of what is best for the nation. I do not think anybody can accuse me of ever having balked at voting in the way I thought I should vote. We come here to give effect to decisions on the basic things on which our party has agreed but there is a whole world of things on which we should have freedom. I believe that if all the parties in the Senate operated in that way the Senate would be a better House of review and a better States House than it is.
I remind Senator Kennelly that sometimes vital issues can affect State loyalties. I have seen a division in this chamber when half the Opposition senators were voting with practically half the senators on our side of the chamber. I recall a division on a matter related to the sugar industry which, of course, is a vital industry in my State. I remember an occasion when the Leader of the Opposition walked into the chamber and looked around, and it must have been very difficult for him to decide which side the majority of his colleagues were on. There was a distinct division in party ranks because it was a State issue. Unfortunately, some of the States felt that they should have sugar at a lower price than we who knew the sugar industry believed they should. There we saw the Senate acting as a true States House. It divided on a State issue. Despite party ties on the Opposition side, when a matter arises which adversely and deeply effects their State I am quite sure the honorable senators concerned must of necessity divide on the basis of States.
This Senate has a truly important part to play as a States House and as a House of review. Therefore, we should try to preserve the status quo. We should not do anything which will make this House inferior in any way to the other House. Together they form the two Houses system of government in this Commonwealth of Australia. I stand strongly for the Senate because I believe that it is an excellent House which can do a very good job by safeguarding the rights of the States and reviewing the legislation presented to the Parliament.
– In a debate on the Estimates it is the duty of the Minister concerned to answer the questions put to him by honorable senators. At the outset, however, I should like to refer to one or two matters which have been raised. I point out to Senator Wood that the American Senate is only one-quarter the size of the American House of Representatives and that that has not affected the supremacy of the American Senate. In fact, it is far stronger because of its size. The American Executive is appointed by an outside body. That is something which we in Australia would not accept.
Senator Kennelly said that the House of Representatives should have as near as possible to one member for every 60,000 to 80,000 electors. I do not think electors in any other country receive as much service from their members as do our own people. In the old country, members of Parliament have agents who deal with matters affecting electors and these agents feed information to the members concerned. The electors never see their members. In Australia we have what may be called personal representation. Many migrants have told me that they are very pleased at the ready access which they have to members of Parliament and to Ministers of the Crown. They say that this is unheard of in Europe, in the United Kingdom and in the United States.
Coming as I do from the sphere of local government, I believe that it is in the best interests of the people of Australia that the number of electors should be such that their representative can serve them well and that they can have ready access to their representative. This is the system which operates in Australia. After every census the Parliament should say: “The population has grown and now in certain electorates we have 118,000 and even 120,000 electors. That number is far too high, so there is a need for additional representation in the House of Representatives”. But under the present system we cannot enlarge the House of Representatives unless we enlarge the Senate by half as much again.
– But there can be a redistribution of electorates without an increase in numbers.
– Yes. I am one who is dedicated to the situation which has developed in Australia, which gives electors ready access to members of Parliament and to Ministers of the Crown. I know that this is a tie. Members of Parliament from other countries have told me that they would not put up with it for five minutes, but it is a system to which we have become accustomed in Australia. We make ourselves available to our electors, and I hope that system will continue because I believe it is the true basis of democracy.
I point out that the United States Senate is only one-quarter the size of the American House of Representatives yet the Senate representates the States fairly well. Unquestionably there will come a time when Australia will have more States. That has not happened yet, and as long as we have 10 Senators for each of the original States there will be equal representation. I cannot see for one minute what damage that does to State issues. As long as the States have equal representation, whether it be ten, six or even two senators for each State, they will be able to use their influence to ensure that their point of view is upheld. I have in mind the incident of the sugar industry to which Senator Wood referred.
The honorable senator also said that there is not enough strength in the party room, but he has already said that he does not accept the party room as the final voice. If he does not agree with what is decided in the party room it does not matter what the numbers are. I do not criticise the honorable senator but 1 point out that he cannot have it both ways. He cannot claim that there should be the numbers to give strength in the party room and then come into this House and say: “ I take no notice of party room decisions; I will vote the way I believe I should vote “. I think that he was at cross purposes with himself.
– I was not.
– Well, I think the honorable senator was. In any case, I did not interrupt his speech so I should like him to allow me to put my point of view. He mentioned Great Britain, where county councils have great responsibilities in the field of education and in other fields. I do not think we can compare other systems of government with the system that we have developed in Australia. 1 repeat that I will stand up to anybody on this. I believe that we have in Australia the best form of democratic government because the members of Parliament are closely attached to the people who send them here, and while that system prevails we will have a good Parliament in Australia.
I would not like Senator Murphy to think that I am being in any way rude or critical of him in what I am about to say. I will not be here to see it, but if ever the party to which he belongs becomes the Government and he reads the “ Hansard “ reports of the things that he said he would do when he -was a member of the Government, then 1 am afraid he will choke over what he reads. In time to come, if I am allowed to float about upstairs and come down here occasionally to poke my nose through the window, I will be very interested to see how the honorable senator will act if he is ever in government. Never in the 30 years that I have been in politics has the Labour Party acted when in office as it has said it would act while it was in Opposition. Once it has the numbers all these high falutin principles go west. That is realistic, and I thought Senator Kennelly was very realistic in his speech.
I was asked when Federal members from Victoria will be moving into the old Customs House in Melbourne. I am advised that the building has been remodelled and that the members will be moving into it at some time in 1967. Senator Webster asked me about an increase in the incidental and other expenditure appropriation for the Parliamentary Library. The increase of £5,400 in the appropriation for this year is chiefly due to the inclusion of £4,500 for the publication of a new edition of the “ Parliamentary Handbook “. It is usually published every three years and a revision is now due. The estimate is in accordance with the amount suggested by the Government Printer. The balance of the increase is made up of £300 for advertising for necessary staff; £250 as rent allowance for an officer in accordance with the standard Public Service procedure; £150 for transport and removal expenses, and minor amounts for general expenses, incurred because of the increasing volume of business in the Library.
Reference was made to the lack of refreshment rooms for visitors to Parliament House. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) is currently considering a proposal to erect a kiosk adjacent to Parliament House for use by visitors. The suggestion came from the Joint House Committee and is at present being considered. I hope that if a kiosk is erected, it will conform to the architecture in the surrounding government triangle. If a kiosk is erected, I am sure it will be of immense benefit to visitors who come to Parliament House in everincreasing numbers.
Senator Lillico referred to the appropriation for representation at InterParliamentary Union conferences. He pointed out that after expenditure last year of about £1 3,000, an appropriation of about £35,000 is to be made this year. The appropriation includes provision of £200 for costs of transport. secretarial assistance, postage and other incidental expenses in connection with the visit of the Australian delegation to the fiftyfourth Inter-Parliamentary Union conference held in Ottawa in September 1965. Appropriation of an additional amount of £35,000 has been approved by the Prime Minister for the holding of the spring meetings of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Canberra in April 1966, when it will be our turn to act as host country. That is why the additional amount of money is to be made available. I think I have now dealt with all the questions asked during the course of the debate.
.- In his reply, the Minister made a feature of my remarks in connection with the breaking of the nexus between the Senate and the House of Representatives by an enlargement of the numbers in the other place. He pointed out that if the representation in the Senate remained the same for each State, the status quo in this chamber would not bc disturbed. But that is not the only aspect which concerns the Senate. It has been suggested that if a difference of opinion arises between the Senate and the House of Representatives, on the present system it is only after the second rejection of legislation by this chamber that a joint discussion can take place.
– No, after a double dissolution.
– Well, after a double dissolution. But the new aspect that is presented in the proposed change is that if a difference occurs, the two Houses meet and a joint vote of both Houses is taken.
– That is not the law.
– That is in the thinking of people who are discussing the breaking of the nexus.
– A joint vote is taken after a double dissolution.
– Yes. But there is no such provision as Senator Wood has suggested. It appears only in the report of a select committee.
– The Minister says that I am wrong. I understand that the new proposal is that if the two Houses are in dispute, they jointly meet and take a vote to arrive at a decision.
– That is one of the proposals of the Constitutional Review Committee majority.
– I do not know whether the proposal will work on that line. If it does, it could have serious consequences for this chamber. I feel we should be very careful in our approach to the breaking of the nexus and the diminution of the importance of the Senate in relation to the House of Representatives.
The Minister referred to one member in the House of Representatives who represents over 100,000 electors. I understand that members in the United States House of Representatives represent on an average over 400,000 people. By an interjection, Senator Branson indicated that he has given some thought to a matter to which the Senate should give consideration; that is the number of divisions in the House of Representatives which do not represent great numbers of electors. There is very uneven representation between electorates in the House of Representatives, yet there is talk of enlarging the numbers in that House.
– The number of . electors in some divisions is down to about 32,000.
– Some electorates are down to about 30,000. I am not familiar with the numbers in the electorates. The point is that a senator might, with 10 other senators, represent one million people. If we are to discuss the numbers represented by individual senators, may I say that a parliamentarian can do different types of work. He can be very busy building himself up in time for the next election. There is a difference between that type of work and true parliamentary work. It depends what a member does. If he is engaged on true parliamentary work it is of much more value than if he is flat out trying to get himself re-elected at the next election. I think we should adjust our thinking before we proceed further with the proposal to break the nexus.
The Minister said that as a Liberal in the party room I have claimed that the number of representatives from an area has some importance. So it has. With all due respect, with his usual pugilistic approach, he then punched back and said that I want it both ways. If I do not approve something nobody will make me vote for it.
– That is fair enough.
– I am not objecting to what the Minister said, but I think he was on wrong ground in describing my thinking. Very often, more can be achieved in the party room by strong representation from a particular area than can be achieved by those who represent a weak area. There is no question about it. The human aspect must be considered. Where great numbers represent an area, the tendency is for those representatives to think of that area as having more importance than an area with less representation. I refer, for example, to the very sparsely populated northern areas. What consideration have those areas attracted in the past? Honorable senators will find that what I say is true. Where the greater numbers of people are, there is the greater representation. If we are to have stronger representation in numbers from the more populous States, we will find that less thought is given to the more lightly populated States. 1 am not concerned about any suggestion that in the party room I want this and outside I want that. I do not know whether the Minister suggested this - I am not suggesting that he did - but- I do not agree with the view that we of the Liberal Party arc expected to be tied hand and foot. Over the years that has been one of the basic things on which we have differed from the Australian Labour Party. We have differed from the Labour Party in two basic things. The Labour Party believes in Socialism and we believe in free enterprise. The other basic difference, so far as I am concerned, in relation to parliamentary representation, is that the Labour Party has openly tied its parliamentarians to party decisions but we have always fought against that. In fact, I remember the days - I say this now in this national forum - when we used to hold forth the late William Morris Hughes’ book on the caucus and we talked and fought about it. It is one of the basic principles of our Liberal Party that we have freedom of conscience when it comes to voting in this chamber. So far as I am concerned, it it not a matter of one thing in here and another thing outside. When a proposal is finally presented in this chamber and we vote on it, there is a freedom for us. So far as I am concerned as a Liberal, 1 am not going to have that freedom taken away from me by anybody. I shall vote according to my conscience, as I have always done in this chamber.
– I intervene very briefly merely to contest a proposition that came from Senator Wood. I am prompted to speak because of my particular interest in constitutional reform. I think that I quote the honorable senator correctly when I say that he indicated that he regarded the proposal to break the nexus between the numbers in the Senate and those in the House of Representatives as a tearing up of the Constitution. I should like to put to the honorable senator through you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, the thought that that is not correct. After all, if one accepts the honorable senator’s proposition, it means that one would be supporting the proposition that the convention members intended to rule from beyond the grave and to make the Constitution immutable. I point out that they did not intend to do that and did not attempt to do that, because when they wrote the Constitution they also wrote in section 128.
They contemplated the need for change and they provided that the Constitution could be altered under a set of conditions by referendum of the people. They set for even the least matter the very high standards that there should be an overall majority of the voters in Australia and then a majority of voters in a majority of States. In other words, they set the very high standard of 66$ per cent, of the States. They made it difficult to alter the Constitution. They also went a long way in protecting an individual State in its representation in this Parliament and, in a rather little known last paragraph of section 128 they said - I omit the parts that are not relevant to my argument -
No alteration diminishing the proportionate representation of any State in either House of the Parliament . . . shall become law unless the majority of the electors voting in that State approve the proposed law.
So if there were an attempt to differentiate between States in the matter of their representation in this chamber, it could have no effect unless the State adversely affected agreed to it.
I put it to Senator Wood, through you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that whatever may bc his view of the proposal that the nexus between the Senate and the House of Representatives should be broken, surely it is a democratic approach to the situation to give to the people of Australia an opportunity to say what they think about it. In other words, I am putting to the honorable senator that if such a proposal came before the Senate he might well say, “I will not vote for the proposal”, but I take it that he would not deny the people of the country an opportunity to pass judgment on it.
– No, but with all of the other pressing constitutional amendments needed, it is hardly worthy of a referendum of itself, is it?
– I would say unquestionably that it is desirable by itself.
– The honorable senator does?
– I do. I would much prefer to have other matters bracketed with it, as the honorable senator well knows. I believe, and the honorable senator, too, has indicated his belief, that there is need for a considerable measure of constitutional reform, but he would agree that the people are reluctant to change the Constitution. I think that they have to be induced to consider constitutional change and even one proposition that induces them to look at the Constitution at all and to recognise the need for change is progress in the vastly important field of constitutional reform. I think that that is itself worth while. I would prefer to add other matters to it. 1 have already indicated that by bracketing with this very proposition some three other recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee, and I have put them together on the notice paper of the Senate in bills for referenda. They have been on the notice paper now since October last year - a period of 12 months. I would much prefer to see the other matters bracketed with this, but I would hope that, however strongly anybody in the Senate felt regarding the virtues or demerits of any individual proposition for constitutional reform, this would not be a reason for his denying an opportunity to the people to express themselves and induce a flood of interest in and a knowledge of the Australian Constitution that are so sadly lacking in our community at the moment.
If the proposition that the honorable senator put is that to support the breaking of the nexus between the Houses is to tear up the Constitution, I do not think that such a view is correct and I rise to express my dissent from it. lt is completely in accordance with the intentions of the founders that there should be change. They did not attempt to rule from beyond the grave and make things immutable by and large - only in one matter, namely, that there should be equal representation in the Senate, and they allowed even that to be changed if the State adversely affected consented. So they did not intend that what they wrote should stand forever, and I think it is not a correct outlook to try to ascertain their mind and project it down all the decades and centuries of nationhood that I believe and hope lie ahead of us. I just express the view that if such a bill comes before the chamber I shall not be surprised if Senator Wood expresses his opposition to the proposal; but I should be surprised indeed if, as a. democrat, he would deny the people of the country the opportunity to pass their own judgment upon it.
.- I regret to rise a second time in the debate on the estimates for the Parliament but I am provoked to do so, first to answer the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). If, as has been stated, this proposal amounts to tearing up the Constitution and that all change is opposed, I consider that nobody supports that view. The point that cannot be escaped is that if the size of the Senate relative to the numbers in the House of Representatives is reduced, the step of a joint meeting in the process of resolving deadlocks loses all of its value from the point of view of the Senate. The other point that needs to be remembered is that once we get to an escalation of the destruction of the Senate, so many forces are interested to combine for that purpose that we do not want to make the mistake of thinking that the first step in the process is the last.
When moves were made to destroy the House of Lords, it allowed a money bill to pass after a delay of one month and insisted upon a delay of two years in respect of all other bills. In 1949 that two years delay was reduced to a one year delay. At this very time a proposal is before the House of Commons to reduce the delay that can be enforced by the House of Lords taking an opposing view to merely one month in respect of any bill. That shows how, once the descent in the process of the destruction of an upper chamber is started, it is only a matter of time before, it is completed.
I do not believe that we should be overzealous about the virtues of our parliamentary democracy in Canberra. A paper entitled “Australian Commonwealth Parliament and the ‘ Westminster Model ‘ “ has come to my notice. It was contributed to the “ Journal of Commonwealth Political Studies “ in May 1964 by Dr. Gordon Reid, who has had experience on the staff of the House of Representatives and subsequent academic experience in this country and in the United Kingdom and is now occupying an important political science post in Adelaide. I read the following well timed reminder from his conclusions -
All this suggests that, as a result of the influence of party, the strength of the Executive’s control of Parliament is the principal characteristic of the Australian scene.
I am sure that I will be forgiven if I bring to the attention of the Committee one or two remarks that he made in dealing with the Senate and the House of Representatives. In dealing with the House of Representatives he had this to say -
The lower House in the Commonwealth Parliament is well and truly under the thumb of the government.
In dealing with the Senate - I hope that this will revive the hopes of those who work to make this place not a place of captious party advantage but a place of deliberate, mutually respectful debate of points of view - he said -
The unique nature of the Senate, its frequent use of its powers, and its insistence upon the recognition of its equal status, means that consideration of it intrudes into almost every facet of parliamentary activity. It stands in contrast to the House of Representatives for it has not been dominated by die government to the same extent. Indeed, for those who see the role of representative institutions as offering restraint to the excesses of governmental authority the Senate must be the main hope in Australia.
I believe that that is a rewarding statement for the souls of people who have voted with a sustained purpose - not for any reasons of self-importance, but using the powers and authorities that this chamber has as a unit in the process of making legislation - to maintain a proper check and restraint upon the growing excesses of Executive power. Ministers should not pride themselves that I am referring to them as the possessors of power, in the main or exclusively. The Executive’s power becomes so challenging today because Ministers, in their positions of prestige and responsibility in the Parliament, are backed up by ready access to all the members of the powerful Public Service whose knowledge and experience dwarf the knowledge and experience of the average member of Parliament who has to be their critic. 1 remind the Minister who is in charge of these estimates of two matters to which my colleague from Tasmania, Senator Marriott, referred this morning. The first related to the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary and Government Publications. If the Minister gave an answer while I was out of the chamber for a few minutes a while ago, perhaps I will be pardoned. I should like to know what excuse there is for the absence of a decision by the Government on, as I understand Senator Marriott’s assertion, measures for economy and efficiency in government printing. 1 believe that we have to reach the stage where we are entitled to be given a thoughtful statement on this matter. If a decision has not been arrived at, we are entitled to know what steps in the process of giving consideration to this matter have been taken by the Government.
The other matter relates to an assertion which Senator Marriott made and which should not go past unnoticed, namely, that many public works projects, whose estimated cost exceeds £250,000, are being put into execution by the Executive without reference to the Public Works Committee. For five or six patient years - my habit is to be patient - with the assistance of some people who are now occupying ministerial positions, I fought to get written into the Public Works Committee Act an absolute requirement that if the estimated cost of a public works project exceeds £250,000 it shall be referred to the Public Works Committee. I am alarmed to hear an honorable senator who had temporary experience on the Committee say that a great number of projects whose estimated cost exceeds £250,000 are not being referred to the Committee. I do not pretend to repeat his words verbatim, although often I like to do that. This is a serious matter. 1 would be obliged of the Minister would give honorable senators a satisfactory answer on it.
– Senator Marriott raised the matter in connection with the Public Works Committee. I know of no instance, and he gave no instance, of any work which should have been referred to the Committee and was not referred to it. I understood that a formula had been arrived at in relation to public works apart from defence works. When I was Chairman of the Public Works Committee we had no complaints at all about works not being referred to the Committee. After I left the Committee, the determining figure was raised to £250,000. Previously it was £100,000, if I remember correctly.
Surely these questions should be directed to the Minister who controls public works. I have no information on this aspect of the work of the Committee. It is not in my bailiwick.
– The Committee comes under the Parliament.
– The Committee is certainly under the control of the Parliament. But if honorable senators want incidental information on works that have not been referred to the Committee. I think they should direct their requests to the Minister who controls public works. I have not any information on why certain works were not referred to the Committee. That matter would come under the Department of the Interior because the Minister for the Interior refers works to the Parliament for reference to the Committee. If these questions are directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior when we come to the estimates for the Department of the Interior, he will be au fait with the position and will be able to answer them.
– I was referring to Division No. 108 - Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
– That is so; but the proposed expenditure under that heading relates to the accounts of the Public Works Committee. The question Senator Wright asked me under this heading relates to a matter of policy in respect of a deviation from the normal procedure and should be more properly directed to the Minister for the Interior when the Committee is considering the estimates for that Department.
– I accept that point of view, but the Minister should not protest that the Public Works Committee is not being ignored.
– I did not put that point of view and I do not accept the implication that I did so. The honorable senator is putting words into my mouth. I said that it would be more appropriate to address to the Minister for the Interior questions on matters of policy. This is a matter of detail. If the honorable senator asks me, under Division No. 108, for details of the proposed expenditure of £4,000 by the Public Works Committee I can get the information from the officers concerned, but I cannot get a statement on policy. The honorable senator can obtain that from the Minister. I am glad the honorable senator accepts that point of view. I missed this item in the list I have before me for the reasons I have explained and, consequently, did not refer to it. Senator Marriott referred to the report of the Committee on Parliamentary and Government Publications. I can tell the honorable senator that the proposed expenditure is £13,200 but I have no information on a matter like this which is not under my direction. I am not sure whether Senator Marriott said that the report had not appeared.
– No, but a motion for the printing of the report has been on the notice paper for 15 months.
– It would be more appropriate for Senator Marriott to address a question upon notice to the Minister concerned and obtain an answer direct from him than raise the matter in the debate on the Estimates.
– I want to refer briefly to the matter raised by Senator Marriott and enlarged upon by Senator Wright. I refer to the report of the Joint Committee on Parliamentary and Government Publications. As Senator Wright has pointed out, the motion for the printing of the report hasbeen on the notice paper of the Senate for some time. As a member of that Committee, I was profoundly impressed with its work and believe that the report it presented at the end of its deliberations should engage the full attention of both Houses of the Parliament. It may be of interest to Senator Wright to know that I have sought information from time to time from the former Chairman of the Committee as to whether there was any likelihood of the Government implementing any of the recommendations contained in the report. I am happy to say that the Chairman informed me only this week that there were indications that the Government intended to implement quite a large number of the recommendations contained in the Committee’s report.
– Where did the honorable senator get that information?
– I got it unofficially from the former Chairman. I use that term because I suppose the Committee, having completed its business, no longer remains active. But the former Chairman, like myself and other members of the Committee, has taken a lively interest in the fate of the report and I understand he has been in constant consultation with the officers of the department which would have something to do with the implementation of the report. He informed me that there were most encouraging signs that the Government had in mind the possibility of implementing a considerable number of recommendations contained in the report of the Committee on Parliamentary and Government Publications.
– Hope is a great sustainer of my branch of life but one cannot depend on it.
– To some extent I share the scepticism which seems to be inherent in the honorable senator’s remark, but having received that assurance from the former Chairman of the Committee I am prepared to let the matter go for a reasonable time before I start looking for trouble in connection with what I think should have been done. I believe from the information
I have that there are encouraging signs. If we hear nothing for a reasonable time, I might not retain such a reasonable attitude.
– As there is some interest in this matter, I shall endeavour to get a statement on it from the Minister concerned before the debate on the Estimates is concluded and I will present it to the honorable senators.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Proposed expenditure, £6,003,000.
Proposed provision, £35,700.
– The Department of Trade and Industry is one of the most important government departments. The proposed total expenditure is £6,003,00 and represents a considerable increase on the expenditure last year when the total was £5,394,033. The schedule of salaries and allowances for 1965-66 covers payments to a number of officers employed by the Department whose designations are set out in the Schedule. I mention them to indicate the importance of the work of this Department. Officers employed by the Department of Trade and Industry include a commercial policy officer, commodity policy officers, a senior economist indicating that other economists are also employed, a tariff policy officer, economic integration officer, commitments officer, assistant directors, a tariff revision officer, research officers, senior project officer, an investigation officer, trainee trade commissioners, a senior training officer, a textile adviser, a films and photo officer, and a publicity liaison officer. Of course, there are many other officers in the Department but I have stated a few to indicate the class of work that is carried out by the Department. After reading those designations one has to believe that this is a very important Department, so far as the economy of Australia is concerned. We know that it is important and that it plays an important role in the government of this nation.
I have always believed that the Department was wrongly named. It will be observed that it is called the Department of Trade and Industry. If I had been responsible for the naming of it, I would have termed it the Department of Industry and
Trade because it is quite clear that we cannot have trade unless we first have industry.
– That is a matter that needs a lot of explanation.
– I shall explain it as I proceed. It does require come explanation. If I picked up the document which I had in my hand before and I examined it and asked: “ How was it produced? “, we would find that it was not the result of trade. It has been produced, not by one industry, but by a number of industries. For instance, it is made of paper. Let us think for a moment how paper is manufactured. If it is good quality paper it has been made from trees.
– In Tasmania.
– Perhaps the trees were grown in Tasmania. That is an industry in itself. There are employees engaged in cultivating trees and caring for them. The trees have to be harvested. They have to be hauled to some works where they are treated and manufactured into paper.
– I understand that leaves drop off in the autumn, too.
– Senator Wright knows so much that he need not stay to listen. He is one of the nincompoops of the Senate.
– Order! Senator Benn, you must withdraw that remark. You must not refer to an honorable senator as a “ nincompoop “.
– I believe in being fair, but I am not going to accept accusations from Senator Wright.
– Order! I also believe in being fair. I cannot remember Senator Wright saying anything of a derogatory nature or describing you in any adverse way. He may have made a jocular remark about something. You are not entitled to call an honorable senator a nincompoop. I ask you to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it. Apparently, a man may be a nincompoop but one is not entitled to judge him as a nincompoop. I was saying that the Department should be known as the Department of Industry and Trade. It does not make any difference to the people of the Common wealth. They are not concerned about the name of the Department. The thing that concerns them is what the Department does. I was just instancing the manufacture of the particular document that we have before us in order to illustrate what is happening. Of course, steel is required for printing purposes. But we cannot have steel unless we have deposits of iron ore, and we must have other steel goods with which to mine the iron ore. We must have transport facilities, a foundry, and various machines, such as lathes. Many industries have been associated in the production of the document that I have mentioned.
In order to exist in the modern world, a country must have industries, it must produce goods and it must have a reasonable opportunity for selling those goods. Of course, that brings us into another field altogether. I understand that at the present time the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) is absent overseas. I think that he is attending a conference at Geneva which is dealing with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. I think every honorable senator is fully aware that G.A.T.T. is an agency of the United Nations. It was established in 1948 for the purpose of allowing the member nations of the United Nations to consider trade relationships. It allows countries to examine their tariffs, to go and meet at the G.A.T.T. conferences and to see what they can do to trade more easily with each other. That is the situation which exists in the world at the present time.
There are many countries that are advanced industrially and there are many countries that are not so well established industrially. They have not the equipment, the machinery and the techniques for manufacturing goods which are in demand. We know from our own knowledge that the goods which are in almost constant demand are foodstuffs, wearing apparel and items which are required in the home. A G.A.T.T. conference was held quite recently. At this stage the Parliament does not know the outcome of it. I understand that such conferences are a kind of exchange. The representatives of the member nations go there and discuss tariffs which exist in respect of certain commodities that are required in the various countries. It follows that if an underdeveloped country or a country that is not highly industrialised has goods which a highly industrialised country can use, there is an exchange of tariffs and those two countries are able to trade with each other.
But when it comes to international trade we find that the goods which are sold internationally are really the excess goods of a country. The main market, so far as industries are concerned, is always the local market. Of course, some countries have a population of 150 million or 200 million, and that number of people really constitutes a huge market in itself. So the manufacturers in such countries have a good idea of what their constant markets will be.
Representatives from the Department of Trade and Industry attended the G.A.T.T. conference. I understand that they have made certain arrangements with other countries to accept their goods by making certain tariff adjustments. There is the possibility that the arrangements will be extended in the future. But there comes a time when goods have to be imported into Australia from countries which are, highly industrialised. The Tariff Board has operated for many years. I have always believed that it is to the advantage of the Commonwealth that the Tariff Board has functioned in the way it has. It was not so long ago that many manufacturers and many people in the community who were aware of the level to which trade had descended, believed that it was essential to have an authority which would ascertain whether a commodity should attract tariff charges and then make a recommendation to the Minister.
I think everyone is aware that the Tariff Board, when dealing with a proposal in respect of new tariffs, takes a considerable time to reach a conclusion. It was found that many people who were interested in a certain proposal wanted to present their side of the case to the Board for consideration. As this is a democratic country, the Board has had to consider that side of the case. It has then reached a decision and has conveyed that decision to the Minister. We have been afforded protection as a result of the operations of the Special Advisory Authority and the Tariff Board.
We have a population today of more than
II million people. We must preserve the right of people to be employed in industry somewhere in Australia. If we were to open the doors to free trade, we would immediately destroy the employment of hundreds of thousands of people. Just recently I read that, because of the dry period that has been experienced in New South Wales, Queensland, and I understand in part of Victoria, hands were dismissed from an establishment in Victoria which manufactures machines that are used for the harvesting of wheat. That illustrates how employment opportunities can be affected. If there is a recession or if we are about to enter a recession people sometimes say that something must be done to increase purchasing power so that goods that have been manufactured can be taken off the market and thus provide continuing employment in the manufacturing industries.
-(Senator Drake Brockman). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I refer to Division No. 960 - Other Services, and to the provision that has been made for the First Asian International Trade Fair in 1966. I ask: Where is the Fair to be held and who will participate? Will this be a private enterprise undertaking? I should also like to have some details of the proposed expenditure of ?25,000 on this item. I note that under Division No. 500 - Administrative, provision is made for trade promotion visits. Last year a number of trade promotion visits must have been envisaged. A sum ot ?50,000 was appropriated, but expenditure amounted to only ?9,389. This year we are being asked to appropriate a sum of ?30,000. Is any explanation available as to why the expenditure last year was not greater?
We seem to have underexpended the appropriation made last year for trade publicity. This year we are being asked to appropriate a sum that is even greater than the appropriation for last year. 1 ask: Are new avenues of trade publicity being opened up? Are our efforts reaching out into additional countries? Provision is made also for contributions to Australian trade missions overseas. I imagine that if we are engaging in increased publicity overseas, we may expect to have more trade missions. But I note that the sum to be ex- pended this year on contributions to trade missions overseas is less than both the appropriation and the expenditure for last year. Possibly there is some explanation of this fact.
I draw attention now to the item “ Overseas Investment in Australia - Publicity” for which provision is made in Division No. 500. We are being asked to appropriate £38,900 for this purpose. I should like some information about this publicity, ls it publicity that is designed to attract overseas investments in Australia? Perhaps I could defer any further remarks I might make on this subject’ until I am informed of the details of the proposed expenditure. What I propose to say will be unnecessary if I find that 1 have gained the wrong impression.
.- Under Division No. 500 - Administrative, provision is made for the proposed expenditure of £30,000 on trade promotion visits and also for the expenditure of £1,348,000 on trade publicity. Whereas a sum of £50,000 was appropriated last year for trade promotion visits, only £9,389 was spent. Last year a sum of £1,185,000 was appropriated for trade publicity, but only £1,162,584 was expended. The sum that we are asked to appropriate this year for trade publicity represents an increase, in round figures, of £200,000. Last year we appropriated a sum of £350,000 as a grant to the Australian National Travel Association. This year it is proposed to increase the grant to £381,000.
As I said in my speech on the Budget, 1 do not castigate the Government for having continually increased the amount of the grant since it assumed office. However, the increase in expenditure on trade publicity is much bigger relatively than the increase in the grant to the Australian National Travel Association. Probably many people think that trade is more important than the tourist industry. The tourist business is as much an industry as are the primary and secondary industries. Both are concerned with the bringing of money into this country. As I have said before, the development of the tourist industry is the quickest means of bringing money into Australia. I do not know of any other means by which we could obtain a quicker result.
As an illustration of the importance that the Government attaches to the earning of overseas credit from trade, I point out that, although last year a sum of £190,500 was appropriated for payment as a subsidy for the South American shipping service and the actual amount expended was £139,467, this year we are being asked to appropriate a sum of £215,000 for this purpose. Having visited South America, I know that this is a difficult area in which to build up trade. Senator Gorton, who led the delegation of which I was a member, would acknowledge that to be so. As I indicated a moment ago, it is proposed to increase the amount of the subsidy on the shipping service to South America by £80,000.
I suggest that the Government might well take another look at the grant that is to be paid to the Australian National Travel Association. In these days of greater prosperity and better means of transport, we could do much better than we are doing in the tourist industry. As I said when speaking to the Budget, a survey made some time ago by the Australian National Travel Association reveals that there is no reason why we cannot attract more people to Australia. There is a reasonable prospect of attracting a greater number of tourists to Australia, not only from the United States of America, but also from Europe and countries to the north of Australia. I urge the Government to bring the grant to the Australian National Travel Association more into line with its appropriation for the advancement of trade with a view to attracting more overseas credit to this country. I should like to see the amount increased to £500,000. I hope that next year the Government will really get behind the tourist industry and will step up the figure to £1 million.
When we speak of tourism we should not think of it as something frivolous and of no great importance. I ask honorable senators to consider what the tourist industry means. It has a great effect on other industries. The tourists who come here consume a variety of different foods, such as meat and poultry, and they also consume many kinds of drinks. They require accommodation and transport, as well as electricity supplies and other services. If honorable senators go into the matter they will be amazed to see how much the results of tourism percolate into the business structure. From the point of view of the Government, it is a most lucrative industry. On a former occasion I saw a very interesting analysis relating to the tourist industry in Hawaii. It is amazing to see how much revenue goes to the government by way of taxation and in other ways from the industry in Hawaii.
I am sure that if we were to increase our expenditure with a view to bringing more tourists to Australia the Government would not be out of pocket because it would receive a considerable portion of that money back by way of taxation. I know that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) merely represents another Minister in this matter. He comes from the beautiful island of Tasmania which, in the very early days of the tourist industry in Australia, played a most important part in establishing the industry at a time when other States were neglecting it. I am sure that Senator Henty would be personally in favour of helping the industry but I know that he cannot say what another Minister would do. As I have said, the tourist industry is a very important one and it is most urgent that we do everything possible to increase our overseas earnings. It seems to me that promotion of the tourist industry is one of the quickest ways to do that. New hotels are continually being constructed throughout Australia. In Sydney Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. is building a hotel which will be completed shortly. Throughout Australia there is now a lot of first class accommodation available and we should not be afraid to encourage tourists to come here.
– I wish to raise a matter concerning shipping services and trade promotion. It is referred to in some detail in paragraph 150 on page 109 of the report of the Auditor-General for the year ended 30th June 1965. The Auditor-General states -
Financial assistance by the Commonwealth was continued during 1964-65 to the two shipping companies operating shipping services between Australia and South America with a view to the further development of trade with that area. Payments in connection with the services amounted to £139,527 in 1964-65 (£152,250 in 1963-64) and were charged to Division No. 500-4, Item 04.
I would like the Minister to say whether anything has been done in relation to that reference by the Auditor-General. The report continues -
Approval has been given for a further agreement to be entered into with the company for the continuation of the service. At the date of preparation of this Report, however, the new agreement had not been formally executed.
Can the Minister say whether a new agreement has been entered into? It will be noted that in the second passage I have quoted from the Auditor-General’s report reference is made to “ the company “, whereas in the first passage reference is made to “ the two shipping companies “.
Evidently the shipping company concerned operated a service to south eastern ports in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil during the original two year agreement which ended in May 1964. A further mutual agreement ended in April 1965. The report states -
The Agreement provided for a minimum of six amounts to the company in respect of each voyage; no provision was made for refund in the event of a profit being made on the service. A total of £125,000 was paid during the year under review.
Reference is made to the expenditure of £139,527 on this service. There seems to be a discrepancy which I hope the Minister will be able to explain. Is this a developing shipping service? Does it warrant continuation and even expansion? Does the trade which flows to Australia from this venture justify the existence of the shipping service? I sincerely hope that it will be a success because I think that it is inevitable that new markets will be opened up in South America if we search for them. It is a natural area in which to expand our trade.
I was disappointed to learn that while apparently there were two shipping companies operating originally there is now only one. Apparently the two shipping companies did not undertake all the voyages in respect of which subsidy was available. The Auditor-General’s report states -
The Agreement provided for a minimum of six and a maximum of eight voyages but five only had been undertaken by May, 1964. Consequent upon an extension of the period of the Agreement to 31st December, 1965 a total of six voyages had been undertaken to 30th June, 1965.
It would appear that there has not been a great degree of alteration in the frequency of the voyages, indicating that the service is a more or less static one. The Minister may be able to provide figures concerning the volume of trade and to say whether continuation of the service is justifiable as an experiment pending the time when a steady flow of trade between Australia and the countries of South America eventuates. Is sufficient attention being paid to trade promotion in South America, or is the trade merely sufficient to call for only between six and eight voyages in the three year period referred to by the Auditor-General?
I wish to refer to another matter relating to the Department of Trade and Industry. I understand that in the United States of America our Commercial Intelligence Service deals with textiles and garments as one of its specialties. Is there a close liaison between officers of the Department of Trade and Industry and the Australian Wool Industry Conference in respect of wool promotion activities? The wool promotion scheme is relatively new, but I think it should be very closely integrated with the trade promotion activities of the Department of Trade and Industry. I should be grateful if the Minister could give me some information on this subject when we resume.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
Motion (by Senator McKellar) agreed to-
That further consideration of the proposed expenditure for the Department of Trade and Industry be postponed until after consideration of the proposed expenditure for the Department of Primary Industry.
Proposed expenditure, £17,318,000.
Proposed provision, £1,196,000.
– In discussing the proposed expenditure of £17,318,000 for the Department of Primary Industry I would like to say something which has been said fairly often during the last 12 months, but which can always stand restating. A great responsibility rests on the Department of Primary Industry at present and will rest on it in the immediate future. As all honorable senators know, one of the greatest worries today of men on the land throughout a large part of Australia is the drought. The drought areas cover a vast tract of the Northern Territory and extend through the western and south western areas of Queensland. They also cover a very wide band of country in the centre and west of New South Wales. Fortunately, in the last few days some of drought areas have received substantial falls of rain. This not only means salvation for the individual men on the land but also the preservation of a valuable asset for the nation as a whole.
The situation is serious. It has gone beyond the stage when the drought can be treated as affecting only individual people, who are able to cope with the problems it creates. Yet in the statements that I have seen emanating from Federal and State authorities there seems to be a reticence regarding anything specific that can be done at the national level to grapple with this most important problem. Many reports have been made by authorities that have given a lot of time to research into and to study of the problem, but in the final analysis the drought comes down to a matter of economics. The nation can fill the breach when national disasters such as bush fires, floods or similar occurrences take place. I believe that this drought, which affects so many people in such a large area of Australia, should be considered as a national emergency. Some effects of the drought will be felt for some time to come, not only in the wool and meat industries but throughout the whole economy. Female stock are dying over vast areas of this country, and they will be economically irreplaceable for a number of years. This could have a more serious effect on the stability of our economy in the next four or five years than most people realise.
Some measures that have been stressed as necessary to cope with a drought of the dimensions of that which we are at present experiencing are fodder and water conservation. Admittedly they are of tremendous importance. But when drought comes upon the country without provision having been made for fodder and water conservation, it is of no use to talk about such action, although certainly plans should be made for the- future. Thank goodness, droughts of the nature and severity of this one occur only infrequently. However, it must be accepted that Australia is a drought-prone continent. When the seasons are good the land can give forth plenty, but when the seasons are bad the country is barren and takes time to recover after the drought has broken. The land is sick in time of drought. Of course, droughts may be part of a great design and may be natures way of resting the land. We do not know. In any event, economic reality does not take such speculations into consideration and we have to grapple with the situation as it is at the moment.
There are many areas throughout the country that have been blessed with rain and can supply a measure of relief, in the form of fodder, for starving stock. There are a few places, in the artesian basins, where water can be obtained by drilling, but naturally the most plentiful source of water is rainfall. When that is practically nonexistent - there are vast areas of droughtaffected country where there has been no more than 1± or 2 inches of rain in the past 12 months or more - it is not much use talking about conserving water. That is something for the future.
The point I want to stress - this finally comes down to a matter of national policy - is that it is necessary to make the best of the situation before it is too late. Many people have to get rid of stock, perhaps to relieve the country of the numbers of stock that it is carrying or perhaps because they cannot pay high prices for fodder. Considerable numbers of female stock of an age at which they have great value for purposes of reproduction continue to be slaughtered. I believe this matter should be given close and immediate consideration at the national level. We must decide what we are going to do when the drought eventually breaks so as to make up the leeway and meet the demand for stock by people trying to get back to normal conditions.
The figures now coming through for the latter part of the last financial year and for the first part of this financial year begin to show the real effects of the drought. The figures which have been released indicate that there has been a drop already of 5 per cent, to 7 per cent, in wool production and the like, but I think we will find when the final figures are collated that the losses are much higher than that. As a consequence, the period needed for recovery will be much longer. 1 believe very strongly that it is a national responsibility that a plan be devised by which some limitation will be placed on the slaughter of young female stock, both cattle and sheep, from now until the drought breaks and until stock numbers recover to the level which existed previously. How this will be done is a matter for consideration by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, possibly in co-operation with the graziers and farmers organisations. Perhaps there could be agistment of stock on land in close proximity to where large numbers of female stock are being slaughtered. Perhaps the Government could institute a scheme, similar to that which is proposed for the wool industry, for the direct purchase of stock, keeping the stock alive until such time as the drought breaks. If this were done, at least a little of the leeway would be made up. However, these plans would have to be worked out in detail.
This matter is of such great importance to the Department of Primary Industry in particular, and to Australia’s primary industries generally, that it should be treated as critical. Such valuable national assets should not be slaughtered purely for economic reasons. I can understand the plight of the man who wants to reduce his stock numbers by slaughtering or who wants to sell some, of his stock, but he should not be allowed to do this unless the fullest consideration is given to the consequences of reducing further at this rime the number of young female sheep and cattle.
– Has not some of the trouble been caused by a lack of fodder conservation? How does the position in the mainland States compare with that in Tasmania?
– We have the great fortune in Tasmania to have a relatively regular rainfall. It is amazing that in Tasmania our rainfall varies from 100 inches at Lake Margaret on the west coast to 21 inches at Swansea on the east coast. In that short distance we have a varying landscape, soaring mountain peaks and fast running rivers. Within that area one can be almost certain that fodder is being conserved by natural growth.
– There will not be very much grass fodder in the southern part of Tasmania this year.
– It is a below normal season but the industry in Tasmania can be said to be in fairly good shape. Conditions in Tasmania are very good when compared with conditions in the parts about which I am speaking. I went into the drought areas during the recess a week or two ago to examine the situation. I had had a very bad experience of a drought in Queensland in the 1930’s. 1 thought 1 had seen the lot then - swinging the axe, scrub cutting, knowing what it was to try to keep stock alive. But the situation is far worse today.
– Where did the honorable senator go?
– I went between Cunnamulla, Eulo, Thargomindah, Hungerford, Parragundy and Yantabulla. The honorable senator would probably know the country well. It is hard to keep stock alive when it is in poor condition and scattered everywhere, looking for food. I have seen stock pawing up cracks in the ground to try to find a few grass seeds to keep themselves alive. But the job of keeping them alive is worthwhile because you know that when the drought breaks your ewes will produce lambs and you stock numbers will increasae. Once a ewe dies, however, the basis of your industry is lost. That is the importance of the matter that I am raising in relation to the drought.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I want to continue Senator O’Byrne’s theme but I do not want to canvass the whole of the effects of the drought in Australia. This is not the kind of debate in which one can do that because the time allotted to us is not sufficient.
The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has made two statements in connection with the drought and drought assistance, but as yet no assistance has been forthcoming. I have looked through the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry and I can find nothing in them directed towards drought relief. I cannot accept the view expressed by the Prime Minister that the drought is primarily a matter for the States. In my opinion, the drought will be very costly for the Australian economy. We in this Parliament control the economy. We gather most of the revenue and then dole it out to the States to spend as they will, and sometimes as we want them to spend it. Anything which affects the economy of this country becomes the responsibility of this National Parliament, not of the State Parliaments. This responsibility goes further when we find that the drought extends from the East Kimberleys, through Central Australia into New South Wales and Queensland. It goes right across the country.
The drought is the concern of this Government also in as much as it has an effect on the standard of living of the people of Australia. When the Arbitration Commission is deciding on the wage level of the community, this Government produces figures relating to the state of the economy to assist the Commission to come to a determination. The wage prescribed by the Arbitration Commission sets the standard of living of the community. The consumer price index for the September quarter showed an increase in the price of meat. Every time there is an increase in the consumer price index which is not compensated for by an increase in wages, the standard of living of the people of Australia is depressed until such time as wages are increased.
My concern at this time is the effect that the reduced wheat crop will have on the standard of living, particularly in New South Wales. Honorable senators are aware that over the years New South Wales has been the greatest wheat producing State. This year the wheat crop will be fairly good. It is reported in the Press this morning that the New South Wales wheat crop is expected to fall by about 111 million bushels.
– To what will it fall? Can the honorable senator assist me with an estimate?
– It varies. I contacted the Department of Primary Industry this morning to get information. As the honorable senator knows, the estimate can change from day to day, or even from week to week. However, we must take present estimates. The estimated New South Wales crop is 40 million bushels, a fall of 111 million bushels. It is even worse that the deliveries to the Australian Wheat Board are not expected to exceed 20 million bushels.
– Do I understand the honorable senator to say that the reduction is 1 1 1 million bushels and that the crop is expected to be 40 million bushels?
– That is the forecast that was made this morning. It is estimated that deliveries to the Wheat Board will not exceed 20 million bushels in New South Wales. The carry-over in New South Wales is only 15 million bushels, so that a total of only 35 million bushels will be available in New South Wales. Home consumption of wheat in New South Wales last year was 22 million bushels. That wheat was consumed as stock food - that was in a normal season - and in the production of flour and breakfast foods. A considerable export market for flour has been built up in New South Wales and is expected this year to amount to 9i million bushels; that is a little over a quarter of a million short tons of flour. The total consumption within the State will therefore be about 3H million bushels, and the estimated amount of wheat available in New South Wales is 35 million bushels. Each week half a million bushels of wheat are used to feed sheep which will eventually die, anyhow, unless there is a big break in the drought. At the rate of half a million bushels a week, the balance of 34- million bushels estimated to be available represents seven weeks supply to feed sheep.
This means that New South Wales will be importing wheat. Immediately that happens, the price of flour and consequently the price of bread will rise. That is the position which worries me. Already, as a result of the drought, the price of meat has risen. I hope that it is not necessary for New South Wales to import wheat but, because of the drought, I think it is unavoidable. Once the price of bread is increased, it means that the prices of the two staple commodities in the Australian diet will have risen. That is why I think the Commonwealth Government should be taking an interest in the drought. The wheat that is being fed to sheep is being supplied by the Australian Wheat Board at £27 a ton.
Wheat has a higher protein value than the fodder that is being sold in New South Wales. If a bit of roughage goes with it, it will go ever so much further. Nevertheless, the fodder that is being sold in New South Wales is costing primary producers £40 a ton. It is suspected that the bulk of the wheat being used as stock food is being fed to stud sheep. I appreciate that the standard of Australian sheep, and hence the standard of Australian wool, must be maintained. However, the stud sheep industry is very lucrative and the breeders of stud sheep could well afford to buy fodder rather than use wheat to feed their sheep, thus forcing New South Wales into importing wheat and causing the prices of commodities produced from wheat to rise. Not only will there be an increase in the price of bread, but also an increase in the price of breakfast foods if imported wheat is used to manufacture them.
I think it is time the Government examined the position instead of wiping it off by saying that, primarily, it is a matter for the States. Primarily it is a matter for this Parliament. Somewhere along the line someone has to say that the sheep must be fed on fodder, even if it means that financial assistance to purchase fodder has to be given. After all, we subsidise many industries. We live on the primary industries which provide the bulk of our export income. Heavy subsidies are paid at present, including the amounts paid to the dairying industry and under the Wheat Stabilisation Act. If this position is allowed to continue, within a very short space of time Australia could be in a rather awkward fix. We shall not be in a dilemma that cannot be resolved, because the Western Australian wheat crop is estimated to increase by about 40 million bushels. Various estimates have been given, including an estimate of 95 million bushels.
– The latest estimate is 100 million bushels.
– The best estimate that the Department of Primary Industry would give today was between 90 million and 100 million bushels. So that I would not be too optimistic, I took it at 95 million bushels.
– What is the average crop in Western Australia?
– It is not possible to calculate an average because each year hundreds of thousands of acres are brought into production. That makes it impossible to work out an average. The only average that can be calculated is the average production per acre. Last year the average production per acre was just over 19 bushles.
To calculate the average crop for Western Australia is an impossibility. Last year, wheat production reached 57 million bushels. This year it is expected to be about 95 million bushels - an increase of about 40 million bushels. This wheat will be available to assist to maintain Australia’s export markets. If required, it will be available to assist in other States. It is not much cheaper to bring wheat from Western Australia to New South Wales, than it is to bring wheat from Canada to New South Wales. In fact, it costs ls. more to ship a bushel of wheat to Tasmania than it does to ship it to the United Kingdom - 3s. Hid. as compared with 2s. Hid.
Honorable senators can see the problem that arises when we consider a population of the size of that of Sydney requiring the importation of wheat, and the effect that this would have on the cost of living. I am aware that two statements have been made. I am aware that a contrary statement by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) appeared in yesterday’s Press, but nothing firm has been done. It is true that the Australian Wheat Board is doing what it can to assist. It is making wheat available at the home consumption price on 12 months credit. This is the attraction and the reason why the farmers are prepared to buy wheat rather than fodder.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I should like to speak to Division No. 380 - Administrative and, if I have sufficient time, to Division 385 - Bureau of Agricultural Economics. First, I should like to pay a tribute to the officers of the Department of Primary Industry. Having had experience over the last few years of the men who control this Department, I can speak with some knowledge of them. We are fortunate, and primary industry is fortunate, to have dedicated men in this field. I believe it is correct to say that there is now very much closer liaison than there was formerly between primary industry generally and the Department. This, of course, has brought about a splendid atmosphere in which the Department and the industry can cooperate and co-ordinate their work.
Senator Cant has made reference to drought relief. There is no mention of drought relief in these estimates and I believe that if there were provision for drought relief it would not be found in that section with which we are now dealing. We need to look at this question. As the two senators who have already spoken to the proposed expenditure of the Department of Primary Industry have referred to this matter, I should like to make some reference to the drought position as we see it at the present time. Today a Press statement by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) on this question has been circulated. He said -
Expressing the matter in a little more detail, the spokesmen for the trading banks made it clear that they were now receiving increasing numbers of requests for assistance for drought relief, and that they expected the impact on the banks of these requests, which was already very evident, would become heavier when restocking commenced, perhaps early in 1966.
That is a recognition, of course, of the fact that there are increasing demands, but I believe that this will be only the beginning of increased demands, if we are to keep our stock numbers, if we are to save a large number of the stock now facing drought, and if we are to have any rehabilitation. I do not want to be an alarmist. I do not think that being alarmists gets us anywhere. But it is true to say that the drought is really critical over large areas of New South Wales and Queensland, to a lesser extent in parts of South Australia and even Western Australia, and to a still lesser extent in eastern Victoria. Whilst certain areas have had reasonable rains lately these are not sufficient to ensure the survival of stock during the coming summer.
Recent surveys have shown that in the area where, I believe, the drought is critical - that is, in Queensland in New South Wales, in particular - there are 50 million sheep. At least half a million cattle are normally depastured there. A big percentage of the sheep are merino sheep, which are of tremendous importance to the wool industry and to the Australian economy. It is officially estimated that the wool clip will be down 6 per cent. 1 want to say a little more about this later. I should say that even if rain fell this week over most of the areas of Australia badly affected by drought we would experience a reduction of at least 12 to 15 per cent, in the wool clip, and I am not being an alarmist when I say that. Not only have we had severe stock losses but in addition wc shall have a decrease in the cut per head. Further, lambing in drought areas - particularly in the merino section of the industry - has been extremely poor.
Senator Cant has mentioned the wheat crop in New South Wales. I do not take quite the same alarmist view. He mentioned a crop of 20 million bushels. I think it is more likely to be 40 million bushels. 1 think that this is probably what the Australian Wheat Board would say today, but I cannot say so officially. Even so, the effect of the drought not only on wheatgrowers but also on the general economy must be quite evident to everybody. The individual grower is very definitely directly affected and the impact on country towns and districts is likewise very heavy. We must think of the many people who will suffer because of the drought that we are now experiencing.
In view of the position as I see it, I think that the Government should act in at least three ways. In view of the budgetary effects in Queensland and New South Wales which were not evident some months ago, the Commonwealth should be prepared to make grants available to them now in order that the worst affected areas may get some relief. If that were done, it would be the province of the State governments to say how and when that money should be spent. Something must be done to ensure that the stock that we have - especially the breeding sheep, to which Senator Cant referred - are kept alive. In spite of what has been said by the Treasurer today, it is very evident that some assurance must be given by the Government that ample funds are available through the Reserve Bank of Australia to assist producers to purchase fodder, to provide finance for them to carry on and - equally important - to ensure that they are in a position to get rehabilitation so that they may come back into production as early as possible.
– I think the honorable senator will agree that the terms of repayment must be satisfactory.
– I shall deal with that in a moment. The Government must make a very early examination of our whole banking structure to see that long term finance is available for rehabilitation purposes, Some might say, of course, that we get long term finance from the Development Bank, but it is not for that purpose. Therefore, now is the time to set up the machinery to ensure that those who are heavily in debt at present are not greatly inhibited in their attempt to get back into full production. We must remember that in many parts of the areas to which I am referring this drought has continued for more than two or three years. Some of the best wool producers in this country will be unable to get back into full production unless some financial arrangements are made along the lines that I have suggested.
We have to remember, also, that our primary producers have to sell on world markets and, therefore, experience fluctuations in prices, and have to operate in climatic conditions which also have their ups and downs. So, finance must be made available on a long term basis to allow them to carry on. I mentioned this matter in my speech in the Budget debate. We know that many primary producers have great incomes one year and receive little or nothing the next. Therefore, the ordinary financial arrangements that are available to other businesses are simply not good enough for many of them. The Government must look to long term lending for developmental purposes. This is definitely necessary. I believe that honorable senators on both sides of the chamber will agree with me when I say that our agricultural and pastoral industries have a tremendous potential, but are inhibited because primary producers cannot obtain long term finance to enable them to carry out pasture improvement and stock improvement.
As everybody knows, the present drought is terribly important to primary producers. It is critical for many of them and it will be equally critical for the nation unless something is done about it. The statement that Mr. Harold Holt has released may be considered to be reasonably satisfactory in many respects. But I believe that the Government has to take the initiative in this matter. It has to be conscious of what this drought is doing. I question whether the people who are advising the Government at the present time really know what the drought position is. Those of us who have been connected with primary industry organisations realise how bad the position is. We have people telling us just how bad it is. I hope that the Government will take note of what has been said in this chamber about the drought position and about the necessity to take action now.
– I wish to refer to the appropriation for the expansion of agricultural advisory services. Before doing so, I express my support for the remarks made by Senator Bull and particularly for his comments on the need for long term repayments of loans made to the primary producers who are suffering from the effects of the present very severe drought. It is quite obvious that they will take many years to recover. Loans will have to be made on realistic terms. One of the problems in connection with the whole question of long term rural finance is that we have no people trained in this field. Many of our bankers and advisers have been trained in the more conservative trading bank policies of the past. A realistic view must be taken. The primary producers who are badly affected by the drought must be given terms of repayment that are adequate to meet the situation.
Having made those comments, 1 turn to the matter of agricultural advisory services. I understand that at the moment the Commonwealth Government is considering a new policy with regard to extension services. That policy probably will be announced in a few months’ time. I welcome and applaud that. For many years now the Commonwealth Government has been providing funds to the State Governments for wheat, sheep and dairy advisory services. These funds have amounted to some millions of pounds. But I regret to have to say that, despite the assistance from the Commonwealth Government, the State Governments have not accepted the challenge to improve extension services throughout Australia. This remains one of the great weaknesses in our agriculture. ! have always been astounded to think that a country that relies so heavily on its primary industries should have such poorly developed extension services.
My mind goes back to 1959, I think it was, when the Institute of Agricultural Science produced a document which warned the Governments of Australia of the very serious situation that was facing them with regard to the number of agricultural scientists required to meet the challenges of the future. I regret to have to say that, apparently the people responsible for these matters took little notice of the warning that was issued by that professional body. It pointed out that about 60 per cent, of agricultural scientists were employed by State Governments and that the terms and conditions of their employment and the status given to them would have a very large bearing on the future of their profession. It warned in very serious terms that, unless something was done to improve the status pf the profession and the terms and conditions of employment, we would face a very serious situation. I deplore the fact that many of us who tried to interest the State Governments in this matter and to warn them of the dangers were met with if not an obstructionist attitude then at least a negative ,one. The warnings have not been heeded.
In Australia today we have an increasingly grave situation with regard to agricultural scientists and particularly with regard to a realisation by private industry, banks, accountants and other people of the need to employ these highly trained people on their staffs. 1 believe that the Commonwealth Government has played its part in trying to impress upon the State Governments the need to improve one aspect of this matter, that is, the extension services. Over the years I have taken some interest in the results of the Commonwealth Government’s actions. I can say without fear of contradiction that in practically every State its actions have had very little result. In my own State, for many years the funds provided by the Commonwealth Government have not even been spent in full. Some of the items on which funds have been spent have been related only vaguely to extension services. In fact, their connection with extension services has been so vague as to be indistinguishable. For many years some thousands of pounds were unspent. That is proof indeed of the failure of the State Governments to provide adequate extension services. The demand for extension officers is rising. There has been a development in the farm management group to which I have referred before in the Senate but the great majority of those concerned have been imported, if I might use that word, from overseas. This is due not only to the lack of agricultural scientists in Australia but also to the lack of men properly trained in this field.
Reluctantly, I have to say that the State Governments must be condemned for their failure to realise the situation and to do something about it with the assistance of the Commonwealth Government. Quite frankly, the State Governments have failed to do anything about extension services and their development has lagged far behind the needs of all branches of primary industry. lt is fair to say that this has happened in every State. Despite the development of secondary industries, primary industry still provides some 80 per cent, of our export income and the importance of primary production is obvious. I look forward to an announcement by the Commonwealth Government in the near future of a policy designed to expand and improve extension services throughout Australia. I hope the Commonwealth Government will take a much tougher line than it has taken in the past and will set down definite conditions for expenditure by the States of funds provided for extension services by the Commonwealth. I hope it will permit those funds to be spent only on true extension services and not upon services which have only a vague connection, if any, with extension work. 1 come now to a point that I have mentioned before and I make no apology for reverting to it. I refer to the urgent need for proper training facilities for extension officers. It is amazing that in a country like Australia, although post-graduate courses are provided for most professions, there is not one course in the Commonwealth to provide post-graduate training for extension officers in agricultural science. My hopes were raised somewhat by the interest the Commonwealth Government is taking in the provision of funds for a postgraduate course within the University of Western Austraia to provide proper training for extension officers. This is in direct contrast to the attitude of the Western Australian Government. I hope these funds will be provided in the very near future. They amount to a mere £15,000 a year which is chicken feed in any language. I rose to make my position clear on these matters and I urge the Commonwealth Government to announce as soon as possible its policy to assist in the provision of adequate extension services for our primary industries.
Provision is made in the Estimates for various research projects. My comment on this appropriation will be brief as this matter might be considered more appropriately under the estimates for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Because of the great multiplicity of organisations in Australia interested in this subject there is a lack of coordination and a great deal of wasteful overlapping in research. I hope that in the near future the Commonwealth Government will be able to announce some plan involving the relevant organisations which will assist in coordinating research in Australia and overcoming some of this wasteful development I stress the word wasteful because the duplication of research is a good thing but when it is uncoordinated there is waste of both money and manpower which we can ill afford. I hope this factor will be given urgent consideration by the Government.
Finally I want to mention the Wool Research Trust Fund. Several years ago I took the opportunity to visit the wool research textile laboratory at Geelong in Victoria. I can recommend a visit to this laboratory which is doing valuable research to assist the wool industry. This is important as wool production is our greatest single industry. The laboratory has very few scientists compared with the staffs employed by the synthetics industry but it is doing tremendous work to keep wool ahead of synthetics. This laboratory has produced many of the new treatments which have been of great benefit to the wool industry. We cannot pay too great a tribute to Dr. M. Lipson, the officer in charge, and his scientists for the magnificent work they have done and their dedication to it. One has only to speak to these men to realise their great belief in wool and thengreat desire to keep ahead of synthetics in scientific developments. When one compares the relatively small amount of money we spent in Australia on wool research with the vast amount that is spent by our competitors in the synthetic textile industry, the work done by our Australian scientists is seen to be truly magnificent. I place on record my appreciation of the work they have done.
.- First I want to refer to the proposed vote for the expansion of Agricultural Advisory Services. The proposed vote is £36,000 compared with the appropriation last year of £32,000 and actual expenditure of £27,262. In this connection I want to refer to a matter that is of particular interest to Tasmania and to the area where Senator Lillico lives. I refer to the potato industry. This industry, which at one time was more or less the lifeblood of the north west coast, has gradually declined year by year. The area involved in potato production in Tasmania declined from 20,800 acres in 1955-56 to 10,800 acres in 1963-64. The same trend has been observed in the yield. In 1957-58, 101,000 tons of potatoes were produced, but last year only 66,000 tons were produced. The same trend has been evident in Victoria. It would seem that the main reason for this violent change in production has been the fluctuation of prices. Over a period of two years the price obtained by the grower has varied from £10 to £100 a ton. Growers who have had to buy expensive seed when prices have been high have planted in expectation of similar prices obtaining when the crop matured but they have found, as regularly as the pendulum swings, that prices have slumped. The result is that the potato farmer has become heartbroken and is continually looking for an alternative crop.
It seems that there is only one possible solution to the problem - that is, planning. Over the years even the more conservative members of the Senate and conservative people throughout Australia have come to realise that in this day and age planning is absolutely essential for survival. A producer cannot live from hand to mouth; he cannot live in a laissez faire manner. The figures. I have quoted! show that producers are at a tremendous disadvantage if there is not some, planning within their industry. I developed this theme on another occasion in relation to the wool industry, but the disadvantage suffered by the wool industry through lack of planning is not as great as that suffered by the potato industry. I should say that there is a greater need in the potato industry for some form of stabilisation. There is no doubt that people will always desire to have the humble murphy or spud - or whatever other nickname is applied to the potato - on their plates.
– It is not so humble nowadays.
– That is so. Since the price has become sophisticated, the potato is no longer humble and the housewife looks for some alternative. I have been to quite respectable restaurants that have not provided potatoes but have served a sort of ice cream scoop of rice instead. This shows that a resistance is being built up against the very high and fluctuating price of potatoes.
Considerable attention should be given by the advisory services of the Department of Primary Industry to the need for getting producer organisations such as the farmers federations or the Australian Primary Producers Union, or any other people who are associated with primary production, to have a good look at the potato industry. It is a great pity that it should have declined as it has. This has happened through no fault of the grower except, perhaps, that marketing of the product seems to have been haphazard and production seems to have fluctuated. The result is that farmers who have been traditional growers of first class potatoes over the years are turning to alternative crops.
– Irregular and inefficient shipping services are another factor that has affected the industry.
– That is one of the hazards that is experienced by Tasmania. The Victorian potato grower has the advantage of rail, sea and road transport, but the Tasmanian farmer has only one means of transporting his produce to the mainland. Tasmanian growers have a potential market of only 350,000 persons on the whole island, which is equal to the population of a big surburb in Sydney or Melbourne. So the Tasmanian growers cannot expect to dispose of all their production in Tasmania. Consequently they must ship it to the bigger centres of population. Perhaps the higher quality of the beautiful Tasmanian Brownell potato makes up for the distance it has to be transported to the mainland and the premium price that is paid.
I am quite alarmed at the increase in the importation of potatoes to Australia. On one occasion last year a permit was issued for the importation of 11,000 tons of potatoes from New Zealand for processing purposes, and I understand that arrangements are now being made to supplement Australian production with imported potatoes. That seems to me to be quite haywire, particularly when we have the capacity in Victoria and Tasmania to grow a product of good quality and, if necessary, in quantity. As with all other products, the producers must have an incentive. They must obtain a price that will repay them for their investment and their labour. We cannot expect men to buy seed potatoes at a price of £100 a ton and then get only £10 a ton for their product. This industry is very sick. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell honorable senators of some plans that are afoot, with the full cooperation of the Department of Primary Industry, to employ the most efficient men and the best techniques in formulating a stabilisation plan to put the industry back on its feet.
The other matter that I mention I shall touch upon only lightly, because it has already been canvassed. I want to support what has been said about the importance of preserving the pea and bean growing industries of Tasmania, which are alternatives to the potato industry. The production of peas and beans has saved the economic life of many farmers on the north-west coast of Tasmania. A processing industry has been built up in this area. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has developed the amazing high peak technique of harvesting. A small instrument has been developed to indicate when the nutritive value of the pea has reached its zenith. When the value reaches its high peak, as it is called, the crop is harvested rapidly and the peas are put through vining machines and snap frozen. In this way a new, attractive commodity has been made available to the housewife. In my view, frozen peas have a lot more flavour than do peas that are bought in the pod. I can recall that when I was a young fellow helping in the house I shelled peas and ate the odd one. Compared to the frozen product that one can now buy in a pack, the peas I ate in those days were tasteless.
– The frozen pea comes out of a pod, too.
– Yes, but at a different stage. The pod pea remained on the vine until it was ripe. Most of the sugar content had gone into starch by the time it was sold over the greengrocer’s counter, whereas the snap freezing captures the great flavour and the sugar content of the pea. However, this is only a side issue. The importance of this industry can be shown by contrasting it with the potato industry. As honorable senators know, the potato industry is being threatened because of the implications of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. While I realise the great importance and the advantages of international trade arrangements in helping to break down hostilities between countries, and while I appreciate the benefit of exports to our economy, nevertheless we must always keep an eye on the implications of such agreements and consider how they affect individual areas within Australia.
I believe that the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) in his negotiations with the New Zealand authorities either has not been properly briefed or has not been fully aware of the circumstances of the pea growing and processing industry in Tasmania. Although there is to be a gradual diminution over a period of nine years of the protection afforded the industry that will not provide all the protection that is needed. The firm of Unilever has had the good fortune to discover, to evolve or to purchase this process which, according to many advisers, has proved to be an improvement on the older technique. As this is not likely to be available to the Tasmanian producers, particularly in view of the fact that the freight factor is involved, it means that if the Unilever company comes to Australia it will choose some other suitable part of the continent in which to grow peas for processing. I do not know whether the Department of Primary Industry would be able to have any influence with the Unilever company.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I should like to make some comment on points that have been raised so far. Senator O’Byrne, who commenced the debate, referred to the drought. That is something of which all of us in this place are very much aware. As an individual, I am particularly concerned because I have three sons on the land in drought areas. One of them may get seed wheat but the other two will get no wheat at all. The experience that they are having is similar to the experiences that I went through over the years, so I speak with some knowledge of this problem. Senator O’Byrne said that he thought there was a reluctance on the part of the Government to grapple with the problem, and I think that Senator Cant made a comment to the same effect. I point out to both honorable senators that the problem of the drought has been the subject of quite a number of Cabinet discussions. At a later stage I propose to read to the Senate extracts from statements that have been made by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) concerning the drought as it affects the States of the Commonwealth and also the question of financial assistance for people who are in need of it because of the ravages of the drought.
Senator O’Byrne commented, quite properly, on the big loss to the Commonwealth by reason of the fact that many young breeding stock will be slaughtered and that therefore we shall feel the effects of this loss for a considerable time. He also said that we should try to prevent the killing of young female stock. That is desirable, no doubt, in the interests of the cattle industry and in order to build up our stock numbers once again, but we have to remember that if an owner has stock which are fat enough to sell, particularly lambs, generally speaking he is not in a position to hold them, whether they are male or female. They have to go because he has to reduce his stock numbers and he must get in money by this means if he can.
– Did the Minister appreciate the point I was making, that there should be a national plan for the purchase of female stock?
– I understand what the honorable senator means, but in the present circumstances it is rather difficult to do that. I agree .that it is desirable and I think that this is a matter which will be looked at in the very near future. As I see it, the drought presents two problems. The first is the short term problem of providing assistance to people who have suffered stock losses, some very heavily. Having settled that problem, or perhaps even before it is settled, it is necessary to sit down and consider the problem of providing at long last a drought prevention scheme. This is necessary because the whole history of Australia is one of recurring droughts. Despite what we may do, I am afraid that droughts and their effects will be with us from time to time. We old ones, of course, had been thinking for some time that a period of dry years must be upon us very soon. Unhappily, I feel that this is the beginning of a series of dry years.
Senator Cant referred to the big increase in the cost of meat. It is obvious to all of us, I think, that there has been an increase in the price of meat, particularly in drought affected areas. I am afraid that the price of meat may go even higher. He mentioned the effect that that has on the price index. We have to realise that it does not matter what the product is; if the price continues to increase, sooner or later there will be buyer resistance and people simply will not purchase it.
– People must eat.
– That is true. But I think I have lived a little longer than Senator Cant and my experience has been that if the price of a commodity increases too greatly people will not buy it. They buy substitutes, and that is what they are doing today. They are buying substitutes for meat, not only in the capital cities but also in country areas.
– They are breeding fowls.
– Yes. They simply do without meat. Australia is a meat eating country, but there are plenty of other countries where the people get along with far less meat than we have. This is a factor that we have to consider. 1 mentioned this morning that I thought that the forecast of a harvest of 40 million bushels of wheat for New South Wales this year was a very optimistic one. I repeat that statement. I shall be very happy if the harvest is as much as that. I say again that the Commonwealth Government is very interested in the drought and its effects. The Government realises, as most people do. that the effects of the drought are going to be felt not only this year but also next year and the year after that. I shall be very surprised indeed if a period of 12, 9 or even 6 months goes by before we feel the full effects of the drought. It is still with us. lt has by no means ended.
One of the things that we have to remember in connection with this drought problem is that the second wheat payment which was made available only recently on the huge crop of wheat we had last year has been a very big factor and a very big help in alleviating the position of farmers. We, are certainly going to be paid for a very small crop. Not only will we receive a small initial payment, but in the follow-up year, we will again receive only a small amount. This will have its effect on the whole economy. Senator Cant said that the breeding of stud sheep was a very lucrative proposition. As one who has never bred stud sheep but who was a member of the Sheep Breeders Council of New South Wales for some time, I can assure him that that is not so. He also asked why men are buying wheat to feed their sheep and said that they should buy other fodder. No one in his right senses would pay £40 or £50 a ton for lucerne or hay when he could get wheat at its present price. At the price that has to be paid for it, hay does not compare in value with wheat at the price for which it can now be purchased.
Senator Bull mentioned the need for long term credit, and I think he is quite right in this. It is a matter that we must have a hard look at in the next few months. While considering finance, I think we should look at the statement which the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) made, reporting the results of a meeting this week between the Governor of the Reserve Bank and the general managers of the major trading banks. Senator Bull mentioned this statement, in which the Treasurer said -
The discussion has also confirmed that the banks believe that their generally sympathetic treatment of drought affected farmers with commercially acceptable propositions cannot reasonably be called into question.
From time to time we hear complaints that people in various areas are having difficulty in getting finance to help them overcome the drought problem. In regard to this, the Treasurer said -
Additional demands were being reflected both in an increased rate of approvals of new limits and a waiving of repayment arrangements.
I know that a lot of people say that although money can be made available to them, the repayment conditions attached to the loans give them a lot of worry. I do not think these people have a great deal to worry about in the circumstances, because although the conditions of repayment may be laid down, provided these people are credit worthy - as most of them are - and are endeavouring to do the right thing with the banks, repayment arrangements could be waived, temporarily, at any rate. The Treasurer’s statement continued -
As to the interest rates being charged, the banks assured the Governor that the favourable preferential rate was the general experience. They were asked whether there were any cases in which the maximum overdraft rate was being charged. They said that this would be in very few instances and where the banks, from their own knowledge of the clients’ affairs, had come to the conclusion that the client had been using his own resources for investment purposes or, say, for the purchase of a motor car. But, generally speaking, the favourable rate for the primary producer, particularly the drought affected producer, was being maintained.
I think we all agree that this is as it should be. The Prime Minister has also made a couple of statements on the drought position. We all know that there has been a lot of criticism of those statements, mainly, I think, because in many cases the people responsible for the criticism have not taken the time to have a good look at what he said. On 12th October the Prime Minister said -
In the course of my statement on 26th August, I indicated that the provision of assistance to drought affected primary producers in New South Wales and Queensland was properly the responsibility of the two State Governments and that we had decided after careful consideration that it would not be appropriate for the Commonwealth to participate directly in the financing of measures for the provision of such assistance. I emphasise the word “ directly “. I went on to say, however, that we were very conscious of the strains that special drought measures might put on the finances of the two States and that, if as a result of the drought the States of New South Wales and Queensland found it necessary to meet abnormally large calls on their budgets that were established to be beyond their financial capacities, we would be prepared to consider assisting them by means of general purpose grants.
Later on he said -
The Premier of Queensland outlined the possible consequences of the drought on his State’s finances and went on to suggest that the whole position be reviewed towards the end of the financial year when the actual effects of the drought would be more precisely known.
That was the feeling of the Premier of Queensland. A little further on the Prime Minister said -
AH the present indications point to the likelihood that we will find it appropriate to provide some measure of assistance to the two States in conformity with the principles enunciated in my statement of 26th August.
There we have an assurance - if we did not have it before - that the Commonwealth Government will be prepared to come to the assistance of the States in the measures they adopt to alleviate the drought position.
– All that talk will not keep one sheep alive.
– A bit of talk is generally indulged in before any action is taken. I think the record of the present Government shows that it will do anything it says it will do. Mention was made of the expected small wheat crop in New South Wales. I have vivid recollections of previous low yield crops. In 1951-52 the harvest in New South Wales was only 39 million bushels, in 1954-55 it was 37 million bushels and in 1956-57 it was 28 million bushels. It does not mean that because we have had low yields before we can just sit down and say this crop could have been worse. It could have been, but the point is that we will have a small crop and low incomes for many people. We must all see what we can do to help those who will be faced with considerable financial stringency over the next 18 months, two years or perhaps longer.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I desire to refer to the activities of the Inspection Branch of the Department of Primary Industry. Some time ago I was in one of the Pacific territories, the islands of the New Hebrides, which, as honorable senators may know, is a condominium of British and French rule. At a ceremony I attended my attention was drawn to the marketing of Australian primary products in those areas and, in particular, to the marketing of our wine. As will be appreciated, in the condominium of the New Hebrides there is a large percentage of French people - either metropolitan French or natives who speak French and come under the influence of the French way of life. Of course, the drinking of wine is a predominant way of life of the French people and consequently a large amount of wine is imported into the New Hebrides.
The Australian Government, through its sponsorship of a recent trade mission and also through the activities of the Department of Trade and Industry officer charged with responsibility for the Pacific islands area, has been able to bring to the notice of the importing companies there the excellence of Australian wine. The metropolitan French people have also pushed the wares of France and, in particular, the many famous French wines. The Australian wine trade in that area has received a grave setback through faulty packaging. It is on this question that I desire to address the Committee.
I have investigated the matter and have obtained from the Department a booklet entitled “ Marketing of Australian Primary Products “. I regard wine as a primary product. On page 5 of the booklet is a section relating to the activities of the Inspection Branch of the Department. It appears that the Inspection Branch has an almost foolproof system to prevent any Australian primary product from being in a faulty state when it leaves Australia. Portion of the section is in these terms -
The Branch is responsible for this and for the continuous inspection of export products to ensure that the provisions of the Export Regulations governing compulsory trade descriptions are observed . . . The staff of the Division includes over 800 officers engaged in the physical inspection of primary products intended for export. Professional officers and trained lay inspectors supervise the processing of meat, dairy produce, fruit, etc. at registered establishments whenever necessary.
The nature of official supervision over the preparation and packaging of goods intended for export varies from complete supervision of all processes in the case of meat and a few other products, to an inspection by random sampling on wharves prior to the loading of the goods.
In the New Hebrides the purchase of Australian wine has been seriously curtailed because of the unpopularity of the packaging. One dozen bottles are packed in cardboard containers which are bound up with wire. It appears that many breakages occur. In one large wharf shed I was shown some cartons which had just arrived. There were two or three broken bottles in each carton of one dozen bottles. I asked to be shown the wine which was imported from France. The bottles were in cartons but the cartons were made of much stiffer material than ours and there was an additional thickness spread over the tops of the bottles in the carton. This apparently worked the oracle. The French wine was not damaged on the trip from Marseilles, which is five or six times longer than the trip from Australia.
Even though the booklet relating to the marketing of Australian primary products states with great care what the Inspection Branch does, the system of inspection by random sampling on the wharves prior to the loading of the goods just does not work. 1 was rather disappointed to be shown the cartons from Australia containing the broken bottles. When I asked the effect of this I was told that the Frenchman in charge of the store of this particular company was so upset at having to handle this partly broken cargo that he was biased against the future importation of Australian wine. When one remembers that an Australian trade ship recently visited this port and that the general impression of the people there was very favourable to the Australian goods, it seems a great pity that our standard of packaging is so poor that it has the effect of curtailing what could be a very useful export trade.
– Were these goods packaged in Australia or in England?
– They were packaged in Australia. I could also mention the packaging of other goods but they do not come within the ambit of the Depart ment of Primary Industry. Freight to the New Hebrides is very high. I understand that the freight from Sydney is in the region of £15 a ton whereas the freight from Marseilles is a little less than that. Therefore, the Australian product has to contend with this higher freight content. Because of faulty packaging, considerable damage is being done to the Australian image in those islands. 1 direct the Minister’s attention to this fact in the hope that he will ensure that the Department will do something about checking the packaging of our primary products, because faulty packaging gives our products a bad name in foreign markets.
The other matter to which I wish to invite the Minister’s attention relates to the export of milk products. When I was in Manila with a parliamentary party just over two years ago I was very interested to see near Manila a factory - a joint holding of the Australian Dairy Produce Board and a corporation set up by the Philippines Government - which reconstituted Australian milk products. It appeared to me and to my parliamentary colleagues that the system of exporting powdered milk and certain oils which were reconstituted in Manila into fluid milk and sold to the population through a co-operative organisation was a very satisfactory way of handling these products. I was rather distressed to read a few months ago that the organisation was not operating profitably and that the whole system had received a serious check.
Can the Minister tell me the extent of the down-turn in the income of this company and whether this is having any effect on the export of these Australian raw materials? I am interested in this matter because we were told at the time that similar factories were being established in Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Obviously, if something has gone wrong with this process it will be a serious thing for the export of these primary products.
– Condensed milk is going ahead in Bangkok.
– I hope, it is. I should be grateful if the Minister would inform me of the productivity in Manila, Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, because when I saw the process it had all the makings of a very valuable adjunct to the export of Australian dairy products.
I offer my sympathy to the primary producers in the drought stricken areas of Australia, especially in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland. Apart from the far north of South Australia, the rest of the State is in little below average condition. It appears that South Australia will get through this year without the farmers being financially embarrassed to any great degree. We must realise that there has been a series of quite good years and that South Australia is accustomed to a fairly dry period every year. Consequently, a good deal of fodder conservation is the rule of the day. From my observation, the situation in South Australia is nowhere near as serious as it is in New South Wales and Queensland. I commend the Government for the statement it has made on the action it will take in connection with finance for drought stricken primary producers in New South Wales and Queensland.
.- In speaking to the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry, I wish to congratulate the Minister and officers of the Department on the excellent job that they have done. It is a large and important department which acts as an overseeing and advisory body for the industries which produce the greater part of our export income. For that reason, it is a very important department. I wish to refer to the drought, although I am aware that the Minister already has answered questions relating to it. Perhaps I can introduce a few new points. I am concerned that in our country towns in drought areas a very dampening effect has been felt. Development and expansion work on farms and station properties in drought areas has ceased for the time being. Honorable senators will appreciate the effect that has had on business in the local country towns. In some parts of western New South Wales the drought has continued for six or seven years. As has already been pointed out, mulga, the great natural fodder, is dying. In some areas where usually the mulga is pushed over, chain saws are being used.
In considering drought effects, regard should be had to the long term and short term policies. With respect to the short term policy, the first requirement is to see that stock owners are able to keep alive a substantial part of their stock. As has been said, it will be essential to rebuild stock numbers. This is important to the nation’s economy. It is also necessary that primary producers should have carry-on finance. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said today that the banking system is incurring commitments of between £1 million and £H million a month, directly attributable to the drought. It is to be hoped that sufficient carry-on finance will be made available to the people who need it. State Governments have made freight concessions available to assist the carriage of fodder to drought areas. Consideration should be given to taxation concessions, or the suspension of payment of tax in some cases, without the imposition of penalties. Such concessions should be granted to those people who are unable for the time being to earn any income.
I consider that another very important point is that many people are now deeply in debt because of attempts to keep their stock alive. As a result, they are no longer normal banking risks. In his statement issued today, the Treasurer referred to reasonable risks. The Federal Government should study this aspect. In the early 1930’s, action was taken to help people in similar circumstances. I think assistance of that nature should be considered now so that, when the drought breaks, stock owners who are experienced in animal husbandry should not be put out of business through no fault of their own. Some concessions should be granted to help those people out of a bad position.
As to long term policy, we must assume that droughts will always be with us. The intervals between droughts may vary, as does the degree of their severity. But they will always be with us and therefore every encouragement must be given to long term drought mitigation action. Already the drought has shown that many people have learned over the years that it is wise to store fodder and to provide for drought mitigation. It has become evident in many places that a number of people have taken this action. They are now a little better off than those who have not stored fodder. I believe that on-farm storage is the only form of storage that will work in a long term drought mitigation scheme. I do not think that any form of centralised storage of fodder would ever be satisfactory. For that reason, a different system of loans to primary producers is required. Long term loans are necessary for the specific purpose of buying, storing or growing fodder, or erecting sheds to store it. Loans are also required to effect improvement to water supplies, for sub-division and pasture improvement. They are necessities and can be. done only through long term loans for those specific purposes.
Permanent freight concessions for the transport of fodder would contribute greatly to drought mitigation. Such concessions should be allowed at all times in respect of all areas, and not just for declared drought areas in times of drought. If such a scheme could be worked out, primary producers could buy and store fodder when it was cheaper. It might be necessary to pay a subsidy to the States to assist, because transport is a State matter. Recognised fodder growing areas in all parts of the Commonwealth would be stabilised and improved.
Lucerne growers can sell lucerne at present at very high prices because of the drought. In good times, they cannot sell the lucerne at all. If they could obtain a stable market at a reasonable price, they would have an incentive greatly to increase their production. A great deal of development is required in Australia. Ordinary short term bank loans in the form of overdrafts are totally inadequate for development. If we are to continue to develop this country, it is vital that long term loans should be made available. A precedent has been established by the brigalow scheme in Queensland, which is a Commonwealth and State partnership. Periods of up to 25 years have been allowed for repayment of loans used to develop brigalow areas. I believe that principle should be applied to all forms of development. Similar schemes have been applied to war service land settlement. Development and schemes to improve primary production by overcoming the effects of recurring droughts can best be achieved through long term loans. I again commend the work of the Department of Primary Industry.
– I do not intend to delay the Committee for very long at this stage. Because of the remarks in relation to drought conditions passed by the two previous speakers in this debate, I believe I must once again put forward the views I hold on this matter while we are discussing the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry. For the last 15 years, at least, I have been advocating in this chamber the setting up by the Commonwealth Government of a fund to meet contingencies such as have now arisen. Throughout these years we have seen in every State ot the Commonwealth except - I think - Tasmania, a disaster in some form or another which has led to hardship for primary industry and primary producers. Whether these disasters have come through flood, fire or drought, the results have been the same to primary producers. I can remember that on one occasion when I raised the matter in the Senate a Minister of the Crown said that when people went to live in areas that were prone to such disasters they knew the risks that they were undertaking. If everybody took that attitude, there would be no development of the great outback regions of this country. Whilst I have been preaching this gospel over many years, it is only the last few months that I have found support amongst some of the more powerful of the associations of primary producers, which have now come to realise that this matter must be the subject of a long term plan which can be financed only through the Commonwealth Government.
The cities of the Commonwealth and the development of the Commonwealth depend to a very great extent upon the primary producer. We in the cities have not experienced the hardships which many people have had to undergo in order to bring primary production to such a high standard. Therefore, when disaster touches any primary industry, it is the duty of every citizen of the Commonwealth to help to bear that disaster by making some small contribution through a community fund to be administered by the Commonwealth. Such funds have already been in existence in the United States of America and, to a lesser degree, in New Zealand. As a result of the earthquake disasters in New Zealand, taxation has been levied on all members of the community as a form of insurance for people who reside in earthquake prone areas. This helps to relieve the burden which such disasters impose and to spread it over all members of the community.
Once again I ask the Minister to put before the appropriate Ministers my plea to study the reports which have come to this country from overseas and which were discussed at a meeting in New South Wales, I think on 1 1th October, with regard to this very matter. Everybody in Australia must feel concerned at the disasters that have been caused by drought and must commiserate with those who not merely are inconvenienced but have suffered grave losses. This does not apply only to primary producers. We know that the full ramifications of the drought are being felt in many other branches of industry. We know that hundreds of workers were put off by one of the big agricultural machinery firms in Melbourne only a couple of days ago. Butchers have been put out of work because no meat is coming forward. We know of the high prices that housewives are forced to pay for meat because of scarcity. In addition, there is a serious detrimental effect on the whole of the Australian economy because of the drought in two of the largest States. I ask the Minister again, in the light of the knowledge that we have of what this terrible drought can do to this country, to bring before the appropriate authorities the question of a national disaster fund, with a view to doing something to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated and also that the people who are forced to bear the losses consequent upon such disasters are not left to bear the burden alone.
– I join with those who have congratulated the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) on the way in which his Department has dealt with the tremendous range of administrative tasks that we have imposed upon it. It administers legislation concerning the dairying, wool, tobacco, wheat, poultry, fisheries, fruit and wine industries. The Minister himself shows a very intimate knowledge of all the subjects with which his Department has to deal. The importance of primary industry is, of course, well known to all of us, but it may be as well just to have a look at the relevant figures showing the growth in value of production from 1959-60 to 1963- 64. According to the Bureau of Census and Statistics the value of production of primary industries in 1959-60 was £1,214 million and the value of factory production was £2,080 million. I shall not bore the Committee with the intermediate increases, but by 1963-64 the value of primary industry production had risen to £1,565 million and the value of factory production had risen to £2,634 million. The value of primary production had increased by 30 per cent, and the value of factory production had increased by 27 per cent. So it is to be seen from these figures that percentagewise primary industries have more than kept pace with secondary industries in their contribution by increased output to the wealth, of this country.
– Over what period?
– From 1959-60 to 1963-64. That increase has been achieved with relatively fewer people engaged in primary industry, while the number of people engaged in factories has substantially increased. I have not those figures available, but it has been established that the efficiency of the people engaged in primary industry is such that we have more than kept up with the increased production from factories, with fewer people involved. The efficiency that the primary industries have shown has been contributed to largely by various pieces of legislation and various research and extension projects, for all of which this Government is largely responsible. The industries themselves have been spending heavily from various funds and the Commonwealth has matched those funds so that we have been able, exporting very largely in competition with the rest of the world, to maintain our industries and maintain our production. One of the industries that has been notable for the way in which it has improved its production and increased its efficiency is the wheat industry. I only hope that the measures that have been instituted for the protection of the wheat industry will be followed by the wool industry, our other great exporting industry.
The income of the Commonwealth and the revenues upon which we depend have been subjected to intolerable fluctuations because of the absence, in relation to the wool industry, of the sort of legislation that we have been able to bring into being for the wheat industry. I only hope that the opportunity which is now before the wool industry to start out on the road of stabilisation will be taken readily. It is interesting to look at the way in which the wheat industry has contributed to the income of the people of Australia. In 1955-56 the gross value of wheat production was £126 million. Then it declined to £92 million and declined again to £66 million. Then it rose to £144 million. In 1959-60 it was £137 million. In 1960-61 it rose to £196 million. In the following years it rose to £186 million, then to £224 million, then to £233 million and then to £257 million in 1964-65.
Australia is now faced with an unfavourable balance of trade. We would have been in a sad plight today had we listened to the Jeremiahs who, because they have some axe to grind or because they do not like stabilisation schemes, have attacked the basis on which the wheat industry has been stabilised. I refer to an article that was printed in the “ Bank of New South Wales Review” of June 1965. This article is not alone in the attitude that it presents. That attitude is supported by a Mr. E. J. Donath, a lecturer in economic geography at the University of Melbourne. Sometimes I despair of what must be taught if what hie said recently in an address on the wheat industry, which was reported in the “ Daily Telegraph “, is the sort of thing that is being taught to students at the University of Melbourne. Nobody has ever made predictions which were further from the mark or more ridiculous than Mr. Donath’s.
However, it is surprising to see a responsible organisation such as the Bank of New South Wales publishing an article of the sort that was published in the “Bank of New South Wales Review “ of June of this year. Some of the statements made in that’ article are fantastic. In the light of the present position in the wheat industry, the conclusions are completely laughable. The general tenor of the article is a criticism of the wisdom of encouraging large scale extension of wheat growing through a liberal guaranteed price and at a substantial cost to the taxpayers. The burden of the story is the cost to the taxpayers. I have given the Committee the figures showing the increase in the value of the contribution of the wheat industry to the Australian economy.
Let me turn now to the cost to the taxpayers - the so-called subsidy on wheat production. Of course, this cost is shared by the great wheat growers, who themselves are taxpayers. I shall digress a little in order to refer to the origins of this socalled subsidy, lt is part of a stabilisation plan under which the Australian wheat growers entered into a contract or an understanding with the Government that a cost of production and a home consumption price would be established. That has operated over a period of years. Over the greater part of that period, the price of wheat sold in Australia was below the world consumption price. Today that is forgotten. It is forgotten because there has been a swing in the relationship between the export price and the guaranteed price. The relationship varies from year to year. This is part of an arrangement under which the wheat growers of Australia contribute close to £200 million to the Australian economy by selling wheat within this country at prices below world prices.
The cost of this so-called subsidy has varied from £3 million in 1959-60 to £8.9 million in 1960-61, to £7.3 million in 1961-62, to £11.3 million in 1962-63, to £900,000 in 1963-64. The total cost over those five years was £31 million. So the community is greatly in the debt of the wheat industry at the present time. In fact, the total contribution by the taxpayers would not even cover the interest on the amount for which the community is indebted to the wheat growers. Accompanying this so-called subsidy has been a very valuable contribution to the economy.
The article in the “ Bank of New South Wales Review “ implies that the increase in acreages is due to the stabilisation price being too high. I ask honorable senators whether they know of any industry which is working under a formula by which increased production means lower returns. That happened in 1962, when the guaranteed price fell by ls. 7d. a bushel. There has been increased efficiency, but the growers are deprived of the benefits of their increased efficiency because they are working under a formula under which the return varies with the average yield. The article in the “ Bank of New South Wales Review “ states -
Consideration might also be given to a more realistic determination of the price guarantee by using the actual average yield each year to divide costs per acre into costs per bushel, instead of an arbitrarily determined figure which in the past has been consistently lower than that actually achieved.
Let us see what would have happened if the financial wizards of the Bank of New South Wales had been operating the scheme this year. What would be the price this year if the yield diviser governed the price? We would be paying a price of about 25s. a bushel for wheat in Australia if the recommendation of the Bank of New South Wales had been adopted.
Let us look at the argument that wheat production in Australia has been increased or expanded unduly because the price is too high. The prices in the years since 1949 have been: lis. 3d., 13s., 12s. 7d., 14s. 3d., 14s. l.ld., 12s., Ils. lid., 12s., 12s. 6d., 13s., 13s. 2d., 13s. 5d.-
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– The Department of Primary Industry is a very important one. The total proposed expenditure for this Department for this year is £17,318,000. Before raising a couple of points which I believe are important, I wish to refer, as other honorable senators have, to the drought position and how it is affecting Australia. This week the Parliament was visited by a delegation of six members of the United Kingdom Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. They visited the Northern Territory and travelled from Darwin to Alice Springs before coming to Canberra. They were taken to a station near Alice Springs which prior to the drought carried 7,000 head of cattle. After three or four years of drought the station has only 400 head of cattle and they are dying. Apart from the relief for sufferers from the drought that the governments of Queensland and New South Wales are anxious to provide, some help must be given to certain areas of the Northern Territory which is under the administration of the Commonwealth.
Senator Lawrie said that the banking structure in Australia would be urged to provide finance to people affected by the drought to enable them to carry on and restock their properties, provided they had the security. Some properties have no se curity left except 300 or 400 head of starving cattle. If the owners were to sell them, the cattle would be worth only a few pounds a head, that is, if they could get buyers for them. In some parts of Australia the whole lifetime of generations has been devoted to the development of properties to make them capable of carrying 7,000 or 8,000 head of cattle. The cost could easily be in the vicinity of £100,000. Unless something is done, some of these people will have nothing. No financial institution could really be expected to provide them with the capital necessary to restock their properties after the drought has broken. No person is more worthy of maintaining a property of this kind than the present holder whose family might have occupied it for three or four generations. There is only one solution. In these particular circumstances the Commonwealth Government may have to provide the additional finance necessary to enable these people to restock.
Certain statements have been made on behalf of the Commonwealth Government about the drought. These have applied particularly to Queensland and New South Wales. I think that some of the statements that have been made by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) have been misconstrued. It is quite plain that primarily drought relief is a responsibility of the States and the Prime Minister has said so. But the right honorable gentleman said that adequate finance would be available to the States for these people and at the end of this financial year the States could approach the Commonwealth and the Government would give sympathetic consideration to their case.
– “ Adequate “ and “ sympathetic “ are abstract words. They do not mean anything.
– The honorable senator might think that as a member of the Opposition.
– The Prime Minister did not use the words Senator Scott attributed to him.
– In my language that is what the right honorable gentleman said. Senator Cant can study the actual words if he likes. But my belief is that the Com- monwealth Government will come to the assistance of the States which are suffering because of the drought.
– At the end of this financial year. That is next year.
– The honorable senator is being silly. A government cannot act in a case like this a couple of months from the beginning of a financial year and state what finance is necessary to recoup the States for what they do to help the people in this predicament.
– Why do we not say that we will recoup them?
– That has been stated clearly as is known by those who understand the statements that have been made. 1 have not a copy of the statement that was made by the Prime Minister before me now. 1 leave it to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar), who represents the Minister for Primary Industry to reply to Senator Cant. It is quite clear to me what the Commonwealth will do. It is not clear to Opposition senators who, despite the effects of the drought on the primary producers, still want to play politics. I do not want to be in that. 1 shall now refer briefly to the problems associated with the drought. Over the years, this Government has considered the needs of those who have to sell stock because of drought. Amendments to the taxation legislation have been introduced to provide for such contingencies. Under section 36 of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act a taxpayer who has to dispose of his livestock because of fire, drought or flood may elect that his income from that source be reduced by onefifth a year over a period of five years. Section 36 (3) provides -
in consequence of -
the loss or destruction of pastures or fodder by reason of fire, drought or flood: a taxpayer, in a year of income, disposes, by sale or otherwise, of livestock . . . the taxpayer may elect that the assessable income shall be reduced by an amount equal to four-fifths of the profit on the disposal of that live stock.
This applies to a person who, because of drought, has to sell all his livestock - perhaps 5,000 or 10,000 head of sheep - in a particular financial year.
– At ?1 a pop.
– I am not interested in interjections. This matter is important. Those sheep may be shown on his books at 10s. a head. If, because of drought he sells, say, 10,000 at ?3 a head, in the view of the Taxation Branch he would make a profit of ?30,000, less 10s. a head. That would mean that he would make a net profit of ?25,000.
– Will the honorable senator show me where he could get ?3 a head for drought stricken stock? I would like to find the place.
– Senator O’Byrne does not know much about the livestock industry. He would not be expected to know much.
– By the sound of things, even though I know little I know a lot more than Senator Scott.
– I want to proceed with my argument. I do not want any interjections from the honorable senator or anybody else. As I said, this person would make a net profit of ?25,000. This would be an abnormal profit for him to make. He would have to pay not only income tax on ?25,000 but also, assuming he normally made ?4,000 or ?5,000 a year, provisional tax on the amount. That is why this Government introduced this legislation.
– It is very humane legislation.
– It is very humane legislation, but I say that it does not go far enough. This legislation, as I said, was introduced by this Government, not by the Australian Labour Party. Some people in Western Australia have had to sell stock because of drought or because of insufficient rain to fill the dams. Senator Cant, who comes from Western Australia, knows very well the area that I am talking about. It is east of Kalgoorlie.
-(Senator DrakeBrockman). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Reports on Items.
– I present reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects -
Woven man-made fibre fabrics and interim report under the general textile reference on woven fabrics wholly of or containing not less than 20 per cent, by weight of man-made fibres.
Woven cotton fabrics, bed linen, etc., and interim report under the general textile reference on woven cotton fabrics, etc.
– I present the Tenth Report of the Printing Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Senate adjourned at 10.27 p.m. until Tuesday, 9th November.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 October 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1965/19651028_senate_25_s30/>.