25th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave- It is with regret that I record in the Senate the death of the Right Honorable Dr. Herbert Vere Evatt. Later, I shall propose that the sitting be suspended as a mark of respect to the late Dr. Evatt, but before doing so, I would like to pay tribute to a man who served his country and this Parliament with a devotion which was both honest and sincere. His death ended the distinguished career of a great Labour leader. For more than 30 years Dr. Evatt, scholar, jurist, author and parliamentarian, was a dominating, complex and controversial figure in the Australian scene. As we all know, he had a remarkable singleness of purpose, a driving, relentless energy, and a tremendous belief in himself. A combination of intellectual brilliance, energy and ambition made his early years spectacular.’ Of his intellectual gifts there is no doubt. His record at the Sydney University is, I believe, unequalled, and he proved himself a profound lawyer and a politician of great note.
Dr. Evatt began his parliamentary career in 1925 when he was elected to the New South Wales Parliament as member for Balmain. Five years later he was appointed a Justice of the High Court of Australia, and, according to the present Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir Garfield Barwick, judgments- handed down by Dr. Evatt are a lasting and creditable memorial’ of his work on the Bench. In his ten years as a judge, apart from his devoted work on the Bench where he developed a reputation for unchallengeable judgments, Dr. Evatt made valuable contributions to the literature on constitutional law and Australian history. But politics and Parliament once again attracted him, and he resigned from the High Court’ in 1940 to stand for and win the New South Wales seat of Barton. His decision to re-enter politics was made at a time when the dangers confronting the British Commonwealth in World War . II were ‘ at their peak.
A year after election Dr. Evatt was appointed Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs - portfolios which he retained until the. defeat of .the Labour Government in 1949. After the war he found international recognition by his persistent fight in the United Nations for the rights of the small countries. Dr. Evatt represented Australia on the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, of which he was the first Chairman, and he was also Chairman of the United Nations Palestine Commission in 1947. For three successive years, 1946, 1947 and 1948, he led the Australian delegations to the General Assembly of the United Nations, and his election as President of the Assembly in 1948 was the achievement of a long held ambition.
On behalf of the Senate I wish to express to his wife and family our sympathy in their sad bereavement. I move -
That the Senate expresses its deep regret at the death of the Right Honorable Dr. Herbert Vere Evatt, a former member of the House of Representatives for the Divisions of Barton and ‘Hunter, Commonwealth Minister, Leader of the Opposition, President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, Justice of the High Court of Australia, and Chief Justice of the State of New South Wales, places on record its’ appreciation of his long and distinguished public service and tenders its profound sympathy to his widow and the members of his family in their bereavement.
– On behalf of the Australian Labour Party in the Senate, I second the motion which has been moved by the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate and take the opportunity’ to endorse all of his remarks. It is impossible to do justice to the life and work of the late Dr. Herbert Vere Evatt without writing several volumes. On any assessment of the amount of endeavour and achievement in the life of an ordinary man, one may truly say that Dr. Evatt lived many lifetimes. He was an extraordinary man. He assiduously cultivated the great talents and qualities with which he was endowed and emerged from a brilliant and wide ranging academic career in New South Wales as Doctor of Laws and Doctor of Literature.
Some highlights of Dr. Evatt’s varied career were: Eleven years successful practice at the New South Wales Bar; King’s Counsel at the age of 35 years; in the interim, he was . a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, and then justice of the High Court of Australia at the age of 36 years. Ten years later, he was appointed Commonwealth. AttorneyGeneral and Minister for External Affairs, which offices he filled for eight years, from 1941 to 1949. During part of this period he served as Deputy Prime Minister and Acting Prime Minister. Dr. Evatt was President of the General Assembly of the United Nations and for nine years, was Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives. Finally, he was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of his home State of New South Wales. In addition, he functioned as historian, art lover and sports devotee. .
Who else in all Australia’s history has attempted so much? Who else achieved so much? The inspiration for the whole of his brilliant career and the strenuous preparation for it can be expressed in one word - service. He gave unceasing and unwavering devotion to the service of justice, the rule of law, the Australian nation and humanity itself. Dr. Evatt had a deep love of his country. He hated war. and rejected coarseness in any form. All Australians should know and remember the outstanding part he played in securing arms and help for Australia in World War II. They should know and remember that he, more than any other man, won respectful acceptance of Australia as an independent unit of the nations of the world, and advanced the concept of Australian nationhood in this country.
I reject absolutely suggestions’ from some quarters that Dr. Evatt’s life was motivated by personal ambition: I point, first, to the surrender of the honour, dignity, life, tenure and security of his position as justice of the High Court of Australia for the chance to serve during a perilous war as a member of the Opposition in this Parliament. I note, next, his offer in- 1958 to resign his leadership of the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party in return for the grant to the Australian Labour Party of the second preference votes of another party. Who is there or has there been in Australian political history to match these self-sacrificing actions? -
Dr. Evatt gave countless demonstrations of courage, endurance, persistence and intellect in his fights for human rights, civil liberties and the many other great causes he espoused.’ He neither yielded nor erred in matters of principle. If he erred, it was in matters of detail. Somes political critics and others seized on these errors, magnified and distorted them and, in denial of Christian charity, through the media of mass communications presented a false picture of a truly great man. Dr. Evatt was very sensitive. Both he and members of his family suffered great hurt by these events which’, I have no doubt, ultimately undermined his health and shortened his life. Now that he is beyond their poisoned barbs, his traducers may be left to the stirrings of their consciences. No matter in what sphere he moved in life, Dr. Evatt could never be ignored. In death, even his critics could not ignore him. I mention them only to deplore the grudging and qualified tributes paid to this great Australian and the lack of good taste in the editorials of some newspapers.
I was privileged to know Dr. Evatt from the early 1930’s, to serve with him in the Chifley Government from mid-1946 to the end of 1949 and on the Executive of the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party from 1949 until his retirement in 1960, and to act in his portfolio of Attorney-General for lengthy periods during his necessary absences abroad as Minister for External Affairs. I was also privileged to enjoy ‘ his confidence in many matters of consequence and to support him on great issues. I cherish my memories of that long, strenuous, interesting and unforgettable association. I had great respect and affection for him. On his retirement to take the post of Chief justice of New South Wales, I looked forward with pleasurable anticipation to a continuance of our happy personal association when, removed from the turmoil and pressure of political events, I could explore some of the depths of his great learning and some of the heights of his grand vision for Australia and the world. But, to my great disappointment, that was not to be. Dr. Evatt was such an integral part of the Australian community that his death means that a part of each of us has died. If I am right in believing, as I do, that at the end each of us will be judged on the use he made of his talents and on how hard he tried to do what he believed to be right, then I am also right in believing that in rendering an account of his stewardship Dr. Evatt will enjoy the ultimate triumph of a merciful judgment from his Creator who, for His own purpose, created Dr. Evatt in the mould with which we are familiar.
The motion, in addition to paying tribute to the late Dr. Evatt, very properly offers condolences to his widow and members of his family. Mrs. Evatt, who is well known to all of us, was ever at the side of her husband in all his triumphs and disappointments. She was his helpmate in the truest sense. Dr. Evatt had the great consolation and advantage of the devoted care and attention of members of his family in his prolonged and distressing illness. To his widow, daughter, son, brothers and other near relatives, I offer the deepest sympathy of all members of the Opposition in their sad bereavement. We trust that they will be given the strength to bear their burden of sorrow. I believe that it will be a great consolation to them all to have seen the representative gathering that assembled at St. John’s Church in Canberra and to have heard the magnificent tribute paid to Dr. Evatt by the Right Reverend K. J. Clements, Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn. They would be consoled, too, by the flood of messages that flowed to them not only from all over Australia but also from Her Majesty the Queen, from other governments and from prominent persons throughout the world. I hope that it will sustain them to note that, despite three years of complete seclusion, Dr. Evatt was so warmly remembered and acclaimed.
– The Australian Country Party associates itself with the sentiments which have been expressed and with the motion now before the Senate. The Leader of the Government, Senator Henty, and the Leader of the Opposition, Senator McKenna, have ably and with great sincerity expressed the innermost feelings of honorable senators on this sad occasion. Suffice it for me to say that the late Dr. Evatt was a man of great talent and a man who achieved high distinction in many spheres - as a jurist, in the international arena and in the political life of this country. We all mourn his passing. The Australian Country Party joins with other parties in extending deepest sympathy to Mrs. Evatt and her family.
, -My colleague, Senator McManus, and I desire to be associated with the motion before the Senate and to express to the widow and the other relatives of Dr. Evatt our deepest sympathy.
– I wish to support this motion of condolence to the widow, family and bereaved relatives of the Right Honorable Dr. Herbert Vere Evatt, and to pay tribute to his meritorious service to this Parliament, to this nation and to his fellow men throughout the world.
I had the honour to enjoy the personal friendship of this truly great man. Over the years I learned the tremendous scope of his intellect’ and his basic and inherent simplicity. One would not expect to find interests of the most simple kind in a man of such vast talents in such a wide field, but I found that he had a love of the arts - of music, poetry, . painting, flowers and scenery. His concern over a sick child, a bereaved widow or a distressed family revealed a kindness, a warm heartedness and a generosity on the same massive scale as his intellect. His achievements in public life, whether in the field of law, as a member of this Parliament, in Australian international affairs or at the United Nations made him a legend in his own lifetime. Elegant tributes have been paid to him by Senator Henty, Senator McKenna, Senator McKellar and Senator Gair. Underlying and inspiring all these attributes was an abiding desire to help his less fortunate fellows. My understanding of the word “ humanitarian “ was deepened and widened by my close personal friendship with him.
It was obvious that his character had been moulded on a firm, inherited foundation, but its highlights were his basic honesty, integrity, courage and selflessness. As the controversies of his time become dimmed, the true worth of Bert Evatt’s life will be seen in proper perspective. To his devoted wife Mary Alice, to Peter, Rosemary and his brothers and relatives I offer my most sincere and affectionate sympathy.
– It is with a very heavy heart that I rise to take part in this expression of condolence to Mrs. Evatt and to Peter,
Rosemary and their children at the very great and overwhelming loss .which they have sustained. As has already been said, Dr. Evatt was a great statesman, a great jurist and a man of international stature. But I knew him more in his humble role as the right honorable member for Barton. He and my father were close personal friends in the New South Wales Parliament in the late 1920’s; and between the years 1950 and 1958, when I had the very great honour of being secretary of the Barton Federal Electorate Council of the Australian Labour Party, I formed a very deep attachment for and a close personal association with this outstanding Australian. 1 have very nostalgic memories of the Saturdays that he and I used to spend at the Sydney Cricket Ground watching either a cricket match or a game of Rugby League football. I well remember the nights that my family spent at the Evatt home with the Evatt family, not only when Dr. Evatt was the Leader of the Australian Labour Party but also later, when he was the Chief Justice of New South Wales. I well recall the evenings when he and Mrs. Evatt visited my home. I remember at the time of the great Labour split in 1954 the informal political discussions that were held in his Sydney office with the late Senator Ashley, with my colleague, Senator Ormonde; the late Mr. E. J. Ward; Mr. Leslie Haylen; Mr. Alan Dalziel who was then Dr. Evatt’s private secretary; his brother Mr. Clive Evatt Q.C. and Mr. Rigby, the former member for Hurstville in the New South Wales Parliament. I remember the hearty meals and light conversation we enjoyed at a wellknown restaurant Dr. Evatt liked attending in Sydney with his very old and trusted friend, Mr. Tom Turner.
But most of all I shall never forget the strain of the heavy political campaigns that were waged against this great and outstanding Australian in the electorate of Barton especially between 1949 and 1955. 1 remember how Dr. Evatt was saved from the bitterness of political defeat by the little people who came to his defence and assistance. They were the unknown and the unrecognised people in the community but (hey were men and women from the Barton electorate who gave their utmost and volunteered all they had to ensure that Dr.. Evatt remained the right honorable member for
Barton. Dr. Evatt knew, them all, and long after he had left the electorate of Barton and had been made Chief Justice of New South Wales he would ask of me how each of these people was getting on. How often he used to say: “ I can never do for them what they did for me”. 1 speak today not only on my own behalf and for my family, but also on behalf of the people I have mentioned. They knew that Dr. Evatt was the upholder and defender of democracy and that he wanted to make life better for those who would follow on. They believed in him; they had faith in him. They knew because of his enormous learning, his colourful and forceful personality and his sincere and high principles that he could express in the places that matter better than anyone else the philosophy of life that he and they knew would bring about a better world. All those who knew him felt as we walked with him that we trod the path of Australian history.
I treasure, as do my colleagues, our close association with this very great Australian and his family. I value more than anything else the works of art and the publications that came to me from him. His mission in life, I think, is best described in the words of another great Australian, Dame Mary Gilmore -
Ever the path before us lies, And for us made by hands long gone; It is the man, the man, who dies, lt is the deed lives on.
– I support this motion which has been so ably supported by previous speakers. I do not intend to traverse the paths they have trod. I would like to speak more simply of Dr. Evatt as I knew him over’ the past 22 years; of his great humanitarianism and his great respect and deference for the women of Australia. I think his great regard for women came from his own very happy married life and the great assistance which was given to him in all aspects of his career by his devoted wife. I had the great privilege of attending the sessions of the United Nations in 1948. On my way to Paris, I had the first glimpse of the respect in which. Dr. Evatt was held by others outside Australia. - An American Army officer saw the Australian label on my luggage on the train .from Calais to Paris. He said: “ You are from Australia. That is where that great man E-vatt comes from “. It took a couple of seconds for the name “ E-vatt “ to dawn upon my consciousness as being that of Dr Evatt. When I arrived at the United Nations I realised that that opinion was based on very sound foundations.
For three weeks one of the subcommittees of the United Nations had been discussing the fate of Creek children who had been taken into Yugoslavia immediately after the war and whose parents had asked that the children be returned to them. As against that, photographs had been produced showing the same children, first as poor, hungry and badly clothed, and then in their new surroundings in Yugoslavia, well fed, well dressed and well housed. When an appeal was made to Dr. Evatt, with the news that this sub-committee could not reach a decision as to whether the children would be better off with their parents in poverty stricken homes or in the surroundings in Yugoslavia that were indicated by the photographs, he immediately said: “ These photographs of material are of no use as evidence. We do not know the conditions under which they were taken or whether these are even the same children “. He went on to say: “ But apart from that,” - and this is of the whole essence, I think, of the man himself - “ there is something much more important involved here. That is that these children have been given to their parents who have been given a divine responsibility to see that the children are well looked after. If they fail in that responsibility, it becomes the duty of the Government of their country to see that those parents are brought to book. It is not for us to interfere in these family matters. These children have a right to be returned to their parents”. In five minutes, the whole of this disputation, which had taken place for three weeks, was. resolved.
Later, when Dr. Evatt became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, I read in the afternoon newspapers of a judgment, which he gave which should appeal, I think, to every woman in this country. A man who had attacked a woman was appealing against the severity of his sentence. I remember that, according to the report; when Dr. Evatt refused to reduce the sentence he told the man that if he had his way he would increase the sentence because one thing which Australia would never contemplate was the lowering of the dignity of womanhood, and that women in the community should be protected.
Again, at a function here, in Canberra on the occasion of the 83rd birthday of the late Pope Pius XII, Dr. Evatt was welcomed by the Papal Legate in this country and publicly thanked for his service to the downtrodden people of Europe in the immediate post-war years. Unlike anything that was to Dr. Evatt’s detriment, this was not reported in any newspaper in Australia except the “ Canberra Times “. One of the tragedies of the life of Dr. Evatt was the misrepresentation of many of his actions. I know that he was a very simple man at heart. I have seen evidences of it. I know that he went out of his way to find out the address in Sydney of a certain child who wanted to go to a cricket test match one day, but could not afford to do so as he was the son of a widow. Dr. Evatt sent his ministerial car and driver to take this child to the test cricket, introduced him to test cricketers and made that a day that the child will remember until his dying day.
These are just some of the simple things that Dr. Evatt did so unobtrusively. In this Parliament - apart from all that he did for Australia - I have seen many acts of kindness which he did for individual members and I have seen them repaid with ingratitude. Dr. Evatt’s greatest failing, perhaps - if failing it be - was that he could not understand how people could be deceptive, how they could willingly deceive and how they could be ungrateful, because these were not traits of his character. He was a great Christian gentleman. He was the first to say, at the United Nations, that unless that Organisation had divine guidance it could not hope to resolve the problems of the world, and to ask leaders of all the churches to participate in the deliberations of the United Nations. That is where I first met some of Australia’s leading churchmen. That practice has since been discontinued, so far as Australian representation goes. So I say that today we mourn not only the death of a great -Australian and’ a great statesman, but also the death of a very gallant gentleman - one whom I was very proud to number among my friends.
To his wife and family I offer my very sincere sympathy. I know how devoted they all were to each other. His was one of the most closely knit families I have ever encountered. His home was always open to members of this Parliament who were in Canberra at weekends. He was only too pleased to welcome them and to discuss, not world shattering affairs, but the ordinary every day happenings which really go to make up the sum total of our happiness. I most sincerely regret the death of Dr. Evatt. I am sorry that the things which have been said about him in this place and elsewhere today were not uttered in his lifetime, when he could have had some little satisfaction from knowing that his years of endeavour for Australia were not wasted.
– I wish to be associated with the very fine tributes that have been paid to this great man. In 1940 Dr. Evatt stepped down from the bench of the High Court of Australia. At that time I was a member of the New South Wales Central Executive of the Australian Labour Party and was very closely associated with him from then onwards. The response, at that time from the people who hailed his action was so great that it led to a tremendous upsurge of the Labour Party in the State of New South Wales in particular and in Australia in general. That upsurge ‘made it possible for the late Mr. John Curtin to become the Prime Minister of Australia 12 months afterwards and, in effect, saved Australia. I think every Australian should thank Dr. Evatt because, were it not for him, the women of this nation would have been defiled by an invading Japanese army. I am certain that hardly a white man here would have had his head left on his shoulders if the Japanese forces had overrun this country.
Senator McKenna and other speakers have paid tribute to Dr. Evatt’s work at the United Nations, and his great fight for humanity and for civil liberties has been spoken of by practically every speaker in this debate. I became his private secretary back in 1956 and held that position until His appointment as Chief Justice of New South Wales. I knew of his great sympathy and kindness to any one in need. Senator Tangney has spoken of his love for children. He could not deny assistance or help to any woman who sought his aid. When he became the member for Hunter he set up a fund in the coal mining areas of Cessnock to assist those in need there. As other speakers have said, the vicious things that were said about him while he lived were heart breaking. However, what has been written and spoken of him since his death must be a great solace to his sorrowing wife and family - a wife whom he revered and a family which he dearly loved. 1 extend to Mrs. Evatt and his family my deepest sympathy.
– Dr. Evatt was, by any standard, a great man. In law he was a genius whose judgments will long be remembered and acted upon. Those- judgments concerned not only constitutional questions but also the ordinary affairs of men and women. In international matters he was an architect of the United Nations, a spokesman for the small nations and, as President of the General Assembly, the first citizen of the world. In politics he believed in and fought for the rule qf law and civil liberties. His advocacy of the great principles of freedom of speech and. association and of social justice will be an inspiration to generations still to come. He saved Australia from the wave of reaction and denial of civil rights which swept other countries during the last decade. We are indebted to him. We are proud of him. We honour him. His reputation will endure as a much misunderstood man who expended his life in the service of humanity.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable senators standing in their places..
– Mr. President, I suggest that, as a mark of respect to the memory of the late Dr. H. V. Evatt, the sitting of the Senate be suspended until 8 o’clock.
Sitting suspended from 3.36 to 8 p.m.
– I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise whether within the last few days he has banned a film on Vietnam. If. so, is he in a position to give the Senate details about why he took this action?
– It is a fact that I have imposed a ban on a film entitled “Hit the U.S. Aggressors”, which is a Vietcong propaganda film concerning the war in Vietnam. It was produced in Peking. My intervention in the registration of this film was in the terms of my overriding power under regulation 40 of the Customs (Cinematograph Film) Regulations, which provides - (I.) The Minister may direct that a matter arising under these Regulations be submitted fo him for determination. (2.) Upon the submission of a matter to the Minister, the Minister may give such directions as he thinks fit, and the Chief Censor shall take such action as is necessary to give effect to. the direction of the Minister.
Consideration resumed from 28th October (vide page 1351).
Department of Primary Industry
Proposed expenditure, £17,318,000. Proposed provision, £1,196,000.
.- I wish to refer to Division No. 380 and to the items dealing with the allocations for wheat research for payment to the credit of the Wheat Research Trust Account and for tobacco research for payment to the credit of the Tobacco Industry Trust Account. You are aware, Mr. Temporary Chairman, as is every other honorable senator, that a charge is made on tobacco marketed in the Commonwealth for the purpose of providing funds for scientific research into the production of tobacco leaf. I have been informed that the money contributed by the tobacco growers and the subsidy payments from the Commonwealth provide the funds to conduct the research. I have also been informed that the only organisation which conducts research is the one that has been set up by the Commonwealth Government.
Repeatedly we have the spectacle of tobacco growers taking their leaf to the market in the nearest town to which the tobacco is grown in an endeavour to sell it to the tobacco manufacturers operating in the Commonwealth, and after the leaf has been submitted to auction the growers being forced to transport their leaf back to the farm and hold it for another day. This has not happened on only one occasion. I am sure that it must be very disheartening to every tobacco grower who has had the experience of growing his leaf painstakingly throughout the season, having it harvested, having it cured, taking it to the market, watching it being offered for sale, finding that there is no bid forthcoming from the tobacco manufacturers . and then being forced to take . it home and tell his wife and family that he has failed to sell his tobacco leaf and that they have no funds with which to carry on.
There has been the spectacle of tobacco growers walking off their farms because they have been unable to sell their leaf. It means that they join the army of unemployed in the’ nearest town. I have raised this matter more than once by way of questions in the Senate. I am fully aware that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) is sympathetic towards the tobacco growers. I know that he can take action only in respect of certain matters and is unable to go any further. Of course, he is fully aware that he has no control over the tobacco manufacturers in Australia. He knows that they are few in number. He also knows that they are importing leaf from other, countries where black labour is employed. When it comes to an issue between the Commonwealth Government and the tobacco manufacturers, the tobacco manufacturers never flinch. It would appear that they are prepared to fight the Commonwealth Government on the question of their using Australian grown tobacco leaf or imported tobacco leaf.
It was only recently that a public statement was made on this matter by one of the tobacco companies in the Commonwealth. I want to deal with this matter in a legitimate way. I want to point out that if there is a fault in the leaf that is grown in Australia - particularly in Queensland - something should be done to correct that fault. A way should be found to overcome the fault, because this is a serious matter.
The Commonwealth Government lays down that unless a percentage of Australian grown leaf is used in the manufacture of tobacco, a concessional tariff rate will not operate in respect of supplies of tobacco leaf imported from other countries. I want honorable senators to be quite clear on that point. At present the Commonwealth
Government has fixed the proportion of Australian grown tobacco leaf to be used at 50 per cent.
– As from 1st January next.
– That is good. I support that legislation. I will support anything which will allow a greater acreage to be used for tobacco growing. I will support any legislation which will help to bring on to the market Australian grown tobacco leaf to be sold at a reasonable figure, and used in the production of tobacco for sale to the consuming public.
– And cause more cancers?
– It does not make any difference. Cancers can result from drinking tea or drinking rum. I wish to point out that some State Governments have spent a great deal of money in providing irrigation in certain areas to enable tobacco leaf to be grown successfully.. Employment has been provided for many people and prosperity has been brought to many small towns. One such instance is Mareeba, in northern Queensland. The Tinaroo Dam was constructed by the Queensland Government from its own funds, 1 understand. If Australia is to advance as a nation our agricultural ground must be extended. At present approximately 14,000 acres are under irrigation for use in’ tobacco growing in Queensland. In recent times, the tobacco crop has been worth annually about £8,500,000. That is not small business for the Commonwealth.
I wish to ask the Minister: What is the nature of the tobacco research at present being carried out scientifically? Have any results been recorded? Is’ any progress being made as a result of research toward improving the quality of the tobacco leaf grown in Australia? Are the tobacco companies financing any research stations in the tobacco growing areas as a means of assisting growers? Are the tobacco companies co-operating with the growers to produce a leaf suitable for their requirements?
In- the time remaining to me, I wish to deal with a matter that’ relates to Tweed Heads on the north coast of New South Wales. Off Tweed Heads and other towns along the coast, king prawns, can be caught.
During the recent season it was found that supplies of king prawns were diminishing because some prawners were catching baby king prawns and selling them on the market. That is an absolute fact. I think it was only last week that the prawners association sent to the Queensland Government two packets of prawns - one containing king prawns and the other containing baby king-prawns. That proved conclusively that this practice exists. This matter is not to be played with. It is not to be made a kind of football by any speculative prawners or people who will wreak havoc on this .prosperous industry. It provides employment for about 3,000 men around the coast.
I may be told that the Commonwealth Government, under the Constitution, has no jurisdiction over this matter. I do not know whether that is the position. The Minister representing the Minister . for Primary Industry will be able ‘ to enlighten me on that. However, if the Commonwealth Government has no jurisdiction, it still should do its utmost to prevent the needless and wasteful slaughter of baby king prawns. Everybody who has tasted a king prawn knows what a delicacy it is, what a luxury it is and what a food it is. If this industry is to be a- worth while one, for goodness -sake let us have these prawns protected adequately. The Commonwealth Government may not have any constitutional power that it could use; but I am sure that it could consult the Queensland Government and the other governments concerned- with the object of stopping this waste.
– I want to take the bait from Senator Benn and to turn the attention of the Committee to the appropriation of £10,500 for the fisheries newsletter. All honorable senators will recognise this - newsletter because we receive it, I think, every month. I know the value of fishing to Australia and particularly to my own State of Tasmania. I realise that there must be research into the fishing industry and that a good way of spreading the results of that research and the information derived from it is by means of a newsletter. But it is not a bad idea for honorable senators now and again to have a look at the details .of an item such as this.
This newsletter is printed on glossy, fairly expensive paper. It contains a very large proportion of advertising. I presume that the advertisers are charged the normal advertising rates for a newspaper with a circulation the size of that of this newsletter. I presume that not everyone who receives the newsletter is on the free list. Therefore, there should be some income from its circulation. If by any chance the reply were that it has only a small circulation, I believe that a further look would have to be taken at this matter, because we are being asked to vote £10,500 - approximately £500 more than the expenditure last year - for this newsletter. If a look is not taken at items such as this, the appropriations grow and grow and become large allocations of the taxpayers’ money in the Australian Budget.
So I would like the Minister to tell the Committee the monthly circulation of this newsletter; the total numberon the free list; the income from advertising; and the revenue from sales. As I have asked these questions, I hope that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) and his Department will make sure that this item is watched and, if possible, that the newsletter is put on. a commercial basis. As I understand the position, that would save the taxpayers about £10,500 per annum.
– When we last discussed these estimates I raised the matter of the wheat crop in New South Wales. At that time I did not want to refer to the drought situation as a whole but the Minister, when replying to me, quoted from the statement of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) relating to drought relief. I now want to refer to the statement which the Prime Minister delivered on 12th October 1965. He said -
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–
I emphasise the word “ consider “ - assisting them by means of general purpose assistance grants.
Later in the statement the Prime Minister had this to say -
All 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.
The statement of 26th August did not mention the provision of relief for the drought affected areas. All the Prime Minister proposed on that occasion was a taxation concession which could be averaged over five years. The statements instil no confidence into the two States of New South Wales and Queensland in the. matter of drought relief. But that is not my complaint at this time. My complaint at this time is that the Government is allowing things to run so far that in the very near future wheat will have to be imported into New South Wales for the manufacture of bread. Immediately you start paying freight on wheat which you import so that you can manufacture bread, up goes the price of bread and down goes the value of wages. That is the point I want to make, and the Government js doing nothing about it.
Now let me refer to the crayfishing industry in Western Australia. , Honorable senators are aware that some years ago the Commonwealth Government sold the Australian whaling fleet at Carnarvon for some £830,000 and that the money was put into a trust fund to be used for fisheries research. Very little of the £830,000 has been spent in Western Australia. I direct attention “to page 83 of the . Auditor-General’sreport for the year ended 30th June 1965 in which he refers to the fact that in 1964-65 the amount expended from the trust fund to provide a training school for fisheries field officers was £91. I point out that this is not an overflow from something that happened in the previous year because the amount spent then for the training of fisheries inspectors was £32. I do not know where you will get fisheries inspectors for £32 in one year and £91 in the following year. What is the Government doing about this Western Australian industry which earns approximately £8 million a year for the Australian economy? I remind honorable senators that these amounts have been expended from the trust fund.
Let us go a little further in looking at the Auditor-General’s report in relation to the trust fund. He refers to the fact that £32 was expended on an examination of and report on the Australian fishing fleet. This appliesnotonlytoWesternAustraliabut to Australia as .a whole. .There must be thousands of vessels iri the Australian] fishing fleet, yet we spent only £32 on an examination of and report on the fleet.
– ‘How much is left in the Trust Fund?
– The amount is £372,978. Most of it was spent on a trawler to conduct research in the Great Australian Bight. The trawler subsequently was sold for less than it cost. I want “to know what goes on with regard to the crayfishing industry, not only in Western Australia but also around the islands off Tasmania.’ This industry is very important to Australia’s export economy. Has the Minister seen reports published recently about the export of undersized crayfish from Western Australia? Who is responsible for the control and supervision of the quality of goods exported from Australia? The regulations provide a minimum weight for crayfish tails of 5 oz. Yet an importer of Australian crayfish tails in Los Angeles has’ been complaining that the tails sent to him weighed 3± oz. Who controls this trade? Does it come under the administration of the Minister for Primary Industry or the Minister for Trade and Industry? Complaints such as that I have mentioned reflect upon ‘ Australia’s export trade integrity.
One importer in Los Angeles received 3.15 boxes of crayfish tails from Western Australia and the average weight was 3£ oz. Crayfish tails .of legitimate size should go 70 tails to the box but boxes received by this importer contained. 120 to 125 tails. What is being done to protect the export trade of Australian primary products to markets we have established? What is the Government doing to protect the crayfish industry? Has the Minister considered any of these reports and what action is to be taken about them?
My friends on my left in the Australian Country Party - and I suppose I should not mention the left in this chamber - nave expressed themselves from time to time in favour of decentralisation. Fortunately or unfortunately, according to one’s point of view, we have two Country Party senators from Western Australia in this chamber. I do not question the sincerity of the honorable senators but I hope that they are wedded to the policy- of decentralisation espoused by their leader. However, I. have npt yet heard either of them express any concern about what is happening to the flax industry at Boyup Brook which is the last branch of the. flax industry in Australia. Since this Government removed the bounty on. flax, this industry has endeavoured to establish itself and carry on economically against imported flax which has the support of overseas governments. The flax exported to Australia from France carries a bounty of £27 a ton. The Australian industry asked for an inquiry by the Tariff Board but the Board rejected the application for protection. The industry has since asked for a bounty of £.15,000 a year. over a period of five years. Boyup Brook is a small country town and the families of about 40 married men are dependent on this industry for. their existence. If the industry goes out of existence,: as I think it will, the members of those 40 families will not be able to get any work in the locality. This means that they will have to move out of the town. The town,- which is small, will be depleted by some 40 . families - men, wives and children - who will, I suppose, eventually have t’o move into the .metropolitan area and so build it up. Instead of decentralising, this will be centralising. Many industries receive assistance to a very much greater extent than £15,000 a year to keep them in existence. Many dairy farmers in areas that are not fit for dairy farming are taking their fair share of the £13 million in bounty that is being paid to the dairy industry today. Yet the Commonwealth Government is not prepared to pay £75,000 for this industry over a period of five years. Forty workmen and their families are dependent upon the industry. The management of the Blackwood Flax Co-operative. Co. Ltd. assures me that if the organisation can get assistance over a five years period it can establish an economic industry, despite the fact that dumping of flax is occurring in this country. But this Government does nothing about it.
There are three particular questions that I ask the Minister: What is being done in respect of the wheat industry in New South Wales? What is being done in respect of the crayfishing industry in Western Australia? What are the intentions of the Government in respect of the flax industry at Boyup Brook?
. 1 refer to Division “No. 385 - Bureau of Agricultural Economics. One of the functions of the Bureau is . to consider the estimate of the wool clip during the year. Honorable senators may know that to arrive at an estimate each year the Bureau, the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia and the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council meet in July. From the information available to each of those organisations, they come to an estimate for the coming year, which is revised in the first week of December. Might I say, as one who has been associated with these estimates, that generally speaking the three organisations have no difficulty in coming to a figure that is acceptable to all and which generally proves to be fairly near the mark, particularly after being revised in December. But it would appear that this year the Bureau has been very wide of the mark and I should like to know whether it is giving sufficient consideration and taking enough surveys through the year in order to get a better estimate of the clip in a drought year such as we are having at present.
In June of this year it was unofficially estimated by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics that the wool clip would be down by from 1 to 2 per cent. Growers who had knowledge of the drought throughout the Commonwealth were not nearly as optimistic. They thought that the reduction would be much more than the figure of 6 per cent, which was reached at the July meeting. As honorable senators will have noticed from newspaper reports, the position has deteriorated. I hope that the Bureau might look at the question of future estimates, particularly in time of drought.
I want to refer particularly to the drought position in New South Wales. I make no apology for bringing this up again, after having brought it up a fortnight ago, because I am very conscious of the fact that the drought position is much more serious than many people know and unfortunately it is, I believe, much worse than this Government realises. I hope that something will be done and done pretty quickly. I have the results of a further survey made through a graziers’ organisation and I would like to give some figures compiled by the Moree District Agronomist. They relate to the estimated wheat yield in the Moree, Inverell, Gunnedah and Tamworth’ districts. For this north west area the total wheat harvest last year was 43,376,000 bushels, and the District Agronomist estimates that the total delivery into silos this year will be 840,000 bushels, which represents a fall of more than 42 million bushels. This is an indication of what is happening in one wheat growing area. The figures should be considered as correct, having come from the District Agronomist.
I want also to read to the Committee some figures obtained from the Moree Pastures Protection Board. This is one of the worst affected areas in the north west, although the position there is not unlike that in many other districts. The figures were obtained as the result of questionnaires which the Pastures Protection Board sent out. At 31st December 1964, in the Moree Pastures Protection Board area there were 2.5 million sheep and 125,000 cattle. By mid-October of this year - the position has deteriorated since then- the figures showed 521,888 sheep dead and 20,400 cattle dead. Eighty per cent, of lambs and 85 per cent, of calves perished or were never born. It is estimated that in the Board’s district the wool clip is down by 50 per cent. Stock sold out of the district because of drought number 432,337 sheep and 61,800 cattle. About 60 per cent, of the cattle in the district have died or been sold out of the district. The percentages of stock in the. Moree Pastures Protection Board’s area now as compared with this time last year are, sheep 59 per cent, and cattle 48 per cent. This is in an area which, since 3 1st October 1964, has received 704 points of rain as against the normal average rainfall of 22 inches. In other words, the district has received about one third of its average rainfall. The value of fodder consumed, stored on farms, is £1,158,562 and the cost of fodder bought and fed to stock is £1 ,302,362. The loss of income on crops is estimated at £4,497,054. Expenditure on crop preparation is £606,000 and the estimated crop yield - for irrigated crops - is £160,648. Of 693 stock owners who were asked if they needed financial assistance, 650 said “ Yes “ and 644 said that they needed assistance urgently. Those are the results of a survey taken by the Moree Pastures Protection Board.
I think this is an indication of the seriousness of this drought, which, without question, is the worst in the history of this area. Its effect on landholders and country towns is expected to be extremely grave. Figures obtained from one important city a little further south than those 1 have mentioned show that machinery sales are down by 80 per cent, and car sales by 50 per cent, as against those of last year. I feel that the overall effect of the drought, not only on the landholders concerned but also on the country towns,, will be disastrous. A few moments ago I mentioned the financial aspect. In the Moree district, 130 landholders have advised that their credit will cease in a fortnight. These figures are taken from a survey. Woolbroking firms have indicated that their credit limits have been reached. I think the Government must treat the drought as a matter of extreme urgency because its effect on individual producers and on the national economy has now reached a very critical stage.
As 1 said a fortnight ago, I do not think the ordinary financial arrangements which are available will meet the present situation. The Government must look to some form of long term finance, and the funding . of debts repayable over a long period is a must for these people. Possibly such a scheme will require that no interest be payable in the first year or two. I will go even further. The Government should be giving consideration to and examining a moratorium which should take effect in these areas. Some producers have been in the areas for many years. , Some represent second and third generation graziers. Others have been there even longer than that. Their difficulties are not the result of bad management. They are caused through the effects of the worst drought in our history. I think that honorable senators will agree that if a huge fire had. burnt out these areas, particularly the areas concerned in New South Wales and Queensland, the Government would have acted immediately. The present position is not very much different except that the improvements that have been made to the properties still remain in a drought. I believe., that if something is not done, it will be a catastrophe for the people in these areas. 1 strongly urge the Government to act now to save the producers by seeing that adequate finance is available to them. I know that much has been said about this matter but I believe it is time for action in this direction. If normal financial resources are strained, consideration must be given to releasing a portion of the £320 million in the Statutory Reserve Deposits and using that money for saving valuable stock. As honorable senators realise, this stock represents the nation’s capital. As I said a fortnight ago, this affects an area where our sheep population in a normal year is approximately 50 million. We must see that our sheep are saved in the interests of not only the wool growers but also the future of the national economy and our credit position overseas.
– Before the Committee proceeds with the debate, I should like to point out to honorable senators that we have before us the estimates of the Department of Primary Industry. It would appear to me that we have been listening to a series of second reading speeches. The estimates are not being discussed and questions are not being asked about them. The question is that the Committee take note of the proposed expenditure. So far in the debate, honorable senators have not been examining the proposed expenditure. In -calling Senator Morris, I ask honorable senators to keep that point in mind.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, there are a couple of questions that I should like to ask in relation to the Department .of Primary Industry. I refer to Division No. 383, subdivision 2, items 03 and 06. I notice that this Division is entitled “ Administration of the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act”. Item 03 relates to payments to the States for services in connection with inspections of fresh fruit, seeds, plants, vegetables and other items. For this item the amount of £236,000 is appropriated for this financial year whereas £215,000 was provided last year and £206,716 was spent. Item 06 relates to fees of private veterinarians for inspection services. The amount of £50,000 is appropriated for this financial year compared with the appropriation of £37,000 and an expenditure of £38,059 last year. I should like to have in more precise detail the breakup of that expenditure) especially in regard to item 06. I am interested to find out the source whereby the meat which is used by the people of the .Australian Capital Territory is inspected. I have looked through other headings in these estimates and can . see nothing which indicates that this matter is dealt with elsewhere, lt may be that this matter comes under the administration of the Department of the Interior. If so, I have not been able to find any reference to . it in the estimates for that Department. It is of considerable importance that meat which is slaughtered within the Territory should be thoroughly examined, even though it is used for home consumption. We know that meat that is exported is subjected to a very careful examination. I should like the Minister to give me some explanation of the matter.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) [8.45]. - I should like the Minister to give me some explanation of the proposed expenditure on dairy industry extension services. Last year the appropriation for this purpose was £3,000 and the expenditure was £2,715. The proposed expenditure for this year is £13,000. That is a considerable increase. I should be very interested to have some details of the particular extension services that are to be undertaken with this sum of money. I should like to know something also about the proposed expenditure on minor research and other projects. It is interesting to note that last year the appropriation for this item was £38,140 and that the expenditure was £38,328. The appropriation .for this year has been reduced to £19,000. It seems to me that research, in whatever form, is of paramount importance to the primary industries. I should like to know why so much less money is to be expended this year on research and the projects that are to be undertaken.
– I should like to reply to some of the queries that have been raised before I get too big a backlog. Senator Benn referred to the tobacco industry. I have been informed that at the moment no area of dispute exists as between the manufacturers and the growers’ representatives. The differences have been ironed out. As Senator Benn pointed out, there have been very pronounced differences in the past and difficulties have existed because of the buyers rejecting what they described as being inferior leaf. The growers have claimed that some of the imported leaf has been inferior. I took note of what the honorable senator said about Mareeba. This has been a very prosperous town, and I hope that it will continue to be prosperous. Senator Benn asked whether the companies had contributed anything towards research. I am told that they, contributed £84,000 to commence research in the first place. The honorable senator spoke about the size of prawns. 1 am informed that we have not had any complaints about the size of prawns that have been exported.
Senator Marriott wanted some information about the fisheries newsletter, with which I think most of us are familiar. It costs approximately £10,500 to produce this publication, the revenue from advertising amounts to £7,800, and there is a monthly circulation of approximately 13,500. As Senator Marriott said, we in this place get free, copies.
I am a bit puzzled by Senator Cant’s reference to the wheat industry and then his reference to the statement of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in reply to letters he had received from Mr. Ask in in New South Wales and, I take it, those he had received from Mr. Nicklin, the Premier of Queensland. On the last occasion on which we. discussed this matter I said that the Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales had estimated that the current crop in New South Wales would amount to 40 million bushels. I said that I believed that this estimate was optimistic, and I still think it is. As far as one can see at the moment, I do not think there will be any need for New South Wales to import wheat. Of course, I realise that people in a large part of the wheat growing areas of New South Wales will be very fortunate if they get sufficient seed for resowing. I think that the Prime Minister, in reply to the representations that have been made to him by the Queensland Premier and the New South Wales Premier, has been quite definite in stating that assistance will be provided. I understand that the Premier of Queensland believed it might be better to leave the matter until the end of the financial year. I understand that the Premier of New South Wales has sent to the Prime Minister details of the money that has been expended and the items on which it has been expended. Here again the Prime Minister has stated that if any budgetary difficulties - are encountered, the Commonwealth will come to the States’ assistance. I have no doubt that that will be done. Senator Bull also commented on this aspect. There is no doubt that the Prime Minister has committed the Commonwealth of Australia to assist both Queensland and New South Wales.
On the question of crayfish, I think that I, touched on this matter when I replied to Senator Benn. The Department has received no complaints about the size of crayfish.
– Has the Minister seen reports of complaints?
– The Department has not received any complaints. That is the only information I can . give to the honorable senator.
– I will provide the Minister with a written report.
– If that can be done, I shall take the matter up with the Minister for Primary Industry. With regard to the flax industry, the Tariff Board has had a look at this matter and has decided that under the present set-up a bounty is not warranted. I understand that, as a result of the recommendation of the Tariff Board, the bounty has been discontinued.
Senator Bull referred to the drought in New South Wales, and I know from personal experience .that the position has deteriorated very much in the last couple of weeks. He referred to the need to provide finance. I think we all agree with that. He also said that we shall be faced with a national disaster if we are not able to save our breeding stock. We have lost so many already, and others are in jeopardy at the present time.
Senator Morris referred to the item in the estimates dealing with veterinarians. I think he wanted a breakup of the figures that are given in the estimates. Approximately 26 private practitioners are employed at the present time. They have not been employed all the year. The honorable senator probably knows that we have not a sufficient number of trained departmental officers - this applies particularly in New
South Wales - to carry out meat inspections at abattoirs and also inspections of meat that is to be exported. Therefore, it is necessary to engage the services of private practitioners. I think that they charge a fee of approximately ?2 10s. per. hour. That is one of the reasons for providing the amount of money to which the honorable senator referred.
– Do you inspect the meat that is slaughtered in the Australian Capital Territory?
– I do not think there is an abattoir in the Australian Capital Territory. I shall have to check that. But the inspectors carry out inspections in the States. It seems to me to be anomalous that very often we find a State inspector working cheek by jowl with a Commonwealth inspector and inspecting the same carcase which is to be sent overseas. One inspector cuts off a piece and the other inspector also cuts off a piece. This seems to me to be an overlapping of functions. I have never been satisfied with the position. I do not know whether it has been rectified, but if it has not, I hope that it will be.
asked me a question about dairy extension services. The appropriation is for extension projects common to a number of States. The expenditure in this instance is met by the Commonwealth. The main expenditure on dairy industry extension services is provided for in Division No. 941 in Appropriation Bill (No. 2). The expenditure proposed for 1965-66 is ?337,000.
– I wish to discuss the administration of the wheat industry stabilisation scheme, which comes within the responsibility of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann). I wish to draw particular attention to a reference in the Auditor-General’s report which states that the cost of the stabilisation scheme in 1964-65 was ?946,279, which represented a reduction of ?10,371,154 below the cost for the previous year. During the debate on the Estimates last Thursday I referred to the attacks made upon the wheat stabilisation scheme.
-(Senator DrakeBrockman). - Order! To what Division do the honorable senator’s remarks relate?
– To Division No. 380, Administrative. I am referring to the administration of the wheat industry stabilisation scheme, and particularly to attacks made upon the scheme by the Bank of New South Wales and other institutions which have criticised it on various grounds. Trie Bank of New South Wales stated in a report that the wheat stabilisation scheme can hardly be said to have achieved stability in the prices received by growers, and that the stabilisation figure was too high. In order to assist honorable senators who are interested in examining the facts of the case and who wish to see a comparison of wheat prices with the consumer price index - a method which more clearly shows the stability achieved - I have prepared a tabulation of the relevant figures since 1939. With the concurrence of honorable senators, I incorporate the tabulation in “ Hansard “.
The table shows that, historically, wheat acreages have risen, not in response to high prices, but because wheat growers have been compelled to increase acreages and output to remain solvent when prices have fallen in relation to costs. A study of the ratio of prices received to prices paid explains why in recent years farmers have been compelled to increase wheat acreages. The reason is not that prices were too high, as stated by the Bank of New South Wales, but because of a cost-price squeeze and the necessity to use costly machinery to maximum advantage. The article by the Bank of New South Wales suggested that high returns from wheat growing must attract additional resources from other forms of rural production. About the only other form of rural production suitable for wheat growing areas is- sheep rearing. Rather than wheat growing being a competitor of sheep rearing, it is complementary. The areas showing the greatest increase in wheat acreages also show the greatest increase in sheep numbers. To show how completely, astray is this ill informed attack on the wheat stabilisation scheme, I wish to quote from an article published in the “Quarterly Review of Agricultural Economics “, Volume XVI No. 3, of July 1963, by L. W. McLennan, in which he states -
As in the other States the districts which showed the greatest increases in wheat acreage have been, at the same time, showing consistent increases in sheep numbers. Moreover,’ as in all other States, the area of oats has declined, but this would not be an important factor in wheat acreage change. It is also noteworthy that the area sown with barley has increased in all the areas of major wheat acreage increase. It is therefore apparent that wheat acreage has not increased at the expense of other forms of agriculture.
In my earlier speech 1 quoted a figure of £200 million which has been popularly accepted as the amount by which the Australian consumers have benefited under the wheat stabilisation scheme. However, I am prepared to accept the statement which has been published in the report of the Vernon Committee and which shows that the Australian consumers have benefited by £110 million compared with the gains of the wheat growers of a mere £28 million. 1 also direct the attention of the Committee to a statement in the report of the Vernon Committee which supports the contention that I have been putting forward, namely, that the present position is not that the price of wheat has been fixed at too high a level but that the pressure is caused by increasing costs. The Vernon Committee staled -
The only answer to these pressures on costs, short of permanent acceptance of incomes falling absolutely or rising less than the average of those enjoyed elsewhere, has been for farmers to increase production faster than the increase in total costs. Many farmers have done this in some industries. If they had not, the continued contribution of rural industries to export income would not have been sustainable.
The productivity of the rural industries increased at an average annual rate of between 4 and 5 per cent, between 1953-54 and 1962-63, compared with a rate of increase of between 2 and 2.3 per cent, for the whole economy. So, the productivity of the rural industries under the system that has been supported by the wheat stabilisation scheme has risen at twice the rate of increase in productivity of the whole economy. lt seems. to me to.be strange that these ill-informed attacks should be made on the efficiency of our rural producers and particularly on the wheat stabilisation scheme. The scheme has given a great measure of stability and confidence to the producers of one of our major agricultural products and has conferred great benefits upon the Australian economy as a whole. I for one deplore the attack to which I have referred and in which other organisations have joined. I can see no reason for it other than that it is designed to weaken the whole basis of stabilisation of our primary industries.
Proposed expenditure and proposed provision noted.
Department of Shipping and Transport
Proposed expenditure, £13,303,000. Proposed provision, £14,990,000.
Proposed expenditure, £6,996,000. Proposed provision, £5,000,000.
.- The matter to which I wish to direct attention is incidental to the operation of the roll-on-roll-off shipping services between Tasmania and the mainland. A good deal of prominence was given to the fact that a smooth working arrangement was made not for waterside labour but for terminal operators, as I think the personnel are called. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether my information that these people are employed at a wage rate of about £36 a week is correct. That question is only incidental.
I also ask the Minister whether I am correctly informed that there is an arrangement between the Australian National Line and the Waterside Workers Federation under which the Federation receives a 10 per cent, commission on wages earned by Federation personnel. I do not know whether “commission” is the correct term. I want to know whether there is a payment of that order. I believe that if a payment of that order is being made it is so unique that we should examine it right at the outset. We will drift into an undesirable situation if unions, whose job is to advocate the improvement of the working conditions of their members, are permitted to make arrangements under which their own funds are directly augmented as a result of their members receiving employment. So I would like some exact information on this matter. If 1 am correctly informed, I would ask the Committee to devote a little time to an examination of the principles underlying any such arrangement.
– I am in the process of obtaining some information on this matter. I am informed that there is an arrangement; but at the moment I am not in a position to tell the honorable senator the implications of it.
– I refer to the payments to or for the States for expenditure under the Railway Standardisation (South Australia) Agreement Act. I should like to know what arrangements have been agreed upon for bringing a standard gauge railway from near Port Pirie to Adelaide. I understand that under the standardisation scheme Adelaide is to be connected with the standard gauge system. I also understand that some planning has gone forward which indicates that the connecting line will go from Port Pirie to Adelaide rather than from, say, Peterborough to Adelaide. I should like to know when it is expected that such railway will be commenced; when it is expected that it will be completed; and whether its completion will coincide with the completion of the standard gauge line from Fremantle to Sydney. I put to the Committee that it is most important that the completions be synchronised; otherwise, the southern part of South Australia, including the area around the capital, will not be in net with the standard gauge system.
I should like to know also whether the route of this line in the New South Wales area between Broken Hill and Port Pirie has been finally agreed upon. The Minister will be well aware that the Silverton Tramway Company at present controls the line between the South Australian border and Broken Hill. When the Silverton Tramway Company put down this ‘: it did not, for very good reasons, take the most direct route from Cockburn on the border to Broken Hill. Instead it took a route from Silverton which is possibly 10 to 12 miles longer than the direct route. Has a decision been made to follow the old route or to make a direct line from Cockburn to Broken Hill? My view is that the direct route should be followed because it is shorter than the other. I have travelled over the area by motor car and there do not appear to be any engineering difficulties in the direct route. I should be grateful if the Minister would supply me with the information I have sought, especially in relation to the date of completion of any standard gauge railway from Port Pirie to Adelaide.
.- I should like to comment upon the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. Last year the legislation establishing the Bureau was introduced into the Parliament and during the debate which ensued for two or three days the Government made great play on the work that the Bureau would do. Last year £25,000 was set aside for the Bureau of Roads and the same amount has been set aside this year. What does this £25,000 represent? Has an organisation been set up which uses this amount of money for the payment of salaries? If the establishment cost last year was £25,000, will the Minister explain why, after a year of activity, the allocation is again £25,000? I thought the Bureau would grow but apparently it has reached a dead end.
I do not know whether the Minister will be able to answer my next question. In recent months there have been inspired stories^- stories, at any rate - in the newspapers and comments by the Minister about extending the activities of the Australian National Line to international trade. Have the statements in the newspapers any validity? Is it the Government’s intention to develop the Australian National Line to take part in international trade?
– I indicated earlier to Senator Wright that there was an arrangement between the Australian National Line and the Waterside Workers Federation. I am now able to give him a little supplementary information. A 10 per cent, loading is paid by the Australian National Line to the Federation to compensate it for providing the Line with a semi-permanent labour force from time to time.. I am informed that other private shipping companies also participate in a similar arrangement so this is not a unique situation. 1 have stated only the substance of the matter. I am not able to comment on the principle involved. ‘
– This seems to me to be a repetition of the indemnity payments that previously were made to maritime unions, when the unions made money out of placing their members in employment.
– This is a definite arrangement which is entered into between the Australian National Line and the Waterside Workers Federation. That is the information the honorable senator sought.
asked for some information relating to expenditure under the Railways Standardisation (South Australian) Agreement Act. Estimated expenditure for the next financial year is £4,088,000, compared with expenditure last year of £2,200,000. Provision is made on this occasion for ‘financial assistance to South Australia for the conversion of the permanent’ way between Port Pirie and Broken Hill to standard gauge. The increased estimate for 1965-66, based on a programme of Works prepared by the South Australian Railways, is an indication of the matter in which the tempo of activity on this project is increasing, the object being to achieve completion by the agreed date, 30th June 1968.
The honorable senator also asked, about arrangements made with the Silverton Tramway Company in relation to the standardisation of the line between Cockburn and Broken Hill. The information I have is that the company owns and operates a railway between Broken Hill and Cockburn under authority conferred by the New South Wales act of 1886. The act provides that if the railway is acquired by the New South Wales Government compensation will be paid on the basis of 21 times the average profit earned by the company over the last seven years. Compensation under this formula would amount to £4.4 million. . The Commonwealth has no rights or obligations in respect of the existing line and. operations: Neither the New South Wales Government nor the South Australian Government is prepared to accept responsibility for any payment to the company either as compensation for acquiring the existing line or as an ex gratia payment if the Commonwealth constructs a new line on an alternative route. I understand the substance of the honorable senator’s inquiry related to the alternative route. This matter has not yet been finalised.
asked about the proposed allocation of £25,000 for the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. I think he made the point that this allocation is the same as that for last year. The explanatory notes indicate that on 30th November 1964 Royal assent was given to the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads Bill, which provided for the .setting up of a Commonwealth Bureau, of Roads. The Bureau is to function broadly along the lines of an advisory authority to the Minister on matters relating to roads and road transport for the purpose, of generally assisting the Government in the consideration, of the grant of financial assistance to the States.
Mr. H. T. Loxton was appointed chairman of the -Bureau, such appointment to take effect on and from 1st October this year. This is the real point. The Bureau has not had much opportunity yet to get off the ground,’ seeing that the chairman was not appointed until 1st October. He will be involved, particularly in the early stages, in setting up the Bureau and recruiting staff. I am sure we all understand that clearly: Mr. Loxton is setting up a new department. In these days of full employment it is not easy to get staff with the necessary qualifications. The inclusion of £25,000 in the estimates, this year represents simply an arbitrary assessment of the funds required to pay salaries and to meet other administrative expenses arising out of Mr. Loxton’s appointment and subsequent developments. Should his recruitment programme be successful and the funds provided prove to be inadequate, a supplementary provision can be made in a later Appropriation Bill. I think that is the point of the inquiry the honorable senator made. The allocation of £25,000 was made on the condition that if Mr. Loxton was successful in building up the Bureau and getting the skilled and trained personnel that he needs, we could meet any additional expense in a supplementary Appropriation Bill.
– I am obliged to the Minister for Customs and Excise for disclosing that a levy of 10 per cent, on the wages received by terminal operators is being paid to the Waterside Workers Federation but I am amazed that the Minister should submit to us that this is not a unique arrangement. It might not be unique in the sense that both the Australian National Line and private enterprise shipping companies participate in it’ but I ask the Minister: Is there any other union in -Australia that derives a payment such as this because some of its members gain employment? When it is described as compensation to the union for providing a semi-permanent labour force, I wonder what terms mean. What right has a union to require payment from an employer for providing some of its members as a semi-permanent labour force or as a permanent labour force or a temporary labour force? Surely no such arrangement with any other union is in force in Australia.
– If the Federation did not do it, the employers would have to do it themselves. The union keeps the force together.
– The honorable senator has said that the union keeps the force together. Iri what sense?
– In the sense that the union keeps the workers together so that the force is available when the ships come into port.
– I take it that when these employees report for work they report to a responsible employer and he gives them work. If they are, in the stevedoring industry and working under the- relevant legislation they are liable to penalties for inefficient supervision. It is hocus pocus to suggest that the union keeps the force together. I see here the inroad of a principle that is very dangerous indeed. If you are going to allow a union, whose duty it is to get the best employment conditions possible for its personnel, to compete with that personnel for the fruits of the employment and take this year a first bite of 10 per cent, and next year perhaps 12± per cent, or 20 per cent, you will allow an interest in the union that is entirely contrary to the benefit of the union members. It is a principle I want to see examined and justified if it is capable of justification.
No union has the slightest right to receive any payment in respect of the placement of its members in employment’ and it is dangerous indeed if the union seeks to derive profit out of the fact that its members gain employment. Its Job is to get the best employment at the most remunerative rates it can, not for itself but for its members, and its members support it by membership fees.
In conclusion I ask the Minister to tell me whether I am correct iri understanding that the average wage of these terminal operators is about £36 a week. What was the total amount paid last year by way of the 10 per cent, levy by the Australian National Line in respect of its terminal operators, taking into account the fact that they were employed ait various points?
– First I think I should remind Senator Wright that, after all this is an arrangement entered into between the Australian National Line and .the Waterside Workers Federation. It takes two to .make an arrangement. In all logic, one must have regard to the fact that the Australian National Line has chosen to enter into this arrangement, of its own volition. One would get the impression from Senator Wright that the . Waterside Workers Federation was making the arrangement a special condition of employment. I do not know that that is true, but there is an arrangement in existence and we must accept in good faith that it is an arrangement acceptable to both the Australian National Line and the Federation. The honorable senator asked for precise information about the earning capacity of those in this employment. That information is not available to me now.
– Can the Minister say what amount was paid by the Australian National Line for the year?
– I will certainly try to get the information for the honorable senator.
– I refer to the provision under Division No. 450 for the Melbourne-King Island shipping service. This matter was under discussion some time ago but the debate was not concluded.’ On that occasion, Senator Lillico did not’ share my fear that if the Government of Tasmania were to increase the subsidy on’ the shipping service from the mainland of
Tasmania to King Island, the Commonwealth Grants Commission would penalise the State in making the usual adjustments at the end of the year. I can understand the honorable senator disagreeing with me and if he were right, I would be very happy; but my fear in this matter was stimulated very largely by the refusal of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to consider a suggestion made by me in a question on notice that he might instruct his officers to submit to the Commonwealth Grants Commission that there ought not to be an unfavourable adjustment in those circumstances. In his answer, the right honorable gentleman really avoided the question and stated that the suggestion contained in the question would be considered if and when the need to consider it arose.
Had the Treasurer seen fit to come down on one side or the other, the State Government would have known what course to pursue. But if Senator Lillico is right - and I concede the possibility that he is - and there will be no penalty by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in respect of the grant by the State Government of that particular subsidy, this means that the Commonwealth in any event will pay the subsidy ultimately.The only difficulty is that it will be paid when expenditure for the year in which it was incurred is adjusted two years later. In other words, it will be a delayed payment by the Commonwealth. In the meantime, the shipping service between Tasmania and King Island languishes and will disappear.
If Senator Lillico is right and there will be no penalty, that will involve the Commonwealth in paying to the State Government the amount involved. I suggest that for three reasons the Commonwealth should consider paying it now. First, it would get the credit of paying the amount directly and secondly it would be paying it now instead of deferring the adjustment for two years. In the third place, it would enable some kind of service to be continued between the mainland of Tasmania and King Island.
– The Commonwealth would then accept the responsibility for some intrastate service. What principle does that open up for the rest of Australia?
– I remind the Minister for Civil Aviation that the subsidy in respect of losses suffered by the West Australian Government on the shipping service along the coast of Western Australia is paid in relation to an intrastate service and the losses have been met up to £1.2 million per annum. That is in recognitionof the fact that it serves a national purpose in providing communications to isolated communities, promoting the national cause of decentralisation, and the rest.
– Does not that service go around to the Northern Territory.
– I think some services do, but they are subsidised in respect of their contribution to the ports on that coast.
– I am posing the question: Should the Commonwealth take responsibility? You say, “Yes”. What does it open up in the way of intrastate shipping throughout Australia if we once start to engage in that type of thing?
– The Commonwealth cannot ignore the effect of the action it took in respect of interstate trade.
– As it affects the State Government?
– As it affects Tasmania. It is the action of the Government in subsidising one leg of the shipping service to King Island that has projected this position and I think that the Government should have regard to the effect of its action, which I think is a reasonable action.
– Which was the result of an inter-departmental committee’s report.
– It was a recommendation of a departmental committee.
– The subsidy was the result of an inter-departmental committee’s recommendation.
– That is true.
– I cannot hear this.
– The Minister is saying that the subsidy of £2 10s. a ton from King Island to the mainland of Australiawas as a result of a recommendation from an inter-departmental committee. I understand that to be the case. I shall be interested to know the personnel of that committee, if the Minister is in a position to give that information. The history of that application for subsidy is worth stating. lt did not originate at all with the Tasmanian Government. The application was made to the Commonwealth by the King Island Municipal Council and by the various producers’ organisations on King Island. It is true that it was supported, at the request of those bodies, by the Premier, representing the State Government. But it was not a request that originated with the State Government. It came from the King Island body that I have indicated. The Minister, Mr. Freeth, was in error, I think, when speaking of the subsidy. He said that the complaint was - an odd complaint because the Government . gave the subsidy of £2 10s. at the request of the Tasmanian Government to assist the operations of ships from King Island to the mainland. Now either (he Tasmanian Government has .suddenly discovered something which it .should have thought of before - that this is upsetting the balance of trade between Tasmania and King Island - or else this was some sort of plan to get the Commonwealth Government in gradually and then get it to subsidise freights from King Island to Tasmania as well as subsidising interstate freight.
I do not think that that is fair, having regard to the way in which, the -application originated - not with the State Government at all but with those bodies on King Island, lt is quite clear that neither this Government nor the body that advised it had full regard to the consequential effect on the trade from King Island to Tasmania.
On King Island the Commonwealth has a very big say in the war service land settlement scheme in which it has already invested £5.5 million. That figure was supplied in an answer that the Minister gave today in another place. That investment has to be supported. It is in line with what is done in Western Australia that the Commonwealth should evince an interest. But, above all, it has caused an injustice. As I understand the position, one of the two vessels that were operating from Tasmania to King Island, the “ John Franklin “, has now gone completely out of the trade: It has been put up for sale and it has been sold. After making 750 trips between Tasmania and King Island, it has gone out because of lack of cargo - lack of opportunity - the trade having been diverted by the very kind action of this Government in providing the subsidy on shipping from King Island to Victoria, a very kind action which is appreciated and which has given very much relief. But the fact remains that an injustice has been done.
The “ John Franklin “ has now gone right ‘ out of that trade. The other vessel, the “ Da vara “ trading from Devonport and “ Ulverstone to King Island, as reported by the King Island Marine Board quite recently, has had the number of its trips cut to one-third of normal as a result of the subsidy given by the Commonwealth, so that the trade that was normal and natural and which gave two outlets for King Island is now almost reaching vanishing .point. I point out that the subsidy that the Commonwealth has granted on trade from King Island to Victoria is for a period of three years. It will expire on 30th June 1968. If it is not renewed, there will be a complete monopoly, free then to charge what it wishes, untrammelled by any competing trade from the island to the mainland of Tasmania. I suggest that that is a dangerous position to allow to develop. I hope that the Minister will be in a position to tell me the personnel of that committee and whether there is any objection on the part of the Commonwealth to reconstituting it and asking it to investigate what I suggest is the relatively unexpected result that its action has had upon the trade between Tasmania and King Island.
– I wish to take this opportunity to reply-
– Others will be speaking on this matter of King Island trade.
– That is the reason why I have chosen to rise now. When we were dealing with these estimates on a previous occasion we had a very full and frank debate on the subsidy payable in respect of the King Island shipping service. I say at the outset that I cannot add very much to the debate that has already taken place. Whilst I recognise that other honorable senators might choose to speak on this matter and make points in relation to it, many of the points that’ have already been made relate to questions of policy. Senator Wright himself initiated discussion on this item. He was the first senator to speak to it. At that time I drew attention to the fact that we were, for tha very first time, providing for expenditure on a subsidy for this purpose but the Government, rather than receiving high praise from the Committee, was under constant attack because it did not do something in addition. That is a matter of Government policy. In all conscience,. I direct the Committee’s attention to the fact that clearly any question in relation to snipping between King Island and Tasmania is definitely the responsibility of the Tasmanian Government and is not in the same . category as the shipping covered by this line of the Estimates.
asked about the constitution of the inter-departmental . committee. The Departments represented were Primary Industry, Treasury, Shipping and Transport and National Development. Following this inter-departmental review of the service the Commonwealth, under an agreement with Houfe and Company, decided to subsidise this service by means of an operating subsidy to apply from 1st January 1965 until’ June 1968. Prior to the latter date consideration will, be given to the question of continuance. I do hot think that the honorable senator can make, a strong argument to the effect’ that because the agreement is for a period of three years until June 1968 the subsidy will be paid only until then. I think that is rather a defeatist approach to what is being done. The Government has said clearly that an appreciation of the position will be made from time to time. Any government with a sense of responsibility, when making the financial provision contained in the ‘ Estimates, must have regard to the current position in order to decide whether certain expenditure will be continued. An appreciation will be made by June 1968 to see whether a continuation of the subsidy to the King Island - Melbourne shipping service is justified. Many of the points raised relate to questions of policy and I am afraid I am not competent - nor is it expected of me - to attempt to answer those questions.
– The Minister has to justify the Government’s policy as outlined in the Estimates.
– Surely it is not suggested that what we are doing here is not justifiable. Does any honorable senator suggest that this subsidy should not be pro vided? I think that would be an extraordinary approach to make. Do I understand Senator Wright to say that we need to justify what is being done in this case? I would have thought he would say that this subsidy was an excellent thing. Surely we do not have to justify this expenditure, which, whatever else it has done, has provided a shipping service from King Island to the mainland.
.- I wish to deal with Division No. 460, which covers expenditure on the Australian Shipbuilding Board. The provision made for salaries for 1965-66 is £165,000. This covers the general manager as well as engineers, superintendents, secretary and clerks, the salaries for the last four classifications amounting to £53,048. Then there are drafting officers, technical officers, drafting assistants, technical assistants and plan printing assistants, for whom a provision of £105,582 is made. It is not clear to me whether the Australian Shipbuilding Board is actively engaged in shipbuilding or whether it is only carrying out supervisory work in respect of the repair and construction of ships for - the . Commonwealth. I would like the .Minister to enlighten me on that point. I take it that the engineers employed would be mechanical engineers and that the superintendents probably have the qualifications of engineers. There are also drafting officers and technical officers. The latter term has a very wide meaning. In addition there are drafting assistants.
I would like to know whether any cadets are employed under these classifications. Is the Board training its own staff to carry out engineering work on ships? Is it training its own superintendents, or does it draw on private enterprise for its technical staff? I would like to be enlightened in this regard. When the Minister is replying to the debate I would like him to inform us whether it is possible for the Commonwealth Government to get cadets from the ranks of those who have matriculated, so that they can pursue university courses in their chosen professions and at the same time be employed by the Board. This is a matter to which the Government cannot shut its eyes for very much longer. It must take an interest in the training of personnel for itf own purposes.
I wish next to deal with Division No. 451 -Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. It is nob very long ago .that .the Senate passed legislation allowing this Bureau to be established, but so far it has not operated at. all. I strongly, favour the establishment of the Bureau of Roads as a Commonwealth authority, because I think it should, be known in one office what is the master plan for road construction throughout the Commonwealth. For defence purposes the Commonwealth should . have first hand knowledge of where main roads and highways are being constructed. It is .essential that the Bureau of Roads be made operative as quickly as possible. Furthermore, it should keep proper records relating to the construction of roads, the metals used, the cost pf sealing and preparations made for sealing,, so that it could help local authorities and also the State Governments in some respects. I think the Bureau of Roads has a function to perform which would be of advantage to the Commonwealth, and I would like the Minister to give me some information about it.
.- Dealing with the subsidising’ of the King Island to Melbourne shipping service, I feel that it is only fair to say that I was present with the deputation which waited on the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth), the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and others in relation to that subsidy. In fact, I arranged the deputation. It was laid down by the King Island people - by representatives of the settlers’ association and the King Island Council, I think - -that Mr. Reece must be present and must be a member of the deputation. That was arranged.
– Mr. Reece being the Premier of Tasmania, I take it?
– Yes. The deputation was arranged at a time to suit Mr. Reece. He offered to come to Melbourne, if that would be more convenient, to meet the responsible Ministers in regard to this matter. As it turned out, he came to Canberra. I was present at the discussions which took place. They related to one specific proposal - -that the shipping service from King Island to Melbourne be subsidised. Mr. Reece was the principal spokesman at that meeting. So far as my memory serves me, no mention at all was made of the shipping service between King Island and Tasmania. So if an oversight was made as to the effect of this subsidy on the Tasmania to King Island shipping service, it was made primarily by the Premier of Tasmania. -
Senator’ McKenna indicated that the Treasury should make its views known to the’ Commonwealth Grants Commissionthat is, that it did not want a penalty or an adverse adjustment imposed by the Grants Commission on Tasmania. I think that is what the honorable senator meant.
– My , understanding is that the Grants Commission is a completely free and independent body. In fact, the Commonwealth Government indicated to the Commission two or three years ago that it might be well to impose an adverse budgetary adjustment on Western Australia because of the considerable loss sustained by its shipping services. The Grants Commission at. that time and since that time has not acceded to the .request. It is con>pletely free .and independent in the matter. The fact is, as the Premier of Tasmania has pointed out, that the payment of this subsidy of approximately £46,000 per annum on services to King Island and Flinders Island - has been made for many years.
– From the State Government?
– Yes. There has never been an .adverse budgetary adjustment, except on one occasion. That was in relation to metropolitan transport. This related to transport operating in Hobart, Launceston and Burnie. But never has there been an adverse budgetary adjustment in regard to this shipping service. It seems to me to be common sense that if that subsidy were made commensurate with prevailing conditions and the increase in freights which has taken place since it was introduced, it is highly improbable that the Grants Commission would impose an adverse budgetary adjustment on Tasmania on that account.
We know that the State Government has approached the Commonwealth Government for an intrastate subsidy in respect of a service between King Island and Tasmania. The Government said “ No “ to this proposition. That is that. I am not in a position to comprehend fully all the repercussions there could be if the Commonwealth Government embarked on the subsidisation of intrastate shipping services. Flinders Island is a case in point. No doubt there are places in other States in a somewhat similar position. What astounds me is the fact that the Tasmanian Government is prepared to allow trade between King Island and Tasmania to die rather than save the service by increasing the subsidy. To me that seems to be. incomprehensible, in all the circumstances. The State Government has had from the Commonwealth a firm and definite reply that no further subsidy will be forthcoming. In spite of that, the Tasmanian Government is not prepared to increase its subsidisation of the service because it says the Grants Commission might impose a penalty.
I have heard this argument about the Grants Commission trotted out for years. The argument was used in the State Parliament as a gag to increase taxation. Always and ever it was used as a gag to incur expenditure. The Government said: “ We will expend this amount because it is quite legitimate to do. so. The Grants Commission will not penalise us for it. But we have to increase this tax or that tax because, if we do not, the Grants Commission will penalise us.” When 1 heard Senator McKenna raise the matter of what the Grants Commission might do, it seemed as if a ghost from the past had come to life before me. This argument was used continually in the State Parliament merely as a gag to get legislation through the two Houses; It was used so much that it wore itself out. One day, someone came down out of the gallery and said: “ It is time you people assessed things on their merits, as to whether they are right or wrong, and put up with what you get from the Grants Commission.” That was on an occasion when a measure which was preposterously .unfair was being considered by the State Parliament. The Government said the measure had to be introduced otherwise an adverse budgetary adjustment would be inflicted upon Tasmania .by the Grants Commission.
That is the position. I do not know what the repercussions would be if the Commonwealth were to pay the subsidy. But the Commonwealth has said that it will not do so. In spite of the fact that the Commonwealth reimburses the Tasmanian Government for this subsidy on the TasmaniaKing Island service, and always has done so, to the extent of approximately £46,000, the State Government says: “ No, we must not increase the subsidy commensurate with prevailing conditions. If we do, we may be penalised by the Commonwealth Grants Commission.” It is an attitude that, to me, is completely incomprehensible.
.- Mr. Chairman, I wish to make a brief reference to a matter which was raised by Senator Wright. It is quite well known on the Melbourne waterfront that there is a special agreement between the Waterside Workers Federation and the Australian National Shipping Line. There is no secret about that agreement. It is quite open and above board. The information that I received when I .discussed this matter with my friends in the Waterside Workers Federation is that it is an agreement with the object of ensuring that ships of the Australian National Shipping Line which have to run to a schedule - particularly such ships as the “ Princess of Tasmania “ - will have a permanent waterside workers force available to them. If my information is correct, the Waterside Workers Federation, in return for a 10 per cent, levy on the wages received by permanent operators, as mentioned by Senator Wright, agrees that the waterside workers servicing these vessels will not go on strike. That is my information. I am told that the agreement may apply even when the Federation calls its ordinary stopwork meetings; these men do not go along to them. I think the Minister himself said that the object was to provide a permanent waterside workers force that was always ready and available to service these ships. That is the. story as it was told to me. The Minister can confirm it or otherwise.
I only want to say this: If the 10 per cent, levy is used by the Federation to provide better conditions for this small, almost permanent, group of waterside workers, if it is used to give them superannuation or other benefits, I see nothing wrong with it. I think it is .quite legitimate. But if the Federation .gets the 10 per cent, levy and sticks to it, . I think that smacks of an indemnity payment and it is wrong. It is not uncommon in unionism today for a union, in return for certain extra payments, to agree that there will not be a strike for a couple of years in relation to a certain industry. I think there was a case of this type this week. I want to merely say that I would always oppose such an arrangement if the money went to the funds of the union. But I would be in favour of this arrangement in most cases if the money went to provide better conditions for the men employed in the particular industry.
– Mr. Chairman, I can clear up a couple of points at this stage in order to make for more constructive debate. I consider that Senator Lillico gave a clear exposition of the situation in relation to the Commonwealth Grants Commission and the State of Tasmania, and I do not think I can add anything to what he said. The honorable senator also cleared the air about the atti”tude of the Tasmanian Government to representations to the Commonwealth for a subsidy for the King Island shipping service. Earlier, Senator Ormonde asked me a question about the engagement of the Australian National Shipping Line in overseas shipping operations. Quite clearly this is a matter of policy. But I think it would be fair comment to say that Australian ships could hot compete with the lower cost overseas ships unless special circumstances tended to offset their costs. To engage in that trade would entail large capital expenditure. I think we all would agree with that. On the other side of the ledger, there ‘ would be the quite definite possibility of heavy losses on the capital ‘ invested. At the present time, the Government is not prepared to enter this field. We have debated the establishment of an overseas shipping line on an earlier occasion. Dealing with it at the Estimates level, I should say that it is a matter of policy. I cannot see any point in taking the matter further at this stage.
asked some questions about the Australian Shipbuilding Board. The Board is a design authority, and it enters into construction agreements with the major shipbuilding yards. Speaking generally, ‘the construction work is supervised by “ the Board. Resident inspectors are stationed, full time at the major shipyards. The honorable senator- also asked about the employment of cadets. No cadets are employed, but recently young people have been employed for the purpose of training as a prerequisite to their becoming ship draftsmen.
– I desire to bring up a matter that I have mentioned before. In Division No. 949, Payments to or for the States, provision is made for the expenditure of £32.000 as ii contribution to the- maintenance of the Eyre and Barkly Highways. From memory, when I raised this matter on an earlier occasion the Minister told me that a sum of £12,000 was paid to South Australia each year for maintenance of the Eyre Highway from Penong to the South Australian border. Having had some experience of this road-, it seems to me to be a. waste to expend this money to maintain a road that is not passable in winter time. The condition of the road is such that people avoid travelling by road to the west as much as possible.
I am reminded of an occasion during the last summer when I attended a meeting at the local golf club hall at Poochera, which is on the west coast of the Eyre Peninsula. After the meeting had concluded and while we were having a discussion in the hall, a dust covered driver of a semi-trailer entered the room, completely exhausted. After having a rest for a while he asked whether he could sleep in the corner for the night. Because of the conditions he had experienced, his appearance was such that he could not go to an hotel. Eventually one of the local residents asked him to go to his home. On the next morning when he felt a little revived he told his host that his firm had sent a driver over to the west with the semi-trailer to deliver a load of material. After he had crossed the Eyre Highway the driver left the semi-trailer in the west and simply walked out’ on the firm.’ He said he was not prepared to take the vehicle back to South Australia. The firm then flew this second man, an experienced driver, over to the west to -bring the semi-trailer back. He said -after his arrival’ at Poochera that he proposed to go on’ to Adelaide the next day, but that he would never again traverse that road ‘in its present state. Some improvements have been effected. I understand that a motel has been erected somewhere along the road and that some water holes have been established; nevertheless the road is ‘in a shocking condition. As 1 said earlier, in wet weather one cannot traverse the road. lt seems to me to be a waste pf money to pay an annual contribution to keep the road in its present state of repair. We would do much better to pay an increased sum to seal the road and make it attractive to tourists. I ask the Minister to give serious consideration to making this one of the first matters to be considered by the newly established Bureau of Roads, for which we have been asked to appropriate funds. We should try to avoid the present wasteful expenditure and should develop a road that is capable of providing adequate means of transportation, particularly as there is now greater communication between the west and South Australia, Moreover, farm lands are being opened up further into the Nullabor area. I again ask that early consideration should be given to sealing this highway.
.- I wish to refer briefly to one or two small matters relating to the estimates for the Commonwealth Railways. These matters are rather trifling. Perhaps the questions I raise have already been answered. If so, I shall apologise. In the cases of the Trans-Australian Railway and the Central Australia Railway, the proposed expenditure for the current financial year is only slightly higher than the expenditure for the last financial year, However, when we look at the position in relation to the North Australia Railway and the Seat of Government Railway we find that, although the amounts involved are quite small when compared with some of the other items of expenditure that are before us, the percentage increase is much greater. I should be obliged if the Minister were to provide some explanation of this.
The other matter relates to the Central Australia Railway. I speak as a layman, but I am sure, that anybody who looks at a map of Australia must sometimes be puzzled by the gap that exists in the railway line between Adelaide and Darwin. There seem to be obvious advantages in completing this rail link. In this reply, will the Minister indicate some of the disadvantages that are to be found in effecting what otherwise would seem to be a considerable improvement in the transport system of this part of Australia?
– Perhaps I should apologise to Senator Cavanagh. I think that he raised this matter on an earlier occasion. When I turned. to the relevant page in the Estimates I noted that his name appeared at the top in my handwriting. This seems to indicate that he raised, the matter and I did not get round to replying to him. As I understand the honorable senator’s point, it is that the part of the Eyre Highway to which he referred should be upgraded and tar sealed. I think I should point put to him that that is entirely a matter for decision by the .State Governments concerned. The Commonwealth provides an amount of money to the States of Western Australia and South Australia to maintain the highway. It is a State matter. In fact, the estimates provide for the expenditure of £25,000- £12,500 by each State. That, of course, is only a contribution towards the repair and maintenance of the existing highway. The. question of altering the status of the highway is a matter for .State determination.
asked a question concerning the Trans-Australian Railway and the Central Australia Railway. I hope to be in a position at a later stage to answer that query. In addition, he raised the question of the extension of the line from Darwin to Alice Springs. Here again, this is a matter of policy. I have no more information on the matter than he has. I have travelled over the tar sealed road which was put down during the war years. It is quite a serviceable road. From my observations of the traffic that was using the road, it is quite adequate to meet the situation. I do not think that there is a great deal of rail traffic from Darwin, but, of course, with the new developments that are occurring in this area, the whole situation could be altered. However, this would be a matter to be considered when we are dealing with the estimates for the Northern Territory and is not relevant to the estimates with which we are dealing at the present tune. The capital expenditure involved also is a matter of Government policy.
– I want to make a few comments about Division No. 453 and Division No. 949. The remarks which Senator Wheeldon made are relevant to some of my comments. I want to raise the matter of rail standardisation in order to get information but mainly so that the Minister can convey the points to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth). 1 refer to what I think is a gap in the plan to standardise the railways. If we look at the estimates we find that in relation to standardisation in Western Australia we are committed to an expenditure of £10 million this year. As a matter of fact, in the Auditor-General’s report the amount is described as nearer to £40 million. An amount of £4 million is to be expended in South Australia. Of course, this is part of the project of standardisation to connect the eastern States of Australia with Western Australia, but there is a gap in the plan in relation to the Silverton Tramway Co., which has not yet been explained by the Minister in this chamber or by the Minister in another place.
I have had occasion to ask a number of questions about the proposals which have been advanced to solve the problem regarding this short section of railway belonging to the Silverton Tramway Co. So far I have been told by the Minister it is expected that negotiations between the South Australian Government, the Commonwealth Government and the New South Wales Government will solve this - problem, which is partly a legal one. I am putting to the Minister that unless this problem regarding the gap in the link between the east and the west is solved, the whole project of standardisation will fall down. We are committed to the expenditure of £4 million and £40 million, which probably will be used this year.
An alternative survey has been’ carried out by the Commonwealth Railways of the track between Broken Hill and Cockburn. Nobody knows yet whether the Silverton Tramway Co. will operate that, section, whether the Commonwealth is going to run the new line between Broken Hill and Cockburn, or whether the Silverton Tram? way Co. railway is going to be handed over lock, stock and barrel, which was more or less proposed. I would like the Minister to tell me why there has been a delay in reaching agreement about the position of the new route and, secondly, whether the Silverton Tramway Co. is going to hand over its railway for conversion to the standard gauge. Why have these negotiations not been completed to allow the ordinary citizen and members of this Parliament to know that the project will not be hampered? In addition to this work on the railway from the east to the west, we have spent millions of pounds in New
South Wales. Some years ago the Commonwealth Government advanced £5 million to convert the south east railways of South Australia to a broad gauge, which later will be converted to a 4ft. 81 ins. gauge. - Another point I want to make refers to what Senator Wheeldon said. I would like the Minister to convey these views to the Minister in another place in order to ascertain the kind of organisation which can solve these problems. As Senator Wheeldon mentioned, there are 920 miles of 3 ft. 6 in. gauge railway in the Northern Territory. The traffic on this railway is increasing. But we have a gap of. 800 miles between Birdum and Alice. Springs. At some stage the project of standardisation has to encompass a plan for the Northern Territory. I would like to know whether the Commonwealth Railways intends to use rolling stock that is manufactured outside the Commonwealth Railways workshops. I refer to passenger rolling stock and ordinary freight carrying rolling stock. What progress is being made in the manufacture of vehicles which can be converted for use on 4 ft. 84 in. gauge railways? Is it planned to do this in relation to rolling stock on the northern railway? Is there a plan to standardise the northern railway link from 3 ft. 6 in. to 4 ft. 81 in.? At some stage will a decision be made in relation to the gap in the line?
There is one final point I want to make, and it is a very important one. I have mentioned it ‘ during previous debates on the Estimates. I refer to the position of the Commonwealth Railways workshops in relation to the standardisation of the Commonwealth’s railways. I have made the point, which ought to be considered, that we have not a major railways workshop in the Commonwealth. Although the Commonwealth will take a leading role in the standardisation programme, it has not the sort of workshop which it should have. The present workshop is unable to manufacture passenger carriages. They are being imported. Much of the ordinary rolling stock is coming from private manufacturers.
– Imported from where?
– From Germany and Japan. Much of the other equipment is being manufactured by private firms in the States. This, of course, helps industry, but the Commonwealth Railways workshop is not able to do this type of work. Some minor extensions have been made to the workshop. But from the railways point of view and also from the defence point of view, it seems to me that the Commonwealth Railways workshop in Port Augusta has to be enlarged so that it will be similar in size to the railways workshop at Islington. The Commonwealth Railways has to supply its own rolling stock. 1 have some figures . relating to apprentices to illustrate this point. At the present time there are 89 apprentices and 272 tradesmen employed in the Commonwealth Railways workshop. Qf course, that is not a sufficient number of tradesmen to do the task which I am suggesting should be done. The quota of apprentices -to tradesmen is below the figure that is normally required in private industry. I make this point because it is very pertinent to the question of rail standardisation. Unless we can resolve the position of the Silverton Tramway Co., the whole standardisation project might not be completed even by 1968. If the Commonwealth Railways workshop is not able to cope with the new demands brought about by standardisation, we should plan with this consideration in mind. I believe .that a special planning authority should be set up in addition to what is being done now. 1 am hot criticising the work of the Commonwealth Railways, the South Australian Railways or the New South Wales Railways. Special officers from those Railways Departments have been attached to standardisation projects, as have members of the Department of Shipping and Transport. Government supporters and members of the Opposition believe that there should be encompassed in the carrying out of standardisation projects the setting up of a special authority to examine the problems to which reference has been made in this debate.
– The substance of the points which have been raised by Senator Bishop should be properly referred to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth). They are fundamental matters which should be determined by the Minister and his department. Earlier this evening I referred to the Silverton Tramway Company -and the gap of approximately 30 miles. Many legal and constitutional problems are involved, as honorable senators will readily understand. The Commonwealth has a point of view and at present some matters remain unresolved between the Commonwealth Government and the Governments of New South Wales and South Australia. I have every confidence that these matters will be resolved in time to enable the rail link to function properly when required.
Reference was made to the Northern Territory railway by Senator Wheeldon. The increased expenditure on the North Australian Railway will occur as a result of the work programme in 1965-66 to rehabilitate the permanent way. The present track between Darwin and Pine creek, apart from a very small section, is laid with 41 lb. rails which have been on the site since its inception in 1885. The rail transport of iron ore from Frances Creek to Darwin is scheduled to commence in July 1966. It will be necessary to carry an average of 375,000 tons a year for approximately eight years. The estimates make provision for the relaying of eight miles of track in 1965-66 with 80 lb. rails. All labour costs in connection with the relaying are chargeable to Division No. 814. It is a little difficult to foretell the future, in view of the tremendous development taking place. There is no doubt that the question of the gap will be considered at an appropriate time. At present the traffic is not sufficient to warrant its inclusion in the standardisation link. I appreciate the points of view expressed by Senator Bishop and I promise that I shall faithfully draw them to the attention of the Minister.
.- I wish to ask the Minister some questions related to Division No. 455. I refer particularly to the item related to the payment to the Postmaster-General’s Department for the inspection of maritime radio installations, the appropriation for which last year was £18,400 and the expenditure £18,360. This year the appropriation is £23,700. I also refer to the item related to the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia) and payments towards the cost of the coastal radio service. Last year the - appropriation was £280,000 and this year it has risen by £60,000. Is it to be construed that a further extension is to be made of the service of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission, or is the increase due to greater running costs?
As the Minister represents the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Hulme) in the Senate, he will be aware that there is some disquiet in the community because of the enormous increase in the charges made by the Postmaster-General’s Department. I direct the Minister’s attention to the fact that the appropriation for the inspection of maritime radio installations by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has risen by about 20 per cent. Does the increase represent additional costs, or are further services to be given?
I have another query in respect of an item that has been referred to earlier in this debate. I refer to the appropriation for the King Island shipping service in Division No. 450. Although the matter has been raised several times, I do not think adequate replies have been given.
– The matter seems to have been forgotten since we referred to it before.
– It is a rather important matter. I raised several queries in relation to the investigations into the King Island shipping service and the subsidy of £90,000. Can the Minister inform me what were the considerations that drew this shipping service to Melbourne which were overlooked in relation to the original destinations of the ships that transport goods from King Island? Has the Department examined the detriment to those ports where goods were previously shipped? Could something be done to inform the Senate on this matter?
I refer now to the Bass Strait Islands shipping service, establishment allowance which is a part of item 05, subdivision 3, Division No. 450. The appropriation for 1964-65 was £5,000 and the expenditure was £8,000. No appropriation has been made for 1965-66. I do not quite understand the figures. The item conveys to me that an establishment allowance was made for a possible Bass Strait Island shipping service and that nothing further is required this year. I believe that the subsidy being paid to the King Island shipping service should be extended so that other islands in Bass Strait may be included. As -I come from an island in Bass Strait, I was very interested to hear the Minister say that the service might be extended to Flinders Island or to other islands in Bass Strait.
– Senator Webster raised two queries in relation to Division No. 455. Under section 231 of the Navigation Act, the installation of radio equipment is compulsory on certain classes Of Australian ships. Duly qualified radio telegraphy surveyors from the PostmasterGeneral’s Department carry out surveys of this equipment. The increased provision for 1965-66 is based on the latest survey costs by the Postmaster-General’s Department for this service. That is the extent of the information I have at the moment. As it is obvious that this debate is to continue, I may be able to amplify that information and further explain why the appropriation this year has increased by £60,000.
Senator Webster also referred to the item relating to the Overseas Telecommunications Commission. The Commission, through a network of radio stations located around the coastlines of Australia and Papua and New Guinea, maintains a communication service with shipping off the coast. The funds provided under this item are to meet operating deficits incurred by the Commission in maintaining constant communications with the shipping in the areas off the coast of Australia and Papua and New Guinea. Payments are made by fixed quarterly instalments, adjustments being made at a later stage after the financial accounts have been made available. Provision for 1965-66 is based on an estimated operating deficit of £300,000, and adjustment will be made, as I have indicated.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative. (The Chairman having reported accordingly) -
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 November 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1965/19651109_senate_25_s30/>.