26th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs: Will the Minister make a statement outlining the full reasons for the deterioration in the relations between Australia and Cambodia resulting in Cambodia’s withdrawing its Ambassador from Australia? Has the Minister seen a report in the latest issue of the Soviet news bulletin, issued by the Soviet Embassy at Canberra, quoting from a message received from the Cambodian head of state, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, who declared that the Soviet Union had resolutely unmasked aggressive actions by the American imperialists and their hirelings against Cambodian territory and expressing determination never to retreat, whatever the cost, in face of neocolonialists and the invaders who are their accomplices? Are Australians considered by the Cambodian authorities to be hirelings of American imperialists or to be accomplices of neo-colonialists who are considered to be invaders?
– I will bring to the notice of the Minister for External Affairs the suggestion that he might make a statement concerning our relations with Cambodia and that he cover in it the question of the undefined frontiers between Cambodia and other states which Australia was asked, I think, to recognise. I think it would be much better to bring the honourable senator’s question to the attention of the Minister for External Affairs and ask him to take notice of it.
As to the rest of the honourable senator’s question, I must admit that I have not read trie Soviet news bulletin to which he referred. If I did, probably I would not give it the same credence and credibility as the honourable senator might. Senator Cavanagh also asked whether the Soviet Union considers Australians to be hirelings of somebody or other. I suggest that he ask the Soviet Union that question. I cannot answer for that country. I think it is fairly clear to Australians generally that we are hirelings of nobody, no matter what is .said in a Soviet news bulletin or what credence is given to it in certain quarters.
– I address my question to the Minister for Education and Science. In view of the serious drought conditions being experienced in large areas of eastern Australia will the Minister, who is responsible for the administration of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, reconsider his decision to leave cloud seeding for rain making wholly to the States? Is the CSIRO in a position to assist the State governments, when requested, by lending technical equipment for rain making?
– The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Commonwealth Government have never taken the position that they would leave rain making wholly to the States. The view of the Government and the CSIRO is that the prime function of the Organisation is to discover, through scientific experiment, how best to seed clouds to produce rain. It is not the function of that Organisation or the Commonwealth Government to apply the scientific knowledge gained in that field any more than it would be the responsibility of the Government, if it discovered a better way of making roads, to apply that knowledge to the making of roads. On the other hand the Government has always made it clear that it is prepared to supply technical assistance through its experts to the States or regional authorities to enable them, should they so wish, to hire aeroplanes to carry out this work.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Education and Science been drawn to reports of the findings of a survey conducted by the Victorian Council of School Organisations which detail the difficulties faced by children of migrant families in acquiring sufficient knowledge of English to enable them to receive proper tuition and which note that, whilst migrant children constitute up to 50% of the total enrolment in some schools, almost no special assistance is provided for them? To what extent does the Minister regard the special education problems of migrant children as being the concern or responsibility of his Department? Whatever the position has been up till now, will he initiate discussions with the Department of Immigration and with the Stale Education Departments and develop a plan of action to overcome the special disadvantages which these children suffer at present?
– I must answer this question subject 10 correction because I cannot give the honourable senator an answer with as much firmness as I would like. The answer may turn out to be not completely accurate in some respects. I. will ascertain the true position, but I understand that discussions are going on between officers of my Department and the Department of Immigration about how to inculcate a knowledge of English, not only in children, but also in adults who might benefit, in camps in Australia. The question suggests that perhaps we should go further and should move into the actual schools which the children attend after they leave the holding centres. The question is of some significance and I will bring it to the attention of my Department. I will subsequently get in touch with the honourable senator.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Education and Science been drawn to a statement in today’s ‘Canberra Times’ to the effect that a United States oceanographic vessel has discovered a vast fishing ground off the southern coast of Australia between Western Australia and Kangaroo Island in South Australia? Can the Minister state whether the oceanographic section of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has anything to report on this vast fishery bonanza? If his Department has not yet reported to him can he obtain, for the Senate, a report on the discovery?
– I will certainly attempt to obtain a report on the discovery. I do not believe that the oceanographic section of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, as such, was working in that area at the time to which the honourable senator refers. But the CSIRO has been engaged in a consider able amount of oceanographic work in conjunction with the Royal Austraiian Navy. I will seek information about this particular report of a discovery and, as the honourable senator suggests, bring it to his attention. I understand that an Australian oceanographer was on the vessel when the discovery was made.
– Is the
Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that the Professional Women’s Committee of the Australian Labor Party in Victoria will, on 30th September, sponsor in Wilson Hall at the University of Melbourne a seminar on the subject ‘Working Mothers and their Children’? If the Minister has not seen a copy of the agenda paper I can give one to him. Will the Government co-operate with the sponsors of the seminar by providing a representative of the Department of Labour and National Service to discuss problems arising from the rising number of married women in the Australian work force? In view of the importance of this subject, will the Government ensure that representatives of the Department of Labour and National Service attend this seminar as observers?
– I shall bring that question to the notice of the responsible Minister. What his reply to it will be I am not in a position to say. He might, perhaps, regard it more seriously if the honourable senator were in a position to assure the Senate and the nation that the Labour Professional Women’s Committee would have no idea of politics in conducting this seminar. But whether he is or not I shall still bring the question to the attention of the Minister.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for National Development seen the report that the Metal Trades Federation has strongly supported the Boilermakers Union in condemning the River Murray Commission for what is described as ‘calling off’ the Chowilla Dam project? Does the Minister agree with the reported claim by the union that the blame lay with the Federal Government because of what the union called its war expenditure? Can the Minister say whether there is any connection between the Chowilla Dam project and the Government’s defence expenditure? Has the Minister any idea when there may be a further announcement on the Chowilla Dam?
– I have not seen the report that the Metal Trades Federation strongly supports the Boilermakers Union in condemning the River Murray Commission. 1 certainly do not agree that the decision has anything to do with defence expenditure. Of course, this was a decision of the River Murray Commission and for reasons which have been thoroughly thrashed out in the Senate the situation is quite clear. There is no connection between the Chowilla Dam project and the Government’s defence expenditure. I understand that a report is awaited from the River Murray Commission. When the very complex details of this situation have been unravelled and the Commission is prepared to make its report public further information will be available.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Following Senator Bull’s question, the Minister is obviously aware of the proposal of the Governments of Victoria and Tasmania to hire aircraft for the purpose of cloud seeding in an effort to induce rainfall over large areas of these two States which are now under the influence of adverse weather patterns. In view of the interstate extent of these low rainfall phenomena and the urgent need, both industrially in Tasmania and socially in Victoria, for drastic measures, will the Government make immediate plans for units of the Royal Australian Air Force, as part of their training practice, to be adapted for cloud seeding operations in conjunction with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and to be at readiness to commence as soon as cloud conditions suitable for seeding are present?
– Lt seems that one part of the question should be directed to me and the other to the Minister for Education and Science, but 1 shall try to answer both parts, if I may. As 1 understand it, two or three States already have their own organisa tions working on cloud seeding. I understand further that aircraft arc available for charter for this purpose by States such as Tasmania which are not big enough to maintain permanent organisations in this field. If I read the reports correctly, the Premier of Tasmania is giving some consideration to chartering an aircraft for this purpose. As to the suggestion made by the honourable senator, I do not think the matter is quite as easy as he implies, that is, that aircraft can be used for training one day and then be fitted for cloud seeding the next day. I. think that the difficulties are greater than that and I do not think, therefore, that the suggestion that he makes is feasible.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. What services does the Postmaster-General’s Department provide for the Commonwealth electoral authorities without charge?
– The PostmasterGeneral’s Department provides no services without charge to the Commonwealth Electoral Office. It is true that letters and packages and, indeed, the Yes and No cases in a referendum are endorsed ‘post free’ when sent through the mails, but the Postmaster-General’s Department does receive an agreed fee for the carriage of all this material. Cards for the registration of voters or for the notification of the change of address of an elector are handled by the Post Office but, again, there is an agreed charge for the service. Electoral rolls are provided in post offices for the use of the public and a charge is made by the Post Office to the appropriate authority.
– Yes, I will, and I think that the best way to obtain the answer is for the honourable senator to put her question on the notice paper. If that is done the Senate also may see the answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education and Science. Is it the prerogative of the Federal Government to direct a State of the Commonwealth as to where the location of any new university or universities will be? Would the Commonwealth withhold funds if any State decided on a location for a new university not in conformity with a recommendation of the Australian Universities Commission?
– The answer to the first question is: No. It never has been the prerogative of the Commonwealth Government, nor has the Commonwealth Government ever sought the power to decide where a university or universities should be located. The Senate will remember also that the legislation relating to the introduction of the scheme for the establishment of colleges of advanced education made it perfectly clear that it was the responsibility of the States concerned to decide where such colleges were to bc located within a State. Similarly, in respect of the grants to State schools for the provision of science blocks, it has been left to the States to decide which schools shall be chosen and what priorities should be given to them. I do not recollect a case where the Australian Universities Commission has recommended a particular site for a particular university, so I do not know what the second part of the honourable senator’s question can refer to.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Acting Treasurer. The Minister will recall the Budget announcement that legislation will be introduced to extend the benefits of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund to those servicemen on full-time continuous duty for periods of 12 months or longer. Members of the Senate are aware that this legislation will benefit to a very substantial degree national servicemen and their dependants. Can the Minister enlighten the Senate as to when the necessary legislation will be introduced? Will the Minister seek the early advice of the Acting Treasurer on whether the legislation will be retrospective to a particular date?
– I know of the honourable senator’s interest in this matter because this is not the first time that he has referred to it at question time. The legislation is in the course of preparation. I am afraid he will have to sublimate his interest in what it will contain until it is before the Parliament.
– Has the
Minister for Customs and Excise seen reports and statements that the mayor of a large and well known municipality in Sydney, namely Ashfield, has ordered to be removed from the shelves of the Municipal Library books which previously were banned in Australia, and which the Minister has decided can now be read by the Australian public? Has the Minister or his Department been in touch in any way with the Ashfield Municipal Council to ascertain the real reason for the removal of the books from the Ashfield Municipal Library? If the books have been banned from being read in the Ashfield area because of their alleged obscenity or, to use the Mayor’s term, their pornographic content, will the Minister agree that the general overall practice relating to book censorhip in Australia certainly borders on the absurd when it would appear that a local municipality can override a decision of a Commonwealth authority? Will the Minister be prepared to do all within his power to persuade the Mayor of Ashfield to allow the residents of that area to read all books that have been approved for circulation in Australia?
– As the Senate knows, literature censorship in respect of imported books is under the control of the Minister for Customs and Excise and his Department, within the framework of the Commonwealth Literature Censorhip Board. As the Senate also knows, a new arrangement is about to come into existence. In that arrangement the Commonwealth and the States together are forming a board that will be known as the National Literature Board of Review. It will encompass the States as well as the Commonwealth in its functions. The Board is responsible for making recommendations with regard to all books of literary merit imported into Australia. Under the new scheme the new body will deal with books of literary merit produced in Australia. Decisions on making books available through municipal libraries are entirely the responsibility of the municipal councils concerned. 1 would not like to make any comment at all on that subject. I repeat that the responsibility for literature censorship on an Australia-wide basis in respect of books of literary merit resides in the Literature Censorship Board, which makes recommendations to me, as Minister for Customs and Excise, as required by law.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, follows a question that I directed to him last Thursday week, lt concerned the Chowilla Dam and was only partly answered. I understand that the South Australian Government has not yet been advised by the Prime Minister about a meeting that was proposed to him by Mr Dunstan. In view of the concern felt in South Australia about this question I now ask whether the Leader of the Government can advise the Senate when the proposed meeting will be held.
– I cannot even advise the Senate that Mr Dunstan has yet made the request that the honourable senator suggests he has made. If the honourable senator gives me an assurance on that part of the question, I will deal with it. In relation to the further question that he has put to me, if he puts it on the notice paper I will see what the Prime Minister’s position is. I have no knowledge of any such request being made by Mr Dunstan.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. By way of preface I refer to an answer that the Minister for the Interior furnished to me on 21st September 1966, staling that negotiations were proceeding between the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments on the release of certain surplus Army land in the Georges Heights region of Sydney Harbour for utilisation as foreshore parkland. In view of the period of time that has now elapsed, can the Minister now indicate the final outcome of those deliberations?
– All I can tell the honourable senator is that the matter has not yet reached finalisation, but it is approaching finalisation.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Supply, who is also the Leader of the Government in this place, ls it true that the oil companies which shared in the Bass Strait oil strike are seeking permission from the Government to export large quantities of crude oil? In view of the proximity of three refineries, has permission been given to them to do so? Before any agreement is entered into to enable the oil companies to export crude oil, will the Australian refineries be given the opportunity of doing this work? Finally, will the Government make certain that Australian motorists and other users of oil products in this country will gain from this oil strike and ensure that they will not be called upon further to subsidise the successful oil companies by way of exploration incentive payments or will not be overcharged for petroleum products?
– 1 was not aware that the oil companies which made the strike in Bass Strait were ready to supply bulk oil. 1 do not think that is the situation. I know of no application by them to the Government for permission to export oil. If the honourable senator will put his rather complex question on the notice paper I will see what details I can get for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. I ask: Could the Minister explain the basis of the censorship decisions applied to a film entered in the recent Sydney Film Festival and entitled ‘The Private Right’, which was produced with the aid of the
British Government’s National Film Corporat,on and was based upon the war in Cyprus an J ils aftermath? In particular, since the film received an X certificate in Britain, could not any deletions made in Australia have been limited to sexual scenes and not to other scenes which dealt with a prison interrogation sequence? Were the latter deletions based upon political considerations because of the various elements involved in this conflict? Finally, could honourable senators view this film in order to evaluate the censorship standards which have been applied in this case?
– The honourable senator has asked a number of questions. For that reason I wish to give him a considered reply. I anticipate that I shall be able to do so tomorrow. I want to be very precise in the answers that I give. Any suggestion of political censorship can be completely, absolutely and utterly disregarded. The distributors themselves sought certain things because of certain circumstances involved in this question. They did not seek other action. For these reasons I think that tomorrow will be the appropriate time to answer the honourable senator’s questions.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. It refers to a published statement made by U Thant, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, to the. effect that he thought that the cessation of bombing of North Vietnam would dispose towards a fair probability of the undertaking of peace talks’. What consideration has been given by the Government, either at home or in concert with the Government of the United States of America, to the published statement of the Secretary-General?
– The latest statement by U Thant is not significantly different from previous statements made by him on the same subject. AH I can say is that there has been no evidence whatsoever from the Hanoi Government that a cessation of bombing would lead it in any way to engage in peace negotiations. To that I can only add that when the United States on a previous occasion did allow 3 hiatus in the bombing for some considerable time in the hope that a cessation of bombing might precede peace talks, the only result was that North Vietnam used the opportunity to reinforce more easily, and make ready to fight, its forces in the south.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. What progress has been made in the provision of subscriber trunk dialling facilities between Adelaide and Melbourne and Adelaide and other capital cities? Can the Minister give any completion dates?
– Some little time ago I replied to a question in relation to progress in the provision of subscriber trunk dialling facilities. In case there has been any variation since I gave that reply I think it would be wise for the honourable senator to put the question on the notice paper and I will obtain up to date information for him.
(Question No. 73)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
Will the Minister provide details, in the near future, of the proposed expenditure on each road to be developed under the new $49m grant announced by the Minister for National Development on 8th March?
– The Minister has supplied the following reply:
The Government has decided to make available an amount of $50m for further beef road construction within Queensland and the northern part of Western Australia together wilh upgrading of the Birdsville Track in South Australia.
Discussions in connection with the future roads programme have now reached an advanced stage. When agreement has been reached between the Commonwealth and the States, the formal agreements wilt be presented to Parliament for ratification in accordance with normal practice.
(Question No. 131)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The Minister for National Development has replied as follows:
(Question No. 199)
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answers:
(Question No. 223)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
In view of the virtual wind-up of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority’s major operations, will the Minister assure the Senate that immediate action will be taken to construct the proposed memorial plaque to pay tribute to those members of the Authority’s work force who lost their lives on construction work for the Authority?
– The Minister has furnished the following reply:
The honourable senator can be assured that his previous question on this matter has not been overlooked and that a suitable memorial plaque will be erected to pay tribute to those members of the Authority’s work force who lost their lives on construction work on the Snowy scheme.
(Question No. 230)
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
What action has flowed from the recent meeting of Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General in regard to suppressing the use of secret listening devices by private organisations?
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied me with the following answer:
Invasion of the privacy of citizens by the use of secret listening devices was discussed at the meeting of the Standing Committee of Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General held on 20th and 21st July 1967.
The standing committee affirmed that the right of a citizen to the privacy of his home is essential in our community and that nothing should be permitted which trespasses on that privacy.
The standing committee referred to a committee of legal officers from all States and the Commonwealth consideration of the present laws and of any amendments necessary to give greater security to the privacy of citizens. When the report of this committee of legal officers is available, the standing committee will reconsider the subject
(Question No. 251)
asked the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
– -The answers to the honourable senator’s questions are as follows:
At 30th June 1967 there were 3,562 applications pending. These were in the course of being dealt with or were deferred at the request of the applicants. The balance of the applications received were withdrawn by the applicants or were refused for various reasons.
(Question No. 253)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In 1939 the scope of the Fund was enlarged to permit more direct aid to writers by means of Fellowships, assistance in publishing Australian books of literary merit and promoting and generally encouraging interest in Australian Literature.
The Fund is administered by a Committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees.
(Question No. 259)
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answer: 1 and 2. As I have stated on a number of occasions, 1 propose to follow past practice of not disclosing what action has, or has not, been authorised under the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Act.
(Question No. 284)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
Will the Minister give urgent consideration to assisting the request of the Australian Dried Fruits Association for the establishment of a committee of inquiry, to consist of engineers, plant growth specialists and practical irrigationists, to report on and suggest remedial action for the problem of salinity in the waters of the River Murray and its tributaries?
– The Minister has replied as follows:
The River Murray Commission, of which the Minister for National Development is President, recently appointed consultants to examine and report on the whole question of salinity in the River Murray, including the effects of tributary inflow.
The principal consultants are the well-known Australian engineering firm, Gutteridge Haskins and Davey, who will have associated with them Hunting Technical Services Limited, land use and agricultural consultants from the United Kingdom.
Hunting Technical Services have been responsible for detailed studies concerned with salinity, irrigation and drainage problems over extensive areas in Iraq and Pakistan, and have been closely concerned with development in three major river systems - Tigris, the Nile and the Indus.
The consultants will have access to all available data, and will of course be free to consult with the various authorities which have been concerned with studies in this general area, as well as with irrigationists and any others who may be able to offer useful comment.
I believe that the steps already taken by the River Murray Commission, adequately cover the request of the Australian Dried Fruits Association.
(Question No. 294)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Navy has supplied the following answers:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notce:
– The Minister for the Navy has supplied the following answers:
– Pursuant to section 22 of the Gold Mining Industry Act 1954-66 I present the following paper:
Thirteenth annual statement concerning the operations of the Gold Mining Industry Act 1954-1966 and the payment of subsidy during the year ended 30th June 1967.
– I move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
I ask for leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I present the following paper:
War Service Homes Act - Annual Report of the Director of War Service Homes for the year ended 30 June 1967.
– I move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
I ask for leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I wish to inform the Senate that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) left Australia on 13 th September in order io take part in a meeting of the Commonwealth Economic Consultative Committee in Trinidad and in meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Rio de Janiero. He also proposes to visit the United States of America for discussions with financial authorities, lt is expected that he will be away until towards the end of October. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) will act as Treasurer during Mr McMahon’s absence.
– by leave - The Senate will remember that regulation 45 which was brought down under the Trade Practices Act exempted from the provisions of that Act certain organisations concerned in the marketing of primary products. Those organisations were specified in regulation 45. The regulation became the subject of a motion for disallowance in the Senate. The debate on that motion was adjourned. I now wish to inform the Senate that regulation 45 has been withdrawn and two new regulations have been issued.
New regulation 45 provides the same as did old regulation 45 for all those organisations named in old regulation 45, with the exception of the Australian Canners Association. New regulation 45a provides exemption for the Australian Canners Association from all which was formerly provided under old regulation 45. The two new regulations were gazetted yesterday and are now subject to the will of the Senate.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Defence Force Protection Bill 1967.
Commonwealth Prisoners Bill 1967.
Wireless Telegraphy Bill 1967.
Navigation Bill 1967.
Social Services Bill (No. 2) 1967.
Motion to Disallow Regulation and Schedule
Debate resumed from 5 September (vide page 492), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That Regulation 45 and the Second Schedule of the Trade Practices Regulations, as contained in Statutory Rules 1967 No. 98, and made under the Trade Practices Act 1965-1967, be disallowed.
– This is a motion lo disallow a regulation which has now been withdrawn. I am not too sure what the situation is in that regard. Can the Senate debate the disallowance of a regulation which is no longer in existance?
– J have asked that the matter be stood over to the next day of sitting.
– T suggest that this is an ineffective motion.
– by leave - 1 ask that the matter stand over to the next day of sitting. The Minister has indicated that certain steps are being taken by the Government. For a start, no new regulation has been tabled and certain matters arise out of this motion which ought in the interests of the Senate and so far as future, similar incidents are concerned, to be discussed by the Senate. I do not take the view that it is an ineffective motion and I ask that the matter be stood over to a time when the appropriate steps would be taken. I have already indicated that the Opposition would not oppose a regulation in the same form as previously, provided that the Australian Canners Association were excluded from it. The Opposition will honour that assurance. As to the proper disposition of the matter before the Senate, I think it would bc appropriate if it were stood over so that the Opposition could consider its position and could suggest a course to the Senate.
I would envisage the withdrawal of the motion, but I would like to put certain matters to the Senate in connection with it. I move:
– I do not wish to raise any serious objections but I do wish to enter a caveat, because it appears to me on all counts to be an unnecessary and unusual course that the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) has taken. We do not have a regulation in existence to be disallowed as a result of the motion before the Senate, because the relevant regulation has been withdrawn. We do have on record - I do not say this unpleasantly - an assurance from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate that the sensible thing to do would be to withdraw the regulation, upon which there would be no need to proceed wilh the motion for disallowance which is now before the Senate. We have reached that situation.
The Leader of the Opposition in Hie Senate may wish to comment on the general practices which have been engaged in, but 1 see nothing whatever (o stop his making those comments on what I would presume to be his next course of moving to disallow one of the new particular regulations. Otherwise we may be having two debates where otherwise we would have one. If, in spite of that, there is some deep-seated desire to have two debates, I will not object to the course proposed by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate should he wish to pursue it, but it seems silly to me.
– in reply - Perhaps 1 should answer the Minister and the position might then be clear to the Senate. You have said, Mr President, that this is an ineffective motion, meaning that it could not have any operative effect. Of course, a moment’s consideration would show that this cannot be true. There are circumstances in which the motion could continue and be operative. I am not speaking now on the basis of what we know is to happen, but of what could conceivably happen. It is conceivable, if we examine the matter on the possibilities - and I am not detracting from what I have said will happen as a matter of practice - that in any situation such as this, when a course is taken by the Government such as has been taken here and new regulations are brought in, those regulations containing a repeal of the regulation presently before the Senate, the Senate could, for instance, move to disallow completely all those regulations, including the repeal. If so the regulation now before the Senate would still be on foot because the repeal would have been disposed of. It is not correct to say that this motion must, in all circumstances, be ineffective. Perhaps the Senate should clarify its position in relation to occurrences of this kind in the future. Having said that about Senate procedures, I now repeat what I said before. We have given an assurance that we will not oppose the regulations in the form in which the Government has indicated.
– I am not disturbed on that count at all. It seems to me that to disallow a law which is no longer in existence would be very difficult.
– I think the Minister has indicated that he now understands at least one of the arguments advanced - that is, that the motion would not, in all circumstances, be ineffective. Therefore, as a matter of commonsense and to allow the Opposition to consider its position, I ask the Senate to agree to this motion.
– by leave - The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) seems to have misunderstood the position. The regulation has not been repealed; it has been withdrawn. So it cannot appear again, as he suggests. If the honourable senator wants a little time to consider the position, I think it is a fair proposition.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 7 September (vide page 606). on motion by Senator Anderson: That the Bill be now read a second time.
– There being no objection, that course will be followed.
– The Senate’s power to oppose the legislation is undoubted, as is the Senate’s right to oppose the legislation. No basis has been established for any suggestion that the Australian Labor Party would not, under any circumstances, oppose legislation of this character in the Senate. Our decision is not to oppose these measures. But we are critical of them. We take the same view as we did earlier this year - that is, that the proposed increases are unwarranted, and injurious to the community. The Senate will recall that post and telegraph charges were included in a Bill which was defeated in the Senate on 12th May and again on 19th May. The telephone and associated increases were included in regulations which were disallowed by resolution of the Senate on 20th June.
– What is the Opposition’s attitude today?
– We do not oppose the measures. But our attitude to the charges remains the same. We think they are a form of indirect taxation equivalent to an increase of about 5% in personal income tax, and that they are grossly inflationary because they represent increases of about 25% to 33i% in general. Some of the increases are less than that; some are much more. They would affect not only the individual users of telephones and postal services but also the great commercial undertakings. They would affect every section of trade and industry and they would affect every consumer, because the increased charges would without doubt be passed on to the consumers in the way of price increases. These would be a potent source of price increase.
– Are these Bills not merely rates Bills for services?
– Both Bills are rates Bills for services. In that sense they are not regarded as money Bills, but we take the view that the method used by the Government of imposing increased charges in order to meet the interest bill which the Government is charging to itself is completely unwarranted. We take the view that the facts which were canvassed on several occasions in this chamber as well as in the House of Representatives show that the Post Office is in fact operating at a profit and that that profit becomes a loss only when there is a charge by the Government to itself of interest which exceeds the amount of profit which the Post Office is making. We take the view that the form of converting a profit into a loss b> an undertaking such as this is not a proper method of finance and we repeat the view of Prime Minister Menzies in March 1959 when he said:
The proposition is that we charge ourselves interest, we throw into deficit a couple of great undertakings that we have referred to, and we then raise the wind in order to meet that deficit - because it all comes back on to us. Therefore charging ourselves interest is merely a complicated piece of bookkeeping and does not produce one pennyworth of financial results.
That is the approach which we support in relation to these operations. Our reason for not opposing the measures is that the Government has brought in a Budget which we think is disastrous to the community and the Government will have to take the political consequences for it and, in particular, for these measures. It is our decision to let the Government suffer the consequences of its own economic errors. This should not be confused by any talk of what the Senate can or cannot do. The Senate is perfectly entitled to oppose these measures if it wishes, but for us as for the Government it is a political decision. The political decision made by our Party is that we will not oppose the measures but will allow the Government to take the consequences of its ill-advised actions.
The Democratic Labor Party has indicated a view. Whatever the DLP may say, opposition to this and to the Appropriation Bills can only be on the basis that the Government should be replaced immediately. When the DLP senators rise to speak, I challenge them to say whether they would be prepared not only to vote against the Government on these measures and the Appropriation Bills but also, if the Government were defeated on these financial measures, to support us to replace the Government in the election which would inevitably follow for the House of Representatives. If the DLP is not prepared to support us to replace the Government or vote against the appropriation or ancillary Bills, it is merely shadow sparring. Politically, one cannot justify rejecting completely the appropriation and ancillary Bills unless one is prepared to reject the Government completely and support its replacement. I challenge the Australian Democratic Labor Party to answer the argument that I have put forward today.
Is the Democratic Labor Party prepared to support the Opposition to replace this Government immediately, or does it simply come here prepared to vote on some Bill and then, in a subsequent election, speak with another voice altogether, and to say, as it has in the past, that the Government should be supported and that the Opposition should not replace it?
We regard the persistence by the Government in the imposition of these charges as an act of political madness. The Government claims that it has a record majority in the House of Representatives and that we are not being fair to it in persistently rejecting these proposed increases. If the Government claims that the people are on its side, let the people decide the matter. My prediction is that at the forthcoming Senate election there will be a clear statement by the people that they disagree with the action of the Government in imposing these charges and that they disagree with the Budget proposals of the Government. The view of the Opposition is that the Government is on a suicide course and that the sooner it is able to complete its own execution the better. For those reasons, the Opposition will not oppose these measures.
- Mr Deputy President, I have refrained from participating in the debates upon these measures on the two previous occasions when the subject of increased postal charges was before the Senate. On this occasion there are matters which, I feel, deserve mention in view of a statement by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). We in this chamber cannot proceed to debate an Act of Parliament or a Bill entirely without awareness of what has been going on outside the Parliament in the last 2 months. It does seem to me as though some attention should be directed to the attitude that has been announced by the Leader of the Opposition today. The Opposition has decided to alter the vote that it cast in March and again in June on what it claimed was u unique historic occasion. Now the Opposition in the Senate has announced an attitude which is complete reversal of that deliberate stand. 1 would respect that point of view on the part of any individual senator especially if I could find a senator rn the Opposition’s ranks who would take the responsibility for making his own decision. 1 am waiting for that occasion. But if a senator from the Opposition side wishes to merge with the general mass of the Opposition on all occasions - and I found in the statement of the Leader of the Opposition a deliberate decision of the Australian Labor Party senators who constitute the Opposition in the Senates - and. thinks that such is his decision, again this would attract my respect. But, Mr Deputy President, I cannot escape the conclusion that the voice we have heard is the voice of Murphy but the hand is the hand of another who is extraneous to the Senate. I believe that it is mischievous in the extreme and derogatory of the Senate that the Opposition should have its mind determined for it by a caucus vote of members of the House of Representatives and senators; especially when Senator Murphy, leading the opposition in the Senate, repeats today not merely his opposition to these increases in charges for fiscal reasons based on grounds of unsound economy but, what is more interesting, his belief that the very basis upon which the increases are made - involving, as they do, what he would be pleased to call fictitious entries for depreciation and the self-imposition of charges for interest - does not in reality exist. In view of the fact that these Bills involve such matters of public finance, which Senator Murphy condemns on principle, it is really a mystery why this reversal of attitude has occurred and why he, holding the views that he does, does not give effect to those views by his vote.
Let it be quite clearly understood that there are occasions - I have had experience of them; I do not need anybody to remind me of that - on which it is quite proper for an individual senator to assert his view against that of a considerable number, or even a majority, of senators. There are elements of great prudence and wisdom, in the running of a constitutional chamber of parliament, in taking thai point of view. But, when a party claims not only that charges are uneconomic and excessively inflationary but also that they involve procedures which arc fallacious Horn the point of view of public finance principles and which involve artificial charges for depreciation and fictitious debits for interest, I cannot find any excuse for that party condoning those matters by withdrawing its opposition to principles which it says are completely unsound.
Nor do I think the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition have any merit or foundation in reason when he chides the Democratic Labor Party with taking a certain viewpoint. Surely the situation is that a minority party, taking a view as to the unsoundness of the proposed increases in rates, initiated and continued opposition to the increases; and, if the political consequence of that were an election, opposition to the increases would bc a part of the general submission made to the people. The Australian Labor Party and the Democratic Labor Party would take the result in the form of the votes that they could attract. But whether either of those Parties supported the Government in preference to the Opposition after the election would be a matter not directly involved in the vote here today.
If that is sound, it is quite obvious that the reason for the action of the Leader of the Opposition is to be sought in matters that he did not mention. Quite plainly it is this: Not only has his view been determined for him within the caucus of the Australian Labor Party, but that caucus is not prepared to have an election on this issue and the Opposition in the Senate is prepared to subordinate itself in the caucus vote. The reason for that is that the Labor Party caucus has no confidence that it would have any advantage in an election.
– Is there an election coming up?
– I would think so.
– There is a Senate election, is there?
– 1 have been out campaigning for some weeks now. 1 believe that there is an election coming up. Why does the Opposition avoid the opportunity to have an election that would put the Government to a test of confidence? That is the question. But 1 am not really here to argue those matters. They are matters of political prudence and expediency. Notwithstanding what we foresaw and what we achieved on 27lh May. I do nol pretend to have any expertise with regard to what the people may decide in an election.
I rose merely to take note of the fact that in this debate on a rates Bill - as I understand the position, it is within the powers of the Senate to amend or to reject such a Bill - the Opposition in the Senate has announced that, although it still condemns the Bill, it will not vote against it. I believe that the Opposition is doing that in obedience to a caucus decision in which senators have been overruled by their fellows in the House of Representatives. This is a retrograde step in the development of the Senate. I could not forbear to take note of it.
– I rise to oppose these measures, as I have done from the time they were announced. On two or three occasions 1 have had the opportunity to state the reasons for my objections.
This afternoon I do not propose to go into any great detail on those reasons. They have been covered more than adequately. I was pleased that in the course of the debates in May and June of this year I had the almost undivided support of the Australian Labor Party. I think only one Australian Labor Party senator, Senator Benn, spoke in favour of the measures. With the exception of him, that Party was solidly behind me in my protestations at and objections to the increases in rates and charges for post and telegraph services.
You will recollect, Mr Deputy President, that immediately the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) publicly informed the people of Australia that these increases would be made I stated publicly that I was opposed to them and that we members of the Democratic Labor Party would resist them to the best of our ability. I believed that the Australian Labor Party would also oppose the measures, although I had no grounds for committing it to that course. Some days later that Party indicated that it also was opposed to the measures. Of course, by virtue of numbers in the Senate, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) then took the initiative from me and assumed leadership of the opposition to these measures.
Some very good speeches against these measures were made by senators occupying the Opposition benches. It was evident then that the Opposition was quite sincere in stating its objections to these increases. At least Opposition senators succeeded in influencing and convincing me that they were sincere. No doubt they succeeded in convincing a lot of people outside this Parliament for whom they shed crocodile tears. They condemned the Government out of court. They ridiculed the Government in every possible way. They led the public to believe that they were going to pursue this matter to the bitter end. Indeed, Mr Deputy President, they were responsible for bringing honorable senators back here for a special sitting of this Senate at the expense of the taxpayers of Australia. The Opposition did this in order to enable the Senate to have an opportunity of discussing and rejecting increased charges which the Government sought to introduce by regulation.
– The honourable senator agreed with that course.
– Of course I agreed with it. At least I indicated in my initial protest against the increases that I would come back for a special silting if I could get support to do so. I was only giving effect to a programme of opposition that I had laid down. Of course I agreed with that course. But having done that, I do not agree that we should pull out now and say that we will not persist with this opposition. I cannot believe that all the Australian Labor Party senators have said about these increases in postal and telegraph charges was all so much phoney talk; that they were insincere; and that they were not concerned about the people whom the increases are going to hurt. As Senator Benn said, the Government is quite entitled to increase these charges. He went further and said, that if the Labor Party were occupying the Treasury bench it would have done the self same thing. Now the members of the
Labor Party, who were so critical of these measures a few months ago, are saying in effect exactly what Senator Benn said. They are turning their faces away from these very important questions.
My criticism of these measures will amount to little so far as opposition is concerned. But 1 can assure the Leader of the Opposition and those who follow him that the public criticism of their change of attitude is quite deep and tremendous. The people arc taking a very serious view of the change of attitude by the Australian Labor Party to these measures. It is not sufficient for the Leader of the Opposition to stand up in this place and try to excuse his change of face by switching the question onto the members of the Democratic Labor Party in this place or the Democratic Labor Party as a whole. The Leader of the Opposition knows very well that the ALP caucus had the Government over a barrel on this issue. If the ALP was fair dinkum and wanted to test its strength, if it wanted to serve the people of Australia by occupying the Treasury bench in the Commonwealth Parliament, it would have forced the Government to go to the people on this issue or on other issues that have come before the Parliament in recent times. If these postal measures were beaten the Government would have no alternative but to dissolve at least the House of Representatives. If the Government believed that we were rejecting a money bill - and there seem to be two different schools of thought on this - 1 think tt would have to give consideration to seeking a double dissolution. This is the prospect before the Opposition. The Opposition has an opportunity to test its strength. This is an opportunity for the members of the Australian Labor Party to show the public that they are fair dinkum Labor men; that they are really sincere in professing that their purpose is to protect the rights and interests of the people - and this is paramount in my book. But Senator Murphy places that question second because, he says, the postal increases are now contained in the Budget and it is not the thing to reject Budget measures.
The obligation and the role of any Opposition in any parliament is to protect the interests of the general public against any inquitous or unjust legislation. Up to now the Opposition has shown that it is prepared to fight this issue; but because of influences which are now publicly known it has decided to chicken out. My colleague, Senator McManus, in remarks during a speech in this place recently, said that in May and June this year the ALP members were like lions. In August they were lambs. As spring commenced on 1st September, it is appropriate to say in September that they are spring chickens.
– You are an old wrinkly wether.
– My charity prevents me telling the honourable senator just what I think of him. My charity and regard for those who might have some regard for him prevent me from doing so. 1 might tell the honourable senator some home truths about himself. I could do this.
– I am a cleaner potato than you are. I am not a rat.
– You were in Queensland at one time. As the term rat has been used 1 am going to say that every member of the ALP Opposition has definitely ratted on the people of Australia over this particular issue. They have ratted. They have sold out. They have shown that they are not fair dinkum Labor men. They are phonies.
– J rise to a point of order, Mr Deputy President. 1 ask that the honourable senator be requested to withdraw those statements.
– Did you not hear Senator O’Byrne use the word rat?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockanan) - Order! Senator Murphy has the call.
– The statements made by the honourable senator are offensive and I ask that they be withdrawn.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! Senator Murphy has asked for the comment ‘that the Opposition has ratted’ to be withdrawn, Senator Gair.
– What better description could one employ, Mr Deputy President, in describing their change of attitude? But if the Leader of the Opposition is so hypersensitive about it I do not mind withdrawing because I am not entirely devoid of sympathy. I can sympathise and appreciate his humiliation today. What an ignominious position this great champion now finds himself in; this great champion of the workers’ cause; this great champion of the need to protect the workers’ interests. Today he has had to come into this chamber and say: Whilst we opposed these increases on other occasions, whilst we incurred expenditure in convening the Senate for a special sitting, whilst we led the public to believe that their champions were going to be consistent in this matter, we have decided, Mr Deputy President, not to go on with the fight.’
As far as the Democratic Labor Party is concerned, my colleague and I are prepared to go on with the fight. If the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate believes that this Budget is such a terrible one, he will have an opportunity later in the proceedings to vote for the amendment moved by Senator McManus to the motion that the Senate take note of the Budget papers. That amendment clearly says that the Budget should be withdrawn and redrafted in order to provide for the just claims of pensioners and the elimination of the increases in postal charges. That is simple language, language which can be understood by everyone in the community, language which I believe adequately sets out the feelings of the Opposition and the Australian Democratic Labor Party in May and June this year.
What a great change has come over these lions in the Labor Party since May and June. What a change in attitude we have seen. How people in public life can engage in such political humbug as they have done during the last 3 months is beyond my comprehension. I can understand a fellow changing his opinion, but to fight as they have fought on this matter and then to give the game away is nothing less than cant, humbug and hypocrisy. They will be branded as people who cannot be relied upon to carry out their undertakings and as betrayers of the public on this issue simply because a majority of their Party want to chicken out after having engaged in a piece of political opportunism.
The Australian Labor Party says that the time is not ripe for an election in either the House of Representatives or the Senate. Is that the spirit which built the great political edifice of Labor? Of course not. The men who pioneered the movement and who carried it on so successfully for so long until the red ants got it were men not only of vision and of judgment but also of courage. They would have taken their courage in their hands and said: ‘We believe in what we have been saying in opposition to these measures. Therefore if an opportunity can be created to take the Government to the people on these issues we should seize that opportunity and let the people decide whether the Government is justified in what it is proposing to do’. After all, that is basically democracy. But no. We find the influences behind the Australian Labor Party saying otherwise. I am not unsympathetic to those who would have adopted the attitude that I would have counselled them to adopt. However, I am critical of those who agree with what I am saying but who want to switch it around and attack the Democratic Labor Party, as Senator Murphy endeavoured to do. He was answered more than adequately by Senator Wright.
Now let me say something about the Post Office generally. For the life of me I cannot understand what is going on in relation to the administration of the postal services. What ails the Post Office? That is the question on the tongue of every person in the community. The people know that over the years it has been slipping continuously until now it is in a financial morass. According to the figures contained in the Minister’s second reading speech, from 1959-60 to 1963-64 there was an average annual profit of about $.9m. In 1964-65 a loss of $2. 6m was incurred and this was followed in 1965-66 by a loss of $10.3m and in 1966-67 by a loss of $23. 6m. Allowing for postal tariffs and the continuation of rising cost trends, in the current financial year the loss may exceed $30m. What a prospect. Yet the only solution that the Post Office can offer to cope with its rapidly deteriorating financial state is an increase of its charges.
– Is not this the free enterprise system?
– Yes, of course it is free enterprise: Put the burden on the paying public. What is wrong with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department? What ails it? Is it the Postmaster-General himself? Is it the administrators of the Department? Is it the system under which the Department functions? In a previous speech on this matter I said that it was now utterly impossible for the Post Office to function successfully and as a sound business undertaking as it has been doing over the years. On that occasion 1 said something to the effect that the Post Office had the Treasury breathing down its neck on one side and the Public Service Board breathing down its neck on the other side. Here is the biggest Government undertaking in Australia nol handling its own revenue. The revenue is going into the Treasury.
In that speech I prophesied that the Government would soon have to create a trust and, what is more, transfer the administration of the postal services to some public authority or corporation. 1 noticed in the Budget Speech that half of my proposals had been adopted - a trust fund is to be established. That is half the way. Let us throw off the shackles of the Public Service Board and appoint a public authority or corporation. I admit that this is not my plan. I have read a little about this matter and have learned that, as a result of the activities of a select committee on nationalised industries, the United Kingdom Government has in mind the establishment of a public authority.
– Would that authority have as its main aim the earning of profit?
– No, it would not. The authority would run the postal services on sound business lines but its main and paramount consideration would not be the earning of profit; it would be the provision of a public service. If time permitted I would read out much of the report of the select committee because it is pertinent to the point. Recently the Postmaster-General in another place went abroad. 1 wonder whether when he visited the United Kingdom he was sufficiently interested in the set-up there to look at it.
– Of course he was.
– I hope so.
– Well, he was.
– How would the nonourable senator know that? He was not there any more than I was.
– No, but I talked to him, and I know.
– If he has any ideas, he has not communicated very much to the public since he announced the increases in rates and charges. The Select Committee on Nationalised Industries published this statement in its first report:
The Postmaster-General also told the House that a final decision on the exact form of the reorganisation and of the internal management structure must await publication of the Report of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries’ and consultations with representatives of the staff. Your Committee have therefore concentrated on distilling from the evidence submitted to them some guidance on what they consider should be the responsibilities and organisation of the proposed public Corporation.
No doubt honourable senators have read a copy of the White Paper on the reorganisation of the Post Office in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom authorities have seen the necessity for taking this course, a course which is supported by the PostmasterGeneral of the United States of America.
It is appropriate that I should have before me an address delivered by Lawrence F. O’Brien, the United States PostmasterGeneral, to the Magazine Publishers Association and the American Society of Magazine Editors at the Shoreham Hotel, Washington, D.C. on 3rd April 1967. It is a quite current address. Amongst other things, Lawrence O’Brien said:
The reason for this painful and difficult progress is rooted not merely in volume, but more in the restrictive jungle of legislation and custom that has grown up around the Post Office Department in the 138 years since it joined Andrew Jackson’s Cabinet.
Later in his address he said:
I have concluded that there are so many existing and formidable barriers to efficient management that the ultimate solution to the problems of the postal service lies in taking the Department out of ils present context entirely.
He also said:
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Post Office Department, as presently constituted, reminds me of the classic definition of an elephant - a mouse built to government specifications.
The same gentleman went on to say: 1 agreed with Chairman Steed. My area of ‘no control’ is almost unlimited.
This is a situation that has grown up over such a long period of time and has such a strong tradition, that the only effective action 1 foresee is sweeping it away entirely. . . .
The question is whether so much prodding would have been necessary if the managers of the postal service were themselves clearly and fully responsible for the Department’s record.
Still later he said:
The partnership is meaningful, the relationships arc excellent but together we occupy a vehicle no longer able to respond to the demands of the times.
Indifference, inflexibility, timidity are tenacious molds that grow in areas shaded by diffused responsibility. When everybody is responsible, as you well know from your own business operations, nobody is responsible.
If there is one lesson I have learned from many years in public service it is that when you give a man responsibility and hold him to it - then, and only then, do you get results.
He then went on to say:
And therefore I propose to you today that the postal service -
. should cease to be part of the President’s Cabinet;
. should become a non-profit government corporation, rendering essential public service;
. should provide postal services authorised by the Congress; . . should be operated by a board of directors, appointed by the President, and confirmed by the Congress;
. should be managed by a professional executive appointed by the board;
. should be given a clear mandate on the percentage of cost coverage for postal services, so that further revisions in rates - should they be necessary - would bc made on a fixed formula basis.
Finally, he said:
Through the establishment of a government corporation we would avoid the many statutory restrictions on appropriated funds which now exist. For example, the corporation would issue bonds to provide a capital fund wilh which to build appropriately designed and well equipped post office structures, which could also be selfamortising through rental income.
I can report to you that 1 have made a general recommendation of this nature to the President.
I have shown the progress that has been made and the line of thought that exists in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. But it would appear that we are content to go along just at a horse and buggy speed and to say: ‘Oh, well, they can do that. They have had more experience, probably, than we have, but we are going to stay as we are. Wc are going to permit a continuance of the unsatisfactory state of affairs that exists. This, the largest service operating under the Crown, is subjected to irritations from the Public Service Board, in many cases by inspectors who are less senior than the man who is in charge of the Post Office and whose recommendations count for little if the Public Service Board has any ideas about who should be appointed to responsible positions. Somewhat the same position applies here as Lawrence F. O’Brien, the Postmaster-General in the United States of America, says applies in that country. He asserts that he has no freedom, that he has no flexibility and that he is overburdened by statutes and by interference.
I hope the time is not far distant when the Government will take up the second part of the proposal I made here a few weeks ago and will establish a public corporation to control the Post Office. Then we might see some improvement, and we might see these vast rapidly augmenting losses converted into something like a reasonable profit and the Post Office made a successful undertaking. I can only express the sincere hope that this will happen in my time.
Let me say in conclusion that I am indeed regretful that the Opposition has seen fit to take the line of timidity, the line of political ultra-caution and the line of misrepresenting to the people its attitude on this issue, thus causing the people to believe, at least for a time, that they had some champions in the Australian Labor Party ranks in the Senate. Yes, I am sincerely regretful because I had hoped that on the day on which this legislation was before us we would pursue the course we had initiated, which we supported and for which we fought so that we might force the Government to realise just where it stood and just how determined the Senate was to give effect to what it believed to be right, being prompted by a sincere desire to protect the interests of the people. It is a sad day for members of the Australian Labor Party, because it is a day that marks a retreat from support of a cause that at least most ALP senators believe to be a good one. I do not want to be too hard. I sympathise deeply with members of the ALP because of the ignominious and humiliating position into which they have been forced.
– It is unfortunate that unity has given place to disunity, because when the three elements of the Opposition were united the people of Australia benefited. Senator Gair made an excellent speech when outlining the reasons why a corporation should be established to run the Post Office, but he spoiled it by attacking the Labor Party for not joining us. There are two points to bc considered. Firstly, I think the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) made a very good point when he said that if the Democratic Labor Party would give an assurance that it would support the Australian Labor Party in the forthcoming Senate election the ALP would be happy to give in on this issue. Any student of the political position knows that if there were a double dissolution the only people to benefit would be myself and the Democratic Labor Party.
– Then have a single dissolution.
-! do not think there is any doubt that a Liberal and Country Party Government would be returned in the lower House. If a double dissolution occurs now it will only confirm the Government’s action in imposing increased Post Office charges.
– Let the people decide.
– The people may be against the Government, but there is no hope whatever at the moment of the Labor Party’s forming a government in the lower house. Therefore we would just strengthen the hand of the Government by forcing a double dissolution.
– In what way would a double dissolution benefit the honourable senator?
– It would benefit the DLP senators and myself because our electoral quotas would be halved.
– How would that benefit the honourable senator?
– We could get >n much more easily.
– But the honourable senator is in now.
– But in the event of a double dissolution the electoral quotas would be reduced by half and it follows that it would be easier for senators to be re-elected, especially Independent senators or those in small groups. It would even be possible for candidates from the Liberal Reform Party or the Australia Party to be elected in the event of a double dissolution. The second point I want to raise docs not really interest me. As a united Opposition we were able to achieve something. It did not worry me whether the ALP or the DLP took credit for defeating the regulations when, in fact, as the ‘Australian’ so pertinently put it, they could not have been defeated without the Independent senator. He was the one who carried the day. irrespective of whether it was the DLP or the ALP-
– It was a joint effort.
– Tt was a joint effort, and without any one section of the Opposition the regulations would not have been defeated.
– The honourable senator will concede that I took the lead?
– I do not really mind who took the lead. I come back to the point that the Government’s proposal could not have been defeated without me. I want to get away from that aspect, because I support Senator Gair in his view that this Bill should be defeated. We argued the matter previously. The whole point was that we were told that the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill 1967 (No. 3) was not a money Bill. To me it is a money Bill, and cannot be anything else. The Government has shown that it is a money Bill by introducing it as part of the Budget proposals. How can it be regarded as other than a money Bill when money is raised from the taxpayers of Australia through the Treasury, handed over to the Postmaster-General’s Department and returned with interest to the Treasury? In other words, the Treasury is getting a gift of millions of dollars from the Postmaster-General’s Department. That is basically the effect of the accounting system. There is no doubt about that. It can be argued in any way that Government supporters choose, but the fact remains that it does not cost the Treasury a penny to raise the money for the Post Office and it gets it back from the Post Office with interest. That is the aspect which seems to me to be completely wrong, because the Post Office would make a colossal profit if it did not pay interest to the Treasury, and thus could reduce its postal charges; but, of course, the Government would have to raise direct taxation by about 5% or more. As so many elections faced the Government - first for the House of Representatives and now for the Senate - it did not want to follow that course. So it has adopted this means of raising money through the Postal Department. 1 do not blame the Government, because that is no more a political action than the action of defeating the regulations was.
I believe the purpose of the Bill is wrong. I agree with the argument that has been put by Opposition senators that it is wrong that the States should have to borrow from the Commonwealth money which the Commonwealth raises in direct taxation. Exactly the same principle is involved. We should not have a bar of the present accounting system of the Post Office.
I wish now to raise a matter concerning medical journals. Two companies have written to me, one of which has pointed out that the new charges will cost it an extra SI 3,000 annually. It will have to close down, because it cannot afford to pay that amount. I wrote to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) and made representations on behalf of the publishers of these medical journals. One would think that there would be some flexibility. If there were, I would not be so adamant - that the present accounting system of the Post Office must go. There is no flexibility. Under the regulations educational and scientific journals, and journals of a type I have forgotten for the moment, can be posted at a cheaper rate. I have been told quite blandly by the Post Office that one of the journals, the subject of my representations, is not educational and is not scientific. It gives information to doctors. It is posted to only about 12,000 doctors in Australia and to nobody else. Surely it can be classified as scientific.
– And educational.
– Surely it must be a medical, educational journal. But no. The Post Office has said that it is not educational and not scientific. It cannot be granted a reduction in postal charges and the result is that it, and possibly the other journal, will have to go out of business. The companies cannot absorb the increased postal charges. The costs of printing the journals are met through advertising. They may be able to get out through some loop hole in the regulations, but that is not the point. The publication that will have to close down is a journal for medical people only. It is obviously educational. It could be disputed that it is scientific. It could be said that its articles on drugs are not scientific. That is up to the reader, but that it is an educational journal cannot be escaped.
I ask the Postmaster-General to reconsider his adamant and blanket refusal that a reduction is out of the question. I believe that decision is quite wrong. I do not want to make a long speech. The Senate thrashed this matter out before. The people are being fleeced by the increased charges and there is absolutely no need for them. The Post Office is making a profit. I will not agree for one moment that it is properly showing a loss. It is showing a loss because of an accounting system which should be abolished. I heartily support the proposal that a corporation be formed to run the Post Office. I think that is the only way. A procedure should be followed along the lines of Trans-Australia Airlines, which gives service first and then thinks of profit.
– And the Overseas Telecommunications Commission.
– Yes, and another such body. I believe that this measure should be thrown out until the Government gives an assurance that a corporation will be formed. When such an assurance is given I will be prepared to vote for the measure to enable the corporation to get started. I appreciate that a trust has been formed, but that is only a small matter. I do not think it helps at all. We must have a corporate body, separated from the Public Service to run the Post Office enterprise. It is a big business and it must have a proper accounting system and not the puerile system of charging interest on money which is raised from the taxpayers without charge. I oppose the Bill.
– It seems that everybody is now agreed that this is a money Bill.
– No, we do not.
– Senator Turnbull certainly agrees, because he has just admitted it. It was just as much a money measure in June of this year.
– It is clearly not a money Bill, and it never was.
– It is not a money Bill.
- Senator Turnbull described it quite freely as one which raises revenues for the Post Office. In the honourable senator’s book revenue is money. That statement goes for me too.
– The Constitution provided for the action that we took.
– I am not suggesting that honourable senators opposite did not have constitutional authority to do what they did. Otherwise the Senate would not have been here in June. The honourable senator need not worry about that. I do point out that the Bills are money Bills which seek to raise revenue for the Post Office. I disagree with Senator Turnbull’s proposal that the accountancy methods of the Post Office are wrong. A study of a number of post offices throughout the world would show that in these days the rapid change in technical development is such that enormous sums of money are needed for capital works and equipment. Just how much of this money should come from general revenue, that is from the taxpayer, and how much should come from the user? The proposal in this legislation and in the legislation which was rejected earlier in the year is that a certain amount of the capital should be found by the user and a certain amount by the taxpayer. That is a fair proposition. I think the Government was right in its approach to the situation, because the Post Office needed, and does need, a tremendous amount of capital to keep abreast of technical developments.
I have received a number of requests since the funds were denied to us earlier in the year. I received a very interesting request from citizens of the west coast of Tasmania, where they still have the old manaual exchanges. At night some of the junior staff sleep alongside the telephone, and if they sleep pretty heavily they do not hear the telephone. In that case the system cannot be used at night. The proposal put to mc was that the area urgently needs - and I agree - a rural automatic exchange. I had to reply: ‘Your proposals are just what the Government envisaged when it introduced legislation to provide the revenue which would allow it to buy the equipment necessary to install these extra rural automatic exchanges.’ I hold the Democratic Labor Party and the independent senator, Senator Turnbull, just as responsible as the Australian Labor Party for the denial of these funds.
– Senator Henty is admitting what we are saying - that the present subscriber is expected to pay for the extensions.
– I listened quietly to what the honourable senator had to say.
– The Minister did not understand a word I said.
– I undersood what the honourable senator said. In my reply to the people of the west coast of Tasmania I said: ‘I am afraid you will have to put up with these night operations and with juniors on the exchange for a while because the ALP, the DLP and the independent senator, Senator Turnbull, acting in co-operation, denied the Government for months the revenue which it needed for-
– For capital works.
– I just said that. Where has the honourable senator been? I said that the proposal of the Government in the legislation-
– Senator Henty should be over here talking with me.
– The poor man does not understand English. Let me say it again for the special benefit of the honourable senator - just quietly so that he will understand. The proposal of the Government was, and is, that a certain amount of the increased charges in the Bills was to cover the cost of the immense increase in capital equipment needed by the Post Office. It is proposed that a certain amount of the increase will come from the taxpayer and a certain amount from the user. I heartily agree with that proposal. I do not think the honourable senator agrees with it.
– Of course I do not.
– That is where we disagree. I want to make the situation quite clear. The cost has to be met either by the taxpayer or else in the way suggested by the Government - part by the user and part by the taxpayer. One does not always have to write a letter; sometimes one can get out of doing so. One could get out of paying extra for a stamp because one did not write the letter. The user would have the opportunity of not having to bear the extra cost, whereas the taxpayer would have no opportunity at all. I make that statement because I have great feeling for communities such as those on the west coast of Tasmania. That area is not as isolated as it was, thank goodness, due to better roads, airports and a regular aircraft service. A tremendous amount of help has been given to the isolated, great mining area on the west coast. But this old system of manual exchanges still exists there. As I said, the people over there wrote to me about it. The Government will have to do what it can to see whether it can step up the priority a little. That is the very purpose for which the Government sought the increased revenue which was denied to it earlier in the year. Such communities throughout the country will have to wait for rural automatic exchanges, because the capital is not available to the Post Office. Those communities can thank the ALP, the DLP, and the independenet senator, Senator Turnbull, who lined up and opposed the original legislation. Revenue has been denied to the Government over the past 3 months.
I wonder whether the Senate has given thought to the tremendous responsibility that is carried by the men of the Post Office. What other country has such an enormous area, with so few people, over which communications have to stretch? It is a tremendous problem. At the same time the Government does not want to deny the Post Office the right of research and development into satellite communication, which will bring tremendous benefits to the people of Australia. The money spent on research and development comes out of the capital available to the Post Office. Technically, the Post Office has made tremendous strides forward in a number of places, and this advance will be continued right throughout Australia before many months have elapsed. A subscriber may now dial straight through to a number in Melbourne or Sydney. This system is being developed throughout Australia. As I understood the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme), when the cable is laid across the Nullarbor Plain to Western Aus tralia subscribers will be able to dial straight through to a number in Perth. Such a feat involves a tremendous cost. I do not know how wide the Nullarbor Plain is, let alone the breadth of Western Australia. The area of that State is about one-third of the size of Australia. But the cable will go across the Nullarbor Plain, where there will be a couple of lizards and a frog. Yet this tremendous cost has to be paid. I pay tribute to the men who design and organise the technical developments in the Post Office. They carry a tremendous responsibility and they have shaped up to it magnificently.
The Post Office does not lag behind in the technical field. Those of us who saw the telecast of Expo 67 will agree that it was a tremendous feat. During the week before I had the pleasure of seeing a trial run which was carried out through the co-operation of the Postmaster-General’s Department, the Department of Supply and the Department of Civil Aviation. The picture was beamed from Expo 67 to a station a few hundred miles away, then to the satellite 20,000-odd miles up in space and then down to Cooby Creek. The Post Office picked up the picture and beamed it around Australia. All this took about one-third of a second. Almost to the second we saw the actual opening of this great Expo 67 at Montreal. What a tremendous technical achievement this was and how modern this Post Office is. We ought to be proud of it instead of the Opposition speaking all this nonsense about its being an inefficient organisation, with the people employed in it being inefficient and not working. Why cannot the Opposition be proud of the real feats of the Post Office, which has made a magnificent technical contribution that will bring added benefits to the people of Australia? All of this costs a tremendous amount of money. Those persons who have been over the tracking stations will know this. I refer particularly to the station at Cooby Creek, which is really an accumulation of small caravans each of which contains tremendously costly equipment installed by the United States of America and manned by Australians. This has brought tremendous opportunities to young Australians to become technically competent in this field. We owe a great deal to the United States, through its National Aeronautics and Space Administration for what has been done.
These things cannot be done without cash. Immense capital is needed not only to carry out the ordinary functions of the Post Office in the delivery of mails and in the provision of telephone services, modern sorting equipment and modern offices - these are bread and butter items - but also to make possible the great technical developments with which the Post Office and its officers have kept abreast. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to what they have done but I want to come back now to bread and butter items because I believe in grass roots politics. People in isolated areas such as the great west coast of Tasmania will probably not be able to receive as early as otherwise would have been the case the automatic exchanges that they need, because revenues have been denied to the Post Office by the disallowance only 3 months ago of regulations and legislation. Now the provision of these revenues is coming to pass.
– That action served the Labor purpose.
– Senator Branson asked me the other day what was the cost of bringing senators from all over Australia for a special sitting last June, including their air fares, their expenses and everything else associated with the meeting to disallow provisions which would have enabled people in outback areas to obtain these facilities. One has to look at whether the Senate did or did not achieve a really parliamentary objective. This is a money Bill, in my book of words, as I understand the meaning of money. I do not quibble on legal technicalities with the Leader of the Opposition, who is much more competent than I am legally. I will not allow that he has more commonsense but I will allow that he has greater legal capacity than I have. I believe that the disallowance of a money Bill is not a function of this House. The responsible Government puts forward legislation and says that it needs this money to provide facilities for telephones and mail services. The people should be able to judge the Government when the Parliament next goes to an election. That is when this issue should be fought. The Government carries the responsibility in the other House, not in this House, for the raising and spending of money.
It is not for this House, which is a House of review, a States House, to deny revenue to the responsible Government elected by the people to carry out this policy, lt was denied this revenue in this House by senators who have not, even yet, been to an election, although the responsible House had recently been to an election and the Government had come back with a record majority. In this House the Opposition threw out this legislation. This did not do the Senate any good; it did not enhance the prestige of the Senate. It is not the function of this House to do that sort of thing. The Senate should keep this well in mind. When legislation comes to this House in the form of money Bills from the responsible Government the Senate has a duty to criticise it. The Senate has a duty to point out where, in its opinion, better legislation could lead to savings. Then the legislation may go back to the responsible House. If that House says: ‘We have studied your criticisms but we are Hill of the same opinion’, it should prevail. It is the House that has to go out and answer to the people of Australia in an election on the policies which only an elected Government can maintain.
I make that point because I hope that never again will we see the situation arise where urgently needed revenues required to provide outback areas with facilities are denied to the Government. Perhaps 1 have overlaboured this point but I have done it by design, because the west coast of Tasmania is a very important area. I am a senator and I represent the State of Tasmania. This important area has had to put up with what is an almost prehistoric type of equipment because the Post Office has been denied revenues to which it was entitled. I adjudge the Australian Labor Party senators, the Democratic Labor Party senators and the independent Senator Turnbull as being all in the same box and completely responsible for the denial ot these revenues.
– The Senate is debating jointly two Bills, one relating to postal and telegraph charges and the other to certain regulations under the Post and Telegraph Act 1901-66. This is an interesting debate, one that is perhaps unique in the history of the Senate. There has been one Labor speaker on this matter. He was followed by a speaker from the Democratic Labor Party and by an independent senator who at this stage provide the entire opposition to these measures. I say in relation to these Bills, as I have said in relation to two others recently, that the opposition that is expressed indicates the level of responsibility that is held within the Senate. I agree that Senator Gair has every right to oppose these measures. He is consistent in following this attitude from his previous opposition, but I believe that on reflection his speech will be seen to be negative and not to provide any positive suggestions as to how the Post Office might organise its affairs in this enormous country of Australia so that it might become the profitable organisation that it and all of us would wish it to be by means other than an increase in its charges.
– Did I not say that the essentials were, firstly, to do as the Government has already done - create a trust fund and let the Post Office handle its own revenues - and secondly, to create a public corporation?
– Well, I do not know-
– Is that not a possibility?
– I would not consider that it was because I have not heard Senator Gair suggest what the outcome of these various points would be. The honourable senator might take another country as an example and say: ‘This is what has taken place. Here is the outcome. Charges are lower than the charges in Australia. It is a scheme that Australia should follow. Here is a comparable case.’ If Senator Gair did that, people would credit him with putting up a proper proposition.
I wish to refer to a statement made by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) in his second reading speech on this Bill. He made a comment which I believe sets out the way in which this proposition should be viewed by any sensible person. Certainly no supporters of the Government who have a responsibility in this place are pleased to see measures introduced which will increase the costs of a body over which the Government has control. But this action is necessary. The Minister used these words in his speech:
Every business, whether it be a private enterprise like the Post Office or of some other kind, has no choice but to review its charges from time to time having regard to its trading position. The Government would be irresponsible if it allowed the Post Office to move progressively into heavy losses without taking corrective action. This Bill docs no more than seek to ensure that users of the Post Office service meet rising costs.
I think that is a very fair proposition. It is an excellent statement by the Minister as to what this measure, which undoubtedly he would avoid if he could, does.
– Is the honourable senator serious when he says-
– There is no country in the world, Senator Gair, that has the problem that Australia has.
– But is the honourable senator serious when he says that only persons who are subscribers to the telephone services should bear the cost of the extension of those services?
– I have some comments to make on that point. The honourable senator can follow from my-
– I do not think the honourable senator can be serious if he puts up that proposition.
– If it were an argument between the honourable senator . and myself, I should think that the honourable senator would define who were to be the ones to pay for the capital costs. Who would they be?
– They would not be the present subscribers.
– That is right. That is a negative answer. The honourable senator did not say who they should be. The Government is adopting the attitude that the users of the services to an extent should provide some of the capital required. This is a sound, sensible judgment. I did not hear anything in the speech delivered by Senator Gair-
– The honourable senator is accustomed to that. The Government does not make a profit because of its own inability and so it raises the prices.
– I believe that the Minister has outlined very definite proposals regarding the lines along which the Post Office will move. One of the important proposals is that the Post Office will merge its accounting into a Post Office trust account. I do not entirely see what the advantages of this trust account will be, but 1 suggest that those people with wisdom and authority in this matter have looked very closely into it and adopted the view that the provision of a Post Office trust account, as intimated some time ago, will be of benefit. The Minister commented in this regard that the Post Office is continually involved in many business judgments. I certainly agree with that statement. The Post Office is one of the largest business undertakings in Australia. I pay great credit to the efficiency within this organisation and in this regard I refer to the general work of the Post Office and the promptness with which it has replied to my queries to its officials.
– The honourable senator will get on.
– I do not need to get on. I believe very sincerely that this is the position. I do not agree with everything that the Post Office does. I hope to mention before my time expires one or two of these points but I do believe that some of the activities of the Post Office are particularly efficient. From an inquiry today I know that the Post Office is endeavouring to press its claims for the use of automatic data processing equipment. Here is a proposition into which all businesses are looking at the present time. The Post Office is one of the forerunners in this field. Madam Acting Deputy President, you will agree with my remark that today we members of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts considered that the Post Office is alert to the advantages to be gained from, and the efficiency to be achieved by, the use of automatic data processing equipment.
– Especially when members of its staff work to regulations.
– No. I give this body credit for delving into these matters and seeking ways by which it can increase efficiency. I believe that in this sphere the Post Office is seeking to do this at the present time.
A country as large as Australia has greater communications problems than any other country in the world. In this era of telecommunications, vast networks of lines must be erected, such is the great expansion that is taking place at this time. The Australian people are proud to claim that they have one of the highest standards of living in the world today. With this must be coupled their demand for and their use of facilities in the modern field of communications. This is handled almost entirely by the Post Office. Indeed, what the Post Office is doing regarding communications throughout Australia brings great credit to that organisation. I believe that the way in which the Post Office has worked and the example that it has set over the last 10 years or 12 years reflect great credit on it. We, as members of Parliament, should be proud of this body.
In this regard, I wish to refer to some of the charges imposed by the Post Office. I do not think that sufficient has been made of how tightly the Post Office held its charges during a period when nearly every other business in this Commonwealth was seeking higher charges. We find this to be the case in nearly any area that we take. I wish to refer, first, to the postal services, which are of considerable importance. No overall increase in postal rates has taken place since the fixing of the charge of 5d per letter in T959. I did not hear anyone give to the Post Office the credit that was due to it when, at the time of the changeover to decimal currency, it was one of the few bodies in the Commonwealth which reduced its charge from 5d to 4c.
– The newspapers did not do that respecting their charges anyway.
– Yes. The Post Office was one of the few bodies to do this. It gave a great incentive to others. It was one of the great levelling influences throughout the community. People handling letters day after day found that here was a- body, controlled to an extent by the Government, which had held its charges down. Indeed, the Post Office has held its charges down for a longer period than I anticipated it would be able to do. lt is at the present time seeking to raise this basic letter charge to 5c.
The postal service has been able to maintain a break-even financial position for a period of 5 years - from 1959 to 1-964 - and this is a fairly good achievement. Over that period the profit on postal services has averaged approximately S900.000 per year. The Post Office has some re- possi bility. In 1964-65 it saw that a loss of $2. 6m was incurred in this field. This was followed in 1965-66 by a loss of $10.3m. No private business, no public business can carry on in this way. It must seek means by which it can introduce greater efficiency into its organisation. As I mentioned earlier, I believe that the Post Office is achieving this with the new equipment that it is introducing and with its endeavours to use ADP facilities. Although the incidence of postal charges may be heavy in some areas - I hope to couple this remark with a comment that 1 will make later - I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that postal charges throughout Australia are uniform. A person who lives in Darwin and wishes to send a letter to Melbourne has to pay 5c. A person who lives in Canberra and wishes to send a letter to Melbourne also has to pay 5c.
– It should be the same with telephone charges.
– A number of private industries in Australia base their retailing on the same price for the whole of Australia. On a number of occasions I have expressed by belief that country people are due for some better recognition in relation to telegraphic charges than they have received during the period that I have had something to do with the Post Office.
New capital equipment must be provided. On the figures that I have given the Senate, I do not believe that there is sufficient financial room within the Post Office for it to introduce sufficient new equipment without some increases in charges. Much as I abhor increases in charges, I believe that we must support these measures on a business basis. The Labor Party has been very wise in changing its mind on this matter after having a second look at it. Perhaps it is showing greater wisdom than others in relation to this matter.
– If the honourable senator does not get on with his argument he will get something right across the back of his neck.
– I beg your pardon, senator?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood) - Order! I ask the honourable senator to address the Chair.
– Senator Benn made some reference to my neck. I did not understand the point of it. Postal charges are not being increased exorbitantly. To an extent they are being brought up to date. These increases could have been made 18 months ago. To that extent I congratulate the Post Office on its efficiency. It is interesting to note that a communication that the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) received from the Union of Postal Clerks and Telegraphists contained this comment:
The Australian Post Office appears to have been one of the few in the world which has been able to achieve great profits while maintaining relatively low charges.
Perhaps that comment has swayed many honourable senators. This Union believes that in the Post Office there is great efficiency in services provided at low charges. It is only fair to say that the purpose of the letter was not to draw attention to that fact. However, it is recognised that the Post Office has made relatively low charges for many years.
– How do they compare with the American charges? In America telephone calls are free.
– I have not had the pleasure of going to America and seeing what is taking place there. Senator Ormonde may be able to speak later. We have heard from only a few members of his Party. I would be anxious to know what his proposition is.
I have one argument with the Post Office. Since the beginning of this session of the Parliament I have raised a certain matter in this chamber on three or four occasions. I know that the PostmasterGeneral is obtaining replies to questions for me. I hope that they will be forthcoming in the near future. Today I received a letter from the Secretary of the Shire of Bet Bet. Undoubtedly officers of the Post Office know the problems that have occurred there.
– What is the name of the Shire?
– It is the Shire of Bet Bet. It is a very important Shire. The Shire Office is in Dunolly in Victoria. The letter stated that a meeting of telephone users was held at Dunolly. The people present included councillors. Let us bear in mind that these are pretty important individuals in the community. They are responsible people. These councillors represented the Shires of Bet Bet, Avoca, Kara Kara and Tullaroop. The letter stated:
The trend of the meeting was dissatisfaction wilh the PMG Department relative to CAX installations - particularly Rathscar CAX - whereat has occurred great variations in contributions by telephone users from Rathscar, Dunluce, Natte Yallock and Archdale.
The following resolution has been forwarded to a number of members of Parliament:
That this meeting of telephone subscribers, held in the Shire Hall, Dunolly, on Wednesday, 13th September 1967, express dissatisfaction with the policy of the PMG Telephones Department, and the lack of information given by such Department, to users and prospective users, in regard to CAX transfers and/or installations, also at the variation in costs to users when such transfers and/or installations are occasioned.
Earlier I made a comment about the implementation of a basic telephone charge throughout Australia. The PostmasterGeneral has shaken his head on a number of occasions when I have mentioned this matter. It is a very big problem. If somebody wants a private telephone line in the middle of the Northern Territory, surely it is fair that he should have to provide some of the capital cost. I agree with that.
– How will we settle the country on that basis? How will we settle the country unless we send communications with the settlers?
– Some wisdom has to be used in looking at this question. If one person in the middle of the Northern Territory wanted a telephone-
– I did not know that the honourable senator was putting such an absurd proposition as that.
Sena.or WEBSTER - Let me point out that Senator Wright was talking when I put the proposition and that if it was an absurd proposition it was one that he took up. As I have mentioned on a number of occasions in this chamber, telephone users in country areas have met the capital cost of providing private lines. They have telephones. But then the Postmaster-General’s Department decides that those people will have a better service - an automatic service. It says to each person in the area:
We propose to provide you with a better service - an automatic service. We now want you to provide a new line. As yours is a private line, you will have to pay a large capital sum of money’.
The reason for the dissatisfaction of many people in Victoria - they have a right to be dissatisfied - is the Department’s assessment of the cost. For example, the cost of upgrading the line for two brothers who live within 40 miles of the Melbourne General Post Office was $2,500. What sort of a proposition is that? I have referred to the Shire of Bet Bet. I do not know at what stage the people in that area are at the moment. The latest information that I received was that they had asked the Postmaster-General’s Department not to go ahead with the line. I do not know whether the up-grading of the line is proceeding at the moment. I doubt whether it is.
– I have done 9 miles.
– The honourable senator might be able to afford to do that. I assume that he is referring to paying for telephone line and not to running in a physical fitness campaign. The point that I make is that the charges for up-grading lines should not be as high as they are. If a telephone user already has a line and the Postmaster-General’s Department proposes to up-grade it, I believe that the Department should meet the full capital cost of up-grading it.
One of the questions that the PostmasterGeneral will be answering for me shortly is this: If an individual subscriber who already has a telephone line is not financially able to up-grade his line, will he have his telephone cut off? I have not received the answer to this question yet.
– If it interferes with the automatic installation, it would have to be removed.
– I believe that should be opposed also. Senator Sim is here to represent an entire State, and so am I. We have problems which are far greater than those facing a member of the House of Representatives who has a smaller area to contend with. So we receive correspondence from many areas directing our attention, to these problems.
– Some of these lines are dangerous to service, are they not?
– No. One point to which I wish to refer is the variation in costs. The writer of the letter which I read suggested that he was dissatisfied about the installation costs and the variations in costs. I will refer to a letter which I have from two gentlemen living in one particular area. The installation of two telephones required the laying of underground cable which cost $1,030. The overhead cable, whatever that may be, was to be provided at a further cost to the individuals concerned. In respect of another gentleman in the Natte Yallock area, the Postmaster-General’s Department decided on a figure of $4 a chain for 54 chains of underground cable. In another case the charge was $10 a chain for a distance of 60 chains. I imagine that I have at least twenty names listed here and each gives an instance of where a variation in the charge has occurred. 1 do not doubt that there is some basic reason for this variation. But, in line with the comment made by the shire officer in his letter to me, there has not been sufficient reason given by the Department for these variations in charge. The PostmasterGeneral has said, in reply to a question asked by me, that the Department can provide the line for a certain distance from the basic telephone unit. I think the distance was about 3 miles. But I do not know whether this is applied consistently, if I am to judge by circumstances of which I have been advised in these areas. I have heard State members of Parliament complain about this position. I have received letters from shire councillors. I have at least half a dozen letters from private individuals complaining about the charges imposed on them. They had a telephone but because of the decision by the Department to up-grade a line they were required to meet further charges. I suggest that this matter should be looked at very closely. One of the reasons why I am supporting these Bills is that I hope that the increase in charges will enable the Department to view this matter in a somewhat different light.
– How could there be a uniform charge?
– Well, somebody worked one out for postage on letters. The point that the honourable senator is making is that there should be a uniform charge for telephone services. He makes a good point. I claim to have some knowledge of rural areas within my State. One of the arguments used by the Opposition against these new charges is the cost which will be imposed on decentralised industries. I hope that within the next year or so the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will be in a position favourably to review charges for trunk calls in rural areas. I hope that this matter will be looked at very closely and that charges may become more uniform. People who live miles away from metropolitan areas should not be called upon to pay the trunk line charges in every instance. Something could be done to help people who have left cities and towns and settled in rural areas. They have done what we want people to do. There are many good reasons for encouraging people to move into rural areas. There should be some levelling out of telephone charges throughout the community.
There is one particular matter which I suggest the Postmaster-General’s Department should examine closely. Whether it feels it has a responsibility in this matter I do not know. Within the next year or so there will be a great problem facing all government departments because of the introduction of subscriber trunk dialling. The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee has directed close attention to this matter and has asked representatives of a number of departments what action has been taken within those departments to control the use of telephones where automatic dialling to interstate connections is available. This facility is available in nearly every department. Within a year or so. I believe the telephone accounts of a number of departments will show a very great increase.
– It is almost general practice in the Public Service to use the telephone to make a call interstate when a letter would be equally efficient.
– I have not had that experience. The Public Accounts Committee is fairly confident that the senior officers in the departments will have a good look at this problem. I believe that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will find in the near future that its income has increased considerably because of the use of this automatic service. I think it will have some effect on telephone accounts in other departments. If the Postmaster-General’s Department is asked for advice by some of the other departments on measures to control the use of STD facilities, 1 hope that it will be able to come forward with a scheme because this new service will add an enormous cost to the Commonwealth, and this is a cost which has to be met by the people of Australia.
There is a matter which I have mentioned before but which I would like to bring up again. I refer to the introduction by the Postmaster-General of the postcode facility. This is a wonderful provision. I congratulate the Department on providing this new facility. But I have requested, on two occasions in this chamber, and by letter on a number of occasions to the Department, that it seek a means whereby this facility can be made available to general commercial undertakings. If insurance companies, for instance, were able to use the postcode exclusively for addresses, but perhaps with the town name included also, that would be of great assistance for them. They would be able to use the four areas which are available on computers. This is a most important matter. The problem must be faced within the next year or so. Such a scheme could save industries and business organisations thousands and thousands of dollars and would bc a follow-up to this very efficient method introduced by the Department. I ask that consideration be given to allowing commercial undertakings generally to use the postcode facility.
I believe that the provisions of these Bills will benefit the community in general. We must face higher charges for postal services. If we are to have an enlightened and progressive civilisation we should seek to use all the modern methods of communication that are available. I believe that the Postmaster-General’s Department has been most efficient. I see no reason for criticising it for the nature of duties that it performs and in regard to the communications equipment which has been provided throughout Australia. It is with no great pleasure that I support Bills imposing increased charges on the community in general but I believe that in this instance the Parliament, the Government and the Department have looked closely at the matter and that the charges are justified.
– In rising to support the two Bills before the chamber - the Post and Telegraph Regulations Bill 1967 and the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill 1967 (No. 3) - I should like at the outset to congratulate Senator Webster on his most informative speech on them. I am rather amazed that members of the Opposition and some of our Independents have not participated in the debate. As all honourable senators know, Bills similar to these have been before us previously and on at least one occasion the Labor Party was quite talkative in its opposition to them and in its support of the Australian Democratic Labor Party.
On that occasion the proposed increases in charges were designed to return some $67m. They said: ‘This is a terrible thing and we intend to vote out these proposals. We will vote against whatever the Government does to introduce them. Further, if the Government decides to introduce portion of the proposed increases by means of regulation when the Senate is in recess, we will see to it that the Senate is recalled to disallow the regulations.’ That is what happened. For the first time in its history the Senate was recalled in recess to disallow a regulation. In his speech on that occasion the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) said: ‘We in this chamber today are making history for the Australian Senate.’ But the Australian Senate and the Australian Government go on. When the Parliament reassembled for the Budget session the measures in question were reintroduced as part of the Budget proposals. Now we find that the Labor Party has completely dissociated itself from the Democratic Labor Party and intends to support the Bills.
As I have said, the original proposals were designed to return approximately S67m a year. The Opposition told us that if the required increase in revenue could not be met by the Post Office itself from its own resources it would mean an impost of about 5% in taxation on private individuals. That was seen by the Opposition as one means of obtaining the increased revenue. Let us examine that proposal. Money would be taken out of the pockets of wage earners to meet increased charges for facilities provided by the Post Office, but some of the individuals who would be expected to meet this commitment by way of taxation might nol use the Post Office on more than one or two occasions in a year. What about the big shops and institutions which spend about $200,000 or $300,000 a year on postage alone and several hundred thousands of dollars a year on telephone communications? They were to be left alone. The increased revenue was to be obtained from the small taxpayers in the community who, in many instances, would earn less than $50 a week and might not use the facilities of the Post Office at all or, if they did, would use them on very few occasions. This did not seem to me to be fair. If charges are to be increased surely it is only right that the users of the facilities provided by the Post Office should meet the increased charges.
The Postmaster-General’s Department is subjected to criticism on occasions, but by and large it is a very efficient Department.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I was pointing out what an efficient organisation the Postmaster-General’s Department was. It is the biggest government instrumentality in Australia. It employs upwards of 90,000 people and whilst there may be some complaints about individual services or individuals generally, by and large the Department is run efficiently and to the satisfaction of the people who pay postal charges and telephone bills.
While Senator Webster was speaking this afternoon he was asked by way of interjection how telephone charges here compared with those of other countries, including America. Senator Webster replied: ‘If you have been to America, you will know.’ I had the opportunity to travel throughout the length and breadth of America in 1962. At that time we in Australia were paying, I think, a fee of 4d for a telephone call. The charge in America for the same facility there was either 10c or 15c. I forget the exact charge, but it was at least 2£ times as high as the charge levied in Australia.
I distinctly remember that when we assumed office in 1949 the greatest distance to the north which one could ring from Perth in Western Australia was to Carnarvon and Meekatharra. The telephone lines extended no further than that. Carnarvon is 600 miles north of Perth and Meekatharra is 475 miles north-east by road.
Honourable senators will be amazed to know that, because of this Government’s policy of providing finance for the development of telecommunication systems, not only in Western Australia but throughout Australia generally, people living in any capital city in Australia can now speak through the telephone with any other part of Australia. That is a very broad statement to make, but I remind the Senate again that whereas prior to this Government assuming office telephonic communication extended only as far north as Carnavon and Meekatharra, a distance of 600 miles and 475 miles respectively from Perth, telephonic communication is now available over a distance of between 1,500 and 2,000 miles with Wyndham, Kununurra and such townships as Hall’s Creek, Fitzroy Crossing, Derby, Broome, Port Hedland, Onslow, Roebourne and adjacent mining centres. They are connected by telephone not only with Australia but indeed with the rest of the world. That is a terrific achievement on the part of the Postmaster-General’s Department. I mention these things only to emphasise to the Opposition that it is vitally necessary for the Government to obtain this extra sum of $67m which is needed to finance the Postmaster-General’s Department for the ensuing 1 2 months.
When we raise this money it will help to finance the extension to some outback areas of facilities that are now enjoyed by the people who live in the metropolitan areas. It is amazing to me to think that one can sit in one’s office in this, the capital city of Australia, and, merely by turning the dial on the telephone, ring any number in Sydney and I understand also in Melbourne. Within the very near future, because of the provision of this extra money by the Government to the Postmaster-General’s Department, we shall be able to dial any number in Australia thus giving the people of Australia facilities equal to if not better than those of any other country. When one studies the sparsely populated areas of Australia one can appreciate the wonderful achievements that have been obtained as a result of the provision of finance by this Government to the important instrumentality known as the Postmaster-General’s Department.
I come back now to the proposal advanced in May 1967 which was opposed by the Democratic Labor Party and the Labor Opposition. It amazes me now to see honourable senators opposite coming into the chamber and to hear them saying that they do not intend to raise any further objection to the increases which are proposed and which, by and large, are the same as those which were proposed in the Bills presented by the PostmasterGeneral to the Parliament during the autumn sessional period. But it was a matter of politics. I think honourable senators stated at the time that it was a question of politics. Whatever government may be in office, whether it be Labor, Liberal, Country Party or DLP, it cannot hope to carry on for a period of 6, 7 or 8 years while costs, wages and prices continually increase without increasing the charges for the facilities provided by utilities like the Postmaster-General’s Department. Anyone who wants to alter this system may do so, but the finance has still to be provided. We as a Government have said that we intend to find that money and to charge it to the people who use the services provided by the instrumentality and not to other taxpayers, as was suggested by certain speakers on the Opposition side of the chamber. I shall not delay this important debate any further. 1 have very much pleasure in supporting the Bills.
Senator McMANUS (Victoria) 18.10] - When we in the Democratic Labor Party heard that the Australian Labor Party had decided no longer to oppose the postal increases we felt like a famous character in literature. The name of that character is Casabianca. Older honourable senators will remember the poem which begins with the words:
The boy stood on the burning deck
Whence all but he had tied . . . lt appears that we were not the only people who were staggered by the news that the Australian Labor Party had chickened out. I had a telephone call from a secretary of a trade union, whose office is at the Melbourne Trades Hall. He is a member of the Democratic Labor Party. He informed me that a full time official of the Australian Labor Party had come to his office and had said to him: ‘We want you as an individual and as a union official to sign this petition telling the Australian Labor Party parliamentarians to do the right thing.’
The DLP member said to the Australian Labor Party full time official: ‘Aren’t you making a mistake? You know my politics.’ The reply was: ‘No. We’re doing all we can to get our parliamentarians to do the right thing and we want you to sign this petition’. I realise that these are unusual times. They certainly are when a member of the Democratic Labor Party is asked to sign a petition organised by the Victorian branch of the ALP on the plea that it is unable to get its parliamentarians to do what they ought to do.
– That is the ecumenical spirit.
– That is one name for it. but I would hate to think what it would have been called by some of the oldtimers in the Labor Party 15 or 16 years ago. What is the situation now? Some time ago the Government, without any preliminary preparation at all, introduced the increased Post Office charges. As Senator Gair eloquently said the Government acted like a thief in the night. When that happened, Senator Gair called for action. He was supported magnificently by Senator Murphy who said: ‘Let us together man the barricades. Let us defeat this iniquitous proposal’ And we manned the barricades, and we adopted the good old Latin motto ‘Nulla vestigia retrorsum’ - not a step backwards. The measure was defeated. When the Government attempted to introduce the increased charges by regulation, Senator Murphy once again called us to the barricades. Once again we drove back the forces of reaction. Today, when this proposal again is introduced, Senator Gair and I are at the barricades. Senator Turnbull will be there - at least we hope so, but one never knows. At any rate, we are at the barricades and when wc look around for those people who stood side by side with us we find that they are behind us all right, but that far behind that you could not shoot them with a rifle.
If any changes in circumstances had occurred which could recommend the increased charges to the Senate, I could understand the attitude of the ALP. But what have we got from the Government? After the Senate on two occasions rejected the increased charges, and after public opinion has strongly shown that the public will not accept them, the Government has made the suggestion that it will put the finances of the Post Office into a trust fund. This is a palliative that was tried in Great Britain and failed, with the result that the United Kingdom Government had to go the step which this Government will have to go; that is, to place the Post Office under a statutory authority.
There are suggestions that the Government has gone some of the way to meet the objections of the small newspapers, the small business and advertising Press, the weeklies and the religious Press. The claim is that the Government has gone some of the way to help them. I will merely quote a letter I have received from Reverend D, O’Connor, editor of ‘Messenger’, a religious journal, in which he gives his opinion of the alterations which the Government has made and which it suggests will make the increases less difficult for the journals to pay. Reverend O’Connor writes:
I do not think that the members of the Government are themselves aware of the increases they have proposed. Only departmental officers and those actually using the postal services in a big way realise the amount of the increases, some of which reach nearly 200%. For instance, in one item of third class posting which we send out, the increase is from 4c to 11c. The concession is almost a fictitious one, like those commercial packages which print ‘10c off’ where the price has been increased by 10c - an advertising trick of offering 10c off. The rate is increased and then wc are offered a 25% discount if we pay our staffs to do some of the Post Office’s work.
It is the opinion of a man who has a good deal to do with the small Press that the so-called concessions contained in these proposals are worth little or nothing. It should be recalled that some time ago there was in a sense a referendum amongst a section of the people upon the proposals to increase Post Office charges. It was held in the Corio electorate in the course of a by-election campaign. I will read from ‘Fact’, a journal issued to the people of Corio at the time. It is the official organ of the Victorian Branch of the ALP. It said:
Labor campaign publicity asked the people of Corio to treat the by-election specifically as a referendum on postal charges.
And they did. They returned the candidate who pledged himself to vote against the postal increases and whose leader pledged that the candidate would vote against the increased charges. Mr Whitlam’s candidate was returned. What did Mr Whitlam say in the Geelong ‘Advertiser’ just before the end of the election campaign? He said that by voting against Scholes Geelong electors would indicate that they believed in purchase tax, increased postal charges and increase in contributions to medical plans. Mr Whitlam said that the people of Corio could be certain that a Liberal representative for Corio would vote for these measures, and could be equally certain that Mr Scholes would not.
I believe that in those circumstances the ALP candidate in the Corio by-election should resign from the Parliament. After all, there was a pledge by Mr Whitlam to the people of Corio that if they elected Mr Scholes he would vote against the postal increases. But Mr Whitlam got out of the chair and induced his own Caucus to vote for the increases. If there is honesty in politics, how could Mr Whitlam tell the people in a by-election campaign that the Liberal candidate elected would vote for the increased postal charges but if they elected the ALP candidate he would vote against them, and then, when Caucus meets, get out of the chair and tell ALP members that they ought to vote for the increased charges? I do not know whether any promises are being made in the Capricornia electorate, but if they are being made, I hope that the intention is to keep them. I never doubted that the ALP would vote in favour of the postal increases because, as Sir Arthur Fadden said to me on one occasion, I know where the bodies are buried. On the Tuesday after the one day meeting when the Senate was called together at tremendous expense to defeat the postal increases I commented in the Melbourne ‘Herald’:
Threats from Liberal Ministers of a double dissolution are meant to scare the ALP into dropping opposition to measures such as the postal increases. There need be no doubt that the ALP will ‘chicken out’ when the increases come up again at Budget time in August.
I got into trouble over that statement. I was attacked in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ and in ‘Fact’, the official organ of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party, by the editor and by the secretary of the Party, who said in effect that it was a lie even to dream that the ALP would vote for the postal increases. Referring to me, the secretary said:
He expounded his assumption by predicting that the ALP would not persist in its attitude to higher postal charges . . .
This, of course, is so much eye wash.
If Senators Gair and McManus want to be June lions when disallowing postal regulations, and August lambs when finding reasons to support the Budget after all, that is their business.
When I read that something happened to me inside. I felt proud to think that there were fighters like that who were prepared to go to an election to meet the people in defence of their principles. I felt prouder still when the Secretary of the Victorian Branch of the ALP went on to say:
If the Government refuses to accept the verdict of the Senate on its iniquitous postal increases - increases which add to inflationary pressures and place intolerable cost burdens which, when passed on will affect the whole community - then it will have to take the consequences.
Honourable senators can see how frightened the Government is of the consequences since it heard Senator Murphy speak. Finally this official said:
Labor’s Senate Leader, Senator L. K.. Murphy, Q.C, who has been named the ‘Minister for Confrontation’ and who is so used to cliff hanging that he is unlikely to be terrorised by either the Government or the DLP, put the issue beyond doubt when he said: ‘Even if the charges were contained in a money Bill, Labor would have opposed them.*
I do not know whether one could get more pledges than that. Labor’s leader said in an election campaign: ‘If you elect our candidate we will vote against the increases.’ The candidate said it. A State secretary of the Party said it. The Australian Council of Trade Unions carried a motion imploring the Party to vote against the postal increases.
Senator Murphy made a very powerful point here some time ago when he said that he was the spokesman for the Australian Council of Trade Unions in this Parliament. He said then that he could tell the Senate that the ACTU did not want a representative of the DLP on the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes. I have spoken to a leading member of the ACTU and asked him why. He said that it was news to him that the ACTU had ever made any such decision. Somebody in the ACTU may have said that to Senator Murphy. But at least the honourable senator says he is the spokesman for that organisation. The ACTU has implored him and his Party to vote against the postal increases. The Trades Hall Council in Melbourne unanimously carried a motion asking the ALP to vote against the increases. The ALP office in Melbourne sent one of its officers around the Trades Hall and asked everybody, even DLP secretaries, to sign a petition voting against the increases. Now the ALP is going to vote for the increases.
All I can say is that I am amazed at the present situation of a party which has said publicly today that it is a new look party, it is a different party, it is a fighting party. Honourable senators are told that the Senate in particular is a place where the ALP is a fighting party. I am pleased to see that my friend Senator Turnbull will be at the barricades with Senator Gair and myself. How can a party be a fighting party when it enlists everybody in sight to fight on its side and when those people get up on the barricades to fight they find the party has business somewhere else? All I can say is that 1 am amazed and disappointed.
I realise that my words probably should not apply to some ALP senators. Some of them were prepared to fight. I suppose one must appreciate the position in which those honourable senators find themselves. All I can say is that 1 cannot understand a fighting party saying in 1967 that it will fight in 1969. If it is a fighting party it should fight in 1967. I did not speak as I did because I thought there was any prospect of a double dissolution. All honourable senators knew there was no chance of that. What would have happened in that event would have been an election for the House of Representatives and for the Senate simultaneously, with both Houses going to the people together. That would have been very desirable. I cannot understand the attitude of members of the Opposition. I have waited for some member of the Opposition to give us one good reason why the Opposition decided to let the Government off the hook. I understand that twentythree realised that the Government ought not to be let off the hook. But I cannot, for the life of me, understand the attitude of the thirty-eight who thought that this was a good time to tell the pensioners, for example, that the only policy the ALP has for them is that they should tighten their belts until 1969.
The present atmosphere, from the point of view of the ALP, would be a good one for an election, based on gal I up poll results and public opinion generally. Even if the atmosphere were not right, even if the ALF was not certain, the ordinary working man who votes for Labor can appreciate a party that fights here and now but he cannot appreciate a party that runs away and says: We are going to fight in 1969.’ Therefore I say that I am doubly disappointed with the attitude adopted by the Labor Party. I do not think that attitude will do its new image any good. It is difficult to understand the attitude of the ALP.
I do not propose to go through all the objections that I have to these increases, as 1 did on a previous occasion. I have made those objections clear. I do believe it is time that something was done in this Parliament to stop the attitude that all one has to do when the Post Office is not showing a profit is to increase the rates. There does not seem to be any dynamic action to improve the situation and to put the Post Office on a better basis. Nothing is being done. All that happens is that somebody looks at the figures and says: The Post Office is not doing too good, so we will put up the rates.’ The increases are unfair. I pointed to the incidence of these charges on the small publications. We all realise that the telephone and telegraph services show a $10m profit. Why should these charges be put up? Everybody realises the effect that this will have on country men. Everybody realises what the effect will be on decentralisation. Why is it that whoever runs things in the Post Office has only one thought in mind - that if things are not going too well the rates must be put up?
I was interested -recently to read a book on the life of Lord Bruce. This is “Bruce of Melbourne - a Man of Two Worlds’. At page 65 of this biography, I read:
A feature of his Budget was a new approach to the Post Office. Soon after he became Treasurer, he discovered that between 1901, when the Commonwealth came into being and took over the Post Office, and in 1921, only £2,000,000 of borrowed money had been used for capital services. He drew the conclusion that this meant that, to provide facilities and development, the Post Office was charging its customers more than they should have been charged for the services rendered. He sent a questionnaire to a number of countries and found that most of them borrowed money for capital developments for their post offices, and then instituted a heavy sinking fund. Bruce applied this principle to Australia, and introduced a programme for borrowing £8,000,000 to expand telephonic and telegraphic communications.
Now, there is an instance. I was not a tremendous admirer of the Government led by Lord Bruce for many reasons, including its financial operations. But at least when that Government found the situation in the Post Office was unsatisfactory it did not say: ‘We will just put the rates up without looking around to see what can be done to improve the situation.’ The book continues:
As a businessman, Bruce was doubtful whether the new policy could be administered by Post Office officials, who had lived all their official lives under the old one, and he appointed a board of businessmen to advise the Postmaster-General. This move, he claimed later, brought about a revolution in the services provided, and Post Office business grew enormously.
Later, as Prime Minister, he went farther. Believing that a successful and expanding business should have someone of great competence as managing director or executive head, he decided to bring in a man ‘who would have qualities possessed by none of those employed in the Post Office - who, generally speaking, had risen from messenger boys to responsible executive control and who, with this background, did not obtain the experience necessary for running what was the biggest business in Australia.
After prolonged inquiries’, he said, ‘I brought H. P. Brown from the United Kingdom Post Office in 1923 to be the head of the Post Office in Australia, and paid him what was then the fantastic remuneration of £5,000 a year . . . His post was more akin to that of a business manager, with personal powers of decision not normally given to the head of a department. I need hardly say that this caused a considerable storm, but the move was an unquestionable success. I regret that the policy we then adopted has now been abandoned’.
It is true that the tide of entrenched and vested interest in service seniority flowed back strongly. Postal officials have reached top posts with so little time to run that they have hardly been installed before reaching retiring age, to be succeeded by someone also with only a year or so of service left.
I suppose that some of the senior men in the Post Office would not be happy about that state of affairs. They would consider that they had the right one day to be the head of the institution that they served. I am not necessarily suggesting that everything that Lord Bruce did as Prime Minister in regard to the Post Office was right. What I am saying is this: When he was told that the Post Office was short of money, he did not just sit back and say: ‘Let us increase charges’. What he did was to take action to get a number of businessmen who could advise on the operations of the Post Office.
He took action to see that the control of the Post Office was in the best possible hands, and in businesslike hands.
I am not happy about this Post Office proposal which, once again, amounts to this: The Post Office is not getting all the money it needs, so we are going to charge the people more’. That policy is not always successful. What has happened since postal charges were increased? Honourable senators are familiar with the fact that a number of institutions - and quite often government institutions; - print on the bottom of their bills: ‘No receipt will be forwarded unless one is specifically requested’. Governmental institutions as well as private business institutions are doing that. Therefore, if the Government increases these charges continually the point will be reached where the returns will diminish. Frankly, I think that this Government proposes to bring in more proposals similar to the one before us. 1 .hope that the Government will not merely state that all it can ever do about this matter or all that it ever envisages doing is raise its charges. I hope that the Government will put forward a businesslike programme and thai by and large it will be able to run the Post Office in future in a way that will satisfy the community in general.
I conclude by expressing my extreme disappointment that the Australian Labor Party as a result of a decision by some three-fifths of its members against the views of some two-fifths of its members in Parliament, will not be with us in opposing this measure. I think that it would have been a good thing to hold up the proposed increases and to compel the Government to introduce a programme to put the Post Office upon a proper business basis. Even if we held the increases up for another six months, ultimately it would be for the good of the country when a programme was introduced. I do not say that such a programme should necessarily be along the lines adopted by Lord Bruce, but at least he did something. He put before the people a programme to place the Post Office on a proper basis. To introduce these increases and simply to say helplessly: ‘The sum total of our thinking is to put up prices, is an insult to the intelligence of the people, many of whom realise that this is not the solution to the problems faced by the Post Office.
As far as the Government is concerned, 1 believe that it is going to get away with what it is doing thanks to a very mistaken decision by a majority of Australian Labor Party parliamentarians. What would have happened had these postal charges been defeated and an election had been held? The Democratic Labor Party has been accused of working for a double dissolution. I insist once again that I realise that we will never get a double dissolution because a double dissolution took place in 19S2 and neither the Government Parties or the Opposition will ever want another one. But I believe that had there been an election the Australian Labor Party would have gained ten to twelve seats. Whatever the ALP thinks, this would have given its image a considerable kick along. In the present situation it has refused to fight. The unions have expressed their opinion of the refusal to fight. I think that a lot of other people will express their opinions also. Therefore I regret that there has not been a firm stand upon this matter. But we in the DLP at least can say that we have been consistent. We said where we stood. We are going to stick to that decision. We will call for a division to provide the opportunity to see where everybody in this House stands upon this issue.
Senator COHEN (Victoria) 18.39]- Senator McManus wants to have the best of about eighteen different worlds. He has complained that he is shocked at the decision that the Australian Labor Party has taken not to oppose these Bills but at the same time he boasts that he predicted this decision months ago. He wants to be in the position where he can taunt the Australian Labor Party for not seeking an immediate election. He offers us the great prospect of gains in an election when he speaks for a Party that would fight us tooth and nail in any election. He represents a Party that in the Corio by-election did its very best to defeat the Labor candidate. It is quite ridiculous for him to come along to the Senate and speak in this fashion. I heard the words ‘crocodile tears’ mentioned by another speaker this afternoon. If ever there was an example of shedding crocodile tears, I think we have just been given it by Senator McManus.
To talk about what happened in Corio as though he and his Party had something to do with the result is complete nonsense. He and his Party were urging their supporters to vote against the Labor candidate and they bad a very serious decline in their vote in the Corio by-election. As much as 20% of the Democratic Labor Party vote slipped away from them in that by-election. So let us not have any nonsense.
Right at the beginning of this debate a very responsible note was struck by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). He told the Senate - in a few moments I propose to repeat what he said so that there can be no misunderstanding about it - what the Labor Party’s attitude to this legislation was in relation to what we have been doing all along. But he did another thing, and this was the issue around which much of the debate revolved this afternoon. He put a direct challenge to the Democratic Labor Party senators and that challenge has been greeted with deafening silence. He challenged them-
– We challenge you to vote against this Bill.
– He challenged them, if they were serious about opposing this Bill and about opposing the Budget, to take the next step of working to displace, of pledging themselves to defeat the Government. Of course, they do not want to do anything of the sort. What they want to do, if they ever get to the stage of an election, is having kidded to the Australian Labor Party, so to speak, on this issue, to turn around and say: ‘The issues in this election are very serious. The postal charges are one issue but the real issue is foreign policy and Vietnam.’ They would go on like that. They have done it on every possible occasion in the last few months. In a political sense it is quite hypocritical to talk as though they were going to be with us when we were fighting the Government. They talk about our winning seats, but they would be attempting to defeat us in every one of those seats by means of their preferences, and that is what this is all about. Both senators from the Democratic Labor Party have spoken at very considerable length. They think that they have got away with taunting the Labor Party about its attitude. In fact they have completely failed lo answer the challenge issued by the Leader of the Opposition.
– You will have to tell the public why you ratted on them.
– The Leader of the Democratic Labor Party was listened to with attention and courtesy. I do not think it is necessary for him and his colleague to be behaving in this ridiculous way. If it is hurting, he has to take it in the same way as he dishes it out. His Party has given no evidence that it is prepared to work for the defeat of the present Liberal-Country Party coalition Government. When it gives that sort of evidence, the position will be different, but at the moment that Party’s senators are running round in circles trying to get themselves into what they consider will be some kind of advantageous posture for the coming Senate elections.
Labor has not anything for which to apologise in its attitude on this legislation or on anything that it has done over recent months. We did a very valuable service for the community in holding up these charges and insisting that if they were brought in at all they should be presented as part of the Budget.
– You are like Pontius Pilate.
– 1 wish the honourable senator would not keep interrupting. He should extend to others the courtesy that they extended to him. The Government has presented these proposals as part of its Budget. Though we condemn that Budget we say that it is the Government that has to take responsibility for it. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating at the coming Senate elections. I did not notice any great enthusiasm on the part of Government senators to get up and give enthusiastic support to the legislation. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson), who is in charge of it, looks terribly glum at the moment. The Government Whip had to force himself to get up and speak at interminable length about the great virtues of increasing postal charges. Senator Webster, who is a member of a political party that says it represents country electors, might have done well to listen to what his constituents in the country think about extra telephone charges. The truth is that Government supporters themselves are not keen about this legislation. They sent Senator Wright of all people in to bat, that is, if he did not send himself in to bat. He descended from his customary Olympian heights and entered into the cut and thrust of party politics because he suddenly remembered that he is not an independent but is leading a Government team in Tasmania in the Senate elections that are coming on. Honourable senators will know that this is what he was doing. He talked as though he had opposed similar legislation when it was before the Parliament earlier. Of course, he did nothing of the sort. He wanted his little bit of politicking. That is what the DLP senators have been doing this afternoon and this evening. They want a song and dance. They want to try to make it appear that they are much more important in the life of this Australian community than they really are. They want to take this holier than thou attitude, that they are perfectly clean skinned about this and nobody else is. But the best guide is in their performance. I do not doubt that if the Labor Party had taken the position that it was going to oppose this legislation the two senators who represent the corner party would have found some good reason not to oppose it, in the same way as they found a perfectly good reason not to support the Labor Party’s request for a select committee of the Senate into all aspects of repatriation; just as they have so far failed to measure up to the opportunity to get a vote on the Opposition’s proposals for a select committee on the cost of medical and hospital services’, just as they would not support an amendment to secure trial by jury under the Defence Force Protection Bill although they had supported similar amendments 2 or 3 weeks ago to the Wireless Telegraphy Bill, the Narcotic Drugs Bill and the Customs Bill, because this was their measure and for political reasons they did not want to support the Labor Party. When they talk about cant, hypocrisy and humbug, let us see where the cap fits. We do not propose to take this any further. I want to refer only briefly to what we are doing. I suggest to those honourable senators that when they are ready to answer up to Senator Murphy’s challenge to help to defeat this Government, not only on a vote here but out before the people-
– We could not be sure where you would be.
– The honourable senator knows where we would be.
– You would be with the Communists. We could not support them.
– Will the honourable senator try to behave a little courteously? I have never seen such a disgraceful performance.
– That is nothing to what you will get.
– I tell Senator Gair where we would be. We would be against the Holt Government, and that is where we would like to see him and his colleagues. The one thing which we would want to achieve is the defeat of the present Government which has been far too long on the treasury bench of this country, and the time is coming when it will be removed. I do not know why the honourable senators are making a song and dance about this legislation. They do not want us to displace the Government. I have never heard such ridiculous nonsense in my life. They want to see the Government returned but they are going through this ridiculous exercise to try to pretend that they are against the Government. The position is perfectly clear. There has been a complete silence in response to the challenge put by Senator Murphy. So far as we are concerned we shall be meeting the Government frontally at the coming Senate elections.
– in reply - These proposals were before the Senate on 12th May, again on 1 9th May and also on the historic occasion when the Senate met on 20th June to discuss the regulations that are to be found in these two Bills. On those occasions, as Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, I put the case for the Government. I put it with all the vigor of which I was capable. Having gone through the exercise and having listened to this second reading debate in which almost no new matter has been raised, I feel disposed to dispense with the political implications of what has been said in this debate and, as a Minister should, move towards the passage of the legislation.
However, I feel obliged to say to Senator Cohen that if he drew any comfort from my appearance because I looked a bit glum, that is just my natural appearance. In fact I am particularly happy, as a politician, because I se& before me the humiliation of the official Opposition which on the three occasions to which I have referred fought with all the courage of members of an opposition holding the fiery cross in their hands. Here today and tonight we see the ultimate humiliation of members of the Opposition when they concede by their vote that what the Government said on these great issues on those occasions was completely accurate and proper.
– We do not concede that at all.
– There is a simple principle that I have applied in politics for a long time. It is that one’s voice should follow one’s vote. Whether I stay in this place for a long time or a short time, I hope that I will always apply that principle.
I want to get these Bills through. That is my function. I think we all recognise that that is the situation. However, honourable senators have made a few observations that I believe warrant some reply. For instance, both Senator Gair and Senator McManus asked: ‘Why has this happened? Why is there a necessity to bring in Bills to provide extra revenue for the Post Office?’ Senator McManus went further and said: Nothing is done, but when the Government finds that there is some urgency in relation to Post Office matters the only thing it can think of is to increase charges’.
Very briefly, I remind Senator Gair that, although he said that there was something wrong, the reason for these increases is to be found in the fact that since 1959, traffic in the Post Office has increased by about 31%, whilst there has been an increase of only 18% in staff. But there has been an increase of 50% in the wages rates for Post Office staff. Even the most elementary student of mathematics would appreciate that, if wages rise by 50% and the volume of work rises by 31% without a corresponding increase in staff, inevitably there must be an economic situation in which things have to be done.
When Senator McManus talked about the lack of justification for the increases he completely ignored the fact that there have been no increases in postal charges since 1959. In fact, at the time of the introduction of decimal currency - about 18 months ago - the basic postal rate was reduced. The charges for local and trunk telephone calls have not been varied since 1959. The charges for telegrams have not been changed since 1956. Apparently, while the cost of everything else in this world increases, Senator McManus believes in some magic by which the Post Office can continue to provide a service - and an improved service - to the community in an expanding economy and an expanding nation at charges based on 1959 figures.
I was interested to hear the assault on the official Opposition by Senator McManus. I must admit that I enjoyed it, though I did not show that in my countenance. He was taking members of the Opposition to task for their sins, for not standing firm on their decision. I thought of the biblical quotation to the effect that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents. Quite clearly members of the Opposition have repented. I suppose I should not be very hard on them in the circumstances.
Senator Turnbull referred to medical journals. Although he is not present, I point out that if members of an organisation subscribed for a journal it could be registered for postage at concessional rates. Apparently he was referring to unsolicited publications sent to medical people whether they want them or not. Such publications do not come within the ambit of the regulations. However, if a group of medical people are in an organisation and they pay a contribution which includes an amount that entitles them to receive a journal, that journal qualifies for the special concessional postage rates.
Senator Webster referred to Postcode. I am informed that approval has been given for firms using computers and punch card equipment to drop the State from addresses as part of the Postcode system. This will allow firms to economise in column space on their computers, punch card equipment and so on. In that way the firms to which he was referring could take advantage of computers to presort their mail and use the Postcode to obtain the relevant postage discounts. I understand that this matter is being considered and that certain efforts are being made to cover the point to which the honourable senator referred.
Senator McManus referred to special rates for newspapers posted in bulk. I believe it is appropriate for me to make a quick reference to comparative charges in this regard. The previous charge was onethird of a cent per oz. The new charge will be one-half of a cent. In Australian currency, the New Zealand charge is 2.1c and the charge in Great Britain is 3.1c. When one is making a case I do not think one should overstate it. This is not a prohibitive increase. Indeed, it leaves the charge well below the charges in other parts of the free world, notably New Zealand and Great Britain. My function as the Minister in charge of these Bills is to get them through. There has been a good deal of criticism and cross-fire on the political aspects of them. I do not want to dwell on them any longer. I thank the Senate for its quick passage of these two Bills.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 7 September (vide page 607), on motion by Senator Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question put. The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 5 September (vide page531), on motion by Senator Henty:
That the Senate take note of the following papers:
Commonwealth Payments to or for the States,
Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure, for year ending 30 June 1968;
Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the service of the year ending 30 June 1968;
Expenditure in respect of the year ending 30 June 1968;
Government Securities on Issue at 30 June
Commonwealth Income Tax Statistics, for income year 1964-65;
Upon which Senator Murphy had moved by way of amendment:
At the end of motion add the following words: but condemns the Budget because:
At end of proposed amendment add ‘; and the Senate is of the opinion that the Budget should be withdrawn and re-drafted to provide for:
– It will be recalled that when this debate was interrupted on Tuesday 5th September 1 had stated that 1 would support the motion for the printing of the Budget papers and would oppose the amendments moved by Senator Murphy on behalf of the Opposition, and Senator McManus on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. Naturally I have not changed my mind since I made that statement. I was about to develop the subject of the effective use of the sea because I believe that we are not using effectively the resources of our vast heritage of the sea. I have been doing a little reading on this matter. In our Parliamentary Library is a copy et the June 1966 report of the panel on oceanography which is a sub-committee of the President’s Science Advisory Committee. The report emanated from the White House and President Johnson himself wrote the foreword to it. The second paragraph of the President’s foreword is in these terms:
Much of our natural bounty consists of water.
A source of fish and transport to the ancients, as they are today, the oceans of the world hold great promise to provide future generations with minerals, food, energy and fresh water. We must turn our attention to finding more appropriate ways and better means of transforming this promise into achievement.
I believe that those words of the eminent President of the United States are of great importance to us in Australia. The President’s Science Advisory Committee consists of a group of men of very high rank, most of whom are professors, chairmen and presidents of universities. One member is the President of the National Academy of Sciences and the Chairman is Dr Donald Hornig, Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology. Although we in Australia may not be able to duplicate exactly the President’s Advisory Committee, I put to the Senate that now is the time for Australia to set up a similar advisory committee to serve the Australian Cabinet. Things are moving so fast in this country that we should look particularly to the resources of our own oceans.
Honourable senators may be interested to know some of the contents of this book on the effective use of the sea. One chapter deals with food from the sea, another with modification of the ocean environment, another with undersea technology, another with ocean science and technology and national security, another with opportunities in oceanographic research and still another with the economic aspects of oceanography. Then the very important question of priorities in ocean science and technology is dealt with.
I was interested to read some of the objectives of the panel. The first was to draft a statement of goals for a national programme to serve the marine interests of the United States and to define the Federal role in pursuit of those goals. The second was to assess current and planned ocean-oriented programmes for technical soundness, adequacy of scope, balance of content, appropriateness of organisation, funding and management in the light of relevant national goals. The third was to identify major opportunities for new programmes in technology and science that should be given high priority in the next 5 to 10 years. The fourth was to recommend measures to effect an ocean science and technology programme consonant with national needs and interests. All these questions of national security were dealt with.
It should be remembered, of course, that in the United States there is a most comprehensive programme relating to submarines. The United States Navy must develop the capability to operate anywhere within the oceans at any time. As recently as last Saturday our Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) went to North West Cape in Western Australia and, in a joint ceremony with the American Ambassador, opened a vast communications station which will be used for signalling to American naval vessels, and mainly submarines, operating in this part of the world. The construction of this station is an indication of the importance that America places on the study of the sea.
Because Australia is an isolated island, a study of the sea around us is of very great importance from the defence point of view. As the report to the President of the United Slates emphasised, I believe that the Navy should have broad responsibilities in furthering ocean science and technology in addition to a programme of ocean-oriented research. The Navy has its own problem in relation to the movement of its undersea and above-the-sea vessels, but it should have as well responsibility in the field of ocean science and technology.
On the civilian side there is the whole question of marine food resources. I was interested to read in this morning’s ‘Canberra Times’ a fascinating article relating to a vast fishing ground off the coast of South Australia. It states:
Australian and American marine scientists believe that vast fishing grounds they have discovered off Australia’s southern coast could be among the largest in the world.
The discovery was made during an oceanographic survey just completed of the Australian continental shelf.
The fishing grounds are near the mouths of vast submarine canyons which fall away from the continental shelf - about 20 to 30 miles off the coast from Esperance, in Western Australia, to Kangaroo Island, South Australia.
These canyons - some of them are among the biggest in the world - and countless smaller canyons have layers of fish so dense in some places that modern echo sounding equipment was unable to penetrate the bottom.
A South Australian scientist who made the trip on the US vessel Oceanographer, Dr C. C. Van der Dorch, who is a research fellow at the Horace Lamb Centre for Oceanography at Flinders University, said today that because of their rugged topography the canyons would be hard to trawl by present methods.
To reap the benefits, it may be necessary to develop new methods.’
This tremendous find was made as a result of a 2i weeks survey of the continental shelf in the waters of the Southern Ocean as part of a 37,000-mile world cruise for the United States Environmental Science Services Administration. The point I am making is that it was a United States vessel which, after a 37,000-mile cruise, discovered this tremendous fishing bonanza within a few miles of the South Australian coast.
We should be really getting into fisheries research from the standpoint of the marine food resources of this country. We have a duty to do that. I am talking now about the area off the coast of South Australia which I know reasonably well; but we have heard also of the tremendous fish resources in the tropical waters to the north of Australia. I submit that the time has come when the Government, through the Division of Fisheries and Oceanography of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation should be doing more than it is. I read with great pride in the report of the CSIRO far the year 1965-66 that, through the energies of the Division of Fisheries and Oceanography quite important research work was being carried out at Cronulla in New South Wales and that current annual expenditure on this work was at the rate of a little over $700,000. This sum included contributions from the States concerned and from the Fisheries Development Trust Account of the Department of Primary Industry. There was a very high degree of co-operation from commercial fishermen and the State governments in their endeavours to assess the availability of various species as a prelude to catch and prediction studies. The report also paid tribute to the work done by the Royal Australian Navy which has made the facilities of the frigates ‘Diamantina’ and Gascoyne’ available for this research; but the work is further hindered by a lack of suitable smaller vessels for associated investigations.
I regret that since it assumed office 2± years ago the South Australian Government has not put to sea the fisheries research vessel which it has. There seems to be malaise throughout Australia in relation to fisheries research. It was only within the last week that a committee appointed 2 years ago to inquire into the crayfishing industry in South Australia brought in its report. I am sure that it will be some weeks or even months yet before any action rs taken on that report. The crayfishing industry in South Australia has dropped back tremendously in the last few years. In my view, not enough energy and interest are being applied to the use to be made of the sea. While on this matter I think it is appropriate to draw the attention of honourable senators to the proposed expenditure for the year ended 30th June 1968 on particular matters.
For instance, this year the amount to be allotted to the Division of Fisheries and Oceanography of the CSIRO is $693,000, which is only a slight increase on the amount provided last year.
Another matter to which I draw the attention of the Senate is the lack of interest shown by the Government in the Antarctic Division of the Department of External Affairs. There is an enormous area under Australian responsibility in Antarctica. In Division 169 of the Estimates, a sum of $604,000 has been allotted for salaries and payments in the nature of salaries and $573,000 for the hire of ships and aircraft. Our policy with regard to Antarctica is quite futile when looked at in the long term. Over the 17 years for which 1 have been a member of this Senate I have complained repeatedly of the fact that away back in 1951 the Australian Government abandoned its plans for procuring a suitable ship for use in Antarctica. Each year the Government has contented itself with hiring one or two Danish ships. This year we shall be paying $573,000 for the hire of ships and aircraft. The greater proportion of that figure will be for the hire of ships. My point is that we are not training men. We hire Danish ships and Danish sailors with them. We have no expertise in the matter of going backwards and forwards to Antarctica.
I have argued on previous occasions that we should have our own ship. I have actually seen the plans of a ship that were drawn up in 1951. If we had gone ahead with those plans and had built our own ship either then or subsequently, that ship could have been used for work in connection with oceanography during the winter season when it could not be used in Antarctica. We did have two naval ships on oceanographic work but now we have only one. If we had built our own ship in 1951, we could have had it available always for this type of work. But, no, we have not got one, with the result that this year we shall be spending $573,000 on the hire of ships.
The Department of Primary Industry spends woefully small amounts on its fishery activities. For example, the amount to be expended this year on the ‘Fisheries Newsletter’ will be only $29,500 while that expended on fisheries services will be $27,800.
These sums are quite inadequate. I now pass on to what the Department of the Navy is spending. Last year the appropriation for defence research and development for the Department of the Navy was $433,000. This year the appropriation is down to $350,000. So it is clear that the scale of naval research is to decrease. I put to the Senate quite seriously that the interest shown by this country in the effective use of the sea is nothing like it ought to be in the light of the importance of the sea to Australia. 1 shall mention some aspects of the importance of the sea other than from the standpoint of fisheries. In Bass Strait there have been remarkable finds of oil and gas. The mineral wealth of the sea deserves a tremendous amount of study. Common salt, or sodium chloride, is taken from the sea by evaporation. I understand that in the East Indies tin ores are dredged from sediments in shallow waters and that in Japan iron is dredged from sand deposits. On Cape York Peninsula are found rutile and manganese which originate in and under the sea. I submit that once investigations are made there is an enormous possibility for the development of the mineral potential of the sca. That is why more research should be done. As the fertility of the land in all countries continues to decrease and the world’s population grows we must increase our investigations into the protein producing potential of the sea.
Fertilising of the sea car, be considered. When I was in Nauru 15 years ago fish farming was conducted in lagoons there. I believe that fertilising of the sea offers great prospects. The upwelling of nutrientrich water greatly increases the plankton blooms and many more plankton-eating fish are made available. I believe it is possible to herd fish and marine animals just as sheep and cattle are herded. I believe that corral devices can be created through the use of acoustic barriers and electric fields. Chemicals could be used to attract some fish and repel others. Through research we can increase the importance of the sea as a great natural asset to Australia, as this continent is surrounded by seas. There is no need for me to mention the possible importance of the sea from the viewpoint of producing water for drinking and household uses when water supplies from the normal reservoirs are insufficient. Possibly that period is approaching faster than we appreciate, for some of the drier areas of Australia.
I would like to see a definite move by the Government, preferably through the Department of Education and Science, towards development of research into the sea so that we may ensure that Australia will make the most effective use of the waters surrounding us. The Flinders University in South Australia has a Centre of Oceanography. I believe it is the only such school at an Australian university. It is a great pity that work at this University which is just commencing has been retarded because of lack of funds. I understand that the South Australian Labor Government has failed to match the Commonwealth grant for the erection of residential quarters. Consequently Hinders University, which attracts so many students from the country, is not able to function in the manner that once was expected of it. It is a great pity that the Horace Lamb Centre of Oceanography at Flinders University does not function as effectively as it would if the South Australian Government had supported it in the way that support was expected.
I would like to see the Commonwealth Government interest itself in the expansion of research in oceanography. I acknowledge the good work that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is doing at Cronulla and the work that the Royal Australian Navy has been doing, and in a limited way continues to do, with one ship. However, it appears to me that oceanographic research should receive a far greater impetus than the measures I have indicated. I think the Antarctic Division of the Department of External Affairs should get busy and purchase its own ship. That ship could then be made the headquarters for oceanography and research when not actually voyaging to the South Pole. I think that the Flinders University in South Australia should be supported to the hilt in its work in connection with oceanography. In today’s Press appeared the report to which I have referred of the terrific find made by one of the University’s research fellows. One can appreciate the enormous commercial value that could flow to Australia from such work.
It has occurred to me that we should fix 1970 as an oceanographic year. Some years ago a certain year was fixed for Antarctic work. I would like to see 1970 fixed as an oceanographic year so that the energies of the Navy, universities interested in the subject, CSIRO, departments administering fisheries and the Antarctic Division of the Department of External Affairs could all make a co-ordinated effort to learn more about the oceans surrounding Australia. We could learn of the minerals, oil and fish that they contain. The enormous natural resources available to Australia in the seas should be fully exploited. I leave those thoughts with the Senate and with the people in authority in this country. I ask that the Ministers charged with the responsibility for the matters I have mentioned meet their scientific advisers to see that the moves I have suggested are carried out.
– The Budget Papers before the Senate constitute the annual report and balance sheet of the Government and are supposed to portray how this country is faring economically and socially. They are an indication as to whether Australia can continue to develop or whether the economy has any basic faults. Attention should be drawn to some aspects of the Budget. A spate of Press publicity has been given to the effect of the Budget on various sections of the community. Attention should be drawn also to some of the very important aspects that have an effect on the lives of the ordinary people of this country. I refer to the wage earners and the other people to whom we have a great responsibility including age and invalid pensioners, widows, orphans and people sick in hospitals. We are living in a very pragmatic and materialistic age. The yardstick of success seems to be figures from the Chambers of Commerce, the Chambers of Manufactures, Stock Exchange reports and the like. But to have vast sections of the community living in a twilight zone reflects very badly on Government policy. I would like to say a few words about that tonight.
The position of age and invalid pensioners in our community is such that sufficient provision has not been made in this Budget to enable them to keep abreast of the declining value of money and the reduced purchasing power of their social service payments. From time to time organisations representing people such as the age pensioners come to Canberra to demonstrate and to try to point out their plight to the Government. But the Government has taken the attitude that the pensioners are not able to embarrass it sufficiently to make it take action and therefore it can disregard them. Over the past month or so I have been in contact with people in the community who are having difficulty in meeting the increasing costs of every day commodities. Pensioners on $13 per week and less, who are paying rent and are providing for the ordinary necessities of life, are finding that the amount of food they can buy is declining in quantity and quality. The pensioners also find that they have to curtail their expenditure to the extent that small items of pleasure such as television, visiting theatres or other entertainments are practically excluded from their lives. The plight of these people is much worse than the Government has tried to convey in the Budget Speech. One consequence of continuing inflation is that the position of people who are in receipt of fixed incomes and social service payments and who are not given a corresponding increase each year deteriorates as the value goes out of their money. The Government has let that section of the community down very badly in this Budget.
The Treasurer (Mr McMahon), during the course of his Budget Speech, drew attention to employment in this country. An assessment of the latest figures from the Commonwealth Statistician shows that the number of persons registered as unemployed totals 70,555. The figure has increased in the last month by 974 or nearly 1,000. The number of vacancies registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service is down. This reveals a widening gap between the number of unemployed and the job vacancies. The situation is the worst that has existed since 1963.
One of the very important problems that this country has to face is that of increasing our population by immigration. The number of departures from this country is growing. The problems facing the people who arrive here are increasing. The glowing pictures that are painted to many people in Europe who are enjoying increased prosperity because of the bene fits that are flowing from the European Economic Community are just a confidence trick. These migrants come to this country and have a great struggle to obtain a place in which to live. Meeting the cost of building or buying a home becomes a lifetime project. The average migrant involves himself in a lifetime of debt in paying off a home, if he has the good fortune to raise the necessary deposit. The figures quoted show the difficulty experienced in obtaining employment here. I repeat that the number of unemployed at the present time is over 70,000 and it is increasing, whereas the claim made by the Treasurer in the Budget Speech was one of improving conditions in both employment and housing.
The general atmosphere in the whole community and in the economy is one of very fierce competition. The Government of course believes that the fiercer the competition the better the results will be. Competition in the various fields gives increased efficiency. What is actually happening is that, on the higher level, combines and capital come from overseas, create monopolies and decrease the opportunities for the individual to succeed in this community. I should say that the attraction of Australia to migrants is becoming less and less as time goes by. This is illustrated by the recent visit of an Italian senator to Australia. He came to find out exactly what conditions are like here and how migrants are standing up to the conditions.
My experience with many migrants has shown that they are industrious people. They are prepared to be assimilated and to pull their weight in the community. But I feel that the promises which have been made to them of the glittering and glowing opportunities available in Australia are exaggerated. This belief is borne out by the number of migrants, particularly Europeans, who are returning to their countries of origin because those countries can offer to them conditions in which they will be more contented than they have been in Australia. In addition those places offer them an environment to which they have been accustomed among their own countrymen and kinsfolk.
I think that it is a reflection on a young and growing country, as Australia is, that we are not able to offer much more to people who come here. It is important that we increase our population in order to develop our natural resources and, in the long run, to defend and hold this country. The attitude of the Government appears to be that its responsibility to the migrants ends when it brings them to Australia. Although there are some very fine people associated with the good neighbour councils, who give good advice and companionship to many of the migrants, the average newcomer has to knuckle down to what is a pretty fiercely competitive life. The fact that Australia does not offer any greater opportunities than exist in various countries in western Europe means that the Government will find it increasingly difficult to encourage migrants to come here.
The Government takes pleasure in being able to quote statistics in relation to our balance of trade position and to speak of the prosperity in our primary industries. The latest figures that have been released concerning one of our main primary products - and 1 refer to wool - show that the prices of this commodity have become very unstable. Indeed an alarming decline has occurred in the prices that are being obtained for wool in our auction rooms. Whether the Government will be able to do anything about this state of affairs, I do not know. We should remember that the wool growers had the opportunity to establish an organised wool marketing scheme but they refused to accept it. They must bear some of the responsibility for their present plight. Nevertheless, the wool industry is one of the most important sectors in our economy. Figures indicate that basically instability exists in one of our most important areas of primary production.
The dramatic increase in the export of iron ore together with the discovery of deposits of various minerals has provided a great windfall for the Government. The Government has been very fortunate in this respect over the years, lt had the advantage of a series of very good seasons enjoyed by primary industries and reaped a big harvest in respect of the inflow of capital from overseas when other countries were facing crises. People saw the opportunity to bring their relatively hot money from other places for investment here. With the advantages that have accrued from the discovery of iron ore deposits and other minerals, the Government has been able to balance the budget, so to speak, or to balance the economy. But the Government is following a short term policy. I say this for the simple reason thai instead of Australia’s development proceeding side by side with the great discoveries of iron ore deposits and other minerals, our steel industry is not preparing for an ever growing export market and the raw materials are being sent to other parts of the world. Australia is gaining a temporary advantage, but a big proportion of the profits made by companies or investors is being sent overseas and we are eating into our own mineral reserves. At the moment those reserves appear to be on a very large scale, but every thousand tons or 100,000 tons of iron ore that we export means that Australia will have that much less for its own use as its population grows. We will have that much less for our use as we become a supplier of manufactured articles to the vast populations of South East Asia and other countries to the north of us. Those people in time must and will become purchasers of our commodities.
The Government is taking this short term view. It is my belief that the Government has failed very badly by not taking the initiative to establish more secondary industries in conjunction with the discovery of these vast iron ore deposits. The Government should be encouraging the establishment of organisations similar to the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. After all, this company has enjoyed more or less a monopoly of the steel manufacturing industry in Australia. The company has been very successful. It has produced excellent articles. Still, I feel that we are wasting a tremendous opportunity when we do not develop more steel manufacturing complexes to use our natural resources.
The Government has been very fortunate also in the fact that oil bearing areas have been discovered. These will be of tremendous advantage to Australia. However, we find that Australia, instead of using its capacity to borrow from overseas, if necessary, in order to finance the development of its natural resources, is allowing overseas investors to move in on this new area. Other than the few crumbs that local investors have as an equity in these areas in which oil has been discovered, Australia will not receive the full benefit from the discovery of this great natural asset. It is argued that we have not the knowhow or the capital to do these things. 1 suppose that the people who are directing operations in the development of our oil resources are doing it for a price. Most of the technicians, geologists and other experts associated with this new industry are employees of big organisations. If these organisations can obtain their services there is no reason why the Australian Government and its organisations should not do the same thing in buying and paying for the knowhow.
We are adopting a short sighted policy in allowing each new phase of these dramatic developments to come under the control of overseas interests, lt has happened with iron ore resources, Queensland coal deposits and oil discoveries. There is no saying that the same thing wilt not happen with our nickel. It has happened in the case of the vast bauxite deposits in the north of Queensland in which overseas interests have a monopoly. Right down the list we find that the full fruits of this new era in Australia’s development are not available to Australia. Overseas investors are reaping the harvest and taking it from this country. Any organisation that does nol sail back returns for its own development is heading for trouble. I believe that future generations will condemn this Government for not ensuring a brighter future. It seems to bc obsessed with the idea that everything must bc left to private enterprise, which has different meanings in different places. The private entrepreneur today is being overpowered by combinations of capital, which knows no nation and no law. Capital can overcome national boundaries and bypass many of the laws set up to protect individuals. In this way combinations of capital can dominate governments. In allowing this the Australian Government is defeating its own objective. It is permitting the country to fall into the hands of a pretty ruthless type of monopoly capitalism which, is taking a great toll today and will in the future take a greater toll of the products of our national resources.
The Treasurer said that wage rates had increased strongly over the year to June and that minimum weekly rates had risen by about 7%. But this relates to monetary values. The 7% increase in wage rates is more than ofl set by the continuous infla tionary process. A visit to any of the ordinary market places shows that increases in the price of meat, bread, milk, sugar and the other basic things used in everyday life by the wage earner have not been equalled by the increase in minimum wage rates. We have seen not only this gap widening but also a departure from the normal practice of the courts of making quarterly adjustments to the basic wage in accordance with the cost of living. In the annual or biennial reviews the wage earner will face an even more difficult task in relation to the concept of the total wage, for which the state of the economy will be the yardstick and the indicator of how much the courts will grant as a minimum wage and as a margin.
The figures produced by the Statistician are quite impressive on paper but when they are applied in reality the wage earner is only just keeping his head above water. In many cases he finds thai he has to supplement his wage by allowing or even encouraging his wife to go om to work so iiia! they can meet their normal commitments. Perhaps it is a normal development, where family arrangements can be made, thai a woman may go to work to augment the family income, but the consequences flowing from this are becoming more and more evident. In many instances the wage that a woman receives for doing the equivalent of a man’s job is only 75% of the male wage. This is an advantage that industry receives in drawing on the pool of female labour. The Government, of course, never lakes the initiative to see that this anomaly is adjusted although it has existed for many years. Equal pay for equal work should become a matter of government policy. In one section, namely, banks in which many females are employed doing the equivalent of male work, individual action is being taken to have this anomaly adjusted, lt should be a matter of government policy to establish that people who perform duties with the same economic value should be paid the same rate whether they are males or females.
The natural sequence of drawing female labour into industry and supplying statistics to illustrate an increase in the gross national product and an improvement in the economic situation is having very grave repercussions among the youth of this country. We arc quickly reaching the point where the Government will have to be able to give a lead to our youth, to give them a better reason and a better purpose for their lives. The Government is making a negative approach in many fields. I refer firstly to foreign policy. The youth of this country cannot follow the Government’s foreign policy for the simple reason that it is so complex and so uncertain that there is no inspiration for them to feel that they have something to believe in. There are other influences at work. For instance, home life is being disrupted by the large proportion of mothers who are practically forced to go out to work to supplement the family income. So there is a lack of home discipline and a tendency towards irresponsibility among the youth of the country.
The next phase is when they go out into employment. The future for the great majority of the youth of this country is the basic wage plus a margin. In their wisdom the courts of this land, in their judgments, take the view that if a man can be given a wage to provide the bare necessities and an adjustment in the form of a margin for his skill he has to take that and be satisfied. The whole system has been worked in favour of the employer in that penalties are imposed on the wage earner - be be skilled or unskilled - if he takes direct action. He is obliged by law to accept the decisions of the courts although he believes that he is not receiving a fair slice of the cake. These matters are building up in the community to a stage where there is frustration among our young people. This Budget does not give them any lead. The Government’s overall policy is lacking in any inspiration or any long range plan to give young people a purpose in which they feel they can participate.
The general aspects of the Budget have been canvassed very widely. I do not intend to cover the ground that has been covered by previous speakers. Opportunities will arise during the Estimates debate for a study of the various departmental estimates of expenditure. My view is that the Budget is a very conservative one. The Government has neglected to give a very large section of the community something that it needs very badly. I refer to recipients of social service benefits. Although this matter has been discussed quite widely, 1 do not believe that the Government and the people in a big section of the community who do not come into close contact with people who are dependent on social service payments realise the very sorry plight of this very large body of people who are classified as underprivileged.
Because they are inarticulate and are inclined to cover up the fact that they are dependent on social services payments, that gives the Government a chance to escape its responsibility. The Government has acted very callously in overlooking them completely in this Budget. The small crumbs that have been thrown out in the form of what could be described as propaganda baits, such as increased child endowment for larger families, are very acceptable. But when we look at the amount of money involved in these payments we see that the Government is getting the maximum publicity out of the minimum expenditure. 1 agree that the other small concessions that have been made are also very acceptable to the recipients of them. But the people in the wide field of recipients of social service payments are feeling the pinch of the inflationary process. They have been treated very badly.
This Budget could be described as a negative one. Since its presentation on 15it August over a month has elapsed in which there should have been some response if the predictions made by the Treasurer were correct. In many ways and many places there should have been signs of expansion and added confidence. Instead of that the business world, as reflected in its financial papers and the columns of the Press that report business trends, is not showing any signs that the Budget will give an impetus or fillip to the economy. There should have been some signs of the results that (he Treasurer predicted.
The Budget has been designed to divert the maximum possible amount of our national funds to defence. I will not develop this matter tonight. Many grave faults can be found in the whole defence policy of the Government. A tremendous amount of our national wealth is being expended overseas on defence purchases. On the other hand very little effort is being expended to provide the wherewithal - the factories and other facilities - for the manufacture and production of this defence equipment within
Australia. For instance, our aircraft industry is languishing; yet we are expending huge sums of money overseas, with long periods elapsing between the time of ordering and the expected time of delivery. These periods could well have been used for the development of a substantial and growing aircraft industry in Australia. The same thing applies throughout the field of defence production. The Government has not taken the initiative to see that we become able to an increasing degree to produce defence materials for not only the present but also the future defence of Australia. There are many other aspects that I will develop during the debate on the Estimates.
I feel that the speech delivered by the Treasurer when introducing the Budget was designed mainly to create the impression that Australia was sailing along in an expanding and prosperous way. Perhaps the proposals in the Budget are paying big dividends to some sections of the community. They certainly are making Australia a wonderful area in which overseas investors can reap a rich harvest. But the Budget does not offer to the average Australian any great hope of a rising standard of living. It is most disappointing to the underprivileged people in the community.
– I do not know to whom I should address my remarks tonight. At one stage I did not think there were any Opposition senators in the chamber. I am pleased to see that several of them have since returned.
– There are not too many Government senators present either.
– They were here when their presence was necessary. I have just listened to Senator O’Byrne’s criticism - if I could call it such - of the Budget. I must be quite frank, Mr President. I do not think his criticism was any stronger than that of Opposition senators who spoke before him in this debate. Senator O’Byrne spoke about immigration and what we do initially for the people who come to Australia. He did not go on to say that we ask the migrants to accept the same obligations as those accepted by the people who have lived in Australia all their lives - that is, we ask them to help to defend this country. The honourable senator said that although migrants were coming here he did not know whether we would be able to defend and hold this country. In reply to his statement, which was made rather vaguely, I say that the same obligation rests on the migrants as rests on Australians who were born and bred here. This obligation was introduced recently.
Regarding foreign affairs, Senator O’Byrne said that the present Government had a negative approach to this matter. Apparently the honourable senator has not been following the news, or the movements of the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) and the other activities of the present Government. To my mind, no Prime Minister in the history of Australia has tried to further the relations that we have with foreign countries more than our present Prime Minister has done. No Prime Minister in our history has been more successful, particularly in South East Asia, an area to which we are very closely related, both geographically and from the defence point of view. Senator O’Byrne went on to discuss social services in a vague and very blithe manner. I refer the honourable senator to some speeches that criticise what the Labor Party did when it was in government. I do not think members of the Labor Party, when they are reminded of that record, will dare to hold their heads up.
Mr President, at this time of the year, when the Budget is brought down, most people in Australia, irrespective of their walk in life, like to criticise it in one way or another. Every person has the right to do so. From what I have heard, the Opposition has tried to pull apart the speech of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) - I do not think I could call it criticism at all - but it appears to me that the Opposition has no objection to the Budget. Surely every budget has a fault in it in the eyes of somebody. Everyone can find fault somewhere, surely, but it appears to me that the Opposition has been waiting for the Press to tell it what is wrong with the Budget and then has attempted to criticise. The statements by members of the Opposition have been so weak, so pallid, that when I am listening to them I am inclined to think that there is no weakness in this Budget. But 1 know that there are weaknesses. I know that, because of the state of affairs in the world in general, unfortunately we have to spend much more money on defence than we would normally wish to do and therefore certain factions of the community do not get as much help as we would hope.
There has been criticism of the Treasurer’s speech in regard to national development. This is a field which the Opposition has b:en trying to exploit for some time, purely in the hope of being able to criticise, but it has never stated what it would do. The Opposition has never stated yet what it would do. because it knows full well that it would not be able to do more if it became the government. In view of our size and our population I think we are extremely lucky to have been able to develop to the stage we have reached. Australia has 12 million people at present. It has developed and we have exploited what resources we have found to date. I think we have been remarkably lucky, particularly over the last 20 years, during which time we have had a stable government. I remember Senator O’Byrne remarking recently that it was a pity that all these discoveries - -that is what he called them - had been made while the present LiberalCountry Party Government was in office. I do not think these discoveries would have been made if the Australian Labor Party had been in power because there would have been no stimulus to do so.
– Who set up the aluminium industry?
– I say, first, that I do not think there would have been any stimulus given by the Australian Labor Party to discover those ore bodies either. Secondly, if by some inconceivable fluke those bodies had been discovered, I do not think Australia would have benefited because immediately the discoveries had been proved and found to be profitable they would have been socialised or nationalised, whichever word one likes to use. Thirdly, I think that, had production begun, the Labor Party’s policy on defence would have been so weak that we would not have been able to hold this country long enough to develop the resources fully.
– Isn’t the honourable senator nasty.
– That is my opinion. The projects which are being carried out at the moment have been explained by the Prime Minister. I think it worries members of the Opposition somewhat when they see the figures relating to development projects in hand in north west and northern Australia.
– It worries the Government more.
– The Government is well aware of what is in hand.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin) - 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, 19 September 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1967/19670919_senate_26_s35/>.