26th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Mr President, I have to inform the Senate that Senator Henty has resigned as Leader of the Government in the Senate and that I have been appointed to that position. Mr Adermann has resigned as Minister for Primary Industry and his place has been taken by Mr Anthony. Mr Sinclair has been invited to become a member of the Cabinet and Mr Nixon has joined the Ministry as Minister for the Interior.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Will the Minister inform the Parliament of the total number of national servicemen who have been classified as fit at the preliminary examination even though they have evident medical or physical disabilities and who have been discharged as medically unfit immediately after their call-up for national service training?
– I shall ask the Minister for Labour and National Service to supply an answer to the question.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is the Minister aware of the drought conditions that exist in certain areas of Victoria? Will he give the Senate an assurance that the Commonwealth Government will make adequate finance available to those producers and trading houses requiring financial support to carry on their operations and finally be reinstated in production? Will the Commonwealth offer drought alleviation finance to the Victorian Government at an absolute ‘minimum interest rate so that onward loans can be made at a minimum of cost to those requiring assistance? Will the Commonwealth assure the State Government that those affected by this drought will receive assistance on no less favourable terms and no less adequate than that given to New South Wales and other States in time of need?
– The Government is fully aware of the drought conditions that exist in parts of Victoria, particularly the Western District, the Wimmera and areas of the north. I understand that the Premier of Victoria, Sir Henry Bolte, has been in touch with the Prime Minister on this matter. However, I think that the honourable senator will realise that the requests for statements of policy contained in his question cannot be met at question time.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Has the Minister seen a report that hundreds of gallons of crude oil escaped from a Greek tanker berthed at Kurnell last Monday and that the sludge has spread into the George’s River and is having a deleterious effect on oyster leases in its estuary? Can the Minister say whether this report is correct? Is he also aware that oysters cultured in the George’s River are regarded as being among the best in the world and that already farmers are having difficulty in overcoming problems caused by wastage from the Holsworthy military camp, the atomic energy reactor at Menai and various industrial establishments in the area that are contributing to the spoiling of the waters of this lovely stream? What action can the Minister take to see that the interests of these very important primary producers are protected from the escape of oil from tankers?
– The honourable senator asks a question in relation to the pollution of waters by an oil tanker and then he raises a number of matters which really are not completely related insofar as they concern discharges from the land into the waters of Botany Bay. I can give the honourable senator an assurance that I appreciate the quality of the oysters in the Bay; I suppose we all do. I think that the oysters in that area are probably the best in the world. 1 saw the Press release in relation to the particular circumstance and also some photographs that appeared in the Press. There is an international convention on the pollution of the sea by oil and there is complementary legislation by the States to cover pollution in coastal waters, which is not a responsibility of the Department of Shipping and Transport. This is clearly a matter that comes within the international convention and State law, and it is for the State to take whatever action it chooses. I am aware that heavy penalties are prescribed for such pollution. It is a matter for State governments to act on pollution in territorial waters. There are some other related matters in the honourable senator’s question which I might direct to other departments.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Government in the Senate been drawn to a Press report of a statement made by Senator Cormack when addressing a Liberal speakers’ group on Sunday last, questioning the potential capacity of Papua and New Guinea for development and stating that the sooner we get shot of it the better? As the honourable senator occupies the important position of Chairman of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, does the Minister not agree that these provocative comments could be extremely damaging to the development of future harmonious relations between Australia and Papua and New Guinea?
– I do not think that I can be expected to answer a question of this kind on the basis of an unconfirmed Press report.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport seen recent Press reports of a large oil slick off the coast of central Queensland, apparently caused by a tanker cleaning out its oil tanks in areas adjacent to the coast? As the effect of oil on fishing grounds, the Great Barrier Reef and seaside resorts could be disastrous, will the Minister see that action is taken, in conjunction with the State authorities if necessary, against the ship concerned and that everything possible is done to prevent a similar occurrence in the future?
– I understand that the oil slick to which the honourable senator refers was in the vicinity of Mackay on a 10-mile front. Officers of the Department of Shipping and Transport have not been able to ascertain whether the slick was caused by a ship or by something else. The question has some relation to Senator McClelland’s question which I have already answered. If an oil slick came from a ship within territorial waters, under the international convention the State would have a responsibility to act against the master of the ship or the shipping company concerned.
It is a serious matter. We are all conscious of the great damage that can be done. I am sure we all have in mind the happening in the United Kingdom some little time ago, the cost of which to industry and the community at large was astronomic. However, if there is any further information that I can get for the honourable senator, I will obtain it and let him have it. The present position is that the Department does not know what caused the oil slick. If the occurrence was within territorial waters, it would clearly be the responsibility of the State Government to deal with the matter.
– My question is’ addressed to the Minister representing the’ Minister for Defence. Tasmanian newspapers carried a news release this morning that Cabinet had decided to commit a third battalion to the Vietnam campaign. I ask the Minister whether this announcement is confirmed. Does the Minister propose to make a statement of the circumstances and the operations in which the troops will be engaged? If not, will he give us some information on the subject?
– Mr President, I understand that a statement is to be made by the Prime Minister in another place. But the honourable senator, I think, goes beyond that and asks for a statement from the Minister for Defence as to what kind of operations our forces will be engaged in. Am 1 correct in giving that interpretation?
– I will later be making to the Senate the same statement as is to be made by the Prime Minister. I suggest that if at the completion of that statement the honourable senator wants further information of some kind he might take the matter up then.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Are representatives of the Australian Wheat Board at present engaged in trade negotiations in Rhodesia?
– I know that the Australian Wheat Board and its representatives arc seeking trade in many parts of the world, but I am not aware whether they are in Rhodesia. I will obtain an answer for the honourable senator as soon as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Housing. Did representatives of the Housing Industry Association on 22nd August make submissions to the Minister and to the Treasurer urging special action to overcome the deposit gap and did they suggest other changes in the current housing loans policy of the Government? ls the Minister in a position to state the view of the Government about these matters?
– In reply to the honourable senator’s question, r think the date he gave is correct. I recall the day in question and I think that was the date’. Representatives of the Housing Industry Association did call on me. I understand that they called on the Treasurer also on that same day. They put forward a report which I have since studied. They spoke also of the activities that were being carried out in the housing field in Australia. They put forward some suggestions of their own which 1 promised them [ would review and study.
– My question ls directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Air. In view of the statement published in the Press and credited to Sir Frederick Scherger that 3 of the 6 Mirage aircraft that have been lost by the Royal Australian Air Force recently were lost because of the need for a modification in the position of the fuel intake mechanism, will the Minister make a statement to the Senate on the matter?
– I understand that the Minister for Air is to make a statement on this matter today or during the course of this week. That is the only answer I can give the honourable senator at present.
– My question, which I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, follows upon the question asked by Senator Wheeldon. Would the Government allow the sale of wheat to Rhodesia, or would that be contrary to the Government’s sanctions policy against Rhodesia?
– The honourable senator has been a member of the Senate long enough to know that it is not the practice to answer questions without notice involving matters of policy.
– The question does not involve a matter of policy.
– The question distinctly involves a matter of policy. The honourable senator has been a member of the Senate long enough to know that such matters are not suitable subjects for questions without notice.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport: Is it proposed to hold in Western Australia a ceremony commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the construction of the Trans-Australian Railway, similar to the ceremony held in Port Augusta, South Australia?
– 1 do not know the answer to the honourable senator’s question. I will find out and let him know.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Education and Science by pointing out that last week the Premier of South Australia claimed that the Commonwealth Government had rejected a recent request for Commonwealth funds to be directed towards the erection of a hall of residence within the Flinders University. Can the Minister give details of the request? Was it made in the ordinary course of business, or did it have some extraordinary features?
– 1 think the Premier of South Australia must have been referring to what was originally proposed to be a hall of residence at the Flinders University in South Australia. A hall of residence provides residential accommodation, one-half of which is paid for by the Commonwealth and one-half by the State government concerned. The erection of a hall of residence at the Flinders University was one of the proposals deleted as not having a sufficiently high priority during consultations between the South Australian Government and the Commonwealth Government on grants recommended by the Australian Universities Commission. Subsequently a local trust, I understand, indicated that it would be prepared to contribute towards the cost, not of a hall of residence, but of a residential college to be financed half by the Common- wealth Government, partly by the State Government and partly by private funds. The Premier of South Australia then contacted us to ask whether, since the money would be available, I think, late in 1968, the Commonwealth Government would provide special funds for a residential college to replace the proposed hall of residence which had been removed from the previous submission.
In some way about which 1 am still not completely clear, the suggestion was bound up with using some of the funds predicated for building teacher training colleges in South Australia. Our attitude has been that, as all States have indicated quite clearly their urgent requirements for more teachers and as the provision of capital to erect teaching places is clearly a strong contribution towards this end, we should not use any of those funds for some purpose other than that for which they were initially predicated, even if in the initial stages of a triennium the full funds available were not used. Out of that factual account the Premier of South Australia has said whatever it is that the honourable senator has referred to.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. Is wheat one of the articles the export of which to Rhodesia is banned by the Australian Government?
– I suggest that the honourable senator put the question on notice and I shall find out the answer for him.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. As I believe that Australia is one of the twelve great trading nations of the world, I ask whether it is a fact that, as far as health is concerned, pratique is not given to ships in Australian ports between the hours of sunset and sunrise? Can the Minister tell me whether the other eleven great trading nations do give pratique during the hours between sunset and sunrise?
– In order to give a complete answer with relation to pratique I need to have this question put on notice, as it will be necessary for me to obtain accurate information relating to the position in the other countries to which the honourable senator referred. As we know, there are some limitations in Australian ports but in order to give a comprehensive answer I shall have to obtain more information relating to other countries.
– I ask the Acting Minister for External Affairs whether he knows that in recent issues of the reputable American magazine ‘Newsweek’, supplemented by reports in the Sydney Press, it is stated that notwithstanding attempts by the new government of South Vietnam there still does not appear to be any diminution of black-marketing activities connected with Army and civilian supplies. Can we have an assurance that the Australian Government will continue to impress upon this new government in South Vietnam the fact that we do expect some house cleaning in this particular phase of life in that country?
– I have not noticed the articles referred to by the honourable senator, but he can be assured that the Australian Government, wishing as it does that the Government of South Vietnam shall be strongly based, efficient and effective so that it will be able to withstand the attack being made upon it from the North, would hope that it would be a government which would be comparable, let us say, with the present Australian Government in its effect.
(Question No. 227)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s questions:
Medical examination of United States servicemen coming to Australia on leave has been discussed with the US military authorities concerned and procedures additional to the routine medical surveillance of US personnel in Vietnam have been agreed upon. The Government is satisfied that these procedures are sound and provide as thorough a check as practicable against increasing the incidence of venereal disease or other communicable diseases in Australia.
(Question No. 229)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Is it a fact that a French Mystere twin-engine jet aircraft has been making regular flights over the Atherton Tableland? If so, are such flights being made as a result of an unpublicised military agreement with France or docs the aircraft happen lo be measuring increased radiation fall-out as a result of French nuclear tests in the Pacific?
– The Prime Minister has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Civil flights in the Atherton Tableland area have been made in recent months by a Mystere aircraft (also known as a Fan Jet Falcon) on charter from a Melbourne-based executive charter organisation. These flights took place on 26th and 27th July, and between 7th and 11th August.
On 26th and 27th July, a Douglas Skywarrior aircraft of the United States Navy performed a series of photo-reconnaissance flights in the area at the request of the Department of Civil Aviation in connection with the search for a Cessna aircraft of Bush Pilots Airways missing on a flight from Cairns. The Skywarrior bears a superficial resemblance to the Mystere and could be mistaken for it. It is possible that the presence in the area of both machines gave rise to the report of regular operations by a Mystere.
Flights by foreign military aircraft into or over Australian territory must be approved in advance by the Minister for Civil Aviation. Approval for flights by French military aircraft has neither been sought nor given, and the Department of Civil Aviation has no record of flights, regular or otherwise, being made by a French Mystere aircraft over the Atherton Tableland.
(Question No. 266)
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable senator’s questions art:
(Question No. 292)
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:
(Question No. 295)
asked the Minis ter representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
New Zealand and the United Slates of America, as advocated by him in July last?
– The Prime Minister has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 306)
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:
At the time the cancellation of the Conference was announced, Mr Calwell and one other member of the delegation were already overseas and had incurred a substantial part of their expected expenditure.
(Question No. 308)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Park of South Korea, in talks with Admiral Sharp, the Commander-in-Chief of United States forces in the Pacific, has urged the United States to expand drastically the bombing of North Vietnam?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
(Question No. 313)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided me with the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
(Question No. 319)
On how many occasions has a senior representative of the Women’s Section of the Depart ment of Labour and National Service been invited to attend conferences in relation to women in the work force?
On how many occasions have the invitations been accepted and a senior officer participated in discussions?
(Question No. 323)
asked the Minister rep resenting the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided me wilh the following answer to the honourable senator’s question - 1 and 2. The Chowilla Dam project has been the subject of correspondence between the Premier of South Australia and me. It is customary to treat such correspondence as confidential but, as the press on 26th September reported the gist of a letter I sent recently to the Premier, I can now disclose its contents.
I told the Premier thatI felt that the River Murray Commission’s decision to defer the Chowilla project until further investigations have been carried out was the only one open to it. The estimated cost had increased enormously and recent information had raised doubts on whether five million acre feet was an appropriate size for the storage. In addition the question of salinity (which is of such importance to South Australia) had been one of increasing concern.
I fully acknowledged to the Premier the need for additional regulation of the River Murray to reduce the frequency and severity of future restrictions and assured him that 1 am aware of the importance of the river to South Australia. The Commission’s current investigations are aimed at finding means of providing this additional water at a reasonable cost in the light of the developments mentioned earlier. Well-known consultants have also been engaged to examine the salinity question.
The Commission’s investigation will, I am sure, be carried out with all possible speed, and I am confident that South Australia’s best interests will be served by waiting for the findings of this study, in the light of which the most appropriate action can then be taken without delay.
I therefore told the Premier that until we have the results of these investigations, 1 did not see that a meeting such as he had requested could advance the matter further.
There can be no doubt of the Commonwealth’s sympathy on this matter. Our agreement in 1962, on the basis of the information then available, to meet our share of the cost of Chowilla is ample evidence of this.
(Question No. 350)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Air, upon notice:
– The Minister for Air has supplied the following answers:
Yes. 2. (i) The firms carrying out major maintenance of the basic airframe as distinct from the removable or installed items are as follows:
Unscheduled work as required on other aircraft. .
(Question No. 359)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
With reference to a question asked several weeks ago by Senator Mulvihill on the possibility of the Government giving recognition to the memory of a member of the Monash University stuff, the late Professor Marshall, for his services to the cause of Australian fauna conservation, has any consideration yet been given to this request?
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Consideration has been given to the matter raised by the honourable senator on 31st August. However, except within the Commonwealth Territories, conservation of wild life in Australia is the responsibility of the State governments. Under the circumstances the Stales would bc in a better position lo take any appropriate action to commemorate Professor Marshall’s work and the honourable senator might wish to pursue his suggestion with the appropriate State authorities or, perhaps, with Monash University where the late professor Marshall was Foundation Professor of Zoology and Comparative Physiology.
What has been called a selection assessment reporting scheme was introduced a month or two ago in the Home Savings Grant, and Accounts and Technical/ Clerical Branches in the New South Wales office of the Department. The scheme is experimental. It has not yet been introduced into the War Service Homes Branch. There has never been any suggestion that monthly reports will be required.
The purposes of the scheme are two-fold. First, the reports will be used to bring to light any deficiencies of officers as a basis for further training opportunities and to ensure that the best use is being made of an officer’s capabilities. The reports of immediate supervisors will be reviewed by more senior officers who will be in a position to arrange for officers to be given appropriate training, the opportunity for further studies or rotation to various assignments to assist in the development of their full potential. The honourable senator is assured that any shortcomings revealed will be discussed with the officers concerned with a view to assisting officers to overcome them.
Secondly, the scheme is designed to assist management and selection committees to safeguard the rights of all officers who are entitled to be considered for advancement. A uniform selection assessment. report will provide a more complete and objective record of each officer’s performance.
The Branch administration has explained the nature and purpose of the system to the local committee of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association, and has indicated that it will review the system if the Association has legitimate criticism or complaint to offer in the light of its operation after it has been given a fair trial.
– On 5th September Senator Wright drew attention to a Press report stating that instructions have been issued on behalf of (he Government of New South Wales that only cement produced in that State should be used in New South Wales Government contracts. The honourable senator suggested that the Premier of New South Wales be invited to furnish information about the conditions to be applied so that the Commonwealth Government and the Parliament might examine the matter. I undertook to have the position examined and the Prime Minister has now provided me with the following answer:
The Commonwealth would not be disposed to act on the honourable senator’s suggestion as it would regard the reported action of the New South Wales Government as being a matter within the State’s province. 1 would also invite the honourable senator’s attention to the reply on this subject given by my colleague the Attorney-General on 5th September (Hansard, page 744).
– On 7th September Senator Keeffe asked whether the Government would ensure that a full inquiry is instituted with regard to allegations of bashings at the Hopevale mission in northern Queensland.
As the Prime Minister made clear in his statement in the Parliament on 7th September, concerning the policy in relation to Aboriginals, the prime function of the Commonwealth, following the referendum in May of this year, will be to carry out a policy co-ordinating role. As the Commonwealth will not assume the responsibility for administration, which is largely with the States except in those areas like the Northern Territory where it already has a direct commitment, the particular matter raised by the honourable senator would be one for the Queensland authorities.
– by leave - I refer first to the resignation of Senator Henty as Leader of the Government in the Senate. Speaking not only for myself but for all members of the Australian Labor Party in the Senate, we have always esteemed Senator Henty as a worthy leader in this Senate, a hard hitter in debate but a man who was always fair and reasonable. Our political differences have presisted but other differences have been resolved easily in the atmosphere of his unfailing courtesy and geniality. We will continue to regard him highly.
On behalf of the Opposition I congratulate the new Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Gorton) and wish him well. Senator Gorton has accepted a very onerous office. However, I can assure him that we will do all we can to make his period in office a short but merry one.
– I have received from Senator O’Byrne an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate in order to debate a matter of urgency, namely:
The need for the Commonwealth to indemnify fruit growers immediately for the losses they have suffered in the Suez Canal through circumstances beyond their control.
Is the proposed motion supported? (More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
– I formally move:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 2.20 p.m.
My purpose in proposing this motion is to bring to the notice of the Senate and the Government the plight of fruit growers in Australia, particularly those in Tasmania. We all are aware that fruit growers and primary producers generally in Tasmania were affected by the tragic bush fires which last February swept through orchards and many agricultural areas and inflicted grave losses in stock and property. The orchardists particularly were severely hit. As well as the bush fires they have been confronted with a continuing drought which has retarded the apple crop and resulted in a very heavy reduction in the quantities available for export. Similar conditions exist in Western Australia, Victoria and, to a lesser extent, in South Australia. Queensland was hit by hail. New South Wales was the only State which did not have a reduction in its expected fruit crop last year.
Let me illustrate the extent of the decline in the quantities of fruit available for export as a result of the extraordinary seasonal conditions which have prevailed in southern Tasmania. The total shipment of apples and pears to the United Kingdom and Europe amounted to only 7,251,000 bushels. This was 2,000,000 bushels less than the quantity exported last year and, in fact, the lowest quantity for 6 years. Dealing with the export of apples only to the United Kingdom and Europe, in the season under notice 3,878,812 bushels were exported from Tasmania compared with 5,700,000 bushels last year. Last season some 291,000 bushels of pears were exported compared with 540,000 bushels the previous year. The Senate will realise that apart altogether from the problem confronting us in relation to the trapping of the ships containing Tasmanian and other apples and pears, the orchard industry in Tasmania has experienced an abnormal season.
The Tasmanian orchardists have been hit hard al a very critical time because on top of the bush fires and the drought, which is still continuing in Tasmania, they have now lost the opportunity to sell on the best market in the United Kingdom which has been available to them for many years. Last year they received 20s sterling a bushel but this year the returns were in the vicinity of 50s and 60s sterling a bushel. That indicates the great loss which the Tasmanian fruit growers have sustained. They are now experiencing severe financial difficulties. Despite repeated representations made to the Government through members of this Parliament, the Government has been very evasive on this matter and has taken the attitude that this is a personal matter that concerns the individual growers.
– What is evasive about that attitude?
– The position is that this matter is greater than the individual. It concerns an important segment of the Tasmanian economy. It concerns a group of people who over the years have been the most co-operative group of primary producers in the country. I should say that of all the primary producers they have made the least demands on Commonwealth funds. They need help and they need it urgently. That is what is unusual about the Government evading the issue and saying that this is a matter between the producers and the insurance companies or shipping companies.
The position has been reached that individual growers are being billed for the freight on the fruit that is held up in the Suez Canal. Four ships containing fruit have been held up there since early in June. They are the ‘Scottish Star’, which has 182,000 cases of apples and 40.000 cases of pears from Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia; the ‘Port Invercargill’, which has 103,000 cases of apples and 39,000 cases of pears from the Port Huon area of Tasmania and from Victoria; the Munster Mand’, which has 1 3.000 cases of pears from Victoria; and the ‘Killara’, which has 21,000 cases of apples and 7,000 cases of pears. Included in the total amount of fruit is 200,000 cases from Tasmania. The growers of that fruit are in need of urgent relief in order to meet the freight costs for which they have been billed. In addition, they are not able to prepare for the forthcoming season. If they have to wait indefinitely for this situation to be clarified by long drawn out legal proceedings, possibly at an international level, many of them will go to the wall.
Individually these fruit growers atc worthy of the fullest confidence of this nation because of the contribution that they have made over the years and the investment that they make in the future. After all, one cannot plant an orchard as one can plant a pea crop or a wheat crop.
Immediate returns can be expected from those crops. But orcharding is a long range, planned industry. People in this industry have to look a long way. into the future. In addition, they probably have a greater range of hazards in the production of their commodity than has any other branch of primary industry. Continuing attention has to be paid to the orchard. Money has to be expended on expensive sprays. Much physical labour is involved in the preparation of the orchard. There is also the investment in containers and the money that is involved in the payment of freight from the orchard to the wharf and in the loading. The cost of the overseas freight is a very big item. Also there are the hazards of an uncertain market in the United Kingdom and Europe.
When the former Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Adermann, was approached on this matter he raised the quibble that the representations for assistance for the fruit growers should have come from the Australian Apple and Pear Board and that they had wrongly come from the Tasmanian State Fruit Board. That is only a very technical point and this matter is urgent. The Opposition believe that the Commonwealth Government is letting the growers down when they are faced with an emergency. The circumstances are most unusual and are completely beyond their control. The growers are in this difficulty because of the war which broke out between the Israelis and the Arabs during which the canal was blocked for one reason or another. Ships from the waterways of the world were trapped in the Great Bitter Lake and it looks as though they will be there indefinitely.
In the cargo of the four ships from Australia is this very large quantity of perishable commodities. The growers have abandoned any idea of being able to salvage this cargo. They can write off completely the results of their year’s work because their production is in those ships. The quantity of fruit thus trapped is not Tasmania’s complete crop but is a very substantial portion of it. The cargo includes the production of quite a number of small growers who are least able to bear a financial loss of this magnitude.
The unusual circumstances warrant, in my view, special consideration by the
Cabinet, in conjunction with the Treasury, in order to devise some means whereby an advance may be made to the growers concerned. Financial assistance could be given through any instrumentality which the Government might wish to use, whether through the agency of the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia in the form of a direct grant to the growers as an interim measure until the technical details of indemnity have been finalised, either through the insurance people or any other body. The shipping companies are beyond the control of the Tasmanian fruit growers. The growers are completely at the mercy of the shipping companies.
Only recently charges for shipping refrigerated cargo were increased by 10%. I would say that 99% of growers who send their fruit overseas expect that their cargoes will be fully covered against all emergencies. The insurance cover on shipments of fruit is very high. Shipping companies have been handling such cargoes for many years. Every contingency should be considered when an insurance cover is being sought for fruit cargoes. Yet the fruit growers are faced with this emergency. Because of the state of the world at the present time, the frequent acts of war and the development of unusual situations, these insurance matters should be considered. It should have been the responsibility of the shipping companies and others concerned with carrying this fruit to ensure that all eventualities were covered. Yet we find that the growers are not only being billed for the freight on this fruit, which has not reached its destination, but also meeting the inevitable fact of life - that they are not going to be compensated through any insurance cover.
– Is the honourable senator suggesting that the shipping companies are liable because they elected to send their ships through the Suez Canal?
– 1 had experience of the ‘Port Invercargil’. A great friend of mine, Mr Roy Reeman, was on board. His son contacted me on the morning after the ship was trapped. Through the good offices of the Department of External Affairs, the British High Commission was contacted, diplomatic levels in London were informed and, in turn, officers in Cairo were notified. After about 5 days my friend, Mr’ Reeman, his wife and 8 or 9 other passengers were taken off the ‘Port Invercargil’ and taken to Cairo in an escorted car. Arrangements were made for them to go from Cairo to Athens. They were then flown to England. These arrangements were made between the shipping company concerned and the Australian and British diplomatic corps. I think it was a splendid piece of work. It was a case of an emergency arising due to unusual circumstances and of people with goodwill setting themselves the task of putting the position right. I pay a tribute to the work that was done by our representatives from the Department of External Affairs and those who co-operated with them in assisting the passengers.
We are now dealing with a more material matter. Nevertheless, it is a very serious matter for the fruit growers concerned. It involves their immediate economic position. It also involves their capacity to prepare for the coming season, to meet their expenses and to remain solvent. Therefore we make the plea that the Government should take immediate action to indemnify the fruit growers for their losses. There is no doubt that the trapping of these ships in the Suez Canal was very unfortunate and that it was beyond the control of anyone associated with the industry, whether it be the insurance companies, the shippers or the growers.
The point, that I think should be stressed is that the. growers have been living with a sense of. false, security. They believed that their goods would be covered from the time they left their orchard to the time they reached the markets in either the United Kingdom or Europe at which they were to be distributed. Those growers who were unlucky enough to have their fruit trapped in the Suez Canal have found to their great dismay that the goods were not covered. We are asking the Commonwealth Government to come to their assistance in their hour of need. I do not know whether there is any possibility of the fruit eventually being released. Almost 20 weeks have elapsed since the ships were first trapped. It is 23 or 24 weeks since the fruit was first picked and packed. It would appear that there is a very small possibility of the fruit having any commercial value at all. The amount that is involved for freight alone is approximately S2 per case. It is worth noting that the growers received only a little over $2 per case for their fruit in the last season. Freight and other charges for the whole of the fruit amount to SI. 5m. Until recently the growers believed that everything that could be done was being done. I refer to a reply which was given by the former Minister for Primary Industry recently in the House of Representatives to a question asked by the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie). The question was in these terms:
Is the Minister aware that the lastest development is that the northern Tasmanian growers arc receiving accounts for freight for this fruit which has not yet been delivered to its destination? Has he recently received a deputation from the Australian Apple and Pear Board seeking from the Commonwealth $3.50 a case to meet this freight charge and at least the cost of production. . . . ?
Mr Adermann replied:
The situation is just as the honourable member said: The fruit is still delayed in the Suez Canal, unfortunately. I have not received on behalf of the Government any representations directly from the Board asking us for any compensation for freight charges. Nor was I aware that the growers had already been billed for freight. That, of course, is a matter between the exporters and the importers and not necessarily a matter for the Commonwealth Government or the Australian Apple and Pear Board. We do not enter into that sphere as principals. If I can get any information for the honourable member, I shall let him have it.
In my view, that answer was an evasion by the former Minister of his responsibilities and evidence of a disinclination to enter into the matter in order to assist the fruit growers who are so deeply involved financially as a result of the disastrous delay that has over taken their fruit in the Suez Canal. There is an urgent need for assistance for the Tasmanian fruit growers concerned. They are at present holding meetings to try to add strength to their voice. They are hot great in numbers. After all, the total population of Tasmania is equivalent only to that of some of the suburbs of the bigger cities on the mainland. Nevertheless, we in Tasmania rely on this section of primary producers for a substantial part of the income of our State economy, which, in turn, contributes to the national economy. Over the years, these producers have done a good job with very little complaint. On many occasions, they have worked against great odds. In time of need, therefore, they deserve special consideration.
The delicate situation existing between the Commonwealth and the States with regard to their financial relations is at present undergoing very close scrutiny. The Tasmanian Government is up to its neck in difficulties. The reserves of stored water available for the generation of hydroelectric power are at the lowest level yet experienced. The rainfall pattern has never been worse in the 100 years for which records have been kept. This weather pattern has adversely affected the production of wool, fat Iambs and other commodities. Furthermore, production of many kinds has been severely reduced by the bush fires that occurred early this year. These also drained off a lot of the reserves of fodder that producers in the more fortunate areas had preserved for themselves. They sent it off to their unfortunate fellows in the bush fire areas. Those who made this gesture have now run into problems themselves.
The Tasmanian Government is not in a position to make any substantial contribution to the relief of the fruit growers who are at present in difficulty. In a situation such as this, when assistance is not available at that level, it is the responsibility of the members of the Senate who represent Tasmania to put a case to the Senate, which, I believe, is composed of fair minded men and women who preserve a sense of justice and goodwill towards people in any part of this Commonwealth who are temporarily in serious distress like that now being experienced by orchardists in Tasmania who see their fruit delayed in the Suez Canal on its way to market. These people can expect some response. The smallness of the number of growers involved might cause some people to push aside their plea, but all these growers have personal responsibilities to meet. Their continuation in the industry depends not only upon their meeting immediate financial responsibilities but also on their ability to prepare for the season that is ahead.
The case is one of urgency that merits most sympathetic consideration by the Commonwealth Government and the Treasury. It merits an immediate calling together of people who can formulate some plan whereby this situation can be sorted out. If litigation follows as a result of non-payment of insurance on this fruit the Federal Government, I believe, should try to obtain on an international level whatever compensation it can obtain on behalf of the growers. If insurance is not eventually paid and the produce is a complete write-off the taxpayers of Australia collectively would, I feci certain, be prepared to make their contribution in a time of such difficulty. We of the Opposition believe that the matter should receive the most favourable and sympathetic consideration of the Senate and that the Senate’s approval of the proposal, when conveyed to the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) and the Treasury will bring some action which will allay the justifiable fears in the minds of the orchardists involved.
– First, I should like to assure Senator O’Byrne that the Government is very sympathetic indeed towards the plight of the fruit growers concerned. I was glad that he made the point that not only Tasmanian but also Western Australian, South Australian and Victorian fruit growers are involved. It is not as easy as the honourable senator suggests to overcome the difficulties in the way of assisting the growers. The proposal is that the Commonwealth indemnify fruit growers immediately for the losses they have suffered in the Suez Canal through circumstances beyond their control. It is not possible to indemnify fruit growers immediately; I think this will be apparent. Therefore, the Government cannot agree to a proposal in those terms. A little later on 1 shall mention the steps which have been taken by the Government to help these people who, as the honourable senator says are very much in need of assistance.
As one who has been a primary producer for 40 years, who comes from a primary producing family and whose three sons are primary producers, I fully appreciate the vicissitudes and hardships suffered by the primary producer. Here is another case among so many in which the primary producer gets the rough end of the deal. Senator O’Byrne said that all eventualities should have been covered. Surely the honourable senator does not mean for one moment that the Government should have foreseen the intentions of Nasser and that action should have been taken to cover the circumstances that followed the conflict? I remind the Senate that Australia played no part at all in precipitating the hostilities which led to the closing of the Suez Canal. I wish also to refute the charge made by the honourable senator that the former
Minister for Primary Industry, the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann), was guilty of evasion. No-one who knows the former Minister for Primary Industry would make that charge against him with any sincerity because if ever there has been a straightforward man in the Australian Parliament it has been the former Minister.
So far as I can ascertain no precedent exists for the situation that has arisen. Had action been taken formerly in a similar set of circumstances the task of the Government might have been made a bit easier. 1 do not know that it would have; perhaps it would have. I wish to give to the Senate a brief outline of the facts of the situation and also, as I said a little while ago, inform the Senate of the action proposed by the Government to ensure that just compensation is obtained by the growers concerned.
As a result of the conflict between Israel and the Arab nations and the subsequent closure of the Suez Canal, four vessels containing Australian apples and pears have been stranded in the Suez Canal for some months. As we all know, these ships are immobile. The total quantity of fruit involved is 306,366 bushels of apples and 70,24 1 bushels of pears. As Senator O’Byrne stated, most of the apples came from Tasmania but significant quantities from South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland also are involved. The bulk of the pears are from Victoria but 14,297 bushels are from Tasmania. The fruit is consigned either to the United Kingdom or Europe. A quantity of 91,200 bushels of apples and 25,500 bushels of pears were sold forward and the ownership has passed to the European buyers. So, in respect of this quantity of fruit Australian growers are not suffering a loss.
The remainder of the fruit was sold either on consignment or on guranteed advance and as the ownership remains with the growers losses are not only possible but one would think, inevitable unless insurance can be paid on that remainder. The quantity of fruit in this category is 210,500 bushels of apples and 43,500 bushels of pears. Many proposals have been considered for disposing of the fruit but none of these has been found to be practicable. It has been suggested, for instance, that the fruit should be trans-shipped in the Canal or that it should be sold in the Canal area. Both courses of action presented insuperable difficulties. Although refrigeration facilities are understood to have been maintained - it ls thought that skeleton crews have been working the ships - it is doubtful whether the fruit, particularly the pears, has maintained its quality. It is almost certain that deterioration would set in quickly if the fruit was unloaded even if early on-shipment proved possible.
My information as late as 3 weeks ago is that the condition of the fruit and particularly the pears was surprisingly good. Honourable senators will appreciate that in the present international situation it is unlikely that the Suez Canal will be opened in the near future although in today’s newspapers I think we saw more promising news than we have had for some time. If the news is correct it seems that there is now a possibility of some favourable development which could lead to the opening of the Canal. The fruit shipments, 1 understand, were covered by marine insurance.
In conformity with conditions laid down by the Australian Apple and Pear Board all the fruit is insured and all policies contain a war risk clause. I am informed that they also contain a frustration clause. However, the insurance companies have not admitted liability and payment of insurance may entail the determination of complex problems of maritime law, possibly by litigation. Acting on legal advice most owners of the fruit, to protect their insurance positions, have given notices of abandonment to their insurance companies. I have been told that this step has been taken by both the importers and exporters of the fruit. A recent development is that underwriters have rejected the notices of abandonment, but this move does not exhaust the insurance question. Negotiations are continuing.
I point out to honourable senators the danger that would be involved in the Government’s interfering at this juncture. Such an action could imperil a future settlement and could react, to the disadvantage of growers. It is another reason why earlier action has not been taken. What has the Government been doing and what does it intend to do? During the past few months representations have been made to the Government by the Orchardists and Cool Stores Association of Victoria, the Northern
Victorian Fruitgrowers Association, the Tasmanian State Fruit Board, and a number of senators and members of another place. Most representations have raised the question of Commonwealth financial assistance to growers for losses incurred in the event of insurance liability being determined against the growers. As I have already indicated, the insurance question is still open. The Government has adopted the attitude that it would oe premature to consider financial compensation until the very complex questions surrounding the insurance issues are resolved. The Government believes that to compensate the growers at this stage could tend to compromise their insurance claims. Moreover, it would be extremely difficult to determine a level of compensation in a situation where the exact extent of the loss, if any, is unknown.
I am pleased to inform honourable senators that so far as can be ascertained, not one grower has the whole of his produce in the ships involved. The situation is bad enough as it is. Probably some growers have quite a high proportion of their produce in the ships, but it is of some comfort to know at least that no individual grower has the whole of his produce for the season in these ships. Another point worth mentioning and which has tended to delay Government action in this matter is that attempts so far to obtain from the State fruit boards concerned the names of growers involved, the exact quantity of fruit which each grower has in the ships in the canal, and the percentage it represents of the growers’ total 1967 shipments, have been unsuccessful. Apparently there is difficulty in providing this precise information and the Government is as yet unable to determine the level of possible losses of each grower concerned. Some people may ask: ‘Why docs this matter?’ I think it matters in that if one man has suffered a 90% loss and another man has suffered only a 10% loss, obviously the man who deserves most compensation is the man who has incurred the greater loss.
Neither the Government nor the Apple and Pear Board, which is the statutory authority charged with regulating the export of Australian apples and pears, is a party to the insurance, but the good offices of the Board have been available in the dispute. Recently some growers have been asked by their agents to pay the costs of packing and transport. As Senator O’Byrne pointed out, these costs amount to as much as $3.60 a carton of fruit. The Government has suggested that pending determination of the insurance question these growers should seek temporary financial accommodation from the Commonwealth Development Bank or the rural banks in the States. If cases of extreme hardship were brought to the attention of the Government it would be prepared to intercede with those organisations with a view to having suitable financial accommodation made available.
Although the Government believes that the attitude it has adopted in this matter has been correct, it has been extremely concerned about the delay in the finalisation of the insurance question. It appreciates that the plans of growers for next season’s crop could shortly be affected. That point was made by Senator O’Byrne. In the circumstances the Government has decided that it would be appropriate for it to attempt to speed up the processes involved. It has therefore decided that the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) and the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) should consult with the shipping companies and the insurance companies to try to resolve the outstanding issues. These consultations are to be arranged at the earliest possible moment. Immediately their outcome is known and the question of insurance is finally resolved one way or the other, indemnification will be taken up by the Government as a matter of extreme urgency.
I have outlined the present position. I think it clearly shows that the Government has not been content to sit and do nothing in the hope that the Suez Canal will be opened at an early date. It has done all that it has been able to do in the circumstances. That may be poor comfort to the men whose fruit is in the ships in the Canal, as the fruit must inevitably deteriorate. It is, of course, inevitable that a lot of time is required before finalisation of these matters can be achieved, but surely it is at least of some comfort to the growers that the Government is trying to do all it can in the circumstances.
Senator O’Byrne referred to the four ships which are carrying the largest loads of fruit. They are the ‘Port Invercargill”, which operates under the British flag; the Scottish Star’, also a British ship; the Killara’, a Swedish ship; and the ‘Munster Mand’, a German ship. One of the difficulties is that the growers - apart from the growers who sold forward, as I have said - will receive no payment at all until the fruit is delivered, unless it is received as compensation through insurance. These are the things that are particularly worrying to growers. I assure honourable senators that whilst the Government will not agree to the motion moved by Senator O’Byrne, it is sympathetic to the plight of the growers and is determined to do all it can to assist them.
– I am sorry that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) has done very little, if anything, to clarify the situation which faces us at present and which precipitated the move to have the matter discussed. The Minister referred to the sympathy of the Government. One can well understand it. He mentioned that the problem is not easy of solution. Again, in the particular circumstances as we know them, we can readily understand that. The Minister went on to point out that the Government - at least at present - is not prepared to give an undertaking to indemnify the producers and exporters for the possible loss of fruit. The problem involves insurance. The growers in Tasmania, and to a lesser degree in the other States, sent their fruit in four ships which are now locked in the Suez Canal as a result of hostilities between Israel and Egypt. The ships contain a substantial quantity of fruit. In the case of Tasmania it represents in value about 5% of the total crop for the season.
I do not wish to explore in detail the particular circumstances of the Tasmanian growers. They have been outlined already by Senator O’Byrne. The loss of income from the fruit to the State as a whole and to the rural community in particular is substantial. In the present circumstances it is a loss which Tasmania can ill afford. It was for this reason that on 27th September last I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry (Senator Henty) who was then Leader of the Government in the Senate, the following question:
What Is the present position of the quite substantial quantity of Tasmanian fruit in ships trapped in the Suez Canal en route to the Continental market? Can the Minister say what is the present condition of the fruit? What hope exists for somefinancial recovery by the growers concerned? Are there any other means of disposal which would prevent a complete loss of the fruit?
I invite the Senate to note the indecision and the implications of indecision in the answer I received. Senator Henty replied:
I am sorry that I cannot tell the honourable senator what the condition of the fruit is. I have no knowledge of that.
Presumably, the Minister was speaking for the Government. He continued:
It has been stored in the ships for quite a considerable time.
This was well known to all of us. He went on. and this is the important point in the answer which I received from him:
I understand that it is insured.
This was an assurance to me, and, I think, to many other honourable senators, that whatever happened ultimately to this fruit the growers in Tasmania and in the other States concerned would not be the losers. I accepted that reply in that light, and I submit that that was a reasonable deduction from the answer which the Minister gave. He went on to say:
I also understand that the Australian Apple and PearBoard is in consultation with the Government on the matter of insurance and the amount of money that might–
I repeat, ‘might’ - be recovered. At this stage it would probably be better to wait and see the outcome of the discussions that are taking place between the Board, the insurance companies and the governments involved.
We are still awaiting the outcome of those discussions and conferences which were being held. The whole point and purpose of putting this matter before the Senate today is to find out what the position is. Surely, as representatives of the growers in the various States, we ought to be entitled to know just what the position is. This state of affairs arose out of a happening early in June of this year. We are now well into October. Surely in view of the time that has elapsed since the happening in June we ought to know something more than we do know at the present time about who is going to pay and what is going to be the ultimate result of the steps being taken to solve the difficulty that exists.
Fresh fruit attracts the highest level of freight cost of any commodity exported from this country. Why this should be so, I do not know. I have referred to it on past occasions in the Senate when dealing with the problems of primary producers. I have endeavoured to find out why the level of freight is so high on fresh fruit, but nobody has been able to tell me. This is a particularly important matter especially when we take into account the fact that the comparative level of freight for fresh fruit shipped from New Zealand is substantially lower than that on fruit shipped from Australia. One would expect, in the light of the fact that the freight level is so high, that the organisations looking after the interests of the producers would be conscious of the need to ensure that proper insurance cover was provided on this product while on its way to market. All sorts of things can happen to the fruit during the course of shipment. For example, a ship can go down, or there can be collisions at sea. All sorts of things can happen to a ship in the course of its trading which would result in damage to or loss of cargo. One would imagine that those organisations who have at heart the interest of the producers of Australia would, at this time in our history anyway, have made adequate arrangements to ensure that there was a proper level of insurance cover on this cargo. But it has taken a happening of the kind under discussion to make us realise that in fact there is grave doubt as to what happens, so far as insurance is concerned.
In the course of the last few hours I have had the opportunity to study the twenty-first annual report of the Australian Apple and Pear Board, which sets out the details of the Board’s activities over the past 12 months with relation to the export of apples and pears. It also deals with various aspects of growing, marketing and handling and many other factors involved in this industry. Apart from a very small passing comment, I cannot find in the report any reference to adequate insurance cover in a contingency such as the one we are talking about. This is rather strange inv iew of the fact that in dealing with the subject of marketing the Board says, on page 4 of its report:
The extraordinary seasonal conditions prevailing over most of southern Tasmania caused a heavy reduction in export quantities.
In fact, the figures show a reduction of something like 38% in the apple crop and something like 46% in the pear crop for the year. Further down on the same page the report refers to the level of return per case and points out that whereas formerly certain brands of fruit were bringing 20s sterling, returns of 50s and 60s are quoted as being the norm in the current year. The report goes on:
The Arab-Israeli conflict and the uncertainties of arrivals no doubt contributed to the situation as did the substantial fall-down in New Zealand quantities.
The next paragraph reads:
The Suez Canal closure resulted in four fruit ships (approximately 370,000 bushels) being trapped when the last convoy to enter the Canal was stopped. At this stage the ships are still in the Canal and the prospects of the fruit being moved before the Canal opens or ever reaching its market in saleable condition are minimal.
I remind the Senate that, this report was prepared in August of this year, and 1 invite the Senate to consider it in the light of the answer that was given to me by Senator Henty on 27th September when he talked about insurance and so on. The report continues:
The Board and other industry organisations are closely examining all aspects of the situation with particular emphasis on the avenues available for compensation, including insurance.
Since this report talks about payment, again I come back to the answer given to me by Senator Henty on 27th September which led me to the belief that the cargo was covered. The Minister’s words were:
I understand that it is insured.
Apparently the type of insurance cover, if there was any at all, was not of the nature which would meet the situation about which we are concerned at present. I do not know who has been fooling whom in connection with this matter. The growers are terribly anxious about whether they are going to be compensated for the loss of this fruit, if it is lost - and it would seem to be the view of the Australian Apple and Pear Board that it is lost, for the Board says that the chances of its recovery are minimal. The report goes on:
A close liaison has been maintained with the Commonwealth Government . . .
How close is this liaison, when the Commonwealth Government does not supply us with answers to the questions that we ask? This is the point that brings us to our feet.
This is the reason why the Labor Party has raised the matter. We are looking for answers to these questions and we are not getting them.
– The Government is not interested.
– There is a notable lack of interest on the Government side. I do assure the Senate that this is a matter of very deep and very grave concern to the State from which I come and I submit that it is proper that we should bring this matter to the attention of the Parliament.
The report was prepared in August. On 27th September the Minister indicated to me in his reply to my question that he was of the opinion that the fruit was insured. Surely as a Minister of the Government Senator Henty should know the true position. When we read in this report and hear from other sources that there have been conferences going on right through the piece, surely one is entitled to expect that the Government would be in a position to give better answers to the questions that we have posed to it than are in fact contained in the replies given by Senator McKellar this afternoon. The grower in Tasmania is not in a position to meet this loss.
I and other honourable senators have pointed out in the course of debates here that last season the growers got a return of approximately 40c a case for their fruit. As mentioned in the report of the Apple and Pear Board, shipping freight runs at the level of $2 a case. The return to the grower last year was approximately 40c a case. There was repeated mention of the extreme difficulty in which the grower found himself, and it is clear that he will not be able to sustain the loss which threatens him as a result of this fruit being trapped in the Suez Canal.
The answers given by the Government are not good enough. Someone on the Government side should be able to say: ‘The position is this’. The situation should be outlined clearly so that the growers will know where they stand. The Commonwealth and State Governments should get together and work out a solution to this problem which is plaguing the industry. But for the fact that there was a short fall in the amount of exportable fruit this year. many growers in Tasmania would have been ruined. The Federal Exporters Overseas Transport Committee is subsidised and recognised by the Commonwealth Government. It should say to the Government: There is not adequate insurance cover on this and other fruit being exported from Australia. Certain contingencies may arise. We strongly suggest that such contingencies be covered by the provision of sufficient insurance”. The Government should make a concise statement of the position to allay the fears of those of us who are concerned about the industry, but more particularly of the people who are facing the prospect of substantial economic loss because if individuals suffer economic losses then the Slates concerned must also suffer.
As 1 said at the outset, I am not satisfied with the Minister’s observations. I should have thought he would have been able to advise us more precisely about the position. Before this debate ends I hope that someone on the Government side will be sufficiently interested in this matter and sufficiently concerned about this industry to get the details that we want and to provide in this Senate a complete answer to the many questions we are posing.
– - I. am interested in certain remarks which have been made by Senator Devitt. I regard this whole question as a matter of business. As Tasmania is perhaps Australia’s largest exporter of fruit, particularly apples and pears, I should have thought that honourable senators from that State would have outlined to the Senate the procedure that is adopted when fruit is exported. I do not think it is fair to say that the Commonwealth Government should assume certain responsibilities. I do not know the set-up in Tasmania but I do know that in South Australia the majority of fruit which is exported goes to the co-operative packing sheds where it is graded and packed. Usually either the fruit is sold or a firm offer is made for it before it leaves Australia. The whole thing is a business arrangement between exporter and buyer.
– Always? Invariably?
– I said usually. 1 said also that I did not know the position in Tasmania and that I was speaking about South Australia. I should have thought that three people were involved - the grower, the importer and the shipping agent who is responsible for insurance, freight and so on; in other words, getting the amount of money that is required. Is that the position in Tasmania? Does the Tasmanian grower sell to an importer? ls the fruit sold on consignment? I should have .thought some of those points would have been raised. I should have thought also that we would have been told some of the conditions of sale of this particular fruit, when it was shipped and through what companies it was shipped. I do not think that honourable senators opposite should suggest that this fruit is the Government’s responsibility. Is this not a straightout business deal between the grower and the importer?
Let me state the position in South Australia. Our fruit is packed and contracts are made with the importer. Usually when that fruit is placed on board ship the grower gets an advance. Have the Tasmanian growers received an advance of any of their fruit? If they have, what amount have they received? Those are the plain hard facts of business. Do not think that I am unmindful of the position confronting the Tasmanian growers. In the small area surrounding my neighbourhood in South Australia are seventeen growers vitally concerned with apples in the Suez Canal. They stand to lose everything - their fruit, their cases, the whole lot. On top of that they could be faced with a debt of at least $45,000. I want honourable senators to realise that the growers in the area in which I live, like the growers in Tasmania, have been hit pretty hard. I know something about exporting fruit. We have been exporting fruit to England continuously since 1910 and there has always been an agreement between the grower, the importer and the insurance company. As I have said, this is a matter of business between those three parties.
How are we to assist the growers if we want to assist them? We do not want to do anything to jeopardise their position. Unless the insurance company concerned meets the growers’ claims I suppose the question whether the growers were covered by insurance will have to be decided by a court of law. It is most unfortunate that this fruit reached the Suez Canal when the war flared up. Some 10,200 cases of Jonathan and 30,000 cases of Rome Beauty apples from
South Australia had been insured by the South Australian Government Produce Department for $4 a case and they are lying in ships in the Suez Canal. The Suez Canal was blocked.
We ask ourselves how the fruit from the little district of Balhannah was stored. It was sent away in refrigerated space as usual. We ask ourselves whether, if it ever comes out of the Suez Canal, it will be worth anything at all. It has been in the holds since last June - a considerable time. Some people say that it is still being refrigerated. I do not know whether it is possible to do that.
– Those are the things that we want to know. We want to know what is happening. Senator Henty gave me an assurance about insurance, but that has gone by the board in the last few days. What is the condition of the fruit?
– I think Senator Devitt will agree that we can hardly expect the Government to know all of these things. This fruit is not its property. The Government is quite willing to do all that it can. Is the honourable senator suggesting that the Government could have stopped the war between the Israelis and the rest of the Arab world? This was just one of the unfortunate things that happen. These shipments of fruit were sent in good faith, but they were caught up in what happened in the Middle East. It is unfortunate for everyone - the growers and the Government - that this happened.
I am pointing out one or two facts about what might be happening to the fruit. The Government is not responsible for the temperature, in the Suez Canal area or the temperature of the water that has to be used for refrigeration. I am pointing out the difficulties that exist. Although it is said that this cargo is being refrigerated properly, only time will prove that. Do honourable senators opposite know what has happened to the fruit? They do not know. But they say that they are interested in it. If they do not know, who else would know? What inquiries have they made?
– The Government of the country should know.
– How can the honourable senator say in all fairness that these matters are the responsibility of the Government? It is the responsibility of the people who shipped the fruit to find out what is happening to it. We do not want the Government poking its nose into private business. The first thing that would happen if it did that is that it would be told to mind its own business. It is up to the people who want this assistance - they have the knowledge - to tell the Government what has happened to the fruit and what they will lose. That is what the Government should be told.
I am trying to say what I believe, will happen to the fruit. It is stacked down in the holds. There is no air space. Do the Tasmanians know where their fruit is stacked? We have a pretty fair idea in what part of the ship ours is. We have a fair idea of the temperature in the Suez Canal area and the temperature of the water that is being used for refrigeration. Are honourable senators opposite suggesting that I know nothing at all about this matter? I would have thought that the people who sponsored this debate would have given the Government all the facts that they could and given it a lead on how it could assist the growers. I am not finding fault with honourable senators opposite because they have sponsored this debate. But let us hear some of the facts.
I am as concerned as they are about how we will get out of this delemma. How do they suggest we will get out of it? We are dealing with people. who are in a big business. We are dealing with shipping companies and importers. What we have to find out about is the insurance. The people in our area believed that they were covered by their insurance. They took all the precautions that they believed were necessary to ensure that their fruit arrived in England in a satisfactory condition.
– The precautions would have been sufficient under normal conditions.
– They took every precaution to ensure that, under normal conditions, their fruit would arrive in England in a satisfactory condition. But abnormal conditions occurred while the fruit was in transit and it has been detained in the Suez Canal. How the ships are to be moved from the Suez Canal is beyond the control of Australia at the present time. One thing that we have to do is try to safeguard the rights and property of the men who shipped the fruit. I can tell the whole story of what is happening today, the cost involved and so on. But I am not a lawyer. I know that the Balhannah Co-operative Society Ltd, which is a regular shipper of quality fruit to England, proceeded in the normal course of business, believing that its customers were being protected, lt made sales ahead at a satisfactory price. But the fruit had to reach its destination. The growers, through their co-operative, went through the normal channels. They dealt with the importer who in his turn dealt with shipping agents. Over a period of years those shipping agents-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Cormack) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– 1 rise to support the matter of urgency raised by Senator O’Byrne. I have been very interested to hear what the two members of the Government parties who have spoken have said, particularly what Senator McKellar, who represents the Minister for Primary Industry, has said. If one could congratulate anybody for making a speech and saying nothing, one could congratulate Senator McKellar. He did just that. He stood up and told us what he thought the Government could do and could not do. But he gave no answer whatsoever to any of the problems which today are facing the fruit growers in Tasmania and other States, particularly the growers of the fruit that is locked in the Suez Canal. That is not good enough.
On behalf of the people of Tasmania, and particularly on behalf of the fruit growers of Tasmania, 1 demand from the Government an answer on what it proposes to do. It has not given any indication that it is prepared to do anything other than bandy words around from House to House, lt is very noticeable that the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Pearsall) has been very silent on this issue. One would have anticipated that he would at least endeavour to get Government assistance for the great number of people he represents in this Parliament. Let us face it, the honourable member does have in his electorate a majority of the fruit growers of Tasmania. Why has he not come forward? Why has he left it to the Opposition to introduce this question as a matter of urgency in an endeavour to induce or to pressurise the Government into doing something?
I feel that the Government is not at all concerned about what happens to the Tasmanian fruit industry or to the fruit which is locked in the ships in the Suez Canal. I might mention that the production of fruit, particularly apples, in Tasmania means a lot to the economy of that State. It also means a lot to the Australian economy. In the financial year 1965-66 the value of apples alone was $15. 944m. The value of pears was $900,000 - not a great deal of money but to the people concerned it was very important. It is interesting to note that the acreage of apples in Tasmania has not varied over the years from 1960 to 1966 by more than 200 or 300 acres. One can see from these figures that the fruit industry represents quite a sizeable amount of money in Tasmania’s economy, particularly to the growers in the Franklin electorate and to a lesser extent those in the Tamar Valley and also on the north west coast where there is a sizeable fruit growing area.
One should congratulate Senator McKellar on saying absolutely nothing. He declared that the Australian Government had no part in the closure of the Suez Canal. That is so. Nor did the fruit growers. But is the Government going to sit back and, to coin a phrase, fiddle around with this issue while the fruit rots and is dumped in the Suez Canal? One could say that the Government is like Nero, who fiddled while Rome burned. The Government is fiddling while the fruit rots. The growers are waiting for the Government to do something but it is not prepared to act on their behalf.
The situation in Tasmania over the past few months has been a most trying one. This Government has not come to the party to aid the State Government. Senator O’Byrne referred to the drought that has been experienced in Tasmania. Of course, it is not the only State that has had a drought. It is not the only State in the throes of a drought at the present time. Senator O’Byrne referred to the shortage of water for hydro-electric purposes. There is still water shortage for power purposes but, by crikey, we are better off in Tasmania than the people are in Victoria. Tasmania does not have water rationing for gardening and drinking purposes. Even though we are experiencing a drought and suffering from a water shortage we are not as badly off as some of the other States. Here again, whilst this situation develops, the Government is doing nothing. As I said earlier, it is sitting back and doing nothing. 1 am sure the Government realises that a lot of work is involved in bringing this fruit to the market. There is the cultivation of the orchards, the payment of wages for the work done, such as pruning, spraying and picking; there is the crating, the packing and the transportation. There is also the cutting and the preparation of the material in which the apples are packed. Owing to the conflict in the Middle East this fruit is locked in the Suez Canal and I believe that the Government should help the growers by providing for them some practical assistance. There is only one practical way in which these people can be helped and that is with finance. The growers have even been asked to pay the freight on this fruit. Senator Mattner mentioned what was done in South Australia. It may be all right for the growers of South Australia to sell their fruit on a particular basis, but if the same conditions do not apply in the case of Tasmania - and I think it does in Victoria - this should not be held against the Tasmanian growers.
When we consider the history of the fruit industry throughout Tasmania over many years we find that the small growers have gradually been squeezed and squeezed out of existence. This process has gone on until many apple and pear trees have been grubbed out. Growers have turned their energies to the production of other crops. This situation will continue to develop within the apple and pear industry because this Government is not prepared to assist growers at a time when they really need help. A number of these orchardists suffered badly as a result of the disastrous fires which swept through Tasmania in February this year. Many of them are struggling for an existence while trying to put their apple orchards back onto a reasonable financial basis. Some have found it necessary to grub out their trees and to replant. Others have had to turn to different forms of agriculture in order to raise money to plough back into the few fruit trees that are left in the hope of getting some production from them.
The people of Tasmania, particularly those living in the Huon area, are not going to take this lack of action from the Government. In a few weeks time an election is to be held. Perhaps nobody on the Government side has heard about this election. Judging by the complacency being shown in Tasmania by members of the Government, one would assume that they have not heard about the election. They probably have no hope of winning three seats in Tasmania. We know perfectly well that the Government will win two seats but I think it has given up the ghost so far as winning three seats is concerned. One would have expected that the honourable member for Franklin and honourable senators from Tasmania sitting on the Government side would have flogged this issue right from the time the fruit shipments were locked in the Suez Canal in an endeavour to get some assistance for the Tasmanian growers. I cannot understand why Tasmanian members of the Government parties are not expending their energies m an endeavour to get. some assistance for the growers who are suffering because their produce is locked in the Canal.
Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) [4.49.1- Senator O’Byrne, who is one of the Tasmanian representatives in this place, has brought forward as a matter of urgency the problem that confronts orchardists who have fruit which is threatened with destruction because it is on four ships locked in the Suez Canal. It is quite obvious from what has been said by Senator Poke in the last few minutes that he is thinking of this problem entirely in terms of political votes. He has vaunted himself because he has the first place in the Australian Labor Party Senate team in Tasmania. Not only has he vaunted himself, but he has denigrated my colleague in another place, the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Pearsall). I want to refute Senator Poke’s statement. Orchardists in the electorate of Franklin know that Mr Pearsall works most assiduously to protect the interests of the orchardists.
Ever since the Suez Canal was closed the honourable member for Franklin has made representations to the former Minister for Primary Industry, he has had consultations with the State Fruit Board in Tasmania, and he has held private committee meetings with growers throughout his electorate. He has worked assiduously and continuously to find a solution to this problem. Senator Poke critised him for not bringing forward an urgency motion. In politics one should exercise a little judgment when endeavouring to benefit people such as primary producers. 1 myself derive a great deal of confidence from the fact that primary producers do not pay a lot of notice to political propaganda. They pay more attention and respect to genuine work, lt ought to be clear that we should work hard to achieve anything that can be achieved at any time for any individual or group of individuals engaged in the orcharding industry or in other primary producing industries.
We must remember that the orcharding industry in Tasmania has suffered from the effects of bushfires. Fortunately it has not suffered to a substantial degree; in the main the fires burnt only the fringes of the orchards. Of course they burnt out some orchards entirely. But fortunately the destruction was small compared with early expectations. The orcharding industry, in common with other primary producing industries, has suffered from drought. But having said that, 1 am in a position to state to the Senate that when the export season for apples commenced this year a large meeting of growers was held at Huonville. The honourable member for Franklin and myself were there, but 1 do not remember either Senator O’Byrne or Senator Poke being present. 1 do not say that they were not there. It looked as though when our apples arrived in Europe they would be confronted with the gloomiest market that had ever been encountered. There was no response from the buying market up to the time when the ships were about to call to take on their cargoes.
We were so impressed by the market prediction that we, together with the Chairman of the State Fruit Board and two of his colleagues, came to Canberra and spent the whole of one afternoon with the former Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Adermann, and his officers, all of whom gave unsparingly of their time and earnest interest. We did all that we could to evolve some means of rescuing the crop from the prospects of a bad market. But then we saw an example of the unpredictable vicissitudes which confront this industry. As soon as the shipments got under way, the purchasing market which appeared as though it would be dull and unresponsive, assumed a buoyant condition. One passage from the report of the Australian Apple and Pear Board indicates the degree to which the market assumed buoyancy this year, lt states:
As the season progressed the market went from strength to strength and with some peculiar twists. Jonathans, for example, a ‘depressed’ variety, were at one stage bringing more than Cranny Smiths. Last year, prices of 20s (stg) per bushel and below were common for Sturmers and Jonathans. This year returns of 50s and 60s were the norm.
I will not say that the disaster which confronted the industry in February turned into a state of buoyancy by the end of May, but there was considerable relief. Then in June an unexpected event occurred; four ships carrying Australian apples and pears were entrapped in the Suez Canal. In this connection the Apple and Pear Board’s report states:
The Arab-Israeli conflict and the uncertainties of arrivals no doubt contributed to the situation as did the substantia] fall-down in New Zealand quantities.
The Suez Canal closure resulted in four fruit ships (approximately 370,000 bushels) being trapped when the last convoy to enter the Canal was stopped. At this stage the ships are still in the Canal-
That is at the time the Board was reporting to us -
That loss is being incurred, in the main, by Tasmania although South Australia has quite a large percentage of its crop on board those vessels. South Australia’s share of the cargo is 20% or about 80,000 bushels. The quantity of fruit belonging to Tasmania has to be considered in conjunction with the fact that, although it was expected that the crop would be approximately 9 million bushels, the actual export from Tasmania was 7.25 million bushels. So the first thing that the Parliament has to consider is that there has not been a loss of the entire crop, nor even a loss of 50% of that crop, by reason of quite unexpected hostilities in the vicinity of the Suez Canal. lt is evident from what the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) said in the course of his speech this afternoon that since this unexpected event occurred the Department of External Affairs-:- Senator O’Byrne was good enough to pay a tribute to its vigilance and interest - the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Primary Industry have all maintained an unceasing interest in this matter. The first point that we have to consider, Mr Acting Deputy President, is that so far the refrigerating machinery has been so effective as to prevent total loss of the fruit. Therein lies one of the difficulties in the way of solving the situation. If the refrigerating machinery has not been effective enough to preserve the fruit, a total loss would have occurred and liabilities could have been crystallised before this. But, according to the information that we have been given by Senator McKellar, it is not clear yet whether the fruit has broken down and been destroyed, although the Australian Apple and Pear Board, in its annual report, which was presented to us recently stated that the prospects of realising on this fruit are minimal.
As the quantity of fruit delayed in the Suez Canal does not represent the entirety of the crop or a 50% loss of it, both the Tasmanian Government and the Federal Government have to consider their responsibilities. I submit that in the light of the buoyant prices that have been received in Great Britain for more than 80% of the crop, it would be quite irresponsible for the Commonwealth Government recklessly to offer handouts before fully exploring the situation and exhausting the rights of the growers and the shippers in relation to marine insurance. The shipowners are said, in effect, to have been asking for their freight as soon as the fruit has been put on board ship. They claim that they are entitled to their freight notwithstanding the non-arrival of the cargo at its destination. It seems that the shipowner has no responsibility for the deterioration of the fruit when its destruction arises without the fault of privity of the carrier and without the fault or negligence of his agents or servants.
– Were not the shipowners asked by the Apple and Pear Board or its agents not to take the fruit through the Suez Canal?
-] have no knowledge of that. I would not have thought that there was the slightest ground for alleging that there was fault or negligence on the part of the shipowners because they followed the normal route, even in the circumstances of international growling and the imminence of hostilities that were developing before the ships entered the Canal.
My time is short and I. want to say something about another aspect of the situation, Mr Acting Deputy President. This is the marine insurance aspect. Policies of marine insurance vary, and it can be said that each policy is exceedingly complex. I hope that the Apple and Pear Board will not take it amiss if I remind it that, under the terms of the Act under which it is constituted, one of its imperative duties is to approve of the contracts of insurance on apples and pears leaving Australia.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laught). - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, at the outset I want to say that I am not one of those people who take a completely pessimistic view of the apple industry. It is true that it is in difficulty and that the high freights imposed on it have greatly added to its costs. But it is true also to say that all primary export industries are in difficulty because they have to compete on the world’s markets. They must meet ever increasing freight and other costs. It is of no use at this stage just to give the game away and say that the fruit industry in both Tasmania and other States is dying. I do not believe that it is. As Senator Wright remarked, it entered on the last season under the most adverse conditions. Senator O’Byrne has has mentioned the drought cycle through which Tasmania has been passing, with rainfall below average. In most of the State, there has been, one might say, no runoff. The Hydro-Electric Commission, particularly, has found this. The southern part of Tasmania especially has had several years with rainfall very much below average. This situation has greatly depleted both apple and other crops. The Australian Apple and Pear Board, in its annual report for the year ended 30th June 1967, stated:
At the outset, the reaction of importers in all major markets was one of extreme caution.
The impression was that buyers in the European and United Kingdom markets, viewing the position, had lost all confidence and were reluctant to buy, and that therefore the industry was entering on a disastrous year. However, the position changed dramatically, largely because of the drought conditions that prevailed. The annual report of the Board went on to state that the market had gone from strength to strength, simply because of the heavy depletion of the usual supplies to the United Kingdom and European markets.
Often, people are led astray by conditions such as these. With reference to the prevailing beef prices in Tasmania, I have heard it said that the position of beef producers there must be one of abounding prosperity. The truth, however, is that the high beef prices, just like the apple prices, were brought about simply because many producers were not able to market in the usual volume. So it is more than ever necessary that fruit growers be able to recoup themselves somewhat from the greatly enhanced prices that have prevailed during most of the last season. They need the high prices to make up for the depletion of the supplies of fruit that can be marketed in the United Kingdom and Europe. Now we have this unfortunate occurrence.
If ever there was a waterway that should be under international control or under the control of some worthwhile organisation that would see that it was always in operation with all countries having the right to use it, it is the Suez Canal. Ever since the Suez crisis of 1956 it has rankled with me that such an important strategic waterway should be under the control of a ratbag like Nasser. To me it is unthinkable. These four ships are stranded in the Suez Canal. According to the report of the Apple and Pear Board, negotiations are still going on with the insurance companies and eventually some finality will be reached. If the Government were to give effect to the proposal of the Opposition and to act immediately to indemnify fruit growers for the losses they have sustained, this would absolve the insurance companies of all responsibility; I think that is a fair statement.
The honourable member for Franklin (Mr Pearsall) was maligned because, it was claimed, he had taken no action, but I heard in another place that he had been in continuous correspondence with the former Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Adermann, on behalf of the fruit growers in the area that be represents. I heard enough to indicate that the matter was still not in a state of finality, still under negotiation, and that to accept this proposition now would be to place the Government immediately in the position of prejudging the issue and of absolving the insurance companies of their responsibilities. Surely it is reasonable that negotiations with the insurance companies, which are often long drawn out, should reach a conclusion before the Government takes any hand in the matter whatsoever. 1 sympathise entirely with the apple growers in Tasmania and elsewhere. Senator Mattner said that about one-fifth of South Australia’s production was tied up in the Suez Canal, so not only Tasmania is affected. It is urgent for the apple industry to be kept in a state of solvency at least. Costs of fruit production are considerable. I have heard it said that the fruit industry disburses amongst all sections of the community a greater proportion of its income than does any other section of primary production. This may well be true. It is most necessary that the industry be kept in a. state of solvency but one may surely be forgiven for saying that in the present circumstances this proposal is brought forward entirely for political motives; there can be no Other reason. Surely it is reasonable that the present negotiations and pressures be concluded and that we should know the ultimate position. The Commonwealth Government cannot reasonably be expected to come forward in midstream and say: You need not bother any more. You need not negotiate any more with the insurance companies, because we will foot the bill.’ The inclusion of the word. ‘immediately’ in the proposal is the crux of the matter and in my view should make it unpalatable to the Senate.
– I take the opportunity to join in the debate on the motion proposed by the Opposition. I want the Senate to take note of the wording of the matter of urgency because I think il is very important. It reads:
The need for the Commonwealth to indemnify fruit growers immediately for the losses they have suffered in the Suez Canal through circumstances beyond their control.
It may well be that to rush in at this stage, as the Opposition suggests, would be to do more damage to the Tasmanian fruit growing industry than will be done if we pursue the course that the Government is pursuing, making sure that all of the facts are available and that the situation is quite clear before we assist financially with the taxpayers’ money, however great the need of some of the Tasmanian growers. lt is fair to say that no island has had a greater battering from disaster than Tasmania has had in the last 13 months, from fire, from drought, and from part of our fruit crop finding itself a prisoner in the Suez Canal because of the outbreak of hostilities in the area. Four ships are tied up with about 200,000 cases of fruit, most of it unfortunately coming from northern Tasmania and most of that from a few growers. Therefore one has to be more particular than where the fruit industry as a whole is affected, because whilst this production represents perhaps a small percentage of our total exports, its loss will hit particular growers very heavily. I was interested to hear Senator Lillico, and the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Pearsall) in another place, giving details of costs in the fruit industry. I think it is true to say that no other primary industry disburses more hard cash per acre than does the orchard industry, with its expenditure on spraying, cartage, packing, wrapping materials, timber cases and cell pack cartons. These are some of the costs which the orchard industry from its small acreage of intensive production has to meet. The situation at present is that the Government is being kept fully informed of the developments in this matter by all Tasmanian members of Parliament and particularly by the honourable member for Franklin, who represents the largest fruit growing area in Australia, and the honourable member for Denison (Mr Gibson). Tasmanian senators also have this matter well in hand and the Government is being kept well informed of developments taking place. The former Minister for Primary Industry, the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann), has taken a keen interest in the matter. It is unfair to say, as I have heard said, that he has done nothing. I remind honourable senators that fools rush in where angels fear to tread. It is better to delay the making of a decision and to find out exactly the facts before taking the responsibility in this matter off the shoulders of those on whom it rests and to whom it rightly belongs.
I was interested to hear references to the position in relation to insurance because this factor is nowhere near clear yet. The Government has indicated that it will use the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) and the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen) and that those Minister will consult at once with the shipping companies and the insurance companies to try to resolve the situation as soon as possible. This was made clear in another place today by the Minister for Primary Industry when undertaking his first task in the other place in his new position of Minister for Primary Industry.
The Government is sympathetic towards the industry. What has happened can be fairly claimed to be a disaster for some growers and can be said to be equal to the effects of a drought or fire disaster. It is fair to say that this can be said of some growers. Growers whose fruit is laid up in the Suez Canal are faced with accounts from the shipping companies for freight. There may be need to provide some bridging finance, until the position is quite clear, to help these growers meet urgent accounts, particularly accounts for freight.
Those of us who have known this industry over many years recall the days when growers sent fruit to England and received returns which did not meet agents commission for selling and freight charges. Those growers often did not receive any reward for their work in producing the fruit. This problem has been overcome largely and I think that we should admire the industry because it has borne some hard knocks. It is constantly reviewing its position regarding world markets and sends representatives overseas to endeavour to reduce its costs, to produce new types of casing and packaging and new machinery, and to survey new markets. This is one industry that I admire because it is well aware of the situation in the markets to which it is to sell.
I am not trying to evade in the slightest degree any point by saying that this unprecedented difficulty has arisen because of the outbreak of hostilities that led to the closure of the Suez Canal. It is very simple for Opposition members to get up and say that the ships now trapped in the Canal should not have attempted to use that waterway. This is a matter of judgment. If the four ships had passed through the Canal, the freight burden on the growers would have been less and they would have reaped the benefits of the very profitable market. If this had happened, the shipowners who had made that judgment would be looked upon as the blessed of the earth. But because they made a judgment and the ships unfortunately could not get through the Canal after the guns went off, the Opposition, with all the advantage of hindsight, says that the shipowners should not have taken this risk. We can all be very wise after the event. But there is always the other side of the matter. This action could have proved to be very beneficial to the fruit growers if the ships had been able to get through.
We need to realise that some growers will suffer large losses unless this fruit can be made available for sale. It does not look as if it can be sold. The amount of the loss cannot be ascertained until it is known what responsibility ultimately falls upon the companies which have insured the cargoes and also until it is known what recompense the growers will receive from those companies. Until the costs involved in this matter are known a balance sheet cannot be prepared showing the whole disastrous situation for a limited number of fruit growers. Let us not overlook the fact that a limited number of growers are in this category and that some of them must be helped because of the disaster they have suffered. There will be room for consideration by the Government of their plight.
The Government is quite sympathetic towards growers and is actively pursuing the matter with the insurance companies and the shipping companies. The Government has well in mind that temporary financial arrangements may be required in order to help some fruit growers over the hill. I feel that all Tasmanians in the Senate have done their job in keeping the Government fully aware of what has happened in the matter. I pay tribute to Mr Pearsall, the honourable member for Franklin in another place, who has been most active in this field and has kept the Government well informed of developments. I pay tribute to Senator Wright, Senator Lillico and senators on the Opposition side who have kept the Senate and the Government informed of the matter.
I think that I will be a little critical of the decision to raise today as a matter of urgent public importance the question now before the Senate. I am well aware that a Senate election will be held in a few weeks time and that a protest meeting is being organised down the River Tamar. But I think that it is premature to bring this subject before the Senate as a matter of urgency when it is being dealt with and kept under review from hour to hour, one might say, by the Government. The situation does not present a clear picture yet and no finality has been reached. The bringing forward of this matter does not do a service to the industry or to the Parliament in which it is proposed.
As the trustees of the funds of the taxpayer in this field, we should wait until we have the full picture before us. We should not take any steps which would cause the Australian taxpayer to unload responsibility from the shoulders of the insurance companies. I am one who says that if any responsibility lies with the insurance companies they should meet it. It is not for us to call upon the taxpayers at this stage to find sums of money which must be and should be rightly provided by the insurance companies which undertook the risks. The insurance companies undertook these risks when the shipments went on their way and have collected their premiums in respect of the fruit that has arrived safely and, as Senator Wright so correctly pointed out, has been sold at better prices than anticipated. The insurance companies calculated the premiums on the fruit. Therefore I think that we are entitled to know the facts and to have the balance sheet before us before we ask the Australian taxpayer to take the ultimate responsibility. That assertion does not dismiss the point which I have already made and which I think should be kept well in mind that possibly assistance from the Development Bank or some other bank or by way of bridging finance may be necessary to help fruit growers over this very difficult period.
As speakers in his debate have pointed out, it is quite unprecedented in the history of shipments to England and Europe of perishable articles that fruit should be trapped in what ought to be an international waterway. When the fighting was on between Egyptian and Israeli forces 1 do not think it would have made much different if the ships concerned had tried to go through the Canal as an international waterway. Many people would have been hurt. At present this international waterway is under the control of one country. This is a real drawback to Australia. The Tasmanian fruit growing industry has faced a number of difficulties manfully and well. I believe it is a very efficient industry.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood) - Order! The Ministers time has expired.
– As a Government supporter 1 am rather amazed at the debate on this matter of urgency. Senator O’Byrne, the Opposition Whip, has raised the need for the Commonwealth Government to indemnify fruit growers immediately for the losses they have suffered due to circumstances beyond their control in the Suez Canal. Opposition senators do not appear to be very keen to support the motion. Fewer than half a dozen of them rose -in support of Senator O’Byrne’s proposal. Only two or three speakers from the Opposition benches have been prepared to support him. Mainly they arc representatives from Tasmania. I am amazed that so few are prepared to support the proposal.
– Put it to the vote. -
– If a vote were taken it would mean delaying the conclusion of the Senate’s important business prior to the Senate election to be held on 25th November next. Probably a period of about 20 minutes would be involved. If this is a real matter of urgency - and it is for the fruit growers - why are not honourable senators opposite prepared to support Senator O’Byrne by speaking to the motion? He believes it is so urgent that it should be raised for discussion in this chamber. Government supporters also are interested in the problems of the fruit growers. Quite a number of questions have been asked in the Senate and in another place about the. fruit shipments trapped in the Suez Canal. Government supporters believe that the fruit growing industry is a very important industry. The four shipments of fruit to overseas ports held up in the Suez Canal certainly warrant the attention of the Government, but it may be the responsibility of the insurance companies to pay compensation to the growers. All Australian fruit growers realise that fruit shipped from Tasmania or mainland ports to the Continent or the United Kingdom travels as refrigerated cargo in refrigerated vessels. The rate of insurance on such cargoes is quite high because of the need for refrigeration.
Tasmanian fruit growers and fruit growers in the other States are aware that fruit is held in Australian cool stores from May until the following January, a period of 7 or 8 months. The fruit is kept in perfect condition under refrigeration. The vessels in question have been delayed in the Suez for some months, but not for as long a period as the fruit is kept in cool stores in Australia. The insurance companies may welt claim that at present the fruit is in good condition. No-one can assess the loss sustained by the growers until the fruit reaches the market. If the fruit is delayed in the Suez Canal for much longer than the usual period of its life under cool store conditions it can deteriorate or rot. It will then be worth nothing. In those circumstances it could well be the responsibility of the insurance companies to meet the losses of the growers to the extent of the insurance cover.
A total of about 379,000 bushels is involved, over half of which was shipped from Tasmania. The balance was shipped from South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia. I understand - but I am not sure - that the Western Australian fruit growers sell their production of exportable fruit on a free on board basis. The Western Australian fruit trapped in the ships in the Suez Canal could well have been sold under those conditions. If so, it would have been the responsibility of the purchasers to insure the fruit. I refer to the importers living in the United Kingdom or the Continent.
– Senator McKellar said that 91,000 cases of apples were sold forward.
– Thank you. I have no doubt that some of the fruit would be sold forward through our agents in Western Australia as the representatives of the Western Australian fruit growers.
– The point I am trying to make is that the risk would be with the purchaser.
– That is so. It is interesting to note that most Tasmanian fruit is sold under what is termed a limited advance system against export; that is, it is sold at a guaranteed pr ice. However, the guaranteed price is much lower than the cost of production. The fruit is then sold either by auction or after calling for tenders and it brings varying prices. Last year, Tasmania’s fruit production fell below the production of previous years. The twentyfirst annual report of the Australian Apple and Pear Board states quite clearly, under the heading ‘Production’:
Early estimates of apple production in Tasmania were affected by the tragic bushfires which swept the southern part of the State in February. The fires caused substantial damage to property and equipment, but crop losses were less than expected.
Subsequently, extreme drought conditions severely retarded crop development and resulted in a heavy reduction in export availability. Similar conditions affected the crops in Western Australia, Victoria, and to a lesser extent South Australia. Queensland once again was hit by hail. New South Wales was the only State to fulfil early expectations.
It is interesting to notice that under the heading ‘Marketing’ it is stated that in 1966 Tasmania exported 5,714,767 bushels of apples compared with only 3,878,812 bushels this year. Because the fruit was sold on the basis of an advance against exports, and because of the lighter crop produced, when the first of the Tasmanian apples reached the market in Europe and the United Kingdom prices rose rapidly. This was despite the fact that, a few months earlier, it had been predicted that, because of the substantial quantities of fruit that were expected to arrive in Europe and the United Kingdom from other countries, much of the fruit exported from Australia this year would be sold at prices which would hardly enable the producers to recover their costs of production. Fortunately, there was a rapid change. Prices rose considerably in a few months to a level greatly in excess of what was expected earlier in the year. Last year’s figures are very interesting. The normal price last year for Sturmers and Jonathans was 20s sterling and less a bushel. This year, the returns rose to between 50s and 60s sterling a bushel and this was the average price for most of the fruit exported from Tasmania to the United Kingdom and Europe.
The position now is that the growers who have shipped the fruit in question are experiencing a problem. The Government recognises that it is an urgent problem. The Government is fully aware of the position. In effect, it says to the growers: ‘We are conscious of the problems confronting the exporters of fruit from Australia. We want to look into the matter with a view to ascertaining firstly whether it is the responsibility of the insurance companies and, secondly, if so, what part they intend to play in the matter, but it may be a little early for the Government or the insurance companies to commit themselves at this moment because no one knows just how long this fruit will last or in what condition it will arrive in England and/or Europe. Nor can anyone know at this moment the price that will be received for the fruit when it docs arrive there.’
– But even gentlemen of the honourable senator’s outlook would take a risk on such a deal, surely.
– I would want to see the fruit. I would want to see the condition in which it is now. I said earlier that fruit is capable of being kept under refrigeration in perfect conditions for about 8 months, but after that time it deteriorates rapidly.
Sitting suspended front 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– The Senate is debating a motion proposed by Senator O’Byrne to this effect:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 2.20 p.m. for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgency, namely -
The need for the Commonwealth to indemnify fruit growers immediately for the losses they have sustained in the Suez Canal through circumstances beyond their control’.
We, as members of the Senate, certainly have a responsibility to look at this matter. Senator O’Byrne is to be congratulated for bringing it forward although I believe he brought it forward without giving a great deal of thought to the question of where responsibility in this matter rests. Indeed the debate prior to the suspension of the sitting perhaps emphasised that fact to him.
Obviously the problem is the result of the war in the Middle East and the blocking of the Suez Canal by irresponsible parties. I imagine that this will not be the only instance of a calamity, if one may call it that, of this nature. It is not the first and probably it will not be the last. I think we would all agree that the blocking of the Suez Canal has been most untimely so far as one of Australia’s most important primary products is concerned. Although I am not aware of the facts of the matter at first hand, I am advised that some 380,000 cases of fruit are involved in the tie-up in the Suez Canal. One would wish it otherwise, but 280,000 cases apparently came from Tasmania and ,100,000 from my own Stale of Victoria and from South Australia.
One matter for regret is the difficulty that primary producers in many areas of Australia are experiencing in selling their products overseas. Had times been normal there would have been a most anxious buyer for this fruit and it could have been disposed of without any particular trouble. Of course, we had most anxious sellers. The outlook for the packing, handling and shipping of the Australian fruit crop is mentioned in the 21st annual report of the Australian Apple and Pear Board for the year ended 30th June 1967. One comment in relation to this matter is worth noting. It is in these terms:
In consultation with the Australian Apple and Pear Shippers Association, detailed forecasts of shipping requirements were submitted to the Oversea Shipping Representatives Association as required under the Fruit Shipping Agreement. The final December forecast, on which the provision of tonnage is based, amounted to 9,000,000 bushels of apples and pears. At the time this was thought to be a most conservative figure and well within the industry’s potential. Unfortunately the prolonged drought caused drastic reductions in the availability of fruit of export standard and substantial cuts had to be made in requirements as iiic season progressed. Every effort was made by the appropriate bodies to keep shipowners informed of the changing situation. With heavy cancellations of tonnage the original shipping programme required considerable amendment and schedules were adversely affected. Actual shipments totalled only 7,251,000 bushels or almost 20% below original estimates. The Board is convinced that the extraordinary weather conditions prevailing over most of southern Australia during the critical period could not have been foreseen or their effects assessed in advance.
Now we come to the critical point:
The closure of the Suez Canal added further to the disruption of the schedules with many ships being diverted around the Cape of Good Hope. Four vessels carrying fruit were trapped in the
Canal and one other ship missed the same convoy only by chance.
There we have the situation in relation to the tie-up of this most important primary product which is the subject of the proposal that has been raised by the Opposition. Like all honourable senators, I believe that when an industry is suffering hardship there is an obligation on the legislature of this country to come to its assistance at the earliest moment provided, of course, that the demand for assistance is genuine. I believe that every encouragement should be given to people engaged in the production of food in Australia to meet the requirements not. only of our domestic market but also of overseas markets and particularly those areas which are hard pressed for food. This debate has directed attention to the apple and pear industry which may have a good case for immediate assistance.
From what areas has the demand for assistance come? I am not familiar with them. I should imagine that the industry would first place its demand before the Apple and Pear Board which would then approach the relevant State authority.
– The honourable senator should not be talking about this matter if he knows nothing about it.
– The honourable senator does a lot of talking himself and I thought I would copy him on this occasion.
– The honourable senator is making a bigger mess of it than I would.
– I have never heard anyone talk such a lot of rot as does the honourable senator. Perhaps some honourable senator who follows me in the debate will take the opportunity to explain to the Senate exactly where the demand for assistance has come from because I doubt whether very many honourable senators know that. I have already said that the grower, through his own marketing board, could approach the relevant state government which then would bring the request to the Commonwealth Government for the financial assistance which should be given to an industry which is in need. If I knew that a demand for assistance by an industry was genuine, I would be the first to provide assistance.
However, the present situation is somewhat uncommon because the goods in question have not been lost. That is the ridiculous part of Senator O’Byrne’s proposal. There is a demand for assistance but in fact the goods have not been lost. We have been told by honourable senators in the course of other debates that some 3 weeks ago a report was submitted on the condition of the goods that are now locked in the Suez Canal. The report apparently stated that because refrigeration is available on the ships the goods were in surprisingly good condition. I am led to believe that these goods will last for 9 months. I do not know what the term ‘surprisingly good condition’ may mean. If they can maintain their condition for 9 months, I suggest that there is no need to use the words ‘surprisingly good’. However, at the present time we are led to believe that the goods are not lost. Also, the loss’ to the producers is not as great as we might think at first sight, because I am informed that some of these goods are sold forward. That means that genuine contracts exist under which the parties to them will have a full opportunity to claim their just entitlement. But undoubtedly the position of a large proportion of these goods is in question.
I wish to make a couple of interesting points about the insurance position. I was surprised that the Opposition did not make clear exactly what is involved. From my reading and listening I find that there is a variety of contracts and terms of contracts in respect of goods that are shipped overseas. I advise the Senate that the following comment is made in Part 8 of Halsbury’s Laws of England’ in regard to war risks insurance:
The ordinary form of Lloyd’s policy of marine insurance excludes ‘the consequences of hostilities or warlike operations, whether there be a declaration of war or not’.
We need to bear that in mind when we look at the obligations of this industry. We know that the Australian Apple and Pear Board came into being under the Apple and Pear Organisation Act 1938.
SenatorO’Byrne -Why be hypocritical and say that the growers might receive insurance when you know that they cannot receive it because warlike operations are excluded?
– The honourable senator can sort out what that wording means.
– This afternoon the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry said that the contract of insurance did not cover war risk.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - Order! Senator Webster has the call.
– I point out to the Senate that the Apple and Pear Board has certain obligations under the Apple and Pear Organisation Act. If I had sufficient timeI would read section 14, under which the Board is given power to control the export of apples and pears. So, from the producers’ point of view the Board is given the obligation of controlling exports, and of course, we are considering products that are being exported. Section 15 refers to contracts relating to the shipment and insurance of apples and pears. It reads: (1.) A contract for -
So all matters of carriage, insurance and conformity with conditions in relation to the export of apples and pears must be as specified in that section. In my view the whole responsibility has to be-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
18.15] - I have no objection whatever to this matter being raised by Senator O’Byrne in this place today. It is a matter of considerable importance to a large number of primary producers in Tasmania.
– And in Victoria.
– And in South Australia and Victoria. I deferred to Tasmania because Senator O’Byrne comes from that State. Whilst this matter may not deal with the entire apple crop of a particular State, I have no doubt that it does deal with the entire apple crop of particular growers in some areas. That is what should concern us.
All I wish to do at this time is, very briefly, to try to indicate the attitude that the Government takes to this problem. It is undoubtedly a problem for some citizens of Australia. Through no fault of their own they have been caught up in something that could be compared with a natural disaster of some kind. They were shipping their produce to the United Kingdom. A war broke out between two other countries. The waterway through which their produce was going was sealed. They have found themselves at risk of losing the results and rewards of their year’s effort as a result of this natural disaster. We as a government take an entirely sympathetic view of the plight in which these growers find themselves.
All sorts of difficult legal points are raised by the matter put forward by Senator O’Byrne which states that immediate assistance should be given to the people who find themselves in this invidious position. As has been pointed out in the Senate before today, that raises the question whether, if the Government were to give immediate assistance, it might be using public funds to release insurance companies from their liability or possible liability to pay compensation, in accordance with the premiums that have been paid to them, for the losses that the growers may sustain. I am sure that no honourable senator would think that a government should at a particular point of time move in and use public funds in substitution for what an insurance company ultimately might be required properly to pay in compensation to growers.
– Is not that the case in respect of all natural disasters?
– Not necessarily, because there are many natural disasters against which insurance cannot be taken out. For instance, insurance cannot be taken out against acts of God. In the case with which we are dealing, specific insurance was taken out with insurance companies in accordance with normal business practices. Should this fruit deteriorate and be lost, it may well be found that the insurance companies are responsible for paying the compensation in respect of which they were paid premiums by the growers. I am sure that honourable senators opposite would not expect the Government at this time to take action which could substitute public funds for the compensation that the insurance companies should pay in relation to the premiums that were paid to them.
There are legal points associated with this matter and, not being a legal man, I do not pretend thoroughly to understand them. There are legal points concerned with the responsibility of the shippers to see whether the cargo consigned to a particular point does arrive at that point, and the time at which the grower or the consignor should be called upon to pay freight even though the goods which have been consigned have not arrived at a particular point. So I think it is ill-advised to suggest, as has been suggested, that the Government should move in immediately, and, in fact, take the risk of relieving big firms of responsibilities they might otherwise have to shoulder.
As an example of the importance with which the Government views this particular point, I mention that we are engaging in discussions with the insurance companies and the shipping companies concerned - and the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) is a party to these discussions - in an endeavour to get far more clearly the legal position as it at present exists and to ascertain, if the Commonwealth does move in, whether it subsequently recovers from an insurance company what the company otherwise might have had to pay to the growers. Discussions have been entered into on a number of points of this kind. So it is not a matter of the Government sitting back and saying that it is not interested in this matter or, as some honourable senators suggested, of fiddling while Rome is burning; that the Government has no real feeling about what is worrying the particular growers who, I think, are located in the north west coast area of Tasmania, according to the information I have.
– The Tamar Valley area.
– Very well, the growers in the Tamar Valley area, or indeed, all the growers concerned in this disaster. It is a matter of exercising some responsibility at this point of time. We, as a Government, and we., as a Parliament, should not use public funds to relieve the liabilities of outside organisations and outside business organisations - which we might run the risk of doing - before the picture is clearer legally than it might be if we made some firm decision to move in.
I merely rose to make that point and to make it clear to the growers concerned in Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia - those who have not sold their goods forward - that this is a matter which has not escaped the attention of the Government; that this is not a matter which the Government regards unsympathetically; but that it is one which does require a considerable amount of further discussion before we can make a responsible decision as to just what the Government should do or could do to assist the growers who are at risk without assisting the business houses which have some responsibility to those growers. Therefore 1 think it is a little illadvised, although the feeling behind this urgency matter is unexceptionable, to demand that immediate action should be taken, immediate action could result in the relief from a responsibility of people, insurance companies and shippers who should not be relieved of that responsibility at public expense unless and until the legal position has become much clearer than it is at present.
I merely wish to add, Mr Deputy President, that if, in the fullness of time, the growers find that they are recompensed, either by the insurance companies concerned or by the Government, this will happen not as a result of the type of speech made here in the Senate today by Senator Poke, not as a result of the personal attack made on the honourable member for Franklin in another place, but rather as a result of the quiet work and the constant work that the honourable member for Franklin has been putting in on this matter and the work that senators on both sides of the chamber have been putting in on this matter. Such recompense which might eventually be decided upon will be decided responsibly, as a result of recent representation and as a result of the question becoming clearer as to just where the legal responsibilities for compensation do lie.
– This urgency debate has nudged the Government a bit, has it not?
– No, I do not think it even nudged us. If the honourable senator put his mind to the matter I think he would concede that his observation was rather unfair. The action now being taken by the Government has been the result of action taken on representations from the honourable member for Franklin and other Tasmanian interests long before this matter was raised today. What this debate has provided is an opportunity for the Government and for honourable senators opposite to point out some of the involvements of this matter which might not be immediately apparent to somebody taking a superficial view. This debate has given me an opportunity to indicate clearly, on behalf of the Government, that if compensation is to be forthcoming eventually from the Commonwealth it will be forthcoming not as a result of this discussion today.
– The discussion achieved something.
– It has achieved a clarification of the position; this 1 will concede.
– And an announcement.
– I will concede to the honourable senator that it has achieved a clarification of the position; that if compensation should be forthcoming after these matters have been resolved, it will be not as a result of this discussion but as a result of continuing action and continuing representations put to the Government and considered by the Department of Primary Industry, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of the Attorney-General to see how the Government can provide to those who have been caught up in this disaster the greatest measure of compensation while, at the same time, refraining from lifting from the shoulders of the insurance companies and the shippers that burden which it may be considered should be borne by them. That clarification has been made. 1 am very pleased to have had the opportunity to make it to the Senate.
– Mr Deputy President, I was very pleased to hear from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Gorton) that the. Government has been busying itself with the matters worrying people who have fruit held up in the Suez Canal. He and other speakers have clarified, to an extent, the position in which we find ourselves. If the matter of urgency brought up by Senator O’Byrne has done nothing else it has brought out several points on which we were in the dark. I for one am very happy to know that the Government is as concerned as it professes to be. I am sure that the move by Senator O’Byrne prompted speedier action than might have been the case otherwise.
I want to touch on one or two points made by Senator Webster who, at the moment, is absent from the chamber. I want to quote an article from the ‘Australian Producer’ of 13 th September. The article I refer to is headed ‘Fruit Hold Up In Suez Canal - Union to Urge for Action*. The article deals with a meeting of the Australian Primary Producers Union Federal Fruit and Vegetables Committee held in Melbourne early in September. The article states:
Delegates decided to seek political action to free the ships, urge the Australian Apple and Pear Board to ensure that adequate insurance arrangements applied to the fruit, and that in the event of this being unobtainable, seek Federal Government financial assistance for the growers affected.
In its resolution the Committee used different words to those contained in the urgency proposal which has been put forward in the Senate, but the intention is almost identical.
The honourable member for Franklin (Mr Pearsall) has been referred to quite often in this debate. The Leader of the Government in the Senate was the last speaker to refer to the honourable member. If I am reliably informed, the utterances of the honourable member for Franklin in the House of Representatives today support the proposal that is before this chamber. We believe that something should be done. If I am reliably informed - I think I am - we have the honourable member for Franklin on our side. Senator Mattner tried to fob off the proposal by saying that it is quite unworthy and the Government should not be concerned with it. He said that we are merely considering a contract between the people who produced the apples and pears and the people who want to buy them. It immediately occurred to me that the Australian Apple and Pear Board is a statutory body set up for the purpose not only of assisting producers to produce an article fit for export but also to make sure that the produce reaches a profitable market in good condition.
For some time I was the employees’ representative on the Australian Apple and Pear Board. I have before me a list of a few of the other members of the Board at the time I was a member of it. There was Mr Calvert, who was one of the largest growers in Tasmania. There was Mr Doug. Jones who represented processing firms such as 1XL and W. D. Peacock & Co. Pty Ltd, and other large firms in Tasmania which were some of the pioneers in this industry. Another member of the Board was Mr Smith who was a fellow grower from the Huon. I think that Mr Wivell, who came from the Tamar, was also a member of the Board. He was a grower and an exporter. At the last meeting of the Board that I attended officers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics were present. Every State was represented at that meeting of the Board. Some of the officers who had visited England and other countries on the Continent made lengthy reports about where we might find markets for our produce. The Australian Apple and Pear Board was the custodian for production and sales. It has the same function today. So it was not very responsible of Senator Mattner to say that this matter is simply a contract between grower and buyer. The other point that I want to make is that at the present time nobody seems to be in- a position to tell us whether or not the fruit- that is held up in the Suez Canal is still in good condition.
– Senator Webster said that it is.
– I do not suppose that Senator Webster would know the correct answer to that question any more than I would. Approximately 300,000 cases of fruit are held up in the Suez Canal at the present time, and there is no guarantee that that fruit will be released in time to be of any value on the markets, mainly in England, for which it was destined.
– It would be very good for making apple cider.
-I do not know whether they could produce apple cider from it. Everyone concerned - the growers and the buyers alike - will suffer a substantial loss. I have received certain information today from one of the members of the House of Assembly in Tasmania who is vitally concerned in the fruit industry. He said that he was told on very good authority that officers of the Australian Apple and Pear Board implored the shippers not to go through the Suez Canal with these cargoes.
– Does he claim to know the condition of the fruit?
– He claims this to be authentic. He claims to have received very good information on this point. He told me that I was free to use this information anywhere I wanted to use it.
– Where did he get the information?
– I would have to inquire further to ascertain that. I was speaking to him over the telephone. He said he had received this information. He is right in the heart of the apple production and export business in Tasmania and has been so for many years. If there is any doubt as to whether or not the warning was given, I suppose that it is up to the Government to find that out from the appropriate source - the Australian Apple and Pear Board. Whether or not the warning was given, the fact remains that the fruit is impounded in the Suez Canal and there is no way of getting it out. This motion asks the Government to take steps to alleviate the poverty that is being suffered by some fruit growers in Tasmania. Although the proposal is described as being one of urgency, I think it would be fair to interpret it to mean that there is a need for the Government to do something immediately it is satisfied that there is no other source of compensation for these people who stand to lose so much. The proposal could mean that if the Government was satisfied that it was on safe ground and, mindful of the fact that it was using taxpayers’ money, that it would be fair for it to do so, it could make a grant without prejudice. Then, if compensation was recoverable from the insurance companies, there could be a repayment to the Government either directly or through some other source.
– If grants were made by the Government, what incentive would there be for those who produce the fruit to continue to secure from the insurance companies that insurance to which they were entitled?
– Logically they would have to follow it through. It is only a stop gap arrangement for the Government to help them out temporarily. It was never intended that the Government should take over from the insurance companies.
– it could be a condition of the gift.
– Could you make that a condition?
– We want the Government to examine the matter to see whether it is possible to do so.
– The Government is examining it.
– That is a very good thing. We learned only today that the Government is examining it. We did not have that information before. We want the Government to examine the various aspects of the situation and if possible to make some payment to these people who stand to lose so much.
– I think Senator Cavanagh is trying to bring something to your attention.
– He is telling me that I have only two minutes to go. Having said that, 1 move:
That the question be now put.
Question put. The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) - Order! The time allowed for debate on this motion having expired, the Senate will proceed to the next business.
– by leave - Earlier today the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) in the House of Representatives made a statement on Australian forces in Vietnam. I should now like to make the same statement to the Senate. Where the singular pronoun in the first person is used, it refers of course to the Prime Minister.
There have been, as honourable members know, two major political and military matters in South East Asia before the Cabinet in recent months. They are the British decision to limit its role east of Suez and the situation in Vietnam. The Government has had these great and serious matters under continuous review and has been having a close exchange of views with our allies and friends. I have today to inform the House of certain decisions that the Government has taken on the most immediate and the most pressing of these two issues; that is, the situation in Vietnam. Before dealing with this in some detail, may I refer briefly to the British Government’s plans to reduce in stages its military presence in Malaysia/ Singapore. This has to be seen against the background of our own judgment that security and stability in South East Asia are of first importance for Australia and we recognise the need to act positively to maintain that security and stability and also to assist in the development of the region. Consultations with our allies and friends in South East Asia on these matters are continuing. My colleagues and I have just had the benefit of discussions here in Canberra with the New Zealand Prime Minister, Mr Holyoake. I am happy to say that there is a close identity of views with New Zealand on our common strategic interests in South East Asia. There is much still to be done, however, to shape a long term programme, in concert with friendly and interested governments, to the changes that will follow from the British land withdrawal from the Malaysia/ Singapore region. This will take some time, because the pace is set not by one nation alone, but by several, each with a different set of problems.
In the meantime, our immediate preoccupation is with Vietnam. This is the most urgent of our current external problems, and it is basic to all our aspirations for security in Asia. It is in Vietnam that aggressive Communist pressure - the greatest political danger in Asia today - is most severe and direct, and it is in this area that we must, for the time being, concentrate much of our defence effort and resources. There the tide of Communist expansion is being checked and turned. But, with no sign as yet emerging that the North Vietnamese are ready to negotiate, it is the view of our allies and ourselves that the military pressure must be sustained and indeed increased if we are to secure even more decisive results in the field - results which might lead North Vietnam to negotiations. There have been recent visits by Ministers to Vietnam and to the United States, including my own visit to Washington last June when I had detailed discussions with President Johnson, Mr McNamara, Mr Rusk and various military authorities, on the outlook in Vietnam. The President sent to this country two special envoys - Mr Clifford and General Maxwell Taylor - who gave us a valuable survey of progress being made and of likely trends. As I said earlier, Mr Holyoake has been here for on the spot talks. Since then, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) has had discussions with President Johnson and other senior members of the Administration in Washington in the last week or so. From all these exchanges the Government has had the best information and the most considered assessments to add to its own. These have strengthened the Government’s confidence that its decisions on our commitment in Vietnam have been soundly based, and they have confirmed that we are making significant progress. There can be no question of our determination to pursue our efforts through to the end until we have achieved our objective - peace and security for South Vietnam and South East Asia. I am confident that the majority of the Australian people will continue to give their support to this policy and will want us to make a measured contribution which will give effective support to the allied effort.
The public debate on Vietnam goes on in various forms here and abroad and, because it docs, I want to restate very briefly why we are there and why we must continue to honour our commitment to support South Vietnam. Let me repeat, in simple terms, why we are in Vietnam:
We are there because we believe in the right of people to be free.
We are there because we responded to an appeal for aid against aggression.
We are there because security and stability in South East Asia are vital to our security and stability.
We are there because we want peace, not war, and independence, not serfdom, to be the lot of the people of Asia.
We are there because we do not believe that our great Pacific partner, the United States, should stand alone for freedom.
We will continue to be there while the aggression persists because, as a free and independent nation, we cannot honourably do otherwise.
There are, from time to time, charges - all unwarranted and baseless - that the Government seeks only a military solution, that it is determined to win in the firing line and that this is our only objective. J say this: We are determined, and so are our allies, that we will not be defeated in the firing line. Fortunately there is no real risk that we can be. The military situation has been improving steadily, and if we sustain our progress we are daily securing the time and enlarging the opportunity for a response by Hanoi to repeated offers to negotiate for peace, free of conditions, with honour and regard for the rights of the South Vietnamese people.
In Manila last year, South Vietnam and its allies, including Australia, pledged themselves to continue to resist aggression until it ceased and, at the same time, to seek earnestly, by every means, a just and lasting peace. This has been the consistent position of the United States, the Australian Government and the other allies in Vietnam, and it remains our hope that a political rather than a military solution will be found. We remain, as we have been at all times, flexible so that even the faintest prospect of peace talks can be encouraged. We have on several occasions suggested that the Geneva Agreement of 1954 might provide a suitable basis. There may be other ways. The allies are ready to talk about them if they open up and to keep on taking initiatives themselves.
But the North Vietnamese leaders have turned down every approach, public and private. They have done no more than declare that talks ‘could be’ or ‘might be’ held if the United States stopped bombing North Vietnam unconditionally, unilaterally and permanently. But having said that, the North Vietnamese leaders have not said that they would then enter into talks. But they have made it clear that even if talks did begin they would keep up their own military effort. So we must press on with our action in Vietnam to ensure that the people of South Vietnam shall not be conquered by aggression and shall have the right to choose their own way of life and their own form of government. This was our first and only military objective: it remains our only military objective.
It is easy to suggest that allied strategy in thu area is dominated by an exaggerated fear of Communism, but there is no evidence that Communist forces in South East Asia have given up their revolutionary drive. The South Vietnamese people could not stand on their own against a co-ordinated Communist penetration. Our recent assessments confirm our judgment that if South Vietnam fell to a Communist system of government, Communist pressures against the neighbouring States would continue, and probably increase. North Vietnamese regular forces have already been identified in Laos and guerillas trained in North Vietnam are already operating in north east Thailand.
The independence and achievements of the countries of this region would be at risk if aggression succeeded in South Vietnam.
I do not think we should ever lose sight of the fact that this war in Vietnam is a limited war - it is not being fought on the pattern of declared wars of the past, where all the stops’ were out and a patriotic fervour and a face to face challenge of survival were like battalions in action on the home front, lt is far away in personal terms, but not nearly as far as the battlefields of the Middle East or Europe. It is ugly - what war is not - and it is prolonged. Yet Australian forces fighting there are achieving two immediate results. They are helping to hold the aggressor in check and they are giving the South Vietnamese security and specific aid for the betterment of their country. They are also manning a front line of freedom for all of South East Asia.
The recent elections bear witness to South Vietnam’s constitutional and political advancement. The economic and social progress under the South Vietnamese Government’s Revolutionary Development Programme is good. Australia has contributed more than $12m in non-military aid and is spending $2.2m more this financial year. Our civilian training programme, under which more than 300 Vietnamese have come to Australia, will continue. We are assisting in other major projects in Vietnam, including water supply and technical aid for schools. Our three surgical teams continue to do splendid work. None of this could be permanent if the military - shield were not wide and strong, and the wider and stronger it is the better the progress of the military campaign and the civil programmes will be.
To that end, therefore - with increasing progress in mind - the Republic of Vietnam and its allies have been conferring on what the situation may require. Each Government, with the benefit of the discussions which have taken place, will make its individual decision. Already some of us have decided to commit additional forces at this time so that effort may be increased and so that the military initiative that has been won can be sustained and the pace of political, economic and other development quickened. The United States has already announced that it will add some 45,000 men to the total of 460,000 it has deployed in Vietnam. Today the New Zealand Prime Minister has announced on behalf of his Government New Zealand’s increase in the form of an additional infantry company. Other allied governments are considering what more they can do. For their part the South Vietnamese are to increase their forces by some 60,000 men.
The Australian Government has therefore decided, after consultation with our allies, to increase the Australian forces in Vietnam, and I now set out for the information of the House, how this will be done.
An additional battalion group with helicopter support will be provided from Australia for the Task Force. This third battalion group, which will be made available in November/ December, will have the effect of almost doubling the offensive capability of the force and adding considerably to its operational effectiveness.
A tank squadron - about 250 all ranks - will be made available. With their mobility and powerful sustained fire power, our medium Centurion tanks will provide better support and protection for the force.
Additional helicopters with crews and servicing personnel will be added to the Iroquois squadron to provide the Task Force with more tactical mobility.
A small number of Skyhawk pilots and a maintenance element will be made available on loan for operational service with the United States Marines in South Vietnam.
An additional engineer construction unit will be provided to undertake, for a limited period, specific works in the Task Force area.
The establishments of headquarters and units will be increased by some 1 25 all ranks because of operational needs in the area.
These additions will raise the numbers of the Australian force in Vietnam from 6,300 to over 8,000 men, and will make them much more effective as a balanced force. The Government has been able to do this because of the steady expansion in the defence forces over the last few years by increased recruiting and by national service. Australia now has the most powerful and effective defence forces it has ever had short of war-time mobilisation. The Government is able to undertake these additional commitments in Vietnam without detracting from the strength and readiness of the forces deployed elsewhere in South East Asia.
Our forces already in Vietnam have acquitted themselves superbly well. We have units from all three services in the theatre and they have earned the highest praise from our United States, South Vietnamese and other allies. In Phuoc Tuy province, for instance, which has been a Vietcong stronghold for many years, the Australian Task Force has been confronted with a highly mobile infantry force, well trained and equipped with good quality weapons. Since our forces were deployed in this area in June 1966, they have established a high degree of security in the province, and have opened up strategic communication routes. Altogether this force has been in over sixty major operations since June 1966. In addition, our air and naval units have played a very useful role in support of overall allied operations.
I believe that those who have served, and are serving, including their parents and families, are keenly aware of the issues at stake in Vietnam and know that Australia has ‘to be there’, with the same high courage, as Australia has been in other and wider wars, in the cause of freedom. The young national servicemen, who have responded magnificently to the grave tasks that have fallen to them, have identified themselves so completely with our regular soldiers that there is no discernible difference. They have clearly shown their recognition that they are performing a national duty. They are Australian soldiers, and I am sure they would not have it otherwise. And I am sure, too, that this House will be ready to pay all our fighting men, regulars and national servicemen alike - the soldiers, sailors and airmen of Australia, serving in Vietnam - the honour that is their due and that this House will support the additional contribution to their strength that I have now announced on behalf of the Government. I seek leave to propose a motion.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir A lister McMullin) - There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
Debate (on motion by Senator Murphy) adjourned.
– Mr President, in accordance with the provisions of section 18 of the Tariff Board Act 1921-1966 I. lay on the table of the Senate the Tariff Board’s Annual Report for the year ended 30th June 1967, together with a summary of recommendations. The report is accompanied by an annexure which summarises the recommendations made by the Board and shows the action taken in respect of each of them. It is not proposed to print, the annexure.I seek leave to make a statement in connection with the report.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– In the report, the Board has set out in detail its view on how a progressive and systematic review of the tariff should be carried out. In the first instance, it proposes an internal examination by the Board of the structure and levels of protection in the tariff to identify the main areas of local production where there has been no recent public inquiry and where the levels of protection are in the medium to high range. The Board contemplates that the Government would send to it a series of wide ranging references to enable it to carry out a systematic review. From the preliminary work, which has already been done, the Board has advised there would be advantages in conducting an inquiry into sections of Chapter 84 of the tariff, which covers machinery and mechanical appliances.
The underlying concept is not inconsistent with work which has been going on for some time in the Department of Trade and Industry at the direction of the Minister For Trade and Industry, on the development of references, so worded as to cover the whole of the integrated operations of an industry rather than particular items. References already made by the Minister to the Tariff Board on industrial chemicals, plastic products, aluminium and aluminium products, photographic materials, tractors, and earthmoving machinery, have been in that category. References of this kind, arising both from requests for a review of protection, and from the desirability of reviewing tariff areas not recently examined, embody the dual aims of a more effective and satisfactory examination of the question of protection for the industry and a systematic review of the tariff as a whole. This is the approach supported by the Board in its annual reportsfor 1964-65 and 1965-66, when it recommended continuation and extension of industry wide references to achieve both those purposes.
The Board’s recommendation lor a reference on sections of Chapter 84 of the Tariff will be fully examined. Honourable senators will appreciate the desirability of ensuring that Tariff Board inquiries and reports relating to pressing current questions are not impaired by very wide references of an inevitably time consuming nature covering broad and complex areas of the tariff. An example of the importance of avoiding references of that kind has been the experience with the so called general textiles reference’, sent to the Board on 5th October I960 and on which the final report reached the Minister for Trade and Industry only last week. The Board proposes to classify industries into those having ‘high protection’, ‘medium protection’ and ‘low protection’ and to publish this classification in its next annual report. This will need to be approached with great caution. As honourable senators know, the Government grants protection to industry after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board and a finding that the industry is economic and efficient. After the level of protection has been determined, industry itself then decides, on the basis of its commercial judgment, the direction and extent of the expansion that it will undertake. It would be a matter of justifiable concern if a preliminary judgment of the Board, without the benefit of the Board’s normal detailed and careful inquiry, were to be taken as a guide to the future prospects of the industries involved.
– Mr President, for the information of honourable senators, I present the following paper: Report of Chairman of Board of Accident Inquiry on accident which occurred near Winton, in the State of Queensland, on 22nd September 1966, to a Viscount aircraft VH-RMI, operated by Ansett Transport Industries (Operations) Pty Ltd, trading as Ansett-A.N.A.
I ask for leave to make a short statement in connection with this report.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
- Mr President, the statement that I propose to make was made this afternoon in another place by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz). Honourable senators will understand that when I use the first person personal pronoun it refers to the Minister for Civil Aviation. The statement is as follows:
In submitting to Parliament the report of the Chairman of the Board appointed by me to inquire into the accident to Viscount aircraft VH-RMI near Winton, Queensland, on 22nd September 1966, I should first of all state that, on behalf of the Government, I have already expressed to the Honourable Sir John Spicer, and to his Assessors, appreciation for the painstaking task they have now completed in carrying out such a detailed and searching examination into the circumstances of this accident.
We are indeed fortunate in Australia that, over a period of some 15 years, our domestic regular public transport air services have only had three accidents resulting in the death of passengers. This excellent record must, in a large measure, be attributable to the generally high standards of operation and maintenance as achieved by the airline operators, to the undoubted high quality of our professional pilots, and to the high standards set and maintained by officers of my Department. Rare as these accidents may be, we can still profit, in an air safety sense, from critical examination of the circumstances of each accident. In the first instance this task falls on officers of the Air Safety Investigation Branch, who investigate all aircraft accidents, but there is also provision for the constitution of a Board of Accident Inquiry in those circumstances where it would seem that the public interest would be best served by adoption of this additional process. I considered that this situation existed with respect to the accident involving Viscount VH-RMI. and I accordingly appointed a Board of Accident Inquiry. The report of the Chairman of the appointed Board is now before the House and I have one or two comments which I would like to make.
The Chairman of the Board has concluded that the aircraft crashed following an upward failure of the port wing and that this failure of the port wing arose from weakening of the wing spar, when a fire occurred in a port fuel tank. The Board also concluded that the fire originated in the cabin blower driven by the No. 2 engine and that this fire occurred as a result of a rotor breakup and subsequent operation of the blower in an out of balance condition, leading to separation of the oil metering unit from rear end cover of the blower. The Chairman was not able to determine the cause of the rotor break-up, but he has specifically excluded incorrect assembly by Ansett-A.N.A. lt is particularly interesting to note that the main conclusions, which I have just summarised, and the other findings contained in the report, confirm in all respects, the conclusions reached from the investigation conducted by the Air Safety Investigation Branch of my Department. I think it is proper that I should express my appreciation of the excellent report presented by the Air Safety Investigation Branch. The complete confirmation of its conclusions, by a separate judicial inquiry, reflects credit on all concerned.
I think that it is also appropriate that I should make particular mention of the fact that the Chairman found no reason to criticise any action taken by the crew of VH-RMI and that he has specifically endorsed Captain Cooper’s decision to divert to Winton and to continue with his attempt to reach Winton in preference to carrying out a forced landing.
The Chairman was naturally very concerned with considerations affecting the safety of future operations, and such concern is obviously shared by this Parliament. The Board has concluded that the decision to install this particular type of cabin blower in Viscount aircraft was. and still is, a proper one. As a result of this accident, however, my Department has required a number of modifications to the blower and adjacent installations, and I have already informed the House of these. These modifications and precautionary requirements were devised as soon as attention was drawn to their need by the investigating officers, and they were immediately implemented. Their details were also advised to other airworthiness authorities, and to the aircraft and component manufacturers. Again it is interesting to note that the Chairman has endorsed the need for the principal blower modifications implemented by the Department, and has concluded that the steps already taken provide adequately for the safe operation of this component in the future.
The Chairman has made some observations and recommendations, principally in regard to the presentation and handling of technical data and records, the exchange of information on accidents, incidents and component modifications and the future testing of failed rotors. I accept these recommendations and they are now being examined in detail’. They will be implemented so far as is practicable, and to, the extent that our powers permit. In this regard it is pertinent to observe that certain of the observations and recommendations involve organisations and authorities over which we have no jurisdiction. This report.,! however, will be widely circulated, and I am sure that the valuable guidance given will be duly noted and acted upon by those; concerned outside Australia.
I would like also to refer very briefly to the comments and suggestions of the Chairman at pages 63 and 64 of the report. The inference could be drawn from these comments that the investigating officers involved kept no detailed record of the strip examina-tion of the No. 2 blower. In fact, a very comprehensive and detailed step-by-step record was compiled by the investigators but, circumstantially, this record was not called into evidence before the Board and so the Board did not have the opportunity to examine its scope. I do not suggest, however, that this situation was detrimental to the ultimate deliberations of the Board.
The record of investigations of major air- craft accidents around the world illustrates the growing difficulty of this task, in the face of increasing aircraft speeds and engineering complexities. We can derive a great deal of satisfaction therefore from the fact that this investigation has enabled the Chairman confidently to define the source of the accident and to set out in some detail the sequence of events leading to the accident. The benefits that derive for the safety of further Viscount operations in this country and overseas are therefore quite significant, and I am sure that many of the lessons already learned will benefit safety levels throughout our airline industry. The result has been well worth the effort involved in a long and painstaking inquiry and I commend the Chairman’s report to (he House.
– by leave - I move:
Thai the Senate take note of the paper. 1 ask for leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a first time.
In his Budget Speech the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) estimated that the excess of Commonwealth expenditures over receipts - the amount to be covered by net borrowing at home and abroad - would amount to $596m iti 1967-68. Towards this borrowing requirement there will be available an estimated sum of Si 23m from net drawings on the credits arranged for defence purchases in the United States of America, leaving $473m to be financed by other borrowings. So far as borrowing prospects abroad this year can bc assessed, it is expected that redemptions will again exceed new loan proceeds, although to a smaller extent than last year when the excess was $82m. The amount then remaining to be covered by net borrowings in Australia this year should not exceed the net $527m borrowed locally last year, lt cannot be estimated with any accuracy how much of the amount to be raised locally will come from the Australian public but in all probability some borrowing from the Reserve Bank will be necessary. The purpose of this Bill is to obtain authority for any necessary borrowings from the Reserve Bank.
Authority is being sought to borrow an amount of up to S300m. This does not mean that we expect that we will have to use this authority to anything like the full extent. However, because of the uncertainties as to how much we will be able to borrow from the public both locally and overseas, we thought it appropriate to propose that the upper limit on the borrowing authority being sought in this Bill be set at the round figure of $300m. The same limit was specified in the comparable Loan Act last year.
The borrowings for which authority is now sought will be made for defence purposes and the proceeds will be applied to finance expenditure from the loan fund on defence services. Total expenditure on defence services in 1967-68 is estimated at $1,1 18m. lt is estimated that of this amount about $123m will be met from net drawings on the credit arrangements with the United States of America, leaving about $995m to be met from appropriations. lt is proposed that of the total estimated expenditure to be met from appropriations an amount of up to S300m should bc charged to loan fund where it will be financed from funds raised under the authority of this legislation. Provision for charging part of our defence expenditure to the loan fund has been made in previous years when net loan proceeds have not been adequate to finance the excess of expenditures over receipts. I comment the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill concerns financial grants to the States over this year and the succeeding two financial years to accelerate the measurement of the flow of rivers and the investigation and measurement of underground water resources. Honourable senators will know that, as a result of a recommendation by the Australian Water Resources Council, that Commonwealth and State governments 3 years ago adopted an accelerated programme of surface and underground water investigations. The aim of the programme is to achieve a comprehensive basic network of stream gauging stations and to improve knowledge of underground water resources. Besides implementing its own accelerated programme in the Northern Territory, the Commonwealth has been assisting State programmes by making available, under the States Grants (Water Resources) Act 1964 grants totalling as much as $2. 75m over the 3-year period 1964-65 to 1966-67. This 3-year period ended on 30th June last and, accordingly, the States have prepared programmes of proposed works for the next 3 years. These programmes have been endorsed by the Water Resources Council, with a recommendation that the government take action for their implementation.
We have made known to the States our willingness to continue support for the accelerated programme, and indeed to increase our contribution by a significant margin, and I am glad to say that the States have also agreed to accept an increased commitment to the programme. Before I proceed to give the Government’s proposals in detail and to outline the provisions of the Bill I think it would be helpful if I were to review briefly the progress made so far under the programme. During the three-year period of the States Grants (Water Resources) Act 1964, programmes submitted by. the States for stream gauging activities have provided for the improvement of 1.63 existing stations and the construction of 368 new stations, and annual expenditure has increased from less than Sim in 1962-63 to $1.8m in 1966-67. Of the latter figure the Commonwealth has provided over one third. Total expenditure in the three year period was approximately $4.9m. There are now about 1,600 stations in operation.
In the period 1962-63 to 1966-67 annual expenditure on underground water assessment has increased from approximately $1m to about $2.2m. Of the latter figure, the Commonwealth has provided $350,000. Activities on a large range of projects in most areas of all States have been stimu lated. Total expenditure in the three-year period was approximately $5. 8m. The success of the overall programme is exemplified by the fact that, in the year just completed, the States undertook programmes considerably in excess of requirements to attract the full Commonwealth subsidy. This was particularly so in the case of underground water.
The governments involved have reason to be well satisfied with the progress made so far. However, it was apparent to the Water Resources Council that, if the objectives of the programme as envisaged three years ago were to be achieved, a further expansion of effort was needed. And this is reflected in the programmes planned by the States for this and the next two years. The surface water programmes total $6.6m, which is an increase of $1.8m on the programmes for the present period and SO. 8m more than the estimates given in the original ten-year programmes, which were based on costs in 1962-63.
Apart from a general increase in the cost of materials and labour which has occurred since the original estimates were made, the State authorities are experiencing a rise in the unit cost of establishing and operating each stream gauging station as these activities extend into the more remote areas and involve the more difficult streams. The underground water programmes also total $6. 6m which is an increase of $1.6m on the programmes covered by the 1964 Act.
The Government now proposes to make available a total of $4.5m by way of grants to the States, to enable the planned programmes to be achieved in the next 3 years. I might say, and it gives me some pleasure to do so, that this figure represents an increase of 60% over the level of Commonwealth aid in the past 3 years. In making this increased contribution the Commonwealth contemplates that the States will increase their own contributions in order that the objectives endorsed by the Water Resources Council may be achieved. The current legislation does not, of course, cover the Northern Territory. Arrangements are being made by the Minister for Territories for a continuation of the accelerated programme of water resources measurement in the Northern Territory. The distribution of Commonwealth funds over the 3 years is set out in the schedules of the Bill, but for the convenience of honourable senators I give the figures briefly now. For surface water the totals are: 1967-68- $770,500; 1968-69- $830,900; 1969-70- $926,000. For underground water the totals are $625,100, $663,350, and $684,150, respectively.
I turn now to the Bill itself, the provisions of which are similar to the 1964 Act which it is designed to follow. Provision for grants in respect of expenditure by the States on stream gauging is contained in clause 4. Commonwealth grants will be provided, in accordance with the details specified in the First Schedule, to assist the States to attain the programme of expenditure necessary for the establishment of the basic network of gauging stations by 1974. In respect of each State, the Commonwealth grant will be the amount by which the expenditure exceeds the baseyear figure, until the base expenditure is doubled, after which the grant is on a dollar for dollar basis up to the ceiling set out in the schedule.
Financial assistance for underground water investigation and measurement is provided for in clause 5 of the Bill. In this case the Commonwealth pays two-thirds and the State one-third of the expenditure over and above the base amount, up to the maximum shown in the Second Schedule. The Commonwealth totals have been allocated between the States on the basis of the States’ own proposed programmes of water resources assessment for this and the next two years.
The Bill also contains a number of machinery provisions of the kind normally incorporated in measures of financial assistance to the States. These include provision for approval of the proposed programmes by the Minister, provision for the making of advance payments to the States and provision for submission of progress reports. I have much pleasure in commending the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Gorton) proposed:
That, unless otherwise ordered, the days and times of meeting of the Senate for the three weeks commencing 17 October 1967 be as follows:
– I move:
That all words and figures after that’ in clause (1) be omitted, and the- following words and figures be inserted instead: unless otherwise ordered, the days and times of meeting of the Senate for the three weeks commencing 17 October 1967 be as follows:
We are all of the same mind. We are all agreed that the sitting hours should be extended. What has been proposed by me is an extension of the times which have been proposed by the Government. We agree with the Government’s aim, but we suggest that we go a bit further. I have suggested that the sittings commence at 2 p.m. instead of 3 p.m. on Tuesdays, at 2 p.m. instead of 2.15 p.m. on Wednesdays and at 9.30 a.m. instead of 10 a.m. on Thursdays. Our desire is to extend the times so that we may be able to avoid sitting on Fridays. As I understand the position, because of commitments, parliamentary and otherwise, that have been entered into by senators, everyone is anxious to avoid sitting on Fridays. There is very little difference between us because, as I understand the Government’s proposal, even if what is suggested by the Government is carried, we will not sit on Fridays unless it becomes necessary to do so. We have agreed that if it becomes necessary we will sit on Fridays. Our proposal is that we should not actually carry the motion to sit on Fridays unless otherwise ordered, unless that becomes inevitable. There is very little difference between us.
It was suggested that if our proposal were carried it might create some difficulty for various committees to meet, and so on, but the common desire is to extend the sitting times to avoid late sittings and avoid extending the sessional period beyond another 3 weeks, and this is our proposal for achieving that desire.
There is something further that perhaps 1 should mention. It has been suggested that, without altering the Standing Orders, there ought to be a voluntary limitation upon the speaking times in connection with Bills, lt has been suggested that honourable senators accept the principle that we should not speak for more than 20 minutes each while on the air or for more than half an hour when off the air. No one desires to alter the Standing Orders. This would be an entirely voluntary matter. If the occasion arose when honourable senators felt that it was necessary to have more time to deal with a particular matter, I do not think there would be any difficulty in alleviation or even removal of the agreed limitation. That is the basis upon which I think we on both sides have agreed to the substance of the proposed extended sitting times.
– We must all be conscious of the necessity for the Senate to sit some additional hours, particularly in view of the fact that there is to be a Senate election on 25th November next which will necessitate the Senate rising earlier than would normally be the case. We must appreciate the difficulty confronting the Government of discharging its business in the limited time available, allowing a reasonable period for a campaign to be conducted in connection with the forthcoming election.
As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has said, there is not a vast difference between his amendment and what has been proposed by the Leader of the Government (Senator Gorton) other than that the Government’s proposal seeks to obtain authority from the Senate for Friday sittings. I indicate that we of the Australian Democratic Labor Party are not opposed to sitting on Fridays. Indeed we would prefer to sit on Fridays than to remain here until an unduly late hour of the night or an early hour of the morning. I never could see the advantage or benefit of rush ing through business in unduly lengthy sitting periods.
Most honourable senators come to Parliament House at about 9 o’clock in the morning and seldom do they get to bed before midnight. That is a particularly long day. During lengthy sittings the minds of honourable senators, or indeed of any persons could not be as alert and as fruitfuas they would be if we were to adjourn at the appointed time at night and come back on Friday to attend to our business. The Leader of the Opposition has said that senators have commitments on Fridays. 1 do not suppose that any one of them is any different from myself. .1 have commitments, loo. They are parliamentary commitments because 1 am a one job man. I do not have two jobs as certain others in this Senate have. All of my time is devoted to my parliamentary duties. I challenge any honourable senator to say now that he has made commitments 3 weeks or 4 weeks in advance. It is so much poppycock ro say that he cannot sit on Fridays because of such commitments. I do not accept that as a valid reason*. My position is no different from that of other honourable senators. In fact, I suppose I am required to travel a great deal more throughout the Commonwealth than are a lot of honourable senators. With those few observations I repeat that we support the Government’s proposal.
– As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has said, there is a general desire to get the business of the Senate through within the next 3 weeks, and there is no vast difference between the ways in which we wish to do that although there is some difference to which 1 hope shortly to direct attention. I oppose Senator Murphy’s proposed amendment for a variety of reasons. One is that it would increase the hours of sitting by some 1. hour 45 minutes on the three major sitting days to which we are accustomed - Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays - at some disadvantage to certain honourable senators. I am not sure of the times that air services from the various States arrive in Canberra but it has been represented to me that certain honourable senators would be at considerable inconvenience in being ready to sit in this chamber at 2 p.m. rather than 3 p.m. on Tuesdays. Another point is that if we sit at 9.30 on Thursday mornings certain committees, such as the Senate Regulations and Ordinances Committee and the Public Accounts Committee, would lose an extra half an hour sitting time. In any case, the total savings proposed by the amendment are quite small compared with the time which will bc available if we sit on Fridays.
I think that the difference between the Leader of the Opposition and myself can bc epitomised in this way: I seek the authority of the Senate to say that in order to enable Government business to be properly considered by the Senate, and I hope passed by the Senate within the time limit concerned, we shall sit on Fridays unless circumstances make it unnecessary. I hope that in many cases circumstances will make it unnecessary. For example, if we get the Estimates through by Thursday night this week 1 hope that we will not sit on Friday, but I am seeking the authority of the Senate to say that we will sit on Friday unless circumstances make it otherwise clearly unnecessary.
On the other hand the Leader of the Opposition is saying: ‘We will not sit on Fridays unless circumstances make it necessary”. That leaves it in the hands of other people to decide whether circumstances make it necessary to sit on a particular Friday. I suggest that in the normal context of a government requiring (a) to get its business through and (b) to give honourable senators full time in which to consider that business, it is better for the Senate to agree - as I ask it now to agree - that we sit on Fridays unless the flow of business clearly makes it unnecessary so do so.
– I assume that Senator Gorton was opposing the amendment. I support it. All this twaddle about wanting to get through Government business in a proper manner does not come well from any Leader of the Government because in the 5 years that I have been in the Senate we have heard it at the end of every session with great monotony and regularity. At the end of every session, whether it be the winter session or the summer session, wc have this rush of business. The fault lies with the Government itself. I oppose the fact that again we will have lo rush through the business of this Senate. There is no necessity for the Senate election to be held at this time. It can be held at any time until March or April next year. The Senate has hardly sat at all this year. I am not quite sure of the days, but it is surprising-
– The date of the Senate election is 25th November.
– I know when the Senate election is to be held. 1 am saying that the number of days on which wc have sat this year would be about 30 or 35. I am only making a stab at the figure, lt is preposterous that in order to consider the business of the Government of Australia this Parliament should sit for only, let us say, 40 days. Now we are trying to rush through and get everything done at the last minute. As I said, there is no necessity for the Senate election to be held on 25th November. We could sit longer and the Senate election could be held next year. No matter when it is held, we still retain our seats until the end of June next year. So I oppose the motion on the ground that there is no necessity for it whatsoever.
– I oppose the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) on several grounds. There are two important ones. The first is that the hours that he proposes would give the Senate I hour 45 minutes of sitting time each week, if my arithmetic is correct, in addition to the extra time proposed by the Government, on the basis of three days and without taking into consideration Friday sittings. Under the terms of the motion moved by the Ler.der of the Government in the Senate (Senator Gorton), the sitting hours would be increased by 5 hours 30 minutes a week on the basis of three sitting days. Once we go beyond an extra 5 hours 30 minutes, we run into difficulties with the timetables of aircraft arriving in Canberra from the various States. We also run into difficulties on Thursday mornings, when the Leader of the Opposition proposes that the Senate meet at 9.30, because important parliamentary committee meetings are being held at that time. Unless we were prepared to say to members of those committees: Your committees are not allowed to meet; you have to attend the sittings of the Senate’, that proposition would not work.
The other point, which is of considerable interest to me, is that it is usual for the Government to give honourable senators the opportunity to debate the Estimates over a period of 3 weeks. That was the position last year when, over a period of 3 weeks, honourable senators debated the Estimates for a total time of 42 hours 2 minutes. We are now in the third week in which this year’s Estimates are being debated. Up to this moment, over a period of 2 weeks and 1 day, because of action taken by the Opposition in the Senate, honourable senators have had the opportunity to consider the Estimates for only 14 hours 57 minutes.
– There was a filibuster for an hour and a half one day.
– That is not right. As the honourable senator knows, under the Standing Orders 1 am permitted to speak for only a quarter of an hour at a time in the Estimates debate. Let me get back to the subject. Everybody in the Senate knows that the Government is anxious to complete ils business so that on 2nd or 3rd November we can go out on to the hustings to present to the people of Australia our case for the Senate election on 25 th November. At the present time we have only another two weeks of sitting, but we have had the opportunity to debate the Estimates for only a little more than 14 hours.
We can overcome these problems easily and allow honourable senators to debate the Estimates normally if the Opposition will listen to reason and not bring forward matters of urgency on practically every sitting day.
– Is the honourable senator scared of them?
– No. If honourable senators opposite think that the business of government can be carried on without debating the Estimates, they may think that; but the Government is quite prepared to give members of the Opposition the same amount of time as they had last year in which to debate the Estimates. In view of the fact that the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition would increase the sitting hours proposed by the Government by only 1 hour 45 minutes a week on the basis of three days, it is really not important. The important thing is to go ahead with the business of the Senate and to do away with all of these frustrating measures that the Opposition is taking, including the raising of matters of urgency. If that is done we can debate the Estimates properly, and when we have finished debating them we can pass the necessary legislation by 2nd November so that both the Opposition and the Government can present to the people of Australia their cases for the Senate election on 25th November.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from 4 October (vide page 1177).
Department of the Interior
Proposed expenditure, $46,464,000.
Proposed provision. $62,044,000.
Motion (by Senator Gorton) agreed to:
That consideration of intervening Divisions be postponed until after the further consideration of the proposed expenditure for the Depart ment of Education and Science.
Department of Education and Science
Proposed expenditure, $49,197,000.
Proposed provision, $10,638,000.
– I want to pursue a line of thought which I was developing in the course of the debate when the estimates for the Department of Education and Science were last before the Committee. I had put to the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) a number of questions as to the ultimate objectives and the functions of the Department as he saw them. I raised these matters also in debate on the Budget papers. I am raising them again in the Estimates debate because a very important department of state was established after lengthy discussion about the need for such a department.
Prior to the Government’s victory in the 1966 Federal election, we had not had a Department of Education and Science although there had been Commonwealth activity in a number of fields of education. That activity had been carried on under the present Minister in is capacity as Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research.
I have sought, in a number of questions this year, to elicit from the Minister some statement as to what the new Department is going to do and what its function will be compared with the activities carried on prior to its establishment. In other words, are there some new objectives? Is the Commonwealth seeking to accomplish something new in the field of education which previously had not been part of the concept? Is this new Department- to take on new responsibilities which were not envisaged or which were not part of the sphere when the Office of Education was merely a section of the Prime Minister’s Department? Is the change merely an administrative one or is there a change in policy? I have invited the Minister on more than one occasion to address himself to these questions. I am not sure that our minds have always met on this subject. However, I think I have made it sufficiently clear that these are matters agitating not only the Opposition but the education minded community as well.
In my remarks in the Budget debate I drew attendition to an editorial in the February issue of ‘School Bell’, the journal of the Victorian Council of State School Organisations. This editorial asked the Minister the questions that I have asked. Indeed, I cited the editorial because to me it seemed to crystal ise some of the matters that were worrying me and other members of the Opposition. I have no doubt that they have been worrying other people interested in education. What the editorial stated on that occasion was as follows:
We await with keen interest an official declaration of the new Minister’s objectives. Some are self-evident: the administration of Commonwealth scholarships, science grants, university grants, assistance to foreign students etc., will presumably be taken over from the Commonwealth Office of Education.
I pause to say that the taking over of some of these functions previously catered for in other departments or offices or Commonwealth instrumentalities was accomplished in the Scholarships Bill which was before the Senate during the autumn session. The questions asked in this journal still remain unanswered. The editorial went on to state:
But these are almost routine housekeeping matters. What of the more fundamental activities by which posterity will judge the effectiveness and wisdom of the new Federal Ministry? Will the Ministry take a leading role in guiding State education systems towards national objectives, or will it merely give advice when asked? Will it be a strong champion of education in Federal Budget discussions, and ensure that the States have the means to accomplish their educational programmes? Will it take the initiative in ensuring that teacher training is planned on a national scale?
I suggest that the questions asked by this editorial were questions properly requiring an answer. What are to be the responsibilities of the new Ministry? I would be obliged if the Minister would turn his attention to specifically answering these questions. When we were discussing these matters before, other honourable senators had contributions to make to the debate on these estimates, quite properly, and I was not able to secure from the Minister a statement of his views on these questions. They are important. I ask them in a constructive way. I do not merely want to point to inadequacies. I want to find out whether the Commonwealth is contemplating something fresh. In other words, I want to know what is regarded as the justification for the new Ministry. What makes it different? What makes the setup in 1967 different from the position in 1966? I believe that these questions are fair enough and that they ought to be answered.
My second point relates to science. What are considered to be the functions of the Ministry in relation to science? What is different about this Department from the position that obtained prior to its establishment? Is there to be some close examination of Government policy regarding science? Is the Government reassessing its role in this regard? Is the Government planning to investigate various factors such as industrial research, scientific research and research in universities and institutions of learning? Is it trying to assess in some way what its role is to be in scientific endeavour in this part of the twentieth century?
There are many countries that have ministries of science. The Australian Labor Party has committed itself to a comprehensive view about the role of science in modern society. On more than one occasion I have drawn attention to these things, which we in the Labor Party regard as especially significant. This has also been done by other honourable senators on the Opposition side. I do not know whether there is to be any common ground on this question. I do not know whether the Government is merely taking the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation into the new Ministry, plus some added activities, or whether it is breaking new ground. At the time of the last Federal election we heard a momentous announcement by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt). We were told that Australia was to have a Ministry of Education and Science. This was held to be a notable event in Australian history. I believe it was. The Opposition also believes this because it had been pressing for such a department for virtually a decade. We are interested to know whether the Government is really trying to do what seemed to be implicit in the Prime Minister’s announcement at the time of the last election. So far - and I say this more in sorrow than in anger - we have not seen much evidence that an entirely new look at education problems is contemplated.
– Has the honourable senator ever stated the ambit of the proposals of the Australian Labor Party for a ministry of science?
– Yes, it is done at great length in a document which I incorporated in Hansard on one occasion and which I would be very happy to supply to the honourable senator. I refer to the policy on science and technology which is in the Labor Party’s Federal platform. I do not think it was amended in any important respect at the recent Federal conference of the Party. It was laid down for the first time in 1965. I do not suggest that we had a policy on science and technology in this tangible form prior to that, but I think we have faced up to the problem and have put into reasonably coherent language what our thoughts were. Previously I have invited the Minister’s attention to our policy. I do not presume to think that he would agree with everything that is in it, but I think he would regard it as being a serious attempt to deal with some of the problems.
I raise these questions again because on occasions the Minister has referred to the need for coherent public discussion of some of them. People in the scientific world who are seriously interested in this problem are wondering what will emerge from the new ministry after it has been given time to settle down. Nobody expects certain things to be achieved overnight. But the new ministry has been in existence for close to a year and it is fair to ask what is contemplated, even if it has not yet been achieved. 1 do not think it is reasonable to say in the first few months: ‘You have not done this, that and the other. But it is reasonable to ask: ‘What are your objectives? What do you conceive as being your functions?’ In that spirit we say to the Minister: Tell us something of your thinking on these matters so that when we are considering the estimates for your Department we can understand what we are giving our minds to and what we are assenting to in the proposals that are now before the Committee.
110.2J - The matter that has been raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cohen) is important. I think it is of significance and is worthy of proper and detailed discussion. I myself do not think that the Estimates debate, with its curtailment of time, is a proper occasion for anything like a full discussion of the points he has raised. If the pros and cons were to be put forward, each one of the points could require 40 minutes or 1 hour for debate. [ have been asked about the approach of the new Department of Education and Science to the many matters that call for attention. I refer first to those matters which the editorial quoted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition described as now being routine housekeeping matters, the monetary requirement for which has been growing and will continue to grow. One of the reasons for the establishment of the Department of Education and Science is clearly discernible in the vastly increased amounts of the taxpayers’ money which are being directed through the Commonwealth source to this particular end. These amounts will undoubtedly grow. At the moment I am confining myself to the housekeeping matters that have been mentioned by Senator Cohen. But in the period of less than 1 year for which the Department has been in existence we have seen examples of increased expenditure. We have seen a doubling of the amount of finance made available for the construction of science blocks at independent schools. We have seen an incursion into an entirely new field, namely, the provision of finance for capital facilities for teacher training. These two developments, which have been described as routine housekeeping matters, have occurred in the months since this Department was established. They indicate that even in that short space of time the requirement for these kinds of facilities has grown and that more facilities have been provided.
As the Commonwealth grows in the years to come I think that the new Department of Education and Science will be required to provide these and similar facilities throughout this country. I suggest that rather than make funds available to the six State governments, as has happened in the past, and saying that it is up to them to provide what they will in the way of education, and thus running the risk of some States providing full science teaching facilities and others not, some States providing full library facilities and others not, and some States providing more per pupil than others, the Commonwealth could see that the proper objective was attained. In other words, when we go into the field and provide facilities, whether they be science blocks, technical facilities, libraries or anything else, we could see that they were provided all over the nation so that all children, no matter in which State they might live or to what school they might go, received equal benefits. That is one objective. You may call it housekeeping if you like; I think that it is a national housekeeping objective of the Department.
Then within the short space of time in which the Department has been established there has been an involvement which might be liked or disliked. I refer to the stirring up of public discussion on a number of matters quite closely concerned with educational practice and theory. I do not know of any previous argument on the point which I am about to raise. It is this: Would it be to the advantage of education in Australia if, with the assistance of the Commonwealth Government and provided the State governments agreed, there was an attempt to achieve a modern curricula formation, that is, a modern development of courses, books, teachers’ notes, and other things which go with those courses? One would hope that this could be achieved in three or four States in Australia rather than having six completely different curricula formations, none of which can be properly financed or carried on. I am leading into what could be a long debate on this subject. It is the sort of thing about which Senator Cohen asked me a question. I give it as an illustration of the sort of thing which I hope my Department will be able to do. I hope the
Department will be able to bring up matters such as this and offer as much assistance as it is able to give, provided that the States can get together and examine - if not accept - some new methods of teaching and of curricula formation. Senator Cohen himself knows that this matter has been the subject of public debate.
I shall give another example of this kind of involvement. We in Australia are engaged - I think with the approbation, in varying degrees, of all those concerned with education and of the various political parties - in building up a system of tertiary education which provides as good a course as a university can provide although slightly differently orientated. An endeavour to build up such a system was made after the issue of the report of the Martin Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education in Australia. A considerable amount of research is required to provide physical facilities which are comparable with those provided by universities, to give to staffs the same kind of privileges which university staffs enjoy, and to provide the sort of courses that are suitable for these colleges. That research money has been provided through the medium of the new Department of Education and Science. In addition to that, a leavening of ideas on this matter has taken place throughout Australia. On the recommendation of the Wark Committee on Advanced Education, which reports to the Commonwealth Parliament, an expert in the physical development and the course development of these new colleges was brought out from the United States of America. He had discussions with representatives of all the State Education Departments, which were greatly impressed by him and felt that they could be helped so much by him in the development that they were undertaking that they asked him to come back and to bring with him experts in libraries, engineering and allied fields. I do not want to be tied down to the particular designations. The State Departments wanted him to bring back on the occasion of his second visit experts who were associated with him in trying to develop these new colleges from zero on a blank canvas.
Next month in Tasmania there will be a symposium that will be attended by people from all over Australia and by representatives of all the State Education Departments. Those attending will discuss a wide variety of matters, hear lectures, see slides and participate in workshop symposium discussions and methods of laying out Colleges of Advanced Education in a manner that will provide not only the necessary physical facilities but also the kind of courses that will be needed, not now but in 10 years time. These people are looking ahead and trying to see what sort of library facilities will be required. They are trying to sec how to design a lecture theatre so that if there are in one class not enough people to fill the theatre, it can be partitioned so that perhaps even four or five classes can be conducted at a time, thereby making full utilisation of the capitalisation required. This represents a leavening of ideas, if I may so describe it, and a moving away from the routine housekeeping by means of which we provide the buildings.
– Is that symposium to be conducted at State level?
– It is to be held in Tasmania, but it will be attended by people from every State. The State Education Departments will send representatives, for they are the authorities mainly concerned, but the symposium will be attended also by architects and engineers, and I think that the Library Association of Australia and all sorts of bodies of that kind also will bc greatly interested. The library and other experts who have come to Australia have visited each State, and each State Education Department has asked them to return. Their assistance is sought in Victoria particularly for the laying out of the new colleges at Ballarat and Bendigo and in Tasmania for the laying out of the new college there.
– May I ask the Minister a question about that?
– -By all means.
– Is that for self preservation against the Federal system or is it to assist in the formulation of ideas in the Minister’s Department?
– lt is being done because of a common desire among the officers of the State Education Departments and of my Department to work together in providing the best thought out facilities that we can develop. The request for the services of these visiting experts was made by the State Education Departments. The expense of bringing them to Australia was borne by the Commonwealth Department of Education and Science. Their expenses while they are working in a particular State will be borne partly by that State and partly by my Department. The aim is to develop facilities that will be good for the State and good for the Commonwealth. I do not think it would be possible to find a better example of co-operation than this. There is no attempt at self-preservation by any party.
asked me what sort of approach to science, was being adopted by the new Department of Education and Science. Let me say at once that we in the Department do not accept as holy writ what has been adopted by the Australian Labor Party as its approach to science, lt contends that there should be an overall science advisory committee to allocate resources among the varous bodies throughout Australia that provide scientific services. I. believe that that is a fair statement of the proposal made by the Labor Party. We in the Department of Education and Science are not prepared automatically to accept that proposition, although at one time it appealed to us. Indeed,- I made in this chamber a speech in which 1 stated that it appealed to us. However, the more we looked into it and sought examples :>f how that kind of policy was being put into operation in other countries, the more difficult we found it to ascertain any country in which it operated successfully or with the approbation of all concerned. There is a very good case to suggest that it may be much better to have a number of different science bodies such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in its field, the universities in their field, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and the National Heart Foundation of Australia. The Labor Party has adopted the idea that it at present favours as if the proposition were holy writ laid down in the tablets of Moses that came down from the mountain, but I do not think this is a resolved policy. What needs to be done must engage the attention of the public and the Department of Education and Science must whip up public discussion.
What we in the Department ure con- cerned about particularly is that there is an area of science that lies outside the fields of the defence departments, the Department of Supply and the Atomic Energy Commission. 1 do not think it is fair to say that little result has been seen in this area. I believe that hi the few months during which the new Department has been in existence there has been taken one of the most significant scientific steps that has been taken in Australia in the last 10 years. I refer to the decision to build near Coonabarabran the largest optical telescope in the southern hemisphere, which will function in association with our pre-eminent radio and optical astronomical facilities elsewhere in Australia. This country is eminently suitable for this kind of work. Indeed, our conditions are more suitable for it, 1 believe, than those existing in any other country. The decision to construct this telescope is a very significant step in the advancement of science in this field. The Australian Academy of Science will propose other projects that lie outside the departmental field. It may be that an upper mantle project will be brought up. I am sure that the honourable senator will know exactly what I mean when 1 speak of that. It may be that there will be a proposal for a biological survey of particular parts of New Guinea. These are scientific proposals of the kind that come up from time to time, and one very significant proposal in this range has been adopted. My time is running out and I do not want to take any longer in replying to the questions that have been asked.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– Madam Temporary Chairman, I want to ask the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) some questions about several items in the estimates for his Department. I refer first to division No. 157, subdivision 2, item 06 - Payments to States for Administration of Commonwealth University Scholarships. Last financial year, expenditure totalled $267,749, and only $112,000 is being appropriated in the current financial year. Can the Minister tell us the reason for the big reduction? I refer next to item 04 in subdivision 3 under the same Division, which provides funds for the presentation of the Australian National Flag to schools and youth organisations. 1 understand that the Flag used to be presented by the Prime Minister’s Department, but the Department of Education and Science apparently has now taken over this function. Expenditure was $13,999 last financial year and only $11,000 is being appropriated in the current financial year. I turn now to item 09 under subdivision 5 of the same Division, under which there are eight appropriations of amounts varying from $2,000 to $7,000 recorded for last financial year, whereas there is to be no appropriation for these purposes in the current financial year. Among the bodies to which grants were made last year under this item are the Australian Association of Occupational Therapists (New South Wales), the Occupational Therapy School of Victoria and the New South Wales College of Nursing. Can the Minister tell us why no appropriation is to be made under those eight headings in this financial year?
– Madam Temporary Chairman, f can answer the questions that Senator Lawrie has just asked. 1 shall answer the last of his questions first. The heads of expenditure that he has just mentioned are now taken care of in the appropriations made for the Colleges of Advanced Education under the relevant legislation. Those appropriations have already been before the Senate. I understand that the appropriation for the presentation of the Australian National Flag to schools has been reduced because a flag is expected to last a school for 3 years.
– It is expected to last for 7 years.
– That makes the point even more definite. Large numbers of schools that have been provided with flags are not expected to require replacements for a number of years. The drop in the expenditure on the administration of Commonwealth University Scholarships is due to the fact that we ourselves will be taking over from the States the administration of these scholarships. The States used to administer them with their civil servants and we used to reimburse the States for, this expenditure. As we will be taking over this administration we will be reimbursing the States for the employment of fewer’ civil servants.
– First, I want to refer to what I think was a most interesting discussion initiated by Senator Cohen and carried on by the Minister. Although this portfolio is a most recent creation I would regard it as not at all inappropriate to be held by the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It rejoices the Liberal outlook particularly to find that the responsibilities for the activity of education and the function of science are being discharged by the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I do not propose to keep the Committee long. My mind is unresolved as to whether it is a matter of disappointment that the Minister did not take the opportunity when the Bill for the establishment of this Department was before the Parliament to indicate by something like a formal conspectus the ambit of activity that he proposed for his Department and the formal structure and composition of it, office-wise and personnel-wise. I want to refer also to the suggestion made by Senator Murphy at the commencement of this Estimates debate, so that it will not be thought to be transitory or forgotten. So that the debate would be of some intellegience to those who read it, the suggestion was made that instead of the relevant sections from the Estimates being copied into Hansard the Minister should take the occasion to make a prepared statement of the proposals involved in the expenditure that he asked the Committee to authorise. I mention these matters because I think they deserve recalling.
With regard to the functioning of this Department, essentially it must be assistant to and co-operative with the States. Surely it is a matter of satisfaction for the Committee to recall how completely cordial has been the co-operation between this Department and the Education Departments of the States. I do not recall any discordance in that relationship nor any discussions reminiscent of the very unhappy days of the early 1950s when the States and the Commonwealth were so much in hostility over financial relations.
– There was a big debate in the New South Wales Parliament last week.
– Yes. I am just leading on to the theme that as long as no specific education or science power is with in the function of the Federal Parliament we must depend upon such assistance as we can give to the States by way of section 96 of the Constitution and, of course, our own appropriations for matters of science that we can provide under the appropriation power. Having said that, let me say that it would seem to me that a reflection on what has been done in the Commonwealth sphere over the post 10 or 12 years would indicate that what might be attempted to be stated is a proposition of policy every 3 years or from time to time so that we may examine the forward looking view that the Minister and the Department propose as policy.
I recall just fleetingly the report of Sir Keith Murray, who co-ordinated and examined with an intensity of which it is good to remind ourselves, the whole of the university activity of the Commonwealth. This was followed by an increasing vote to our universities by way of capital and for recurrent expenditure. I recall, too, that the Martin Committee made a report with particular regard to universities and colleges of advanced education. Arising out of the whole of this matter there was a particularly significant development of policy whereby not merely units of State education were assisted but also those schools that had been established on an independent basis were given such encouragement and assistance as to put them upon a basis of efficiency comparable with that of State units of education. That was a particularly notable achievement. It is a policy that has now been adopted by both the major political parties in the Commonwealth sphere as well as in the State sphere. The significance of it might otherwise pass unnoticed.
We have helped not merely with capital construction but also with the provision of the various scholarships that are listed on page 29 of the Estimates. I will not stay to mention them; I shall come back to deal with them shortly. Now may I refer to the matter of science, which Senator Cohen mentioned. We have never had any discussion of the product of the Constitutional Review Committee which made its report in 1959. I should have thought that what that Committee contributed to the Parliament on the subject of nuclear energy alone was sufficient to indicate the problems that would arise if there were unco-ordinated regulation of nuclear energy. Already States are moving in the direction of independent development. 1 should have thought that this was a medium which of its own essential existence was incapable of recognising State boundaries. Therefore, I feel, in that one particular this Department has a special function.
Having made that very abbreviated comment upon the general matters that have been exchanged between Senator Cohen and the Minister, I now want to make a specific comment that concerns my idea of the functioning of this Parliament. In the autumn session the Minister submitted to us a Bill seeking legislative authority to establish Commonwealth University Scholarships, Commonwealth Advanced Education Scholarships, Commonwealth Secondary Scholarships, and Commonwealth Technical Scholarships. This chamber reviewed that legislation anl the Minister postponed the debate for the purpose, I would think, of giving further consideration to the views that had been put before the chamber. My conception of parliamentary government is that when the Executive comes here to get parliamentary authority for $28m for Commonwealth scholarship schemes under Division No. 157 we should have some statement as to the Government’s intention with regard to that legislation. The very purpose of the debate in which we then engaged was to stress that there should be some legislative definition of the qualifications for scholarships, the duration of them and the terms upon which people should be entitled to them so that there would be some degree of equity by right as between candidates for scholarships to participate in this $28m that we are in the process of appropriating for that purpose. I hope that the Minister for Education and Science will be able to intimate to the Committee an intention to put before us legislation that will authorise regulations of the type to which T have referred.
Let me hasten to add, in order to remove any misconception, that I did not understand Senator Cohen, who moved amendments to the Scholarships Bill, or anybody who supported his viewpoint, to indicate that there was to be the slightest opposition to adequate discretionary powers being reserved to the Minister to provide for special cases apart from the general rule.
But there is all the difference in the world between having what is primarily ministerial discretion with no rules and having a set of rules to which there is appended the provision that in special cases those rules may be departed from. 1 raise this matter in order to exhibit the fact that I am still persistent, but patiently persistent, in these matters in which 1 take an interest , in the hope that on the occasion of this Estimates debate, before the Minister receives a vote of $28m for scholarships, he will give some indication to the Committee of an intention to put the proposals on a legislative basis.
– I would feel much happier in supporting the allocation of very considerable sums of Commonwealth money for university education if I felt that the questions which ought to be answered before that money was allocated had been answered. There are very many questions regarding university education which have not yet been determined in our community. As honourable senators know, there are two classes of thought. One class of thought at the moment actively says that every student who reaches a certain standard has a right to attend a university. There is another school of thought which says that we need strongly to qualify any suggestion that there is to be an absolute right and that if a student attains a certain standard he is able to go to university.
This is a very serious problem. This is a question which ought to be answered if we are to decide how we are to allocate money for university education. It has not yet been answered. It has not yet been determined. There is no definite determination today on this particular point as to whether there should be, as it were, opportunities for every child who attains a certain standard to go to a university. I attended a university. I do not accept the view that there should be a general opening of the doors to everybody who reaches a certain point in education. I feel that some parents tend to regard the attendance of their child at university as a kind of status symbol. Some of them think that a child has to go to university because it will be a very nice thing for him or her to do and that because their friends send their children to a university their own children should go to university also.
– Is that not the sort of society that often educates the children one with the other?
– This is a question which a lot of people are asking today but there is not a definite answer to it. There is not a definite answer by those who have control of our educational system. I have heard Senator Cohen say that a child who attains a certain standard has the right to a university education. I have heard the Minister for Education and Science strongly say that he does not altogether accept that claim. It appears to me that if we are to allocate money for education we ought to be clear in our minds what university education should be provided in the community and to what degree.
– ls there not. a parallel in the Air Force in that all members cannot be pilots and some must be ground staff?
– I do not know about the Air Force. All I will say is that there seems to be a certain hit and miss attitude at the moment. In the States Premiers are saying: ‘Yes, we will have another university.’ They are doing this in response to a kind of public clamour against quotas, clamour for this and clamour for that. I believe that we should have the fullest system of universal education required for the needs of the community. But the questions as to what are the needs of the community and whether there are a lot of children who would be better off if they went to a college of advanced education or some other form of educational insitution instead of a university have never been adequately examined and answered. There is an urgent need for an inquiry into the whole matter in order to determine to what degree we should go on.
– Have we not been saying this for years?
– I am saying it now. I think that it is about, time we did something to provide answers to the question of the future of university education before dealing with it in this hit and miss way of allocating money. We seem to be involved in all kinds of questions of quotas and colleges but there does not seem to be a definite aim or a definite decision on this point.
The second thing that 1 want to say is this: Persons of considerable eminence associated with our universities have stated that an alarming rate of failure exists in our universities particularly in he first year of study. Now, I would say that when people of eminence in our universities make such a statement, it gives rise to a very serious question. Obviously it is a question that ought to be examined immediately. Of course, this has relation to what .1 said on the view that everybody who attains a certain standard of matriculation should be entitled to go to a university. Is it that some of them fail because that standard has not. really qualified them to undertake a university education? Are there other reasons? 1 asked the Minister for Education and Science whether something was to be done about failure rates. He indicated that the Government was not keen to enter that field. As I understood it, his suggestion was that it was a matter for each university to have a look at its failure rates and to do something about the position. I. do not think that answer is very satisfactory. Obviously this failure rate has not happened just this year. It has been happening for some years. When some of the people in charge of our universities say that in some courses a failure rate of up to 50% occurs in the first year of study surely it is time that the Government, which is expending large sums of money on education and is being called upon to expend much greater sums, said” to those who control our universities: ‘This is a serious problem. Are you investigating it? What are you going to do about it?’ lt seems to me to be pretty tough to ask the Parliament of this country to allocate larger and larger sums for university education, and then for the spokesmen of our universities airily to say: ‘lt is true that in some cases up to 50% of students fail in the first year and that is that.’. That should not be that.
I believe there is an urgent obligation on the universities themselves to examine this problem. There is an urgent obligation upon the Government to say to the universities: What about it? We are not going to expend all our money on courses in which 50% of students fail in the first year’. This is a very serious problem. It is a question that ought to be answered but- which has not yet been answered. Before we go any further into the matter of our universities 1 would like to know whether we are to determine the criteria which will decide whether people can attend a university. Are we to say that all students who attain the mere matriculation standard - it is not a very high standard - must have a university provided for them to attend?
The second question I want answered concerns the failure rates at universities. This year the Australian National University commented on the extraordinarily high failure rates. Each year are we merely to say: ‘Too bad. How much will we allocate them next year?’ 1 do not think it is good enough. I refer now to a question I - asked some time ago and which was not answered. 1 referred to a young gentleman about whom we read and who now attends the University of Melbourne. He had spent 6 years at Monash University and had done one subject a year. He had passed in about five subjects. At the end of his sixth year he transferred to the University of Melbourne where he is doing one subject. He was interviewed by the Press and he airily informed the journalists that having obtained only five subjects in 6 years, he was actually a type of professional university student. He said that his main reason for attending a university was to study two subjects - beer and sex. When I read in the newspapers of claims by parents that under the quota system their children are brutally excluded from our universities, and when I hear stories about students being excluded from universities after failure at the end of one year, I still cannot understand why this particular young man can spend 6 years at one university and then, after that university decides it has had enough of him, he can transfer to another university to do one subject a year. He is still attending a university; the Commonwealth Government is still paying money to keep that young fellow at a university. 1 asked a question about him in an earlier speech but I did not get an answer. I am still an earnest seeker after truth. How can a young fellow of that type last in a university for over 5 years and how can he, after one university tosses him out, go along to another university and enrol for one subject, claiming that as a university student he is devoting himself to a study of the two subjects I have mentioned?
– I think honourable senators will appreciate that it is extremely difficult indeed for the Commonwealth Minister for Education and Science to give what are described as answers to the points raised by Senator McManus. No Commonwealth Minister has, nor has the Commonwealth Parliament as such, any right of direct instruction to a university as to who is to be enabled to enrol for part time courses, whether in one or in two subjects a year, and who is not to be enabled to enrol. We have no right of direct instruction to universities other than the Australian National University. I am not sure that under the statute by which the Australian National University is set up we have a right of direct intervention there. In the case of universities set up under State Acts we certainly do not have the right to say exactly what standards they must apply before admission is granted to a particular faculty, or to give instructions in matters of that kind. But of course we can make our views known to those universities, as can the Australian Universities Commission, and that is done.
asked what we intend to do about the problem of failure rates. He asked whether we are to accept the view that anybody who reaches matriculation standard with a bare pass can automatically attend a university. The Government, and I as a Minister, have made our views clear to the universities. We do not think this is a reasonable or proper use of public money. I am not sure what the community believes. The community will have to decide whether to adopt the view that everybody who obtains a bare pass at the matriculation level has an automatic right to attend a university as he completes his secondary education. If so, the community has to be prepared to pour out millions of dollars involved in bringing about that situation. We are suggesting that that course should not be adopted by the community and we have been making that view quite plain. We have been attacked by various university bodies on the ground that we have not made enough money available to do that very thing.
Senator McManus has asked ‘What should we do about the extraordinarily high failure rates? Should we go to the universities and ask them what they are going to do about it, or say to them, “Do you not think you should look into this situation and try to correct it”?’ 1 think I am quoting Senator McManus correctly. That is what has been done in this chamber by myself in speeches in which 1 have said that 1 believe that the universities have a responsibility to study the standards for admission so that the failure rales will not be so high. J have said that they should devote their minds to this matter and should make public their decision. Then we could have a discussion on whether their judgments were sufficiently sound to attract all the money they required, or whether they were not. For my pains 1 was accused .of pulling the universities by the beards. Not all members of universities have beards. From time to time I have seen a lot of clean-shaven people in universities.
– I said that the Minister was pulling their noses or beards, and sometimes both.
– So there is a divergence of opinion. 1 think our point of view has been put reasonably well. I believe that there must be care in not seeking to go too far into university administration, into the teaching of universities and the standards they adopt. Certainly those people who . provide the money for the operation of universities have a right to see that that money is expended to the public benefit. That having been done, we must be careful not to move too far into the actual method by which the money is spent.
It is difficult to provide specific answers to the questions asked by Senator McManus. However, I think the matters he has raised have become matters of more public discussion and are of greater interest to the universities. I think the universities are devoting far more time and attention to the problems referred to by Senator McManus than they have ever devoted before. This is the result of action by the Commonwealth Government in conjunction with the States on the last recommendation of the Australian Universities Commission, and the views that have been put forward since. Those views have been put forward in an attempt to gain the sort of result that Senator McManus has said we ought to try to gain.
Senator Wright mentioned a number of matters generally, but he did refer specifically to the question of Commonwealth scholarships of various kinds. Honourable senators will know that Commonwealth university scholarships are now provided according to regulations made under an Act and therefore have legislative sanction. Secondary scholarships, technical scholarships and advanced education scholarships are not so provided for, but over the last 3 years or so the Senate has been voting sums of money for these particular purposes.
I am attracted to the idea of providing some form of rules to which people can look as the rules laid down under which scholarships are to be awarded and under which scholarships may be retained. I also know that if such rules are made it is essential that there be Ministerial discretion to disregard them in any particular instance if we are to avoid a complete bureaucratic application of them. I propose, before the estimates for next year are presented, to attempt to provide some synthesis of this so that we may have something which will furnish a framework of rules in the form of regulations to which we can look for guidance but which at the same time will provide that whoever may be sitting here as the Minister shall have the freedom to apply them with humanity and without rigidity. It will take some working out and it may not be completely acceptable to everybody when it is worked out, but I shall be seeking to work out something along those lines before the next Estimates are brought before the Parliament.
– I only want to add one comment in acknowledgment of what the Minister for Science and Education (Senator Gorton) has said. I rise chiefly because of what Senator McManus has said with regard to probing into university affairs. I submit that the purpose of the creation of the Universities Commission was to prevent our ever falling into that trap, because the universities eschewed State aid and Commonwealth aid until they had an assurance that government interference would not be the price they had to pay for support. The royal commission into the Oxford and Cambridge universities in about 1867, and the similar commission in 1919, showed the great travail in which this principle was worked out. It was not until the 1930s that tha
British Universities Commission was established, and we adopted that commission system in the 1950s. I submit that it is of the greatest importance that we engender confidence in the academic freedom of the universities. Whatever criticisms we may have, the universities have the right to that freedom. They will permit supervision, consultation and inquiry only from their fellows on the Universities Commission, and they will resent very greatly what, for want of a better word, I might term interference by parliaments and governments.
– I refer to Division No. 157, subdivision 3, item 05, which relates to university training for ex-servicemen, tuition, textbooks, equipment and living allowances, for which $5,000 is being provided. Does this $5,000 represent the total extent of the Government’s provision for the educational rehabilitation of ex-servicemen in the present war situation? If it does, then does not the Minister think it is a rather miserable figure? What is the reason for this small amount of $5,000? Is it because there are only very few ex-service applicants for university training?
I refer now to item 07 of the same subdivision relating to other services. This item covers research grants for oriental languages courses at universities. The amount provided last year was $31,500, while the amount expended was $33,083. It may be a misprint, but there does not appear to be any provision for oriental languages courses this year.
– lt is now provided for in the general grant for the Universities Commission, lt is no longer provided by special grants as it has been hitherto.
– 1 come now to my third point. Has the Minister seen the comment by Mr Cutler, the New South Wales Liberal Government’s Minister for Education, about this Commonwealth Government’s genera] policies with relation to university education as they have been developed over the last 3 years? Has he read that Mr Cutler states that the universities fear being taken over by the Commonwealth? I emphasise that this statement was made not by a Labor Minister or a member of the Labor Party but by a member of the Country Party. Although he did not use quite so strong language, Mr Renshaw, the Labor leader in New South Wales, also expressed fears about the Government’s intention. Is it the Government’s intention that eventually the States shall be responsible for primary and secondary education and the Commonwealth will be responsible for tertiary and technical education? There arc some who believe that this is the Commonwealth’s intention. Senator Wright must feel that this is so, because he has suggested that the Commonwealth Government should announce its proposed policies for periods of 3 years ahead so that the State departments might know exactly where they are going and so that they might have some understanding of the Government’s final plans in connection with education.
I should like now to express some general views on the problems of education. I think that there is at present a tendency to centralise the control of education. The Ministry of Education and Science as we have been told, will grow year by year. There have been suggestions that there should be one set of Commonwealth curricula for everybody. Although this may be done in the interests of good management in order to avoid differences in standards as between States, it is in fact an interference with the freedom of education. I appreciate that the purpose is to avoid differences as between States, but I have always thought that the very spirit of education was to have some form of decentralisation or diversity, an avoidance of complete centralisation. I express those few random thoughts.
Generally speaking, I feel that the States are fearful of the Government’s intentions. One of the real reasons for the conferences which have been suggested by Mr Renshaw, conferences similar to the one which is to be held by the Labor Party in Adelaide, is to discuss the question of State rights as against Federal rights, because the States are fearful of the intentions of the Commonwealth. Labor’s policy is quite clear. We think that the Government should be going further than it is. As Senator Wright suggested, there should be some explanation of the Government’s policy.
– The specific question asked by Senator Ormonde referred to Division No. 157.3.05 which relates to the allocation of $5,000 for university training for ex-servicemen. This item provides for training under the Korean and Malayan training scheme and the disabled members and war widows training scheme. The proposed allocation is the amount considered to be required for these schemes at this time. I do not think it would be appropriate for me in a debate on the Estimates to enter into a philosophical discussion on Commonwealth and State relations. I do not know whether any individual thinks that he may be taken over. I would be opposed to the centralisation of education administration. I think that would be a retrograde step. I do not believe that the provision of common curricula is centralisation because that is not to be regarded as the only way of teaching. Instead it is to be regarded as a general way of teaching available to all who wish to use it. This is a very involved subject on which almost anything one says must be subject to qualification, argument and discussion. I do not think it is appropriate for discussion during a debate on the Estimates.
Senator COHEN (Victoria) [11.2)- 1 want to mention briefly one or two matters which have been referred to since I raised them. The first relates to the Scholarships Bill. I was interested to hear the Minister comment that in the fullness of time he intends to introduce some proposals which will take account of the views expressed by the Senate during the Committee stage of the debate.
– I said I would try to get a synopsis of them.
– I am not trying to push the Minister further than he wants to go at the moment. We discussed these things at length and there was a clash between the Government’s view and the Opposition’s view as to a clear definition of the Minister’s powers and of the conditions under which scholarships could be granted or taken away. What the Minister has said seems to indicate that he has gone some way, at any rate, towards recognising what was involved in the Senate’s view.
– As long as we can leave a discretion to ignore the regulation.
– There is a very big difference between the unlimited discretion which the Minister has at large as to the conditions on which scholarships could be granted or taken away and a set of definitions which would lay down general conditions but leave to the Minister a discretion to depart from them. I have never suggested that the Minister should not have some discretion to make up his mind and to deal as justly as he sees fit with special cases. I would certainly support such a discretion in the Minister, it being an exception to the general rule which would lay down the particular qualifications and conditions under which scholarships could be granted or taken away, or under which the right to have them could be determined.
I welcome what the Minister has said because it seems to me to be a recognition, at any rate in part, of what was decided by the Senate in principle on the last occasion. Having raised this question of standards of admission during that debate 1 only want to say two things now. Firstly, I am with Senator Wright rather than with Senator McManus, if that is the choice one has to make between two points of view on the importance of protecting academic freedom and of not dictating to universities what should be in their curricula. It seems to me - I say this in fairness to the Minister - that he is on the same side. He does not claim that it is part of his job, or part of the Department’s job or part of any Minister’s job to tell the universities what to teach and what their standards of admission should be.
However, I think I am at odds with him on one issue. If these are serious questions which he or his Department thinks should be taken up by the universities, then I can see no difficulty in their being raised by the Department with the universities in official discussions, provided it is made clear that ultimately these are matters for the universities themselves to determine. I think I asked him recently whether there was active official discussion on these questions with the universities and he seemed to me to be answering in the negative and saying that there were no active discussions on the subject of standards of admission, quotas, matriculation and the problem raised by Senator McManus of whether matriculation alone should be enough to guarantee admission to universities.
We can have our differences about these matters. I am unrepentant in the view that once a standard is set by a university as an acceptable standard for a student to achieve to enter a faculty - that is the matriculation standard, whether it be set low, high or somewhere in the middle - a student should not be debarred from entering a university when he reaches that standard unless in a particular year he is told that there just is not enough room. Having reached the required standard he should not be told: This standard is not good enough. That is the point I make. It is important that we should assert that view. If questions of logistics, space, money or lack of staff or facilities are in the way they should be dealt with and removed.
I do not believe it is proper to have too flexible an entrance standard because so many hopes are dashed when a student, after his family has spent years getting him to university level and he has passed the required examination, is told: ‘We are very sorry but there is no room for you’. These are important questions. The Minister has tackled the obvious problem with which he has been confronted in recent times by rebuking the universities in public for shirking their responsibilities. That is not the proper way to handle these matters. The universities should be invited to discuss these matters on a basis of frankness and at an official level, it being understood that the matter of standards is one for the universities and not for the Government.
– Universities and, I think, the Universities Commission. I want to make that point purely as a matter of information for the Committee. We regard these matters as matters for discussion with the universities by the Universities Commission.
– I do not mind it being the Commission rather than the Minister.
– Rather than the Department.
– Rather than the Department. If the Minister makes bold to express views on these matters in public he must expect that someone will be listening to what he says. I am sure he would expect officers of his Department to follow his lead in their general orientation on these matters. It would be very surprising if he did not. It would be very surprising if they did not get the message as to what the Minister’s views on the matters were. If it is the Department that is dealing with the universities, the Department should take the matters up with the universities. If it is the Universities Commission that is dealing with the universities, I do not mind if the discussions take place between them. There is a distinction between the Universities Commission and the universities. In my view the Commission has always been a sort of buffer between the universities and the Government. That was why we were so bitterly disappointed last year when the Government failed to act on the recommendations of the Commission which were the result of discussions between it and the universities. Recommendations in relation to the appropriation of government funds had always been acted upon. I am raising another question which I did not particularly want to go into.
I suggest that if any matters about anything to do with the universities are worrying the Minister or his Department, they should be taken up with the universities on a basis of frankness and not left to public discussion, although I would not want to see public discussion limited in any way. Indeed it is refreshing to find that these matters are being slugged out in public, if I may use the vernacular. These issues are being agitated. Various people who wish to express various points of view are free to express their opinions, whether in the Senate or outside it in the various forums that are provided. I do not mind that. But I suggest that the universities are entitled to know at a reasonably official level what the views of the Minister and his Department are.
– I heard with some surprise suggestions that I had indicated a desire to interfere with the academic freedom of our universities. I am sorry that Senator Cohen did not listen more closely to what I said. I said that persons of eminence inside our universities were gravely concerned about failure rates and had expressed their concern.
– Senator Wright made the suggestion.
- Senator Cohen agreed with Senator Wright.
– Yes, all right.
– That was in one of his rarer moments.
– It happens every now and again. I said that persons of eminence in our universities were gravely concerned about the failure rates and that I had read that they had said that there should be an inquiry into failure rates. The persons inside the universities say that if that is the case there should be an inquiry. I do not know how that can be construed as interference with academic freedom inside the universities. It was the people inside the universities who said that there should be an inquiry.
– That is the policy of the Labor Party.
– I am reminded that when I was saying that, Senator Cohen interjected and said that it is the policy of the Labor Party to have an inquiry into these matters. If I say that and he says: That is our policy’, how can he accuse me of interfering with academic freedom?
– The honourable senator had better support us when we ask for an inquiry on other occasions.
– If any inquiry is proposed, obviously I will be voing for it and Senator Cohen will be voting against it because he will think it is an interference with academic freedom. I wish to say only one thing. It is this: I agree that there should be academic freedom, but I disagree with the attempts made by some people to elevate what is called academic freedom to the status of a kind of sacred cow. I do not agree with the people who say that on the score of academic freedom we can justify pornography in a university magazine or allow people to waste their time at a university and to say publicly that they are there for two purposes; namely, beer and sex. Neither do I think that academic freedom demands that people should be allowed to lie down in the middle of a roadway and obstruct other people who desire to use that roadway. That is not academic freedom at all. Some people would like to make out that that kind of action is academic freedom.
I draw an analogy between the universities and the trade unions. Some people would be horrified by this analogy. In our community there are strong traditions against interference with universities and interference with trade unions. No government and no section of the community would ever want to have a different situation from one in which the universities and the trade unions keep their own houses in order. That is what we all want. That has been a tradition in our community over the years. But if the universities and the trade unions fail to keep their own houses in order, because the people in them have not any special status and are citizens like everybody else, in the long run they are subject to the same laws as we are.
On the only occasion on which a Labor government ever interfered with the trade unions - when the Chifley Government brought in its legislation for clean ballots - it did that not because it believed in governments interfering with trade unions and not because it wanted to interfere but because the trade union movement had failed to keep its own house in order. I had something to do with the deputation that went to Mr Chifley. His Government was faced with the fact that good, honest trade unionists said that in their unions there were corrupt fellows; that that made it impossible for them to win; and that official trade union movement was not prepared to do anything about the matter. In those circumstances the Chifley Government intervened.
There will be no intervention - I would strongly oppose any intervention - in our universities’ affairs as long as their councils and the students themselves keep their houses in order. Therefore, the responsibility for whether there is academic freedom or not lies with the university councils and the student representative councils, which are in charge of the students. If they do the job that they should do there will never be any need for intervention. But it is up to them in the same way as it was up to the trade union leaders.
Proposed expenditure and proposed provision noted.
Motion (by Senator Gorton) agreed to:
That consideration of intervening Divisions be postponed until after consideration of the proposed expenditure for the Department of CiVil Aviation.
Department of Civil Aviation
Proposed expenditure, $48,654,000.
Proposed provision, $7,390,000.
– I wish to refer to Division No. 144, item 06, Aerodromes - Development grant, and item 07, Aerodromes - Maintenance grant, and to the establishment of a second airport for Sydney. There has been some speculation over the years, when dealing with international airports and other matters, as to whether Mascot airport will continue to meet the needs of Sydney. I understand that over a period of time the Parliamentary Public Works Committee has conducted inquiries into this subject. So far as I have been able to ascertain, the transcripts of the evidence presented to the Committee show that the Deputy Director of Civil Aviation has contended that the only suitable site for a new airport is at Towra Point, which is on the southern side of Botany Bay some 4 or 5 miles from the airport at Mascot. Towra Point, as the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) will know, lies, as it were, between Kurnell and Cronulla. The proposal concerning Towra Point, which has been mooted in the Towra area, is that an airport should be developed in the future with two 12,000 ft runways laid out on a north-south and east-west pattern in the shape of a T.
The speculation which has been in evidence for some considerable time has been causing, and is causing, great concern throughout the whole of the Sutherland Shire which is one of the fastest expanding parts of the Sydney metropolitan area and which currently has a population in excess of 145,000. The residents are concerned that the development will cause inconvenience and nuisance because of noise, jet fall-out and even danger to existing buildings and buildings that will be erected in the future. As late as the weekend before last there was a large public meeting in the Sutherland Shire which was chaired by the President of the Sutherland Shire Council. At that meeting representatives of many local organisations and a wide cross section of the community called on the Shire Council to stimulate public interest in the proposal and subsequently to call another public meeting at which governmental and departmental spokesmen could be invited to give a clear account of the Government’s intentions on this matter.
If Towra Point is to be the site of a new airport aircraft will be flying over the newly constructed suburb of Sylvania Waters which is one of the most expensive housing development projects ever undertaken in Australia. The Minister, as he comes from Sydney, will be well aware of this. Homes costing between $30,000 and $50,000 have been built at Sylvania Waters. The owners of those homes will be vitally affected if an airport is established at Towra Point because aircraft, when coming in to land at, or when taking off from, Towra Point will be flying at about 100 ft or 150 ft over this residential area. There will be many other adverse effects for other parts of the Sutherland Shire. Huge Concordes and Jumbo jets will be roaring over this area, probably at no more than 500 ft, and often less, above the ground. In addition, within the immediate vicinity of Towra Point there will be at least seven or eight high schools and probably dozens of primary schools. Also in the fly-path of the proposed airport lies the Sutherland District Hospital.
Considerable commercial development is taking place. There is the oil refinery at Kurnell and. not very far away, as the Minister knows, there is the atomic reactor at Lucas Heights. There has been a great deal of speculation in the local Press concerning the matter. One question which is asked is whether the Commonwealth Government intends to proceed with these plans and, consequently, whether the State Government will agree to the construction of the airport. I understand that an officer of the State Planning Authority has expressed the view that the proposed site at Towra Point is not suitable for the construction of another airport for Sydney. He has suggested that alternative sites could be available in the Bringelly area, which is in the western districts of the metropolitan area of Sydney, or possibly in the Wallgrove and Holsworthy military areas.
The proposal that has been made by the Commonwealth, as I understand it, seems to transcend every town planning concept. Already fears of what will happen in the Sutherland area are having a very adverse effect on property values. Considering the great controversy that has taken place in recent times over Mascot and Tullamarine, it is time the Commonwealth Government said yea or nay to the question whether it intends to proceed with the development of a second airport for Sydney and, if the answer is yea, whether it intends to use the site at Towra Point. If it does intend to use Towra Point I strongly suggest to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) that he should give very serious consideration to all of the matters 1 have raised in the interests of the people residing in that area. He should also give serious consideration to whether the alternative site suggested by the officer of the State Planning Authority could be used instead.
I have raised this matter in the interests of the local community. Indeed, I am rather surprised that the honourable member for Hughes in another place did not take advantage of the debate on the estimates of the Department of Civil Aviation to raise this matter because it was drawn to the attention of the general public and, indeed, of this Parliament by the former honourable member for Hughes. It is an important point. This is a matter of great public interest in the local community and I ask the Minister to outline the1 Government’s views.
– There are two questions which I want to raise very quickly. I notice it is estimated that there will be an increase of about $4. 5m in this financial year in the administrative and operational expenses of the Department of Civil Aviation. According to the report of the Auditor-General for the year ended 30th June 1967, receipts for this financial year will increase by about $1,860,000. There is quite a gap between the receipts last year and the estimated receipts for the year. I should like the Minister to explain the reason for this increase.
The second question concerns a reference in the document entitled ‘Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure’ to the dividend to be paid by Qantas Airways Ltd. It will be noted that for the financial year 1966-67 an amount of $2,655,000 was paid as a dividend into Commonwealth revenue.
– -Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Temporary Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative. (The Temporary Chairman having reported accordingly)
Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory - Papua and New Guinea
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - 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.
– I ask for leave to inform my fellow senators - I think I should do so in fairness to them - that I shall be seeking discharge by the President from my membership of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory. I shall go through the correct motions at the appropriate time. Today I had to inform the Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory that I intended to resign. The reason why I seek leave to make this statement is that I am not too sure in my own mind about the propriety of telling honourable senators why I am resigning when a committee is regarded as meeting in camera. I thought I should say that to honourable senators. I did ask the Chairman of the Committee and my fellow members whether or not we were met in camera. I was informed that we were not.
I am resigning from the Committee because I believe that I cannot fulfil any useful purpose on it while it operates in the emasculated way in which it does. It is public knowledge as reported in today’s Press, that the Minister for the Interior has referred to the Committee for investigation the question of freehold land in the Australian Capital Territory. 1 am in complete agreement with that proposal and support it wholeheartedly. But I felt that it was quite useless to look at the question of freehold land in the Australian Capital Territory without looking at the question of industrial leases, city leases and commercial leases. I made my point as clearly as I could. I could get only one other senator to support me. So I felt that I was the one out of step and that the other members of the Committee were in step. That being so, I felt it was completely useless-
– I supported you.
– I now have Senator Morris’ permission to say that he supported me, but I could not get any further support for the suggestion that- the Committee should look at the industrial leases, the city leases and the commercial leases. With that in mind, I am informing my fellow senators that I shall be seeking discharge from the Committee because I believe it is hopeless carrying on with a committee that can serve a purpose only when the Minister decides to refer something to it.
– 1.11.34] - As a member of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory I feel that I should say a few words on this matter. I share to some extent the frustration that Senator Branson has exhibited. The only question about which I think I differ with him is whether or not at this stage the Committee or any members of it should take any precipitate action. To indicate the restrictive nature of its operations, the Committee, under its terms of reference, can deal only with matters that have been referred to it by the Minister for the Interior. If the Minister does not see fit to refer matters to the Committee, then of course the Committee cannot operate.
The frustration which Senator Branson has exhibited tonight, I think, has communicated itself to all members of the Committee. We believe that the Committee is not serving any useful purpose because it seems that the matters which the Minister deems it necessary to refer to us are matters of very little consequence. However, the majority of members of the Committee thought that as it had been asked to conduct an inquiry into the ques tion of freehold leases, at least it had something to which it could give some deep consideration. At the same time we believed that we could give some consideration to the question of industrial leases in the Australian Capital Territory, about which Senator Branson feels so strongly and about which I share his disquiet. We intend to ask the Minister - we so resolved - to give the Committee an opportunity to consider the question of industrial leases. I thought that that statement ought to be made.
Senator Branson has put his point of view. Over the last 6 months or so the members of the Committee have experienced a certain degree of frustration. Possibly in the next 3 months the members of the Committee will have to consider seriously what action they should take. But at least at this point of time we were not prepared to follow Senator Branson in the step that he has taken.
– I would like to say a word on the matter. 1 will not traverse the area that has been covered already. I want to put on record the fact that 1 am completely in accord with the action taken by Senator Branson. I strongly supported him in his efforts to widen the activities of the joint Committee on the Australian Capita! Territory. I can only repeat what other honourable senators have said - that is that I think no Committee is of much value unless it can be given constructive work to do and unless it has freedom to choose its lines of operation. Obviously this is not so in this particular case. 1 completely support Senator Branson.
– I. take this opportunity to deal with a matter which was initiated by Senator Cohen at question time in the Senate today. He addressed a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Gorton) relating to an article which appeared in one of the Melbourne newspapers about some comments I made in Melbourne last Sunday at a seminar on defence and foreign policy. This is the only opportunity I have to explain to Senator Cohen what I did say. I am enchanted to find the Deputy Leader of the Opposition seeking an opportunity to make himself thoroughly conversant with foreign affairs.
He would have done better, however, if he had attended the Liberal Speakers Group seminar on foreign affairs in Melbourne last Sunday. His mind could then have been enlarged far beyond the narrow sphere of foreign affairs that has been his specialty up to date.
Senator Cohen complained about my saying that Australia should get ‘shot’ of Papua and New Guinea. I shall give the circumstances. My duty was to speak on the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from east of Suez. In the process of enlarging on the problem, which is a substantial one, I referred to the fact that in contemplating the United Kingdom’s proposed withdrawal from east of Suez it would be unreal not to acknowledge that involved in that withdrawal in the foreseeable future was the probable withdrawal from the western Pacific, in this particular context for 2 or 3 minutes 1 dealt with the problem that is posed by Melanesia and Polynesia. As a result of questions asked of me subsequently 1 made the remark that Senator Cohen has found to be of such interest. In a few moments, I shall explain to him what actually happened.
This is where I seek to enlarge his knowledge. In the area consisting of Melanesia, without due consideration of Polynesia, there is on a skirt of what has been described as black islands a population of 4.5 million people which is increasing at the rate of 3.5% per annum. Papua and New Guinea is only part of this area. Australia has full responsibility for the Territory of Papua and partial responsibility for the trust Territory of New Guinea. There exist in the region large numbers of people who do not have the advantage of the financial resources that Australia is pouring into Papua and New Guinea. In some of the areas of the western Pacific now administered by the United Kingdom, within 10 years there will be a second generation of people who have been taught to demand. It seems to me that there is no means by which they will be able to have their demands satisfied in the balance of the twentieth century. Here is another phrase which I used and which may interest Senator Cohen: There is developing in that area what can be described only as the equivalent of a Caribbean slum. i then went on to say that Papua and New Guinea is an area in which Australia has a direct interest. It is an area in which there is an educated demand - by this I mean a demand that has been taught to the people - and an informed demand for independence. I stated that my own assessment, for various reasons that I do not intend to elaborate this evening, was that the crisis for Australia in relation to Papua and New Guinea will occur in 1974 and that from that year on the capacity of the Commonwealth of Australia to influence events in Papua and New Guinea will be beset by increasing difficulties. At that stage 1 used the vernacular for emphasis and said that, therefore, it seemed to me that in the long term view it would probably be wise for Australia to gear itself to a situation in which it could get shot of - that is the phrase quoted again - Papua and New Guinea before there arose a situation in which it was not possible properly to control events that 1 believe are inevitable.
Having said that, Sir, I want to add the further observation that I am indeed Chairman of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs of this Parliament. I regard jealously the responsibilities that 1 have as Chairman. In that capacity I am charged by the Parliament itself with responsibility for ensuring that the discussions that occur at meetings of the Committee are kept private to it. Since I have been Chairman, there has been no discussion on Papua and New Guinea. Any observations which I have made properly in my role as a senator and which 1 made on Sunday afternoon to a seminar of people who are interested in foreign affairs in an objective sort of way have in no way impugned the integrity of the Foreign Affairs Committee. I want to make this perfectly clear. I conclude by saying that at any time when Senator Cohen considers that he can spare time from universities and education to consider matters relating to the responsibilities with which Australia is confronted as a result of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom east of Suez - matters on which the under7 standing of his mind can be properly enlarged - I shall arrange a seminar at which he can become a devoted student, and I shall see that proper instructors are provided.
- Mr Deputy President, I am indeed grateful to Senator Cormack for giving the Senate an opportunity to hear his exposition, or perhaps I should say his defence, of what he said to the Liberal Speakers Group at the weekend. I do not know that this evening he did any more than speak with his tongue in his cheek when he said that I would have learned something from attendance at the meeting of that Group. I am not sure that I would not have been a dissident voice. Indeed, I think that I would have been proud to be a dissident voice. I believe that all that really needs to be said is that Senator Cormack has not sought to deny the words that were attributed to him. Indeed, he concedes that he used them, and he has attempted to put them into what he says is the context in which they were spoken. He has not said that he was misreported. If he wants to take me to task, he will have to take to task also the Melbourne ‘Sun News-Pictorial’ and the Melbourne ‘Herald’. He was reported in the ‘Sun NewsPictorial’ of yesterday morning in precisely the language that I attributed to him in my question. He questioned the potential capacity of Papua and New Guinea for development and he apparently said that the sooner we got shot of it the better. I accept what he has said tonight about the way in which that was said. It still means that he was advocating that we ought to go out of Papua and New Guinea. To say that we should get shot of it is to say that we should get out and give away our commitment to it. The Melbourne ‘Herald’ understood this in precisely the way in which I understood it. In its issue of yesterday afternoon, it saw fit to print an editorial on the subject of the honourable senator’s remarks under the heading ‘Bad Advice on New Guinea’. I think it is important in justification of my question, if that were needed, that honourable senators should have under their notice exactly what the ‘Herald’ stated. It commented in these terms:
Australian public opinion was certainly not expressed by Senator Cormack when he told the Liberal Speakers Group yesterday that we should get shot’ of Papua-New Guinea as quickly as possible. His curiously offhand attitude to our trusteeship responsibilities needs to be labelled as a personal and minority view so that ft may be properly assessed abroad.
Any suggestion that we should dump PapuaNew Guinea because it is a profitless burden to us is as wide of the mark as the charges sometimes raised in the United Nations that we intend to hang on to the territory as ‘colonial’ exploiters.
Our role is to do all we can to build a workable economy for Papua-New Guinea and give its people independence when they say they are ready for it Any other programme would be a gross betrayal of those we have promised to help.
I only want to say, Mr Deputy President, that I read references in the Press to some matters other than those that are unrelated to foreign affairs, and I think that Senator Cormack would concede, though he does not always agree with my views - I would not expect him to - that I regularly take part in debates on foreign affairs in this chamber and have done so since I entered the Senate in 1962. I believe that the situation is that he said to the Liberal Speakers Group more than he intended to say or that, having made his remarks, he now finds it necessary to explain what he meant because his attitude is not the attitude of responsible Australians. We ought to accept fearlessly our responsibility for helping the indigenous peoples of Papua and New Guinea to come to the state of self government and, if they choose it, to independence as soon as may be. We have to recognise not only the limitations of the area but also its potential in terms of both physical and human resources. The one thing that we especially want to do is to continue to enjoy very close relations with the peoples there and to encourage rapid assumption by them of responsibility for running their own country. I believe that this is the attitude of responsible Australians. Without trying to drive the point home too hard, I suggest that Senator Cormack has allowed himself outside this chamber some of that literary hyperbole which sometimes characterises his contributions to debates in this place, and it is understandable that he now seeks to explain what he meant to say.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.51 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 October 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1967/19671017_senate_26_s36/>.