26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer: What action has been taken to protect Australia in the event of a further devaluation of British currency or in the event of a devaluation directly or indirectly of the dollar?
– I recall that yesterday the Treasurer was asked a question in relation to the dollar and that in reply he indicated it was too early for him to make a comment. He reserved comment at that particular time. As to the general question of devaluation, the Senate will recall that the Government set up a series of Cabinet sub-committees at the highest possible level to consider the various implications to Australia of devaluation. Indeed, the Government has set up various industry and trade committees which are in a position to give information to the Government in relation to implications that may stem from devaluation. I understood that approximately 30 panels have been set up. So across the whole economic structure of Australia at both the primary and secondary levels the Government will be in a position to get the very best information on the problems that may arise from devaluation. A Manufactured Exports Devaluation Committee has been set up by the Government to consider the export problems of Australian firms and industries which might arise from devaluation. The firms and industries concerned have been invited through the Press to submit information to the Government.
I can answer the Leader of the Opposition’s question without notice only in a general way. I shall get further particulars for him, but in the general sense the Government, conscious of the problems that may arise from devaluation, has sought advice from all the people concerned, particularly those in primary industry, regarding the situation that may arise. This information will enable the Government to make decisions of policy if and when they are appropriate.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. What is the present position with regard to the construction of the Chowilla Dam in South Australia? Has the technical inquiry envisaged last year by the Minister for National Development yet been completed? If so, what has been the result? If the inquiry has not been completed, when does the Minister expect a report as a result of such inquiry?
– Last year the Chowilla project was deferred to enable further investigations to be made. Tenders called in April 1967 indicated that the construction cost would be at least $70m compared with the 1966 estimate of $43m. The original 1963 estimate had been $28m.
The River Murray Commission then carried out a study to take into account changes in data and operating procedures which had occurred during the last 5 years. The studies showed that a smaller storage at Chowilla, or possibly some other storage site in the upper Murray basin, could provide much the same benefits as originally expected from Chowilla. In addition the enormous evaporating surface - about 500 square miles - of the original 5m acre ft Chowilla storage would probably add to the salinity problem which had become a matter of concern in recent years.
At its meeting of 15th March the Commission will consider the results of a further hydrological investigation on storages of a number of sizes at Chowilla being operated in conjunction with storages in the upper Murray basin.
– Mr President, I raise a point of order. When a question is asked without notice is it in order for a Minister, when replying, to read two pages of a script which someone else has given him to read? I believe that to be an abuse of the principles that we have adopted in relation to questions without notice, and I ask whether the Minister is in order.
– Speaking to the point of order may I say that it has always been my understanding, asI am sure it has been the understanding of the Senate as a result of rulings which you, Mr President, have given previously on this matter, that a Minister may answer a question in any way he considers to be appropriate.
– I also speak to the point of order. I have always believed that questions are asked to obtain information. When a Minister is good enough to give detailed information in reply to a question honourable senators should be more than satisfied.
– Mr President, the substance of the point of order is that the period set aside for questions without notice has been abused by the asking of a question of which, obviously, the Minister has had notice. The point has been well made by Senator Kennelly that it is undesirable that the period allotted for questions without notice should be used in that way. I suppose all honourable senators are aware that on occasions advance information is given that a particular question may be asked, but there are limits to that and the practice should not be abused. We ask you, Sir, to uphold the point of order.
– Order! The point of order is not upheld. However I take this opportunity to direct attention to the fact that in so many cases questions - not this particular question - are poorly framed and are too lengthy. Thus some questioners offend. How a Minister replies to a question is entirely a matter for himself. I point out that lengthy questions and answers take up the bulk of the time allotted for the rebroadcast of question time at night. That is something to be remembered. As I have already said, the manner in which a Minister replies to a question is a matter for himself. Therefore, the point of order is not upheld.
– To continue, the meeting will also consider reports by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority on preliminary engineering investigations of storages on the upper Murray and Mitta Mitta Rivers undertaken on behalf of the Commission.
It has been hoped that the general shape of the conclusions that must be drawn might be evident at the Commission’s meeting on 15th March, but further detailed and confirmatory work may well be called for before the Commission can make a firm recommendation to the four governments concerned.
– I ask the MinisterinCharge of Tourist Activities whether he is aware that at least until a few months ago - and I think the position still pertains today - the literature issued in New Zealand by Qantas Airways Ltd setting out Australia’s tourist attractions and the trips that may be taken here gave no indication that the State of Tasmania exists. I mention this point because Tasmania is the premier tourist State of Australia. Will the Minister take up the matter, if he deems it advisable, with the Tasmanian Tourist Offices, or take action through such other channels as he thinks fit? This oversight could well be typical of the literature issued at offices of Qantas Airways Ltd throughout the world?
– I am sure the honorable senator and all honorable senators will be pleased to know that the Australian Tourist Commission has made through the appropriate Australian and New Zealand Ministers an arrangement for joint co-operation in attracting international tourists to each dominion. With regard to the point raised by my colleague from Tasmania, I am most grateful to him for calling my attention to an omission that would unduly obscure Tasmania’s scenic and tourist attractions. I can assure him that that matter will be taken into immediate consideration. I have no doubt that once officers of Qantas Airways Ltd are seised of the material that is available they will rectify the omission at once.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. I ask: In view of the lessons that are being learned from the desperate drought conditions in vast areas of the eastern and south-eastern sectors of the nation and in some cases the breakdown even of domestic water supplies, will the Government indicate whether it will embark on a programme of national water conservation, using the full resources of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority to survey and evaluate the feasibility and priorities of such an obvious insurance against similar future water shortages?
– The Government of course is always interested in water storage.
Over the last few years policy speeches made by various Prime Ministers have included statements on water conservation. In the last such policy speech, made prior to the last Senate election, it was announced that the Commonwealth Government would proceed with the Nogoa River scheme in Queensland and the second stage of the Ord River scheme. We are conscious at the moment that Australia is facing one of the worst droughts on record. With that realisation we will explore ways and means of storing extra quantities of water to relieve the position, if that is at all possible.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. It relates to the situation now existing in Australia whereby, during the conducting of elections and by-elections in various States, and where such elections overlap or are close to each other, there is restriction of the broadcasting of election material. Can the Minister say whether the terms of the Act restricting such broadcasting have been revised since they were originally enacted? In view of the inconvenience caused to political parties will the Minister arrange for an examination of the Act with a view to amending it so that when elections are held in close proximity to each other in the various States there will not be any undue interference with what are called the normal procedures?
– In truth, the honourable senators question relates to a matter of policy, but I will direct it to the Postmaster-General. It is a fact that section 116 of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-67 in general terms prohibits the broadcasting of material relating to elections. We are all conscious of that fact. Indeed, we have debated the relevant section in the Senate on various occasions. But, as I have said, the question of any alteration to the provisions of the Act is a matter of policy. If the honourable senator will put his question on notice 1 shall refer it to the Postmaster-General.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, who represents the Prime Minister. Because the railways of New South Wales and Victoria are unable to cope with the movement of starving stock at concessional rates to the northern parts of New South Wales where agistment is available, will the honourable gentleman take up with the Prime Minister the question of the Commonwealth providing a subsidy for road transport operators on a dollar for dollar basis and thus substantially assist in the saving of valuable stock in drought stricken areas?
– Yes, I will refer the question to the Prime Minister. For the record, however, I suggest that the question should be put on notice. I shall see that it is referred to the Prime Minister.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. It relates to the lengthy answer given to Senator Laught about the Chowilla Dam. Are we to understand from this lengthy reply that the Minister for National Development and the Commonwealth Government are now somersaulting from the Government’s previous decision with relation to the building of the Chowilla Dam? Also, why were not the questions of salinity and evaporation properly investigated on the occasion when the agreement to carry out this project was entered into with the States?
– I shall answer the second part of the question first. When the survey was made and the first $5m was being spent it became evident that there would be a problem in connection with salinity at Chowilla Dam. No doubt the honourable senator has read reports of the fact that it was discovered that the tributaries running into the Murray contained salt. It was therefore thought better to stop the work then than to continue with the project and have a dam containing salt water. This is the reason for the delay. It must be remembered that the South Australian representative on the Commission agreed to delaying the project until a further evaluation could be made.
– Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate provide any details concerning the proposed 24-hour stoppage by mail van drivers next week? Has the Government fulfilled its undertaking to expedite the hearing of the van drivers’ grievances?
– I would inform the Senate that a Press statement was issued by the Postmaster-General last evening. I expect that most honourable senators will receive copies of it during the day if they have not got them now. But I should like to summarise the comments made by the Postmaster-General in relation to this tragic matter. The Postmaster-General said that the decision to hold this 24-hour stoppage has broken the agreement entered into on 22nd January between the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Minister for Labour and National Service and himself for resumption of work and adoption of arbitration processes. He went on to say that the latest decision of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union and the ACTU had been taken during arbitration proceedings. I want honourable senators to appreciate the significance of this. A claim had been lodged with the Public Service Arbitrator and a statutory conference had been held and adjourned on at least three occasions at the request of the ACTU.
– How long ago was the claim lodged?
– It was lodged only quite recently. Last week the Prime Minister made it clear to Mr Monk that the Government could not put aside the processes of arbitration and it insisted that they be adhered to. He pointed out that even if the claim before the Public Service Arbitrator did not succeed, appeal to the Arbitration Commission was available to the APWU.
– It would follow in the normal process after the first procedure had been completed. The PostmasterGeneral said also that the Public Service Arbitrator - and I want the Senate to take note of this comment which was made by the Minister last night - had already intimated that the matter would be given a public hearing next Monday. Every person who cherishes arbitration as a principle - and there are persons who tell us in this place in statements which we accept in good faith that they are cham pions of the principle of arbitration - surely will agree that what is being done in this stoppage is a negation of that principle. In view of the processes open to them and the fact that the Prime Minister himself has intervened to help in the acceleration of these processes, the decision to hold this one day strike while all this is going on is irresponsible.
– My question without notice is directed to the Leader of the Government. Has he seen a statement recently attributed to Senator Edward Kennedy of the United States Congress that the United States should threaten to withdraw from Vietnam to force the Saigon Government to attack the problem of corruption? Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a report that two officers of the South Vietnamese Army - one a former province chief of the Phuoc Tuy province, an area in which Australian troops have been operating for some years, and the other a former appointed mayor of the town of Vung Tau - had been dismissed from Government positions last year on curruption charges, but had since been placed in desirable army jobs in Saigon? Will the Leader of the Government cause inquiries to be made into these allegations, and if they are found to be correct, request the Australian Government to lodge a formal protest with the South Vietnamese authorities against these officers of the South Vietnamese Army being reappointed to desirable army positions?
– I have seen a number of statements, one as late as yesterday, which were attributed to Senator Edward Kennedy. For that reason, and in view of the implications of the question, particularly the latter part, I think it should go on the notice paper and be directed to the Minister for External Affairs.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories. As he would be well aware of the economic strength and growth which come from the activities of the Commonwealth Development Bank, can he inform the Senate whether and to what extent that bank operates in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea?
– I inform the honourable senator that the Bank commenced its operations in Papua and New Guinea in July last year, lt is performing its functions there on the same basis as in Australia; that is, the personal prospects of the proposition rather than the value of the security arc taken into account as the primary factor. The functions of the Bank in that developmental area are regarded as being most important. I am pleased to be able to say that the loans made up to midFebruary of this year amounted to about $2-3 m.
– Can the
Leader of the Government in the Senate advise whether any action has been taken by the Australian Government to bring about a reciprocal agreement with the Government of Malta on social service benefits for Maltese in Australia similar to the agreements that - operate with other British countries such as the United Kingdom and New Zealand? This matter was raised with the then Minister for Social Services by the Leader of the Labor Party in Malta, Mr Dom Mintoff, during his recent visit, to Australia. If the Leader of the Government has not the necessary information, will he bc good enough to obtain it as early as possible?
– I will certainly do as the honourable senator has asked in the last part of his question. I am not competent to answer the question now, as the Senate would appreciate; but if the honourable senator puts it on the notice paper I will expedite a reply to it.
– It is true that patrol boats are entrusted with the task of carrying out the work that has been mentioned by the honourable senator. But it is not possible for me to give him all of the detailed information for which he asks. Therefore I ask him to put his question on the notice paper.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation a question. In view of the fact that TransAustralia Airlines has a substantial part of its capital and assets - namely, four DC9 aircraft - tied up and not earning revenue as a result of an industrial dispute, will the Minister inform the Senate of the present position and of what action, if any, the Government proposes to take in the matter?
– This industrial dispute is the subject of a case that is before the High Coart at present. Therefore the matter is sub judice.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, relates to a report that a shipment of meat was rejected by the United States authorities. Is the Minister aware that the vessel ‘City of Brisbane’ with 2,147 tons of meat exported from Hobart, Melbourne, Adelaide and Western Australian ports was prohibited from entering the United States because it had entered the ports of Cape Town and Curacao? Can the Minister advise the Senate of the current position relating to the entry or otherwise of this important cargo to the United States?
- Mr President, I have anticipated this question. I thought that the Opposition would have been alive to this matter and would have raised the question yesterday, so I obtained some information concerning it. It is a matter of great importance to the meat producers of Australia. The facts are somewhat lengthy but I think that, in the interests of the Senate, I should give them.
– Order! Would the Minister for Repatriation care to make a statement on this matter at a later hour?
– Yes. I will do that.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister a series of questions. Will the Minister inform the Senate why the competition for the design of the National Art Gallery at Canberra was restricted to 12 firms? Who made this decision and who selected the 12 firms? Are Australians frightened of overseas competition? Are the older architects frightened that younger architects might have more brilliant ideas? Was the Royal Australian Institute of Architects consulted at any time? If so, when was it consulted?
- Mr President, I have an answer to this question because I anticipated that it would arise. In 1966, the then Council of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects recommended to the Government that it would be appropriate for an architectural competition to be conducted for the design of the National Gallery. The code of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects provides for two forms of competition. These are either an open competition or a limited competition. After extensive consultations with the RAIA and the National Capital Planning Committee, the National Capital Development Commission recomended to the Government the conduct of a limited competition. The code of the RAIA suggests that a proper number of competitors for such a competition is about six. In this instance, the Government decided to extend the competition to 12 competitors. The selection of architects to take part in the competition was made on the recommendation of the National Capital Development Commission in consultation with the National Capital Planning Committee and the RAIA
Answering the question asked by the honorable senator as to whether Australians are frightened by overseas competition, I would say that I do not believe this. The third part of the honorable senator’s question asked whether the Royal Australian Institute of Architects had been consulted at any time. The answer is yes. In addition to the original recommendation for a competition received from the RAIA in 1966, consultation was continued with the Institute. It has agreed to the form of the competition and has given specific approval to the conditions of the competition and to the three assessors who have been nominated to adjudicate on entries. The Institute also has agreed to the names submitted.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry seen a report in this morning’s ‘Canberra Times’ stating that more than 80 developing countries from Africa, Asia and Latin America at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in New Delhi have reached agreement on. plans to establish a world wide duty free market for their manufactured and natural products within the next 2 years?
– Yes, Mr President, I have seen the report. Briefly, it was as indicated by the honourable senator. 1 have not yet been able to confirm the substance of the report, but it is true that the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development is meeting in New Delhi. We recall that the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry accompanied by the Minister for Shipping and Transport, who was then the Minister for Social Services, attended that Conference to represent Australia. The Conference has an important role in relation to problems of world trade and particularly relating to developing countries. I understand that the Conference will conclude on 25th March. The major issues of the Conference are expansion of commodity trade, preference to less developed countries, increasing aid and softer terms for less developed countries and so on.
It should be remembered also that Australia, through the efforts of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry, really took the initiative on this aspect of world trade relations. It is to Australia’s credit that we gave quite definite recognition to this matter. The Senate has passed the relevant legislation. Australia gives special concessions to the less developed countries. In 1966 under this scheme Australia increased the total value of quotas of its imports from less developed countries to $A26m. While I have not been able to follow this report through, nevertheless I have been able to give the honourable senator the background and the nature of this Conference. When I receive further information on this subject I may make a statement to the Senate on behalf of the Minister for Trade and Industry.
– I desire to ask a question without notice of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Are statements correct that the Commonwealth Government did not permit the Australian Wheat Board to take action to protect overseas wheat sales from the recent British devaluation because this might have indicated at the time that Australia lacked confidence, in sterling? Is the Australian taxpayer to pay for the loss from devaluation and, if so, how much? Finally, how does the fact that wheat legislation contains a definite provision giving the Government full power over financial aspects of Australian Wheat Board activities square with the assurances that I have repeatedly been given in the Senate in recent years that the Government has no control over such sales, especially to Communist China?
– The position with regard to the sale of Australian wheat and devaluation is, briefly, that the Australian Wheat Board tried to get insurance under the Export Payments Insurance Corporation Act, but was not able to get this insurance from the Corporation. Some other bodies were able to get this sort of insurance - for instance, the sugar growers’ organisation, which is not a statutory body, was able to get insurance against devaluation and matters of this kind, and consequently their members did not suffer. Seeing that the Australian Wheat Board made an unsuccessful application for insurance to the body I have mentioned, the Commonwealth Government thought that wheat growers should not, in their own interests, be called upon to bear the resultant loss. Because of this, a committee was set up consisting of a representative each from the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Primary Industry and the Treasury, first of ail to find out the extent of the losses and then to report back to the Government, after which the Government would make a decision. To the best of my knowledge a decision has not yet been arrived at, but it is quite clear that wheat growers will not be called upon to suffer a loss that has arisen through no fault of their own. As I said, their application for insurance was turned down by the appropriate authority. In any case, had they been successful in insuring against the loss, as I understand it the payment of insurance would have come from the Reserve Bank. Whichever way it had gone, I suppose the taxpayers would have been called upon to some extent to compensate the wheat growers.
The honourable senator asked in the other part of his question how this situation ties up with the answers given to him about the sales of wheat overseas. The Government has no say in sales of wheat made by the Australian Wheat Board. This is still true. The Australian Wheat Board goes ahead and makes sales to other countries, including mainland China, and the Commonwealth does not play any part or have any say in this. What was the third aspect of the question?
– I said that a provision in the wheat legislation prescribes that the Government can give directions to the Australian Wheat Board on financial aspects of its activities. Surely wheat sales are financial aspects of its activities.
– I cannot add to what I have said before on this aspect. I repeat that the question of sales by the Australian Wheat Board is a matter for the Board alone.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. In view of assurances given to me on a number of occasions regarding the adequacy of shipping services to north-western Tasmania, can the Minister explain why difficulties are again being experienced and apprehensions expressed by manufacturers and. exporters about the lack of shipping space to meet the growing requirements of this part of Tasmania? In view of the continuing problem, is it possible to speed up the completion of the new passenger-cargo vessel now being built for the Bass Strait trade so as to prevent possible loss of industry to Tasmania because of shipping difficulties?
– I should like to refer to that part of the question which relates to shipping between the mainland and Tasmania, in which the Government has taken a very keen interest. The Minister for Shipping and Transport has been asked many questions on this subject by honourable senators from both sides of the chamber. We have built special vessels to cater for this trade. Another ship is being built at the present time. The honourable senator has asked whether it is possible to speed up the delivery date of this vessel. I shall take up the matter with my colleague in another place and obtain an answer as soon as possible for the honourable senator.
– Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate use his influence to obtain Commonwealth Government support for the reported move to have daylight saving introduced into the Australian Capital Territory? Is the Leader of the Government aware of the widespread popularity and acceptance of daylight saving in Tasmania and that the one disadvantage would be overcome if the eastern States and the Australian Capital Territory followed the Tasmanian lead in this important economic and social move? If the Tasmanian Premier takes official action to request uniform introduction of daylight saving, can he be assured of a forwardthinking approach by Commonwealth Ministers?
– Honourable senators who were in this chamber at the time when this matter was discussed here will recall that as a backbench senator I made what I thought was a stirring speech in advocacy of daylight saving. I might add that I did not receive unanimous support in the Senate. But it was a non-party debate and a very interesting one. During the debate we brought out all the pros and cons of the matter. I believe that the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, referred this question to a Premiers Conference. From memory, at that conference the proposal received the same type of treatment as was given to it in this chamber. Some Premiers tended to favour the proposal but others suggested that it was not a practical proposition. I am speaking now as a private senator, not as a member of the Government.
– I directed my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
– I shall come to that point. I still hold the personal view that summer daylight saving in Australia would be a very desirable thing. In the broad situation Tasmania was said and thought to be a less advantageous state in which to introduce daylight saving than any of the mainland States, yet as an economic proposition Tasmania has introduced summer daylight saving, and during my recent official visit to Tasmania as Minister for Customs and Excise people from all walks of life in the Tasmanian community, including the primary industry section, expressed the view that there was general approval of daylight saving.
Part of the honourable senator’s question seemed to imply that everything on the mainland should be geared to Tasmanian methods. I recognise that Tasmania is a wonderful island and that it is an integral part of the Commonwealth. But the general principle inherent in the question would need to be considered. I shall certainly put the honourable senator’s question to the Government. There are inherent Stale responsibilities involved in it. I should have thought that the submission of the matter to the Premiers Conference would have been the most suitable way to have it considered.
– Does the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral regard the recent shooting incident in Canberra involving Mr Valentine Kovacovic as a manifestation of resurgent Ustashi activity? Have Commonwealth authorities been co-opted to assist the Australian Capital Territory Police Force to bring the culprit in this affair to justice?
– So far as my present information goes, there is no evidence to suggest that this shooting incident has any connection with the extremist elements of the Croatian movement. The Australian Capital Territory Police Force has informed the Commonwealth Police Force of the matter and is receiving every assistance from the latter body.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Works. Yesterday I understood him to mention to the Senate that he had already taken the opportunity to visit Tullamarine Airport and look at the facilities there. From his inspection of the airport is he satisfied that the length of runways that have been established for existing aircraft and the buffer zone that has been provided are adequate in view of the fact that runways will have to be extended by some 3,000 feet to cope with the larger jet aircraft that are likely to come to Australia? Can he assure the Senate that the buffer zone is adequate to keep residential areas clear of the runways?
– Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport was the subject of my statement to the Senate yesterday. However, I have also had the opportunity to visit Tullamarine Airport with the DirectorGeneral of Civil Aviation. My recollection is that the two runways are 7,500 feet and 6,500 feet in length. Without committing myself to an assurance 1 am confident, having regard to the technical advice that has been given to me, that the runways are sufficient for present purposes and will be sufficient for the next few years. They provide an area which will enable their extension to cope with the aircraft that are likely to be coming to Australia in about 1971.
– My question to the Leader of the Government relates to his reply to an earlier question about the proposed mail stoppage. Is he aware that when the mail van drivers strike in January was settled there was an agreement between the Government, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the representatives of the mail van drivers that, following a return to work, the Public Service Board would consider the men’s claims with a view to a fait settlement? However, the Public Service Board subsequently rejected the Union’s claims and offered no increase in wages. If that is the position, can the Minister indicate what the Government has done to honour the agreement?
– The arrangements that were made for the members of Amalgamated Postal Workers Union to return to work obviously did not pre-empt any decision that would be made subsequently. It is wrong to suggest there was an agreement that when the men returned to work they would receive all or part of the increase they were seeking. The fact is that they agreed to return to work and it was agreed -
– That is a negation of conciliation. This is all one-sided.
– The conciliation was to follow the men’s return to work. The conciliation aspect was not a matter for the Minister. It is a fundamental principle that the Government will not take over the job of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The arrangement was that the men would return to work and the matter would flow on from there. Now we have the situation that the union has chosen to announce a stoppage in face of the fact that the Public Service Arbitrator has set down a public hearing for next Monday, a matter well known to the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union. That is a negation of arbitration. I hope that no honorable senator opposite or on the Government side would ever suggest that arbitration can be entered into under those conditions.
– Possibly because my earlier question was a little long, the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry did not answer one section of it. I therefore wish to repeat that portion of it. 1 asked: A number of Australian financial and primary industry newspapers have made the statement that the Australian Wheat. Board suffered a loss of $30m due to devaluation of sterling because the Government indicated to the Board that it did not wish action to be taken to protect the wheat sales as it might indicate a lack of confidence in sterling. Is it true that the Government indicated that point of view to the Australian Wheat Board?
– I am sorry if I misled the honourable senator. To the best of my knowledge the Government had no say at all in the matter. The Australian Wheat Board applied to the Export Payments Insurance Corporation to insure against possible losses on the sale of wheat and was turned down. The Government had no say in the matter at all, to the best of my knowledge.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Is the Government afraid to hold a public inquiry into the allegations of torture of prisoners in Vietnam?
– In another place today the Prime Minister indicated it was anticipated that the Minister for the Army would make a statement, if not today, very soon. It would be inappropriate and wrong for me to make any comments on this matter until the Minister for the Army has made a statement to the Parliament.
– 1 address my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, who represents the Prime Minister in this chamber. Has the Australian Government joined with the British Government, the United Nations, other nations of the world and prominent world leaders in protesting against the hanging of political prisoners by Mr Smith’s regime in Rhodesia? If not, will the Government direct such a protest on behalf of the Australian people to Mr Smith and call upon him to reprieve all other political prisoners under sentence of death?
– Quite clearly that is a question for the notice paper. I do not subscribe to some of the implications of the question. However, I suggest that the honourable senator put his question on the notice paper and it will be referred to the Minister for External Affairs.
– Did the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry hear the terms of the petition I presented yesterday to the Senate on behalf of a great number of people connected with the banana industry in New South Wales, pointing out to the Parliament the seriously depressed condition of that industry? Is he aware that great econonmic hardship exists among many banana growers and their families at present because for some time returns they nave received have been well under the actual costs of production? Will he ensure that the terms of the petition are brought to the notice of his colleague, the
Minister for Primary Industry? Will the Government immediately inquire into the state of the industry and as a matter of urgency take whatever action it can to alleviate the serious economic difficulties of the people engaged in this important national primary industry?
– I did hear the petition read out by the honourable senator. 1 am aware of the conditions in the area to which he has referred because I was there only recently. I sympathise with the people concerned in the position they face at present. The honourable senator would be aware, of course, that a petition was presented in another place by Mr Robinson, the honourable member for Cowper, in which electorate the situation has arisen. I am quite sure that the matter has been brought to the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry. After all, he lives in that area and is aware of the conditions there. I will certainly undertake to do what I can to see that any assistance that can be granted to these people will be granted.
– 1 ask the Minister in Charge of Tourist Activities whether he is aware that Australian tourists travelling interstate on overseas ships in Australian waters enjoy the advantage of buying certain goods duty free. Will the Minister examine the situation to see whether this privilege can be extended to Australian tourists when travelling in Australian waters on Australian ships?
– I am aware that the position is as stated by the honourable senator. I will examine whether the privilege referred to by him can be extended in the way he suggests.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. By way of preface let me say that I trust the Minister has read the review in this morning’s ‘Australian’ of Dr Alistair Brass’s book ‘Bleeding Earth’ in which Dr Brass reiterates the need for a complete Australian hospital to be built in Vietnam. As the Government has already been proved to be wrong in regard to Dr
Brass’s allegations concerning the transportation of wounded in Hercules aircraft-
– lt was not proved wrong.
– Yes it was. Could it not also be wrong in its attitude towards the plea by Dr Brass and myself that we should concentrate medical assistance to Vietnam by building a hospital for training, teaching and healing the Vietnamese?
– 1 must confess that I have no chance of reading book reviews, especially on a Thursday morning when the Senate meets at 11 o’clock. In fact, I am having great difficulty in keeping up to the minute with reports in the daily Press of matters of political consequence, but 1 shall make a special point of reading the review referred to by the honourable senator. 1 do not concede, and I am sure that the Government does not concede, that it has been proved wrong in connection with the transportation of wounded in Hercules aircraft. The question of medical assistance is clearly one for the particular Service department concerned, and I shall see that the honourable senator’s question is directed to the proper channel.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. No doubt the Minister has seen the clouds of black exhaust matter emitted from modern jet propelled aircraft on takeoff and on deceleration for landing. Will the Minister tell me whether an investigation has been made of the effects of this precipitation of fuel laden exhaust matter on people and the food storages situated on the ground under the flight paths of aircraft landing on and taking off from the main airports throughout Australia? If such an investigation has not been made will the Minister ask his technical officers to report on this matter?
– I have noticed the smoke emitted from jet propelled aircraft as they leave airports in Australia. As this is clearly a matter for the Minister for Civil Aviation I ask the honourable senator to put his question on notice so that I may obtain for him the latest information from the Minister.
– by leave - Yesterday I promised that I would make a statement concerning the refusal by the United States to permit entry of a consignment of meat carried by the vessel ‘City of Brisbane.’ I am now in a position to make that statement.
The ‘City of Brisbane’ loaded 2,147 tons of meat at Hobart, Melbourne, Adelaide, Albany and Fremantle and proceeded to the east coast of America calling at Cape Town and Curacao. Both Cape Town and Curacao are in the regions declared by the United States Government to be foot and mouth disease areas.
The United States Code of Federal Regulations list the designation of countries where rinderpest or foot and mouth disease exists and from which countries importation of meat into America is not permitted. This restriction applies to meat on vessels which enter ports of infected countries en route to the United States.
Meat from countries of origin which are free of foot and mouth disease and rinderpest may be permitted entry into the United States even though the vessel calls at a declared foot and mouth port providing:
The shipping company did not arrange for the holds to be sealed before the vessel left the last Australian port and it is for this reason that the United States authorities will not permit importation.
Representations have been made by an American representative of the shipping company and the subject has been discussed with the United States Department of Agriculture officials by the Australian Agricultural Attache. The decision is that the meat will not be permitted entry into the United States. The shipping company made inquiries in Canada to ascertain whether that country would be an outlet for the Australian meat but the Canadian authorities made it quite clear that any meat not acceptable in the United States would not be permitted entry into Canada.
In 1966 a consignment of live sheep for Canada was carried on a vessel loaded with meat for America and when the vessel arrived at the first American port the presence of the live sheen on board immediately raised the foot and mouth danger because the vessel had called at a Pacific Island which is not listed by the Americans as being free from foot and mouth. The United States authorities immediately applied the regulations which prohibited the importation of meat because the vessel had called at a foot and mouth disease port. It was clear that consignments of meat on six other vessels would also be refused entry.
The Chief Veterinary Officer of this Department and the Director of Veterinary Hygiene, Department of Health, immediately visited America and obtained agreement for the meat on the seven vessels involved to be released and for the Americans to accept an arrangement whereby the holds of ships calling at foot and mouth disease ports would be sealed by the exporting country before the ship sailed. Because the Americans were prepared to accept the departmental recommendation and the regulations were amended accordingly it is now very difficult for the Department to make Strong representations for the admission of meat which was carried in holds which were not sealed.
The latest information is that the meat will be unloaded at a Canadian port and placed in store, but the agreement is that the meat must be removed from Canada within four weeks. There is no indication at present what the ultimate fate of this meat will be but it would appear most likely that the whole consignment will be returned to Australia where it will be disposed of for specific purposes under supervision.
– by leave - I wish to make a statement on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). Honourable senators may recall that in November last the Government agreed to the request contained in the will of the late Lord Bruce that his ashes be scattered over Canberra. It was also agreed that arrangements would be made for a memorial service to take place at the same time, and that the ceremonies would be held on a suitable occasion after the resumption of Parliament to enable the Parliament to be fully represented. I. now wish to inform the Senate that a memorial service will be held at noon next Wednesday, 20th March, at All Saints Church, Braddon, and that in the course of the service the Royal Australian Air Force will give effect to the wishes of the late Lord Bruce by scattering the ashes over Canberra.
Debate resumed from 13 March (vide page 91), on motion by Senator Laucke:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to:
May it please Your Excellency -
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been please to address to Parliament.
– I take pleasure in supporting the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech which was moved by Senator Laucke and seconded by Senator Lawrie. I hasten to congratulate Senator Laucke on his maiden speech here. Having read his remarks and noted again the areas that he covered I am sure that all honourable senators are proud that he is a member of the Senate. I wish him well here. To the Governor-General I affirm my loyalty to the Crown. I am proud to serve in this Parliament and to have been present at the opening of Parliament by Lord Casey last Tuesday.
There is no greater Australian today than Lord Casey and as a fellow Victorian I am proud that he has been elevated to the highest office in this country. I recall that in my maiden speech some 8 or 9 months before Lord Casey’s appointment as Governor-General I said there was no greater man to occupy that high office. I have been fortunate to know this gentleman for many years and I have had some association with his background. My period of a little over three years as a senator has been unique, for this has been one of the most interesting times in Federal Parliament, and I have served under four Prime Ministers. Viewed in the context of world politics today, that might indicate a somewhat unstable position of government, but that is not so. As the Governor-General said in his speech, a firm control has been maintained over the affairs of the Commonwealth during this time. 1 record my deep regret at the death of the Honourable Harold Holt. Again as a Victorian, 1 was closely associated with him for many years. Perhaps no senator outside his own party was more closely associated with the late Harold Holt in his electoral work. 1 entered the Senate in 1964 and in the 1966 elections for the House of Representatives, as the only Victorian Government senator I found myself closely associated with our late Prime Minister in his electoral campaigning. 1 clearly recall the great problems facing him and his intense feelings when he spoke at the Caulfield Town Hall to a packed audience. Because of the noise from organised sections of the audience, 1 should imagine that scarcely a word that he uttered was heard clearly by any person in that hall. I decry the attitude of some organised sections of the public on occasions such as that when most Australians uphold the principle of free speech. The late Prime Minister was most upset by the difficulties that he encountered from some individuals when he spoke at what was probably his first large electoral meeting as Prime Minister.
On several other occasions during the general election in 1966 1 accompanied him and as the No. 2 senator from Victoria in the last Senate election I had the pleasure of seeing him change into a vastly more confident man. His death is a great loss to this nation. In this life there is one thing of which we can be certain above all else - that there comes a time when we each pass from this earth.
Too few of us take note of that fact during our lifetime. I suggest that no other Prime Minister in the world could lose his life in the way that the Australian Prime Minister lost his. His energy and surfing activities, which were well known to everybody in Australia and also to people overseas, portrayed the picture that I believe Australia portrays to other countries - that of an energetic and fast moving country. Harold Holt certainly portrayed such a picture during his period of office and also in the manner of his death. The heights that he gained can be seen from the overseas attention that the memorial service attracted. Certainly no other Australian of whom .1 know could have attracted such attention. This sealed my belief that Harold Holt, although he held the office of Prime Minister for quite a short time, gained greater repute overseas than any other Australian.
John McEwen was sworn in as Prime Minister. As Prime Minister for those few days, he held the respect of every Australian, lt is fair to say that at least as the Leader of the Australian Country Party he holds the greatest confidence of people because of his political ability, the clarity with which he has put Australia’s position in overseas trade circles-
– But not his discretion.
– That is Senator Gair’s own comment. I believe that the main body of Australians agree that the way John McEwen approaches a subject has gained him greater international standing than any other person associated with this Commonwealth Parliament.
– What has he got against the Treasurer?
– We often hear of arguments within political parties. There is no political party without arguments within it. If members of the Opposition care to say that they never have arguments within their party, well and good; but the newspaper reports of the statements and actions of their leaders read most peculiarly. However, these arguments will occur. I believe that variations of view make for good, healthy politics. Arguments occur because leaders of parties face each other, even within the Government, and there are some differences of opinion between them. I offer my congratulations to the leaders of parties and
Ministers who come out and express variations of opinion. A senator of independent mind has recently been promoted to the Ministry. There would not be one senator who would deny that the independent line that he has taken over the years has been for the good of the Senate and of the Commonwealth Parliament in general.
The opportunity now presents itself for me to congratulate the present Prime Minister, John Grey Gorton. As a senator h? demonstrated his ability. The Senate has lost greatly by his moving to another place. We wish him well, but we regret that he has left the chamber in which the decisions of greatest importance will be made. Undoubtedly the House of Representatives, with its great majority of members of the Government parties at the present time, will be the most active chamber, but it will be in the Senate that the major decisions will be made.
Following the last Senate elections it is only fair to offer congratulations to the members of the Democratic Labor Party on their gain in numbers.
– A 100% increase.
– If a party gains a 100% increase in its numbers, no other party can deny its right to receive congratulations. I congratulate the. two Democratic Labor Party Senators who apparently have demonstrated to the public at large that they have had a good influence in this place. Members of that Party will hold a position of strength in the ensuing years. I hope that they will ensure that their position of strength is used only after due consideration.
In this new year the stage is certainly set for the solution of some of Australia’s problems. Whether the problems in past years have been as great as those in this year I do not know, but I certainly believe that in the great arena of politics in which decisions are necessary there has been no time when more important decisions have been called for on matters of foreign affairs, involvement in war, where we will sell in order to gain our common income, the manner in which we will produce, how we will encourage production, what we will do as a nation to enable us to support the defence of our country by measures such as the achievement of sufficient population, and the internal economic position. Within the next year in my own State of Victoria and also in New South Wales and South Australia - that represents a pretty large part of Australia - we will be confronted with the most intense problems as a result of the drought. Those problems will necessitate a reassessment by the community of the provisions that have been made for national calamities.
I am convinced that the type of government that we have had over recent years has been the correct one. I obligate myself to ensuring that there is a continuation of the system of encouragement of private initiative in the solution of problems and the advancement of Australia. I know that if Socialism is allowed to take any lead or to gain in any way in overseas countries or in Australia that will be greatly to the disadvantage of this country.
The problems of war and the maintenance of peace were mentioned by the Governor-General early in his Speech. We must agree that the most important factor on the Australian scene today is our involvement in Vietnam. It seems to me that to a degree the integrity of nations has been allowed to drift over recent years. I implore the leaders of nations, both great and small, to attempt to uphold the principles with which the people generally agree and to gain a clear picture of the real objectives and the real outworkings of policies made within nations. We hear from the leaders of some nations the statement that they are involved in fighting wars of liberation. In fact, we hear members of this chamber supporting somewhat the suggestion that Communist countries are interested in wars of liberation. It is very clear to me that the so-called wars of liberation are in fact wars of aggression and that the objective of the countries concerned is the taking over of other countries and the enslavement of the people. The denials of these acts become fortified by fact. Probably a plea from a senator means very little in this context but I make the plea to nations great and small regarding the statements that they put out. I make the point that that which a nation puts out as being its objectives must be something which the peoples of the world can come to believe. In this regard, the position that we find in Vietnam at the present time is quite disconcerting.
Australia and other countries are engaged in a war in which they do not wish to be involved. We are fighting in South Vietnam. We are fighting aggression in that country. This cannot be denied by any member of the Opposition. In fact, it is endorsed by most members of the Opposition. Indeed, the former Leader of the Opposition-
– When was this endorsed?
– It was endorsed quite recently, within the last year or so. Let me read to the honourable senator the words of the former Leader of his Party, the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), as they are recorded in Hansard. The former Leader of the Opposition said:
That there has been and still is aggression from thu North and subversion inspired from the North, I do not for one moment deny. I agree that North Vietnamese aggression - and that is the only word for it - has increased.
I said a moment ago that there was a variety of views amongst political parties on this matter. Indeed, the honourable senator who has interjected indicated that he holds a different view. He is entitled to hold a different view. But the Australian public needs to get this into its mind: When such a large force is employed in South Vietnam fighting another country, which is North Vietnam, at least it cannot be construed as a war of liberation. There is aggression from the North. It has been established. It has been agreed. That very thing is taking place in South Vietnam at the present time.
– The Leader of the Opposition in another place, Mr Whitlam, agrees with that point of view.
– I think that it is generally agreed. But what concerns me at this time is that the vast amount of publicity that is being put out by some individuals seems to me to be for the purpose of subverting the community, whether this be done in Australia or within the United States of America. These people are looking beyond the point of reason in their endeavour to establish that the actions of the United States and Australia in supporting South Vietnam are wrong in this instance. But they will not go further and say: ‘Yes: we can see that we are fighting in South Vietnam. We can see that North Vietnam is sending troops into South Vietnam.’ There is really only one aggressor.
Let us get in Australia a picture of what we face in the future. Let us identify what we wish to see in this area. I know that there are those who may be considered on the extreme side of the Opposition and who clamour against our action in Vietnam. Indeed, there is in this country great publicity concerning matters really of little importance in the context of affairs that happen in war. But publicity certainly can influence people about what we are attempting to do. Let us remember that there is definitely aggression within this area of South East Asia. Does anybody deny that? Could anybody do so after having been a member of this Parliament for any time and having read the statements of leaders of the various countries to our near north as to how they view the problem of aggression? Do the comments of Lee Kuan Yew, a Socialist Leader, upset people when he says that the little fishes in Asia will be swallowed one by one if the United States allows South Vietnam to fall to the Vietcong? I certainly think that countries like India, Burma, Pakistan and others which have had problems of aggression on their borders really know the truth of the situation. Lee Kuan Yew, the Socialist Prime Minister, went on to say in this context:
The Communist attack on South Vietnam must not be allowed to be repeated if there is to be any safety left in Asia.
That is why we are there. We are there to see that safety is left in Asia. We have a very personal interest in this matter.
If there is aggression, what is it that says that this aggression comes from the Communist sector? I believe that great reliance can be placed on the comments of Marshal Lin Piao as they were reported in a Peking newspaper. This statement has been repeated here previously but’ I think that it is well to draw the attention of the people of Australia t> the point that there is a great need to realise exactly what are the problems regarding our attitude and our involvement in South Vietnam. Indeed, the headlines of at least one newspaper today have verified that LBJ has said that there will be no retreat from South Vietnam. I congratulate the President of the United States of America for that stand. Comments such as that will give confidence at least to the Asian countries that I have mentioned. They know that they will be secure under the administration of President Johnson.
Let us see what Marshal Lin Piao had to say, according to the ‘Peking Review’. The report reads:
Wars of national liberation will mean that the United States and its allies will be surrounded, will bc encircled, will be overwhelmed.
And where is all this to begin, he asks. lt has already begun, he replies, and the place in which it lias begun is Vietnam.
I think there can be no doubt about the statements of that man, bold as they are. They show the attitude of these people towards the United States and towards any other Western country. These statements show that they certainly intend to keep aggression going for their own benefit.
I am concerned about what is taking place in the management of the war in South Vietnam. Looking at the position, and viewing the situation of the. war in Vietnam after some years, ] cannot imagine that the best strategy and the best management have been used in endeavouring to bring a successful conclusion to this war bearing in mind the stage in which we find it at this time. It has been said that it is a limited war. 1 suggest that the time is fast coming when a re-assessment of this attitude must be made. I suggest also that Australia should be the initiating force in seeing that better management is adopted to bring success at least in the sphere of upheaval in which we are engaged at this time.
During my life, Australia has looked always to Great Britain for its protection. I congratulate Senator Benn on some of the comments that he made in his plea lasnight for Australia to do more to endeavour to uphold the position of Great Britain. Britain was a world power. But it has lost its power because it has fought for freedom for other countries. Because Great Britain is a stabilising influence in the world today. I deplore the fact that it has not the might that it used to have. Australia assisted Great Britain in many of its problems. I believe that a real need exists for us to assist Great Britain further today.
I suggest that Great Britain is by no means looking at the present time to a lowering of its prestige in the world. I recall clearly a poem which has stood for 80 or 90 years and emphasises the thought which Great Britain should have in world affairs today. It runs: lt is not to be thought of that the Flood
Of British freedom, which, to the open sea
Of the world’s praise, from dark antiquity Hath flowed, ‘with pomp of waters, unwithstood’ Roused though it be full often to a mood Which spurns the check of salutary bands, That this most famous Stream in bogs and sands Should perish; and to evil and to good Be lost for ever.
That poem reads like a prophecy that Great Britain will rise again. I believe that Australia, as one of her children, should play a prominent part in seeing that all that can be done for Britain is done. Surely this Federal Government has done that. Recently, perhaps against Australia’s own national needs and to it’s own disadvantage, this country decided not to follow Britain’s example of devaluation. In this matter the Government has upheld something which will be to the good of Great Britain in the future.
Britain’s withdrawal from South East Asia concerns me greatly. I believe the decision to withdraw would not have been made had not a Socialist government been in office in Great Britain. But the decision was made, and it is now for Australia to see what can be done to fill the gap. Our circumstances do not allow us to do it on our own. The assistance of other countries in this area will enable Australia to have an adequate sea and air force which can bring some stability to the region. I feel that Australia should become active among the British forces deployed in Singapore and other areas. We should be trying to attract those officers and men to Australia before they return to Great Britain. After all, they have the knowledge we need in this country, the type of knowledge that will assist in our defence and in building up our own forces with capable men experienced in the area in which we are involved. I think that with some little effort on our part we should be able to attract these men and their families to Australia. I visualise the treed to establish bases and facilities in the northern part of Australia. We must endeavour to induce Great Britain to leave some semblance of her forces in this area. Undoubtedly the Minister for Works, in his new portfolio, will have an opportunity to review the establishment of these bases, which are certainly needed in our northern areas, not only in Queensland hut also in Western Australia. In both of these areas the best seaport site must be selectee! alongside development that is already taking place. We must see whether a large defence area can be established, and then perhaps we shall need to build the population around the defence base. In this venture we must seek the cooperation of countries to our near north such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, and the co-operation also of New Zealand, India, Great Britain and the United States of America. We should build up some defence port in Australia to act as a barrier against aggression should it come.
I should imagine that Australia is in world affairs today the greatest prize for any country with an eye to expansion. Australia is a comparatively unpopulated country. It is interesting to note that Australia has approximately 3.7 persons to the square mile in comparison with 560 in Great Britain and 678 in Belgium. Many other countries also have much denser populations. The fact remains that Australia, with the vast mineral wealth discovered in the past 10 years, is a handsome prize. No other country has the opportunity or attraction that Australia has.
Aggression must be defeated in South Vietnam. The problems there must be tackled much more quickly than they have been in the past few years. More efficient management is needed. There have been glaring weaknesses in the type of publicity which has been disseminated among the Australian people. We, as a free country, allow almost anything to appear in our newspapers. Indeed, it would seem that some people are seeking to support the enemy by way of the type of publicity that would assist him in his psychological warfare. This sort of publicity has an effect on Australian morale and it is high time the Government reviewed the situation which allows this type of publicity to be disseminated among the Australian people. 1 am pleased to see that Australia is again taking the lead in the type of aid given to other countries. Nothing is more important than this sort of aid to the defence and security of Australia, the growth of trade and the attraction of friendship in all the areas concerned. The standard of living in Australia cannot continue to improve unless we make an effort to improve living standards in countries to our near north, not one of which has a standard approaching ours. I am pleased that steps have been taken to increase aid to Indonesia, as announced recently by the Minister for External Affairs. I support increased aid. I am proud of the fact that Australia has in the past assisted other countries without attaching any tags to the aid, which has been given purely as a gift. So far, countries receiving aid from Australia have not been called upon to pay any servicing fee, and f am pleased that this policy will be continued. I did not read into the statement by the Minister for External Affairs any suggestion that the Government would depart from this policy. I ask the Government to adhere to it. Australia can hold up its head in world affairs and say that it is one of the few countries in the world that has adopted this policy when assisting its near neighbours. The aid to Indonesia is a wonderful example of the enlightened policy of the Federal Government. In the years that I have been a member of this chamber I have heard even members on the Government side criticise aid to Indonesia. I had some doubts myself. Certainly 1 have heard members of the Opposition ask why Australia should continue to pour aid into Indonesia when that country was confronting Malaysia, lt is greatly to the credit of this Government that it took a stable view. When Indonesia’s confrontation policy was at its height Australia was the only country in the world with access to Indonesia and with representatives remaining in that country. Under the Communist regime that held sway in Indonesia for some time, representatives o( all other countries were banished from the shores of Indonesia. I should hope that the aid we continued to give Indonesia in those dark days represented a Christian altitude by this community, and I believe that this sort of policy will be endorsed in the future. We must go to the limit. Though a country may appear to be taking an unreasonable stand we must go to the limit in retaining our associations with it. Certainly we must assist such countries in South East As:a.
The problems of income earning for Australia are greater than they have ever been. Yesterday in this chamber I heard some criticism to the effect that we had known for 6 years that Britain might enter the Common Market but had done nothing ahead to counter the effects of her entry. This is not fair criticism. The Government has over a period of years considered the effects. Concerted efforts have been made by the Government and by industry to see that when Britain does join the Common Market we shall have other outlets for our goods. In 1948-49 our exports to the United Kingdom represented 42.3% of the total Australian exports of $l,085m. In 1966-67 our exports to the United Kingdom amounted to only 13.3% of the total Australian exports of $3,035m. Whether a person be a private enterprise man or a Socialist, I think he must admit that it is a great achievement which allows any business to vary its sales to this extent in an area in which perhaps the debtor’s ability to trade with you is in doubt. The Department of Trade and Industry must be given credit, to a great extent, for enabling this situation to occur.
We, as Australians, can be very proud of the composition of our exports over the period to which I have referred. If we were relying to a great extent on our primary industries in those days, one cannot say that we are not reliant on that section today. In 1948-49 Australia’s sales totalled $l,085m, and wool sales represented 42.7% of our export income. Today wool represents 26.7% of our export income. There has been nearly 100% increase in the value of wool exports. In 1948-49 the value of our exports of wool was $463m. In 1966-67 it was $8 12m. In 1948-49 wheat and flour represented 18.2% of our export income. In 1966-67 they represented 12.7%. In 1948- 49 dairy products represented 6.5% of our export income, whereas today they represent 3.8%. In 1948-49 sugar represented 2.5% of our export income, whereas today it represents 3.3%. In 1948-49 meat accounted for 5.3% of our export income, whereas today it accounts for 9.4%. There has been a growth in those areas of trade which Australia sought, and the position has been reached where the economy generally will not be affected if there is any enormous loss of trade in one particular industry.
It is interesting to note that in future manufacturing industries as well as primary industries will be called upon to increase their export income. A chart of the export needs which are projected into 1975 shows that the present export trend will bring about sales of $4,490m in 1974-75. The export needs in that year, based on our own growth, will need to be at least $500m above that figure. Something must be done. In fact, something is being done by the Government. It is encouraging overseas markets by granting tax deductions, such as double deductions for certain expenditure. It is encouraging research by making research grants. All of these matters have been promoted by the Department of Trade and Industry which is responsible for seeing that our export earnings are increased. I congratulate the Department very much on the work it is doing at the present time. I have found that the officers within the Department are most active. I find no fault with the way in which the Department generally is controlling our ability to produce income. I find no fault with the way in which the Department is going about its work. Now I should like to make some comments on drought in Australia.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Drought is undoubtedly having a great impact not. only on rural areas but also on metropolitan areas throughout Australia. The Government has done well in sustaining an even economic growth despite the disastrous drought that is affecting various States. The Government’s actions have built a resilience into the community which has enabled stability of growth to be maintained, jobs to be filled, industries to expand and even food production to be increased. However, it is fair to say that insufficient has been done in Australia to offset the effects of drought in certain areas. Undoubtedly the Commonwealth Government is not in a position to safeguard against all possible happenings. It is interesting to note the situation in Victoria in relation to grain crops. Last season’s yield of 2 million bushels of oats can be compared with a normal yield of 21.5 million bushels. The wheat harvest of 26 million bushels was slightly better than one third of the normal crop and the barley crop of about 2 million bushels represented a similar proportion. Something should be done either, to curtail acreages or to supervise the planting of acreages. The vagaries of seasons cannot be known, and primary production is one area where the outcome of the coming season cannot be judged.
The stock feed position is particularly serious in Victoria. Unfortunately, New South Wales farmers have not been able to reciprocate the action of many Victorian farmers in assisting drought affected New South Wales farmers the previous season.
– That is not the general position. In many cases New South Wales farmers have reciprocated.
– I hope that the Country Party Minister will have the opportunity to cite instances. Reports from stock companies and primary producer associations in my State suggest that although a quantity of food was sent from Victoria to New South Wales such action has not been reciprocated to the same extent. I think this statement would be accepted generally. The New South Wales farmers, through no fault of their own, do not have stock feed to send to Victoria. In view of the current situation I believe there is every justification for the Commonwealth Government sympathetically considering the proposition advanced by the Victorian Government and by leading primary producer organisations that subsidies should be applied to help drought affected areas. It is suggested that there should be a 50% subsidy on the cost of stock feed, mainly wheat, to enable the maintenance of Victoria’s stock breeding capacity. It has been suggested that a subsidy on freight charges on drought fodder and the provision of money for loans to farmers who have reached the end of their tether in borrowing through normal channels would be ways of assisting those suffering from the effects of the drought. Many farmers are in a precarious financial position and some must decide whether to try to retain their breeding stock or to sell it. If farmers sell their breeding stock and lose the capacity to regenerate stock when the drought breaks or in the ensuing spring then it will be a national disaster.
The situation in Victoria is different from the position in other States. In Victoria there is intensive farming to a greater extent than in New South Wales, Queensland and elsewhere. For instance, in Queensland the carrying capacity is .18 sheep per acre, in New South Wales .57 per acre and in Victoria 1.4 per acre. When a drought occurs and the grass and fodder disappear the farmer must use grain as stock feed and must introduce it carefully, because such feeding cannot be stopped suddenly, and it costs about $5 per head. This is the situation facing the Victorian farmer at present.
– I do not follow the logic of the honourable senator’s remarks. Will he repeat the figures?
– My point is that when there is little feed in a paddock the situation is accentuated in an area of high carrying capacity. In Queensland the carrying capacity is .18 sheep per acre and in New South Wales .57 sheep per acre.
– I thought the honourable senator said 5.7. I now see the logic of his statement.
– I thank the honourable senator for taking the point. The fact is that it is necessary for the Government to provide assistance. Victoria has a need, and that need is now. The Minister’s reply to me yesterday gave me no encouragement to believe that an agreement for the provision of financial assistance can be expected at an early date. Agreement is urgent and I plead with the Government to take this matter in hand. To date it has said: ‘We did not do it for other States when they were experiencing the drought, how can we do it for you?’ That is not sufficient reason for refusing to give assistance. Fodder supplies in Victoria have been exhausted.
– Does not the honourable senator realise that Victoria is a very rich small State whereas other States have rich areas which have a greater carrying capacity per acre than has Victoria?
– The Minister may bring out that point in his own speech. I hope he will because undoubtedly there are problems to be solved. Some 300,000 bushels of oats have been imported from Western Australia while the proposition is being advanced that the Government should look to the utilisation of the wheat already in Victoria. How ridiculous it is to subsidise rail freights from Western Australia to the extent of 75% when there is sufficient wheat in Victoria to meet that State’s requirements. I do not agree with the proposition.
– The drought in Victoria is a disaster for Australia, not only for Victoria.
– It is a disaster for Australia. In the declared drought area of Victoria approximately one-half of the 24 million sheep are breeding ewes, and approximately two-thirds of the 1.7 million cattle are breeding cows and heifers. A grazier with a keen business sense must ask himself: ‘I am out of feed but I still have my breeding stock. What is the wisest thing to do? Do I clear them at a loss or do 1 calculate my finances at $5 a head to maintain them?’ Perhaps his stock would be worth no more than S5 a head unless one viewed the matter from the aspect of the national interest in that the grazier had the base to replenish his stock.
This is a most important matter. If the Federal Government will not consider paying a subsidy on feed it should make finance available to primary producers, at not more than 3% interest, to enable them to purchase fodder provided, of course, that they can demonstrate that assistance is necessary. I have some confidence that the Commonwealth Government and the Treasury will look kindly on this suggestion. I ask the Commonwealth Government to realise the importance of a decision now, not in a month because the farmers must decide now whether to continue holding their breeding stock.
There were many items of interest in the Governor-General’s Speech. I shall comment on one of them which relates to Papua and New Guinea. Many difficulties are associated with the development of the Territory. One has only to spend a little time there to realise the enormous problems that must be solved. The Australian Government has done a fine job in the Territory. My association with the Territory goes back to 1950 when I had the pleasure of walking over a great area of Papua and New Guinea and New Britain. I ask the Government to give immediate consideration to a question I raised during the last sessional period. In 18 months the South Pacific Games will be held at Port Moresby. The Federal Government has said that it will give the Administration $150,000 towards meeting expenses, $50,000 being provided in each of 3 years to prepare for the Games. Should other finance be necessary it will have to be raised within the Territory. That is fair enough but I believe that it is insufficient if we want to demonstrate to our near neighbours that we administer a territory that can stage olympic type games in a satisfactory manner.
Everyone in the Territory has one thing in common - a great enthusiasm for and ability to engage in games of all kinds. Those characteristics are in evidence from one end of the Territory to the other. An injection of some $200,000 or $250,000 must be given now to the Trust Committee in charge of the South Pacific Games. It would be an investment in assets which would be maintained in the Port Moresby area. To date the Committee has done a wonderful job in preparing a couple of arenas for the games and erecting gymnasiums and ball courts. Everything is being done to demonstrate to our neighbours that the Territory, at this stage in its development, can stage olympic type games successfully.
I was in the Territory recently and saw what was being done. The Trust managers are coming to Canberra shortly to seek financial assistance because the necessary funds are just not available within the Territory. All that can be done is being done but the progress of the work over the last few months has been far too slow. The project needs encouragement by the Minister for Territories personally and by the Government. We provide aid for Indonesia, India and other countries. That is all very well, but we must look after our own children, and the Territory is one of our children. At present it is crying out for several hundreds of thousands of dollars to enable it to stage these games successfully, thus reflecting credit on the Administration and on the Commonwealth Government. I ask the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) and the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) who are at present in the chamber to lend me their support in an endeavour to obtain a quick decision on this matter because time is the essence of the contract. I have great pleasure in supporting the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech moved by Senator Laucke and seconded by Senator Lawrie.
– At the outset I congratulate Senator Laucke on his maiden speech in the Senate. Making a maiden speech is an ordeal that is better behind one than in front of one, and the sooner the ordeal is overcome the better. I think he did a very good job. I also express loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen.
This is the second session of the Twentysixth Parliament which has been brought about by the new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) proroguing the Parliament because, to use his own words, he thought that when a new Prime Minister took over the book should be ruled off and a fresh start made. This gave a lot of heart to the Australian community. It seemed at that time that a breath of fresh air might blow through Canberra, lt seemed that a tired and jaded Ministry that had been on the Treasury bench for about 20 years might at last spring to life. But how disillusioned have the people become with the public statements made by the Prime Minister and with the Governor-General’s Speech delivered on Tuesday last. The simple fact is that we are stuck with the same defence policy although the Prime Minister made a public statement which he tried only yesterday to retract in another place. Nevertheless, the statement was made and we are still stuck with the same defence and overseas policies. We are still tied to the apron strings of the United States of America. We have no independence whatsoever.
In the face of the British withdrawal from east of Suez it was anticipated by the Australian people that the Government might produce a policy for the protection of Australia. In the Governor-General’s Speech there is no mention of a solution to this problem. Australia will still be wide open to attack on its western borders without any protection whatsoever on its western side. Do not talk to me about mobility because Australia does not have enough aircraft to shift the number of men who would be required in the time that would be available. If there were enough aircraft there is not an airport at which to land them north of Perth other than at Darwin. The whole of that area is completely out. lt would take at least a week to sail ships around the coast to protect Western Australia. No ships are there now except the ‘Diamantina’. It used to have a 4-inch gun, but it has now been taken off. The Special Air Services Squadron is now in Vietnam instead of being stationed in Western Australia for its immediate protection. As far as Western Australia is concerned, a mobile force just does not count and the Government has no prospects of improving that position. We want to know what sort of a responsible Government it is that has no plans to fill at least in part the gap that will be left after 1971 when the United Kingdom withdraws its forces from Singapore and Malaysia.
With the coming of the new Prime Minister there have been some insignificant changes in the Ministry. I do not wish to speak disparagingly of the persons who have entered the Ministry. The Prime Minister promised that with changes in the Ministry there would be a shifting of administrative responsibility. That has not taken place. I congratulate the honourable senators who have moved into responsible positions following the change in Prime Ministers. I believe that they will do a good job in the responsible positions they have undertaken. The. very least of it is that they will do the jobs as well as they are able to do them. I have no reservations on that matter but I assure them that the Opposition intends to make it as difficult as possible for them and for the whole of the Ministry. It is our intention to make their jobs interesting and exciting as far as we are able to do so.
It is also stated that the Government will continue the economic policies of the previous Government. Are we to take this to mean that the Government will continue the stop-go policies of the Menzies and Holt eras? Are we to be subjected to economic squeezes such as those we were subjected to in 1952, 1954 and I960? Is the Prime Minister warning the Australian people to beware of that situation? Surely the Australian people at this stage of our development can expect something more from the Government. They should be able to expect something more than a statement by the Prime Minister that our economy promises stability. Surely his advisers can take more affirmative action in the economic sphere. There should be some planning of our economic activity rather than having it run in what the Conservative parties in this place believe to be the free enterprise system.
It is also stated that the Australian external balances suffered by about 55 1 00m as a result of the devaluation of sterling. But the Prime Minister was completely silent on how our economy is supported by overseas investment. I do not condemn all overseas investment but a very large portion of overseas investment in Australia over the past 12 or 18 months has been portfolio investment. The stock exchanges of Australia have become the greatest casinos in the world. They have become the gambling houses of the profiteers who bring money into Australia to take out a quick profit. As soon as they have gained that profit, they withdraw their money. The infusion of money into Australia creates inflation and its withdrawal creates chaos. Yet the Prime Minister is able to say in a speech that our economy promises stability. There is not one word of explanation of that statement in the Governor-General’s Speech. I understand that portfolio investment in Australia from overseas is running at about 40% of the total present overseas investment here. It produces nothing for the development of Australia. It takes a quick profit and retreats. In this way overseas investors are able to control the economy of this country. They are able to control the destiny of the Australian people, and their jobs, savings and welfare. Yet the Government has no programme to attempt to do anything about that situation.
The next matter touched upon in the Governor-General’s Speech is mineral development in Australia. I do not know whether the ruling off of the books with the coming of the new Prime Minister and the continuance of the policies adopted by a previous Prime Minister is done merely so that the new Prime Minister can say: ‘This is what my Government did’. I remind the Senate that mineral developments were going on in Australia long before Mr Gorton became Prime Minister and they have been part of the huge gamble that has been taking place on the stock exchange not only with minerals but with all our natural resources. The proposal to assist rural industries to the tune of $25m as enunciated by the Prime Minister was announced by the late Mr Holt prior to his tragic death, as also was the proposal with respect to workers’ compensation which has been outlined by the Prime Minister. In view of all these facts, if anyone can show me where the books were ruled off, I should like to see it. All in all, the most that we have seen has been that some Ministers have been dropped and others appointed in their places. There has also been some minor shifting of responsibilities within the ministries but in my opinion none of these is to the advantage of Australia. Nevertheless, that is all that the ruling off of the books has produced. I suggest that the Prime Minister’s action in retracting constantly from the public statements he has made will result in his going down in history as perhaps the greatest paper tiger we have ever had.
I am sorry Senator Dittmer has left the chamber but it might be interesting to ask who was right in his assessment of the economic position of Australia. Was it the Treasurer, Mr McMahon, who said that our economy is generally showing great strength and resilience, that we are enjoying real economic progress and that the economy is pursuing a steady upward trend? Or was Mr Bury right when, during the course of his guns and butter speech about the economic position of the United Kingdom, he said that we ourselves have no reason to be complacent, particularly at the moment as recent events in Australia threaten us in a similar fashion? The Prime Minister or the responsible Minister in this place should clarify the position in regard to those two statements especially in view of the original Press report which stated that Mr Bury’s statement had been vetted by Cabinet, although the Prime Minister denied that in a Press statement later.
If the Government wants the confidence of the people it will have to stop talking w:th a forked tongue. It cannot have one Minister, especially the Minister responsible for the economy, telling the people that the economy of Australia is on an upward course while another Minister, who is recognised as a skilful economist, is telling the people that if they are not careful they can expect to experience what is happening in the United Kingdom today.
I want now to touch on some aspects of the industrial scheme. I notice in Hansard that Senator Bull had something to say last evening about the metal trades dispute. I suggest to the honourable senator that before he starts talking about industrial relations he should attempt to learn and understand what the industrial scene is all about. This is a subject that requires a considerable amount of study. It is one that should not be talked about seriously in this place unless one can speak with some knowledge of it. At one time a previous Conservative government attempted to interfere with the arbitration system in Australia but it was defeated decisively at the polls in 1929. Last night Senator Bull had this to say:
I think it is high time the Government gave serious consideration to revising the powers and terms of reference of the Commission for it has got to win the confidence of all sections if it is to do a worth while job.
Mr Bury had many things to say in this connection. But that statement is an invitation to the Government to take legislative action to suppress the activities of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Later in his speech Senator Bull said that the Commission had bowed to militant trade unionism. Before I have finished my speech I hope to be able to convince him that the Commission was bowing to the needs of profits.
In order to discuss intelligently the first matter with which I wish to deal it is necessary that one should have some understanding of the background of the arbitration system. Whatever walk of life one travels in today, it must be realised that the basis of our economic growth and wealth depends upon a proper observance of the arbitration proceedings by everyone, not only by the employers and the trade unions but also by the Commission itself.
Australia is a pioneer of the system of compulsory arbitration. Our system is one of conscription into arbitration, because organisations of workers cannot work outside it. Even some of the Acts of the Australian States provide that if an industrial strike takes place the industrial tribunals may deal with the organisation concerned irrespective of whether it is registered under the relevant Act. It is indeed a system of complete industrial conscription, and the workers of this country gave a lot of freedom away in order to gain the benefits that they thought would flow to them through our system of arbitration. Those who have sought to understand the fundamental principles of the system will realise that great benefits have flowed to the community from it. It affects the daily lives of all of us. None of us is above it, much as we might think we are.
But our arbitration system has not always been acceptable to all sections of the community. Because of the way in which the workers were downtrodden before the turn of the century, because of the strikes that took place - and the headstones of many workers are carved on the gum trees in the outback of New South Wales and Queensland - the workers accepted the system of arbitration, but the employers did not. It was a great many years before the employers accepted it, and even then they accepted it only insofar as they could use it. They have always expressed bitter opposition to it. Eventually all parties realised that the system must be used, but nevertheless the employers always reserved the right to get their way through legislative activity if they could not get it through the arbitration system. Most of us will have some knowledge of the Harvester Award brought down by Mr Justice Higgins in 1907, the award which prescribed the first living wage. That wage was not adjustable until 1912 when it became subject to adjustment each 12 months according to the A series index. The workers stayed 12 months behind the inflationary rise in prices during the First World War. They could not get any increases until the wage had been adjusted. When, a slump occurred in industry in Australia in 1922, did the employers wait 12 months for the workers to receive a higher wage before having the basic wage adjusted? Of course they did not. Legislative action was taken to make the wage adjustable every quarter, and this was the practice until the system was abolished in 1930, and after it was restored in 1934 until it was abolished again in 1952.
Wages and conditions of employment have not always been left to the arbitration authorities. Legislative action has been taken to allow the employers to enjoy advantages that they would not have got under the arbitration system. So disillusioned were the employers with the system of arbitration that in 1928 they induced the BrucePage Government almost to destroy it by a Bill which caused that Government’s defeat at the polls and cost the Prime Minister his own seat. The first action of the Labor Party when it came to office in 1929 was to amend the Arbitration Act by omitting the definition of ‘strike’, the intention being to allow workers to use their labour as a lever to gain better remuneration.
By 1935 the Arbitration Court, as it was then known, had decided that if it issued an order and the unions did not obey it, they were in contempt of court. The seamen’s case in 1935 was the first taken over contempt proceedings, and since then it has not been necessary to include a definition of ‘strike’ within the Act. Whenever a worker withdraws his labour he is liable to the penal provisions of the Act. The 1928 attempt by the Bruce-Page Government seems to have been the last open attempt, at least, to destroy that legislation. From that time on the employers have sought to use the Act to their advantage wherever possible and I hope to show in a little while how much advantage they have gained from it. Over the ages we have not changed very much from the days of the cave man. We have simply exchanged the rawhide lash for the economic lash, which today is being used against the workers under our system of arbitration. An honourable senator opposite asks whether I am attacking the Arbitration Court. I think that the Court is a disgrace to itself, following its recent metal trades decision.
– Mr Bury does not like it, either.
– I oppose it in a different context from that mentioned by Mr Bury. We recently have seen the man recognised as perhaps the greatest industrial tycoon in Australia today indulging in what is termed union busting. All of us who travel to this place by air are aware of an airline pilots dispute on manning which has grounded DC9 aircraft, lt has affected only one organisation at the moment and 1 want to quote a Press report on what. Mr Ansett has had to say about if. The report reads:
Mr R. M. Ansett, managing director of Ansett Transport Industries, yesterday sent telegrams to his 400 pilots and first officers telling them to insist that their Federation’s executive withdraw its directive on DC-9 crewing.
The telegrams were sent before pilots and flying personnel met in South Melbourne Town Hall to discuss the DC-9 issue. The Federation of Air Pilots is insisting that three men should crew the jets.
Mr Ansett also undertook to cover the pilots for insurance, illness and any legal representation for mishaps if they decided they were dissatisfied with the Federation’s decision and wanted to leave the Federation.
That is a clear invitation to the members of that organisation to leave it and that he will give them protection. This is the great tycoon who is protected by a rationalisation agreement passed by this Parliament guaranteeing him flying routes throughout this country. He wants to indulge in union busting.
It is interesting to consider the activities of Ansett-ANA in this dispute. What has that organisation got to lose? The DC9 aircraft belonging to Trans-Australia Airlines are out of the air - I suspect on Government direction - but the Ansett-ANA organisation has put three men in its aircraft cabins temporarily, so Mr Ansett says, so that he can gain the goodwill of the public and take over part of the normal air traffic of TAA. What has Mr Ansett to lose? The fight is between the pilots and engineers on the one hand, and TAA on the other. If TAA wins, Mr Ansett simply drums out his third man. If the pilots win, he keeps on his third man and has been a good fellow - and in the meantime he has got the extra traffic. This is the sort of man who is held up here as an industrial tycoon. The pilots contend that this dispute is based on the safety of human lives. I am not going to say who is right, for this matter will be settled not here but somewhere else.
– Remember that it is before the High Court.
– Only on the bans issue. The employers base their opposition to the third man on the economic factor, but how does one weigh the value of human lives against increased profits? Whoever is technically right in this dispute, if there is the slightest chance that some lives may be sacrificed in this issue the pilots must he adjudged right. As I have said, someone else will determine that issue.
The postal workers dispute has come about as a result of the ineptitude and arrogance of the Public Service Board, the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Postmaster-General. It has continued for 3 years. What sort of a system of arbitration is it when a dispute that comes before the court for settlement can continue for 3 or 5 years without being settled and without any attempt being made by the Public Service Board to settle it? It is time the Government instructed the Board either to settle this dispute or to refer it to some authority clothed with power to settle it. I do not argue that it should be settled in favour of the workers. That is a matter for the evidence that would be produced before the tribunal. But surely if there is to be confidence in the system there must be quicker settlement of the disputes that come before these authorities.
Later I will have something to say about the metal trades dispute. But while I am speaking in this context I invite the attention of the Senate to the fact that the postal workers have had their disputes before the Public Service Board for 3 years without settlement, yet the employers were able to make an application to the Arbitration Commission for the cancellation of an award that was less than 6 weeks old and have that application heard and determined within 3 weeks. What sort of an arbitration system is it that countenances such things? If disputes are allowed to lie on file before the authorities that are supposed to settle them, how can workers be expected to remain quiet? How can workers not become restive when they have made demands upon their employers and no attempt: is made by the authority that is supposed to settle the disputes to do so?
The next major matter to which 1 refer is the metal trades dispute. I think every honourable senator is aware that metal trades wages were the subject of a work value case; that a commissioner was set aside to inquire into them; and that he took 18 months to make the inquiry. It was only natural that during that lengthy period of inquiry the unions became restive. But, as the commissioner look so long to make the inquiry, I think we all must agree that the decision at which he arrived must have been soundly based. I have read what Mr Justice Moore said on that point. He said that there was sufficient information before the Commission to settle the work value case in respect of only 70 of the 320 classifications. He was not the man who made the inquiry. Commissioner Winter was. Commissioner Winter was satisfied that there was sufficient evidence to be able to settle the dispute in respect of 302 classifications. In respect of eighteen classifications no increase was awarded.
The increase that is causing the most disagreement between the parties is the $7.40 for the tradesman. The decision made on 11th December to increase the skilled tradesman’s margin under the Metal Trades Award was roundly attacked by employer interests. It was not acceptable to them or to the Minister for Labour and National Service. In the ‘Age’ of 12th December his statement was reported under the heading: ‘Minister: “I cannot be silent”.’ The report stated:
The Minister for Labour (Mr Bury) last night made a bitter attack on the Arbitration Commission decision increasing margins.
In fact it was total wages that were increased, not margins. Mr Bury should bring himself up to date if he wants to remain in his present portfolio. The report continued:
Mr Bury said: ‘History will determine whether the members of the commission, who today handed down the majority decisions in the metal trades case, came to a calamitous conclusion with lasting consequences for the Austalian economy. . . .
Mr Bury’s remarks went even further ; they were without parallel in Federation.
Mr Bury said: To attempt to pass to employers the responsibility for any resulting wage inflation is among the less creditable aspects of the decisions.
Those involved in the practice of industrial relations who were hoping for guidance in what was heralded as a new look in wage fixation will find themselves largely disappointed when they get to the end of the voluminous decisions.
Widely proclaimed as a work value inquiry the outcome was that the rates for the majority of individual classifications were fixed without any detailed examination.’
In fact the Commission found that u had the necessary detailed information, bin Mr Bury does not think it did. The report continued:
Mr Bury said he normally refrained from criticising decisions of the commission.
Generally he did not think that the purpose and standing in our industrial relations fabric of the commission would thereby be furthered. On this occasion the issues were too vital for Australia’s economic development and future for him to remain silent.
That is the statement, of the man whom the Prime Minister has delegated to administer the Department of Labour and National Service under which the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the Industrial Court operate. Those are the words that he used in public to criticise a decision that had been brought down. Following the decision of the Commission, employers immediately took action to absorb the increases in what were termed over-award payments. In fact the Commission invited the employers to take such action. This is what Mr Justice Gallagher said:
With regard to over-award payments we direct particular attention to the reasons of Mr Commissioner Winter commencing at page 63, and to my reasons commencing at page 151. We emphasise that the increases which we would grant would apply to existing award wages and it should not be assumed by employees thai overaward payments cannot or will not bc offset against them.
That is a very interesting statement by an Arbitration Commission which over its long history has been concerned to fix only minimum rates of pay and conditions of labour. Never had it been accepted by the community, the Commission, the employers or the unions that the Commission fixed anything other than the minimum rates of pay. Yet in that judgment the Commission invited the employers to make the award that it delivered on 11th December the maximum rates of pay. Later, I hope to be able to show how the Commission tried to wriggle out of this position.
The unions have insisted always that the principle of minimum award rates should continue. Even this Government must support the unions in this application because the Government believes in a free enterprise system and in the law of supply and demand. The Commission itself has fixed a minimum wage below which the employer may not go in the payment of his workers. The workers arc free then to sell their labour to the highest bidder, just as the grocer is free to sell a bag of sugar to the highest bidder, lt is pure effrontery on the part of this Commission to deliver a judgment which fixes a minimum rate of pay and then invite employers to make that minimum rate of pay the maximum rate of pay.
The action by the employers to attempt to absorb over award payments into the award delivered by the Commission quickly created industrial chaos. This award did not affect Western Australia because the metal trades industry operates there under the State Industrial Commission. But in eastern Australia stoppages were held all over the place, particularly in the metal trades industry, although there was some support in other directions. The action by the workers in trying to protect that for which they had fought over the years quickly brought this sequel: The employers made application to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for bans orders. There was not the slightest attempt at conciliation in this matter by the employers. This is shown by an article in the January edition of a journal called ‘Impetus’. The journal states:
Members should report union pressure for overaward payments.
The Chamber of Manufactures of NSW has asked its members to report any union pressure to secure over-award payments for metal trades employees.
The Chamber has stated mat it will then notify the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that a dispute exists. . . .
Should any member be subject to industrial pressure by employees to bring about increases over and above the award rates now prescribed, he should notify the Industrial Department of this Chamber so that notification of that dispute can be lodged with the Commission as early as possible.
Manufacturers’ Mutual Insurance Ltd cooperated with the Chamber to get this important circular through to members during the mail stoppage.
Copies were distributed in bulk to all metropolitan branch offices of Manufacturers’ Mutual Insurance Ltd which acted as pick-up centres for Chamber members.
The Chamber notified members of these arrangements by display advertisements in daily newspapers.
This is where the economic pressures start to bear upon the organisations that are taking action for the advancement of their workers. Do not forget that the form of registration of these organisations compels them, as is set out in the preamble, to work for the advancement of their members. This is part of the charter of a union when it becomes registered. Apparently this move by the employers to have representations made to the Commission for action to be taken against the organisations was not advancing quickly enough. The employers made application for the cancellation of the award of 11th December. It was within 6 weeks of the award being delivered that the employers made application for its cancellation. As I said earlier, in contrast with the postal workers case which has been hanging on for 3 years, the employers were able to get their application for a cancellation of the award filed, heard and determined by the Commission within 3 weeks. The judgment was delivered on 22nd February.
Senator Bull said last night that there were no reasons for the decision of 22nd February. I do not know how many more reasons the honourable senator wants than those that are published in this document from which I will quote in a few moments and which sets out the decision of the Commission. It is a very interesting decision. The Commission affirms the principles of the award that was granted on 1 1 th December. It restates the principle of award minimums, discounts the principle of absorption, and refuses to accept the argument of the unions that the amount of over award payments then being made expressed the value of the work performed and then goes on to deal with its decision.
Mr Acting Deputy President, the three members of the Commission who delivered the decision on 11th December were also members of the five man Commission that heard the application for the cancellation of the award. They were Gallagher, J., Moore, J., and Winter, Commissioner. Gallagher, J. delivered a separate judgment. He was not a party to the judgment to defer 30% of the award rate. Kirby, C. J. delivered the reasons for the judgment on 22nd February on behalf of himself, Moore, J., Taylor, Senior Commissioner, and Winter, Commissioner. In paragraph 3 of the judgment, he says:
It appears to all of us that substantial absorption in over-award payments of wage increases recently granted has not in this industry except in special cases been practicable except in the existing circumstances.
This is a repetition of what was said earlier. In paragraph 6 he states:
Wc all agree that the work value decision of the Commission as to its amounts should stand. There can be no question of substitution of different amounts than those prescribed by the majority.
That majority was Gallagher, J. and Winter, Commissioner. The judgment was delivered on 11th December 1967. Mr Justice Kerby went on to outline that on 30th December the rate awarded would be deferred to some future date - it might be 5 years or 10 years; I do not know and neither does anyone else - and that 70% of the rate awarded would be paid immediately provided that the lowest rate to be paid was $1.60. Mr Justice Gallagher, in delivering his minority opinions, said:
Over award payments and questions relating to absorption are fundamentally matters for private arrangement between the parties and with this in mind the Commission has already made attempts to induce their respective representatives to reach agreement. So far they have been unsuccessful but this does not mean that efforts should be abandoned, particularly when regard is had to the serious developments which have taken place over recent weeks.
Mr Justice Gallagher said, of course, that he would not defer anything, that the award rate would stand, and that he would order the parties into conference to settle their differences. Then, strangely enough, Mr Commissioner Winter, who was party to the previous award of 11th December, set out to try to clarify what he said on that occasion. I think that he clarified it very well indeed. He discounted the contention that the rates awarded were a measure of the work value by saying:
The level of over-award payments was not decisive.
The employers were free to act as they chose with respect to over-award payments, but were under no compulsion to retain over-award payments at their current levels.
In the field of over-award payments the employers have made their decisions untrammelled by industrial regulation. Therefore, if, as a result of any failure to apply over-award payments, at least partially, against the more substantial increases, employers strained their capacity to pay such increases, the responsibility inevitably lay with them.
Clearly, since 1 hold the view that in its majority decision of 11th December 1967 the Commission was justified for reasons advanced in disregarding factors relating to the capacity to pay principle considered from a point of view of the national economy, I was. when speaking of capacity to pay when considering over-award payments, relating it to capacity of individual employers and not to capacity to pay in a national sense.
This renders fallacious the contention that the employer was free to absorb the increases in over-award payments. Mr Commissioner Winter went on:
In my view each employer had the responsibility of deciding whether or not to offset increases against over-award payments and I merely directed attention to it.
But the employers looked upon absorption as the gospel by which they were to live. Mr Commissioner Winter again emphasised the fact that the Commission awarded only minimum rates. He said:
Although this Commission and its predecessors have always fixed minimum rates of pay and, in some areas of some industries and to some degree there has always been a gap between award wages and wages paid, the gap has now widened and deepened.
The Commissioner recognises that these things go on. Finally he said:
This does not obscure in any way my view that the wage rates determined on 11th December’ 1967 represented their fair and reasonable award wages.
This is the position in which the unions found themselves at that time, in the full belief that the Commission could award only minimum rates of pay. That belief was confirmed by the people who heard the claim and the subsequent case concerning their right to demand something over if they had sufficient industrial strength. On the latter occasion the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) was, I thought, rather pleased with the decision. On 22nd February he was reported as saying, under the heading ‘Plea for sense, good will’:
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) said last night it was the responsibility of all concerned in the metals trades dispute to abide by the Commission’s decision.
That is a situation in which healthy commonsense and mutual good will must prevail,’ he said.
This was different from his attitude on 1.1th December when the findings of the Commission were not acceptable to him.
What are the facts of this matter as we see them? We find that the Commission of three delivered a judgment on 1 1 th December awarding a rate of pay which was not acceptable to the Minister for Labour and National Service and the employers. There was an attempt by the employers to absorb the rates awarded in over-award payments already being made. This was resisted by thi; unions until some 300 applications against them were made to the court. Then the employers made an application for cancellation of the award. The Commission of five heard the application for cancellation of the award and in their judgment came down in favour of absorption in the overaward payments. This is what the court did. The members of the Commission knew the nature of the over-award payments because the unions had submitted evidence of them. The unions contended that the Commission in making its original award had arrived al the rates as a measure of the value of the work performed. What did the Commission do on the second occasion? It averaged the amounts out over the metal trades industries and came to the conclusion that the original award represented a 30% over-award payment, and deducted this from the rates prescribed in the award of 1 1 th December 1967. This ‘wonderful’ commission stands in disgrace forever. Ils members took over from the employers the job that the employers were unable to do, though they had used the economic pressures of the industrial court against the unions. The Commission stepped in and absorbed in over-award payments part of the increase awarded in the judgment of 1 1 th December 1 967. The members of the Commission must stand condemned for this action; they have driven another nail into the coffin of arbitration in Australia. I believe they have started a big downturn in the faith of the people and the trade union movement in. the system of arbitration. What confidence can the organisation formed to protect the interests of the workers have in an authority that, having made an award, deliberately changes it in a little over 2 months in order to satisfy the interests of one party to the award - the employers. I believe the Commission has brought nearer the time when the unions will with just cause abandon the system of arbitration, which can be manipulated by the Minister for Labour and National Service and by the employers. How can anyone have any faith in the integrity and impartiality of the Commission today when it takes this sort of action? Surely the workers who are less informed on these matters cannot have any faith in the impartiality of a Commission that will do this sort of thing.
I want to refer to some figures which show what it has cost the unions in order to resist the voracious appetites of the employers. As a result of the metal trades decision of December last, eighty-seven applications under section 109 of the Act have been lodged for an order compelling the unions to obey the bans clause in the award.
– Applications by employers.
– Yes. Seventy-two of those applications were made absolute and fifteen were adjourned. Strangely enough, 372 orders were filed under section 1 1 1 for contempt of the orders made under section 109. There were 255 fines imposed under orders made under section 111. In sixty-three cases the unions were found guilty but no fine was imposed. The remaining fifty-five cases were adjourned. The total fines imposed upon the unions amounted to $64,000. This figure can at least be doubled when we consider the costs of defending the actions. The trade union movement has had to find this amount of money in order to protect the interests of its members. The unions will not stand this economic lash being used against them for very much longer. In order to get justice they will enter the field of free enterprise collective bargaining, away from the supervision and discipline of an unfair Act - an Act which conscripts them into the labour force and compels them to be in the labour force. The figures that I gave of penalties imposed on unions relate to actions that have been taken in the period between 1st January 1968 and 14th March 1968. So far as I have been able to ascertain, those figures are up to date.
– It means that fines totalling $64,000 have been imposed in 3 months.
– The fines have been imposed in 2i months, and there are still fifty-five cases to be heard. The Minister for Labour and National Service was not even satisfied with this decision, because on 1st March he made another attack upon the Arbitration Commission. I am sorry that I have not the reference with me, but on that occasion he attacked the Arbitration Commission for what he said was an attempt on its part to control the Australian economy. He said that the Arbitration Commission had authority only to settle disputes, not to fix economic boundaries. I believe that as skilled as the Minister for Labour and National Service is in economic matters he misleads himself when he tries to divorce the wage fixing tribunals in this country from the economic welfare of the country.
– I think that Mr Justice Gallagher took him to task.
– I did not see that, but the facts are that whatever happens in the wage fixing tribunals in this country will affect the lives of all people. No matter what this or any other government does, the rates of pay awarded under a system of collective bargaining or a system of arbitration and conciliation will be one of the largest economic factors operating within the Australian economy. It is quite useless for Mr Bury to talk in this strain to the Commission unless he is of somewhat the same mind as Senator Bull who invites the Government to bring down legislation or regulations to discipline the Commission. I believe that in the metal trades decision the Arbitration Commission has done itself more harm than Mr Bury or Senator Bull or this legislature can do.
– I do not intend to follow Senator Cant along the tortuous paths of hate. It seems to me it would be fair to say that the only system of arbitration which Senator Cant is prepared to accept is one that gives him everything he wants. If it does not do so he is not prepared to accept it. 1 think that this was the import of his remarks this afternoon. I believe that I should correct Senator Cant’s statements regarding the proposed 24-hour stoppage. I shall not repeat what has or has not happened with regard to mail van drivers over the last 2 or 3 years, but it is quite clear that on 22nd January they, together with the Australian Council of Trade Unions, made an agreement with the Government to accept the processes of arbitration. Arbitration proceedings were taken. Indeed, I believe that three statutory conferences have been held already, and all of them have been adjourned at the request of the ACTU.
The Public Service Arbitrator has given clear notice that he will hear the matter at a public hearing next Monday. So what is happening is not the result of a breach of the agreement by the Government or by the Public Service Arbitrator; it is the result of a breach of the agreement by the ACTU and the postal workers. I believe thai the record should be put straight. The Public Service Arbitrator has announced that he will hear the case next Monday. So the processes of arbitration have been taking place ever since this agreement was made.
I am sorry that Senator Cant has left the chamber. He seems to have an obsession regarding Mr Ansett. I believe that it is quite unfair to make personal attacks inside this chamber on people who have no means by which to reply. I make no attack on Trans-Australia Airlines, but when a person suggests that Ansett-ANA is receiving favourable treatment from the Government it must be remembered that in respect of finance for equipment TAA over the years has been in a favourable position compared with Ansett-ANA. I mention this in passing, because the record should always be kept straight.
I turn from the ridiculous to the sublime, as it were, and congratulate Senator Laucke on his maiden speech. We know that Senator Laucke was a member of the South Australian Parliament for many years and so is not inexperienced in speaking - even in making maiden speeches - but we can all agree that his speech augurs well for his future in the Senate. We welcome him to the Government side to add to our debating strength. I give strong support to two matters that he mentioned. He referred to the proposal of the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council for drought contingency bonds and suggested that the term drought’ was rather limiting and that the bonds should apply to other national disasters. This is the type of self help that we support and believe should be encouraged. There is great merit in the proposal. Indeed, a Liberal Party rural committee of which I am chairman has given strong and warm consideration to this proposal. Today I received a letter from South Australia supporting it. I hope that the Government carefully considers the proposal, because it is a means of reducing the taxpayers’ responsibility in time of national disaster and it encourages primary producers, who are always anxious to help themselves, to help themselves.
I see great merit in the Government giving further encouragement by way of taxation concessions to encourage water conservation and fodder conservation. We know that the primary producer is not badly off with tax concessions today, but in some fields further assistance could be given. I am thinking rather of double taxation concessions for water conservation and for fodder conservation. Consideration should be given also to the probate situation with respect to fodder stored on property. I know there are difficulties associated with this aspect, but it should not be beyond the wisdom of the powers to find an answer to such difficulties. These proposals would be means of encouraging, at little cost, self help and would result in considerable savings to the taxpayers in times of drought. Such assistance would be welcomed by primary producers.
It is not my intention to refer to matters that were raised in the Speech with which the Governor-General opened this session. He referred to the proposed British withdrawal of troops from South East Asia and the problems it posed for Australia. I commend Senator Cormack’s thoughtful contribution on this subject. His speech should be studied, because it seemed to me to lay down certain principles and guidelines to which we should give careful attention. I do not intend to deal with the Vietnam situation now. No doubt at some future date we will have the opportunity to debate that subject and foreign affairs generally. In the past I have spoken on the importance of tariff policies to the sound economic growth of Australia. There is no need for me to stress the importance of the cost structure to primary industries. Governments should be extremely careful in taking action to increase the cost burden, because the cost price squeeze in our major rural industries - particularly the wool industry - is assuming serious if not grave proportions. Therefore we must study carefully the economic policy that affects the cost structure.
It is unquestionably the Government’s responsibility to decide tariff policy. The Tariff Board is an advisory body only. The Government has to accept the responsibility, as it has done in the past. I am conscious that in trying to deal with a subject as complex and as large as the tariff in a short time one can leave serious deficiencies in an argument - deficiencies that the critics can seize upon - but that is a risk one must take. I make it clear that I have no quarrel with tariffs. They are essential and have served Australia well. I am conscious also that many of our primary industries are protected by tariffs. If they were not, they would not exist at all. I realise that should our wheat industry, for example, be threatened by the importation of cheaper wheat there would be justification for giving this great industry some protection. I am not concerned about tariffs but about the level of tariffs. I would always support a moderate level of tariffs for economic and efficient industry, no matter how that is defined. It is very difficult to find a precise definition of ‘economic and efficient’. This must be left to the judgment of the Tariff Board itself. I believe that in its last report the Tariff Board gave a clear indication of the criteria it will use in judging whether industries are economic and efficient. I will deal with this aspect later.
On an earlier occasion, when I was discussing a report on the chemical industry, I referred to the disenchantment of many sections of the Australian community with the present tariff policy. I quoted at length Sir Leslie Melville, a noted economist and a former Chairman of the Tariff Board. It is rather interesting, and worth noting, that since then we have had statements from Dr Coombs, the Governor of the Reserve Bank, urging moderation in levels of tariff protection. We have had the benefit of a detailed and, I believe, logical case presented by the Australian Woolgrowers and Federal Council. This case is worthy of study by anyone interested in the subject. The Council is concerned with the effects of tariff policy on the cost structure of the wool industry in particular. We have had the benefit of a very good paper by Dr Cordon, formerly of the Australian National University and a recognised expert on tariff matters, as well as two very fine policy speeches by Mr Rattigan, Chairman of the Tariff Board, which are worthy of study. There is also the latest Tariff Board report and the publication of the correspondence between Mr Rattigan and Mr McEwen, Minister for Trade and Industry, in relation to the terms of reference. A study of those documents and statements gives us a better understanding of tariff policy and of the thinking of those who were and are closely connected with tariff decisions and Australian economic policy.
Last year we had in the Senate a very lengthy and, I believe, very useful debate on the Tariff Board report on the chemical industry. I shall refer to the report again only in the context of tariff policy. The decision flowing from that inquiry already is having a wide impact on the cost structure of the Australian economy. I realise that it is very difficult to assess the actual cost impact, particularly on primary industry, but various people have made guesses at it. I think it was Senator Bull who put a question on the notice paper in the last sessional period seeking information on an assessment of the effect made by the Minister for Trade and Industry. The Vernon Committee, in its report, also made an assessment but acknowledged the great difficulty of making an accurate assessment. However, from memory, it came up with a figure of between 8% and 15% on the cost structure of the wool industry. I realise that we cannot eliminate the effect overnight because there must always be some industries receiving tariff protection, but the assessment arrived at indicates that within the range mentioned there is some room for economy. That is the kind of thinking today of Dr Coombs and Mr Rattigan, the Woolgrowers and Graziers Federal Council and other primary producer organisations which have been taking such a close interest in this matter.
The correspondence between Mr Rattigan and the Minister indicates clearly that there has been some doubt in the Board’s mind as to whether the terms of reference were in fact a direction to the Board to bring in a certain finding or, as some Board members felt, rather an indication that the Government believed that they should take note of certain factors. I believe the latter would be the correct attitude for the Government to adopt. For example, in the textile industry inquiry, which was the basis of the exchange of letters, the terms of reference provided that the Board should take note of disruptive pricing. The Board was not sure whether that was a direction or whether it should consider the possibility of disruptive pricing. The Board was not quite clear on the meaning of the terms of reference. No doubt this is a matter between the Board and the Minister which they will settle between themselves in due course.
As I have said previously, it is most important that the Board should operate independently within the framework of Government economic policy. It is then the Government’s responsibility to decide whether to accept the Board’s recommendations.In my opinion, for what it is worth, the Board should not be restricted by terms of reference directing it to bring in a certain recommendation. I ask for leave to continue my remarks on the next day of sitting.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Before the motion isput I should like to take the opportunity to correct a reply I gave to a question which Senator McManus asked me this morning relating to the Australian Wheat Board seeking to insure against the possible effect of devaluation. I said that the Board had approached the Export Payments Insurance Corporation. I correct that now. The Australian Wheat Board had approached the Reserve Bank. I appreciate the fact that Senator McManus directed my attention to my incorrect answer.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 March 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1968/19680314_senate_26_s37/>.