26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator MURPHY presented a petition from Michael Somare, member of the House of Assembly of Papua and New Guinea and leader of the Pangu Pati, praying that the Parliament will take what action it can to assist members of the House of Assembly to obtain an improvement of certain facilities.
Petition received and read.
Senator WEBSTER presented a petition from nineteen Darebin electors praying that the Government will break off diplomatic relations with, impose economic sanctions upon and take other action in connection with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the co-aggressors in the invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Petition received and read.
A similar petition was presented by Senator Greenwood.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government.
What action is being taken by the Government to comply with the order of the Senate for the tabling of documents on the Fill aircraft? In view of the loss of yet another Fill, will the Government meet the public’s concern about this aircraft by presenting to the Senate as soon as possible a full statement on the history of the delays and faults in the aircraft and on the intended and actual operational usefulness of the aircraft?
– In relation to the first part of the question 1 point out that the documents asked for do not belong to me. They arc in the possession of the Government and the Government will provide me, as soon as is practicable, with such documents, parts of documents or copies of documents as it considers it can make public. I ask that the second part of the question be put on the notice paper.
By way of background to the reference to the crash of another FINA aircraft I indicate to the Senate that it is a fact that another aircraft has crashed, lt was flying at a height of between 100 and 200 feet off Nellis Air Force Base with a crew of two aboard, one of whom was an Australian, Flight Lieutenant Pollock, a navigator. They ejected and were unhurt. I understand they now have returned to their base. The aircraft had been in flight for li hours when the accident occurred. As the Senate is already aware, the United States Air Force currently is examining a fault disclosed in a fatigue test and my colleague, the Minister for Defence in another place, has announced that we do not propose to accept any further aircraft until the position is much clearer. That is how the matter stands at present.
– By way of preface to my question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development I point out that when the Chowilla Dam project was agreed to a number of important amendments were made to the River Murray Waters Act 1951-63, which come into effect only on completion of the Chowilla Dam. A vitally important amendment as it affects South Australia is that in time of restriction South Australia’s entitlement will be five-fifteenths or one-third of available Murray water whereas until Chowilla is completed South Australia’s entitlement is only three-thirteenths. As deferment of construction of the Dam deprives South Australia of an appropriate and requisite amount of water, what interim compensating provisions in regard to supply are contemplated for the State in time of restriction and pending completion of Chowilla Dam?
– Questions are continually being asked about the completion of the Chowilla Dam and J have answered them in quite specific terms on a number of occasions. I have pointed out that the River Murray Commission has asked the Minister for National Development to direct his officers to survey the Murray system in a comprehensive study of the available sites. The number of possible sites has been narrowed down to two, one at Dartmouth on the Mitta Mitta River, and the other at Chowilla. I do not know at present of any compensating provisions contemplated for South Australia pending completion of the Chowilla Dam. I will raise the matter with the Minister and ask him to send a detailed reply to the honourable senator.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: ls it a fact that the agreement in respect of fishing now contracted between Australia and Japan, as announced in the Parliament by the Minister for External Affairs on 19th September, relating to Japanese tuna longline fishing in waters within the 12-mile limit of Australia will imperil the Australian fishing industry, particularly in South Australia, and the position of Port Lincoln as the largest fishing port in the Commonwealth? If so, will trie Government, on receipt of the draft agreement, take appropriate action to renegotiate the agreement in order to conserve the source of production of an important South Australian primary industry?
– Last Thursday I read in the Senate a statement about the agreement negotiated between Australia and Japan. In view of the implications of the honourable senator’s question I think he should put it on the notice paper. As I understand the honourable senator, he is suggesting a variation or rewriting of certain provisions of the draft agreement. In all the circumstances, the honourable senator should place his question on the notice paper and I will attempt to get a prompt reply for him.
– I address my question to the Minister in Charge of Tourist Activities. In view of the fact that a great deal of money provided by Australian taxpayers is being spent to make Sydney (Kingford-Smith) Airport into a fitting gateway to Australia, particularly for international visitors, does the Minister agree that those efforts are being nullified by the disgracefully untidy conditions which prevail in the streets and parks in what must be the dirtiest city in Australia? Since these streets must be travelled by international visitors, and as tourism is such a valuable overseas currency earner and an industry which therefore should be encouraged, I ask the Minister whether anything can be done to educate the people of Sydney towards having a modicum of civic pride. Would the Minister consider asking the Australian Tourist Commission to undertake a campaign for that purpose?
– I will abstain from any animadversions against any particular Australian city. However, I assure my colleague that the Australian Tourist Commission has been encouraging community organisations to promote an anti-litter campaign throughout Australia. It is needless for me to say that in some places one visits frequently litter is all too obvious. A simple precaution could be taken by the community to make this country appear much more welcoming to tourists.
– Wi]] the Minister representing the Treasurer inform the Senate whether it is the usual practice of the Taxation Branch to levy income tax on the profits of a speculative building company that disposes of its assets at a huge profit immediately after construction is completed? Are such profits not considered to be income and therefore exempt as being capital gains? Will the Minister inform the Senate whether any special concessions or assurances have been granted to SLE
Properties Pty Ltd, the vendors of the Cromwell Building in Melbourne, that profits on its sale to the Commonwealth for $4. 7m will not be subject to income tax? As the building was completed only 6 months ago and the gross assets of SLE Properties Pty Ltd are set by it at §2,576,604, does the price paid by the Commonwealth represent a gross profit of $2,123,396 to the company?
– I shall seek the general information sought by the honourable senator and have it conveyed to him. Nevertheless, I must express some concern that a matter between the Government and an individual organisation should be the subject of a question. I suggest that it would have been far better if the honourable senator had sought his information by way of a letter, perhaps to the Treasurer.
– Sweep it under the carpet.
– No, I do not suggest that, nor do I suppose that Senator Gair would like a reference made in this place to his private taxation affairs.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the statement already made that Australia is to impose a voluntary restriction on meat exports to the United States, and in view of the statement made by the Minister last week, has he now any further information to add to that statement in order to enlighten the Senate on the situation?
– Yes, I can provide the Senate with additional information. First, 1 think it is only right that it should be made clear to people who have cattle which are just about ready for sale that the temporary cessation of meat exports to the United States does not mean that there are no other markets. There is still a market in the United Kingdom and there is a market also in Japan. 1 mention this to reassure those people who might feel inclined to sacrifice their stock. There has been some concern as to why it was suddenly necessary to impose restrictions and I have been asked why the Department of Primary Industry was not able to anticipate this situation some little while ago. The information I have is as follows: The last estimate of meat imports announced by the United States Secretary of Agriculture at the end of June was 935 million lb, which was well below the trigger point for 1968, that trigger point being 1,045 million lb, and below the actual level at which quotas would apply if triggered, namely 950 million lb. There was an unexpected sharp increase in imports in subsequent months which reflected the very high level of the United States demand for manufacturing meat and a record United States price for manufacturing beef. Any restriction of exports by Australia prior to the United Slates expectation that quotas might be triggered would not have been matched by restrictions on exports by other suppliers who would have increased shipments to meet the United States demand. We would consequently now lind ourselves restricted to an even lower figure. As it is, imports from Australia in 1968 will be higher than in 1967, and we can expect a further increase in 1969, even if restrictions become necessary under the United States legislation. Again I emphasise that it is expected that these restrictions that have been applied will apply for only the next 6 to 8 weeks.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. In view of the serious bush fires raging on a front of 150 miles in the Batemans Bay and Moruya regions of New South Wales, what Commonwealth aid has been given through the Department of National Development and the Australian Forestry Council? I refer particuarly to aid which could improve chemical fire bombing techniques and the use of helicopters to transfer fire fighting personnel to vital sectors of the bush fire area.
– My attention was drawn to this matter, which was referred to in the ‘Canberra Times’ this morning. The Australian Forestry Council met in Mount Gambier last year and studied the question whether it would be advisable for it to purchase aircraft known as fire bombers to control bush fires. The Council consists of Federal and State Ministers. Its recommendation was that because the lakes in Australia had too many snags in them and were not cleared as they are in Canada and the United States of America fire bombers would not be a useful means of combating fires in Australia. Since then the Council has made a study of light aircraft, lt is proposed to carry out experiments in the Australian Capital Territory this year. I understand that the Victorian Government also has carried out some experiments with light aircraft this year.
– Were they with chemical bombing?
– Yes. chemical and water bombing. Following those experiments, further results may be obtained. 1 point out to the honourable senator that because of the dense smoke associated with the present fires it is nol thought that the use of this type of aircraft would be a satisfactory way of combating them. However, the Commonwealth Government, through the Minister for National Development, has made available two officers to go to New South Wales, make a study and give advice to the people concerned with the recent large scale outbreaks of fire in southern New South Wales.
– My question is addressed to the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities, ls it not a fact that when the Commonwealth Government established the Australian Tourist Commission in 1966 its purpose was to encourage a rapid increase in the number of visitors to Australia from overseas countries and that since its inception it has advocated the holding of international conventions in Australian cities that have the required facilities? Can the Minister inform the Senate whether there are any indications that this new drive for tourists has made an impact on people and organisations in north American or other overseas countries?
– I am pleased to be able to inform my colleague that there has been an increase in the number of people from north America visiting Australia. The Chairman and General Manager of the Australian Tourist Commission only last week attended in Puerto Rico the annual meeting of the American Society of Travel Agents in Australia, dispensed hospitality - in the true Australian fashion, honourable senators can be sure - and urged the claims of Australia as the venue for a meeting of that Society, which numbers 3,000 American travel agents. The meeting involved is the Society’s biennial external American conference in 1971. It can be expected that, if our friends from north America decide on Sydney as their meeting venue, it will be a great aid in interesting the north American travelling public in Australia. We look upon north America as the chief market that we should promote.
– Has the Minister representing the Treasurer seen a report that the Bega Valley on the south coast of New South Wales has been described by agricultural experts as nothing but a dust bowl and that south coast dairy farmers, now in their fourth year of drought and with unemployment occurring in their area, face reduced milk production and higher feed prices? Is the Minister aware that the present Commonwealth drought relief for the area is due to end next week? In view of the great hardships being suffered by farmers and wage and salary earners in the area, with a consequential drastic effect on the economy of the towns on the south coast of New South Wales, will the Commonwealth Government take urgent and immediate action to ensure the continuance of drought relief assistance to the area?
– Yes, 1 have seen the report. Like all other honourable senators, I received it with very grave concern. The matter is a serious one, particularly to the South Coast which normally, before this 4-year period of drought, had good cropping and good seasons while other parts of Australia were in the grip of drought. I will raise the matter with the Treasurer immediately.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Have officers of his Department in Adelaide recently seized a number of copies of a document entitled ‘Kangaroo Court’ published by the Hubbard College of Scientology and purporting to be an investigation into the conduct of a board of inquiry into Scientology in Melbourne in 1965? If so, why were these documents seized? Is further action contemplated?
– Officers of my Department are continually detaining drugs, documents and papers, some of which are eventually banned and some of which are not. 1 ask the honourable senator to place his question on the notice paper so that I can obtain a detailed answer for him.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. As Australia is alleged to have a high reputation with the Government of the United States of America, has an approach been made by the Australian Government to either the United States or the United Nations in an attempt to bring sanity into the conflict or crisis between the Philippines, which has close economic ties with the United States, and Malaysia over the State of Sabah? As Malaysia is a sister nation of Australia in the British Commonwealth of Nations will the Government act immediately, if it has not already done so, in any sphere possible to bring harmony to these two close neighbours of Australia?
– .1 have not quite taken on board the point relating to the United States of America. Nevertheless, the dispute is a serious one and we are concerned to see that it is resolved as quickly as possible. I do not wish to give an answer to a question without notice on this matter. I would prefer at the appropriate time, through the Minister for External Affairs, to make a comment or to give an answer to a set question. 1 am sure that Senator Fitzgerald and all honourable senators will appreciate the wisdom of that course. In the circumstances I ask the honourable senator to put the question on the notice paper.
– Since the Senate is the House of the States and I am a senator from the State of Victoria, I wonder whether you would permit me, Mr President, to ask a question without notice of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. My curiosity is aroused by newspaper reports of the claims of the Northern Territory pastoralists about action to be taken in relation to their beef output, and also by the question asked by Senator Lawrie earlier this afternoon - involving what 1 can describe only as statistical impudence - which related to the export of beef. My question is: Will the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry or the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry give the breakup of this piece of statistical semantics in order to indicate what constitutes the export of beef? Senator Lawrie alluded to manufacturing beef. Will the Minister separate manufacturing beef from other forms of beef so that the Senate readily may discern whether there is any impudence in relation to export operations?
– For the sake of accuracy I think it would be better if the honourable senator placed his question on notice. I will obtain an answer for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that on the retail market in the United States of America there is a synthetic milk which is identical iti every respect to natural milk including calories and protein? Is it also a fact that the price of the synthetic product is 40% lower than that of natural milk and that it has made serious inroads into the natural milk market? Will the Government take steps to ensure that this product is not permitted to enter the retail market in Australia to the disadvantage of the dairy industry?
– Some little while ago J answered a similar question but it would be advisable for the particular question that the honourable senator now poses to be placed on the notice paper.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services seen a recent Press statement in which the Minister for Social Services indicated that there will be increases in unemployment and sickness benefits? Will an increase in this field be carried through to additional increases in age and other pensions? Will such increases be legislated for in the current session of the Parliament or merely included as a promise in the policy to be announced by the Government parties prior to the general election to be held on 30th November?
– The matter referred to in the question is surely a matter of policy and is not properly a subject for question time.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry assure the Senate that the Government is fully alert to the problems which currently beset the butterfat producers within the Australian dairy industry? Is the Government aware of the concern of producers being expressed at meetings of dairy farmers being held throughout the Commonwealth such as the meeting intended for tomorrow at Shepparton, Victoria, which up to 1,400 producers are expected to attend? Can the Minister foresee any action by the Government which might alleviate the problem of inadequate returns to producers?
– Only last week, 1 think, I answered a question concerning butter asked by Senator Webster, who has been taking a lot of interest in this phase of primary industry. The Government is aware, and has been for quite a number of years now, of the very unhappy position of a large majority of dairy farmers throughout Australia. In some States certain measures have been adopted to endeavour to help dairy farmers, such as the taking over of adjoining properties where this is considered advisable by the owners. I understand that it is expected that within the next few weeks an announcement will be made concerning a proposal that has been suggested to the Premiers of all States by the Minister for Primary Industry. I hope that when this is done the honourable senator will find that some of the troubles that have been bedevilling the dairy industry will be overcome.
– I should like to direct a question to you, Mr President, if I may. I refer to a statement issued by the Prime Minister on 18th September 1968 in which he stated:
Last night Senator Gair joined with the ALP in the Senate in demanding, in effect, that such confidential documents should be made public whether or not the Government of the USA agreed and whether or not this disclosure would adversely affect our relationship with that Government now and in the future.
He went on to say:
I regard this as quite irresponsible.
As this is an imputation of improper motive and a personal reflection on members of the Senate and a decision of the Senate, will you, Mr President, take action to see that such behaviour by the Prime Minister is not repeated?
– It is quite in order for an honourable senator to ask the Chair a question. It is also in order for the Chair not to answer unless it wishes to do so.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. I ask: Did the Minister see reports of a statement by Professor D. E. Allen, presently of the University of Tasmania and recently appointed to Monash University, calling for the establishmentby the Commonwealth and the States of a permanent research directorate to do the work that the Standing Committee of AttorneysGeneral cannot do in the standardisation of law in Australia, particularly commercial and criminal law? Will the Minister refer the matter to the Commonwealth AttorneyGeneral for his consideration and action towards this desirable objective.
– I have not seen reports of the specific suggestion made by Professor Allen. I shall certainly submit the matter to the Attorney-General for his consideration. I am prompted to say that I do not think Professor Allen’s suggestion does justice to the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, which has been functioning for 4 or 5 years with quite significant results.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has the Minister seen reports of a statement made yesterday in Perth by Mr Arthur Fletcher, the Director of Marketing for the Rolls Royce Company, who said that many European companies were violently opposed to Australia’s participation fa the Vietnam war and accordingly Australia might find it difficult to obtain equipment from a number of European companies? Are there any instances where this has occurred so far? Will the Government undertake to keep the Senate informed of any refusals by European companies to provide equipment to Australia because of Australia’s participation in the Vietnam war?
– i neither saw the article referred to nor know of any instances where Australia, which is a very good trader, has been refused equipment by another nation.
– 1 would like to ask a question of the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Is the Minister aware that under the Companies Act companies have perpetual succession or ownership? In order to safeguard Australia, will the Minister ask his colleague the AttorneyGeneral to have the Companies Act altered to eliminate this privilege in the case of foreign owned or foreign controlled companies, and to limit their privilege of perpetuity to 30 or 50 years?
– I feel that the honourable senator’s question is based upon misconception of the facet of company incorporation that gives perpetual succession to companies. The incorporating or grouping of a number of persons into a company is to give that company a corporate existence that continues until it is dissolved or wound up by law. The expression ‘perpetual succession’ is only an indication of that aspect of its incorporation. I suggest that it would be quite inconsistent with any idea of incorporation to limit the incorporation to a specific period.
– I wish to address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. I refer to a Press statement issued by the Minister for Labour and National Service on 13th September announcing the eighth national service ballot. Among other things, that statement indicated that young men whose birth dates were drawn in the ballot were liable for call-up, subject to meeting the standards required by the Army. I ask: Firstly, what are these standards? Secondly, to what does the Minister attribute the reported 40% failure rate? Thirdly, do specific skills possessed by young men have any significance in their acceptance or rejection?
– It has been made quite clear by the Government that the adoption of the ballot system of call-up ensures that no special personal factor determines whether or not a person is called up. This is unlike the system in other countries where there is discrimination according to skills or lack of skills. The standards insisted upon by the Army for men who are called up for admission to the Army pertain to their education, their physical fitness and their character. If, after those tests are applied, these young men are passed, they are then enlisted for service.
– What about their politics?
– No, politics are quite irrelevant.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Can the Minister inform me in which of the last 5 years the Hume Dam has been filled? Further, what volume of water passed over the spillway in each of the years of overflow?
– In the last 5 years, the Hume Dam has overflowed on two occasions^ - in October 1964 and in November 1967. On the first occasion 3 million acre feet of water passed not over the spillway but through the gates which were open to take it. On the second occasion, 600 acre feet of water spilled from the Hume Dam.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It follows from the statements of and the actions taken by the Prime Minister over the last few days relating to the buying of shares in the MLC Ltd. Is it not a fact that a large number of fire, accident and marine insurance companies operating in Australia already are substantially if not totally owned by overseas capital? ls it not also a fact that at least two of the major Australian trading banks, the Australia and New Zealand Bank Ltd, and the English, Scottish and Australian Bank Ltd, at present have their head offices in London with, 1 understand, their shares available on the London market? What watch is the Government keeping on the movement of shares in those fire, accident and marine insurance companies operating in Australia whose directorates are overseas, and what walch is it keeping on the movements of shares in those two Australian banks whose head offices also are overseas?
– The honourable senator has asked a very comprehensive question, lt would indeed require some research to get the information he seeks. The statement that was made by the Prime Minister on 22nd September, which was published as a Press release, relates to the Australian life assurance company, MLC Ltd. Here the situation is completely different from that of the other companies to which the honourable senator refers. Here we have a totally Australian company. There is no question of inflow of overseas capital involved here. In this case, we have an Australian company and Australian capital that is already here. The action that is being taken relates to the apparent attempt to control the assets of that Australian capital and in this way deny Australian control. 1 would think that the examples mentioned by the honourable senator are not analogous. As to the other matters raised by the honourable senator, I shall seek the information from the Treasurer and have it supplied to him.
– I address a question to the Minister for Works. It is supplementary to that just asked by me and relates to the answer given by the Minister. Will the Minister, in referring my question to the Attorney-General make it clear to him that neither Professor Allen in his statement, nor I in my question made or intended any criticism of the work done by the Committee of Attorneys-General but referred only to the inevitable limitation of time available to that Committee?
– Indeed I will. I added the reference only to prevent any misunderstanding, and 1 should like to add an acknowledgement of Professor Allen’s great contribution to Pacific-Asian contract law when, in recent months, at a seminar at Kuala Lumpur, he led a discussion of a week’s duration by law teachers from the South East Asian area on the question of commercial law. Professor Allen’s suggestion was of very great importance and 1 only add a reference so that no-one will think that there was any intention to detract from the work of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General.
– In directing my question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development 1 refer to the Government’s newfound concern over Australian assets passing into the hands of overseas corporations. Will the Minister tell us what the Commonwealth Government is doing to prevent a coal mine belonging to the New South Wales Government from passing into the hands of a consortium with powerful overseas interests in it?
– The New South Wales Government has sol’d one of its coal mines to a company overseas for $10,11. We, as a Government, are anxious to encourage overseas capital to Australia. I point out to the honourable senator that there is a vast difference between a life assurance company which holds about S700m of the people’s savings and a coal mine valued at about $1Om. I make it quite clear to the Senate that the Government is anxious to have overseas capital come to Australia to develop our new rich mineral’ resources, preferably in conjunction with our own capital. We are not so very keen about overseas capital coming to Australia to take over such organisations as life assurance companies. However, I hardly think that the honourable senator’s question was reasonable in that he outlined two proposals, one in relation to a coal mine and the other in relation to a life assurance company holding assets to the value of about $700m.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development follows that asked of him by Senator Murphy. In view of the Minister’s statement that the Government welcomes the sale of this coal mine to Japanese interests does it follow that the Government favours the sale of all Australianowned mines within Australia to overseas interests? If not, what is the exception in this instance?
– The honourable senator is getting a little confused. It was the New South Wales Government whichsold a coal mine for $10m to an overseas organisation. Certainly we are not in favour of selling all of our mines to overseas companies, but in view of the fact that we have such huge mineral deposits in Australia, in view of the fact that we have a policy of full employment and want to see our people fully employed and in view of the fact that we do not have sufficient capital within Australia to develop all of our resources at the same time, we encourage overseas capital to come to Australia to carry out that development.
(Question No. 368)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The Minister for Education and Science has advised that these three questions can most conveniently be answered together as they are identical except in that they deal respectively with secondary, primary and technical schooling. The answers to them are as follows:
2 and 3. This information is not available, in the form asked for, in the published reports of the State education authorities.
(Question No. 404)
Senator COHEN (through Senator
O’Byrne) asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
What is the total number of war widows receiving war widows’ pensions? What is the total number of widows of ex-servicemen receiving a widowed wife’s pension?
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
At 31st July 1968 there were 46,806 recipients of the war widows’ pension and 18,649 recipients of the widowed wives’ pension.
(Question No. 461)
asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Trade and industry, upon notice:
– The Acting Minister for Trade and Industry has provided the following reply:
(Question Ni>. 487)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following replies:
(Question No. 493)
asked the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
In view of the Prime Minister’s strong support of credit unions, will the Government now recognise credit unions under the Homes Savings Grant Act?
– The answer is as follows:
The Prime Minister’s statement to which Senator Georges has referred simply reiterates something thai has been said on many past occasions - that this Government is a strong supporter of the co-operative movement in all ils forms. Cooperative housing societies have been established to assist many thousands to acquire their own homes and, as honourable senators well know, savings with these societies are an acceptable form of savings for purposes of the Homes Savings Grant Act. Credit unions are another form of co-operative activity, but they are not designed to provide long term finance for the acquisition of homes. The encouragement of savings wilh institutions that provide this type of home finance is one of the main purposes of the homes savings grant scheme, lt is for this reason, that credit unions are nol an acceptable form of savings for purposes of the scheme.
(Question No. 495)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answers:
(Question No. 507)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has supplied the following answers:
– Pursuant to statute, I present reports by the Special Advisory Authority on the following subjects:
Polytetrafluoroethylene tape, and woven shirts and parts therefor, of cotton and man-made fibre fabric mixtures. 1 also present reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects:
Citric ami tartaric acids, and cutlery, forks, spoons, etc.
– Mr Deputy President, 1 make this personal explanation because I was misrepresented by Senator Drury in his speech during the Repatriation Bill debate last Thursday. He referred to my own speech during the Budget debate in which I attacked the Australian Labor Party for its past action in reducing pensions and maternity allowances. I went on to say:
Now let me deal with the special rale wax pension. A man with a wife and two children whose means arc such as to entitle him to a service pension will receive under this Budget a total weekly increase of $4.70 so that his total income by way of war service pension and allowances will be $63.74. This is free of income tax. By way of contrast, the average weekly income per male employed as at March 1968 was $61.90, and these earnings were subject to income tax. So they are going to get a very big increase indeed.
In his speech Senator Drury said: 1 do not quarrel wilh these statements, Mr President, but I believe that the Minister misled the Senate and the people. If one works out the amount that would be duc to a total and permanently incapacitated pensioner under the new legislation, one finds he would receive $33.50. his wife would receive $4.05 and his two children would receive $1.38 each, making a total of $40.23 per week.
Before giving the figures on which I based my statement, let me say that there was an error of transmission which led to my being reported as having said that the total income for a special rate pensioner in the example cited would be $63.74; in fact the total would be $63.24. This is calculated as follows:
The service pensions are, of course, subject to means tests, but in my Budget debate speech I said categorically: ‘A man with a wife and two children whose means are such as to entitle him to a service pension . .’ I suggest, Mr Deputy President, that it is Senator Drury who is misleading the Senate and the people, and not I.
– I raise a point of order. The making of a personal explanation should not be used as the occasion to attack another senator. 1 ask that that portion of the Minister’s remarks-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drakc-Brocknian) - Which portion?
-I ask that the latter portion of the Minister’s remarks be withdrawn.
– In deference to the Leader of the Opposition, I am quite happy to withdraw the last sentence, as he has suggested - but only the last sentence.
– by leave - The Government has for some time been concerned with an increasing trend towards a concentration of control of broadcasting stations arising from transactions in shares in licensee companies or in companies which are themselves shareholders in licensee companies. In 1963 and later in 1965, legislative action was taken to deal with a similar situation in respect of television stations and it is now proposed to deal with the matter of broadcasting stations.
The Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1967 now provides that a person shall not own or control, directly or indirectly, more than four stations, including one metropolitan station, in any one Stale, and more than eight stations, including four metropolitan stations, in Australia. In this context the Act does not define ‘control’ as is the case with television stations and, in respect of shareholding changes, the provisions do not extend beyond the beneficial ownership of shares in a licensee company. It has been necessary to provide for transactions of an indirect character through conditions of licences - an unsatisfactory procedure.
It is not proposed to change the present limitation on the number of stations which may be controlled but it is proposed to restrict the interest which may be held, directly or indirectly, in any additional licensee company. This will be done by extending to broadcasting stations some of the existing provisions of the Act concerning television stations - in particular, those relating to the concept of ‘control’. Briefly, this will mean that no person or company will be permitted to hold an interest, in the widest sense, in excess of 15%, directly or indirectly, in any licensee company beyond the number now permitted.
Consideration has been given to the position where present shareholdings would result in a breach of the Act, when amended. Shareholding arrangements existing at the date of this announcement will not be invalidated and will not by reason of the amendment constitute an offence against the Act. The amending Act will apply to changes occurring after the date of this announcement.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreedto:
That so much ofthe Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Murphy moving a motion relating to the order of General Business after 8 p.m.
– 1 move:
Thatit intervening General Business be postponed until after consideration of order of the day No. 10 and order of the day No. 8 after 8 p.m. this day.
Order of the day No. 10 relates to the United Nations Security Council resolution on Southern Rhodesia and order of the day No. 8 relates to the report of the Senate Select Committee on the ContainerMethod of Handling Cargoes. Honourable senators will recall that last Tuesday, 1 7th September, the Senate resolved that those two matters be dealt with following discussions on the motion for the tabling of the F111 papers. I think that last week I omitted to indicate that a similar motion would be moved today, but I think honourable senators may have anticipated it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 19 September (vide page 819), on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– In the last financial year Post Office finances have shown considerable improvement. 1 suppose the Government will claim that this is due in the main to measures adopted on 1st October last year as well as the increased business that came about through the opportunities afforded for presorting and stamping of bulk mail. The telecommunications side of the Post Office business showed a profit, but the postal side showed a deficit. The Post and Telegraph Rates Bill is intended to assist in reducing that deficit in a full year. The Opposition appreciates that it is necessary to run a business of this nature as a business concern and that it should be able to meet outgoings with incomings.
At the same time we think that the provisions of the Bill are open to some criticism. We think that once again an imposition will be placed on the smaller users of the postal services, individuals or the small business concerns, whereas the larger institutions which conduct postal business on a very large scale will have the advantage of cheaper rates which will be introduced by the Bill. It seems to me that it would have been feasible to leave the rates for the pre-sorted mail at about the same level. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) in presenting the Bill is reported to have said, at page 818 of Hansard of Thursday, 19th September 1968:
To a substantial extent, uneconomic services, such as concession rates on registered newspapers and periodicals and delivery services in sparsely populated areas, continue lo affect the financial viability of the postal services. Continuing attention to the improvement of productivity of the postal service has achieved very satisfactory results in recent years and, since I9S9-60, a traffic growth of 38% has been handled by a staff increase of only 18%. In the last 9 years thu salaries of mail sorting staff have increased by 48% and rail and freight charges have risen by 19%, yet parcels rates have not increased in that time and operating costs are well in excess nf the revenue received. It is therefore proposed that charges bc increased , by about 20% overall, although the rises in respect of light weight parcels will be somewhat higher than this and in many cases the charges for heavier weight parcels will in fact be cheaper than at present. The proposed charges have been set after a close study of costs and competition.
The projected increase of about 20% overall will be met by the small users of the mail services. Large concerns posting a large number of articles will receive discounts under the terms of the Bill. If the number of articles posted is between 2,501 and 25,000 the discount will be 5%. If the number of articles posted is more than 100,001 the discount will be between 15% and 25%. I am thinking of how this will affect a large number of small organisations. One group that comes to mind is church organisations which send out a weekly or monthly - generally a monthly - periodical. These organisations will have to presort their mail and pay a higher rate because they will be sending out only some hundreds of articles. In some cases the number may be even smaller. The amount of work involved in delivering articles of this nature is the same from whichever source they come, but preference is given to a business concern which sends out more than 25,000 articles.
The next item to which I wish to draw attention is the householder service which was introduced in the 1967 Bill. It is very difficult to understand why the charges for that service have been reduced. Certainly the service is a very easy one for the Post Office to administer. It requires no sorting into streets and districts. Everybody receives the same article. Therefore the cost of providing the service is reasonably low. The Post Office derives quite a considerable income from this. We should be encouraging this kind of business, but how will the Post Office cope with an increase in such business and at the same time reduce deliveries from two a day to one a day after 1st October? It seems to me that if the amount of postal traffic to be handled by the Post Office is increased more staff and more deliveries will be needed. I have seen postmen delivering mail, on a twice daily basis, with their bags chock-a-block full. I wonder how they will cope with the extra volume with only one delivery a day.
I mention now the results of a survey made by the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union. It is interesting to note that the union made a very careful analysis of the situation regarding pre-sorted mail. Perhaps I should have mentioned, when dealing with the pre-sorted mail situation, that it is the Union’s opinion, after its close study, that the Department would save money if it took over the sorting of mail and did not allow the discount for pre-sorted mail. I do not have the figures with me. They were quoted in another place, but they indicated that the saving would be quite considerable on the large number of articles presented for delivery. I am pleased to see that as a result of the recent straightening out of the charges for pre-sorted mail, not so much mail is posted overseas from places such as Holland for delivery in Australia, because much cheaper rates apply here now. 1 feel that in this Bill, which we are not opposing, more attention could have been given to spreading the necessary increases to make the financial situation more fluid. These could have been spread more over the big business rather than have the small individual person and the small concern take the brunt of the cost. This has not been done. I hope that in future when Bills to impose extra costs on the postal side of the business are to be presented an endeavour will be made to spread the charges more evenly. With the reservations that I have put before the Senate, I have much pleasure in supporting the Bill.
– I was very pleased to hear Senator Wilkinson state that the Opposition is not opposing the Bill. When any revision or suggestion is made at any time one can always make other suggestions with regard to different areas and aspects wherein one considers improvements could be made. The basic fact is that on the mail side the Postmaster-General’s Department is running at a loss of $20m. This is a lot of money and I am sure we all agree that it is unfortunate that we cannot run this undertaking at a profit. When a business - .1 refer to this Department as a business - runs at a loss one must look first at the necessity for the business and secondly al the reasons for the loss.
The Auditor-General’s Report shows that there has been an increase in the revenue of the Department of some $56m. This does show that there is a greater usage of the services of the Department. Revenue from telephone services increased by $36m and revenue from postal services increased by $ 17.6m. Having said that, let me turn to the minus side, the expenditure side, which shows an increase of over $68111. Two main items of increase are in respect of salaries and payments in the nature of salary, $13m, and engineering services, other than capital works and services, nearly $14m. Therefore, we find that the increase in expenditure far exceeds the increase in revenue.
Another major item, in which there has been an increase of $3 5. 7m, is capital works and services. This and the two items I mentioned earlier are the three main areas of increased expenditure. We go on to read that the increases in these items were clue primarily to implementation of various arbitration awards and determinations affecting remuneration granted during the year and the effect for a full year of increases in wages and salaries granted during 1966-67. Nobody will argue against an increase in wages. We all agree that if servants of the community - in this category 1 place all of us - are doing their job they should receive sufficient remuneration. But there is a problem as I see it associated with this. lt applies beyond the Postmaster-General’s Department and it is an area to which we must give far more serious consideration.
I refer to the fact that we must all start to think of ourselves as parts of a country as well as individuals. I cannot help but be somewhat critical when 1 refer to the proposed improvement in the sorting, processing and delivery of mail by means of mechanisation and the apparent opposition to it by mail sorters. The Postmaster.General’s Department, particularly in the mail area, is extremely labour intensive. In this day and age industry endeavours to mechanise wherever possible in order to cut costs, become far more efficient and give greater service to the community. This. I am certain, is at the back of the mind of the Postmaster-General’s Department in the introduction of the new mail sorting technique. But there has been opposition to il. Unfortunately, if this development is noi accepted it will be very costly to the country as a whole.
Like Senator Wilkinson, 1 am sorry to see increases in postal charges, bin there is a need for them. We should look at the possibility of countering increases and, going further, even reducing the costs of administration and operation of the Department. An increase in mechanisation is one means by which there could be big decreases in costs, with savings and benefits nol only to industry but also to the individual, right down to the housewife. If the cost of a postage stamp rises, we all have 10 pay for the increase but the individual in many cases is affected twice. He has to pay directly the increased cost of postage and when the increased costs of industry - postage and communications are a very big part of costs these days - come out in the cost structure, eventually he has to pay more for various goods and services which all of us, as citizens of this country, use. 1 must emphasise again that 1 was very disappointed at the attitude adopted by certain sections of the Postmaster-General’s Department which were opposed to the mechanisation of mail sorting whereby great savings could be made and benefits handed down. All of us should help each other and we should all be doing what we can further to increase the efficiency and development of [his country. I think that this is an area in which much consideration must be given in the future to increasing efficiency. In this way everybody, nol only the individual workers, will benefit.
I refer now to engineering services. There was an increase of almost $l4m in capital expenditure last year. A large proportion of this sum was expended not only on maintaining the existing facilities but also on improving the facilities generally. The community benefits from this expenditure and 1 do nol think thai any of us can criticise it. Efficiency in communications is one of the main essentials of the modern world and the modern economy. There was an increase of almost S36m last year in expenditure on capital works, and services. Of this sum. S24m related lo expansion of the communications system. Australia is a growing country. The economy generally is becoming more and more complex and is relying more and more upon efficient communications. So this is an essential area of expenditure for the Postmaster-General’s Department.
Whilst I regret that certain increases in postal charges are required, 1 appreciate that the , are necessary not only lo extend services but also to improve the efficiency of communications throughout Australia. It should also be remembered that mail deliveries extend not only to rural areas but right out along the bush tracks to people who are playing their part in the development of the country although this means do’ng without many of the modern facilities and conveniences of city life. To them communication is the life blood. The provision of these, communications is extremely costly to the Postmaster-General’s Department, which cannot hope to get back even a fraction of the expenditure involved. But it is essential that these services be not only maintained but improved if this is possible. The people living in these areas deserve the best service that can be provided because they are assisting the country in its development.
As a result of the industrial expansion that is occurring throughout Australia, particularly with mining, communications are being stretched further and further. This is making the provision of services more costly. Nevertheless, they are necessary. I am pleased to see increased expenditure provided for the expansion and development of services for the Postal Department. I see this as a forward thought and as something that is encouraging further development through efficient communications.
Overall, I am in full support of this Bill, but 1 am sorry that increases have been necessary in some postal charges. I believe that there are areas where we all could help to expand postal services, to improve their efficiency and perhaps to cut their cost. I hope that next year when the Senate is considering similar legislation we will find that greater efficiencies have been obtained as a result of all of us working nol as individuals, but collectively, to the best of our ability. 1 have no doubt that the services of the Postmaster-General’s Department can be provided lo the community at reasonable cost and without any sacrifice of standards.
Senator McCLF.LI.ANO (New South Wales) 4.35]- The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Post and Telegraph Rates Act 1902-1967. When implemented on 1st October next this legislation will mean an anticipated increase in the revenue of the Post Office of S6.2m in a full year. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) emphasised in her second reading speech thai the proposed new rates were being introduced in an endeavour to streamline procedures, to encourage new business and to help overcome the deficit of about $20m in postal services last year and an anticipated deficit of $18m this financial year. So. nol withstanding the implementation of the new postal charges, the Post Office can be expected to continue to operate at a loss.
As Senator Wilkinson pointed out, the Labor movement does not oppose this Bill. Nonetheless, the Opposition takes advantage of this debate to raise problems that occur in the Post Office and to criticise constructively the administration of the Post Office. 1 wish to say at the outset that 1 for one - and I am sure that all of my colleagues on this side of the chamber join me - greatly appreciate the immensity of the task of the Postmaster-General’s Department and the great work that is performed on behalf of Australia and Australians generally by workers in that Department. lt is interesting to note the contents of the White Paper that was presented to Parliament by the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) last month, which is headed ‘Post Office Prospects and Capital Programme 1968-69’. At page 4 under ‘Postal Trading’ it reads: lt is estimated that postal services will trade al a loss of $2l)in for 1967-68. Earnings were up 15%, substantially due. to the tariff increases of 1st October 1967. but were adversely affected by widespread drought conditions and the major industrial disturbances of January last.
So, despite increased tariffs and the fact that earnings were up by 15%, the Post Office operated at a deficit of $20m last year. In the Mime White Paper at page 7 under the heading ‘Postal Services - Growth of Business’ is the following statement:
Postal business is expected to grow at a long term rate of about 4% per annum. However, in 1967-68 traffic was virtually equal only to that of 1966-67, primarily because of tariff increases, widespread drought conditions and the major industrial disturbance in January. For 1968-69, it is expected that growth will be about 3%.
Postal charges were increased last financial year. The drought conditions that existed last year over a great part of Australia no longer exist, although in the southern region of New South Wales they arc particularly bad, as 1 instanced at question time today. But despite all of these things, the annual operating deficit will be reduced, as a result of these measures now being introduced by the Government, by a mere $2m compared with last year. We realise thru the Post Office has to operate efficiently and not at loss. Therefore, as has been said, we do not oppose the Bill before the Senate. Nonetheless, we cast critical eyes at the proposed rate alterations and wonder in fact whether they are being introduced in the best interests of the Australian community generally or whether they are being introduced as a bait - an attraction to big business enterprises at the expense of the great mass of the ordinary Australians who use the Post Office in their day to day activities.
Let me say to the Minister now that when this matter was debated in another place my colleagues, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) and the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) made what I regarded as being very critical analyses of some of these charges in their speeches in that House. They requested - if they did not challenge - the PostmasterGeneral to answer some of the statements that they made and the criticism that they proffered. But I noticed that those two members were the only members in the House of Representatives who spoke on the subject. The Postmaster-General did not even reply to them.
Frankly, I believe this is another instance of the cavalier manner in which this Government is ignoring constructive suggestions put forward on the part of the Opposition or refusing to reply to criticism that might be offered by the Labor Party of government administration. Therefore, any criticism that is offered today in a constructive way in order to help the administration of the Postmaster-General’s Department overcome some of the problems of the Post Office - not only the matters that were raised by Senator Wilkinson and myself but also those which will probably be raised by others on this side of the chamber who will wish to speak - should be replied to by the Minister representing the Postmaster-General in this place (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin).
I come now to the question of discount mails. Discount mail services were introduced last year for the first time because I he Post Office was operating at a deficit of some $23m. I understand that it was then hoped that, as a result of the introduction of the legislation last year, large users who were given discounts ranging from 5% to 25% in their mailing costs in order to attract new business would continue lo use the services of the Post Office while the average user had to pay an increase of 25% in his ordinary normal postage rate. The ordinary letter postal charges increased from 4c to 5c - an increase of 25%. But the conditions for discounts to users of discount mail services appeared to be lodgment in large volume and pre-arrangement of articles in postcode order.
The Minister said in her second reading speech that the introduction of this service last year has created - and 1 emphasise her words - a substantial volume of new business for the Post Office, probably of at least some 10 million items annually. In other words, according to the speech read by the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, it is suggested that, because of the service that was introduced last year, large strides had been made by the Post Office in attracting new business.
But if one looks at the ‘Financial and Statistical Bulletin’ for 1967 issued by the Department, one will see that up to June 1967, the Post Office handled 2,346 million articles. So I would suggest that an additional 10 million articles out of a total of 2,346 million last year is a mere drop in the bucket and not a substantial number, as was claimed by the Minister in her second reading speech. Indeed, officials of the New South Wales Branch of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union tell me that this additional amount of business amounting to some 10 million items means about 2.5 days additional work in the Sydney Mail Exchange over a whole year, and, if it were spread over the whole of Australia, it would mean about another 1.8 days work throughout the year.
I wonder whether the additional 10 million articles are related in any way to the publication in this country of journals known as ‘Time’ and ‘Life’ which were published in Holland and which were circulated at that time from Holland into Australia. I understand that the company publishing those journals has now established two factories in Australia and is now posting the publications in this country. At the same time, whilst the amount of new business, which is claimed to be substantial, and which totals 10 million items, is mentioned by the Minister in her second reading speech, there appears to be no mention of the loss of revenue caused as a result of the 1967 increases in charges. The information conveyed to me is to the effect that some 215 registered periodicals having a circulation of many thousands throughout the community which previously were all distributed by post are no longer registered for trans-mission by post as periodicals and therefore represent business lost by the Post Office. Church periodicals, children’s magazines, travel journals and a number of other periodicals of that nature, if they are still in existence, are now not being sent by post because they are now no longer registered periodicals. I think the number that I have mentioned relates only to the State of New South Wales. If there are 215 periodicals which have discontinued registration throughout New South Wales, goodness only knows what is the number of those which have discontinued registration throughout the whole of Australia.
Let me come back to the specific business of discount services. Again, the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union has supplied my colleagues and me wilh an analysis of the number of actual lodgments for discount mailing in July 1968. lt is very interesting to note from the particulars of discounts awarded last year that if between 2,501 and 25,000 articles were lodged, a discount of 5% was allowed. If the number of articles was anything from 25,001 to 100.000 the discount allowed was 10%. If 100.001 or more articles were lodged, between 15% and 25% discount was allowed. The Postal Workers Union has pointed out to us that the Readers Digest organisation posted 832,000 letters between 8th and 29th July 1968. Had this posting taken place at the pre-1967 rate of 4c the amount involved would have been $33,280. Had this posting taken place at the post- 1967 rale of 5c the amount involved would have been $41,600. But the posting took place at the post-1967 rate with a 25% discount and the amount charged the organisation for the dispatch of 832,000 letters was $31,200 - an amount less than that which would have been charged on the pre-1967 rate.
The Union also indicated what happened in relation to the lodgment by Readers Digest of 100,001 parcels between 15th July and 15th October. 1 have with me a photostat copy of a document which indicates that Readers Digest Association Pty Ltd of 26-32 Waterloo Street, Surry Hills, New South Wales, applied for discounts of over 15% on 7th June 1968. The approximate number of articles was said to be 100,000 to be lodged at the Sydney Mail Exchange between 15th July 1968 and 15th October 1968. As I understand the situation, a I’l of the 100,000 articles need not necessarily be lodged at the one time; they can be lodged over a period and, provided the organisation says that there will be a posting of 100,001 articles, it is eligible to receive a discount of 15%.
– -Do you know over what period?
– I do not know the exact period so far as the discount is concerned but, according to this application, this particular posting was to take place over some 3 months. Honourable senators wil’l note that the application for 100,000 articles has been altered, the last nought being crossed off and the figure 1 being put in its place thus enabling the organisation to obtain the additional discount.
– Do you know who did that?
– I do not know who did it but that is the kind of thing that is going on. I mention these things to emphasise that we of the Labor movement want to see the Post Office run efficiently and in the interests of all sections of the Austraiian community, not in the interests of a certain section of the Australian community. In relation to the lodgment by Readers Digest of 100,001 parcels between 15th July and 15th October, we are told that these parcels were prepared for lodgment in South Australia, that the first consignment was actually lodged at the Adelaide Mair Exchange and that the rate per article should have been $1, a total of $ 1 00,00 1 . The bags were processed, labelled, tied and sealed at Adelaide and transported in PMG bags by private transport by road to Sydney and lodged at the Sydney Mail Exchange at 50c an article thus saving the company $50,000.50.
We have been told that the Union took up this matter with the central administration of the Post Office which admitted to the Union that a mistake had been made. If a mistake had been made it cost the Commonwealth and the Post Office some $50,000. If it were a mistake then I ask the Minister this question: Why did a similar operation take place last week when a semi-trailer - a very large vehicle - carrying some 5,000 bags was outside the Sydney Mail Exchange because it could not get into the Mail Exchange owing to its size? These are the kind of things that we of the Labor movement raise in constructive criticism of the Post Office.
Now let me return to the information relating to specific postings which has been supplied to us. I understand that several examples have been provided but 1 shall refer only to the following: Heron Books Pty Ltd lodged an application for 23,000 articles at 5% discount, an application for 137,780 articles at 25% discount, an application for 27,000 articles at 10% discount and an application for 23,000 articles at 5% discount. Office Aids Pty Ltd lodged an application for 292,000 articles at 25% discount. A company which has been in the news in the last couple of days - MLC insurance organisation - said that it would lodge 602,000 letters between 27th May and 23rd July 1968 at the pre- 1967 rate. Assuming the postage had been 4c, the amount involved would have been $24,080. At the post- J 967 rate of 5c with no discount - the rate charged ordinary members of the community - the amount would have been $30,100, but with the discount the amount involved was $22,575 which, in round figures, was $1,500 less than it would have been on the pre- l 967 rate.
I turn now to the matter of mail deliveries. Recently the Postmaster-General’s Department published a document headed Adjustments of Postal Charges (as from 1st October 1968)’. The following appears on page 4:
Surveys have shown that with a once daily delivery service less than 10% of mail would be affected.
If this system is implemented who will be affected? lt will be the ordinary average worker in the community who pays his 5c to post his letter and waits with anticipation for the reply. The Department goes on to refer to the surveys in this way:
They also point up that in 25% of the suburbs and country towns where one delivery a day has long, been the order, there has been no interruption to business activities.
This once daily delivery system has proved that it meets the needs of modern communities in many overseas countries including New Zealand, Canada and United States of America.
The plan for Australia’s new mail system is to provide two deliveries a day in inner capital city areas, ami in certain concentrated industrial and commercial areas, and one delivery elsewhere.
For the main business areas in cities, suburbs and towns, the time ot” delivery will be much the same as it is now. Residential deliveries will be ficm mid-morning lo mid afternoon.
What is meant by the words: ‘and in certain concentrated industrial and commercial areas’? I suggest to the Minister and to the Department that that kind of phraseology is not good enough. The Parliament and the people of Australia should be made aware of the areas which will receive two deliveries a day and the areas which will not receive two deliveries a day. Apparently business mail in the suburbs is to be delivered twice a day. As I understand it, residential deliveries will bc made once a day, from mid-morning to mid-afternoon, lt seems that the Department is bending over backwards to satisfy the needs of the business section of the community at the expense of the little people, including the elderly lady who anxiously listens for the whistle of a postman who is bringing her pension cheque. 1 ask the Minister: What kind of arrangement has the Postal Department made to cope with the rush of mail for ordinary people in the community at Christmas time, when enormous quantities of cards and parcels are posted? In other words, what effect will these measures have on the humble postmen who give outstanding service to the Australian community? What effect will this legislation have on their runs? Will postmen make two deliveries to businesses such as shops in a residential area, but only one delivery to homes within that area? 1 refer now lo a question addressed by my colleague in another place, the honourable member for Stirling, to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme). The question and the answer supplied by the Minister appear at page 1245 of Hansard for 18th and 19th September. The honourable member asked:
The Postmaster-General replied:
I believe that in transactions of the nature described in my colleague’s question, involving a government department and a private company, one director of which is a former Director of Posts and Telegraphs and another is a former PostmasterGeneral, the Government should spell out all its details, including the manner of negotiation, for this Parliament and the Australian community. 1 think it is quite wrong that a former senior officer of the Postal Department and a former PostmasterGeneral should be connected with a company supplying equipment to the Post Office. In the absence of an explanation it seems wrong to me that such a transaction should be entered into by the Postal Department. A member of this Parliament was obliged to put a question on the notice paper to obtain the information he sought. When a contract of this nature is entered into, I believe it is the duty of the responsible Minister to tell the Parliament full details of the parties involved. It is wrong that no explanation has been given. I repeat that a former Postmaster-General and a former Director of Posts and Telegraphs are directors of a company supplying equipment to the largest industrial undertaking in the Commonwealth. I emphasise that the amount involved is about $3.4m.
I could touch on other matters. For example, 1 could refer to the failure of the Commonwealth Public Service Board and the Postal Department to establish sound industrial relations with the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union. For the benefit of the Public Service Board and the Postal Department I intend to quote from the judgment recently handed down by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the case of the Federated
Clerks Union of Australia and Golden Fleece Petroleum Ltd and others. The case concerned the establishment of automation in the Sleigh group of companies. The Federated Clerks Union made an application lo the Commission. The Commission in giving its decision said, amongst other things:
When employers arc contemplating the introduction of computers and other automatic devices which may have serious effects on employees such as termination of employment or transfer interstale it is essential that both the employees and the union concerned should be informed of and involved in the planning as soon as possible. Many real human problems may be involved which may not bc known to company executives and they, wilh the best will in the world, may take steps which do not help to solve them, lt is our view that employees and their welfare are as important in (he planning of a change of the kind we have had to consider as any other aspect of the change and thai they, both individually and through thi-ir union, should be brought in at the planning singe. When brought into the planning both employees and unions should in their turn attempt to understand the problems which the employer faces and co-operate with him to try to find a reasonable solution.
I suggest to the Minister that if the advice I have quoted is accepted by the Public Service Board and the Postal Department, industrial relations with postal workers and their union will become much more conciliatory and amicable. When the Board and the Post Office put into effect the industrial principle outlined by the Arbitration Commission, industrial relations with postal workers and their union will be much more harmonious. A better understanding will be created, and greater tolerance between management and labour. All sides. I feel confident, will be able to work together to make the Post Office a really outstanding public enterprise, as envisaged by the Labor movement.
– I support the Bill. I acknowledge the fact that the Opposition is not opposing the Bill. At the same time, 1 rather deplore the remarks of Senator McClelland. He ranged over an enormously wide field, including the arbitration system. I believe his speech could have been made more appropriately when discussing the estimates of the Post Office. After all, this Bill is of very limited compass. The Post Office appears to be divided into two sections of activity - the telecommunications section and the postal section. This afternoon we are dealing with a very small facet of the postal section. Last year, according to the White Paper referred to by Senator McClelland, the earnings of the Postal Department were $ 1.38m, the expenses $158m and the loss S20m. It is expected that in the current year the earnings will be $154m, that the expenses will be $172m and that the loss will be reduced to $18m. The profit from the telecommunications section is likely to be $10m. Consequently, the overall trading result is likely to be a loss of $8m. lt is encouraging for me to see this Bill before the Senate, even though it is related to only one very small aspect of postal charges, because it shows that the Postal Department has at last, if I may say so. caught up with commercial trends. Apparently, as a result of close study, it was seen that a considerable increase in mailings of certain articles, including pamphlets and booklets, could be obtained by offering discounts. That is what this Bill really deals with. 1 think it is wise to take advantage of the modern mailing systems in the offices of Postal Department customers because they have set up a mechanised system for getting ready and dispatching articles. By taking advantage of these systems the new bulk pre-sorted mails service is an example of what can result. The greater bulk of postings will cause greater revenue and because the Post Office will be taking advantage of the pre-sorting done by the customers less labour will be needed to handle various articles. Consequently, labour that otherwise would be used on these articles can be used to handle the general increase of postings, an increase which is of the order of about 3% or 4% a year. So the discount is likely to encourage the greater use of this service.
I believe also that with the development of exports, the mailing of sales promotion material lo countries in the Asian and Pacific area is increasing. It is interesting to know that it is proposed to extend the bulk pre-sorted mail service to cover mailings to these areas and, as the arrangements which arc necessary are made with individual countries, the executive action which is necessary will be taken. As a first step, pre-sorted postings lo New Zealand will be eligible for the lower rates on conditions similar to those applying to mailings within Australia. This shows a groat initiative on the part of the Post Office.
Another service that is dealt with in the Bill but which has not been mentioned is the householder service. Here, instead of individually noting the name of each person in an area, the word ‘Householder’ is used. This mail also is received at a discounted rate. As the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) said in his second reading speech, this mail is virtually filler traffic which adds little to costs. Consequently, 1 commend the Postmaster-General’s Department for the encouragement to business enterprises to mail to ‘The Householder’. Those matters are really all that the Bill deals with. These are matters which it is expected will increase Post Office revenue by $6.2m. It is a businesslike approach, lt is an approach used in all manner of businesses in Australia to increase volume and to attract the increase of volume by allowing a discount. I commend the Postmaster-General’s Department for this approach and 1 hope that the Bill will have a quick passage.
– Nothing has happened in the last 12 months to alter my views with regard to the Postmaster-General’s Department, other than the adoption of a suggestion that I made a few years ago in this place that a trust fund should be established for this Government undertaking. I could never understand why the revenues of the Postal Department had gone into Consolidated Revenue for so many years and had not been placed in a trust fund as is done in other countries. However, I rise not to recapitulate my criticism of the Postmaster-General’s Department in many respects; let me say that in many other respects 1 commend it for improvements that have been effected and also congratulate those employed by the Department for their sincere attempt to give the public a good service. I believe that most people would concede that the Postal Department does give a good service. Of course, there are one or two instances that one could mention which do not measure up to what the public should expect. But in a big organisation employing a large number of people one will find deficiencies. To use my own pet expression, there are weeds to be found in the best kept gardens.
I rise more particularly on this occasion to deplore the continuing increases in charges that are made by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for the services that it provides to the public, 1 emphasise particularly the increased charges for mail services. We went over this subject in great detail 12 months ago when we were debating the estimates of this Department. But again we find the imposition of further increases on postal charges. It will become a luxury soon for a person to be able to post an ordinary letter. As Christmas approaches it amazes me that people will continue slavishly to follow the old custom of dispatching Christmas cards to one another irrespective of the increased cost.
– The honourable senator has never sent me one.
– A person has lo be very high in the order of priorities on my list before I will spend as much as it costs to convey a letter to him.
– The honourable senator need not bother to send one to me.
– My friend does not have to worry about that; let that be the last of his concerns. I have already told the Senate that one has to be very high in the order of priority on my list before he will get a Christmas card from me, and that list will be lessening as postage costs rise. That is probably due to the fact that I had a Scottish father who, above all things, did not like to see a waste of money. 1 wish to refer particularly to the effect that the increased postal charges will have on many approved charitable organisations. Honourable senators do not need me to tell them that throughout Australia there are innumerable excellent organisations that have been founded and are being conducted for the purpose of raising funds to carry out very important charitable work which would have to be performed by some branch of government, whether State or Federal, if they were not operating with the distinct object of assisting charitable organisations.
Last year the postage increases of lc for letters and lc for business reply post cost one organisation alone $7,400. To that sum is to be added $2,600 as a result of the extra lc for business reply post, as provided for in the 1968 Budget. That will bring the total increase in postage since 1967 to $10,000. Organisations such as this one merit sales tax exemption. If it is good enough for the Commonwealth Commissioner of Taxation to consider, after close investigation, the cause for which the organisation works to be worthy of sales tax exemption, 1 am sure that a measure of consideration in regard to postal charges is not too much to ask of the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme). He should give such consideration instead of placing his hands into the collection bags and taking Si 0,000 away from the less fortunate sections of our community and putting it into the revenue of his Department. That is only one case.
– Is the honourable senator talking about a hospital fund?
– It is a similar organisation. Its purpose goes a little beyond hospitalisation. This is a matter to which the Postmaster-General should be giving consideration. Surely he can raise revenue without attacking charitable organisations. 1 believe that it is paltry, mean and despicable that a branch of government should attack charitable organisations in this way. I have referred to only one case. In every city, of necessity, there are innumerable organisations for crippled children, hospitals for the dying, independent schools and other educational purposes. They are not for football, cricket, golf or tennis clubs. They are for charitable purposes. 1 repeat, with all the emphasis at my disposal, that since 1967 this organisation to which 1 have referred has been required to pay an additional $ 1 0,000 in postage. This is equivalent to the Postmaster-General putting his hands into the bag and taking $10,000 away from deserving cases.
I do not wish to say any more on that matter. I appeal to the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), who represents the Postmaster-General, to convey to him my remarks in this connection. I believe that I speak not only for myself but for every member of the community who is concerned with the work of charitable organisations and who appreciates the difficulty of raising funds even in this time of full and plenty. The competition is keen. There are many of these organisations. They can ill afford to have an additional cost of $10,000 imposed upon them by one department. Let the Postmaster-General’s Department follow the example of the Commissioner of Taxation and give some relief in this connection, even if it has to make an exception. I believe thai if the Government did that the public would applaud it and charitable organisations would benefit to the extent that I have mentioned.
– I support this Bill, which seeks to amend the Post and Telegraph Rates Act to adjust certain postal charges. It is an inescapable fact that the Australian mail system is running at a loss in the vicinity of $20m a year. This adverse situation cannot be allowed to accentuate. Provided that a policy of striving for consistent and persistent improvements in efficiency is strenuously pursued, I believe that few people will object to the proposed increase in charges as set out in the Bill. The income from the proposals would be $6.2m in a full year and $4. 7m in the current financial year.
The loss in the Post Office mail system is due to a number of factors. First of all, any highly labour intensive industry is hit hard by wage rises. Last year the Post Office had a $6m increase in its wages bill. No-one denies any person wage rises; but they represent a cost that must be retrieved in some way or other. One way in which they may be retrieved is through increased efficiency. Here I pay my compliment to the Postmaster-General’s Department for installing modern labour saving devices that assist in reducing the effect of cost increases in this highly labour intensive industry. The road, rail and air transport of mail accounts for one-quarter of the operating costs of the Post Office. Those costs are beyond the control of any business or public utility.
Practically no revenue is derived from some classes of mail because the Post Office must provide many uneconomic but nationally important services in outback country areas. I fully agree that the Post Office, while seeking to establish within itself a business organisation run on business lines, is still a utility that provides services far and wide, lt must give due thought to ensuring the provision of services to folk who live in far flung areas as well as folk in not so far flung areas - even in metropolitan areas - who battle against difficulties that arc experienced in given locations and with given smaller turnovers.
I have in mind that the provincial Press in country areas is a service that assists in the general contentment and community life of a given area. It is of historical interest that, in an endeavour to make the distribution of provincial papers more economic, 3 1 years ago the proprietors of the Angaston Leader’ in the Barossa Valley struck on the idea that it would be a saving to the Postal Department if permission were granted to the paper to print ‘Postage Paid at Angaston, South Australia’ on the weekly editions of the paper. The local postal officials would thus be saved the necessity to stamp every one of the thousands of copies being sent out. On 2 1st September 1937 the then Superintendent of the Mails in South Australia gave approval to the scheme. The system was quickly adopted throughout Australia. Here we have an instance of splendid co-operation. With the bulk postage arrangements for catalogues, newspapers and, as Senator Gair has mentioned, publications of charitable institutions, due consideration should be given to ensure their continued distribution of concessional rates.
The householder delivery system is a good one, but it assists the more densely populated areas more than the rural areas where the population is spread much more widely than it is in the cities. It is necessary to bear in mind the need for a commercial approach to the Post Office as well as the need at all times for service to the community and to the cause of decentralisation. Most people who live away from the cities want to see a balance between a stringent business approach and a consideration of all the things necessary to ensure that service to the nation is forthcoming. I think the Post Office will grow in stature from year to year and will have the full acclaim of the people. I am pleased to note that in respect of the specialised services there will be no increase in private box rentals where the private box holder is not served by a postman or mail contractor. This kind of thing emphasises that in the overall approach to the legislation endeavours have been made to make the charges as fair as possible.
I stress again that, at all times consideration must be given to the specific categories which use postal services, bearing in mind the services that the Post Office renders in a national way such as in the distribution of agricultural show catalogues, in which there has been a tremendous increase, and the distribution of literature from oganisations which, in some instances, are being handicapped very heavily. I support the legislation.
– I do not intrude in the debate to speak at any great length, but there is a principle which seems to be implicit in the administration of the Post Office and which is embodied in the amending legislation now before the Senate. In relation to charges reference has been made to a deficit in some part of the accounts and the legislation is an attempt to rectify the financial position by providing, for the next financial year, a possible balance in that segment of the administration of the Post Office. That brings me to a consideration of a matter which, I think, at no time should bc lost sight of. It is this: What is the essential nature and function of the Post Office? There was a time when the Post Office was considered, not only as a means of providing a service, but also as a major source of revenue for the government of the day, whatever complexion it might enjoy. The Post Office was to be used to raise additional revenue when additional revenue was denied from other sources. In the next stage through which the administration of the Post Office went in terms of government attitude, it was regarded as some kind of economic proposition in which the accounts were to be substantially self-balancing. The traditional service characteristic of the Post Office which must always be preserved was being lost sight of. The attitude today appears to embody the self balancing of accounts in the Post Office. It is a very dangerous situation in that we may lose sight of the other characteristic. 1 know that on a previous occasion the Australian Democratic Labor Party advocated the creation of a trust fund within which the Post Office would operate; the accounts were to function as ordinary commercial accounts in a commercial business. That is an extraordinarily sound proposition, lt does not deny the possibility of continuing to embrace in the Post Office the characteristic of a service department, because essentially its function is to provide service, lt would be possible for a government to be able to feed into the Post Office even within these self-contained accounts by way of a trust fund revenue corresponding to the additional services which, while perhaps not economic, a self-supporting Post Office, in the national interests, would attempt to provide. In other words the government would subsidise the trust fund insofar as the Post Office was continuing to provide uneconomic public services.
The speeches made by Senator Gair and Senator McClelland have reminded me of what I want to say. Senator McClelland referred to very substantial reductions in bulk postage rates given to major units posting great volumes of mail. He said this denied revenue to the Post Office. The Post Office may consider that this is a very good financial proposition in terms of the bulk handling of mail and its overall accounts, but the revenue that is lost has to be found elsewhere. In relation to bulk postage, Senator Gair drew attention to the difference in attitude of the Post Office and an institution such as the one to which he referred in the course of his remarks, lt would be a very serious position if members of the general public - the individuals who post letters, have a telephone or make use of telephone services - or small bodies, such as those mentioned by Senator Gair, were virtually underwriting the exploitation by major units in the community who were using the subsidised underwritten postal services merely to advance their commerical interests. That would create a very serious situation which would warra nl the attention of the Government, ft is not possible for us to handle the situation adequately or even to advert to it unless we keep in the forefront of our minds that finally and constantly the Post Office provides a public service. Within its functioning, it has to balance its accounts and provide services to the public, lt is not there for exploitation by private individuals, such exploitation being made possible al the expense of the general patronage of the Post Office or of institutions which deserve government solicitude.
I am always concerned when 1 see increases operating from time to time in postal and telephonic charges. It indicates that we are gradually losing sight of the ultimate purpose and function of the Post Office in society. Until we can once again restore our appreciation of ils real purpose we are likely lo have continuing increases from Budget lo Budget, from statute to statute and from year lo year. Therefore
I commend these considerations to the Minister at the table, the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), who represents the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme). I realise thai she is suffering under disabilities when she presents estimates and Bills not of her own Department, but I would ask her to commend these thoughts to the Minister whom she represents.
r5.40] - in reply - I thank those honourable senators who have spoken in this debate. There are several matters on which I should like to reply. Firstly, the operations of the postal service resulted in a loss of $20m in 1967- 68. As was said by some of my colleagues in this debate, the postal service is highly labour intensive, with 70% of its total costs being wage and salary payments. Despite an improvement in productivity of 2% per annum, which compares favourably with the national average, wage increases have been so high in recent years that ii is necessary to increase revenue by increasing prices and stimulating profitable business.
Matters were brought forward concerning the reduction in rates for bulk presorted mail and householder mail. These are aimed at stimulating new business to obtain a net increase in postal revenue and to improve the cost structure of the postal service. The customer must comply with conditions which result in substantial economies in the mail handling and conveyance costs of the Post Office. These Post Office savings are well in excess of the difference between the normal postage rate and that for bulk presorted mail. I think it was Senator Wilkinson who brought forward these points. He referred also to small organisations. Although these may not qualify for the bulk presorted mail service, all users do receive an indirect benefit betcause the Post Office’s share of the economies assists in keeping the price of other services down. The householder delivery field is a very profitable but also, 1 would remind honourable senators, a very competitive field and the Post Office needs to keep its rales low lo maintain its share of this business.
Senator McClelland referred to the economics of the services covered in this
Bill. He cited figures provided by the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union which were mentioned in another place and were referred to in this debate. In reply, let me say that they are wrong in three respects. They set loo low a figure on sorting costs. It is claimed, in effect, that mail exchange sorting costs account for only 2i% of total mail handling costs. The true figure is nearer 20%. They also ignore the fact that letters are handled many limes during transmission and not just once. All of these handlings are saved, the saving equalling about 1.2c per item in a nation wide mailing. They ignore the other savings, for example, surface transmission instead of the usual air conveyance, which saves the Post Office about 1.7c per item on a nation wide mailing.
Regarding the householder service, experience with mailings of about threequarters of a million sale catalogues weighing about 4 oz is that, by using spare capacity on off-peak days, the total extra cost involved is about $2,000, but the revenue would be about $15,000. On some week days the loads are 30% below those on other days and the householder service traffic is being stimulated to take up this slack. This situation applies under either twice daily or once daily delivery arrangements. I should also like to reply to Senator McClelland’s comment concerning .10 million pieces of mail, which he regarded as insignificant. In reply let me inform him that, overall,, letter traffic declined by nearly 40 million pieces, that is, about 4%, in 1967-68. The increase from the bulk presorted mail service therefore played a significant part in cushioning traffic losses because of higher tariffs, industrial disturbances, etc. An increase of 10 million is regarded as very satisfactory in the service’s first year of operation. 1 am conscious of the hour and I think it would be best if 1 referred to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) other points made by honourable senators. Senator Gair and Senator Byrne referred to charitable organisations: I shall be pleased to bring before my colleague all of the points raised by every senator who spoke in this debate. I thank the Senate for the passage of the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 5.46 to 8 p.m. (General Business taking precedence of Government Business)
Debate resumed from 1 0 September (vide page 518), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Senate approves the United Nations Security Council resolution No. 253 of 29th May 1968 on Southern Rhodesia, takes note of the announcement made by the Minister for External Affairs on the 2nd September 1968 of the measures so far being taken by the Australian Government pursuant to the resolution and requests the Government to do all in its power to implement the resolution. and on Senator Byrne’s amendment (vide page 500).
– I am very pleased to be able to continue my remarks in this debate. Since last speaking on the subject on 10th September many significant things have happened to confirm my faith in the Rhodesian Government. On that occasion I said that I could not support Senator Murphy’s resolution, which approved the resolution of the United Nations Security Council, because I considered the Rhodesian situation to be a domestic situation between the United Kingdom and Rhodesia. 1 said I felt that the dispute should have been dealt with by those two countries and nol taken to the United Nations. In the introduction to a book by A. J. A. Peck called ‘Rhodesia Accuses’ the author makes some very significant remarks that I feel are very pertinent to this debate. I shall read a few quotations from that introduction. He refers to Cecil. John Rhodes, who in 1890 fitted out an expedition to occupy the land which is today called Rhodesia, and says:
The Pioneer Column came to a land in which there were no roads and there were no bridges, no telegraph lines and no electricity. Its inhabitants were totally illiterate, dressed in skins, living in huts of sticks, mud and thatch, and subsisting by the herding of a few scrub cattle and by the scratching of the soil for meagre crops: and the vast majority of the inhabitants were Mashona, living with their huts perched high up in the stone hills in deadly terror of the raiding parties of the Matabele.
The handful of white men brought peace to that ravaged land. Medicine. Education. The fullness of the Western way of life. The indigenous peoples prospered, multiplied.
In 1923, His Majesty King George V thought fit lo confer self-government upon Southern Rhodesia . . . the Rhodesians were completely self-governing for the 42 years prior to the Declaration of Independence.
. a system of justice second to none, and unbroken peace replaced the previous ceaseless slaughter.
Magnificent roads and bridges spanned the country. Free rural clinics fought pestilence to a standstill. Industry, mining, agriculture and commerce yielded rich fruit. Apart from South Africa . . the educational facilities afforded to the indigenous peoples were unsurpassed in the whole continent.
By 1953, Southern Rhodesia could have had Dominion status for the asking.
But no! . . . in a national Referendum they voted, following the wishes of the United Kingdom, to join Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland to form the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland . . .
Litter in the introduction another pertinent remark appears, lt is:
And. in 1963 . . . the very Federation itself was destroyed by resort to a subterfuge. . . .
That was by the United Kingdom -
Nyasaland was given independence, and renamed ‘Malawi’, Northern Rhodesia was given independence, and re-named ‘Zambia’. Neither Territory had ever before been self-governing.
And Southern Rhodesia, who has been selfgoverning for 42 years and who had sacrificed her independence in order to join the Federation - a Federation later to be destroyed by Britain - was not given her independence. Hie introduction continues:
On the lilli of November 1965, after two years of burren negotiation . . . Ian Smith Felt compelled to declare Rhodesia independent. Wilson’s Government immediately imposed the most vindictive sanctions possible. lt seems to me that, not satisfied with that, in a fit of pique the United Kingdom Government took the matter to the United Nations. As has been illustrated by those quotations, the Rhodesian Government has a wonderful record of progress. One of its main problems has been a population growth. Rhodesia’s population growth is perhaps one of the largest in the world, in fact, I believe it is the third largest in the world. The population doubles every 21 years. Just 35 years ago there were 400,000 Africans in Rhodesia; today there are 4.5 million. There are also about 230,000 whites. This is in a country about the size of California. The annual increase of 3.3% in the black population matches the present total white population.
With a population growth of this description the Government has had enormous problems to cope wilh. In addition lo the population problem, 60% of the African people are subsistence farmers who are still living under tribal conditions. Half of the African population are under 15 years of age. Whilst sanctions are undermining the export potential of the country, the jobs for those young people are also diminishing. By imposing sanctions we are creating tremendous problems for the very people that we aim to help, the Africans. Each year an extra 150,000 acres have to bc cultivated to feed the growing population; 30,000 houses have to be built for the new families; 500 extra hospital’s have to be provided; 1 50 primary schools have to be erected and 4,300 teachers trained. I believe that, if the population is to progress, education is the most important problem that the Rhodesians have to face. I think it is to the benefit of that country that there is world pressure because no country makes the rapid progress that is necessary without some pressure. Just as Australia is progressing perhaps faster in New Guinea because of world pressure, so I think pressure has been effectively put on Rhodesia. In Rhodesia 1 in 6 of the population arc in schools; in Liberia 1 in 40 are in schools, and in Ethiopia I in 108 are in schools, lt is certainly evident that Rhodesia needs the non-transitory skill of the white man. 1 wish to make one or two more remarks about education in Rhodesia. In 1966-67, $27m was spent on education. That was 22i% of the country’s total revenue. At present there are 3,186 primary schools in Rhodesia and 88 secondary schools. I believe thai there should be an increase in the number of secondary schools. There tire in fact 13,600 pupils in the secondary schools, which is not a bad record. I understand that 95% of the population between 6 and 16 years of age receive 5 years education in primary schools and 50% receive 8 years schooling. That is a good record. I think it. is a record on which the Rhodesian Government can say that it is advancing the people as fast as possible. 1 refer now to the tertiary field of education. There are 895 students in universities. Of these 213 are Africans and the Government subsidises 88 of them.
I have heard it said that Africans are nol getting the best teachers. I was interested to learn that their teaching degrees are based on London degrees and that their medical degrees are judged and based on the Birmingham University. I think it is quite groundless to say that the Africans in Rhodesia are not receiving an adequate standard of education. The standard of civilisation in Rhodesia is one of the highest in Africa. It is not a country in which colour or caste is important. This is where we come to the situation with the franchise. They have a franchise based not on colour but on educational standards mainly and added to that, possibly income qualifications. lt seems to me that under the proposed constitution the African people will be advanced and, as they go, gain some educator. lt certainly has been proved in other countries that it is not right to hand over self government to people who have not as yet gained a sufficient educational standard to be able to handle self government. They must have developed a sense of responsibility to be able to cope with it.
One of the things which I think has been ignored by the United Nations is the fact that the tribal chiefs have always had a say in what goes on in their country. They were consulted by the British Government some years ago as to whether they wanted their independence, or how they should have it, and they said they wanted it but that they did want the while people to stay to help them with the development of their country. They still have a say in the government of the country. But it is a system which is not always understood by the people who have never visited the country. The African people get together to discuss things but leave it to the chiefs to pass on their opinion. While that system prevails I think we should expect people to go and visit the country so that they may understand the system before they criticise it.
It is certainly significant that, in his negotiations with Great Britain, Mr Ian Smith did offer to form a Senate of twelve in which the tribal chiefs would be incorporated. 1 think it is significant also to note that the United Kingdom has given independence to 700 million of her one time subjects but that in some countries, within days of gaining independence, millions of people have been massacred. This, nobody wants lo see. 1 feel that the situation which has eventuated is quite deplorable. Most of the United Nations members who have been voting against Rhodesia and what Rhodesia is doing have never visited the country, and I think most of us know that you cannot judge the internal situation of a country without visiting it. It is the attempt to do that which I think is the first thing that is deplorable. The second thing that I think is deplorable is the fact that Rhodesia was not heard. She was not given the opportunity to put her case. When Indonesia was given her independence, she was heard. But not so with Rhodesia. Thirdly, it is very significant that Russia has been a frequent threat to peace in many ways but has not had sanctions upon her nor has there been any threat of sanctions by the United Nations. 1 cannot understand the reasoning of some of the United Nations members who say that Rhodesia is a threat to the peace of the world. The Rhodesians are minding their own business. Certainly some of the countries around Rhodesia are interfering and in that way inciting trouble, but, internally, 1 do not think the Rhodesians are a threat to peace.
I am appalled at the sanctions imposed by the United Nations although, as I said before, I am in sympathy with the Australian Government in having to impose the sanctions because, under the Charter we are obliged to accept resolutions passed by the Security Council; but it also seems ridiculous that, because of the wording of Articles 41 and 42, I think, we can avoid some of the total embargoes that are supposed to be imposed by saying that foodstuffs are humanitarian and therefore we can continue to supply wheat and flour to Rhodesia.
It seems to me to be very dangerous to be imposing sanctions under Article 41 when Article 42 says that if sanctions are not successful then force should be used. Although the United Kingdom has said that she would not resort to force, one does not know, in accepting resolutions of this sort, just where we might end in that respect.
I have been extremely interested in seeing in another place some of the answers given to questions by the Minister of External Affairs (Mr Hasluck). A resolution of the United Nations condemned the recent inhuman executions in Rhodesia. Yet the
Minister said that these executions were for murder. He said:
Two of those hanged on 6th March had been convicted of killing a white farmer with a petrol bomb, and a third had been convicted of the murder of a tribal chief . . The two hanged on 11th March had been convicted for the murder of a sub-chief. 1 see no reason why the United Nations should condemn what it calls ‘inhuman executions’ when the persons concerned have been condemned to death for murder.
In addition to that, it has been very interesting to note from answers given to the questions that in other countries in which what might be called ‘illegal governments’ had taken over - 1 believe that something like 23 countries have illegal governments
– Do you support the one in Rhodesia?
– I claim that there are plenty of other countries which have illegal governments, but the United Nations has done nothing about them. They chose to let Russian pressure lead them to condemn one country while 23 other countries go uncondemned.
– Do you support it in Rhodesia?
– I am giving you my reasoning. I see no reason why the United Nations should condemn one country and allow 23 others to go uncondemned I believe it is quite disgraceful that Russia is not censured for her actions while a country which has been bringing advancement to its people and minding ils own business should have these sanctions imposed upon it. For that reason, I cannot support the proposal submitted by Senator Murphy.
– I take up the published remarks of the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth of Australia (Mr Bowen) as reported in the Press, in which he stated - I assume speaking for himself - as a distinguished lawyer that he felt that the Australian Parliament - I assume again at least that portion of the Parliament in which 1 sit - viewed with great distaste the impositions of sanctions against the regime in Southern Rhodesia. I share this distaste, and 1 share it for a reason which I hope I shall make plain to the
Senate, lt is that, by the will of this chamber in which I am present tonight, I was an observer at the 20th session of the United Nations during the year 1965.
I sat one day in the front chair in the Special Political Committee. 1 forget whether it is the second or the third committee of the United Nations, but it is one of the Charter committees. However, that is a mere detail which does not really matter. I sat in that chair when the Ambassador of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics launched a bitter attack on the agenda of the Special Political Committee - 1 want honourable senators to mark this - to take an advantage in total defiance of the agreed upon standing orders for the Special Political Committee because he anticipated - and subsequent events proved him to be right in his anticipation - that the then de facto government of Southern Rhodesia would opt for a unilateral declaration of independence.
The reason why Mr Federenko, the Russian Ambassador, launched this impassioned attack on the chairman of the Special Political Committee, who represented the great democracy of Haiti, if I remember rightly, was that he wished to tear up the agenda in order to provide an opportunity for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to exploit the impending situation in Southern Rhodesia for the political ends of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I speak from personal memory of this because I think it is important that honourable senators here tonight should know that the world wide importance of the situation which has been created by the de facto government of Southern Rhodesia has assumed this importance because it is in the interests of other and powerful nations to exploit that situation for their own ends. They wish to exploit it, nol in the interests of the indigenous or migrant population of Southern Rhodesia but to sustain the foreign policy of the Soviet Union.
– That includes Britain and the United States of course.
– Are you arguing against Britain supporting sanctions?
– I am addressing myself to Senator Georges as well as to other honourable senators in this place. On the only occasion that I spoke as Australia’s representative in the special political committee I was able to stop the machinations of Mr Federenko, the Russian Ambassador, and his attempt to tear up the rule book - something which is not unknown in this chamber - was frustrated by something like 85 votes in favour of Senator Cormack representing Australia compared with 25 votes in favour of the Soviet - a significant victory for democracy, I suggest.
The second thing that emerges from this is that the problem of Rhodesia - I am now in the context of the United Nations and addressing myself to the notice paper - originates from a committee of the United Nations known in my day, which was only 24 years ago, as the Committee of Twentytwo, lt is now known as the Committee of Twenty-four. The Committee of Twentyfour is a committee on decolonisation. One of the most powerful forces among the decolonisers on the Committee of Twentyfour is the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The Russians are the great champions of decolonisation.
The Leader of the Opposition has produced in the Senate this resolution by the United Nations and it is rather important that honourable senators should look at the background, in order to see how the resolution eventually came to be placed on what might be described as the notice paper of the world. This motion on the notice paper of the world originates in the racial desires of the febrile nations in the Committee of Twenty-four. 1 must add that Australia, in self defence in relation to its own problems concerning Papua and New Guinea, which I shall mention briefly in a moment or two, has had to get itself elected to the Committee of Twenty-four so that it will not be completely isolated by the other members. To a substantia] degree a fabricated and emotional attitude has been induced and injected into world affairs by the connivance of the USSR. I have no hesitation in saying that - none at all - because I have seen it in operation in the United Nations. I was the representative of Australia when the attempt was made.
– One of the representatives.
– In this case, for reasons which do not require elaboration, I was left in charge of the desk when this thing suddenly happened. My esteemed col league, Senator Ridley, who was another senator representative of Australia, was sitting on another committee.
– You were both at the United Nations and you said you were the representative.
– On this particular committee at this particular time.
– You said the United Nations.
- Mr Acting Deputy President. 1 had hoped that I might be able to make my points without the encouragement of Senator Dittmer. 1 am quite capable of making my own speech. 1 have attempted to persuade honourable senators that, from my personal experience, the question of Rhodesia arose in the United Nations context as a result of the manipulations of the Soviet Union, in addition, among the members of the Committee of Twenty-four who are dedicated and in complete opposition to colonisation are the great aggregation of republics known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, so they are the mainspring in a resolution of this nature.
The other sad factor which Senator Buttfield touched upon, and which to me is a most distressing factor, is that the United Kingdom justly or unjustly - I will not canvass or debate this - decided quite clearly in the first instance that the intrusion or attempted intrusion of the USSR, or any other member of the United Nations, into the affairs of Southern Rhodesia by United Nations resolution was in contravention of the Charter of the United Nations because such action represented interference in the internal jurisdiction of a member state, a matter which had nothing to do with the United Nations. Then - this is something that some people may describe as clever diplomacy and others, according to their nature may describe as perfidy - the United Kingdom did a complete about turn and marched into the United Nations and said: Here is the Rhodesian matter, you take it over’. That is beyond my comprehension because 1 had heard Lord Caradon, the United Kingdom Ambassador to the United Nations, resist any attempt by the United Nations in the Security Council to intervene in the question of Southern Rhodesia on the ground that this was interference in the internal jurisdiction of a member nation. Since then the United Nations has pursued - and successfully - the problem of attempting to isolate the subject of Southern Rhodesia in terms of world opinion. It finds support inside this Parliament and this chamber. That is the background.
I want to test the sincerity of Senator Murphy and those who sit behind him in relation to this matter. What is the gravamen of the charge against Southern Rhodesia? It is that Southern Rhodesia is attempting to set up a form of apartheid, to establish a separate system of development, to separate the people. Putting aside the argument that there is a minority in terms of numbers attempting to impose its will upon the majority in terms of numbers-
– Why put it aside?
– Let us put it aside for the moment. At present we have in Australia the most extraordinary situation of the Australia Labor Party and the Australian Communist Party attempting to set up a separate system of development here.
– That is poppycock.
– You are attempting to set up a separate system of development between the Aboriginal population and the European derived population of Australia.
– What comics do you read?
– 1 am not arguing. 1 quite honestly believe, in the circumstances that exist in Australia at present, that we have a separate system of development for Australian Aboriginals. I believe that.
– And the Labor Party wants to make it more separate.
– As Senator Greenwood has said, the Labor Party wants to make it more separate. The Australian Labor Party and the Communist Party in Australia are at present attempting to espouse a separate system of development as between the European derived population and the Aboriginal population.
– What has this to do with Rhodesia?
– I am not talking about Rhodesia at the moment. At present there is amongst members of the Opposition a substantial proportion of opinion that there should be separate development of the indigenous population and the European derived population of Australia. Would Senator Cavanagh care to deny that?
– Yes, of course.
– Members of the Opposition will not deny it, but when it is suggested that a separate system of development should be set up in Southern Rhodesia they say that it is inimical to the welfare of the African people. Perhaps Senator Cavanagh could explain why members of his Party wish to set up a separate system of development for the Aboriginal people of Australia.
– We do not.
– The truth is that there are two levels of development. I hope to live to see the day that there is parity of development in Australia. Whether the Rhodesians are right or wrong - and perhaps it can fairly be said that they are wrong - they have the same problem there.
– It is a little different.
– It is different in the sense that there are more people who are less developed and less privileged and fewer people who are more developed and more privileged; that is the difference.
– lt is necessary to have the numbers.
– We have got down to a question of numbers - the worship of numbers. Society is not built on the basis of numbers. I refer honourable senators opposite to a Socialist country where government is not by the numbers. In Russia there is not government of the population of about 220 million by a majority vote but by a group comprising about 2i million. So numbers do not count in the Socialist system. In the Australian
States where the Socialists have from time to time had power it has not been a case of government by the numbers. The Socialists do not believe in majority rule. The trade union movement does not believe in government of trade unions by a majority vote.
– The honourable senator does not know what he is talking about.
– I know what I am talking about, but the honourable senator does not want to hear it.
– The honourable senator has never been a member of a trade union. He has opposed trade unionism all his life. He does not know how trade unions work.
– That is nonsense. 1 have worked just as hard in my life as the honourable senator has worked, and probably harder. 1 will now continue my remarks on Rhodesia in order to reach my conclusion. We are compelled by a manipulated circumstance that has arisen in the United Nations to go along with its resolution with, in the words of the Attorney-General, some distaste. 1 am involved in that distaste. I will vote for the motion because I hope that a situation will come about in Rhodesia, somewhat similar to the situation in Australia, in which the Government of Rhodesia will be able to bring to a degree of parity in terms of opportunity such as we hope to achieve here in Australia amongst our own people, the 3i million people of Rhodesia who have not the same living standards or the same educational opportunities as the more privileged members of that country. 1 accept the United Nations resolution because I suggest that it would be valueless to oppose it. My reason for saying that is that it is framed like the typical lawyers’ question, which 1 learned as a young man: Have you given up beating your wife?’ It does not matter what the witness says in reply, he will be condemned. I turn now to the amendment moved by Senator Byrne, in which he states, in part: noting that the basis of the United Nations action against Rhodesia was that the Rhodesian situation constituted a threat to world peace and security-
I have explained to honourable senators how the situation was manipulated to become a threat to world security. Senator Byrne’s proposed amendment goes on:
The plain and blunt truth lies in the second paragraph of the proposed amendment. If the United Nations is prepared to take action, as it has done, against the regime in Southern Rhodesia, by the same standard of morality which one should expect to find in the United Nations, it should take action against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in relation to Czechoslovakia. I am not going to canvass the Russian attitude in relation to Southern Rhodesia. If one wished to be totally detached and to live in the intellectual vacuum in which so many people live or. on the other hand, if one’s mentality were like that of the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), former leader of the Australian Labor Party and former leader of the Opposition in another place, one could agree with him that there was justice in the Russian onslaught on Czechoslovakia.
– What about being fair?
- Mr Calwell said that the Russians were justified in entering Czechoslovakia.
– I do not think he said that.
– Yes, he did. He suggested that there were valid reasons for the Russians invading Czechoslovakia.
– He said that there was a basis of justification for their suspicion.
– On the basis of international rape, yes; if it could fairly be adduced that the appetite of the rapist must be satisfied. That, in essence, was Mr Calwell’s argument. But it is useless to canvass that point. The Australian Democratic Labor Party and Senator Byrne must acknowledge that there is no possibility of taking action against the USSR. Russia is one of the permanent members of the Security Council. Any attempt made to judge Russia before the forum of the United Nations would be useless because Russia holds the veto power.
The only time that the United Nations has been able to invoke any power against the activities of the USSR was on the occasion of the invasion of South Korea by North Korea. On that occasion the Russians, in a curious fit of absent-mindness, withdrew from the Security Council and were not present in the General Assembly. The General Assembly carried a resolution to put a United Nations force into South Korea, lt was upheld by the Security Council in the absence of a veto by Russia. Since that day Russia has marked the lesson. Its representatives are always present in the Security Council. So if any attempt were made to interfere with the political activities of the USSR, the veto would be used. The last time I looked up the figures, Russia had been responsible for about 111 vetoes in the Security Council.
The proposed amendment must fall to the ground; not on the basis that it is an amendment in which Senator Byrne seeks to uphold the morality of the United Nations or of this Parliament, but simply in terms of the pragmatism of the United Nations Charter, under which the USSR can veto any attempt made to put that country in the dock.
– In the doghouse.
– The USSR should be placed in the dock. It is the most villainous conspiracy that the world has ever seen, lt attracts its strength and dogma from an area of mythology which sustains the belief that a minority must always govern the majority. 1 resist the amendment and support (be motion.
– lt seems to me to be an extraordinary thing that, having put this motion before the Senate a couple of weeks ago, the Australian Labor Party now fails to provide speakers to support its case. I think that honourable senators should be very much aware of that. I, tike other Government supporters, wonder why the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) introduced this subject because, really, his resolution has no significance. The Government has already complied with its obligations to the United Nations Security Council. As Senator Anderson pointed out on 10th September, when the debate on this subject began in this chamber, the Government had already replied to the Security Council. So we have complied with our obligations. In fact, on that occasion Senator Anderson read out the communique that was sent by us to the Security Council.
It is quite obvious that, as others have said, this is a redundant resolution moved purely for party political reasons. Perhaps members of the Opposition are hoping, because of what they have read in the Press, that they will be able to split Government supporters on this subject. But if Government supporters in the Senate opposed this motion on the basis that it is redundant and meaningless, which we would be entitled to do, it could be inferred that we were not supporting »he Government on measures that it had taken to comply with our obligations to the Security Council. It seems to me to be a complete waste of the time of the Senate to be debating this issue at a time when we have a great deal of business before us. My personal belief has always been that the dispute between the United Kingdom and Rhodesia was strictly a matter between those countries and that it should never have been taken out of that realm of responsibility. I believe also that if a better attempt had been made by the United Kingdom to solve that issue, results might have been obtained. 1 do not think the British Government adequately stood up to its obligations when it referred the question to the Security Council at a time when the dispute could not have been said to be a threat to world peace.
This is now history. The question has been referred to the United Nations Security Council which has dealt with the matter. I think it must be agreed that generally speaking the value of economic sanctions is questionable at any time and that they are terribly hard to put into proper effect. 1 agree with other speakers who have said that Rhodesia is entitled to buy foodstuffs and perhaps other commodities throughout the world, but it is very difficult to apply sanctions to a country unless one is prepared to use some sort of force. But my main reason for entering this debate is to state my belief that we have a responsibility to the United Nations, that when a resolution is carried by the Security Council we are obliged to comply, even if we are not very happy about all that is contained in the resolution.
I, like many others, have reservations about the effectiveness of the United Nations. I agree that there are imperfections. On the other hand, I believe in and I accept the concept of the United Nations. I believe that eventually it will prove to be a worthwhile course in bringing about world peace. I cannot imagine any other body that would achieve the results that we will get from the United Nations, nor can I think of any concept, other than that of the United Nations, which would be as effective in tackling the problems that confront us today. We must bear in mind also the subsidiary organisations of the United Nations which are doing a tremendous job. I ask those honourable senators and other members of Parliament who are critical of the United Nations - justly so, in some cases - whether they would be prepared to say: ‘Let us tear up the Charter’. 1 do not think there would be many, if any, in this Parliament who would be prepared to go to that extent. This is why I believe strongly that the Government had no option other than to advise the Security Council of Australia’s concurrence in the Security Council resolution. However, 1 trust that we would never be called upon to go a step farther under Article 42 of the Charter under which we could be asked to take military action. The Government has indicated that it is not prepared to go so far as that.
I come now to the amendment proposed by the Democratic Labor Party. 1 believe that there is a great deal of substance in the amendment. I agree that what it contains is morally correct but, again, there is no call for action by the Security Council. If we were to support such an amendment it would be quite ineffectual and be merely a case of beating the air. As I said earlier, I believe that this debate has been quite useless and meaningless. However, in general terms I support the resolution because of the matters I have stated and I oppose the amendment moved by the Democratic Labor Party.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Report of Select Committee
Debate resumed from June 12 (vide page 1633), on motion by Senator Cormack:
That the Senate take note of the report.
– In this debate I follow Senator Cormack who presented the report of the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes. Although I intend to make several references to the report I do not intend to particularise because I think that honourable senators who have seen this most comprehensive document will agree that to the extent that facts have been revealed they have, after a proper testing by the Committee, been recorded in the document. It is certain that the experiment by the Senate in setting up the Committee has been successful. I am sure that most honourable senators who have followed the progress of the Committee have found that not only did they get finally a very satisfactory report which pinpoints all the problems which arose from the exercise but that also, in the meantime, the work of the Committee has sparked off much interest in the container system of handling cargoes and has resulted in much work being done on the question by all sorts of interests, including many of our own government departments.
Before I proceed to discuss the report 1 want to say that whilst on many occasions in this place I have found it necessary to disagree with and to place on record comments about Senator Cormack, I am quite sure that every member of the Committee will have been indebted to the chairmanship which he exercised. Not only did he make a contribution in the course of the Committee hearings in identifying particular problems before the Committee and in testing witnesses but also he contributed much outside the arena of the Committee in statements which were authorised by the Committee. He tended to evoke by Press statements a consideration by people, including shipper and shipping interests, who should have known something about the container system. So, firstly, I record my appreciation of the work of the Chairman. One of the comments that the Committee recorded was that it was rather notable that many people who came before the Committee, including the representatives of many interests that should have’ known what the container system meant, had no idea at all about it until the Committee started its work. One of the complaints that we received from people who had had occasion to consider the overtures of the two consortiums was that they felt that they were being pressurised.
The second tribute that I pay is to the staff. Honourable senators who have read the report of the Committee will have noticed that it contains reference to the great contribution that was made by officers of the Senate. 1 refer honourable senators to Chapter VI of the report, which puts on record the fact that there should be additional staff for special committees and also records the appreciation of the Committee of the services rendered to it by its Secretary, Mr A. R. Cumming Thom, Principal Parliamentary Officer of the Senate, by the Assistant Secretary, Mr H. G. Smith, of the Senate staff and also by the Hansard staff, which throughout the work of the. Committee did a very valuable job. The result is that, we have a report which, I suggest, is most, valued by all the shipping interests, commercial interests and other people in the community who have noticed the development ©f containerisation.
Honourable senators will remember that the Committee’s obligations under the charter given to it by the Senate were:
To inquire into and report upon the following aspects of the container method of handling cargoes to and from Australia -
All Acts and regulations, Federal, State or local government, which relate to the movement of such containers or the handling of the cargoes which could normally bc expected to be carried in such containers.
The adequacy and efficiency of facilities in Australia in relation to the proposed introduction of containers, with regard to ports, consolidation areas, and traffic movement between ports and consolidation areas.
The Committee’s terms of reference also required it to recommend:
amendments to such Acts and regulations as are described in (a) above which, in the opinion of the Committee, ought to be made, and
Early in the piece the Committee decided, after consideration, to make a very broad interpretation of its charter.
I wish to refer to the critical recommendation of the Committee. I believe that it should be considered and taken notice of first. It is the recommendation that a joint Commonwealth-State consultative committee be established to supervise the introduction of containerised shipping. That was the Committees main proposal. During our investigations we inspected all the important port facilities and heard 177 witnesses. In addition we received some advice on the overseas practices. We found that in the Australian situation, because of our federal system each of the States had many and varied pieces of legislation whose relationship to the new container method could not always be identified.
In addition Commonwealth Government departments - ‘the Department of Shipping and Transport, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of External Affairs, the Department of Customs and Excise and the Department of Health - all have very special identities in relation to containers. All of them have been engaged in what might be called promotional work. But each of them had found that the Commonwealth legislature and State legislatures did not agree. When we found the need for particular requirements in relation to roads or weights we identified it. But, generally speaking, in the future there will be an area of conflict as the container system develops. So a special committee will have to be set up to iron out the developments that might take place and the issues that might arise in relation to conflicts between the States and the Commonwealth, ft seems to me that this is the main task that the Government might take upon itself as a result of the Committee’s recommendations. The Government should urgently consider the formation of such a committee.
If it finds, after consultations with the States, that they are not prepared to embark upon the establishment of a committee to watch the whole process of this entirely new system, which has within itself the great principles of the mechanical revolution and the industrial revolution, the Government should consider what sort of legislative action should be taken, lt seems to me that the techniques of the container system can be likened to those that have developed in manufacturing. In relation to shipping, stevedoring and the backing up process of transport behind the wharf, the situation has been examined by experts, including our own departmental experts, who say that our practices are out of date not only from the point of view of saving labour but. in respect of congestion in ports. So, to a great extent, our own departments have analysed the techniques.
We see operating in the world today a new method of shipping, namely, container shipping services that can use almost fully cellular ships. This method instantly reduces the amount of labour that is required to operate the trade. It results from alterations in the techniques of manufacturing ships. Years ago nobody thought of building the sorts of cellular ships that can now be built in shipyards. Because of new welding techniques, new methods of constructing slipways, new forms of lifting gear, including cranes, and new skilled techniques, these new ships can be built to stand the stresses of the ocean; all the cargo can be put in containers; and the containers can be dropped quickly into place in particular sectors of the ship. Consequently, the processes in the manual handling of separate pieces of cargo are changed. A great change is taking place in the mechanics of building ships, and a great change is taking place in the methods of handling cargo on the wharf. This is the container system.
In Australia we have had a fairly slow growth of the container system. The railways system is a very good example of this sort of system. Over the past 15 or 20 years all the railways services in Australia - the State and Commonwealth services - have developed a sort of container system. But the containers have not been of the international size. Containers of the international size have now been designed to fit into the cellular ships. Nevertheless, the railways have a container system. The container system in Australia is developed to an extent. lt has increased the turnround of railway trucks and locomotives and has made possible the quicker dispatch of goods, with easier checking and a minimum of labour content. The principles contained in the container exercise in the railways, and to some extent in road transport, have been accelerated in shipping. In shipping we have a container system which people appreciated but which the Australian trade did not ever face until it found that two consortiums - Overseas Containers Ltd and Associated Container Transportation Ltd. or OCL and ACT - proposed to provide nine special cellular ships for the AustralianUnited Kingdom trade and tried to marshal into practical shipments all the various cargoes that are handled on that trade.
The Committee’s report records that a degree of feeling about haste was engendered during the early promotion by the two consortiums. People in the industry thought that they were being pressurised. Others felt that a great and new monopoly -was growing and ought to be stopped. Another section of the trade said: ‘We are not sure that the container system is absolutely necessary. At this stage we think that the unitised ship, the Scandia type ship, ought to be the one to which we will give our support in the future*. The Australian National Line, in advancing its own interests before the Ministry, argued that it should be allowed to enter the general overseas trade because it thought that the Scandia type, the roll-on roll-off ship, the specialised vessel might be more profitable than the cellular ship. The container system is fairly well established now.
The two consortiums have done a considerable amount of work and have advocated what they propose to do. They have put their freight rates before the various interests. In addition, as honourable senators will know, they have proposed an insurance package deal which to some extent, in their own words, will offset the need to amend the Sea Carriage of Goods Act. In passing I mentioned the reaction to the Committee’s work. The second point I want to make is that, apart from the recommendations contained in the report and the controversies which have been occasioned by Press statements made by the Chairman of the Committee, I think that one of the valuable contributions made by the Committee was to get the interests in the community to think about the container system. A good deal of work has been done by Government departments to alter working principles on the waterfront and to negotiate arrangements with the waterside workers. These arrangements have now come to pass in the form of a national agreement. A good deal of work has been done on the extent to which the methods on the waterfront and in shipping generally might be changed to allow a quicker turn round of vessels. We now have ship designs which provide the vehicle whereby the changes may take place automatically. Management and labour have to fit into the cycle.
Not only did representatives of the two consortiums appear before the Committee; in each of the States evidence was given by people who should have known that this was a new shipping technique, who were behind scratch in understanding what was proposed by the two consortiums, who were not aware of the experiences of the Matson Line or of the working of the container system in the United States of America or who were not fully aware of what had taken place in regard to containerisation elsewhere. They said they thought they were being pushed into too ready an agreement by the two monopolies. Except on particular occasions when the evidence was given in camera, the hearings were conducted in public. The evidence given at the public hearings was published in the Australian Press. Because of this all concerned knew that they had to make some alterations in their methods of packing and consignment. Everybody who had a transport organisation and everybody interested in insurance, shipping, customs or cold stores had to analyse the decision he would make about the new scheme proposed by the two consortiums. Generally speaking people had to test the notion of having two consortiums which could handle the bulk of the United Kingdom-Australian trade and ask themselves what would happen to the small cargo which has to be handled by unitised or conventional ships. They had to give evidence of what they wanted. That was the second most Important part of the Committee’s work.
Honourable senators may read the references made to what has been called a monolithic structure. That appears in paragraph 51 of the report. There are the ingre dients of a monopoly in the two consortiums, but nobody can say that the consortiums will not perform their work efficiently. The surveys which they have made, the construction of vessels - one was launched in June this year and the last will be launched not later than December this year - and the great surveys made in depth about road transport assure an efficient system. A number of people who appeared before the Committee, including producers, were concerned as to whether what they called a monopoly group might extend from the shipping side - from the wharf and the terminal - to the inland terminals and link transport groups, which might tend to prevent competition within the industry. Having monopolies in transport from point A in the inland of Australia to Tilbury or an inland town in the United Kingdom could cause an increase in freight rates. These fears were expressed. The Committee obtained subsequent quotes about freight rates and satisfied itself that some savings will be effected.
The overriding question still to be answered is whether the system will need some checks. Associated with this point is the need for conventional and Scandia type ships. While the Committee accepted that the container system is an accomplished fact - it has established and proven itself in other parts of the world - in Australia we have to remember that much of our cargo for export will not be containerised. Slabs and ingots of iron, alumina and steel will not be containerised satisfactorily. Special cargo such as Tasmanian fruit - and I will not talk about this subject because Senator Lillico has a particular interest in it - will not be containerised. We are apt to support the notions put before us by the Australian National Line that in the circumstances of the development of Australian trade we have to rely largely upon the Scandia type vessel, on unitised and palletised cargo, on special nets, special forks to lift cargoes and the roll -on roll-off vessels.
We have to ensure that the Government does its share in this task and that these vessels operate on the Australian coast and do not drop out because of over tonnage or over capacity. One of the fears expressed by the various interests was that standard vessels might tend to drop out of the Australia-United Kingdom trade. We have to ensure that they do not. If they do we have to ensure that we replace them, with vessels perhaps operated by the Australian National Line. The situation is that a large part of Australia’s primary products will not be handled by the container system. Those are the widespread fears about monopolies.
We had support from many sources about the monopoly in relation to shipping and we had representations about the adverse effects of the monopoly in respect of terminal, depot and inland transport facilities, lt seems to me that the continuing committee that we propose might keep its eye on these developments. Lt will have to be what the Chairman called a watchdog committee, to ensure that where there are backing up facilities they will not exclude the operations of other than container ships. Unless we do something about this there will bc a conflict between the transport and health laws of the various States. There will have to be a conference of the various interests. The departmental people cannot do this. If matters are left to the Departments of Shipping and Transport, External Affairs and Health they will not be resolved. lt seems to me that this strengthens the argument for some sort of continuing committee.
The container system is very well known now. The lighter aboard ship or LASH system which is used in the United States gulf trade is about the only form of specialised service that I have not yet mentioned. 1 notice that the Western Australian State Shipping Service is now talking about the employment of barges which would suit the specialised service on the Western Australian coast and the port facilities there. 1 might mention in passing the position in the United States of America. At present there are 87 berths in 31 ports throughout the United States of America which can handle fully containerised ships with crane equipment and a large stacking area. A further 103 berths are planned during the next 3 years. On the Atlantic coast there are 34 berths with 49 planned. In the Gulf area there are 22 and 7 planned. On the Pacific coast there are 24 and 34 planned. On the Great Lakes there are 7 and 3 planned.
The container system will be a part of the Australian organisation. Another require ment of which we have to be mindful is that not ail Australian ports will be terminal points. One of the matters which the States and the Commonwealth have to walch is to ensure that feeder services operate satisfactorily to keep existing ports functioning on a fairly satisfactory basis and lo ensure that costs of feeder services are not additional to the charges for the overseas trips of vessels. So far the consortiums have assured us that there will be a uniform rate. One of the fears of the States is that many of the major ports will tend to drop out of the picture unless there is some overriding authority to keep them in being.
Although this material is recorded in the report. I should like to make brief reference to the two consortiums. Overseas Containers Ltd is a company which was formed in Britain in September 1965 by four British shipping groups: Alfred Holt & Co., British and Commonwealth Shipping Co. Ltd, Furness Ewithy and Co. Ltd, and the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. They are regular traders between Australia, Britain and Europe and are better known as the Blue Funnel Line, Clan Line, Shaw Savill Line and the P and O Line. Also directly associated in Australia with the OCL service is Seatainer Terminals Pty Ltd. lt is owned equally by OCL and Associated Steamships Pty Ltd. Associated Steamships are well known as the owner and operator of the first Australian container ship ‘Kooringa’, which was operating for 3 years between Melbourne and Fremantle. This company has two container ships on order from the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd shipyard at Whyalla, South Australia.
Seatainer Terminals Pty Ltd was formed in July 1966 to provide shore facilities for the OCL service and the Associated Steamships Pty Ltd coastal container service. Seatainer Terminals will provide terminals at the ports and depots away from the immediate wharf area and heavy capacity shore cranes to load, discharge and handle the containers, full or empty. Six container ships have been ordered, 5 to be built in Germany and 1 in Scotland. They are of 27,000 tons gross, with a speed of 2li knots, and will carry 1,148 containers, of which 300 will be for refrigerated cargo. A round voyage, TilburyFremantleSydneyMelbourneFremantleTilbury, will take 63 days. Associated Container Transportation Ltd, the other British container consortium, will use three similar ships in its service. With the six OCL ships, these will provide an integrated weekly service. The terminals will be owned and operated by Seatainer Terminals Ltd and will be provided primarily for OCL and ASP. However, they will also be used by ACT.
One of the important issues associated with such a system is the question of freight rates. The consortiums support a continuation of the conference system. They say that they can contain costs in the overall system. Sea transport is labour intensive especially in conventional vessels. This is so to a lesser extent in relation to the Scandia type vessel. The new celullar ships will reduce the labour content of the industry and therefore there can be overall savings in the whole chain of movement. We had an assurance that because of this there will be a containing of freight rates and probably in the first instance a reduction.
This seems to me to pose a problem, which of course was not canvassed by the Committee, as to what will be the position tn the future. There is likely to be in the next 10 or 15 years excess shipping capacity to serve the trades in which we are concerned. The consortiums and our own Department argue for the conference system but one of the failures of the conference system, I suggest, is that the Commonwealth Government, which has the responsibility in respect of overseas trade, does not always know the mechanics of costing. It seems to me that this ls one of the areas of great interest to the Commonwealth Government, consumers and producers, and it is a matter to which we must pay special attention. Apart from support for a specialised form of negotiation, it is proposed that the Australian National Line will enter the Australian Japanese trade. We understand that the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) is overseas to buy into a British shipping group.
It seems to me that the question of charges is fundamental to the container system and to trade generally. Even though we mechanise shipping and inland transport, unless we gan be sure that savings in the cost of the operation flow back to the producer - the wool grower and the manufacturer - the system does not offer much for the Australian community. It appears to me that the present method of negotiating freight rates will be inadequate unless the Australian Government buys into the system by establishing its own identity. This could be done in the manner it is canvassing at the present time - buying into the Cunard line or some other shipping line.
Honourable senators will remember that the Opposition has frequently criticised the Government for not allowing the Australian National Line to enter into overseas trade in a regular manner and that it has frequently drawn attention to the annual reports of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. Although the Government’s decision to investigate buying into an overseas Une is belated it is welcomed. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has indicated that the Minister for Trade and Industry is making inquiries in London to ascertain to what extent Australia may become directly involved in overseas trade. I point out to the Senate that if Australia is to receive some benefit from the container system the Government will have to ensure that the reduction in freight charges flows back to the consumer.
As I mentioned earlier, I do not intend to discuss all the matters contained in the Committee’s report. But perhaps I should mention in passing the investigations that have been made into the possible containerisation of wool. Senator Bull has a very special interest in this aspect and will discuss it more fully. However, I should indicate that surveys carried out by Commonwealth departments showed that there were 100,000 truck movements a week between Pyrmont, Brown’s Wharf, Balmain and the other wharves in Sydney. This not only increases the cost of goods but also adds to traffic congestion around the wharves.
One survey itemised the processes of wool handling. A suggestion that a wool village should be set up raised the issue of what would happen to the existing wool stores. No doubt Senator Bull will discuss this aspect of containerisation also. But all this certainly highlights the need for special attention to be paid, not only by a particular department of the Commonwealth but also by State and industry authorities, to the need to rationalise transportation movements. The savings that would result from more productive methods should flow back to the consumer and to the workers involved in these movements.
This brings me to the matter of industrial problems. I shall generalise here. Honourable senators will see that in its report the Committee expressed the opinion that great changes will occur as a result of containerisation. I remind the Senate of what happened as a result of some mechanisation on the waterfront. What is known as the national agreement has been entered into. This agreement transfers to the workers in the industry some of the benefits resulting from mechanisation, lt also imposes some special obligations upon them. Nevertheless, it is a tripartite agreement between the Government, the shipowners and stevedores, and the workers and it contains provisions in respect of the redundancy that will take place through mechanisation on the waterfront. There must be some rewards for the men who have worked on the wharves and who have been displaced. Of course, not all waterside workers will become redundant as a result of containerisation. The backing up processes at the terminals and the depots where new methods of stacking, checking and tallying of cargoes are introduced will require new classifications of labour. Senator Wheeldon will probably refer to the information he received whilst in the United States of America on this aspect.
This raises the issue of demarcation. One of the pleasing things that 1 have to report is that those concerned with demarcation - the managers, the officials of the Department of Labour and National Service who took a part in the discussions, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia - were satisfied that the way to solve demarcation problems and to make provision for new classifications of labour, redundancy or transfer to new jobs was the method which has been used over the years, that is, consultation. Most of the people who specialise in this type of consultation said that they felt this process would be satisfactory. The Committee hopes that it will be satisfactory. But I am not sure that demarcation problems will be solved before the container ships commence trading on the coast of Australia. I can only say that I know the ACTU and the other people and organisations to whom I have referred are earnestly working towards this end. The point was made that if these issues can be solved in direct consultation between the managers and the workers there will be less hard feeling and discontent in the future. I am hopeful that the changes will take place in the way I have indicated.
Where there are changes to more productive processes - if goods can be produced quicker or ships can be turned around quicker with lower handling costs - the workers in industry should be provided for. The final point f wish to make is that whatever decision is arrived at by the Government it should come down in favour of the system that is established in the United States of America whereby workers who become redundant as a result of automation or mechanisation are safeguarded by special provisions that are advocated and supported by the negotiating bodies.
Whilst 1 have not discussed all the points considered by the Committee. I have referred to matters which seem to me, as a member of the Committee, to be of great importance. 1. hope that the Government will take special note of the main recommendation of the Committee that a CommonwealthStates consultative body be sei up with the Commonwealth acting as a kind of watchdog over the system as it develops. The Government has to ensure not only that more efficient methods of shipping and stevedoring shall operate in Australia next year but also that whilst this new system fits into the Australian scene sufficient vessels of other types are available to serve the Australian trade.
– At the outset lel me say that in my view the work of this Committee was not easy in that in arriving at decisions with relation to the containerisation of overseas cargoes, the Committee was not dealing with a clear cut issue, lt was not dealing with something that you could recommend or not recommend, ft was not dealing with something that was either in or out because containerisation was becoming and would become a fact of Australian shipping life irrespective of whether this Committee had been set up.
Because containerisation is a new departure so far as shipping is concerned, there are bound to be certain teething troubles associated with such matters as conflicting State regulations, the durability of roads, bridges, the improvement of facilities and so on. I believe that I can say that the Committee was impressed with the immensity of the problem facing this country in providing completely adequate and up to dale facilities to cope with the shipment of goods overseas, facilities that would reduce costs, increase efficiency and which, whether containerisation became an established fact or not, in many cases, should have been established years ago. So this Committee could only do what it could to facilitate the advent of containerisation to the Commonwealth, and I believe that in thai connection the chairman and his secretary did a mighty fine job of work in alerting people and organisations to what was going on and what could happen. I feel that I must pay tribute to those two people for their work in this direction because there were some people and some organisations who should have been interested but who we found were not. and who did not seem to be au fait with the matter at all.
We have heard people railing against shipping monopolies over the years. Of course, monopolies are as old as history. If you go right back to the time of the Caesars you can read about monopolies and their abuse. Shipping is such a mighty proposition and so many millions of dollars of capital are involved that, by its very nature, there has to be something monopolistic about it. I do not see how we can get away from that proposition. Therefore, it is the job of those people who are interested - the people on this Committee and the committee proposed in the report - to see to it that the monopolistic abuses that creep in at times arc minimised and that the power of the monopolies is curbed as far as possible. In short, it is the duty of these people to do their utmost to induce the shipping monopolies to adopt a reasonable course in fairness to those who use their services.
One thing that interested me right throughout the whole of the inquiry - 1 think it also interested many other members of the Committee - was the possibility of an Australian-owned overseas shipping line. Ever since we have been a Commonwealth, we have been in a position - we still are - where, in the main, our cargoes have been carried in ships owned by overseas interests. This country has fretted under that condition, and it is true that, justifiably or not, freight rates have increased tremendously over the past decade and more. Nevertheless, we have been tied to the chariot wheels of overseas shipping interests. For many years now it has been advocated that this country should have its own overseas shipping line, and, under normal conditions, we might have had it. 1 was very surprised to hear it authoritatively stated that if the Australian National Line could be granted the same credit terms for ship building, if the unions would agree to the same manning scales as apply in other countries, and if arrangements could be made for a reasonable share of back cargo, in short, if costs could be brought down to the basis where the only differential was that relating to wages, then the Australian National Line would have a chance of instituting to some extent, either great or small, its own overseas shipping service. In other words, if those concerned wanted it badly enough and realised fully the great advantage such a service would be to this country, it could be put into operation. lt is well known now that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth), in a Press statement dated 14th December 1967, confirmed that satisfactory arrangements had been made for the entry of the Australian National Line with approximately 1 1,000 tons dead weight into the Australia-Japan trade as a Conference member. When this is tried out, it could be, if it proves to be an economic proposition, that we shall develop from one ship to more ships. If only we can get down to a level of cost comparable with those of other countries that conduct shipping services to this country, we might have a chance.
The report envisages a new departure entirely in that we are to have three key ports throughout the Commonwealth with feeder services to them. There is also to be a flat freight rate applicable to cargoes that are to be containerised. We heard Senator Bishop say, quite rightly, that we have been given some assurance that there will be a reduction in shipping freights as a result of the advent of the container conception of shipping goods from this country. To my surprise, the Committee was told that with the advent of the roll-on roll-off shipping service from Tasmania to the mainland - hard to believe and I feel that those people who ship will not believe it - there had been a 30% reduction in shipping freights.
I have heard that claim contested because all other costs incidental to the shipping service between Tasmania and the mainland have gone up and up and up. If we in this country continue the practice that has been followed in the past few years of continually increasing those costs which are incidental to shipping, the reduction in freight with the advent of the container concept of shipping will be lost. It will be only a drop in the bucket. That is one of the serious problems confronting this country. 1 repeat that it has been claimed that a drastic reduction in freights between the mainland and Tasmania took place but the increase in incidental costs was such that not much advantage was felt by the shippers. That could quite easily be a factor. While we concentrate - rightly, I believe - on trying to get freights out of this country down to the lowest possible figure, little is done about those costs which are incidental to shipping and which must, and should, be included in the producer’s costs when he ships his product overseas.
Mention has been made of the fruit crop in Tasmania. In my view the fruit industry is well worth preserving. I am not one of those people who say: ‘It is on its way out. There is nothing we can do about it.’ I believe that the industry is too valuable to the State of Tasmania, and in fact to the other States in the Commonwealth where it is followed, te let it go without an effort to preserve it. But while there was concentration during the whole of the time that the Committee was sitting, on the means by which containerisation could be used to give benefit to the fruit growers in my own State - I am parochial enough to say that - the Committee was completely baffled as to how it could be applied to the Tasmanian fruit crop. The number of ships required to take the cargo from Tasmania to feeder ports in Melbourne was so great that the Australian National Line said that it could not contemplate such a proposition.
The Conference Line, Overseas Containers Ltd and Associated Container Transportation Ltd were of the opinion that they could not entertain such a proposition because of the refrigerated space required and the number of ships that would have to be made available. There appeared to be no way whatsoever in which the concept of containerisation could be made to confer some benefit on the fruit growers in my own State and in other States. In fact the representatives of the industry told us in evidence in Hobart that the advent of containerisation would make it more difficult and probably more costly for the fruit growers to get the conventional ships that they had been getting in the past. That was their opinion. I hope some notice is taken of recommendation No. 5 on page 77 of the Committee’s report. It is in these terms:
The Commonwealth Government, in association with the Tasmanian Government, should give special consideration to the situation which will arise in connection with the inability of the shipping consortia to accommodate the export of the Tasmanian fruit crop.
I repeat that it was claimed by those people who should know that the conventional type of ship which has lifted the Tasmanian apple crop in the past will be harder to get and more costly because of the advent of containerisation. That remains to be seen. Nevertheless that opinion, was expressed. It is my great regret that this Committee was unable to find any solution to the shipping problem that confronts the fruit industry in Tasmania, a problem which I believe must be solved if the industry is to continue in a flourishing condition.
Other honourable senators wish to participate in the debate so I shall conclude by returning to my earlier remarks relating to an Australian overseas shipping service. As a member of the Committee I was impressed with the feasibility of establishing an Australian overseas shipping service although 1 am gravely doubtful of such a thing under existing conditions. At least the ship which it is proposed to enter into the Japanese consortia will act as a check on freight costs and other charges which in the past have been very difficult to ascertain. It should provide a clue to whether it is a feasible proposition to enlarge that service. I was surprised to hear the Australian National Line suggest that if the terms and conditions mentioned were met it would have an opportunity to operate such a service. For the sake of this country I hope that its optimism will be justified. I hope that the container system will provide the benefits to shippers from this country which a lot of people claim it will provide, and that we will enter into a new era of efficiency. I believe there is a woeful need to increase efficiency in relation to facilities and all the rest. This will be reflected in a considerably improved shipping service from this country to overseas markets.
– The Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes was formed lost year as a result of efforts made by this chamber to form select committees to inquire into a number of matters of importance to this country. The Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures, which has brought down its report, was also formed at that time. The matters dealt with by the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes, the report of which we are discussing tonight, are of very great importance to the economy and life of this country. The terms of reference of the Committee were limited to what could be regarded as certain administrative and practical aspects of the problems arising as a result of recent developments in the means of handling shipping cargoes. I would like to remind honourable senators that the terms of reference of the Committee were as follows:
To inquire into and report upon the following aspects of the container method of handling cargoes to and from Australia -
All Acts and regulations, Federal, Slate or local government, which relate to the movement of such containers or the handling of the cargoes which could normally be expected to bc carried in such containers.
The adequacy and efficiency of facilities in Australia in relation to the proposed introduction of containers, with regard to ports, consolidation areas, and traffic movement between ports and consolidation areas. lt is clear that the purpose of the Committee was not simply to debate the merits or otherwise of a system of containerisation of shipping cargoes. The purpose of the Committee was not to discuss in broad terms the sort of economic system within which the new method, or indeed an old method, of the transport of cargoes should operate. In fact, its terms were somewhat limited. 1 am not being critical on that score. 1 believe it to be properly the case.
As I understand the purpose of Senate select committees it is to gather facts on specific matters and to bring down recommendations within a framework in which one can reasonably anticipate the possibility of a broad measure of agreement among the members of the Committee, without converting the committee into a sort of miniature parliament debating all the political issues which would be more properly debated elsewhere. I think I should say, without having had any experience of other committees, that within that framework the Committee worked very successfully.
Previous speakers in this debate have already paid tribute to the officials of the Senate who were appointed to assist the Committee in ils work - Mr Cumming Thom and Mr Smith. I think it can be said without contradiction that had it not been for the very great assistance they gave the Committee, the report would not have been prepared so rapidly. Indeed, whatever virtues may be found within the report are very largely due to the intensive work done by both those gentlemen in collating the evidence presented to the Committee, and in collating for the benefit of members of the” Committee the findings they had reached but in many cases had not expressed specifically in their own language. Mr Cumming Thom and Mr Smith were, I believe, able to express the findings of the Committee in the spirit of the obvious views of the Committee members in a manner which greatly facilitated the Committee’s work and the preparation of its report.
I believe that the Senate owes a considerable debt of gratitude to Senator Cormack, Chairman of the Committee, who devoted himself with the utmost enthusiasm to the work of the Committee. He was an excellent chairman to work with in every respect. He was at all stages prepared to allow every member of the Committee a free rein in asking the questions he wished to ask and to put forward the submissions he wished to advance. Through Senator Cormack’s previous associations he had a number of contacts with people engaged in the export trade and in the shipping industry. It was largely due to his individual efforts that a great deal of most valuable evidence was presented to the Committee.
The Committee consisted of members with a very great variety of backgrounds. No matters came before the Committee on which at least one member did not have some sort of specialised knowledge. Some matters were presented on which some members of the Committee had very little knowledge, if any, but I believe that on every matter before the Committee at least one member had a special knowledge and interest. The proceedings of the Committee were conducted without any acrimony. The Committee worked very well together as a team. Whatever one might think of its findings in the report, very cogent evidence is produced of the value of Senate committees. Through the harmonious working of this Committee a great deal of evidence concerning a very important matter has become available to the Parliament and to the people which would not otherwise have become available to them.
The Committee was formed as a result of concern in a great many sections of the community about the drastic changes which many feared might come about as a result of what has been described as the container revolution, lt was pointed out to the Committee that In fact a revolution in the precise meaning of the word has not taken place in the containerisation of cargoes. In fact, from very early times some sort of container has been used to transport cargo. What has specifically happened has not been the introduction of a great deal of new miracle devices, but in fact the application of new methods to a field of the economy in which the application of methods rather than the discovery of new devices may bring about a drastic change.
It has been said, and accepted by a number of economists, that the industrial revolution brought about in the United States of America at the begnning of this century by Henry Ford did not result so much from the invention of a new device, even the in ternal combustion engine; that in fact the great industrial revolution of that period resulted from the introduction of process work. Even without the invention of a new device, the application of the methods which Ford very largely pioneered would have brought about the industrial revolution, even if transport had been limited still to horses and buggies. It merely happened to coincide with the invention of the internal combustion engine, rubber tyres and the other ingredients necessary for the manufacture of the modern automobile. I think the same can be said of what can be termed a revolution in containerisation. Again, there have not been any particularly new dscoveries made, but the shipping companies which are engaged in the introduction of containerisation have been able to use facilities already well known, or a major part of them, and to use them in a new manner. In this way a dramatic change has taken place in the traditional patterns of the transport of goods by sea to and from Australia.
Unlike the state of affairs in the past where a large number of cargoes were brought to the various wharves, were accumulated in warehouses and gradually, as a sufficient number of goods arrived, collected to make up a full cargo of a ship, were loaded together on the ship which then proceeded around the world calling at ports where there appeared to be sufficient need for it to load or unload cargoes, now, through the principle of containerisation, rather than adopt this haphazard method at the ports from which ships are sailing, there have been introduced certain standardised containers which are being loaded in the areas where production is taking place. That is, in a simple way, the salient feature of the introduction of this new method. Arrangements are made for the transport of the containers from point to point - largely from the point of production to the point of consumption. Goods may be loaded in Bourke, New South Wales, and transported directly to Birmingham, or from Birmingham to Bourke - they being the two towns which seemed to figure very prominently in the discussions which took place - without anything being done to them in the intervening period. This means that a drastic change will be necessary in all the arrangements which hitherto have existed with regard to shipping transport, lt means, for example, that there is going to be a considerable saving in at least one aspect of transport costs. I refer to the handling charges of ships while they are in port.
Instead of the ships being involved in long delays in harbour - on many occasions ships have been known to wait at a certain port for a full cargo to turn up before being able to sail - it is now possible for arrangements to be made so that ships call al a port only when it is known that there is a full cargo of containers which can be loaded immediately, lt means also that long term arrangements can be made and that there can be direct transport from, for example, London to Fremantle without any intervening stops. In fact, one can go further and say that if there are intervening stops for the ship which is travelling from London to Fremantle with a cargo of containerised goods for Australia, each stop al other ports on the way, either to load or unload, means that to a large extent the savings which are envisaged by the introduction of this new method will be lost. So one thing which we will find will be a reduction in the number of ports handling cargoes owing to the fact that because of the very expensive equipment which is needed for containerisation, some ports only will be used to handle containers. It will be necessary to provide some son of feeder services to these major ports and there will be direct transport to and from the various major ports. This, in itself, introduces a great many complications. It introduces the complication lo which Senator Lillico has referred specifically with regard to the export of fruit from Tasmania.
If there is not a sufficient volume of trade to warrant container ships calling at the various Tasmanian ports, and if it is found also that fruit, for example, is unsuitable for containerisation, it may well be found thai it will be completely uneconomic for ships to call at the various Tasmanian ports.
– A good few of them find it uneconomic now.
– Senator Gair has reminded me that there are many Tasmanian ports. There were some that even Senator Lillico had not heard of, as it turned out when we were discussing the matter as a Committee. Because a large part of the overseas shipping trade from Australia will be conducted by containerised ships plying directly from major port to major port, there will be fewer ships available to transport cargoes from ports in places such as Tasmania. Other ports also could be involved in these difficulties. Further, containerisation could produce a serious social problem. People in a large number of ports which have already a substantial work force with a substantial number of business people and others dependent on the work force and on the trade taking place in that port will find that their means of livelihood, insofar as they may continue to engage in the shipping trade, have disappeared. Already it is envisaged that only Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle, and possibly Brisbane, will be used for the container trade inside Australia.
There could be conceivably a major problem in the future with regard to the port of Adelaide and the maintenance of the present level of shipping activity in Adelaide. If all that Adelaide is going to do is to provide a feeder service either to Melbourne or Fremantle - I presume Melbourne - it will no longer be a major overseas port in the way that it has been in the past. This will produce considerable social problems.
Another major social problem to which Senator Bishop has referred is that of waterfront employment. Unfortunately I feel that there was not a great deal of evidence produced to the Committee regarding the problems which could arise so far as waterfront employment was concerned. Certainly in the United States of America, where already there has been a considerable measure of containerisation on the west coast, it was found that very prolonged and complex negotiations were needed between the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union, which covers the waterside workers and ancillary workers on the west coast, and the Pacific Maritime Association before a satisfactory agreement could be reached. One result of this agreement has been that now special provisions are made for workers who become redundant as a result of the mechanisation and containerisation which has taken place on the west coast. It was first envisaged, as Senator Bishop said, that the introduction of these new methods would result in a substantial reduction in the number of workers in the waterfront industry. Alhtough there is no doubt that this did take place in the very early stages, through the increase in trade which has followed from the increase in the population and the overall increase in world trade, there are now, 1 understand, more longshoremen employed on the west coast of the United States than were employed before the introduction of advanced systems of mechanisation and containerisation such as were dealt with by the Committee. But, of course, this is not to say that had these methods not been introduced there would nol have been a much greater number still employed, nor does it avoid the fact that in the short run there is almost bound to be produced temporarily - and temporarily could be a very long time - very tragic circumstances for the individuals concerned and a reduction in the number of people employed on waterfront labour. These are all matters to which the Committee can only draw attention. We have not brought down any concrete recommendations on them. We have drawn the attention of the Parliament and of the nation generally to them.
Various other important questions arise as a result of the introduction of this new method. There has been some discussion of monopoly. The most important of these other questions is the fact that this new method has been presented to Australia, and to the Australian exporter in particular, virtually as a fait accompli by the two large consortiums that control the shipping of goods between the United Kingdom and Europe on the one hand and Australia on the other. This underlines again the necessity of something that many people have advocated for a great many years, namely, that Australia should have its own national overseas shipping line in order to be able, if nothing else, to influence decisions of this nature when they are taken.
Australia is one of the ten or twelve greatest trading nations in the world; yet until recently, when steps were taken to extend the operations of the Australian National Line into the Japanese trade, we had no Australian owned - either state owned or privately owned - shipping line operating from Austrafia. Naturally, the view of my Party is that there should be a state owned overseas shipping line, as there is in a great many other countries, such as India, Israel and various others, some of which are much smaller than Australia. lt is rather shameful that small countries, such as Ireland, have an overseas shipping line with their commercial ships calling in to Australian ports; yet we do not have any Australian owned ships calling in to overseas ports.
– Has not Panama a shipping line?
– The Panamanian flag is a flag of convenience. I do not know whether Panama owns any ships. Certainly Ireland has its own shipping line. Even Switzerland, with no coast of its own and no sea ports of its own, has found it necessary to maintain a merchant shipping line for the benefit of Swiss exporters and importers, although it has to operate out of foreign ports.
I recommend to any members of the Government parties who may well be opposed to the operation of a government line that they inspect the laws of the United States of America relating to the government maintenance of American shipping lines. The United States has believed for many decades now that it is absolutely essential for the economy and defence of the country - it believed this when it was a much smaller and less significant trading country than it is at present - that it have its own overseas shipping line. Very great concessions are available to American merchant shipping companies. Considerable pains are taken by the United States administration and congress to see that heavy subsidies are granted, very substantial concessions made and very substantial restrictions imposed upon the operations of overseas lines so that an American merchant shipping line shall be maintained.
– Did not that nearly cost the Americans a wheat sale on one occasion?
– It has probably cost them a great many things. I do not suggest that it is free. 1 do not doubt that the easy way out would be to say, as some people in Australia would tend to say: ‘Some foreign people can produce this more cheaply than we can, so why do we not lei them produce it? The Japanese labour is cheaper than American labour, so why not hand over the whole of our American export trade to Japanese ships?’
I often think that people who talk so much about emulating the United States should have a closer look at what that country did within the framework of private enterprise to see that American industry was built up. The United States did not build up its enterprises by saying: ‘Let us allow any foreign country that feels like exploiting the United States to have free rein’. Successive American administrations and congresses have shown for many years that they believe that the United States people - even if ‘the United States people’ may mean only local United States capitalists - should control important, sectors of the American economy and that those sectors should not be controlled by overseas interests. One of those sectors is the very important, field of shipping transport. 1 believe that Australia should be taking the same attitude. We have taken the step lo which I have referred. 1 believe that all members of the Select Committee would welcome that. The step that has now been taken is to enable the Australian National Line to enter at least into the Japanese trade. Speaking for myself, I certainly hope that it will not be long before ships flying the Australian (lag are plying in every section of overseas waters and are engaged in overseas trade with all the countries with which we have significant trading relations.
One other important matter which came before the Committee is a rather specialised one. It relates to the rather curious legal situation that has developed as a result of the introduction of the new packaging methods known as containerisation. I do not want to bore the Senate on this matter. It is dealt with in some detail in the report of the Committee. One of the problems with which we members of the Committee were faced and on which we did not appear to be getting a great deal of satisfaction from some of the people who should have been giving us satisfaction was in regard to the documentation of shipping cargoes.
A number of members of the Committee - in fact, I think, a majority of them - wanted to be very critical of the trading banks on this matter. I was not as critical as the other members of the Committee. Some seemed to take that as evidence that I was really an extreme right winger masquerading as something else. My feeling was that it was not so much the trading banks that were responsible, but the fact that they were placed in a position in which they did not know precisely what would happen. I think Senator Bull and I were the small minority opposition on this occasion. My feeling was that it was rather unreasonable to expect the banks to be producing documents about a process when they did not even know what the process was. However that may be, the fact is that a lot of information which perhaps should have been available did not seem to be available.
The problem that arises does so from the change in the nature of the legal relations that, could come about through the introduction of containerisation. Hitherto, when goods were consigned by ship from port to port a bill of lading was issued. Under that the master of the ship took responsibility for the goods that were delivered to him at the port from that time until such time as they arrived at their port of destination. One of the alleged virtues of containerisation - I have no doubt that it is a real virtue - is that this so-called Bourke to Birmingham process takes- place. In this process the containers are packed and sealed in some inland place, such as Bourke. They are transported by land to the port of Sydney, where they are loaded on to the ship. They are taken to London. There they are unloaded again. Then they are transported by train to Birmingham.
All this happens without the master of the ship ever having any chance of inspecting what is inside the container. A very real problem has arisen, first of all, with regard to the liability of the ship owner who has to accept somebody else’s word for what the contents of the container are, whereas in the past he had the opportunity to inspect the goods that were being delivered to him. It seems to be rather unreasonable to expect a man to have to accept liability for a box when he does not know what is inside it. Additional problems can arise through the negligent packing of the container. If spontaneous combustion takes place or if there is an explosion and damage is caused to the ship on which the container is being carried, to other cargo or to other ships or the harbour itself when the ship is in harbour, who is liable for the damage caused by that conflagration? These are all very complicated matters. Apart from the legal fees that might be involved in trying to solve these problems, 1 am glad that nobody has asked me to solve them. The Committee has drawn attention to them, I understand that the shipping consortia, in association with various insurance companies, have produced a model set of shipping documents which combine a bill of lading and an insurance proposal. Already there has been some criticism of this. I refer to the ‘Daily Commercial News and Shipping List’ of Tuesday. 17th September last, which states:
A ‘package deal’ insurance scheme proposed by iwo British container consortia is gathering opposition in Australia from exporters. 1 do not want »o weary the Senate by reading the whole article, which is available.
– Opposition was expressed by the United Kingdom exporters the week before.
– Senator Young has pointed out that opposition has been expressed by the United Kingdom exporters. Apparently there is considerable dissatisfaction about the terms on which the insurance is being offered by the consortia. The difficulty is that there is no longer the freedom of the exporter to make his own insurance arrangements. The insurance arrangements are incorporated in the composite hill of lading document, whatever it might be called now. 1 think ‘bill of lading’ might be a misnomer for it now. The goodwill or special arrangements that the exporter might have been able to build up in the past with an insurance company will disappear with containerisation. All exporters would seem lo bc placed in the same position by the new document that is presented to them by the shipping companies in conjunction wilh the insurance companies. The matter seems to be a rather tedious one and not the kind about which people will demonstrate in the streets but it certainly is of the utmost importance to people engaged in international trade and commerce. It is a very serious matter for them. The Committee has drawn attention to this in its report. 1 think that all members of the Committee and other interested senators would hope that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair), the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen), the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) and other Ministers whose departments bear on these matters will give the most serious consideration to the difficulties involved. I certainly do not want to suggest that the matter is an easy one and that we should criticise the Government because it has not done this or that. The very nature of the whole operation is such that whatever anybody tried to do would seem to be fraught with difficulties. I can imagine the difficulties that will develop if within one container there are half a dozen different articles covered by different insurance policies. This is an obvious problem. Clearly there must be some kind of rationalisation of insurance. 1 think that the kind of objection that can bc taken is that by the very introduction of the method of containerisation the Australian exporters again find themselves presented with something by the overseas consortia. It is very largely a take it or leave it attitude: ‘There you are. here it is.’ The difficulties could be minimised and the matter could be improved upon if there were some active Australian participation in the overseas shipping trade and ils ancillary aspects, particularly insurance.
I notice that my time is about to expire. I do not want to weary the Senate by stating things that are contained in the report. In closing I say that the future prosperity of Australia, to a very great extent, depends upon our trade and the health of our trade depends upon the arrangements we can make for the export of our goods and the import of the commodities which we need. In order that commerce can be carried out satisfactorily we need to have tin adequately controlled and a sensible and rationalised mercantile shipping system. New problems have been thrust upon the system by the introduction of (he new methods. The Committee has discussed the matter and has drawn the public’s attention to it. The report contains references to the various important problems that are involved. I believe that the report deserves the serious consideration of the Senate.
– I am very pleased to have been a member of the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes. Like other members T found the work of the Committee to be of great interest. 1 am quite sure we all benefited from our experience on the Committee and from working together. I do not propose to discuss man) aspects of the Committee’s report because I think it sets out adequately what we recommended, the matters considered and the evidence adduced. I hope that the Government will take note of and implement some of the recommendations. The transportation of cargoes in all areas, I believe, is going through a revolutionary change. 1 believe it is true to say that over the past 10 years there have been greater changes than in any previous decade. One can forecast that in the next 10 years more alterations in our transportation systems will take place. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 September 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1968/19680924_senate_26_s38/>.