14th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - I promised to make a statement as to the business which the Government wished to transact daring the remainder of the session. There is a number of bills which the Government considers it is absolutely necessary to complete before the session closes. These include the annual Works Estimates, a bill ratifying an agreement with the National Oil Proprietary Limited in relation to the production of shale oil at Newnes, three customs tariff validation bills and an excise tariff validation bill, a bill to impose the income tax rates for the year, bills providing for the payment of bounties on apples, pears, citrus fruits, and certain goods the produce or manufacture of New Guinea or Papua, bills to provide for assistance to the States for the purposes of youth employment and the supply of fertilizers, and the five bills introduced by the Attorney-General which, if passed, will render eligible for superannuation benefits certain officers of the High Commissioner’s office, the Repatriation Commission, the War Service Homes Commission and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It is desirable that the last-mentioned measures be passed. As T previously said, each is governed by the same principle. As the Minister for Commerce (Dr.. Earle Page) and I have already intimated, it is also hoped to submit to the House a bill to constitute a separate department of the Commonwealth Bank to deal with mortgage bank business. Then, too, there are a bill to consolidate and amend the patents law, and a bill to vary the trust upon which. the Baillieu gift to the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Fund is held.
– There is a fortnight’s work in the Patents Bill alone.
– I had hoped that there would not bc. It is non-party and noncontentious in character. However, may
I express the hope that it will be passed before we adjourn. Then there are bills relating to the Inter-State Commission and the Statute of Westminster, which it is hoped to pass. There may also be other measures. In view of the length of the programme, even though some of the measures are not very contentious, it is proposed that the House shall meet at 10.30 a.m., on Tuesday next, and on Wednesday if necessary; butthe intention is to close the Parliament on Wednesday.
– Why meet at 10.30.a.m. on Tuesday? I shall oppose that, if some means of doing so can be found.
– The reason is to enable us to get a longer day’s work in on Tuesday.
Government Members. - Hear, hear !
– Honorable members opposite may “ hear, hear “, as much as they like. They will not be permitted to fix matters to suit only their own purposes. We shall fight every measure if that be done.
– I am sorry to hear the honorable member say that. There is no ulterior motive behind the proposal; we are merely desirous of completing the business of the session.
– It will not be completed any sooner.
-by leaveIn the announcement that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has just made, he has given an outline of the bills which the Government considers it is necessary to pass. At the conclusion of his statement the right honorable gentleman referred ro two measures which he said he hoped there would be time to complete. One of those is the Statute of Westminster Bill. I now make to him the offer that if he brings up that bill immediately the Opposition will agree to pass it without debate. We do so because that measure has been before the Parliament in a number of ways on many occasions. It has been debated at great length, and we are impressed with the speech which the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) delivered upon it. We accept his statement that it is necessary for this Parliament to ratify the sections of the Statute of Westminister that the bill proposes to ratify.
– We do not adopt everything that he said.
– No, We do not accept everything that he said; but we do say that the ratification of the statute is an obligation of this Parliament. I invite the Prime Minister to include this measure among the necessary bills instead of in the hopeful section of his list.
Mr. LYONS (Wilmot- Prime Minister). - by leave - The Government must take the responsibility of deciding the order of urgency. The suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition will be given consideration, but we cannot agree to the Opposition selecting a particular measure here and there, and saying, “ Go on with this “. . We shall, however, be glad of the co-operation of the Opposition in the passage of every measure brought forward.
– We undertake to occupy no time in the consideration of the measure I have named.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs satisfied that the application of a quota in connexion with the importation of wireless valves will not jeopardize essential defence requirements in the event of Australia being unable to obtain supplies from overseas because of interference with communications in a period of hostility?
– There is not a complete prohibition on the importation of wireless valves. The quota is 50 per cent. of previous imports. In fact, a quota of 15 per cent. would cover all the requirements of valves not made in Australia. Actually, the operation of the trade diversion policy and the application of the quota to wireless valves have resulted in considerable acceleration of the manufacture of wireless valves in Australia and in a reduction of price.
– by leave - The honorable member (for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) yesterday asked me a question regarding the granting of coronation medals to certain ex-members of the Federal Parliament. He has asked asecond question, which I am answering to-day. In order to reply to his first question, I sought information from the department in regard to the matter and gave to the House the information furnished to me. I greatly regret that the reply which I made to the honorable member yesterday was not correct. As the result of further inquiries, I have ascertained that the following ex-members of the Federal Parliament were included in the list of recipients of coronation medals : -
Mr. W. L. Parsons; the Honorable Edmund Alfred Drake-Brockman, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., V.D.; Mr. E. C.Riley; Mr. Paul Jones; Major-General Sir John Gellibrand, K.C.B., D.S.O.; and Brigadier-General Walter Ramsay McNicoll, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., V.D.
These gentlemen were included in the list of recipients in recognition of past services, and their present positions as representative members of the community, and not by reason of the fact that they were formerly members of the Federal Parliament. The first information given to me indicated that no ex-members other than those whom I mentioned yesterday were included. That, I regret, was not correct. Because there are others with claims somewhat similar to those of these recipients, I propose to take the matter up with the proper authorities, in order to see whether they, too, can receive coronation medals.
– Does the Department of Defence, in allocating advertisements, take into consideration the political colour of the newspapers circulating in the district or the proprietors of the different journals, and give patronage to one political colour while withholding it from another, or is the matter considered purely from the viewpoint of giving information to the public?
– Neither of the first two considerations mentioned by the honorable gentlemen enters into the matter. The advertisements are given on a business basis, with the object of obtaining the best service and full value for the amount expended.
The following papers were presented : -
High Commissioner for Australia in London -Report for 1930.
Census and Statistics Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 95.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act: - Statement for year1936-37.
National Debt Sinking Fund Act - National Debt Commission - Fourteenth Annual Report, for year 1930-37.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amendedStatutory Rules 1937, No. 86.
– I am in receipt of a letter from Mr. Vernon, of Waverley, in which he draws attention to the fact that the listeners’ licence-fee charged by the Australian Broadcasting commission varies. I have in my hand a receipt from Queensland for 15s. Mr. Vernon states that in Victoria there is a charge of 18s. 6d., while in New South Wales it is £11s. Is it the practice of the Postmaster-General’s Department to charge varying rates in districts in which the maximum service is not given? Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral furnish information indicating the zones so affected, and the charges that are being made?
– The charges in connexion with wireless listeners’ licences are fixed on a zone basis. A charge of 21s. is made for the licence in zone No. 1. That applies to all licences within a radius of 250 miles of an A-class broadcasting station. There is a second zone beyond that radius, for which a fee of 15s. is charged. Those are the only two zones, and that is the only variation of payment.
– In connexion with the charge for the telephoning of telegrams for transmission by an adjoining town on an afternoon when the local post office is closed, perhaps on account of a picnic or an agricultural show, but where there is a continuous telephone service, will the Minister representing the Postmaster-
General state whether it is possible to make arrangements whereby such telegrams may be received and transmitted through the office of an adjoining town without the additional charging of a telephone fee ?
– J shall be very glad to submit the proposal of the honorable member to the PostmasterGeneral for his consideration.
– Will the Prime Minister indicate whether the Government has received any representations from the States on the subject of the Statute of Westminster? More particularly, has any notification been received which would confirm the published expression of opinion by the Labour Premier of Western Australia, that while rite present arrangement was working satisfactorily in every way, it seemed a great pity to introduce rigidity, with a possibility of danger arising from friction find trouble in the future?
– A communication has recently been received from Western Australia, and previously there were some communications from other States. I shall look into tlie matter and inform tlie honorable member of the attitude of the States.
– With reference to the Bill to ratify the Statute of Westminster, has the Prime Minister seen in newspapers published in Western Australia, a statement by the Premier of that State that he considers that Australia would be better off under the bonds that bind us at present, and has the right honorable gentleman received any communication from the Government of Western Australia on the subject?
– I have not seen the published statement of the Premier of Western Australia, to which the honorable member has referred. In reply to the honorable member for Wakefield, I have already answered a question similar to that contained in the second part of the honorable member’s question.
– Is the Minister for Commerce aware that .an election campaign is proceeding in the garden State of Victoria? Is he aware that those who are usually described as the stalwarts of the Labour party and. the militants of the Country party are joined in a united front against the common foe - the United Australia party? If he ds aware of these interesting facts, will he consider accepting my hospitality and participate in a joint meeting .in the Northcote Town Hall to fight the common foe?
– I am not clear whether my election appointments will enable me to accept the honorable member’s hospitality. I shall be pleased to hear from him that the Labour party in Victoria will support the Country party in its federal fight in all the electorates.
– Since a deputation of fruit-growers waited on him last year, has the Minister for Commerce considered paying to growers of apples and pears a greater bounty than the existing one which he knows is totally inadequate for the industry?
– The Prime Minister has already made a statement setting out the Government’s intention in this connexion.
– In view of the information contained in the answer to a question which I asked recently, that the Postmaster-General’s department has received £40,000 for the sale of State duty stamps, and also of the excess revenue of that department, will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General see that justice is done to persons, who sell postage stamps by paying them .: commission on sales as was done formerly?
– I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Postmaster-General.
– Is it a fact that tenderers for the supply of insulator spindles to the Postmaster-General’s
Department are prohibited from using Tasmanian timbers ? If so, will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General take the steps necessary to remove the embargo ?
– 1 shall ascertain whether there is any such condition in connexion Avith tenders. I cannot give any assurance that steps will be taken to remove the embargo until I have investigated the matter. If such a provision exists, there must be a good reason for it.
– Yesterday, the Minister for the Interior, when replying to the debate in which reference was made to the report of the Forestry School, which had been tabled in the House, said that it was an annual report. I have made inquiries from the Clerk of the House, and find that the only reports which have been tabled were one for 1925 and another for 1927. As it appears that ten years have elapsed since the last report of the school was tabled, will the Minister say whether annual reports of the Forestry School are tabled?
– I believe that the practice is to table reports annually, but not always to print them. I shall make inquiries and let the honorable member know.
– .Some time ago, the Minister for Commerce, in his capacity as Acting-Leader of the House, promised to secure certain information from the Government of Western Australia in relation to the Yampi Sound iron ore deposits. Can the Prime Minister say whether the information has been received, and if not, when it is expected?
– The Premier of Western Australia was written to on .this subject on the 26th August last, but so far no reply has been received.
Bill brought up by Mr. Menzies, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That Standing Order No. 70 - 11 o’clock rule - be suspended until the end of this session.
– I oppose the motion, because the Government has not given to honorable members an opportunity to consider the nature of the business to be discussed before Parliament is prorogued. Moreover, the Government decided that Parliament shall sit next week without first consulting with members of other parties as to the necessity for such sittings or as to the time when Parliament shall assemble on the sitting days. No government, irrespective of its numbers, can continue to ignore members generally in matters affecting the procedure of the House. A government which is entrusted with the responsibility of arranging its business may, of course, suit its own convenience; but, if it does so, it must be forced to recognize, by whatever means are available, that other members also have personal rights in this Parliament as well as responsibilities to those whom they represent. A strong protest against such .treatment is long overdue. Honorable members are expected to sit here and accept, without question, the wishes of the Government in these matters. During the present sittings, honorable members have been given no intimation of the business to be brought forward, or even of the times when they were likely to be called together. I protest against the proposed sittings next week, because I have made other arrangements for those days. I realize that, at this stage, the hour of meeting next Tuesday is not before the House; but I take this opportunity to record my protest against members being called together at 10.30 a.m., and shall vote against the proposal and every other method by which the Government seeks to disregard the rights of members.
– in reply - No rights of honorable members have been disregarded. A similar motion has been moved in the closing stages of every session since I have been in this Parliament. The passing of such motions is almost automatic. The motion before the House merely enables it to take new business after 11 o’clock in order that the work of Parliament may bo. facilitated. As the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), has pointed out, it does not deal with the sittings next week. I made a promise that I would indicate to honorable members the nature of the business to be dealt with before Parliament was prorogued, and I did so this morning.
Question put -
That the motion be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. G. j. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. White) agreed to -
That hehave leave to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the validation of collections of duties of customs under Customs Tariff Proposals.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. White) agreed to -
Thathe have leave to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the validation of adjustments in duties of customs under Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Proposals.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. White) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the validation of collections of duties of customs under Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Proposals.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. White) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the validation of collections of duties of excise under Excise Tariff Proposals.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
WAYS AND MEANS (“ Grievance Day”)
Question proposed - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Ways and Means.
.- I take this opportunity to protest once more at the failure of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to fulfil its’ promise to build an up-to-date broadcasting studio in Hobart. For the last five years promises have been made that plans and specifications for this work would be prepared, and on each visit that Mr. Cleary, the Chairman of the Broadcasting Commission, has paid to Tasmania, he has promised that this work would be put in hand; but nothing has been done.
Hobart is as much entitled as are the capital cities of the other States of Australia to a modern broadcasting studio, so that talented young artists of Tasmania may be given the opportunity to provide entertainment for the people of the State, and of the mainland as well. At present our people are practically confined to recorded programmes by overseas artists, of doubtful ability in many cases, who are never seen personally in Australia. This is entirely unsatisfactory and I protest vigorously against the failure of the authorities to fulfil their promise to build a proper studio in Hobart. Such studios are to be erected in Sydney and Melbourne, and I offer no objection to that course ; but I have every right to complain at the failure to provide similar facilities for Tasmania. Two sites for this, purpose have been, bought in Hobart at a cost of thousands of pounds. In Macquarie-street, where the first site was bought a long while ago, the building then upon it, which would have been suitable for professional chambers, and could have been let for £4 a week, was demolished, and the land has been left vacant ever since. Two years ago another site was bought in Davey-street. This had an old building on it which has been allowed to stand untenanted and without producing any revenue. There is no sign that the Broadcasting Commission intends to use either of these blocks of land. The Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral in this chamber (Sir Archdale Parkhill) has, on several occasions, over a considerable period, promised that no unnecessary delay would occur in providing Hobart with an up-to-date studio. The honorable gentleman said that he was in close touch with the Broadcasting Commission on the subject. The latest report, however, is that no money is available for this work. I understand that the funds at the disposal of the Broadcasting Commission for building purposes are very limited. In view of the enormous revenue derived from wireless listeners’ licences, out of which approximately £1,000,000 has been paid into consolidated revenue since we assumed control of broadcasting in Australia, the Government should not be parsimonious in its dealings with the commission. In. 1935-36 approximately £400,000 of the total revenue derived from licence-fees was paid into consolidated revenue. At a time like this when the finances of the country are in a more or less buoyant condition, the Government should make available to the Commission sufficient funds to proceed immediately with the construction of the new studio at Hobart. Tasmanians have for too long been let down by vague promises and false statements, not only by the Government, but also by the Commission, that the studio would be constructed without delay. Honorable member’s have frequently raised the matter in this House, but owing to the fact that the Minister holding the portfolio of Postmaster-General is in another place, we have been unable to get an authoritative statement which . would clarify the position. I regard ‘ the absence of the Postmaster-General from this House as one of the weaknesses of the present distribution of portfolios. The lack of adequate broadcasting facilities is not the only complaint which Tasmanians have to make in regard to the present administration. Time after time complaints have been made in the press and elsewhere that Tasmania does not get a fair share of the money made available for public works. Tasmanians chafe at the fact that they have been led on for years by vague promises that public works would be carried out in their State, until now, having lost confidence in the Government, they are quite prepared to put it out of office. Time after time I. have voiced my protest against the unfair treatment meted out by the Commonwealth Government to the “ Speck “. Time after time promises made by the PostmasterGeneral and by the Chairman of the Broadcasting Commission in relation to the new studio at Hobart have been dishonoured. In answer to a question which I addressed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General in connexion with this matter, the honorable gentleman informed me that plans and specifications were being pushed on with, but any one with any knowledge of building, knows that plans and specifications even of large buildings, can be completed within three or four months. As I have said, the commission has displayed no business acumen in its land transactions in Hobart. Thousands of pounds have been spent in acquiring sites, existing buildings have been pulled down, and no interest is being earned on the money invested. One of the reasons given for the delay in the erection of the new broadcasting studio was that experts had been sent abroad to inquire into the latest technique in connexion with wireless broadcasting. It was said that on their return to Australia an immediate start would be made. Although that statement was made months ago. we have beard nothing of any report having been received from those technical experts. I protest against the expenditure of public money to finance jaunts abroad of such experts, if,on their return to Australia, their reports are merely pigeonholed and forgotten. I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to make a definite statement to-day as to when it is proposed to go on with this work. The Commission is not only losing interest on the money invested in the sites selected, but is also paying rent for premises in which its artists rehearse their performances.
SirArchdaleParkhill. - I shall reply to the honorable member when the Postal Works Estimates are under discussion.
Motion (by Sir. ArchdaleParkhill) put -
Thatthe debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Additions, New Works, Buildings. Etc
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the8th September (vide page 780).
Proposed vote, £2,250,000.
. - I rise to seek information as to when a start will be made with the longpromised rebuilding of the Brisbane General Post Office. The other dayI directed a number of questions on this subject to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, and received the following reply: -
A conference was recently held Brisbane between representatives of the two departments mentioned–
Those are the Works and PostmasterGeneral’s Departments - .
Agreement was reached on the general principles of a rebuilding scheme. The committee is now preparing a comprehensive report in the matter, and this will receive early consideration.
It is the intention to proceed with the erection of the new premises as early as practicable, but the project is one of great magnitude involving considerable preliminary attention, and it is doubtful whether it willimpossible to actually commence building operations during the current financial year.
The reply further stated -
Provision adequate to cover any expenditure likely to occur during the current financial year will be included in the Estimates.
Exactly what amount has been made available in this year’s Estimates for thi3 purpose? To me and, I feel sure, to the majority of the electors of Brisbane, there is a great deal of disappointment in knowing, that even, at this late hour no definite guarantee has been given by the Government that the building is to be started during this financial year. In 1936, when the federal Cabinet met in Brisbane, a definite promise was made to the people of Brisbane that the Commonwealth Government intended to go ahead with the work. I raised this question in 1935,. during the discussion on tlie Estimates, and the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill), who was then Postmaster-General, gave me an assurance that the reconstruction would be commenced during the latter part of 1935, and that a beginning would be made by rebuilding what is known as the parcels office, in Elizabeth-street, for which provision was made in the 1934-35 Estimates. Much to my regret, that work has not yet been commenced. The Brisbane General Post Office was built 65 years ago to accommodate about 40 employees. At that period the population of Brisbane was only 22,000, whereas to-day it is about 300,000. No one knows better the needs of Brisbane in this respect than the Minister for Defence, for as PostmasterGeneral he visited the city in 1933 to obtain first-hand knowledge of the condition of the General Post Office and the conditions under which the employees in that building are required to work. I have said in this chamber on various occasions that the building is a disgrace, not only to the City of Brisbane, but also to the Commonwealth Government, whose employees in this instance are compelled to work under conditions which I am satisfied would not be tolerated by private enterprise. I hope that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson), whose department handles these works on behalf of the Postal Department, will give me some definite information as to the exact amount of money to be made available in this year’s Estimates for the preliminary work in connexion with the rebuilding of the General Post Office, and when that work will be commenced; also, when the Government intends to go ahead with the general rebuilding scheme. In my opinion, there is no excuse for the delay which has occurred. The Government has had ample time- in- the last two and a half years to prepare plans and estimates, and even do a good deal of the reconstructional work. According to the replies I have received to my questions in the last few days, however, the people of Brisbane can-not expect to see any move made in the general scheme in the next four or five years, unless,, as I and many other people sincerely believe will happen, the parties opposite, which now make up the Government,, have no further say in the matter. I feel confident, that after the next appeal to the people the party on this side of the chamber will occupy the treasury bench.- When that occurs the people of Brisbane will get that to’ which they are justly entitled, and what they should have had many years ago, namely, a new General Post Office. After all, Brisbane is a beautiful city of magnificent buildings, and its citizens are ashamed of the fact that adjoining those buildings is a General Post Office which is a disgrace not merely to the city but also to this Government. When visitors are in Brisbane the citizens feel keenly the contrast between the city’s many beautiful buildings and the General Post Office. I sincerely hope that the Minister will give rae the information ‘-I seek.
– But for his suggestion that the present Government will not have the privilege of completing the job, I agree will all that the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) has said. I am quite satisfied that this Government will still be in power after the next election, and that it will be able to do all that is wanted by the people of Brisbane in respect of postal facilities. With the honorable member, however, I shall be glad if the responsible Minister will state exactly the amount provided in these Estimates for making a start,, at all events, on the new General Post Office at Brisbane. In the thirteen years in which I had the privilege of representing Brisbane in this Parliament, I constantly urged that a very real need existed for a new General Post Office. Since then I have co-operated with the honorable member for Brisbane, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr.
Francis) and other Lon.ora.bIe members from Queensland in the representations that they have made in this connexion. I have never been able to understand -why the Commonwealth Governments have for so> long delayed this work. Quite apart from the requirements of the citizens, it is a. reflection upon any administration to have 1,300 employees situated in a building of the nature of the Brisbane General Post Office. From the point of view of the citizens everything possible should be done to permit them to carry on their business in reasonable comfort; for instance, they should not be crowded and crushed in the perfectly lawful business of buying postage stamps. In the Brisbane General Post Office employees; are sometimes: forced to work in groups of six or more’, in very small rooms’. It is not so bad for them in winter, but it becomes miserable in the heat of the Queensland summer. I gathered from the reply given to the honorable member for Brisbane that the Government had definitely decided to carry on and complete the new General Post. Office at Brisbane. With him I anxiously await a statement of the exact amount of money provided in the Estimates, but the knowledge that this Government has realized the necessity to give an undertaking to carry on the work, and’ that something is to be done, is most gratifying. I am, in what may be called these hectic last hours of my occupancy of a seat- in this chamber, glad to have the opportunity to urge the immediate starting of this work. For the life of me I cannot see how it has been possible to carry on with the present building for so long. I congratulate the Government on the determination it has readied. The same determination was reached ten years ago, but, owing to the outstanding qualifications for thrift possessed by the then Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Queensland, and to his assertion that by pulling down a few doors, moving a few cupboards, and shifting, this and that, he could make adequate provision for years to come, the Government decided that it would not proceed with- the new building. Architecturally, the Brisbane General Post Office is most beautiful, but it might adequately be described now as a pigmy amongst giants,, when it is compared with the other public buildings in the vicinity. I am more than gratified at the determination of the Government to carry out this work, and I do hope that, once a start has been made,, there- will be no further delay.. I complete my appeal with a. further assertion that I do not agree with the honorable member for Brisbane in his statement that this Government will not have the opportunity to carry out this work.-
.- About eighteen months ago I received a promise from the Government that repairs and alterations would be effected to the post, office at Mackay. The building is a. good one but is not big enough. There is not sufficient room for the staff to do its work. The whole place is very cramped, and I sincerely trust that definite provision has been made on this year’s Estimates, for that work to be done. It has been reported upon and approved as a very necessary work. I hoped that at least this summer would see the officers working there under better conditions, because the heat of North Queensland, particularly indoors, during the summer months, is very intense.
Further out at Proserpine is an old building used as a post office, which was utilized for that purpose by the State authorities even before federation. It has iron walls and roof, and no ceiling. It is very hot and very old, and the postmaster’s residence attached to the post office is separated from it by only a thin wall. Any one speaking in the postmaster’s residence in anything but a subdued voice can be heard by any one in the port office who cares to listen. That is an unfortunate state of things, and should be remedied. Nobody proposing to erect a home to-day would for a moment consider building a structure such as that. After all, the place is the property of the Commonwealth, and it is surely fair to suggest that such an old and disreputable building should be pulled down and a better post office put up to represent the Commonwealth. The Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Queensland, Mr. Corbett, who knows the place well, would be pleased to hear that the Works Department was going on with that job.
Another important matter is the provision of proper communication between Magnetic Island and the mainland. The island is about 10 miles from Townsville, which has a fairly large permanent population that is growing all the time. Recently Mrs. Crowther, the president of the Country Women’s Association of North Queensland, stated that there was a likelihood of proper communication being established with the island at an early date. I have not been told anything of that kind, but I hope that the lady is right and that the Government will give the matter early consideration. The only means of crossing to Townsville is Hale’s launch, which makes the trip once in each day or twice on certain days, and if an accident occurred there would be no chance of getting into speedy communication with a doctor. Magnetic Island is not a place of mushroom growth ; it is there to stay, and its permanent population, I repeat, is growing all the time. More tourists are going there each season from Southern Australia. I know that quite a number from Sydney and other southern centres are staying longer and longer periods, sometimes up to three and four months. All these considerations justify one in asking the Postmaster-General’s Department to consider ..seriously the advisability of giving to the people of Magnetic Island communication with the mainland.
.- I join with the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) and the honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron) in urging the Minister to indicate what provision has been made in the Estimates this year for the commencement of the work on the General Post Office at Brisbane. I offer my congratulations to the Government for the very thorough way in which it is tackling this job. It has appointed expert officers to confer, and elaborate plans for a building which I am sure will be worthy of the development that has taken place in. that city. I rose mainly to urge that there should be as early a start as possible with this important work. I understand that an amount has been provided in the Estimates for preliminary expenses in connexion with, the construction of the General Post Office, and I do ask the Minister and the department to treat the’ work as urgent. This post office serves the whole of the greater Brisbane area, including many of the electorates surrounding Brisbane. It is without doubt the key to the distribution of mails throughout the greater Brisbane area. I. appreciate what the Government has done to improve the postal and telegraphic facilities in and around that city. For a long while we had a very fair mail delivery service, but the Minister and department have accelerated it, and now, instead of only one delivery, they have provided two and three deliveries a day. Places twenty and thirty miles from Brisbane are getting a mail delivery service which is on a par with that taking place in Queen-street. The existing post office in Brisbane was constructed nearly 30 years before federation, so that it dates back some 65 years. Although it has been extended and developed in recent years, there is very serious congestion, and I know of nothing similar in any government activity elsewhere. I appreciate the notable efforts of Mr. Corbett, the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs, to reorganize the place. Without his organizing ability, I do not think we should have been able to carry on so long as we have. Queensland has a very hot climate, and it is unfortunate that this congestion should take place. The conditions under which the employees of the department are working are most unsatisfactory. The situation is even more difficult for the general public, because they are unable to obtain adequate service. On previous occasions I have said that the scene there at the peak period, say from about 4.30 to 5.30 in the afternoon, resembles a football scrum. At that time it is hard to get, any service at the various counters, although the staff do their best. We have improved the mail delivery and the telegraphic services, but these would be better administered in a proper post office worthy of Brisbane. I hope the Government will crown the good work it has carried out in recent years by intimating to-day that the erection of the General Post Office in Brisbane will proceed with the utmost despatch.
– I desire to make a few observations on this item because there is no Commonwealth department that comes more closely into touch with the people of Australia generally than does the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I very much regretted that the Prime Minister, in his wisdom, decided io appoint a senator to the responsible position of Postmaster-General. Such an important portfolio, I. think, should be kept in this chamber. “When the present Minister for Defence was PostmasterGeneral, he was able to give us first-hand information in regard to administration and new works in a much more capable manner than is possible for him now. Then he was personally in touch with everything that was going on in his department, whereas to-day he has his hands full with defence policy and programmes, and it is hardly likely that he will be able to give the necessary attention to such an important department as that of the Postmaster-General. Consequently, our representations have to be passed on by him to somebody in the Senate; that is very unsatisfactory, because the Postal Department does come more closely in touch with the whole of the people of Australia than any other Commonwealth department does. As the representative of a country electorate, I know that the country people generally ure not satisfied with the postal, telephonic and telegraphic facilities provided. That applies particularly to large country electorates, where a great deal of closer settlement has taken place, districts like the Burnett and the Callide Valley, where thousands of settlers now occupy territory on which fifteen or twenty years :igo there were living only 20 or 30 people. The demands of these settlers -ire growing, and too frequently the department gives unsympathetic replies io representations for postal deliveries and telephonic services. Those people who go out into the back-blocks of Australia deserve every encouragement, and should be given as many of the amenities nf life as possible. They have to contend with bad roads, infrequent mail deliveries, indifferent telephonic facilities, and inadequate medical, hospital and ambulance provision. This is a department that can render a great deal of assistance to them. Without the pioneering and self-sacrificing work of those settlers in the country districts, there could not bc the prosperity in the cities that there is now, because in the final analysis we all depend on the production of the country districts. I particularly ask the Minister for Defence, who once was a liberal PostmasterGeneral, to persuade the Cabinet to give more favorable consideration to requests from the country people who are forced to live away out in the back-blocks. The Minister cannot say that the post office is run at a loss, or that the exigencies of the financial position make it impossible for him to give to my request the sympathetic consideration that I desire, because the finances of the department have shown surpluses on revenue account as follows: - 1931-32, £194,000; 1932-33, £470,000; 1933-34, £868,000; 3934-35, £.1,747,000; 1935-36, £665,000; and 1936-37, £492,000; a total of £4,436,000 over a period of six years after deducting from revenue expenditure on new works each year. The real surplus, however, including capital expenditure, was £2,341,000 in 1935-36 and £2,609,000 in 3936-37. We have therefore, every reason to expect greater, liberality on the part of the department in dealing with requests from country districts. The Treasurer (Mir. Casey) said, in his budget-speech, that we were enjoying an era of unparalleled prosperity, and had already emerged from the valley of despair into the sunlight. There are some thousands of struggling settlers in my electorate, and in every country district in Australia, who have not yet emerged into the bright sunlight from the valley of despair. Notwithstanding the Treasurer’s grandiloquent expressions, a parsimonious attitude has been adopted by the department towards the residents of country districts, who, though their claims are just, are receiving unsympathetic treatment. I do not blame the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Brisbane, who must cut his coat according to his cloth, and take his directions from the head office. He is a capable officer who is doing much good work, but he must carry out the policy of the government of the day. The following letter is typical of many that have been received from the department in answer to applications: -
The revenue is not sufficient. If the residents will .agree to maintain the telephone line, including the renewal of a large number of supports free of cost to the Department, the decision to withdraw the public telephone will be reconsidered.
Why should people living in country districts, often many miles from a railway station, be asked to maintain a telephone line, ot to renew a large number of poles, if they wish to avoid having their publictelephone service discontinued? For the most part they cannot afford to install private telephones, and must depend upon the public telephone as a means of communication. People living in or near the big centres of population are not asked to make up loss of revenue on services, so why should this be required of the struggling primary producers? Here is another letter from the department which illustrates its attitude to country applicants -
The minimum revenue required to justify the provision of a public telephone is £10 per annum, and it is estimated that an amount of only £10 would be received from a service at the site suggested by the applicants. In the circumstances it is regretted that a public telephone cannot be provided unless the persons interested agree to make good the deficiency between the actual receipts and the minimum revenue required by the department, viz. £16. An agreement will bo prepared and forwarded to them for completion if they desire to proceed further in the matter.
I again urge upon the PostmasterGeneral the need for establishing a regional A class broadcasting station at Bundaberg, which is in what is known as a fading zone for wireless reception. Although listeners pay their full licencefees, they obtain in return very indifferent reception. Representations have been made for a. long time past in regard to this matter, but nothing has been done. What is the reason for the delay?
I should also like to know from the PostmasterGeneral why a start has not yet been made with the installation of an automatic telephone exchange at Rockhampton. Frequent representations have been made by the Chamber of Commerce, the Rockhampton Municipal Council and representative people of the district. We were told over a year ago that provision had Deen made in the Estimates for this work, but nothing has yet been done. The people of Rockhampton are not receiving the service to which they are entitled. They have as much right to it as have the people living in towns of similar size in the southern States. I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to take this matter up personally with the Postmaster-General. I have no wish that those now employed in the manual exchange shall lose their positions when the automatic exchange is installed; and the department has promised that they will be given other positions, or engaged in other exchanges. The patience of the people of Rockhampton has been tried long enough, and the Government has been very remiss. The population on the north side of the river at Rockhampton is increasing very rapidly, and the people there are pressing for an official post office. I shall be obliged if the Minister will take this- up with the PostmasterGeneral, and see that favorable consideration is given to the request.
Mr. FAIRBAIRN (Flinders) [12.40J. - I am very pleased that the Government has decided to make more money available this year for post office works. In the past, the policy has been followed of financing post office works out of revenue, and while this has much to recommend it, it has resulted in the holding up of necessary works throughout the whole of Australia, and particularly in the country districts. In this respect, the electorate of Flinders has suffered probably more than most others. The population has increased very rapidly, the number of persons on the electoral roll now being 80,000 as compared with about 50,000 a few years ago. This has naturally resulted in the making of many requests for improved postal facilities. Practically every week I have passed requests on. to the department, and they have been sympathetically considered. Many of them have been acceded to but others, though justified, have had to be turned down because of lack of funds. I am pleased, therefore, that the amount set aside for post office works this year has been increased by about 50 per cent. I do not wish to refer in detail to requests from my own electorate, but propose to mention two matters which really come under the heading of general policy. Upon one of these I have touched in the past, viz., the need for amending the present system of radius zoning which governs connexion with the metropolitan telephone network in Melbourne. The city of Melbourne has grown much more extensively on the south side than in any other direction, with the result that while on the north and west sides rural areas are included in the metropolitan network, on the southern side a populous settlement like Chelsea is outside it. In my electorate, the two big centres of Dandenong and Chelsea, which have close commercial association with Melbourne, are very poorly served as far as telephone communication is concerned. Business people resident in those centres do much of their business with the city, and they feel that they are handicapped by being outside the metropolitan telephone network. I trust that the PostmasterGeneral will be able to receive a deputation on this matter from the two municipal councils concerned. The existing trunk lines .which serve the bay-side towns such as .Seaford, Frankston, Mornington, Dromana, Sorrento and Portsea are inadequate. During the summer season the population of those places is swelled by the influx of large numbers of visitors, and it sometimes takes an hour or an hour and a half to get a call through to Melbourne, even from. Frankston, and the delay becomes greater as one goes further down the coast. I know that the department, is gradually installing a new system of trunk lines in this area, but the work has been delayed through lack of funds. I hope that the work will be expedited as the result of this increased vote.
.- In view of the fact that the Commonwealth Government had a surplus of £2,600,000 last financial year, greater consideration should be shown to those living in the outback portions of the continent who, from time to- time> have made reasonable requests for more adequate means of communication. Applications from persons in the more remote parts of Western Australia should have been examined more closely by the officials of the- Postmaster-General before being rejected. At Payne’s Find, a goldmining centre far removed from the gold-mining belt, there is a population of approximately’ 200 persons who- have to depend on the ordinary mail service from Wubin, a distance of 200 miles. The people in that locality have asked the Postmaster-General’s Department to install a trans-receiver, an instrument used by the Australian Aerial Medical Service by pastoralists out from such base stations as Wyndham and Port Hedland. Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, an undertaking in which the Government is supposed to have a controlling interest, supplies these instruments at a charge of £150, but the head of that organization, who is a wireless genius - according to his own opinion - has produced an instrument which is useless and has been scrapped whenever it has been installed. Several years ago, two German aviators who were lost on the north-west coast of Western Australia received hospitality from die Drysdale Mission Station, a long way from Wyndham, and, in recognition of the services rendered by the missionaries, the German Government supplied the station with a wireless set manufactured by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, which was supposed to be one of Sir Ernest Fisk’s latest productions. Unfortunately, it was found to be useless.. A similar instrument was in use on Durack station on the eastern side of Wyndham, and that also had to be scrapped. A young man in South Australia named Trager is manufacturing receivers which for £50 have proved to be very efficient.
– Are they pedal driven?
– Yes. The necessary current can be provided by the use of pedals similar to those on a bicycle. With these instruments, it is possible to transmit messages over long distances. There are no fewer than 24 within a distance of 400 miles of Wyndham, all of which communicate with the Australian Aerial Medical Service base station- at Wyndham three times a day and in that way the instruments are tested. Prior to their installation, men working in the outback country never knew when a doctor was likely to be required and, if his services- were necessary, how long they would have to wait before he arrived. In cases of sickness, they can now communicate with the base station and, within a few hours, the flying doctor arrives and picks up the patient for removal to the base hospital. This is quite a new development and, as the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) knows, if white women can live in the back country with some sense of security, development is likely to increase rapidly. As transreceivers can be obtained at such a reasonable price, and are rendering such wonderful service, I trust that immediate provision will be made for their installation at. such places as Payne’s Find. Gold-mining is an uncertain undertaking and if the price of gold should drop considerably, the show at Payne’s Find could not perhaps be worked at a profit, but, for an expenditure of £50, the people there could communicate with Dalwallinu, where there is an excellent hospital. The service would also be used for commercial purposes. Some time ago, a man who met with an accident at Payne’s Find died before he reached Dalwallinu hospital. That hospital is equipped with a. trans-receiver, and those who have an instrument installed can communicate with the institution. I have communicated with the department in connexion with this matter and, in order to show that the officers in the department are not fully conversant with the necessity for this most modern development, 1 shall read a letter I have received. The Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs is, I know au fait with the most modern development, but he has been abroad. It reads -
In reply to your letter of the 9th August. 1937, addressed to the Deputy-Director, Perth. I am directed to say that whilst the Government is most sympathetic towards any proposal for the provision of improved communication facilities for residents in isolated districts, it cannot see its way clear to gram financial assistance in individual cases. The circumstances of the numerous communities which are proposing to instal - or have already installed - wireless stations vary bo considerably that it would be extremely difficult to determine which individual requests for assistance should be granted and which rejected.
The Government has therefore decided that its best course is to assist the Australian Aerial Medical Services and other bodies which provide combined wireless and medical services for outback residents, and has agreed to contribute £5,000 per annum to those bodies to assist them in the valuable work they are doing.
In the circumstances, it is regretted thai the department cannot make any contribution towards the cost of the wireless station, which, according to the letter of your correspondent. Mr. J. P. Clark, of Pullagaroo Station, Payne’s Find, it is proposed to establish in that district.
Hundreds of these sets are about to be installed in Australia. At Broken Hill they have established a wireless base.
A grant of £5,000 for .the whole of Australia is available. The letter I have read shows that the department is not conversant with the actual position. I do not question the ability of Mr. Malone, the superintendent of wireless services, because I know that he is a most efficient officer. Some officer of the Postmaster-General’s Department should visit such places as the Northern Territory, the outback portions of NewSouth Wales, the northern part of South Australia, and the hinterland of Western Australia at the earliest possible moment. The letter continues -
Mr. Clark’s proposal, it is noted, is for » station at Payne’s Find, to communicate with Dalwallinu Hospital, at which he states a pedal set is to be installed. This is the first intimation that the department has received regarding the installation of wireless transmitting and receiving equipment at Dalwallinu, but it is gathered from the correspondence that a proposal is afoot for the establishment of a system of wireless communication in that particular area with Dalwallinu as the central station.
Perhaps Mr. Clark and the authorities of the hospital mentioned are unaware that the Australian Aerial Medical Services will shortly provide a scheme of wireless communication in the Kalgoorlie area where a base station will be established to serve a number of outpost pedal stations. This service will be conducted on the same lines as the combined medical and wireless services operated by the Australian Aerial Medical Services in other remote parts of the Commonwealth. It is desirable that the control of the inland wireless services be centralized as far as practicable.
As it is considered that Mr. Clark’s requirements would be fully met if his station were included in the Kalgoorlie network, it is suggested that he approach the Australian Aerial Medical Services with that object in view.
That shows how little the departmental officials know of the latest development in this direction. Kalgoorlie is 375 miles from Perth, Wubin an additional 195 miles, and Payne’s Pind about 100 miles from Wubin, or 700 miles from Perth. The most direct route as the crow flies would be about 400 miles. These people would communicate with their principal centre at Dalwallinu, where there is a hospital. On the 9th September, I asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral the following question : -
Will the Postmaster-General’s Department consider the question of granting transreceiver wireless sets to distant centres in the back country of Australia, where the expense of constructing telephone and/or telegraph lines is not at present considered justified, and linking the service with established base transreceiver stations of the Australian Aerial Medical Services?
The reply I received read -
The matter is one that has been carefully considered by the department, and investigations are proceeding with a view to determining the practicability of employing wireless telephony as an adjunct to the trunk line system.
Wireless telephony is developing at a very rapid rate, and if the Government is not careful it will find that it will lose control of the service as is the case to some extent in respect of wireless transmission. Base stations should be established at local post offices. These trans-receivers are built into boxes about 3 feet by 18 inches by’ 18 inches. They are operated by pedals similar to those of a bicycle, and sufficient power is developed to obtain clear reception of the human voice from a distance of 400 miles. The more extensive use of this equipment would result in a largely increased telegraphic business from outside areas such as Payne’s Pind. When I was visiting the base wireless station at Port Hedland I heard messages being received for transmission to persons employed on the edge of the so-called desert hundreds of miles distant. One telegram was for a young man working at Balfour Downs, and it was received from his mother who lived near Bridgetown, in the south-western portion of Western Australia. The son was congratulated upon celebrating his twentyfirst birthday. This message travelled 2,000 miles in a few seconds, but, if this young man had had to wait for a letter from his mother, a month might have been occupied in its transmission. Shortly before I visited the wireless station, a wild native was brought in from the desert country east of Mount Disappointment, which is 150 miles east of Marble Bar, reputed to be one of the hottest spots on the earth. In response to a call by a pedal transmitter, Dr. Vickers, the flying doctor at Port Hedland, travelled byplane to Balfour Downs, to which point the wounded aboriginal had been carried 100 miles by other natives. . While chopping a tree down for wild honey, the tree fell on the native and broke his back. He and the companions who carried him to the plane had never been in contact with civilization, and it would have been impossible to keep the native in a bed had he not been strapped down. When I saw him in hospital at Port Hedland, he was well on the road to recovery.
Special attention should be given to the claims of country districts to postal and telephonic facilities. There is a place called Cox’s Pind, which is 42 miles beyond Laverton, and one of the most promising gold-mining centres in Western Australia. The Westralian Mining and Finance Company has taken up this field, and is working it with gratifying results. The population at the present time is about 500. The department has been unable to see its way clear to provide a telephone service for this settlement. For 20 miles a telephone line runs to a holding in the district, and it has been suggested that for the remaining 22 miles that need to be covered the cost of constructing the line should be borne by the mining company. That, I think, is hardly a fair proposition. I realize that when any proposition is submitted to the Deputy Director of Post and Telegraphs in Perth he does the best he can to comply with the requests of the settlers. I trust- that this matter will be reconsidered, .and that funds will be made available to provide a telephone service to Cox’s’ Find at the earliest possible date.
.- Once again I emphasize the need for increased postal facilities in country districts. When the depression began, the Postal Department was unable to proceed with its works programme at the customary rate. The public, generally, and country people in particular, were extraordinarily patient during that period, but now, in view of the substantial increase of departmental revenue, the Government should grant increased facilities to districts requiring improved services. Whilst I recognize the possibilities of the wider use of wireless telephone’s, one of the greatest needs of the country districts at the present time is the extension of telephone services. A number of the telephone lines in use to-day do not give the satisfaction that is generally desired. On Eyre’s Peninsula, the department has converted the telegraph line between Port Lincoln and Port Elliston into a telephone circuit. This line having been constructed of ordinary iron wire instead of copper wire, it is almost impossible to carry on a telephone conversation over a long distance. Therefore, consideration should be given to the renewal of this line.
A number of the post offices in the Eyre’s Peninsula ‘ district were good enough for the requirements of the people when they were built and they have served a useful purpose, but they should now be extended or rebuilt. Agricultural and pastoral activities in this area have been stabilized, and the department might well be expected to make improvements to post offices which do not meet present needs. In some instances, approval has been given for extension work or for the rebuilding of the offices. I should like to know whether provision has been made in these Estimates for the reconstruction of certain post offices, particularly that at Ceduna, one of the first -districts settled on Eyre’s Peninsula. The original post office at Ceduna was able to cope with the business offering for quite a number of years, but recently, as the result of the increase of population in that locality, it is now practically out of date. I should like to know from the Minister whether any provision has been made for the construction of a new post office at this centre. I point out also - and this probably applies throughout Australia - that in many country centres where a post office exists, and very often occupies a modern building, no provision is made for the housing of the postmaster. In such centres the residence of a married man provides a social centre for the surrounding area; but it is very difficult for these postmasters to secure the necessary finance to construct their homes. Financial institutions interested in ‘home-building schemes prefer to invest their money in metropolitan areas and large country towns, and practically ignore the centres to which I am now referring, the reason being, of course, that the larger centres offer better investments. In such circumstances, it is the duty of the department to provide reasonable accommodation for these postmasters. . A number of instances of this kind has arisen in the electorate which I represent. In some cases, the department has recognized this need, and has actually approved of the erection of these buildings, but I have been informed that recently it announced that it was -against its policy to erect, houses for postmasters. If that be correct, this change of policy is to be regretted. The department has an obligation, not only in respect of the service* it renders, hut also in respect of its employees, particularly its postmasters in isolated country centres. In view of the increased amount of money now being provided for buildings for this department, I hope that provision will be made for the construction of houses for postmasters in such cases as I have mentioned. Generally speaking, I agree with the views expressed by other honorable members regarding the extension of postal facilities in country districts, but I particularly ask the Minister to have investigated the matter ‘ which I have just raised. I ask him if he will also give some indication as to whether this work could not be covered by the money it is now proposed to allocate to the department for building purposes?
.- The first matter I desire to raise is that of the extension of automatic telephone exchanges, and, in doing so, I congratulate the department on it3 policy of providing these facilities in rural centres. They have proved of incalculable value to those districts in which they have already been established. I am now speaking on behalf of residents in the more sparsely populated centres. One or two automatic telephone exchanges have been established in -areas in the electorate which I represent, and they have already proved a boon to subscribers. However, in view of the fact that the department is now experiencing greater prosperity than has been the case for many years, it should make greater progress in this work, particularly in centres where the post office does not serve the people for the whole 24 hours of the day. I shall not stress this matter unduly, but suggest that more consideration might be given to it.
Another matter which I desire to raise relates to the national .broadcasting service in Tasmania. I support the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) in advocating the establishment of a new studio at Hobart. This improvement is long overdue, and Tasmanian listeners-in have been neglected in this matter. A great- deal of complaint has arisen in recent years in connexion with the studio at station -7NT at Launceston. This studio, which was originally provided as a temporary arrangement, occupies what was previously the dining-room of a private house. It is quite unsuitable for the service for which it is now used, because it .is not sound proof. Furthermore, broadcasts from it interfere with the comfort of people who occupy a flat on the story above it. I have made representations on this matter to the manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Moses, who has advised me thai it will receive attention, but I mention it here, in order that I might enlist the sympathy of the Minister. For its broadcasts the commission at present avails itself to a large extent of local talent in Launceston, and the officer in charge of the station, who is a musical genius, has been able to develop the talent offering to a high degree. Unfortunately, however, owing to the unsuitability of the studio for this class of work, the position is highly unsatisfactory, not only to the management, but also to listeners-in For many years now the citizens of Launceston have given every encouragement to local musical and vocal talent by producing plays with local artists, and competitions -conducted at Easter have been so successful that they have attracted competitors from the mainland. I suggest that with the aid of the department, the commission now has .an excellent opportunity to develop this talent. I might add that those interested in this work act in a purely honorary capacity. I again urge the Minister to do what he can to provide an up-to-date studio in Launceston.
– Does the honorable member believe that if an up-to-date studio were provided at Launceston, the present management of the national broadcasting services would give encouragement to local talent?
– Whilst I am. not completely satisfied with the present position, I admit that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has given a fair amount of encouragement to local talent in Launceston. In that respect, perhaps, my experience has been much happier than that of other honorable members. I again ask the Minister to bring the matters which I have raised under the notice of the Postmaster-General.
– It is only on the introduction of the Estimates that honorable members have an opportunity to bring forward matters of local interest. I draw the attention of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to the position existing in respect of the Edgecliff post office. The history of this matter is rather interesting. In 1928-29, the then Postmaster-General Mr. Gibson, promised that he would replace the existing structure with an entirely new building. As a man of vision he realized that that centre was developing rapidly, and would attract a very hig flat life of the best kind. Furthermore, he recognized that this post office, being situated on a block of land in the centre of what is, possibly, the model municipality of Australia, would lend itself to development, and would become a big revenue producer. Consequently he had no hesitation in promising that he would provide a building worthy of the locality. With that object in view he had plans drawn up, and these were submitted to the department. Honorable members are aware of the economic conditions which intervened, and one cannot blame the Scullin Government for not having carried out the promise given by Mr. Gibson; it had no funds available for this work. To-day, however, in view of the increased revenue being earned by this department, following our economic recovery, further consideration should be given to this proposal. The ex-member for Maribyrnong, Mr. Penton, when PostmasterGeneral, in 1930-31, recognized that the building was in a state of disrepair. The whole structure was gradually disintegrating. The floor was eaten with white ants, and the outside stonework was crumbling. He promised to make available the sum of £3,000 to recondition it. That amount was actually placed on the Estimates ; but the succeeding Postmaster-General, the honorable member for Warringah (Sir Archdale Parkhill), with that sympathy and consideration which he has always shown to honorable members, decided not to proceed with the work of reconditioning, but to consider the complete rebuilding of the post office. We have now received the assurance from the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) that over a period of three years the whole of the post office will be rebuilt. I wish to place on record the fact that the present Minister has definitely committed the Government to the replacement of the existing building by a modern structure in keeping with the surroundings. It is nine years since the undertaking to put this work in hand was given to the municipality. I suggest that the Minister representing the Postmaster-General should urge on that Minister the desirableness of having plans prepared, so that estimates may be taken out in anticipation of provision being made in the next budget, which, with the return of the present Government, will far surpass this year’s budget.”
.- Those who have occasion to use the Mascot telephone exchange wish to have it converted from manual to automatic working. There is a greater number of factories in the Cook electorate than in any other part of the Commonwealth.
– With the exception of my electorate.
– The- statement cannot be disputed that there are more factories served by the Mascot manual exchange than are served by any other exchange in the Commonwealth. Business people, as I have pointed out again and again, have had to install their own telephone service, because of the overcrowding at the exchange. I have appealed to the Minister ever since I entered this Parliament to consider the change-over from manual to automatic working, and I hope that he will give a favorable reply on this occasion.
For a time the supplies of telephone cabinets was interrupted, but the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Sydney has now provided every public telephone requested in my electorate. I greatly appreciate that. This officer has always given consideration to any representations made to him, and invariably has furnished a suitable reply.
.- There is no doubt that during the last year or two the Postal Department has made very great concessions in the facilities it has provided for country subscribers. But again I would make a plea for an extension of telephone hours, which in many cases are only from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. To all intents and purposes, the telephone is useless for the man on the land during that period. From 8 p.m. onwards, it is of most use to him.. I believe that if the hours, were from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. better service would be rendered. At the present time, a man who wishes to use the telephone after 6 p-.m. has to pay an opening fee of ls. 6d., and then has to rely on the goodwill of the postmaster or postmistress.
Differential rates are charged for trunk line calls, the three periods being from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. It is. obvious that, if a service is available only from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., it is not possible to take advan- tage of the concessional rates. Where the hours are limited, it should be possible for the department to fix a certain period during the day when concessional rates would apply. In regard to trunk” line charges generally, it has always seemed to me wrong that the same rate should be charged for an extension ofthe call as is charged for the original call. The department should consider the granting of a concession on any extension of a trunk line call.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) has mentioned the extension of the policy of providing rural automatic exchanges. Those who have had experience of these automatic exchanges in country districts realize what a tremendous boon they are. I know that the department is providing them as rapidly as circumstances will allow. I hope that it will continue to do so, and if possible increase the pace at which they are being provided.
Another matter discussed by many honorable members, is the remuneration of non-official postmasters and postmistresses. It is always difficult to ascertain exactly the basis on which these officers are paid. They have all the responsibility of an official office, and. do practically the same work. It seems wrong that, when the Postal Department is making fairly large profits, the salaries of some of these officials should be reduced. The least the department can do is to maintain the allowance, when the revenue is so buoyant.
Included in the provision for new works is an additional sum of approximately £200,000 for telephone exchange services, compared with the provision made last year. There appear to be anomalies in the charges made for thic service. Within a distance of two miles from a post office, the rental is at the rate of £3 5s. a year; yet in one district only four and three quarter miles from the post office, the rental required to connect a farm was £7 7s. 6d., although the departmental line actually went past the property. No installation fee is charged to install the service in a town, area, but in this particular case, the installation costs were £26 14s. spread over a period of seven years. I realize, of course, that the system of charging a low rental to those who live close to an exchange, and a higher rental to those who live beyond a certain radius, according to the length of line to be provided, is probably the most equitable, but there seems to be too great a disparity between £3 5s. and £7 7s. 6d., especially as all that was needed was the erection of cross arms and a new line.
The provision for new buildings and works is £500,000. There are one or two post offices in my electorate concerning which I have frequently made representations to the department. In particular, I refer to the building at Lake Bolac, a very thriving and prosperous farming community, which has been used since 1887, and is totally inadequate to meet the present requirements of the district. On many occasions representations have been made for a new building, but the department has always contended that the existing structure is sufficient for the needs of the district. For some years past the building at Talbot has been deteriorating very rapidly. When I inspected it not long ago, it had reached a state of. disrepair which was a reflection on the department. I understand that provision has been made on the Estimates for that particular post office, but up to the present no work has been done on it. If something is not done soon, the building will not be worth repairing.
There are numerous centres that are asking for post offices. . I have always found that the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Victoria is only too willing to help to the best of his ability, but he is naturally limited to the funds at his disposal.
I hope that the Minister representing the Postmaster-General will bring these matters before that Minister.
– I realize that the Postal Department cannot be expected to provide new or remodelled post offices for thousands of towns throughout Australia. I trust, however, that the policy which I have frequently advocated in this chamber is about to be adopted by the department in connexion with its new building programme; that is, systematic reconstruction and, where necessary, the remodelling of many of the post offices in the more important towns in the different States. “We know that, when federation waa accomplished, State post offices were handed over to the Commonwealth. It is rather strange that, although the finances of the States prior to federation were infinitely weaker than they are today, the State governments had the right idea, namely,, that the post office was the most important building in a town. Practically every post office in New South Wales that was handed over to the Commonwealth at the time of federation was a first-class building of architectural beauty. It is easy to distinguish post offices built by the State before federation from those built later by the Commonwealth. The architectural branch of the Postmaster-General’s department seems to ‘ consider that any second-rate building will serve for a post office and should satisfy the people. For many years, and even during the Bruce-Page Government’s regime when £9,000,000 was borrowed for postal works, the policy of the department has been to provide postal facilities and to l>e more or less indifferent to the quality of the buildings in which the business of the department is conducted. The result is that many post office buildings are to-day in a state of disrepair. They were built cheaply and are an eyesore in many towns. Certainly they are* no credit to a big public department. This is particularly true of those towns which have made rapid progress in the last few years. I have very often drawn attention to this grievance of country people. We find that in quite a number of important country towns where developments have occurred the main buildings have been modernized and given a degree of architectural distinction but the post office has remained dingy, dirty and out-of-date. Manilla, an important town in my own electorate, in a thriving wheat district, is a case in point. The townspeople take a pride in their prosperity. Thousands of pounds have been spent in that town in the last five or ten years. The main street has been paved with concrete and planted with beautiful trees. Practically all of the buildings in that thoroughfare a re attractive except the post office, which is a squat old-fashioned structure standing back from the street alignment. I do not say that it does not provide the facilities required, but it is unfortunate that this eyesore should he the first thing that catches the attention of newcomers to the town. The people have asked that it be remodelled and provided with a newfrontage on the street alignment but so far their request has been disregarded. The departmental heads seem not to care two hoots about the appearance of postal buildings.
– But they give service.
– I admit that; but the people are entitled to something more. They have the right to expect modernized buildings in progressive towns. If a proper system were adopted by the department, and the people were assured that in due course their town would be given a proper postal building, a good deal of the discontent that is now rampant would disappear. Werris Creek is another illustration of the same kind. It is now in the electorate of Gwydir, but for many years it was in my electorate. I took a former PostmasterGeneral to Werris Creek and showed, him the post office building. He admitted that it was an eyesore but said that the policy of the department prevented him from authorizing the construction of a new front to the building.
I trust that when this Government is returned to power after the coming elections two important alterations of policy will be made by our Postal Department. First, the Postmaster-General should be a member of this House. During the last three years this portfolio has been held by an honorable member of the Senate. This is an insufferable nuisance. I do not wish to cast any reflection upon the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) who, as a former Postmaster-General, is better equipped than any other honorable member of this House to represent the Postmaster-General here, but as 90 per cent, of grievances about the postal administration comes to members of this House and not to members of the Senate it is farcical that the Postmaster-General should be a member of the other place, where he is quite out of touch with the honorable members chiefly concerned about hi« administration.
Hie other reform urgently required is the decentralization of the administration of the department. I have often directed attention to the growing tendency to centralize our postal activities. I did so more than ten years ago when this Parliament was meeting in Melbourne. Since that time the centralized policy of the department has become more manifest. Those in touch with the affairs of the department know only too well how little real responsibility reposes in these days in the district postal inspectors. These officers may make reports and recommendations but I am not exaggerating when I say that that is about all they can do. It is utterly absurd that a member who receives a petition from his constituents relating to some postal matter is required to send it first to the deputy director for his State, who in turn sends it to the district postal inspector, who afterwards has to return, it to the deputy director. If the matter complained of is not then rectified the petition has to be sent to Melbourne. That procedure is followed in connexion with about 90 per cent, of the complaints made, and it is ridiculous.
– Why does not the honorable member raise the matter in the party room?
– This is the proper place to raise it. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) has been a member of this Parliament for only three years; I have been a member of it for fifteen years, and I have repeatedly made this particular complaint. The centralized policy of the department is undoubtedly handicapping the development of rural districts.
The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street) referred to telephone charges. Although it is claimed that Australia has the lowest telephone rates in the world, and I do not deny it insofar as city subscribers are concerned, that is little satisfaction to a man in a country district who is being “ slugged “ by the department because he is isolated. While the present rates may be satisfactory to those who live within the 2-mile radius, they are entirely unsatisfactory to persons who are called upon to pay heavy construction and rental charges. The imposts of the department in such cases entirely vitiate the claim that our rates are the cheapest in the world. Another complaint is that, whereas an applicant for a telephone in the city area is able to obtain installation of the instrument within a couple of days, applicants in country districts frequently have to wait for months before an instrument is supplied to them. Any pettifogging excuse is offered as a justification for delay in granting the applications of country people for telephones. Still another grievance of country people is that, although they are often told, on the installation of their service, that in five or seven years’ time they may expect a reduction of the heavy charges imposed upon them, they are rarely able to obtain sympathetic consideration of their applications for reductions. Numerous people have sworn to me that they have been definitely promised a reduction qf rates after seven years, but when they have requested the fulfilment of the promise they have been told by departmental officials that no one had authority to give such an undertaking. Only the other day I was informed of a man who was .promised a,reduction of rates after seven years, but has been unable to obtain any reduction, although fourteen, years have elapsed since his service was first provided. During all that time he has been, obliged to pay very heavy charges. A. centralized administration obviously cannot deal sympathetically with such a case. Although I admit frankly that the Postal Department is far more efficient than it was 23 years ago - in fact, its efficiency has improved out of sight in that period - and that the postal officials are of a much higher calibre than formerly, and are almost invariably courteous and obliging, they are unable to cope with the complaints that inevitably must arise from a centralized administration. A postal official told me recently that this centralization policy was originated a few years ago by one man, who formed the opinion that such a policy would be more effective. From that time authority was gradually withdrawn from district postal officials, and given to the officials in the capital cities. If the Government is to 7-educe to any considerable extent the general and widespread dissatisfaction of country people with the present administrative practices, it would have to make an investigation of the department from top to bottom with the object of developing an entirely new system.
Another subject discussed by the honorable member for Corangamite was non-official post offices. A common idea is abroad that non-official postmasters and postmistresses are fortunate in having obtained their positions, for which there is usually considerable competition. It is often pointed out that, if these officers are not satisfied with their income from their postal work, they can open up business as fruiterers or general storekeepers, and so augment their incomes, as such businesses can be run in conjunction with their postal activities. That is all right in theory, hut, like many other theories, it does not work out in practice.
– It is done in many cases.
– That is so; but it is also true that in many cases the non-official postmasters and postmistresses are the local slaves of the district. They are brought into personal contact with practically every one in the community, and they cannot be spared from their post offices to engage in other business activities. Their life is most arduous. Many of these people find it difficult to get away for even five minutes from their post offices. I know of one non-official postmistress who has been in charge of the same post office for 64 years, and she has, so I am told, never had a holiday. That is surely the fault of the Postal Department. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), who is interjecting, frequently displays his ignorance of country conditions, but he should know that no provision is made by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for holidays for non-official postmasters and postmistresses. If they want holidays it is for themselves to arrange them. An organization has been formed for remedying some of the grievances of these people, which are due to the fact that the administrators of the department do not know the true nature of the work that they do. Honorable members of this Parliament who meet them in the electorates know the conditions under which they work and know not only that should the remuneration paid to these nonofficial postmasters and postmistresses be revised, but also that their conditions should be improved. Recently some meddlesome person in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department decided that the system of remuneration should be altered and it was altered, apparently without reference to any one. The result is that the allowances paid in respect of country post offices have been reduced. Only yesterday I received a letter from a woman who complained that eighteen months ago, when she took over the post office - and there were, only two telephone subscribers attached to the exchange - her remuneration was £42, whereas now. when there are eleven subscribers, the remuneration has been reduced to £37: Neither she nor I can understand the reduction. Such a thing has never been done before. This is a matter into which the Government should make inquiries. Honorable members day after day have these grievances brought before them, but they’ cannot remedy them, because they are at the mercy of those who conduct this highly centralized department.
– Under what section of the “Works Estimates do these matters come?
– I dealt with post office works earlier in my speech. Apparently the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) was not present. As a matter of fact, he is so rarely in this chamber that one could bc excused for not noticing his presence. I am grateful for the honorable member’s interjection, however, because it brings me to another grievance of the non-official postal officers. It concerns the class of buildings in which they are expected to carry out their duties. These people artexpected to provide their own buildings. I have seen some shacks of kerosene tins and bags in which country postal business is conducted. The department selects the point in the country towns where it. wants, the business done, and it is for the person who undertakes the duties to see that a decent building is put up or accept whatever is provided. In this respect the department has no buildings system. All that it does is to say that it will hire an office which, so long as it is convenient will serve; no attention is paid by the department to the comfort of the staff. In the case of one important country town, the floor boards are so wide apart that there is always danger of a person walking on it slipping through the gaps. In the same premises gaps in the wall are covered up with sheets of tin and old bags. The non-official postmaster in that locality is a returned soldier, with only one arm, who has no other source of income.
– Has the honorable member ever made representations to the department on his account?
– Yes, twelve or twenty times.
SirArchdaleParkhill. - What is that town?
– Bendeweer. Whenever representations are made concerning these unfortunate people, the department takes the attitude that it is up to the persons who undertake the postal services toprovide suitable premises, or to put up with what is available. The country is teeming with postal grievances to-day. In spite of the high efficiency of the central postal administration, one needs only to go out into the wide spaces and small country centres to find that the principal grievances of the people concern the localpost offices. Very often local business men suffer trade disadvantages because of the short periods in which the country telephone systems operate. Then, again, residents of country towns are more often than not inconvenienced by the unsuitable nature of the buildings in which the postal business is transacted. Another grievance concerns mail contractors who, very often find when their contract term expires and they have to submit a new tender, that they have been successfully undercut by some rival who knew the amount of the previous contract. The Postal Department gives no consideration to the meritorious services given by the retiring contractors. After fifteen years of representation of the New England electorate in this Parliament, I have never known so many grievances to exist in country districts concerning postal matters as are now being heard.
– The honorable member must be slipping.
– Not at all. The same conditions apply throughout the country districts and no representative of a metropolitan electorate is competent to express an opinion on a matter such as this. [Quorum formed.] I hope that when this Government is returned to power after the forthcoming elections, it will institute a thorough inquiry into the whole of the post office administration in order to see whether greater justice cannot be given to non-official postmasters in the country districts, and whether a greater measure of efficiency in keeping with modern conditions cannot be provided.
.- I am rather surprised at the speech of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson). I should never have believed that an honorable member representing a constituency such as the honorable member’s, would have left so many things neglected. Possibly he spends so much time in writing newspaper articles and attending to his newspaper itself, that he cannot do as we have to do in the city electorates and give adequatetime and service to his constituents. We in the metropolitan districts spend almost all our time looking after the interests of our constituents. I believe that serious complaint concerning the condition of repair of country post offices is justified, but I also believe that that is largely due to the failure of honorable members to bring the cases before the Minister. When honorable members from country districts talk about nailing bags and tins over cracks in the walls of country post offices, I feel that they should do as I would and spend a Saturday afternoon putting things right themselves.
I desire to bring under the notice of the Government one or two matters relating to that most important electorate of Barton. The Postmaster-General or his officers would do well to investigate the space provided in two or three post offices in the Barton electorate for the convenience of the generalpublic. On pensions pay-days, particularly, and on other days, conditions in those offices become very crowded and, since only one door is provided, the congestion at times becomes unbearable because people are trying to enter and leave in big streams at the same time. This state of affairs could be remedied easily by the provision of a second door. This would then mean that the general public would have means of ingress and egress and the congestion would be relieved.
– Why does not the honorable member get these things fixed up?
– I do so. When the honorable member sees my pamphlet, he and his party will be frightened. Labour lias no prospect of winning the Barton seat from me. I recently brought before the notice of the department, the Kogarah post office; I have visited others myself. I believe that the expenditure of from £25 to £50 on each of these premises would do what I seek. I hope that the department as soon as possible will give effect to what I have suggested.
I desire to make serious complaints against the department concerning the telephone exchanges. The department has known for five years that manual telephones do not give proper service to the community. Sometimes one has to wait five or ten minutes before getting a reply from the exchange, and frequently one is rewarded with the wrong number. Regarding the automatic exchange, there must be some underground alterations being made in my electorate. Only last week, I called one number five times and on each occasion got another number. After communicating with “Complaints, “ I was told that owing to work that was proceeding, it was quite likely that such troubles would occur. I ask that these operations be speeded up, so that the telephone service will not be subjected to such interference. If it is necessary to put on more men, then the department should do so. I also suggest that a good time in which to make these alterations would be at night when telephones are being used less frequently than in the day time.
A further complaint I have to register is against the department’s policy in respect of public telephone boxes. I was recently told by the department that public telephones with certain revenue should he provided only with half length boxes, and that it was necessary for the revenue to be doubled before full length boxes could be provided. The department should consider, not the amount of revenue likely to be obtained, but the service that it can render to the community. The half-length cabinets are quite unsuitable in wet weather, and, even from a business point of view, it would pay the department to scrap them all, and replace them by full-length cabinets.
A committee of Parliament should be set up to overhaul the post office regulations, which are now so numerous and so complex that no one can understand them, not even the postmasters themselves. I am sure that excessive charges are frequently made -because the regulations are misinterpreted, or because they are out of date. Recently, I was charged 3s. 6d. for the redirection of a telegram from Roseville to Bexley, although all that had to be done was to put through an ordinary telephone call of the kind for which the subscriber pays less than 2d. That sort of thing is very close to highway robbery.
I agree with much of what has been said by Country party representatives regarding non-official post offices. Usually non-official postmasters apply for the position, and afterwards the volume of business grows. In my own electorate, there are some large non-official offices, but they are being conducted in .conjunction with other businesses. In some country districts, I believe that better services would be provided if the residents exhibited sufficient civic spirit to combine for the purpose of co-operating with the department, in the provision of such services. The trouble is that some of them have been so pampered by Country party members that they have lost all initiative.
– For the last five or six years I have, iu conjunction with the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), protested against the continued presence of the unsightly tin shed which occupies a site adjacent to the Melbourne post office in Elizabeth-street. The fact that the department has failed to make proper use of the site, has given rise to the suggestion that it has not a proper title to the land. I was approached some time ago by a man who said that he was the son of the person who held the title to the block. I made some inquiries at the Titles Office, and afterwards asked a series of questions in Parliament. I -was informed that some arrangements with the State Government of Victoria had just been completed in order to establish the title of the Commonwealth to the land. Originally, of course, the land was the property of the State of New South “Wales; then it was transferred to the newly created State of Victoria, and finally, in 1933, the final arrangements were made transferring the land to the Commonwealth, although the Commonwealth had been in possession of it since federation. I am convinced that the title of the Commonwealth to the land is valid, but the continued failure of the department to erect upon the site a suitable building gave colour to the suggestion that it was not certain of its title. The claimant did not take legal action because be was too poor, but I believe he did make an attempt at obtaining free legal advice. Steps should be taken to remove the present unsightly iron shed, and replace it with an up-to-date building of nine or ten stories in keeping with the very fine buildings which have been erected in the neighbourhood. At the present time, the Commonwealth is paying rent for offices situated in various parts of the city, but all the departments concerned, could be boused in the new building if it were erected, which would make for greater convenience, and would save the rent now being paid for other premises. It is certainly time that the present galvanized iron shed, which is occupied by a retail hardware store, was removed. I urge the Government to take action without further delay.
– I agree with those Country party representatives who claim that better facilities in the way of post offices and mail deliveries should be provided in country districts. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) complained because the department had not erected a palatial post office in his district. He admitted that the service was satisfactory, but he would like to see a more pretentious building. Perhaps if the honorable member were to see some of the post office buildings in the “remote parts of Australia he would be more content with his own. When the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) was PostmasterGeneral five years ago, he was taken through my district by the then member, Major Blacklow, and shown the post office at Sorell, where the building there is more than 110 years old. It was erected by convict labor, and in the old days thu stocks used to stand in front of it.
Recently a new road was constructed connecting Hobart with the mineral fields on the west coast of Tasmania, and for about 50 miles no telephone -line is provided. The department declined to erect a line on this section on the ground that there were no settlers along the route, but many thousands of people use the road every year, and it is the duty of the department to assist in the development of outlying districts. The new west coast road is used largely for tourist traffic purposes, and it also provides direct connexion between Hobart and a most promising mining field. A telephone service for the whole of the distance is urgently required.
Automatic telephone services are needed in many country districts, and I understand that a number of them are to be provided. People who work on the land cannot conveniently avail themselves of telephonic services in ordinary post, office hours, but between 6 p.m. and say, 8 p.m., they would be glad to use’ an automatic telephone. Those who require telephonic services should not .be called upon to make up any portion of the difference between the cost of the. lines and the revenue derived from them. The provision of these services in country districts encourages decentralization, which i3 one of Australia’s greatest needs.
.- I should like to know whether a new post office is to be built at Liverpool. The present building is probably the most disreputable in the town. It appears to have been constructed by convict labour in the days of Governor Macquarie. Situated in the main street of the town, it does not reflect credit upon the department. It stands out in bold relief as a relic of ancient times, since most of the shop fronts have been modernized. I am surprised that the building has not been condemned by the health authorities. It provides postal facilities for or.”. of the largest districts in the outer metropolitan area. The municipal authorities are satisfied that a new office should be erected, and I hope that the matter will bc investigated without further delay 1. believe that a preliminary survey has been made, and I have no doubt that, if responsible officers visited the site, they would be convinced that the present building is beyond repair and should be entirely rebuilt. The necessity for an automatic telephone exchange for the Liverpool district is urgent. Constant irritation is caused among the public because of the lack of proper telephone - facilities.
The Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral has ignored my suggestion that a check of some kind should be made upon the number of telephone calls for which subscribers are charged. T have never contended that wholesale discrepancies occur in telephone accounts, but, whether the accounts are right or wrong, the general impression among subscribers is that they are charged for calls which they have not made, and that the payments demanded by the department are higher than they should be. The Minister states that the system adopted for the recording of calls is foolproof. T do not dispute ‘ the accuracy of that statement. Yet the fact remains that the subscribers are not satisfied with their accounts. One can easily imagine the outcry that would be raised by householders if no meters were installed in their homes by which to check the charges made against them for the supply of water, gas and electricity. I claim that a sufficiently strong case has been presented to warrant at least a test of the appliance that is said to be available for recording automatically the number of telephone calls made.
– I readily admit that the Minister representing the Postmaster-General does his best to see that attention is given to requests regarding post offices. I support, wholeheartedly, the remarks by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), with regard to the unfinished condition of the post office in Elizabeth-street, Melbourne. The tin building alongside is an eyesore, and should be removed. The General
Post Office in Martin-place, Sydney, is an ornament to that city. The Elizabethstreet Post Office, if finished, would also be an architectural feature of Melbourne, and would provide accommodation for postal officials who at present are occupying space in other buildings.
Most of tue post offices in the electorate of Maribyrnong are fairly good buildings, but the development of that area has been so rapid that additional po3t offices are needed. A number of allowance post offices have been established, but because of their proximity to Melbourne the areas north-west of Essendon and west of Footscray are growing very rapidly and need modern post offices. I understand that in the latter area the department has already purchased a site for this purpose. I do not criticize the postal officials in these centres; they are giving excellent service but the district is handicapped for Avant of proper building accommodation .
I wish now to refer to the general dissatisfaction existing in Victoria in respect of the management of the national broadcasting service in Melbourne. When Australian artists seek auditions they find it most difficult to secure interviews Avith responsible officers. The commission’s organization in Melbourne has become most bureaucratic. The encouragement of local talent by the commission, to which the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) referred, is of the greatest interest to the people generally, but there is general dissatisfaction that this talent receives so little recognition by the commission in Victoria.
The honorable member must confine his ‘ remarks to the Works . Schedule now before the committee.
– I suggest that the Melbourne management of the commission should provide every facility for the granting of auditions to Australian artists instead of discriminating in favour of artists who come from overseas.. I agree that the commission should retain funds necessary to provide suitable buildings for the holding of auditions. However, I believe that the difficulty existing in respect of this matter at. present is due not to any lack of suitable buildings but to a want of a proper conception of the need for giving recognition to Australian talent. Admitting that suitable accommodation may not be available for this purpose, the fact remains that there has been an outcry recently in Melbourne that Australian artists applying for auditions have not been given reasonable consideration. I intended to deal with this matter in detail but owing to your ruling, Mr. Chairman, I shall not, apparently, be able to do so. I repeat that strong* feeling has arisen as the result of the manner in which the management of the national stations in Melbourne have handled this matter, and I feel that some reference should be made to it in this chamber. I can supply the names of numbers of people among my constituents. It is considered that they have been treated very shabbily in this respect. When they enter the commission’s offices they find that a female clerk condescends to give them attention, and, although the applicants for auditions may be persons who have previously performed for the commission, they are made to feel that they are not wanted in any circumstances. I am now criticizing not the commission itself but the actual management of the stations. I cannot speak as a competent authority in respect of musical matters, but it has been widely alleged that the programmes put over the air are invariably highbrow. Furthermore, a substantial proportion of them consists of recorded items. In respect of that proportion at least, the services of live Australian artists of acknowledged ability might be availed of. To-day Australian performers of note are practically debarred from broadcast programmes. I repeat that I could give the names of many persons who have been treated in the fashion I have mentioned. They include for instance, Mr. Keith Desmond, who is known throughout Australia as a musical artist; he has given performances in every English-speaking country. Although I am anxious to do so, the ruling of “the Chairman precludes my mentioning others in detail. At present applicants for audition are informed by some condescending female clerk that their audition will be taken, but subsequently they do not know whether any one is listening to them. In one case, a man was told to stop his performance, and ho did not know whether lie had been told to do so because his performance wau suitable or unsuitable.
– Order ! Thehonorable member must confine his remarks to the works schedule.
– I shall endeavour to do so. When this particular man was leaving the building, he met the person whom he thought was listening to his audition, and was informed by that individual that he had not heard his performance at all. I contend that the Postmaster-General should take a closer interest in the treatment meted out to Australian artists by the management of the national stations in Melbourne. I have a mass of information which would enable me to prove that the Broadcasting Commission is foreign rather than Australian minded in this matter, and I urge that it should not be allowed to continue its present practice in this respect. I propose, therefore, to take the first opportunity to ventilate, details of this unjust treatment of Australian artists. I agree with the policy of erecting buildings in the various States. I know that certain sections of the community are clamouring for a reduction of licence-fees, hut also I know thai certain powerful vested interests desire to see the commission kept short of the funds necessary for the erection of new buildings, and by means of propaganda are doing everything -in their power to hamper it in this respect. Whilst I agree with the expenditure of this money for the purposes proposed, I urge that the people who will be given the handling of the facilities thus provided, should be obliged to do justice to Australian artists, and should not turn them down, when the opportunity arises, in favour of foreign artists. I admit it is essential that the commission must secure the services of some foreign artists.
– The honorable member is not confining his remarks to the works schedule.
– I regret that in this debate I cannot deal fully with the matter. I hope that the unjust practice to which I have referred will bo discontinued.
.- I snail take this opportunity to raise two or three matters which are> of great importance to people living in outback areas of New South Wales within the borders of the electorate which I represent. The committee has before it a schedule which shows, in lump sums, amounts proposed to be expended in respect of certain items. 1. should like the Minister to explain the individual works involved. From time ro time, requests have been made for improved telephone facilities in outback portions of New South Wales, and sympathetic consideration has been promised; in fact, it was stated officially that some of these works would be given consideration when preparing this year’s Estimates. I should like to know whether it is proposed to spend any of the money allocated in this schedule on these particular works. There can be no doubt that the people concerned are entitled to such facilities, and I hope that the Minister will give some consideration to the representations which I now propose to make.
I” point out that at present no telephonic facilities exist over hundreds of square miles of area, for instance, between Euriowie and Tibooburra, Barnato and Wilcannia, Little Topo and Wilcannia, and in tlie Baden Park district. Furthermore, ‘the call of a telephone subscriber in Cobar, wishing to speak to Broken Hill, a distance of only 300 miles, has to be relayed to Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, and then on to Broken Hill. Again, there is no direct line from Broken Hill to Sydney. I suggest that such a line could be erected if the department co-operated with the# Railway Department, and used the poles’ ulong the railway line. If that were done, the various intermediate centres could be connected up and would enjoy direct connexion with the capital of the State. Last year the sum of £392,000 was voted for trunk line services, but only £289,000 of that amount was actually spent. In view of the urgent demand for improved facilities of this kind, I wish to know why the extra £103,000 was not spent in that direction, f hope that this year the incoming government will provide these facilities.
Am other matter to which I would direct attention is the provision of relay broadcasting stations. The Minister has stated that it is the intention of the department to establish such a station at Broken Hill. When established, this will serve a very large area inland, not only in New South Wales but also in western Queensland and South Australia. The people in those parts, to whom the radio service is a great blessing, experience very unsatisfactory reception. They are on the fringe of the range of the existing stations. The static in the day time is very bad, and in changeable weather it is almost impossible to obtain any reception whatever. A station at Broken Hill would serve thousands of persons who depend very greatly on wireless for news, market information, and entertainment. The department should endeavour to overcome the present difficulties in regard to fading and static, and thus endeavours to make the lives of those who reside in the outback more enjoyable. The work should be put in hand immediately. A fairly considerable amount of employment would thus be provided.
Another work which would ease the unemployment situation very greatly is the extension of telephone facilities to the people who live in out-back centres, and if the Government is anxious to assist in this direction it could not do better than put such works in hand.
.- I was very much interested this afternoon to hear different members express a desire for additional postal facilities in their electorates. From a rough reckoning that I have made, it would appear that if all their requests were acceded to, the Government would spend in the next twelve months more. than it proposes to spend on defence. Many honorable members opposite have suggested works which I think are not really necessary.
I have made continuous representations to the Postal Department with, a view to having certain urgent works carried out in the Reid electorate, which is the most important in New South Wales. There is a post office at South Lidcombe, but it does not meet the requirements of those who live on the other side of the line, and another office at North Lidcombe is urgently needed. Some two years ago, as the result of continuous representations, 1 succeeded in. inducing the Ford Company to establish a manufacturing depot on the Parr amaattaroad. I told that company that all the facilities existed there for the conduct of its operations. To-day, some hundreds of men are working in its factory. When the company discovered that it could not receive its letters from Lidcombe, it changed its postal address to Homebush. I was approached in the matter, and the municipality of Lidcombe also represented to me the necessity for placing the matter before the Government and urging upon it the advisability of erecting a new post office, the reasons given being that the Ford factory, while situated in Lidcombe, lias had to have its postal address altered to Homebush because no delivery is being made from Lidcombe; that, on this account, a post office has been erected in the grounds of the abattoirs - easily the largest in Australia - for the use of the workers there; that Thorpe’s factory on Parramatta-road - I secured its establishment there - has no delivery and- sometimes has to wait two or three days for its letters because of the roundabout way in. which they are delivered; and that the residents of Silverwater, in the municipality of Lidcombe, have had to change their postal address to Auburn. Many old-age and invalid pensioners have to walk three or four miles to the Lidcombe post office, which is a small building, and in wet weather they are compelled to wait in the rain.
I have five or six other cases connected with Granville, Merrylands, Guildford, and Holroyd, but I shall place these before the Postmaster-General personally. I urge the Minister who represents the Postmaster-General in this, chamber to make representations to him in regard to a new post office at North Lidcombe.
– Many matters have been raised during the course of the discussion to-day. It would be impossible to deal with all of them in the limited time that remains; consequently I shall confine myself to several of the most important.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), gave actual expression to sentiments which other honorable members merely indicated by their requests. He said that very great dissatisfaction exists in connexion with the postal facilities provided in country districts. I would say to him that, with a huge organization like the Postal Department, there will always be agitation for improvements and additional facilities. I am quite prepared to admit that if funds were available an additional amount of some millions of pounds could be profitably spent on the provision of greater facilities. I express my own opinion when I say that the cost of much of the work that is necessary should rightly be charged to loan account. Interest and sinking fund could easily be met out of the profits that were made. But, in existing circumstance, it has to be remembered that all of this expenditure must come out of revenue, and that circumstance introduces a certain amount of difficulty.
During this year, an amount which exceeds by £750,000 the expenditure of last year, is to be spent on new works. It is hoped in this way to provide some additional facilities of the nature referred to. It must also be remembered that some of the larger instrumentalities of the Postal Department, which really carry the whole fabric of the organization, have to be extended from time to time. Very considerable expenditure is being incurred at the present time in supplying facilities, additions and renewals of the nature of those to which I have referred. The highly efficient officials who control the Postal Department are constantly endeavouring to improve facilities throughout the Commonwealth .
– Can the Minister explain why the Director of Postal Services can go away to the other side of the world, and why there is no need to appoint any one in his place?
– He did not want to go, but, because of his technical and administrative knowledge, he was the most competent man in Australia to handle the special service that has taken him abroad. It relates to the whole of the communications between Australia and other parts of the world. I beg the honorable member to believe that his mission entirely justifies his temporary absence from Australia.
– But it is remarkable that there was 116 need to appoint any one in his place.
– As the honorable member .must realize, in any effective organization understudies are available. The Director of Postal Services has seen to it that there are competent officers to carry on for a period.
– Who is Acting Director?
– So far as postal services are concerned, Mr. Harry.
– He has no authority.
Sir ARCHDALE PARKHILL Well, he is carrying on, and the service is being conducted quite satisfactorily.
– The service is most unsatisfactory, because of that.
– Reference has been made to post office buildings. Because of the amount available, the sum provided for this purpose is not so great as could be spent. The policy adopted is to spend on service rather than on buildings whatever sum is available. Again I speak personally when I agree to some extent with the criticism that has been directed against that policy, and I think that the time is arriving when, at least in the larger and more important cities of Australia, it would be advantageous if the Commonwealth were brought more prominently before the people in the form of buildings of a suitably imposing character. A departure from the present practice to any large extent, would, in my opinion, be a mistake, but some -variation of it may be desirable.
Another matter of some importance is that which the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has mentioned from time to time, namely, that of satistying the people that their telephone accounts are correct, or at least that the administration is doing its utmost to ensure that they are not overcharged. I am sorry if the honorable member has not had supplied to him in full the information he desired to obtain. To some extent, he is responsible for that, because he did not specify the particular device the claims of which he was urging. From the further remarks he has made, how ever, it would seem that he had in mind an appliance submitted to the department which was designed for association with the dial of an automatic telephone. The main purpose of this device was said to be to record each call on a paper tape, the character imprinted on the tape corresponding with the letters and figures dialled to secure connexions over the automatic system.
In accordance with the usual practice, the device was carefully examined by the department but, unfortunately, it was found that there were serious objections to it of a fundamental character, some of which had reference to the fact that the successful functioning of the recorder required the user to perform definite operations additional to that of merely dialling the number desired. Even in the hands of an interested party, such operations might be neglected, but in the hands of one not so interested - and one of the claims for the instrument is that irregular use of the telephone at the subscriber’s end could be prevented - the record could not only be carelessly defective but could also be manipulated to any desired degree. In the circumstances, therefore, the department felt that no useful purpose would be served by permitting the association of this recording device with telephone instruments installed in subscribers’ premises. In reaching this decision, it was influenced by the desire to avoid expense, inconvenience, and possible embarrassment to telephone subscribers through the use of a device which would not provide an effective check on the calls originated from their telephones. Every telephone administration throughout the world has been confronted with the demand for some device which would enable telephone subscribers to keep a check on the effective calls they originate, but, unfortunately, no administration has yet succeeded in obtaining a device which would fulfil ‘ these requirements. It. will be recognized that, even if technical arrangements could bc made to guarantee a reasonable measure of accuracy in a meter installed in a subscriber’s premises, the cost would be very serious, and subscribers as a whole might not welcome the imposition of a substantial addition to their rentals on this account.
– “Would not the subscribers who desire the instrument to be attached to their machines pay for it?-
– In my experience subscribers are not at all keen to do anything of the sort. They do not come forward with voluntary offers of that description.
In the reply given to a question asked by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) on the 1st September, it was stated that the system observed in Australia in the use of meters for the registration of telephone calls is similar to that used by the British Post Office and other leading telephone administrations. The meters have a high degree of accuracy and are supplied in accordance with strict electrical and mechanical specifications.
The Postal Department takes extreme care and adopts every reasonable precaution to ensure accuracy in the preparation of accounts of calls made from subscribers’ telephones. Systematic checks of the whole recording arrangements are made with considerable frequency in accordance with a prescribed plan, and r-very effort is made to ensure the correct functioning of the recording apparatus. Special notice is also taken of any abnormalities in the monthly accounts of calls prepared for departmental purposes, and whenever there is evidence of an unusual condition a careful investigation is made to ascertain the cause and to ensure as far as is humanly possible that subscribers shall not be overcharged.
It is doubtful whether’ any telephone administration in the world has succeeded in doing more to safeguard the interests of subscribers than is done by our Postal Department. No effort is spared to obviate any excess claims upon the users of telephones.
In view of what. I have said, honorable members generally will appreciate that the department is actuated by a keen and genuine desire to minimize the possibility of errors in the charges made to subscribers for calls. Moreover, it will gladly give the closest consideration to any suggestion or appliance that is likely to increase efficiency in this direction.
– Is the check dependent upon a single individual?
– No ; it is a complete 1 check involving every aspect of the service. The records are, of course, mechanical.
I wish now to offer some comments on the statements made by several honorable members in regard to the remuneration of persons in charge of non-official post offices. Every postal administration in the world employs non-official postmasters and postmistresses, but the remuneration of such persons is on a higher scale in Australia than in any other country. The cost of this branch of the service is increasing annually. “Without- the services of these people it would be impossible for the department to provide the facilities that at present exist in many- areas. If the department had to establish post offices in the ordinary sense where non-official post offices are now established and pay the persons in attendance at them at the usual rates, the efficiency of the service in general would undoubtedly suffer.
Very careful thought has been given by the Administration and also by the postal authorities of other Englishspeaking countries, to the most suitable basis of payment to persons who undertake to conduct postal, telephone and telegraph business in localities where the circumstances do not justify the employment of officers of the permanent service, and in each case the arrangement adopted has -been designed to provide for the payment to be based on the volume of business transacted.
– The subject now being dealt with by the Minister is really wide of the particular business before the committee.
-] f you will allow me to say so, sir, it has been the practice of Chairmen of Committees to permit a discussion of this subject when the “Works Estimates have been under consideration; but if you rule that I may not reply to the observations which honorable members have been permitted to make on this subject, I shall, of course, bow to your ruling.
– My ruling is that a brief reference may properly he made to it, but that the position of non-official postmasters does not come within the purview of the business before the committee.
– I wish to know whether I am to refer to this subject or not.
– The Chair is of tlie opinion that it is not in accordance with the usual practice to do so.
– In deference to your ruling that I am not entitled to refer to the points raised by honorable members in the discussion on this subject, I shall say no more upon it. !’ wish now to deal with some of the local matters raised by certain honorable gentlemen if that will be in order.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) asked that the Government should liberalize its policy in regard to the provision of telephone facilities, but apparently on the Chairman’s ruling I shall not be entitled to deal with that subject.
– That may surely involve the provision of new works, the extension of existing services, and the construction of new post office buildings.
– The Government has liberalized the general services of the Postal Department in many important directions, such as the conditions governing the establishment of new telephonic facilities, the provision of public telephones in country districts, the construction of automatic telephone exchanges, and the extension of the hours during which post offices and telephone exchanges shall be open. During last year, the hours were extended in connexion with more than 500 postoffices. Such extensions of the hours of business are continually being made. The charges for trunk line telephone calls on Sundays, Christmas Day, Good Friday and certain other holidays have been reduced. The department is constantly endeavouring to lower the charges for the services.
– Will the Government consider discontinuing the booking fee for trunk line calls?
– If that is done the amount would simply have to be added to the cost of the trunk line call itself, and the people would be no better off. This service must be paid for. and the department regards the pre sent system as being the more economical. I do not mind whether the cost of the originating call is included in the cost of -the’ trunk line call or not. In fact, it seems to me that that would be the better course to pursue, for it would obviate this criticism which is constantly occurring.
– Is the originating call charged for if the trunk line call is ineffective ?
– I am unable to answer that question off-hand. The- honorable member will realize that. I am not a complete compendium of detailed postal information.
In regard to the request, for a broadcasting station at Bundaberg, as part of the national broadcasting, system, I point out that provision is being made in the Government’s programme for surveys on such matters. The station that will ultimately be established somewhere in the vicinity of Bundaberg,, will be similar to other regional stations erected by the department. While it is not possible to indicate at present exactly where the station, will be located, certain preliminary surveys have recently been completed.
The Deputy Leader of the. Opposition also referred to the telephone exchange at Rockhampton. Provision is being made for an additional expenditure of £2,500 this year on that work as part of a total expenditure of £14,000 at that centre.
The honorable member for Herbert. (Mr. Martens) referred to the post offices at Mackay and Proserpine. In regard to the “first mentioned, provision is being made for the expenditure of £6,000 ; and in regard to the second, an amount of- £1,000 is to be provided.
I note what lias been said about the inconveniences of the service at Magnetic Island, and shall bring that subject under the notice of the Postmaster-General.
Various honorable members have referred to the need for additional rural automatic telephone exchanges. These, of course, have proved to be most successful and a great convenience to country districts. Thirty are now in operation, and it is proposed to install an additional fifty during the next few months. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) referred to the telephone exchange at Mascot. The honorable member has brought this, matter under notice and made most urgent representations during the whole of the time in which he has been a member of this Parliament. I am happy to be able to tell him that about £3,000 is provided for the erection of a new telephone exchange in that important centre.
The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street) referred to the matter of the extension of hours in country telephone exchanges. I have already dealt with that subject.
The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) referred to subscribers beyond the radius of 15 miles from the Sydney and Melbourne general post offices, that is fixed as the limit of. the city areas. He referred to the change of population and to the fact that under the 15-mile radius system, most important centres are not considered by the Postal Department to be within the city areas, although, in point of fact, they could be described in no other way than as being part of those city areas. ;This is a difficult matter to administer, but I shall have the honorable member’s representations brought under’ the notice of the department in order that it may make a full examination of the situation, and see if some alteration cannot be made which will meet the position created by the changes and trend of population. A point that has to be considered, of course, is the fact that residents in the centres outside the 15-mile radius are charged at a much lower rate than those within it, and it is doubtful to my mind whether much, advantage would be gained by them if effect were given to the honorable member’s suggestion.
The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) referred to the broadcasting stations and to the erection of buildings and studios in the various capital cities, and, as the honorable member has done on frequent occasions, he urged very strongly the. need for a new studio at Hobart. The Australian Broadcasting Commission realizes that additional buildings and new studios of an uptodate Character are necessary in all the capitals of Australia. It sent its experts abroad to study broadcasting technique in Great Britain, Radio City, New York, and other places to get the best information. The commission then decided that it would go ahead “with the erection: of new buildings in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Hobart, but that the programme would have to be undertaken in that order. Necessarily, the most urgent places must be first dealt with, and the order named is the order in which the commission is prepared to carry out its building programme.
– Why does Adelaide come into it? I thought the order was Sydney and Melbourne, and then Hobart.
– I am speaking from memory, and, if I have made an error, I shall correct it personally with the honorable member. If I find that Hobart can be dealt with earlier,, I shall be very glad to inform the honorable member.
I suppose I am not entitled to refer to the remarks made by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) concerning the artists employed by the Broadcasting Commission. He said a great deal on the subject which I recognize to be out of order. At any rate, the commission has been anxious to stimulate Australian talent, and last year it gave 14,000 engagements to Australian musicians, actors, speakers and others. It also - co-operated with and assisted conservatoria, choral societies, orchestras, repertory societies, educational organizations, &c. The commission has also been anxious to stimulate Australian literary efforts, and last year more than 200 plays, sketches and serials by Australian authors were on the programmes.
The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), the honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron), and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) referred to the General Post Office at Brisbane. I regret that because of the magnitude and the cost of the undertaking, I am unable to give those honorable gentlemen any substantial satisfaction in regard to their efforts to have the Brisbane General Post Office reconstructed.’ I can, however, tell them that the preparation of plans and estimates is going on and that an amount is on the Estimates to cover the cost of that work. I realize tlie intense interest of the honorable member for Brisbane in this matter, and I am mindful of the repeated requests that he has made and of the agitation he has properly used to get this important work done in his electorate. I shall place before the PostmasterGeneral the most earnest representations that have been made in respect of this matter.
On the question of the Elizabeth-street post office, and what is popularly known as the “ tin shed “ adjoining, I say straight out that the lease and right of the Government to ownership of the land are undisputed, clear and definite. I do not know how the matter evolves, but I do know that there is no difficulty in respect of the Commonwealth’s right of ownership. The reason for the failure to erect a new building where the “ tin shed” stands is the fact that postal facilities in Melbourne, as at present provided in the Elizabeth-street post office, and the volume of work done there, do not justify any additional expenditure. The present facilities, in the way of buildings, are capable of carrying the postal work that is taking place at the present time. In addition to that, the beauty of the main building itself, with its admirable constructional arrangements and its columns and colonnades and other features, makes a continuation of the building in similar style along Elizabethstreet and the’ abolition of the “tin shed “, too expensive to be contemplated at the moment. Those are the two reasons why nothing has yet been done to replace the “ tin shed “.
– Which besmirches the beauty of the principal building.
– I do not doubt that, but, at least, to some extent, it will be admitted that, while there is such a demand for essential services, the Postmaster-General’s Department would be hardly justified in providing, for architectural and aesthetic reasons, new buildings at huge cost which would lessen the amount available for actual services. I realize the importance of the city of Melbourne, and that the citizens of that city take pride in it. The postal administration is not unmindful of and unsympathetic with the views expressed on this subject, but as I have said, at this stage nothing can be done.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) has referred to the services at Edgecliff. That something has to be done there is recognized, lt was, however, suggested to the department by a deputation that, instead of the existing post office being remodelled, the matter should be stood over for two or three years in order to enable the erection of an entirely new building. Whether that scheme is or is not the best, provision has been made in the Estimates for remodelling of the present post office at Edgecliff at a cost of £6,000, pending ultimate decision as to whether a much larger structure, more in keeping with the “ magnificent- environment “ so adequately described by the honorable member for Wentworth, than the existing building, should he erected.
The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) made reference to manual and automatic exchanges. It is admitted, of course, that automatic telephones are the more satisfactory, but I put it to honorable members that if they were in charge of an enterprise in which there was a system that would give efficiency, even if moderate, for several years, they would not, unless they had plenty of money to spare, deplete their earnings and savings by replacing that system with something more modern and effective. The post office occupies the same position. The manual services give, at any rate, a certain amount of efficiency and have years of useful life before them, and the department feels that it cannot spend money in replacing those services at a time when it has so many other calls upon its revenue. It costs between £30,000 and £40,000 to install automatic telephone exchanges in the metropolitan areas, and they are being installed as rapidly as possible in order to carry the huge and everincreasing amount of traffic in the cities. I tell the honorable member for Barton that, although no provision has been made in the Estimates for the conversion of the Kogarah exchange, provision has been made to convert the Hurstville exchange with regard to which he has made strong representations for a considerable time. I shall place his representations concerning the Kogarah exchange before the Postmaster-General. Time will not permit me to go into the many other matters that have been raised during this debate, but before 1 conclude I wish to refer to matters brought forward by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) and the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark).
– What about the honorable member for Grey?
– Yes, the honorable member for Grey (Mr. McBride) mentioned the post office at Ceduna, and I am able to inform him that I see emblazoned on the records a considerable sum of money for Ceduna.
– Will the Minister say something about the Sorrel post office?
– T admit the soft impeachment of the honorable member regarding Sorrel. I saw t he post office, and as Postmaster-General L made some representations regarding it on my return from Tasmania, but my sojourn in the administration of that department was not sufficiently long to enable me to carry out the good intentions I had formed. I am prepared, however, to bring this matter before the Postmaster-General.
I propose to go carefully through the speeches that have been made and if there are any omissions during this hurried review of the discussion I propose to write to honorable members and communicate the decisions reached. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) referred, not in this discussion, but earlier, to the New Lambton post office.
– It has been recommended by the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs, Mr. Duncan.
– Yes, I shall have the whole of the records examined and indicate to the PostmasterGeneral the urgent desires of the honorable member that something should be done in this regard.
.- I am sorry to have to speak again on this matter, but the Minister (Sir Archdale Parkhill) gave me an assurance that, if I refrained from speaking he would provide me with a statement regarding the non-fulfilment of the promise by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and the Australian Broadcasting Commission that the erection of a broadcasting studio at Hobart would be undertaken. An adequate statement has not been given. In the first place it was proposed that the studio at Hobart should be the first to be constructed, but now we are informed that the order will l)e Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and then Hobart. Therefore, I propose to move that the item be -postponed until a satisfactory explanation is forthcoming for this alteration of the programme. I am not going to accept the assurances of the Minister that the matter is beyond his control.
– The honorable member will have to accept them whether he likes it or not.
– I am entitled to a reasonable explanation for this delay. I have been repeatedly promised by the honorable gentleman that plans and specifications for the studio would be commenced immediately, and the building proceeded with as soon as possible.
– There is no misunderstanding about the matter. The honorable member has asked when the work will be proceeded with, and I have informed him that, according to information supplied by the Broadcasting Commission, the order of construction will be Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Hobart. This matter does not come under postal administration; it is a matter for the commission, which handles its own funds and arranges its own programme. The commission has supplied the following information.
The commission is now arranging for the provision of permanent studios replacing present temporary premises, and land has already been acquired in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Hobart. An officer of the commission, accompanied by the Chief Commonwealth Architect recently went abroad to investigate modern studio design, and these gentlemen, having returned, are now engaged in planning the new buildings.
– I recognize that the PostmasterGeneral must necessarily be guided by the advice of the commission, but, after all, lie is responsible for what that subordinate body does. The funds which’ the Broadcasting Commission controls are collected through the post office, and the commission should furnish the Minister with those details of its activities to which this Parliament is entitled. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) has interested himself in this matter, and is entitled to know when construction will be commenced on- the studio in Hobart.
– The order of construction is as I have stated. Of course, it is not necessary for one studio to be finished before another is begun; work on two or more can proceed at the same time.
– That was what I was about to suggest.
– I am prepared to approach the commission on behalf of the honorable member for Denison, and obtain further details for him.
– I want to know when it is proposed to begin this work at Hobart. Promises have been received from the PostmasterGeneral and the chairman of the Broadcasting Commission that the work would be put in hand without delay.
– I shall obtain the information, and furnish it to the honorable member on Tuesday.
– In view of that promise, I shall not move that the item be postponed.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Territories of the Commonwealth.
Proposed vote, £635,000.
– I should like to know what the Government proposes to do to meet the housing shortage in the Federal Capital Territory. 1 have been assured by friends in Canberra that it is extremely difficult to obtain houses here, and, according to the last advices, there are no fewer than 300 persons seeking homes at the present time.
– Are they all civil servants ?
– I .believe so. They are men who have been recently transferred with the Patents and Commerce
Departments. Naturally, there is much dissatisfaction amongst them. I have not been asked to make representations on their behalf, but I mention the matter now, because it is allied in some respects with the rationing of employees in the Territory. Item 4 of the Estimates provides £10,460 for sundry works and services, and I should like to know how it is proposed to spend this money. Perhaps some of it will he diverted to providing employment for those men who were rationed on Friday last.
– I have on previous occasions mentioned the need for extending to Darwin the same facilities for the building of homes by citizens as exist in the southern States. Because of the defence programme being carried out in Darwin, a great deal of money is being expended there at the present time, more, in fact, within a year or two than would be expended in 60 years in an inland town of the same size. The expenditure of this money has been accompanied by some deplorable features. The people of Darwin have been deprived of the privilege of local government, the control of the town being vested solely in a department situated in Canberra, 2,000 miles away. The Government, no doubt, was influenced by Darwin’s importance as a naval base, and I believe the naval authorities desire to take the place over entirely. However, there are original residents in Darwin whom the Government would not dare to displace. I do not propose to make a speech on municipal self-government now, but merely mention that this matter has an important bearing upon the subject of housing. One must begin with planning a home, go on from that to the planning of a town and city, and thence to the planning of the nation as a whole by a system of regional planning, a subject with which I shall deal when the InterState Commission Bill is under discussion. I wish to emphasize the point that the planning of a town is essentially the function of the local authority, which, in the case of Darwin, has been abolished.
– We have an Administrator in the Northern Territory.
– But I consider that the department has done the Administrator ii disservice in not having u local body to advise him pending the granting of self-government to the Northern Territory. The houses available are not sufficient to meet the needs of such residents as postal and wireless officials and persons in private employment. A workers’ home scheme similar to those in operation in the southern parts of Australia should be initiated.
The vote for the assistance of the metalliferous mining industry is totally inadequate. Of the vote of £25,000 provided last year, only £17,000 was expended. I need hardly remind honorable members of the necessity which arose for dealing effectively with certain persons who were not playing the game and -whom 1 exposed on entering this Parliament: 1 find, however, that the unscrupulous promoter is still able to operate. I am chiefly concerned about future policy. I am glad to know that the Minister secured the services of Mr. Telfer, an .administrative officer from Western Australia. I visited that State to see its sane mining policy in operation, with the aid of competent field men as well as metallurgists. I interviewed every senior officer on both the administrative and technical sides, including mining engineers and battery managers. .1 also visited the principal mining fields. I am informed that Mr. Telfer has travelled through Central Australia to Darwin, and has now returned to his own State. His report has been delivered, and 1 understand that it is now being perused at Darwin. I should like lo know something about the personnel of the mining staff proposed to be appointed in the territory, as the result of my own representations and those which I made to Mr. Telfer in Perth.
If, is necessary to deal with the mining industry from two aspects. An important branch of the work is in the hands of assayers and metallurgists,- but rarely can these men do the practical field work. Therefore, I am particularly anxious that competent field men shall be appointed to examine shows and mining fields. One of the members of the North Australia Commission, Mr. Horsburgh, who is still being paid a large salary elsewhere, is a high metallurgical authority, but he is not an outside man.
We have an officer at Tennant Greek. Hia qualifications as a metallurgist are outstanding, and he was trained at Mount Lyell, and he has had training in engineering; but he is also expected to carry out field work, and that is asking too much of him. I was at Mount Isa. surveying in the early clays of that, enterprise, when trouble was experienced in extracting ore from sulphides. The company sent to the United States of America and obtained the services of Mr. Jacobson, the most emiment man who could be procured for that. work. When an investigation was made to determine the possibilities of gold-mining in New Guinea, at Big Bell in Western Australia, and at Brocks Creek in the Northern Territory, the task was allotted not to, a metallurgist, but to Mr. Blanchard, an outstanding field man, and the work of the two men was co-ordinated. The Minister should see that the Northern Territory has a sufficient field staff to deal with the mining problems of the Northern Territory, which assayers are not allowed to attempt, to solve elsewhere.
What does the Minister intend to do about the battery at the Tennant Creek gold-field? The miners require a subsidy on a footage basis to assist them to open up their shows, but the Minister considers that the best way to subsidize them is to provide for cheap battery extraction.
– Does not the honorable member agree with that?
– Not entirely. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company finances the farmers in the fields. This is the only instance we have in Australia of co-ordination in the development of a primary and a second industry. If the department would finance the miners at Tennant Creek and elsewhere, the batteries could be kept going profitably. The department would merely be financing supplies of ore to its own battery. The storekeepers are now performing the task of supporting the miners, and some of the former have failed because they were obliged to back miners owing to the lack of Government subsidy to the right persons, the miners. It is unfair to expect storekeepers to finance men engaged in an industry of national importance.
I have received a letter from Pine Creek, which is more or less in the doldrums because, while Tennant Creek has free gold, Pine Creek has refractory ore. The sulphide is almost at the surface. An ineffective battery was erected at Pine Creek in the belief that the gold could be extracted on the field. A field man should be stationed there, and a different method of extraction should be adopted. A plant should be provided that ‘ could treat the ore now lying at grass. The ore could easily be transported to a central battery near existing shows.
I am disappointed that wolfram does not receive the attention it deserves, particularly at the present time, when this rare metal commands a fabulous price. There is a field 180 miles north, then 100 miles east, of Alice Springs, at Hatches Creek, that was worked during the Great War. There I witnessed mining operations under most barbaric conditions. The miners were housed in sheds constructed of boughs, and the only waterhole had to supply the needs of cattle and men alike.
Until I visited, this place, it had not been inspected by a qualified field man. . Miners are rushing there at the present time. They want a field man to assist them to open up, so they can put down shafts and mine for ore without following the crude method of sinking on the rich ore. In cases where there may be an outcrop of three feet the men will sink a shaft on the underlay to a depth of about 50 feet, and then cease. Some actually go down to 80 feet. I have climbed down the ropes in these mines and I know that the work is really dangerous. The miners shoot off the dynamite at 5 o’clock in the afternoon and when they resume work in the morning they are confronted with the greatest danger. They have first to remove all the broken material from the shaft so that they may be able to move up and down. These conditions exist because the men have no mining expert to assist them by correct shafting methods. Much ore can never be recovered by the crude methods at present, employed.
I emphasize that nothing is being done to develop our deposits of wolfram. Although, we are told, we are living in a time of war, no effort is being made to husband these deposits for the use of either England or Australia. This metal is going to foreign powers when we should do everything in our power to hold it for our own benefit. In the nation’s interest, I urge the Minister to obtain expert advice in this matter. Something should also be done to overcome the shortage of water in this area; either bores or windmills should be provided. Similar conditions prevail at Wauchope field and many others. While money is being wasted on other bores in the interior, no effort is being made to provide a suitable supply in the wolfram area.
Valuable mica fields exist from 150 miles to 200 miles east of Alice Springs. In 1932 I made a survey in that area and I am convinced that if these deposits existed in another country they would be treasured as an asset, whereas to-day they are being worked by crude methods by a few Italians. These men gouge the mica to a depth of 10 or 20 feet and then, as the earth threatens to fall in, or actually collapses as the result of rain, they start gouging in another place. Thus a valuable asset is being ruined daily all for the want of technical men in the field. I emphasize that to-day the need in the territory is not solely for assayers or metallurgists, but for field men, and I urge the Minister to secure the services of field men who have a professional reputation high enough to risk in the mining world. I have offered ‘this criticism in the friendliest way and I hope the Minister will accept it in that spirit. If .the services of competent field men were secured in order to assist the miners in the territory and assess the real values, our mineral deposits would not be so ruthlessly exploited and wasted as is the case to-day.
– Dealing with the metalliferous mining industry I suggest that a survey should be made of our tantalite and wolfram deposits. Tantalum and wolfram are in great demand in most countries today, and, according to statistics published recently in the volume entitled Mineral
Resources of the British Empire, that demand is likely to be considerably increased in the near future. Australia produces about 90 per cent, of the world’s total output of tantalum which, as honorable members know, is most valuable because of its qualities for hardening steel. Because of the threat of war, foreign nations will be competing for supplies of this metal within the next few years. I suggest that if our deposits of this metal were possessed by any other nation they would be carefully conserved. The price of tantalum to-day is £18 per lb., or over £40,000 a ton, and it is rising. Tantalum can be used for the hardening of armour plating because it makes steel armour practically impregnable by ordinary projectiles. We should do everything possible, therefore, to retain all our supplies of this metal for our own use, and refuse to allow it to be exported to foreign countries or, as an alternative, permit exportation of it outside the British Empire under licence only. I have been informed that considerable deposits of tantalite exist in the Northern Territory, but, as honorable members know, the bulk of them are in Western Australia. Portion of the sum of £25,000 to be allocated to assist the metalliferous mining industry could be used for locating and making reserves of this mineral. If it did that the Government would be rendering a great service to Australia.
who referred to the shortage of housing accommodation in Canberra, 1 regret that it has not been possible to reduce the waiting list more rapidly than we have been able to do. Last year the sum of £75,000 was provided for the construction of houses and, in addition to this construction, a number of flats were built by private enterprise. The Government is doing everything possible to encourage private enterprise to do more building in Canberra, so that it can overtake arrears in this respect, more rapidly than would be the case if it depended entirely on its own efforts.
– Are not building costs in Canberra too high?
– They are higher here than elsewhere, but one factor which has prevented private enterprise from constructing more houses here has been that the Government has given resident public servants the advantages of low rentals in relation to the capital cost of the houses constructed. As the result of such competition private enterprise is at a disadvantage, but efforts are being - made to induce it to come here. I am glad to say that a fairly large amount of building has been undertaken by private enterprise recently, including a splendid block of flats in Northbourne-avenue adjacent to Civic Centre. Those flats will provide accommodation for a fair number of people. The sum of £75,000 has again been allocated for building construction in Canberra this year. I repeat that I regret it has not been found possible to allocate a bigger percentage of the total money made available in respect of construction generally in Canberra for the building of houses than has been the case up to date. In addition to the sum I have mentioned an amount of £30,000 is to be provided from loan as a fund to finance those who desire to build for themselves in order that it may be made easier for these people to obtain the capital they require at low interest rates.
– Is that fund being availed of?
– Yes ; the whole of the previous provision for this purpose had been exhausted at the beginning of this financial year.
The honorable member for West Sydney also referred to the employment of registered workers in Canberra. Unfortunately, it is necessary, for a time at least, to put these men on a basis of one week in two; but I hope that we shall be able to get them back on a full-time period before the end of the year. One of our difficulties in this respect is that the unskilled registered worker is really unable to benefit very much as the result of constructional progress now being made in Canberra. If all these men were skilled tradesmen we would have no difficulty whatever in finding work for them for at least some years to come, because one condition which tenderers have to comply with is. that they shall give preference to tradesmen living in Canberra. We are endeavouring to overcome this difficulty by providing facilities for vocational training, and with this end in view a Trainees Apprenticeship Ordinance has been passed, the provisions of which will enable many youths who have left school within the last few years to become competent tradesmen.
– How many youths are undergoing vocational training?
– About 50.
– As building tradesmen ?
– No ; a total of about 50 youths are undergoing training for various trades including bricklaying, plumbing, carpentering and motor mechanics, and I hope that that number will be increased.
– Could not the Government inaugurate a scheme like that in respect of Australia as a whole?
– No, because this is a form of education, and, as the honorable member knows, education comes within the scope of the functions of the States. We have endeavoured to give the maximum of employment to registered workers in Canberra, and during the twelve months ended the 31st August last they were given the equivalent of eleven months’ full-time employment. For ten months they worked continuously, and for the first two months on a basis of one week in two.
– That is in respect to married men only?
– Yes ; we are not able to do so much for the single men, but in that direction we are doing as well as, or a little better, than the States. Replying further to the honorable member for West Sydney, I point out, in passing, that some of the principal works which will enable us to give employment to these men are as follows : water supply and sewerage extensions in the city area, for which £10,000 has been allotted ; storm -water drainage extensions and improvements, for which £12,000 has been allotted; the duplication of the Cotter water supply main, on which £74,000 will be spent; the extension of water supply reticulation at Griffith, for which £7,800 has been allotted ; and the construction of the north-west intersecting sewer, on which over £25,000 will be spent. Works of this nature will enable us to employ the maximum number of unskilled men. 1 point out that it costs the department, on the average. £8 a week to employ an unskilled man, that, figure including his wages and the cost of the material required for his employment. I can assure honorable members that we are doing our utmost to give the maximum employment to those unfortunate, men who do not enjoy regular employment in Canberra.
– Is it a fact that one cause of the house shortage is that the higher departmental officials are inducing the department to erect costly houses for them, and that this absorbs too large a proportion of the money available?
– In order to check any tendency in that direction, recently a change was made in the rental charge, so that, if any man wishes to spend above a certain figure on the construction of a house, he has to pay an extra 2 per cent, on the additional amount. That is a sort of penalty charge. I assure the honorable member that the number of houses of the larger type is relatively small. The great bulk of the houses being built are very modest in size, the object being to keep down the rental to what those who are to occupy them can afford to Pay-
– -Are details available of the scheme for the training of youths? 1 Mr. PATERSON. - I shall be very glad to furnish the honorable member with that information.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) raised several matters in connexion with its development, and ‘referred particularly to Tennant Creek and other mining centres, f think he will agree that we can best assist mining development by providing cheap and efficient crushing facilities- I refer only to f,he winning of gold at the moment. Some of the other suggestions of the honorable member are worthy of ; consideration, and already the department has given consideration to a number of them. Recently, a very valuable report, produced by Dr. Ward, of South Australia, and Dr. Wade, was obtained by my department.
– -Did they assist one man. or merely draw big expenses and return with nothing of intrinsic value to the department?
– They returned with a report of great value to the department.
An excellent crushing plant has” been established at Tennant Creek. In answer to a question by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) the other day, I said I believed that that plant would start regular crushings on the 23rd of this month. I have since learned that it was able to start on the 6 th of thismonth, and I understand that it is running two shifts. The former charges for crushing, when we were dependent upon batteries owned purely by private individuals, was £2 a ton, and when cyaniding was done there was an additional charge of £1 a ton, in addition to the cost of carting. This new plant will do the crushing and amalgamating for 12s. 6d. a ton, and cyaniding for 12s. 6d. a ton, a total of 25s. a ton for both processes, compared with a total previous cost of £3 a ton. Then, also, assistance is being given in connexion with the carting of the ore, by subsidizing the cartage over a certain distance and beyond main roads. One of the best means by which we can assist the mining industry in the Nor then Territory is by providing better roads for the cartage of the ore, because that tends to reduce the charges which formerly were necessary. The assistance to be given by means of subsidizingthe cartage of ore over long distances will be on the basis of the mileage beyond a certain distance and beyond made roads.
The honorable member mentioned a subsidy on a footage basis.I am unable to supply him with full information on that point at the moment, because I did not expect him to raise it, but I shall endeavour to obtain it for him.
It is proposed that Mr. Studdert, formerly warden of that, field, shall become general manager of the new battery and the other government battery. I hope that the crushing facilities provided will make a tremendous difference to Tennant Creek in the future. I may say that during the last twelve months approximately 11,000 oz. of gold, worth about £90,000, have been taken out of Tennant Creek. I believe that, with the new facilities which have been provided, that output will be rapidly increased.
In regard to the field staff generally, I am awaiting the report of the officer from Western Australia, Mr. Telfer, whose services the Government of Western Australia was good enough to make available. Hehas been through the Northern Territory, and in a report has made recommendations covering the lines on which it might be advisable for us so to amend our mining legislation as to bring it more into conformity with the legislation of States, such as Western Australia, that have had considerable experience in these matters. I have not yet had time to study his report and cannot, therefore, advise the honorable gentleman as to what it, contains, but 1 assure him that, I shall give it careful attention as soon as possible.
The honorable member also referred to the Pine Creek battery. I admit that when I saw that battery it was not one of which we could be proud. Steps have been taken to improve it. I shall ascertain the exact position, and advise the honorable member.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) referred to nonferrous precious metals, such as tantalite and wolfram, and suggested that they should be reserved. I assure the honorable member that the matter is being very carefully looked into. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) made a statement the other day to the effect that steps were being taken to obtain an estimate that would beasaccurate as possible of the metal supplies that, exist in this country. The right honorable gentleman had in mind at: the time ferrous and nonferrous metals. We hope that when we receive that report we shall be in a position later to determine what steps, if any, need he taken on the lines suggested by the honorable gentleman.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That thorp be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1937-38, for the purposes of Additions. New Works. Buildings sc., a sum not exceeding £3,721,000.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c. for the year 1937-38, therehe granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum not exceeding £3,721,000.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Paterson do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoingresolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 6.12 to8 p.m. [ Quorum formed.]
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
Division A. - Rate of Tax in Respect of Taxable Income Derived from Personal Exertion. (For the purposes of this Division: T = taxable income in pounds.)
If the taxable income does not exceed £6,900, the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income shall be -
If the taxable income exceeds £6,900, the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £6,900 shall
and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £6,900 shall be 68.85 pence.
Division B. - Rate of Tax in Respect, of Taxable Income Derived from Property. (For the purposes of this Division: T= tax able income in pounds.)
If the taxable income does not exceed £500, the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income shall be -
If the taxable income exceeds £500 but does not exceed £1,500, the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income shall be -
If the taxable income exceeds £.1,500 but does not exceed £3,700, the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income shall be -
If the taxable income exceeds £3,700, the rate of tax for every pound oftaxable income up to and including £3,700 shall be -
and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £3.700 shall be 81 pence.
DivisionC. - Rates of Tax in Respect of Taxable Income Derived Partly from Personal Exertion and Partly from Property.
Division D. - Rates of Tax by reference to an Average Income.
Division E. - Rate of Tax by reference to a Notional Income.
Division F. - Tax Payable where Amount would otherwise bc less than Ten Shillings. Notwithstanding anything contained in the last five preceding Divisions, where the amount of income tax which a person would, apart from this Division, be liable to .pay is less than Ten shillings, the income tax payable by that person shall be Ton shillings.
Division G. - Kates of Tax Payable by a Trustee.
For every pound of the taxable income in respect of which a trustee is liable, pursuant to either section ninety-eight or section ninetynine of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1B3G- 1037, to be assessed and to pay tax the rate of tax shall be the rate which would be payable under Division A. B, C, D or E as the case requires, if one individual were liable to be assessed and to pay tax on that taxable income.
Division II. - Raton of Tax Payable by a Company.
For every pound of interest in respect of which a company is liable, pursuant to sub-section (1.) of section one hundred and twenty-five of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1330-1937 to pay income tax, the rate of tax shall be One shilling.
This is the annual motion relating to the imposition of income tax. If it is agreed to it will he incorporated in a bill in the usual way. The motion is identical with that moved twelve- months ago. No alteration whatever is proposed in the rates of tax proposed.
Division A of the motion sets out the formula for determining the rate of tax in respect of taxable incomes derived from personal exertion. Reduced to simple terms, the formula means that the rate of income tax on a taxable income of £1 from personal exertion is just over 2¼d. This rate increases progressively and fairly rapidly, with the result that the rate of tax on a taxable income of £6,900 is a fraction below 3s. in the £1.
Division B deals with the rate of tax in respect of taxable incomes derived from property. This also provides for a graduated scale. The rate is low on small incomes, but rises steeply. On a taxable income of £1 from property the tax is 2fd. This rate increases steeply until, on an income of £3,700 from property, it is 3s. 6d. in the £1. The curve is steeper in relation to incomes from property than in relation to incomes from personal exertion. On incomes exceeding £3,700 a year, the rate of tax is 81d. in the £1.
Division 0 concerns the rates of tax in respect of income derived partly from personal exertion and partly from property. No change of the method of calculating this tax has been made. The existing practice has been in operation for many years.
Division D has to do with the rates of tax by reference to an average income. As honorable members are aware the rate of tax for individual taxpayers is ascertained by averaging his taxable income for the year of income and the preceding four years. Eventually, the averaging system of taxation is to be abandoned in respect. of all taxpayers except those engaged in primary production. Actually this will be the last year in which the averaging system will have general application. The Royal Commission on Taxation recommended the abandonment of this method of taxation except in relation to income from primary production ; but the Government delayed giving effect to the recommendation for three years in order to be reasonably fair to taxpayers who had had to pay income under the averaging provisions at a higher rate than would have applied under normal conditions. It would be unfair if the income of taxpayers, were determined by taking into account certain years when incomes were rising generally. It was for this reason that the adoption of this recommendation has been delayed.
Division E deals with the taxation of premiums on the sale or assignment of leases. It does not differin any way from the provisions now in force. If honorable members desire a detailed description of the procedure under this division I shall be prepared to give it to them.
DivisionF provides for the imposition of a minimum tax of 10s. Formerly the minimum tax payable was £1, but a few years ago this figure was reduced to 10s., which is not an unreasonable minimum. It is really not worth while making an assessment of tax if the amount to be collected is to be less than 10s.
Division G deals with the ratesof taxpayable by a trustee, and is not altered from the existing law.
Division H, which relates to the rates of tax payable by a company, is set out in perfectly straightforward terms, andI think requires no explanation.
The third paragraph of the motion authorizes the Commissioner of Taxation to impose tax at the current rates on persons temporarily resident in Australia. Visiting artists and business people who fall within the scope of our taxation law may be called upon to pay tax for the current year according to the extent of their income here. There should be no need for me to discuss the motion at further length, but if any honorable member desires additional information I shall be pleased to give it.
.- Once again I express my regret that this motion wasnot introduced earlier. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey), has told us that it is in identical terms with the corresponding motion of last year and I can see no reason why it should not have been submitted to us in time to allow experts and other people to examine it. It may put an invidious strain upon honorable members to be asked to place implicit trust in the word of one Minister as against another, when year after year bill after bill is brought in, as is so frequently the case, without adequate notice. I do notpropose say any more on the subject. Although I know as much about our taxation laws as probably any other private member of the House with the exception of the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), I confess that I am unable,offhand, to check up on the formula. Of course, I am prepared to place implicit trust in the word of this Treasurer on this occasion. When he says that this motion is identical with the taxation motion of last year,I accept his word. The motion provides for a fair measure of taxation in view of the fact that the Government has to provide for better defence equipment, the restoration of certain social services and the like.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Menzies do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr.Casey, and read a first and second time.
.- I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), to explain why there should be differentiation between persons engaged in primary production and manufacturers in respect of the averaging of incomes. Why should the averaging system be limited to primary producers? Many manufacturers may be put in an invidious position through violent fluctuations of their incomes. In a boom year, such as the present is with regard to steel, a manufacturer may make a ‘large income, but next year, owing to the vagaries of the market,he may suffer a great loss - and yet, in respect of that year he may be called upon to pay an inordinately high income tax. The proposal toapply the averaging system to primary producers is sound, but may it not also be applied to those engaged in other industries with equal soundness ?
– This subject was discussed at great length in the report of the Royal Commission on Taxation presented to Parliament two or threeyears ago. I have not the report of the. royal commission with me at the moment, but I shall make one available to the honorable member. On. several pages of that report theroyal commissioners discuss the merits of the retention of the general system of averaging as against the retention of it only for primary producers. They discussed this matter at the many meetings which they held at capital cities, but finally reached the conclusion that the system was unsatisfactory except for primary producers because, in a general way, it works out that if incomes are on the upgrade there is an advantage to the taxpayer, whereas, if incomes are on the down-grade, the taxpayer is at a definite disadvantage. The commission was sitting just after what might be called the worst of the depression and the people generally did not like paying a rate of income tax which was considerably higher on a dropping scale of income than it would have been if based on the actual income for the year. People generally were against this averaging provision, and a large volume of evidence of all shapes and sizes was offered against it. The recommendation of the commission in this respect was largely based on the evidence of representatives of taxpayers’ associations, chambers of commerce, and manufactures and the like. I believe that, after reading the report on this matter, the honorable member will be convinced that, except for primary producers, there is really, on a balance, not much advantage in averaging. Under that system, one never knows from year to year what the tax is going to be because the assessment of it is dependent upon the figures of past years as much as upon the figures for the year on which the tax is levied. I agree with the honorable member that one would expect that averaging of the years would result in an advantage to all except those persons who are on fixed incomes, but I assure the honorable gentleman that it does not work out that, way.
– The averaging of the amounts would be of benefit, but not the averaging of the rate?
– That is so. I remind the honorable member for Kalgoorlie that he will have full opportunity before this becomes law in twelve months’ time to give this matter further consideration. In the current year, the averaging benefit is applicable to everyone, so the point raised is not really relevant to the bill.
.- I rise again, not in any carping spirit, but to express my belief that the averaging system must be of benefit to other persons than primary producers. I am satisfied, of course, that the royal commission would have evidence from business people and manufacturers in favour of the abolition of the averaging system when, after boom years, their incomes were sliding as the result of trade depression, which would mean that income tax would be assessed on an averaging of the returns for boom years with a higher rate resulting. If, however, the position is sound with regard to primary producers, it must equally be sound with regard to other businesses. There should be no difference. My seeing the report of the royal commission would make no difference, because this is not a difficult matter to understand. I accept what the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) says in good faith, but I can see that if we pass this bill without giving this matter consideration it will be difficult to change the conditions for next year. I see no reason why secondary industries which are trying to establish themselves in Australia and have bad years as well as good years should not have the benefit of the averaging system.
Bill agreed to and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 8th September (vide page 733). on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill bo now read a second time.
.- There are times when the Opposition can support a government measure^ and I think that this is one of them. This is a non-contentious measure and the long debate that took place earlier to-day on the Post Office Estimates afforded most honorable members an opportunity to discuss a number of problems that otherwise could have been discussed on this bill. The appropriation for 1937-38, as provided in the Works Estimates amounted to £2,250,000 for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. The purpose of this bill is to provide a further sum of £1,000,000 for the same purpose. The £1,000,000 thus provided is to be found out of the surplus for last year, and is to be used for the construction of telephone exchanges and lines, telegraphs and miscellaneous works and national broadcasting services. In view of the growing demand throughout Australia for the expansion of telephonic, telegraphic and postal services, my only complaint is that a larger sum has not been made available. The Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill), as Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, listened to-day to a number of speeches from honorable members urging much higher expenditure in providing additional postal, telephonic and telegraphic facilities. As the years go on and the population of Australia increases, and big subdivision schemes are undertaken, particularly along the railway lines, there will be an increased demand for expansion of services in. the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
I think a good number of honorable members to-day advanced impressive reasons why additional regional A class broadcasting stations should be established. It was pointed out thai a number of - important centres throughout Australia are deprived of efficient broadcast reception because they are in fading zones. If the Government were to go ahead with a comprehensive policy of developing broadcasting services, a very much greater amount than £325,000 would have to be made available.
When one looks at the financial side of the Postmaster-General’s Department, and compares revenue with working expenditure one is shown clearly what an efficient department of the Public Service the Postmaster-General’s Department is, and how a great national enterprise can be efficiently and economically conducted by a government. There is a feeling, I know, in some of the States that no such service managed on a nation-wide basis can be conducted successfully, but our experience of the Postmaster-General’s Department, I think, shows unmistakeably that, with the decentralization of powers in the hands of the deputy directors of the various States with the central control held by the Director of Posts and Telegraphs, it has become a really efficient Australianwide service. The table of revenue and working expenditure shows that revenue has exceeded expenditure by £86S,000 in 1933-34, £506,000 in 1934-35, £440,000 in 1935-36, and £190,000 in 1936-37; and if we leave out of account capital expenditure, the surplus was £2,609,000 for 1936-37. That is a very creditable record, but I think it clearly shows that there is ample justification for more generous treatment of employees in the department, particularly those non-official postmasters and postmistresses on whose case I am forbidden by the Standing Orders to dwell at this stage. As this bill does provide for increased expenditure, however, I give it my support. I should like to see a very much greater amount voted, because there is an unsatisfied demand in the country districts for improved facilities that cannot be granted, we are told by the Postmaster-General’s Department, because of the lack of funds. This sum of £1,000,000 is inadequate, but it does go some distance along the road.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 24th August (vide page 46), on motion by Sir Archdale Parkhill -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- It is not the intention of the Opposition to vote against this bill, but I desire to offer a few observations upon this extraordinary attempt to revive an obsolete industry for the production of oil from shale when it has been proved beyond doubt that it is more economical to produce it from other material. The Government should not confine its encouragement to this scheme, but should also encourage the production of oil from coal. The Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill), when introducing this bill, was at pains to pay a tribute to the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) for having, by his agitation, succeeded in bringing this agreement into existence. I deny that the honorable member is in any way responsible for it. I remember that, in 1930, the Scullin
Government made £100,000 available for the development of the shale oil industry, and that was many years before the present honorable member for Macquarie entered this chamber. But perhaps I misunderstood the Minister ; he may have intended to pay his tribute to the exmember for Macquarie, Mr. Chifley.
– I meant exactly what I said. The present honorable member for Macquarie revived this issue when it was lying dormant.
– The Scullin Government set up a committee to investigate this matter, and thousands of gallons of oil were actually produced before the present honorable member for Macquarie was ever elected. After he became a member, the Government closed down the Newnes undertaking, so that none of the credit for this measure belongs to him. On the contrary, it is to his discredit that an industry of such national importance should be handed over to private enterprise under conditions which constitute a public scandal. We recognize, of course, that the tribute, was merely part of the Government’s electioneering propaganda, and was designed to help the honorable member retain what is recognized as a doubtful seat. I am confident that it will fail in its purpose. No doubt the Government was influenced also by the public agitation that something should he done to make Australia more independent of outside supplies of oil. However, that does not excuse the Government for embarking upon this costly attempt to revive an obsolete industry while neglecting the opportunity to place the production of oil from coal upon an economic footing. There is nothing new in the production of oil from shale. It has been produced from shale in Great Britain for 80 years, and many years ago John Pell began producing shale oil at Newnes, and failed at it. Then the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited paid some thousands of pounds for an option over the Newnes leases, but never worked them, though that was when production costs were much lower than they are to-day. When the present scheme .fails, as it must, and the undertaking is closed after a few years, the Government will say “ Well, we tried “. It will by then have demonstrated its failure, not only to produce shale oil economically, but also to retain the Macquarie seat.
The Prime Minister (Mr,. Lyons) has repeatedly urged us to follow England. Why, then, do we not follow the example of England in the production of oil from coal? Representative public men who have visited overseas countries have returned to tell us that the production of oil from coal is already a practical proposition in many parts of the world. A report on this matter was submitted by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), and others who have spoken favorably on the proposal are the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Stevens, the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Dunstan, and the Agent-General for Queensland, Mr. Pike. Then why is not something done? One wonders why the Government invited the representative of one of the major oil companies, Lord McGowan, to report on the process. Is it reasonable to expect that this man, who is interested in well oil, would report favorably on a process which, if successfully exploited; would jeopardize the success of his own enterprises? Thousands of people to-day are beginning to believe that the major oil companies are contributing to the funds of the United Australia party in order to sabotage attempts to produce oil from coal.
– They are doing nothing of the kind.
– I make the charge that the oil companies are contributing to the United Australia party funds; otherwise the Government would have followed the lead given by the British Government and produced oil from coal, thereby ensuring Australia’s oil supplies. The agreement associated with this bill is merely political window-dressing. It may fool a few of the people in the Macquarie electorate, hut it will be resented by thousands of persons in the coal districts who have been buoyed up by the Prime Minister and others with promises that something would be done to revive the coal industry. Nothing has been done, and conditions on the coalfields are going from bad to worse. As Goldsmith said -
III fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, Where wealth accumulates, and men decay:
Now the Government is giving a false stimulus to tlie Newnes district, and when the enterprise fails that district will be in the unhappy position of the coalfields to-day. The only possible conclusion to come to is that the policy of the Government is being influenced by the major oil companies.
– There is no ground whatever for that assertion.
– There is proof that the production of oil from coal is commercially successful in Great Britian. Experts, such as Dr. Rivett and Mr. Rogers, have been sent overseas to report on the process, and on their return they have reported in accordance with the desires of the major oil companies. I have asked the Government to send men who are not theorists, but who have a practical knowledge of the subject, men who have had experience of retorting and refining, and who have, in addition, a practical knowledge of coal mining. We should send men who would not be likely to be bought by the filthy lucre of the oil companies. I challenge the Government to show that shale oil can be produced more economically than coal oil. If it can, why have Great Britain, Germany, Italy, France, Czechoslovakia, Austria and Japan invested millions of pounds in enterprises for the production of oil from coal? Although shale oil has been produced in Great Britain for the last 80 years, many millions of pounds have been expended recently on plant for the- extraction of oil from coal. In 1935, its coal oil production was 95,000,000 gallons, whilst its shale oil production was only 30,200,000 gallons. The production of motor spirit from shale is 4,300,000 gallons less than it was in “1934. The only reason that can be offered for this reduction is the establishment of the works at Billingham-on-Tees for the production of oil from coal by the hydrogenation process, which is found to be more economical than production from shale. I refer the House to the following statement p* page 17 in the fifteenth an nual report of the Secretary for Mines in. Great Britain, for the year ended the 31st December, 1935 -
Statistics of the production of light oils from indigenous materials have been - collected for 1935 under the provisions of the British Hydrocarbon Oils Production Act, 1934. The total production of refined light oils, coming within the statutory definition, obtained’ by hydrogenation and at gas-works, coke ovens, tar distilleries and low-temperature carbonization works, from coal, coal tar and tar oils, amounted to 79 million gallons. . . .
The Scottish shale oil industry produced some lOi million gallons of motor spirit (including naphtha), as compared with 14i million gallons in 1934.
I desire to know why the Government has not offered terms similar to those in the agreement under consideration to companies that desire to produce oil from coal. I have in mind particularly the Newcastle Coal Oil aud Petrol Company which is registered at Canberra.
Representative deputations from the northern coal fields and from Lithgow have waited upon the Minister in charge of Development (Senator A. J. McLachlan) and upon the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page), claiming that there is room for the application of both processes, but now the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) has withdrawn from the stand which he took in introducing this joint deputation from Newcastle and Lithgow with regard to this matter. When the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Dunstan, recently visited Europe, he formed the opinion that Germany, in the near future, would be independent of importations of well oil. The Premier of New South Wales has made a similar statement. According to the Sydney Sun of the 27th August last, Mr. Pike, the Agent-General for Queensland has expressed the following views : -
SELF-SUFFICIENCY Expected. From Our Special Representative.
London, Thursday. Germany will soon be independent of foreign oil supplies, the Agent-General for Queensland (Mr. Pike) declared to-day.
Mr. Pike, who has just returned from a month’s tour in Germany, said to The Sun: “I was much impressed by Germany’s progress towards self-sufficiency in oil. It is anticipated that in a year or two German plants will be producing 2,000,000 tons annually from coal, brown coal; and coke. “
Mr. Pike visited the Fischer plant in tlie Ruhr, which is carrying out tests with Queeusland coal.
Final judgment has been delayed owing to recent improvements in the treatment process.
Mr. Pike will shortly submit a report to the Premier of Queensland. He understands that the Victorian coal is to be tested also.
The Germans claim that production is now on an economic basis.
I desire to remind honorable members that oil can be produced from coal more economically than from shale, and that the many by-products of coal . can be turned to commercial uses. The coke obtained when the low temperature carbonization process is used can be used by steel works, and when burnt as household fuel it reduces the smoke nuisance. This coke sells in Great Britain at 55s. a ton, after the oil has beenextracted from the coal. Having spent the best part of a life-time on the coal-fields of New South Wales, I have no hesitation in claiming that coal can be mined two and a half times more cheaply than shale. The coal mines are already developed, towns, railways and all the necessary facilities being already at hand, but the shale-fields still have to be developed. There is merely a 2-ft. seam of shale in the particular area to which this agreement is to apply. The employment of men, horses and trucks underground would impose a heavy overhead charge for brushing the hard strata to enable the shale to be mined. Thus there is an overhead charge in connexion with the working of shale which does not apply to coal, the seams of which range in thickness or height from six feet to 30 feet. Then, again, the deposits of shale are restricted to certain areas, and the supplies would be exhausted in a comparatively short time. If this company is interested in oil, why does it confine itself to Macquarie? The shale deposits at Baerami are six feet in thickness, and it would not be necessary to brush the roof as at Newnes. Shale landed on the pit top costs approximately 12s. a ton, whereas coal can be mined at from 5s. 6d. to 6s. a ton. Therefore, shale would need to have twice the oil content of coal to enable it to be worked as economically as coal. An analytical test of Newnes shale, which is supposed to have the richest oil content, shows 100 gallons to the ton, whereas, according to the latest report available, coal treated by the hydrogenation process yields 75 gallons to the ton, and many valuable by-products as well. Oil can also be extracted by the low temperature process. But oil cannot be extracted from shale as economically as it can be from coal. I concede that there is room for the production of oil from both shale and coal, but the encouragement of the production of oil from shale alone is not justified, particularly if at the same time this means neglecting the development of bur vast coal-fields. To-day, in New South Wales alone, 10,000 coal miners are unemployed, despite the fact that at the last elections this Government definitely promised that it would take steps to set up a plant for the extraction of oil from coal. It has failed to redeem that promise. I am pleading with the Minister to extend the same terms embodied in the agreement now before the House to the production of oil from coal, because it is only’ right and fair that similar encouragement should be given to the latter method. Briefly summarized, this agreement will create a monopoly for a period of 20 years during which successive Commonwealth Governments will he hound to pay to this particular company a bounty should the excise duty on petrol fall below the rate of excise prevailing at the date of the signing of the agreement. We have had experience in the past of many kinds of monopolies and we have protested against them even when the companies enjoying the monopolies have provided their own capital. How much more are we justified, therefore, in protesting against this agreement? Its advantages will not be extended to other companies which have been endeavouring for some time now to produce oil in the interests of this country. This extraordinary agreement provides that out of a total capital of £666,657, the company concerned, the National Oil Proprietary Limited, will subscribe a sum of only £166,657, whilst the Federal. Government will subscribe £334,000, and the Government of New South Wales £166,000. I have never been interested ‘ in any company, but I think I would be very easily persuaded to take shares in any company which could get governments to supply £500,000 of a total capital of £666,657. Furthermore, neither of the two governments is to have any say in the control or policy of this company, although another provision in the agreement is that the Commonwealth will be bound, in a period of 20 years, to buy 10,000,000 gallons of oil from it. Let us analyse that phase of the agreement. It means that this Government and the Government of New South “Wales guarantees to take oil from this company in preference to any other company. I point out that already a company in the northern districts of New South Wales, Messrs. Lyon Brothers, has been producing oil from coal. Why has not this Government meted out to that company the treatment proposed to be extended to this one? Messrs. Lyon Brothers have been engaged in research in this field for many years, and have accomplished a great deal. In respect of this agreement, I can only say that one of two things is apparent - either this Government is held in the maw of the major oil companies and is frightened to encourage a serious competitor to the flow oil importers, or, it is indulging in rotten, dirty politics with a view to retaining the doubtful seat of Macquarie. On every occasion on which I have spoken on this matter in this House, I have pleaded that the people whom I represent are as much entitled to equal consideration at the hands of this Government as any other section of the community. They are Australian citizens; they have paid, when they have been able, 20s. in the £1 for everything they have got; and in the defence of this country they have never been found wanting. Yet to-day, when they are in the shadow of travail, owing to circumstances over which they have no control whatever, and this Government has an opportunity to redeem the promise it made to them that it would rehabilitate the great coal industry by encouraging the extraction of oil from coal along the lines followed by Great Britain, this Government fails to come to their aid. The Prime Minister said definitely that in this matter his Government would follow in the footsteps of Great Britain.
The Minister for Defence, who recently visited England, must be aware that 21 squadrons of the British Air Force are flying on petrol directly extracted from coal, and that the British Navy is using crude oil extracted from coal. If the Minister is sincerely interested in the defence of this country, why has he not decided to follow in the footsteps of Great Britain, as the Prime Minister stated this Government would do? Here is an opportunity for the Government to redeem that promise. Apart from the operations of Messrs Lyon Brothers in- northern New South Wales, I point out that shale-oil deposits exist at Latrobe, in Tasmania, where a company has commenced operations retorting oil from shale. Why has not this Government given consideration to that company? Why does it not assist in the setting up of a plant at Baerami, where there is a greater field of shale than at Newnes. In view of these facts, it cannot be denied that this Government is helping this venture at Newnes solely with the object of holding the Macquarie seat. I pointed out at the beginning of my speech, that the Minister went out of his way to pay a tribute to the honorable member for Macquarie. (Mr. John Lawson) for the part he was said to have played in the initiating of this undertaking.
– It would have been more justly applied to the ex-member for Macquarie, Mr. Chifley, because it was that gentleman who was instrumental in persuading the Scullin Government to provide a sum of £100,000 for the development of that field. That Government was the first to show any interest in those deposits. Why does not this Government do something to redeem its election promises that it would do all in its power to make this country selfreliant and independent. I have proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that shaleoil production is hopelessly impracticable as compared with the production of oil from coal. That fact has been demonstrated in Great Britain. When the posi-tion is summed up as a whole, we find that, in 1935 in Great Britain, 95,000,000 gallons of oil were produced from coal, compared with a total production of 30,200,0.00 gallons from shale. Is it not tragic that this Government intends to encourage this obsolete industry in preference to the more economic and modern industry of producing oil from coal? I do not say that we should scotch the production of oil from shale, but I contend that there is room for both processes.
– Hear, hear!
– Well, then, why does not the Minister go ahead with the production of oil from coal?
– It will be time enough to consider the production of oil from coal when the hydrogenation process has been proved to be economical and practicable.
– That fact has already been proved beyond doubt. I Bay, without hesitation, that wrong information has been given to this House in respect of the cost of plant needed in the hydrogenation process. The Prime Minister stated that it would cost between £8,000,000 and £9,000,000 to establish a hydrogenation plant, whereas the estimate given by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) in his report on his investigations abroad, was £5,000,000, and the Minister for Mines in Great Britain, Captain Cruikshank, declared that the cost of the plant at Billingham-on-Tees was £3,500,000. We know that the other plants combined are producing more oil than even the hydrogenation plant. The low temperature carbonization plant costs approximately £300,000, and treats 1,000 tons of coal a day. The Prime Minister has told us that the plant at Billingham would cost from £8,000,000 to £9,000,000, and treat only 1,000 tons a day. On the other hand, Captain Cruikshank and the honorable member for Parramatta have said that it treats 2,000 tons a day. Whom are we to believe? I would rather believe the Secretary for Mines, . a responsible Minister in the House of Commons, who made the statements I have quoted. If this Government desires to rehabilitate the coal-mining industry, and also wishes to make Australia self-reliant, why has it not followed Great Britain in the setting up of a co-ordination committee? In Great Britain such a committee has done a great deal to increase the output of coal by mechanical cleaning, pooling, selling, price fixing, and encouraging tho use of smokeless and pulverized fuel, gas, electricity, &c. This can be done very economically. Coal is transported from my electorate for a distance of 130 miles to the Sydney metropolitan area. It is also sent to Victoria, where it is purchased because of its gas content. Why could not plants for the generation of electricity and gas be built where the coal is raised, and the electricity and gas be sent overland by cables and pipes to the metropolitan area as is done in the United States of America? The whole of the eastern coast of Australia could be electrified by the use of the coal deposits in Victoria, the southern and northern districts of New South Wales, and Queensland. . If the Government wanted to do something that would make this country worth while, it would provide cheap fuel and light. The farmer need pay no more than those who live in the thickly-populated areas. A lot could be done to encourage the greater use of this mineral , apart- from having plants at the pit-head for the generation of gas and electricity, plants could be installed for the distillation of oil. There is nothing experimental in the existing processes; therefore, why should we not follow the lead given in other parts of the world? I hope that in committee, the Government will allow the bill to be amended, to make provision for similar conditions t.o be given to other companies as are being given to this company. Who is this, man Davis? la he the Davis to whom the Government gave preferential treatment in connexion with the disposal of Cockatoo Dock?
– He received no preferential treatment.
– Is he merely holding down this company in the interests of some one else ?
– No ; he is one of the most public-spirited citizens in Australia.
– A very searching inquiry into this matter is warranted^ There are men who have “ rammed “ very hard for Newnes. A responsible officer of the Government in Sir Herbert
Gepp, and a responsible Minister in another place, have been continuously “ramming” for this project, at the expense of the production of oil from coal. They have argued against the opinions of others who have forgotten more than they themselves are ever likely to learn.
Because we are public spirited, and want to see .something done to make this country self-contained in regard to supplies of oil, on account of the grave dangers of war that are approaching, and may overtake us at any time. We are not prepared to oppose this onesided agreement; but we plead for encouragement to be given . to other companies to produce oil from coal, so that this country may be made self-reliant and independent of imported fuel. When the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) returned to Australia from a visit to England, he said that the patent rights of the hydrogenation process were held by the major oil companies. It is a most remarkable thing, that Lord McGowan, who is interested in these major oil companies, should have been chosen by the Government to come to Australia to report- upon the commercial .possibilities of the extraction of oil from coal. Could we reasonably expect him to report favorably on it in view of his oil interests here? If Great Britain were as interested in the dominions as the dominions - according to those who have .recently visited that country - are interested in Great Britain, there would be a demand for the release of these rights in Australia, so that these plants could be set up, and this far outpost of the Empire could be protected in time of war. If we are to be dependent upon overseas supplies of oil, and there should be a war in the Pacific, the oil tankers would have to run the gauntlet of attacks by submarines over many thousands of miles of ocean. They would always be in danger of being torpedoed. Of what use would be our seaplanes and our oil-burning war vessels, if oil supplies were cut off? For the last nine years I have been advocating in this House the production of oil from coal, but have failed to secure the acceptance of my view by the Government. I honestly and sincerely believe that what I hav« said is absolutely true, and that this Government cannot move because it is held tight in the grip of the major oil companies, which contribute towards its party funds.
.- -I am far from persuaded that this Parliament would act wisely if it endorsed this agreement at the present time. Some few years ago, as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, I had the opportunity to examine this matter very closely. That committee made a report upon it. We ascertained that there were large quantities of shale oil to be obtained from the Newnes deposits, but we came to the conclusion that its extraction would be of no advantage to the Commonwealth and that it would in no sense reduce the price of petrol to the people of Australia. Although we regarded it as a great national asset, we recommended to the Parliament of the day that a nucleus unit should be established so that it might be in readiness as a great national reserve in case of emergency. To exploit it now would be to remove that great national reserve and asset. That is the view which we took then, and which I take now. I am not opposed to any desire to exploit it, if it can be shown that that would be of advantage to the people of Australia. Because of the heavy duties on petrol, we are paying to-day for fuel twice the amount that is being paid in any other country in the world. That is a tremendous impost on transport. I understand that petrol can be purchased in the United States of America at the price of about 6d. a gallon. The Public Accounts Committee learned, after the closest inquiry, that the supplies of flow oil in the world are not inexhaustible, and that the fuel can always be sold at a cheaper rate than would have to be charged for oil that had to be extracted from shale. Seeing that the Government stands to lose most in the matter, having gone so far it might as well go “ the whole hog “. I believe that it could set up the unit recommended by the Public Accounts Committee, but make no attempt to supply Australia at the present moment. In case of emergency, such a unit could be increased to meet our requirements. I have not changed my views since the matter was examined by the Public Accounts Committee. Unless the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) can show that Australia is in any immediate danger of being cut off from petrol supplies I can see no reason for adopting a different stand. If the statement made by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) - that there is only a 2-foot seam or lode at
Newnes - is correct–
– That is not correct; the width is 4 feet 8 inches.
– I could not imagine its being as narrow as 2 feet. But even a 4-ft. 8-in. seam is not very wide. The expert opinion placed before the Public Accounts Committee went to show that there were almost unlimited supplies at Newnes. But it was not on that account that the recommendation was made that the Government should exercise caution in the matter.. The advice that we received was, that it was advisable to set up a unit but not to attempt to make anything like a contribution to the supplies of petrol in Australia. The idea was that the shale deposits should be kept as a national asset, to be worked in case of emergency.
.- This is a bill for the ratification of an agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia, the State of New South Wales, and the National Oil Proprietary Limited, to exploit the shale deposits of Newnes and to provide for the extraction of oil and petrol from shale. Two major considerations present themselves in relation to it. We should ask, first, whether we stand for State ownership or private ownership of such an -industry, and, secondly, whether the terms of this agreement have been sufficiently carefully drafted. These points should be continually borne in mind, apart altogether from any party political advantage the Government might be seeking by the introduction of this measure at this time. Honorable members of all parties of the House are agreed as to the necessity to produce oil in Australia. Commonwealth and State governments have, from time to time, interested themselves in projects for the discovery of flow oil here. The latest effort of this kind is the pro vision of £250,000 by the Commonwealth Government for prospecting purposes. I do not think any honorable member willquestion the assertion that it is the duty of every government in the Commonwealth to co-operate and to try to make Australia self-supporting in oil supplies.
During the last 150 years tremendous developments have occurred in the mechanization of industry. The windmill and the watermill, which introduced the era of mechanization, have long since fallen into the limbo of forgotten things’. Then we had the steam era in industry. Steam produced by coal held sway for many years. During that period the private ownership of the coal deposits of Australia enabled the coal barons practically to hold our various industries to ransom. The Coal Vend could demand any price it cared to ask for coal, and it held the whole of our mobile industries in its grip. But the era of steam is passing away._ Electricity, together with oil and petrol as driving units, have economized in coal consumption to such an extent that our coal industry has been dealt a staggering blow. It will be generally admitted that oil and petrol are fundamental to our mobile units for both industrial and defence purposes; yet we face the tragic spectacle that the oil and petrol supplies of Australia are in the hands of foreign and overseas interests. Our industries, and also the mobile units of our defence forces, would be in a hopeless position if supplies of petrol from overseas were held up either by design on the part of the oil combines, or by war, or by the blockade of our ports. This is of tremendous importance to the Commonwealth. We must, if possible, provide for our own needs of oil and petrol.
It is of paramount importance first that we should discover some way to produce adequate supplies of oil in Australia, and, secondly, that we should adopt some effective means to protect the users from exploitation in regard to these commodities. We can only achieve those ends by retaining in the hands of our governments complete control of all actual and potential oil supplies. I have no doubt that I shall be met by the argument that government enterprise is never profitable. Those who advocate the ratification of this agreement will use that argument. They will assert that only private enterprise can mate a success of this industry. But if such honorable gentlemen will take the trouble to analyse the agreement we are now asked to ratify, they will find that, even accepting government enterprise on their own basis, they “ will be committing the country to heavy expense through the pampering of private enterprise in this industry. Even supposing government enterprise is not profitable - and I disagree with that view - it would be better to develop this industry by government enterprise than by the methods suggested in this bill. I can visualize that if this agreement becomes effective the Commonwealth and State Governments will be likely to lose colossal sums of money in the event of the failure of the scheme ; yet if it succeeds the governments will not reap any financial advantage.
The Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill), in introducing this bill made great play with the fact that this company has to be organized and controlled entirely by British subjects. The agreement provides that no foreigner may be a director or a principal officer of the company, and that no share may be held by or in trust for any foreigner or any corporation under foreign control. I ask whether human ingenuity can draft any agreement which will prevent the dummying of shares in such an enterprise as this, or guarantee the identity and nationality of those who hold the shares. It will not be denied that even most patriotic and loyal subjects of the King may hold all the shares in this enterprise without venturing a single penny of their own money, in it. So means have yet been discovered to ensure that the shares in this or any other company shall not come under foreign con-‘ trol
– No one will want to dummy shares unless it is worth while to do so.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), has raised an interesting point. I remind the honorable gentleman that it would pay any of the oil combines handsomely to put three times as much money into this venture as is provided for in this agreement and yet contemplate with entire equanimity its complete failure. Those combines would not care whether it was a financial success or not. I assert without fear of contradiction that it would pay those interested in the oil combines to risk huge amounts of capital to ensure the failure of this enterprise. The oil combines control the motive industries of Australia to-day. If this Government were sincere in its desire to obtain all its oil -and petrol requirements from shale or coal it would keep the industry in its own hands.
– How would the honorable member overcome the difficulty to which he has referred?
– That is a question for the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) to wrestle with, for he is a supporter of the bill. He will be telling the people of Newnes, just as the Minister has told the honorable members of this House, that there will be no foreign control of this company, and that no share in it may be held by or in trust for any foreigner. But how does he propose to guarantee that that will be the case ? As a supporter of the bill he should be able to answer that question. I, of course, am criticizing the measure. I submit that the only certain way to keep out foreign capital and foreign control is for the Government to retain control of the enterprise. The honorable member will suggest that pure merino British capital will be invested in this enterprise; but is he not aware that pure merino British capital is invested in at least one of the oil combines? Is there any particular virtue in being exploited by British capitalists in preference to foreign capitalists? To people who are being exploited by the oil combines it matters as little whether they are exploited by British investors or foreign investors, as it matters to a chicken which is to be killed whether it is to be boiled or baked. The result is the same either way. In the one case the chicken loses its life; in the other the people are exploited regardless of whether the capital invested is British or foreign. The consumers of oil and petrol should he protected.
Sir John Cadman, chairman of the Anglo Persian and Iraq oil combines, visited Newnes for a few hours not long ago. He is a British subject - a perfectly sound British subject. He would be eligible to hold any or all of the shares in this enterprise. He made a report on the prospects of success of Newnes. But we all know that if any proposition at Newnes were to become a great success that gentleman’s oil interests would suffer. It would pay him therefore to stifle this industry. But even if he did not care to take that course he could take certain other action which would prevent, any reduction of tho price of petrol or of the petrol tax in Australia for the next 20 years.
What are our resources in Australia? We have, as I have shown, spent huge sums of money in searching for flow oil. It has been freely stated by individuals not entirely irresponsible that flow oil has not been discovered here because the major oil companies do not wish it to be discovered. We have our coal deposits, the richest in the world, to which reference has already been made by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr.James), we have man-power,- 10,000 men, standing idly on those coal fields, and we have shale deposits. I do not intend to discuss the merits of oil from coal or oil from shale; I know nothing and am not concerned about that, but all the information that we have shows that the possibility of extracting petrol from shale must exist. For instance, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) said that the shale oil industry in Scotland was established in 1851 and for a long time had been a source of fuel supplies for’ the United Kingdom. I put it to the House if this enterprise in Scotland has been operating for 86 years there must be a profit in it. That fact shows clearly that shale deposits can be profitably exploited for the production of oil. When we know that a company had operated with all the primitive machinery during the last 86 years of development at a profit it makes one wonder why all the concessions to this Newnes company are being provided in this agreement. The Minister for Defence also assures us that production of shale oil in Scot land is increasing. Then he said that other countries like Japan are processing shale far inferior to ours. According to the Minister, Manchukuo shale yields less than 15 gallons to the ton compared with the yield at Newnes of 100 gallons to the ton. The Minister tells us of the great virtue of Newnes shale from which’ can be produced nearly ten times as much oil as can be produced from the shale which is being exploited by Japan. When we consider what the Minister has told us about this flourishing industry in Scotland and what he has said about the enormous advantage the Newnes deposits have over the deposits in Manchukuo we wonder why all these concessions are being provided in this agreement. The Newnes investigation committee of 1934, which consisted of Mr. R. W. Nelson, accountant, chairman; J. H. Butters, Herbert Gepp, A. J. Gibson representing the Commonwealth; and V. J. F. Brain, E. J. Kenny and M. Morrison representing the Government of New South Wales, reported that petrol could be produced from Newnes shale at 11?d. a gallon free on rail and that fuel oil could be produced at ?2 13s. 6d. a ton. Again we wonder why all these concessions are being given to this company. The Minister for Mines in New South Wales (Mr. Vincent) said -
Investigation has shown that petrol can be produced for ls. a gallon at Newnes.
This could be done with a plant which is practically out-of-date. Mr. Vincent was the gentleman who put this agreement before the New South Wales Parliament. Mr. Vincent also made some astounding references to this new company. He said that the company had been registered. The membership was restricted to 50. What a nice little company ! Mr. Vincent also said that he understood that the shares were not going to be listed on the stock exchange. Not only are foreigners to be barred but also private investors are not invited into this nice little magic circle. Mr. Vincent further stated that he did not know whether any money had been subscribed. The Parliament of New South Wales has already ratified this agreement and this Parliament is occupied in doing so; yet the Minister for Mines in New South
Wales was unable to say if a penny of capital had been subscribed. The Mini.3ter for Defence did not enlarge on the lack of knowledge on the part of Mr. Vincent; he was equally silent on this question. It would seem from a reading Of the agreement that all parties concerned in the agreement had some knowledge that there was not going to be complete subscription of capital because paragraph 3 of the schedule provides that the company has to provide for a capital of £166,000 in £1 shares and after 5s. on each share has been subscribed, that is after £4.0,000 has been subscribed, the State of New South Wales will have to provide £1 and the Commonwealth £2 for every subsequent £1 subscribed by shareholders. Therefore, after one quarter of the capital has been raised from the shareholders, the Commonwealth and New South’ Wales take a three to one risk in all further financial transactions. The Commonwealth and the States have to find between them £3 for every £1 that the shareholders find after £40,000 has been subscribed!
– On what basis?
– I shall deal with that.
– It is a loan upon which interest must be paid.
– I agree with that. The conditions are that this money has to be repaid within 20 years. By way of interjection during the Minister’s second reading speech the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked what would happen in the event of failure. The Minister replied then that he would deal with that later. I have searched the Minister’s speech from end to end and he did not refer to that matter.
– The honorable member should look at it again.
– I have the Minister’s speech before me, and in it the honorable gentleman made no reference whatever to the question raised by the honorable member for Barker. Captain Dunn, a member of the New South Wales
Legislative Assembly, asked the same question, and Mr. Vincent, Minister for Mines, said -
The best answer to that is for the honorable member to look at Newnes to-day. He will realize how valueless it is unless the machinery can be used. It will become scrap-iron.
The Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Stevens, dealing with the same point, said -
Let us suppose the Government lost £166,000. What will it receive by way of return? It will have some claim against the assets if they are worth anything. “ If they are worth anything !” The Commonwealth Government is to put £332,000 and the State government £166,000 into this proposition, and if it fails they will have a claim against the assets if there is anything worth having. All that is there at present is the plant which is to be handed over to this company practically free of charge, so all that the Commonwealth Government and the State Government will get back in the event of failure of this proposition out of the £500,000 that they are to subscribe, is the obsolescent machinery that they already own and any improvements that may be made in the meantime. I now tell the honorable member for Barker that that is the reason why the Minister for Defence evaded answering his question. That is why the Minister for Mines in New South Wales and the Premier of New South Wales were unable satisfactorily to answer a similar question. I now ask : Is it satisfactory that the Commonwealth Government, which lends the company £332,000 and the State Government, which lends £166,000 for 20 years, should be in that position? Under this arrangement the company will carry only one-quarter of the financial risk once £40,000 has been subscribed by its shareholders. For 27 years the company will be protected against foreign imports up to the production of 10,000,000 gallons of petrol, and the extent of that protection will be the customs, excise and primage at present operating. This will mean a loss of revenue to the Commonwealth of £290,000 a year, which will be equivalent to a bounty to the company of that amount every year for 27 years. Furthermore, if a reduction of customs, excise or primage comes about on foreign supplies, then this company is to be compensated to an equivalent amount on the production of 10,000,000 gallons a year. If overseas supplies become cheaper, I want to know what will happen? It is obvious that if the Government undertakes to compensate the company in the event of a reduction of duties on overseas petrol, it will be also expected to compensate it in the event of a reduction of the price of overseas supplies.
– Why does not the honorable member quote the whole of what the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Stevens, said, instead of one sentence?
– If the Minister thinks I am going to repeat the speechdelivered by Mr. Stevens in the NewSouth Wales Parliament, he is mistaken. That, honorable gentleman knew as little about the subject as does the Minister for Defence. I am not here to waste my time. Another aspect of this question is the fact that the agreement makes no provision for the relief to users of petrol if the cost of production of shale oil in this country cheapens. That is to say, if improved mechanization of this industry results in a cheapening of costs, there will be no cheapening of supplies to the people. Therefore, on the one hand the company will rake off compensation if taxation is varied or the price of overseas oil is reduced, and, on the other hand, it will rake off profits if it can, in the future, produce oil more cheaply than is possible to-day: The Government shares the risk, but the public cannot possibly benefit. Another remarkable thing is that if flow oil is discovered in Australia during the next 22 years, and this discovery brings about a reduction of the price of oil, the Government undertakes to compensate the company. Already £250,000 has been spent in the search for flow oil, and it is possible that millions of pounds more will be spent for the same purpose. If, however, the search proves successful, the public will 110 t benefit, because the Government is committed to compensate this company to the extent of any reduction of price that may occur. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) said that this was as bad as playing two-up. It is, as a matter of fact, as bad as playing two-up with a double-headed penny. For 27 years the Government will suffer loss of revenue. If flow oil is discovered, the Government will not only suffer loss of revenue, but also have to increase its expenditure by the payment of subsidies. If the Government reduces the petrol tax, and thereby reduces the cost to the users of overseas petrol, it must compensate the company to an equivalent amount up to 10,000,000 gallons production. A government with an eye to its budgetary position will, therefore, have every inducement to maintain existing prices of oil from petrol, and the present level of taxation. This is part of the price which the users of petrol and the community at large must pay for the bolstering up of private enterprise in a key industry, over which the Government will not exercise an atom of control. In addition, we find that all new plant required by the company will be admitted free of duty; for 25 years preference in the matter of supplies of oil and ‘ petrol will be given by Federal and State depart- ments; a 3S-year lease of 55,000 acres of Crown land is to be granted for £1 a year, with the exclusive right to mine the area; special taxation concessions will be given; up to 10,000,000 gallons production a year will be exempt from the payment of royalties to the State; and a 20 per cent, cut in railway freights is to be granted for 22 years. All these concessions are to be made to bolster private enterprise and private speculation. No control is to be exercised by the Government in the public interest, and there is no prospect of relief in the way of reduction of taxation or lower petrol prices.
Let us now consider what employment the new enterprise is likely to provide. It is stipulated that the company shall have the complete works in operation by the 1st January, 1940. There is a provision for the exaction of a penalty of £16,000 in tlie event of failure to do this, but it would be possible to drive a horse and cart through the gaps in this provision, and it would be easy for the company to evade the obligation. The
Minister for Defence said that the undertaking, when in operation, would provide direct employment for from 600 to 700 persons, and indirect employment for 2,000. The Minister, we know, is prone to exaggeration. The Newnes Investigation Committee, at page 60 of its report, states that, for the investment of the same amount of capital, employment would be provided for 350 persons directly, and probably another 350 indirectly. With this estimate the Minister for Mines in the New South Wales Government agrees. What will the honorable member for Macquarie tell his electors regarding this question of employment? Will he cite the figures of the Minister for Defence, or those of the Newnes Investigation Committee ? It appears that, in order to provide work for -350 men, the Commonwealth is committed to making a loan of £330,000, taking all the risk of nonrepayment, and to the- sacrifice of taxation amounting to, £295,000 a year. It is prepared to make this sacrifice in order to place in the hands of private enterprise exclusive power to control and operate a process for the extraction of oil from shale in the Newnes Valley in New South Wales. What did the Newnes Investigation Committee recommend regarding this industry? It recommended the appointment of a board to control, representing the Commonwealth, the State, and the shareholders, in the proportion of one Commonwealth representative, one State representative, and two representatives of the shareholders. . The chairman was to be nominated by the State and the Commonwealth, and control of the enterprise would thus be retained for the people.
Those who say that private enterprise should be given control over these shale deposits, and justify their contention on the ground that government control would be unprofitable, should investigate what the agreement is likely to cost the Commonwealth in revenue and in subsidies. They must make up their minds whether they are prepared to allow a private company to control this important source of oil fuel in the same way that the coal barons controlled the nation’s coal resources when coal constituted the most important source of fuel in the country.
I do not believe that there is one honorable member in this House who is not impressed with the necessity for making Australia more self-contained in the matter of fuel oil supplies, but in the interests of safety and of the public welfare, the Government should not risk the people’s money in an enterprise over which it will have no vestige of control.
.- I was very nearly prevented from offering any criticism of this agreement at all when I listened to the nauseating and vituperative display of party and district jealousy which fell from the lips of one honorable member on the other side of the House. I do not refer to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). I differ from him regarding government control of industry, but I do not take exception to the tone of his speech or the manner in which he handled his matter and arguments. There are certain features connected with the manner in which this agreement has been reached and presented to the House which should not be passed over without a word of protest. With the objectives of the proposal, I, like the honorable member for Dalley, find myself in sentimental agreement. We undoubtedly need very urgently some source of oil supply inside Australia. We have a very small one at present in the firm which is producing from coal the motor spirit known as benzol, a very fine spirit indeed. Incidentally, no better illustration of the failure of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) to take a broad view of this question could be afforded than the fact that he never mentioned that millions of gallons of motor spirit were being distilled from coal in his own district. The total production of this firm amounts to only about 2 per cent, of Australia’s requirements, but it does represent a nucleus. Apart from the importance of opening up a new supply of oil fuel in Australia, we are all glad that it is possible to establish a new enterprise in a distressed area. We _ are glad that a provision to make good a serious military need in the Commonwealth can be combined with the bringing of a new industry to an area which has been having a bad time ever since the beginning of the depression, paT- ticularly when this is an inland industrial area. However, whether oil fuel is distilled or produced by hydrogenation from the brown coal of Victoria, the black coal of the north coast, or the shale deposits of the Blue Mountains, it is certainly not an economic proposition. But it may be of such overwhelming strategic importance that, whatever the cost, we should be_ justified in meeting it in order to attain’ the necessary reserve supply of say, 15 to 20 per cent, of our ordinary peacetime requirements. “We should certainly never try to attain complete selfsufficiency by these means. On the showing of the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill), the industry will provide work for not more than 600 or 700 men, while the annual Government subsidy in the form of reduced excise duties, &c, will be sufficient to pay £400 a year to every one of those workmen. No one can call that economic, though it may ‘ be strategically necessary. Parliament should give this proposal very close scrutiny before agreement to it, and we should be assisted by a review of the matter by a semi-judicial, technical authority. So far as I know, no report reviewing the agreement has been submitted to this Parliament by an outside, independent body with technical qualifications and semi-judicial status.
The agreement is remarkable from two points of view. First, it provides for a contribution of a large sum of public money in the form of debenture capital. The agreement should be scrutinized carefully to see that that capital is not unduly jeopardized, and that the chances of the enterprise proving of strategic value, and leading to the opening up of other fields, warrant the hazarding of £3 of public money to every £1 of privatelysubscribed capital. The second point that should be scrutinized is whether this large subsidy in the form of a remission of excise and the equivalent of £8 a week for each man who would probably be employed is not excessive, and whether the subsidy will not lead to the undue making of profit at the public expense. I agree that the company is providing a large sum of its own money, and that indicates that the prospects of the enterprise have been carefully examined by men of business acumen and integrity, who consider that they are justified in putting up this capital. This fact goes a long way towards reassuring me that the subscription of debenture capital by the Government is justified. I differ from the honorable member for Dalley as to the desirability of the Government taking charge of the enterprise. We recall that under government control Cockatoo Dock resulted in a heavy loss, with regard to both capital outlay and working expenses, whereas it proved a profitable undertaking when it was leased to a private company, some of the members of which are identical with the individuals who are entering into the present agreement. Many instances could be given of the failure of State enterprises.
The amount of the subsidy is enormous, compared with the wages to be paid. Concessions are to . be given by the New South Wales Government with regard to railway freights. There is a safeguard to the company in the form of an allowance for depreciation of plant. Whether these and other provisions are justifiable or not, they are clearly the kinds of concessions which should be considered by some semi-judicial, expert authority, before the Parliament is called upon to accept or reject the agreement. Even in this regard there are some real safeguards. The subsidy is limited to a maximum production of 10,000,000 gallons a year, and that is a small percentage of our petrol and oil requirements. It is not more than 3 per cent, or 4 per cent, of our present peacetime needs; therefore the company cannot be said to have anything approaching a monopoly. If it made a handsome profit on the petrol produced by it, before production is extended the subsidy could be reviewed. Another point is that the distribution of profits must not exceed a reasonable percentage until the debentures have been repaid in full. These safeguards go a good way towards mitigating my criticism of the manner in which the agreement has been brought before the House. The members of the company are gentlemen of high standing as employers, and they are noted for straight dealing, but that alone doe3 not excuse a departure from the proper method of conducting these negotiations and obtaining the consent of the Parliament to the agreement. In spite of my opposition, I hope that the profit will be so large that it will be possible greatly to extend this industry. When that time comes the Parliament should have fuller information than at present, and be able to decide what is a fair rate of subsidy. Many persons have been ruined in attempting to develop this industry, and that, in itself, is one reason why we should be careful in investing public money in it, even in the form of debentures. If the industry can be successfully developed, it will become a national asset. Yet, I must enter some protest against .the form in which the agreement has been placed before us.
.- We commend the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) for his enthusiastic support of the coal-fields, even though he may he misguided in his advocacy of the distillation of oil from coal. We have had numerous reports from different sources with regard to the economic aspect of the proposal, and practically every report which has been made public has shown that it is uneconomic. The honorable member said that the proposed distillation from Newnes shale is also uneconomic. I am not prepared to deny that, but we have to face the fact that when a man insures his house and pays a premium every year, he does not do so in the hope that it will be burnt down. If he keeps up the premiums for 20 or 30 years, he is quite satisfied to have lost that money, having regard to the protection he has enjoyed. To-day the Government has to take the possible risk of either losing the money it puts into this venture or having its petrol supplies cut off in time of war. Therefore, the Government is justified in risking the amount to be expended, which will be actually a loan for the protection that will be given.
The circumstances of this industry are unusual. The existence of shale deposits at Newnes has been known for years, but the cost of distillation has prevented the development of the field. Had the capital been forthcoming, there was always the apprehension that the major oil companies might reduce their prices, and thus smash the industry, thereby ruining the investors. The guarantee given by the Government that it will purchase a certain quantity of the petrol for a given number of years will protect its interests and enable the industry to be established. Government assistance having been guaranteed, we now have a company which is prepared to” embark upon the production of oil from shale. An example of its business capacity is supplied by the wonderful agreement placed before us; it is in the interests of the company from start to finish. The only protection to the users of petrol is the competition of the major oil companies. If world oil supplies fall off, and higher prices prevail, there will be nothing to prevent this company from raising its prices and taking unfair profits; but if the protection or excise is reduced, a subsidy is to be paid. Here is a definite weakness, considering that so much of the people’s money is to be invested in the company. The measure of protection to be granted is based on present prices. A provision should have been made to protect the public against an undue increase of the price. In my opinion, the distillation of oil from either shale or coal is uneconomic. One of the latest reports by Dr. Hermann, engineer of the State Electricity Commission in Victoria, states that £11,000,000 of capital would be required for the establishment of a hydrogenation plant for the extraction of oil from coal, and a national subsidy to the industry would be essential. The cost would be ls. 3d. a gallon as against 6d. a gallon in the United States of America. That would be absolutely absurd if continuous peace were assured.
Whatever exemption is granted by the Government with regard to tariff rates and excise duties on locally produced petrol, we must recognize that the budgetary balance will be affected to that extent. Imports will be reduced by the quantity produced at Newnes. If, as pointed out by the honorable member for Hunter, this concession would represent about £250,000 a year on even 10,000,000 gallons, it would require additional taxation to the extent of £250,000 a year to maintain the budgetary position. That is another point which the Government has to consider. There are only two grounds upon which this proposal can he justified : first, it is with the object of ensuring supplies of oil in a time of crisis; and, secondly, it will provide employment.
Surely £330,000 is enough to risk instead of investing several millions of pounds on a hydrogenation scheme. Further, when we consider the fact that, in addition to the loan, the remission of excise duty involved represents £250,000 and the wages of those to be employed in the industry will total only £160,000 a year, it must be admitted that the Government has been particularly generous in the arrangement it has made with this company.^ It is going to pay the whole of the wages for the production of the petrol plus 50 per cent. This is more than the interest on the whole of the capital invested. It is questionable whether that is a fair deal iu the interests of the taxpayers. It can be said that, having regard to the war in the East and the possibility of other international conflicts, as well as the amount of employment which will be provided through this venture, the Government’s part in this agreement .can be justified. I shall support the bill, but I agree with the view expressed by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) that an independent committee should be appointed to examine the details of the agreement, in order to see whether’ a fairer deal cannot be made in order that the interests of the people of Australia may be better protected.
Debate (on motion by Mr. John Lawson) adjourned.
On. in Dutch New Guinea : Statement bt Oil Search Limited.
Motion (by .Sir Archdale Parkhill) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Mr. ward (East Sydney) [10.33].- I wish to ask again whether the Minister in charge of the House (Sir Archdale Parkhill) is yet in a position to inform me whether the information supplied to its shareholders ‘by Oil Search Limited, is correct or otherwise ? In reply to a question on this matter the other day I was informed that no report had been received in regard to the reported discovery of oil in Dutch New Guinea, in close proximity to British territory. In a statement supplied to the shareholders of Oil Search Limited, certain references were made to a report submitted in 1934 by the Administrator of the Mandated Territory to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons). Since speaking on this subject last night, I have been informed that one of the directors of that company is none other than the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr), who should, therefore, be in a position to know whether or not any such report was received by the Prime Minister or the Government. Either the Prime Minister has not supplied an accurate answer to my question or the honorable member for Parkes is associated with a fraudulent company. Both cannot be correct. If such a report was received, the Government has not supplied me with accurate information, and if no such report was supplied to the Government, as indicated in the Prime Minister’s reply, well, then, the honorable member for Parkes, who, I am informed, is a director of this company, has been guilty along with others, of misleading the public in order to obtain Borne benefit for this particular group of financial interests. The matter of oil has been discussed a great deal in this Parliament recently, and the Government has assured us that it has been doing everything possible to discover whether flow oil is available in the Commonwealth, or in territories controlled by the Commonwealth, and there has been a very strong rumour circulating that oil, which was supposed to have been discovered in Dutch New Guinea, was actually found, upon investigation, to be within British territory, and that these wells have been sealed. That’ is the rumour. I want the Government not merely to promise to hold an investigation, but to- treat this matter as urgent so that it can discover, as soon as possible, if the report is correct or otherwise. If it should prove to be incorrect, the public, who may be induced to invest money in this undertaking would be saved from being duped by directors of a company who are prepared to give their shareholders and the general publid a fraudulent report in regard to what is happening in New Guinea. I wish to be given some indication as to when i can expect to obtain that information. That should not be difficult because, by consulting the heads of the department it should be possible to find out within a few minutes whether any such report was made to the Prime Minister or the Government in 1934 as stated in this statement to the shareholders of Oil Search Limited. I also wish to know what the Government proposes to do in regard to one of its supporters who, if the Prime Minister’s reply to me was accurate, and if it is discovered that he has interests in this company, along with other directors of this company has been responsible for issuing lying statements and fraudulent evidence for the purpose of duping the public by persuading people to invest -their money in this venture.
– The matter raised by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is one of great importance in the light of the fact that it is reported that the name of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) is being used in a prospectus issued by a company of’ which it has been reported a gentleman sitting in this Parliament is a director. It is stated in that prospectus, in order to win public support, that following upon a report submitted to the Prime Minister, “ this, that and the other “ can be obtained in a particular locality. It is quite possible that a number of people would be invited to invest in this proposition, including, perhaps, people with very meagre incomes, or small savings, who might be attracted by the prospect of recouping ‘.their investment twofold or threefold in the exploitation of these oil resources. Oil projects, nowadays, are rather attractive to people who probably have a few pounds to spare, because the importance of the discovery of oil to Australia has been stressed over and over again. The prospectus reads -
It is interesting to note regarding our exclusive permit in the Sepik district that it covers all the area up to the Dutch border, and that it is adjoined on the west by an immense concession granted by the Dutch Go vernment to the Shell, Pan-Pacific and Standard Oil of California, who jointly are conducting oil explorations. More or less drilling is reported to have been done at a locality not far from Humboldt Bay. Two years ago the Administrator of the Mandated Territory reported to the Prime Minister that “splendid oil wells some few miles from Bongu had been temporarily sealed “.
The words shown in inverted commas indicate to the public that they have been taken from a. report submitted by the Administrator of the Mandated Territory to the Prime Minister. In order to ascertain, first of all, whether the information supplied to him was sound, the honorable member for East Sydney asked the Prime Minister, on the 27 th August, whether such a report had been submitted by the Administrator of the Mandated Territory, and the Prime Minister replied -
I now desire to inform the honorable member that the Com mon wealth Government has no information regarding the discovery of oil in Dutch New Guinea, and that, in reply to inquiries made of them, the LieutenantGovernor of Papua and the Administrator of New Guinea have advised that they have no information regarding any such discovery.
On the face of it the evidence submitted by the honorable member seems to be sound in the sense that somebody is endeavouring to fleece the public by the use of a bogus prospectus in which, is used the name of the Prime Minister and an official of this Government. For that reason this matter calls for a most searching investigation by the Government. Apart from personalities, we must look at it in the light of the fact that the public are invariably at the mercy of those who issue bogus prospectuses, particularly in regard to oil and gold ventures. However, it would be unwise, and unfair, to proceed any further with this matter so far as the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) is involved until the honorable member is present. He may have some statement to make on the matter, and that opportunity should be given to him. I do not suggest that members of the Government generally would he cognizant of thiB matter, because they could very well remain unaware of it, but I believe that all of them will be concerned with the fact that the name of the Prime Minister and an official of this Government, the
Administrator of the Mandated Territory, has been used in this prospectus in this way. I ask the Government to take this matter seriously, and not to regard it as something coming in the form of off-hand criticism by the honorable member for East Sydney. I ask it to view the matter in the light of the fact that we are here to protect those who are, unfortunately, -all too readily attracted by doubtful ventures and, all too frequently, are robbed of their savings by rogues and thieves who specialize in this sort of business.
– - I hope that the Minister in charge of the House (Sir Archdale Parkhill), in replying to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), will not merely brush this matter aside. We might assume from the reply given to the honorable member the other day that the Government washes its hands of it. Whether it likes it or not, the plain fact is that the Government is involved, because of the use of the name of the’ Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons). The good name and prestige of the Commonwealth Government have been used in the issue of a prospectus asking the public to subscribe towards a certain undertaking. It is the duty of this Government and every honorable member, therefore, to see that this Parliament is not used by anybody with the object of issuing a fraudulent prospectus in order to get subscriptions from the public. In the circumstances, the people will regard it as bona fide and possibly subscribe to it, whereas, if it were an ordinary undertaking they would not touch it “with a 40-foot pole.” The history of oil projects throughout the world has been more scandalous than that of any other undertaking. The most fraudulent practices possible have been associated with them. The Commonwealth Government cannot afford to delay an investigation of the matter. I go further and say that we cannot wait for the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) to choose his own time to make an explanation. An exmember of this House, who at one time represented the division of Wentworth, Mr. Walter Marks, is also associated with the company. He was one of the original shareholders and proprietors, and, as such, will receive a bundle of about 50,000 shares without putting any capital into the concern. I have seen the prospectus in the press. The Minister must not brush the matter aside in an airy sort of way by saying that it is no concern of the Commonwealth Government. The good name and honour of this Government and Parliament are at stake. The Government is being used with a view to inducing the public to subscribe to a prospectus that might be fraudulent and intended to deceive. I, therefore, urge the Minister to have the most searching inquiry made, and to announce the result publicly, so that the people may be warned against accepting any information published in a prospectus which is not true.
. - in reply - The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) brought this matter up on’ the motion for the adjournment of the House last night. He then inquired as to whether the information given by the Prime Minister in reply to a question he had asked was correct or not. He was assured that the information was correct. He pointed out at the time that a prospectus was in existence which contained statements that were at variance with the statement of the Prime Minister. He did not mention the name of any honorable member of this House, nor did he give the details that he ha3 given to-night. He has been good enough to hand to me the prospectus of Oil Search Limited. I notice that it is dated the 14th November, 1936, and is signed by Mr. Walter, Managing Director, who is now deceased. Apparently, the prospectus has been in existence for the best part of a year without any notice having been taken of the particular section to which the honorable member has referred. The Prime Minister, who was present when the matter was raised last night, did not knowthat involved in it was something in the nature of a charge against or a suggestion concerning any honorable member of this House; otherwise, he certainly would have expedited further inquiries into it. I have been informed that inquiries are being made; but, as the matter was raised only last night, at a later hour than this,, sufficient time has not elapsed, to obtain information upon which a full statement might be made to this House. I give to the House the undertaking that, in view of the statements that have been made tonight,, the fullest inquiry will be made by the Government, and that no time will he lost in making known to honorable members the view to which the Government has come as the result of those inquiries.
– This company has a fine reputation.
– The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson), who has been dealing with a number of companies that have been engaged in the search for flow oil, states that this company bears a very high reputation in the business world. I have no views on the matter at the moment, but I repeat that the fullest inquiry will he made. I ask honorable members* to suspend any judgment they may be tempted to pronounce, until a full report has been presented and the honorable member whose honour has been impugned has had an opportunity to state his case.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.53 pm
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
The Honorable Edmund Alfred Drake-
Brockman, CB., C.M.G., B.S.O., V.D. Mr. E. C. Riley.
Mr. Paul Jones.
Major-General. Sir John Gellibrand, K.C.b., D.S.O.
Brigadier - General Walter Ramsay McNicoll, CB., C.M.G., D.S.O., V.D. 2. The above-mentioned were included in the list in recognition of past services and present position as representative members of the community and not by reason of the fact that they were formerly members of the Federal Parliament.
Landing Ground at “Walgett.
y asked the Treasurer. upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable, member’s questions are as follows : -
en asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
What was the total amount of revenue from each of the following post and telegraph offices in- Western Australia for the financial years 1930-31, 1935-30 and 1930-37 :- Coolgardie, Southern Cross, Norseman, Boulder, Kalgoorlie, Menzies, Laverton, Gwalia, Wiluna (including Wiluna Gold Mines), Mount Leonora, Meekatharra, Cue, Mount Magnet, Yalgoo, Triton (Reedys) Broad Arrow, Marble Bar, and Esperance?
– The information is being obtained.
Alkali Industry : Payment of Compensation to Mr. G. K. McPhail.
e asked the Minister representing the Minister in charge of Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as (follows : -
Iron Ore Deposits : Inspection by Japanese.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Report ok Oil Production.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister in charge pf Development, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
T asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has a.ny report been received concerning possible future volcanic disturbances at Rabaul, and, in relation thereto, upon the position of Rabaul as a capital ?
– No. Dr. Stehn, the Vocanologist, will leave Rabaul in a few days, and is due to arrive in Canberra towards the end of the month.
Postal Department : TRANSRECEIVER Sets.
EN asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Will the Postmaster-General’s Department consider the question of granting tra wreceiver wireless sets to distant centres in the back country of Australia, where thu expense of constructing telephone and/or telegraph lines is not at present considered justified, and linking the service with established base trans-receiver stations of the Australian Aerial Medical Service?
– The matter is one that has been carefully considered by the department, and investigations are proceeding with a view to determining the practicability of employing wireless telephony as an adjunct to the trunk line system.
r asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Importation ov Sweat Rags.
d asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Ihe convenience of honorable members?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows.- -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 September 1937, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1937/19370909_reps_14_154/>.