14th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Claim for Compensation
– An ex-State officer named H. C. Batchelor, who was transferred from the South Australian to the Commonwealth Service, has a longstanding claim for compensation against the Commonwealth. I believe that there have been negotiations between him and the Government in connexion with the matter. Will the Attorney-General have inquiries made, with a view to the matter being finalized and a satisfactory conclusion arrived at as early as possible ?
– I shall have inquiries made immediately.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce been drawn to the report in to-day’s Canberra Times, to the effect that the Government of Japan is seeking to vary the quota fixed last year under the arrangement made upon the settlement of the trade dispute, in connexion with its purchases of Australian wool? In any event, can the right honorable gentleman inform the House as to whether any overtures have been made, either officially or unofficially, by representatives of Japan, in the direction of such a variation?
– I have not seen any paragraph of the nature referred to, and so far as I know a variation of the quota has not been sought in connexion with this year’s clip.
Statement by Oil Search Limited.
– Last night, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) made certain references to information that had been given to him in answer to a question concerning the occurrence of oil in Dutch
New Guinea. The honorable gentleman referred to the association of the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) with a company known as Oil Search Limited, which is operating near the border of Dutch New Guinea. I propose to make a full statement in the matter at a later stage to-day.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Health been directed to the statement in this morning’s press in reference to the infantile paralysis epidemic, to the effect that in areas where diphtheria immunization had been carried out there had also been a certain degree of immunization against infantile paralysis? As this statement has been made by the Health Officer of Sydney, if inquiries have not already been made into the possibilities thus suggested, will the right honorable gentleman see that his department makes them?
– My attention has been directed to that paragraph, butI am unable to give the House any information concerning the question that it raises. I may say, however, that I discussed the matter this morning with the DirectorGeneral of Health, and that I am informed that anti-diphtheric serum has been used with considerable success in this country for diseases other than diphtheria. The extent to which the serum can be regarded as prophylactic against infantile paralysis must be determined by clinical experience. As far as I am aware, no such investigation has been made here. I may, however, inform the honorable member that recently German physicians have ventured to state that vaccination against small-pox with small-pox vaccine has had the same effect of producing immunization against infantile paralysis as it is asserted diphtheric serum has had. I ask leave of the House to make a statement. [Leave granted.]
Unhappily, I was absent from the chamber on Wednesday night when the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), speaking on certain items of the Works Estimates referred to the proposed serum laboratories at Parkville and Broadmeadows. The honorable member asked for certain information, which, unfortunately, my colleague the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) was unable to supply.
I think that I ought to preface my further remarks by apologizing and expressing regret, both for myself and for the Director-General of Health, for our absence on that occasion. The explanation is quite simple. I was informed that the Estimates of the Department of Health were not likely to be considered that night. I may, perhaps, add that my health is not very satisfactory, and that that was one of the reasons for my a bsence.
The honorable member for West Sydney conveyed to the House the impression that my department had been inactive towards the epidemic of infantile paralysis in Victoria, and other honorable members naturally followed the track that he had blazed. The duty of my department is to protect the community against all diseases, but particularly against epidemics. So far from having made no attempt to systematize research in connexion with poliomyelitis, I may tell the honorable gentleman and the House generally that it has been most active in its efforts. Over four years ago the department arranged that the services of Dr. Burnett, an Australian then in England and one of the small group of research workers abroad who are recognized as the leading authorities on this disease, should become available to Australia. Dr. Burnett was induced to come to Australia as the result of arrangements which were made with the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, whereby a joint fund was established to which the Rockefeller Institute and the Commonwealth Government contributed one-half each.For the last four years, Dr. Burnett has been working on this disease at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute at the Melbourne Hospital. In order that this work should be closely linked with the work of the Commonwealth Serum laboratories, one of the senior research medical officers on the permanent staff of the department was detailed for duty at the Institute, to work with Dr. Burnett in the group of virus diseases, including infantile paralysis. This officer has been working with Dr. Burnett at that institute for thelast two years. During the present epidemic, Dr. Burnett has been one of the members of the Victorian Consultative Council, and has been devoting his time at high pressure to the problem of infantile paralysis. It is, of course, unfortunately true that these systematized and long-sustained labours have not resulted in the discovery of effective means of immunization against or a cure for this disease; but, in the fight against disease, success is too often long deferred. The research workers of the whole world have so far been baffled by this disease, as indeed, they have been by the common disease of measles, which is also a virus disease; but they are still pressing on. I invite honorable members to note that the work of the last four years to which I have referred was initiated, and has been financed throughout, by the Commonwealth Department of Health.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been drawn to the report published in the Sydney Sunday Sun, of the 22nd August last, to the effect that an organization with a capital of about £1,500,000 is being formed in Sydney to manufacture about 20,000 all-Australian motor cars annually? If the honorable gentleman has information with respect to this concern, will he give to the House the names of the promoters of the project or of any other project of a similar nature of which he has knowledge? I understand that the stated capital will be guaranteed by banks and underwriters. Can he give any information on that point also?
– I have seen the announcementin the press, but I do not think that information on matters of the kind is necessarily needed by this Parliament. There are two or three of these projects, which at present are mainly speculative.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether the report of the Tariff Board on the proposal to manufacture complete motor cars in Australia will be available to honorable members before the dissolution of Parliament?
– It is a most voluminous report, and it is unlikely that it will be available before Parliament rises as the Government has not yet had an opportunity to consider it.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether the Government has been negotiating with firms desirous of manufacturing complete motor cars in Australia? If so, will he state who those firms are, and what progress, if any, has been made in the negotiations?
– All firms interested had an opportunity to give evidence before the Tariff Board, and most of them availed themselves of it. Some have supplemented that evidence by representations to me. If the honorable member will put his question on the notice-paper I shall obtain further information for him.
The following papers were presented : -
Canned Fruits Export Control Act - Eleventh Annual Report of the Canned Fru its Control Board, for year 1936-37. together with Statement by the Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Twelfth Annual Report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, for year1 936-37, together with a Statement by the Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Meat Export Control Act - Second Annual Report of the Australian Meat Board, for year 1936-37, togetherwith Statement by the Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Ordered to be printed.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Balance-sheets of Commonwealth Bank and Commonwealth Savings Bank and Statement of the Liabilities and Assets of the Note Issue Department at 30th June, 1937; together with Auditor-General’s Reports thereon.
Nauru - Ordinances of 1 937 -
No. 4-Customs Tariff (No. 2).
No. 6 - Appropriation 1937.
No. 7 - Nauruan Royalty Trust Fund Appropriation 1937.
No. 8 - Appropriation (Supplemental) 1936.
No.9 - Nauruan Royalty Trust Fund Appropriation (Supplemental) 1936.
Northern Territory Representation Act and Electoral Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 94.
Public Service Act - Appointment of F. H. Boileau, Department of the AttorneyGeneral.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for the Federal Capital Territory for year 1936-37.
– Will the Minister for Defence intimate in general terms what assistance is being given by the Government to aero clubs throughout the Commonwealth?
– by leave - The existing agreements with the aero clubs are for a three-years term from the 1st January, 1937. These agreements provide for a payment to each club of an establishment grant, a maintenance grant, and bonuses for pupils trained to the “ A “ licence standard, and pilot members who renew their licences. For years past there has been no obligation upon the Commonwealth to provide any new or additional aircraft for the clubs, either by gift, loan or sale. The clubs, however, have had for many years aircraft and engines on loan from this department. This equipment is still being used by the clubs for training purposes.
In the drafting of the present agreements the need for modernizing the existing equipment of certain of the clubs was recognized as they were being seriously hampered in their training activities by the use of this obsolete and well-worn equipment. In consequence of their unsatisfactory financial position, certain of the clubs were unable to purchase machines of modern type. It was considered that the high maintenance costs of the out-of-date aircraft was responsible to a large extent for the financial position of the clubs, and also for the relatively high costs of training and practice flying by pupils and pilots. To assist the clubs in the purchase of more modern equipment, approval was given for aircraft and engines on loan from this department to be handed over as a gift, the clubs to be allowed to sell this equipment on condition that the proceeds were credited to a special trust fund to be applied exclusively to the purchase of new equipment.
In addition, it was recognized that the New South Wales and Victorian clubs were seriously handicapped in meeting competition from private flying organizations owing to their unsatisfactory financial position, which was largely attributable to the age and inefficiency of their fleets. It was therefore decided to make available on repayment loan, new aircraft - two to each of the New South Wales and Victorian clubs - repayment to be spread over the three years of the agreement. Repayments are to be made by annual deductions from amounts which become due by way of subsidies.
As the remaining clubs - Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania - were in a better financial position, and more able to meet private competition, no general authorization for the extension of similar assistance to them was provided for. No provision, therefore, has been made on the civil aviation vote to finance any further purchases of aircraft for issue to clubs on repayment loan.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether it is a fact, as reported in a cable from the United States of America, that the Government is contemplating changing the nature of Australia’s representation in that country ? Is it proposed to abolish the office of Commissioner-General, which has been vacant for some time, and appoint a Trade Commissioner?
– The matter has been under consideration, but no definite decision has been reached. In the meantime the appointment of Mr. Dow has been extended until March next.
– Will the Minister for Defence state whether the Government pays a subsidy to commercial flying schools in respect of pilots trained by them? If not, will the Government consider doing so?
– No subsidy is paid to commercial flying schools in respect of pilots trained by them. The opinion of the department is that such training can best be carried out by the Air Force.
– Having regard to the desirability of attracting tourists to Alice Springs, and of providing reasonable facilities for passengers travelling from there to Adelaide, will the Minister for the Interior state what has been the result of his representations to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner to have a shower bath installed on the train, similar to those on the long distance trains in Western Australia?
– I hope to be in a position to reply fully to the honorable member in the course of the next two or three days.
Australia with Canada and New Zealand - United States of America with: United Kingdom.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs yet reached finality in regard to trade negotiations with Canada and New Zealand? If not, what is the reason for the delay, and whose turn is it to reply?
– Perhaps the honorable member was absent from the chamber when the tariff schedule was brought down last week raising certain duties against Canada. Negotiations with Canada are still proceeding. As for New Zealand, an agreement was entered into with that country in 1933. From time to time there have been revived negotiations, but they came to an unsuccessful conclusion when the New Zealand negotiators were unable to agree to certain points put forward by the Commonwealth.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce whether he has any information concerning the progress of trade discussions between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the United States of America, and if he has any information as to whether the latter Government is making any representation to the Government of the United Kingdom that it should bring about reductions of any preference which the products of this country now enjoy?
– The position is exactly as was outlined by the Prime Minister in his report upon the Imperial Conference, when he stated that in regard to any negotiations that would affect Australia, Australia would first be consulted.
– Has the Minister for Defence yet been able to allot a permanent site to the aero club of Western Australia upon which to erect a club house? Does the department, in viewof t he increased expenditure on the Air Force of Western Australia, propose to assist the Western Australian aero club in the erection of a club house, as has been done in other capitals?
– I shall obtain the information, and furnish the honorable member with a considered reply.
– In further reference to the mal-administrationof the Department of the Interior in connexion with the continued influx of aliens into Australia, will the Minister say whether he has read a statement which recently appeared in the Brisbane newspapers to the effect that a few days ago two Albanians were stranded on the platform of the South Brisbane railway station and that the State Government had to guarantee their board ? Was it a fact that each of the Albanians had a draft for £50 on a bank in central Queensland, and that the draft in each case had been provided by the person who had nominated them for admission to Australia? Is it a fact that there is a large influx into Australia of alien immigrants who possess no means? Will the Minister explain what is the reason for the mystery surrounding the visit of two officers of his department to Queensland, and what do they propose to do while they are there?
– In the first place, the arrival of two Albanians does not constitute an influx. In the second place, the honorable member said something about the mal-administration of my department, in reply to which I can assure him that there hasbeen no maladministration. I ask the honorable member to put his question on the notice-paper, when it will receive such consideration as it deserves.
– I have just had handed to me, in answer to a question on notice, a return stating that the exports from Western Australia to New South Wales for last year were worth £1,800,000. Seeing that the average exports over a number of years amounted to only £300,000, will the Minister for Trade and Customs explain why, in this return, they are shown as being five times as much?
– As this is obviously a statistical matter I shall have inquiries made, and shall furnish the honorable member with a reply. However, he will probably agree that the improvement is due to the effects of the Government’s policy.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether it is a fact that the Government has intimated to the Victorian. State Government that it is not prepared to make a grant to defray the cost of the after care of the victims of infantile paralysis ? Is it a fact that after the 1918 epidemic 10 per cent. of the cases eventually became Federal invalid pensioners? If that is so, does not the Prime Minister think that, on the score of economy if on no other, the Government should reconsider its decision?
– The statement made was that at this stage the Government, having considered the matter, did not feel justified in granting the assistance asked for. However, the matter is still open for consideration in the light of circumstances that may arise.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether the cut glass manufacturing industry is to be the subject of inquiry by the Tariff Board?
– The matter has already been referred to the Board.
– Last week I asked on notice for certain information in connexion with the Australian Broadcasting
Commission. I should like to know when that information will be available?
– I am not quite clear as to the nature of the information which the honorable member is seeking, but I shall have inquiries made of the Postmaster-General, and shall obtain the information without delay.
EmploymentofReturnedSoldiers- Darwin Services.
– In 1923, certain returned soldiers qualified for temporary employment in the postal service, and recently they have been promised permanent employment if they can produce evidence to the effect that they had been employed in the service for a period of two years or more. Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General forward the request of these men that their previous service be taken into consideration when determining their holiday and furlough rights ?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s request under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral.
– At the present time there is no delivery for either letters or lettergrams in the town of Darwin, and lettergrams are delivered only by courtesy of the officials. Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General make representations with a view to having a. delivery of lettergrams inaugurated.
– I shall make representations to the PostmasterGeneral.
– In the Melbourne Age of Thursday of this week appears a report of a statement made by the Prime Minister that a new broadcasting station would be erected in Hobart. I ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral if he will make representations for the immediate erection of the now studio in order to enable the commission to use the services of more artists on its programme ?
– I shall bring the representations of the honorable member before the notice of the Postmaster-General.
Report No. 2 of the Printing Committee brought up by Mr. Jennings, and read by the Clerk.
Motion (by Mr. Jennings) proposed -
That the report be agreed to.
– I should like to know what evidence was placed before the Printing Committee in regard to the report of the Royal Commission on Petrol. I am aware that this report was listed for consideration by Parliament, and I am not certain whether the Printing Committee had any right to deal with it until such time as Parliament had disposed of it. I raise the matter now because quite a number of questions have been asked by honorable members on both sides of the House in respect of the discussion of the report. I recall that when the report was presented to this House an amendment was moved that it be referred back to the commission with instructions for further investigation in respect of certain aspects. That matter remained upon the business-paper for some time until Parliament was prorogued some time ago, and subsequently it was removed from the business-paper. I wish to know exactly what stage has been reached in this matter and whether the Printing Committee had a right to consider the report in the light of the facts I have just stated. In making these observations I do not oppose the printing of the report, but base them largely on the plea that the Government has prevented honorable members from discussing this report, thus denying us the opportunity to deal with a matter which cost the Commonwealth a very large sum of money.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order! The honorable member must discuss the printing of the report.
– I am asking whether the report ought to have been printed in view of the fact that honorable members have not had an opportunity to discuss it. The final print of the report may have included certain other matters had Parliament been given the opportunity to dis- cuss it more fully. I wish to know whether an important item of this kind can be removed from the business-paper in the way I have indicated, and be allowed to go to the Printing Committee when Parliamenthas not given a final decision on the matter.
.- I shall have the important matter mentioned by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) referred to the Printing Committee, but I understand it lapsed earlier in the year. I have no doubt that had the Printing Committee the information he has indicated before it, it would have considered that aspect of the matter.No doubt the honorable member’s colleague, the honorable member forReid (Mr. Gander), who is an active member of the committee, could give some very interesting information on the point.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I ask the Minister r epresenting the Minister for External Affairs, in view of the present international situation, if he will make a statement, either to-day or before Parliament rises next week, concerning the position of external affairs generally, and more particularly in connexion with the Russian-Italian crisis which is now developing, and also the activities of the Non-intervention Committee appointed to deal with the situation in Spain?
– I shall endeavour to make such a statement before the House rises.
– Before asking the Attorney-General a question in relation to New Zealand Perpetual Forests Limited, I shall read the following extract from a telegram which I have in my possession: - “Discovery further diabolical treatment for bondholders calls for open inquiry”. I ask whether or not the Government has decided to go on with an inquiry into allegations made by Australian bondholders in New Zealand Perpetual Forests Limited, that they have been cheated in some way by this com pany? Does the Government intend to undertake an inquiry itself or in conjunction with the Dominion Government?
– It is some time since I saw that matter, but I shall have inquiries made into it.
– In view of the fact that no mining companies or miners have received any information as to the result of the mineral survey now being undertaken, I ask the Minister for the Interior whether his department has received any information from the committee conducting this survey, so far as its investigations at Tennant Creek are concerned? Does the Government intend to put down shafts at Tennant Creek in order to test the accuracy of any information that might have been given to the department as the result of the survey?
– The survey referred to by the honorable member comes within the scope of the Prime Minister’s Department, and I shall bring this question under the notice of the Prime Minister.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Mr. MENZIES (Kooyong - Attorney-
General) [11.12].-I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
In doing so, Mr. Speaker, I point out that my remarks in connexion with this bill will also cover items 2, 3, 4 and 5 appearing on the notice-paper, as all of these measures refer to the same class, and I ask that they may all be debated together.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).As it appears to be desirable that this bill should be discussed together with other measures which are cognate, the Minister may do as he suggests.
– In the course of his budget speech, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) intimated that it was the intention of the Government to extend the benefits and privileges of superannuation and long service leave enjoyed by Commonwealth public servants to officers permanently employed by certain statutory authorities. The officers concerned are those employed by the Repatriation Commission, the War Service Homes Commissioner, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and the High Commissioner’s Office. Effect is given to these proposals by five bills - one amending the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920-1937; one amending the War Service Homes Act 1918-1935 ; one amending the Science and Industry Research Act 1920-1926;- one amending the High Commissioner Act 1909 ; and one amending the Superannuation Act 1922-1934.
– Is the Minister prepared to extend these benefits to employees in the federal members’ rooms in the capital cities ?
– In conversation with me yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) referred to the case of those employees, and I pointed out that it was not possible to provide for those individuals by any amendment of these bills, because they deal with four specific classes of Commonwealth public servants. I indicated to him, however, and I repeat it now, that if a case can be made out for similar treatment in respect of any other class of officers who are, in substance, permanent employees, sympathetic consideration will be given to it.
– How would such a matter be dealt with?
– Their case can be dealt with ‘ only by having the matter raised first of all, and then investigated as to whether superannuation benefits should not be provided in respect of them. These four bills cover approximately 1,500 employees, who are by far the great majority of the public servants affected by the general principle of these superannuation proposals. As to superannuation benefits, the task is to select those officers who are employed in a permanent capacity and to bring them within the definition of “ employees “ in section 4 of “the Superannuation Act. This task is not quite so easy as it would at first appear. No doubt, it is a matter of common knowledge which officers are, and which officers are not, permanently employed, but it is a task of some nicety to endeavour to frame a definition that will adequately cover those permanent officers.
That difficulty is accentuated because the provisions governing the employment of officers in these four branches vary considerably. The Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act provides that the officers appointed under that act are to be governed by such conditions as are prescribed. Pursuant to this power, regulations have been made prescribing the conditions of employment. In the case of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the position of officers is somewhat similar to that of those employed by the Repatriation Commission. That means that their circumstances are governed by regulation, but the vital distinction is that the .Science and Industry Research Act provides that officers appointed under that act are deemed to be employees within the meaning of the Superannuation Act, unless advised to the contrary. In the case of both these groups of officers, a slight amendment only to the existing regulations will enable the administration to confer on the employees the privilege of long service leave.
The position of officers of the War Service Homes Commission and the High Commissioner’s Office is entirely different, because the act relating to those branches neither prescribes conditions of employment nor empowers the making of regulations prescribing such conditions. Apart from preserving the rights of Commonwealth public servants appointed as officers of the War Service Homes Commission, the War Service Homes Act merely permits the appointment of officers under the act. The High Commissioner Act provides for the appointment of officers by two distinct methods, but does not deal with the terms and conditions of employment. The result is that, in these four services, the officers in two of them - the Repatriation Department and the Council for .Scientific and Industrial Research - are employed subject to prescribed conditions, whilst the officers of the’ other two services are governed by no prescribed conditions whatever. Therefore it would be difficult to formulate a broad definition of “ employment “ which would enable us to cover adequately all of the cases in the four branches. The result is that, instead of endeavouring to overcome the difficulty of definition, it has been provided in these bills that the four authorities concerned shall forward to the Minister the names of those officers whose employment is such as to enable them to be considered permanent employees.
– If an employee is not included in the list, will he have the right of appeal to some authority?
– No appeal to an independent authority is provided for. Of course, it will not be in the interests of any of these branches to exclude from the list of officers who should be regarded as permanent any man who ought to be included, because the reasonable security given by including as many as possible in the scheme will be greatly to the advantage of the departments -themselves.
– On what principle is permanency to be determined?
– We avoid the setting up of a principle by providing that the authority in each case shall indicate the names of those officers who, by reason of the length of their employment, ought to ‘be regarded as permanent. Their names will be gazetted, and, of course, in the future, further persons in the departments will become eligible for superannuation.
– Should not a principle be laid down so that officers will have the right to these benefits by reason of their period of service?
– If we try to find a definition which would be applicable to the four separate branches, in which the circumstances of the employment vary, the natural result will be that many men who ought to come under the scheme will be kept out of it. We are anxious to give the benefits of superannuation to as many as possible, and it is far better to do it by the specifying of their names than by endeavouring to apply a hard and fast definition to them.
– In the case of municipal and railway employees no difficulty is experienced. After a definite term their employment is regarded as permanent.
– What is proposed under these measures will be more satisfactory to the officers concerned than if we tried to frame an ironclad definition. When these officers have been brought within the provisions of the Superannuation Act, however, it is necessary to see that their permanency of employment is given some legal support, and is not to remain merely a matter of common knowledge, understood by the heads of the departments. As I have mentioned, power to prescribe conditions of employment is already conferred by the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and the Science and Industry Research Act. Similar powers have to be provided under the Wai1 Service Homes Act and the High Commissioner’s Act. This is the second purpose to be’ achieved by these bills.
The amending legislation might finish at that point, if it were to have prospective effect only; but to go no further would be to cause many anomalies and some injustice. Notwithstanding that these officers are to be made permanent employees for the purpose of the Superannuation Act - and many of them have to all intents and purposes been permanent employees for a considerable number of years - account should be taken of their past service. That is the purpose of the bill - to amend the Superannuation Act. Take, for example, the necessity for a medical examination in order to ensure that contributors will not become a burden on the fund. This requirement, in the ordinary course, is necessary, but, whilst it will be applied to any future appointees to the four services concerned, it appears most unfair that it should be applied to those officers who have been in employment for years. Some of them suffer from war injuries, but many of them could without difficulty have passed a medical examination at the time when they were appointed. Some years have passed since their appointment, and they might now experience more difficulty in passing a doctor than years ago. Therefore, the bill provides that officers already employed in these services, who are brought within the scope of the Superannuation Act, are not to be subjected to medical examination. This may result in admitting officers who may prove to be a burden on the fund, which would be unfair to contributors who have built up the fund. Therefore, the bill goes further, and provides that if any officer so admitted without medical examination becomes a burden on the fund within seven years, the Commonwealth will assume the liability in lieu of the fund. That is to protect the position of other contributors.
When the Superannuation Act commenced in 1922, provision was made that any Commonwealth public servants in the service who were over 30 years of age might elect to contribute for 2, 2£, 3 or 4 units at the rate for the age of 30 years, notwithstanding that their age was above 30 years. Ha’d the officers in the four services been brought under the act then, many of them would have had the same privilege. The bill, therefore, proposes to confer this privilege on any such officers, if they would ha ve had that privilege had the Superannuation Act extended to them in 1922.
An entirely new scheme is proposed to be introduced into the Superannuation Act by this bill, to wit, a provident account. The benefits to be derived from this amendment will extend to others than officers in the four services immediately under review. In these four services, there are officers who, by reason of the combined effect of age and salary, will find the contributions necessary to be made in the superannuation fund a heavy drain on their salary. There are officers similarly placed in the Commonwealth Public Service to-day. One of the purposes of the provident account provisions is to permit these officers, whether they are already, or hereafter would be, contributors to the superannuation fund, to elect whether they will continue their heavy contributions to the fund or have a lower scale of contributions to the provident account.
In addition to these officers who elect to contribute to the provident account, the bill proposes to admit also to that account those officers . who by reason of physical infirmity are not permitted to be contributors to the superannuation fund. This refers chiefly to those returned soldiers who have been appointed under sub-section (8) of section 84 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, namely, those appointed as Commonwealth public servants, but who, by reason of infirmity, are not permitted to become contributors to the superannuation fund.
All of these persons covered by the provident account provisions will be required to contribute to the provident account 5 per cent, of their salary, payable in fortnightly instalments. Should the contributor retire owing to infirmity, or die in the service, leaving a widow or dependent children, or should he be retrenched after ten years’ service, there will be paid to him, or to his widow or children, from the provident account, not only his contributions, plus 3 per cent, compound interest thereon, but also an equivalent amount to be provided by the Commonwealth. Should he resign, be retrenched prior to completing ten years’ service or be dismissed, there will be paid to him the amount of his contributions, together with 3 per cent, compound interest thereon. Should a contributor to the provident account die in the service without leaving a widow or dependent children, there will be paid to his personal representative an amount equal to his contributions, together with 3 per cent, compound interest thereon. Briefly, the provident account represents a fund to which will contribute all those who may not contribute to the superannuation fund, or those in excess of a certain age who find the contributions onerous. In effect, the Commonwealth will make a like contribution to the credit of those officers. Then, upon retirement or death, the officer or his widow or children will receive benefits far in excess of, but nevertheless based on, the actual amount that he has contributed. It is estimated that the number of officers in the four services concerned who will be brought within the scope of the Superannuation Act by these measures will be slightly in excess of 1,500.
Honorable members will also know that, in so far as the Superannuation Act is to apply to the officers of the High Commissioner’s office, all calculations, whether concerning salaries, contributions or benefits, are to be made on the basis of sterling. At the present rate of exchange, this would mean that an amount slightly in excess of the contributions would find its way into the fund, and the fund would be required to pay an additional amount for pensions, in order that the sterling payment might be made in London. To meet this position, provision is made by the bill for the excess amount of contributions to be paid to the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth will also recoup the superannuation fund or the provident account, as the case may be, for any excess payment made to enable an officer to be paid in sterling. What I have said gives a general account of the five bills that deal with this subject, but the bill immediately before the House relates only to the superannuation fund, and I commend it to honorable members for their support.
.- I shall not move the adjournment of the debate, for the reason that, as I am leaving Canberra this evening, I wish to offer a few observations on this bill and those related to it for the consideration of the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies). The right honorable gentleman may feel disposed to allow the debate to be adjourned if not till the next day of sitting, at least to a later hour this day to enable other honorable members to consider his speech.
The Opposition will support this and the related bills. We agree that there should be no distinction between officers employed by the Commonwealth under the control of the Public Service Commissioner and those employed by it not under such control. We welcome the inclusion of the officers of the Repatriation Department, the War Service Homes Department, the High Commissioner’s Office and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research within the provisions of the Superannuation Act. For too long an anomaly has been manifest in the superannuation conditions applicable to servants of the Commonwealth. Many persons in government employ are regarded as temporary officers, although their period of continuous service has in some cases extended over 20 years, yet they have been excluded from superannuation benefits.
– They are permanent temporaries ! _ Mr. CURTIN- That is so. The continuous extension of the economic functions of the State in different directions is likely to be more marked than ever in the years to come. During the last decade, for example, the Australian Broadcasting
Commission has been established. It employs many people, but these are all excluded from superannuation benefits.
– They are not in government employ.
– Statutorily speaking they are employed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but that commission is as much an instrumentality of the nation as, say, the Department of the Interior. We may make these fine legal distinctions, but, in fact, the manager of an “A” class broadcasting station is as much a servant of the Commonwealth as a deputy director of posts and telegraphs.
– I am glad to have the honorable member’s assurance on that point.
– I am not dealing with the subject in the strict legal sense. If we were to abolish the broadcasting commission tomorrow, its activities would probably become an integral part of those of the Postmaster-General’s Department, and, unless that departmenttook into its employment the technical officers associated with the commission the whole service would collapse. Obviously the service of such men would have to be retained. Many of these people will undoubtedly have continuous service with the Commonwealth in- this capacity for anything from five years upwards.
The Federal Capital Commission is another case in point. It employed many persons during its regime in various branches of public service. The commission was ultimately disbanded, and the Minister for the Interior became responsible for the affairs which it had administered. He, to this very day, employs many persons who were engaged by the Federal Capital Commission. It appears to me to be stretching language to say that employees of the Federal Capital Commission were not servants of the Commonwealth, while those of the Minister of the Interior are government employees. I cannot see the justification of denying superannuation privileges to the former and granting them to the latter class of officers. I decline to accept the present alignment which results in officers of, say, the Postal Department being regarded as Commonwealth servants and those of the Broadcasting Commission being not so regarded. This may be so according to the strict interpretation of the law, but it undoubtedly creates grievous anomalies. All the persons engaged in functions which this Parliament regards as matters under Commonwealth control should be entitled to consideration. The fact that Parliament decides to set up a board or a statutory commission to deal with certain matters in preference to having them dealt with direct by a Minister is merely a device for securing greater efficiency, but it should not cause anomalies as between persons engaged in the Commonwealth service.
The introduction of this bill is a recognition by the Government that it was somewhat ridiculous that a deputy commissioner of repatriation should not be entitled to the benefits of our superannuation scheme while the assistant secretary of the Defence Department should be entitled to them. It is also an acknowledgment that the exclusion from superannuation of the officers of theWar Service Homes Department was unsound, seeing that the officers of the Treasury and the Works Department were included.
As the Attorney-General has said, I discussed this subject with him yesterday and asked him to consider the inclusion of all Commonwealth employees within the scheme.
– We shall be able to consider those matters more sympathetically and easily after these bills are passed.
– I agree that the more employees of the Commonwealth we bring within the field of superannuation the less justification there will be for continuing to exclude the remainder. As this bill will bring approximately 1,500 officers within the field of superannuation I welcome it,but I do not think honorable members generally will be unmindful of the fact that very many equally valuable officers of the Commonwealth will still be left without superannuation benefits. So far as I am concerned, I shall do my very utmost whenever opportunity offers to give superannuation advantages to all persons who have been employed by the Commonwealth for a reasonable time and are likely to continue to be so employed. I can see difficulty in determining whether two, four or five years’ service should mark the distinction between temporary and permanent employment, and it might be necessary to bring down separate bills to deal with different categories of employees, such as those engaged by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, those engaged in Canberra in servicing our accommodation requirements, and others.
– That is why the Government has introduced separate bills.
– So long as distinctions exist in regard to superannuation rights between different classes of Government employees, anomalies are bound to occur. It is desirable therefore that the position of permanent and so-called temporary employees in the Commonwealth Service should be carefully reviewed. I am glad that Parliament is lessening the ambit of anomaly as between such officers. The right honorable gentleman’s speech has illuminated many other points in regard to this subject which other honorable members may wish to discuss.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Beasley) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This small bill seeks to establish permanently the conditions attaching to a gift made in 1916 for the benefit of certain returned soldiers.
In that year the Honorable W. L. Baillieu and Messrs. E. L. Baillieu, A. S. Baillieu. C. Baillieu, N. Baillieu and M. H. L. Baillieu joined in making a donation of debentures of a face value of £20,000 and a cash amount of £5,000 to the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Fund established under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Fund 1916. By the act of 1916, the fund to which the donation had been paid was vested in the trustees named in the act. The trustees were charged with the duties of -
The State War Councils held any moneys al located to them as aforesaid upon trust to apply them for such purposes, being purposes for the assistance and benefit of Australian soldiers and their dependants, as the councils, in their discretion, thought fit.
The act of 1916 was repealed by the AustralianSoldiers’ Repatriation Act 1917. By section 16 of the new act, “ all real and personal property, securities and funds “ vested in the abovementioned trustees, were vested in the Repatriation Commission, which was then constituted subject to the same trusts as those upon which the trustees had held the property, &c. By an amending act of 1918, the property and funds theretofore vested in the commission, became vested in the Minister, still subject to the original trusts. In 1920, the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1917-1918 was repealed. A new Repatriation Commission was set up and the property and funds previously held by the Minister were vested in the commission subject to the trusts upon which they had been held by the Minister. I mention this to show how the matter has passed from hand to hand.
The present position is that the balance remaining in the fund, including the gift made by Messrs. Baillieu in 1916, is vested in the commission subject tothe trusts declared by the act of 1916. By reason of the discontinuance of State War Councils it has become necessary to make statutory provision for the variation of the original trusts in order that the money may be appropriately applied for the benefit of returned soldiers and their dependants. The Government, after consultation with the donors, has decided that the trusts expressed in this bill provide the most suitable and advantageous use to which the donation may be put.
In 1918 the donation was, with the approval of the Governor-General in Council and the concurrence of the donors, applied to the purchase of a hostel at Brighton, Victoria, for totally and permanently incapacitated soldiers. This hostel is known as the Anzac Hostel, and has been utilized in accordance with this decision. In 1927 part of the land attached to the Anzac Hostel was sold for £19,962. The sum was invested and has earned interest to an amount of £10,507. The last valuation of the hosted and remaining land, together with improvements, was £36,689, so the original amount has grown considerably. The question whether this amount will actually be realized when the property is sold depends largely upon the degree to which the building depreciates in value.
When the purposes of the Anzac Hostel haye been served - and in the course of nature they cannot be permanent - it will be sold and the proceeds applied to the carrying out of the trusts specifiedin thisbill. Honorable members will find in clause 4 the trusts indicated. Clause 4 sets out -
reside in the State of Victoria;
There will, therefore, be an educational trust for fifteen years which is thought to be sufficiently long to cover the needs of the children or prospective children. The clause further provides -
The universities of Australia will receive these moneys in the following proportions : -
Sydney and Melbourne, 25 per cent. each; Brisbane and Adelaide, 15 per cent. each; Perth, 12 per cent. ; and Hobart, 8 per cent.
After the remainder of the Anzac Hostel, if there be any, has been sold, the proceeds are to be divided on the same basis.
Ultimately, therefore, the whole of this handsome sum of money will go to the universities. The money will he applied by those universities for establishing and maintaining scholarships to be known as “Baillieu Research Scholarships” for the purpose of conducting post-gra’duate research in medicine, law, commerce, economics, architecture, or any of them. Clause 5 provides - “
Then there are some small necessary provisions to settle any argument that may arise as to whether a member of the Forces shall be deemed to bc. for example, blinded or not.
Honorable members will sec that this bill, which is non-controversial, is designed to set out properly the course through which these moneys, which ultimately may amount to £60,000 or £70,000, will be sent. First of all, these moneys arc being used for the present purposes of Anzac Hostel. The second stage of their history will be their use for the educational benefit of soldiers’ children; and, these purposes having become no longer necessary, the third course will be the distribution of the money between the universities of the Commonwealth for the purposes of much-needed research work, with preference being given in the matter of scholarships under the gift to research students who are the lineal descendants of returned soldiers.
.- I support this bill. I regard the outline which the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) has given honorable members as clearly setting out the best possible way in which this very handsome contribution can be availed of in the future for the benefit of those for whom it was intended. I feel that so far the trust has been well administered. My information is that a’present it can be asserted that there is about £35,000 wor.th of assets in the trust, and an income of approximately £1,300 a year is being received. The provision which this bill makes for the future management appears reasonable and proper, and, I would also say, appropriate. I conclude by saying that I regard the fund provided by Messrs. Baillieu as a generous contribution by them to tincare of disabled returned soldiers and for the educational training of their children. I merely express the hope that those of our citizens who are circumstanced similarly to the Baillieus, in that they are in a position of having very considerable resources, will be inspired by this example to do likewise. ‘
– Hear, hear!
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 9th September (vida page 897), on motion by Sir A 1? cchdat.e P ARK11 jj. i , -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The speeches that were delivered in this House yesterday on this measure by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), expressing as they did most violent opposition towards the proposals contained in the bill, together with the violent attitude adopted by Mr. Lang som<; little time ago when a similar measure was before the Parliament of New South Wales, must have, completely and permanently destroyed any lingering faith some people might still have had in the Labour party as a force working for the development of the shale fields of the Commonwealth of Australia. I dismiss the complimentary reference by the honorable member for Hunter to myself, in which he set down my value as a member of this party at a figure equal to the cost of the reestablishment of the Newnes industry, by saying that my inherent modesty completely forbids me to place such a value upon myself. Coming as it does from a political opponent, I am sure that it will excite a very high degree of admiration and envy of me among my colleagues on this side of the House. The honorable member for Hunter proceeded to draw upon the vast reservoir of his knowledge of the coal-mining industry to prove, to his own satisfaction, that the treatment of shale as a means of obtaining fuel supplies was utterly uneconomic and obsolete from whatever aspect one looked at it. The honorable member did not take any cognizance of the fact that he has had no experience of shale treatment and that the mere fact that he has had experience as a coal-miner does not qualify him to express an opinion on the economics of the shale industry. The honorable member for Hunter also overlooked the fact that many who have had just as much experience in the coal industry as he has had, and who, in addition, have enjoyed extensive experience of the treatment of shale, hold views diametrically opposed to his views. In fact, the honorable member is entirely out of touch with the leaders of the coalmining industry on this matter. He apparently has never discussed the problem with the leader of the Minors Federation of New SouthWales.
– Who is that?
- Mr. Nelson.
– The leader of the Communist party!
– I do not presume to have any knowledge of Mr. Nelson’s political views. I have never discussed them with him, but I have discussed with him the question of shale. I have discussed this matter with the president of the Western Miners Federation, and I have never heard him described as a Communist. I have also dismissed the matter with the secretary of the Western Branch of the Miners Federation, whom I have never heard described as a Communist. In expressing the views which he has expressed, the honorable member for Hunter has revealed quite clearly that he is completely out of touch with the miners’ leaders on this matter, and hehas no authority to speak for the industry upon which this has so vital a bearing. I also regretfully point out to the honorable member for Hunter that his speech revealed not only that he is completely out of touch with the views held by the leaders of the coal-mining industry in Australia, but also that he apparently has never discussed the matter with the representatives of the Northern Oil from Coal Council, a very influential and important body, which has its existence either in Newcastle or in the electorate of the honorable member. It should be made clear here and now that the last deputation which met the Minister in Charge of Development (Senator A. J. McLachlan) to urge the Government to press on with this scheme on the lines embodied in the bill, was attended not only by leaders of the Miners Federation, but also by the secretary of theNorthern Oil from Coal Council, who made a special trip from Newcastle to Sydney in order to express his complete approval of the proposal and to urge the Government to subsidize and assist the industry in the manner proposed by the measure now before the House. He assured the Minister that the Northern Oil from Coal Council wholeheartedly supported the proposal to develop the shale oil industry in the Newnes district.
– Do I understand the honorable member to say that the president and secretary of the Miners Federation are in favour of this agreement as printed ?
– I can only say that, following the violent attack launched by Mr. Lang against an identical proposal when it was placed before the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, I immediately communicated with the office of the secretary of the Western Miners Federation in Lithgow, and asked that their attitude be stated. I was assured that they wanted the bill passed in the form in which it was presented to the State House. I have heard no criticism of the proposal from the leader of the Miners Federation, or any other body of that character. Thus I find it extremely difficult to understand the utterly illogical attitude adopted by the honorable member for Hunter and the honorable member for Dalley. The honorable member for Hunter damned and double-damned the bill. Of not one feature did he approve. He made the most despicable suggestions regarding corruption and graft against this Government. Yet, with a nourish of trumpets he announced that he would support the hill! I can only say that if the honorable member believes one fraction of what he said about the bill, he will be disgracefully recreant to his obligations as a member of this Parliament if he supports it when the vote is taken on it. It seems very strange that with his voice he should say that Mr. Lang is right, and with his vote he should show that Mi’. Lang is wrong. It is to the credit of Mr. Lang that he had the courage to follow up his criticism by voting against the proposal. That is one virtue which the honorable member for- “Hunter will not be able to claim.
In attempting to pass judgment on a measure of this character, it is important to decide whether or not it is desirable or necessary that a local supply of fuel oil should be established in the Commonwealth. On that point, probably no honorable member of this House will join issue with another. I think we all agree that it is vitally important that some means should be adopted whereby a local supply of fuel oil would be established in the Commonwealth. I believe that most people will agree that the weakest and most vulnerable point in our economic armour is that in the past it has not been possible for us to establish a permanent or reliable supply of fuel oil from local sources. The majority of past administrations have recognized that fact, and quite a number of them have made efforts to overcome it. Something over £1,000,000 has been spent by governments in subsidizing the search for flow oil, so far without results of any appreciable value. Every effort to discover flow oil in payable quantities in Australia has failed. Governments have also endeavoured, to a greater or less degree, to encourage the production of benzol and power alcohol. I express the view that the one industry which lends itself most readily and easily to development for the purpose of establishing a supply of fuel oil, is the shale industry. Some governments have considered the matter of storage. The suggestion has frequently been made that the storage of oil would be of greater economic value than the establishment of a per- manent local supply. I venture the opinion that it would be unwise to rely entirely upon that. The Government has already investigated the matter thoroughly. The Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) has taken certain measures, and has spent a very considerable sum, in order to provide storage for oil that might be drawn on in cases of emergency; but the conclusion to which he and the Government have been obliged to come is that nothing can compare with the establishment of an industry that would ensure a permanent supply of oil from local sources which might be developed and drawn on should the occasion arise for its use, in an emergency.
The fact that the shale oil industry offers very considerable possibilities for development was recognized by the Scullin Government in 1930 and 1931. That Government developed some sort of policy in regard to the matter. Admittedly it was a puny, paltry policy, which was horn with the most distressing difficulty into a world of trouble and turmoil, and was strangled almost at birth by the defeat of that Government at the hands of the honorable members for Hunter (Mr. James) and Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), and other members of the Labour party of New South Wales in this House. [Quorum formed.] I give the Scullin Administration full credit for its endeavour to formulate a policy with a view to establishing the shale oil industry and developing our shale oil fields. Tn 1930, it established the Shale Oil Investigation Committee, and in 1931 the Shale Oil Development Committee, appointing men who were very well qualified to carry out the work entrusted to them. It made available to the development committee approximately £93,000, of which £30,000 was set aside for the purpose of exploiting the possibilities of the Newnes shale oil field.
I should like to refer for a moment to the attitude adopted towards that Government and that committee by the Lang Government which, as honorable members know, held office in the State of New South Wales during that period. The Lang Government, of course, always gave lip service to this great ideal of establishing a supply of oil from local sources; but, when the Scullin Administration asked Mr. Lang to extend to the members of the committee the privilege of travelling free on the railways of the State, he flatly refused to give any assistance in that direction, notwithstanding the fact that the committee was endeavouring to formulate a scheme for the purpose of developing the Newnes shale oil field. Then on the’ 23rd April, 1931, the General -Secretary of the Australian Shale and Coal Employers Federation wrote to Mr. Lang asking him to acquire the leases and to conduct the Newnes shale oil field as a State-owned concern Mr. Lang did not even answer that letter, nor did he take action of any kind. On the 27th May, Mr. Hamilton Knight, the State parliamentary representative of Hartley, which embraces the Newnes shale oil fields, wrote to the Minister for Mines, Mr. Baddeley, stating that he had addressed meetings in Lithgow, Wallerawang, Portland, Cullen Bullen, and various other centres on the western coalfields, which, as honorable members know, were at the time suffering the most acute distress as the result of unemployment. He informed Mr. Baddeley that resolutions had been carried at all of those meetings, asking his Government to make available the sum of £40,000 for the assistance of this industry in New South Wales. Mr. Baddeley refused to act. I believe that he submitted the matter to Mr. Lang, and that that gentleman declined to accede to the request; consequently, it was necessary to abandon that proposal. It is well to remember that Mr. Lang has always claimed that this industry should be developed as a State enterprise, and to note the attitude which Mr. Lang took up when he was acquainted with the distress of the unemployed miners on the western coalfields, and was urged to give effect to his professed beliefs concerning the establishment of this industry as a national undertaking on the Newnes shale oil field. On the 19th June, 1931, Mr. D. J. Davies, instructed by the Shale Oil Development Committee, approached Mr. Baddeley, Minister for Mines, asking him to cancel the Wolgan-Newnes shale leases held by A. E. Broue, so that the committee might conduct trial operations to demonstrate the economic practicability of the Newnes field. Mr.
Baddeley agreed to that, but on condition that it would not cost the State government a single penny. When the development committee did begin operations - and I believe it did some very valuable work - Mr. Lang insisted on getting every ounce of his pound of flesh from the industry by demanding that a royalty of 6d. a ton be paid on all the shale treated. This affords some idea of the utter disregard by Mr. Lang of his responsibility to this industry. He has always looked to the people of the mining areas for a large measure of political support. He has always exploited’ their distress to the limit realizing that his strength lies in keeping them perpetually in a state of poverty and unhappiness. He has always sought to stir the cauldron of coinmunism with one hand, and with the other to stem the tide of industrial reconstruction, and resurrection. In that way only has it been possible for him to maintain hig position. He recognizes that any effort to improve the lot of the miners, and to bring contentment and prosperity to the people of these unfortunate districts, would injure the prospects of his party ; and so while posturing as the friend of this industry and of the unemployed men whose lives this bill will rehabilitate, he has done everything possible to thwart its passage. He has, in fact, sold his colleagues, sold his party, sold the employees of the mining industry, -and sold the unemployed on the coalfields, ‘ in order to encourage a state of incipient revolution among the unfortunate people of those areas.
When the Lyons Government came into office at the end of 1931, the grant which the Scullin Administration had made for the purpose of carrying out experimental work at Newnes rapidly became exhausted.
– There was over £30,000 left in the fund when the change of government took place, and the money was returned to consolidated revenue.
– The honorable member may be better informed in that regard than I am, because I believe he was the Assistant Minister in Charge of Development at the time. However, it is not a point of tremendous importance now. When I say that the fund rapidly became exhausted, I state what is substantially the truth. The Lyons Government found itself obliged to resort to some measures for the purpose of developing the field by private enterprise, and it pursued a very vigorous policy in that regard. It made generous offers of assistance to any company or group of persons that would be prepared to undertake the development of the field. One group, generally known as Treganowan and Cham bens, undertook to work the field with assistance from the Government, but it was unable to obtain the necessary financial backing from the public to float a company. Itinvited the public to subscribe £250,000, but I understand that it was offered only £4,500. Subsequently, proposals were submitted to Sir John Cadman, who is the representative of a British oil firm, but he turned them down as unsatisfactory. Proposals were then made to Imperial Chemicals Limited, who had the necessary resources to undertake the work, but that firm would not consider the matter. Then, in August last, the Government advertised for offers from companies or groups of persons prepared to undertake the development of the field. It offered to remit all excise on motor spirit produced at Newnes for a period of approximately 20 years. It also offered generous financial assistance; but although it advertised these terms all over the Commonwealth and Great Britain, no offers were received. I mention this in order to show that the difficulties associated with the floating of this enterprise were very real. It must be said to the credit of this Government that, with considerable vigour and with very great business acumen, it has done everything that conceivably could be done with a view to launching the enterprise. Up to the end of last year all its efforts were unsuccessful, and it was only then that it approached the gentlemen who have now consented to co-operate with the State and Federal Governments in the formation of a company to develop the field. I do not think that either Mr. Davis, or any of the interests with which he is associated, were anxious to undertake the work. They did it more as a patriotic gesture of service to the Commonwealth, and they have met, even at this early stage, with the fate of most people who seek to serve the public - they have been slandered and vilified ; they have been met with vituperative criticism from members of this House, such as tlie honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), and members of the New South Wales Parliament. However, in spite of that criticism, they will go on and succeed where others have failed. One must, when considering this matter, remember that it is absolutely necessary to provide for supplies of oil from local sources, that it was found impossible to attract capital for the exploitation of the field in the ordinary way, and that the Government Was forced to make the best bargain it could.
– Was this agreement offered to any other interests?’
– Tenders were called for, and the terms of this agreement were known.
– That is not so.
– The general principles of the agreement were known.
MrT JOHN LAWSON.- It is impos sible for a Government to draw up an agreement in precise terms, and advertise it in advance. However, substantially the terms offered in this agreement were published when the Government called for offers twelve months ago for the development of the field. Naturally, when the representatives of the various interests concerned came to discuss details, certain alterations were made, but the Government is not offering the Davis group greater assistance than it was prepared to offer to any other company or group- of repute which might have undertaken to do the work. The fact is, of course, that nobody else could be prevailed upon to take any interest in it. The Government was. compelled, as an alternative to the complete abandonment of the scheme, to offer the terms embodied in the agreement. I admit that it would be impossible completely to satisfy all parties, and interests inside and outside Parliament in an agreement of this kind, but I suggest that the agreement has been made in good faith with men of the highest repute who can be relied upon to honour it both in the spirit and in the letter.’ If it is carried out in the manner we expect it will prove, not the scourge vliich the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) seems to fear, but a great boon to the Commonwealth.
The honorable member for Dalley seems to believe most fervently that this industry should be nationalized. That is also the opinion of the Leader of the Opposition in New South “Wales, Mr. Lang, and of the honorable member for Hunter. In fact, I believe that it is the expressed view of all members of the Opposition, but it is certainly contrary to the policy that the Labour Government pursued in 1931 in connexion with this enterprise. I was an infant in politics in those days, and am- not very closely conversant with what members of the Seullin Government were preaching at the time in regard to Newnes, though I believe they were advocating nationalization; but I know that its actual proposal was to hand the field over to private enterprise. When the Minister for Defence made this suggestion the other night, it was hotly denied by the Leader of the Opposition, but I refer honorable members to the first annual report of the Shale Oil Development Committee issued in June, 1932, covering operations for the first year. On page 4 of that report the following occurs: -
The Commonwealth Government made available from the grant a sum of £30,000 for the purpose of trial operations at Newnes, and intimated that when that amount was exhausted the Committee was to hand the undertaking over to private enterprise.
That report is signed by the secretary of the Shale Oil Development Committee, Mr. D. J. Davies, an ex-secretary of the Miners Federation, whilst the chairman of thb committee was Mr. Hamilton Knight, M.L.A., who was appointed by the Lang Government. That report definitely indicated that the policy of the Scullin Government was to hand over the Newnes field to private enterprise immediately the £30,000, which it had set aside for trial operations, had been exhausted.
– The trouble is that this agreement hands the Government over to private enterprise.
– In respect of what year is the honorable member speaking?
– The first year of operations of the committee - 1931. It was established by the Scullin Administration, and the Lang Government had representation on it. In order to give honorable members the fullest information in this matter, I shall read the following extract from the report of the committee: -
The committee- consisting of Mr. Hamilton Knight, M.I.A., chairman; Mr. John Gunn, Director of Development, treasurer; Mr. T. Leahey; and Mr. D. J. Davies (who was also appointed permanent secretary to the committee for a period of three years), held its first meeting on thu 10th April, 193 J. This meeting was convened by the Honorable K J. Holloway, M.H.E., who was then Assistant Federal Minister for Development. Mr. Holloway informed the committee that the Commonwealth Government desired that it should function at once, arid endeavour to have placed in employment as many as possible of the unemployed coal-miners in New South Wales.
On page 4, the report states -
The Commonwealth Government made available from the grant a sum of £30,000 for the purpose of trial operations at Newnes, and intimated that when that amount was exhausted the committee was to hand the undertaking over to private enterprise.
– The honorable member does not say that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) said that?
– What is the honorable member’s imputation?
– I have just read a quotation from the first annual report of the Shale Oil Development Committee.
– I can refer honorable members to a letter, written from the Prime Minister’s Department when the Scullin Government was in office, stating that private enterprise was to take over the development of Newnes.
– Who said that?
– That letter went through the Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department, Sir John McLaren, when the Scullin Government was in office.
– And will the Minister allow honorable members on this side of the House to examine that file?
– When honorable members opposite win the election they can have access to that file, but not before.
– What is the reason for all this effort on the part of honorable members opposite to prevent increased employment being provided ?
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order !
– I cannot understand why honorable members opposite desire that the facts in relation to this matter should be concealed. They should welcome the closest examination of its history in order that they may view it in a proper perspective, and the true history of the matter is given on the pages of this authentic report, from which I have quoted. Thus, we find that the policy adopted by the Scullin Government, when it was burdened with the responsibility of office, was the reverse of what is declared to be the policy of honorable members opposite today. The Scullin Government proposed to hand over the development of the Newnes shale oil-field to private enterprise.
– That is information to some of us.
– But it is information which honorable members should have.
– They stand very much in need of it.
– I simply made the above quotation in answer to the claim advanced by honorable members opposite that the policy of their party is one of nationalizing this industry. That may be the policy which they preach to their heelers and supporters outside, but the fact remains that when their party had to carry the full responsibility of office it adopted a policy diametrically opposed to the one which honorable members opposite preached in this House last night.
– Let them vote against it.
– They have not got the courage to voteagainst it. They have condemned this bill root and branch, and criticized it to a greater degree than any other measure that has been before the House this session, yet they have not the courage to vote against it.
– Up to now, four honorable gentlemen, two on this side of the House and two honorable members opposite, have spoken on this matter and all four of them have condemned it; that is a fact.
– I now propose to reply briefly to further criticism levelled against the bill by the honorable member for Dalley in respect of the estimates of the employment-affording capacity of this industry. Various estimates have been given. Some people have set down the number to be employed at 350, whilst the estimate of others has been as high as 600 men. In the report of the Shale Oil Development Committee, the figure given was about 350, but I point out to the honorable member for Dalley that that committee’s estimate was made on an output basis of about 6,000,000 gallons of petrol per annum. This company, however, proposes to produce to the very maximum capacity of the field, that is, 10,000,000 gallons of motor spirit per annum, and the latest minimum estimate of the number to be employed on that basis is 600 men, including, of course, those who will be engaged in mining shale.
– That is direct employment?
– Yes, direct employment on the field itself, and we can probably set down the number to be employed, directly and indirectly, at a minimum of 1,500 men. Nevertheless, honorable members opposite are opposed to this proposal.
It has also been suggested by critics of this measure that its provisions for the exclusion of foreign influence are wholly inadequate. I do not claim to be an authority on the drawing up of such agreements; but, in answer to this phase of the criticism voiced in this debate, I point out that this agreement has been drawn up with the greatest of care, keeping in mind the principles laid down in Palmer’s Company Precedents, which is the best text-book on this subject circulating in the British Empire. The wording of the relevant provisions in this agreement closely follows the wording of similar provisions made bythe British Government in respect of companies operating in Great Britain. [Leave to continue given.] It cannot be said, therefore, that this Government has not taken effective steps to exclude foreign influence. In addition, this agreement provides not only that all the important officers of the company shall be of British birth, but also the masters, engineers, and officers on any boat, or sea-going vessel, operated by the company. Thus, every possible precaution has been taken in this respect in this agreement.
– Why would not the Government accept my suggestion to. adopt a similar provision in respect of the Petroleum Oil Search Bill?
– I think that that provision is in the bill referred to by the honorable member.
– (No, the Government refused to put it in that measure.
– The honorable members for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), Dalley and Hunter criticized the proposed remission of excise duty inf avour of this company, and- various estimates, ranging from £250,000 up to £300,000, were given as to the value of the benefit which will be conferred on the company in this respect.
– That is on a basis of a production of 10,000,000 gallons of petrol a year?
– I believe so. It has always been a source of wonderment to me that, when an industry of this kind is about to be established - an industry which will provide one of the most vital commodities needed for the carrying on of business in this country, and a commodity which will be the very lifeblood of the mechanized forces proposed to be established in the interests of defence in this country - some people immediately declare that an excise duty, in this instance 51/2d. a gallon, should be levied. That attitude is never adopted in respect of other industries. I have never heard any honorable member suggest that Australian boot manufacturers should be charged excise duty, or that excise should be levied upon coal, gas, or electricity, or any other means of motive power, or any other commodity of this character, produced in this country. Strangely enough, however, honorable members who have been most trenchant in their criticism of the remission of excise duty proposed under this agreement, are among those who most loudly proclaim that the tax on petrol should be reduced. Do they urge that a tax on foreign petrol should be reduced, and, at the same time, an excise duty should be levied on petrol produced in this country? An excise duty of 51/2d. a gallon is not a legitimate charge to levy on oil produced in Australia.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to2 p.m.
– The excise remission proposed to be granted under this agreement simply gives effect to a general fiscal principle that has been accepted by all parties in this House. It affords the local industry a substantial, but not an excessive, measure of protection. It does not amount to more than 7 per cent, or 8 per cent, of the sum that in one year was granted, for instance, to the wheat industry. It is considerably less than the amount of the fertilizers subsidy paid by this Government during the last financial year, and does not afford the industry a greater measure of protection than is given to many hundreds of other local industries - operating in Australia in competition with goods produced in foreign countries, and under conditions which would never be acceptable to working men or to governments in the Commonwealth.
Two fears appear to be entertained by honorable members who have criticized this proposal. One is that the company will fail and that the money which the Government is to advance will be wholly lost. The other fear is that the company will succeed so completely that it will earn excessive profits. As to the suggestion that the company may earn profits which in ordinary circumstances would be regarded as highly excessive, the Government is safeguarded because it has set a limit to the quantity of motor spirit on which it will give the measure of assistance provided for in the bill, a quantity which totals probably no more than 3 per cent, of the total requirements of Australia. If the company is as successful as the honorable member for
Dalley seems to fear it will be, this will have the effect of stimulating this industry in all parts of Australia and the vexed and vital problem of oil supplies for the Commonwealth will be solved. Every shale-field that has any potentialities at all will be taken up, and companies will seek to develop them.
– Will they all get anagreement like this?
– I take it that the measure of government assistance given to any other company will be determined by the results obtained by the company which proposes to work Newnes. If the industry is stimulated in other parts of Australia and throughout the1 Commonwealth, the object of this measure will have been achieved, and no substantial harm will have been done to anybody.
Take the other fear that has been .expressed most emphatically, I think, by the honorable member for Hunter and the honorable member for Forrest that the company might so completely fail that the Government would lose the money to be advanced. Then the Government would have some claim over the assets of the company, which, admittedly, would not be worth a great deal. But I stress the fact that the chief complaint levelled against relief schemes in the distressed areas of New South Wales, particularly the coal-mining areas -and I believe this to be a valid criticism - is that large sums of money have been, spent in those areas on wholly unreproductive works, so that to-day we have absolutely nothing to show for the millions of pounds spent on relief in those areas. The effect of the passing of this bill will be to afford an opportunity to develop a really reproductive industry. The company will afford direct employment for 600 men, and, indirectly, for another 800 or 900. Thus it will provide employment for about 1,500 men, the relief of whom, in normal circumstances, would cost the Government at least £150,000 per annum.
– But this agreement will cost the Government £250,000.
– I admit that the Government will lose revenue to the extent of £250,000, but one must offset the degree of benefit that this measure will confer upon the hundreds of families for which it provides employment. It will relieve government expenditure for relief purposes to an amount of at least £3 50,000 a year, converting men and their families who, in the past, have been heavy liabilities on the Government, into taxpayers who contribute to the Federal and State revenue.
Whatever criticisms may be levelled against the bill, one must admit that thi9 Government has entered the arena of real -endeavour in order to implement a practical developmental policy with regard to the shale-fields of this country. Because of that, and because it has been able to bring before the House the first practical proposal for the exploitation of our shale fields, it stands a long way above those of its critics who have nothing but destructive criticism to offer of the Government’s efforts, and who, while in office themselves, made no effective contribution to the solution of this problem which the present Government has courageously faced. This undertaking, I believe, will prove the nucleus of an industry of untold potentialities that may extend to almost every part of the Commonwealth. I consider that it will provide an excellent opportunity for. the training of fuel-oil experts, thus meeting a need which has never yet been satisfied. It is the best conceivable plan for the establishment of a fuel-oil supply from local sources, and I believe that it will lift the pall of economic despair under which hundreds of people in the Lithgow area have dwelt for many years, enabling them to repair their broken fortunes by building on the foundations which this industry will provide, and justifying the hope of remunerative and permanent employment.
Debate interrupted by personal explanations (vide page 949).
.- Every Australian will agree that the general object of the measure now under consideration is worthy of consideration by the national Parliament. The endeavour to make available within the Commonwealth supplies of oil for our own needs should be prosecuted by every means at our command. It is most certainly a subject deserving of the consideration of the Government. I am glad that this is not the first Commonwealth Parliament which has directed its “ attention to this subject, nor is this the first occasion on which an attempt has been made to develop a method to produce oil from shale.
I am not dismayed by the magnitude of the sum proposed to be made available to assist in the production of oil from shale on this occasion, for I reflect that an amount of very nearly £1,000,000 has been voted by this Parliament at different times to assist in the search for flow oil within the continent and in New -Guinea. The greater part of that substantial, sum has already been expended fruitlessly. No doubt every member is hopeful that the unexpended portion of the amount of £250,000 made available last year to subsidize the search for flow oil in Australia may bring more satisfactory results, but our experience is such as to discourage undue optimism. In the light of our experience it is, in my opinion, quite proper for the Government to devote its attention to an alternative method of producing the oil which is so necessary for our industrial and defence requirements.
Other methods than the production of oil from shale have already been considered. Reports have been made from time to time by competent investigators on the possibility of establishing a plant, in Australia for the hydrogenation of coal, but these do not lead us to anticipate establishment in the near future. We have also at different times caused investigations to be made into the economics of the production of power alcohol here. The estimate of the cost of such production does not suggest that an undertaking of’ that description could be properly regarded as economic at present.
We have in Australia, however, large shale beds, rich in oil, and ready to be exploited. If they can be developed at a reasonable cost it is in the interests of the nation to develop them. As no Australian needs convincing of the importance for defence purposes of the production of oil in Australia, we do not need to labour that aspect of the subject. Consequently, I give the Government full credit for making what I regard as an earnest endeavour to develop our shale oil deposits. The agreement submitted to us and probably the procedure adopted in the drafting of it leaves room for some criticism, but at least an earnest and sincere endeavour is being made to establish this industry on an effective basis.
Before making any observations upon the merits of the proposed agreement, I wish to offer some general comments upon the principle of governments entering into agreements by executive act and then bringing the completed documents to Parliament for ratification, leaving Parliament no alternative but to ratify them in toto or reject them. It is highly desirable, in my opinion, that consideration should be given as to the possibility of adopting some alternative to this procedure. Honorable members are put in an unfair position when agreements of this nature are submitted for ratification. In theory this procedure may be all right, but in practice it leaves a great deal to be desired. We have before us at the moment the result of an executive act of the Government of supreme importance. Honorable members who have spoken in this debate lave, with one exception indicated that, while they are in complete agreement with the general principles of the proposal, they are severely critical of the details of it; and they have justly complained that they are unfairly faced with the alternative of accepting or rejecting the agreement, in its entirely. They feel that they should not be obliged to accept an agreement, with the details of which they are in conflict. I shall give my own opinion on that point presently, but I ask the Government to consider whether it would not be far better to submit proposals . of this kind to a committee of the House before any agreement is completed. Perhaps the Public Accounts Committee could be reconstituted to review these matters, for members representative of all parties of the House sit on such a committee. If such a committee were to report generally favorably to the Government, it could feel reasonably safe in undertaking the execution of or entering into a contract and, later, bringing it with all confidence, before Parliament, quite sure that it would have its executive act endorsed. I offer that suggestion to the Government and trust that it will receive some consideration.
One must view this particular proposal as part of the general budgetary proposals of the Government, because we find in this year’s Estimates, that a certain sum is proposed to be allocated for the purpose of carrying out the undertaking of this agreement; and, while, of course, it would not be competent for me on this occasion to enter into a general discussion of the budget proposals, I find it impossible to view this bill, which appropriates a very substantial amount, without at the same time visualizing its relation to the general budgetary position. I found myself faced with the same consideration yesterday when a proposal to appropriate £1,000,000, also an integral part of the budgetary proposals, was before the House before the budget itself had been considered. In this bill we have a proposal, whatever its merits may he, in which the Government intends to make from its current revenue an investment, a speculative investment, of the sum of £334,000, lent out at the rate of 41/2 per cent, per annum. Yesterday we had the Government successfully asking Parliament to make an appropriation of £1,000,000 for postal works from the accumulated surplus. While I view these two proposals against the general background of the Government, I find that under this agreement we are making a speculative investment from our current revenue into a business enterprise. I remind the House that the budget includes a proposal to borrow £2,000,000 for expenditure on defence purposes, which of course, will not be recoverable. Nothing could be capable of more rapid depreciation than defence equipment.
– That £2,000,000 is to be borrowed abroad.
– Yes, but I do not want to touch upon that aspect at present. If we view this, as part of the budget proposals, weare brought face to face with a situation in which this Government invests from current revenue, either at a rate of interest or in a government enterprise, and borrows money which is to be spent on such a nonproduotive and non-recoverable a service as defence. That is not a sound proposal. It would be a far better general policy for the Government to spend its revenue and its accumulated surpluses on the non-recoverable and nonreproductive item of defence and to borrow, if borrowing be necessary, for spending in its own business enterprises on which we expect to make a profit, or in making investments upon which interest will be earned, as is proposed in this agreement.
I now pass to a general consideration of the agreement. If the Government is to make available money for the exploitation of shale deposits, honorable members should decide first whether that money is to be made available for the assistance of private enterprise or is to beused by the Government itself in a nationalized exploitation of the resource. Those alternatives have been dealt with very fully by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) who has always impressed me hitherto with the logic of his arguments. The honorable member convinced himself, and I am sure his colleagues were in agreement with him, that the Government was undertaking an exceedingly risky investment in this proposal. The honorable member advanced arguments, to himself very satisfactory, to show that the Government was proposing to undertake an extremely risky investment.
– The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) took a similar stand.
– I propose to deal with that a. ‘little later on. The honorable member for Dalley went further than did the honorable member for Wakefield. The honorable member for Dalley painted a dire picture of the almost inevitable loss of the Government’s money.
– I did not say it was an inevitable loss.
– The honorable member painted a picture which left no other thought in the minds of his listeners than that, should this proposal be proceeded with, it was almost inevitable that this money would be lost. The honorable member concluded by urging most strongly, as the alternative to the present proposal, that the Government should not permit private enterprise to share this risk, but should itself shoulder the whole of the risk. From the honorable member’s speech, it appeared that he felt quite convinced that while the Government would certainly lose all the money it put forward to assist private enterprise to exploit these fields, if it could undertake the job itself, everything would be right.
– The honorable member would be entitled to develop a good argument on that point if I had said that.
– -It is too late for him to wriggle out of what he said now. I find myself not entirely happy in contemplation of a proposal under which a most important national resource is to be exploited by private enterprise. I say quite candidly that I should be much happier to contemplate the exploitation of this resource by the Government itself. I have to bear in mind, however, the history of the field and the fact that private enterprise has already lost something like £1,000,000 in one endeavour to exploit this resource. That fact does not make me enthusiastic that the Commonwealth Government should shoulder the whole of the responsibility. Very powerful industrial groups took an option on the field and the installed machinery, but, unconvinced of the feasibility of exploiting the deposits, did not proceed with its project. There is one final point which apparently makes it impossible to propose that the field should ‘be exploited by Government enterprise alone, and that is an obstacle against which I find myself continually stumbling in this Parliament. It is the point of the constitutional limitations of the Commonwealth which, I understand, preclude it as a Government’ from undertaking any business enterprise in competition with private enterprise.
– That is one of the reasons whythe Scullin Government did not touch it.
– I appreciate that point. In fairness to the Scullin Government it is a point that might well be made clear. I find it a matter for regret that constitutional limitations make it impossible to consider the exploitation of a national resource of the Commonwealth by the Government of the Commonwealth. If there were not that constitutional limitation to consider, then we could decide between the merits of private enterprise and government enterprise. To establish an economic unit on this field one must contemplate the production of a volume of oil considerably in excess of what the Government needs for its own requirements and so necessarily contemplate sale of the product in competition against private enterprise, which, of course, is forbidden to the Commonwealth by the Constitution.
The agreement is, of course, liberal, as none will deny. I think it could be described as a fairly loose agreement. Itis both loose and liberal. Under it, the Commonwealth has to find £334,000, the State of New South Wales, £166,000, and private enterprise £166,000. There is a further provision that at no time are the government contributions to exceed 15s. in the £1 of the total capital available to the company. The contract provides that the company shall have a sttbscribed capital of £166,000 of which 5s. in the £1 must have been paid in cash before any money shall be deemed to be paid by either of the governments. Concurrently with the further contributions by the governments, the company itself must provide 5s. in the £1. So we contemplate, if the contract is carried to its conclusion, a situation in which there will be paid-up capital- of £166,000 provided by the company itself and £500,000 of government money lent at 41/2 per cent. I am amazed to find that no provision has been made for government representation upon the directorate of this company, which is to have so vast a sum of public money made available to it.
– We are all amazed at that.
– I would put it most strongly to the Government that it is extremely unwise to make such a huge sum of government money available for so speculative a purpose and permit that money to pass entirely out of its control. It should not be too late for the Government to heed the opinion which I am sure will be expressed from every quarter of this House, namely, that there should be on the directorate of this particular company, while it is handling the debenture capital provided by the two governments, a voice that would speak on behalf of the Government.
– On every platform in Australia that matter will be dealt with.
– If the management, of the company should be extravagant or inefficient, the Government will find itself with no control whatever.
– The company would lose its own money.
– I appreciate the point that the company would lose its own money. But if the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales jointly are to provide £500,000, they might well demand some voice in the management of the affairs of the company. What recourse would the Government have should it decide that the affairs of the company were not being prudently managed? From my study of the bill, I should say that it would have no recourse other than to foreclose, should the company fail to meet its interest payment on the due date. The agreement sets out very definitely the order of priority in which the earnings of the company shall be distributed - first, in the payment of reasonable working expenses, including interest, for the year; and secondly, on account of reasonable working expenses, including interest, for previous years. I repeat that there will be no government representation on the directorate to decide whether or not the working expenses are reasonable. Nor am I convinced that the provision relating to the payment of interest for previous years could not be construed as meaning that the Government had foregone its right to demand interest should the interest not have been earned. That is a point upon which I should like the Minister to comment. I, of course, do not find myself competent to pass a legal opinion, but it seems to be an issue that might well be raised. The House is entitled to hear from the Government legal opinion on the point. I repeat that, should, the Government feel that the money it had invested in this company was not being prudently expended, or that the company was being extravagantly or inefficiently managed, it apparently would have no recourse under the agreement other than to foreclose if the company failed to pay interest. The concessions which the Government has found itself called upon to give to this company are extraordinarily liberal. They involve the provision of such large sums, and contemplate the loss by the Government of so much revenue, that I feel that the Government would not be likely to decide to wind up the company merely because it had found itself unable to pay interest during the first two, three or four years. Having become so deeply involved financially, it would probably say “If the interest has not been earned, we shall not wind up the company and face inevitable loss by foreclosing, merely because the interest has not been paid.” That is another reason why the Government’ should have protected itself by making provision in this agreement for some representation on the directorate of the company.
There is, however, on my construction of the agreement, another gap in it thatremains unfilled; that is, that contributions by the Government are not to be made en bloc, but as and when the company shall request, contingent, of course, upon the company’s paid-up capital being concurrently increased. Apparently, the contributions by the Government are not to be hypothecated for capital expenditure. Quite easily, therefore, there might be a state of affairs in which the company, finding it difficult to meet its interest payments and not having called up the whole of the Government’s contributions, could call for further contributions for the purpose of paying to the Government the interest that it owed. That is a point to which the Governmentmight direct its attention.
There is a further provision- upon which I wish to offer some criticism. Paragraph 24 of the agreement provides that-
If within the period ending 31st December, 1959–
Twenty years from the commencement of operations by the company - petrol is produced, from Australian flow oil to the extent that it is impossible for the company, as a result of such production, to operate except at a loss, the Commonwealth and the States shall favourably consider granting adequate relief to the company.
That is one of the conditions which induced me to describe the agreement as both liberal and loose. The condition is quite mandatory : “ The Commonwealth and the States shall favorably consider granting adequate relief.” There is no definition of what might, be regarded as “ adequate relief “. It is by no means clear that Parliament will be asked to consider that particular matter. The situation which this particular clause contemplates is that the Government shall have invested large sums in this company the discovery of flow oil shall have made ir, impossible for the company to carry on profitably; and the governments shall be called upon favorably to consider the granting of adequate relief. In the absence of that provision the governments would, of course, merely sit on their contractual rights ; they would say, “ If this company cannot carry on profitably, if it cannot meet its interest payments and repay the principal, it shall be wound up, and as debenture-holders we shall have first call on its assets.” That would be the normal contractual procedure. But that has been varied by this particular paragraph, which demands that the governments shall give favorable consideration to the granting of adequate relief. I consider -that, on the occasion of the voting of this money, the Parliament is entitled to hear something at least from the Government as to what it would regard as “ adequate relief “ in such a contingency. If both parties - the company and the two governments - were to say, “A loss has been incurred; we shall realize and distribute pro rata the proceeds of the realization, and write off and forget about the loss,” that could be described as adequate relief. On the other hand, it would be quite competent, T should say, for the provision so to be construed that the construing party would say, “ Here is a private company which has been induced by the Government to invest a huge amount of its own money in an endeavour to exploit successfully, in the interests of the nation, a natural resource of Australia which has a very close relationship to the defence necessities of the country, and a loss having been incurred, it is quite proper for the Government to compensate the company by reimbursing it, either wholly or in part, for its investment.” That is an alternative construction which could be placed on “ adequate relief.” Before the Parliament commits itself to the voting of £304,000, it is entitled to some definition of “ adequate relief “ from the Government.
There is a final point upon which I should like to hear some comment by the Government. I hope that, in the perusal of the agreement, I have not missed something- which may cover it. I refer to the possibility of the company benefiting by a later increase of the revenue duties imposed on imported oils and spirit. The petrol tax of 7d. agallon, plus primage, which we regard as very heavy, is by no means the highest tax imposed by governments on petrol. I believe that it is substantially exceeded in New Zealand, in the United Kingdom, and in quite a number of other countries. When Australia was faced with the necessity to increase its revenue rapidly in, I think, 1930, one of the first items to which the attention of the then Government was directed was that of petrol imports. The previously existing rate of duty was more than- doubled. Consequently, from the view-point of the precedent in our own country and a compari- son of our petrol duties with the duties imposed in other countries, it is by no means impossible to visualize later necessities demanding a further increase of the duties here. Naturally, that would be passed on to the public by the importing companies, and would be reflected in an increase of the retail price. Should that occur, is this company to be permitted concurrently to raise the retail price of its petrol for sale within Australia, and thus benefit very substantially, at the expense of the Australian consumers, as the result of governmental action undertaken as a national necessity? The agreement is defective if such a development is possible. If I am labouring a point that has been covered, perhaps the Minister will indicate, by interjection, and I shall refrain from further comment. I take it that his silence indicates that it has not been covered.
– I prefer not to interrupt the honorable member’s speech. I shall speak later.
– There is a possibility of the Government in such a manner accidentally granting further concessions than intended, and if so the omission should be corrected. I have . not directed my criticism to the broad principle of governmental assistance in the exploitation of these shale deposits. I believe it to be a very sound principle. It is a national necessity, and I can be relied upon to support any proposal if from a business view-point it is well founded. But there are some aspects of this agreement which, upon perusal, I find are not based on such principles, and it is towards those “details that I have directed my criticism.I feel that the House is entitled to more information from the Minister upon the points I have raised.
– I intend to support the agreement between the Commonwealth, the State of New South Wales, and the National Oil Proprietary Limited. I am, however, just a little concerned that in the conflict of party politics this measure cannot be debated entirely in the spirit which’ it merits. Every honorable member agrees, that the production of oil in Australia should be above party politics. It is a tragic and inescapable fact that to-day guns are rattling almost at our doors, and I understand that in a. national emergency our oil supplies would not last for more than three months. Almost any steps that might be taken to produce oil in this country, with little regard for economic considerations, are justified. During the debate the point has been raised as to whether the industry should be developed by private enterprise or by governments, but these are of minor importance compared with the big national issue.
– I tried to make that clear.
– I realize that. My only complaint is that a production of 10,000,000 gallons is quite inadequate. I should support the measure with greater enthusiasm if it provided for a production of 100,000,000 gallons. I gather from the speech of the Minister (Sir Archdale Parkhill), and from the remarks of some honorable members, that this is merely what might be termed a demonstrational unit, and that before many years elapse the shale oil industry will supply a substantial proportion of our needs. But while the shale oil industry is developing, we must look to other sources of supply. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) spoke last night - on the production of benzol. Our present production of this commodity is about 2,000,000 gallons per annum, but that quantity could be greatly augmented if the gas companies of Australia embarked upon the enterprise. The Newnes Investigation Committee,, which reported on benzol, showed that its production could be undertaken economically by gas companies throughout Australia. It is the responsibility of these companies to take the initiative in the national interests, and if they do, the Commonwealth Government and State governments should see that their enterprise is encouraged. Benzol is a firstclass spirit for aircraft, if it is treated, as it readily can be, so that it will not freeze at high altitudes. We ought to be able to rely on benzol to keep our aircraft in the air. There is another objective to which we could devote our energies in producing fuel oil in this country - I refer to power alcohol. Other countries, such as Germany and France, arc producing substantial quantities of power alcohol. The combined output of this commodity in those countries is 50,000,000 gallons per annum, produced principally from wood and sweet potatoes. In all countries where power alcohol is produced, its consumption is rendered compulsory by legislation, and it is used in the proportion of 15 per cent, to 20 per cent, power alcohol to 80 per cent, to 85 per cent, of petrol. In the Commonwealth we have a more economical source of production than wood or sweet potatoes in molasses and B syrups. The present production of power alcohol in Queensland is slightly more than 500,000 gallons per annum, but this quantity could be increased to several million gallons per annum. I am informed that economic production is the barrier to an expansion of the industry. We have been informed in the House that the industry would need a subsidy of 3d. a gallon, but I believe that substantial reductions of costs could bo accomplished.
– Threepence a gallon would be cheaper than this proposal.
– I am merely pointing out that, in addition to what is contemplated under this agreement, we should do all we can to increase the production of benzol and power alcohol in Australia to meet a great national need. An economic inquiry, as well as a technical inquiry, into the product of power alcohol is urgently needed in this country. “We have been assured by the Prime Minister that the report of Mr. Rogers on the production of power alcohol will be tabled before Parliament prorogues, and I am awaiting his recommendations with the keenest interest. The cost of raw materials should be investigated closely, production figures should be submitted to the closest scrutiny, and methods of distribution should be carefully examined. Time is important, and I urge the Government to make an immediate and comprehensive survey of all possible sources of supply of liquid fuel, giving particular attention to power alcohol and benzol.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Archie Cameron) adjourned.
Statement bt Oil Search Limited.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. On the adjournment of the House last night, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) made an unwarranted attack on me in connexion with the position which I am alleged to have held in connexion with a company called Oil Search Limited. I would say first that, on the adjournment of the House on Tuesday, the honorable member for East Sydney asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) certain questions with regard to the search for oil in New Guinea. During the course of his remarks, the honorable member did not impute motives to me, or reflect on my character in any way when I was present. Last night, however, I was summoned to Sydney on urgent business, and during my absence from the House he said that I am connected with a company which was alleged to be corrupt, namely, Oil Search Limited. He said that I was a director of this company. That was a most unfair statement, as I have never been a director of that company, nor am I a director of it now. I have never held a share in it, and I do not hold any of its shares now. In all fairness,. I ask the honorable member to withdraw those statements. In fairness to the company, I may say that I have followed its activities, as I have those of all companies in the Commonwealth which have as their objective the finding of oil, or the development of the mineral resources of this country. I have done that as a citizen, and as one who desires the riches of this country toe exploited. I have had no active association with Oil Search Limited, but I believe that it is one of the most reputable companies in Australia, strenuously endeavouring to discover oil in the Commonwealth or its dependencies: If the honorable member will accept my statement, apologize for what he has said, and withdraw his imputation, I shall accept, his withdrawal; but his statement concerning myself has caused me a good deal of annoyance in the city in which I have endeavoured to live honorably throughout my life.
– I rise to a personal explanation. In the first place, I think that the honorable member has been misinformed as to what I said last night. I did not refer to Oil Search Limited ‘ as a. corrupt company.
– The word used was “ fraudulent “.
– Not even that. I said that if the statement of the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) was correct, or if the reply given to me by the Government was correct, the company was a fraudulent one, but that if the company was correct, in what it had stated - in its circular to the shareholders, the responsibility with regard to fraudulent statements rested elsewhere. On the 27th August last I addressedthe following question to the Minister for the Interior: -
Will the Minister for the Interior communicate with the Administrator of New Guinea to ascertain whether there is any truth in the report that is circulating, that oil in commercial quantities has been found in Dutch New Guinea in close proximity to British territory ?
Later I received the following reply from the Ministe?
I now desireto inform the honorable mem- ber that the Commonwealth Governmenthas no information regarding the discovery of oil in Dutch New Guinea, and, in reply to inquiries made of them, the Lieutenant-Governor of Papua and the Administrator of New Guinea have advised that they have no information regarding any such discovery.
I n the document which I produced in the House - a circular issued to shareholders of Oil Search Limited, dated 14th November, 1936 - the following statement appears : - lt is interesting to note regarding our ex- clusive 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 Government 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 “.
It does not appear to the Chair that the honorable member is making a personal explanation. He is simply repeating what he said last night.
Mr.WARD. - I am endeavouring to indicate what was stated by me last night, and pointing out that I did not say that this was a corrupt company.
– The honorable member linked my name with the company.
– I shall deal with that point.
– The House is at present concerned with a personal explanation by the honorable member for Parkes.
– The statement which the honorable member for Parkes has attributed to me is that I said he was connected with a corrupt company. I have not yet stated that the company is corrupt. That is a matter for the Government to consider. If the company’s information is correct there is something tha.t needs investigation, for in that case the replies given by the Prime Minister to my questions are not correct. The degree to which I linked the honorable member fo- Parkes with the company can be ascertained from a perusal of the Hansard report of my speech.
– I have seen the report.
– I said that I had been informed that the honorable member was a director of the company.
– I have denied that.
– I am prepared to accept the honorable member’s assurance thathe is not in any way connected with the company. Even if I had said he was connected with it there would be nothing discreditable in it at this stage. It may be that the trouble is to be found in the making by members of the Government of incorrect replies to questions asked by honorable members in this House.
– I do not wish to touch that question, or whether the company is corrupt or not. I have nothing whatever to do with the company in any shape or form. The issue that the honorable member raises as to whether the answers given to his questions are correct is one for the Government. For myself, I have given an assurance that I am not connected with the company and I ask the honorable member to accept my word–
– I accept it.
– I ask him also to express regret for having associated my name with the company.
– I accept the honorable member’s statement.
– Will the honorable member for East Sydney withdraw his remarks concerning me?
– What about, the honorable member for West Sydney (“Mr. Beasley) ?
– As the Minister for Defence wishes me to say something I ask leave to make a personal explanation.
– The Minister for Defence has nothing to do with the matter before the Chair.
– I wish to make clear what I said last night. I said, in regard to the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr), that it would be unwise and unfair to proceed any further ‘with this matter so far as he was concerned untilhe was present. I added that he might have some statement to make on the matter and that opportunity should be given to him to make it.
– That is quite right.
– I now say quite frankly, to the honorable member that I accept, unreservedly, his statement that ho is not associated with the company. I am quite satisfied about that. In linking his name with the subject I did not in any way suggest corruption. That is quite frankly my position, and I am happy to be able to make these observations.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I had very little to say about the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr). I stated, however, that an ex-member of this House, Mr. Walter Marks, who once represented the division of Wentworth, was associated with the company. Like the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), I thought there was room for inquiry into this whole matter, especially as the name of the Commonwealth Parliament and of the Prime Minister of Australia (Mr. Lyons) has been associated with this company. I did not suggest that any one had been guilty of fraudulent practices; but, apparently, the replies made to certain questions have not been satisfactory.
An Honorable Member. - What has the Government to say?
– The Government will issue a statement in its own time.
– The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has not been accused of .making any statements to which objection has been taken and I ask him to resume his seat.
– What has the Minister for Defence to say about the matter ?
– As the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) thinks that I should say something
– Order ! Both the honorable member for Werriwa and the Minister for Defence are out of order.
Motion (by- Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next, at 10.30 a.m.
Oil in Dutch New Guinea: Statement by Oil Search Limited - Departure of Leader of the Opposition.
.- I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
Last night, on the adjournment of this House, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) made reference to information which I had supplied in answer to a question asked by him on the 26th August, 1937, with regard to the alleged discovery of oil in Dutch New Guinea near the border of the Territory of New Guinea. In the course of his remarks he stated that the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) is one of the directors of Oil Search Limited. That honorable member has dealt with this phase of the matter in a statement to the House this afternoon. The question addressed by the honorable member to the Minister for -the Interior was as follows: -
Will the Minister for the Interior communicate with the Administrator of New Guinea to ascertain whether there is any truth in the report that is circulating that oil in commercial quantities has been found in Dutch New Guinea in close proximity to British territory?
The Minister for the Interior replied -
I shall direct the attention of the Minister for External Affairs, who deals with that territory, to the question asked by the honorable member.
Inquiry was made of the Administrator as requested, and also of the LieutenantGovernor of Papua. The following telegram was sent to the Lieutenant-Governor and the Administrator: -
Question Parliament as to whether any information as to discovery . oil commercial quantities Dutch New Guinea close internation;! I border. Nothing known here; have you any information?
They replied as follows: -
Have no information regarding alleged discovery oil Dutch New Guinea.
From the Administrator of New Guinea -
No information here alleged discovery.
Oil the 7th September, I furnished the honorable member with the following reply:-
I now desire to inform the honorable member that the Commonwealth Government has no information regarding the discovery of oil in Dutch New Guinea, and that, in reply to the inquiries made of them, the LieutenantGovernor of Papua and the Administrator of N’ew Guinea have advised that they have no i// formation regarding any such discovery.
The honorable member’s question on the 26th August, 1937, was asked without notice, and referred to “ a report that is circulating”. It seemed, therefore, to relate to a report that is current or of comparatively recent date, and the information given in reply to the honorable member’s question was on that basis. After the matter had been raised again on the adjournment by the honorable member for East Sydney, and in view of the additional information he then furnished, I at once directed that a further search be made of the files to ascertain whether any information was available in regard to a report at any time on the occurrence of oil in Dutch New Guinea. I have now been informed that a report was sent to the Prime Minister’s Department on 30th January, 1934, by the then Administrator of New Guinea, General Griffiths. The report was from the District Officer, Sepik District, and included the following -
It was agreed that oil and gold were the only two things at present, and I was informed that the former wa.s being over produced at the moment and that the splendid nil wells some few miles from Bongu had been temporarily scaled. Apparently boring is still being carried out for he had just heard that hot mineral water had been tapped at 000 metres. The sealed oil wells at Bongu are SOO metres deep.
On the recommendation of the Commonwealth Geological Adviser, (Dr. W. 0. Woolnough), a copy of the report was made available to Oil Search Limited under cover of a memorandum dated the 7th August, 1934, from my department. Oil Search Limited had been searching for oil in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea for some time, and was the only company searching for oil in the area adjacent to the border of Dutch New Guinea and the Territory of New Guinea.
.- It will now be admitted, I believe, that there was some foundation for my earlier statements and that the Government had in its possession information which I could not obtain until I had raised the matter on many occasions. The most amazing part of the whole position, however, is that the Prime Minister, (Mr. Lyons), who was in office in 1934, when this report was supplied by the Administrator of the Mandated Territory, did not disclose any knowledge of any particular report having been made or being in existence. The matter of oil supplies is undoubtedly one of major importance to Australia and, over the last few years, innumerable inquiries and investigations have been made in order to see whether flow oil is available in any quantity, in either the Commonwealth or territories controlled by the Commonwealth. In a statement made in this House on the 30th April, 1936, dealing with oil production in Australia, the Prime Minister said -
The Government is determined to investigate every means of giving to Australia some independence in oil supplies. To that end it will obtain definite information concerning the possibilities of well oil production in Australia and New Guinea. If the result is negative it will at least serve to obviate the further expenditure of large sums of money in the search for oil. If, on the other hand, oil is found, it will add immensely to the prosperity of Australia, and will meet an essential defence requirement. Information in the possession of the Government indicates that the prospects of finding well oil in commercial quantities in Australia and New Guinea ave now rated more favorably than has hitherto been the case.
Yet according to the statement made by the Prime Minister to-day his department had in its possession at that time information that oil had already been found in New Guinea and that the Administrator of the Mandated Territory had reported that these “ splendid wells “ had been temporarily sealed. On the 14th May, 1936, in moving the second reading of the Petroleum Oil Search Bill, the Minister for the Interior referred to the search for oil in these territories, and said -
The object of this measure is to appropriate a sum of £2S0,000 for the encouragement of drilling operations in connexion with the search for petroleum in Australia and in the Territories of New Guinea and Papua, lt is the intention that moneys appropriated for this purpose will be made available as advances by way of loans to . approved companies or persons on a £1 for £1 basis. . . .
Considerable preliminary geological surveys have been carried out, accompanied by some drilling; but the geological surveys are far in advance ot the drilling. Therefore, in the opinion of the Government, the time has come when special attention should be devoted to drilling. Geological structures may look favorable, but the only real test is the drill. The major expenditure associated with the search for petroleum is in connexion with drilling.
Thus, at a time when it was aware that oil had been actually discovered either in very close proximity to British territory or, if a rumour in circulation was correct, actually in British territory - the boundary at that time “WZL3 undefined - this Government was guilty of appropriating a sum of £250,000 out of the revenue of this country in order to give special privileges and concessions to private individuals interested in the search for oiL in Australia, Papua and the Mandated Territory. That is a very serious matter.
– It is bordering on a scandal.
– Even the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr), whose assurance we accept that he has not been connected with Oil Search Limited, cannot deny that he is a director of companies having a permit to search for oil in territory adjacent to areas held by Oil Search Limited. So, he and his associates had knowledge of the report which had been received by the Government from the Administrator of the Mandated Territory but which had not been made available either to the people of Australia or the members of this Parliament. That report apparently was only to be made known to the privileged few. I want the Prime Minister to tell honorable members why in 1936, when his Government was putting through* a measure to vote a sum of £250,000 for the assistance of drilling operations in the search for oil, he did not disclose to honorable members the contents of this report which he had received in 1934. We are now near the end of 1937, and there is no doubt as to what has happened in respect of the companies that have taken up these large territories. The Shell, Standard, and Pan-Pacific oil companies are rushing in to take up areas in New Guinea in order, it is said, to prevent its development by any rival interests. When the Government was passing a measure to vote £250,000 for the purpose of discovering whether flow oil was to be procured in Australia or its territories, it already knew that oil had been found in New Guinea. The honorable member for Parkes, I repeat, is interested in companies which are searching for oil in New Guinea, and if he and those associated with him had this information, then the position constitutes a public scandal and requires urgent investigation by this Government. These are the questions which I want the Prime Minister to answer : Why did he not disclose such an important report to the people, and to this Parliament, in 3934 when he received it? Why did he not disclose that report, later in 1936, when his Government was asking Parliament to vote £250,000 for the assistance of drilling operations? And why has it been so difficult for honorable members to obtain this very necessary information in regard to the finding of flow oil in commercial quantities in, or in proximity to, territories controlled by the Commonwealth? Even to-day in this chamber we have been discussing a project to produce oil from shale, and we have been told that such a proposition would not be commercially sound if flow oil were discovered. Yet during the whole of the debate on that particular measure not one word was said by any member of this Government with regard to tha report of the discovery of flow oil in New Guinea which was received by the Government from the Administrator of the Mandated Territory, General Griffiths, in 1934. What I challenge the Government- to do now if it has the courage, is to set ip an inquiry to find out why the report was suppressed, and why private individuals have been able to secure inf ormation which waa In the hands of the Government in 1934, but which has only now been disclosed to members of this House. The public will not be satisfied that the matter has been adequately explained until the right honorable gentleman is able to tell the House why he suppressed the information, and why it was made available to private individuals.
– The honorable member has said that I suppressed certain information. That is absolutely untrue, and I ask that the statement be withdrawn. It is offensive to me.
I f an honorable member in the course of debate accuses a Minister of withholding information, and the Minister objects, I cannot on that account, ask that the statement be withdrawn.
– Iam not satisfied with that ruling. The honorable member did not say merely that the information had been. withheld; he said that I had suppressed it. The statement is offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I have already ruled that a statement that a Minister - in this case the Prime Minister - has suppressed information is not offensive in the ordinary parliamentary sense. It is no more than a reflection on the administration of the Minister.
– I am sorry to disagree with your ruling, but in view of the fact that such an accusation has been made against me, I cannot allow the matter to rest here. The statement that I suppressed information is absolutely untrue. [ have my own feelings to consider, and therefore I move -
That the ruling be disagreed with.
– The Prime Minister is using the numbers behind him in order to browbeat the Speaker.
– Order! If the honorable member continues to interject, I shall name him. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has raised the point that a motion dealing with the ruling of the Speaker should, under the Standing Orders, be debated the next sitting day. That is right and strictly in accordance with Standing Orders, but there are precedents for dealing with a motion to disagree with the ruling of the Speaker forthwith; in this case,I think it desirable, and I prefer that it be decided without delay.
Question put - The House divided.
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Honorable members of the Opposition interjecting,
That the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) be suspended from the service of the House.
Motion put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. 0. Bell.)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The honorable member for East Sydney
If any objection is taken to the ruling or decision of theSpeaker, such objection must be taken at once, and in writing, and motion made, which, if seconded-
I desire to know who seconded it - shall be proposed to the House, and debate thereon forthwith adjourned to the next sitting day.
Mr.Casey. - He could act in accordance with the usages of the House.
Mr. -SPEAKER. - The right honororable member for Yarra has by interjection said that the’ proceeding is null and void. That is not so. The honorable member for Hindmarsh raised this point earlier, and I said that action could be taken in two ways. On more than one occasion within my memory a question involving disagreement with Mr. Speaker’s ruling has been decided forthwith. It seemed to me that that procedure should be followed. In connexion with the fact that the objection to the ruling was not in writing, I could not see how any other course could be taken as the whole matter arose on the motion for the adjournment of the House. If there is any fault in this ease, it is with the Chair.
.- As I am leaving Canberra this evening for my electorate, I shall not have a later opportunity to speak in this Parliament. I therefore wish to express to you, sir, my appreciation of your 11ni ailing courtesy to myself. I should also like to express to other honorable gentlemen my thanks for their consideration to me during the life of this Parliament. I cannot say that I shall be happy to meet them all again when we return to Canberra ; but I can say that I hope that they will all ,get what they deserve. That seems to me to ‘be in the circumstances a fair wish. The work of this Parliament has been arduous. The Opposition looks forward with confidence and, I think, with justification to being on the other side of the Chair in the next Parliament. The remarks that I have made concerning you, Mr. Speaker, I repeat, respecting your deputy. I am grateful to the officers of the House, the officers of the Library, the messengers; and also to the gentlemen of the Hansard staff for the way in which they have carried out their duties. The customary high standard has been maintained. I should like to meet all the members of my own party and as many members on the Government side of the House who, despite what I consider will be well merited rebuke which the country will confer upon them, may yet manage to survive the slaughter.
– At an earlier stage in the debate on this motion, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) endeavoured to build up a wholly fictitious case against the Government on the ground that some oil had been discovered in Dutch New Guinea three years ago. If the honorable gentleman had been present I should have asked him: Since when did Dutch New Guinea become a British possession and since when did it become a responsibility of this Government? I should also have liked to ask the honorable member whether hia geography is not somewhat, confused. The honorable gentleman appeared to charge the Government with having-
Honorable members interjecting,
– Honorable members must preserve order during debate.
– On a point of order, I wish to know if the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) asked whether the honorable member for East Sydney should be brought into the House to hear his speech?
– I did not make any such request.
– On a point of order ! I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether it would be permissible for the honorable member for East Sydney to be brought to the baT of the House to heaT the speech of the Minister for the Interior?
– That would not be in order.
– The honorable member for East Sydney stated that the Commonwealth Government had brought down a bill to provide £250,000 to assist certain companies–
Motion (by Mr. Bakes) put -
That the honorable member be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. James) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) proposed -
That the Minister for the Interior be given leave to continue Iris speech.
Motion not persisted in.
– in reply - One matter on which I may be permitted to speak without risk of importing further heat into the debate is the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). I reciprocate very warmly what the Leader of the Opposition has said in his last appearance in this chamber.
– As Leader of the Opposition.
– Perhaps then, as Leader of the Opposition. I do not wish to be misunderstood. I meant the honorable gentleman’s’ last appearance in this chamber during the term of this Parliament. We are about to engage in an election campaign in which hard knocks will be given and taken, but I sincerely trust that the fine personal feelings which exist between the Leader of the Opposition and myself, will be undisturbed by the campaign. We can have political disputes in this chamber but still have a high regard for our political opponents, and I am perfectly sure that that will remain in the coming campaign as it has remained in past campaigns.
Regarding the matter that has led to so much heat, I say, as calmly as I can, that honorable members can realize that when a Minister supplies information to the chamber that information is not picked up by himself. Officials must, of necessity, search the files in order to supply it to the Minister, who in turn supplies it to the House itself. I have supplied to the House all the information that tlie officials have given to me. That has been my invariable practice. When the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) first asked a question on the matter which has been before honorable members this afternoon, I supplied the honorable gentleman with all the information I was given. When the honorable member submitted a further question, I asked that a further search be made to obtain all the facts associated with the question, and when I got that information, I conveyed it to the honorable member as expeditiously as I could. This morning, on my arrival at Parliament House, in order that the fullest information might be made available, I immediately asked what had been said in the House last night, because I had seen something ir the morning newspaper. The officers of the department acted in good faith, because they thought that they were dealing with something that had happened quite recently. Because of that fact, they did not think of going back a long way in the files; neither d:d the Administrator or the Lieutenant-Governor of New Guinea. Had they realized that the matter referred to in the questions was not of recent history, they would certainly have obtained the necessary information.
Some of these accusations have been made by an honorable member who is no longer in the chamber, but the accusations have been answered by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson), who handles these matters. One suggestion was made by the honorable member for East Sydney that part of that £250,000 had gone to the oil companies in these territories. No part of that amount has been made available to any company for use in New Guinea or Papua. Therefore, his accusation in that instance cannot be substantiated. This Parliament asked that the search for oil should be facilitated; some honorable members think that the Government should have participated in it directly, but the feeling pf the Government was that it should co-operate with the companies which have the equipment, knowledge and experience necessary to carry out a search in the hope that flow oil might be discovered in Australia. We have followed that course.
When information is asked for by these companies, it is made available freely. In this case, only one company was operating in the area, and that company was given information, not by the Minister, but by the department on the recommendation of Dr. Woolnough, an officer in whom we all have the greatest confidence. He recognized the value of the work done by Oil Search Limited and the fact that that company was the only company operating in the area and the only company to which the information could be of any value.
– There are others now.
– At that time, it was the only company operating, and, on the . basis of a recommendation by Dr. Woolnough, this information was supplied to it. It is unfortunate that in this Parliament accusations should have been made in which there was a suggestion, embracing the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr), that something improper had been done in connexion with Oil Search Limited. It was alleged that Sir Charles Marr was a director of that company. It does not matter if Oil Search Limited were not the honorable company that it is ; even if it were good or bad, the honorable member for Parkes has never been associated with the company in any shape or form and his name should never have been connected with it in this chamber. I hope that in future these unfounded attacks will not recur.
– I thank the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) for his remarks and also for his helpfulness and courtesy to myself. I also thank the honorable gentleman on behalf of the Chairman of Committees and the officers of the House. I do not know whether I can reciprocate the sentiments expressed by the honorable gentleman about our all getting what we deserve. In politics, we do not look for that. Whether honorable members like it or not, they have to abide by the decision of the electors. However, I wish the honorable gentleman good luck, personally, always.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.29p.m..
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Postal Department: Insulator Spindles - Revenue - Commission on Sale of Stamps.
– On the 9th September, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked the following question, 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, 1935-36 and 1936-37: Coolgardie, Southern Cross, Norseman, Boulder, Kalgoorlie, Menzies, Laverton, Gwalia, Wiluna (including Wiluna Gold Mine), Mount Leonora, Meekatharra. Cue, Mount Magnet, Yalgoo, Triton (Reedys), Broad Arrow, Marble Bar and Esperance?
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information : -
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Australian National Travel
son asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
National Travel Association and make available to the House -
the value of printing orders placed with Victorian commercial printing establishments as compared with the value of orders placed with firms in New South Wales 1
e. - The answers to honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
In view of the report in the Brisbane Courier of the 3rd September, that the Minister for Railways in Queensland had decided to have constructeda special railway truck to convey perishable commodities to Mount Isa, will the Minister have inquiries made as to the possibility of having designed trucks suitable for conveying carcass meat long distances, so that inland meatworks may be set up near the feeding grounds to obviate trucking all but “ chillers “ to coastal abattoirs ?
– This information is being obtained, and will be furnished to the honorable member later.
Supply op Perishable Foodstuffs to Inland Areas.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
In view of the report in the Brisbane Courier of the 3rd September, that after conferring with the manager of Mount Isa Mines, the Ministerfor Railways and Minister for Agriculture in Queensland had decided to have constructed a special railway truck to convey fruit, vegetables and fish packed in “ dry ice “ to Mount Isa to meet the menace of malnutrition in that interior mining area, will the Minister arrange with the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner to have fruit and vegetables transported from Adelaide to Alice Springs at Is. per case, so that the people at Tennant Creek and all inland areas may obtain those articles at reasonable prices?
– The matter will be taken up with the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner.
n asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Flanged Wheels formotor Vehicles in Swampareas.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
In view of the report in the Sunday Sun of the 5th September of a successful trial with wide-flanged steel wheels placed over pneumatic tyres of motor trucks, enabling a motor vehicle to penetrate swamps even, willhe cooperate with the Department of Defence and arrange to have a similar trial mode in the Gulf heavy rainfall belt of the Northern Territory ?
– The matter will receive consideration. - Mr. A. Green asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
e. - The Minister for Commerce supplies the following information : - 1 and 2. The value of interstate imports into and exports from Western Australia during the years 1932-36, and proportion imported and exported by rail, is set out in Hansard of the 2nd December, 1936, page 2754. The figures for the year ended June, 1937, are -
Imports.- -New South Wales, £4,629,808; Victoria, £5,600,280; Queensland, £592,490; South Australia, £1,234,182; Tasmania, £222,844; Northern Territory, £45,193; total, £12,370,797. By rail included in the foregoing, £542,839.
Exports. - New South Wales, £1,857,023; Victoria, £735,296; Queensland, £40,998; South Australia, £505,893; Tasmania, £25,577; Northern Territory, £15,816; total, £3,180,603. By rail included in the foregoing, £5,451.
– On the 8th September, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked me a question, without notice, regarding the fisheries investigation vessel which is now under construction. I am now in a . position to inform the honorable member that it is expected that the vessel will he in commission during December next.
, - On the 1st September, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings) asked a series of questions, upon notice, pertaining to the personnel of the staff of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I am now in a position to supply the following answers, which have been furnished by the commission : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 September 1937, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1937/19370910_reps_14_154/>.