17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr.SPEAKER (Hon.J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the reported inflationary trend in the United States of America, and having regard to the fact that a financial crash on Wallstreetprecipitated the economic depression in 1929,will the PrimeMinister, before the final rising of the Parliament, make a statement indicating the possible effect of the present conditions in the United States of America on the Australian economy, and whether the Government, has taken any action to avoid future economic catastrophies?
Mr.CHIFLEY. - I have repeatedly directed attention in this House to the extreme dangers of the inflationary tendencies that are evident not only in America but also in other countries, as well as to some degree in Australia, as the result in the accumulation of purchasingpower in the community. I do not know that I need make a lengthy statement concerning the dangers of inflation. What has happened previously in other countries, and what is happening to some degree in America to-day, is, I think, quite evident. From time to time during the past four or five years, the Government has done everything that it could do, by various controls, to prevent increases of prices, which, if unchecked, must ultimately cause inflation Probably, during the debate onsome measure that will come before the House before the termination of the present sittings, I shall be able to make a further announcement in regard to the matter, indicatingthe steps that have already been taken, and the desirability of continuing them with a view to preventing inflation in this country.
Mr.HOLT. -Having regard to the serious loss of production that is occur ring throughout Australia, due to widespread industrial unrest, will the prime Minister convene immediately aspecial conference of Premiers, with a view to determining what policy may be commonly applied, and what concerted action may be taken to copewith the situation?
Mr.CHIFLEY. - I had not given any thought to the conveningof a conference of Premiers todeal with this matter. Some time ago, a conference of employers and employees wasproposed, but on account of circumstances that arose at the time the Minister for Labour and National Service informed me that both of the parties considered that the time was not opportune for such a gather- ing. I shall discuss with him whether an attempt should now be made to convene a conference on those lines. A meeting of Premiers will be held in August in conjunction with thenormal meeting of the Loan Council. I shall consider the honorable member’s suggestion.
– In view of the fact that the Communist party’s domination of some of thelargest trade unions has resulted in major industrial upheavals, will the Prime Minister now consider the introduction of legislation requiring all trade unions to lodgewith the Registrar of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitrationcomplete lists of their members, in order toprovide that ballots betaken by theRegistrarto fill unpaid executive positions? If not, what action does the Prime Minister intend to take to ensure that the leadership of trade unions shall reflect the opinion of the members?
Mr.CHIFLEY. - As to the suggestion of the Leader of the Country party that the names of members of trade unions should be lodged with the Registrar of the Arbitration Court, that is a matter to which consideration will probably be given when a proposed bill to provide for amendments of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Actis receiving attention by the Government. Although it is perfectly true that some persons, who are leaders of trade unions, admit that they areCommunists, it certainly cannot be said that the great body of trade unionists are dominated by members of theCommunist party. The right honorable gentleman need only consider who are the leaders and secretaries of some of the trade unions in this .country to realize that the majority of their executive officers a-re not Communists.
– In the key unions they are.
– From what I gathered, from the question of the right honorable gentleman, his impression ceemed to be that, if one member of the executive is an admitted Communist, he dominates the whole organization. Personally, 1 do not believe that to be true. I could point to many unions to show that the great majority of the members of their executive bodies are not members of the Communist party, and are not even in sympathy with it.
Port Pirie: Use of Air Training School - Communist Activities - Hardware for Western Australia
– I ask the Minister for Air whether, in the- event of the Department of Air’ deciding to close the air training school at Port Pirie, the conversion of some of the huts into suitable homes will be considered, so ns to case the acute housing shortage in Port Pirie? I point out that electric light and power are laid on, and there are excellent roads, a well-prepared garden space, lawns, a water service, deep drainage, a swimming pool, recreation grounds, &c.
– When huts become surplus to the requirements of the Royal Australian Air Force, the practice is to hand, them to the Commonwealth Disposals- Commission, which decides what shall be done with them; but, in view of the suggestion contained in the honorable member’s question, I undertake to have the matter examined and, later, to furnish him with a reply.
– Has the Minister for Works and Housing seen a statement in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald by Mr. Fred Thomas, secretary of the Builders’ Labourers Union, that many housing pro- .jects were being run unofficially by strong Communist-controlled cells and that he was in- possession of the names of the men and the details of the jobs? In view of that and- Mr. Thomas’s further statement that Communists and Communist union officials were guilty of actions calculated to delay the building of homes, and that foremen and leading hands, appointed by Mr. McGirr from lists supplied by -the union for party purposes, stirred up strife among the men, will the Minister have an inquiry made as to the truth of Mr.. Thomas’s statement ? If Communists and Communist sympathizers arc acting as alleged, will he take steps to have them removed from the positions they hold and from employment by the housing authorities? .
– I have not “seen the statement. I have been too busy today to read the Sydney Morning Herald, but the honorable gentleman’s question indicates that the matter is entirely within the jurisdiction of the New South Wales Housing Commission. So . I advise the honorable gentleman to address the question to the authority that can deal with the matter. I have no jurisdiction.
– A report published in the West Australian of a recent date states that the despatch of more than 100 tons of hardware, which is urgently needed for the housing programme in Perth, is being held up in eastern States. Originally, there was shipping space for only 18 tons, but subsequently this was increased to 33 tons. As a large quantity of . the consignment will remain undelivered unless shipping space for it can be provided, and this will have a detrimental effect on the housing programme in Western Australia, will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping confer with his colleague- with a view to having the necessary shipping space provided ?
– I shall confer with the Minister for Supply and Shipping. I am sure that he will do his utmost to ensure the provision of the necessary shipping space for the transport of this hardware to Western Australia.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House “whether,’ at the last conference- of Commonwealth and State Ministers, when the present wheat stabilization plan was discussed, all of the State Premiers were prepared to accept it, and to pass legislation to give effect to it? Is it also true that at the conference of the - Wheat Growers Federation in Sydney on the 11th December, 1945, the present five-year plan was discussed, and it was finally agreed that the 1945-46 wheat harvest should be included in the plan?
– It. is a fact that complete agreement was reached at the conference. It is also true that the inclusion of the 1945-46 harvest in the present plan was approved. A statement to that effect va3 submitted to me in Sydney by the president of the Wheat Growers Federation.
Essendon Aerodrome : Government Services; Use by Private Companies.
– Will the Minister for’ Air inform the House when the Essendon Aerodrome will be usable again? Will the Minister also state the policy of the Government with regard to the development of air-ports? Will the policy be adequate to cope with Australia’s civil aviation requirements, and when does theGovernment propose to put its programme into effect?
– Essendon Aerodrome has been closed because of excessive rainfall during the first half of this year, and because a concrete landing strip is being laid down. In the interests of safety it was decided to close the aerodrome, but it will be opened again as soon as possible, and I hope that it will never be necessary to close it again. Ths policy of the Government has been to construct air-ports, or to provide assistance for their construction, on trunk routes. What else it may do in this regard will be decided when its future policy is being drawn up. It is the wish of the Government to provide the best -possible service, and the honorable member may _ be assured that when the Government’s policy is announced it will be adequate to meet the needs of Australia.
– I ask the Minister for Air: (1) What is the capital value of aerodromes and controls in Australia used by operating companies? (2) What fees, if any, are paid by civil airlines for the use of aerodromes owned by the Commonwealth? (3) Do these operating companies contribute any payment for the meteorological services provided by the Australian Government? (4) Is it proposed to install radar equipment on civil aerodromes? If so, will this navigating aid be provided free to the operating companies who use the aerodromes?
-! shall reply briefly to the honorable member’s questions, and if he places them on the notice-paper, I shall supply complete answers. The capital value of aerodromes and controls in Australia is approximately £11,000,000. Civil airlines do not pay any fees for the use of . aerodromes owned by the Commonwealth, and “have not made any contribution towards the cost of providing the meteorological services. Regarding the installation of radar equipment on civil aerodromes, I shall obtain full details for the honorable member.
A r,T. KG ED Skirmish at Morotai - Treatment of Deserters.
– Did the Minister for the Army see a paragraph in last Thursday’s Sydney Telegraph in which it was stated that a skirmish had taken place between Indonesians and Australian troops stationed in Morotai? If the information is correct will the Minister, in order to prevent a’ repetition of such an incident, give immediate consideration to expediting the return of our troops from that area?
– The matter was brought to my notice this morning, but when I made inquiries,’ I found that no information, official or. otherwise, had been received by the Chief of the General Staff to support- the report that a skirmish had taken place between Australian troops and troops of the Netherlands East Indies. I have asked that further inquiries be made, and I shall acquaint the honorable member with the result. On the 15th June, there were approximately 700 Australian troops at Morotai ; 300 of these were . evacuated, leaving about 400 to guard equipment until landing ship-tanks could be made available to bring .it back to Australia. Six landing ship-tanks arc scheduled to leave Singapore, four of them for Balikpapan, and two for Morotai, to lift troops and equipment. I have been assured that all troops will be out of those areas by the middle of September. The landing ship-tanks will be available on the 1st August, and will travel to .their destinations immediately. The Government is . anxious to evecuate the troops as soon as possible.
– Has the Minister for the Army ‘seen the statement published in to-day’s issue of Smith’s Weekly that although lie stated that discharge certificates issued to deserters would be endorsed to show that they were being discharged “for disciplinary reasons”, this was not being done and deserters were still being issued with clean discharges if they applied for them? Is it a fact that no new instruction has ye been issued to countermand the original general routine order that all illegal absentees prior to the 31st December^ 1945. should be discharged forthwith? Will the Minister now inform the House what is the real position regarding deserters?
– I have not seen the allegations mentioned’ by- the honorable member. The Chief of the General Staff, General Sturdee, assured me that all certificates of discharge would be endorsed to indicate that a deserter was being discharged because of illegal absenteeism. I shall take up the matter further, with General Sturdee with a view to investigating these allegations. [ assure the honorable member that the decision of the Government in this matter, which I announced previously, shall be carried out.
– Can the Prime Minister say what effect on Australian trade is expected by the Govern- . ment to result from the conditions attached to the proposed loan by the United States of America to Great Britain - namely, the modification of Empire trade preference in return for similar benefit? from the United States. and Britain’s participation in the proposed international trade organization?
– The only effect of the loan that I can foresee will be that the dollar position will probably be somewhat easier for Australia, although this country will not directly participate in the loan. Australia has agreed to take part in a conference to discuss world trade and employment. Imperial preference will, no doubt, be discussed before the. end of the year by those countries which are parties to it, but just what effect this will have on the general talks about trade and unemployment .1.” cannot say. On a previous occasion I informed the honorable member for Indi that Australia will do all possible to retain imperial preference.
– In view of reports in sections of the Australian press that members of the Australian Victory Contingent were involved in a serious riot at Gibraltar last Friday evening, and consequent adverse comments on the behaviour of Australian servicemen, I ask the Minister for the Army whether he has seen a later report, which was given prominence in the Daily Mirror. that no riot in which members of the Australian Victory Contingent were involved occurred at Gibraltar. Is the Minister aware that the later report contained the following paragraph : -
Scali; .stories a Hewing that almost the whole nf the Australian party returning from London in H.M.A.S. ^Shropshire had run berserk on the Island were blown out to-day by Captain Downing, Chief Commissioner of Gibraltar Police.
Is he also aware that Captain Downing is reported to have added that the incident was “greatly exaggerated” and that “ actually not one of the party was drunk, although I’d say some were a little merry”, and also that Captain Downing would not. say that the stones and bottles alleged to have been thrown by the Australians outside the police station were, in fact, thrown by them?
– Cannot the honorable member condense the pre.°s reports?
– Is the Minister also aware that Captain Downing is reported to have stated that no charges were preferred against any of the men who were held in custody, and to have denied thatthere was a riot? In view of the conflict between the two press reports and the serious reflections that have been cast on the reputation of Australian servicemen, will the Minister state the facts concerning the alleged happenings at Gibraltar?
– I have read the reports of the alleged incident in the Sydney Sun and the Daily Mirror. The latter set out to show that the first report was greatly exaggerated. I am still awaiting official advice from the Commanding Officer, Major-General Eather, who is now on board the Shropshire with the other members of the contingent. A further communication was forwarded to him yesterday seeking clarification of the situation, but no reply was received up to 2 p.m. to-day. When army personnel are concerned in incidents with the civil police, the normal procedure is to hand them over to their commanding officer, who is empowered to take whatever disciplinary action he deems necessary in the circumstances. H.M.A.S. Shropshire has left Gibraltar. If any incident such as was reported in a section of the press occurred, I have no doubt that Major-General Eather will already have inquired into it, in which event, a report from him may be expected soon, probably within the next 24 hours.
Russian Reparation Claims
– Has the atten tion of the Prime Minister been drawn to a report that Russia has, by separate action, seized industrial plant in Austria on the plea of reparations, although such plant has not been defined as being subject to seizure as reparations ? Is the right honorable gentleman in a position to make a statement to the House on this matter, and can he indicate what action Australia’s representative will take to have it dispussed by the United Nations?
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable member has referred, and am not aware of the circumstances which gave rise to her question. I shall, however, cause inquiries to be made, and- endeavour to let the honorable member have a full statement.
– In view of criticism of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Information in the Melbourne Herald, arising out of an advertisement which appeared in Sydney and Melbourne newspapers, to which the Leader of the Opposition referred in this House last week, I now ask the Minister for Information whether his attention has been drawn to the front page of the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 9th June, 1932 - two days beforea general election in the State of New South Wales - in which it was falsely and maliciously alleged that the Labour party in that State was preparing for civil war, and, amongst other things, was proposing to drive the Commonwealth Government from the Australian Capital Territory. Will the Minister examine this sample of Liberal party electioneering propaganda and measure it alongside the protestations of the Leader of the Opposition?
– This issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, published in 1932, with its banner head-lines “ Preparation for Civil War “, and its allegation that the Labour party in New South Wales, two days before a general election, was preparing to seize power and to drive the Commonwealth Government out of Canberra, makes the faked Zinoviev letter in England in 1924 and the plan of the Nazis to burn the Reichstag in order that they might win an electoral victory pale into comparative insignificance.
– Curse the press !
– The propaganda of the Liberal party will again make the people of Australia curse that organization. I recall also that in 1940 the United Australia party, now the Liberal party, published for propaganda purposes a libellous and lying poster stating, “ While Labour fiddles London burns “, and urging support for United Australia party candidates. These are the people who in 1917 adopted the slogan “ Ryan, too, spells ruin “. Their propaganda methods are rather miserable at any time, and by comparison, the advertisement which appeared last week urging support for Labour party candidates was not deserving of condemnation or criticism. It was a healthy, clean and clever piece of satire, and the Opposition just “ can’t take it “.
-Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware of the discontent prevailing in the poultryfarming industry as the result of the unsatisfactory price fixed for eggs? Having regard to representations which I made recently to him and the Minister for Trade and Customs will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture undertake to confer with his colleague with a view to arriving at some arrangement satisfactory to the producers in order to enable them to keep up production?
– It is true that the honorable member has, on behalf of egg producers of New South Wales, requested me to confer with the Minister for Trade and Customs, who administers prices control, regarding the price of eggs. I have taken that course on previous occasions, and inresponse to the honorable member’s request Ishall do so again. Recently a deputation from the poultry farmers of the Newcastle and northern districts of New South Wales waited on me and made a similar request. Following the remarks of members of that deputation I found upon investigation that poultry producers in those districts were selling poultry feed mixtures of various brands at a price exceeding the cost of the materials in the mixtures. Poultry farmers who are being supplied with feed at reasonable prices are not in the same parlous position.
Leases to Private Interests : municipalrates .
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether his Department has leased many of its properties, which are non-rateable, to private enterprise. I refer to drill halls in the Hunter and Newcastle divisions. Does he think it fit that the lessees should have that advantage over co-operative societies and other private enterprises? Does the Commonwealth Bank make ex gratia payments equivalent to the rates to local governing bodies? Will the Department of the Interior make similar payments to local governing authorities?
– Commonwealth properties have been leased to private enterprise. The Commonwealth Constitution provides that Commonwealth properties shall not be rated, but some lessees of such properties have undertaken to pay rates to local governing authorities. I am doubtful whether there is any legal authority for the imposition of such rates. I shall have the question examined, however, and provide the honorable gentleman with a full answer.
Labellingof Imported Cloth
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether all States have passed legislation requiring the labelling of locally made cloth? Are Commonwealth regulations required to enforce the labelling of imported cloths? If so, is the Minister taking appropriate action?
– I shall confer with the Minister for Trade and Customs and furnish the honorable gentleman with the information he desires as soon as possible.
– Has the Prime Minister received representations from the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Cain, requesting that Victoria be represented on the Australian Aluminium Production Commission? If so, will he supply the House with details of the negotiations and inform it of the action he proposes to meet Mr. Cain’s wishes?
– I have received from the Premier of Victoria a communication about the Australian Aluminium Production Commission. My recollection is that it arrived only recently. I have not been able to give consideration to the request made in that letter, but I shall do so as soon as possible and inform the honorable gentleman of the result of my examination.
Broadcasting of Proceedings: Explanatory Pamphlet
– Now that the debates of the Parliament are being broadcast will the Government give favorable consideration to the issue to listeners of a pamphlet similar to that issued in New Zealand setting out the procedure followed in parliamentary proceedings and the names and positions of members and senators, so that listeners may be able to identify speakers and thus have a greater interest in, and clearer understanding of, the debates?
– I shall ask the
Postmaster-General to deal sympathetically with the honorable member’s request. If it is not possible to assemble all the material necessary for the production of such a pamphlet before the Parliament is prorogued, we shall deal with the matter when we are returned to office after the elections.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in a position to make a statement to the House concerning the future of the apple and pear acquisition scheme? Has a decision been made for the scheme to be operated for another term?
– I am not in a position to make a statement on the subject.
– Has recruitment of staff for the Commonwealth Office of Education been completed ? Has the office commenced educational research? In particular, has it commenced research into the educational needs of the several States?
– The staffingof the Office of Education has not yet been completed. Research into the requirements of State Education Departments, and the assistance which might in certain circumstances be rendered to State governments to undertake educational activities, are at present under consideration.
Dr. H. V. EVATT, M.P.
– Has the Prime
Minister any information as to when the
Minister for External Affairs will next visit Australia and interest himself in the affairs of this country rather than in those of Spain and other unfriendly countries, in opposition to the views expressed by members of the British and American delegations ?
– I have a very clear conception as to when the Minister for External Affairs should return to Australia. On the one hand there is a good deal of criticism if Ministers are not sent abroad to represent this country at important conferences, and on the other there is violent criticism when the Government arranges for Australia to be represented abroad by a Minister of the calibre of the Minister for External Affairs, who iseminently capable of dealing with general international problems as they arise from day to day. This criticism comes principally from those who seek to make political capital out of the absence of the right honorable gentleman or who are jealous ofhissuccess. When the Minister went abroad it was originally intended that he should remain overseas until the conclusion of the peace conference. The right honorable gentleman has always expressed his willingness to return to Australia whenever I desired that he should do so. However, I regarded the Peace Conference as of such importance as to warrant attendance by two Australian Ministers. Some delay has, however, arisen in the convening of the conference due to the protracted nature of preliminary deliberations of the Foreign Ministers of the major Allied powers. The Government decided that, until the date of the Peace Conference was fixed, it was desirable that the Minister for External Affairs should remain abroad to attend other international conferences. The Government’s view is that the Minister should be present at least at the earlier sessions of the Peace Conference.
– Was the action recently taken, and were the views expressed by the Minister for External Affairs regarding Spain, the result of a decision of Cabinet, or did the Minister act without prior consultation with Cabinet? If the views which he expressed were not those of this Government, does it mean that the Minister is framing and enunciating the foreign policy of the country without reference to Cabinet?
– When the Minister for External Affairs was present in this chamber, he was asked a question about the difficulties that had arisen regarding Spain. On that occasion, he gave the’ reply, which was the view of this Government, that the various allegations, charges and counter charges that had been made about Spain should be fully examined. Apparently, other nations took precisely the same view, and it was agreed that such an investigation should be made. The inquiry was made under the auspices of the United Nations. Therefore, the statement that the Minister for External Affairs made in this House did represent the views of this Government, namely, that all the claims and charges that had been made should be fully investigated.
– Will the Prime Minis ter inform me whether there is an arrangement between the Commonwealth Government and overseas governments for the supply of Australian manufactured goods which are in short supply here? I refer to such goods as rubber tyres and woollen textiles. If no such intergovernment arrangement exists, I should like to know whether private manufacturers pay an export duty on such goods to equalize labour costs in the importing countries? Will the Prime Minister endeavour to have a chart prepared showing the relative cost of production of motor tyres and woven woollen - cloth in Australia and in each of the countries of the Pacific group, namely, New Zealand, United States of America, and Canada?
– I shall endeavour to obtain the required information and supply it to the honorable member.
Sales Tax on Advertisements.
– Pastoral and agri cultural societies are called upon to pay sales tax at the rate of 25 per cent. in respect of advertising in connexion with annual shows, many of which are to be held this year for the first time in six years. As the sole aim of these societies is the fostering of primary production, does the Treasurer favour the granting to them of tax exemption certificates? Will he investigate the possibility of doing so for this year at least?
– As is usual with all requests in relation to taxation, I shall have the matter examined. During the last two years, certain remissions of sales tax have been made. I know something of the matter’ raised by the. honorable member, becauseI have been associated with agricultural shows for a long time. Naturally I shall give the request the most sympathetic consideration when another review of the sales tax is being made.
– I lay on the table the following paper : -
United Nations - Foodand Agriculture Organization - Report by Australian Delegation of Conference held at Quebec, Canada, October-November, 1945.
Ordered to be printed.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs been drawn to a news item in the Sydney Sunday Sun of the 7th July announcing that the Prices Commissioner has allowed an increase by a per cent. of the wholesale price of tyres and that this increase is to be passed on to the public ? In view of the fact that the published report of the Goodyear Tyre Company’s balance-sheet reveals that the company has paid a steady dividend of8 per cent. on its 250,000 preference shares, and paid over the war years an average dividend of 2011/15 per cent. on its 750,000 ordinary shares namely: 19.40, 24 per cent.; 1941, 12 per cent.; 1942, 142/5 per cent.; 1943, 16 per cent.; 1944, 172/5 per cent. ; 1945, 403/5 per cent. - does he not consider that the Australian motoring public and the primary producers are being grossly overcharged ? Will he consult the Minister for Trade and Customs with a view to having the price of tyres reduced instead of increased ?
– I shall be glad to discuss this matter with the Minister for Trade and Customs. I noticed the paragraph to which the honorable member referred and I made some preliminary investigations. I have been assured by officials of the Prices Commission that the profit position of the company was very carefully studied by the Commissioner and his staff, who, by the way, have done a magnificent job for Australia in the face of tremendous difficulties. One realizes this when one reads of what happened in the United States of America when price controls were lifted. It would be well to bear in mind that profit shown in the form of dividends on capital invested in. a company can distort the true profit position in relation to capital actually employed. However, the complaint will be further considered by the Minister for Trade and Customs and ‘ the Prices Commissioner. It is the policy of the Government that an essential commodity such as motor vehicle tyres, should be sold to the Australian community at the lowest possible prices.
– In view of the statement by. the ‘ Minister for the Interior, as reported in the press, that the remarks of the former Administrator of the Northern Territory, Mr. C. L. A. Abbott, to the Millions Club, were a reflection on Mr. Abbott’s own administration, will the Minister inform the House who was responsible for granting in 1942 to Alexandria Downs station, which already held 10,600 square miles, or 6,784,000 acres of property, the lease of a further 400 square miles, or 256,000 acres of property, for a term of 42 years, after a grant of this choice land had been refused in 1941 by Mr. Abbott to a bona- fide selector who had £16,000, in cash to develop it? Will the Minister lay the correspondence relat-ing to this transaction on the table of the House and take action by ordinance to rescind all such war-time leases and allocate them to land-hungry Northern Territory cattlemen recently returned from the wa r ?
– The lease of Alexandria Downs became possible because, the people of the Northern Territory lacked any representation in this Parliament.
– That is absolute, nonsense.
– The honorable member for Indi was at one time Minister for. the Interior and, as such, administered the: Northern Territory. He knows that a lease became possible as the result of a ballot.
– There was no ballot.
– The honorable gentleman knows quite well that all leases’ had to be balloted for.
– There was no ballot on this occasion.
– Because no lessee had an opportunity to make application for a ballot. Since the present Govern-, ment came into power, it has taken steps to provide against the repetition of such a procedure.
– The honorable gentleman ought not to try to defend a predecessor. The action was inexcusable.
– I have stated the’ facts. The ordinance made that provision. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) has asked whether the Government will amend the ordinance. lt has been amended, and in the future administration of the Northern Territory, . there will not be a. repetition of what occurred in connexion with Alexandria Downs.
– Can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction give any information in regard to the progress that is being made with the re-establishment of ex-service men and women?
– I shall be pleased to furnish the information at the earliest, possible date.
Statements by Air Vice-Marsha r. Bostock.
– In accordance with the undertaking which I gave to the House last week, I ask leave to make ;i statement with, respect to articles that have appeared in the press under the name of Air Vice-Marshal Bostock.
Leave not granted.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended us would prevent Mr. Drakeford (Minister for Air) from making a Ministerial Statement in regard to articles appearing in certain newspapers with reference to the Royal Australian Air force.
.- 1 object to this course being taken, because too often is question time used by Ministers for the purpose of making statements of a purely propaganda nature, without giving to honorable members on this side of the House an opportunity to debate, them. If the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) is prepared to move that his statement be printed, and thus enable it to be debated, , I shall withdraw my objection.
– I gathered from what he said, that the Minister for Air desires to make a statement in reference to certain allegations that have had wide publicity.
– And in reference to which questions have been asked in this House.
– That is so. .1 am not objecting to the making of the statement, the matter having been raised in this House. But I suggest that the Minister would do well if, having made his statement, he moved that it be printed ; because the matter is not of such a nature that it would necessarily be concluded when one statement upon it had been made. There may be, 911 both sides of the House, honorable members who desire to debate it. Therefore, the Minister should follow the normal practice in such circumstances, and thus allow a debate upon his statement to take .place either immediately or at some future date.
– There being an abso- lute majority of the whole number of members of the House present and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. DRAKEFORD (MaribyrnongMinister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation). - Allegations of maladministration, and of unsound organization, of the Royal Australian Air Force during the war, involving charges of injustice done to Air Vice-Marshal Bostock, have been given head-line publicity on a syndicated basis by a section of the press. In a series of articles originating with the Melbourne Herald, and written by Air Vice- Marshal Bostock himself, strong endeavours have been made to create the impression that, as Minister for Air, I, together with the Air Board, have fostered and developed a condition of affairs out of which has grown a state of dissatisfaction that is detrimental to the interests of the Air Force, to’ those serving in that force, and to the Commonwealth generally. On entirely false .premises, these malicious and unjustified attacks on the Government, the Air Board, and. myself, have built up for ulterior purposes what, without a factual reply, might be regarded , as a formidable indictment.’ It is a matter for much regret that newspapers which have a wide circulation should take advantage of their privileged position in the community to belittle the efforts and achievements of an ad ministration responsible for a service which is acknowledged throughout the world, and particularly the Englishspeaking world, to have achieved a standard of performance which compares favorably with that of any other air force.
These articles endeavour to make it appear that what has been accomplished - and no one appreciates more than I do the magnificent service given by the personnel in every branch of the Air Force - has been achieved in spite of the Minister and the Air Board. Let me .again, as I have frequently done in the past, pay great tribute to the heroism, skill and complete devotion to duty, very often in the face of tremendous odds, that have been displayed by members of the Air Force in the skies and on the ground in the operational zones. May I here also pay tribute to the work of the supporting organizations associated with the administrative, equipment, technical maintenance, personnel, and like branches of the service.
Throughout the period of almost five years in which I have held the portfolio of Minister for Air, I have conscientiously striven to ensure, in every way possible, that the rights and interests of the members of the service should be protected and preserved. I assert now, and shall prove later, that the main charges in the articles to which I refer were based on entirely false premises, and were presented by Air Vice-Marshal Bostock in a way quite obviously calculated to confuse the minds of readers regarding the matters discussed in them, and the real problems that confronted the Government and the higher command of the Royal Australian Air Force, as well as te detract from the splendid results that were achieved. Doubtless, however, some individuals with axes to grind will endeavour to maintain the clamour raised by these bitter articles. For that- reason, I shall reply specifically to what, comparatively, are the most important of the general .allegations. In doing so, it will be necessary for me to make public facts, the necessity for the disclosure of which I deplore. But as I am forced to defend ‘ not only my own reputation but also the reputations of officers who have given outstanding and loyal service, and who are unable to defend themselves publicly, by reason of their appointments and of
I heir observance of the traditions and practice of the services, I give the. facts to the Parliament.
In his introductory passages, preceding the main case presented in his articles, Air Vice-Marshal Bostock refers to his’ version of the story of Royal Australian Air Force Command with this studied comment, which appeared in the Melbourne Herald of the 24th June - lt is most unlikely that it will find a place in the official history of the Royal Australian Air Force as prepared bv the Department of Air.
To that taunt, I. make this reply: The official history of Australia’s part in the war of 1939-45, including the Royal Australian Air Force’s share, is not hema, prepared by the Department pf Air. It will be supplied by three writers, who will work under contract to the Commonwealth, and under the editorship of the general editor of the Official History. Subject to the reservation of technical military secrets, these writer? will have at their disposal all official documents, including those of Royal Australian Aif Force Command and the units comprising that organization. They have been given the same freedom from censorship as was given to the previous Commonwealth War Historian, Dr. C. E. W. Bean. Theappointment of each of them was approved by a committee of which I am not a member, but which comprises the PrimeMinister, the Leader of the Opposition, and the Ministers for Defence, External Affairs and the Interior. I proceed now to the proof of false premises.
In his second article,’ published in the Melbourne Herald on the 24th June, Air Vice-Marshal Bostock raises the issue of a vital War Cabinet decision which defined the responsibilities in relation to the components of the Royal Australian Air Force, as assigned respectively to the Commander of the Allied Air Forces and to Royal Australian Air Force Headquarters. Let us here examine the words on which both Air Vice-Marshal Bostock and the Herald rely as the “ basic causeof the Royal Australian Air Force’s difficulties in the Pacific war Printed in black type they read -
Retention by the Royal Australian Air Force head-quarters of all matters such as personnel, provision and maintenance of aircraft, supply and equipment, works aud buildings, and training of the Royal Australian Air Force.
He states in his articles that the words I have just quoted, and which are printed in black type, are important because -
The interpretation of the Minister for Air. who know nothing about the realities of war, differ from that of an air chief marshal of long experience in operational requirements. And that difference was the basic cause of most of the Royal Australian Air Force’s difficulties in the Pacific war.
Here are the facts : On the 28th April, 1942, War Cabinet reached a decision concerning’ the assignment of the Royal Australian Air Force service squadrons, and associated head-quarters formations to the Supreme Command. The relevant War Cabinet minute reads -
On the recommendation of the Advisory War Council (Minute 910) the following interpretation of the decision relating to the assignment of Australian forces to the Supreme Command was approved -
With the service squadrons there is also assigned Royal Australian Air Force Area Head-quarters, Air Combined Headquarters, all Fighter Sector Head-quarters nml such Station Head-quarters as have been established for the operational control of Royal Australian Air Force service squadrons.
Operational control of the Royal Australian Air Force service squadrons and necessary Operational Head-quarters as indicated above is vested in the Commander of the Allied Air Forces.
The Australian Chief of the Air Staff will be responsible for all matters associated with Royal Australian Air Force personnel, provision and maintenance of aircraft, supply and equipment, works and buildings,’ and training. These functions are not assigned to the CommanderinChief.
Now let me quote verbatim the relevant excerpt from my own minute to the then Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Burnett, dated’ the 30th April, 1942, and referred to by Air ViceMarshal Bostock in his articles-
That fullest co-operation should be offered Lieutenant-General Brett in his tasks as Commander Allied Air ‘Forces, -under which he would take over control of all .the service squadrons of the Royal Australian Air Force, as well as Area. Operational Head-quarters, Air Combined Head-quarters and Fighter Sector Head -quarters, which concern operations only, but that the Chief of the Air Staff would assume responsibility for all matters such as personnel, provision and maintenance of aircraft, supply and equipment, works and buildings, and training of the Royal Australian Air Force. it is to be noted particularly that my directions to the Chief of the Air Staff were in strict accordance, practically word for word, with the War Cabinet decision. Thus there is not a scintilla of truth in Air. Vice-Marshal Bostock’s observation that I - -to quote his own words - “put an entirely different construction on the War Cabinet’s ruling”. I emphasize here that, having established beyond question the complete falsity of Air Vice-Marshal Bostock’s basic accusation, I also provide proof that his own improper interpretation of such a vital decision by War Cabinet accounts for a succession of wrong conclusions, not only in his current attack through the press, but also in the actual performance of his highly responsible duties as Air Officer Commanding Royal Australian Air Force Command.
By his article on the 24th June, it is clear, as I have proved, that Air ViceMarshal Bostock deliberately quoted as the basis for his charge, not, as he alleges, my interpretation of War Cabinet’s decision, but the interpretation placed upon that decision by Sir Charles Burnett, the then Chief of the Air Staff to whom Air Vice-Marshal Bostock was deputy, and contained’ in a minute written by him on this matter on the 29th April, 1942, the day following that on which the decision was taken. That minute obviously was at considerable variance with the actual decision taken, in that it incorrectly stated that certain of the functions assigned by War Cabinet to the Royal Australian Air Force Head, quarters were allotted to the Commander, Allied Air Forces. On receipt of a copy of Sir Charles Burnett’s minute I immediately directed his attention, to the pre?cise terms of the decision as promulgated by War Cabinet. That decision was strictly observed by me and by the Royal Australian Air Force Head-quarters, and the directions that I issued following” its promulgation were in complete conformity with it. I may add that not in any instance have directions issued by me been at variance with any War Cabinet decision on this or any other matter.
As I have already stated, the spearhead of his whole attack is his accusation that the interpretation placed by me on this War Cabinet decision was - I again quote his words..- The basic cause of most of the Royal Australian Air Force’s difficulties in the Pacific war “. It is most unfortunate that Air Vice-Marshal Bostock still obviously accepts Sir Charles Burnett’s interpretation of that vitally important War Cabinet decision as the basis of the most vicious phases of his attacks, and disregards the actual official decision which itself is the comtplete answer to that particular, and his principal, charge. Apart from that fact, his apparent non-acceptance and disregard of the War Cabinet decision shows quite conclusively that Air Vice-Marshal Bostock has, since 19.42, been labouring under a definite misconception, which he appears to have fostered to the point of obsession, of the real functions of his command, and that that misconception was, to a large extent, responsible for flip difficulties that awe between him and the Air Board. I am fully convinced that if Air Vice-Marshal Bostock had observed and given the co-operation involved, whatever difficulties were experienced would have been considerably minimized. The organization of the Royal Australian Air Force, of which he is so critical, has proved efficient in some other services of the Empire, which is a clear indication that the disabilities of the Air Force .which are the subject of his attack can, in a large measure, be truly attributed to the matter of personalities. His irresponsible and unjust criticisms of others holding high appointments and carrying big responsibilities confirm this.
I must here make, it quite clear that, under governmental decision, the Air Board was the authority directly responsible to the Government, through the Minister, for all functions of the Royal Australian Air Force except operational control of the service squadrons and other formations assigned to the CommanderinChief, South-West Pacific Area. Air Vice-Marshal Bostock’s disregard of that allocation of duties and responsibilities was itself the primary and major cause of many of the difficulties to which he refers. I will show later that, as late as February last, Air Vice-Marshal Bostock asserted in a letter that, while he was Air Officer Commanding Royal Australian Air Force Command, he had no responsibility whatever to any Australian authority - that is his view. This is obviously erroneous, and his adherence to that attitude throughout his service was responsible for me having to make direct contact with, the Commander, Allied Air Forces, on the matter.
The Air Vice-Marshal’s introduction of the Barry Commission of Inquiry into his attack is also, for him, another very damaging aspect of his whole case. In his summing up of the causes of the trouble that arose within the First Tactical Air Force,’ Mr. Barry,” K.O., had this to say: -
I am satisfied that the immediate cause of the applications for permission to resign their commissions by–
Here the Commissioner named the eight officers concerned - was dissatisfaction with the operational activities of the First Tactical Air Force.
Elsewhere Mr. Barry reports that the basic causes of the trouble were, first, the type of operations on which the Wings were engaged, and, secondly, the dissatisfaction with the attitude of the senior staff officers of the Tactical Force. It is significant that in the course of his articles on the subject Air Vice-Marshal Bostock, Air Officer Commanding Royal Australian Air Force Command, omits any reference to the primary cause of the trouble, lack of operational opportunity, which was not the responsibility of Royal Australian Air Force Head-quarters.
The Air Vice-Marshal further chose to make some cynical comment in his articles by comparing the men who fought the war from “ cramped cockpits “ with those in swivel chairs in offices thousands of miles behind the combat areas. It is interesting to note that while Air Vice-Marshal Bostock was in command of a formation the function of which was operational control, his Command Head-quarters was located in Brisbane, Queensland. It was not until March-April, 194-5, that an advanced echelon of that head-quarters was transferred to Morotai to control the Borneo operations. And so, his cynical references which I have quoted have equal application to the conditions under which he himself served for practically the whole period of the war.
Another point I would emphasize is that quite obviously -many factors other than those he has covered in his articles and those of which he was aware, yet has not mentioned, had very important bearing on the decisions of War Cabinet, the Government and Royal Australian Air “Force Head-quarters during the war years having full regard to all Commonwealth war commitments.
And now, I come to what perhaps will weigh most in the minds of all openminded observers and critics - I refer to the all-important question of responsibility to the Commonwealth. I therefore invite close attention to this extract from a .letter received from the Air ViceMarshal as recently as the 25th February of this year -
Upon my services being made available to the Commander, Allied Air Forces, he appointed me first as his Chief of Staff, and, shortly afterwards, when General Kenney took oyer from General Brett, as Air Officer Commanding Royal Australian Air Force Command. Iri both these appointments I was responsible, directly and only to the Commander, Allied Air Forces, for all the duties incumbent on the appointments.
Another excerpt from that letter reads -
Up to a date early in 1942 when I ceased to he responsible to the Australian authorities.
Those statements 1 have quoted come from a man who professes to have Australian interests at heart and who, in fact, commanded Royal Australian Air Force operational units consisting of thousands of Australian personnel. They como from one who was the senior officer of the Royal Australian Air Force serving with our allies; yet, according to his own words, he had no responsibility to any Commonwealth authority. That is his own declaration and it describes accurately his behaviour. And yet, when lie received the notice of his retirement - I ask the House to note this - this same officer made special written request that his retirement be reconsidered and that he be retained in the Royal Australian Air Force. Further than that, lie has even appealed for “ redress of grievance “ in respect of his retirement. Had his application to remain in the service been approved, it is clear that the articles’ under reference would not have been written by him. I draw special attention of honorable members to this important point.
Having persistently pursued a policy based on his own misinterpretation of my actions and those of the Air Board, Air Vice-Marshal Bostock will no doubt continue to draw his pay and serve the interests of his employers by contributing further columns of explanations and criticisms of. the competency and capacity of almost everybody who had, or still has, authority in the Royal Australian Air Force, except himself. “Neither I, as Minister, nor the Air Board has laid claim to infallibility. However, I take this opportunity to say that the Government has full confidence in the Air Board.
Having proved beyond doubt that Air Vice-Marshal Bostock, who has received the equivalent of approximately nineteen columns of publicity in one newspaper, syndicated by other sections of the after noon press, which has been given him based his charges on false premises, I ask the Parliament and the public to treat anything further which flows from his facile pen as the partisan outpourings of a person who, having frustrated his ambition in the service by his own actions, finds satisfaction in belittling a force which has a proud record of servicefor Australia and. the Allied cause.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
Royal Australian Air Force - Newspaper articles alleging maladministration and unsound organization - Ministerial Statement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. White) adjourned.
– Will the Prime Minister give an assurance to the House that the motion for the printing of the paper will he debated before the end of this session?
– I shall examine . the notice-paper, ‘ and see whether it will be possible for this subject to be brought on within a. reasonable time.
Debate resumed from the 20th June (vide page.. 1665), on motion by Mr.
That the bill be now read a second time.
– In concluding his second -reading speech on this bill the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) said -
The measure before the House is not a party measure, but one that is brought forward as part of an Empire-wide scheme to which all governments of the Empire have subscribed and which they are committed to introduce. It is in this spirit that 1 commend the bill to all honorable members.
The Opposition proposes to deal with the measure in that spirit, but it believes that such a fundamental change should be fully debated before the measure becomes law. In the course of his speech the Minister also said -
Although the efficiencyand enterprise of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited in operating and developing overseas radiotelegraph services are beyond question . . .
I looked in vain for some further tribute by the Minister to that efficient organization. As Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited pioneered the beam service in Australia, and has done much to maintain Australia’s reputation in the field of radio-telegraphy, I thought that in his historical summary the Minister would have paid a high tribute to that organization for what it had done. He has failed to do so, except for the few lines to which I have already referred. Through its research activities Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited has contributed much to the world’s knowledge of radio-telegraphy, but now, at the very peak of its efficiency, its organization and its research officers are to be interruptedin their work. The history of telegraphic communications has been given by the Minister, and I do not think it necessary to add much to what he said in that connexion. It is true, as he pointed out, that this bill is the outcome of an Empire-wide plan which was recommended by the British Commonwealth Telecommunications Conference, held inLondon in July and August, 1945, and accepted by all the Governments represented, subject, of course to ratification by the various parliaments of the Empire. I understand that Australia is likely to be the first country to ratify the agreement.
– A bill has already been presented to the British House of Commons.
– Although the ratification of the agreement appears to be highly desirable, various countries which subscribed to it at the conference are examining it closely before presenting it to their Parliaments for ratification. It seems, therefore, that good reasons exist why the bill should be discussed thoroughly in this Parliament, in order that we may understand how it will affect Australia and the Empire as a whole. The question before us is not so much whether the Parliament should ratify the agreement, but rather how best it can be implemented. That can be done in either of two ways, each of which is deserving of our careful consideration. First, there can be a complete merger of all the interests involved, namely, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, Cables and Wireless Limited, and the Postmaster-General’s Department, under the control of the Commonwealth’ Government. Secondly, effect could be given to the agreement by the formation of a new communications company, consisting of the companies now in the field and the Government, with control in the hands of the Government. Those alternative means of controlling communications were investigated by previous governments, and it was found -that each of them contained certain attractive features. Before we decide on any plan it may be well to consider these alternative schemes. The proposal contained in the bill provides for the setting up of a commission to control communications. The alternative scheme that has been suggested deals only with communications, and, therefore, it would naturally follow that that aspect would be segregated entirely from the commercial activities of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. In his second-reading speech the Minister said -
The Government proposes to retain its proportionate shareholding in the reconstituted company if the private shareholders ofAmalgamated Wireless ( Australasia.) Limited so desire.
That raises the question of the Government’s interest in the commercial aspects of radio- telegraphy. My firm belief is. that it would be better for Australia if the Government were to keep out of commercial enterprises. It is interesting to note that although the Government’s policy provides for nationalization of industries generally, it proposes to consult the shareholders of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited in this matter. At this stage it is impossible to say what the shareholders will decide, but, regardless of their decision, I strongly urge the Government to keep out of the commercial field entirely .
– Would the honorable member be prepared to sell the Post Office?
– No. If I had that in mind I should oppose this bill. I have, however, strong views on the use of the Postmaster-General’s Department as a taxing medium. At present three organizations control communications, but it would be far more economical to merge them, under Commonwealth control. That would be best in the interests of the taxpayers and of those who will use the service. This proposal will have a tendency to eliminate approximately 4,000 miles of private telegraph lines that have been used exclusively by the two companies. These lines run parallel to lines of the Postmaster-General’s Department and could be used by the department to further the interests of subscribers by providing additional services which otherwise could not be made available at present owing to the lack of equipment. Another important advantage will be that in time of war or national crisis, all communications will be under one control. This is most desirable for the application of censorship, and to keep a check on all communications reaching or leaving the country. At present, the Postmaster-General’s Department controls approximately 91 per cent. of the traffic load of internal and external communications, the remainder being controlled by the two companies.. At least, that was the position in 1939 just prior to the outbreak of war. The overseas communication services include the following : -
The internal communication services include -
So, of eleven services, seven are controlled by the Postmaster-General’s Department, two by Amalagmated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and two by the Department of the Navy and the Department of Air. The important point is that 91 per cent. of the traffic load is carried by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department itself. My next point - one to which the Minister referred in his second- reading speech - concerns the embarrassment that has been, and may be, caused to a government by the action of a company acting at variance with government policy. The 1929 “conference agreed that the opening of additional radio-telegraph services should be resisted, and honorable members will recall the importuning that occurred following the action . by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited to open up new radio-telegraph communications with the United States of America and Japan. An explanation of that matter was given by the Minister, but the fact remains that because of the desire of Amalgamated Wireless . (Australasia) Limited to open up new channels, embarrassment was caused to the then government in view of the 1929 agreement. Such a state of affairs could not recur under exclusive . governmental control.
Deep sea cables are of great strategic value, and under this proposal the security of these services will be safeguarded. There is, however, one matter to which I ask the Minister to give some attention, and that is the nature of staffs at the foreign cable terminals. In the past these staffs have been employees of private or semi-private companies; now, the terminals will be manned by government officers and I am wondering what will be the reaction of foreign governments. Cable services have proved to be the only secure method of transmitting messages in time of war. They cannot be disrupted easily, and should disruption occur, they can be restored with reasonable speed. On the other hand, beam wireless services can be subjected, to a great deal of interference,as the Minister has mentioned. Therefore, any action- that can be taken to ensure the security of cable services is worthy of consideration.
I come now to the .planning for future developments. Telegraph and wireless communications have been pioneered by private companies, and. the question that now arises is whether >any government can carry out experimental work as efficiently as it has been done in the past. Governments are notoriously slow to act, whereas the private companies ‘ have devoted considerable time and money to research. They have a responsibility to their shareholders to provide an adequate return for their investment, and therefore are urged to operate efficiently. The Government is interfering with a highly efficient undertaking, and it should -be in a position to give an assurance that the great progress that has been made in the development of communications in the past shall be continued. The services might operate efficiently under a commission, but such a body, subject to ministerial direction, will of necessity be slow and may not be- able to ensure the development that would occur should the services remain under private control. Another disadvantage is that the Government may use this body as a taxing authority. The Minister said -
The internal communication services are owned hy the nation in the national and public interest, and it is illogical to have the external services operated by companies whose first duty is to their shareholders. There are very obvious reasons why the profit motive should be dissociated entirely fr.om the conduct of these external tele-communication services. H excess revenues fl-re derived from their operation they should lie applied in reduction of charges to the public or in improving the services, rather than for the benefit of private shareholders.
That is just a pious hope. We know that none of the immense profits, made by the Postmaster-General’s Department has been used for the improvement of services or as a means ; of reducing charges. The department’s profits have been paid into Consolidated Revenue, out of which the department draws its requirements from time, to time. The present arrangement whereby the department is required to submit yearly estimates in respect of its requirements is retarding the development of its services. When I was PostmasterGeneral I. was investigating a five-year plan of development, because I realized the need to give to .the department the opportunity to plan ahead for at least that period. The nature of the department’s operations makes long-range planning imperative. Last year the department’s surplus of £6,000,000 was transferred to Consolidated Revenue. That money was not used to improve departmental services, or to confer a single benefit upon telephone subscribers by way of increasing services or reducing existing charges. In view of that fact, the pious hope expressed by the Minister in this matter will not satisfy the taxpayers of Australia. The war-time increase of the postage rate by a half-penny and the increase of the telephone subscriber’s charge by a farthing a call represented an increased income to the department of £2,000,000. I hope that the Government will abolish those additional charges when the Treasurer is framing his next budget.
– Was not the honorable gentleman Postmaster-General when the postal rate was increased to 2-^d. ?
-I do not deny that. I point out that the additional halfpenny was imposed as. a war-time measure. Now that the war is over, I sincerely hope that the Government will reduce the imposts. I said previously that none of the surplus of the department was “used in the provision of additional services. The need for such services is emphasized by the fact that approximately 80,000 applicants are waiting for telephone facilities to be made available to them. This position, may be due to a shortage of materials. I do not deny that such a shortage exists. These facts emphasize the need for the department to lay down a long-range developmental plan. Indeed, the Minister in his statement concurs with that view. However, he will not meet this need simply by giving expression to a pious hope. Definite action must be taken along those lines. I do hot support nationalization in the sense that the Government should take over indiscriminately services which arc not essentially national. However, the whole of our telecommunication system is wrapped up with the problem of defence. Indeed, these lines of communications are’ the arteries through which flow messages relating to defence, and the Government must, in the interests of security, control them. For that reason I believe that the measure should receive the approval of honorable members, subject to certain undertakings being given by the Government.
– The defence argument could justify nationalization of airlines also.
– I do not agree with the nationalization of airlines. I know that I shall be out of order should I attempt to debate that subject. However, when the Minister seeks to capitalize the suggestion which I have just made with regard to defence I shall not fall into his trap. Most thinking people accept the view that we shall be dependent upon Great Britain entirely for our existence should we he menaced. I know that honorable members opposite entertain inhibitions upon that subject. It is quite patent that the cable and wireless services should be almost a United Kingdom undertaking, and that telecommunications, because of our need to establish quick contact with other, parts of the Dominions in a time of crisis, should be controlled by the Government, in order to meet the need for frequent consultation with other members of the British Commonwealth on matters of defence as well as commercial activities, trade agreements, and all matters closely associated with the welfare of the British Commonwealth of Nations. These matters are highly secret, and secrecy in respect of them must be preserved. Therefore, a merger under one control is necessary. But which is preferable - control by the Postmaster-General’s Department, or control by the commission which has been outlined by the Minister? We must study both these systems carefully and realize whither each leads. I am not one of those who believe that a commission of this kind is other than a job-finding body for some particular people whom the Government has in mind.
– That is a* scandalous observation.
– We have seen how the ex-member for Henty was rewarded for services rendered.
– That is despicable.
– That view is commonly accepted. I do not believe that a commission of this nature is other than a job-finding body. On the other hand, the Postmaster-General’s Department, as I have pointed out, already controls 91 per cent, of the traffic load of telecommunications, both internal and external. The department has a highly qualified technical staff, and a research section which compares more than favorably with the research sections of similar bodies in other countries. The department also possesses, the necessary equipment and organization to give immediate effect to this scheme. Indeed, the commission which is to be set up will, take advantage of the department’s existing organization. We are told that the three existing bodies involve wasteful expenditure of men and money ; but the Government proposes to appoint two authorities to- control telecommunications. That is equally wasteful. The commission, the Minister says, will work in close liaison with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. In fact, it will use almost the entire facilities of the department. It will use the department’s staff, equipment, land-lines and research section. A commission is to be set up to run parallel with an organization that is efficient and is functioning well and controls 91 per cent, of the traffic.
With regard to segregation of tele- * communications from the other operations of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, I hope that the Government will get out of the commercial field. I do not think it should give to the private shareholders the right to determine whether the Commonwealth should retain its shareholding in the reconstituted company. The principle is wrong. Taxpayer’s money should not be used by the Government to compete with taxpayers in commercial pursuits. Every commercial enterprise that the Government has undertaken has hopelessly crashed. That is shown by the consistent and continuous losses that they have shown over the years.
The Minister said that the Government was negotiating with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited relative to compensation. Whilst I believe that an efficient organization like that company should receive adequate compensation, I do not believe that taxpayers’ money should be used unnecessarily to buy it off. There should be fair compensation. The Government is taking away the goodwill and services of an efficient company, which has all the facilities needed to handle radio telecommunications. The company will leave the. radio telecommunications field and concentrate on the other sections of its operations, but the Government is taking away the biggest means of the shareholders getting a return from their investments. That calls for adequate compensation, but only adequate compensation.
– I assure the honorable member that the compensation will be adequate. This Government always acts justly.
– The company’s claims for compensation should be well considered by the Government and, if necessary, it should err on the right side.
– What does the honorable member mean by the “right side”?
– The tremendous development that will take place in the field of telecommunication cannot be computed by the Minister, the Government or the company. In assessing compensation, the Government must pay due regard to the vast possibilities of the future.
– All those things are taken into consideration in determining what is adequate. *
– I am glad to know that, but I warn the Minister to ensure that compensation shall be fair and just. There is no need for the Government to say, “ We take this service over. We have an act of Parliament enabling us to do f.o.” The Government must not ride rough-shod over the company and deny it adequate compensation. Neither must it, for the sake of smoothness, be lavish, not that I think that the Minister would be lavish in matters of this kind.
– This Government is always fair and just.
– One problem that concerns me, as it must concern all honorable gentlemen, is that of the staff. Clause 18 provides, inter aiia - (JO.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, every employee, of the Company wlm, in pursuance of the Agreements between the Commonwealth and the Company, dated respectively the twenty-eighth day of March, One thousand nine hundred and twentytwo, the twentieth day of August, One thousand nine hundred and twentyfour, and the fifteenth day of November, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-seven, was taken over from the Commonwealth by the Company and is at the date of acquisition by the Commission of the radiocommunication assets specified in sub-section (1.) of section twenty-three of this Act exclusively engaged in Australia, in or in connexion with radiocommunication services shall be entitled to appointment to a position in the service of the Commission with such advancement in status and salary, beyond those held and received by him in the service of the Commonwealth immediately prior to his being taken over by the Company, as the Commission in the circumstances thinks just, and shall preserve any pension, superannuation, retiring allowance or furlough rights which would have accrued to him if his service in the Commission had been a continuance of his service with thu Company. (11.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, any other employee of the Company or any employee of Cable and Wireless Ltd. who, at the date of acquisition by’ the Commission of thu telecommunication assets referred to respectively in sub-sections (1.) and (2.) of section twenty-three of this Act. is exclusively engaged in Australia in or in connexion with telecommunication services and has been so exclusively engaged for a period of three years, and for whom the Commission can find suitable employment shall bc entitled to a. position in the service of the Commission with such status and salary and under such conditions as the Commission determines :
Provided that, in determining the conditions us to the employment of any such employee, thu Commission shall take into consideration any pension or other like rights accruing to bini in respect of his service with whichever Company he was previously employed and shall, subject to the approval of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, make .such allowance for those rights as, in the view of the Commission, is just.
– In what respect does that worry the honorable member?
– It requires an employee to have served for three years exclusively in Australia. Marine radio officers did a good job during the war. I suppose some of the most outstanding deeds -were clone by marine radio officers on board the ships and at overseas terminal stations. They underwent hardships and dangers that cannot be exaggerated. Some of them have had twenty years of .service with the company, but they have not been engaged exclusively in Australia. But for the war many of them would have sought a shore job in udi sooner. Many will be precluded from taking advantage of that provision because of- their not having been exclusively engaged in Australia. There was an acute shortage of marine radio officers when Avar broke out and men wanting a shore job were prevailed upon 1o continue nt sea. They rendered splendid service and should be given full consideration by the Minister. I hope that if an amendment from, this side designed to protect their interests is not accepted by the Government the Minister himself will bring down such an amendment. The clause deals mainly with the employment of and preservation of the rights of the employees of the several companies: They will he given positions if positions can be found for them. Their status, seniority and superannuation rights are likely to be impaired, because they will not be taken over as a body by the commission. I understand that they have an agreement, . registered with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, for a period of two .years relative to seniority and conditions of employment and other associated matters. Compensation for loss of employment is not sufficient for these men. A job is not sufficient unless all accrued rights are preserved. It is a matter of justice that when employees are taken over by the commission their interests shall not in any way he harmed. They should be given the right to continue in their calling with all their rights preserved. The Opposition will closely analyse this bill in the committee stages, and will seek assurances from the Minister relative to the several matters to which I have drawn attention. Before the bill reaches the committee stage, however, I trust that the Minister will indicate specifically what the Government proposes in relation to the compensation to be paid to the existing organizations and their staffs who will be displaced as the result of the change-over. Finally, I urge that provision be made for the appointment of a highly competent research staff and the establishment of ample research facilities so that the new undertaking may function efficiently.
– I support the bill, and I am pleased to note from the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) that it is commended in other quarters. I congratulate the Minister on the very painstaking way in which he dealt with the measure during his second-reading speech, and for the manner in which he explained its complicated machinery to the House. The bill must indeed be an importantdocument to have caused the Deputy Leader of the Opposition temporarily to turn Socialist and admit that he is prepared to accept this form of socialization. But I am sure that this defection from the well-known principles held by honorable members opposite will end rapidly when other measures of a similar kind are presented for consideration. This rather complicated proposal has very important features from the viewpoint of, not only the average honorable member, but also the average Australian. The Minister has traversed the series of complicated negotiations that took place in order that this measure may run, as it were, in tandem with similar legislation in other parts of the world and vest in the Government of the country control of telecommunications both in peace and war. Control of this kind is particularly important in the interests of Australia and of the Empire as a whole. In the change-over there must of necessity be vast movements of equipment and of those who operate it. The vesting of control of telecommunications in a commission seems to be a reasonable solution of the difficulties presented by the proposal. The establishment of such a control cannot be challenged even though the proposal will inevitably bring about, some displacement of the industry and those engaged in it. In this connexion the position of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited must be given very close consideration. As has been mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, we have to consider the important part played by that organization in the past, particularly during the war period. I accept, as indeed may the people of Australia,, the Minister’s assurances, that adequate and reasonable compensation will be paid to existing organizations which will be displaced by the. commission. . Just compensation, -however, is not the only matter which should be considered. lt might be a graceful gesture on the pa rt of , the Government to make provision for a- special payment to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited in appreciation of its splendid war effort. I am particularly interested in the continued welfare of the company, because its largest factory in New South Wales is adjacent to my . electorate, being situated in the electorate of my colleague, the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly). The experiments and research undertaken by the company in order to bring telecommunication services up to the highest level of efficiency have been admirably successful. On a recent visit to the company’s factory I noticed many highly skilled technicians, who, a few years before the Avar, had been working in more or less unskilled avocations. As the result . of intensive research in the company’s laboratories it was able to provide the most efficient wireless equipment for the troops in the South West Pacific during the Avar. As the result of the skill and ingenuity of its technicians the company was able to produce completely waterproof wireless equipment which played an important part in the amphibious landing iti New Guinea. During tests this equipment w.as submerged in water for twelve hours, and 30 seconds after being withdrawn from the water it waS found to be completely and efficiently operative. I am gratified to know that laboratory experiments of this kind will continue and that research, which is. the. essence of progress, will not bc interfered with. An aspect of this proposal which . touches very closely honorable members on this side of the House, and honorable members opposite also, is the displacement of personnel that will be brought about by the change over -to Government control. I am glad to have the assurances’ of the Minister that no employee
Will be victimized in the process. Whilst a considerable number of those ]low engaged in the industry will be absorbed in the commission’s activites’ and by other activities of the company, provision should be made for other avenues of employment to he. found for those not so absorbed. Special consideration might well he given to those older men who have served telecommunications loyally in the past, particularly the former members of the Pacific Cable. Corps, who to-day are the forgotten men of the telecommunications, system. I remind honorable members that in the past, sometime before the commencement of the war just ended, and just after the 1914-18 Avar, these men represented the field force of the old Pacific Cable Board, a partially’- Government-owned institution. They were trained at Southport, Queensland, in the old system of cable-telegraphy. They worked in isolated outposts and gave splendid service. Possibly not more than half a dozen or a dozen of them are alive to-day. I trust that in considering the ramifications of this bill the Minister will not overlook their claims for consideration.
Another point which is, perhaps, more vital than either of the two I have mentioned, and which was dealt with briefly by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, is that Ave must have control of telecommunications so that in time of war our defence secrets shall not have to he passed through the open channels of communication, and thus be in danger of being picked up hy fifth-columnists and members of organized associations of various kinds hostile to this country and to” the Empire. I agree with’ that view. That is one of the major reasons why all ‘the governments within the. Empire should’ solve’ without delay the difficulty of open communications during Avar-time. This bill sets the scheme in” motion, and”, as the ‘Minister-inf ormed us in. his- secondreading speech”, it will be followed by other’ legislation in other parts of_ the world ‘ to- effect the same purpose. But one begins to think of other dangerous material which passes over our telecommunications, and wonders what will happen eventually to it. What control. - I detest the word “ control “-can be exercised over the exchange of cables between, countries ? Suppose the Government is faced with a position such as that which occurred recently in connexion with the “Gibraltar affray”, as we have come to know it. Since last week-end, beam and cable messages reaching this country reported a fracas in Gibraltar, in which the flower of Australian manhood who had served in World War II., including winners of the Victoria Cross. Distinguished Conduct Medal and Military Medal, were alleged to have been involved in a savage assault on the police of Gibraltar, It was said that there was a drunken ‘brawl, and that Australians had, without provocation, so far as could be seen in the cabled report, attacked the Gibraltar police and instituted a veritable reign of terror on The Rock.
Asa former Australian serviceman and journalist, I should not let the Gibraltar affair ‘ pass without strong comment. First, as an ex-serviceman, I do not believe that Australian soldiers are capable of committing brutal and savage assaults. I do not believe that the picked men who formed our Victory Contingent would molest pedestrians. Certainly, our men got mixed up in a brawl, but strangers in a strange place must always stick together. That is the inevitability of the matter. I should like to know who started the trouble. The cables do not tell us. But I shall show honorable members in a few words just how telecommunications are endangered when rumours of this nature, unsubstantiated or. ex parte statements, are made to the dismay of the whole of Australia. I do not care very much what the newspapers print about the matter, because the trouble has not yet been sufficiently investigated. I believe that an inquiry will prove that somebody tried to “ put something over “ our boys, and they resented it. Then the “somebody.” called the police, who wanted to arrest ‘some of our men -without bothering tb find out the rights and wrong3 of the matter. Knowing the Australian ser viceman’s love of fair play and his esprit de corps, I can understand that those would provide the ingredients of trouble. If some of our boys were being hauled off to the local calaboose, and their mates felt the injustice of it, I can imagine the call that would be made for a task force to release them. I think that the party of Australians were well outnumbered, and a “ free-for-all “ in those circumstances could hardly be called a “ brutal and savage assault “. However, the incident has been lavishly featured in all parts of the world by the. anti-British and anti-Australian press.
The first news to reach Australia of Friday night’s affray left Gibraltar on Sunday. The expressions “ Australians’ disgraceful behaviour “ and “ brutal and savage - assaults by Australian servicemen “ are those of Reuter’s correspondent. The whole of the report, which painted the Australians as a mob of hooligans who, apparently, left the ship with the firm intention of getting drunk and wrecking the town, and which in not one place mentioned the possibility of provocation or any other extenuating circumstance, is the opinion of Reuter’s correspondent. I emphasize that” point. Telecommunications are endangered in that way just as . they are in war-time. According to the correspondent, our men were involved in. a disgraceful and heartbreaking incident. They have not had an opportunity to defend themselves. Even the Government has not yet received an adequate reply from the officer commanding those troops. I am sure that he will present to us a more balanced story than the one which has been published. But the correspondent’s story is the important matter. We must understand that this news having been sent to all parts of the world, it cannot easily be overtaken by a refutation.
– Does the honorable member mean that under the proposed control of telecommunications, the correspondent would not have been permitted to send the story?
– Nothing of the sort. The “honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie’ Cameron) should ** noi.* ‘ draw that inference from my remarks. What I arn trying to point out, ami I am sure the honorable member would not desire me to do anything else, is that the use of telecommunications to spread a story which can never be overtaken by a contradiction is a savage and cruel thing. We must “apply ourselves to the ethics of the position, but I suppose that the only thing that the honorable member for Barker can understand is the closing down of a broadcasting station. The slower and more tortuous, but nevertheless more democratic way of ethics is the real solution of this problem.
Before I leave this subject, I desire to” emphasize the danger inherent in telecommunications. When the cable from. Renter’s correspondent reached Australia, experienced journalists throughout the country would have remarked. “We must verify this information”. But before that could be done, in at least two. newspapers, there was a Sunday morning “ scare “. Our men, about whom we had been filled with pride, and whose deportment in London had been praised, were reported as figuring in a vulgar brawl. Some newspapers did not even seek to discover- the cause of it. That is the danger of telecommunications. The Sydney Daily Mirror set out to discover the facts and its banner head-line on Monday read, “No Gibraltar Riots”. During the war newspapers lathered the troops with their oily praise, because they were a good source of advertisement; now, the whole Victory contingent has been libelled, and some newspapers did not attempt to ascertain whether the story was in accordance with the facts. Would not any Australian worthy of the name say, “ This is a serious matter. It is a reflection on my country and on the flower of Australian servicemen. We must check back on the contents’ of this cable, with a view to ascertaining the full facts “. But so debased and debauched have the sub-editors and others associated with a certain section of the press become, that they regarded this cable as a “good story”. They were not concerned as to whether it defamed Australia; They were not limited to the busy men at the subeditor’s desks, who might.be pardoned for saying, “ Here is a good story. :> We shall ‘.run it ‘ for what it L;>worth, and see what’ happens in later cables “. The Fairfaxes and Packers, in editorials, described the troops as an “ unruly mob which terrorized Gibraltar “.
This matter is most serious. I have used this opportunity to direct attention to it because it involves our overseas communications. To the honorable member for Barker I say that the censorship of communications is furthermost from my mind”; but in establishing the commission, power must be given to control all the canards and libels which, .after they are released, can never be overtaken. The public are not interested in subsequent apologies. The drama of the first story is the thing which attracts the people. There is a technique in journalism with which some newspapers are fully familiar. They know that after they have printed a story any subsequent apologies are read by only a small percentage of the people who had previously read the libel. T again emphasize the danger to the teleinternational communications system of leaving it open, to people who, in their hearts, have a feeling of savagery towards Australia. God knows that it is difficult enough to get the rest of the world interested in Australia. Some Australians are disposed to worry about what people in other countries think of them. When anything happens here, the first reaction of the newspapers is : “ What will the world think of us?” I can answer that question. The world is not thinking about us at all, except when we have a bushfire, earthquake or something equally disastrous. Then it is featured by the press throughout the English-speaking world, as has been this story about the conduct of the Australian contingent at. Gibraltar. Because sections of the press have built up a bad psychology, the Australian serviceman is featured as a basher and a bully.
We have made a dramatic forward move in our communications system, which will- play an important part in our future life. We have decided to place this system under’ a form of control which will be adequate, sincere, and Australian in outlook. We have decided to safeguard the people whom this legislation will displace from their jobs, and we have also considered the position of others who were remotely connected with the undertaking some- years ago; I hope that the Minister will see’ that they too are brought under his protecting mantle. The bill is evidence of the honest application that will be made by this Government to other huge problems which, like telecommunication, are related to national defence. The subject is so important that one could talk at great length about it, but it is so involved that to do so would perhaps be only boring. The measure has many aspects which require careful consideration, and I hope that, in the committee stages, we shall discuss them fully but without heat. Finally, I say that, if we cannot do anything to control messages transmitted over the telecommunications system, we can «at least draw world-wide attention to the ethics involved and have a gentlemen’s agreement with other nations that telecommunications shall not be used to sabotage Australia or to defame Australia’s fighting men.
– This bill represents the culmination of years of effort by every PostmasterGeneral who has held office since 192S. The Imperial Wireless and Cable Conference of 192S; which was attended by representatives of all Empire governments, was convened to examine the situation which had developed through the competition of the beam wireless service with the cable services, and to formulate recommendations for the adoption of a common policy in the sphere of Empire communications. In 1934, the then Attorney-General prepared a draft bill, under section 51 of the Constitution, providing for the cancellation of shares held by the Commonwealth Government and empowering it to acquire compulsorily, on fair and just terms, such assets of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited as would be needed to carry on the communications service. Therefore, the broad principles of this bill have the whole-hearted support of the Australian Country party. However, I draw attention to a matter about which, strangely enough, the Minister has been silent, namely, the amount of compensation and the conditions of payment of compensation to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited for the assets that ‘are to be acquired by the Government.
– Those things are 110 dealt with in the bill. They will be the subject of an agreement.
– 1 want to know whether an agreement has been negotiated, and what amount is to be paid by the Commonwealth Government in connexion with the acquisition.
– Wc will announce that in duc course. - ‘
– 1 shall tell the House what I have been told. The authorized capital of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia.) Limited is £1,000,000, of which £984,000 is subscribed capital. Of this, the Commonwealth Government owns 500,001 fully paid £1 shares. Consequently, the Commonwealth’s holding is equal to one-half plus one . £1 share. Amongst the many and varied activities conducted, by the company are commercial broadcasting,, manufacture of valves, wireless sets, parts, &c, and overseas communications principally connected with- radio-telephone terminals. An analysis which I have made from the meagre information available shows that communications revenue represents more than 50 per cent, of the gross income of the company, and therefore the communication services are the most remunerative portion of its business. . These services are operated under licence from the Commonwealth, and for this virtual monopoly the company pays precisely nothing to the Government. Substantial reserves have been built up out of this communications revenue, despite the fact that the company has consistently paid dividends- varying between 10 per cent, and 12^- per cent. As has been .pointed out, communications form but one part of. the company’s” business. This is the portion which- the Government .now intends to nationalize. On book values, the assets to be taken over are worth less than £500,000, and of these the Commonwealth Government owns just over one-half. Despite this, I understand that the Government, proposes to pay out about £1,400,000, or one and a half times the whole of the subscribed capital of the company, to private shareholders, plus some: thousands of pounds for company reconstruction costs. If these’ figures- are not correct, the criticism which I shall express will lapse. However, I understand that the amount to be paid for the acquisition of the half-interest held by private shareholders and Amalgamated Wireless, (Australasia) Limited is £.1,400,000. Although it is a half-owner, the Commonwealth will not share in one penny of this £1,400,000 pay-off, which I reiterate, is for only one portion of the business of a company with a subscribed capital of less than £1,000,000. I submit that a fundamental accountancy error has been made and that, assuming the high valuation to be correct, the private shareholders should have been paid only one-half of the amount, namely about £700,000. It must be understood that the privileges which this company has enjoyed over the years have cost it nothing. If the Government proposes to pay out the huge sum which I have mentioned, it must have received, very bad financial advice.
Mi Calwell. - Who told the right honorable member all this ?
Mr. fADDEN. E ask the Minister to deny’ it.
– What rival of Amalgamated. -Wireless (Australasia) Limited said it?
– If rivals know it, I suppose that it must be true. I also point out that none of the money that is to be paid out for this huge accretion of capital will be subject to tax. .No doubt the reserves will he retained substantially by the reconstructed company in which, admittedly, the Government is interested ito the extent of 50 per cent. However, private shareholders have an almost equal interest and they will benefit far more than the Government has done in the past.’ The company has been heavily subsidized by the Government for operating coastal radio stations maintaining a ship-to-shore service. If these subsidies were set off against dividends received’ by the Government, there is little doubt that the Government would be shown to have benefited by only a few thousand pounds in more than twenty years from its original investment of £500,000. The simple fact is ‘that, if this legislation is enacted, the private shareholders of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited’, apart from ; receiving dividends on double figures, will have returned to them more than five times their share capital in the communications service and will still retain a substantial share in the manufacturing and other activities of the company, at no further cost to themselves. The result undoubtedly will be that the company will be able to undercut further every competitive manufacturer and commercial broadcaster in Australia. Consequently, this legislation will establish a most insidious form of semi-private monopoly, which cannot be condoned merely because the Government will own a half interest in it. Before it is too late, an expert committee should’ be appointed to make a complete valuation of the assets on a proper accountancybasis. There is every possibility that if this were done there would be a saving of the taxpayers’ money amounting to between £500,000 and £750,000. There is no need for me to emphasize the necessity to effect every possible economy in’1 governmental expenditure, ‘in ‘order that the. taxpayers may be given the maximum relief. This is demanded by considerations which affect the economy of Australia. Over-capitalization, through the purchase of these assets at an ‘abnormally high price will have unfair international repercussions. The Commonwealth will still have to purchase .deepsea cable channels on Australian terri.ory from the Government of the United Kingdom, when that Government takes over the assets of Cables and Wireless Limited. The overall agreement which forms the first schedule to the bill has been so drawn that the resultant overcapitalization will react unfairly against the Australian taxpayer and against other national corporations which are to be established in the United Kingdom, the Dominions, and India. It has to -be remembered that Australia has to enter into a partnership with the United Kingdom and other units of the British Commonwealth, including India. If there be over-capitalization by virtue of the acquisition of our share of the pool on an unsound basis, we shall not be “ playing the game “ with our partners in the all-embracing scheme which the bill envisages. For this reason, also, the scrupulous care which a panel of experts alone could ensure, is necessary in the determination of asset values. Consequently, I urge the Government, in fairness to the other Dominions and to the taxpaying public of Australia, to adopt the suggestion that has been made. If my information is incorrect, my criticism will be pointless. But the House and the country must be given exact knowledge of the circumstances under which the Government is to acquire a halfshare in only, one of the five activities of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. The Minister should make that explanation in no uncertain terms and, if .he can do so, justify the conditions that are to be attached, to the proposed acquisition.
.- This measure is of tremendous importance to the people of Australia. As the Minister for Immigration and Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) stated in his secondreading speech, and as the hill provides, the agreement is one between the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, India, and Rhodesia. It covers practically the whole of the British Commonwealth. I do not know of any legislation placed before this Parliament which has had such wide ramifications and implications. I take it that the operating company is to be adequately compensated. Indeed, if we accept the statement of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited is to be more, than amply compensated for the assets that are to be acquired. The adoption of an anti-Australian view in regard to the problems of Australia and their solution seems to be commonplace among members of the Opposition. The Leader of the Australian Country party has just given us a demonstration of it. It may be argued that the proposed compensation for the assets that ‘ are to be acquired is too high. That, however, is a matter which can be decided only after investigation and assessment by competent persons. I accept the assurance of the Minister that the employees referred to by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) will be properly protected and compensated. These may be regarded as the domestic aspects of the transaction. There is a much broader aspect. The bill provides that the assets of the operating company shall be acquired by the nation. An agreement is to be made between the countries I. ha ve mentioned.
As previous speakers have pointed out, this subject was first canvassed as far back as 1926. In the intervening period, it has been considered by governments of all shades of political thought. The present La bour Government is once more making history. Ever since it has been on the treasury bench, it has tackled the internal and’ external problems of Australia in a manner that has done credit to itself and given satisfaction to the people of this country. The bill is designed to deal mainly with communications within the British Empire. I should like the Minister, when replying to the debate, to state .what effect the termination of the agreement with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited will have on the services that are now operated by that concern on behalf of the Postmaster - General’s Department. These services increase its revenue, and concurrently add to the costs which have to be borne by the people who receive them. I have in mind the Flinders Island radio service, concerning which I have made representations to various Ministers over a period of years. A surcharge is levied on all telegrams to and from the island, and this imposes an unfair toll on the inhabitants of that isolated area who have had to use the service provided by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. The injustice of the impost has been most apparent since the provision of a radio telephone service to the island. I should like to know what effect the termination of the agreement with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited will have oh the people of that part of my electorate. Will the Postmaster-General’s Department be able to control entirely its own business to that and other remote localities? Will the surcharge be removed, and will the residents of the island be placed on « basis similar to that of the great majority of the people of Australia ? The bill seeks- -to give effect to an agreement that has wide ramifications. Australia has everything to gain and nothing to .lose by the Empire agreement -for which the measure provides. ‘ , -
– The bill .proposes to effect a radical change in -the ownership and control of telecommunication services between Australia, Britain and the other parts of the Empire, which now, and for nearly a quarter of a. century, have been vested, by the 1922 agreement and subsequent amendments thereof, in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. The reasons actuating the Government in terminating this agreement, and the events that have led up to the introduction of this” bill, have been set out fully and clearly by the Minister (Mr. Calwell) in his speech on the second reading. Honorable members, therefore, are in a position to discuss the bill on its merits.
In form, it proposes, that the Commonwealth shall acquire, the sole ownership and control of the oversea telecommunication services now. held by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) .Limited and vest them .in a statutory commission appointed by the Commonwealth Government. In short, the bill proposes to nationalize the -oversea telecommunication’ services of the Commonwealth. Honorable members will, however, note that the control of these services by the Commonwealth is limited by its partnership in an Empire commission, or conference, in which the Governments of Britain and the other Dominions have representation with voting power proportionate to their interests. To quote the Ministers own words -
The step being taken in Australia, is part of a united Empire-wide unified plan, recommended by the British Commonwealth Telecommunication conference held in London in July and August. . 1 045, and accepted, in principle by all responsible governments of the Empire, subject to ratification by their respective parliaments.
I do not propose to deal, except in a very general way, with this unified Empire plan, which all the responsible governments of the Empire have accepted in principle, and which, subject to ratification by their respective parliaments, will bc effectuated in due course. No useful purpose can be served by criticism of the underlying principles of a plan to which all the governments of the Empire are committed - and which, in view of the state of parties, is assured of ratification in this Parliament. I expressly re frain too from commenting on the criticism by the leader of the Australian Country party (Mr.. Fadden) of the terms and conditions of purchase of the interests of the private shareholders in the company, for the good and sufficient reason that, speaking as a director of the company, to the best of my knowledge and belief, these have not yetbeen settled. But about the termination of the 1922 agreement with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, the events that led up to it, and the operations of the company, I feel that a more detailed review is called for. Let me remind the House that I was not only .a signatory to the agreement which this bill terminates, but also the nian responsible for submission to the Parliament of the proposal to establish direct Empire wireless service.
Let me review briefly the events that led up to its establishment. Believing-, as I have always done, that the British Empire was a great living force, standing for liberty and peace, and that its strength depended upon the unity of its widely scattered parts, I submitted a motion to the Imperial Cabinet in 191S for such improvements in the means of communications as would ensure this. unity without limiting the plenary rights of the self-governing nations that composed it. We live in troublous but wonderful times, when revolutionary changes are the commonplace of our lives. In the years that have passed since World War L, the means of communication have made amazing progress. This applies to none more than to telecommunications. In 1918 wireless was in its infancy. In Australia it was confined to a- limited coastal service which the Government maintained and on which it was losing some £60,000 a year. The need for greatly improved means of communication had been brougHt home to the governments of the dominions during the first World War. They had been told of things the British Government intended to do - long after these had been* done, aud when nothing remained for the dominion governments but to accept them.
Our technical right to have an effective voice in shaping foreign policy had been proclaimed by Britain. We had been accorded equal status with, the Government of the United Kingdom; but in practice, owing in many cases to the difficulties arising »out of our geographic circumstances, the voice of the dominions was no more than a belated echo of the policy which Britain had already imple- merited. In 1918 my motion, strongly advocating such improvements in communications as would ensure the unity of the Empire and give to the dominions an effective voice in shaping foreign policy, was debated by Cabinet at length and unanimously approved, but the Peace Treaty having been signed, dominion Prime Ministers returned to their homes before any steps could be taken to give effect to. its recommendations. However, when the 1921 conference met, it had before it the Norman scheme for the establishment of a system of wireless communication between the United Kingdom and various parts of the Empire. This scheme provided for a relay service from stations 2,000 miles apart, of which Australia was the most distant. I strongly opposed the scheme. Speaking on the subject in this House on the 7th December, 1921, I said that under the Norman scheme of relays, there were delays due to congestion, priorities, handling, atmospheric disturbances, and on the top of this a yearly loss estimated at £20,000. The net effect of these disabilities would, have given us a service that compared unfavorably with cable communication. The loss on wireless services in Australia operating before the Commonwealth’s adoption of the proposal for co-operation by the Commonwealth Government with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited was about £60,000 per annum - this is a conservative estimate and does not take into account interest on capital or depreciation - with these items taken into account the annual net loss was close to £75,000. The Norman scheme was to be controlled wholly by Great Britain and the various dominions and run by the British Postal Department: that is to say, the service would be controlled and run by Britain as the major partner, and Australia would have no control and very little in-‘ fluence over rates for messages to and from this country. I also said here, then you have a service which, at best, has no advantages over existing cable communications, the dominant share in the control of which will be in Britain and the other dominions, and on which we shall certainly lose £20,000 a year.
The other dominion representatives, or most of them, approved the Norman relay scheme, but I obtained from the then Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Lloyd George, the right to submit a scheme to the Parliament of the Commonwealth for direct wireless .communication between Australia and Britain and other parts of the Empire. I made my report on the Imperial Conference to the Parliament in September, 1921, and in it I stated that the Government proposed to enter into an agreement with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited to establish direct wireless communication between Australia, and Britain. The report set out the main points of the pro-, posed agreement. The House was divided in opinion; the Labour party wanted direct ownership and control by the Government whilst some non-Labour members favoured private enterprise. Eventually, on my motion, a committee was set up to investigate and report to the House upon the best form of agreement with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. The committee was fully representative of all parties, and was composed of six members of this House - two nominated by the Prime Minister, two by the Leader of the Opposition, and two by the Leader of the Country party - and three senators. Separate proposals were submitted to the committee, one by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and two by the Radio Communication Company of London. The committee, after an exhaustive inquiry, reported -
We are unable to recommend the adoption of either of these agreements in the form presented. We have revised the proposed agreement with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. We forward the attached draft which embodies the alterations made by us. We recommend the Government to execute the agreement as attached.
For the purpose of this discussion it is not necessary to deal with any of the alterations proposed by the committee other than that which provided for representation of the Commonwealth and the company on the board of directors. Under theagreement as originally drafted, the Commonwealth had been entitled to three directors and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia)Limited to four directors. The committee recommended that the Commonwealth and the company should each have three directors and that a seventh director should be chosen by the other six. After some discussion this was approved by the Parliament, and in duo course the Government executed the agreement. The new company was formed with a capital of £1,000,000, in £ 1 shares, of which the Commonwealth held 500,001 and the private shareholders 499,999 shares. I ought to add that following a refusal by the Government to accept a former director of the company as the seventh director, I offered to actin that capacity, if Parliament approved my doing so. No objection being raised, and the private shareholders having approved my appointment, I took my seat on the board. I have continued as seventh director ever since.
During the somewhat protracted debate on the agreement, the most gloomy views were expressed as to the future of the new company. Quite apart from the agreement, the proposal to launch out into the unexplored field of wireless was denounced as premature, reckless and doomed to failure. But the experience of years has splendidly vindicated the scheme, which ensures the co-operation of the initiative, resources and administrative capacity of private enterprise with the stabilizing and protective influence of the Government as a majority shareholder. It has been a wonderfully profitable investment. For a payment of £50,000 in 1922, increasing at intervals to £500,000 in 1942, the amounts received by the Commonwealth Government have been -
The public has benefited greatly from reduced charges as well as from better facilities. Before beam wireless communications were established, 2s. 6d. a word was charged for messages to the United Kingdom, but under the scheme that charge was reduced to1s. 3d. a word to all parts of the Empire which formerly were not reached by direct communication from Australia, and charges for other classes of communications also were reduced correspondingly. For instance, the charge for press messages, which in 1927 was 4d. a word to the United Kingdom, was reduced in 1946 to1d. a word to any address within the British Empire. In 1938 new social greeting messages were sent at a charge of 5s. for twelve words, whilst during the war special messages to and from servicemen were sent at a flat rate of 2s. 6d. for each message. The effect of the scheme upon employment was marked ; it opened new avenues of industry which absorbed large numbers of our people. The number of employees in the company increased from 420 in 1922 to 6,000 in 1944. It is now about 5,000.
In peace, and in war, the scheme has given to Australia a service which compares favorably with that available in any country in the world. The company has given the country a most efficient service, pioneered many technical improvements, amply protected the public from exploitation, reduced its rates and provided many valuable facilities to service personnel and to the general community. The agreement with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited has been a most profitable investment for the Government; as a highly successful business enterprise its record speaks trumpettongued.
The Government has decided to terminate the agreement under which the wireless services have been opera ted and controlled for nearly a quarter of a century. But the company’s record stands as a proud monument of efficiency and progress that the statutory commission may emulate, but can hardly hope to excel.
.- I rise to participate in the debate mainly to say to honorable members, and particularly to listeners in my electorate, that the passing of this measure will have no detrimental effect on the welfare of many hundreds of employees of Amalgamated “Wireless (Australasia) Limited,’ or on the future activities of that company, whose premises are situated in my electorate. The Minister for Immigration and Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) is to be congratulated upon having provided honorable members with a copy of his remarks at the time of its introduction, thus enabling them to follow clearly the technical matters to which he referred in an excellent speech. His example ‘could well be followed by other Ministers when presenting to the House measures dealing with intricate matters. Every honorable member who has spoken has paid a tribute to the achievements of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited working in co-operation with successive governments. I am sure that all honorable members will agree that this organization has done an excellent job, both in the production of high quality equipment, and in the provision of employment for many hundreds of people in the metropolitan area of Sydney.
Like many other industries, the radio manufacturing industry in this country was established as the result of the progressive tariff policy of the Scullin Government. In fact, I understand that the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) himself, when Prime Minister of this country, performed the opening ceremony at the premises of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and I am sure it is gratifying for him to review the growth of the organization since that time. During the war years the company employed approximately 7,000 people, and produced war and other equipment to the value of approximately £13,000,000. That was a. notable achievement, and when we remember that employees of the company are mainly Australians, we can take some pride in its record.
In introducing this bill no reflection is cast upon the efficiency of the Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, or upon the quality of its products. The measure has been introduced” to give effect to Australia’s part, in the Empire agreement on the nationalization of telecommunications. As the Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited establishment is situated in my electorate, I am proud indeed to be able to say - I am sure the
Minister will agree with me - that in the preparation of this measure the management of the company co-operated in every possible way to facilitate a full discussion of the pros and cons of the proposal, and so to make the task of the Parliament easier.
M.r. Calwell. - That is so.
– The fact that the Government has been able to introduce the bill in its present form is a tribute to the spirit of co-operation exhibited by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. Complete harmony also existed in discussions of compensation payments. To visit one of the establishments of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, such as the valve works, and see the first-class work that is being done today in time of peace, as in the war years, would be an education to any member of this Parliament or of the general public. Amongst the employees of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited are several blind ex-servicemen who, through the sympathetic cooperation of the management of the company, are being rehabilitated in industry, and thus enabled to do a useful job for the nation and to live more in accordance with the standards of more fortunate citizens. It is indeed pleasing to find this organization taking an interest in the welfare of men who suffered injuries during their service with the armed forces.”
By introducing this measure, Australia, is taking early action to ratify the Empire Telecommunications Agreement, and a point of interest is the effect that ratification of the agreement will have upon the manufacturing side of the activities pf Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. As honorable members no doubt are aware, more than 50 per cent, of the products of this organization are absorbed in the telecommunication section. The loss of this outlet for Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited products could have serious effects upon the company, but it is gratifying to know that an assurance has been given by the Minister that the rights of employees of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited will be safeguarded. The bill provides specific protection for employees in the telecommunications section of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited who have had three or more years’ service, and I understand that those with even less service will not suffer by the passage of this measure.
The telecommunications section of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited has been the main support of the organization’s research laboratory by providing a ready market for the equipment produced. The laboratory with its staff of 800 ‘has been able to “produce equipment of a standard not excelled anywhere in the world, and I hope that under the new arrangement provision will be made for the granting of preference to the products of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited which can be used by the new telecommunications organization. The government should put Australian products before imported articles. It is our responsibility to ensure that the equipment produced by this great establishment, that has been built up over the years, shall find a ready market. There should be some guarantee that the research laboratory will be able to continue the work which, in the past, has done so much to keep wireless development in Australia abreast of pro- ,gress in other countries which perhaps have a greater scientific background, and are able to devote much more money to research.
I understand that arrangements have been made for that work to continue. It is vital that the manufacturing side of the activities of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited should not suffer as the result of the loss of control of telecommunications, and I hope that a liberal preference will be extended to the products of this Australian organization so that loss of employment will not result and valuable experimental work may be carried on, I know that the position has, in a large measure, been safeguarded in the agreement, which is a further indi- ‘ cation of the concern of the Government for the welfare of those engaged in Australian industry.
The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) said that the Government had been too liberal regarding the compensation which it had agreed to pay to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and he cited certain figures in support of his argument. I do not know where he got those figures, nor whether they are correct; but he claimed that the Government was proposing to pay about twice as much as it should, and he added that a select committee should be set up to review the matter. It is realized that the fixing of compensation in a case of this kind is a ticklish business, but it seems to me that the right honorable member failed to take into account the fact that the company had certain long-standing rights of an irrevocable kind, and the fact that the Government was able to negotiate successfully speaks volumes for the manner in which the representatives of the company met it. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), who is also Treasurer, would not idly throw away in compensation twice as much as was necessary, just for the sake of nationalizing an industry. Considering the assets of the company, and the rights which it possessed, it is somewhat surprising that it accepted so little. I am convinced that the new arrangement will not have a detrimental effect upon the progress of the company, or upon employment. The spirit of co-operation evinced by those associated with the company has helped the Government to conclude arrangements much sooner than if the matter had been fought out in court. The Government has protected the rights of employees, and has arranged for the payment of compensation acceptable to the company, and the whole matter has been carried through without material interference with the manufacturing rights of the company.
It was pleasing to note that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) for once agreed that certain enterprises ought to be nationalized, in the interests of the defence of the country as an example. I hope that in time he will .realize that the coal-mines,’ the airlines, and all forms of communication should be also nationalized in order to make the country secure.
I hope that, before long, this agreement will be ratified by the parliaments of all the Dominions, and that the new arrangement will prove to be as successful as its sponsors expect. I also hope that Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, operating under the agreement, will be . as successful in the years to come as it has been in the past. I foresee a great future for the company and Australian industry, and an opportunity for the improvement of telecommunications.
.- .The honorable member who has just resumed his seat is full of abounding hope. He hopes for this and he hopes for that. He praises Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, which has been condemned because his own Government proposes to sabotage it. He hopes that the employees of the company will find other employment. I hope so too. I pay tribute to this company, which has done such excellent work over the years. Under the bill, it is proposed to take over all cable and wireless communications, to place them under government management and ownership, and, by ratifying the London agreement of August, 1945, to make it apply throughout the Empire. The Minister for. Information (Mr. Calwell) has traversed the history of the negotiations fairly enough. The matter concerns us closely in Australia because it is proposed to take over the assets of the companies which have maintained cable services, and to re-organize Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, a company owned partly by the Government and partly by private shareholders, the Government having a controlling interest to the extent of one share. By that arrangement there was an attempt to get the best of two forms of .control - to get the initiative and incentive of private control, plus all the resources of the Government. The same was done in the case of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. The organization of those two companies represented an attempt by the Government many years ago to follow a middle course, and experience proved it to be successful. In listening to the paeans of praise which have been sung about this new arrangement we are apt to overlook some of the possibilities inherent in it. The speech of the Minister who introduced the bill contains this passage-
A commission, which the bill provides shall be called the Overseas Telecommunication
Commission of Australia, shall be constituted on lines similar to the Australian National Airlines Commission.
Thus, any one who condemns the nationalization of the interstate airlines of Australia must also condemn this new. proposal. It represents another step in the direction of the Government’s objective of socialization. While it is true that the agreement was framed at a conference in London, it so happens . that it was entered into at a time when there was a Socialist government in Great Britain, a Socialist government in New Zealand and a Socialist government in Australia. Naturally, they got together and drew up this agreement. There is a trend towards government control of communications and transport, but government” control does not necessarily mean government ownership. There is a great distinction between the two. The interstate airlines of Australia could be controlled by the Government without ownership, but the Government contemplates ownership in addition to control. Would the Government pursue that to the end and take over every form of transport and communication?
– Would it?
– Would it? “ That is what I am asking the Minister.
– And that is what I am asking the honorable member.
– One Government supporter said that he hoped it would. He wants the Government to go from victory to victory, socializing this and that.
– What does the honorable member hope?
– I hope that we shall retain democracy with an enlarged economy in which free enterprise can live, but membe’rs of the Labour party are pledged socialists. I do agree that there are degrees of socialism. The doctrinaire socialists, the fanatics who want to make a bureaucrats’ paradise where every one is a servant of the Government, exist on the Government side. I do not think all honorable members opposite are as extreme. as that. Judging by his questions, I do not think the Minister would try to socialize everything. For example, motor transport is in the hands of private enterprise. It employs more persons than all the Australian railways.
– Order ! The honorable member is going beyond the scope of the bill.
– One must ask whether this proposal is being made for the benefit of communications or whether it is not the Government’s traditional policy. I do not know whether you were here, Mr. Speaker, but the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) went to great detail about something that happened at Gibraltar last week. Hesuggested that that sort of news should not be transmitted. He said all news transmitted to and from Australia, should be authentic, sincere and Australian.. I agree, but that cannot be achieved without some form of censorship. The honorable member baulked at the word “ censorship “, but there must be ‘control. The honorable gentleman skated beautifully over that detail. No doubt he delights the Minister for Immigration and his colleague, the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron), who would exercise the control. The honorable member hinted that press messages should be scrutinized.
– I did nothing of the sort.
– The honorable member did. I was present throughout, his speech. He said he was a. former journalist and that, he knew, all about the newspapers. It does not matter what the newspapers report, because their opinions differ, but we have a public that should be able to discriminate. This is not Russia, Germany, or Italy, but if we had the world that these people are looking for, where “ every message was scrutinized by the Minister or one of his minions, we should be moving towards a socialistic state. In that domain the Communist can live. There is good in this proposal, but it must be carefully watched by those who value individual freedom, the freedom of the press, and who think private enterprise should flourish side by side with government enterprise. The Government should not be allowed to usurp everything.
– The honorable member wanted to sell our postal organization.
– The Minister makes wild statements from time to time. I do not believe that he prepared the speech which he read because it is too temperate. The. biggest organization involved in this amalgamation is Cable and Wireless Limited, a. British corporation. Every one who has travelled knows how efficient it is. Like the Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, it has conducted extensive” research. It was to the forefront in the development of radar. It operated a television service in 1938, and Baird, whose death was recently reported, invented and made great improvements in television under the auspices of this private company, which has been sponsored by the British Government for many years.
At the seventeenth annual meeting of Cable and Wireless (Holding) Limited held in London on the 26th June, 1946, the chairman, Sir. Edward Wilshaw, said -
This great communications company which lias been built up over a period of 80 years has established itself throughout the world, has shown unquestioned efficiency and enterprise in serving the community, in the Empire in particular and the world in general and has become the largest communications system in the world and the envy of others. What then is the reason why it is to be disintegrated and its control passed to the hands of the respective governments? The answer to this question, we are told, is that some of the Dominions desire more control. We do not cavil, at that and we believe the situation could have been met where there is such demand by other means, without jeopardizing the system as a whole. With its long and successful experience, one would have thought the company might have been invited to make suggestions to this end.
Here are some of the services that it carried out during the war of which 1 am sure honorable members availed themselves, as did their relatives : -
The company was required to set aside half the profits over 4 per cent, for the further reduction of rates and it has, in fact, reduced very substantially rates all over the world and particularly within the Empire without waiting for the accumulation of a surplus over 4 per cent. It has introduced .many cheaper classes of messages including social messages and has reduced the Empire press rate to a penny a word. We do not’ desire unduly to emphasize actions taken by the company during the war purely on grounds of humanity. Namely, free messages monthly between parents and children overseas separated by evacuation; free messages for prisoners of war and for those engaged in battle on the seas. But these are some of the things which we have been proud to do for the benefit of the community. I venture to think it might, have been very difficult for governments to do these things without parliamentary authority and consequent delay.
That is a record of which any company can be proud. That is the principal com’pany involved in this proposed agreement. Where we have such high efficiency we should consider very carefully to what degree we should place power entirely in the hands of the Government. There is a tendency - and I do not say this in any party-political sense - that when organizations fall into the hands of the Government, efficiency deteriorates and service becomes indifferent.
– That is nonsense!
– As an instance of inefficiency on the part of a government department I refer the Minister to the archaic train service between Goulburn and Canberra, which, with its 50 years old engines and its out of date rolling stock, would not do justice to Patagonia. We should hesitate before too readily giving full powers to the Government. I believe in government control in tried instances, hut not the general control envisaged by those who would socialize everything until every member of the community became the servant of the State. The Government should seriously consider whether it will be able to maintain the efficiency of our telecommunications service. Sir Edward Wilshaw went on to say -
We consider the scheme which was’ envisaged for its administration under the new conditions is quite impracticable, but it has been indicated recently that the Government has not finally made up its mind as to the future administration of the undertaking when it does take over.
And this in my opinion is the crUX of the quotation -
The request and the pressure for public ownership emanated originally in and from Australia, and we do not think from information we have that the Dominions, as a whole, were dissatisfied with the present set-up.
So the pressure for the socialization of the service came from Australia, and the British Government, always courteous, always ready to listen to the Dominions’ viewpoint, probably gave undue weight to the representations of the socialist negotiators who represented this country.
The Minister for Immigration-, is fond of telling us of the efficiency of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Yet today the postage charged for sending overseas a food parcel weighing 7 lb. is 3s. 7d. If a parcel happens to weigh a few ounces over the 7 lb. - and many housewives find it difficult to keep to the exact weight - the charge is raised to os. 10d., or the equivalent of no less than £60 a ton, which in some cases would be considerably more than the value of the goods despatched. If. such a charge were levied by private enterprise, the Prices Commissioner would very quickly intervene. Socialists who so fanatically believe that excellent results freely follow from government control should scrutinize these things. Let us not take it for granted that because the Government has unlimited funds it must be capable. of conducting the telecommunications service efficiently. I sound a note of warning about this proposal to sabotage a great Australian company, Amalgamated . Wireless (Australasia) Limited. The Minister has said that this proposal will not. prevent the company from continuing operations under a different set-up. I only hope that he is right. I cannot understand, however, how ‘ the Government can grant it the preference suggested by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly).
– Why not?
– If the Government has evolved a scheme under which such preference can be extended let us hear it. It is tragic that a great Australian company with such a splendid record over the last two decades is now to be put out of a’ction. The service rendered by the company in the past has been excellent because it has had behind it a combination of the resources of the Commonwealth and the initiative of private enterprise. We have had socialization of banking, and interstate air-lines, and now we are to have socialization of communications. What next is earmarked for government control? On the question of charges, Sir Edward -Wilshaw said -
When I remind you that our standard revenue fixed by the Government is only £1,200,000 a year and that in pre-war years our profits ran around that figure of £1,200,000, then it must be assumed that had this happened in pre-war days, this action would have put us in the red to the extent of £1,300,000 a year. If this be so, we can only assume’ that it is not intended to run the communications system in future on any economic basis, but to dip into the pockets of the taxpayers and even the taxpayer who does not use the service, in order to balance the budget.
So the Government is to bind itself to certain rates5; it will not concern itself whether they will be profitable or not, because it will have the means at its disposal to extract from the pockets of the taxpayers of this, the highest-taxed country in the world, any sums needed to meet deficiencies as they arise. We have to watch these experiments with great caution. We cannot do otherwise than subscribe to the agreement because it has been assented to by other Empire countries; but let us at least ensure that the rates fixed are fair and reasonable, that the service provided is efficient, and that the commercial, broadcasting and patent-holding rights of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited are preserved. Only if these” matters are given due consideration and trained personnel are taken over, may our telecommunications service be above the standard of the services usually provided by government departments. I ask the Minister to bring my remarks to the attention of his colleague, the Postmaster-General.
.- The honorable member for Balaclava (MrWhite) has again run true to form. He is such a hopeless Tory that he is completely out of step with the leaders of his own party and with the conservative members of the Australian Country party, and that is saying quite a lot. The honorable gentleman has such a hate of this Government and of nationalization generally that he cannot see good’ in government control or ownership in any form. On one occasion the honorable gentleman even favoured disposing of the business of the Postmaster-General’s Department to private enterprise. To-night he has complained of the postage rates imposed in respect of food parcels despatched overseas.
– :The honorable member would double that charge.
– If private enterprise were handling - our postal business the rates charged would be considerably higher than they are at present. The Post- - master-General’s Department is rendering a national service to the people and is conducted as efficiently as any business organization in the Commonwealth. At the commencement of his speech the honorable member suggested . that we should take a middle-of-the-road course, but after staggering about from one side of the road to the other in the first ten minutes of his speech he found himself in a ditch on the right side of the road securely bogged by his antiquated ideas of private enterprise and government ownership. I welcome the bill and I am pleased that the dominion governments have been able to reach an agreement under which they themselves will control telecommunication services. I remind the House that with the exception of the honorable member for Balaclava, people generally accept the view that the Postmaster-General’s Department is under the correct form of control and ownership when it is controlled by theGovernment. The honorable member is the only person whom I have ever heard object to that form of control. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department has undertaken the whole of the telecommunication system in the past, and no objection has been raised by- any section of this so-called “wonderful private enterprise “‘to the government ownership and control of the system. The reason is not difficult to find. In the early days the system had to be conducted at a loss; and private enterprise is not prepared to engage in an unprofitable business. The profit motive is always present. At all times, profits must be obtained by private enterprise. -But this bill provides for the extension of that communications system to the whole of the British Empire. Because of that extension, I welcome the measure. Our cable system .between Great Britain and the Dominions is a’ most important public utility, particularly in war-time. That fact was emphasized during World War II., when our beam wireless could not be used for the transmission of the most important messages between the Governments of the United Kingdom and the Dominions, and the cable system had to be employed. That system, being essential, must be preserved. If it is to be maintained in the best interests of the whole of the people of the British Empire, it must be owned and controlled by the respective governments before we can get the full value of it.
I propose now to examine .briefly the history of this intra-empire communications system. Prior to the introduction of overseas beam wireless, we depended for our communications upon our cable systems. But beam wireless proved to be much cheaper and the cost of upkeep much lower, with the result that the cable companies could not compete with it. Nevertheless, it was essential, in the interests of the British Empire, that the cable system should be maintained. The honorable member for Balaclava recounted an impressive story about the efficiency and success of Cable and “Wireless Limited. If the honorable member, will examine the facts, he will discover that, with the introduction of beam wireless, Cable and Wireless Limited was not able to make profits. Whereas formerly it had been paying dividends of 6 per cent., its profits disappeared ‘completely.
Mi1. White. - I spoke of twenty years ago.
– As Cable and Wireless Limited required financial assistance, the British Government first released the organization from a liability of £250,000 per annum for rentals, and, secondly, invested £2,600,000 worth’ of capita] in the enterprise. I do not say that that assistance was not necessary,’ and I do not criticize the policy of the British Government in providing it. I merely mention those facts to show that Cable and Wireless Limited, when conducted by private enterprise, could not compete successfully with beam wireless. Because of the essential nature of the service, the British Government had to come to its aid. A company which has received millions of pounds from a government, cannot be classed as a very successful business undertaking. Any business can carry on provided the Government makes available £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 to cover losses.
I shall now examine briefly the history of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia)
Limited. Because of the essential nature of wireless communications between Great Britain and the Dominions, a former Commonwealth Government - it was not a Labour government - considered that itwas necessary for it to assume some responsibility for the control of our beam wireless system. Accordingly, a company was formed, with the Commonwealth Government as the principal shareholder with 500,001 shares. Private enterprise took 485,000 shares. The honorable member for Balaclava stated that the Commonwealth Government had a controlling interest in the company. So far as the number of shares was concerned, the Government undoubtedly had a controlling interest, but the agreement governing the establishment of the organization provided that private enterprise should have four directors and the Commonwealth Government three direc-tors. Although the Government’s money was at stake, it virtually had no control in deciding the policy to be adopted by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. The four directors representing private enterprise always outvoted the three directors representing the Commonwealth Government. Incidentally, those honorable members who were in the Parliament at the time may know the reason, but I have never been able to discover why the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) is a permanent director of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. I have not heard him give to this Parliament any; report of its transactions. Apparently, he may attend directors’ meetings, and may have some voice in discussions; but if he attempts to decide the policy that Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia ) Limited shall adopt, he is in the minority, because a former government, when entering into the agreement, gave to private enterprise the controlling interest in the company.
– The right honorable member for North Sydney receives a director’s fee.
– He may. He appears to have a life-time job. I mention those facts because I believe that we should examine what has occurred in the past to enable us to ascertain how private enterprise has managed these organizations. I emphasize the fact that when one of these companies experienced financial difficulties the British Government provided financial assistance in order to enable it to’ remain in operation. If governments are anxious that these public utilities shall be continued, arid if, in the interests particularly df Empire defence, our cable systems are essential, I consider that the governments, which must ultimately provide the money to recoup losses, should have control of the organization. If a government accepts financial responsibility for the cable and wireless services between Australia and other countries, it is only natural that it should control such services.
The honorable member for Balaclava remarked that socialist governments are in office in Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia, but omitted to mention the “kinds of governments in office in Canada, India, South Africa and Southern Rhodesia. All of them have entered into this agreement, and will assume, within their own boundaries, ownership and control of cable and wireless communications. Perhaps the honorable member overlooked that fact, because he could not associate those governments with any form of socialism.
– They are in the minority.
– The honorable member for Balaclava should have been born 250 years ago. At that time his ideas might have been up to date, but to-day they are so utterly hopeless that no sane man will take notice of them. The honorable member is completely out of step with the .most conservative members of the Liberal party. When he is miles behind them, what hope would Australia have of a progressive era if the honorable member were partly responsible for deter-‘ mining the policy of this country?
The bill, so far as it goes, is a very good one. It is another step towards the nationalization of all the essential services of the Commonwealth, and, as such, I particularly welcome it. Our communications systems require nationalization, but, in addition, I believe in and shall continue to advocate the nationalization of many other public utilities in the Commonwealth. I hope that during the life of the next Parliament we shall be able to nationalize quite a few more public utilities.
There are certain omissions from the bill. Clause 18 provides, among other things, that a person shall not be appointed to a clerical office in the service of the commission unless he has, in open competition, successfully passed the prescribed entrance examination. I agree that entrance to the service of any government instrumentality should be on merit, as disclosed in competitive examinations. But I do not think that the clause goes far enough. I ask the Minister to consider an amendment to provide for admission to other than clerical positions by means of competitive examinations. This matter has been raised on previous occasions. The Commonwealth Public Service Act provides for the holding of competitive examinations for appointment to almost every position in the Commonwealth- Public Service. When the Commonwealth Bank Bill was before this Parliament, provision was made for entrance to the service of the bank, in almost every instance, by competitive examination. Under the Australian Broadcasting Act, provision is made for entrance to the service of the Australian Broadcasting Commission by competitive examination. When staff regulations were to be framed, the Australian Broadcasting Commission proposed that appointees to certain positions should, be selected by it rather than be chosen as the result of a competitive examination. The Broadcasting Committee recommended to this Parliament the amendment of those regulations to provide that in all instances, where possible, admission to the service of the commission- should be by competitive examination. This bill should be drafted in accordance with previous decisions of the Parliament.
There are other omissions from the bill. It should contain a provision for the constitution of a disciplinary appeal board similar to that which has been incorporated in the Commonwealth Public Service Act since 1922 - an act that was brought down by an anti-Labour government. There is a similar provision in the Commonwealth Bank Act, and the inclusion of one in the staff regu- lations of the Australian Broadcasting Commission has been recommended. The staffs of all government instrumentalities should have similar conditions and equal treatment. Provision should also he made for the constitution of a promotions appeal board. Such a provision is included in the Commonwealth Bank Act, and last year was embodied 111 the Commonwealth Public Service Act. It is also being included in the staff regulations of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The amendment of the bill as I have suggested would ensure the avoidance of all favoritism in connexion with appointments to and promotions in the service of the Overseas- Telecommunications Commission (Australia) ; and if it became necessary at any time to discipline any members of that service, they would bc assured of a fair trial and would have conditions at least as good as those which this Parliament has provided for the Commonwealth Public Service and for Commonwealth instrumentalities under its control. I commend the bill to the House.
Mi-. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) [9.16]. - No man can serve two masters. I do not think that that statement has ever been better exemplified than it has been in the history of Amalgamated “Wireless (Australasia) Limited and the Commonwealth Oil Refineries -Limited. These companies, like the average half-caste, have the vices of both parents and the virtues of neither parent. It has been my lot, in peace and in war, to be somewhat closely associated as a Cabinet Minister with the activities of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. For five months in 1.93S-39, T was PostmasterGeneral, and matters in connexion with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited came under by ministerial control. In 1940, I presided over a Cabinet sub-committee which presented an unanimous recommendation that, the communications side of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited should be taken from it and vested in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, which was then under the ministerial control of the Honorable Victor Thorby. The history of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited is a fairly long and lurid one. Its activities are of two separate types, one being in connexion with communica-tions and the other in connexion with manufacture. These are not interrelated. At some time in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament, certain franchise monopolies and powers were vested in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. I am assured that they still exist. They are so strong and watertight as to prevent the PostmasterGeneral’s Department from installing any telephone or wireless communications between the mainland and some islands off the Australian coast; for example, Magnetic and King Islands. Such communications can be installed only on such terms and conditions as Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited prescribes or permits. Such a franchise monopoly should not be accorded under Commonwealth law to any company, even a semi-governmental company. From what I have been told by men who know something about wireless matters, I believe that the equipment of this company does not compare favorably with similar equipment of even commercial broadcasting stations. Although I cannot cite the exact figures - I have asked the Minister to obtain, them for me - I can say that the charges imposed by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited for ship to’ shore and shore to ship communications were so high in comparison with those Qf other British companies that the late Mr. Ned Kelly would have hesitated to impose them. The sooner these communications are taken away from Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited the better find various governments have decided that that should be done. The monopoly which this company exercises extends over many things besides communications. It has certain monopolies, over patents, and. from investigations which I made as a Minister in 1939. I was forced to the conclusion’ that the manner in which some of the patents came into the hands of the company was questionable.
– What did the honorable member do about it?
– I was in office for only five months, and. then I returned to the back benches. I shall have something to say about the compensation propped -to ,be paid to the company. This matter was ably dealt with by the.
Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), who was one of the members of the Cabinet sub-committee which considered it in 1939.
– He was in office for a longer period than the. honorable member, but took no action in the matter.
– The solution of problems of this kind takes time. The Government which the honorable member supports has been in office for nearly five years, and we now hear from it on-this subject for -the first time.
– We had over five years of war.
– In 1938-39, the Government with which I was associated was endeavouring to prepare for the war, and every obstacle which honorable members opposite could think of was raised.
The bill has certain features which require investigation. I see no reason for setting up a commission to manage telecommunications. In 1940, a decision was made, admittedly shortly before the general elections, that these communications should be handed over to the Postmaster-General’s Department. I believe that that is where they belong. Already 91 per cent, or 93 per cent, of the communications are in the hands of the department. The Minister has been delightfully inexplicit as to what the Government proposes shall be done with the reconstructed company. The Commonwealth should not have any shares in the company at all. Once the telecommunications have been handed over to a government authority, the company should then function only as a manufacturing concern. I recall certain observations of a former colleague of mine when referring to the difficult position ih which the Government was some-, times placed in connexion with patents, held and administered by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and carrying monopoly rights. There is the further matter of the company having commercial radio licences. The Government has the exclusive ownership of the national wireless broadcasting system operated by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and > should not be iri any .way implicated in the ownership or management of commercial wireless stations. I do not believe in nationalization as a principle, but I stand foursquare to the statement of that great Australian, who paid a brief visit to his homeland this year, the right honorable S. M. Bruce, that in modern civilization such amenities as communications, transport, water and light should be under the control of a public authority.
– He did not say “ under the ownership “. .
– That may be. The ownership of the shares in a company such as Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited should be fairly closely investigated by this Parliament, and a general rule should be laid down that an activity of this kind should be either 100 per cent, a government undertaking, or 100 per cent, a private enterprise. As a stockholder I have no liking for mules.
Some of those at present employed in cable and wireless services are fearful of their fate under the new arrangement. The Minister gave no clear statement of what the Government proposes to do with the employees. What he did say was that as many of them as could be provided with positions would be taken over. The Minister should go more carefully into this matter at the committee stage than he did in his second-reading speech. The terms- of acquisition are of importance but we have not been told anything about - that worth hearing. I know that under the Constitution the terms must be neither harsh nor generous, but just. I have a recollection of having, as Minister, read something about the rights of monopolies in this country. A. former Attorney-General, who is now a member of the judiciary, laid down that a company that had acquired monopoly rights without payment was not entitled to any compensation for them. I am fearful of these matters when handled by a Labour administration, lest somebody may get a “ pretty fair go “ out of the Treasury in return for some shadowy concessions. The Leader of the Australian Country party presented a case which has not been answered, - and unless the Minister and the Government are prepared to meet the position as expressed by .the right honorable gentleman, and have a proper investigation made of what has been done in this matter, the Opposition will have to say a little more about, it when the bill is in committee. There should be a most careful and stringent investigation of what is to be done with the company. In a company in which over half of the capital is governmentowned’, although the Government has never had one half of .the control of it, any profit derived ought to go to the Government in proportion to the amount of capital supplied by it. During the brief periods for which I held different portfolios, certain facts came to my knowledge, and unless my memory is seriously at fault, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited has been subsidized from time to time, in respect of its communications by grants from the Commonwealth Government. I ask the Minister to produce the figures, in committee.
– The honorable member should first establish the fact.
– It is not for me to establish the fact. The Minister has the records, and should be in a position to give, the information.
– The honorable member is making charges and asking me to deny them.
– I am asking the Minister to pro.duce evidence which I believe to be available on the departmental files.
– I will state the facts.
– The Government has three directors on the board of this company. I have no doubt that there exists a complete record showing every application made to the Government for a subsidy, and it should also show when share capital was called up. I think I can remember such a call being made while the Lyons Government was in office. Before we pay anything for alleged monopoly rights in communications we ought to know what the company paid the Government for those rights. In the first place,_ such rights belong to the people and to no one else, and only by the action of the Government could they be transferred to the company. Half the subscribed capital was provided by the taxpayers, and any compensation should be divided between the company and the Government in the same proportion.
– I will state all the facts, but the honorable member must knock down his own “ Aunt Sallys “.
– I am noi putting up “ Aunt Sallys “. I know something of these matters because at one time I ‘ administered the Postmaster-General’s Department. I am now asking for information which I believe is available on departmental files,’ information which is vital to the proper consideration of this bill. We are entitled to know what money’ was invested in the company, what subsidies were granted to it, what monopolies, franchises and privileges it received, and what it paid for them. If it. paid nothing, the company is not entitled .to sell them back to the true owners at a profit. Only by appointing a committee such as that suggested by the Leader of the Australian Country party can we get at the facts. Honorable members opposite speak of nationalization, and of protecting the rights of the people, but unless they are very careful they will find’ that they themselves are helping to grease the fatted pig. We are now considering a measure under which it is proposed to purchase certain assets, more than half of which already rightly belong to the taxpayers of Australia. I will not consent to those assets being disposed of unless the interests of the taxpayer are properly safeguarded. Judging from the remarks of the Minister for Immigration, I should say that he knows less’ about the history of this company and its operations than I do.
The honorable member for Parke? (Mr. Haylen) touched on a matter which is ‘of vital interest to the people. He spoke at great length and in great detail of certain alleged events which may or may not have taken place at Gibraltar. I do not know whether the newspaper reports to which he referred were true or false. For my part, I hope that they were as false as Judas, but the honorable member said that stories of that kind should not be allowed to be sent over cables owned by a Commonwealth authority. I interjected to ask him whether he proposed to institute a censorship in peace-time. I remember, during the lifetime of this Parliament, honorable members opposite waxing eloquent on the subject of freedom of speech.
– Would the honorable member rather have Australian servicemen defamed ?
– I am not now discussing defamation, but I should like the honorable member to stand in his place when the bill is in committee, and say how he proposes to control the distribution of news by cable, radio, letter or wor(1 of mouth except by imposing in peace-time some form of censorship.
– It would be a spiritual, censorship?
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON.Spiritual censorship? Nonsense! We are going from bad to worse. The history of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited ought to be closely investigated. 1 know that in 1940, although the Government owned a majority of the shares, the company deliberately applied a policy hostile to the Government. Its tactics were destructive at a time when it ought to have been prepared to place all its assets and facilities at the disposal of the nation. A complete history of the company’s operations- - and I can produce some of the facts - would show it up in a very bad light.
– The honorable member is referring to the private enterprise side of it.
– I am referring to the communications side, and communications in war-time are vital to the nation. This company was not prepared to submit to control or to accept advice. It was told what was the Government’s policy, and it chose to do the direct opposite. In time of war there must bc some kind of censorship. Before any compensation is paid to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited its record should be investigated, and a statement published showing what subsidies it has received, and what monopolies and privileges were granted to it. A parliamentary committee should be ‘ appointed to inquire into these matters, iri until that is done I will not be satis fied. I hope that some honorable members opposite, who seem to have in them a spirit of inquiry at times, and at other times even a spirit of rebellion - although kept well under control- will also refuse to be satisfied.
.- Honorable members generally appear to lie in agreement that some control over telecommunications is necessary, but members of the Opposition, particularly the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), seem to have fears regarding the method of control proposed by the Government. The debate has made it clear that some honorable members fear the passing of this bill will injure Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited in some way. I pay a high tribute to that company for the work that it has accomplished over the years; but, unlike the honorable member for Barker, I believe that all communications, whether by air, road, rail or sea, should he nationalized. More important still is the need for the nationalization of telecommunications. The honorable .member for Balaclava (Mr. White) criticized the Government in connexion -with the railway from Goulburn to Canberra ; but I remind him that that railway existed long before the present -Government occupied the treasury bench. Does the honorable member know of any private company which would take over that railway ? “ ,
– Some road transport companies would take over the service.
– Would the honorable member say that private enterprise would be willing to .take over the whole of the railway systems of Australia, ineluding the line from Goulburn to Canberra ?
– It is too late now.
– Could any omnibus service give to the people in outback areas a freight service equal to that provided by the existing railway systems?
– Railways are necessary for the carriage of goods, hut not for the carriage of passengers.
– If the honorable member for Balaclava had his way, private enterprise would be given charge of metropolitan railway services, but country services -would be left to governments.
– Obviously, the honorable member has not travelled much.
– I have probably travelled as far as ‘the honorable mem her for Balaclava has, even though he served in the war of 1914-18. -The honorable member said that there were grounds for suspicion in that the agreement which this bill seeks to ratify was drafted when socialist governments were in office in the United Kingdom, Kew Zealand and Australia. I remind him that those aire democratic countries whose people have the right to say what kind of government they wish to have in office.
– They will express their views effectively in Australia within a few months.
– At the moment, we in this chamber represent the wishes of a majority of the electors. It ill becomes any honorable member to speak deprecatingly of the people who elected this Parliament. The people of the United Kingdom have suffered great hardships during the war, but when given an opportunity to express their views at the ballot-box they returned a Labour government. There is no foundation for many of the fears of honorable members opposite. I foresee great developments in the future. We are not far off frequency modulation, television, facsimile and other methods of broadeasting, and when those improved methods are in use Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited will have its opportunity, because its technical service and its manufacturing capacity will be required. I am confident that that organization will not lose under this measure, because the new developments which I foresee will more than make up for any small losses in other directions.
This afternoon the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) said that no government could carry on a business enterprise successfully. I disagree with him, and ask him to consider the history of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers and the Geelong Woollen Mills.
I challenge the honorable member to prove that those undertakings were not a success.
– I could cite ten failures for every success of any- government enterprise.
– Labour governments were responsible for establishing the undertakings I have mentioned, but” non-Labour governments destroyed them. The Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers conferred great benefits on Australian primary producers, but a non-Labour government took the ships off their runs and employed them in places where they could* not pay. Later, the ships were practically given away, because it was said they were being run at a loss. The same thing happened to the Geelong Woollen Mills. Although they were operated at a profit, an unsympathetic government disposed of them to private enterprise. The honorable member for Wentworth also said that the former member for Henty, Mr. Coles, had been compensated for his support of the Government by being appointed chairman of another national service. He referred of course to the National Airlines Commission. I ask honorable members to consider for a moment the business experience of the former honorable member for Henty.
– - -What does he know about aviation ?
– What does the honorable member for Balaclava know about telecommunications ? The record of Mr. Coles in the commercial sphere will compare more than favorably with that of any other gentlemen that honorable members opposite may mention. Strangely it was not until the former honorable member for Henty voted against, and was instrumental in defeating, a government of which honorable members opposite were members that they began to cast reflections upon his business ability.
Members of the Opposition do not know just where they stand on this .measure. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) made some wild statements about the proposed compensation payments to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, but he did not give any authority for his figures. It is quite easy to make reckless statements without attempting to substantiate them. We know that this bill will be carried. I hope that before long the honorable member for Barker, who apparently entertains fears about nationalized undertakings, will have to admit that it is necessary for the building of a great nation, to have .its telecommunication services operated as a governmental instrumentality.
.- Recently I had conversations with employees of Cable and Wireless Limited at Southport, Queensland, which is the Australian terminal of the cable and wireless service between Canada and this country. These men are gravely concerned with their future under this proposal. Some of them came from Great Britain and have worked in this service in various parts of the world. To-day they are doing -a good job at Southport. I should like to know from the Minister whether their rights and privileges will be adequately preserved under this measure. I have discussed this matter with the Minister, and apparently he has not yet informed his mind fully on it. That is why I made this appeal to him. The men to whom I have referred would like an assurance of continuity of employment.They want to know if their seniority will be preserved, and if their leave and superannuation rights will be safeguarded. Some of them joined the service in Great Britain whereas others joined in Australia. Formerly the service was known as the “ All Red ‘Route “. The whole matter is seriously involved and the men are most concerned. Some of them joined the service upon leaving college and have i remained with it ever since. To-day they arc uncertain of their future, and I ask the Minister to clarify the position. They are specialists and are entitled to a clear statement of where they stand. I have examined this bill carefully, and have read clause 18 several times. It covers nearly three pages, and is full of “huts “, “ mights “ and “ becauses “, and is further complicated by the fact that it is qualified by clause 23. I ask the Minister to give an unqualified assurance that the rights of these men are adequately safeguarded under this bill, or alternatively, to express his willingness to accept amendments to this end when the measure reaches the committee stage.
This debate has proved conclusively that there has never been a bill introduced into this Parliament that has contained more uncertainties than the one now before us. “Uncertainty as to the exact nature of the proposal, the amount of compensation to be paid, and many other important matters, is revealed by the numerous points on which information is sought. The Minister himself is not certain of many things, and I believe that the problem can best be dealt with by accepting the amendment moved by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and. postponing the measure until a thorough investigation of the proposal can be carried out. There are many points that require clarification. We must know what we are doing and the people must know what the bill provides.
– The bill provides for the payment of compensation. We are in the course of negotiating an agreement, and no good purpose could be served by delaying the passage of the bill until, the agreement has been completed.
– Why not?
– It is not usually done.
– If that is the only reply that the Minister can give I am not very impressed.
– If we fail to reach an agreement and the case goes to the courts it may finish at the Privy Council six, twelve, or eighteen months hence; but that is no reason for delaying the passage of the bill.
– I know some of the people interested in the agreement T am satisfied that it will go to the- curt.* and possibly to the Privy Council; but ihe Minister cannot dismiss the proposal to defer the passage of the measure until it has been examined by a select committee, merely by saying that “ it is not usually done.”
The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), apparently believes that all nationalization or socialization projects are successful ; but I shall cite , one example of such a venture. During the war the Commonwealth Government assumed control of the Coalcliff colliery.
– I .ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill.
– This proposal has about it the flavour of socialism, and’ I object to socialism. I “was referring to the failure of socialistic control of other undertaking’s. Within twelve months the Government lost £56.000 at the Coalcliff colliery.
– I ask the honorable member to deal with the bill. It has nothing to do with socialism.
– The honorable member for Adelaide referred at length to the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers and the Geelong Woollen Mills, Both of which, were government ventures. After the Government took-over the Coalcliff colliery, the cost of production rose from 24s. lOd. to 27s. 3d. a. ton. That fact clearly indicates that government control of industry breeds inefficiency and increases the cost of production. The Government’s policy of the socialization nf industry will ruin the country.
– . Negotiations with respect to taking over the telecommunications services of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia.) Limited date back to 1930. Sir Ernest Fisk represented the company in those discussions. I did not hear the remarks made to-night by some honorable members regarding these negotiations. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) suggested that the Government should appoint a select committee to go into this matter. In respect of certain aspects of the rights held by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited it is most difficult to determine the basis- of payment, and I do not think that anybody realizes that fact more clearly than the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). I know that he and others had some doubt a3 to what might happen should lengthy litigation take place concerning the acquisition of the telecommunications assets of that company. When the late Mr. Curtin initiated negotiations to take over the telecommunications rights _ of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, Sir Campbell Stuart visited this country in the capacity of adviser to the British Government. At that time a proposal was made that the Commonwealth should come into the negotiations under a scheme whereby, by 1962, it would become the complete owner of the telecommunications services’ of Amalgamated . Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and also acquire the rights of the Cable and Wireless Limited, in this country. As time went on other plans were evolved, one being known as the Anzac plan, which was not entirely acceptable to the then Coalition Government in Great Britain led by Mr. Churchill. .1 understand that thai Government appointed a sub-committee of the British Cabinet to investigate the matter. Following a divergence of opinion, Lord Beith visited Australia and the other dominions in order to learn whether it was not possible to modify the Anzac plan. The proposal to acquire .the telecommunications services conducted by Cable and Wireless Limited, had been the subject of discussion in government circles in Great Britain for a considerable period, and,, finally*- as honorable members are aware, a decision was reached by which the British Government planned to take over all of those interests. In the early negotiations, with Sir Ernest Fisk, the late Mr. Curtin, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) who was then Postmaster-General, and I devoted many weeks to see if a basis could be arrived at by which the telecommunications assets and. rights of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited could he acquired by the Government. I do not propose to Cover the details of the proposal then made, but I point out that portion of the agreement relating to Cable and Wireless Limited was not acceptable to that company, which was represented in those negotiations by Sir Edward Wilshaw. Ultimately, that plan was abandoned. Later, the Coalition Government in Great Britain led by Mr. Churchill took up the matter, and subsequently evolved a’ plan for taking over telecommunications services throughout the Empire by the various governments. Later, the plan outlined by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell), in his second-reading speech, was adopted by all the dominion governments, including that of Southern Rhodesia. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has had something to say about the socialization of industry. The fact is that all of those governments, some of which are very conservative, admit the need for controlling telecommunications services as a governmentowned utility. I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) admit this afternoon, without committing himself to the broad principle of nationalization, the wisdom of such a plan. He dealt with the subject very fairly, pointing out that particularly in time of war it was very desirable that telecommunications services be under government control. Eventually, when the Empire plan was decided upon, Australia as a party to the agreement was faced with the task of taking over the telecommunications rights of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. The Leader of the Opposition knows of some of the incalculable factors in any attempt to assess the- value *of the rights held by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. It lias been said that certain of those rights are interminable ; and it has been “nobody’s guess “ as to what might be done with regard to compensation, or what, litigation might ensue upon failure to reach agreement. In the original agreement, it. was proposed to acquire the rights of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited at a cost of approximately £1,250,000. Certain conditions were stipulated. The agreement was to operate till 1962. I am speaking now from memory. I did not anticipate that any suggestion would be made that any expenditure involved in this matter might be challenged as a misuse of the taxpayers money. I have had the advantage of participating in all of these negotiations during the last fouf years; and trying to solve the particular problem of assessing the value of the assets of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. Some people would say that the old agreement was fairly generous, whilst others would say that if the matter were taken to court no one could possibly guess the figure at which the company’s rights .might be assessed. Some have said that it would be an astronomical figure. A considerable time ago we again resumed negotiations, having in mind the Empire agreement. I was rather sorry that the matter of cost was raised, because the House will have the opportunity later to discuss that phase of the matter. After all, the private shareholders are entitled to ask that the negotiations be not discussed in detail until their representatives have had -the opportunity of putting the proposed agreement before the board of directors of whom the right’ honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) is one.
– The Commonwealth Government is the biggest shareholder. Why does not the Government put this before the people?
– The Commonwealth Government holds half the shares plus one.
– More than that.
– It is entitled to hold half the shares plus one, but it is true that it does hold more than that. I was surprised to hear some one say that I, as Treasurer, am a generous fellow. That is a departure from the usual charge against any . treasurer. I have ,taken an active part in the negotiations, and I say that it -is difficult to assess just what is fair compensation for the private shareholders’ rights in the telecommunications side of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. I have spent many hours as a member of the Cabinet sub-committee in dealing with this matter. We did reach a possible agreement which has to be submitted to the directors aud, I presume, the representatives of the private shareholders and finally to the shareholders themselves. The general manager of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, Mr. Hooke, and I discussed, the matter in consultation with- qualified accountants from the Treasury of equal standing to any in private life. I do not propose to go into the figures in the agreement, because I do not think that would be fair to the people associated with Amalgamated
Wireless (Australasia) Limited, who still have to discuss with their shareholders whether the agreement is acceptable. 1 have spoken on this matter, because I have been informed that some suggestions have been made that the financial arrangements that we are negotiating with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited are extremely generous and that we are throwing away taxpayers’ money. The figure that has been determined on as the basis for negotiation is a long way below the figure originally submitted to me as acceptable to the private shareholders. I do not mind what other charges are made against me and my Government, but I do not want any charge of dishonesty to be made against the Government or its officers. .
– That is not suggested.
– The two officers concerned are the Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. McFarlane, and the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, Mr. Fanning, than whom no two morereputable men are to be found in the Commonwealth Public Service. They worked very hard, as did Mr. Hooke. I shall have no objection to a later discussion of the agreement if it should be accepted, but I do deprecate any suggestion that in these negotiations, which have been going on for years, the Treasury, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department or the subcommittee of Cabinet, which consisted of the late Mr. Curtin, the Attorney-General, the then Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) and myself, were ‘ not out to make the best possible ‘bargain, having regard to all the unusual circumstances of what might be deemed to be the assets, goodwill and rights of the private shareholders on the telecommunications side of the Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. I rose only to make it perfectly clear that everything has been done to reach a satisfactory agreement. It is easy to argue that the figure might be £100,000 too much or too little. I believe that the proposal still to be considered by the private shareholders is the best that could be reached in the circumstances.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Conelan) adjourned.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Air Force Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, No. 111.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1946 - No. 19 - Hospital Employees’ Federation of Australasia.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Post-war Reconstruction - T. W. Swan.
Treasury - J. M. Copes.
Customs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1940, No. 106.
Lands Acquisition Act -
Land acquired for -
Commonwealth purposes -
Fremantle, Western Australia.
Postal purposes -
Batlow, New South Wales.
Quorn, South Australia.
Land disposed of - Gingin, WesternAustralia.
National Security Act-
National Security (Prices) Regulations -Orders- Nos. 2543-2603.
National Security (Shipping Coordina tion) Regulations-Order - 1946. No. 17.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946. Nos 102, 105, 109. 110.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration)Act - Ordinance - 1946 - No. 5 - Crown Lands.
Royal Australian Air Force - Applications by certain officers for permission to resign their Commissions - Reportof Commissioner (J. V. Barry, Esq., K.C.) appointed under National Security Regulations.
House adjourned at 10. 16 p.m.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
-I have nothing to add to the statement made by me on the 4th
July in reply to the right honorable member when he moved the adjournment of the House to discuss the matter of strikes, Government inaction and the like.
On the 28th June, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) asked what the Government proposed to do to enforce the provisions pf the Commonwealth Crimes Act against employers engaged in illegal lockouts and persons who incited others to strike, provided evidence was available to justify prosecution.
I have nothing to add to the statement made by me on the 4th July in reply to the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) when he moved the adjournment of the House to discuss the matter of strikes, Government inaction -and the like.
n asked the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
As the provisions of the Works and Services (Northern Territory) award provide a maximum deduction of 32s. 6d. per week; a minimum loss of ].2s. 3d. per man per week is involved. As the standard of temporary living accommodation in camps which were constructed during the war years is below the standard which the department intends ultimately to provide when materials are available, and having regard to the disabilities under which the men are working at present, the charge has, for the time being, been fixed at £1 ls. per week and the loss is, therefore, £1 3s.. 9d. per week as against the minimum loss of 12s. 3d. peT man per week previously quoted. The Conciliation .Commissioner, in fixing a maximum deduction of 32s. Gd. per week, was aware that the cost to the department was in excess bf that amount, and was also aware of the standard of accommodation and of food at present available.
n asked the Minister for Post-war .Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The representations of the honorable member on this subject are recalled and his continued interest appreciated. I am happy to inform him that this factory will continue as a government-owned factory. It will be occupied for some time with the production, to a total of 100, of the Merlin engines required for current aircraft projects, and concurrently upon the repair and overhaul of Merlin engines for the Royal Australian Air Force pending a determination as to the engine production that may be necessary in the future.
n asked the Prime Minister. upon notice - . .
– The . answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked’ the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice-^-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t asked the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). under whose jurisdiction the Commonwealth Housing Commission functioned, has supplied the following answers : -
n asked the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Australia’s “War Effort : . Strength.. Equipment and Services of Armed Forces.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What was the date of the formation of («) the 6th Division, (6) ‘the 7th Division,
the 8th Division, and (fi) the 9th Division of the Second Australian Imperial Force; and at what date did each first go into action against the enemy?
How many 8-in. cruisers; 0-in. cruisers; armed merchant cruisers; destroyers; sloops; mine-sweepers; hospital ships: boom defencevessels; tribal-class destroyers; A.M.S. vessels, and corvettes were in commission by the 1st October, 1941?
What was the number of service squadrons with ancillary units, and the total personnel of the Royal Australian Air Force on the 1st October, 1941?
What was the total personnel of enlistments for the Empire Air Training Scheme up to the 1st October, 1941?
What was the number of annexes and munition factories either built or being builtin country and city by the 1st October, 1941?
In which towns or cities were these establishments situated? °
What was the total number employed in government munition factories, annexes, and naval and merchant shipbuilding establishments on the 1st October, 1941?
What was the total production of Australianbuilt aeroplanes delivered by the 31st December, 1941?
How many Australian-built aeroplanes were sold or were on order for delivery to ‘ the United Kingdom and the adjacent allied countries up to the 31st December, 1941 ?
y. - The information . is being obtained and will be furnished to the right honorable member as early as practicable.
y. - On the 26th June, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) asked whether there was any prospect of a reduction of the price of fuel oil. I have been informed by the Minister for Trade and Customs that the prices of petroleum products are continually under review by the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner and those prices are periodically adjusted in accordance with changes of actual costs. I anr informed that the recent trend of costs has been downwards, and this trend, if maintained, should be reflected in due course in lower prices.
y. - On the 3rd July, the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) asked for details of the quantity of steel ingots, &c., exported from Australia to the United Kingdom in the last twelve months.
The figures available are for the period ended the 31st May, 1946, and are as follows : - lion and steel ingots, slabs, &c, 1,711,540 ‘.”.t.; .value, £1,01)3,624.
Bars and rods, 40,141 cwt.; value, £26,264.-
y. - On the 3rd July the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry) asked for particulars of the guaranteed price for oats from the coming crop.
A price of 3s. a bushel at growers’ sidings will be paid for feed oats delivered lo the Australian Barley Board. Delivery by growers is voluntary, and they are free to sell on the open market if they wish to do .so. This gives growers the choice of open sale or delivery at the guaranteed price.
Northern Territory : Disposal of Building Materials.
n. - On the 3rd. July the honorable member for Northern Territory. (Mr. Blain) asked a question concerning the shipment of building materials from Darwin.
The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answer: -
F.very opportunity is being .given by the
Commonwealth Disposals Com mission, through its local District Superintendent “in Darwin, to figure that stocks of building materials and other items required for use in the Territory are made available to local residents. Shipments out of Darwin would, in the main, be of goads not released by the holding departments to the Commonwealth Disposals Coin-mission for sale, these holding departments being the service departments, and the Department of Works and Housing. The representations of the honorable member will be brought to the notice of the Ministers in charge of the departments concerned.
Australian Memorial in Tobruk.
– On the 28th June the honorable member for Parkes .(Mr. Haylen) directed the following questions to me : -
Has the Prime Minister any information concerning the completion of the memorial to Australian servicemen being erected by. the m iti:11 War Graves Commission in Tobruk? If the memorial has been completed have any plans been made for Australian representation at its unveiling, and if no decision has yet been made will the right honorable gentleman consider the claims of representatives of the Eats .of Tobruk Association to attend theunveiling?
Reports received last year from representatives of the Imperial War GravesCommission indicated that the memorial erected by Australian troops in the cemetery is marred by surface cracking and if allowed to remain in its present form will deteriorate further. In addition to the gradual deterioration of the memorial, its position is off the established axis of the central path on which i-t stands. After, full consideration of the position, the Commonwealth Government hasapproved the replacement of the existing memorial with one of a permanent nature at a cost of approximately £1,000 sterling. The approved design prepared by the principal architect of the Imperial War G raves Commission retains the essential character of the existing memorial. It is not expected that the. permanent memorial -will be completed for at least another six months, but advice is now being sought from the commission as to the probable dato of completion. When this information i3 to hand it will be conveyed to the honorable member for Parkes. To date no request has been received by the Government from any of the branches of the Bats of Tobruk Association for representation at an unveiling ceremony. Any such application will receive consideration when the memorial- is nearing completion in the light of conditions then existing.
German R e p a r a ti o n s .
y. - On the 3rd July, the honorable member for Wide Bay, (Mr. Corser) asked the following questions: -
Will the Prime Minister inform me whether Australia is entitled to reparations from Germany, and, if so, -what is the value of them? Are reparations to be made in machinery, and, if so, what kind of machinery?
Australia is entitled to reparations from Germany in conformity with the terms of the Potsdam Declaration of August, 1945. This declaration allocates to the Allied Nations, excluding the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Poland, 75 per cent, of the removals from the Western zone. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Poland a’e to receive 25 per cent, from the Western zone in addition to the removals from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics zone. German external assets also, are to be appropriately allocated. The listing of German plants, equipment, and general items available for the payment of reparations is in the banda of the Allied Control Council. As yet this authority has not completed its task of selecting factories for reparation, and so no official estimate of the total value is available. Australia is a signatory to the Reparations Agreement drawn up by- the Paris conference of December, 1945. This agreement divides the ‘75 per cent, of the reparations from the Western zone into two categories: (a) industrial capital -equipment and merchant shipping, of which Australia is to receive 0.95 per cent.;. (6) all other items, including Germany’s external assets (excluding gold), of which Australia is to receive 0.70 per cent. As yet there is no clear indication .of the value of Australia’s share in reparations. Though these percentages appear small and are no adequate measure of the burden of war on Australia, ‘or of its contribution to victory, it must be remembered: (o) that Australia ‘ is but one of eighteen claimant countries; (2>) that these include several European countries which suffered such severe material damage at the hands of Germany that they must rely largely upon German reparations for even partial restoration of their pre-war economy. To date, twenty German industrial plants have been listed for allocation by the Inter-Allied Separations Agency, .and. negotiations for their allocation commenced on the 1st July. ‘ Australia lodged claims for electro-generating power plants and a selection of machine tools- in urgent demand and unavailable from other sources. Whilst Australia has a wide variety of industries in urgent need of plant and equipment, it is necessary to give first consideration to such items as will be of the widest benefit to the country. This is particularly necessary in” view of the relatively small total value of reparations that will be alio;cated to Australia.
War Crimes: .Trial of Japanese; - Resignation of Counsel.
A£r. Makin. - On the 21st June the honorable member for Wentworth ‘(Mr.
Harrison) asked a question regarding the alleged resignation of certain members of the War Crimes Defence Section in Tokyo.
The present trial is being held before an international tribunal of distinguished judges, appointed by the Supreme Commander, and its conduct accords with due standards of international justice and equity. The indictment of the accused was drawn up by an international board of prosecutors, and its findings arc the result of a prolonged and exhaustive inquiry into the available evidence relating to the possible war guilt of former leaders of military, political and economic life in . Japan. , The indictment was lodged with the international tribunal on the 29th April last and the defendants were arraigned before the court on the . 3rd May. A month’s adjournment was then granted to enable the counsel- to prepare the defence, and the tribunal reassembled - on the 3rd June. Concerning the reported ‘. resignation of certain, of the defence counsel, I can now advise -the honorable member that six members of the original American defence counsel assigned by General Head-quarters recently resigned. The circumstances were that additional
American counsel were engaged in the United ‘ States of America during. - the preparation of the defence and, arising from a failure to agree on matters connected with conduct of the defence, cer- tain members of the original group resigned. The honorable member will appreciate that these resignations in no way prejudice continued observance of the principle that the accused must have access during the trial to defence counsel.
Tasmanian Cable Service.
l. - On the 5th July the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked the following questions : -
Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral ascertain the reasons for the long delays on the Tasmanian cable service and see if they can be minimized? If the line is subject to undue pressure, will the installation of the radio link between northern Tasmania and the .mainland be expedited J
The Postmaster-General, has supplied the following answer :-~
The need for- augmenting the telephone facilities between- the mainland ‘ and Tasmania ls fully recognized by the Post Office and work is now in hand to provide additional channels, rt is expected that within the next two or three months two extra circuits will .be provided in the Bass Strait submarine-cable, making a total of seven circuits available by that means, whilst four additional channels will he brought into service on the radio link. The twu existing part-time radio channels will be converted to full-time operation and d total of six full-time radio channels will then be in service. The total number of circuits between the mainland and Tasmania will therefore be increased from five full-time and two part-time to thirteen full-time channels in all. The extra facilities should enable a satisfactory service to be rendered to the public.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 July 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19460710_reps_17_187/>.