17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J, S. Rosevear took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Trans-Australian Service - NorthSouth Line.’
– Oan the Minister ,for the. Interior furnish any information in relation to negotiations with the Government of South Australia for the running of a third passenger train weekly between Perth and Adelaide and thence to Melbourne? Prior to the war, when this additional service was provided, was a concessional fare allowed to railway employees, and to members of football and other sporting’ teams which travelled as a body? Was this concession suspended during the currency of the war? If so, is it intended to grant it afresh when the third train is restored? If the restoration is not to be made automatically, will the Minister consider its immediate application, and thus confer a distinct benefit on the Perth and “West Perth football teams which propose to travel to the eastern States this year, and help considerably many footballers who have returned to the game for the first time this year after lengthy and noble service in the defence of their country ?
– I am able to inform the honorable member that arrangements have been completed for the provision of an extra regular passenger train each week to and from Western Australia, commencing from Melbourne on Thursday, the 25th July, and from Perth’ on Monday, the 29th July. This has been made possible by the withdrawal of a regular military personnel train service. Concession fares were discontinued as the result of a decision by the various Railways Commissioners in 1941, because of. the heavy traffic on the railways at that time. I see no reason why the concession should not be restored, and I have instructed the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner to raise the matter ‘ at the next conference . of Railways Commissioners.
– Has the Minister for Transport read a letter signed by Mr. W. Langdon Parsons, and published’ in the Adelaide Advertiser of recent date, wherein it was claimed that he and the Prime Minister had intended to repudiate the agreement entered into some years ago between the. Commonwealth Government and the Government of South Australia for the construction of the NorthSouth railway line to connect Darwin with the South Australian railway syslem ? Will the Minister inform ..the House whether there is any foundation for such an assertion?
– I have not read the report to which the honorable member has referred, but I can assure him that the statement has no basis in fact. On a recent visit to South Australia, I had a conference on the matter .with the Premier of that State and the Leader of the Opposition in the South Australian House of Assembly. The difficulty that arose was that South Australia was endeavouring to have the construction of this line included in the genera] scheme for the standardization of railway gauges. The Commonwealth Government was not prepared at that time to have it so included, but it has again considered the matter and I am hopeful that it will he able to assist South Austral i n with regard to it.
– Has the ‘ Prime Minister read a statement by Mr. Guy Anderson to the effect that the Australian basic wage worker is better off than a worker in the United States of America in receipt of from £12 to £15 a week? As that statement was made by a prominent trade union official, will the right ‘honorable gentleman incorporate it in the “Yes “ case being prepared by the Government for distribution to the electors at the forthcoming referendum to determine whether increased powers shall be conferred on this Parliament?
– I have not read the statement. As to the .second part of the honorable member’s question, consideration will be given to the suggestion.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether, when the Government acquires property for Commonwealth purposes, it accepts the current year’s valuation ? Is it a fact that all other real estate sales are pegged at the 1942 valuations? If that be so, will the right- honorable gentleman look into the matter, and arrange for all real estate sales to be approved on the same basis as that applied to properties acquired by the Government?
– I shall examine the point raised by the honorable member and supply a reply a later.
– I rise to a personal explanation. Yesterday I addressed a question to the Minister for the Interior concerning a lessee in the Northern Territory who already had a lease of 10,600 square miles, .and secured an additional area of more than 400 square miles on a 42 years’ lease. On consulting the schedule I find that the additional area is 825 square miles. In reply to my question, the Minister said - and I quote from a Ilansard proof -
The lease of Alexandra Downs became possible because the people of the Northern Territory lacked any representation in. this Parliament.
-Order ! The honorable member is entitled to make a personal explanation only if the Minister misrepresented anything he said.
– That is what I claim.
– But, of course, the honorable member may not engage in u debate with the Minister on the pretext of making a personal explanation.
– I disclaim any responsibility for the indefensible act of the Government in granting such a big additional area to a lessee already possessing 10,600 square miles of land. When the Minister said that people of the Northern Territory lacked representation in this Parliament he could be referring only to me, and to my absence from Australia as a member of the 8th Division Australian Imperial Force, and to the fate which honorable members well know befell me in becoming a prisoner of war in the hands of the Japanese for three and half years. I am obliged to make this personal explanation in an endeavour to clear myself of the intolerable charge levelled against me by the Minister that an indefensible administrative act of his department occurred only because I was a member of the Australian Imperial Force, and a. prisoner of war. I am astonished that the reply of the Minister should amount to an admission that his department had performed in my absence an administrative act which would never have been attempted had I been in my place in this House.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. When I referred yesterday to the lack of representation in this Parliament for the Northern Territory, I did not have in mind the year 1942.
– The lease was granted in 1942’.
– I had in mind the lack of continued representation and administration in connexion with the affairs of the Northern Territory.
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory has had his say.
– When the honorable member for Indi interjected, I pointed out that he had himself at one time been Minister for the Interior, and that he and his Government had neglected to amend the ordinance so as to prevent an occurrence of the kind complained of by the member for the Northern Territory. The ordinance provided that when a lease expired by effluxion of time, the new lease was to be disposed of by ballot.. In the particular instance referred to there was only one applicant for the lease, the Alexandra Downs Company, to which it was eventually granted. I further explained that action had been taken by this Government to prevent such a thing happening again.
– I rise to make a personal explanation touching the statement of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) that while I was Minister for the Interior I had neglected to amend the Crown Lands Ordinances of the Northern Territory, thereby making inevitable the allocation to a lessee who held 10,600 square miles of country an’ additional 825 square miles for a period of 42 years. My explanation is that nothing in the Crown Lands Ordinances, as they existed during the term of my administration, prevented the resumption of land from lessees who held large areas. On the contrary, they specifically provided for the resumption of areas - 25 per cent. after 10 years, and 50 per cent. after 20 years. The managing director Alexandra Downs, Mr. Forrest, interviewed me personally, and made representations that I should not exercise my right, as Minister, to resume 25 per cent. of the area of his lease. I told him - and I am sure the records of the Department of the Interior will support my statement - that nothing would prevent me from resuming the proportion of his lease that I was entitled as Minister to resume, for the purpose of making it available for new settlers. Mr. Forrest’s company was able to obtain the additional area only by an unprecedented administrative act of the Department of the Interior during the term of office of Senator Collings, by advertising as available the’ resumable proportion of the lease before the resumption fell due. Because this method was followed the department established the sole right of the Alexandria Downs Company again to secure a lease of the additional area.
– Coupled with the honorable gentleman’s failure when Minister to amend the ordinance.
– Had the present Minister’s predecessor merely delayed advertising the advisability of the area in accordance with the Crown Law Ordinances until after the due date for resumption, the land would have been open to application by any person who desired it. The charge of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) is supported by the records.
Prices and Sales Tax
– In view of the fact that wages have been pegged, so that they may be varied only in accordance with variations of the cost of living, can the Prime Minister say what are the factors that account for the difference between the pre-war price of motor cars and the present price? “Will the Government consider a reduction of sales tax on motor cars seeing that, at present prices, they are beyond the purchasing power of most people who wish to buy them?
– The high prices of motor cars are due largely to” the fact - that the vehicles, or, at least, their main components, are imported, and that in the countries of origin, namely the United Kingdom and the United States of America, prices have risen considerably. As to reducing the sales tax on motor cars, that matter will be considered when a general review of the sales tax is being made.
– In view of the announced! intention of the Government to extend potato control for an additional year, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture indicate what are the obstacles holding up the decision in regard to a similar extension of the apple and pear acquisition scheme?
– I do not, propose to state the reason.
– I refer to the widely publicized letter stated to have been sent by the Prime Minister’s secretary to the secretary of the Milk Zone Farmers Council, Mr. Sedgwick. Does this letter indicate a change of the Government’s attitude towards the claims of the farmers in the milk zone for a review of production costs? - Will the Government bear in mind that, despite the present exceptionally good winter conditions in the zone, there is still widespread discontent because the finding of a cost of ls. 6¾d. by Professor Copland, on which the retail price is at present based, is substantially below the Milk Board’s finding and also that of two independent investigators? If the Government’s attitude has not changed, will the Prime Minister consider the desirability of conducting a further governmental inquiry into costs of production in the zone, with a view to fixing a return to the producers which will enable them to pay their way in both good and bad seasons?
– There has been no change of the Government’s policy in relation to this matter. It is true that some time ago an arrangement was made with the State Government for a committee to inquire into the circumstances of dairyfarmers in the milk zone who had suffered as the result of drought or dry weather conditions. Costs of production in the dairying industry have been made the subject of a number of inquiries and are constantly under review by the Prices Commissioner. However, I shall consider the representations made by the honorable member.
War Risk Bonus
– Three weeks ago the Prime Minister undertook to make a statement regarding the seamen’s war risk bonus. Has the Government considered the question of the payment of the bonus to coastal seamen operating ships north of Townsville, which expired on the 30th June? Will the Prime Minister give an assurance to the House that this payment will not be continued ?
– The war risk bonus has been under consideration by the Government from time to time and its decisions thereon have been largely based upon decisions made by the governments of other countries. If I -have not furnished a reply to a previous question on the subject by the honorable member I apologize, and I assure him that I shall endeavour to see that it is supplied at an early date. As to thelast part of the honorable member’s question, I cannot give an assurance that the payment of the bonus will be discontinued. The subject is reviewed periodically.
– Is there any special reason why a number of highly placed public servants have resigned from the Commonwealth Public Service recently to accept positionswith private companies? If the reasons for these resignations are known to the Prime Minister, is any actionbeing taken to see that the Public Service is not deprived of its brains trust by outside interests?
– So far as I know, the reason ‘why public servants to whom the honorable member refers join outside organizations is that they are offered a higher remuneration than they receive in the Public Service. The three particular public servants who, I think, the honorable member has in mind were in constant contact during the war with outside organizations and public men who learned to . appreciate the ability and capacity of many Commonwealth public servants. Despite what has been said about these officials being bureaucratic, outside organizations have been anxious to obtain their services and have been prepared to offer to them much more attractive terms than the Commonwealth Government is able to offer to them. On the other hand, many men transfer from private enterprise to the Public Service, and in the long run the losses and gains almost balance. I believe that the Commonwealth Public Service contains officers of as fine a type as is likely to be found in any other country.
– Is the Minister for Information familiar with the SouthWest Pacific, a publication issued by his department for circulation abroad? In view of the concern he expressed yesterday regarding the export of information which he considered to be unfavorable to this country, what is his opinion of page 25 of the latest issue of that publication, whereon is a picture of a bark hut in Central Australia accompanied by the following caption, “ Homestead of (he £16,000 (51,200-dollar) cattle ranch where ‘ Bullwaddy ‘ Bates held a party which lasted .12 days to celebrate the ‘ wedding of his half-caste son?” What good purpose does the Minister believe is served by purveying such unedifying information abroad?
– I ask the honorable member not to be too censorious about ii particular item in the publication to which he refers. South-West Pacific has been published for a . number of years, and “has won unstinted praise by honorable members and honorable senators of all parties for the excellent service it renders in enabling overseas editors to print stories of the Australian way of life. Some honorable members opposite have asked me for additional copies of the very issue to which the honorable member has taken objection. It may be . that he finds grounds for criticism bv dragging something from its context. I ask him to read the whole of the article.
– I did.
– I. am sorry that the whole article did not impress the honorable member ; but we cannot picture Australia solely as it is seen in Sydney and Melbourne. The Government does not intend to commit the criminal mistake of past governments which attempted to attract migrants to Australia by publishing photographs of Parliament House, Canberra, and representing the building as a typical squatter’s home in Australia.
Land Settlement of Ex-servicemen.
– I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction what progress has been made in settling ex-servicemen on the land. Will he discuss with the State governments the advisabilities of making single-unit farms available to ex-servicemen?
Mi-. DEDMAN. - Settlement of exservicemen on the land in the States- was fully debated in this House recently. I shall see whether a further statement on the matter is required from me. The matter of single-farm units has been discussed with the State governments over a long period. The agreement reached at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers excludes single-farm units from the land settlement scheme. That lias been made clear to State Ministers who have made representations to me on the matter. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia is completely opposed to single-farm units chosen by individual ex-servicemen - I think the term “ singlefarm units “ may be misleading - as being unfair and inequitable to the very large number of ex-servicemen who would have no chance to obtain farms under similar conditions.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping prepared to consider the imposition of a uniform price for petrol throughout the Commonwealth in order to encourage increased production? The high prices charged for petrol in out-back districts discourage country citizenship.
– That matter has been considered by the Minister for Supply and Shipping. The Commonwealth Government has no constitutional power in peace-time to fix a flat rate for petrol throughout Australia, although it is true that it could do so temporarily under the National Security Act. However, “because some petrol companies operate in only a small way and distribute supplies only in the capital cities and the larger companies supply country areas as well as the cities, it would be obviously unfair to declare a flat rate, which. . would differentiate between the rates of profit of companies operating in the same trade.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services whether the money allocated under the Tuberculosis Act 1945 has yet been made available to the State governments for distribution? At what rate will the money be distributed, and when will the distribution commence? Will the Minister undertake that the benefits will be retrospective to the 1st July last*
– The £50,000 allocated to the States for diagnostic purposes has been available to the States since the 1st January last, although I do not know whether any has been used yet. The .Commonwealth portion of the joint fund of £250,000 for the payment of special allowances to dependants of sufferers has been allocated to the States. Details of the distribution will he completed in amending legislation to be introduced during this Parliament. The amounts payable will he determined by the State authorities on the merits of each case. Whatever payments are made to relieve the economic situation of dependants of tubercular sufferers will not be calculated as income and will be paid in addition to invalid pensions, old-age pensions or any other pensions that may be drawn by them. Whether the payments will be retrospective will be decided when the amending legislation is introduced.
– Under the National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations wages are pegged at rates ruling on a. certain date, and it is illegal both for an employee to receive, and an employer to pay, wages in excess of those rates. To the management of certain firms namely, the Purcell Engineering Co, Pty. Ltd., and Babcock and Wilcox Ltd., both of Sydney, members of the Federated Ironworkers Union and the Moulders Union have intimated that, unless they are paid an over-all increase of 10s. a week, ballots will be taken each week to decide which employees shall resign from these firms, thus defying the law, and visiting’ great loss upon the employers. As this action would be a breach of the National Security Regulations and of the Commonwealth Crimes Act, rendering those concerned liable to heavy penalties, does the acting Attorney-General propose -to take any steps to uphold the laws that this Government itself introduced?
– The honorable member for Warringah has not made clear the exact matter on which he wishes action to be taken. He stated that the ironworkers and moulders are demanding an increase of pay and are threaten ing, if their request be not granted, to hold ballots to decide which members shall resign from their employment.
– They are holding ballots now.
– Does the honorable member want to know whether the Government will take some action against the men if they receive an increase of wages?
– No. Will action bc taken to prevent them from continuing their criminal conduct?
– If their conduct is a breach of State awards, then it is a matter for State authorities.
– It is a Commonwealth law and a Commonwealth crime.
– No offence has yet been committed.
– There has been more than one.
– The Commonwealth Government cannot fight a shadow, and until the offence becomes a reality no action can be taken.
Mi1. Spender. - There is no shadow about this. The union is talking about pulling its members out of the two firms I have mentioned.
– Order ! The honorable member for Warringah has asked the question, and now he is proceeding to answer it himself.
– The honorable member asked had my notice been drawn to the fact-
– -I did not ask that at all.
– If the honorable member does not want an answer, then I need not give it to him.
– Obviously the Minister cannot give an answer.
– The Minister might take the honorable member at his word and so avoid wasting the time of the House.
– I am trying to answer, but the honorable member is not giving me a chance. The answer is that if the employers and the employees’ conspire to defeat the National Security Regulations - they have not done that yet - action will be taken.
– In view of the promise by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) that he will recommend to the Government that the cost of producing wheat in Australia be made the subject of an inquiry by a commission, as requested by the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, will he also recommend that a practical representative of the wheat-growers be appointed to the commission? I should like to know also whether the Minister will recommend that the inquiry be a complete one, and not merely an investigation from the point at which the Gepp Commission ended its inquiries in L935?
– I did promise the delegates to the conference of the Wheat Growers Federation held in Sydney recently that I ‘would submit to Cabinet proposals similar to those mentioned by the honorable member. If my. suggestion be approved, I shall ask the Government to agree to appoint to the commission of inquiry at least one nominee of the Wheat Growers Federation.
– I have received from Tasmania a telegram indicating an acute shortage of insulin, and that, I understand, is due directly to the meat strike in Queensland. As the strike has now ended, I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health to inform me what supplies of insulin are now available, what steps have been taken to distribute them, and how soon can an appreciable improvement be expected?
– It is true that supplies of insulin became very low because cattle were not being slaughtered in Queensland, but the position was not so acute that persons requiring the drug were unable to obtain it. The Minister for Health quickly arranged for stocks of pancreas in the north to be hard-frozen, and brought south to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in order to maintain continuity of the supply of insulin. The danger has now passed. Insulin can be made quickly. I am certain that no difficulties will now arise in providing supplies for patients, but I shall ask the Minister for Health to supply to the honorable member the exact figures regarding stocks.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture “been advised of reports in British newspapers that food parcels forwarded to the United Kingdom by generous Australians have accumulated in English dock-side warehouses and are not being distributed? Does the Minister know that the reports stated that tins- of jam and honey had already “ blown “, their contents seeping through the packing and down through the floor on to the goods stored below. The report stated also that -
Ten miles from Charing Cross, in warehouse 5 at the King George V. Dock, North Woolwich, there are 5,000 of these parcels, of all shapes and sizes, apparently unwanted and covered with dust.
Ls the Minister aware that British newspapers have featured reports of London dockers saying that there is “ lovely grub going to rot “ ? Will the Minister take up this matter with the British Ministry of Food, with a view to .allaying the, anxiety of patriotic Australians who are concerned at the reports that valuable foodstuffs are being wasted when they are sir urgently required by the British people?
– I am not aware of the facts contained in the honorable member’s question. The British Ministry of Food has been most prompt in distributing parcels sent from Australia. Although comments have been made from time to time regarding the maldistribution of those parcels, investigations have always proved that the criticism was unfounded. . However, in view of the allegations contained in the question, I shall immediately request the Australian High Commissioner in London to investigate the report, and furnish a reply at the earliest possible moment.
– I have received complaints regarding the price of diesel fuel oil. There has been no reduction of price since the 1st January, 1945, and the present figure is almost 100 per cent. higher than the pre-war level.I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs to request the Prices Commissioner to investigate the landed costs of diesel oil with a view to reducing the price to consumers.
– I shall be pleased to discuss the matter with the Minister for Trade and Customs with a view to having the costs examined by the Prices Commissioner as soon as possible.
Motion (by Mr. Calwell) agreed to - That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to make provision for and in connexion with the Guardianship of certain Children from outside Australia.
Motion (by Mr. Calwell) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to Aliens.
Bill presented by Mr. Holloway, and road a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is intended not only to give effect to undertakings given to unions and employers when dilution agreements were made between the Federal Government, employers organizations, and trade unions in the early days of the war, but also to assist in the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen. Whilst dilution necessarily involved a lowering of trade standards to meet war requirements, the normal standards of the trades were to be restored as soon as dilution was no longer essential. The present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) headed the Government of the day which was a party to those agreements. Both Labour ministries since then accepted fully the terms of the agreements. In 1942 the late Mr. Curtin, as Prime Minister, re-affirmed in the House the promise to restore normal trade practices at the end of hostilities. The present
Government considered that this agreement would unduly prejudice the rehabilitation prospects of a number of returning servicemen, and therefore undertook negotiations with employers and unions. As aresult of these negotiations,” the scheme provided for in this bill was evolved, and whilst it adequately fulfils the earlier agreement in regard to the protection of recognized tradesmen, it will also make a material contribution to the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen by making it possible for a number of them to enter the skilled metal trades.
It will be recalled that with the fall of France in May, 1940, it became obvious that Australia would not only have to depend on its own resources for the production of arms for its own forces, but also would have to help to supply the munitions required by the mother country and allied forces in the Middle East. However, the huge munitions programme contemplated could not be carried out without considerable increase of the number of tradesmen in the engineering and related trades. The Menzies Government approached the trade unions and employers organizations, and agreement was reached on a scheme of dilution to meet these exceptional needs. Under the dilution agreement, the unions assented to the relaxation of existing trade customs and practices to enable semi-skilled and partly trained workers to perform work normally carried out by fully qualified tradesmen. It was, however, fully understood that this action would not be permitted to prejudice the ultimate rights of the recognized tradesmen. The dilution regulations subsequently made under the National Security Act give clear expression to these principles. Honorable members know that the munitions programme expanded almost beyond recognition after the extension of the war into the Pacific, and the skilled metal trades were diluted, to a far greater degree than had been originally planned. Approximately 50,000 men were added to the diluted trades, and although a large number of these have now returned to their normal occupations, 24.000 still remain in employment as added tradesmen.
The temporary need which brought these men into this field developed in
Australia new industrial activity, a part of which at least is likely to be permanent. It is only right and proper that these new avenues of employment should not be closed to men who have been absent in the armed forces. The bill, therefore, makes provision for the admission to the engineering, boilermaking, blacksmithing, electrical, and sheet-metal trades of ex-servicemen who have had sufficient training and experience in those trades while in the forces to enable them, after a reasonable period of probation or training in employment, to reach the standard of skilled tradesmen. Honorable members will be aware that the Navy, Army and Air Force needed large numbers of technicians to meet the demands of modern mechanized warfare, and for this many thousands of servicemen were trained in special technical work. Naturally, many of these men will not wish to use this technical skill in civil life. Many have other occupations to which they prefer to return. For others, however, this skill acquired in the services, and the opportunities provided by this bill, will be a means of rehabilitation. At the same time, I must warn honorable members that the Australian engineering industry, despite its expansion since 1939, has not unlimited absorptive capacity, and, therefore, one function of the committees provided for in the bill will be to avoid the overloading of industry, which would result in the ultimate unemployment of both ex-servicemen and recognized tradesmen. To avoid such overloading, some portion of the dilution structure must be retained in the interests of all. Following upon conferences which were held with representatives of the appropriate employer organizations and unions, the provisions of the engineering, boilerrnaking, blacksmithing, electrical, and. sheet-metal trades dilution regulations were revised and amended in March of this year to meet the new situation, and the substance of this bill is, for all practical purposes, identical with th at of the amended regulations.
The bill provides for administrative machinery to control the scheme by central and local trades committees similar in composition and functions to the committees of unions and employers which administered the dilution scheme. These committees will have the additional duty of settling matters concerning the employment of the different categories of tradesmen, and will be Industrial Committees under the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945, in respect of these trades.. First priority in employment is accorded to “ recognized tradesmen “ - (a) in respect of engagements, by the provision in clause 43 that an employer shall not employ on tradesmen’s work any person other than a. “ recognized tradesman “ if a competent recognized tradesman is available and offering for employment; and (b) in respect of dismissals or retrenchments, by the provision in the same clause that the “recognized tradesman “ would be the last to go unless a local committee consented otherwise, and subject to an employer exercising award rights to dismiss an employee for malingering, neglect of duty, or misconduct.
Provision is made for ex-servicemen with training and experience in the trade, acquired in the forces, to become “ recognized tradesmen “ in three ways : -
It will be noted that both “ probationary tradesmen “ and “ traineetradesmen “ will receive the full tradesman’s rate of wages, but in respect of “ traineetradesmen “ a part of the wage will be paid by way of training benefit under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. Applications to a local committee for admission as a “ probationary “ or “ trainee-tradesman “ must be made, unless there are exceptional circumstances, within six months after the exserviceman’s discharge from the forces or after the 22nd March, 1946, whichever is ‘ the later. So as to avoid any misunderstanding; I point out to honorable members that the 22nd March is, in fact, the date on which the scheme was brought “into effect by the National Security (Trades Dilution) Regulations No. 2.
I commend the bill to the House, in the hope that it will be treated . as a nonparty matter. Both sides of the House will wish to redeem the pledge to our bona fide tradesmen that pre-war practices and customs would be restored, and will also desire to provide for a just measure of rehabilitation to men who have served in the forces. In concluding, it is fitting that I should pay a just tribute to men who, as skilled tradesmen or added tradesmen, contributed their part in factory and workshop, and also to the trade unions and employers, without whose voluntary acceptance of the dilution principles our munitions programme could not have been carried out. In the name of the Government and the people of Australia, I thank, those employer and employee organizations which so wholeheartedly co-operated in administering the wartime scheme and are now further co-operating in the administration of the scheme that is incorporated in the bill.
– What rights will ex- . servicemen have as against the “ added tradesmen “ who are now in employment?
– The exserviceman will be given preference in employment and dismissal over other men who are .of equal technical- status. The “ added tradesmen “ are adults who had passed the training age. I believe that they will not come under this scheme, and will have to take their chance of obtaining employment.
– Are they now accepted as full tradesmen?
– They will not be given priority as “ recognized tradesmen “. The honorable member knows that when this scheme was first introduced there was a tremendous shortage of skilled tradesmen in Australia.
– I am familiar with the problem.
– The parties that now sit in Opposition then composed the Government. In 1940, the Government was asked to complete contracts which were of immense magnitude although not comparable with those that had to be undertaken later. The scarcity of technical tradesmen made the task almost impossible. The Minister for Munitions of that day was Senator McBride.
– I negotiated the agreement.
– The then. Leader of the Opposition, the late Mi-. Curtin, was asked to fulfil his promise of 100 per cent, co-operation with the Government, and to assist in organizing conference? of unions and employers, with a view to devising means for increasing the number of technical tradesmen in this country. The .present Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and I were detailed to assist the Government.- I remember attending the first conference, which was held in the offices of the Munitions Department in William-street, Melbourne, with Senator McBride in the chair. The Munitions Department represented to the conference that, on a peace-time basis, 7,000 toolmakers would be required to complete the contracts that were in hand for that one year. A census showed that there were only 500 of these tradesmen in the Commonwealth wilh a peace-time status.
– To-day we have recognized tradesmen who have done the full course. We also have the dilutees, and there is a third group, of men who have given service in the war. Are the latter to be retained in industry or to be dismissed?
– We hope that, there will be no dismissals. This measure has been introduced so that a promise made when the shortage had to be overcome may be kept. The trade unions and the employers agreed conjointly to break down the customs of the past by accepting semi-skilled men as fully skilled, and regarding unskilledmen as semi-skilled. That was the only way to get over the difficulty. The present Government and the previous Administration repeatedly promised the recognized tradesmen that their positions would be restored to them after the war. . If ever the stage be reached at which dismissals will be necessary, the last men to be dismissed will be those who have been recognized as tradesmen. This Parliament should not only keep that promise, but should also provide for the employment of further quotas of ex-servicemen who have had experience in the metal trades and are to he given a short probationary training.
– Will an Air Force fitter be classed as a tradesman or a probationer?
– If he has not had sufficient experience to satisfy a committee that he is a fully qualified tradesman, his training will be completed.
– The provision with regard to apprenticeship is being waived?
– Is there any guarantee that these men will be admitted into the trade unions?
– The scheme is based on a voluntary agreement with the unions. We should recognize the value of what the engineering unions, which initiated this scheme, did during the war years. They are now prepared to accept quotas of ex-servicemen with experience in the metal trades, and I hope that the bill will be passedwithout opposition.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Holt) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 10th July (vide page 2369), on motion by Mr. Calwell -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
Mr. CALWELL (Melbourne- Minister for Immigration and Minister for
Information)[3.35]. -in reply - The honorable memberfor Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) offered several suggestions and criticisms. He said in the first instance that no adequate tribute had been paid to the work performed by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited in developing overseas radio telegraph services. Had he referred to my secondreading speech he would have found that a tribute was paid to the enterprise of the company in developing its overseas telegraph services, and to the efficient manner in which it had operated the various services under its control.
– The honorable member has his own methods, and they are not the usual methods of honorable members generally. I paid what I considered to be an adequate tribute to the company for the handling of this section of its business. I know that it has done a fine piece of work for Australia in respect of not only its overseas services, but also its Australian manufacturing interests. It may be said to the credit of the company that it has never had an industrial dispute among its employees, but, has maintained the happiest relations with them. Altogether it employs about 5,000 people, and I think the number was as high as 7,000 during the war. These men and women have rendered good service to their country and to the company that employed them. If there is any feeling at all that ‘the tribute has not been adequate, I add that the Government is highly appreciative of the services of the company and its employees.
The honorable member for Wentwortb also said that no other British country had yet ratified the proposal in the over-all agreement recommended at the conference on telecommunications in 1945, and he asked why Australia should be the first to ratify it. He argued that we should proceed slowlyin the work of ratification. My reply is that all of the British Commonwealth governments concerned have approved of the form of the over-all agreement, and have indicated their in1 .eli tion to proceed to a full implementation of the plan for the nationalization of the oversells telecommunications, services.
– But the plan has not yet been ratified by the various governments.
– The governments concerned are parties to the agreement and have signed it. What the honorable gentleman complains about is that they have not submitted ratifying legislation to the parliaments of their respective countries.
– Until the parliaments have passed the necessary legislation, the agreement will not be ratified.
– A bill relating to the matter is now before the Parliament ‘ of Great Britain, and I take it that the honorable member regards that .as an important body in the consideration of the scheme. Great Britain, like Australia, has a good Labour government, and will proceed with the work of ratification at the earliest possible moment. The High Commissioner for the United Kingdom in Australia, as a former Minister for Information in the Government of Great Britain, was interested in the preparation of the plan for the ratification of the scheme.
– I mentioned that. My argument still stands.
– It stands alone, like a shag on a rock. The third point taken by the honorable member was that the Government should consider the operation of the services through the medium of the Postmaster-General’s Department rather than by setting up a commission. The honorable member said that the scheme should be debated in a non-party atmosphere, but before he concluded his remarks he descended to gross personalities. He alleged that the idea of the Government in proposing to set up a commission, was to find an opportunity to give jobs to its supporters. He instanced the appointment of the former honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) as chairman of the National Airlines Commission. That, of course, was most unfair and grossly improper. The former honorable member for
Henty was selected on his merits to be chairman of the Commonwealth Airlines Commission, and if success in business is to be regarded as the criterion of a man’s capacity to manage a big business organization, the honorable member for Henty is much better fitted for the position than is any honorable member opposite. The honorable member for Henty. is one of Australians true patriots. He has been actuated, not by base personal motives, but by a desire to serve his country. He has been prepared, even at the cost of injuring his business, to put the nation’s interest first, and that is more than can be said of many of his critics.
The honorable member should understand that it is fundamental to the plan agreed upon at the London conference that the organization to be set out in each Empire country should be a separate entity ; that is, either a public corporation or’ company wholly owned by the Government; or, in the event of this proving to be impracticable in any country, and if the organization is a part of a government department, it should take the form of a separate undertaking. The reason for these arrangements is that the plan agreed upon is Empire-wide, and that under such a plan the government bodies in each Empire country will contribute on an agreed basis towards the expenses of a central board to be established in London, and towards the maintenance “of the extensive submarine cable system. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition seems to imagine that this is to be a purely Australian concern with no Empire associations.
The honorable member further argued that an arrangement by which the PostmasterGeneral’s Department would undertake the operation of overseas telecommunication services would enable many miles of telegraph lines now used by cable and wireless companies to be released for the use of the department. I point out that special telegraph channels for the handling of overseas traffic would still he needed even were the department to assume the operation of overseas tele- communication services. Thus, there would not be anything like the saving in the use of telegraph lines which the honorable member envisages.
The honorable member also asked how the interests of the cable staff employed in foreign countries by Cable and Wireless Limited were to be protected. This is a matter for determination by the British Government, which will acquire the assets of Cable and Wireless Limited. Under the London conference plan, the British Government has agreed to protect the interests of the employees, and there is no reason to doubt that it will do so.
The honorable member said that a government institution was not so well suited to carry out research and developmental work as were private undertakings. The answer to that is to be found in the record of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, which maintains one of the finest research laboratories in the country. No private enterprise could succeed in research as does the postal department.
– Cable and Wireless Limited, in England, has also done much research work.
– That is a very big organization, but it has been in financial difficulties for many years, because it is not able to compete with new methods of overseas communications. Even though wireless communication offers an alternative method to communication by cable, the Government of Great Britain found it necessary for many reasons, including the need for secrecy during the war, to keep the cables in operation, and therefore subsidized the company so that it might carry on. It would have been foolish for Empire governments to take over wireless communications without also taking over the cables. It will be the responsibility of the governments of the countries concerned to undertake research work to ensure that advantage is taken of all developments in the science of communication, in respect of both radio and undersea cables. There is in Melbourne a very fine laboratory associated with the Postmaster-General’s Department. There is in Sydney another very fine research centre, although a smaller one, associated with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and the Government has no desire to close it down. There cannot be too many of these laboratories. We learned that during the war. We experienced great difficulty because at first we did not have enough research laboratories and worse still, not enough trained research workers. Nothing, will be done to disperse the research workers associated with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, or to lessen the efficiency of its laboratories.
Hie Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) allowed his imagination to run riot when he attacked the efficiency of the postal department. He argued that the war-time surcharge on telephone and postal services should be reduced, although he admitted that he himself imposed it.
– I was not PostmasterGeneral at that time.
– Well, the surcharge was imposed by the Government of which the honorable member became a member. The reason for the imposition of the surcharge still exists. It was imposed for war purposes, and the war is not yet over for at least 100,000 men who are still in uniform. The transition from war to peace is still in process, and that is the most difficult and most dangerous stage of all. We have not yet returned to the halcyon days of peace. Postal” and telephone charges are bound up with national finances. When it is possible to reduce the charges they will’ be reduced.
– That means that this Government will never reduce them.
– The honorable mem- 4 her for Warringah may have his suspicions, but they prove nothing. . He was a member of more than one government which” succeeded in doing just nothing. As a matter of fact, the Opposition is where it is to-day because it did nothing about defence, and it was the honorable member himself who confessed that one division of Japanese troops could have overrun Australia.
– This is supposed to be a non-party measure!
– If honorable members opposite insist upon introducing politics they cannot complain if they gel. hurt. The honorable member for Wentworth said that the Government ought not to retain its interest in the manufacturing business of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited.
– Hear, hear !
– The irrepressible tory from Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) approves, and the equally antideluvian tory from Balaclava (Mr. White) echoes that approval. It is illuminating to hear the ‘members of the newly-formed Liberal party endorsing such tory views. This Government does not subscribe to them. Asa matter of fact, there are good reasons why, in this instance, the Government should retain its interests in the business activities of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. The Commonwealth has participated in those activities over the last 24 years, and there is no good reason why it should now vary an arrangement which has worked so successfully. ‘
– Does the Government expect to make a reasonable profit out of the business activities of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited?
– Yes. In any case, since the Government is taking away the major part of the company’s business, it is morally bound to help the shareholders to preserve their interest in the restricted sphere in which the company will in future be operating. During the period of the company’s reconstruction it would be unfair for the Commonwealth’ to withdraw its financial investment in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. The company will be faced with many problems in re-arranging its organization, and the withdrawal of the Commonwealth’s financial investment at such a juncture would place it in an unfortunate position. The Government does not desire that such a position should arise, and therefore it proposes to help the company by allowing its investment to remain. Some honorable members opposite hold a different view; they believe that the best way to help the company would be for the Government to withdraw its money.
– I thought that the Minister and his colleagues were not interested in the profit motive.
– We are interested in maintaining a strong organization to conduct communications.
– The Government intends to leave its investments in the com pany .because it does not want to hand the money over to any private organization.
– The opinion of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) on this or any other matter does not count.
– I ask the Minister to return to the bill.
– I do not like being asked to return to the. bill, Mr. Deputy Speaker, when I am being subjected to interjections. I propose to reply to them if I think that they are germane to the subject under discussion. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) said that he had been informed that £1,400,000 had been agreed to as compensation to be paid by the Government to the shareholders in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. He went on to say that, in his opinion, that sum was altogether too high.
– I said that it may be too high.
– The right honorable gentleman then said that the Government should appoint an expert panel of accountants to make an investigation. .
– I did not refer to accountants; I said that a panel of experts should be appointed. They need not necessarily be accountants.
– I am glad to have the right honorable gentleman’s observation that accountants are not necessarily experts.
– I would not have a panel consisting only of accountants, to do this work.
– The right honorable gentleman said that £750,000 would be adequate compensation. Obviously, lie has received information from some one who has had access to confidential documents. The use made of information thus obtained is, to say the least, highly improper.
– The information I obtained was given to me by -an exmember of this House.
– I have not said that the right honorable gentleman had no right to use the information; I shall use inf ormation that comes into my possession if by so doing I can serve the interests of the country. I said that the use of the information was, to say the least, highly, improper.’ I did not criticize the ‘right honorable gentleman for using it. The nian who gave it to him was guilty of a misuse of information. Finality has not yet been reached with the company, but negotiations for an agreement are proceeding. . The Government is of the opinion that it is better to reach an agreement by negotiation, if that can be done, rather than that it should provide a feast for lawyers such as the honorable member for Warringah. That certainly would be a misuse of public funds. If we are to pay compensation in ‘the way indicated by the Prime Minister, who is also Treasurer, honorable members can rest assured that neither too much nor too little will be paid. The figure which will ultimately be arrived at will probably be less than if a case were allowed to drag through the law courts of this country, until finally a number of judges in either Australia or Great Britain decided the issue, without knowing as much about the operations of the company as do the people who are at present conducting the negotiations. I point out that,_ in addition to the purchase of the physical assets of the company, the Government must have regard to the loss of profits resulting from the termination of the agreement. The company has always maintained that it has valuable interminable rights. Whether it has them or not, the fact remains that it makes that claim. Such ii claim cannot be dismissed in the flippant way that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) would dismiss it.
– Whatever rights the company claims to have were given to it by non-Labour governments.
– That is so. It must not be forgotten that in acquiring the telecommunications assets and services of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, the Commonwealth will acquire also .the revenue benefits arising out of the conduct of such services solely by a government authority. That revenue is considerable. Indeed, trade rivals of Amalgamated -Wireless (Australasia) Limited say that that company has been able to compete successfully in its manufacturing sphere of activities because of the diversion thereto, as subsidies, of profits from the telecommunications section; Adequate and reasonable compensation must be paid to the private shareholders of the company for the loss of their rights. No good purpose would be served by the appointment of a panel of experts, as the Government has confidence in its present advisers. Whatever the final compensation figure arrived at may. be, honorable members may rest assured that it will be fair to the company as well as to the taxpayers. I doubt whether experts equal in ability and knowledge to the two gentlemen who are conducting the . negotiations could be found. Although they have been named by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), I repeat that the task has been entrusted to the Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. McFarlane, and the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, Mr. Fanning.
The -honorable member for Barker said that the charges imposed by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited for ship to ship and ship to shore communications are high compared with those in other British countries. The reply to that observation is that the rates for this class of traffic are determined by the agreement entered into between the administrations of the countries concerned, the shipping companies, and the bodies operating the coastal radio stations. The charges made by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited are in accordance with that agreement. In some British countries the rates are higher than those charged by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited in the Australian and New Zealand zones. In respect of British ships operating beyond those zones’, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited has offered to reduce the rates to the lower level obtain-‘ ing here, but with the exception of one company, the authorities controlling such ships have not so far accepted the offer. The details are shown in a statement which, with the consent of the House, I shall incorporate in Hansard -
Note. - In Great Britain, the charges imposed for messages to ships at sea vary from 6½d. to1 is. (sterling) per word, according to classification of ship and nationality, and according to the coast station through which the message is transmitted. Particulars regarding the corresponding charges levied in New Zealand are not readily available but information in this respect will be obtained later if so desired.
The other points raised by the honorable member for Barker were equally interesting, but not very convincing. He said that Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited had certain monopolies over patents which he questioned its right to possess. The reply to that observation is that as between the Commonwealth and the company the matter of patent rights was covered by Part II. of the Wireless Agreement 1927. That part of the agreement was completely determined on 1st March, 1934, by processes therein provided. Since that date the company’s claims to those rights have ceased to exist. The honorable member is just twelve years out of date, but that is nothing exceptional for him. When I asked him why, when he was PostmasterGeneral, he did not rectify some of the things about which he now complains, the honorable gentleman replied that he was in office for only five months. The average member of the Australian Labour party would not need five months in which to rectify something which he believed tobe wrong. The honorable member apparentlynot only wasted the whole of the five months he was in office, because he did nothing to remedy the things he complains about to-day, but he also did not even attempt to find out what the position was because he has referred to something which, on the evidence, ceased to exist about twelve years ago.
Mr. Spender interjecting ,
– If the honorable member would go back to his home, as is his wont after 24 hours in Canberra, we might be able to make some progress. He is so rarely present more than once a week during the sittings of the Parliament that we have come to call him “ Once-a-week Percy “. The honorable member for Barker said that as the PostmasterGeneral’s Department already handles 91 per cent. of the telecommunications, he sees no reason for setting up another body for the controlling of telecommunications. His argument is on a par with that of the Deputy Leader of the party to which he ostensibly belongs.
– Temporarily belongs !
– I accept the correction, which is indicative of the honorable member’s mind on all questions. And the fact that he is even temporarily under the deputy leadership of the honorable member for Wentworth is also merely an accidental circumstance. The plan for co-ordinating overseas telecommunications throughout the British Commonwealth and Empire, as recommended by the London Telecommunications Conference of 1945, was accepted in principle by all thegovernments of the British Commonwealth, not only those that had the advantage of an up-to-date, progressive Labour outlook, but even by those that were somewhat backward in their outlook. It is fundamental to that plan that the organization to be set up should be a separate entity, that is, either a public corporation or a wholly governmentowned company, or, in the event of that proving impracticable in any country, and if the organization is part of a government ‘department, it should take the form of a separate undertaking. I have already said that in’ respect of the observations of the honorable member for Wentworth, and I feel impelled to repeat the statement in order to make the position clear in relation to the observations of the honorable member for Barker. The reason for this arrangement is that the plan agreed upon is Empire-wide, and that under such plan the governmnent bodies in each Empire country will contribute on an agreed basis towards the expenses of a central board to be established in London, and towards the maintenance of the extensive submarine cable system. We cannot look at this merely as a problem associated with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, Cable and Wireless limited and the Australian PostmasterGeneral’s Department. A general rule should be laid down, claimed the honorable member for Barker - who, by the way, observes no rules at all in respect of anything - that an activity of this kind should either be a 100 per cent, government undertaking or left wholly to private enterprise. The honorable gentleman is certainly an extremist ; he goes the limit whichever way he decides. There is a happy medium in all things, a,nd this (Government commends itself to the Australian people because it is always able to discover the happy medium, not only in respect of a matter such as is covered by this bill, but also in all other matters/ Overseas telecommunications ais provided for in the bill will be a 100 per cent, government undertaking. The Government’s interest in the manufacturing activities of the company is not covered by a provision in the bill as it now stands, but by an agreement that may be made under clauses 23, 49a and 52 of the bill as they will be amended later. Some of those who at present are employed in cable and wireless services are fearful of their fate under the new arrangement, said the honorable member for Barker. The honorable gentleman went further and said that I had given no clear statement of what the Government proposes to do with these employees. Suitable provision has, however, been made in clause 18 (.11 ) of the bill’ for the .protection of the interests of the cable and radio employees. Following the implementation of that provision, the Government intends to set up a committee to give consideration to all matters affecting all employees concerned in the transfer of the telecommunication services. That committee will consist of representatives of the two companies, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and Cable and Wireless Limited and of the Government, and whatever is decided upon will no doubt be given effect immediately and without difficulty.
– The Government is throwing Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited to the wolves. ‘
– The honorable member may conduct himself in wolfish fashion if lie likes, but he has yet to learn that the Government cannot put anything into this bill to cover the quantum of compensation which Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and Cable and Wireless Limited are to pay to their employees as a whole or to any of them individually. The framing of provisions defining the rights of employees would, in the opinion of the legal advisers of the Government, be beyond the capacity of the Parliamentary Drafts]nan, and even if they could be framed, their, inclusion in the bill may even be beyond the right of the Parliament. What the Government has decided to do - and I am sure the honorable member for Warringah will appreciate this - is to set up an ad hoc committee to determine these matters.
– What specific obligation is imposed upon the Commonwealth or the commission under clause IS (10), to which the Minister has referred ?
– At the moment I am replying generally to honorable members, and at the committee stage I shall take the opportunity if necessary to define more clearly the obligations of the company and the Government. On behalf of the Government I give the general assurance, which the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) desired, that the interests of the employees will be fully protected. That -undertaking will be honoured by this Government both before and after the next general elections. . The honorable member for Barker said that unless his memory was seriously at fault - I do not know why he raised the issue against himself because honorable members on this. side pf the chamber very often find him at fault in his feats of memory - Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited had been subsidized from time to time, in respect of its communication services, by grants by the Commonwealth Government. He asked for an investigation of departmental files in respect of dealings with the company, and said that the revelations thus made would show the company in a very bad light.
– I think they would.
M r. CALWELL.- The honorable member’s memory is badly at fault. Such moneys as have been paid to the company have been paid in accordance with the 1922 and 1927 agreements which are binding upon the Government. For instance, the 1922 agreement exempted th<’ company from payment of terminal charges to the Commonwealth, but this provision was altered later and the company was required to pay those charges. In addition, the company was required to pay to the Commonwealth 30 per cent, of the revenue it re’ceived from its coastal and island services. Thus, instead of receiving a subsidy, the company was required to make a contribution from its revenue to the Government. In order to compensate the company to some degree for the loss incurred on its coastal and island traffic, and in consideration of the company discharging certain obligations of the Commonwealth in respect, of safety of life at sea. the Commonwealth agreed to pay £45,000 per annum. But the Commonwealth would have been obliged to pay that amount to any instrumentality for sending messages from ‘the shore to vessels at sea. However, this payment by the Commonwealth is more than balanced by the revenue received by the Commonwealth. If there is anything wrong with the agreement, the honorable member for Barker has been long enough n member of tha Parliament to raise his voice in the councils of the various parties to which he has given his doubtful allegiance, and in the various governments in which he has served with considerable notoriety, .with a view to effecting any remedy he desired. However, he comes now, in 1946, like an ‘avenging angel with a fiery sword, and says that he is going to have something fixed up. There is nothing to fix up now. because the case put up by the honorable member is based on shifting sands: The amounts paid by the company for the year ended the 30th June, 1945, totalled £101,417, consisting of £91,874 in respect of terminal charges for beam service, £3,S00 in respect of terminal charges for. coastal and island radio services, and £c>,743, representing 30 per cent, of revenue from its coastal and island radio services. Allowing for a contra amount of £45,000 paid to the company by the Commonwealth, the balance in favour of the Commonwealth was £56,417. That was the position in a typical year, but in other years the balance in favour of the Commonwealth was greater. Therefore, instead of all the dreadful revelations regarding payments by the Commonwealth to the company year afteryear, which the honorable member said! the files would disclose, the fact is that last year the Commonwealth received from the company £56,417.
– Did not the company receive services for that amount?
– The right honorable gentleman, as a brilliant accountant, should know that the Commonwealth never pays anything without getting service for its outlay.
– The company got value for that amount.
– The argument is not, whether the company received value. The honorable member for Barker said that the Commonwealth was paying out a lot of money to the company which it ought not to be paying out - that the Commonwealth was subsidizing the company. The truth of the matter, as I have shown, is that the company is making very heavy payments to the Commonwealth. No subsidy is paid to the company. The aspect of service does not arise. I have no doubt, however, that the company has provided very good service for the money that it has received, and that the Commonwealth has not paid more for that than was fair and equitable.
The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), the honorable member for Bourke * (Mr. Bryson), the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), and the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) spoke in support of the bill, and I -compliment them upon their statesmanlike utterances. The honorable member for Bourke urged an extension of the system of competitive examination to all employees rather than limiting ‘ such examinations to clerical employees only. He also suggested the establishment of , a promotion appeals board by the commission as is provided for in the Commonwealth Bank Act.’ The conditions of employment of technical and other em’ployees, except .clerical employees, will call for the laying down of certain qualifications. It may be considered that the commission should make any necessary detailed arrangements in this connexion by the issue of regulations under the act rather than by specific provision in the act itself. In respect of the promotions appeals board it may be “preferable, if an appeal board is to be set up by the commission to determine questions relating to promotions, that the matter be dealt with by the issue of regulations under the act- and not by special provision in the act itself. However, I am impressed by the remarks of the honorable gentleman, and I have referred the matters he raised to the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) with a view to determining whether any amendments should be made to clause 18 of the bill to cover the points at issue, or whether it would be preferable to deal with these matters by way of regulations issued under the act.” If it is found desirable, certain provisions in this respect will be included in the bill at a later stage. I shall, ask the Postmaster-General to make such amendments in the Senate.
I come now to the speech of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who, among Opposi-tion members, at least knows something about the measure. He has played a very important role in guiding, the relations of the Commonwealth Government with the various telecommunication companies which have operated in Australia. He urged that provision should be made in sub-clauses 10 and 11 of clause 18 for the transfer to the service of the commission of telecommunication employees of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited to the maximum extent possible. I have already stated that it is the intention of the Government to set up an ad hoc committee consisting of representatives of the company, the Treasury, the commission and the employees to deal with all matters concerning pensions, furlough, superannuation and like rights, and to consider the matter of compensation to any employees who may be prejudicially affected by the- change-over. The conditions relating to the employees in the reconstructed manufacturing company will be a responsibility of the company, but discussions are proceeding with a view to their interests being fully protected as far as it is practicable to do so: The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) dealt largely with the situation at Gibraltar. That matter has been taken in hand by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), who has already issued a statement.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I move -
That the bill be referred to a select committee.
I do so for the reasons I advanced yesterday in my second-reading- speech. I abstained from moving an amendment to the second reading, because I hoped that Ministers would be able to satisfy me and justify the terms of the agreement with the private shareholders of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited that the Government proposes to’ make. What I said yesterday was based on, information given to ‘me by a former member of this House. He brought to my notice certain activities on the stock exchange. On the information that he gave me, it was my bounden duty to bring the matter to the notice of the House. I hasten to give the unqualified assurance that I’ have received no information about this matter from any present or past employee of the Government.
– I accept that .assurance.
– I do not resort to such means of getting information. I would not in any circumstances place present or past public servants under suspicion.
– Having made that explanation, the right honorable member should give his reasons for moving to have the bill referred to a select committee.
– I desire to have it referred to’ a select committee because I :am not. satisfied that the Government has “the requisite information on which to arrive at a wise decision in this matter. Nothing has transpired in denial of the fact that’ the private shareholders in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited are to receive about £1,400,000 in respect of fewer than 500,000 shares mid for only about half of the assets and activities of the company. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) :said last night that negotiations for a satisfactory arrangement with the private shareholders had been in progress for some time, and that the House could not be given the figures on which the negotiations were based because it was necessary that the private shareholders :should first have the opportunity to discuss the matter. I remind the right honorable gentleman that the people of Australia, of whose interests he is a custodian, own more than half of the shares in the company and that they are equally entitled to information on which to decide, whether a part of the assets arid activities of the company ought to be taken over on the terms proposed.
-Order ! The right honorable member is going beyond the :Scope of the motion. He is now replying “to the second-reading debate. He may ;give only the reasons why the bill -should be referred to a select committee.
– Added to the reasons “that I have given “is the fact that, although shares in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited are closely held, ;since the negotiations have been in progress they have been the subject of considerable activity on the stock exchange.
– That is understandable.
– Yes, but since June the shares have stood at 7ls. 6d. a share, whereas the price in 1942 was 43s. 6d. A share at 71s. 6d., on last year’s dividend rate, would return £2 15s. lid. per cent., which is less than the return from Commonwealth bonds. The capital of the company is approximately £1,000,000. At the date of the last balance-sheet, reserves, other than specific reserves, amounted tq £625,878. So, each share at the date of the last balance-sheet had a backing of 30s. lid., whereas buyers are offering 71s. 6d. That shows that the price of 7.1s. 6d. is a result of those negotiations. It shows more than that. I ask the Minister to note this point. It shows that 71s. 6d. a share is the market value of shares having a backing of only 30s. lid. of shareholders’ funds, according to balance-sheet figures. That establishes the value surely. Buyers offer 71s. 6d. for all the activities of the company, including the section that this Government proposes to buy on the basis of £3 a share. The Minister, in reply to an interjection by me to-day- . .
– Order ! The right honorable member is going beyond the scope of the motion. He is now replying to the second -reading debate. He may give only the reasons why’.the bill should be referred to a select comittee. >
– There is no need for me to canvass further the reasons why a select committee should be appointed to consider this bill in order that the taxpayers may be assured that they are being properly served in the negotiations. The shares in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, operating as it is now, are quoted at 7ls, 6d., so, for 50. per cent, of the shares and activities of the’ company the Government is to pay £6 a share. That is the case, and if it does not warrant an investigation by a select committee in order to protect the Australian people, who own more than half of the company’s shares, I do not know what does.
Question put -
That the bill he referred to a select committee.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hoar. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Calwell) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes ofa bill for an act to provide for the establishment and operation of overseas telegraphic, telephonic and other like services by the Commonwealth, and for other purposes.
Resolution reported and - by leaveadopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Clauses 1 to 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 (Term of office of commissioners).
.- I should like to know whether, when this service becomes a government instrumentality, preference in employment will be- given to ex-servicemen. I ask this question because the Re-establishment and Employment Act annulled a provision in the Commonwealth Public Service Act providing for preference to returned soldiers.
– I invite the honorable member to raise this matter when the committee isconsidering clause 18.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 11 to 17 agreed to.
Clause 18- (1.) The Commission shall appoint a general manager, who shall he the chief executive officer of the Commission, and it may appoint such other officers as it thinks necessary. (10.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, every employee of the Company who, in pursuance of the Agreements between the Commonwealth and the Company, dated respectively the twenty-eighth day of March, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-two, the twentieth day Of August, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-four, and the fifteenth day of November, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-seven, wastaken over from the Commonwealth by the Company and is at the date of acquisition by the Commission of the radiocommunication assets specified in subsection (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 ofthe 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 the Company. (11.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, any other employee of the Company or any employee of Cable and Wireless Limited who, at the date of acquisition by the Commission of the 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 withtelecommunication services and has been so exclusively engaged for a period of three years, and for whom the Commission can find suitable employment shall be 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 as to the employment of any such employee. (he Commission shall take into consideration any pension or other like rights accruing to him 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. ‘
– I move -
That, after sub-clause (8.), the following new sub-clause be inserted: - “ (8a.) Nothing in the last preceding subsection shall affect the operation of -
any award made by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration prior to the commencement of this section in its application to such employees of the Company or of Cable and Wireless Limited as are appointed to positions in the service of the Commission under sub-section (10.) or (11.) of this section; or
any agreement filed prior to the commencement of this section under section twenty-four of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1940 in its application to the employees referred to in the last preceding paragraph.” .
The purpose of the proposed new subclause is to protect the arbitration rights of the employees of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and Cable and Wireless Limited, who will be transferred to the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia).
– I arn gratified that ‘the Minister (Mr. Calwell) has introduced this amendment. When dealing with the subject in my second-reading speech, I pointed out thai the bill was not complete because it prejudiced an agreement which had beenmade between the employees and the companies concerned, and registered with the Arbitration Court. The Minister has now moved a suitable amendment to afford the necessary protection, and the Opposition is perfectly satisfied with it.
.- I ask the Minister whether clause 18, as amended, will cover, in addition to Arbitration Court awards, any agreements or determinations that have been reached between the companies and thenemployees.
– I give the honorable member that assurance. If any particular point is not perfectly clear, I shall discuss it with him during’ the dinner hour, and submit to the committee any necessary amendment. If by that time the bill has passed the committee stage, the amendment will be inserted in the Senate.
.- I repeat the demand which I made in my second-reading speech that the Minister should give a definite and unqualified assurance that those persons who, at the time ‘of this agreement, were employed by Cable and Wireless Limited, should have preserved their continuity of employment, long-service leave, pension and superannuation rights, retiring allowances, and furlough. When they joined the organization in its infancy they acquired those rights. They have endured the “ heat and burden of the day” in the service of the company. They have been stationed in many distant parts of the British Empire. Although the Minister has forecast a number of amendments to clause IS, none of - them gives the assurance which I seek on behalf of the employees. The Minister undertook to examine my representations. Last night, when I discussed the matter with him, I was perfectly satisfied that provision had not been made to preserve the rights of these employees. Originally, many of them were employed by the British company, but later they transferred to the service of the Australian company. When they did so, they were promised certain things. ‘I ask the Minister to indicate to me where all the points which 1 have raised artcovered in clauses 18 and 23. If my information is correct, there are two agreements - one between the Australian company and its employees, and the other between the British company and its employees. Does the bill protect the rights of the men. who belonged recently to the British organization, and the employees of the Australian company? I also invite the Minister to explain whether preference in employment to exservicemen will be observed in the forthcoming reorganization ?
– The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) is a perfectly reasonable man. I gave him an assurance that the matter which he raised was covered, but that if he considered that any particular point required explanation, I would discuss it with him later. I make this additional observation that the insertion of sub-clause 8a is intended ‘to preserve to the employees of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and Cable and Wireless Limited, which will, be affected by - the change to national ownership of the telecommunications services, the conditions and rights of salary now applicable to them under arbitration court awards and determinations and agreements registered with the court on’ their transfer to the service of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia). - The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) became excited over a matter which arises in sub-clause 11 of clause IS. As the committee has yet to consider that sub-clause, I advise the honorable gentleman not to rush his hurdles. I shall deal with the matter which he raised in due course, and very effectively I hope.
I assure the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) that the principle of preference in employment for exservicemen is covered by the Reestablishment and Employment Act, which governs all employment in the Public Service, and in any Commonwealth instrumentality including Overseas Telecommunications Service (Australia).
– That principle has been affected by the case that arose in a munitions factory.
– I do not desire to be drawn into a discussion of that case. That involves a legal judgment which has no relation either to this bill or to the principle of preference in employment to ex-servicemen . generally. The argument in the court of petty sessions in Victoria - the decision is now the subject of an appeal to the High Court - was on the question of whether the Re-establishment and Employment Act had been used to achieve the desired purpose. As . the issue is sub judice, we would be well advised not to canvass it now. I assure the honorable gentleman that the rights of ex-servicemen regarding preference in employment will be protected in the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia) as in any other government department or instrumentality.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) [4.49 . - I take strong exception to the remark of the Minister (Mr. Calwell) that during the dinner hour he would “ fix up something “ with the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan).
– I said that if it were necessary, I would discuss with the honorable member an amendment which could be inserted either in this chamber or in the Senate.
– If the Minister proposes to amend this bill, the matter should be discussed in this chamber. Already, the honorable gentleman has forecast six amendments. He said that everything was completely covered from the employees’ point of view, but I am not satisfied that the interests of persons employed by Cable and Wireless Limited and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited are fully protected. Therefore, the Minister and his advisors should reconsider this clause during the dinner hour. If anythinng beneficial happens to these employees it will be of such a nature that it will not be registered in the dealings on the Sydney Stock Exchange. x Mr. HUGHES (North Sydney) [4.50]. - Are we to understand that an exserviceman will have the same rights and privileges under this bill as he would have in industry generally? Is that what the Minister means?
– An ex-serviceman will ha’ve the same rights as he would have if he were a member of the Public Service or an employee of any other commission appointed by the Government.
– When the Reestab.lishment and’. Employment Act was before the House honorable members were given to understand that preference in employment would be accorded to ex-servicemen. Whatever the precise, meaning, range and effect of the sections purporting to confer preference in that act may be - and nobody seems to know - this clause may take away from ex-servicemen the rights provided for them in the act. I do not believe for a moment that that is the intention of the Minister. However, such an interpretation could be placed on this clause, and I consider that it should be clarified in order to place the position beyond doubt. When we deal with the Tradesmen’s Eights Regulation Bill we shall find that it provides that an employer may engage only a recognized tradesman to engage in a trade job. Nothing is said about the employee being an ex-serviceman or anything else. In effect, this provides for preference to trade unionists, not to soldiers. I do not object to preference to unionists, but I do object to it being brought in by a side- entrance, as it were. Honorable members understood that preference in employment to ex-servicemen was tobe general, and that the Crown was to be bound by the Re-establishment and Employment Act. But if the interpretation of the act given by a lower court is upheld, the Crown is not bound by the provisions of the act. The Overseas Telecommunications Commission will represent the Crown, and, according to, one magistrate’s. decision, it will not be bound to accord preference to ex-servicemen. The Minister should make the position quite clear.
– I draw attention to clause 44 of the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act 1943, which deals with the point raised by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) . It states -
After section fifty-five of the principal act the following section is inserted in Part IV.: - “ 55A. - (1.) Notwithstanding anything con tained in any law of the Commonwealth or of any State or Territory of the Commonwealthor in any award, order or determination of any industrial tribunal or of any industrial agreement preference shall, in the appointment of persons to the Public Service of the Commonwealth or to the service of an authority of the Commonwealth, be given to persons who have been members of the Forces and have served outside Australia or in any area prescribed as a combat area for the purposes of this Act and who are competent for the work required.
That covers the position. Obviously, it will apply to persons seeking employment with the proposed commission, just as it now applies to persons seeking employment with any other commission or Commonwealth department.
.- I am concerned in particular with the position of employees of Cable and Wireless Limited. I am not greatly concerned about the issue just raised by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), because I believe that the Minister has explained the position adequately. For the purposes of the law dealing with preference to ex-servicemen, the commission will be equivalent to a department of the Public Service. I observe that, in sub-clause 11 of clause 18, an attempt is being made to provide for the employees of Cable and Wireless Limited. The taking over of a concern such as this has a direct bearing on its employees. The sub-clause states -
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 the 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 be entitled to a position in the service of the Commission with such status and salary and under such conditions as the Commission determines:
The first important factorto consider is that the principle will apply only if the employee concerned has been engaged exclusively with the company for three years prior to the taking over of the company. That may be interpreted in such a way as to operate very unjustly against a. man who has been engaged in one of the fighting services. It might be said that a person who had been serving with the armed forces at the termination of hostilities had not been engaged exclusively by Cable and Wireless Limited or Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited for a period of three years.That is a distinct possibility. I do not believe that the Government intends such an interpretation to be made, and I am sure that this committee has no such intention. Three years is not a fair period, because persons employed for less than three years may justly deserve, some consideration as the result of the disturbance caused by this legislation. I am not satisfied that there is sufficient provision for the welfare of such persons. Men who have had less than three years exclusive service with the company are entitled to some consideration. They may have certain rights in respect of pensions, for instance. There ought to be in this bill a provision similar to that in statutes providing for the taking over of State employees by the Commonwealth. Failing that, compensation should be paid to persons displaced unless an opportunity is given them to find employment with the commission.
Thus, three problems arise in connexion with employees of the companies to be taken over. First, the bill does not provide at all for persons with less than three years exclusive service. No provision is made for pensions for them, or for compensation for superannuation rights which they may have lost. Secondly, the words “engaged for a period of three years “ may exclude servicemen who left the actual employment of the company for service overseas. In their case, it might be denied that they have had three years exclusive service with the company. Thirdly, the provision which entitles such as do come within the meaning of the sub-clause to a position in the service of the commission is of little real value since the right is conditioned by these words - “to a. position in the service of the coin-mission with such status and salary, and under such conditions, as the commission determines “. I realize that the problem is not a simple one, but I raise the matter now because the employees constitute an important section of the public, and are important parties to ‘this transaction. Therefore, I believe that they should receive more consideration than is afforded them in the bill. The three points which I have raised should’ be answered, if not now, then at some later time.
.- 1 should like the Minister (Mr. Calwell) to state clearly whether it is proposed to ensure that preference in employment shall be given to ex-servicemen. The Minister said that there was no doubt of this, but, with due respect to him, I say that there is considerable doubt. It is my belief that the section of the Repatriation Act which gave preference was repealed by section 22 of the Reestablishment and Employment Act.
-. - There is a’ substitute provision for that section.
Mr.- WHITE.- This point- should be properly considered, ‘and if there is any doubt the Minister should accept an amendment which I propose ‘to move as an additional sub-clause in order to provide that, in the matter of employment, preference shall be given to ex-servicemen. I agree with what the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) said in regard to protecting the rights of other employees, but I emphasize that the particular rights of ex-servicemen should be guaranteed. If nothing is done about the matter now, we may -find that we have failed the ex-servicemen in this most important matter.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) must understand that it is necessary to draw the line somewhere when making provision for the taking over of employees. If the period of service is fixed at three years some one will argue that it should be fixed at two; and if we make it two, there will be arguments advanced to prove that it should, be one. I shall ask the technical advisers of the Government to have another look at sub-clause 11.
– There should be an obligation on the commission to engage all employees if it can.
– I think that is a very fair suggestion. In my secondreading speech on the bill I said that a committee would be established, on which there would be representatives of the two companies concerned as well as of the Post Office and the Treasury, to consider the claims of all persons not re-employed by the commission, so that adequate compensation would be paid to those whose services were not required after the merger.
– Will the period of three years exclusive service include the time that a nian was with the armed forces? Obviously, if a man was serving in the Navy, the Army or the Air Force he could not at the same time be working for the company.
– That is what 1 have asked.
– Yes; but the Minister will not answer it.
– The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has no right to insult me by saying that I will not answer points raised by honorable members. The Government ‘ is anxious to protect the interests of the employees of the company. I am not sure that the honorable members for Moreton and Balaclava do not want to do a little stunting in this matter as in other’s. I- shall now address myself to the intelligent members of the committee. The period of exclusive service does not mean that a person shall have served for three years exclusively before the taking over of the company. The requirement is that he shall have been engaged for a period of three years. If he had been engaged before the war started, and continued in the- employment of the company right up to the conclusion of hostilities, he must have had more than three years service. The idea, is that a. ‘period of three years service would be required to make him an efficient employee.
– A doubt is raised by the use of the word “ so “ in the phrase “ and has been so exclusively engaged for a period- of three years “.
– I shall ask the Government’s legal advisers whether the word “ so “ in that context bears the meaning which the honorable member suggests.
– -Would that provision operate to the detriment of a man who had been in one of the services during the war?
– It would be very wrong if this legislation were to operate in any way against the interests of a man who had served his country in the armed forces’. The Government does not intend that any provision should operate against a man who was away serving his country during the war. If there is the slightest danger of that happening an appropriate iteration will be made.’ The observations generally of the honorable member for Warringah .will be taken into consideration, and if it. be found necessary to do what he suggests, because of the fears he has, the necessary alterations will be made.
The honorable member for Moreton has raised a somewhat different issue, He says that some employees may have been serving with the fighting forces, and may not have had an opportunity to serve exclusively with telecommunication services for a period of three years. We are taking over a business undertaking, and we have to take over with it those who have demonstrated their efficiency and competency to do the work for which they will be paid. It may be said that, had there- been no war, thousands of people in the armed forces might have secured employment with Cable and Wireless Limited, and might have been capable of discharging the duties now to be undertaken by others. The honorable member has raised a. somewhat hypothetical case. If he has any particular persons in mind I shall consult with the department to ascertain’ how they may be given the right which he wants them to have.
– The Minister for Immigration and Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has not convinced me that exservicemen will receive preference in employment under this measure.
– 1 shall deal with that later.
– The Minister stone-walled the bill for about three-quarters of an hour before it reached the committee stage.
The honorable member must deal with the clause under consideration.
– I hope that 1 shall not he silenced on the important subject of preference to ex-servicemen. They make application from time to time for employment in various Commonwealth departments, but they are constantly disappointed. When the Reestablishment and Employment Bill was under consideration, 44 amendments to be proposed by the Opposition were distributed throughout the chamber, but no opportunity was afforded to the Opposition to emphasize the necessity for leaving no loophole by which ex-servicemen could be denied preference in employment. Thebill abolished existing preferences and introduced a sham. The Government guillotined the measure through the House, and thus prevented a full discussion upon its provisions.
– Because the Opposition stone-walled the bill.
– It was a matter of the first importance. The way in which the Re-establishment and Employment Act now operates shows that the Opposition Was justified in the stand which it took on that occasion. The act should be amended. Had steps been taken to ensure the granting of preference to ex-servicemen, we should not experience the trouble in that regard that is occurring to-day. I trust that tho. honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) will insist on submitting the amendment which he has foreshadowed.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That, in sub-clause (10), after the word “exclusively”, the following words be inserted : - “ or mainly “.
My advisers advance no particular arguments in support of this amendment, which is obviously intended to liberalize the clause.’
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That, in sub-clause ( 10. ) , the words “ 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”, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ of such status and salary, having regard to the period of service of that employee”.
The provisions in sub-clauses 10 -and 11 have been included for the purposes of safeguarding the interests of the staffs, in accordance with the recommendations made at the London Telecommunications Conference in 1945. Sub-clause 10 deals with the employees of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, who transferred from the Commonwealth Public Service to the service of the company when the 1922, 1924 and 1927 agreements between the Commonwealth Government and the company came into effect. The sub-clause will entitle any such employees who are exclusively employed by the company in connexion with the radio-communication services to appointment to positions on the commission’s staff, with such advancement in status and salary, beyond those held by these employees when previously in the service of the Commonwealth, as the commission considers just. Pension, superannuation retiring allowance, or furlough rights held by . these employees will be preserved .to them. The amendments and additions proposed to this sub-clause, as well as to sub-clause 11, are designed to place the several classes of employees of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and Cable and Wireless Limited, transferred to the service of. the commission, on the same relative basis in the preservation of existing rights, including those appertaining to pensions, superannuation, retiring allowance and furlough, as well as to ensure that employees, mainly but not exclusively engaged in telecommunication duties, will be eligible for transfer to the service of the commission.
Amendment .agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Calwell) proposed -
That, in sub-clause (1.1.). after the word “ exclusively “, first occurring, ‘the following words be inserted: - “or mainly”.
.- This amendment is consequential upon the amendment that has been made to sub-clause 10. It does not limit in any way the general arguments which I advanced earlier.
– Nothing done subsequent to the promise which I made to the honorable gentleman will interfere with my assurance that I would consider his general argument. .
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Calwell) agreed to-
Unit, in sub-clause (H.), the word “determines” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “thinks just”.
– I move -
That, in the proviso to sub-clause (11.), the words “ or other like “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ superannuation, retiring allowance or furlough.”.
The proposed substitution will make the - position much clearer, and probably will remove some of the objections of honorable members opposite.
.- Are the Government’s legal advisers and the Parliamentary Draftsmen satisfied that if the proviso be amended in the manner proposed it will cover endowment rights? The proposal is to limit the rights specifically to pensions, superannuation, retiring allowance and furlough.
– I take it that “pension” would include endowment.
– I should think that endowment might be covered by superannuation. Nevertheless, it might be wise to retain- the words “ or other like “:
– If there are other rights which are, not specified, it may become necessary to restore the words that I propose shall be left out. I shall ask the companies if endowment or other rights, which we have not envisaged, exist. If they do, an amendment to cover them will be made in the Senate.’
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move -
That, after sub-clause (11.), the following new sub-clause be added: - “ (12.) In the matter of employment, the provisions .of section twenty-seven of the Reestablishment and Employment Act ‘ 1945, relating to servicemen will have application.”
With due respect to what has been said, there is considerable doubt as to whether ex-servicemen will be able to obtain preference in employment in this government instrumentality, in view of the fact that certain of the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act and the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act have been repealed. As a large number of exservicemen who were signallers and wireless air-gunners in the” Army and the Air Force may seek employment in what, will be a monopoly company, the amendment should be acceptable to .all honorable members. I ask the Minister to accept it.
– There is no necessity for the amendment. Section 24 of the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945 reads - (1.) The provisions of this Division shall apply to the exclusion of any provisions, providing for preference in any matter relating to the employment of discharged members of the Forces, of any law of the Commonwealth or of a Territory of the Commonwealth, or of any industrial award, order; determination or agreement made or filed - under or in pursuance of any such law, and whether the law, award, order, determination or agreement was enacted, made or filed before or after the commencement of this section.
Section 26 reads -
The application of this Division shall extend in relation to employment by the Crown in right of the Commonwealth or a State or by any authority constituted by or under any law of the Commonwealth or of a. State or Territory of the Commonwealth.
That is intended to be absolute.
– Has the honorable gentleman been assured by the Crown Law authorities that those provisions will have full effect?
– Since the honorable gentleman raised the issue, I have consulted the Crown Law officers, and have been assured by them that the two sections I have read adequately protect the rights of ex-servicemen to preference in employment under this commission.
.- I accept the Minister’s statement. I am very glad to know that the- Crown Law officers have assured him that the matter of preference will be adequately protected. I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amend m en t - by leave - -withdr awn.
Clause further consequentially amended and, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 19 to 22 agreed to.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move - 1.That a charge bc imposed -
on all wheat products manufactured from wheat so harvested which are exported from the Commonwealth, whether by the Board or by any other person, on or after the first day of December, One thousand nine hundred and forty-five.
the wheat equivalent of any wheat products be ascertained in such manner as the Board may determine.
the expression “wheat products” mean any substance produced by the gristing, crushing, grinding, milling, or otherwise processing of wheat, and include semolina, sharps, wheatmeal, self-raising flour, rice substitutes made from wheat, breakfast foods containing wheat, and any other commodity produced mainly from wheat, but do not include bran, pollard, bread, cake or biscuits.
This motion is to give effect to the Government’s wheat stabilization policy in regard to the contribution by growers. It relates to a charge on all wheat exported. The charge applies to wheat now in No. 9 pool from the 1945-46 season and to later crops. It will be 50 per cent. of the excess of the export price above the guarantee, the other half going to growers as a part of the pool return. There is provision for a lower rate than 50 per cent. to be prescribed, or for a lower price to be prescribed for the basis of calculating the . 50 per cent. contribution. It has already been stated that this season growers will get the full benefit of the export price above 9s. 6d. a bushel and sothat price will be used this season instead of the actual export return now estimated at 10s. a bushel. The reason for this is that a price of 9s. 6d. a bushel was used as the basis of calculation when the plan was being considered, and now that the export return is likely to exceed 9s. 6d. a bushel the growers will get the full benefit of the extra amounts. . Other portions of the resolution are intended to facilitate collection of the charge on a pool basis. The Australian Wheat Board will, in effect, be the export seller, and will pay the charge at reasonable intervals instead of paying each time a shipment is made. The payments will be adjusted to the actual pool return, and will not be based on the fluctuating prices of small parts of the crop.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Scully andMr. Johnson do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented byMr. Scully, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 20th June (vide page 1669), on motion by Mr. Scully -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– It is impossible in one speech to deal with all the political problems of the wheat industry, not only because it is one of the greatest of Australian industries, but also because it provides uswith a considerable share of our export income. Its problems are, and for many years have been, far-reaching; as far back as I can remember politics, the Parliament has from time to time considered the needs of this industry and has endeavoured to do something for it. I propose to concentrate my remarks upon certain essential aspects of the bill before the House, which contains a portion, at any rate, of the Government’s wheat stabilization plan. The first aspect with which I wish to deal is the relation of this bill, and the plan to which it refers, to the referendum for the alteration of the Constitution by including marketing powers in the list of those powers held by the Commonwealth Parliament. This is a question which gives rise to some curious considerations. In the course of the Minister’s second-reading speech, which contained a full and fair statement of the Government’s plan, he gave expression to some ideas which I desire to quote because they have a great bearing on the forthcoming referendum. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said -
Co-operation with the States is an essential part of the plan. The States control production, and production must be regulated according to the markets available for our wheat. In marketing, “Commonwealth and States must use their constitutional powers in harmony, if the plan is to be effective; neither can provide effective marketing unaided.
Later, he said -
The stabilization plan is intended to make the wheat industry” sound financially. Regulation of production, not restriction of production, has been recognized over the years as one requisite for any plan. It is recognized not only by the governments concerned, but ‘by the growers; and growers are willing to co-operate in regulation of the industry to secure the wide benefits of stabilization.
Regulation of production is another feature . which was brought in as a war-time measure, and now can readily be adapted to peace-time needs. It is a State function, and Commonwealth and States will co-operate to secure uniformity in administration. The experience gained by State officers during the war years, while they were co-operating to carry out Commonwealth policy, will be invaluable in the future in carrying out the joint policy.
Special mention should be made of the need for co-operation between Australian governments on this question. Commonwealth and States have their separate powers, and, by using them together, the plan can be carried into effect. Used separately, the constitutional powers of the governments are not capable of dealing with the problem. The plan represents a high degree of co-operation between Australian governments, and it provides for a partnership in which all of them willplay an effective part, not’ only in deciding the policy, but also in carrying it out.
Those observations by the Minister are, in my opinion, completely correct, but they are wholly at variance, I believe, with the basic argument that has been submitted for the marketing referendum. It was said from this side of the House, and in particular by those honorable members who sit behind me in opposition, that the problem of production could not be discussed quite independently of the problems of marketing and prices, and, accordingly, that the ideal system was one in which there was co-operation between the States, with their special authority over production, and the Commonwealth, with its special authority over interstate and international trade. If any justification were required for that argument it is to be found in the passages I have just quoted. Here is a scheme which, as I have followed the Minister’s speech, is not regarded as being in any constitutional doubt. It is put forward as a valid scheme designed to last for a period of years, and it therefore cannot be regarded as depending on an affirmative vote at the marketing referendum. The Constitution amendment which will shortly be before the people seeks to concentrate all power in relation to marketing and prices in the hands of the Commonwealth, leaving the problem of production entirely in the hands of the States. Accordingly, if the power is to be used with any success exactly the same- type of co-operation will have to be achieved between the Commonwealth and the States as is exemplified in this bill with no constitution alteration at all.
I pass to the second consideration. The Minister has just introduced to the House a second measure, the Wheat Export -Charge Bill. It is perhaps unfortunate for the proper consideration of this plan that the House has not had before it from the beginning, first, the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill, to which I am now addressing myself; secondly, the Wheat Export Charge Bill, which is an integral part of the plan ; and, thirdly, some outline of the legislationto be presented to the State parliaments, because we must have a knowledge of all three if we are to have an accurate conception of the plan as a whole..
I would like to say a little - not much need be said - about the case for the stabilization of the wheat industry on the basis of what I might call a floor price. There have been, over the years, differences of opinion about this matter - there are probably still differences of opinion on matters of greater or smaller detail - .but I believe that all parties agree that if we are to solve the problem of the wheat industry there must be a stabilization upon the footing of a guaranteed price.’ That is just, because, of course, it would create a more balanced economy in Australia. The position might be different if we had an uncontrolled economy all round; but we have not had an uncontrolled economy. By our tariff policy, which I strongly support, we have accorded to manufacturing, industries a protection which is designed to enable them to sell . in competition at a price which will cover the cost of production and some reasonable measure of profit. In other words, we have in the case of manufactures assured the reasonably efficient manufacturer of a reasonable price upon the local market. In respect of wheat we should in the first instance afford a similar stability. But wheat is a commodity which, is not merely sold on the local market. In the past our manufactures ‘have been almost entirely sold on the local market, a circumstance which many of us hope will change rapidly in the next few years. Wheat, on the contrary, has been one of our great export products. The wheat industry is one of the- chief industries on which Australia has depended for its overseas income, and it is now so constituted that we cannot say that we have given to it any degree of real stability if we deal only with that portion of the wheat crop which is harvested and sold in Australia. We must seek to give a reasonable measure of stability to the whole of what might be described as the average wheat harvest, whether it be sold in Australia or abroad. Therefore we must be prepared to potect the wheat-grower in re,spect of not only that portion of his crop which is sold here but also a reasonable volume of production for export. Whether the . latter should be arrived at by. control of acreage, or by some other means, is a matter which excites. some differences of opinion. I do not propose to discuss those differences of opinion at this stage because, fortunately, we have some reasonable assurance that, for the next few years at any rate, Australia will be able to sell all the wheat it can grow.
A stabilization scheme upon a proper price basis should not be looked at merely as if it imposed at some future time a potential liability upon the Treasury.. Looking at this plan we may feel con:fident, as 1 do, that in the next few years the contributions to the stabilization fund will come out of the realization of wheat and not out of the Treasury; but the object of the scheme is that if at some future time the moneys in the fund should be exhausted, in order to stabilize the price at the necessary level assistance will be forthcoming front the Commonwealth Treasury. That may be expressed as a future possible liability. Against such a potential liability there must be offset enormous advantages to Australia. The fact that we stabilize this great staple industry means that we are helping to produce a balanced economy and a proper spread of population in Australia - that we are doing something in the real sense towards the prevention of undue aggregation of population in the big cities. In a word, a. scheme of this kind represents practical -decentralization. Itmay not- be decentralization in the sense in which that word connotes the establishment of new industries, but it certainly will make secure an old and well established industry which is vital to the Australian economy. All these desirable things that I have referred to require solvent and progressive rural industries as the foundation of a modern and civilized life for our primary producers, with the necessary amenities to ensure that our country dwellers are able to resist the lure of city life and city occupations. It is proper that I should say, and I kp ow the Minister will agree with me, thai, the stabilization idea is not new. Attempts have been made to produce plans in the past. The present proposal, I say at once, appears very liberal when compared with the plan of 1940-41 at the time when the government of which I was Prime Minister was in office; but, in reality, the difference between the 1940-41 plan and the present plan is very, largely, apart from certain features which I shall discuss later, a difference of price. In 1940-41 world parity for wheat was substantially below the price which was to be guaranteed under the Government’s plan. As honorable members will recall, the plan at that time provided for a guaranteed price, of 3s. lOd. a bushel f .o.b. ports. There was a provision that any receipts on realization of wheat above that price should be divided, as in this plan, between the fund and the growers. The guarantee was to be applied to a realized harvest of 140,000,000 bushels. That meant this : In 1940-41 the government of that day was accepting what looked like a certain responsibility to subsidize the plan heavily at the outset, because, as I say, world parity was below the price that was indicated. In 1946, the present Government is in a very much happier position because world parity is well above the guaranteed price proposed in the bill, and, consequently, there will be no initial liability upon the Government; that is something for the distant future. So far as we can judge, over the next few years the fund will be accumulating its reserves out of the plus difference between the guaranteed price and world parity. Therefore, for the first few years at least this will be essentially a growers’ fund. Having regard to some references which are made occasionally to the 1940-41 plan - not by the Minister,’ but I have heard contemptuous references to the 1940-41 plan - it is, perhaps, worthwhile reminding the House of two facts in relation to. that plan: First, that scheme provided for a guaranteed price of 3s. lOd. a bushel f.o.b. ports, and for the provision oi a fund into which surpluses were to be paid, the surpluses to be divided equally between the growers and the fund; and, secondly, the price then indicated was remarkably close to the price which had been asked for by the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. It is not to be thought that the government in those days was nominating a price completely out of harmony with the ideas of those engaged in the industry. It was not; because on the 27th August, 1939,. the Australian Wheat Growers Federation made certain proposals, all of which, if I remember rightly, found a place in the Government’s scheme. But the price asked for by the federation was 3s. lOd. a bushel f.o.r. ports That is not identical with 3s. lOd. a bushel f.o.b. ports, but is remarkably close to it. I mention those figures in order to indicate that the proposals then made had all the essential features of a sound stabilization plan, whilst the price imposed, as we were reminded recently by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), a very large immediate and potential liability upon the government of the day.
I turn from that, because I do not want to dwell unnecessarily on -matters of past history, to another question. Should there be a poll of wheat-growers before this scheme comes into operation? There is a fairly well-established practice in Australia - I can recall many instances in rural industries - that before schemes of this kind, which affect primarily the growers of commodities, are put into operation, the wishes of the growers should be ascertained. After all, their labour, skill and assets, their acceptance of risks, and in many cases their acceptance of hardships, have produced the harvest, and they are,therefore, the most interested people. Indeed, as we have seen, for the- next few years, they will inevitably be the major contributors to the stabilization fund ; and in those circumstances we believe that before legislation of this kind comes into operation it should require to be approved by a majority of the wheat growers voting at a poll taken for that purpose.
– Does the right honorable gentleman mean a poll on the subject of stabilization or on the conditions of stabilization?
– I am suggesting that the bill when passed, before it comes into operation, should be referred by poll as a total scheme to the growers in order to secure ‘ their approval or disapproval. It is not for me to say whether the growers approve the proposal. I am not in the least degree qualified to say what the view of the wheat-growers would be upon that matter. I have heard some honorable members who affect to know something about these things say that the wheat-growers were hostile to the plan. I have heard others say with equal confidence that the growers would be in favour of it. I offer no opinion about that aspect at al!, but I venture to offer tho opinion held by many people that when you are dealing with a large important industry of this country and you are establishing a scheme which, for some time to come, will involve large contributions by the growers themselves out of the realization of their own wheat, the opinion of the growers should be taken.
– Did the right honorable gentleman follow that course when his Government introduced its stabilization scheme ?
– Our stabilization scheme never came into operation.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m. .
– Before dinner I had been ‘ addressing myself to the Government’s wheat stabilization scheme and in particular to the general case for stabilization. I now want to refer to some aspects of the scheme requiring determination. The first is perhaps one of the most important questions connected with the scheme: Should the 1945-46 harvest be included; in this scheme? I want to say at once that the answer to that question is in my opinion and in the opinion of many other honorable members of this House, no, the 1945-46 harvest should not be included in the scheme. Indeed, it is difficult to .understand on what principle of justice a stabilization scheme of tha kind now before us can be made retro;spective, and that is, in effect, what the proposal of the Government amounts to. The 1945-46 harvest, that is the harvest of the last season, was acquired by the Commonwealth under regulation 14 of the National Security (Wheat Acquisition) Regulations. It was acquired, as preceding harvests during the war were acquired, by virtue of the Commonwealth’s war-time power, and if I read regulation 14, which is the important one for this purpose, honorable members will 3ee exactly how it operates. It says this-
For securing the public safety and the defence of the Commonwealth and the Territories Of the Commonwealth, for the efficient prosecution of the war, and for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community, the Minister may, from time to time, by order published in the Gazette, make provision for the acquisition by the
Commonwealth of any wheat described in the order, and that wheat shall, by force of and in accordance with the provisions of the order become the absolute property of the Commonwealth, freed from all mortgages, charges, liens, pledges, interests and trusts affecting that wheat, and’ the rights and interests of every person in that wheat (including any rights or interests arising in respect of any moneys advanced in respect of that wheat) are hereby converted into claims for compensation.
It will be seen from the terms of that regulation and from the other regulations that the Australian Wheat Board was the body set up to sell wheat acquired by the Commonwealth under regulation 14. That power was exercised by the Commonwealth presumably under the well-known and much.quoted provision of the Constitution which, we find- in paragraph xxxi of section 51. It is perhaps as well to remind ourselves of its terms -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the »?ace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to - (xxxi.) The acquisition of property on just terms from any State or person for any purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws …
Consequently, the wheat harvest, not only in 1945-46 but in previous years, was acquired by the Commonwealth. The rights of the wheat-growers were converted from rights of property in the wheat into right to receive compensation from the Commonwealth, and, as compensation is represented by the words “ on just terms “, it is difficult, if not impossible, for me to understand how payment for that wheat can fall below the level of the actual market value of the wheat. When the wheat-growers’ 1945-46 harvest was acquired and delivered the claim by the wheat-grower at once arose. We are now dealing with a scheme which seeks to include the 1945-46 wheat, though the rights of wheat-growers to be paid for that wheat came into existence, under regulation 14, months and months ago. So that when this scheme proposes to go back and take away from the grower some of the benefits’ of the claim that he had, it is retrospectively depriving him of a right which was fully matured at the beginning of the year.
It is not disputed, as I understand it. that the price at which wheat was sold or saleable by the board was greater than the 5s. 2d. f.o.r. ports stated in this bill and it may very well be greater even than the larger sun] mentioned by the Minister in the course of his second - reading speech. It seems to me a most astonishing proposal that wheat already acquired, wheat in respect of which Commonwealth liability to an ascertainable extent has already accrued, should be included in a future scheme, the effect of the acquisition being to reduce the price to which the grower .otherwise would have been entitled in relation to the 1945-46 harvest. The proposed inclusion of the 1945-46 harvest is not only grossly unfair and retrospective, but it seems to me to deliberately cut across the constitutional protection to which the wheatgrower was entitled at the moment at which the wheat was acquired. I do not want to labour that. I put that view briefly as clearly as I oan. I have heard nothing so far from the Minister or the Government which would indicate that there is any answer to that argument at. %all. Certainly there is no answer satisfactory to the individual wheat-grower.
But there are other reasons, economic reasons, for excluding that harvest. The harvest was extraordinarily low, following a drought year. In many wheatgrowing areas in Australia that drought was not merely of one year’s duration, it was of two. On top of. that the inevitable demands and circumstances of war have meant that a good deal of maintenance, repair and development work on farms has been postponed and plant has become obsolete or worn out. The result of all that may be a fictitious state of credit for some farmers, others may find themselves substantially in debt. If we add all those 1 circumstances together, surely they support the elementary justice of giving to the f farmer the full benefit of the full price of the 1945-46 harvest so that he may have proper opportunity of paying his debts, re-establishing himself, doing re; pair and maintenance work and buying plant for the future. If that were done the effect would be that the industry would be in a more solvent position, and the new scheme would not begin until the 1946-47 harvest. It would then operate entirely in relation to future harvests and deliveries.
The next consideration is the problem of how the guaranteed minimum price should be fixed. The bill fixes the guaranteed minimum price to be paid by the board to the growers at 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r. ports, and, as I understand the scheme, that is to be the price for a period of five years. The bill itself contains no provision that I have been able to discover for the variation of the price at any time during that term. On that state of affairs I have two comments to make. The first is this : It seems to me practically a certainty that over the next five years, the cost of producing wheat in this country will rise in terms of Australian money, because it is quite clear not only that the basic wage in Australia will bc due very shortly for revision, but also that when wage-pegging is relaxed, and it. will bc relaxed some- day. wages generally will rise, and prices and costs also will rise. If .that expectation be correct - and he would be a very bold-man who offered any other prophecy of the events of the next five years - a guaranteed price for wheat that seems quite fair in 1946 may have become seriously inadequate by 1948 or 1949. Therefore, it seems to me essential that there should be- some fair and accurate means of adjusting the guaranteed price in accordance with any increase of costs that may occur during the period of the operation of this scheme.
– What about a reduced world price?
– I am directing my attention, at present, to that element of this scheme that says, “ Here is a guaranteed minimum price which is designed to make the industry solvent, and which is to last five years “. If the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) believes that he can guarantee to the wheatfarmers not only a price for the next five years but also a level of costs, he will have an answer to my argument; but J. do not believe that anybody can guarantee the maintenance of the present cost level. In terms of Australian money this is certain to rise. We of the Opposition propose that there should be incorporated in this scheme some’ means for a periodica] adjustment of the guaranteed minimum price to accommodate any increase of the reasonable cost of the reasonably efficient production of wheat. That, we believe, should be done- by means of a rural industries board which would make periodical investigations and reports. That is the first, comment that I make on this aspect of the matter. My second comment is this : If we do have machinery for the periodical revision of the problem of costs and the periodical reascertainment of a guaranteed minimum price, a period of five years seems unreasonably short. After ail, if we intend this stabilization scheme to be permanent so far as possible, and if we are really endeavouring to carry the problem of the wheat industry beyond mere annual or sporadic treatment, the obvious thing for us to do is to institute a longer term for the scheme, and to introduce into that longer term means for a periodical adjustment of the price to be paid. Therefore, we suggest that tho period should be ten years instead of five, to enable wheat-farmers to plan the development and use of their properties over a reasonably long period. I have referred to the need for a rural industries board. May I add just a few words about the purpose and function of such a board. With great respect to all honorable members, and particularly to those who are closely acquainted with the wheat industry, I suggest that the ‘ Parliament ‘ is not an effective tribunal for determining the cost of producing wheat. The great majority of us in this chamber are not qualified to attempt that task. The fixing of the price, therefore, must be either a matter of sheer bargaining from time to time between contending political elements, which is a very unscientific way of dealing with a great industry, or a matter of careful, accurate, and impartial investigation. Many years ago in this country we established the Tariff Board primarily to deal with secondary industries. That board consisted, and still consists, of specially chosen men with capacity for impartial investigation and with great facilities for such investigation.- The Tariff Board has established a very high reputation and a very high authority. I am sure that every member of this chamber will agree that the Tariff Board, in relation to secondary, industries, has achieved such public authority that its recommendations almost invariably are regarded throughout Australia as reasonable and having due and proper relation to the costs of Australian production. If an application is made for a tariff, the Tariff Board investigates the actual local industry or the potential local industry. It examines the efficiency and costs of that industry, and in due course makes its’ recommendation. What we propose is that in relation to primary industries, particularly the wheat industry, there should be a board which corresponds in its function to the Tariff Board - a rural industries board competently manned, and with adequate facilities for investigation so that as a permanent body it would very soon develop a reputation and authority similar to that of the Tariff Board. Its prime function for the purpose of this scheme would be to determine periodically - I shall hot attempt to define “ periodically but so far as I am concerned it would be annually - the reasonable cost of reasonably efficient wheat production, and the reasonable profit margin that should be added to that cost to arrive at a guaranteed minimum” price which would enable the industry to be carried on effectively and progressively. It is not only unjust but also useless to guarantee a price that falls below the total figure so determined by impartial investigation. We shall do nothing for the wheat industry if we fix a price and stick to it doggedly for five years, notwithstanding the fact that after, say; three or four years it has become apparent that the price is below the reasonable cost of production. That will not bring solvency to the industry; it will ‘ bring the scheme to ruin and precipitate once more further investigations and plans by this Parliament.
– It may be above the cost.
– Naturally. There would be no point in having an annual re-examination of costs unless we were contemplating the possibility of a price that altered from year to year. Theoretically the price could alter upwards; but I venture to say that the Minister will agree that that is a mere theory for the next five years at least. 8
Government supporters interjecting,
– I am delighted to know that some members of this Parlia ment believe that during the next five years, the value of money in Australia will rise and the cost- of production in this industry will fall.” The wheatfarmer is entitled to an assurance - and this is the whole basis of our argument - that the price guaranteed to him under a scheme like this shall be adequate to cover his true average cost of production, and to give to him a reasonable margin of profit. That result, cannot be achieved unless we have the means of revision, and the means which are suggested and which I have been discussing for the last five minutes seem, to many of us at any rate, to be admirable and flexible means for arriving at a just result. We believe that by the introduction of machinery of that kind, and its effective use in a tenyear plan of stabilization, the Australian wheat-grower will, for the first time, have a feeling of proper security, and that wheat itself, instead of being, as it has been for many years, the subject of almost constant political controversy, will take its place as a settled, solid and highly valuable feature of the Australian economy.
Debate (on’ motion by Mr. LEar,»ro.) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed (vide page 2404).
Clause 23 (Commission to acquire overseas telecommunication assets situate “in Australia).
– I move -
That the following new sub-clauses be added: - ” (4.) Pending the establishment of the Commission, the Minister may exercise any power conferred on the Commission by this Part. “” (5.) Upon the establishment of the Commission, any property which has been acquired by the Minister under this section and is still held by bini shall become the absolute property- of, or be vested in, the Commission, as the case requires.”.
The purpose of these proposed new’ subclauses, r and the amendments which I have forecast to clauses 4S and 52, is to allow the Minister to enter into an agreement with Amalgamated “Wireless (Australasia) Limited on behalf of the Government providing for the acquisition by the Commonwealth of the company’s telecommunication assets. Negotiations are proceeding between the Government and the company in the matter, and it is expected that an agreement will be reached at a reasonably early date. Therefore the proposed amendments to clauses 23, 48 and 52 will enable the Minister to take the necessary steps to acquire the assets mentioned, and later, upon the establishment of the. Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia) to vest such property in that body. In other words, we are not waiting for the commission to be established before we acquire the assets of the company. We are empowering the Minister to acquire those assets before the establishment of the commission.
– Obviously, there must be a hiatus between the time when the Minister acquires the property of .the company, and when he vests it in the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia). During that period, radio telecommunications must continue. I assume that, while the Minister acts in that capacity, radio telecommunications will not be interrupted.
– I assure the honorable gentleman that that is so.
– Radio telecommunications will continue under the authority of the Postmaster-General until the commission is established ?
– That is so.
– The PostmasterGeneral will be the vehicle for that purpose?
– Yes, during the transition period.
– Obviously, radio telecommunications should not be interrupted.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 24 to 28 agreed to.
Clause 29 (Advance for expenses).
– This is the appropriation clause. It reads- -
For the purposes of enabling the Commission to meet such expenditure as is necessary for the purposes of this Act, the Treasurer may advance to the Commission - («.)out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund or out of the proceeds of any loan raised under the authority of any Act, which Fund and which proceeds are hereby appropriated . accordingly, such amounts, not exceeding in all the sum of Three million pounds:
I ask the Minister for Immigration and Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) to explain the necessity for an appropriation of £3,000,000. I understand that the Government is prepared to pay £1,500,000 for the assets of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and Cable and Wireless Limited. Consequently, honorable members are entitled to a full explanation of the reason for the proposal to appropriate double that amount.
– This provision is identical with a provision in the Australian. National Airlines Act 1945..
– That does not make it any better.
– It depends upon one’s point of view. .1 am very much in favour of nationalization, whether of airlines, overseas. telecommunications, or any other public utility.
– The Minister cannot conceal that fact; but I should like him to answer my question.
– The Parliament approved the granting of authority to the Treasurer to appropriate a sum of £3,000,000 and to make advances from that appropriation from time to time for the purposes of carrying out the provisions of this bill.
– Where do those words appear in the bill?
– I assure the right honorable gentleman that the power which is sought in this bill is a power to appropriate a sum of £3,000,000. That doei not mean that the commission will be given £3,000,000 with which to commence its operations. That sum of money will be authorized for expenditure by the Treasurer, if necessary, for the purpose of acquiring the assets of the company and carrying out the objects of the bill. If the right honorable gentleman’s information be correct, .namely, that approximately £1,500,000 will be sufficient to acquire the assets of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and Cable and Wireless Limited, there may still remain an obligation on the Treasurer to provide certain other moneys for working expenses.
– Will that appropriation be carried into another financial year?
– No, the appropriation is for a sum of £3,000,000 to enable the commission to commence operations. That expenditure is not likely to be incurred annually. It is an expenditure to enable certain capital assets to be acquired.
– The Minister does not mean that the Government will pay £3,000,000 for the assets.
– I am pointing out to the right honorable gentleman that we must fix some suan, and if we fixed £3,000,000 or £10,000,000, it. would not mean that the total amount would ultimately be- expended. The bill proposes to appropriate a sum that is regarded as more than sufficient to enable the intentions of the measure to be carried out.
– if the whole of this proposed appropriation wore not used during the present financial year, would the balance of it be carried forward into later financial years?
– The commission is to bo prohibited from borrowing moneys from any other source. This appropriation will start the commission offinitially. Probably, not all of it will be expended, either in this or in any other year. When the commission has begun its activities, its trading account will be sufficient to enable it to carry on its ordinary trading functions. If what the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has said is correct, only one-half of this amount will be required.
In that event, the balance of it will not be expended. We have to start and stop somewhere.
– The trouble is, that there is no stop. j
– I ask honorable gentlemen opposite not to be horrified because the proposal is to appropriate £3,000,000. The amount expended will be no larger than the Treasurer will permit to be expended. When the Leader of the Australian Country party “ was Treasurer, he did not expend more than was necessary. I assure the right honorable gentleman that the present Treasurer is no more likely than he was to expend money foolishly.
– Why appropriate £3,000,000 when only £1,500,000 will be needed, and the taxpayers hope to have their taxes reduced?
– The fact that authority is taken to appropriate that amount does not mean that it will be expended. The Government will expend only that proportion of it as is found to bo necessary. The honorable member will have an “opportunity to debate the reduction of taxes when the Treasurer brings clown n bill designed to that end.
– Why has the amount of £3,000,000 been chosen?
– What amount does the right honorable gentleman suggest - £2,000,000 or £1,000,000?
– I do not know enough about the matter to stale what amount should be appropriated. In my present state of mind, I. should say “nothing”.
– Assets cannot be acquired for nothing. I urge the righthonorable gentleman to display his usual acumen when debating this measure.
– What is the best estimate which the Minister can make at the present time?
– ,1 . have said that negotiations are proceeding for an agreement.
– -The Minister knows the terms of the agreement.
– The committee has just approved the insertion of a new clause which will permit the Minister, who is the Postmaster-General, to acquire these assets pending the constitution of the commission. Obviously, that means that the negotiations have reached the stage at which it is possible to saythat they will be concluded before the commission has been constituted. In the transitional period, the PostmasterGeneral will exercise the powers of the commission. I have said that the Treasurer will be authorized by this provision to approve advances being made from this appropriation, and from such further appropriations as may be made by the Parliament from time to time on the recommendation of the responsible Minister.
I take this opportunity to make some references to the observations of the Leader of the Australian Country party in regard to the amount that may be paid for the assets of the company. The right honorable gentleman has-said that a payment of £1,500,000 for those assets would represent about £6 a share to the private shareholders.
– No. Bo not misunderstand me. What I said was that, having regard to the asset value of the shares, which to-day are quoted at 71s. 6d. for the full company, on a comparable basis the Government is offering £6 a share.
– Since the reopening of the Sydney Stock Exchange in 1942, the value of the shares of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited has followed the general trend of the stock exchange, they having appreciated by about 60 per cent. There is nothing remarkable in’ that. The value of the shares of quite a lot of other concerns also has appreciated. The financial columns of any newspaper published in any part of Australia will show that every company is doing very well, to-day. That may be a very nice compliment to the Government of Australia, which is responsible for the good conditions that make such a state of affairs possible.
– No; it shows that there is an inflationary trend,
-When the right honorable gentleman draws attention to the appreciation of the value of company shares he must also, as a natural corollary, pay tribute to the efficiency and good administration of those who occupy the front ministerial bench in this Parliament to-day.
– Not at all. It is inflation, because the £1 is now worth les3 than it has been worth.
– If there is one country in the world which has avoided inflation and inflationary trends, it is Australia.
– The Minister should not deceive himself in that regard.
– No other countryhas managed it3 economy so well as has this country, despite the fact that it is passing through the transitional stage from war to peace and has had to contend with all the difficulties incidental to that fact.
– If the Minister believes that, he is pathetic.
– What is important is that the people of Australia believe it. The right honorable gentleman appears to think that, the increased value which, now attaches to the shares of Amalgamated Wireless ‘(Australasia) Limited signifies that, for a long time past, there has been “ something in the wind “ - to use the vernacular - in the matter of this transfer, and that people who deal in slock exchange transactions have considered that more than a. reasonable figure was likely to be offered to the holders of shares in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. The accretion to the value of the shares of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited compares thus with the accretion to the value of the shares of other large industrial concerns - Australian Consolidated Industries, 56 per cent. ; Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, 65 per cent.; and Tooth’s Breweries, 81 per cent. Those figuresprove that the right honorable gentleman’s comments were not justified. There has been no unusual trading in the shares of this company. None knows that better than the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who is a director of the company.
– It shows that there is activity on the part of buyers.
– There is so much money in the pockets of so many people that there is a rush everywhere to try to invest in what is regarded as a giltedged security, or what is likely to return a very good annual rate of dividend.
– So-called money.
– The £1 is worth £1 in any part of Australia to-day. I do not understand the right honorable gentleman’s reference to “ so-called money”. All the paper money of this country is backed by the security of the nation, and is worth its face value.
– The £1 is worth about 143.
– The return of £2 lis. per cent, which the right honorable gentleman cited is in line with these returns, which were published in a Melbourne newspaper last Wednesday: Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, 2.2 per cent.; Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, 2.7 per cent. ; and Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited, 2.7 per cent. Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited has paid dividends of up to 14 per. cent. No doubt the value of the company’s shares would appreciate considerably if its telecommunications were not acquired by the Government, as these offer a widely expanding field in the future. Rather would its shares be likely to depreciate by reason .of the Government’s compulsory acquisition of the telecommunications section of its business.
– Of course they should, appreciate when the Government is paying £3 a share. ,
– I ask the Minister to deal with the clause.
– The right honorable gentleman cannot have it both ways. The shares do not appreciate one minute and depreciate the next. He contends first that they are depreciating, because the Government is to do what it proposes to do, and his other argument, which is a valid one, is that the value of the shares is likely to appreciate as a result of what the Government proposes to do. That is the Government’s case on this clause, and it is safe for the committee to authorize the Treasurer to make advances to the commission up to £3,000,000.
– It is most unusual for any
Minister, except in time of war, to ask the Parliament for money for an undisclosed purpose. In accordance with the custom ‘ of the Parliament of Great Britain, it is laid clown that a Minister, on the recommendation of the GovernorGeneral, shall ask the Parliament to approve the appropriation of certain moneys, and the Governor-General’s message recommending the appropriation must state the purpose for which the money is required. Neither in the clause which we are debating nor in any statement by the Minister has that been disclosed. It is competent for the committee to accept air assurance by the Minister, but no statement by him can bind the Government. The Crown is bound only by what is contained in the legislation, itself.
The clause contains two different statements. From that read by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), it is clear that, if we agree to the clause in its present form, the Commonwealth will be entitled to hand over to an unknown commission - we do not know the name of even one person who will be a member, of it - the sum of £3,000^000. In addition, the commission may be paid such other sums as from time to time are appropriated by the Parliament for the purpose. There is no limit whatever to these other sums. If a purchase of assets is made on behalf of the Government, a certain., sum of money must be paid and must come back to the Government as its share of the venture. Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited is not a private concern, and, according to what we have heard in the last 24 hours, the_ whole transaction depends on what the private shareholders are prepared to accept. If the Minister’s last statement be correct,
Ave are forced to the conclusion that, a part is greater than the whole. In other words, the minority shareholders are to have certain rights under the bill, but the Government has no rights whatsoever.
The total capital of the’ company is under £1,000,000. A double acquisition is to be made, partly the assets of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and partly those of Cable and Wireless Limited, but at no stage of the proceedings, either in the House or in committee, ha3 any Minister ventured to forecast, even in the most shadowy terms, what the cost will be to the Government of these two ventures. The representatives of the taxpayers are entitled to know the mind of the Goevrnment on this matter. The assets of Cable and Wireless Limited must have a known value to the Government, and that might be some guide. Similarly the value of the assets of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited must be known. Only a portion of them are required solely for government purposes, but in respect of capital, more than half of that company is owned by the Commonwealth already. For a portion of the company’s assets the Government is asking the Parliament to provide £3,000,000, an unknown fraction of which would be devoted to the purchase of certain of the company’s assets and the assets of Cable and Wireless Limited. This clause must be read in conjunction with clause 32, which provides that moneys and investments may be lodged with the Commonwealth Bank or such other bank as the Minister _ approves. .1 know of no government instrumentality which has the right to do other than comply with the provisions of the Constitution, which require all public moneys to be paid into Consolidated Revenue. For that reason the Postmaster-General must pay all moneys received by his department into the Treasury, and he can only function, as far as expenditure goes, on the money voted to him by the Parliament from year to year.
The Minister has declared that the Government intends to have Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, carried on as a manufa’cturing concern, and that the Government will retain an interest in the undertaking;
– In the manufacturing part only.
– If that be correct, we still require from the Minister an explanation as to what. the Government proposes to do regarding patents, franchises and commercial wireless assets of the company. Will the Government take a part in conducting those activities, or does it intend to farm them out? The Minister says it is necessary that government capital should be re tained to carry the company over a critical period. Only last year, banking legislation was enacted under which the Commonwealth Bank could lend as much money as it wished to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. From the taxpayers’ point of view, the Government’s connexion with an undertaking which is a delicious hybrid of no particular value is an entirely different proposition from the Commonwealth Bank financing the company in the customary way and taking the usual risks.
– The latter part of the clause contains a complete answer to the honorable member, as it provides that the Treasurer may advance to the commission such amounts as are, in the opinion of the Minister required by the commission, and the commission may accept those advances,’ but shall not. otherwise borrow moneys. The advance will come from Consolidated Revenue.
– This Parliament has no power to instruct the Commonwealth Bank what it shall do. We are still entitled to some explanation from the Government as to what is behind this measure. So far we are still in a fog as thick as any experienced in Canberra during’ the present parliamentary ‘ sittings Nothing that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has said has thrown ohe ray of light on the subject of the real charges to which the community will be committed, if this hill is passed in its present form.
.- Once again, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has put up his own “ Aunt Sally’s “. He said that never before has a government appropriated a specific sum of money for a purpose such as that contemplated in this bill. I remind him it has been done twice in the life of this Parliament - once, when £4,000,000 was appropriated for the purpose of inaugurating the Mortgage Department of the Commonwealth Bank, and again when £3,000,000 was appropriated to establish, the Australian National Airlines Commission. Now, the Government is asking Parliament to appropriate £3,000,000 in order to nationalize telecommunications. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and the honorable member for Barker have taken certain parts of the bill out of their context. The clause providing for the appropriation of money should he read in conjunction with clauses 29 and 32. Clause 29 is as follows : -
For the purposes of enabling the Commission to meet such expenditure as is necessary for the purposes of this Act, the Treasurer may advance to the Commission -
out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund or out of the proceeds of any loan raised under the authority of any Act, which Fund and which proceeds are hereby appropriated accordingly, such amounts, not exceeding in all the sum of Three million pounds; and
out of such sums as are from time to time appropriated by the Parliament for the purpose, such further amounts, as are, in the opinion of the Minister, required by the Commission, and the Commission may accept those advances but shall not otherwise borrow moneys.
Honorable members will agree that a person buying a business would not pay down the full amount of the purchase money if that meant leaving himself short of money with which to establish himself. The Government is now asking the Parliament to appropriate £3,000,000, which will be probably more than half of the amount which will eventually have to be paid by way of compensation to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited for the loss of its telecommunication business. That is the side of the company’s business which showed such substantial profit during the war. Once that asset is removed the company will be in an entirely different position. The money left after the Government has paid compensation will be put into a fund which will be audited annually by the Auditor-General, who will report to the Government and to the Parliament as to how themoney is disposed of. It seems to me that the honorable member for Barker, in criticizing the provisions of the bill, is merely trying to make political capital out of it.
.- Clause 29 should be read in conjunction with clauses 31 and 39. Clause 31, which contemplates conditions as they will exist after the commission has been established, is as follows: -
The commission shall prepare estimates, in such form as the Minister directs, of its receipts and expenditure for each financial year, and shall submit those estimates to the Minister.
Parliament is being asked to appropriate £3,000,000 for the purposes of this legislation. I agree that thepurposes have been made clear, but what has not been made clear is how this amount of £3,000,000 is made up. For too long the Parliament has been asked to appropriate amounts running into hundreds of millions of pounds, and never have I heard one honorable member on the Government side demand particulars of the amounts sought. In these days of very large expenditure we should demand the closest scrutiny of all proposed appropriations. To-day we are presented with the extraordinary spectacle of the Government asking Parliament to appropriate £3,000,000 without any explanation being offered of how the amount is arrived at. I do not expect a detailed statement showing everything to the last half -penny; estimates must, of necessity, be in general terms, but surely we are entitled to more information than has been offered. The present situation cannot be considered apart from the situation which will exist once the commission has been established. Will the Government then come to the Parliament and say, “ For the purposes of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission we require an amount of ‘ X ‘ millions of pounds “, and tell the Parliament nothing more? That is precisely what it is doing to-night. The Parliament is entitled to more information than has been given to it, and the public, too, are entitled to know how the amount of £3,000,000 is made up. This is a committee of supply, whose function it is to scrutinize all government expenditure. I do not suggest that the amount asked for is not needed, but the committee is entitled to further particulars. Either the Government just plucked a figure out of the air, or it represents an estimate. If it is not more than a guess, the Government should say so. If it represents an estimate, there should be certain particulars available, and these should be made known to the committee.
.- I had expected the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) to relate his remarks to clause 39. In his discussion of the clause before the committee he said that it had relevancy to clauses 31 and 39.
He then proceeded to relate his remarks to clause 31, but not to clause 39. It seems clear that the object of the Opposition is to make public the business activities of the commission which is to control overseas telecommunications. Honorable members opposite desire to force the Government to reveal the business activities of the . commission to its trading competitors such as Standard Telephones and Cables Proprietary Limited. As we have been informed that the tangible assets to be taken over exceed £1,000,000 in value, a total of £3,000,000 seems reasonable.
– The tangible assets are valued at only’ about £500,000.
– If I were to cite figures in the way that the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) does, I should be stating figures which are not in accordance with the facts. The right honorable gentleman has persisted in saying that the value of these shares is about 30s. lid. each. He relates that amount to the tangible assets of the company. In reply, the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) pointed out that Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and Cable and Wireless Limited have other intangible assets, such as longterm agreements for certain rights which have. a money value. If the right honorable gentleman persists in making statements which are not in accordance with the facts, I must take him to task.
– The honorable member is a member of tick-tock - a very watchful member.
– I am tired of these attempts at jokes. It is clear that when members of the Opposition cannot answer the arguments advanced by their opponents they resort to the Aristotelian fallacy of ad hominem. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) said that there was no embargo on the commission borrowing ad infinitum to the limit, of the financial resources of the Commonwealth Bank, but a reading of clause 29 would have revealed to him the weakness of his argument. That clause reads -
For the purpose of enabling the Commission to meet such expenditure as is necessary for the purpose of this Act, the Treasurer may advance to the Commission - (ft) out of such sums as are from time to time appropriated by the Parliament for the purpose, such further amounts as are, in the opinion of the Minister, required by the Commission. . . .
That is clear, but apparently the honorable member for Barker has difficulty in understanding English. The Leader of the Australian Country party said that the sum of £3,000,000 was a faked figure.
– I did not say that.
– On the other hand, the honorable member for Warringah was satisfied that the Government had estimates before it when it decided that £3,000,000 was a proper amount to include in the bill.
– I said that the Government either plucked a figure out of the air. or had estimates before it.
– The honorable member for Warringah has held office as Treasurer of the Commonwealth, and he knows that before any Minister places before the Parliament a figure such as has been done in this clause, estimates have been carefully scrutinized. In my opinion, the sum of £3,000,000 is adequate, having regard to the limitations imposed by clause 29, namely, that the moneys to be expended shall be raised under the authority of any act and shall not exceed in all the sum of £3,000,000. I hope that the Leader of the Australian Country party does not suggest that the whole. of that amount must be expended during this financial year. The meaning of the clause is that sums up to £3,000,- 000 will be expended by the commission as it deems necessary for the proper conduct of its affairs. I consider that any attempt by the Opposition to obtain detailed items making up this amount is an attempt to aid business competitors to obtain information for use by them in their own interests.
– Having regard to the fact that the party with which the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) is associated has as its object the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange, he has made an extraordinary speech. The honorable member said that the purpose of the Opposition is- to obtain information for the benefit of competitors of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. I remind hint that the people of Australia, through this Parliament, are half-owners in the assets of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and are therefore entitled to know what is going on and how their money is being. used. The honorable member said that I had stated this afternoon that shareholders’ funds, namely paid up capital plus reserves, amounted to 30s. lid. for each fi share. He went on to say that the intangible assets of that company should be taken into account. I remind him of the basic fact that the intangible assets of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited were given to the company for nothing, and .have been enjoyed by it for over 20 years. Despite that fact, on a comparable basis, shareholders will receive £6 for each share. If that is not a margin for the intangible value of assets I do not know what is.
– Does -the right, honorable gentleman deny that these intangible assets have been earning profit for the private shareholders during that period ?
– Of course they have. They have been profit-bearing for the Government, also. Whatever dividends the Commonwealth Government has received as a half-owner of the company must be set off against the subsidies that the company has enjoyed from the Commonwealth Government. Having regard to the earning capacity of the company for twenty years, the Australian people as half-owners of the company, have received inadequate returns. I want it to be thoroughly understood that a definite drive for shares in this company has occurred only since negotiations were opened in June. This means that on a comparable basis the Government is paying £6 for every £1 share ‘ in the company. The facts are undeniable and indisputable. “
– The ‘ valuation of 71s. 6d. a share applies only to private speculators.
– That does not matter. The fact remains that that is their established value. Yet, on a comparable basis, the Government is prepared to give the equivalent of £6 for them. I draw the attention of honorable members opposite to clause 29 of the bill, under which the Treasurer may advance to the commission no less than £3,000,000. This Parliament and the people are entitled to know exactly upon what that £3,000,000 is to be expended. I have already stated that £1,500,0.00 is to be utilized for the. acquisition of the telecommunications portion, of the business of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and only for a half, share of that, because the Government owns half the share holding. In other words the Government is prepared to give to the private shareholders of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited no less than £1,500,000 for a half share of one department of its activities.
– The right honorable gentleman does not know whether his figures are correct.
– I have cited them and they have neither - been confirmed nor denied. If there be any doubt about the matter I ask. how much of the £3,000,000 the Parliament is asked to appropriate will constitute compensation for the acquisition of this one department of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. This large amount of money must be provided either from Consolidated Revenue or from loan funds, and as the custodians of the public purse wo have a right to demand that we be taken into the confidence of the Government in regard to the items’ on which this money is to be expended. It is strange that the Government has a habit of adopting the figure of £3,000,000 in connexion with its socialization proposals. That amount was appropriated for the establishment of the Mortgage Department of the “Commonwealth Bank, the Aluminium Commission, and the National Airlines Commission, and now we are again asked to appropriate a similar amount for the purposes of this bill. Complete details of how the money is to be expended should be supplied.
– When discussing the acquisition of ‘ certain assets of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited honorable members opposite should endeavour to keep somewhere near the beam. Diverging widely from the beam they have been arguing about the provisions of clause 29 as if the £3,000,000, which is to be the maximum amount which may be advanced to the commission, were proposed to be expended to-morrow. There is no proposal in this bill to do that. It is necessary that some maximum figure be stated in the bill. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) says that the Government should state everything precisely– r
– I did not say precisely.
– The honorable member claimed that the Government should state approximately the estimated expenditure on each item. That, of course, would mean that the commission would have to be. established and negotiations completed before the bill could be presented to the Parliament. It is obvious that the Government could not pursue the course suggested by -the honorable member. We ask for authority to appropriate £3,000,000 in order that compensa-tion may be paid to the private shareholders of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, that the assets of Cable and Wireless Limited may be purchased to provide for developmental expenditure which, might be necessary from time to time, and, finally, in order to provide working capital for the commission once it comes into operation. If the clause were as bad as honorable members opposite suggest I should imagine that when a similar provision in the other legislation instanced by the Leader of the Australian. Country party (Mr. Fadden) was under discussion in this Parliament similar objections would have been raised.
– They- were.
– Unfortunately for honorable members opposite they were not. This is a case where certain people are rushing in where angels would fear to tread. Hansard contains the record of what honorable members said when similar provisions in the other legislation cited by the Leader of the Australian Country party were under discussion. As a matter of fact) section 30 of the Australian National Airlines Act is identical in every respect, right down to the last full-stop, with clause 29 of this bill ; and when that section was under discussion in a committee of this House last year the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), by some extraordinary feat of self-control, said nothing at all, and the honorable member for Warringah was either not present or he was not as garrulous on that occasion as on this. Neither honorable gentlemen took part in its discussion. The Leader of the Australian Country party, however, had something to say. His speech is recorded in Hansard of the 1st August, 1945, at page 4856. Whilst the right honorable gentleman offered no objection to the provision of £3,000,000 for the purpose of commencing the activities of the Australian National Airlines Commission he did offer some observations in line with what he said a few moments ago in answer to my very distinguished, learned and gallant friend, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein). In his opening remarks the right honorable gentleman said -
He continued to argue in favour of private enterprise but did not revert to the purpose for which the money was to. be appropriated. He opposed the appropriation of the money merely because he opposed the principle of the bill. Nor did he seek to prevent the Australian National Airlines Commission1 from operating as he is apparently seeking to prevent the Overseas Telecommunications Commission from operating. If this Government were to itemize the estimated expenditure it would be likely to incur in acquiring the assets of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited it would thereby indicate to the directors of the company and to its .private shareholders just how much it is prepared to offer for the shares. When commencing negotiations one does not set down the maximum value one is prepared to pay, but rather one allows negotiations to proceed as a necessary preliminary to the fixation of a price. If the Government were to set down a figure of £2,000,000 or £2,500,000 as the amount it was prepared to pay for the assets of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited it may be found that that amount would be greatly in excess of what it would actually pay after negotiations had been completed. It is better to negotiate an agreement and reach finality before setting down a figure which might be made the subject of legal tussles in the courts of the land right up to the Privy Council. Under such an arrangement it might take two or three years to reach finality. I ask the Parliament to trust the Government, which will see that justice is done to all parties concerned in the agreement.
– No analogy whatever exists between the circumstances of this proposal and those referred to by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) with respect to the acquisition of Australian interstate air-lines. In the latter case, the Opposition was opposed to the Government’s proposal from start to finish, including the appropriation provision. The Opposition has not registered a hostile vote on this measure. The general tenor of the remarks of all speakers on this side of the chamber was that these communications should be in the. hands of the Postal Department. In fact, many of us said that they should never have been taken out of the ownership of the Government. -.On this occasion, when we are asked to vote £3,000,000, we are entitled to be given a detailed statement of how the Government proposes to expend that money. In the case of the acquisition of the interstate air-lines we said that we did not care what the Government proposed; we were opposed to that measure from start to finish, including ‘the appropriation clause.
-The sum of £4,000,000 was appropriated for the establishment of a Mortgage Department of the Commonwealth Bank.
– On that occasion we supported the Government’s proposal, and it is unthinkable that we should object to an appropriation of which we were in favour. Having voted the sum of £4,000,000 for the purpose mentioned, we knew perfectly well how the money was to be expended. In this case we do not know how the money is to be expended. Mention has been made pf the Aluminium Industry Bill. The Opposition fought that measure clause by clause, and for very good reasons.. This matter depends upon the circumstances in which the bill is presented to the Parliament, and the Government’s failure to disclose the purposes for which it requires the money proposed to be appropriated. We have a rough, foggy outline of what is proposed, but the Government has nottold us exactly what it proposes to do. It is one thing for the Opposition to oppose the appropriation of a sum of £3,000,000 for the acquisition of interstate air-lines when we were opposed to that proposal. It is quite another thing to support the appropriation of £3,000,000 for the acquisition of telecommunication services, which we believe should be in the hands of the Government; but we should be entitled to. an explanation of the details of this expenditure. Instead of giving. us that explanation, the Minister simply asks us to trust the Government. .Quite frankly, we do not trust the Government.. .
– Honorable members opposite do not trust ‘each other.
– I recall ‘ ‘ occasions upon which the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) was so vocal in his criticism of his colleagues that I wonder Hansard does not smoulder with, the heat of his words. It is clear to the Parliament, and it should be clear to the country, that the Government is -not prepared to disclose the purposes for which it seeks this money. Therefore, the Opposition is not prepared .to agree to the proposed appropriation. The. Minister may argue that it is necessary to appropriate the sum proposed in order to enable the Government to make a start.
Clause 57 provides that if the commission acquires the assets of the companies concerned it shall not he obliged to make payment for three months, and should it fall to make payment within that “(period it may in its discretion pay interest on the amount owing. That is an interesting point. Another interesting point is that it is unusual, if not unique, to hear an honorable member with the socialistic tendencies of the Minister for Immigration defending the rights and privileges of a very successful semiprivate enterprise, and expressing fond hopes for its future. I am sure that if that news reached the Yarra Bank the reception given to my friend’s remark would be rather summary.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 30 agreed to.
The- Commission shall prepare estimates, in such- form as the Minister directs, of its receipts and expenditure for each financial year and shall submit those estimates to the Minister.
– In my observations with respect to the consequences of clause 29. I referred to clauses 31 and 39, and suggested that the relationship of those clauses should be recognized. Clause 31 reads -
The Commission shall prepare estimates, in such form as the Minister directs, of its receipts and expenditure for each financial year, and shall submit those estimates to the Minister.
Clause 39, which I suggest should be read and discussed in conjunction with this clause, reads - (1.) The Commission shall, as soon as possible after the close of each .financial year- that relates .to the close of a financial year whereas clause 31 relates to the beginning of a financial year - submit to the Minister an annual report with respect to the operations of the Commission and financial accounts, in respect of that year, in such form as the Treasurer a approves (2.) The annual report and financial accounts, accompanied by a certificate of the Auditor-General, shall be laid before both Houses of the Parliament within fifteen sitting days after their receipt by the Minister.
On more than one occasion honorable members have shown how futile it is to discuss the financial operations of the Government after such operations have come to an end, and how futile it is to attempt to persuade this Government to pay any heed at all to remarks of the Auditor-General with respect to its financial operations. I emphasize that clause 31 makes no reference at all to the necessity foi’ placing these estimates before the Parliament. My objection, which is fortified by the discussion which took place on clause 29, is that the estimates in respect of an organization of this kind should be placed before the Parliament at the commencement of the financial year. It is quite idle for the Parliament to claim any charge -over finance, if, indeed, the estimates are to be given to the Minister who simply does not present them to the cb amber but merely says that he requires a certain sum of money in respect of the proposed commission. What I wish to emphasize, and I have sought in vain to attract support for my contention from honorable members opposite, is the right of the Parliament, particularly since the war has come to an end, to know in detail the estimates of every department and every authority which functions under an act of Parliament while .such estimates are being discussed. As I have remarked on more than one occasion, the- truth is that control of finance has been taken away from the Parliament. Indeed, finance is no longer in the control of the Executive, because when a Minister is asked to give information as to how a large proposed vote is made up we are vouchsafed no details at all. It is important to direct attention to this clause and to the need for an amendment to be made to provide that the estimates referred to therein shall be brought before the Parliament with all the other estimates of governmental expenditure each year and tabled so that we shall have the data upon which intelligent discussion and criticism may take place. I cannot imagine that any Parliament could” function efficiently without that data, but for more than five years no one’ outside the Ministry has been able to say that he has received it. I know that during the war, for the sake of security, expenditure on defence needed to be lumped into one sum without disclosure of details. but that timehas passed, and the Parliament must re-establish its authority over finance. If we do not we cannot claim to be a democratic parliament. It issignificant, in connexion with this clause to direct attention to what took place with respect to clause 29. The honorable member for Watson (Mr.Falstein) said that the Government could not give the information because to dp so would be to reveal details to trading competitors of the commission. That has nothing to do with this matter, because slight analysis shows that the commission is to be a legislatively created monopoly, and consequently it will have no business competitors. But the Minister will have nothing of that idea. He says that that is not the reason. He says, “If we revealed the figure at this stage of the negotiations we should be telling the investing public how much is to be paid or how much we are thinking of paying to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited”. A little analysis of that also shows that it does not hold water. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has revealed that there are no sellers, only buyers, of shares of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited on the stock exchange. It is. extraordinary that we should have one statement from a back-bencher opposite and a contradictory statement from the Minister. I appeal to honorable members to assert their rights. Private members to the right or the left of the Chair ought to have full details of every appropriation. Is it intended that the estimates to be prepared under this clause shall be the secret of the Government? Is it intended by the Government simply to seek the appropriation of so many million pounds? Or is it intended, when the annual estimates of all departments are being considered, if “ considered “ is the right word, that the estimates prepared under this clause shall be laid on the table? To have those estimates in their possession is the right of honorable members. Are we mere pieces of machinery with some of us on one side of the chamber and the larger number on the other side? Is this in reality a committee of ways and means?
It is not when we are told only that the. Government requires £3,000.000.No matter how much we ask for details they are kept from us. They will never be given to us unless we impress our will on the Executive. Every honorable member has a duty to his electors to preserve his custodianship of public funds. We shall never have a reduction of taxes unless we assert our authority over those charged with the expenditure of public moneys.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has worked himself into a fine frenzyin defence of the right of the Parliament to examine the estimates of public departments. He has protested vigorously and sophistically about the necessity for the government of the day to submit all estimates of every government department and all commissions to the Parliament for ratification. He proclaimed that it was the right of every honorable member to demand full information on the finances of the commission. I do not deny that it is the right of every honorable member to get any information he desires about the financial activities of any government department but there is the duty imposed upon honorable gentlemen to be in their places when these matters are submitted to the Parliament and to take an intelligent part in discussions on all reports submitted to the Parliament. There is usually a great desire on the part of many honorable members opposite to rush away from the Parliament or to attend very rarely. They negative their rights to discuss matters. I am addressing my criticism to honorable gentlemen opposite who claim their rights are being whittled away. Any honorable gentleman can place a question on the notice-paper.
– He will not be given an answer.
– He will be.
– No, he will not.
– This is the first time during the life of this Parliament that J have heard an honorable member say that he has been refused an answer to a question. It is competent for any member to move the adjournment of the House on any matter about which he thinks that the rights of honorable gentlemen are being abrogated or denied by the actions of the Executive. I like these protestations about the democratic institution that functions here by people who have not much regard for democracy.
– It is .a .manifestation of the so-called independence pf the honorable member for- “Warringah (Mr. Spender).
– Yes, I accept the honorable member’s suggestion.
– Order !
– To get down to realities again, this clause, about which the honorable member works himself into such simulated indignation, is identical with the corresponding clause in the Australian National Airlines Act. All these things are just the normal procedure of government. What we have put into this bill has been put into every other similar bill. It is not until to-day that honorable gentlemen opposite have dis- ‘ covered that an attack is being made on the fundamental rights of honorable members of this Parliament. It is nonsense.’ They are only wasting the time of the committee with their simulated indignation. All that the clause provides is - ‘
The Commission shall prepare estimates, in such form as the Minister directs, of its receipts and expenditure for each financial year and shall submit those .estimates to the Minister.
Is there anything wrong with that? If the provision were not there, there would be1 strong opposition from honorable gentlemen opposite. They would want to know why the ‘Minister did not know all that happened in his department. They would say that the Minister was guilty of some nefarious intent* if he did not include a clause like this in the bill. This clause is in every similar bill, and it is a necessary clause. There are other clauses. Clause 40, for instance, which provides -
The Commission shall furnish all such reports, documents, and information relating to the. operations of the Commission as the Minister requires.
Sub-clause 1 of clause 39 states-?–
The Commission shall, as soon as possible after the close of each financial year, submit to the Minister an annual report with respect to the operations of the Commission’ and financial accounts, in respect of that year, in such form’ as the Treasurer approves.
The Executive retains control, through the appropriate Minister, of the operations of the commission, and the Parliament will have an opportunity to discuss the reports if it wishes to discuss them; but, if I know honorable members opposite, after all. their demands and display to-night, they will allow the documents to be printed and will evince no further interest in them.
– Print the report of the Auditor-General and -see!
Mi’. CALWELL. - Authority has been given by this chamber for the printing of the Auditor-General’s report. The honorable member for Warringah should not attempt to put words into my mouth by saying that I would have none of the ideas of the honorable member for Watson’ (Mr. Falstein). There was nothing antagonistic to my remarks in what was said by the honorable member for Watson. He was dealing with the trading activities of the company, and I was dealing, with the national interest in what will become a government concern when the telecommunications section of the company’s activities become a government responsibility. There is no clash of opinion between myself and the honorable member for Watson on this matter. All the right-thinking members of this Parliament, of course, sit on your right, Mr. Chairman, and they know what legislation is being passed, and whom it is intended to ‘benefit. We are convinced that the public interest is being well served by the. general purposes underlying this measure. The clauses to which objection is being taken are purely machinery provisions. Apparently, the Leader of the Australian Country party did not hear, or did not take note of, what I said to the committee this afternoon in answer to the honorable member for Barker (Mr.’ Archie Cameron), namely that this Government” did not pay any subsidies, to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. In fact, in the financial year ended the 30th June last, the company paid to the Government the sum of £57,000; This, idea, of subsidies and the like arose in the disordered imagination of the honorable member for Barker, and exists nowhere else.
– This afternoon the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) himself read out a statement clearly disclosing that £45,000 per annum was paid to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited for a period of years to enable it to do certain coast-to-shipping transmission work.
– And a greater sum was paid by the company to the Government.
– Payments by the company to the Government are another matter. They are like the “ flowers that bloom in the spring “, “The money paid to the Government mayhave been derived from othersources altogether. If the company is in such a sound financial position that it could pay these sums continually, why the need for a subsidy of £45,000 a year?The Minister also said that members of the Opposition were not often in their place inthis chamber, and did not take opportunities to debate certain matters that appear on the notice-paper. I point out that on the notice-paper there are twelve ministerial statements, and I am quite certain that no time whatever will be allowed by the Government for a debate on’ these important matters with which they deal before the Parliament is dissolved for the f orthcoming generalelections. There is also a notice of motion by myself, that has been there since last year. Whenthe Minister alleged that members of the Opposition were not often in their places, I was sitting on the wrong side of the chamber, almost alongsidethe Minister himself.
.- The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) made an unwarranted attack upon the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) alleging that his voice was not often heard in this chamber.. I point out that, although supporters of the Government far exceed in numbers members of the Opposition, to-night the number of Opposition members present in the chamber is considerably greater than the number on the Government side. It is a pity that the proceedings are not being televized as well as broadcast, so that listeners could see what is happening..
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for’ Balaclava to confine his remarks to clause 31.
– I agree that this chamber has almost ceased to.be a deliberative assembly. Having a substantial majority, the Government is able to force its will upon the Parliament.
– Irise to order. I ask you, Mr. Chairman, if. the remarks of the honorablemember for. Balaclava are relevant to the bill?
– The Chair has already asked the honorablemember for Balaclava todealwiththe clause now under discussion. So far,his remarks have been very wide of the subject matter of clause31.
– It was mostconvenient of. course, forthe youngand learned member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) to try to save the reputation oftheGovern- ment as he did. Clause. 31 relates to the sum of £3,000,000 that is tobeappro- priated for the purposes of thiscommission, and the Government, isshowing great reluctance to give anydetailsof the manner in which this moneyis being spent. The honorable member for Warringah.. asked if some details could be given to the committee.The Minister for Immigration resortedtoan unfortunate analogywhen he , referredto the Australian National Airlines Commission, and. saidthatwhen the , : setting up of that authority wasbeing debated, the Oppositionraisedno objection to the. appropriationof £3,000,000. Wedid oppose that proposal.Apparently whenever the Government has a socialistic scheme tobring before the Parliament, it thinks of a number, usually, £3,000,000. At least, that is true of the Australian National Airlines Act, the Aluminium Industry Act, and now this measure. This clause relates to the preparation of estimates, and the Minister so far has refused to give usany estimates of the money that will be expended. I should have thought that a government which has the socialization of industry as its objective would have been anxious to disclose these things. Honorable members opposite claim to have no interest in the profit motive, yet they are afraid to say how this money will be expended. The Auditor General has referred to the manner in which accounts are kept by departments under the control of this Government, and I do not think that the Minister should be permitted to get away with this without giving the committee more details. I support honorable members on this side of the chamber who have raised this matter. I believe that in doing so they have rendered a service to the taxpayers who will have to provide the money. Finance cannot be obtained from thin air; it must be derived either by taxation, loans, or hank credit. Already too much bank -credit has been used with resulting inflationary tendencies. Of course, the Government has a majority somewhere ‘in this building - it i3 not in the cham- her at present - and can force this proposal through regardless of the interests of the general public and the Opposition. “Mr. SPENDER (Warringah) [9.50].- I propose to move an amendment and I shall not be deterred from referring to it by the comments of the Minister (Mr.. Calwell). Whenever he- is in difficulty, he tries to make some slighting reference to members of the Opposition. If I may be forgiven for saying so, since you, Mr. Chairman, permitted the Minister to make some remarks upon this matter, I” point out that I am present in this chamber much more frequently than he is, and I conduct myself much better than he does. Having said that, I shall direct my remarks to the clause.
To this clause, I have no objection, but what I have sought to convey, and apparently it has not penetrated the magnificent intelligence of the Minister, is that it does not go far enough, because it does not protect the people. I know that it is the habit of the Government to think less and less of the people, and more and more of its power; but, strange to say, although members of the Opposition are accused of being the minions of “Big Business “, I believe that more money is represented by honorable member’s opposite, in the form of hotels and other interests, than we represent. We assert the right of the people to know what the Government’s financial proposals are. Therefore, I propose to test honorable members opposite by compelling them to show precisely where they stand in respect of these vital matters. I move-
That the following words be added to the clause : - “ which estimates shall be laid before both -Houses of the Parliament as soon as is reasonably possible after their receipt.”
There can be no objection to that amendment. In his “ meanderings of Monty “’ - if I may so describe them - the Minister walked round and round and round and round, but he never reached the central point, namely, the need for the Government to inform honorable members of the estimated cost of acquiring the telecommunication assets of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. It is upon that, subject that I ask the honorable gentleman to bite, if he will, assuming that his teeth will penetrate it.
The Minister directed attention to clause 39, which provides that the commission shall, as soon as possible after the close of each financial year, submit to the Minister an annual report relating to its operations and financial accounts. The only relevance of that clause to the present discussion is that it supports my amendment, and does not support the contentions of the honorable gentleman. It draws attention to. the obligation of the commission, when the money has been expended and any extravagant expenditure cannot be recalled, to submit to the Minister a report of its operations and its financial accounts. Those documents, accompanied by a certificate of the Auditor-General, shall be laid before both Houses pf the Parliament within fifteen sitting days after their ‘ receipt by the Minister. All I ask is that a similar procedure be followed before the money has been expended. The Government will not be justified in refusing my request. After all, the Government may expend money only with the authority- of this Parliament. It has no right to say, “ We shall expend so much money upon this project. We have a big majority, and shall roll the Budget through the House of Representatives and the Senate “. The correct approach is to present to this Parliament early in the financial year estimates of revenue and .. expenditure, with all the detail available, so that honorable members may discuss intelligently the Government’s financial proposals. The Minister has failed utterly to reply to the criticism voiced by honorable members on this side of the chamber. He sought to turn the argument by resorting to personalities, in which he often engages. We are discussing an important matter. It is not to the point for the honorable gentleman to say, “ When similar proposals were under consideration in the past, the Opposition did not raise these objections.” Even assuming that all honorable members failed in their diligence in the past, that is no reason why .the point now having been raised, should not be dealt with. The clause, if amended in the way I suggest, will read -
The Commission shall prepare estimates, in such form as the Minister directs, of its receipts and expenditure for each financial year and shall submit those estimates to the Minister, which estimates shall be laid before both Houses of the Parliament as soon as is reasonably possible after their receipt.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment. It is not necessary. This belated display of diligence to his parliamentary duties by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) does not impress any one. All that he has conveyed to honorable members this evening is that he is the almost perfect platitudinarian. All the .other matters which he considers might be useful if they are furbished up on the eve of an election–
– Why does not the Minister accept the amendment?
– It is not necessary, because the provisions -already incorporated in the bill are those which are normally incorporated in this kind of legislation. These provisions were included in similar bills introduced by antiLabour governments, which occupied the treasury bench for so’ long. In opposing certain provisions of the bill this evening, the honorable gentleman may be , entering the . lists for the leadership of the Liberal party, now that. Mr. Ii. G. Casey proposes to contest it. Perhaps he fears that the electorate of Warringah is the object of the attention of some other gentleman. But whatever his purpose in raising these objections may be. I am’ not able to define it. I know that he has some occult and undiscoverable motive in trying to hamstring this committee, and interfere with the operations of the Executive. Having the numbers, the Government does not propose to oblige him by letting him have his way.
.- I wondered, when the proceedings of the House of Representatives were being broadcast, what the effect would be on debate. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has provided the answer. Any man who did not actually have this bill before him, would imagine that it contained no safeguards and checks on expenditure. The tactics of the honorable member were to submit his amendment, and then read the clause, thereby suggesting to listeners that he was proposing the safeguards.
– I did not.
– In other words, the honorable member read clause 31, incorporating his amendment.
– I rise to order. The statement by the honorable member for Fremantle-
– The honorable member did not allow me to complete my remarks.
– I heard what the honorable member said. He stated that I had made it appear that I had drafted the clause as amended.
– That is exactly what the honorable member for Warringah did.
– I am not asking for the opinion of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard). I am stating the facts. I made it appear from the beginning that I had no objection to the clause, as drafted; but pointed out that, in my opinion, it did not go far enough, and that I proposed to add to it certain words, which I then read.
– What is the point of order?
– No honorable member is entitled to misrepresent another honorable member. I know the object of the honorable member for Fremantle in seeking to misrepresent me.
– That is. not a point of order. The honorable member for Warringah has the right to reply in the course of the discussion to the statements of the honorable- member for Fremantle.
– The technique of the law courts serves the honorable member for Warringah in good stead. He stated that he was moving his amendment. He then read the ‘ whole of the clause. The safeguards provided in this bill are more than adequate. For example, the clause provides -
The Commission shall prepare estimates, in such form as the Minister directs, of its receipts and expenditure for each financial year and shall submit those estimates to the Minister.
A further safeguard is contained in clause 32, which reads -
Moneys held by the Commission which are uninvested may” be lodged either in an account at call or on fixed deposit, or partly in an account at call arid partly on fixed deposit, with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia or with such other bank as the Minister approves, and while so lodged shall- be held to be moneys of the Crown.
Clauses 33 and 34 provide similar adequate safeguards. The whole substance of the objection of the honorable member, for Warringah is that there is something furtive about an upper limit’ of £3,000,000 being placed upon what may be appropriated for the purposes of this bill. The bill merely provides that sums not exceeding £3,000,000 may be advanced to’ the commission, and safeguards are provided in order to ensure that the amounts advanced shall be applied to ‘the purposes of the bill. That the Auditor-General will have the right to examine the accounts of the commission, is made perfectly clear. The honorable member for Warringah’ has attempted to convince listeners to the debate who have not the bill before them that something objectionable is being done with money contributed to consolidated revenue by the taxpayers. The honorable member, who awarded to himself the title of a cleaner debater than the Minister, in the same way as he assumed the title of lieutenant-colonel, would be well advised to keep such references out of debates of this kind.
– I have not so far “entered the lists” in this debate. I do so .at this juncture because I consider that the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) has not grasped the true significance of the argument of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). That is quite understandable, because the honorable member for Fremantle is new to. this . chamber. Because of his political ignorance and inexperience, he would not understand fully- why it is necessary for this chamber to retain control of the public purse, when it is considering the estimates of revenue and expenditure. It is true that he was elected to this. Parliament during a period of war, when it was necessary for war expenditure to be appropriated in a lump sum. The honorable member for Warringah has pointed out that we are now back to the days of peace, and on that account must observe the procedure that was followed in- this Parliament before the outbreak of hostilities. This chamber should once again assert its. right to, control the public.purse. That argument is germane to the clause, which makes it clear that the commission shall prepare estimates, in such a . form as the Minister directs, of its receipts and expenditure for each financial year, and shall submit those estimates to the Minister. That is as far as the clause goes. But, as the honorable member for. Warringah pointed out, the committee wants to have details of those estimates. If these are not provided, the expenditure is likely to be ‘ shrouded in complete mystery, arid this Parliament will not have such information of the trading transactions of the commission ‘ as will satisfy it that the money is being expended * wisely’ and efficiently. Surely there is nothing in that argument which warrants the generation of heat in the debate! Honorable members who sit on this side of the chamber wish to ensure that it will once again have control of the public purse. At the moment, that control reposes in the hands of the Minister. Whilst we hold the honorable gentleman in high regard, we know what use he made of funds provided for post-war education during the last referendum campaign. We wish to ensure that when estimates of receipts and expenditure are submitted, they will be such as will warrant the approval of this Parliament. That is all the honorable member for Warringah seeks. The honorable member for Fremantle does not understand the subtleties of the situation, and we excuse him on that account; but there can be no excuse for the Minister, who knows that this is a time when control “of the public purse should repose in the hands of the members of this committee. I ask the honorable gentleman to give consideration to the representations of the honorable member for Warringah.
.- Like the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), I have hesitated to intrude in this debate; and I should not have clone so now, had it not been for his most extraordinary statements. His story about what happens in peace-time, and his attempt to castigate the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), rather amused me, because I was a member of this Parliament in the days of peace, and I can recall a government in which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was a Minister, or of which he was a supporter, appropriating millions of pounds in a few. minutes under the operation of the “ guillotine “. This clause, on which the honorable member treated us to an extraordinary spectacle, merely provides for a limit of £3,000,000 on expenditure for the purchase of certain assets and shares. Details are not submitted to the Parliament, for the reasons that were so well explained by the honorable member’ for Watson (Mr. Falstein). Honorable members opposite are agents for private concerns which want to be acquainted with the whole of the details, in order that they may use them for personal gain and aggrandizement. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has made great play in regard to what he has termed the ignorance and inexperience of the honorable member for Fremantle. He is noted for his indulgence in little sharp tricks in this chamber. He has cleverly made use of the broadcasting of parliamentary debates, in an attempt to deceive the people into believing that something sinister is being done by the Government. There is nothing of ‘the kind in this proposal. The Government merely asks the
Parliament to authorize the appropriation of an upper limit of £3,000,000, with proper and adequate legislative safeguards. The commission will be responsible for submitting to the Minister detailed estimates of its expenditure at the end of each financial year. As a natural corollary, the Minister will present those details to the Parliament in due course. In his attempt to castigate the honorable member for Fremantle, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition failed badly. It was a most unfair attack- on a young member who makes excellent contributions to our debates.
– The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), who took the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) to task for having tried to chastise the young honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), who speaks in pontifical tones from time to time, and with the air of a professor tells us how stupid is everybody except himself. The honorable member for Fremantle has not taken long to be polluted by the usual method of the Labour party of making personal . observations when driven into a corner. He said that I had misled the people over the air. I address the members of this chamber, and am not particularly interested in the microphones which have been installed for the purpose of broadcasting parliamentary debates. In fact, I opposed the introduction of the microphones under the conditions in which they have” been installed, but I am content to have the merits of the contributions of honorable members on the Opposition side judged by the people in comparison with those of supporters of the Government. The honorable member for Fremantle remarked that the bill provided ample protection, and, approaching the matter from Olympian heights, he said, “Look at clause 33 “. This provides that, subject to the act, the moneys of the commission may be applied in payment of expenses and charges and in discharge of. other obligations of the commission, in the payment of the remuneration and allowances of the commissioners and the employees of the commission, and in investment in any securities of or guaranteed by the
Government. I do not know what, protection that gives to this Parliament, but no doubt the honorable member will tell us. Clause 34 provides that the commission shall keep its accounts in such form as is approved by the Treasurer. What real protection is given to this chamber or to the people by such a clause? None . whatever. The next clause states that the accounts of the commission shall be subject to inspection and audit,- at least once yearly, by the Auditor-General for the Commonwealth. So are all the accounts of every government department.’ What protection does that give to the Parliament over public finance?
I have raised a matter of fundamental importance to the nation. Are estimates to be placed before the Parliament before the expenditure is incurred ? The honorable member for Bass said he had participated in the debate only because of a remark by a previous speaker. Either he was not in the chamber when clause 29 was tinder consideration, or he was asleep, because that clause has already been debated. It deals with a present appropriation, but this clause refers to estimates to be prepared each year in future. The point I am seeking to. make is that, this Parliament has a right to demand that estimates shall be placed before it before they are approved. The clause states - ‘
Thu Commission shall prepare estimates, in such form as the Minister directs, of its receipts and expenditure for each financial year, and shall submit those estimates to the Minister. 1 point out to the honorable member for Fremantle that that gives no control of the matter to this Parliament. The point, is that all estimates should be placed before us, so that we may determine whether they should be accepted for the ensuing financial year. Therefore, I arn seeking to add to the clause an obligation on the Minister to present the estimates of the commission to the Parliament. I seek the addition of the words : - “ which shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament as soon as is reasonably possible after their receipt.” Not one word said from the Government side meets the objection which has been raised by the Opposition.
.Advantage has been taken of an opportunity for an ill-timed and unjustifiable attack on the honorable .member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). That honorable member has paid close attention to the proceedings ever since his election to this Parliament, and his contributions have considerably improved the standard of the debates. If there is one mistake which he has made, it is that he has expected honorable members opposite to say what they mean, not realizing that they merely talk to the electors and endeavour to damage the Government by every means at their disposal. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), in his ill-advised speech, made a poorly delivered attack on the honorable member, whom he described as a new and innocent arrival in this chamber. Comparing . those two honorable members from “the point of view of political wisdom, the honorable member for Fremantle stands head and shoulders above the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. We. are told that the commission should furnish details of the expenditure proposed to be incurred by it. but it would be impossible for it to furnish that information. It must be quite obvious that the precise amount cannot be determined until negotiations regarding the purchase price have been conducted between* the parties. It is even more evident, that details of expenditure cannot be estimated, even by the most competent treasury official, before the commission begins to function. In these matters, the honorable , member for Fremantle was correct, and honorable members opposite who criticized him were simply playing to. the gallery - in this instance a much larger gallery than usual, because the debate is being broadcast.
The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) referred to the. compensation which was to be paid to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited for assets, tangible and. intangible, which it, was proposed to take over. The amount of compensation will depend, first of all, on the value of the physical assets, and, in the second place, upon the value of such intangible assets as rights, privileges and concessions granted to the company by previous governments. A condition should be attached to the granting of a right or a patent that, at some time, it should revert to the giver. It should be within the power of the person or authority, granting the right, to redeem it at some time, and on terms agreed upon. The fact is that rights granted to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited have acquired a value far beyond anything that was contemplated. The Leader of the Australian Country party has estimated at £1,200,000 the value of assets to be taken over and when the value of the physical assets is subtracted, the remainder represents the value of rights enjoyed by the company. If the company has thus been placed in possession of intangible assets of too great a value the responsibility rests squarely upon previous administrations, which attached no condition or limitation to the concession. It certainly does not rest upon the present Government. It is evident that the rights were conferred without due consideration of their prospective value.
– The honorable member must speak to clause 31.
– The Government is bound by the Constitution to pay adequate compensation when, by the action of the Parliament, the company is deprived of its rights, and the only responsibility devolving upon the Government is to make as good, a bargain with the company as it can. If the matter of compensation be fought out in the courts, perhaps even to the Privy Council, the cost to the taxpayers may be much higher than under a negotiated agreement.
1 10.25]. - I cannot refrain from replying to the criticism of” the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke), who said that the rights, licences and concessions enjoyed by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited were bestowed upon it by previous governments, which were therefore responsible. That, however, is not the point. We are now considering what compensation should be paid to the company for the forfeiture of those rights.
– The honorable /member must discuss clause 31.
– I am replying to the statement of the honorable member for Perth. You permitted him to make certain observations.
– I told the honorable member for Perth to confine his remarks to clause 31.
– Yes, after he had made the remark of which I complain. I must bow- to your ruling, but I regret that you allowed him to make the observations and now refuse to allow me to reply to them. The Minister’ declared that at no time had the Government paid a. subsidy to Amalgamated Wireless’ (Australasia) Limited, but I draw his attention to page 123 of the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure for the year 1945-46.
– The clause under consideration deals with the preparation of estimates by the commission when it is constituted.
– The commission, when preparing its estimates, must be guided by experience, and it is shown in the Estimates for 1945-46 that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department paid a subsidy of £37,950 for one year to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited as a contribution towards the cost of coastal wireless stations. That gives the lie direct to the Minister who said that no subsidy or contribution had been paid by this Government to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited.
.- Honorable members opposite were strangely silent when an identical provision, section 32 of the Australian National Airlines Act, was debated in this chamber last year.
– That provision was equally bad.
– The honorable member had an opportunity to oppose it then.
– j did oppose it.
– It cannot be disguised that members of the Opposition have contested this hil.l so strongly in the hope that some political advantage might accrue to them by influencing the people who are listening to the broadcast of the debate. Indeed, the honorable member for
Warringah (Mr. Spender) did everything except describe to the listening public the physical setting in which this debate is taking place. He referred to members on this side as, “ You over there on the front bench “. The speech of the honorable member was studded with comments about what was happening in the chamber in- an attempt to tickle the’ ears of listener’s. His effort to have the clause amended was merely a “slick” effort’ to show that -some matter which is outside the control of the Parliament ought to be brought under its control. He knows that the Government is responsible for the country’s finances, and that at the pro’per time it will make any necessary explanation. I do not think that the honorable member’s efforts to win for the Opposition the support of (he listening public will be successful, but we can expect to hear from honorable members opposite many such speeches between now and the general elections. I ask the committee to reject the amendment. I do not know whether honorable members opposite wish to delay the real business of the Parliament by indulging in such speeches, but it is unfortunate that they persist in such an attitude. As for the remarks of the honorable member for “Warringah concerning the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), I can only say that my colleague on this side of the chamber has as fine an appreciation of the matters discussed in this place as has the honorable member’ for “Warringah, but I doubt that it will be possible to convince the latter that that is so.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 32 to 35 agreed to.
Clause 36 (Exemption of Commission from rates, taxes and charges).
– This clause reads -
The income, property and operations of the commission shall not be subject to any rates, taxes or charge’s, under any law of’ the Commonwealth or a State, to which the Common* wealth is not subject.
I agree that that is the usual clause inserted in measures of this kind; but I think ‘that the Minister will admit that, with the increasing activities of Commonwealth and State governments, property which otherwise would be rateable is being acquired and therefore- removed from the rateable field. I ask the Minister to give consideration to the making of property held by such bodies as the proposed commission subject to the ordinary rating. If these bodies enjoy benefits provided by local authorities, they should make some contribution to their cost. I know that there is no legal obligation on the part of such bodies to pay for services provided by local municipalities, but it is within their competence to do so a3 a matter of grace.
– This clause is identical with a provision in the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act. The Commonwealth Government does not accept any liability in respect of local rates, or State taxes on land, and so on, but in practice the Australian Broadcasting Commission does make an ex gratia payment to many local governing authorities throughout the Commonwealth, and it will be competent for the proposed commission to do the same. That is a matter for the commission to determine. I have no doubt that when that body has been established its members will read the remarks made by honorable members during the course ‘of this debate, in order to ascertain the will of the Parliament in regard to cognate matters which will be subject to their decision. Personally, I have no objection to the suggestion of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). What has been done by the Australian Broadcasting Commission will probably .be done by the proposed commission also.
– I do not think that these matters should be left to the commission to decide as acts of grace; they should be matters of right. During the war many properties were taken over by Commonwealth and State governments and semi-governmental bodies, and many utilities were practically worn out by government departments, yet the bodies and persons concerned have no lawful claim against the Crown in respect of the damage.
– That has nothing to do with the clause under consideration.
– That is so. I agree that there is no inherent right to collect rates from Commonwealth instrumentalities, although it is well known that in some towns the best sites are held by the Commonwealth. Local governing bodies have to provide roads, footpaths, &c., to serve these properties, without receiving in return any contribution by the Commonwealth. The present state of affairs will be accentuated if effect bo given to the nationalization policy of the Government. The time has come when the Parliament should take a stand in these matters. I do not say that that should be done to-night, but Commonwealth instrumentalities should be placed on the same footing as other propertyowners who pay rates.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 37 to 42 agreed to.
The value of any property acquired under this Fart shall be assessed according’ to the value of the property on the first day of January last preceding the date of acquisition.
Amendment (by Mr. Calwell) proposed -
That, at the end of the clause, the following words be added: - “or where an agreement is entered into under Part IV. of this Act as to the compensation payable in respect of the property acquired, on such date as is fixed in the agreement.”.
– I know that the clause, as proposed to be amended, is similar to a provision in the Lands Acquisition Act. It means, that if a property is resumed in December, its value is assessed, not as at the date of resumption, but as on the 1st January prior to resumption. Although such a provision appears in the Lands Acquisition Act, I have never been able to ascertain why it was inserted. Has the Minister satisfied himself that the Commonwealth, which is obliged under the Constitution to pay just terms of compensation, is entitled to fix any date as the date on which value shall be determined?
– The provision made in this clause is similar to that made in other acts under which the Commonwealth acquires property. All it is proposed to do in amending the clause is to make provision that where an agreement is reached the compensation payable in respect of property acquired shall be paid on such date as is fixed in the agreement. I assume that it is competent for the Government to make an agreement, and I take it that it is also competent to fix in the agreement a date at which the money will be payable. That provision in the Lands Acquisition Act was debated fully in the early days of federation. Sitting above this Parliament as an interpretative body, a super legislature, is the High Court, whose’ function it is to interpret the laws passed by this Parliament. The High Court recently upheld the very provision to which the honorable member has referred. If the High Court has held that provision to be fair and reasonable, and to be in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, there is nothing we can do about it. tonight.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 44 to 47 agreed to.
Clause 48 (Patent rights to remain available to the Commission).
– A re-examination of the matter of patent rights indicates that, in. purchasing the telecommunication assets of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, the Commonwealth will acquire also the use of any patents incorporated in the assets so purchased. In other words, the purchase price of the assets in question will include any ingredients necessary to cover the use of the patents embodied therein. In the circumstances, the clause is no longer necessary, and I ask that it be negatived.
Clause 49 agreed to.
Clause 50 (Compensation Board).
Mr. FADDEN (Darling DownsLeader of the Australian Country party) be considered in assessing compensation is the contributions the Government has made to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited in the past. I draw specific attention to the fact that the Estimates for the year ended the 30th June, 1946, show that an amount of £37,950 was paid to the company during the financial year 1944-45 towards the cost of coastal wireless stations, and that the estimated expenditure on that account for the financial year 1945-46 was £38,000. I am afraid that that factor hasbeen completely overlooked. That isobviously so, because the Minister, in reply to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) stated that no subsidy had been paid to the company from Treasury resources.
– I said on balance.
– I rise to order. As the clause deals only with the personnel of the Compensation Board I consider that the Leader of the Australian Country party is not in order in introducing irrelevant matter.
– I have been waiting for the Leader of the Australian Country party to develop his argument. So far it would appear that the right honorable gentleman is in order.
– In assessing the amount of compensation that should be paid, it is obvious that weshould take into consideration commitments entered into by the Government in respect of subsidies to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. The payments to the company which I have cited are by no means isolated instances.
– It would appear that the right honorable gentleman’s remarks would be more appropriately related to clause 53.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 51 agreed to.
Clause 52 - (1.) Any person who suffers loss or damage by reason of any acquisition of property under Part III. of this Act or by reason of the application of section forty-seven of this Act to a licence, permission, agreement or approval or by reason of the provisions of section forty-nine of this Act shall, subject to this section, be paid such compensation as is deter mined by agreement entered into between the Commission and the person concerned and approved by the Minister. (6.) An application to the Court for leave under this section may be made to and determined by a single judge of the Court, sitting as or for the Court or in chambers, and the powers, practice and procedure of the Court in the application shall be as nearly as may be in accordance with its powers, practice and procedure in interlocutory applications in civil actions or suits.
– I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), the words “entered into between the Commission and the person concerned and approved by the Minister “ be left out.
This amendment and the insertion of two additional sub-clauses which I shall propose later are designed for the purpose of allowing the Minister to enter into any agreement with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited on behalf of the Government providing for the acquisition by the Commonwealth of the company’stelecommunication assets. Negotiations are proceeding between the Government and the company in the matter, and it is expected that agreement will be reached at a reasonably early date. The amendments will, therefore, permit of the Minister taking the necessary steps to acquire the assets mentioned, and later upon the establishment of the commission to vest such property in that body. The amendments are suggested for the purpose of facilitating the taking over of the company’s assets prior to the setting up of the commission if it is possible to negotiate an agreement between the Commonwealth and the Government at a time anterior to the setting up of the commission. We have made provision in this respect in other clauses, and later I shall propose consequential amendments. Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Mr. Calwell) agreed to -
That, after sub-clause (1.), the following sub-clauses be inserted: - “(1a.) Prior to the establishment of the
Commission, any such agreement shall be made between the Minister and the person concerned and after the establishment of the Commission any such agreement shall be made between the Commission and the person concerned and shall be subject to approval by the Minister. “ (iri.) In the following provisions pf this Part, any reference to the Commission shall, pending the establishment of the Commission, be deemed to be a reference to the .Minister.”.
That, in sub-clause (0), the words “judge of the Court, sitting as or for the Court “, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “Justice of the Court, sitting in open .court “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 53 (Determinations of compensation).
Mr. FADDEN (Darling DownsLeader of the Australian Country party) [10.54J. - I again draw attention to the necessity to take into consideration the subsidies that have been paid by the Government to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. In of the year ended the 30th June, 1945, the Government paid to the company the sum of £37,950 towards the cost of coastal wireless stations, and in the financial year ended the 30th June, 1946, the sum of £38,000 was paid for the same purpose. Provision for this payment was made in the Estimates of the Postmaster-General’s Department. This shows clearly that the Government is subsidizing Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. That is contrary to the. information that has been given to the committee during the debate that no subsidy had been paid to the company. I draw particular attention to that fact.
.- The statement just made by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) is not correct. He said that the Government was subsidizing Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, whereas in fact the payment of £37,950 which he mentioned was made in respect of services rendered by the company to the Commonwealth. Those services have proved so valuable that for the information of the people of Australia I shall detail them. The company provided a coastal radio watching service which spent more than 1,000,000 manhours listening, during which 500 distress calls from ships were dealt with. Special services provided were for the exchange of naval messages to ships at sea, and the transmission of free weather messages and time signals to ship-wrecked personnel in life boats and the Australian army in forward areas. A special coast watching service for observing enemy movements enabled vital information to be supplied regarding Japanese warships prior to the Coral Sea battle, and also the approach of enemy aircraft in New Guinea and at Darwin.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Griffith is reading from documents. I ask that those documents be tabled.
– So far as the Chair is aware, the honorable member for Griffith is reading from notes.
– Every Australian realizes that the Coral Sea battle was the turning point of the Pacific war. But for the enterprise of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited in rendering those services to the Government probably we would not be here to-day, and honorable members opposite would not have the opportunity to take advantage of the broadcasting of this debate in order to make party political capital. Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited ako. provided at Port Moresby a service for the outposts of the Army and for the Royal Australian Navy to Canberra. A station was established at general headquarters at Port Moresby. Later, this station was removed to Hollandia and, subsequently, to Leyte and was used for transmission to Australia of press messages which totalled 7,050,000 words. The service was provided for the people” of Australia at a cost of £38,000. The Commonwealth Government has not paid any subsidies to the company.
– The points raised by the honorable” member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) have nothing whatever to do with “the matter. The two matters are entirely distinct. The Royal Australian Navy provides its own wireless service. There are two naval wireless stations almost within sight of this building, and there are naval wireless stations around the coast. The Army provides its own wireless service, as the honorable member will know if he ever looks at the top of Victoria Barracks. The Royal Australian Air Force provides its own wireless service.
Therefore, anything that Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited may have done at Port Moresby would be entirely outside this proposal. I placed a question on. the notice-paper to-night asking for particulars of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited since it started operations. I will place another question on the notice-paper asking the Minister to state what amounts owing by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited to different Commonwealth departments have been written off from time to time.
– I ask the honorable member to deal with the clause!
– It relates to compensation^ and- it is intimately linked up with subsidies, subventions and financial ‘ assistance that the company has had . from time to .time from the Treasury, and also with certain, amounts claimed by certain de- partments - the Postmaster-General’s Department for one - that have not been collected from the company but have been written off. These are vital questions, and. X shall expect replies to the questions 1 1 have asked. These matters cannot be laughed off. If the honorable gentleman’s- statement, be correct that no question asked is unanswered he will have answers- to my questions to-morrow.
– The clause provides for the payment of compensation in respect of capital assets taken by the Commonwealth Government from Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. What the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) have talked about relates to the current income of the company. I told honorable gentlemen in my speech, in reply to the “second-reading debate, that no subsidies, were paid to the company. None is paid to it. It is true that the Commonwealth Government pays £45,000 a year for a service rendered by the company - the transmission of messages to ships at sea from coastal stations. If the Government did not pay the money to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited for that service,- it would have to pay it to another company if there were another company performing a like service. Money must ‘ be paid to some authority which will do the ne’cessary work of protecting life at sea. That payment is not in the form of a subvention or subs’idy. It is a business deal. Such things are not taken into consideration in the assessment of compensation in respect of assets taken from the company. It is most extraordinary that honorable members opposite remain so obtuse, no matter how clearly and lucidly the position is explained to them - not all honorable members opposite, but just a handful of intransigent souls that have frustrated or attempted to frustrate us all night with banalities, generalities and, as I said of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), extraordinary platitudes.
– He is now absent.
– Yes. Not so many people listen at 11 o’clock as at 9.30, and . those who:misuse the provision for broad, casting the proceedings have probably gone home to bed, but some . honorable gentlemen opposite, who take an intelligent interest in the bill, have .remained. The figures cited by the Leader of the Australian Country party do not differ from the figures that I gave. I said > that- the Government paid annually £45,000 which it is obliged ,to pay under the- agreement of 1927, which was formulated and passed through Parliament by the parties to which honorable gentlemen opposite belong. There is provision for the deduction from that amount of 30 per cent, of the revenue from coastal and island radio’- services. In the year ended the 30th June, 1945, that sum amounted to £5,743. That is approximately the figure given by the Leader of -the Australian Country party. There is no inconsistency between the two figures. I ask the committee to dismiss from its mind entirely any question of subsidies. The honorable member for Barker can put as many questions on the noticespaper as his fertile brain can conjure up.
– Futile brain !
– It may be a futile brain, but I paid the honorable gentleman the compliment of saying it was fertile. The honorable gentleman will get any information that the Government has to give him in reply to any questions that he asks, because the Government has nothing to hide.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 54 to 66 agreed to.
New clause 49a.
– I move -
That, after clause 49, the following new clause be inserted: - “49a. - (1.) Pending the establishment of the Commission, the Minister may exercise any power conferred on the Commission by this Part. “ (2.) Where the Minister, in the exercise of any such power, acquires any property, the. provisions of section forty-twoof this Act shall have effect as if the references therein to the Commission were references to the Minister. “ (3.) Upon the establishment of the Commission, any property which has been acquired by the Minister under this Part and is still held by him shall become the absolute property of, or be vested in, the Commission, as the case requires.”.
This is a consequential addition to the other amendments that have been made. This is the appropriate time to say that Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited handled on behalf of the Royal Australian Navy andRoyal Navy and other allied naval units operating in these waters, all messages to merchant ships during the recent war. More than 5,000,000 messages were dealt with by the company.
New clause agreed to.
Schedules agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave -adopted.
– by leave- I move -
That the bill be now read a third time.
I assure the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) that the amendments which he suggested are receiving consideration. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) also suggested an amendment, and I promised him that I would examine it. I advise him that the Government will probably accept the amendment, and in that event, it will be inserted in the bill in the Senate.
– Then the bill will have to be returned to this House for agreement with the amendment or otherwise.
– That is so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes - Surry Hills,. NewSouth Wales.
Science and Industry Research Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, No. 104.
House adjourned at 11.11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Post-War Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Full-time students both professional and vocational under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme receive the following allowances to enable them to go through their university or technical college studies: -
A living allowance as a gift for the first three years of the course, and as a loan thereafter. (Note, - (1) After a period of training which is ordinarily up to six months vocational trainees are placed in employment and though only possibly 40 per cent. proficient, they receive the full award wage, the Government reimbursing the employer for the degree of proficiency under 100 per cent. (2) Incapacitated personnel may receive these allowances in addition to their war pension.)
(a)Rates of male living allowances including additional rate to married trainees arc as follows: - (i) Trainee without dependants, £3 5s. per week; (ii) married trainee, £416s. per week; (iii) married trainee with one child or more, £5 5s. per week. (b)Rates of living away from home allowance are - (i) Trainee without dependants, 15s. per week for the first four weeks, and 15s. per week for the first four weeks of training after each long vacation; (ii) married trainee, 30s. per week for the first four weeks and 15s. per week thereafter; (iii) married trainee with one child or more, 30s. per week throughout.
The prescribed scale of income tax and social services contribution instalment deductions requires the following amounts to be deducted from the above allowances: -
Although the allowances for fares and books, &c, constitute assessable income in the hands of the trainee, a corresponding deduction is allowable in respect of so much thereof as is expended for the purposes for which the allowances are paid. In these circumstances, the allowances referred to are not taken into account for the purpose of determining the weekly instalment deduction.
n asked the Minister for Information, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The information asked for is being obtained, and the right honorable member will be furnished with a reply as soon as possible.
Timber : . TARIFF Board Report.
e. - On the 4th July, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked ‘a question regarding the report of the Tariff Board on soft woods and other timbers.
I have conferred with the Minister for Trade and Customs on this matter and now inform the honorable member that the Tariff Board’s report on timber bas been received and is at present under consideration.
Australian Army: Brighton Military Camp; Alleged Skirmish at Morotai.
– On the 4th July, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked whether reductions were being effected in the staff at the Brighton camp,
Hobart,and whether the services of redundant officers were being dispensed with.
The permanent head of the Department of the Army, Mr. F. R. Sinclair, under instructions from me, visited the Brighton camp on the 12th June while on duty in Hobart. He reported that he was satisfied that the staff employed at the camp at the time was performing essential duties, but that, as a result of the progress of demobilization in Tasmania, considerable reductions of the strength of the Brighton camp were contemplated. Such reductions are now taking place. The posted strength of the Brighton camp on the 2nd March, 1946, was 62 officers and 461 other ranks, and on the 13th June, 1946, this had been reduced to 41 officers and 307 other ranks. Re-organizations which are now taking place will effect still further reductions of these numbers. The position is being kept continually under review. The honorable member can be assured that no staff will be retained in the Brighton camp, Tasmania, or in any beyond the strength necessary for the other Army installations in Australia performance of essential duties.
e. - Yesterday, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Hadley) made reference to a report that a skirmish had taken place between Indonesian and Australian troops stationed at Morotai.
The following information has been received from Head-quarters, Morotai Force concerning an alleged clash between Dutch forces and Australian Imperial Force troops at Morotai : -
There has been no clash between Dutch and Australian Imperial Force troops at Morotai and there is no feeling of growing tension nor truth whatsoever in the allegations. Dutch armed with knives and revolvers have not been involved in any picture show clash, but. on one occasion two Dutch soldiers were requested to leave as they were armed. They complied forthwith, explaining that as they were new-comers to the island they did not know of the regulation. Several months ago the Dutch commanding officer forbade hismen carrying firearms off duty. No Australians have been killed or wounded. Cordial relations exist between Dutch officers and Australian Military Force officers, resulting in mutual assistance when required. This report was discussed with Dutch Commanding Officer Nica, who had received similar signal from his head-quarters. ‘ He. agrees that the above facts are correct and has no information concerning any incidents. As many Dutch attend Royal Australian Air Force pictures the matter was also discussed with Royal Australian Air Force but. they have no knowledge of any incidents.
y. - On the 4th July, -the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked a question in which he referred to a telegram which he had received from Mr. John Fletcher, M.H.A. for Gambier, regarding pulping of cigarette papers for the manufacture of wrapping paper in South Australia.
I have had inquiries made and now inform the honorable member that wastepaper, including a small percentage of cigarette paper being offcuts from manufacture of cigarette papers, is purchased by Cellulose Australia Limited, South Australia, through a representative in Western Australia and shipped to the company’s mills at Snuggery, South Australia. The total quantity of this waste cigarette paper received over recent months has not exceeded 28 lb. in weight. Considerable trouble has been caused through the bales containing this waste paper being ripped open in transit by un- authorized persons in their search for paper suitable for use as cigarette paper. As a result the company has arranged for the exclusion of any waste cigarette paper from future consignments from Western Australia.
t asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice -
– As it would appear from question ‘5 of the honorable members series of questions that he is under the impression that the Commonwealth has some responsibility for providing- rail transport to meet the requirements of New South Wales industries,. I should like to inform him that the State of New South Wales is wholly responsible for the operation of its own railways, and any information he desires in the matter should be sought from that quarter.-
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 July 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19460711_reps_17_187/>.