18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Nationalization: Petitions; Broadcasting of Debate
Petitions in relation to banking in Australiawere presented as follows : -
By Mr. DAVIDSON, from certain electors of the division of Capricornia.
By Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON, from certain electors of South Australia.
By Mr. ANTHONY, from certain electors of the division of Richmond.
By Mr. BERNARD CORSER, from certain electors of the division of Wide Bay,
Petitions received and read.
– In view of the widespread interest in the Banking Bill now before the House, and the desire of the public to hear the debate on it, will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral consider allocating a short-wave station to provide radio cover for areas where no broadcast service is at present available, or where the existing services are unsatisfactory?
– In some of its aspects this matter concerns the PostmasterGeneral, but it is also the concern of the committee of this Parliament appointed under the act which authorizes the broadcasting of the proceedings of the Parliament. I shall ask the PostmasterGeneral to consult with Mr. Speaker to see in what respect the wishes of the honorable gentleman can be met. It is, perhaps, a possibility that the Treasurer might make funds available to my department to circularize a copy of his speech to all of the signatories to the petitions recently presented to this House. That would be one way of advising them on the subject.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
Far Eastern Exchangeproprietary Limited
– On the 26th Septembcr, I asked the Prime . Minister whether a licence for the importation of goods to the value of £43,500 from the United States of America had been transferred from the original holder to Far Eastern Exchange Proprietary Limited, and the right honorable gentleman replied that he would have inquiries made into the matter. On several occasions since then I have asked for a reply to my question and have received a similar answer.. I now ask the right honorable gentleman whether the licence held -by Far Eastern Exchange Proprietary Limited has been included among the import licences for goods from the dollar areas which the Government has called in for review and, if so, what are the Government’s intentions regarding its renewal in view of the points raised in my question. As the debate on the Estimates has concluded, thus providing little opportunity to debate this matter, will the Prime Minister expedite the answer to my question so that action may be taken in the House before any renewals of import licences are contemplated ?
– Last Saturday afternoon I looked into the matter raised by the honorable gentleman. I have arranged to have a reply prepared for him, and I shall see that it is expedited so that he may have the information as early as possible.
– I have learned that there is an ex-soldier of World War I. seriously ill in a Melbourne hospital. His doctor says that his life will be saved only if streptomycin, a sulphur drug, can be obtained with which to treat him. As the doctorcannot obtain the drug because insufficient is being produced in the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, and as this drug is urgently needed in Australia, will the Minister representing the Minister for Health treat this as an urgent matter, and either spead up the manufacture of streptomycin in Australia or endeavour to obtain supplies from the United States of America as soon as possible?
– I will certainly treat it as an urgent matter, and discuss it this afternoon with the Minister for Health so that the honorable member may receive a reply to-morrow.
– It is provided in the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act that sickness benefits shall be payable from, and including, the seventh day after aperson becomes incapacitated, or the day on which the person makes a claim for sickness benefits, whichever is the later. Many people are taken to hospital seriously ill, and utterly unable to lodge a claim for sickness benefits. Perhaps weeks may elapse before they are able to do so, and a man’s wife or other relative may not know anything about the making of claims. Because of this, loss is suffered which bears heavily upon wage earners and those receiving low incomes. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Health recommend that the act be amended so as to make sickness benefits payable without loss of time to thosewho are entitled to them ?
– I will certainly suggest that the act be amended if that is found to be necessary, but I hardly think it is. There exists an understanding that, in cases of the kind mentioned by the honorable member, the DirectorGeneral has power to authorize the payment of sickness benefits from a date earlier than the making of an application. I do not know how any one can be paid unless he applies. However, if a person is sick in hospital, and his relatives let the time go on without applying, there is this provision which I have just mentioned I will discuss the matter with the Minister for Health and let the honorable member know just what is the position. If it is found that there is need for an amendment to the act I will discuss the matter further with the Prime Minister.
Superannuation Payments - Uniform Taxation - Proposed Conference
– Will the Prime Minister review the income tax payable by persons in receipt of superannuation benefits? Is it a fact that while contributing from their earnings to superannuation funds these persons paid income tax, and, at a later date, are obliged to pay tax on the same money a second time, if, after retirement, they earn such other money as would bring their income, with the aid of superannuation benefits, into a taxable range? Can the imposition of this double tax he prevented ?
– Payments to superannuation funds are taken into account in the assessment of income tax. At the same time, however, all contributions to superannuation funds up to £100 carry a rebate of tax; and it must also be remembered that in respect of most superannuation funds, half, or more than half, of superannuation benefits are paid from Consolidated Revenue. In the case of the Commonwealth Public Service superannuation scheme, much more than half of the benefits are paid from Consolidated Revenue, and the proportion that has been paid by recipients as contribution has carried either a rebate or, as in earlier days, a concessional deduction. This matter has been given a great deal of consideration. At the moment, I cannot see any possibility of a review being made; but I shall look at the matter again.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House what is the present attitude of the Australian Government to the proposal of the States for a return to the dual system of Commonwealth and State taxation? Will a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers be summoned to deal with this subject ?
– Although the honorable member’s question involves a matter of Government policy, I inform him that the Government does not intend to depart from the present system of uniform taxation. I do not know of any proposal to summon a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers to discuss the subject.
– Representations havebeen made to me by an American ex-serviceman who is of the type whom the Minister for Immigration has been trying to attract to Australia. Thi9 exserviceman married an Australian woman, and after returning to the United States of America ca[me back to Australia, paying his own fare to this country. He is now settled on the land, but has been denied all Australian repatriation benefits and assistance through the Rural Bank which is usually made available to Australians. At the same time, he is not entitled to any American benefits in respect of any of his activities in Australia. There are many cases of this kind. Can the Minister do anything in respect of refunding the fare of an immigrant of this type, particularly in view of the fact that he has stated that £40 will now be paid as a passage subsidy to any American in order to assist him to migrate to Australia? In view of the fact that this American ex-serviceman has already paid his fare to Australia and is married to an Australian, can anything be done to assist him in the way I have indicated?
– The passage subsidy scheme came into operation about May last, and, naturally, those who came to Australia before that date would not be entitled to receive the benefits of tie scheme. We have given no moneys to any persons who came to Australia prior to that date. If the honorable member will furnish me with the details of the case to which he has referred I shall ascertain what, if anything, may be done. I cannot accept as factual the honorable member’s statement that the exserviceman to whom he has referred is not entitled to any benefits under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, because my understanding of the Cabinet decision is that American and all allied exservicemen are entitled to the same benefits as are received by British ex-servicemen, and with .the sole exception of preference, those benefits are the same as are received by Australian ex-servicemen.
– He tas been unable to obtain anything.
– If I may be permitted to see the file of correspondence I shall look into the case. I assure the honorable member that I shall be most anxious to help the man to whom he has referred and anybody else placed in the same position.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs been drawn to press announcements that the Australian Journalists Association and the Fellowship of Australian Writers are holding a protest meeting in Sydney to-night? The protest is by Australian journalists and writers against the flood of syndicated comic strips still coming into this country, and also against the tawdry publications arriving from overseas dealing with gangsters and “gun molls slick chicks “ from Hollywood and sex magazines of a very low moral and artistic standard. Is it a fact that 200,000 dollars and more is spent annually on this * muck “, and that many of these publications attempt to evade the departmental activity in the matter and the moral indignation of the community by being published locally under arrangementsmade with the owners of the copyright overseas? Will the Minister consider the making of a recommendation banning entirely these syndicated strips and slush publications, thus conserving dollars, at a time when the nation is so hard pressed in that regard ?
– I shall be glad to bring to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs the question asked by the honorable member, and to request that due consideration be given to it with a view to taking the action which he suggests.
– I have received a telegram which sets out the contents of a telegram sent to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture following the largest public meeting of local farmers ever held at Yeoval, in the electorate of Calare. The telegram outlines the desperate position of the farmers there because of the inadequacy of the supply of cornsacks. The Forbes branch of the Wheat Growers Union of New South Wales has also passed a resolution expressing grave concern about this matter.
In view of the desperate position of wheat-farmers, and the nature of the points raised by me on the motion for the adjournment of the House on Friday last, will the Minister indicate whether the Government has given urgent consideration to the handling of this problem, and if so, what are the Government’s intentions ?
– The Government has given great attention to this problem in co-operation with the State governments which are responsible for railway transport and bulk handling accommodation, and with the Australian Wheat Board and the Jute Controller, who are responsible for the supply of cornsacks. We believe that the arrangements made will be adequate to deal with the crop. It is obvious that we must also secure the co-operation of farmers throughout New South Wales and the other States where large crops are probable. We believe that that co-operation will be forthcoming.
– What about the supply of cornsacks?
– Whether the supply will be sufficient will depend on whether the crop is abnormal. As the result of negotiations conducted by the Government earlier in the year the Indian Government was prevailed upon to allot to Australia a greater number of cornsacks than we have hitherto been able to secure. The Australian Government has no control over the foreign trade policy of the Indian Government. We have no power to force Indian merchants to send more bags to. this country, nor do we control Indian shipping; but I am sure that the Jeremiahs who abound in regard to this problem will be confounded, and that, with a vast co-operative effort by the Australian Government, the State governments, the Australian Wheat Board, the wheat-growers themselves, and all those who are anxious to see this great harvest garnered, the whole problem will be handled satisfactorily.
Deductions from Bank Accounts - Australians in Japan.
– Will the Minister for the Army table particulars of the case in 1943 in which the Army authorities tried to have £90 6s. taken from an exsoldier’s private account in a trading bank in Melbourne, an attempt which was frustrated by the bank’s refusal to agree? Was an attempt made to rifle the account of the soldier’s allottee, his father, without the father’s knowledge? How many attempts have been made by the Army authorities in the last five years to have money taken from private accounts in the . Commonwealth Bank and in private trading banks? How many of such attempts have been successful in respect of the Commonwealth Bank and private trading banks?
– This matter was raised .in a question asked previously by the honorable member for Swan. I have prepared a statement on the subject, and, later, I shall ask for leave to make that statement to the House.
– In view of reports that Great Britain is to withdraw its occupation forces from Japan, and bearing in mind the urgent need for manpower in this country, does the Minister for the Army intend to recommend to the Government the return of Australian troops now in Japan? Will the opinion of General MacArthur be sought on this matter? Could not intelligence officers from this country, with unrestricted freedom of movement and access to all departments throughout Japan, carry out the policing work just as effectively, or perhaps more effectively, than soldiers who perform barrack duties only ?
– In view of public statements made by General MacArthur from time to time, it is generally accepted that the present occupation forces in Japan will return to their own countries when the peace treaty with Japan has been signed, and will be replaced by a policing system similar to that suggested by the honorable, member. I point out, however, that quite a number of members of the Australian Occupation Force are enlisting in the permanent military forces of the Commonwealth, and their services, of course, will be denied to industry in this country.
– It appears that the Minister for the Army is to make a statement covering the subject of the Department of the Army securing from the Common wealth Bank, under an indemnifying order, amounts on deposit with the bank alleged to be owing to the Department of the Army. I have information that the same practice obtains in “the Department of Air. I therefore ask She Minister for Defence if that is the general .practice in the three services of the Commonwealth. In view of the statement of the Minister for the Army that similar orders were issued on other banks, will the Minister for Defence indicate what other banks in addition to the Commonwealth Bank have drawn on deposits of depositors under indemnifying orders?
– I am not fully informed on the matter, but I understand that the practice was originated by a previous government, and that it applied to all banking institutions - private banks, the Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth Savings Bank. As I am not certain of the position, I undertake to make inquiries for the honorable member.
Mr. CHAMBERS (Adelaide - Minister for the Army) - by leave. - Reference ha6 been made recently in this Parliament, and in a section of the press, to refunds by the banks of amounts overpaid to bank accounts of members of the services, including some ex-prisoners of war. A system has been in force for many years, under which the Commonwealth Bank and the associated private banks, by arrangement with the Commonwealth Treasury, re-pay amounts of overpayment of which the department has conclusive proof. A condition of this arrangement is that the department will f urnish the bank with an indemnity against any loss which the bank may incur through making the refund.
The system first came into force in November, 1915, when the Treasury notified the Deputy Governor of the Commonwealth Bank that indemnities in connexion with amounts to be refunded to the Department of Defence when deposited to the credit of soldiers, should be signed by the Chief Accountant, Department of Defence. This was during the term of office of the National Government headed by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), the
Treasurer at that time being Mr. W. G. Higgs and the Minister for Defence Sir George Pearce.
The departmental files on the subject indicate that during the 1914-18 war the forms of indemnity were accepted by the Commonwealth and State savings banks, and, in some instances, by the associated banks. During that war, Mr. J. T. Grose, an inspector of the Bank of New South Wales, was on loan to the Department of Defence as finance secretary, and in that capacity controlled the administration of the financial affairs of the Department of Defence. In a letter dated the 9th December, 1918, Mr. Grose, writing to Army Head-quarters in London, stated -
Indemnities are accepted by the Commonwealth and State savings banks, and in some cases have been accepted by the associated banks, but, as very few payments of allotment moneys are made to .the latter institutions, cases in which indemnities are submitted to them arc -rare. Indemnities arc only submitted where overpayment on account of the soldier concerned has been made to the bank which the department can conclusively prove.
In the same year, the then Minister for Defence, Sir George Pearce, wrote to the general manager of the Bank of New South Wales, and received from it a reply stating -
Provided the amount is available in the account, we shall be pleased to make refunds of amounts overpaid by the Defence Department to accounts of members of the Australian Imperial Force on account of allotments, &c, of military pay as desired upon receipt of an indemnity in each case signed on behalf of the Defence Department by Lieutenant-Colonel S. G. MacFarlane (Chief Accountant ) .
The departmental file dealing with this subject in the 1939-45 war shows that on the 20th March, 1940, the Secretary to the Treasury advised that the Commonwealth Bank had been informed on the 15th February of that year that refunds of overpayments should be made under indemnity conditions similar to those which were in operation during the 1914-18 war. . On the 18th August, 1941, the issue of indemnities passed from Army Headquarters to the finance office in districts in each capital city in pursuance of an approval given by the then Treasurer, (Mr. Fadden), that authority to sign indemnities was granted to district fina ncc officers. The departmental files indicate that the greater proportion of the accounts of members of the forces were in the Commonwealth Bank or State savings hanks, and that the number of accounts in trading hanks was comparatively small. Instances of acceptance of indemnities obtained from a file readily at hand, and without any search of the whole of the files, are -
Bank of New South Wales, Queensland - September, 1945 - £53 2s. (id.
According to a recent report the English, Scottish and Australian Bank says that it refused to pay, but the file, which is available for the perusal of honorable members, shows that the manager of the central bank instructed the bank manager at Coolangatta to pay.
In regard to recoveries from prisoners of war ex-Siam, a statement was made to the House by my predecessor, Mr. Forde, on the 2nd August, 1946. In it, he explained that advances of cash were made to recovered Australian prisoners of war in Siam by British paymasters immediately after the cessation of hostilities. Acquittances were obtained, but in many instances the men were not in possession of Australian pay-books. In some instances, green service pay-books issued by the British authorities and recording payments were not afterwards handed in to Australian paymasters, nor were the amounts entered in Australian pay-books when they were issued at a later date.
During the lapse of time between the date payments were made and the date on which acquittances were received in Australia from the British authorities, many members had been demobilized and their accounts had been closed. Normal recovery action was then instituted, as payments made in Siam were similar ‘to those made by Australian paymasters at
Singapore and other localities where amounts were entered in Australian paybooks when payment was made.
– Prisoners of war at Singapore were not required to make refunds.
– The total amount of payments to recovered Australian prisoners of war personnel in .Siam which, later, was claimed by the British authorities and repaid by the Commonwealth, was £37,800. My predecessor^ gave an undertaking on the 2nd August,, 1946, that, where the soldier had beendischarged and the final payment had’ been effected, further recoveries were not. to be made of any amounts received .fromBritish paymasters at the time when thepersonnel were released. Instructions* were issued to that effect at the time, and! since I took over as Minister for the Army, the instructions have remained in. force and have been rigidly observed. It will be clear, therefore, that since August, 1946, there can be no question of any recoveries from prisoners of war ex-Siam having been effected through a bank, or by any other means.
– Wheat-growers and orchardists, particularly those in the dried fruit9 areas, are concerned about the prospect of insufficient labour to harvest their forthcoming crops. I have received a letter from the secretary of the Tresco Progress Association stating -
The fruit-growers of this district are greatly perturbed about the present labour position here, which, owing to lack of amenities in country districts compared with the towns, and lack of housing, we find it difficult to get workers for routine orchard work, and at present do not know how we are going to get our fruit harvested.
Will the Minister for Labour and National Service endeavour to provide workers for wheat harvesting and for the picking of fruit? To this end, will he, at this early stage, formulate a plan to make, sufficient workers available for the dried friuts harvest at Sunraysia, Nyah, Worrinen, Tresco and other places along the river Murray?
– Yes. This problem arises at every harvest period. It was a serious problem during the war and has remained so in the post-war years. Generally speaking, we have managed to provide sufficient labour by securing early estimates of requirements. The honorable member for Herbert keeps constantly in touch with the labour officers in his district, and months before the sugar harvest he gives them a rough idea of the labour requirements, which they forward to head-quarters. The honorable member for Indi gets the representative of the employers in the Goulburn Valley irrigation area to meet representatives of my department on the subject of obtaining sufficient labour for the fruit-picking season there. If the honorable member gives a rough idea of requirements in the areas specified by him to the department, either directly or through the local officers, I will see that the department collaborates with the orchardists at once to ensure that their requirements shall be met.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether plans are under consideration for the defence of the civil population in the event of bacterial warfare or attack by radio-active gas. What action, if any, is being taken to encourage decentralization of basic war industries ?
– The matter of the protection of the civil population in time of war is being investigated in conjunction with the United Kingdom authorities.
– In connexion with bacterial warfare, in particular?
– In connexion with bacterial warfare, and atomic warfare as well. The steps that are being taken to decentralize industry is a rather large matter to deal with in answer to a question, but I assure the honorable member that the Government is applying the policy of decentralization of industry, as is evidenced by the number of new firms and industries set up in rural districts. It would perhaps be better for me to prepare for the honorable member a statement setting out just what has ‘been done in that regard.
Dr. H. V. EVATT, M.P.
Palestine - Activities.
– In view of an assurance recently given in this House, I ask the Prime Minister whether the chairman of the Palestine Committee of the United Nations, the Minister for External Affairs has been informed of the decision of the Government that in no circumstances will Australian troops be sent to Palestine to police a solution of the problem there, even though the United Nations decides to raise an international force?
– I do not know that I have sent any specific message to the Minister for External Affairs on that matter, but he does know the Government’s general view on the Palestine position. He knows the view that I expressed at the conference of United Kingdom and Dominion Ministers in London as to the use of troops from Britain, Australia or any other dominion in the policing of Palestine. In my general discussions with the Minister for External Affairs, I have intimated my views on Palestine. They, as I have tried to convey to him, represent the views of the Cabinet on the matter. The honorable’ member may rest assured that the Minister is fully informed on that subject.
– Recently, we have not read very much in the newspapers about the activities of the Minister for External Affairs, and are wondering what tasks he is fulfilling. Can the Prime Minister say whether the Security Council of the United Nations is still in session? Is the Minister for External Affairs presiding over the deliberations of the Palestine Committee or the Atom Bomb Committee or “ batting out “ time for the Royal wedding? In view of the duties that devolve upon him as AttorneyGeneral, and his complicity in the banking legislation, will the Prime Minister try to ensure that he will return to Australia in time to take part in the debate on that measure?
– I am sure that the honorable member is endeavouring to be satirical or facetious. I have warned the House previously that if I am to be asked questions the purpose must he to elicit information that will be of some value to the questioner. I purpose dealing only with the salient features of questions of the character of that which the honorable member has submitted to me. The Minister for External Affairs is abroad representing Australia at the Assembly of the United Nations. He is acting as chairman of the special committee that is dealing with Palestine, and is also a member of a number of other committees. He is working tirelessly as the representative of this country. As far as I know, it will not be possible for him to return to Australia in time to take part in the debate on the banking legislation. I recollect an occasion when it was thought that Australia was not to be represented at a conference abroad, and the Government was subjected to very strong criticism on that account. I remind honorable members, if their national consciousness does not cause them to recall the fact, that this country aims to play a part in the councils of the nations of the world. It is absolutely essential that a Minister shall attend overseas conferences. I do not know of an instance in the history of Australia when it has been represented by an abler Minister than the Minister for External Affairs.
Eligibility of Deserted Wives
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services whether it is a fact that the widows’ pension is paid to deserted wives only after they have exhausted all available means to obtain maintenance payments from their husbands? Does this regulation apply to deserted wives of American servicemen who are unable to institute proceedings for maintenance?
– I am afraid that the honorable member has “ got me “ this time. I am not sure about the position of deserted wives who married American soldiers, but I shall ascertain the facts for the honorable member.
Migration of Nationals
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to cabled reports that Japan proposes, at the forthcoming peace talks, to raise the question of its nationals being allowed to emigrate from its home islands to adjacent areas? Is the Government informed as to any such proposal, and what are the Government’s views on the matter?
– The Government has had no official information along the lines indicated by the honorable member. I think its views regarding the territory which Japanese nationals should occupy have been fairly clearly outlined. The question of which islands, of those at present held by Japan, Japanese nationals should be allowed to migrate to would be a matter for discussion when the peace settlement is being drafted, I imagine. I assure the honorable member that this Government has no information about any such request. Naturally, such a request would be lodged not with the Australian Government, but with the body engaged in preparing the peace settlement.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question, in which the honorable member for Franklin is also interested, regarding the future of the apple and pear industry in Tasmania, which State produces 65 per cent. of Australia’s apple and pear exports. Did the Minister hear the news announcement late last week that Sir Claude James, Tasmanian Agent-General in London, had stated that finality had been reached in regard to the acquisition scheme for the coming season? Has Sir Claude James any inside information ?
– I did not hear the statement attributed to Sir Claude James, the Tasmanian Agent-General in London. If the statement has been reported correctly, it is without foundation in fact. The Australian Government has not yet decided whether it will reintroduce the apple and pear acquisition scheme. The position will be reviewed in the light of information which the Government is obtaining from the United Kingdom regarding the quantities of apples and pears which that country may require this year.
– The Melbourne Agc this morning carried the headlines, “ Intra-state Airlines for Trans-Australia Airlines. Commonwealth seeks Power “. The ensuing article stated, “ Mr. Chifley said a bill would be prepared for the approval of the Federal Parliamentary Labour party to amend the present Australian National Airlines Act to permit Trans-Australia Airlines to engage in intra-state operations in Queensland “. What is the position? Does this mean further nationalization ? Are the ‘private airline services, which were pioneered by men who have operated in aviation for many years, to be permitted to continue “in fair competition with the Government, -concern, or is the Prime Minister seeking -a monopoly and the liquidation of the ^private companies?
– The Prime ^Minister has asked me to reply to the honorable member’s question. At the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, the subject of civil aviation rights was discussed, and the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Hanlon, declared thai he would agree to the Commonwealth operating airlines within that State. Indeed, he is anxious that the Commonwealth shall operate these intra-state services, and has indicated his willingness to make the necessary arrangements, provided the Commonwealth agrees with the taxes that will be levied on private operators. The Government considers that it can proceed on those lines, and the necessary legislation will be pre-
J tared to take advantage of this offer. Personally, I consider that Australia would benefit if the Premiers of the other States acted as the Premier of Queensland has done.
– Considerable misunderstanding appears to exist regarding the disposal of any profits which might have accrued from the sale of wool during World War II. Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform me whether these profits will be paid to woolgrowers ? If so, when will such payments be made.
– I find it difficult to understand the existence of any misunderstanding regarding the disposal of profits, if any, from the operations of the joint organization which was created to handle Australia’s surplus wool during World War II. The former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, Mr. Scully, announced that in the event of any profits accruing as a result of the operations of the joint organization, they would be distributed to those woolgrowers who had participated in the wartime wool scheme. That is quite clear and unequivocal. These profits, if any, will be distributed, when the joint organization has disposed of all its wartime accumulated stockpile. When the legislation was introduced to give effect to Australia’s agreement in respect of that organization, the experts estimated that it would require from eight to eleven years, or even fourteen years, to dispose of the accumulated wool stock-pile. The estimate has now been reduced to a period of from five to seven years, or eightyears. Therefore, no final distribution of the profits can be made until the joint organization is wound up, and we know exactly whether its operations have produced a profit or a loss. The Government, which established this organization, is naturally anxious that there should be a profit for distribution amongst the wool-growers.
United Nations Inquiry,
– In regard to -the discussions taking place between Judge Kirby, representing Australia, and the representatives of Belgium and the United States of America, can the Prime Minister inform me: 1. Did Judge Kirby consult* with any member of the Government or of any Commonwealth department prior to conferring with the Belgian and American representatives? 2. In particular, did he have any discussion with members of the Prime Minister’s Department or the Department of External Affairs? 3. Does the Government hold any view, in regard to the solution of the Indonesian problem? 4. If so, were such views communicated to Judge Kirby ?
– Judge Kirby came to Canberra in response to an intimation that any information which he desired to obtain in regard to the inquiry would be made available to him, and I understand that he did obtain some information from the secretary of the Department of External Affairs, although I do not know the nature of that information. It. is also a fact that Judge Kirby had a brief interview with me at Parliament House one evening. However, I did not communicate to him any views of the Government in regard to the matters into which he is inquiring; I merely intimated that any information or assistance which he or his colleagues might require would be made available to them. I emphasize that I did not attempt to acquaint him with the Government’s views in regard to the Indonesian matter, or to influence him in the judgment which he will be called upon to make conjointly with his two colleagues.
– This morning’s press contained a report that a grave shortage of coal for essential use was anticipated during the forthcoming Christmas season, and that’ there has been a loss of 1,500,000 tons during the current year because of industrial trouble. Can the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping furnish any information as to the reasons for the loss of production? Can he say whether the loss of production has been due to trouble between miners and management, or to the activities of certain frivolous elements in the industry? If the latter are responsible, can the Minister inform me whether any action has been taken to deal with the people responsible, and whether any penalties have been imposed upon them?
– The Joint Coal Board functions under the direction of the Minister for Supply and Shipping, and I shall refer the honorable member’s question to him for an answer.
UNVEILING of TOBRUK MEMORIAL.
– On two occasions I have addressed questions to the Prime Minister, to whom I introduced deputa tions from the Rats of Tobruk Association, regarding the composition of the representative body to visit Tobruk for the unveiling of the war memorial there, and the Minister for the Interior undertook tosubmit our representations to Cabinet yesterday. Did the Minister for the Interior submit those representations to Cabinet yesterday? If so, what was the Cabinet’s decision?
– The answer to the honorable member’s first question is, “ Yes “. A verbatim note was taken of the discussions between the honorable member and the chairman of the Rats of Tobruk Association, on the one hand, and the Prime Minister and myself, on the other, and the transcript was made available to the Australian Battlefields Memorials Committee.
– What was the final decision ?
– As reported in the press this morning, Cabinet endorsed the recommendation of the Australian Battlefields Memorials Committee that the personnel of the contingent to be selected should comprise representatives of the Rats of Tobruk Association and the Returned Servicemens League of Australia.
– In view of the great increase of shipping costs, and having regard to Tasmania’s total dependence upon shipping as a means of transport for all heavy interstate freight, will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping state whether it is proposed that a special subsidy shall be provided for the maintenance of a regular, in contradistinction to a casual, shipping service to Tasmania, in order to correct the relative balance of transport costs among the States?
– I shalldiscuss the matter with the Minister for Supply and Shipping, and shall their provide an answer to the question.
– Reports which have appeared in the press over the week-end indicate the likelihood of an agreement being signed which would seriously affect Imperial preferences between Great Britain and South Africa and Great Britain and Canada, to which, I understand, a reply has been made by the Government. I ask the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction whether, since those reports have appeared, the Government has directed any inquiries to officials or other sources overseas, for the purpose of making quite certain that there is no truth in them? If so, to whom were the inquiries directed, and with what result?
– It was not necessary forthe Government to direct any specific inquiry in relation to this matter, because it has been continuously in touch with its representatives in Geneva. I assure the honorable member that there is no truth whatever in the press statement.
– It has been freely reported in the press that there have been changes in connexion with Imperial preferences, particularly as between Canada and Britain and South Africa and Britain. There havebeen denials by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and the Prime Minister of any changes affecting Australia. The Minister will shortly be leaving Australia for Havana, to continue the discussions upon which he was engaged at Geneva, about which we have not been told anything. Before he leaves for that salubrious climate, will we be favoured with a statement by him in regard to the discussions at Geneva?
– It has been suggested that I might be proceeding to Havana towards the middle of November. Empire preferences and tariff matters will not be discussed at Havana. Before I leave, I hope to be able to make a statement on the negotiations that took place at Geneva.
Formal Motion tor Adjournment.
– I have received from the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) an intimation that he desiresto move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The urgent need of a concerted federal and State policy that will increase the production of milk and other dairy products, to ensure the health of the nation by maintaining regular and continuous supplies of milk to women, children and invalids, and relieve the pressure of the dollar position on our national economy by increasing our exports of dairy products.
I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– I shall put forward practical proposals with a view to maintaining and expanding the basic industry of dairying, which is probably the biggest home-building industry in Australia, and I trust that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) will consider them impartially with a view to deciding whether the proposals can be adopted in order to ensure better conditions than now exist. Like other honorable members, particularly those associated with the dairying industry, I welcome the declaration of the Government’s intention to increase the price of butter. The announcement, which was made about a week ago, indicated that the increased price would continue for five years; but in the light of our experience after the war of 1914-18, I fear that the guarantee, although it may create hope among dairymen, will not markedly increase Australia’s production of butter. Indeed, it could easily cause a decline of production, because the new price which has been announced is not equivalent to the cost of producing butter as shown in the report of the recent special committee of inquiry, which led a minority of its members to recommend that the price of butter be raised to 2s.11/2d. per lb., instead of 2s. I am reminded of the words of Browning -
A little more, and how much it is;
A little less, and what worlds away.
The low price of butter during the last six years has resulted in a continuous decline of the dairying industry. The production of ample supplies of milk and butter is essential to the nutrition of individuals, the physical health of the race and, indeed, our continued existence as a nation. As butter and other milk products are among Australia’s major exports, and are in great demand all over the world, an increased production in this field would be most helpful to our national economy, as it would obviate the restrictions on imports which have been decided upon by the Government. It is very discouraging to find that during the last six years, milk has been rationed in Sydney for 30 months, and that during the same period the volume of our butter exports has declined catastrophically. During that time, there were repeated threats of milk strikes, hurriedly overcome by the granting of increased prices. It is worth while giving particulars of the periods during which milk has been rationed in the last six years. They are as follows: -
During -the same six years, the production of butter has declined from 212,000 tons to 140,000 tons, while exports have declined from 112,000 tons in the first year of the war to 50,000 tons last year, in spite of the fact that the consumption of butter in Australia was rationed. A drastic alteration of control is necessary, and the recently announced policy of the Government will be just as unsuccessful as its past policy has been. The Government offers a guaranteed price of 2s. per lb. at the factory, although the producers’ representatives on the committee of investigation stated that a price of 2s. lid. per, lb. was necessary in order to cover the cost of ‘production. In 1920, two years after World War I., the South Burnett butter factory paid its suppliers 2s. lid. per lb. at the factory door, when costs were much lower than they are to-day, when there was no protective duty of 6d. pei- lb., and no equalization .scheme. The estimated price of 2s. 1-Jd. per lb. necessary to cover the cost of production was arrived at before the 40-hour week became operative in New South Wales and Queensland, the two great dairying States of Australia. Mr. Howie, president of the Dairy Producers Association, stated in sworn evidence that the 40-hour week would increase production costs by 2d. per lb. Therefore, in order to cover the present cost of production in New South Wales and Queensland the price should be 2s. 3£d. per lb. Although it has been stated that the guaranteed price of 2s. per lb. will be retrospective from the 1st April of this year, I point out that the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser), as well as other honorable members including myself representing dairying constituencies, have been saying ever since 1943 that 2s. per lb was the lowest price that would cover the cost of production. In 1945, the committee of inquiry recommended ls. 11½d. per lb. as the minimum price.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said last week that he was opposed to the theories postulated by members of the Australian Country party that the Government should permit primary producers to charge export prices for all produce sold in Australia, which would otherwise be available for export, and he indicated that it would not be the export parity price that would be received in future by the Australian producer, but the guaranteed price. Dairymen object to butter prices being stabilized on a basis lower than the cost of production. As a matter of fact, .the price has been below the cost of production since 1943, despite the subsidy, and while that obtains it is obvious that butter production must continue to decline. It is very disheartening to dairy-farmers to read in the daily newspapers that big industrial concerns are issuing new capital at a premium of £2 on fi shares, while the dairymen are kept down to the bare cost of production and below it. During the war, a contract was entered into with Great Britain for the sale to that country of 80,000 tons of butter a year at a guaranteed price. This quantity was later reduced to 40,000 tons, which was all that the government of Great Britain would contract for in view of the position in Australia. Of what use would it be to Australia to enter into a long term contract for the disposal of dairy products if we are unable to supply them.
Mention has been made of the American market where butter is selling at from 4s. to 5s. per lb., but at present we are not producing enough butter to supply our own needs and to fill the British contract, so that the American market, even if open to us, would be of little use. As I have pointed out, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has stated that our producers in Australia may not expect the export parity price for their products consumed in Australia, but only the guaranteed price. That situation already prevails in regard to wheat and butter, as the budget figures show. At page 113 of the Estimates, division 193, under the heading “ Assistance to Primary Producers”, there appears the item “Dairying Industry”, and it is shown that the subsidy paid to the industry was £5,223,000- less recovery of subsidy from the Government of the United Kingdom, £3,485,000. Thus, the net payment by the Australian Treasury was £1,739,000. In other words, Australians consumed two-thirds of the butter produced and Great Britain one-third, but Great Britain paid two-thirds of the subsidy, and the Australian Treasury one-third. And yet the Government weeps crocodile tears about the cost of subsidising the primary industries !
The real charters of the dairying industry are, first of all, the duty of 6d. per lb. imposed by the Bruce-Page Government in 1927 to ensure the export parity together with a home-consumption price in Australia, and the equalization committee which enables the dairying industry as a whole to obtain the same advantage from the duty as manufacturers do from protective tariffs. That was the first charter, not for five years, but continuing. The second charter was the establishment of the Equalization Committee in 1935. That body has achieved a continued improvement of the overall price of butter; but all that it does is to enable the dairying industry to reap benefits of the kind which manufacturers enjoy under tariff protection. Under the heading of “Price Stabilization Subsidies “, an expenditure of £22,642,000 in 1946-47 is shown in the Estimates; but butter subsidies are shown under the heading, “ Assistance to Primary Production “. We find sub- sidies of £3,000,000 in respect of the price of tobacco, and £4,400,000 in respect of the price of tea, and this year, the latter subsidy will be increased to £5,500,000 to stabilize the price of tea at 2s. 6d. per lb. The Government is not cheeseparing in respect of those items. Why ? Those subsidies are given in order to stabilize the basic wage. But, do not the subsidies paid in respect of the dairying industry serve the same purpose? That being so, why should such subsidies be designated as assistance to the dairying industry? The subsidy in respect of the price of tea is not shown as assistance to the tea-growers in Ceylon. Consequently, all of these subsidies should be regarded in the same light ns assistance to the consumer.
The primary producers must be given a satisfactory deal. At present, dairyfarmers are not receiving export parity for dairy products. I understand on good authority that the Government of New Zealand is negotiating the sale of butter to Great Britain at a price of 247s. a cwt., which is equivalent to 2s. 3d. per lb. Australian f.o.b. If the Australian Government made a similar contract, the price would be more than 2s. per lb. at the factory. One of our basic needs is to increase exports in order to secure more dollars. I am totally opposed to the Government’s idea that the only way we can get out of our present mess is by making ourselves poorer and poorer by refusing to import commodities such as petrol and capital goods. The way to get out of our present mess is to increase exports. I am supported in that view by the proposal made by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) in 1931, when he was Prime Minister, and when we were short of sterling and dollars. At a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers he suggested that we should increase our exports of wheat, and he proposed that a bounty of 6d. a bushel be paid on export wheat in order to help boost the price. At the same time, as he pointed out, that would also cause the internal price to rise by a corresponding proportion and would help both inside and outside Australia. To-day, however, the Government says that it is concerned solely with the cost of production. It is not concerned with, the real value of the product to the producer. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Hollo way) is an advocate of incentive payments. I suggest that he should confer with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in order to see whether we cannot give to the primary producer from 2d. to 3d. per lb, for butter above the actual cost of production as an incentive to increase production. In that way we should not only handsomely reward dairy producers, but also be enabled to import more of the commodities that we urgently require. As the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) has said, we should thus help to expand production; and that is the only way we can get out of our present difficulties. The real trouble with the present system is that it denies to the producer a real margin of profit for both milk and butter. The producer is entitled to the full export parity, and the home-consumption price as well. Therefore, we should alter the present system. The Government provides a subsidy of £2,250,000 to stabilize the price of whole milk. That payment is designated a price stabilization subsidy. The subsidy provided in respect of the production of butter should be placed in the same category. However, because no check is made to ensure that the money for whole milk shall be expended wisely, we are forced periodically to resort to rationing of supplies of milk to the bigger cities, and this involves hurried action by the Prices Commissioner in order to prevent the complete collapse of supplies. The distribution, of milk is a State matter, and the Government should say to the States that a price should be guaranteed to the producers that would ensure maximum production in this country to meet all our requirements. If that be done, we shall be within sight of the end of this trouble. No one will deny the need for fresh milk in developing the country, because fresh milk is necessary for the health of children and mothers, and to provide immunity from disease. The latest statistics in respect of tuberculosis show that there is a terrific loss of life among people who do not receive adequate milk when young and when they are ill. That is an urgent need which no one can deny. We can easily work out the quantities of milk, butter, cheese and milk products that we need in Australia in order to place the nation on a sound physiological basis. Approximately, 567,000 of our children are under ten years of age, whilst there are 1,430,000 women of child-bearing age, namely, from 20 years to 45 years. All of those individuals require at least one pint of mills a day.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Francis) put -
That the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir EarlePage) be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . .. 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
– The subJect-matter on which the motion submitted by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) is based indicated, to me at least, that his speech would be based on the highest altruistic motives, but, as he proceeded, it became obvious that he was mainly concerned with the price factor in relation to the dairying industry. The righthonorable gentleman apparently took the view that the fixation of a certain price for butter was all that was necessary to place the dairying industry in the condition it should enjoy, and will, undoubtedly, enjoy if there be a continuation of the wise guidance and encouragement of the Government which now occupies the treasury bench, which, indeed, it would now enjoy had that kind of guidance and assistance been forthcoming during the period when governments supported by the right honorable member and his colleagues opposite were in office. I propose to place on record the disgracefully low prices received by dairyfarmers during the period when the right honorable gentleman was Minister for Commerce. I would have hesitated to touch upon that angle had his speech adhered to the high plane one would have expected. During the period 1934-38, the average return to farmers on a commercial butter basis was as follows : -
Everybody knows that not long after the Labour Government assumed office there was a substantial improvement in growers’ returns, the amount being lifted from the disgracefully low rates I have indicated to ls. 7$d. per lb. on a commercial butter basis and, eventually, to ls. 8d. per lb. It is common knowledge that as the result of the investigation of the cost of production in the dairying industry, the dairy-farmers of Australia are to be paid, retrospectively to the lal April, 1946, an amount of 2s. per lb. commercial butter basis, which is equivalent to oyer 2s. 5d. per lb. on a butter-fal basis.
– To the 1st April. 1946? The honorable gentleman means 1947.
– I shall not answre the interjection of the honorable member who is again adopting one of his old tricks in an attempt to sidetrack an honorable member who is saying something which he finds unpleasant.
– If I might correct th<Minister
– The Minister meant u» say the 1st April, 1947.
– Order !
– I accept the correction. The new price is to be effective from the 1st April, 1947.
– I merely sought to help the honorable gentleman.
– It is the first time that the honorable member has endeavoured to be helpful.
– I know the story too well.
– Notwithstanding the report of the committee which inquired into the cost of production in the dairying industry, the right honorable member for Cowper is still dissatisfied and harps upon the price factor as the solution of the problems of the industry. That is only one of many factors that must be taken into consideration. Because of that, the Government accepted my recommendation that, in addition to paying 2s. per lb. for commercial butter as from the 1st April, 1947, it should make available, from the 1st January, 1948. up to £250,000 for a period of five years for giving effect to approved plans for the lifting of the standard of efficiency in the industry. What did past antiLabour governments do to raise the shockingly low standards of efficiency in the industry during their periods of office? Let me cite some figures for the edification of the right honorable member for Cowper. In 1941-42, a dairy-farmer milked 140 cows. The butter fat produced totalled 17.0S9 lh. His gross return waa £1,290, the average return from each cow - this was before the subsidy was paid - being approximately £9. By 1945-46, he had reduced his milking herd to 116 cows, but in that year his butter-fat production was 11,4146 lb., and his income £1,240 gross. The average return’ per cow, including subsidy, was til 7s., and the average fat production per cow 109 lb. Here is a vivid illustration of a need for encouraging efficiency: Another dairy-farmer in the same district, in 1941-42, with a herd of 28 cows, produced 9,810 lb. of butter fat, and received an income of £943. By 1945-46, still milking 28 cows, he had increased his butter-fat production to 10,591 lb. and his income to £1,171 gross - not £100 legs than the income of the other farmer who was milking 116 cows in that year. I draw attention to the effect of the subsidy on this dairyfarmer. His average return before payment of the subsidy was £30 2s. a cow, compared with £9 a year obtained by the man who was milking 140 cows, and his average return after the application of the subsidy was £38 8s. 2d. a cow. His average butter-fat production was 331 lb. a cow. These figures illustrate the condition in which this Government found the dairying industry when it assumed office. Honorable members are aware, and the country is aware, of the steps that have been taken, and are being taken, by the Government to raise the standard of efficiency of dairy farms throughout the land. Whilst it is true that the price factor is important, the other factors that [ have mentioned are also important. There is a great need for education on dairy-farming practice. It is essential that up-to-date information should be disseminated throughout the dairy-farming community. More modern methods of farming must be employed, and information regarding those methods must be given the widest publicity. I believe also that further assistance could be given by all the State governments over and above their normal budgetary provision. No reasonable person will support the view that the State governments should be entitled to evade their obligations to this industry. There is also a need for increased activity in regard to herd testing, and encouragement of the utilization of better types of bulls. As the result of the decision of this Government, the best informed representatives of the dairyfarming industry will be gathered in conference and, after due deliberation, I hope to receive a recommendation on how best this grant can be applied to increasing the standard of efficiency of Australian dairy-farmers.
The right honorable member for Cowper has said that the Government did not accept the recommendation of the Dairying Advisory Committee on Production Costs to increase producers’ returns to 2s. ltd. per lb. commercial butter. That is true. The Government considered that 2s. would cover reasonable production costs and should he the basis of a five-year guarantee, with adjustments up or down as costs rose or fell. That is the equivalent of 2s. 5£d. per lb. butter fat. I point out to the right honorable member also that, in the compilation of the figures contained in the recommendations of the committee, consideration was given to the claims by some farmers that production costs were as high as 2s. lid. per lb. commercial butter. Naturally, this figure tended to inflate the recommendation made by the committee. I am sure that even the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), who frequently denounces me in vigorous terms, will not affirm that 2s. lid. per lb. is a fair and reasonable cost of production.
– May we see the report ?
– It will be made available to honorable members at the earliest practicable date. It is true that the producers’ representatives on the committee apparently believed that the Government could have gone a little farther, but they have not uttered any criticism of the Government because of its failure to pay the full amount recommended. Throughout the length and breadth of the land, the Government’s decision has been received with acclaim. I shall quote a few of the comments that have been made. On the 15th October a report in the Sydney Morning Herald stated -
The higher price for commercial butter announced by the Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, on Monday is confidently expected to result in a dairying boom, with substantially increased production.
The right honorable member for Cowper has said that the Government is not offering sufficient incentive to dairyfarmers to produce; yet this journal, reliable on this issue at least, says that the decision will result in a “dairying boom”! The report continues -
Dairy-farmers will receive’, retrospective to the 1st April, 2s. per lb., against the previous payment of ls. 7d. This represents an increase of about 23 per cent, in their income. Further, prices are guaranteed for five years. At the North Coast Show at Lismore yesterday hundreds of dairy-farmers discussed the new price, and toasted what they referred to as their “ new era “.
Immediate reaction at the South Grafton cattle sales was that heifers, which last week would’ have brought £ 13, sold to £17 5s.
And1 here is the comment of Mr. R. C. Gibson, a producers’ representative on the production cost committee - producers’ representatives, of course, are like workers’ representatives at industrial hearings ; they always ask for a little more than they expect to get -
A little light still, but the nearest approach yet made to production cost realities.
– Was he looking for a job as chairman of the Dairy Produce Export Control Board?’
– The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) always has a filthy insinuation to make about some one. It has never been suggested that Mr. Gibson should be appointed chairman of the board. I am sure that he is-a man of the highest possible motives. Certainly he has rendered great service to this industry. I say that, although on several occasions I have had differences of opinion with him. The report referred to continues - “It will now be possible for any farmer tc see exactly how he can adapt himself, knowing with certainty that the prices will last for five years”, he said. The Prime Minister’s announcement marks the culmination of many years’ effort to secure a price based on cost of production and guaranteed for years.
The report added -
Other comments were: - The chairman of the Grafton Dairy Co., Mr. W. M. L. Hughes: The new price undoubtedly will give heart to producers.’ There will be a big influx of new supplies.
I cannot conclude without some reference to the approach of the right honorable member for Cowper to this subject. He referred to the health-giving qualities for the development of the nation of the’ dairy products that this country can produce, is producing, and will continue to produce. He and his generation, through the governments with which he was associated, had the opportunity of making available to the Australian people purchasing power that would have enabled them tff buy an adequate quantity of dairy products. The following table compiled from- figures prepared by the Melbourne and1 Sydney Milk Boards showing the increased consumption of fresh milk gives the true story: -
That increased consumption of the two great capital cities of Australia is due to no other factor than the high purchasing power of the workers and the full employment” policy that i9 in complete operation. In the long period of years from the depression era until the Curtin Labour Government took office, people could not buy enough milk to properly nourish their children. I speak witu a good deal of feeling on that subject, because for some time as a producer I hawked milk on a milk cart and felt that it was disgraceful that families could not afford to buy more than half a pint of milk a day. What a change has come over Australia! The figures I have given in relation to Melbourne and Sydney are paralleled in every other city, town and hamlet in Australia. I do not say that the situation is satisfactory. We can undoubtedly go from strength to strength. The’ increased milk consumption in Australia to-day is one of the reasons why we are not sending to Great Britain as much butter as we should like to send. If one reduces the milk consumption of Sydney and Melbourne, alone, to tons of butter, one finds that the increase of consumption is equivalent to no less than 8,000 tons of butter, which could have been sent to Britain had this Government kept the citizens of Sydney and Melbourne on the same’ low* rates of income and the same system of semi-employment as existed under previous administrations.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I support the arguments so forcefully presented by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). I have never known a Minister to skid around the country to the same degree as did the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) in his speech. The honorable gentleman spends much of his time discussing the depression, a subject that Labour members always fall back on, and matters of that character. The Minister cannot satisfy the dairyfarmers of Australia with the speeches of the type he has just delivered. He said that previous governments had not done anything to assist in improving the standard herds, but the right honorable member for Cowper, as both Treasurer and Minister for Commerce, made careful plans for the improvement of dairy herds and pastures. The Rural Credits Department of the Commonwealth Bank has made money available for those purposes for years. A former government assisted the dairying industry by subsidising the importation of stud bulls to improve the standard of herds. If time allowed me to elaborate the subject at greater length, I could prove that the friends of the dairy-farmers have been the right honorable member for Cowper and his supporters on this side of the House.
It is imperative that an effort be made to step up dairy production. The right honorable member for Cowper advocated concerted action by the Australian Government and the State governments to devise a policy for increasing the production of milk and other dairy products for the purpose of improving the national health and helping to stabilize the national economy. The more dairy products that we export the greater will be our purchasing power abroad. Then we shall not have to resort to the dangerous policy of the Government in reducing imports. Proper solution of many of our troubles lies in, first, increased production and, secondly, the export of surplus production. That would enable us to import, all the petrol that we need for our industries, particularly the transport industry, and other essential commodities, whereas to-day imports have to be reduced because of the dollar position. If we guaranteed the dairy producers the cost of production, plus an adequate .margin of profit, we could develop the dairying industry, but they have been refused an adequate price by the Government, which has even commandeered the difference between the price paid hy the United Kingdom for Australian butter and the price paid by it to the producers.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture was enthusiastic about the quantity of milk consumed in Australia, but I remind him that dairy herds are being steadily reduced. In 1943 we had 4,99S,296 dairy cattle. In 1944 the number was reduced to 4,914,083 head, in 1945 to 4,815,494, in 1946 to 4,609,277 and in 1947 to 4,592,213. Recently the press reported that dairy production had declined by 40 per cent. That information was furnished by experts in the dairying industry to the Sydney Sun on the 21st September. The dairying industry has declined steadily in spite of the everincreasing demand for dairy products. The industry has yet to face the problem of the 40-hour week. The president of the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation, Mr. G. C. Howey, stated in evidence in the Arbitration Court that the 40-hour week would cost the dairying industry £3,912,000 a year. The Minister said that the committee that examined the costs of production of the dairying industry had recommended 2s. 2£d. per lb. as the minimum price that should be paid for butter-fat to ensure an adequate return to the producers. The Government has decided to deal with the recommendation as it dealt with the recommendation of a former committee. It has decided to grant only a portion of the increase recommended and to fix a price of 2s. per lb. I well recollect that, when an increase of 4§d. per lb. was recommended to the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) who was then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the honorable gentleman agreed to an increase of only Id. per lb. How do we know what the advisory committee has recommended in this instance?
The Government is to increase the price to 2s. per lb., but the House has not been supplied .with full information on the subject. I protest emphatically against the refusal of the Government to publish the report of the committee. Its action represents complete indifference to the views and wishes of the Parliament and of dairy-farmers in general. When the Government previously granted an increase equivalent to less than 25 per cent, of the increase recommended by the committee which I have mentioned, it hid that committee’s report from us in order to cover its action. The dairying industry is vital to Australia. Lt has had a checkered career. I ask the Minister to table the report of the advisory committee immediately, so that we can examine it and discuss the recommendations in it properly and intelligently. The committee’s investigation was exhaustive and its recommendations were based on carefully sifted evidence. The accounts of tens of thousands of dairyfarmers were examined. All aspects of the industry were carefully investigated. Dairy-farmers went to great trouble and expense in order to ensure that their ca=e should be properly presented to the committee. Nevertheless, when we are discussing the need for higher prices, increased production in the industry, and concerted action by the Commonwealth and the States to help the industry, those recommendations are withheld from us. [ ask the Minister to release them immediately. I hope that he will not imitate the extraordinary action of his predecessor, who withheld information of this nature from the Parliament until, ultimately, dairy-farmers became so incensed that, by some means, they obtained a copy of the committee’s report. When the report was published by the dairymen, the then Minister tardily came forward and tabled it in the House. I could scarcely believe that such a thing had happened in Australia. The dairying industry needs help in many ways. The farmers have to cope with many unnecessary difficulties. They cannot obtain supplies of wire, wire netting, and galvanized iron, which they urgently need. Two serious floods occurred in Queensland earlier this year, and they caused the destruction of thousands of miles of fences. We on this side of the
House have appealed to the Government again and again to make supplies of barbed wire, plain wire and wire netting available to dairy-farmers who suffered in those floods. However, very little help has been forthcoming from the Government, and, owing to the dilapidated condition of their fences, farmers are unable to concentrate on the production of crops which they need for their herds. In fact, many of them have been obliged to take down dividing fences and use the wire to strengthen boundary fences. This sort of thing shows the Government’s complete indifference to the welfare of the dairying industry. I appeal to the Government to give greater consideration to dairyfarmers, to table the report of the advisory committee in this House, to make supplies of wire available to dairyfarmers, and to give full effect to the recommendations which I believe to be contained in the committee’s report by assisting pasture improvement and the growing of green crops for dairy stock, without which the industry cannot prosper.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), in moving the adjournment of the House in order to discuss an increase of the prices of dairy products, has made a blatant attempt at political propaganda. The dairy-farmer is but a pawn in his game. The Opposition, which consists of a collection of so-called representatives of farmers and of undoubted representatives of speculators and “ middle men “, is reported to have decided to move the adjournment of the House on some pretext or other every day. It is stated that, a few days ago, certain members of the Opposition parties met in some dark corner in the basement of Parliament House in order to decide upon a plan of campaign against the Government and that they agreed to give the Government the “ onceover “ on dairying. There was a time when the Australian Country party and the Liberal party had sufficient numbers in this Parliament to enable them to do some good for dairy-farmers, but they did nothing. Absolutely nothing! The right honorable member for Cowper, when he was Minister for Commerce, sold Australian butter at 8d. per lb. Now, when the average price of commercial butter is 2s. per lb., he complains that butter should not be sold below production costs. He has. said that a decline of dairy production has taken place because the farmers are not obtaining profitable prices. He loads in the drought for good measure in order to give weight to his argument, and barely stops short of accusing the Government even of causing the drought! Such restraint is unusual for him. However, the right honorable member was silent when the price of butter was 50 per cent, lower than it is to-day. He was silent also when the Menzies-Fadden Government was stripping dairy-farmers of their labourers in 1940-41. Now, when the industry is reaping in full the ill effects of that action, he makes more noise than a real fighter. Fortunately, I believe that the primary producers of Australia are awake to those who sit in Opposition.
– I rise to order, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker. The Standing Orders of this House preclude a member from reading his speech. I ask whether you propose to take any action against the honorable member for Hume, who is reading his speech.
– I understand that the honorable member for Hume is using some notes, as other honorable members do. I do not think that there is anything new or unorthodox about that.
– I am glad that I drew blood, as it were, from the honorable member for “Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). He would not know wheat from oats, if he ever went to the rural districts. “When the former Premier of Victoria, Mr. Dunstan, was refusing to give the farmers drought relief unless they signed undertakings to repay the money advanced to them, plus interest, the honorable member for Indi “(Mr. McEwen) was also silent. If the present Government had not offered a gift of £3,000,000 for drought relief purposes - the first gift ever made for such purposes - the farmers would have received absolutely nothing. The real way to assist the farmers to financial stability is to give them profitable prices for their products. The proper way in which to determine a payable price is to have a properly constituted authority on which the farmer? have adequate representation. That if what this Government is doing. The dairy-farmers would be black in the face before they would get action of that kind from the political parties which constitute the Opposition in this chamber. For many years, the policy of honorable members opposite was to allow the farmers to become indebted to banks, mortgagees and storekeepers, and then provide a mere £1,000,000 to enable them to buy off their creditors again. That is why the farmers return the Labour party to office. Honorable members opposite should not try to fool themselves. Believe me, this Government has the confidence of the nation. I ask honorable members opposite whether their memories are so short that they have forgotten the farmers’ debts adjustment legislation? ] assure them that many farmers in my electorate remember it to their cost. When anti-Labour governments were in office. the prices of primary products were deplorably low. At one period, they were - Sd. per lb. for butter, 2s 6d. a .bushel for wheat, 30s. a ton for potatoes and 9d. a dozen for eggs. Oats, barley and hay sold at any old price. Those conditions represent the real idea of the Opposition on the cost of production.
Dairy products are vital, and their production must be encouraged. An assured price at a payable level is the only method of giving real help to dairyfarmers. To offer them a few pounds, and then leave them to an uncertain and unstable future, will not help them.
– What does the honorable member mean - uncertain and unstable?
– Order! The honorable member for Moreton was heard in silence. Therefore, I ask him and other honorable members to extend the same courtesy to the honorable member for Hume.
– I rise to order. Standing Order 256 reads -
A member shall noi read hist speech.
The following passage appears in May’s Parliamentary Practice : -
A member is not permitted to read his speech, but may refresh his memory by reference to notes. The reading of written speeches, which has been allowed in other deliberative assemblies, has never been recognized in either House of Parliament. A member may read extracts from documents, but his own language must be delivered bona fide, in the form of an unwritten composition.
May’s Parliamentary Practice states also -
The purpose of this rule is primarily to maintain the spirit and the cut-and-thrust of debate.
I point out to you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, that it is obvious to any onlooker that the honorable member for Hume i9 reading every word of his speech. Therefore, I submit that he is contravening the Standing Orders.
– Order ! I am in a better position than the honorable member for Richmond to judge whether the honorable member for Hume is reading his speech. I do not object to him referring to his notes, and I ask him to continue his speech.
– Primary producers now realize the shortcomings of the honorable member for Richmond as one of their representatives in this House. He is more concerned about the price which he receives for the bananas that he grows upon his property. That fact was clearly revealed in the House last week. To-day, growers receive 40s. a case for their bananas, whereas under an antiLabour government they received only 8s.
– I ask you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, whether we are debating the price of bananas or the price of butter, in accordance with the reasons advanced for the motion submitted by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) ?
– I ask the honorable member for Hume to relate his remarks to the subject on which the motion is based.
– It requires almost three years to bring a dairy cow into production. The dairying industry reached its lowest ebb three or four years after the Menzies Government had taken its labourers, and forced farmers to restrict cattle-breeding. No dairy-farmer will commence to increase his herd if he is not assured of a payable price for his produce. The Labour Government has made prices payable, and, no doubt, will keep them payable.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- 1. do not propose to analyse the speech of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller). Obviously, it had been written by the publicity officer of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. However,. I shall say a few words about the remarks of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) when he replied to the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). Although the Minister claims credit for the Government for having increased the price of butter to the dairy-farmer from ls. lid. to 2s. per lb., I remind the House that the honorable gentleman refused to produce the report upon which that increase is allegedly based. Last week, I asked him to extend to me the privilege, which an honorable member should have, of perusing the report or provide a copy of it. I stated that if hecould not make available a printed copy, he could at least allow me, as the representative of an important dairying constituency, to read the document. TheMinister refused.
– Well, I ask theMinister now whether he will allow me toread the report to-day.
– «I shall not permit thehonorable member to misrepresent me. I stated that he could have a copy of thereport as soon as practicable.
– From what weknow of the Minister, that statement means “ This year, next year, sometime, never “. The committee which examined” the cost of production in the dairying industry consisted of representatives of the Government, the Treasury, and producers. If the price of 2s. per lb. isbased upon this report, the representatives of dairying constituencies are entitled to read the basis of the recommendation, and the reasons which, the-
Minister said, guided him in adopting the figure. I have grave doubts that the facts are not as the honorable gentleman stated. A substantial -case can be adduced for an increase of price in excess of 2s. per lb. By implication, the Minister has admitted, and the fact was only disclosed ais the result of the debate this afternoon, that the representative of the producers on that committee recommended a price in excess of 2s. per lb. The Minister, of course, claimed that dairy-farmers have not raised an outcry against the proposed price of 2s. per lb. Naturally, the unfortunate dairy-farmer who has been receiving ls. 7½d. per lb., will be pleased with the increase. No matter how small the amount was, it would assist him to meet his financial commitments. I desire to point out, however, in the few minutes at my disposal, that the Govern-, ment of the United Kingdom has been paying ls. 11-Jd. per lb. for Australian butter since the 1st July, 1946, in the hope-
– I do not desire to interrupt the honorable member, but from the amount of ls. 11½d. per lb. must be deducted factory costs and .f.o.b. charges.
– The price of ls. ll$d. per lb. is f.o.b. Australia, or 216s. 10£d. a cwt. That is almost 2s. per lb., but the price which the British Government is paying as an incentive to increase production in Australia represents an increase over the price which it contracted to pay a year before. The Government is now paying to the Australian dairy-farmer only the equivalent of the price paid by the Britsh Government for the last two years. If the dairyfarmers of this country were allowed to obtain world parity prices they would be getting much more than 2s. per lb. According to the reports of the Government’s own officers, world parity price is likely to continue at its present level for some years. A report released by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture shows the price paid in the United Kingdom for Danish, New Zealand and Australian butter. Denmark is receiving approximately 2s. 9d. per lb. for butter sold to the United Kingdom, and the Danish Government has pointed out that even at that price it has to pay a subsidy of £3,000,000 a year to its farmers to induce them to continue producing butter. The Australian dairy-farmer is obliged to produce butter - and is urged to increase production - although the price which he receives is only 2s. per lb. On the 31st May, 1945, the Dairying Industry Production Costs Advisory Committee, of which Mr. Gibson and Mr. Howie were members, waited upon the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully), who was then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and convinced him that the cost of production was ls. 11¾d. per lb. The Government then granted an increase of approximately £d. per lb. Since then there have been considerable increases of production costs, and yet the Minister says that the Government is acting generously because it permits dairyfarmers to obtain the advantage of present world parity prices for butter. If the Government removed the restrictions on export altogether and allowed the laws of supply and demand and free exchange to operate, Australian dairy-farmers would have been receiving more than 2s. per lb. for the last three years. The reports of the Government’s officers predict that the price of butter will be more than 2s. per lb. throughout the five-year period which has been mentioned. If the Minister really desires to do “ the decent thing” by the dairy-farmers he will not only make the increase of price retrospective to the 1st April, 1947, but he will go further and make it retrospective to the date of the appointment of the Dairying Industry Production Costs Advisory Committee, namely, December. 1946. However, I suggest that the fair thing for the Government to do would be to make the increase retrospective to the 1st October, 1946.
I do not propose to discuss the matter any further on this occasion. In an effort to halt’ the decline of supply, I have mentioned it times out of number on motions for the adjournment of the House. I have pointed out time and again that Great Britain is getting only half the quantity of butter which it received in pre-war years. Last year Australia exported approximately 60,000 tons of butter to the United Kingdom, but in the first year of the war this country exported 100,000 tons to Great Britain. The Government of Great Britain has consistently endeavoured to stimulate production in Australia by offering higher prices, but the Australian Government, although it has taken advantage of the increased prices, has paid the growers only ls. 7£d. per lb.
.- The arguments advanced by members of the Opposition in their criticism of the Government’s treatment of primary producers are remarkable. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) said, in effect, that the Government has been defrauding the dairy-farmers, whilst the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) alleged that the Government was robbing not only the dairyfarmers, but also other primary producers. Let us consider for a moment ‘he prices which dairy-farmers were receiving, not only for butter, but also for other products of the dairying industry, including calves, sucking pigs and porkers, during the regime of the government of which they were members. Young sucking pigs must he fed milk. The Dairying Industry Production Costs Advisory Committee, of which I was a member and of which the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) was also a member, heard evidence in Queensland that the dairy-farmers there were killing their calves because it did not pay them to rear them. Why did that state of affaii’3 exist? The answer is, because of the vicious propaganda disseminated by members of the Australian Country party, who misled primary producers by false arguments similar to those adduced by the right honorable member for Cowper and the honorable member for Richmond to-day. Members of the Australian Country party are allegedly friends of the primary producers. We know that they are nothing of the sort, and that when a. government which they supported was in office, the plight of the primary producer was never so desperate. Consider the price of pigs at that time. Pigs were selling for ls. a dozen, Id. each - the lowest price in history. What was the price of porkers? They were selling for 5s. and 6s. each. Compare those prices with the prices obtaining to-day. A yearling calf sells at £6 or £7, a two year old calf at from £7 to £10, and a three year old one at from £10 to £1.5. A breeding sow is worth from £10 to £15.
Suckers bring from 30s. to £2, porkers from 50s. to 80s. and baconers and back fatters from £4 to £8, and even £10. Those facts were never even mentioned by the honorable members who criticized the Government this afternoon. They had the audacity to attack this Government, which was the first one to put dairymen on a sound footing.
I do not propose to traverse the ground unnecessarily, because I think the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) explained the position quite clearly. However, I repeat that the plight of the dairy-farmers was a national disgrace up to the time that this Government took office. This Government insisted on the payment of a fair price for dairy produce, and it instituted a 44-hour week for the dairying industry. Hitherto, the unfortunate dairy-farmers had had to work often 60 hours a week and more, toiling from, daylight till dark, and even in the moonlight. As I say, it was left to the present Government to place the industry on a sound basis, and now we have three gentlemen indulging in the most vicious criticism of its action. Various primary producers’ organizations have gone out of their way to compliment the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and I think that that furnishes conclusive proof of the achievements of the Government on behalf of dairy-farmers. I do. not know whether the right honorable member for Cowper has ever milked cows, and I do not think that the honorable member for Richmond does so. Yet they have the hardihood to manifest sympathy for people who do the real work on dairy farms. We know, however, the way people like those honorable gentlemen treated their unfortunate employees in years gone by, and we know how much sympathy they felt for them! If they were sincere in the expressions of sympathy for the dairy-farmers which they are making now, they had ample opportunity to give effect to them in years gone by. The simple fact is that the labour which they employed, and of which there was an abundance, was only too pleased to escape from the hardships of the industry to go into the fighting services in order to get decent pay for their labours. Under the old conditions the parents of those lads could not afford to pay them even a living wage. The present Government put the industry on a sound footing. The first increase of price meant an additional annual income to the dairy-farmers of about £8,000,000. These ‘members of a socalled country party, who are now shedding “ crocodile tears “ about the plight of the dairymen, were associated with a government which was in office for ten years, and was asked by deputation after deputation for an increase of the prices of primary products, but allowed the state of the dairying industry to become lower and lower, until those who were engaged in it could no longer exist. That is why those members were thrown out of office. The building up of the industry was left to this Government, and it has been just as successful in that task as it has been in what it has done for every other primary industry. It gave me much pleasure to hear the Minister prove conclusively to any fair-minded listener that the Government had done more for the dairymen than had been done by any other government in the history of this country, and that it proposes to continue along those lines.
.- I am not very interested in what took place in the dairying industry five, ten or twentyfive years ago. What I am interested in is what is happening to-day. Honorable members opposite, from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) down, have devoted quite a large amount of time merely to telling us what happened in the past. The Minister has patted himself on the back, and has said, “Look at what a wonderful job I have done, and how this industry is prospering today ! “
– Does not the honorable member believe that to be true?
– I do not. The Minister, in making great claims on behalf of the Government, has been very wide of the mark. He claims to have used superior wisdom in guiding the industry. “What worries me, and I believe every other honorable member who knows anything about the dairying industry, is that it is in a very bad way indeed to-day. The statistics alone prove that. I could count on the fingers of one hand those honorable members opposite who have anything to do with dairy farms. Those of them who took the trouble to go into the industry would learn exactly what is taking place. It is useless for the Minister to say that he has done this, that and the other. He knows, as I do, that the dairying industry is going downhill very definitely, and with an even progression. Here are the figures relating to the number of dairy cattle in Australia -
Progressively with the fall in numbers there has been a fall in production, so much so that to-day we are sending to Great Britain 60,000 tons of butter a year, compared with 100,000 tons a year a few years ago. One reason for the fall in production, I suggest, is that the industry has not been profitable during the last few years. The Minister claims to have raised prices. Two or three years ago, the price for commercial butter was increased to ls. 7½d. per lb., and recently it has been increased to 2s. per lb. Those increases have been due, not to the Minister, but to conditions that were caused by the war. There is not one primary product, the price of. which has not risen enormously. I need mention only wool, wheat and eggs, although the price of the last-named is not high enough.
– Did the Government put up the price of wheat, or has the rise been due to market conditions?
– “World demand has been responsible for it. During the last few years, the Government has prevented the price of butter from rising to the level that it would have reached had the law of supply and demand been allowed to operate. It is perfectly clear that the price of 2s. per lb. recently fixed is below that recommended by the committee which inquired into production costs, namely, 2s. l£d. per lb. Since that committee formulated its report, the prices of all the commodities which the dairyman has to purchase, and which affect the cost of production, have risen materially. I speak as a farmer. I have had the melancholy experience of witnessing the prices of all commodities which affect costs of production steadily mounting. What applies to me, and to every other farmer who is a member of this House, applies particularly to the dairying industry. The prices mentioned by the Minister do not take into account the fact that costs have risen in greater proportion. Primary producers will soon begin to feel the effects of a 40-hour week. As was stated recently, that will add £4,000,000 a year to the costs of production in the industry. It will thus be realized that 2s. per lb. is insufficient. If the Minister really desires the industry to succeed he must ensure that it will be made more attractive than it is at the present time. In my electorate, which is well known for its dairy products, the number of farmers who are leaving dairying for other forms of production is increasing, the number of dairy cattle is declining, and it cannot be said that the industry is in other than a sick condition. ‘ The sole reason is that the prospects, although better than they were, are not sufficiently good, and, above all, the profits in excess of the costs of production are not sufficiently attractive to induce people to carry on. I hope that the Government will give further consideration to the matter, because this is one cf our great industries, and we should not allow its condition to deteriorate further.
I have never been able to understand why it has been considered necessary to divorce the whole milk from the butter side of the industry. The Government has divested itself of responsibility in connexion with whole milk production, and it has become the responsibility of the States, which will be assisted by means of a small subsidy, one not so large as the subsidy that has been granted to the industry during the last few years. The two branches of the industry are largely interdependent, and I cannot understand why the treatment of one branch should be the responsibility of a department which has no responsibility in connexion with the other branch. The price of whole milk to-day is unsatisfactory. Although the Minister will disclaim responsibility, since the matter is one for the States, he should at least ensure that the profits of this branch of the industry will be brought into line with, those that will accrue to the butter-making branch.
I should like the Government to give further consideration to these criticisms and suggestions. If the industry is not only to survive but also to expand something has to be done to assist it.
.- It israther pathetic to find the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), in the light of his record, putting forward what he claims to be constructive proposals for an increase of production in the dairying industry, fie would be the last person to whom any one would look for a constructive proposal. As a Minister in various governments the right honorable member for Cowper had many opportunities to assist the dairying industry, but he failed to’ do so. Now, however, he criticizes the present Government for not doing more for the industry. When governments, which the honorable member supported or in which he was a Minister, were in office, dairy-farmers received only about ls. per lb. for their butter. In those days, an agitation for increased prices would have been justified. Not long after it came into office the Labour Government instituted an inquiry which resulted in the price of butter to dairy-farmers being raised to ls. 7£d. per lb. The recent announcement of 2s. per lb. for commercial butter following a further inquiry means that the price of butter-fat at the factory will be about 2s. 5-Jd. per lb., and is further evidence of the Government’s interest in dairying.
In their criticism this afternoon honorable members opposite appeared to have forgotten that Australia frequently suffers from droughts. The gross value of Australia’s rural production for 1947-4S has been estimated at £447,000,000, compared with an average of £211,000,000 per annum for the five years ended 1938-39. It will be seen, therefore, that since 1938-39 the value has risen by about 112 per cent. There has been a 5 per cent, decrease of milk production.
– Why is not world parity paid for dairy produce?
– If the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) wants world parity paid for Australian butter and other primary products, hp must ‘expect to pay -world parity for superphosphate, wire, and other requirements of -primary producers. One feature of the propaganda of .the Australian Country party is that not all the facts are told. The charge contained in the criticism of the right honorable member for Cowper is that the price of dairy products is not sufficient, but, as I have shown, there has been an increase of 112 per cent. Even the honorable member for Bendigo would not suggest that dairymen’s costs have risen by 112 per cent. How dairy-farmers lived in the days when they received only ls. per lb. for their butter fat amazes me. Were it not for rationing, the greater purchasing power in the hands of the people would mean that the local demand for dairy produce would be equal to the present production. The right honorable member for Cowper spoke of receiving parity prices from the United States of America, but any surplus production must go to Britain to help our kinsfolk there in their extremity. Until conditions there improve greatly, rationing must continue in Australia. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) said that the price of Danish butter was 2s. 9d. per lb. If the honorable member were to investigate, he would probably find that the cost of production in that country is 100 per cent, higher than in Australia. Danish dairymen have to hand-feed their cattle all the year round; for eight months of the year the animals have to be stabled. Imagine doing that in Australia! Even at 2s. 9d. per lb., the Danish dairyman is no better off than the Australian dairyman.
– They are not paid in a deflated currency in Denmark.
– Australia’s currency is the soundest in the world. The new price represents 2s. 5¼d. per lb. for butter fat and will be retrospective to the 1st April last. I speak in terms which dairymen in Victoria will understand. That will mean an additional £2,000,000 to them. The greatest satisfaction is expressed by dairymen at the prospect of stabilized prices for their produce for a period of five years. The dairying industry has never experienced such stability before. No one can foretell what will happen during -the next five years, but in .any event, the dairy-farmers of Australia know that for .that period they will be paid 2s. 5Jd. per lb. for their butter fat.
– That is not so.
– I am aware that the price will fluctuate as costs rise or fall, but the basis is to be 2s. per lb. for commercial butter, which, as I have said, represents about 2s. 5£d. per lb. for butter fat. Should costs rise, the price will exceed 2s. per lb., and, of course, should costs fall, the price will fall correspondingly. The point is that the basis is 2s. per lb. a9 from the 1st April last. That argument should appeal to the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), who has frequently urged that the prices of primary products should be based on costs and vary, as is the principle used in fixing the basic wage, with the cost of living. All the evidence available is that individual dairy-farmers, as well as organizations of dairy-farmers, are well pleased with the new price that was recently announced for butter. Dairymen in Victoria say that the new price is equal to an increase of 5d. per lb. Most of them did not expect so great an increase. The present Government has treated the dairying industry fairly, especially by guaranteeing the price of butter for five years. The criticism of the right honorable member for Cowper has been answered, and his arguments have been refuted.
– Order ! The honorable member’s timehas expired.
– From the remarks of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) one might be led to believe that thedairyfarmers were now receiving too> good a price for their products. I cannot comprehend how any dairyman could give to the honorable member the impression which he has endeavoured to convey to the House. Apparently, the honorable member is not aware of the fact, or conveniently overlooks it, that during thewar members of the Opposition parties,, not supporters of the Government, waited-. upon the Prices Commissioner on numerous occasions in the precincts of this House in an endeavour to persuade him to relax his stringent control of the price of butter. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) declared that we on this side of the chamber are advocating the payment of world parity for dairy products to our producers. During the war no section of the community received so little remuneration in proportion to the benefits they conferred upon the nation as the dairy-farmers.
– What about the wheat-growers?
– Invariably, the problems of the dairying industry engage the attention of honorable members during a brief debate once a year, whereas much more time is given to discussions of the wheat-growers’ problems. Working long hours, dairy.farmers have played a great part in feeding, not only the Australian people, but -also the people of Great Britain. They carry that responsibility with very little reward, whereas Australian consumers as a class enjoy high wages, short hours -and cheap food, only because of the low wages paid to dairy-farmers. Honorable members opposite have praised the Government for increasing the price of butter by 4d. per lb. The honorable member for Wannon said that that increase had come as a big surprise to -dairy-farmers. Obviously, he overlooks the pleas that were made by the Opposition parties on behalf of the dairyfarmers, and also the representations made to the Government by the producers’ committee on behalf of the industry. The Government made certain promises to that committee. However, whilst that committee recommended that the price of butter be increased to 2s. 3d. per lb., which would have meant a return of 2s. 1-Jd. per lb. to the dairy-farmer, the Government, despite all its promises, decided to increase the price to only 2s. per lb. The recommendation made by that producers’ committee was very modest. At the corresponding period following World War I., the dairy-farmer was receiving 2s. 8½d. per lb. for his butter; and during that conflict the price of butter was not fixed. During World War II., on . the other hand, the price at one time was fixed as low as ls. per lb.; and the continued representations made on behalf of the farmers by the Opposition parties to the Prices Commissioner and to the Government to fix a fair price are evidence of the scanty consideration which the Government gave to the farmers. That committee was composed of experts, such as Mr. Jamieson, of Queensland. It recommended a net price which represents to the farmer 2s. ltd. per lb. Invariably, the Government accepts every recommendation made by the Tariff Board in respect of protective duties for secondary industries ; but in spite of the modest recommendation, made by the producers’ committee it has decided to increase the price of butter to only 2s. per lb. whereas world parity is very much in excess of ‘ that figure. For example, in the United States of America dairy-farmers are receiving from 4s. to 5s. per lb. for butter. Even in increasing the price to 2s. per lb. the Government is not so generous as it might appear to be at first glance. Obviously, it hopes, under the contract it is now negotiating with the British Government for the sale of butter al 2s. 3d. per lb. for a period of five years, to recoup itself for any sacrifice involved. It has been suggested that that contract may be made for ten years. In view of the present world conditions, the longer term would be preferable. 1 assure the honorable member for Wannon that the Government will not be involved in any sacrifice in increasing the price to 2s., because the increase will not be financed from Consolidated Revenue, Although our people are now paying exorbitant taxes and the Government’s revenues are swollen because of the increase of the number of taxpayers under present conditions when every one in the community is fully employed, the dairy-farmer is not receiving a fair return for his labour. I repeat that the Government hopes to finance the increase of the price of butter to 2s. per lb. by contracting to sell butter to the British Government at 2s. 3d. per . lb. Indeed, the Government in that way will more than reimburse itself of the increase. Against the wishes of the dairy-farmers, the Government provided a bonus in respect of butter production.
It was obliged to do so, because throughout the war the prices of all dairy products were fixed in order to avoid inflation. The dairy-farmers carried the burden on behalf of the community in that respect. In recognition of that fact, the Government decided to make available from £5,000,000 to £6,000,000 a year for the purpose of increasing the price of dairy products to the dairy-farmers; but, eventually, it was found that the Government more than recouped itself of that amount under a contract for the sale of dairy products to the British Government. Consequently, not this Government, but the people of Great Britain made good that payment which was given to dairy-farmers as some small recompense for the fact that unjustly low prices were paid to them under the Government’s price stabilization schemes. I repeat that following World War I., during which conflict price fixing was unknown in this country, the dairyfarmers received not less than 2s. 81/2d. per lb. for butter. To-day, however, the dairy-farmers, like all primary producers, are still under the thumb of the Government. The prices of their products are still fixed. It is ridiculous for honorable members opposite to say that dairyfarmers are enjoying a very great advantage, because the price of butter has been increased to 2s. per lb., when we know that in the United States of America farmers receive from 4s. to 5s. per lb. for butter.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
.- Mr. Speaker–
Motion (by Mr. Bernard Corser) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
Bill presented by Mr. Chifley, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The principal purpose of this bill is to authorize an important change in the system of crediting employees with the value of certificates and stamps representing tax instalments deducted from their earnings.
– On the left side of the chamber there is a considerable amount of very provocative discussion going on. Many complaints about this kind of thing have been received from outside listeners. I hope that honorable members will conduct themselves properly.
– In the past, employees were obliged to hold these certificates Or stamps for presentation to the Taxation Branch when the annual assessments were issued. Under the changed system the certificates or stamps are forwarded by the employees when lodging their returns of income. Employees who have forwarded certificates or stamps of a value which exceeds the tax payable by them will receive refund cheques for the excess at the same time as they receive notices of assessment. On the other hand, where the value of the certificates or stamps is less than the tax payable, the notices of assessment will set out the balance payable.
The new system presents an immediate advantage to employees in that it enables a more expeditious payment of refunds. Furthermore, the early submission of certificates and stamps to the department considerably reduces the possibility of their loss. The new system will operate in assessments based on the income of the year ended the 30th June, 1947.
The opportunity has also been taken in this bill to effect certain drafting amendments in the other provisions of the division relating to the collection of income tax by instalments. As a consequence of these amendments, the collection of income tax and social services contribution by instalments will be authorized in a single code. Further drafting amendments have the effect of embodying in the act certain provisions of the Income Tax Regulations which relate to the procedure to be followed by employers who are not group employers.
In effecting these amendments it is proposed that the existing division relating to the collection of tax by instalments should be repealed, and a new division inserted in its stead. The new division will not impose any further duties or responsibilities on employers, but will simplify the law for employers and the administration.
Another important amendment simplifies the basis of taxation of members of the defence forces. In January of this year, a special departmental committee was appointed to report on the pay and conditions of service of the post-war defence forces. One recommendation of this committee was to the effect that rations and quarters, whether provided in cash or in kind, should be valued, for taxation purposes, on a uniform basis at the rate of 20s. a week. This recommendation has been adopted. The committee also drew attention to the taxation position of members of the forces serving with the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces in Japan compared with the position of members serving in northern Australia, Papua and New Guinea. As from the 1st July, 1947, personnel serving in the latter areas for at least one-half of the year of income are entitled, in common with civilian taxpayers, to a deduction of £120 by way of zone allowance. It will be remembered that these zone allowances are granted in recognition of the disadvantages of uncongenial climatic conditions, isolation and high cost of living found in the remote areas of the Commonwealth. The Government agrees with the committee’s view that at least two of those factors are present in Japan. It is therefore proposed that a deduction of up to £120 shall be allowed to members of the forces serving at certain overseas localities, including Japan.
Following the enactment of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act earlier this year, it has been found necessary to examine the question whether income tax should be paid by friendly society dispensaries which are, at present, wholly exempt from tax. The introduction of the free medicine scheme will confer upon many friendly society dispensaries opportunities for trading with the general public which they have not hitherto possessed. It is apparent that, if the income of the dispensaries continues to be exempt from taxation, they will obtain a competitive trading advantage over other pharmacists who participate in the scheme. In order to place friendly society dispensaries and other pharmacists on an equal footing, it is proposed to levy tax upon the income of the dispensaries to the extent necessary to ensure that no undue trading advantage shall be gained by them in consequence of the operation of the Commonwealth free medicine scheme.
The bill provides, therefore, for the taxation of all friendly society dispensaries which are granted approval to supply free medicine under the Commonwealth scheme. The basis of assessment will be a taxable income calculated by way of a percentage of the dispensary’s gross receipts from the Commonwealth under the free medicine scheme and from its ordinary trading.
– Will that percentage be somewhat arbitrarily fixed?
– Conferences have been held with all interested parties and an attempt has been made to secure agreement upon that matter. Tax will be levied at the company rate, which is at present 6s. in the £1, but the dispensaries will not be required to pay undistributed profits tax. The only other matter that I desire to mention at this stage is the proposed amendment to increase the sum appropriated from Consolidated Revenue for payment of the salaries and travelling expenses of the chairman and other members of the Taxation Boards of Review. This amendment is necessary in consequence of the Government’s decision to establish a second board of review to deal with taxpayers’ objections to assessments. The proposed amendments are explained in detail in the explanatory memorandum which has been circulated. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue he made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Parliamentary Allowances Act 1920-1938, as amended by the Parliamentary Allowances Act 1047.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Chifley and Mr. Dedman do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Chifley, and read a first time.
Mr. CHIFLEY (Macquarie- Prime
Minister and Treasurer) [8.18]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Parliamentary Allowances Act makes provision for the payment of annual allowances to the Leaders of the Opposition in both Houses of the Parliament as some recompense for the onerous nature of their duties. When the act was under consideration in this House in June last I gave an undertaking that I would consider the submission to the Parliament during this sessional period of a bill to provide for the payment, as from the 1st July last, of an annual allowance to the Leader of the Australian Country party for the same purpose. This bill is in consequence of that promise, and I submit it for the approval of the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Lemmon) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys he made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the raising of moneys to be advanced to the States for the purposes of housing.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Lemmon and Mr. Riordan do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill’ presented by Mr. Lemmon, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill seeks parliamentary authority for further advances to the States of capital funds totalling £13,000,000 for expenditure in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act 1945. From the commencement of the agreement in 1945 to the 30th June, 1947, advances totalling £17,810,000 were made to the States. During the same period parliamentary appropriations amounting to £25,000,000 were approved, leaving a balance of £7,190,000 available towards the current year’s expenditure. In August last, the Loan Council approved of a works programme which included £12,900,000 for rental houses under the housing agreement. The provision of £13,000,000 will cover expenditure to the end of the current financial year, and in addition enable the building programme to continue in the early months of 1948-49.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Pollard) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a hill for an act to amend the Tractor Bounty Act 1939-1944.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Pollard and Mr. Dedman do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Pollard, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize an extension of the bounty for three years on the production of tractors of the internal combustion engine type. The Tractor Bounty Act was passed in 1939 for a period of five years, and in 1944, following an inquiry by the Tariff Board, was extended until the 23rd October, 1947.
The Tariff Board has recently conducted a further inquiry into the subject and has recommended the continuance of bounty for another three years. The bounty rates recommended are as follows: -
These rates are the same as those applying under the 1939-44 act except that the class designated “ Exceeding 35 brake horse-power but not exceeding 60 brake horse-power “ previously read “ Exceeding 35 brake horse-power “.
It is considered that the industry is deserving of governmental assistance in conformity with the accepted principle of helping worthy industries. The experience gained during the war by our engineering industries has increased the manufacturing potential of tractors in Australia. In addition, the acute shortage of foreign exchange to purchase tractors from hard currency countries is another reason why the manufacture of tractors in Australia should be stimulated. Furthermore, the method of assistance, i.e., by bounty, encourages Australian production without imposing any direct cost burden on users, most of whom are farmers. An impost on primary production is thus avoided. The bill appropriates for bounty payment the following amounts : -
These amounts should be sufficient to cover the following anticipated production : -
The amount previously allocated by the 1944 act was £100,000 per annum, but in this bill it is desired to provide greater elasticity and to grant sufficient funds to cover the anticipated production of tractors during the period in which the bounty will operate. A number of manufacturers are making every effort to increase their production. The amendment of the bounty class designated “ Exceeding 35 brake horse-power “ to make it read “ Exceeding 35 brake horsepower but not exceeding 60 brake horsepower “ will not affect agricultural tractors in respect of which the bounty was primarily intended. Assistance regarding tractors exceeding 60 brake horse-power could, if and when necessary, be provided by a customs duty. There was no request for a bounty on tractors exceeding 60 brake horse-power. An extension for a period of three years is considered desirable as by the expiry of that time it should be possible to ascertain Australian production costs, and costs of imported tractors on a more stable basis. Then the matter of governmental assistance to the industry could be placed on a permanent basis if found necessary. I commend this bill as one which merits favorable consideration.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ryan) adjourned.
Mr. BARNARD (Bass - Minister for
Repatriation) [8.30]. - I move -
That the hill he now read a second time.
This bill brings provisions for control of patriotic funds under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. The existing provisions are the National Security (Patriotic Funds) Regulations under the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act. The main activities of the funds are diminishing, and many have already been wound up, but others are continuing their ordinary operations, and will eventually go through the winding-up stage. Altogether, it is probable that, in some form’ or another, activities will continue for some time yet. It is therefore desirable that the provisions be removed from the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act. They are administered by the Minister for Repatriation and the Repatriation Commission, and the logical place for them is in the repatriation legislation. The bill inserts a section in the Repatriation Act to enable the Governor-General to make the necessary regulations under that act. The existing National Security (Patriotic Funds) Regulations will be repealed, and the new regulations in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Regulations will be generally on the same lines as those under which control has been exercised up till now.
The response of the community to patriotic appeals was generous. Activities of patriotic funds were considerable as regards both magnitude and variety of purposes, and it will be of interest to honorable members to give a brief account of the parts played by the funds and by the authorities under the controlling legislation. With the large number of interests eager to promote patriotic funds, it was advisable that there be a measure of control to ensure that the purpose of each fund was clearly defined ; that the programmes of different bodies did not unduly overlap; that main appeals were reasonably spaced; and that all observed proper accounting systems. The legislation therefore provided that patriotic funds could be established for the purpose of providing comforts or financial or other assistance for - (a) members of the defence force or their families or dependants; (b) members of the forces of other Dominions or of any allied country; or (c) war victims.
That was, in effect, the basic provision ; the other provisions then were directed to appointment of patriotic funds boards in each State or territory of the Commonwealth with power to grant approval of applications to establish patriotic funds; to give directions, where necessary, as to management of the fund, manner of obtaining subscriptions or contributions, method of accounting, furnishing of returns and balance-sheets at appropriate times; and for the GovernorGeneral, later changed to the Repatriation Commission, to give directions as to winding up. the affairs of a fund when desirable that it be wound up. The legislation was drawn up immediately after the outbreak of war. The States were informed in the matter, and subsequently the proposals were discussed at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers at Canberra in November, 1939. Complete control by the Commonwealth was opposed by some States, as they already had appropriate legislation to cover the position and considered that such legislation should be permitted to function freely. Further consideration was given to the matter, and an arrangement for division of responsibility was agreed upon based on the extent of operation of the various classes of funds. Funds are of the character of one or other of the following classes : -
The legislation included a provision to the effect that where a State had satisfactory legislation to cover the requirements, the Governor-General may exempt funds of class C from the provisions of the Commonwealth legislation other than those directed to winding up, and may exempt the “ operations “ of any branch in the State of a fund of class A, i.e., operations as distinct from establishment of the fund and winding up. In five States such exemptions were approved. In Tasmania and in each of the territories, except Norfolk Island, which has a suitable ordinance, the Commonwealth exercises control over all funds, and also conducts the necessary administration with the parent bodies of funds of class A. The whole matter has been administered on that basis, with satisfactory results. Most of the patriotic fund bodies responsible directly to the Commonwealth have co-operated whole-heartedly with the commission, and it can be said that they have accomplished with credit the work which they set out to do.
A total of £20,444,403 has been collected: of this sum £15,684,189 was expended for the purposes for which the funds were established and £533,198 on administration. The last-mentioned sum represents only 3.399 per cent. of that expended for the purpose for which the funds were established ; this is considered very satisfactory. Sums totalling £395,269 have been invested in Commonwealth bonds, &c., and the total bank balances as at the end of December, 1946, amounted to £3,831,747.
Many of the funds have already been wound up and others are in process of being wound up, but funds such as the Australian Red Cross Society, the Royal Australian Naval Relief Fund and the Royal Australian Air Force Welfare Fund, will continue to function indefinitely. Continuance of the Red Cross fund is understandable as it is well known that it carries on its charitable work both in peace and war. As regards the other two funds, it should perhaps be explained that the Royal Australian Naval Relief Fund was established in 1913, its object being to assist financially members of the Royal Australian Navy and their dependants who find themselves in straitened circumstances. The Royal Australian Air Force Welfare Fund, although established during the war years, has similar objects. There is also another fund which will continue indefinitely - the Gowrie Scholarship Trust Fund. This fund was established to perpetuate the memory of the only son of Lord and Lady Gowrie. The purpose of the fund is to provide scholarships at all Australian universities for Australian soldiers and their children.
Even with funds which have not the long-range purpose of those mentioned, the policy is to permit them to carry out ordinary operations for a reasonable time yet, if the particular purpose for which they were established warrants continuance and not unduly hurry them to wind up their affairs. The work in connexion with the funds is proceeding satisfactorily, but, as I explained earlier in my speech, it is more satisfactory in every way that they now be covered under the repatriation legislation, rather than the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act. I, therefore, commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 19th September (vide .page 105).
That the Estimates - Additions, New Works, Buildings, &e., 1947-48 - be considered by Parts
Proposed vote, £19,297,000.
.- I draw attention to the provision made for the Department of Civil Aviation. In a speech, as in a sermon, it is good to use a text. The text I have to-night is, “ TransAustralia Airlines First Candle Burns Brightly”. This is government propaganda for Trans- Australia Airlines, and it goes on -
On Tuesday, October 7, Trans-Australia Airlines completed a year as a public utility.
After the party there should be a reckoning, but, although Trans-Australia Airlines has cost £4,500,000 up to date, we have had no balance-sheet. I, and other honorable members, have asked many times when we shall be told how much this expensive toy is costing the people of Australia. It is not to be wondered at that it is called, in some places, “ Tax All Australia “ airlines. The difference between the Government’s attempted monopoly and the private airlines is that private airlines are paid for by the people who use them, whereas everybody in Australia is taxed to pay for Trans-Aus tralia Airlines. I point out that an amount of £3,000,000 was provided for TransAustralia Airlines when the Australian National Airlines Commission was established and that the item now before the committee contains provision for an additional sum of £1,500,000. There has been no attempt to account for this colossal expenditure, which is equal to the total annual company tax of Australia. Why is money being poured out in this prodigal fashion? Is it merely that the Government is. obsessed with the idea of nationalizing everything, nothing being too big and nothing too small? If not, what is the real reason? The time has come for an accounting.
I charge the Government with using the Department of Civil Aviation to hamper, obstruct and frustrate the private airlines. In doing so it is engaging in an orgy of extravagance that should be stopped. I intend to give some details in support of my statement. At the outset, so that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) may not say that I have any ulterior motive, I point out that I have been interested in aviation for 33 years, but that I have no financial interest in airlines or any other aviation organization. My criticisms are directed against the Government for frustrating the development of aviation and wasting the taxpayers’ money. I make no criticism of the splendid aircrews who fly for Trans-Australia Airlines. They are products of the Royal Australian Air Force, young men who served in other fields and learned the hard way, or men who learned to fly in aero clubs and qualified for their posts by passing difficult tests. They carry out their onerous duties efficiently. I object to the great overhead load that the Government has imposed on Trans-Australia Airlines. The wastefulness arises from that expensive organization, the Australian National Airlines Commission, not from the wages of those splendid young men who fly the aircraft.
All that this Government has done could have been achieved by allowing the ‘private companies to buy a few more aircraft. I say that advisedly, and I shall quote chapter and verse in support of the statement and to demonstrate the obstructions that the Government has placed in the way of private companies. Under the Australian National Airlines . Act 1945 the Government sought a complete monopoly of air services. If honorable members read that act, they will see that the Government was granted authority to confiscate aircraft and to take possession of property, as it is now doing with another utility - the banks. However, certain airlines - Guinea Airways Limited, the MacRobertson-Miller Aviation Company Limited, and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited - appealed to the High Court, which ruled that the Government had overstepped its powers and that the act was ultra vires the Constitution if the Government intended to have a monopoly. But the court ruled that the Government could operate its own airline. The Government is now operating in such a way as to hamper all other operators.
I say a word on behalf of the private aviation companies. When the Australian National Airlines legislation was being debated in this chamber, one government supporter after another referred to one large airline as a “ monopoly “. It was nothing . of the kind. There are seventeen or more airlines operating in Australia to-day, and every one of them was founded under excellent auspices, mainly by men who served in World War I. I refer to Aircraft) a journal which in my opinion gives the best account of flying in Australia, although there are others. It states -
The private airlines, stemming from the pioneer airmen, the flying circus men, the barnstormers, and the early record-breakers, have played an important .part in breaking down the problems of distance in a big nearlyempty continent. Before ever a national airline was in thought for domestic operation they had built up a system of airlines that placed this country high among the air-minded nations of the world.
Anybody who has been interested in aviation for any length of time knows that the Department of Civil Aviation was established in 1920 and that, by 1922, Australian companies were operating over longer routes than were serviced in any other part of the Empire. Qantas Empire Airways Limited and Western Australian Airways were founded by pioneers who had flown in World War I. Mr. Hudson Fysh. of No. 1 Squadron, established Qantas Empire Airways Limited. Major Brearley another wartime pilot, established Western Australian Airways. One of the founders of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which has been criticized so often because it is efficient and successful, was Victor Holyman, another pilot of World War I., who lost his life on that service in the earlier days when aircraft were not so safe as they are to-day, when they are patronized by many members of this Parliament. Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith would have been the operator of the Tasman air service had he lived. He told me his plans during conversations I had with him on the last day that he was in Australia. In 1934, the government of the day laid plans for a web of airlines that it intended to be developed. It helped the Flying Doctor Service and the small outback operators, and we on this side of the chamber would have done much more had we continued in office. What is this Government achieving while it is taxing the people heavily for its own airline? It is operating a few more aircraft on the regular routes, but has so far ignored the outback areas. However, if one may judge by a report published in the newspapers to-day, it intends soon to engage in intrastate aviation and may, perhaps by means of unfair competition, obliterate small operators, beginning in Queensland. In order to show what the Government has done in the field of aviation, I refer again to Aircraft -
This has been one of the most momentous months ever recorded in Australia’s aviation history - not in the sense of aerial achievement, but in the long-range results to be expected from government action in the field. That action has left no single air transport agency in the Commonwealth untouched in its widespread sweep. A very large part of it is designed to give the Government greater power to advance its national airline plans - both internal and oversea - and to aim telling blows at the private operators. - If the same energy, the same concentration of interest by governmental circles was directed at the general advancement of Australian aviation it could be made our most important weapon for future national advancement in the international sphere and for internal and oversea trade development. The pity is that it is linked at home with the destructive aim of party politics - to achieve a nationalization aim at no matter what cost.
That is what is ‘behind the Government’s activities. Air Log, another well known aviation journal, speaks more strongly on the subject. It .refers to a great conspiracy to nationalize Australian industry under a fifteen years’ plan, and it gives details of the attempted monopoly by the Government which was frustrated by the High Court’s decision, pointing out that the Government now is continuing to use taxpayers’ money for the purpose of destroying “ private companies. I shall now give some details of the action that has been taken by the Government. It has the power to acquire buildings. How has . it exercised that power? In the most ruthless and totalitarian way! The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) laughs. I shall quote chapter and verse regarding the Manchester Unity Building, which is the head-quarters of the Australian National Airlines Commission and TransAustralia Airlines. I shall also show the deceitful way in which the Commonwealth acquired these premises. The Minister for Repatriation guffaws again The Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows, which has been in existence in Melbourne for more than 60 years, and which constructed this edifice, informed its members -
The decision of the Commonwealth Government to compulsorily acquire the above building, situated a.t 339 Swanston-street, Melbourne, under the provision of section 15 of the Lands Acquisition Act 1906-1936, has been received with deep concern and resentment by the members of the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows in Victoria, and, in fact, all members of friendly societies throughout the Commonwealth.
The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), before the last general elections wrote to the Manchester Unity organization in the following terms: -
Following consultations with other Cabinet Ministers, I have agreed to defer action in connexion with the Manchester Unity Oddfellows Building until after the elections, when the opportunity will be afforded you .to make representations before any decision is given effect to.
In other words, the Minister’s policy was “ Hold off and I shall let you know after the elections what will be done “. On the 14th November last, with the elections safely over, the Minister advised the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows that the Government had further considered the matter, and had again decided to compulsorily acquire the property. The Minister added that the acquisition would be notified in the Gazette. “When the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows received this communication, it commented -
More than 6,000 of our present members have fought in the recent war to preserve our rights and freedom, but if such “piracy” as contemplated, can be exercised by the Government when it is unnecessary, and when the war is over, then we have jio rights or freedom.
The Manchester Unity Building, which is an eleven-story structure, is now occupied by the Australian National Airlines Commission and the expensive TransAustralia Airlines. Last week, we read that the Department of Civil Aviation had decided to compulsorily acquire Henty House, which is another fine building in Melbourne. Some of its offices are occupied by ex-servicemen, and now these, men will be evicted. I know that the Department of Civil Aviation could be accommodated at Victoria Barracks or the Albert Park Barracks. The Minister obviously does not know what he is talking about when he states that this department cannot be accommodated there. Some of the new buildings at Victoria Barracks were occupied by the Air Board, and the multifarious sections, some of which were necessary during World War II. for the “ chair-borne troops “ - the men who controlled the 160,000 members of the Royal Australian Air Force. If the accommodation at the barracks 13 still over-taxed, something is wrong with, the state of our defences for there are few fighting troops now. The huge barracks at Albert Park must have room for the requirements of this department. When I asked the Minister for Civil Aviation what would become of the tenants of Henty House, he replied, “ The Department of Civil Aviation is vacating other premises and the tenants of Henty House may occupy them “. Of course, that will not be possible. On making inquiries, I dis-1 covered that the premises which the department will vacate will be occupied by tenants with a priority. No thought will be given .to the position of the unfortunate tenants who will be evicted from Henty House. If a landlord endeavours to secure the eviction of tenants, a magistrate usually decides that other premises must be found for them. Failing that, he will not grant an eviction order. But this Government, acting with totalitarian ruthlessness, evicts old-established firms when it com’pulsorily acquires the premises, which they have long occupied, for an unnecessary airline costing millions of pounds.
Recently, an honorable member on this side of the chamber asked the. Minister for Civil Aviation to explain why dollars were available for the purchase of aircraft for TransAustralia Airlines and were not available when private airlines desired to buy aircraft overseas. The Minister replied that Dakota aircraft were available in Australia for the operators of private airlines. When I explored that statement, I found that it was incorrect. The facts are that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited sought unsuccessfully to ‘purchase aircraft overseas. Then the organization examined in Australia some Dakota aircraft which were the property of the United States Forces. However, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was not permitted to purchase those aircraft. Indeed, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was obliged to approach the High Court for a writ of mandamus to compel the Department of Civil Aviation to grant a permit to purchase the machines. When Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited obtained this permission, the Government’s representative on the Treasury, I am informed, refused it. permission to expend the money.. The Government then approached the American Forces with a view to acquiring the aircraft, but the Americans, in disgust, announced that they preferred to fly them out of the country. Finally, the Dakotas, were taken to the Philippines. Yet, to-day, the Government is expending,, as the Minister admitted last week, more than 1,000,000 dollars on the purchase of Convair aircraft in the United States of America. This enormous expenditure will be incurred at a time when the Prime Minister is speaking of the dollar crisis, import licences are being called in, and the importation of necessary motor cars and other goods is being reduced’. In spite of these circumstances, the Government proposes to purchase in the United1 States of America two-engined aircraft which will carry 40 passengers. In the opinion of some flying men with whom I have discussed this proposal, the value of this purchase is questionable. We all know that the more engines an aircraft has, the greater is the efficiency of the machine. However, it appears that the chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission was impressed with these aircraft because they had pressurized cabins. Now, pressurized cabins are not necessary in Australia. They are essential in aircraft which fly across the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans at great heights where oxygen would otherwise be required, but aircraft with pressurized cabins will not be necessary for the feeder services for which they will ,be used in Australia. The Government proposes to expend over 1,000,000 dollars on the purchase of these aircraft at a time of a great dollar scarcity, when imports from the dollar area are being greatly curtailed. In addition^ as the publication Facts and Figures proudly announces, the- Government has sent 25 engineers to the United States of America to study the maintenance of these aircraft. What a “dollar picnic” it will be for these young men at the taxpayers’ expense. I believe also that other officials will travel to the United States of America in connexion with this purchase.. This information conveys some idea of the extravagance of the Government in expending dollars and in crippling the operators of private airlines.
In addition there the charges which were recently imposed upon airline companies for the use of government airports. I. realize that if airline operators use government airports, they should make some payment for this service.
Other countries make a charge for it. But I am reliably informed that the charge for using Mascot and Essendon airports is three times as great as the charge for using Oakland airport in the United States of America. The services which the Government provides include meteorological information and the like, but then, everybody has the use of the meteorological services, and the airlines should not be compelled to pay a disproportionate share of the cost. Some airlines in Great Britain and the United States of America prefer to establish their own airports. For example, Dr. Humby, a medical practitioner and an aviation enthusiast, has acquired a large airport in England and carries on his own services with air freight. I propose to show the staggering amounts which airlines pay to the Treasury. If they are liquidated, the Government will lose this revenue. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited alone pays in general taxes £600,000 a year. If Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is forced out of business, the Treasury will not receive that amount. En addition, airlines use huge quantities of petrol on which they pay petrol tax. Under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement a proportion of the receipts from the petrol tax are distributed to the States for the construction and improvement of roads. One airline alone pays in petrol tax £180,000 a year, although its aircraft do not use roads. Now, airport charges will he loaded on to airlines. It is useless for the Minister to say that the Governmentcontrolled company will be subject to similar charges. This is the organization which is losing millions of pounds and will not produce a balance-sheet. What does it matter if it does not make a profit? Its transactions become a book entry. If the Government succeeds in destroying the principal private; operator of airlines, the smaller ones will quickly go out of existence.
I note in these estimates an item - “ Qantas Empire Airways - acquisition of shares and provision of capital “. Qantas Airways was originally founded by an enterprising young Australian, Mr. Hudson Fysh, who had been a member of the Royal Flying Corps. This airline, which operated across Queensland, had a reputation for safety equal to any in the world. Subsequently, it extended its operations to Singapore. In partnership with Empire Airways it had a certain amount of British capital. The Government acquired a half share of the capital, but no sooner had it got its foot in the door than it acquired the remainder of the shares. It is very difficult to obtain official figures in matters like this. As an example, take the question which I asked this morning as to the fate of the smaller airlines. I did not receive an answer, but possibly the Minister for Civil Aviation will tell the committee the answer when he speaks to-night. However, the sum of £455,000 was paid for 261,500 shares in Qantas Limited. That money came out of the pockets of the Australian taxpayers. The expenditure of that huge sum of money was quite unnecessary, and was incurred solely because of the Government’s obsession to nationalize, or socialize, everything. This company had a magnificent record,. and I trust that it will continue to maintain it. However,
We all know that any enterprise under government control shows a decline of efficiency, and tends to incur losses. Honorable members opposite are found of criticizing monopolies and capitalistic groups, which, they claim, oppress the smaller man; but was there ever a more iniquitous example of the whole pressure of the State being brought to bear upon private enterprise than is provided by this example? Honorable members aTe alarmed at legislation which the Government proposes to introduce shortly, because of the socialistic aims of that legislation. But socialism has already been introduced, and the Government would have gone the full gamut but for the High Court’s intervention, when it was told, in effect, that it could not exercise a monopoly over civil aviation.
What sort of competition is TransAustralia Airlines providing? Nothing is too small, too despicable, for it to countenance. I mention this now in the presence of the Minister because he may not have heard of it. After all, the directors are really responsible for these petty acts. One has only to instance their exploitation of the similarity between the name of the government-owned monopoly and the principal private competitor. If one looks at the telephone directory one sees the name “Australian National Airlines Commission” immediately before the name “ Australian National Airways “. I know of firms and private individuals who have been deceived by this piece of petty fraud and who booked with TransAustralia Airlines, believing that they were booking with Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. When that company surrendered a freight line it was taken up by Trans-Australia Airlines, and. for one month a firm continued to give its whole business to the commission in the mistaken belief that it was dealing with Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. The Minister may laugh, but I thought that I was perhaps doing him a service in bringing under his notice a matter of which he was not previously aware. I have brought it to his notice in an attempt to point out the type of petty deception that is being practised.
Last week I asked a question of the Minister concerning Guinea Airways Limited. I asked him whether it was not a fact that that firm had pioneered the development of New Guinea, and had actually carried more freight in 1939 than all the airlines, including Trans-Australia Airlines, did in 1946. Guinea Airways Limited transported to New Guinea many gold-miners and the necessary mining machinery needed for the development of the Edie Creek and Bulolo goldfields, and this firm later pioneered the north-south air route from Darwin to Adelaide. The Minister replied that, although he was aware of those facts, the Government still proposed to withdraw the firm’s operational charter. He said that the Government intended TransAustralia Airlines to operate over the Darwin-Adelaide route from the 1st November next. This old-established airline, which did so much to develop New Guinea, which was the advance post of our defences during the war, and which put civil aviation in this country in a foremost position in the world-
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Clark).Order ! The honorable member must con- fine his remarks to discussion of the Estimates under consideration.
– Advances have been made to Trans-Australia Airlines from the public funds of sums of £1,500,000 and other lesser amounts, and therefore I submit that my remarks are relevant to discussion of the estimates of the Department of Civil Aviation. The Government proposes to finance an airline to compete with Guinea Airways Limited over the Darwin-Adelaide route; and as soon as it can secure the acquiescence of State governments of the same .political colour as itself it proposes to invade the field of intra-state aviation.
I think that I have said enough in regard to the business ethics of TransAustralia Airlines to show that “ the sky is the limit”. No amount of money is too great to be spent in advancing the interest of this undertaking to enable it to achieve, not an ordinary, but a monopolistic, success. A recent report in the press stated that Mr. H. E. Walsh, general manager of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, said -
The Federal Government has tried to drive the private airlines out of business by misusing controls entrusted to its various departments.
That is quite true. Whereas the Department of Civil Aviation had formerly a fine reputation and was staffed by splendid officials, whose business it was to control and regulate airlines, its present aim is to dominate and crush private airlines. The report continues -
He says the Government has decided that, if it can put Australian National Airlines out of ‘ business, the smaller operators will ‘represent no difficulties ‘. Before operations of the government line began last year, lie says, Trans-Australia Airlines challenged the authority of the Civil Aviation Department, which had always controlled fares and freight rates, by introducing a drastic cut in fares - and won.
It is obvious, then, that Trans-Australia Airlines began business by being a price cutter, and failed. According to the report, Mr. Walsh continued -
Money and resources were then applied with fantastic prodigality to set up the government line.
I think that I have proved that one amount of £3,000,000, and another of ?1,500,000, of government money were poured into it. Mr. “Walsh continued -
The question of permits was brushed aside. Materials and labour flowed in unstinted quantity. Acquisition of aircraft was a simple matter. Even dollar permits came in a golden flood. If buildings were wanted, they were acquired as the Manchester Unity Building in Melbourne was acquired.
That is a statement which also concerns other Ministers, including the Minister for Works and Housing or, rather the “ Minister for No Works and No Housing” (Mr. Lemmon), because it is obvious that, whereas other airlines had to submit to all the delays and frustrations of “ red tape “, Trans- Australia Airlines had an “ open go “. Everything came to it, including huge buildings at Essendon and Mascot, which were constructed in record time. The report goes on to state -
Mr. Walsh attacks the Government’s establishment of four nationalized lines - Qantas, British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines, Tasman Empire Airways, and Trans-Australia Airlines^ - ‘ an incredible thing, each line being a man doing a hoy’s job ‘.
Mr. Coles, the managing director;
– A good bit “ over half a crown “ !
– Yes, he apparently fell for the salesman who sold him the American aircraft which I mentioned! I do not want to be personal in referring to the head of Trans-Australia Airlines, but I point out that even Lord Nuffield, who is a great manufacturer of motor cars, failed when he tried to manufacture aircraft. Supporters of the Government never tire of telling us that Mr. Coles, the former member for Henty, was an outstanding success as a chain store proprietor. That may very well .be, but that is no guarantee that he can operate a modern airline. This kind of thing must stop unless we are satisfied to adopt socialism in all its forms. It is obvious from the Government’s efforts to invade the sphere of civil aviation that nothing is too big or too little for it to socialize. As an example, I refer to another division of the Estimates, namely, the Department of Munitions. That department has decided to embark on the manufacture of caps for toy pistols. I quote from a letter from the manager of the explosives factory at Maribyrnong -
Manufacture of Toy Caps at Explosive Factory, Maribyrnong.
In connection with the manufacture of toy caps at this factory, I have to advise that it has been decided that production will proceed. . . .
Another letter from the Department of Munitions states, in part -
In view of the information which has been obtained as to the shortage of these items in Australia, and with a possible export market, it will be appreciated. . . .
This must concern the Government’s defence policy, because that is on a par with toy caps! The letter goes on to state -
This department is quite justified in its decision’, which has already been notified to the company, by the Manager, Explosives Factory, Maribyrnong
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), in an impassioned appeal on behalf of private enterprise, has set out, as he usually does from the time he gets on his feet, to condemn any national undertakings. Nothing is any good which is run by the Government anywhere, in the opinion of that honorable member and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). Yet they rely very largely on the services of many government instrumentalities in order that they may be enabled to function. The Postal Department is a “glaring” example of a successful national enterprise, and, if honorable members care so to describe it, a monopoly. That applies also to harbour trusts, electricity commissions, and a host of other bodies which function properly for the benefit of the people.
– I could point to a lot of government business undertakings which have piled up huge losses.
– Order! The honorable member for Wentworth must cease interjecting.
– I was amused at the honorable member for Balaclava, but refrained from interjecting because I thought that he ought to have a “ fling “ in his characteristically happy style. Seeing that he enjoys himself so, much when he is discoursing on a theme of this kind, it seemed a pity to interrupt him. He has quoted some very foolish stater ments, among them being those of the manager of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, Mr. Walsh, who ha3 made some of the most extravagant statements that could be made, all for the purpose of damning its rival, Trans Australia Airlines. He has said that the fees which Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited are being charged - to- which the honorable member referred - are of such, a nature that they would pay interest on £4,500,000, a sum which would enable the company to build airports of its own. If that be so, why does it not go ahead and build them? Over a period of years, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has made profits out of facilities provided by benevolent governments. I am not detracting from its capacity for organization and operation. It has done- very well out of its investments,, and has. operated quite successfully. The standard of air operations in Australia, will bear comparison with that which is to be found in other parts of the world. But when I hear the honorable member for Balaclava “ tell the world “ - perhaps I was wrong in saying that; I do not think the world would be bothered listening to him - or telling as many people as will listen to him, of the difficulties which are being imposed on private companies, and of the favoured treatment that has been given to the Government airline, I must present the other side of the picture. It is not true to say that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has been deprived of dollars. Until the dollar restrictions were imposed, it was given authority to purchase DC4 aircraft, even though DC3 aircraft were available, because DC4. aircraft were of a kind that was required for trans-ocean service. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited used those aircraft under contract with British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines. Next April, British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines will terminate the contract and operate on its own behalf. Honorable members’ have never heard me condemning Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited as. a business undertaking, In fact,, the honorable member for Balaclava, knows, and so do other honorable members opposite, as well as honorable members who sit on. this side of the chamber, that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was gradually becoming a complete monopoly in Australia. Its shares were largely owned by five big shipping companies, and it was gradually absorbing, all- the other’ airlines- in Australia. It had absorbed seven or eight companies, and bade fair to become a complete private enterprise monopoly: Imagine what it could have done when the monopoly was complete! That is the sort of thing which the honorable member stands for, and apparently wants to see.
Let us deal with the alleged farecutting, on which he has laid a great deal of emphasis. This is the first opportunity I have had to contradict a statement that he has made often, following a speech in support of the tactics of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and in condemnation of those of TransAustralia Airlines. When TransAustralia Airlines began to operate, it found that concession fares were being given to privileged people. It is believed, I think accurately, the belief being based on a fair amount of information, that from 50 to 60 per cent, of those travelling on Australian National Airway’s services belonged to- companies, business firms or other organizations which put down a sum of money, drew upon that as a. credit and obtained concession fares. Oh what was known as an air travel card they could travel from Melbourne to Sydney for £5 103. 6d. while an ordinary member of the public had to pay £6 10s.
Mr. Holt interjecting.
– I can understand the honorable member- for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) being stirred up, because probably he is one who has uttered this statement which time and again has misled the public.
– I have not; but I hope to have an opportunity to say something to-night.
– Certainly, the honorable member for Balaclava has; T put it, that the fares charged, by- Australian! National Airways Proprietary
Limited to a privileged section were 15 per cent, below those charged to the ordinary public. Mr. Coles, acting on behalf of the Australian National Airlines Commission, said in effect, “ “We shall not have any privileged customers; all will travel at the one rate”. That is the full extent of the alleged price-cutting that has taken place. Yet mountains have been made out of that in the Murdoch press. The honorable member for Balaclava quoted tonight from Aircraft as though it were an authority. It is a Murdoch press production, and it does not hesitate to criticize the Government on every occasion, as do the chain of Murdoch newspapers. The honorable member has quoted from newspapers as to the deficiencies of Trans-Australia Airlines and what it is alleged to have done in the way of strangling other companies. Let me quote from an authoritative journal which, although not published in this country, at least knows a good deal about aviation.
– What is the journal?
– I am naming the journal.
– Order ! There is too much interjection. If honorable members interfere with the Minister while he is speaking, I shall name them. There must be no interruption; it is against the Standing Orders.
– This is the quotation
The May- J une issue of the British magazine “ Aeronautics “ makes some concise observations on the airline scene. It states - “ Trans-Australia Airlines is certainly making a favorable name for itself. Even the capitalistic press, which probably would like to be offensive about ‘typical government inefficiency and extravagance ‘-
That fits the honorable member for Balaclava lias no complaint about the quality of its service. What it has cost to get the show going wo do not know, but the expenditure of capita] in obtaining equipment and in developmental expenses is unavoidable in, any business enterprise. It will be soon enough to make a balance-sheet after the line has run for two years. So far it has run aircraft for only seven months, but in that time its .loadings have leapt - well, skyward “. [ shall present to the committee some figures in regard to civil aviation and
Trans-Australia Airlines, which I believe will be of value to any unbiased person.
The civil aviation estimates for this year show an appropriation of approximately £11,000,000. As against this expenditure, there is an estimated revenue of £1,700,000, so that the net cost is of the order of £9,300,000. The expenditure falls under two main headings, the first being maintenance services, which include administration; maintenance of aerodromes, development and maintenance of aeradio and other aids to air navigation ; and finally, payments to airline contractors, both for internal and overseas services. These items total approximately £3,S00,000. The other main heading is “Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c”, for which the total appropriation is approximately £7,250,000. Included under this heading are appropriations of £1,500,000 for TransAustralia Airlines, approximately £1,500,000 for Qantas Empire Airways, and £500,000 for British Commonwealth Pacific Airways.
The increased provision under administration is to meet the rapidly expanding responsibilities of the Department of Civil Aviation, which necessarily must employ increased staff to supervise the expanding civil aviation operations and to operate and maintain the increasing network of airports and air navigation aids. For example, it is proposed during the current year to establish eleven additional aeradio stations and to strengthen the staff of some existing aeradio stations to meet the increased operations. In addition, the Department of Civil Aviation will, in future, be responsible for the maintenance of all necessary landing grounds on approved air routes, and is also now responsible for the maintenance of a number of Royal Australian Air Force aerodromes which have been taken over for civil aviation purposes.
The expanding network of aerodromes, air navigation aids, and traffic control necessarily involves increased expenditure under the maintenance heading, and this explains the increases under those headings. In addition, the department has now secured a small number of aircraft to facilitate the periodical testing of pilots and the proving of the airway organization. A sum of £25,000 has ako been included to provide assistance in the development of a light feeder aircraft to meet Australian conditions. At present, no really satisfactory aircraft for this type of work is available in the British Commonwealth. An increase is also required to meet additional costs of the meteorological service, which at present must be regarded as not wholly adequate.
In the item of internal air services there is an apparent substantial increase in the net appropriation compared with last year, but that is due to a change in the presentation of figures. The recoveries are not shown as a direct offset against this vote, as was done last year, but as a direct credit to revenue they are included in the £1,700,000 civil aviation revenue to which I have already referred. The relatively small expenditure last year was due to the fact that substantial payments had necessarily to be carried forward to the current year. The vote covers a continuation of existing internal air services, with a relatively small provision for development of new services during the year. The item of overseas air services is similarly affected by the decision this year not to show recoveries against the actual expenditure. The sum of £1,000,000 provided for the AustraliaUnited Kingdom service includes arrears in excess of £500,000 for settlement of our joint responsibility with the United Kingdom Government for losses during 1946-47 on this service.
Under Division 16, funds are being provided to meet necessary improvements to existing aerodromes and to provide improved aeradio communication and navigation facilities, including the eleven new radio stations to which I have already referred. The provision of departmental aircraft is also covered in this vote. There is also included in this vote the advance of £1,500,000 to the Australian National Airlines Commission. I shall refer to the activities of TransAustralia Airlines a little later.
Under Division 17, “Acquisition of Sites and Buildings “, the total appropriation of £3,000,000 includes £2,500,000 for payments to the Commonwealth Disposals Commission for buildings and’ sites estab- lished by other departments during the war.
During the debate it has been suggested that money has been flowing for the purpose of the erection of buildings and premises for occupation by TransAustralia” Airlines. What has happened is that Trans-Australia Airlines has taken over buildings which were occupied by the Department of Aircraft Production during the war. It will be seen, therefore, that the statement is only another of the extravagant charges made in this House by the honorable member for Balaclava.
– I rise to order. The Minister has said that I have made untrue statements.
– Is the honorable member raising a point of order, or does he wish to make a personal explanation?
– I am drawing attention to the unparliamentary statement of the Minister.
– The Minister is quite in order.
– The appropriation of £2,400,000 under Division 18 is to cover development of facilities at existing Commonwealth airports to meet International Civil Aviation Organization standards and similar development of airports being taken over from the Commonwealth Disposals Commission, or from local authorities. Air transport in Australia is now past the horse and buggy stage, and major expenditure is necessary in this country as in all other countries, to bring the airports up to the standard required for an important and rapidly expanding transport organization. The major large-scale developments included in the programme are in respect of the airports at Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, but considerable development is also proposed at Brisbane, Darwin, Perth and in Tasmania.
Under special appropriations there is provided approximately £2,000,000, of which approximately £500,000 is to cover the acquisition by the Commonwealth of the Australian shareholding in Qantas Empire Airways, thereby making that company wholly owned by the Commonwealth Government, and £1,000,000 to enable the company to finance the purchase of Constellation aircraft and necessary equipment. The sum of £500,000 is also provided as being Australia’s subscription to the share capital of British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines - the organization set up by the Governments of Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom conjointly to operate transPacific air services. This company will itself operate the trans-Pacific service commencing about April next, and it is necessary for the company to be provided with capital to cover the purchase of aircraft, equipment, Asc.
Honorable members will all agree that civil aviation has now become a major factor in the daily lives of the community, and must continue to grow in importance. The benefits it has conferred already, and will continue to confer, on the peoples of the world by enabling rapid and safe communication between nations, and in facilitating movement inside national boundaries, are incalculable. It is already rapidly revolutionizing travel between our main centres of population and is, perhaps, conferring even greater benefits on our sturdy pioneers who are settling and developing our outback areas. The Civil Aviation Department is destined to become one of the greatest of the Commonwealth departments, and I am confident that honorable members will recognize the need for reasonable votes for this purpose during the present developmental stages.
– I rise to order. Is the Minister entitled to read his speech?
– If the honorable member for Balaclava interrupts the Minister’s speech again, I shall name him.
– I am presenting to the committee facts which have been prepared to refute the loose statements made from time to time. During the debate on the Estimates, I sought an opportunity to present them, and should have been glad to do so.
I revert now to Trans-Australia Airlines. The Australian National Airlines Commission has not yet presented its annual report for the year ended the 30th June, 1947, but I understand that it is in course of preparation. In accordance with the requirements of the act, the commission’s, annual report and financial accounts, with the report of the AuditorGeneral, will be presented to the Parliament when received. Honorable members will then have an opportunity for full discussion of the report.
– They have nothing to do with the Estimates for additions, new works, buildings, &c.
– I am replying to the honorable member for Balaclava, who referred at length to Trans-Australia Airlines. My statement refutes the arguments which the honorable member advanced and it is for that reason that there is objection to what I am saying. I am in a position to give to the committee information regarding the activities of the commission during 1946-47. Honorable members opposite have shown a good deal of curiosity in regard to those activities and I am now trying to satisfy them.
As honorable members are aware, the commission was constituted in February, 1946, when it was faced with the immediate task of creating an organization to operate a network of interstate air services in competition with well-established operators.
– I rise to order. Do you rule, Mr. Chairman, that the Minister is” in order in bringing before the committee a prepared statement relating to the general activities of Trans-Australia Airlines in a discussion of the Estimates relating to additions, new works, buildings, &c. ? I ask this for the guidance of members of the committee, because a ruling that the Minister is in order would conflict with previous rulings given in the committee.
– If the honorable member will refer to Division 16 on page 399 of the Estimates, which relates to additions, new works, buildings, &c, he will see that provision is made for Australian National Airlines Commission. The money which is being provided is for the establishment, general operation and administration of that service.
– These estimates relate to additions, new works, buildings, &c.
– The Minister is now endeavouring to reply to the honorable member for Balaclava.
– Its first task was to obtain the necessary aircraft and trained staff. Although there was much excellent aircrew and ground staff material available, particularly from the demobilized members of the Air Force, it was essential that these persons should be properly trained in the techniques of civil flying, and in the maintenance and operation of transport aircraft in accordance with civil requirements. The commission, therefore, set up a national airlines school, which opened on the 2nd July, 1946, at which aircrews were given specialist training in navigation, instrument flying, radio aids, and all the other relevant subjects and were checked out to a very exacting standard.
Active operations were inaugurated on the 9th .September, 1946, with an interim, once-daily service between Melbourne and Sydney, the prime purpose of which was to give the organization practical experience in conducting an efficient commercial airline. The operations between Melbourne and Sydney were increased to twice daily, and extended to Brisbane on the 7th October. On that date the services were declared to be fully available to the public. As the staff was trained, and the necessary organization created, the operations of TransAustralia Airlines were expanded, until on the 12th December, 1946, the opening of the Perth-Adelaide service marked the achievement of the commission’s first objective, the linking of all the Australian capitals with regular services for the carriage of passengers, mails and freights.
It can be confidently claimed that the creation of this organization, and the development of its activities from the appointment of the commission in February, 1946, to the operation of a network linking all the capitals of the Commonwealth in a period of ten months is a most commendable effort, and one that has probably never been surpassed anywhere in the world. Since December the services have been further developed and expanded until, by June, the scale of Trans-Australia Airlines operations represented over 7,250,000 miles per annum. When I attended the International Avia tion Conference at Montreal, I was asked about Trans-Australia Airlines, and what it had accomplished. Experts attending the conference, from all parts of the world, including those from areas in which government services operated and others from areas served by private enterprise, all agreed that the record of TransAustralia Airlines was one of the best in the history of aviation.
– Did the Minister tell them that it had not produced a balancesheet yet?
– The balancesheet will be produced in due course, and the honorable member will then have an opportunity to tear it to pieces if he can find in it anything to get his teeth into. The Trans-Australia Airlines fleet, at the 30th June, 1947, consisted of four DC4 and thirteen DC3 passenger aircraft, two DC3 freighter aircraft and six additional DC3 aircraft under conversion for civil use. The commission has also ordered five Convair-Liner 40-passenger aircraft, which is probably the most modern medium-range aircraft in production today. These aircraft have a cruising speed of 300 miles an hour, and are fully pressurized, thus greatly reducing, if not eliminating, on normal altitude flights, the effects of altitude on passengers’ comfort. These aircraft are expected to be delivered early in the new year, and will set a new standard of speed and passenger comfort on Australia’s main traffic .routes.
The commission’s services have been well patronized by the public, both for passengers and freights. In April, 1947, the number of passengers carried on Trans- Australia Airline services reached 100,000, and on the 15th September. 1947, the 200,000th .passenger- was carried. The freight carried up to the 30th June, 1947, was over 2,500,000 lb., most of which was transported during the last three months consequent on the commission’s drive to secure this kind of business. In accordance with the Government’s policy of giving mail contracts to the government airline, TransAustralia Airlines is carrying the greater proportion of the airmails. All these operations have been conducted without injury to passengers or crew, and with a degree of regularity and efficiency that stands comparison with any airline in the world.
Although the amount of traffic carried by Trans-Australia Airlines is very gratifying, it could not be expected that the revenue earned during nine months would be sufficient to cover the developmental and operating costs for the whole year. Until the audited figures are available I am unable to state the exact amounts, but I am satisfied that the financial results are reasonable, bearing in mind the inescapable heavy charges for the establishment of an organization of the magnitude of Trans-Australia Airlines.
The commission’s activities have been financed by grants from the Treasury, totalling to the 30th June, 1947, £2,170,000, and honorable members will note that further advances up to £1,500,000 are provided in the Estimates now under discussion. The advances are being applied mainly to items of a capital nature for the purchase of aircraft, spares, and stores, plant and buildings, the main items up to the 30th June, 1 947, being -
Expenditure of over £750,000 during 1947-4S is involved in the purchase of the Convair-Liners, with their necessary spares. The opposition which has developed to the purchase of the ConvairLiners is due to the fact that they are easily the best aircraft operating on any airline in Australia, and, naturally, the public will travel on them in preference to other aircraft. The competitors of Trans-Australia Airlines, therefore, fear the result.
In considering the future of TransAustralia Airlines, I may say that the commission is being instructed now to enter the field of developmental services, and will commence operating between Adelaide and Darwin at the beginning of next month. It is proposed that the commission shall undertake other developmental services during the year, but I am not in a position to announce at present just what these services will be. These .developmental services clearly cannot be expected to operate at a profit. Negotiations are now being concluded for Trans- Australia Airlines to undertake the maintenance and overhaul work for British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines when that company takes over in April next, the trans-Pacific operations now being conducted by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, as contractors to British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines.
– “What is going to be done with Guinea Airways?
– The Australian National Airlines Act provides that when an adequate service in Commonwealth Territories is given by a government line other services shall cease to operate. The precise provision is contained in Section 46(2) of the act as follows: -
Where an airline licence is issued to the Commission in respect of a Territorial airline service and the commission has established that service, any airline licence held by any person other than the commission or a contractor, in respect of any airline service which provides transport by air between any of the scheduled stopping places of the service established by the commission, not being places in a State, shall, by virtue of this section (unless it has been issued in respect of a section of an international airline service authorized by the Commonwealth), and insofar as it authorizes transport by air between any of those stopping places of passengers or goods embarked or loaded for transport solely between those stopping places, be inoperative so long as there is an adequate airline service between those stopping places by reason only of the services operated by the commission and the services operated by the contractors.
Thus, when Trans- Australia Airlines commences to operate an effective service, Guinea Airways will cease to operate.
– Another confiscation provision.
– That can be tested in due course. Apart from the high establishment and developmental costs unavoidable during the early years of an activity such as this, the finances of the commission have been unquestionably affected by the rising costs of both staff and materials. This is a factor affecting every activity to-day - not only airline operations. The present level of fares and freight rates throughout Australia was determined prior to recent. increase of costs, and increases of charges for air transport are as inescapable as are increases for other forms of transport. As honorable members know, approval was recently given for an increase of 20 per cent, in the fares on the major air services and consideration is being given to the question of similar increases on the remaining services. When TransAustralia Airlines decided that the public should obtain the benefit of concession rates which had previously been enjoyed by privileged people, it was accused of cutting fares. The public enjoyed cheaper fares, and even now the recent increase of 20 per cent, places fares only a little higher than what they were before the concession was- granted. That is a complete answer to the charge that there has been pricecutting by Trans-Australia Airlines. The Commonwealth of Australia has in Trans-Australia Airlines a splendid organization conducting an Australiawide network of air services for the benefit of the community. In the face of .the inevitable difficulties associated with establishing a new activity of this nature and magnitude, the commission could not reasonably be expected to show a profit during its initial stages ; but I am confident that the commission will continue to spare no efforts to conduct its activities economically and with the gratifying operational success that has marked its first year’s operations.
Suggestions have been made that the grants to Trans-Australia Airlines totalling £3,670,000, including the £1,500,000 provided in this year’s Estimates, represent an unduly high capitalization of the government airlines compared with the capital of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Qantas Empire Airways. However, the grants to TransAustralia Airlines do not represent capital expenditure only. As I have already indicated, very considerable establishment and developmental costs are necessarily involved in setting up rapidly an organization of the magnitude of Trans-Australia Airlines; and TransAustralia Airlines has in this respect been at a disadvantage compared with private operators whose development has been more gradual and spread over a considerable number of years. It is claimed that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is able to operate on a capital of £1,000,000. The current assets of that company obviously cost substantially more than £1,000,000, and presumably, have been financed from other sources.
In assessing the soundness of the criticism of the capitalization of the government airlines it is appropriate to recall the equally unjustified, but completely contradictory, claims made when the establishment of the government airlines was first mooted. I quote now from the Melbourne Age of the 7th December, 1944-
A spokesman for the Airlines Operators’ Secretariat estimated yesterday that acquisition by the Commonwealth Government of the inter-state airlines would cost the taxpayers of Australia between £8,000,000 and £10,000,000 and possibly even more by way of compensation.
Honorable members, of course, are aware that the Airline Operators Secretariat was the mouthpiece of the very same interests which are now suggesting that major airlines can be established and operated on very small capitals. Such a claim is obviously absurd when one realizes the present-day costs of firstclass modern aircraft and all the essential ancillary services such as workshops, buildings, motor transport, &c. The reference to the purchase of Qantas Empire Airways assets for under £1,000,000 is an equally unjustifiable attempt to mislead the public. At the time the Commonwealth acquired the shareholding of Qantas Empire Airways that company owned not a single modern aircraft; and there is included in the present Estimates, as I have already stated, the sum of £1,000,000, towards the cost of purchasing the modern Constellations which the company needs in order to operate its important overseas service to the United Kingdom. The criticisms which I have now fully answered illustrate very clearly the extravagance and inconsistency of claims which opponents of the government airline are prepared to make in an attempt to discredit the government airlines.
I put it to honorable members ‘that no other operating organization has been built up so rapidly and successfully as has Trans-Australia Ada-lines. It represents a wonderful achievement ; and I believe that within the next two years, when it is functioning completely, notwithstanding the difficulties it has had to meet, it will prove to be one of the most successful airline ventures undertaken in any country. I have great confidence in the organization. There is no reason whatever for honorable members opposite to believe amy of the reports that are being ‘circulated to its detriment. The organization is functioning, as it should, on behalf of the people. Everywhere one hears complimentary remarks about the service that it is rendering. It is providing services in areas where aerial transport is needed most. Long before the establishment of this organization, one airways company refused to fly to a certain area because it alleged that the aerodrome in the area was unsafe although it had previously operated to that place. I had to take the stand that if necessary I would fly in a Royal Australian Air Force aircraft to that aerodrome in order to demonstrate its safety. When the company realized that I was determined to do that in order to refute its allegation it eventually re-established a service to that area.
– Did the Minister fly there?
– I am not so egotistical as to boast about the flying that I have done. Not only does the honorable member for Balaclava fly, but he waves his wings and1 boasts about it as well. I repeat that before the advent of Trans-Australia Airlines, private airways companies concentrated only on the better paying services. When it was made clear, however, that I was determined that services must be provided to other areas which needed them, existing companies established such services, and, in many instances are now operating daily services in such areas. I could cite many cases of that kind. The government airlines are prepared to enter the field and give the hest service possible to the people who patronize air traffic. They are certainly doing a very good job. Criticisms published from time to time in various newspapers with the object of injuring the government airlines are inspired by persons in certain quarters. When the Australian National Airlines Act was before the House some honorable members opposite appointed themselves advocates on behalf of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. However, none of them pointed out that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in the process of its development had swallowed’ six, or seven, other companies. If there is going to be a monopoly of air travel in Australia, then, so far as I. am concerned, it will be not a private but a government monopoly. I do .not believe that any honorable member on this side of the chamber would -he prepared to allow a private monopoly to control air traffic in Australia. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited had a very prosperous period. It was able to make good profits during the war when it had the whole .field to itself, carrying mails to the troops overseas and getting practically 95 per cent, loadings. During that “period it made very good profits. Some airlines are now operating with the assistance of a subsidy from the Government in order to provide services to places where such services would not ordinarily be provided. That is the policy of the Government.
Reflections have been cast upon certain individuals associated with TransAustralia Airlines. Mr. Coles is, probably, one of the best business men in Australia. He has given abundant proof of ‘his outstanding ability, and1 he is applying his wide business experience in the operation of this organization. He has good executive men under him. For instance, Mr. Lester Brain was formerly an executive of Qantas Empire Airways Limited. I have never made the charge against companies which operated prior to the advent of Trans-Australia Airlines that they were incompetent. I have freely recognized that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Qantas built up services and operating personnel which were a credit to Australia. However, should the Government allow private enterprise to skim the cream off air traffic in Australia, to find itself later at the mercy of private companies,, it would’ not be doing its duty by the people of Australia. We intend :co do that duty despite criticism. 1 am satisfied that Trans-Australia Airlines is doing a very good job. I do not suggest for one moment that some grounds for criticism do not exist. However, no organization starting off as TransAustralia Airlines has commenced, carrying 220,000 passengers in its first year of operations, could expect to show profits during its initial stages. If that were as easy as some people suggest, I have no doubt that honorable members opposite who are such eloquent advocates of private enterprise would soon get into the business. A suggestion was made that in purchasing aircraft of the type we are obtaining the Government is unnecessarily using up its dollar reserves. Contracts for the purchase of the aircraft were made before the dollar restrictions came into operation. No doubt those who support the provision of air services by private airlines- would have been happy had the Government cancelled the contracts. Had it done so, however, it would have incurred expenditure for which no return would have been received. The Government has been fortunate in being able to secure limited numbers of Convair and Constellation aircraft which will make it possible for Trans-Australia Airlines to render a very much improved service to the community.. As regards the purchase of British aircraft–
– The Minister is having, a “fair go”.
– I am replying to the points raised in the debate.
– The Minister knows that a time limit has been fixed for the debate.
Mi-. DRAKEFORD.- I do not know what, limit has been fixed. If the- honorable member feels that I am. taking more time than I should, I am prepared to resume my seat at once. I have submitted such convincing arguments that nothing, more need be said.
.- The Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford), has given us a long and interesting dissertation on the establishment and operation of Trans- Australia Airlines. I do not propose to deal at length with hisremarks, because the subject has; already been very fully covered by the- honorable member for Balaclava. (Mr. White). The Minister has taken great credit for the fact that the Government established Trans-Australia Airlines and that that instrumentality is providing, a good service. I do not dispute that I agree that Trans-Australia Airlines, is providing a good service, but I point out that a good service is also being provided by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, and was being provided by that organization before TransAustralia Airlines was ever thought of. Having regard to the amount of money expended on Trans- Australia Airlines, if it were not giving a good service, Mr. Coles and all those associated with the instrumentality should hang their heads in deep shame. The honorable gentleman lias informed u3 that, including the proposed vote in these Estimates, a total amount of £3,760,000 will have been expended on the establishment of TransAustralia Airlines’ at the close of this financial year but that a balance-sheet showing its financial affairs is not yet. available. The honorable gentleman has submitted many reasons, which in my mind are mere excuses,, for the absence of such a vital document. He merely says that a balance-sheet will be made available in good time. I venture to say that that will be when the Parliament is no longer in session. At 5 per cent, the interest on the proposed total expenditure of £3,760,000 would amount to £188,000 per annum, or more than £3,600 a week. If Trans-Australia Airlines were a private concern it would probably pay to the Treasury very large amounts by way of taxes, so that the taxpayers lose- not only the interest on the capital: invested in Trans-Australia Airlines, but also- the taxes that would normally be- collected’ from a private company operating a similar service. The taxpayers, are entitled to a clear statement from the Minister as to whether the operations of TransAustralia. Airlines are being carried on at a loss. We are certain that they are, and that the loss is very great. At this time, when the Estimates for- the whole of the ramifications of the Commonwealth are under consideration, we should be given a profit and loss account covering the activities of Trans-Australia Airlines in order that we may be able to see at a glance how the instrumentality is being conducted.
The’ Minister took credit for having’ forced an. airline company to establish an air service in a district in Tasmania. He claimed, that as he was “‘game “ enough to land on a certain aerodrome which had. been regarded by the airline companies as unfit for use, it was fit for anybody to use. I remind him that I and. the mayor and town clerk of Casino waited on his doorstep for months seeking permission for the granting of a licence for the operation of a service to- Casino, but permission was refused. I fail to see why,, on the one hand, the. honorable gentleman should force a private company to operate a service in Tasmania,, and, on: the other hand, refuse to issue a permit sanctioning the establishment of a service to a very important centre. The whole of the facts of this refusal should be made known.
– The- honorable member should state them.
– Within a week of the Minister assuring us that, no additional licences could, be issued at that time,, a licence was granted to a new company to operate a service to Evans Head,, a. short distance away. The inconsistency in the honorable gentleman’s policy requires some explanation.
Apart from special appropriations, a total amount of £19,297,000 is to be provided under these Estimates for additions, new works and buildings for departments and services other than business undertakings. I have looked through the. proposed votes in order to ascertain how much is proposed to be expended on. the provision of homes for the people, one of the most pressing needs in Australia to-day. I find that £7,144,000 is to be expended on war service homes and approximately £700,000 on the erection of Beaufort homes and the acquisition of materials for their construction. Apart from those items almost the whole of the proposed votes in these Estimates will be absorbed by governmental works of one kind or another.
– A bill -was introduced in this chamber to-night to provide £13,000,000 for the construction of homes for the people.
– The great difficulty confronting home-builders to-day is the procurement of all requisite materials to complete a house. All over the- country one sees houses partly finished and work on them abandoned because of the shortage of materials to complete them. This- shortage has been .brought, about because of the competition of the Government,, which enjoys first priority in available building materials. - The unfortunate private home builder is “ stymied “ all the time because of the extraordinary Government expenditure on buildings and works which, in the main, could very well be left until the urgent housing requirements of the people who are living in one room, living with, relatives, or even laving in. tents, have been met. Remembering the great disadvantage suffered by so many people because of the housing shortage I look with very great interest at some of the proposed votes in these Estimates. I had thought that our High Commissioners abroad were doing fairly well for themselves; but I notice that the Australian High Commissioner in London,. M::. Beasley, expended £946 last year on equipment for Australia House and his official residence, and that the proposed vote for that item this year is no less than £12,500. That is a nice little “ slice “ for Mr. Beasley. Since he reached Canada Mr. Forde has expended £7,236 for a similar purpose, and an additional amount of £1,000 has been provided1 for this financial year. Why is- it that as soon as Labour Ministers go abroad they find that accommodation which had been regarded as suitable by their predecessors is inadequate, and that, thousands of pounds of the taxpayers’ money must he expended on the provision of improved accommodation and facilities? The newly-appointed High Commissioner for Eire - a country with which Australia does very little business in trade and commerce - is Mr. Dignam, who, before he was appointed to that office, was an unsuccessful candidate at the last elections. In last year’s budget, provision was made for- the expenditure of £4,091. This year, the estimated expenditure required to make Mr. Dignam comfortable is £10,500. In marked contrast is the treatment of those public servants of the
Commonwealth, who are engaged on ordinary consular commercial work abroad. The total estimated expenditure in respect of all consulates, including the provision of equipment for offices, residences, &c. is £16,000. Mr. Beasley has spent almost that much himself, and Mr. Dignam has spent half that much. Apparently the ordinary public servant has to scratch along the best he can.
The most amazing provision in these Estimates is that relating to the official residence of the Governor-General at Yarralumla. When the Duke of Kent was appointed to the post of GovernorGeneral of Australia - an appointment which unfortunately he was never able to take up due to the aircraft accident in which he lost his life - great preparations were made at Yarralumla in expectation of the arrival of a royal family. At that time, Yarralumla House was what one might term an old colonial residence. To bring it up to the standard which, it was believed, was required for a royal GovernorGeneral, £16,000 was expended upon alterations and furnishings in 1938-39, £48,000 in 1939-40, and £3,500 in 1940-41. Little work was done during the war, but when the Duke of Gloucester was appointed to the post, the work of rebuild ing and refurnishing was completed with the expenditure of £10,652 in 1944-45, bringing the total since 1938-39 to £78,434. While the Duke of Gloucester occupied Yarralumla House, very little was expended. In fact, in the last year of his occupation, the expenditure amounted to only £258. However, with a new Governor-General installed in Yarralumla House, we find an additional £1,500 on the Estimates for the current financial year. This may not seem much compared with the other items in these Estimates, but in view of housing conditions generally throughout the Commonwealth, and bearing in mind the fact that more than £78,000 has been expended on Yarralumla House since 1939, one wonders whether this further expenditure can be justified. Some people may argue, “Well, what is £1,500?”; but that is quite a lot of money to most people in this country. The utmost extravagance is manifest in every page of the budget, and is practised by every person who is appointed by the Government to a posi- tion in which he can indulge in ostentation. An explanation should be given of the necessity for expenditure of thiskind. There should be an explanation of Mr. Beasley’s expenditure of £12,500 on his official residence and on Australia House in London. How much of this is to be expended in Australia House, and how much on the official residence? These items should be sub-divided instead of being obscured by lumping them together. There are still many thousands of people in Australia, including ex-servicemen and their wives, who are unable to build their own homes although they have the necessary money to do so. In some cases construction of dwellings has been started but .cannot be completed because materials are in short supply. How can materials be made available for home-building when the Government is giving first priority to nonessential undertakings ? Surely exservicemen should have the first priority.
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has put his finger on a very important point in the problem of private housing to-day. The provision of government buildings has indeed led to the robbing of private home-builders of certain materials that would otherwise be available to them and, to that degree, this governmental activity has seriously impeded the provision of houses for the people. Because I always endeavour in matters of this kind to adopt a thoroughly practical attitude, I wish to bring to the notice of the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) a certain scheme which has been presented to me, and which I think has great merit. Provision is made in these Estimates for certain expenditure on an experimental building station. I understand that experiments are now being carried out with what is known as the “Dampney” home, and I should be very glad to hear from the Minister some details of the progress that is being made with these experiments. I understand that they are being conducted somewhere near Sydney. The originator of the . project is Mr. George Dampney.
I am particularly interested in home ownership. I believe that it is to the advantage not only of the individual but also of .the community for each, family to own its own home ; but it is nevertheless true that to-day there is a great demand for rented houses to meet a situation which is very pressing and which, we hope, is merely a passing phase. My objection to most of the houses at present being designed is that they lack space. Building houses without sufficient space is, in effect, erecting ready-made slums. Space is of the very essence of good home building, and even though a dwelling may be of an entirely temporary kind, I believe that to encourage good habits of living and good practices of family discipline, space must be considered. We have a notion that civilization has progressed during the last several hundred years. We refer to mediaeval times as the “ dark ages “ ; yet in all the old countries of the world to-day there are in use, not by poor people hut by welltodo people, homes that were erected as cottages for workers hundreds of years ago. The cottages that we are building to-day will not last like that, nor will they be found suitable for reconstruction in a very short time. I wish to draw attention now to a scheme that has been suggested to me and which I think should be brought to the notice of the Government. It is a scheme originally propounded for the benefit of age pensioners. I have an architect’s plan, which I am prepared to present to the Minister, with all the details of the scheme as sent to me by any correspondent. The scheme provides for six small houses under one roof, each with three rooms - a bedroom, a living room and a kitchen. Each has its own small entry and its own toilet, and each pair of houses shares a bathroom and a washhouse. There are two small points t] at I should like to add in criticism, of the scheme. I think that as bathrooms are shared by two f amilies, there should be running water in each of the bedrooms and that each laundry should have three troughs instead of two as a labour-saving device for the housewives. Every woman in the community with experience will agree with me. But that is only in passing. The Minister the other day, in response to a question asked by me, told me that the department was making an effort to find a suitable plan for small houses for war widows at the cost of £S00 each. That, of course, I realize, in present circumstances, is a fairly cheap house, but I point out that this plan, which has been prepared by a retired builder, provides for six houses under one roof, giving a building of very pleasing appearance, to be built at a cost of about £350 a house. The difference between that cost and the cost of the houses for war widows that the department proposes under the scheme suggested by the Minister is very great. I have no doubt that costs would vary in the different States. It is suggested by the originator that this plan, although originally designed for age pensioners - and its benefits for that purpose are immediately apparent, because it provides privacy and yet companionship for the old .people - could be used to-day for the provision of homes for- newly-married couples, who, when a child arrives, would move into other accommodation. But I believe that the merits of this scheme to meet the present urgent need are great and I commend them to the Minister for his consideration. We cannot in mf view neglect any possible suggestion to provide housing at a reasonable cost, and this scheme seems to have many features not presented in any other scheme that has come to my notice.
– I desire to refer to “Special Appropriations^ - Aluminium Industry (Act No. 44 of 1944) “. When the second reading of the Aluminium- Industry Bill was being debated in 1944, the Parliament and the people were informed that £1,500,000 was to be invested in the establishment of the industry by the Commonwealth and £1,500,000 >by Tasmania, where the industry was to be established for the production of aluminium ingots. The Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Dedman) said that after the war 6,000 tons of aluminium would be used annually in Australia, although the annual pre-war consumption was only 1,500 to 1,700 tons. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), quoting from the Iron Age of the 21st August, 1944. pointed out that in the United States of
Aim erica the aluminium industry was then producing 1,180,000 tons a year.
– Order! What item are you dealing with ?
– It appears on page 393 of the Estimates, and it refers to the Aluminium Industry Act. The proposed vote for 1947-48 is £181,000.
– I remind the honorable member that that is a special appropriation.
– That is what I am speaking on.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member may not speak on that.
– As I am prevented from speaking on that item, I take this opportunity of placing before the public the extraordinarily difficult position that has arisen in ‘the housing programme in Australia. We have heard the remarks of the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) about this matter. One of the great difficulties in the housing programme is the shortage of roofing materials throughout Australia. The people of Australia are told fairy tales about housing. The press contained this one - “ A sad story,” said a spokesman for the Department of Building Materials when approached for information. The whole of Lysaght’s production was controlled by a Commonwealth authority, which made the necessary allocation to each State. New South Wales allocation was .only 30 per cent, of the output, calculated after the Commonwealth Government allotted requirements of the Pacific Islands and mandated territories to meet destruction wrought during the war years. There was also a small quota taken out for New Zealand.
He then went on to say that’ the shortage was owing to the great hailstorm that fellon Sydney on New Year’s Day, “which necessitated the use of 3,500 tons of galvanized corrugated iron out of the New South Wales pool, a contingency that was never anticipated. Another 2,000 was lost when the current month’s allocation was dropped.” But he did not refer to the bungling that occurred in September and October this year in New South Wales. Attention has been drawn to this by statements in the press by the management of Lysaght’s. The storage capacity for galvanized iron and terne plate in the company’s Newcastle works is 4,000 tons, plus 2,000 tons of black sheets. In the week ended the 20th September, I am informed, there were in stock- at Lysaght’s about 6,500 tons of galvanized iron and 3,300 tons of black iron. The total stock approximated 9,860 tons, which is 3,860 tons above the full storage capacity. The results are shown in some photographs that I have. They show numerous cases stacked higher than the safety level. I understand that the height of the stacks should not be more than 25 cases, whereas the photographs show a height of 31 cases. .The stacks are leaning and lives of the workers around the cases are endangered. The photographs show that the weight is so terrific that brand new cases are bursting, and that the iron is bending. It will have to be re-rolled. That is the kind of bungling that characterizes socialist governments in their inefficient attempts to have a finger in every pie. As the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) said, the Government muddles its affairs at home and meddles in the affairs of other countries. It lacks the ability of free enterprise as it operates in other countries. Roofless houses throughout New South Wales are monuments to its inefficiency. What did our brilliant bureaucracy do when the excess roofing iron needed- urgently in all States could not be moved from New South Wales because of strikes, waterfront delays, and the inadequacy of the New South Wales and other railways systems? It did nothing! Stocks of iron accumulated in those stores for two or three weeks, but apparently there was no thought of hypothecating the future allotments of New South Wales and making a rapid distribution of the stocks in that State. I travel through the Newcastle area every week on the way to my electorate, and from my seat in the train I can see roofless house after roofless house there. Nevertheless, our “ roofless “ bureaucracy will not do anything to put coverings over the heads of the unfortunate people who must suffer because of the incapacity of this socialistic government. The approximate quantity of corrugated iron in store at the works at the 8th October, was 5,400 tons. That represented approximately 820,000 8-ft. sheets of galvanized iron, which would have provided roofing, and at the same time happiness, for many Australians who to-night have no homes of their own because the iron was not distributed.
I have in my hand a page from an American magazine with an advertisement for. the Nichols “Wire & Steel Company of Davenport, Iowa, United States of America. It advertises aluminium wire, wire products and aluminium accessories. I remind honorable members that, on the 28th September, 1944, a bill was introduced in this Parliament for the purpose of assisting the establishment of the aluminium industry in Tasmania. The Australian Government and the Government of Tasmania were to provide £1,500,000 each for this purpose. This Government has dilly-dallied, shillyshallied, wasted time and wasted money since then without deciding whether the aluminium industry in Tasmania should be continued or not, although it knew in 1944 that the aluminium production capacity of the United States of America was 1,180,000 tons per annum. The industry in Australia was to be guided by Mr. A. V. Smith, who has now left the Public Service in order to become a director of the Electric Meter Manufacturing Company Limited, Dr. Wark, a scientist employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and Mr. Benjamin, the sole business man on the committee.
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to discuss the aluminium industry. It is the subject of a special appropriation, which cannot he discussed under item 1.
– I think that, in fairness, you will agree, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that I am demonstrating the inability of this Government to produce sufficient corrugated iron roofing in Australia. I am pointing out that the Nichols Wire & Steel Company, of Davenport, United States of America, is now producing aluminium roofing, aluminium sheet-roofing, corrugated ridge-roll, plain ridge-roll, end wall flashing, side wall flashing, flashing shingles, roll valley, and other requirements of builders’ hardware, including aluminium nails and aluminium staples. I was explaining - and I am sorry if I went too fully into the matter, which discloses a distressing story of waste and inefficiency - that this Government attempted three years ago to establish the aluminium industry in Australia. I was pointing out that the committee appointed by the Government, which had to receive its directions from the Minister for Supply and Shipping, did not have any business men with experience of the aluminium industry among its members and that the only member with any business experience at all had gained it in the manufacture of newsprint in Tasmania. I do not propose to extend myself on this subject-
– Ha, ha!
– It is easy for the fat and prosperous looking honorable member for Herbert, who does not worry about the houseless conditions of his constituents, to roll and rollick with laughter in this chamber, but we of the Australian Country party know too well what conditions are like in the country districts, and in the cities and suburbs also. When men returned from the war they had no homes, and, because of bungling, they now cannot obtain roofs to put on the houses which are being built for them. I have been pointing out that it is possible not only to obtain iron in Australia but also that aluminium is being used for roofing in the United States of America. When the New South Wales Minister for Housing, Mr. Olive Evatt, brought this matter to the attention of the. Government at the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers and sought permission to .use some dollars for the importation of aluminium roofing material, it was reported in the press that he was refused permission to do so on the ground that such purchases would deplete our dollar resources too greatly. However, it was plainly pointed out in this chamber last week that, if better use had been made of dollar resources for the purpose of increasing, production in Australia so as to save Great Britain from using, dollars to pay for imports from foreign countries and if the British socialistic Government had got a little more work from its coal-miners, a total of 562,000,000 dollars expenditure on imports of coal to Europe alone would have been saved. Therefore, I say that, because of the socialistic tendencies of the British Government and the Australian Government, many Australians are now living in cramped conditions caused by the lack of galvanized iron and tiles. They are also denied the right to import aluminium roofing material from the United .States of America on the ground that the dollars necessary for such purposes cannot be spared. Nevertheless, the great “ Cook’s tourists “ of the Parliament - all of them from the government side of the chamber - are allowed to go on extended trips, as in the case of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) who was away from Australia for five months. These honorable gentlemen are allowed to travel about the world like “The wandering Jew” and I have been informed - I believe correctly - that the Government places no limitation on the amount of money that they may take out of Australia and hands over to them good hard dollars for use in the United States of America. It is a rotten state of affairs when a government treats its people as this Government is treating the people of Australia.
.- It is not unusual for honorable members to have to listen to irresponsible and untrue statements made by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott). He said he thought that he read in the press a statement that the Minister for Housing in New South Wales, Mr Olive Evatt, made to the Australian Government a request for permission to import aluminium for housing purposes. What Mr. Evatt did was to seek permission to import roofing tiles under by-law. He made representations for the purchase, not only for New South Wales but also for other States which desired to share in the transaction. The Australian Government met the request. As soon as any State showed that it was able to place a firm order in India, where these tiles are manufactured, we agreed to grant the necessary permission. To date, the States have been able to submit to us evidence that they have firm orders for 1,500,000 tiles, and the necessary permits have been issued for their importation under by-law. When any State or firm convinces us that it can purchase these roofing tiles in the sterling area, and from the standpoint of economics India is the only market offering, the Government is prepared to consider the application, and permit the importation of up to 6,000,000 tiles.
I have surveyed the advisability of using aluminium for housing purposes. The cost of this metal is more than double the cost of ordinary roofing materials, and as’ we can import tiles for less than one half the price of aluminium, the Government considered that the purchase of aluminium for housing was not an economic proposition. The manufacture of concrete tiles is increasing throughout Australia. The Department of Works and Housing has imported two of the latest concrete tile and block making machines, and Monocrete Limited is bringing to Canberra one of the most modern types of machine for making concrete tiles. In the circumstances, we believe that the availability of tiles will not be a problem in the near future. The honorable member referred also to the plight of ex-servicemen in country districts who urgently require houses. When anti-Labour governments which the honorable member supported were in office, the greatest percentage of empty houses was in country areas. Because of the poverty of rural areas at the time, workers who had been employed in those parts were obliged to migrate to the large cities in order to qualify for the dole. That is one reason why during those periods stagnation in the building industry was more apparent in rural areas than in the cities. Statistics show that today we have a record production of all basic building materials. In addition, we believe that in this financial year and during the next two years, it will be possible to erect a record number of houses.
The honorable member for New England also asked why quantities of iron now stored in New South Wales were not made available for roofing purposes in that State. The explanation is that other States also require roofing iron.
– Do not distort -what I said. The Minister is an artist at distorting an honorable member’s words.
Mr. LEMMON.:The honorable member stated that when he goes into country districts, he sees thousands of homes without roofs, and he advocated that the iron now in store should he made available for those houses. Of course, the honorable member is a resident of New South Wales.
– I said that for the time being, the supplies of iron now in store should be hypothecated. Do not distort my statement.
– The reason for the storage of the iron is lack of transport. A percentage of this iron has been allocated to Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia. . When shipping becomes available, these States will receive their quotas of iron.
– I said that for the time being, the supply should be hypothecated.
– I listened to the honorable member’s remarks for a considerable period, but when he is told the truth, he endeavours to use his bull-like voice to prevent me from refuting his statements. I hope that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) who controls the allocation of the iron, will continue to ensure that New South Wales shall receive its share, and shall not be allocated iron which rightly belongs to the other States.
The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) referred to the Dampney house. Very briefly, I shall outline the position. Mr. Dampney, like many other inventors, endeavoured to devise a form of concrete construction for the purpose of reducing the cost and accelerating the erection of houses. The Commonwealth experimental building station, which this Government established, examines various methods of building construction, and all States and municipalities accept it as a recognized authority for issuing codes of building practice. Mr. Dampney has written to a number of honorable members and myself about his invention. Some authorities in New South Wales did not accept it because they considered, that it required certain strengthening. Accordingly, they asked us to examine the invention and lay down a code of practice and standards with which Mr. Dampney should comply. We did this for Mr. Dampney, as we have done for many other builders who are now making concrete slabs, concrete bricks and concrete construction such as the Fowler system, which produces a complete wall in one pre-cast block. The Commonwealth experimental building station has examined all these systems in the same way as it examined Mr. Dampney’s method. The station has developed “codes of practice and laid down standards which are accepted by the State instrumentalities that control conditions of construction. That has been done for Mr. Dampney, just as it has been done for others; but it is not possible for the Government to go beyond that concession. Mr. Dampney wrote to me recently and said that he had obtained the finance required to build a sample house. I replied that I was prepared to send officials to report on the house, and that if the structure was satisfactory and the cost not too great I should be prepared to accept the design for the construction of houses under the agreement between the Commonwealth and States and also for the purposes of the War Service Homes Act.
With regard to the other matter raised by the honorable member for Darwin, I think that the price quoted, namely, £300 for each flat of a block of flats, is very cheap and that the idea is quite good-. Unfortunately, blocks of flats of that type could be constructed probably only in two or three States, because, from my limited knowledge of the building industry, flats could not be constructed at that price in Queensland, Victoria or New South Wales. However, the scheme would not be acceptable generally because it does not conform to the type of housing unit we are seeking to erect, namely, an expandable home. Government architects are now concentrating on evolving designs of that type, the main principle of which is to provide an independent home unit for each block of land. The War Service Homes Act provides that in the case of each applicant there must be a single security in the form of a block of land.
The type of -structure suggested by the honorable member for Darwin contains about eight to ten home units in each block, which is, in reality, a -set of flats, and it would not be possible to construct dwellings of that type because, as I have said, the War .Service Homes Act requires that each applicant must have a block of land attached1 to his dwelling. Apart from present ‘Consideration, however, .the idea is a good one, and it may be possible to implement it later. It seems to me that the construction of housing units of that type might be of value in .providing homes for age pensioners, and I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna).
.- In the course of his reply to criticism of the government-owned Trans-Australia Airlines, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) made a rather slighting reference to the practice followed by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited of extending concession rates to what be described as “privileged persons “. In other words, he said that a different fare was charged to certain travellers. The way in which he developed his argument almost indicated a class-conscious streak in his make-up. He suggested that those who travel regularly by air lines and obtain a reduction on that account possess a special privilege and enjoy some advantage not shared by their fellow-Australians. That is an extraordinary criticism to come from the honorable gentleman, because he has been actively associated with railway administration for many years and must be aware that that practice is not confined to privately-owned airlines but has been followed for many years by governmentowned railways and tramways. We have only to think of the number of regular travellers on the suburban railway systems who avail themselves of concessional rates in the shape of monthly tickets to realize that fact. Do we stigmatize thos3 people as “ privileged “ users in the sense in which the Minister implies ? In Melbourne it costs one 2d. to travel one section on the tramways ; but if one buys a block of eight tickets it costs only ls. to travel eight sections. Is the person who buys a block of tickets for ls. a “ privileged person “, and to be sneered at as such? Is the organization which issues these concession tickets to be criticized because it adopts the sound commercial practice of providing a rebate for those who use its services regularly, because it knows that that concession provides an inducement to the public to patronize its services regularly? The significant thing in the Minister’s answer is the state of mind which he revealed. That state of mind is one of hostility to privately-controlled organizations, and he resorted to an utterly unwarranted and fallacious criticism.
– That is a dishonest approach.
– I say that it is .a dishonest approach on the part of tha Minister.
– The Minister was referring to the charge made against TransAustralia Airlines that it had unfairly reduced fares.
– The Minister referred to a reduction of fares made by TransAustralia Airlines, and said that that was a more satisfactory approach to the problem of attracting business than that made by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which, he said, had given special treatment to privileged users. Whatever justification there was for Trans- Australia Airlines to strike a special rate of fare is a matter for that concern, and I do not criticize it for doing so. I criticize Trans-Australia Airlines, however, when it uses public money to enter into unfair competition with privately-owned airlines, because it relies on public funds to beat down private competition.
– As a common carrier, Trans-Australia Airlines has to make a uniform charge.
– The railways are common carriers, but they do- not make a uniform charge; they make a concessional charge to regular users. In the past any person who has been a regular user of the services provided by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited- has been able to avail himself of special concessional rates. However, the point is not of any great consequence, other than that it reveals ‘the state of mind of the Minister for Civil Aviation. As a parliamentary committee established to protect the taxpayers and the national revenues, we are concerned .to satisfy ourselves that this enterprise is being conducted in a satisfactory manner. We must ask ourselves is it being run at a profit? Are the taxpayers getting a reasonable return on the money invested, or are their funds being used by the Government improperly and as a weapon to destroy the competition offered hy a privately-owned airline? Those are the questions- which this committee must have answered. Although the Minister developed his story very fully, and, taking advantage of the ruling of the Chairman, covered the whole ambit of the operations of Trans-Australia Airlines and not merely the “ additions, new works and buildings “ mentioned in the Estimates, he was remarkably discreet and, indeed, reserved, in regard to some aspects of the undertaking’s expenditure. For example, he pointed to advances totalling £3,500,000 which the Government had already made to cover the operations of Trans- Australia Airlines, but ignored completely the item which appears in the summary of the annual votes at page 395, under the heading “Department of Civil Aviation”. I direct the attention of the committee to that item, because it shows the remarkable growth of expenditure that is contemplated’ in this financial year, compared with the actual expenditure for the previous financial year. Honorable members -will note that there is provision for a total expenditure of £7,800,000 by the Department of Civil Aviation in 1947-4’8. The actual expenditure for 1946-47 was £2,380,000. In other words, it is contemplated that the expenditure by the Department of Civil Aviation, under the heading “Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c.”, will increase this year by £5,500,000, which will be nearly four times the actual expenditure in which we were involved last year. Undoubtedly, a good deal of that expenditure will be directly connected with the operations of Trans-Australia Airlines. We may have to search through these Estimates very carefully in order to find the total provision which the Government is making in this financial year for the operations of that government enterprise.
The Minister told us in the course of his statement that there was not the large outlay on buildings and works which many honorable members might have imagined, because Trans-Australia Airlines had taken over so many works and buildings which had been the property of the Department of Aircraft Production. I heard that statement with interest, because I had been hunting through the Estimates to find what sum, if any, had been credited to the Department of Aircraft Production by way of payment by Trans-Australia Airlines for those capital works that had been transferred to it. Honorable members will appreciate the significance of the implication that I am making. Obviously, if the Government were to hand over for a “song” the capital works and buildings which formerly had been the property of the Department of. Aircraft Production, we should not be getting a fair picture of the operations of this government enterprise. So I say that there is an onus on the Minister to tell us just how much is being debited against Trans-Australia Airlines for these very substantial works and buildings that have been taken over from the Department of Aircraft Production. But quite apart from that, and from the advance of £3,500,000 already made, it is clear from the proposed increase of nearly £5,500,000 on last year’s expenditure that a good deal more is going into, this government enterprise than has so far been made apparent to the committee.
I do not criticize in any way the administration of Trans-Australia Airlines. I believe that, as far as one can judge from the experience of travelling on the service and from what one sees of its operations at the various air terminals at which members and other travellers land, a great deal has been done in the short period during which it has been in operation. It has established throughout the Commonwealth an extensive service, and that in itself must have been a very great task, demanding energy and administrative capacity. If credit be due for that, I am prepared to-night to make that credit known. But I bring out these two points for the consideration of the
Minister and *he committee : We are told that there has been a great .increase of the weight of goods carried and the number of passengers transported. It is, therefore, rather astonishing that it should have been found necessary to put into effect an increase of fares of 20 per cent, compared with the rates that were operating when the service first began to function. The Minister tried to answer that by saying that, as there had been a reduction of 15 per cent, in the rates which Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited had been charging, in effect there had been a very small increase indeed. But that contradicted an earlier statement, in which he said that so big a proportion of the passengers carried by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited had received a concessional rebate that, in effect, the rate at which Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited had been operating was approximately the rate which TransAustralia Airlines had come down to when it had commenced its operations. He cannot have it both ways. If, in point of substance, the rate at which Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was operating was about 15 per cent, below the advertised schedule of fares, then an increase now of 20 per cent, on the rates at which TransAustralia Airlines commenced its operations represents an effective increase of 20 per cent, in the airline fares which were operating before it commenced. We should have some clarification of that point.
The other point to which I direct attention is this: A great virtue which the Ministry attributed to this government service when .it brought the legislation before the Parliament was that it would be able to provide a pioneering service ; it would be able to go into parts of the Commonwealth which the privatelyowned airlines had not been prepared to develop, because to develop them would have resulted in a financial loss. The argument developed, as honorable members will recall, along these lines - that, as the privately-owned airlines had to operate at a profit, necessarily there would be many parts of the Commonwealth which could not be serviced by those airlines because they would not be profitable; and just as it had been found necessary in such areas to develop our railway services initially at a loss, so it would be necessary for this government service to develop such areas in a corresponding fashion. But what has been our experience ? In point of fact, Trans- Australia Airlines has set up duplicated services on the well-established routes. I invite the Minister to tell us of any pioneering services which are being developed. What Trans-Australia Airlines has done is to cover areas which Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and other airlines covered before it, namely, the well-serviced routes between the capital cities and the more densely populated areas. Therefore, much of the virtue which, in the mind of the Government, was to be attributed to this government-controlled service has not, so far, been shown to exist. That, too, is a matter on which the committee should be more fully informed.
But I rose primarily not to discuss those matters but to invite the attention of the committee to the summary of the annual votes under the heading of *’ Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c.”, which appears at page 395 of the Estimates, because I consider that they should have directed at them the searchlight of the committee’s investigation and criticism. We shall find from the totals - and totals often are far more illuminating than individual items considered separately - that in the current financial year the total expenditure contemplated is £19,000,000, compared with an actual expenditure last year of £6,000,000, again a trebling of the rate of expenditure. That is expenditure upon government departments at a time when, as all honorable members know, there is an acute housing shortage throughout the Commonwealth. Despite the bravest boasts of the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon), who talks about record production, the housing shortage is not being overtaken at the rate which the Government set out to attain when it fixed a construction target. Any government programme on this scale must cut into the stocks of materials and resources of man-power which would otherwise be devoted to ‘the provision of homes for the people. Despite the great shortage of office accommodation, the Government proposes to spread like a noxious weed or a cancer throughout our capital cities, grabbing1 office accommodation for its use. We had hoped that the coming of peace would bring a substantial reduction of government activity in this field1 and a restoration of office premises to private users, but, instead, there is a rush hy government departments to grab more and more of the limited resources of man-power and materials, and office accommodation.
Included in the 21 departments shown on page 395 of the Estimates for “ Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c”, are seven departments which were not in existence before the war, and some of which should have had their existence terminated when the war ended. The expenditure proposed this year in respect of the Prime Minister’s Department is £222,100; last year it was £135,983. This department is well-established, with its head-quarters at Canberra. What justification is there for expending on new works the sum of £86,117 in excess of expenditure last year? Again, it is proposed to expend £1,236,054 more in connexion with the Department of the Interior than was expended last year. This year’s vote is £1,554,500, whereas last year’s expenditure was only £318,446. I have already instanced the Department of Civil Aviation which shows the most spectacular increase, namely from £2,381,566 to £7,835,000. The Department of Supply and Shipping was not in existence before the war. Last year the expenditure in respect of that department was £34,020, but the vote for this year is £141,000. The Department of Transport contemplates a sensational increase of expenditure, namely, from £46,836 last year to £501,000 for the current financial year. Does the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) agree that despite the acute shortage of housing and with industries crying out for labour and materials, his department should compete in the market for man-power and materials? This is a time when, if labour were available, many industries could produce goods which the people require, and thus help to solve the problems of the community; but despite that need, the Government comes forward with a programme of additions, new works, buildings, Sue., to cost £19,297,000, compared with last year’s expenditure of £6,436,844. I leave the matter in the hands of the committee, believing that honorable members will require a satisfactory explanation of this huge increase of expenditure before they pass the Estimates now before us.
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has compared last year’s expenditure for additions, new works and buildings, amounting to £6,436,844 with the contemplated expenditure of £19,297,000 for the current financial year, but he has not said what items he would delete from the list. He has merely made a number of generalizations. He spoke at length of the contemplated expenditure for the Department of Civil Aviation, and said that a great deal of money was to be expended on buildings for that department at a time when houses for the people are in short supply. Much of the contemplated expenditure for this department will not be for building materials at all; most of the money will be expended on the construction . of runways and aerodromes.
– Will cement not be used in constructing them?
– No cement problem will ‘arise in connexion with the construction of aerodromes in Tasmania. At Essendon aerodrome, it has ‘been decided not to use cement at present because it would compete with the housing programme. Bitumen is being used instead, although eventually it will have to be replaced by cement. At the Mascot aerodrome, which will eventually cost £10,000,000 or more to bring up to international standards, extensive earthworks are being provided, so that there shall be the least possible competition for materials needed for housing. That completely answers the honorable member’s criticism in respect of the proposed expenditure for the Department of Civil Aviation. Would the honorable member for Fawkner say that repatriation hospitals should not be built merely because they will, to some degree, compete with houses in the supply of materials and labour? I believe that these buildings should be erected notwithstanding the need for houses. He also asked why money was being vo ted. for additions, new works, buildings, &c., for the Prime Minister’s Department. I, therefore, inform him that some of the money will be expended in (providing the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research with means of extending its beneficial work on behalf of agriculturists and other sections of the community, and in safeguarding the health of the people. Would the honorable member say that money should not be expended in those directions? Some of the expenditure will be in connexion with the building of a research laboratory to assist the dairying industry. That expenditure should be welcomed by honorable members of the Australian Country party. The proposal to expend £25,000 on the development of marine and biological research for the Fisheries Division should meet with general approval. The honorable member did not suggest that these things should not be done. In the great majority of building programmes for the departments, the items must be approved by my department, except in the case of some defence items. Before any major job can be started which uses materials needed for housing it has to be submitted -to the Public Works Committee upon which sit members of all parties in the Parliament, and later the proposal has to be approved by Parliament itself.
Motion (by Mr. Holloway) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- On Friday last, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) referred to a statement alleged to have been made by Mr. H. P. Higginson, president of the Employers Federation, Victoria, and a member of the employers delegation to the International Labour Conference, which I attended a few months ago. I wish to make some reference to the conduct of Mr. Higginson at that conference. Neither Mr. Higginson nor the honorable member for Wentworth gave any details of what were referred to as a “ larrikin “ presentation of Australia’s case at the conference which allegedly did Australia no good. It is true that, as leader of the Australian delegation, I proposed a number of amendments, and on Mr. Higginson’s own admission, six of them were agreed to. Mr. Higginson himself, who was representing the employers of Australia, spoke once during the proceedings, and’ that was as a member of a committee dealing with matters affecting dependent or non-metropolitan territories. On that occasion, he took that opportunity to attack viciously the Australian Labour Government, making a number of untruthful statements concerning political events in this country, statements which, in my opinion rendered a disservice to Australia. It is true that at the committee meeting I corrected his statements, and pointed out the facts regarding matters to which he had referred. Evidently, what I said was very effective, because Mr. Higginson did not apeak again either in the committee or when the conference re-assembled. Mr. Higginson attended the conference as a representative of Australians, but he used the opportunity to attack* Australia and its Government. As a representative of the employers, he supported a policy at the conference which he would not.be- game to support in this country. We know that the honorable member for Wentworth is always willing to search through newspaper files in the hope of finding matter with which to attack the Government. If he cares to pursue his investigations in that direction he may discover that one of the amendments which I proposed for inclusion in the convention for dealing with nonmetropolitan territories was that there should be no discrimination against any person because of his- membership of a trade union, or because he was the agent or official of a trade union. That principle has been accepted in Australia for a great number of years, but Mr. Higginson opposed it. He voted against it in the committee and again when it was presented to the conference. As a matter of fact, Mr. Higginson was only an alternative delegate. Mr. Hawkins was the employers’ delegate to the conference, but he was so disgusted that he sat at the back of the hall in the position reserved for non-delegates while Mr. Higginson took his place to vote against my amendment. That is why Mr. Higginson has been so violent in his criticism of me. Far from there being no support for my amendment, the fact is that the amendment was agreed to by a two to one majority. I speak from memory, but my recollection is that 54 votes were cast in favour of the amendment and 22 against it. However, because the number of votes recorded were seven short of a quorum, the amendment was declared lost. If Mr. Higginson stands for the principle for which he voted at the conference, he should make his position clear when he next addresses the Melbourne Junior Chamber of Commerce, or some other reactionary body. My leadership of the Australian delegation and my behaviour at the conference were never called in question until Mr. Higginson saw fit to do so. We presented our case forcefully because we regarded it as a principle for which most Australians stand. I regard the action of Mr. Higginson as anti-Australian. He ought to make clear to the public what specific matters connected with the conference he takes exception to, , and just what he means by larrikinism in the presentation of Australia’s case. As a matter of fact, the case was so well presented that it was agreed to by a two to one majority. In my report of the conference to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), a report which will eventually come before the Parliament, I have stated my opinion of the conduct of Mr. Higginson as a delegate to the conference.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - Addendum to Determination No. 72 of 1947 - Association of Architects, Engineers, Surveyors and Draughtsmen of Australia, and others.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of Works and Housing - B. E. C. Brinkley, P. W. Cann, B. Clegg, D. M. Collie, J. A. Corbett, M. J. Dabourne, E. K. Denton, J. B. Donaldson, L. Fenton, G. A. Morrison, M. S. G. Newton, T. E. Robinson, C. L. Sommer, J. C. Thomas, M. A. Utting.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Defence purposes - Woolloomooloo, New South Wales.
Department of Civil Aviation purposes - Mascot, New South Wales.
Postal purposes - Hastings, Victoria.
House adjourned at 11.20 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 : -
r -asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
r asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The detailed information requested by the honorable member is not available. However, the total number of branches of private trading banks in Australia before the introduction of the Government’s banking rationalization plans in 1942 was about 2,480. No survey was made at the termination of hostilities to obtain details of branches of private banks then open. In December, 1943, approximately 80 suburban and 410 country banks throughout Australia were closed as a result of ‘the banking industry rationalization plains of the Government.
MOTOR Vehicles: Applications fob New Motor Cars; Manufacture in Australia.
n asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for Post-warReconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
rasked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
Mr.Calwell. -the answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. It is not correct that more American persons terminated their intended permanent residence in Australia in the last eighteen months thanhave arrived.It is, however, correct to say that during the period referred to by the correspondent of the North American newspaper Alliance, Mr. Ray Falk, viz., the 1st January, 1946, to the 30th June, 1947, the total number of American citizens who had resided longer than twelve months in Australia and have now returned to the United States exceeds the total number of American citizens who have arrived here for permanent residence. This bald statement is most misleading unlessit is examined in some detail. During the first six months of 1946. 2,005 Americans departed from Australia for America., and 436 arrived for permanent settlement. In the second six months, 599 departed and 512 arrivedfor permanent settlement. In the first six months of 1947, 177 departed and621 arrived for permanent settlement. It will readily be realized that during the war years large numbers of American citizens were, because of war-time suspension of normal passenger shipping, stranded in Australia and unable to return home. In addition many American soldiers married Australian brides, and in due course children were born. These children, who are classified for statistical purposes as American citizens, remained in Australia with their mothers until transport to America became available. A third category of Americans comprises those civilian employees attached to the United States Armed
Forces who were engaged for some timeafter the war in winding up theaffairs ofthe Armed Forces and their ancillary organizations. When passenger accommodation became available in 1946 on ships travelling to America, this backlog of passengers who had waited during the war years grasped the opportunity to travel, and by the end of July, 1946, was almost completely cleared. Inall but one of the fourteen months from August, 1946, to date more American citizens arrived in Australia for permanent residence than departed, and over the first six months of this year seven Americans came to Australia for permanent residence for every two who left. Inaddition to these figures, account should be taken of approximately 1,000 American servicemen who took their discharges and settled in Australia at the end of the war. As the honorable member for Wide Bay is doubtless aware,the Commonwealth Government recently approved a scheme under which financial assistance may be granted to American ex-servicemen wishing to settle permanently in Australia towardsthe cost of their own land their dependants’ passages to Australia. Already the first party of 67 settlers has arrived under this scheme and additional large parties are due at seven-weekly intervals. It is confidently expected that additional shipping will be available in the New Yearto enable the numbers of these Americanexservicemen arriving herefor permanent settlement to be substantially increased. Some 7,000 applications under the scheme have already been received - many of them being from United States ex-servicemen married to Australian girls who wish to return to Australia with their wives and children for permanent residence here.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Information at present available to tb Government is not adequate to provide a full answer to the questions asked by the honorable member. Steps will therefore be taken to obtain the necessary information through the Commonwealth Government representatives in Canada. Special attention will be given to the points raised by the honorable member with regard to standards of living, social services, industrial conditions and taxation in the Province of Alberta.
INCOME Tax : Pensions and Allowances of Merchant Navy Personnel.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
War-time (Company) Tax.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows : -
Land Settlement of ex-servicemen..
n asked the Minister forPostwar Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. A provision (clause 12, section C) of the War Service Land Settlement Agreements entered into between the Commonwealth and the States specifies that an applicant for settlement shall apply to the appropriate State authority which shall on behalf of the Commonwealth (i) determine whether the applicant is an eligible person and (ii) classify eligible persons as suitable (either immediately or after training or further experience) or as unsuitable for settlement.
e asked the Minister for
Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Actual exports of the items listed are not separately recorded but are included in statistical items 4,110 pipes and tubes other than cast iron, 4,060 plate and sheet plain and not further manufactured than plated, polished or decorated, galvanized and 6,811 cement, asbestos or similar materials, sheets and roofing slates (value only). However, percentage of production of butt welded piping and galvanized iron sheets approved for export.
Year1 945-46- Total 11.35 per cent. of production practically all to Australian external territories and Pacific islands.
Year 1946-47 - Total 16.70 per cent. of production practically all to Australian external territories and Pacific islands.
Allocations to States, New Zealand and New Guinea are -
Galvanized Iron : Shipments to South Australia and Tasmania.
n. - On the 14th October, the honorable member for Grey (Mr.
Russell) asked a question concerning the sailing of ships from the eastern States to Whyalla in ballast. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information: -
The Australian Shipping Board has advised that it is the usual practice for vessels to proceed in ballast <to Whyalla for iron ore after discharging coal in Adelaide and occasionally they proceed from Melbourne in ballast to Whyalla for the same purpose. It is most unusual, however, for. vessels to leave either Newcastle, or Port Kembla in ballast for Whyalla for iron-ore loadings. This is occasionally necessary if there is any congestion at the loading berths for coal or steel at Port Kembla or Newcastle, or if for any other reason the vessels at those ports are unable to obtain cargo. This action is taken to avoid vessels remaining idle at either Newcastle or Port Kembla and results in more economical use of the vessels at .the disposal of shipowners.
– On the 14th October, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) asked a question concerning the distribution on a State quota basis by rail or road of galvanized - iron from New South Wales to the southern States. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information : -
There has been some interruption to shipping programmes, largely due to the threatened action of tho marine engineers to terminate their engagements. This hold-up has been, fortunately, averted, and,- subsequently, energetic steps have been taken to revise shipping programmes. Arrangements have now been made to cover, in the near future, accumulation of all types of steel products at Newcastle awaiting shipment by sea to other States, together with current production. It has been necessary to release for distribution in New South Wales some steel products intended for other’ States. Action has, however, been taken to safeguard the interests of other States so that greater quantities might be sent to them when shipping is available.
Iron and STEEL
n. - On the 17th October, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) asked a question concerning the shipment of iron and steel from Newcastle and Port Kembla to Queensland. The . Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information : -
The position in regard to shipment of steel to Queensland from Newcastle is that of a total of 7,300 tons of steel for Brisbane. River Hunter and Baralaba recently loaded 5,100 tons. River Hunter is at present discharging in Brisbane and the Baralaba, which will also clear all available steel for Rockhampton, will sail on .the 22nd October. Ulooloo is at present loading all steel available for Mackay and Townsville. These shipments leave a total df 2,500 tons waiting for shipment, which includes small quantities for out ports and which will be taken at first opportunities. In regard to the shipment from Fort Kembla, there is at present an accumulation of approximately 6,500 tons foi-, all Queensland ports. However, as all loading berths and labour at Port Kembla are fully absorbed by vessels in .the port, it has not been possible to place, a Queensland vessel on the berth. It is anticipated, however, that a berth will be available on the 30th October, when the vessel River Norman will load all of the accumulated steel -for Queensland.
Tasmanian Shipping Services.
n. - On the 16th October, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) asked a question concerning the use of the SS. Nairana on the Bass Strait service. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information : -
It is a. fact that Nairana has been laid up at Melbourne since the 4th August, 1947, and that the crew has been paid off. It is also a fact that the marine certificate of seaworthiness for the vessel has expired and that the cost of renewing the certificate will amount ‘to a very considerable Bum. The Tasmanian Steamers Proprietary Limited, the owners of the Nairana, have advised the ‘Commonwealth that they desire <to sell the Nairana, but before doing so have submitted certain proposals to the Government, with a view to the retention of the vessel in the Bass Strait service. These proposals, if accepted, would involve the Commonwealth in a large outlay, and they are at present under examination by the. Government. When a decision is reached it will be conveyed to Tasmanian Steamers Proprietary Limited.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 October 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19471021_reps_18_193/>.