18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 - a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. McEwen be discharged from attendance on the Committee of Privileges, and that in his place Mr. Abbott be appointed as a member of the committee.
– T have been asked on a number of occasions to prepare for the House a statement on the dollar position. I have done so, but I do not propose to ask for the leave of the House to read the statement, which is a fairly long one. I have made arrangements for copies to be circulated among members of the House of Representatives and of the Senate, and I lay on the table the following paper -
Dollar Situation - Statement by Prime Minister, together with appendices.
– The Prime Minister has laid on the table a statement relating to the dollar situation. I desire to ask the right honorable gentleman whether he proposes to take any steps to enable this matter to be debated by the House before the end of this sessional period. I suggest that if he moves that the paper be printed, the matter can be debated ; but it is quite idle for a debate on this subject to be postponed for months. I know that a few honorable members desire to speak on the dollar situation.
– I am always reluctant to move that a paper be printed, because the item is placed on the noticepaper, and honorable members then are not permitted in other discussions to refer to the subject. If the Leader of the Opposition desires that, in the limited time available before the sitting ends, an opportunity be provided for a debate on this subject, I move-
That the paper be printed.
– I desire to refer to the effect of the dollar shortage not only upon Australia hut also upon the British Commonwealth of Nations as a whole. In my opinion, this position can be corrected in a much more effective manner than by the action which the Government is taking at present. Honorable members experience extreme difficulty in obtaining from the Government any information relating to the different categories of value which make up the international funds. For example, the Government has always failed, except when it was forced about a year ago under pressure of a barrage of questions from the Opposition, to disclose the international gold holdings of Australia.
– I rise to order. ‘ The honorable member for New England is engaging in a debate which infringes upon the 35 minutes ‘provided for the broadcasting of questions without notice. The Opposition has always objected to Ministers making lengthy statements in this period. If honorable members continue this debate, it will absorb the whole of the period allotted to questions without notice, and that would be unfair.
– Order ! There is no point of order involved. The Prime Minister has moved that the paper be printed.Debate on the motion can proceed immediately, or the adjournment of the debate can be obtained, and the item placed on the notice-paper. The honorable member for New England is quite in order in debating the motion that the paper be printed. The House is master of its own business.
– I regret that I am obliged to occupy some of the period which is allotted to questions without notice, but the dollar situation is of such vital importance to Australia and our people, that, regardless of whether the debate will curtail the period allowed for questions without notice, I consider that the discussion should proceed.
– As a matter of principle, the honorable member is not justified in occupying the period of 35 minutes which is allotted to the broadcasting of questions without notice. I suggest that at a later hour, an opportunity might be afforded to enable him to make his statement.
– Will that opportunity be afforded?
– The Prime Minister has suggested that I should not takeup the time of the House during the period normally allotted to questions. I am willing to accede to the suggestion if the right honorable gentleman will allow the motion now before the House to : be discussed during to-day’s sittings at a time when it is possible to have the debate broadcast so that the people may hear it.
Government members interjecting,
– If honorable members on the Government side of the House are not going to be fair-
– Order! If the honorable member is concerned with broadcasting, I inform him that proceedings in this House will not bebroadcast at any time to-day.
– That is all right, then.
– I want to make this very clear. I can only state the decisions of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee up to the present, but the arrangement is that proceedings in the Senate shall be broadcast until lunch-time to-day.No proceedings in this House, apart from questions without notice and answers, will be rebroadcast. Therefore, there can be no guarantee that the debate will be broadcast unless the committee decides otherwise.
– I am not concerned about broadcasting, sir. As everybody knows, I rarely speak in this House and my speeches are short. However, if the Prime Minister is willing to permit this debate to take place this afternoon, I am willing to ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later hour. Is the Prime Minister prepared to do that?
– If the House passes the other business with which it must deal, we shall bring on the debate at some time during the day.
– That sort of undertaking is scarcely worth anything. That is not good enough. I was saying-
– I consider that the honorable member’s use of this time to debate the motion before the House is an infringement of the rights of honorable members, and therefore I move -
That the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) be not further heard.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker- Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Sheehan) adjourned.
– Can the Prime
Minister state what is the formula for the application of newsprint reductions to Australian newspapers? Has consideration been given to applying reductions on the basis of1947 circulation figures, rather than on those of 1939? Will the Prime Minister have his officers work out a plan to bring all metropolitan newspapers on to a basis of equality, thereby rectifying the unfair situation in which Brisbane newspapers find themselves as compa red with those of Sydney and Melbourne ?
– The honorable member has raiseda very thorny question. I had previously informed the House that, in consultation with the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association, and with those newspaper proprietors who are not members of that organization, an agreement was reached, when the dollar position became difficult, that newsprint imports from dollar areas should be reduced by 30 per cent. Later, all parties agreed to a. further 10 per cent. cut, but it has now become necessary to consider the possibility of further reductions. Cabinet has heard the views of those con trolling the industry, and a review of the situation will be made next Monday. The distribution of valuable newsprint is one of the most difficult problems which I have had anything to do with for some time. I had hoped that the newspaper proprietors themselves would be able to get together and recommend a system of distribution which would be accepted by all parties as reasonable and equitable. They have not been able to do that, and the problem has now come back to the Minister for Trade and Customs and me. The Government has directed special officers to examine and report upon the various proposals, but it is clear that we shall have to make the final decision. However, no decision will be made until Cabinet determines next Monday the extent of the reduction.
Caseofcharlie Timso - Use of Aircraftcarrier.
– I ask the Prime Minister the following questions: - 1. Will the Prime Minister consider the appointment of an all-party committee to give consideration to cases of hardship in connexion with immigration matters? 2. Will he have inquiries made into the circumstances surrounding the granting of entry permits to a Chinese, Charlie Tim So or Louie Yock Quan, after such permit had been refused by the Minister for Immigration? 3. Was the permit, subsequently issued by the Acting Minister during the Minister’s absence abroad, on representations made by the member for Herbert? Does the permit allow Charlie Tim So to bring his wife and five children? 4. Was the basis on which the application was granted, that, Charlie Tim So would be conducting an export, business? 5. Will the Prime Minister ascertain whether the said export business was not in fact a fan-tan school, formerly conducted by his late father, an unnaturalized Chinese, in Townsville? 6. Is it a fact that the Taxation Branch has outstanding claims amounting to £2,500 for income tax against the estate, arising from profits made by the gambling school? 7. In view of the attitude adopted in the Charlie
TimSo case, will ho authorize the committee I have suggested to have a look into thecases of certain deportees, who entered as refugees in exceptional times, but are to-day hard-working members of thecomm unity?8. Will further deportations of such refugees be held up pending the results of such investigation?
– In reply to the first part of the honorable member’s question, whetherI would consider the appointment of an all-party committee to inquire into the matters he has raised, the answer is “ No “. Naturally I would not have full details in respect of the matters contained in the latter portion of the question. I shall arrange to have them examined and let the honorable member have a reply as soon as possible.
Mr.HOWSE.-I refer to a statement published in the Sydney Morning Herald to-day in which the Minister for the Navy is reported to have said that if the Navy had to man an aircraft carrier to transport immigrants it would throw the entire naval programme out of gear. If an aircraft carrier be offered to us by the United Kingdom Government will the Minister give serious consideration to providing a steaming complement to bring the vessel from England with British migrants, returning the vessel to England with food parcels, from the following sources: - (a) A neucleus of Royal Australian Navy personnel; (b) ex-Royal Australian Navy personnel who have been retired from the Royal Australian Navy; (c) Reserve naval personnel who were discharged at the end of the year and who could volunteer for a definite period ; (d) intending Royal Navy immigrants - there must be many of them in view of the drastic reductions in strength of the Royal Navy; and (e) Polish naval personnel who might be prepared to serve on the aircraft for a specific time before being admitted as immigrants?
– The statement which appears in the Sydney Morning Herald resulted from an interview I had with a representative of that newspaper, who discussed with me a statement which appeared in one of its leading articles on Tuesday last. In view of the fact that the strength of the Royal Navy is being reduced it might be possible to approach the United Kingdom Government with a view to ascertaining whether, at this stage, it would make available a crew to man the aircraft carrier Victorious, which is the vessel referred to in the article. Earlier in the year I discussed with the Minister for Immigration the possibility of securing on loan an aircraft carrier from the Royal Navy for the purpose of bringing immigrants to this country. After investigation by my own department, however, it was found that it would be impossible at this juncture to provide the requisite officers and crew from within the Royal Australian Navy. I informed the Minister for Immigration to that effect. That is the purport of the statement which I gave to the press on this matter. I shall look into the question raised by the honorable member and let him have a reply as soon as possible.
-I desire to make a personal explanation arising out of a report concerning myself which appeared in certain editions of the Melbourne Herald yesterday. I have just received the following letter, dated the 4th December, from the Canberra representative of the Melbourne Herald: -
Dear Mr. Mulcahy,
I have justbeen asked by my principals in Melbourne to mention to you and to convey to you our deepregret for a typographical error which appeared in a limited number of papers published by us in Melbournelast night.
In our Final Extra Edition, the Prime Minister’s reference to you in his speech in reply to Mr. McEwen as one of the most gentlemanly members of theHouse was altered to correct a simple spelling error in the line and in the process of resetting, the word “ gentlemanly “ was most unhappily set as “ ungentlemanly “.
The reasons for the mistake are now being investigated in our Melbourne office, but it was not discovered until publication ofthe edition concerned had been begun.
Thepresses were immediately stopped and the error corrected, but unfortunately not before some papers had left the office.
The Prime Minister’s reference was correctly reported in all early editions, and throughout the late edition, with the exception of those papers bearing the typographical error which had passed beyond recall when itwas discovered.
I am asked to tell you that it is our intenlion to publish a correction in all editions to-day and to convey to you our regret for the error, which I am able to assure you was completely unintentional. [ accept the apology of the newspaper, and I hope that no member of the staff will suffer through the error.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Labour, and National Service been drawn to a statement published in the Sydney press this morning concerning the hold-up of exports of wool to overseas countries? Is the report correct in stating that Mr. Wallis, Conciliation Commissioner, said yesterday that he could not deal with the dispute until the men returned to work ? If that statement is correct, will the Minister ascertain what likelihood there is of the men returning to work to-day or to-morrow, and will he say what action he himself is taking to try to bring this disastrous strike to an end?
– Like the honorable member for New England, I have read the report in the press and in the absence of any indication to the contrary, I accept it as being correct; but I cannot give him an assurance on that point. In anticipation that honorable members would want to know the exact position, -I booked a trunk line call this morning to the Registrar or the Deputy Registrar of the Court in Sydney, hut the connexion has not yet been made. If I receive any information before question time ends, I shall make it available at once; if the information comes later, I shall inform the honorable member for New England.
– Will the Minister for Air inform me whether it is a fact that the Government has paid a certain sum of money to Guinea Airways Limited in consideration of its no longer operating its Adelaide-Darwin service? Was the payment made recently? In what circumstances was it made? Is the company no longer to operate the service?
– It is correct that the Government paid a sum of money to Guinea Airways Limited and took over the assets of the company involved in the Adelaide-Darwin service. The sum paid was an amount agreed upon between the Government and the company, and the settlement was entirely satisfactory to both parties. As the company has not yet given publicity to the amount that was paid, I do not consider that .1 should do so. There must be some regret on the part of certain individuals who are always criticizing the Government because the company and the Government were able to arrive at a satisfactory settlement in spite of provocative articles that have been published in the press.
– Did the Minister for the Interior see a report in a recent issue of the Canberra Times which stated, among other things, that two girls had been evicted from the Acton Guest House ? Is the report correct, and, if so, what were the circumstances associated with the eviction ?
– I saw the report that two girls had been evicted from the Acton Guest House, but the report was entirely without foundation. There appears to he no doubt that an organized attempt has been made during the last two or three weeks to discredit the standing of hostels in Canberra ; but investigations have disclosed that there is no justification for the allegations made. I am prepared to admit that the management of Canberra hostels experience the same difficulties as are experienced by those in control of similar establishments in other parts of Australia. A few days ago, when some girls, who had recently arrived from England, were interviewed by an Australian Broadcasting Commission representative, newspaper representatives were told that the girls were entirely happy about their surroundings, and that the food supplied to them was, as they put it, too good to be true. I know that some of the hostels need painting and renovating, but it has been decided that first things must come first. There is not enough labour to do all the work that needs doing. Furniture has been on order for a considerable time for some of the hostels. 1 have not received complaints directly; but
I have made a thorough investigation of the newspaper complaints, and I am able to say that they are without foundation.
– There is a general shortage of shot-gun cartridges throughout Australia, and the Imperial Chemical Industries Limited has a virtual monopoly of the supply of this commodity. Before the dollar shortage became acute a trickle of cartridges was coming in from the United States of America. The quality was much better than we had been accustomed to, and prices were coming down. Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inquire why the quality of Australian cartridges is so poor, and will he have the Prices Branch inquire into the price of cartridges, in order to learn whether it is justified?
– I shall be glad to make the inquiries which the honorable member suggests. He says that the quality of cartridges is not what it ought to be. Perhaps the accuracy of some of the shooters is not what it ought to be, and they blame the cartridges.
– I desire to ask the Minister’ representing the Minister for Health a question which concerns the wives of invalidpensioners who, in many cases, are under special strain, and have to meet special difficulties. Will the Minister review the amount allowed to these persons? Can the full pension be granted to them? If it is not possible to grant a full pension in every case, will the Minister consider granting a full pension to wives -who are in constant attendance nursing their invalid husbands, and who cannot, therefore, supplement the family income by taking even part-time employment?
– The act as it stands provides for the payment of a full pension to every person entitled to it, but it does not provide for the payment of a full pension to wives who are in attendance upon their invalid husbands. However, there is a special provision in the Social Service Act which allows the Director-General to authorize an increased payment in special cases if he believes that the. ordinary allowance is not sufficient. I shall ask the Minister for Health to examine the matter raised by the honorable member.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state what was the result of the deputation of Tasmanian fruit-growers which waited upon him to ask for a grant to offset crop failures last year?
– No decision has yet been reached, but when one is made I shall communicate it to the honorable member.
Mr.CONELAN.- Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say what the subsidies on such basic commodities as tea, butter and potatoes are estimated to cost the Commonwealth during the current financial year, and by what amount the retail price of these commodities to the consumers is reduced as the result of the payment of the subsidies?
– The subsidy on tea is estimated to cost the Commonwealth £5,800,000, representing 2s. 5d. per lb. The subsidy on butter will cost £6,250,000, or 5d. per lb., and the subsidy on potatoes will cost £2,500,000, or2/3 d. per lb. Without the subsidy, the price of potatoes would be 9d. for 4 lb., instead of 6d. for 4 lb. There are, of course, other subsidies paid by the Treasury, including one on wool used in the local manufacture of goods. There is also a subsidyon superphosphate.
Australian Wheat Board: Chairman - Government Policy
– In view of the fact that the current wheat harvest will be either a record or a near record, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether the Government believes it to be advisable that the Australian Wheat Board, which will be responsible for the handling of this crop, should continue to be without a chairman, as it has been since May last? Does the Government intend to appoint a chairman, and will the Minister, before this sessional period ends, make a statement on the Government’s policy in regard to wheat, as he promised to do?
– The appointment of the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board is entirely a. matter of government policy.I now ask for leave to make a statement on the Government’s policy on wheat.
Mr. POLLARD (Ballarat- Minister for Commerce and Agriculture). - by leave - I desire to make a statement about the wheat situation as it appears at present. It is apparent that 1948 will be another year of world shortage, and there will be a ready market for all wheat which can be exported from this country, or from any other country. The shortage exists in spite of high production in the main exporting countries. The United States of Americahad a record wheat production from the current harvest, and for the third successive year made a new record for wheat production. Australia is now harvesting a record crop, which apparently will be about. 20,000,000 bushels higher than any previous crop, and Canada has produced a moderate crop. Argentina’s figures are not known yet, but its crop shouldbe about the average. The scarcity is caused by small crops in Europe, which has not yet returned to its normal pre-war production, while reduced rice production in Asia has increased the demand for wheat as an alternative food.
The shortage can hardly be given in precise figures. In many ways it is a shortage not of wheat but of other cereals and food. However, the estimated shortage is about 10,000,000 tons of wheat and this has resulted in exceptionally high prices for wheat exported. Those prices reflect the urgent need and misery of some countries. While they bring prosperity to the exporting countries, grave doubts arise as to the future. It has been realized for a long time past that abnormal prices - whether high or low - are not healthy, and that the soundness of our wheat industry depends on the main ten a nce of prices which are fair both to the producer and the consumer. For several years, Australia has been associated with the International Emergency Food Council. During World War II., it was found necessary for a combined Food Board to supervise the distribution of food exports to allied countries. In the post-war period the International Emergency Food Council succeeded to this task. It recommends allocations which ensure to needy countries a reasonable share of the supplies available. The council has a membership of more than 30 countries, including both food exporting nations and food importers. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Argentina have not become members. Wheat, as the chief food grain, is an important commodity in International Emergency Food Council allocations.
This attempt at international cooperation in distributing wheat supplies equitably has been most successful, and during years of scarcity, has given results which could not have been achieved in any other way. Supplies have been based on the need to achieve something like world rationing of wheat. Adherence by Australia to allocations has meant that our wheat supplies have gone to nearby countries. Before World War II., the United Kingdom was our chief market, but exports of wheat to that country since the beginning of the war have practically ceased. To Europe, which was also an important market for us, our exports have been almost negligible.The same thinghas applied to other exporting countries. This deliberate disregard of many of the ordinary marketing considerations has, for some years past, almost eliminated the normal international competition of the world’s wheat market. But it, has saved shipping and time, and has given the best distribution practicable. During the season which we are now entering, Australia will continue the co-operation with other countries which has been beneficial and necessary.
One other feature which I should mention in regard to the world’s wheat, is the proposed International Wheat Agreement. The exporting and importing countries have been in agreement on the need for measures which would provide adequate supplies of wheat all the time at. prices fair to grower and consumer alike. The general principles are clear, and there is no difference of opinion regarding them. The details, however, have been the subject of protracted discussion over several years, and it has not been possible to secure agreement on them. Further meetings have been arranged. [ now turn to the Australian position. Our crop is a record, and looks like being 235,000,000 bushels, or thereabouts. No one knows how big a. crop will be until it is “ in the bag and harvesting has only just started. There is the uncertainty, usual at this stage, as to the size of the crop, and the weather during the last few weeks has affected it in ways which cannot be correctly appraised at the moment. The crop seems certain to be u record, but no one can say by how much it will surpass the previous record of 215,000,000 bushels. The hig crop brings its own problems. Storage is presenting difficulties which will be overcome by co-operation of growers and the Government authorities concerned. Haulage will provide a transport problem for all State railways, and, obviously, it will take a number of months to get the wheat to ports for sale. Meanwhile, the Australian Government is guaranteeing an overdraft which will probably exceed £60,000,000 to cover the first advance and expenses. This ensures a reasonable first payment to growers before any of the wheat can be sold and shipped, or even carried to the ports. If the figure of 235,000,000 bushels is reached, there will be about 155,000,000 bushels for export. Shipping this quantity is likely to occupy r,he whole of the season, and perhaps longer. Meanwhile, there is not likely to be any difficulty in selling all the wheat, and flour that we can make available as fast as we can supply them. The problem is rather to allocate the supplies to the best advantage among many claimants, and in this, of course, the International Emergency Food Council allocations are important. Negotiations are taking place for the sale of large quantities of wheat to the United Kingdom. I have mentioned that Australia has been out of the United Kingdom market for some years, but despite this, the British Ministry of Food has been our biggest customer, and has bought supplies for British areas, In the coming season, we hope to supply a large quantity of wheat for the United
Kingdom market, as well as for the nearer areas for which Britain buys.
Negotiations are taking place also with India, and a delegation from that country is at present in Australia to complete the arrangements. This sale is regarded a9 being especially important in view of the particular advantages accruing mutually to India and Australia from our trade with that country. India has jute, linseed, and cotton goods which Australia needs, and we have food products which are important for that country. Other sales are also being negotiated by the Australian “Wheat Board with the larger number of countries needing wheat. We cannot supply all demands, hut an effort is being made to obtain the most equitable distribution of our supplies. Steps are also being taken to ensure that the greatest practicable amount of wheat shall he available for export. Therefore, the allocation for stock feed wheat during the coming season will be retained. Its use will be confined to essential users, and quotas for users in the various States will continue. In other words, despite the large crop, it is not intended to allow the unrestricted use of feed wheat in Australia, and the quantity saved in this way will be exported.
This is the last season in which Australian wheat will be marketed under the war-time set-up. The Commonwealth is carrying on for another year, although I had hoped that before this, an agreement would have been reached on permanent marketing arrangements. For this season, no alternative method of marketing is available which would be satisfactory to growers, so the Australian Wheat Board will again do the job under the extended powers covered by the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill which will he passed during this sessional period. Plans for the future must be completed by the middle of 1!)4S. and another conference will be held shortly to ascertain whether an agreement can be reached for a plan involving the Commonwealth and States in joint legislation. The war-time marketing has been satisfactory, and has given better results than any one could reasonably have expected when it was first formulated. Growers have been brought in to an unprecedented extent, to manage the marketing of their products, and I believe that all sections want the continuation of an Australian pooling system. The Commonwealth will do its part to bring this about, and I hope that the difficulties regarding details, which have prevented the adoption of a plan of organized marketing, will be overcome.
The satisfactory results of war-time marketing can be judged by the general desire of growers to maintain the system. This has been shown by growers’ support for the organized marketing of potatoes, barley, and, in Tasmania, field peas, as well as wheat. The Australian Government considered that a stabilization plan is necessary for the wheat industry. The forthcoming conference will try to reach agreement on details of a plan in which the States will co-operate, and if agreement is not reached, the States will then have to consider action to be taken in regard to marketing within their, boundaries. The Commonwealth cannot continue the present system after the 1947-48 season, because it lacks the necessary powers.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Report op Public Works Committee.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1936, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, and on which the committee has duly reported to the House the result of its investigations, namely : - “ The erection of a building in Perth for repatriation administrative offices “.
The proposal was referred by this House to the Public Works Committee on the 2lst May, 1947, vide Hansard, page 2669. That proposal provided for a building containing a ground floor and six upper floors to be constructed of reinforced con crete with brick facing. The estimated cost, as submitted, was £222,750. As a result of its investigations the committee came to the conclusion that, owing to the value of the site selected at the corner of William-street and Bazaar-terrace, Perth, and the urgent need to alleviate the unhealthy and overcrowded state of government accommodation in Perth, the plan originally referred to it was inadequate. An alternative plan was prepared and presented to the committee providing for a building of entirely different design. The building now recommended by the committee will be erected in three stages. The first and second stages will be planned and constructed in the one contract, and the third stage will be left for future addition when conditions are more favorable. This scheme provides not only for the Repatriation Department but also for other Commonwealth departments in Perth. It is proposed that the building shall consist of a ground floor and seven upper floors and that, in order to conserve bricks and to provide a structure in keeping with the prominent position which it will occupy in the city, it shall be faced with local stone. Compared with the original proposal, which provided for 45,000 square feet of floor space at an estimated cost of £222,750, the alternative plan provides, in the first and second stages, for an effective floor area of approximately 61,000 square feet at an estimated cost of £250,000, plus the cost of stone facing, which will be approximately £15,000.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 2nd December (vide page 2951), on motion by Mr. Drakeford -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is deceptively entitled a bill “ to amend the Air Navigation Act 1920- 1936, as amended by the Air Navigation Act 1947”. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) said in his second-reading speech -
The primary purpose of the bill is to amplify the Government’s powers to make regulation* in respect of air navigation, and in particular expressly to authorize regulations covering certain subject-matters.
That is an artful way of describing the fact that the Government intends to blot out any competition with its own airline in the Northern Territory. The core of the Minister’s speech is contained in the following passage -
A new provision has been added to override expressly the effect of section 10 of the Northern Territory Administration Act, which provides that trade and commerce between the territory and the States shall be absolutely free.
In my opinion that is a clever way of deceiving the House. The Minister expressed indignation this morning when I asked him whether the Government had made some arrangement with Guinea Airways Limited to buy out that company. He showed pique and said in effect, “Some people do not think it is right that the Government should arrange a good price to buy out private enterprise “. He knows very well that Guinea Airways Limited is being sold out under duress! This company pioneered the development of New Guinea and later operated the first aircraft engaged regularly between Adelaide and Darwin. It maintained that service under great difficulties for many years.
A month or so ago, the Minister announced that Trans-Australia Airlines - this expensive toy which has lost £500,000 of the taxpayers’ money in nine months - would enter into competition with Guinea Airways Limited over the route between Adelaide and Darwin. The company decided that it would not go quietly, and it continued its service. A TransAustralia. Airlines aircraft was then put into service in order to race the Guinea Airways Limited machine over the route and show that the Government airline could do the job. The Government’s action in buying out Guinea Airways Limited is on a par with its acquisition of Qantas Empire Airways Limited, a great pioneering company with a reputation equal to that of any airline in the world.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad that the Minister made that interjection. If he agrees with me, why does he try to destroy the company? The Australian Government inherited from the British holding 50 per cent, of the capital in Qantas Empire Airways Limited. No sooner had it wedged its foot in the door than it took action to absorb the remainder of the company’s capital. No doubt, the Minister will say again, “But the company came quietly”. The Government paid about £450,000 for the remainder of the capital. Thus the march towards complete socialization goes on - Qantas Empire Airways Limited, Tasman Empire Airways Limited, and now Guinea Airways Limited !
As long as private companies will operate in defiance of this socialistic octopus conducted” by the otherwise mildmannered Minister for Civil Aviation, the Government will continue to use its power through the Department of Civil Aviation to make harassing restrictions, and to place all sorts of unfair difficulties in their way by using practices which, in normal business, would he declared unethical and dishonest in order to put them out of operation. The honorable gentleman thought he could fob me off this morning by saying, in answer to my question, that the Government had arranged to buy the business of Guinea Airways Limited in the Northern Territory for Trans-Australia Airlines. What has been the result of the trading operations of the Australian National Airlines Commission to date? The balance-sheet which was tabled in this House yesterday showed that, on a turnover of £1,038,000, the trading and operation expenses amounted to £1,339,000. One item in particular buries a lot of detailed information which I should like to have. It is described as “ Central Administration, Advertising and Publicity”. Some time ago I asked the Minister whether it was a fact that an amount of £100,000 had been allocated to the commission for advertising purposes, but I received the usual unsatisfactory retort from him. The balance-sheet discloses that this item has accounted for £204,000 !
The result is that, in nine months of trading operations, the commission has sustained a loss of £505,927. Could any private business carry on with a record such as that? In spite of this, the commission disseminates this sort of advertising blah -
Trans-Australia. Airlines’ first candle burns brightly.
It should burn brightly, considering that it has burned up so much of the taxpayers’ money. Its original allocation of ‘capital was” £3,000,000, and £1,500.000 has been added to that amount since then. It should have a very high candlepower. The advertisement goes on -
No Australian, nor, indeed, any member of the British .Umpire, can to-day ignore the fact … and continues with a lot of praise of (Jio British Empire, in an endeavour to hide the fact that this attempt at socialization is dissipating the taxpayers’ funds. This is what a representative of private enterprise has said of the Government’s expensive toy. The Sydney Morning Herald, under a Melbourne date-line of yesterday, reports as follows : -
The loss of £505.027 by the government controlled Trans- A us tralia. Airlines during the year ended the HOth June last was described as “ incredible “ to-night by the general manager of Australian National Airways, Mr. H. F. Walsh.
This private company operates under great difficulty with all the obstructions put in its path by the Minister and his colleagues. When it wanted to buy aircraft it was refused permission. It had to go to the High Court to get a writ of mandamus. Then it was prevented from buying the aircraft ;by the Treasury. The Government then approached the owners of the aircraft, the United States Army Air Force, and said that it would buy them. The Americans showed proper disgust and flew the aircraft out of the country to the Philippines. When I asked the Minister why the Government was spending 1,000,000 dollars on American aircraft, he said that Australian airline companies could buy aircraft where they liked. The answer was misleading, but we are used to the Minister’s evasion and general obstruction. We asked why a private airline company was to be prevented from landing Skymasters at the Cambridge aerodrome, Hobart, for the Christmas rush. We have been promised an answer, but have not yet rewived it. Probably the Minister thinks
Mr. White. it will be in time if we get it the Christmas after next. Only recently he told us that he had landed in Royal Australian Air Force aircraft on aerodromes on which private airline companies would not land their aircraft. In this instance, we have one airline operator who is willing to land his aircraft on the Cambridge aerodrome, as they have already done, but the Minister intends to prevent him. Another example of the way in which private airline operators are being hampered in their operations is provided by the subsidy that was paid in respect of aircraft flying tq Tasmania. The Government made it difficult for the people for whom the materials were consigned to collect the subsidy thereon if the materials were carried by a private company and easy for them to collect it if the materials were carried on aircraft owned by the government. Naturally the Government got most of the business. We asked questions about that, but the Ministor has not yet replied.
– What is that?
– I am referring to the subsidy on the freight on meat carried, to Tasmania.
– That is a matter for tin? Department of Commerce and Agriculture.
– The buck is being passed again from one department to another. It is incredible. The Department of Supply and Shipping pays 2d. out of 3d. to the Department of Civil Aviation and the man who imports it pays only Id.; but if it is carried by a private aircraft he has to pay the 3d. and lodge a. claim on the Government for the 2d. There are inordinate delays before he is paid. I return to the subject of this white elephant of the air - the TransAustralia Airlines. Mr. Walsh, who ismanaging a. private business in competition with the Government with the same kind of aircraft, has disclosed that his company had paid an interim dividend of 5 per cent. The report adds - “The cost figures are so immense that their real meaning is lost unless considered in common terms “, said Mr. Walsh. They mean that 40,000 basic wage-earners with two children have had a very ill-spared 4s. .Id. a week deducted from their hard-earned wages every week in the year to foot Trans-Austral in Airlines’ nine months’’ loss - for Trims-Australia Airlines was operating for only niue mont lis of Hu? year. if the total amount provided by the Government, for Trans-Australia Airlines to date - £3,670,000 - is considered, 333,:”i00 basic; wageearners with two children have had to suffer similar taxation. But for this costly experiment these people need never had ipn.it! luxation.
Xd private enterprise airline would operate so inefficiently as to lose more than £500,000 in nine months, ‘Mr. Walsh said.
– Which the honorable member has been, saving every dar is £4.500,000.
– The Minister is the embodiment of the “artful dodger”. If the amounts are added up, they come to £3,(570,000, which lias gone to the company. Four and a half millions is the full Parliamentary vote. The Minister is trying to put words into my mouth. The Government chose a name for its commission so like that of the Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited that it. is taking some of that company’s business. I. continue reading the article -
Australian .National Airways Proprietary Limited accounts for 1 94 0-4 7 had not yet been completed, hut shareholders had already been paid a. f> per cent, interim dividend.
That is only common sense, but what does this “brains trust” on the treasury bench do? The Labour Ministers think they can run anything from airlines to pie carts. There is nothing that they do not want to socialize in their lust for power. What do they know about busi ness practices? I go on with the report - “Thu Trans-Australia Airlines report confirms what «< lui ve said all along”, he said, “ Tin? Government airline is overstaffed and its costs (if operation have been allowed to become ho>Hi>s«y in excess of the scale required for economic operation. Tt has cost the Government £L to earn every 10s. disclosed miller revenue.
Mr. Walsh said that assets listed in the report indicated that the Government had made a. huge undisclosed grant to TransAustralia Airlines by giving it valuable buildings at, abnormally low prices. The report listed buildings and improvements at £138,000, but Trans-Australia. Airlines big hangar at Essendon was north this price alone. In addition the Government had admitted that it had spent so much on the Manchester Unity Building in Melbourne - Trans-Australia Airlines headquarters - that it could not alford to hand it hack to the owners. During the same period
Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited had paid a “ huge sum “ in taxes which Trans-Australia Airlines was not liable u> pay “.
That is a comparison between government enterprise and private enterprise.
– Order! I should like to know to what part of the bill the honorable member is directing his remarks.
– A new provision has benn made to enable Trans-Australia Airlines to operate a. service to the Northern Territory. I am dealing with the losses incurred by Trans-Australia Airlines up to date. Apparently another branch of its services is to be created to pile up more losses of the people’s money. I presume that on this branch lin» Trans-Australia Airlines- will use Convair aircraft, about which there has been a great deal of advertising, especially about the pressurized cabins.
– Order ! There arc two bills on the notice-paper dealing with civil aviation. I do not know whether the honorable member proposes to make the one speech to cover both bills; -hut, if he proposes to speak on the other bill, when it comes before honorable members for - consideration, I must ask bini to restrict his present remarks to the bill under consideration.
– The other bill deals with infra-state airlines in Queensland. 1 have not mentioned Queensland.
– The other bill is the Australian National Airlines Bill.
– I am merely referring to the airline that will be operated to the Northern Territory. The Minister lias not given details of it, but the intention is disclosed in a clause of the bill. I take it that Convair aircraft will be used on the run. When I asked the Minister why British Aircraft were not being bought for the service, he made a statement to the effect that they were, not available.
– This bill does not refer to the Trans-Australia Airlines.
– The hon orable member for Balaclava is dealing with a measure that will come before the
House later. If he wants to make one speech on the two bills, he will he quite in order, but if he proposes to speak on the Australian National Airlines Bill I must ask him to confine himself now to this bill.
– I will make the one speech on the two bills. Anyway, I have not the call to speak on the other bill.
– I do not know whether the House is agreeable to debate the two measures at the same time. Is it the wish of the House to do so.
Honorable Members. - Yes.
– If that means that honorable members will speak only once on both bills, I am agreeable.
– We have agreed to debate both measures at the same time.
– I presume the Government will use the much advertised Convair aircraft on the run to the Northern Territory. They have been advertised as aeroplanes of a new type with pressurized cabins. I displayed one of the advertisements in the House yesterday. A model aeroplane that must have cost at least £1,000 is on display in Melbourne. When I asked why 1,000,000 dollars was to be spent on buying those aircraft at a time when supplies of dollars were restricted, and advocated that Britain be helped by purchase of British aircraft, the Minister made the statement that British aircraft were not available. Knowing that he was not keeping to the truth, I pressed him for a further answer by putting this question on the notice-paper -
The Minister went right back on what he had told me previously. Originally, he said that British aircraft were not available, but in answer to my question on the notice-paper, he admitted that they were available. We saw the Viking aircraft here. Sir Keith Smith, the representative of the manufacturers, took many members of this Parliament on a flight in it over Canberra. Honorable members know its suitability for use on feeder routes. In answer to the second part of my question the Minister said -
The overriding considerations were efficiency and economy in the type of operation being undertaken by the commission in Australia. No other type of aircraft then available or in prospect compared favorably with the Convair in these respects.
The highly paid executive, the former member for Henty, Mr. Coles, who receives £3,500 a year and £2 12s. a day travelling allowance as Chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission, and who ordered these aircraft in the United States of America, never saw one in operation. They were ordered from the drawing board, and the latest reports from America indicate that they still have not been granted an airworthiness certificate. When suitable British aircraft are brought to Canberra for demonstration, and are run regularly on British air routes, one wonders why this action was taken. An inquiry is needed to ascertain why 1,000,000 dollars should be permitted to be expended on the purchase of aircraft that are still not classed as airworthy.
– How many of them were ordered?
– I believe that five were ordered. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) tabled a statement to-day about the dollar position, showing the degree to which Australia must curtail imports. All kinds of commodities that are wanted are in short supply to-day because of dollar restrictions. Notwithstanding that, the Minister for Air, without in any way informing Parliament of his intention, authorized the expenditure of 1,000,000 precious dollars for the purchase of these aircraft. Not content with that, he sent 25 engineers to America to gain experience in the servicing of the aircraft.
The statement relative to these engineers is contained in the Government’s propaganda booklet Facts and Figures. Is it any wonder that the Australian National Airlines Commission has lost more than £500,000 in the first nine months of its operation? No private airline company would send a number of men overseas to learn how to service an aircraft of a new type.
– Why not?
– The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) should know a little more about the activities of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which was originally known as Tasmanian Air Service. That company was the first to import Douglas aircraft into Australia, but it did not send 25 men to the United States of America to learn how to operate and service them. The engineer who flew the Douglas to Australia taught Australian pilots and engineers how to operate and maintain it. This is merely providing a dollar holiday for 25 young men. After the information had been given to me by the Minister for Air in answer to my questions, the Chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission made this comment in his second annual report of the activities of the commission, a document which we have to read with a good deal of suspicion -
No suitable type for early delivery was available from the United Kingdom because the development and delivery dates for new type aircraft were adversely affected as a result of the war.
That is the excuse given for the purchase of the Convairs. It shows how regardless is the Government of the taxpayers’ money. Since the Minister has shown his disregard of the taxpayers’ money, in this way, and has displayed annoyance, because criticism is made-
– Not in the least. The honorable member is quite mistaken.
– Perhaps we shall see how the honorable gentleman reacts to this one.
– I am willing to try anything once.
– Instead of using up precious dollars by utilising Royal Australian Air Force aircraft for his jaunts to and from Canberra, the Minister should show his desire to make the Government airline pay by putting it on a business basis. I remind the honorable gentleman that each engine of a Douglas aircraft uses approximately 45 gallons of petro: an hour. He might y_ell consider abandoning the use of Royal Australian Air Force aircraft for his jaunting backwards and forwards, and, instead, use the services of a Government instrumentalityAll he seems to be concerned with is the passing of legislation designed to blot out all competition by the private airline companies. The High Court, however, saved the airline companies from his attempts to do so. The highly paid chief executive of the Australian National Airlines Commission, Mr. Coles-
– A good man, too. I should rather take his word than that of the honorable member.
- Mr. W. C. Taylor, the vice-chairman of the commission, like the wise Minister who interjects, was president of the Trades Hall Council. Despite the fact that he knew nothing about aviation, he was appointed as vice-chairman of this Government instrumentality.
– Why should he not We appointed?
– Because there are many young men who served in the Air Force during the war who are more eminently qualified for the appointment, and because I object to people being pulled in to such jobs for political reasons. I am glad that the Minister admits that he condones that sort of thing, because I have always suspected it.
– To which Minister does the honorable member refer?
– I refer to both the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) and the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford).
– The honorable member lives in a world of suspicion.
– It Ls difficult to extract the facts from the Minister for Air, whom the airline companies call “ the artful dodger “. The honorable gentleman presents a bill to amend the Air Navigation Act and leads us to believe that it is simply intended to alter the Air
Navigation Regulations, but on examinatoin we find that, implicit in it is an intention to put out of existence a pioneer airline company. The colossal expenditure of the Australian National Airlines Commission will continue, the Government paying no regard to the balancesheet which shows the prodigal way in which the taxpayers’ money is being wasted. That is why we oppose the bill. Trans-Australia Airlines should not be allowed to spread its wings until its affairs are put on a more economic basis. I oppose the intention of the Minister to extend its activities further afield. The Government may well leave its control to the Department of Civil Aviation and provide avenues of employment for former air crew members of the Royal Australian Air Force who would seek employment with the department, if the taxpayers’ money were not being wasted in this way. For those reasons I oppose the bill.
– This measure affords the House an opportunity to make some observations regarding the financial results achieved in the first operative year of the activities of the Australian National Airlines Commission. It is as well to emphasize the fact that the loss of £505,927 represents almost exactly one-quarter of the capital invested in this enterprise. An amount of £2,170,000 was advanced by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) towards the activities of this commission. This result cannot be accepted very happily and I am surprised that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) has not made some reference to it, or given to. the House some reason for this huge loss, notwithstanding that it was incurred in the first year’s operations of this socialized airline.
A comparison of the estimates presented to the Parliament recently with certain results that have been achieved by Trans-Australia Airlines bring to light some startling facts which need to be revealed in the fullest possible way. A survey of the returns for 1945-46 and 1946-47 indicates that the total cost of the provision for facilities for airline operation* Iia vo increased from £169,106 to £368,903, an increase of £199,797. Of this total an amount of £137,000 was for the increase of meteorological services for which the private companies state they cannot account, and can only suppose that the Commonwealth has simply increased the payment as a. matter of discretion, and not in consideration of services rendered. The general increase of costs, therefore, is not considerable, and the figures’ for 1945-46 are quite comparable with those for 1944-45. The increase to which I have referred in operating costs, which is roughly £200,000, calls for detailed explanation by the Government.
Over the period which I have mentioned, the increased costs of administration of the Department, of Civil Aviation in salaries alone has been from £307,244 in 1945, to £472,8.1.9 in .1946, and to £600,000 in 1947. That increase is fantastic. Tin? same number of airlines is in operation. Trans-Australia Airlines being the only new entrant into the field. The same routes are being operated and the same distances covered. Trans-Australia Airlines operates only routes that were being operated by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, and no great increase of work is entailed by reason of its operations. The Department of Civil Aviation, in safety measures and the like, covers precisely the same field now as it did in 1945-46, and the Minister should explain why the huge salary increases have been incurred. The department is engaging large numbers of people, many of whom are totally unqualified for the work they are required to perform, and everybody in the department seems to be cluttering up everybody else with useless and completely futile work. The Minister “ has stated that costs have been increased because 1,300 new aerodromes have been taken over from thu Royal Australian Air Force, but there has been no increase in civil services, and those aerodromes are not being used by the civil services. What actually happens is that some person decides to create a new post and the post is promptly created. In general, unqualified persons apply for these posts but as 1 11 (., have to be filled, the unqualified applicants are employed. An individual ti en starts to form a brunch of the department around himself, and it. is for thi,* reason that we are faced with such a fantastic increase of sain rios. The Department of Civil Aviation, as a matter of fact, was doing a better job a lew years ago than it is doing now.
The balance-sheet covering the period of the inauguration of Trans-Australia Airlines is extraordinary, and. indeed, most alarming. A most lavish expenditure for labour and materials required for the Trans-Australia Airlines establishments was embarked upon, and housing priorities in regard to building materials and labour were completely ignored. So long as the Commonwealth authorities retained control in this field, all permissions sough I: for bv Trans-Australia Airlines wore given, and all necessary labour and materials were found, notwithstanding that there was such a heavy demand for housing needs throughout; the whole countryside. When, the State authorities assumed control, the issuing of permits was ignored. Since the inauguration of Trans-Australia Airlines, an almost complete embargo has existed in regard to the carrying out of reconstruction and renewal work urgently required in connexion with the premises occupied by private airline companies. The first action of Trans-Australia Airlines was 10 try to attract stuff from the private airline companies by the offer of fantastic salaries. Even down to the most junior clerk, salaries have been offered by Trans-Australia Airlines which are greatly in excess of those which private airlines could afford. The first action of the Government airline on entering the field of civil aviation was to reduce fares and freight rates. The losses which Trans-Australia Airlines has suffered show how completely uneconomic were ibc rates fixed by this Government concern : but in an endeavour to secure business it was prepared to quote most ridiculous rates. In these circumstances it is not surprising that a loss of £500,000 should have been incurred. I have seen letters from firms in Sydney to their customers in Brisbane to the effect that the customers could obtain a rebate on goods consigned by air through TransAustralia Airlines, although T do not know the extent; to which these practices have been carried out. This was, of course, a petty procedure and also an expensive method of competing with private airline companies.
The Commonwealth has supplied aircraft lavishly to Trans-Australia Airlines and has even provided an amount of approximately $1,000,000 for the purchase of Convair aircraft, although applications by private airline companies for new aircraft are rigidly policed and, in the case of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, uniformly rejected. The only occasion since the inauguration of Trans-Australia Airlines, when Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was permitted to acquire C.47 machines, was subsequent; to its instituting the Pacific service. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited refused to divert its HC.4 machines to this service unless the Commonwealth allowed it to purchase C.47 aircraft to replace the Skymasters on the internal airlines that would be diverted. This transaction was eventually allowed as a condition of the Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited providing the Pacific service. As we all know, all mails have been diverted to Trans-Australia Airlines and that is a branch of business of great magnitude financially. Prior to the inauguration of Trans-Australia Airlines the rule applied was that mails were to be lifted by the first available aircraft. That was a valuable rule from the point of view of both the Postal Department and the users of the airmail service. But that provision, which was beneficial to the people, has now been abandoned and all mails are carried by Trans- Australia Airlines aircraft even though machines of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited may leave earlier. Trans-Australia. Airlines is being used as a grossly unfair cut- throat competitor of the private airline companies, with the object; of putting them out of business, regardless of the final cost to the taxpayer. As I have said, that loss already amounts to £505,927, which is one-quarter of the capital of TransAustralia A irilines
Private airlines had done yeomen pioneering work prior to the establishment of Trans-Australia Airlines. They supplied extra services where they were needed merely by increasing the number of aircraft in operation, and without any heavy extra financial contribution by the Government. There was absolutely no need to duplicate ground organization and central office and regional staffs, or to acquire valuable office space in every capital city, or to commandeer telephone equipment which is in very scarce supply, or to take over extra cars, omnibuses and other road transport. Yet all this has been done in order to give effect to the socialistic policy of this Government. It is for this reason alone that services have been duplicated and many unnecessary activities undertaken by Trans-Australia Airlines. I understand that there is a shortage of something like 50,000 telephone instruments in Australia, yet Trans-Australia. Airlines has been able to equip its offices in an extravagant manner, providing five and six line services with numerous extensions in places where they were not necessary. This was done at a time when people in country districts were crying out for telephone facilities, as in fact they still are. Legally, the sphere of Trans-Australia Airlines is confined to serving the capital cities. It can do no developmental work to assist in the opening up of the outback or in providing purely intra-state services. In fact, it can perform no really useful pioneering work in connexion with unprofitable inland routes which are generally paid for by the profits made by inter-capital city services.
To sum up, we find ourselves in a most unfortunate position. Millions of dollars are being needlessly spent annually on millions of gallons of petrol, and on aircraft and equipment for Government airlines to provide additional links between capital cities, which were already linked by privately operated aircraft. This has been done solely to further the socialization policy of this Government. Millions of gallons of petrol are being used by various instrumentalities of Trans-Australia Airlines which would be much better applied to really essential services in this country, and a good deal of equipment which has been obtained from dollar areas is being misused in that it is being applied to Trans-Australia Airlines services, which, themselves, need not have been established. Large operating losses are being incurred on services which merely duplicate already existing services run at no cost to the taxpayer. Useless and heavy expenditure on offices, transport, wages and subsidiary services has merely duplicated existing private airline services which could have been expanded at a fraction of the cost. The State transport system is gradually slipping under centralized and bureaucratic government control from Canberra. Country services will be hamstrung, and the rural community will be denied efficient air services such as small private companies would have provided.
I draw the attention of the Minister to what occurred in the Queensland Parliament yesterday, according to press reports which have just come to hand. The Air Navigation Act Amendment Bill was introduced, and the Premier, Mr. Hanlon, stated that its purpose was to clear up any misunderstanding as to the authority of the Australian and State Governments about the licensing of commercial aircraft. Mr. Hanlon said that the State government did not intend to transfer to the Australian Government the right to licence commercial aircraft for operation in Queensland. He said that Trans- Australia Airlines would be subject to the authority of the State government while operating over Queensland routes, but that the State government would not attempt to interfere with the right of the Commonwealth to control the safety and licensing of individual aircraft, or the competency of crews. The bill, however, was designed to ensure that there should be no interference with the right of the State to licence companies or persons to carry on intra-state air services, or with the right of the State to collect any tax which the State Parliament might impose. Mr. Hanlon added that it would be unnecessary for airlines operating intra-state to concern themselves about civil aviation licences. They would have to comply with the licensing regulations issued by the Civil Aviation Department regarding the safety of aircraft and crew, but they would have to obtain from the State Transport Department a licence to fly a route. State governments, he said, were licensing aircraft to operate within their own States. Mr. Hanlon went on to say that it might appear that the Queensland Government had transferred to the Commonwealth the right to issue licences for carrying on commercial aviation of all kinds, but he denied this. He said -
We have no intention of doing that. We do want to preserve our right to have intra-state airways contribute to some common pool for the increased cost of transport.
The Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Nicklin, said that, while the Australian National Airlines Commission was endeavouring to ride rough-shod over the State, the State government should retain a very definite say regarding air rights within the State.
The Civil Aviation Department has, in some instances, spent two years making up its mind about the granting of licences for services to certain areas. After a long delay, a licence was granted to operate a service from Brisbane to Toowoomba, but it was cancelled almost simultaneously. I had booked to travel on the aircraft myself, only to find that the licence had been cancelled. It has since been restored.
– What does the right honorable gentleman advocate?
– It is not my responsibility to advocate anything. I am here to observe, and if necessary, to criticize, what the Government is doing. There is evidentally confusion regarding the division of authority between the Commonwealth and the States.
.- It is a pity that this bill has come before us in the closing hours of this sessional period, because honorable members have been so busy that they have had little opportunity to study the report and balance-sheet of the Australian National Airlines Commission. However, even after having made only such a sketchy survey as time has permitted, I am impelled to offer a few comments. I am disappointed that this government-controlled service, has not set out to fill a gap which did. in fact, exist in the air services of the Commonwealth. The main routes .between the capital cities were being reasonably catered for by the private air services, and. as the Government was setting uri its own organization, one would have hoped that its objective would have been to pioneer routes where previously there was no adequate service. If losses had to be sustained, they should be incurred in carrying air services into those parts of the country where private airlines, necessarily conducted for profit, could not have ventured at this time. Had that been done, the government service could have conferred a real benefit on the people, but the Government adopted a contrary policy. It set out to duplicateservices already in existence. It attempted to cash in on the best-paying routes throughout Australia, and to compete with private air services between the capital cities.
– Does the honorable member want Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to monopolize the air as well?
– Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was not t.1, / only private company operating an air service. Recently, we have had a striking example of the effect of competition, when the Government tried to crush one of the smaller air companies, but that company was able to force prices down by 20 per cent., despite the attempts of the Government to compel it to charge more. While such competition exists there remains a hope of better service. I do not propose to go into that aspect of the matter, however. I merely point out that a government service, which could have met a real need, has not sought to do so. An examination of the balance.sheet shows that many of the actions of the government-owned organization shriek for examination and justification. It is remarkable that, during the first year in which Trans-Australia Airlines has be«n operating, a colossal loss of more than £500,000 has been sustained - more than one-quarter of the capital originally advanced to the organization to enable it to conduct its operations. There is reason to believe that, despite the fact that fto balance-sheet has been signed by the Commonwealth Auditor-General, the losses have been conservatively stated. For instance, the balance-sheet does not showthat any charge ha., been made against the organization for interest payments to the Commonwealth Government. If this business were being conducted like a normal business, it would either have to pay dividends on its capital - or no more capital would be forthcoming - or it would have to pay interest at the rate of 4$ per cent, on capital raised by overdraft. Lf it had bad to pay interest at that rate, its losses over the nine months of operation would have been very much greater.
– Trans-Australia Airlines is also free of taxation.
– As the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has pointed out, this organisation is specially favoured in that it does not have to pay taxes such as its competitors pay. The item, “Buildings and Improvements. Leasehold Property, &c.” is shown as an asset valued at £137.000. Some time ago. we pressed the Minister to say what was the value of buildings which had been transferred to Trans-Australia Airline-. I very much question whether the amount shown in the balance-sheet represents a fair valuation of- the buildings which have been transferred to Trans-Australia Airlines, or constructed for it. Does thu Minister suggest that the hangar constructed at Essendon, together with the Manchester Unity Building. Melbourne, and the other real assets of TransAustralia. Airlines, have a value of only £137,000? We know that the Government had paid out so much money for the Manchester Unity Building that it stated some time ago that it was not prepared to go on paying rent, but was determined to acquire the building.
– In whose name does th’3 building stand - in the Government’s, or in that of Trans- Australia Airlines?
– If it is not in the name of Trans- Australia Airlines, the transaction constitutes a fraud on the part of the Government, because the building is exclusively occupied by Trans- Australia Airlines. That was the justification for acquiring it, after negotiations which did not reflect much credit on the Government, If it is supposed to be occupied by Trans-Australia Airlines on lease, that is merely an attempt to pull wool over the eyes of the taxpayers, because, for a1.! practical purposes, the building represents a real asset enjoyed by TransAustralia Airlines.
Another item to which .1. call attention is superannuation for members of the Hying. staff. That is -shown in the balancesheet as a liability of £24,000, which, presumably, relates to the period of nine months covered by the commission’s operations. Therefore, for a full year, the amount would be about £32,000. The report shows that the flying staff consists of 149 pilots and 7C hostesses, a total of 225. Thus, it would appear that the Government is creating a superannuation fund which will cost over £30,000 a year for the benefit of 225 persons. I do not claim, to be a. mathematician, but 1 believe that if that amount of money were invested by a. private citizen for his personal assurance, it would return him, in due course, some thousands nf pounds. Air hostesses and pilots are young persons, and I believe in view of the considerable sum set out by way of superannuation, that the Government should tell the Parliament the nature of the provision that is being made. 1 make it dear that I have no objection to ;i. government instrumentality making a fair superannuation payment to its employees. We do it in respect of our Public Service generally, and we should do it in respect of persons engaged in flying duties. Perhaps they have a shorter working life than most person? in. government employment. Perhaps, they must retire earlier because they are not permitted to fly when they attain a certain age. T do not know what age limit applies to air hostesses. This occupation, is a. comparatively modern innovation, and we may find that, while they are “young and charming” at present, they may become like the traditional barmaid. “ They never dic, they only fade away :’
– They also marry.
– There may also be a considerable turnover because many of them may marry. The Opposition does not. object to fair provision being made for superannuation for the staff, but we would object if fancy sums were offered as an inducement to persons to enter thi? service, compared with those which any private organization could reasonably afford to pay. When I see a substantial payment for this limited number of personnel, averaging more than £100 per annum and presumably supplemented by the payments which the employees themselves make, I believe that we are entitled to ask the Minister to furnish the details showing just what is involved in this way.
Honorable members could say a good deal more about this matter, but we are handicapped on this occasion by the limited time since the information was placed before us. I assure the Minister that honorable members will watch with great interest the development of this organization. We do not wish to see it fail.
– Hear, hear !
– It could be a wonderful asset for the Commonwealth, and as shareholders ourselves, in a small and possibly unreal sense, in this vast enterprise, we shall take an interest in its progress. We can give to the Minister this comforting assurance that, if any criticism which we raise can improve either the service or the economical management of the organization, we shall be very pleased to offer it.
.-The House is considering simultaneously the Air Navigation Bill (No. 2) and the Australian National Airlines Bill. The Air Navigation Bill (No. 2) deals with developments since the original air convention was signed, prescribing standards and conditions of air navigation, and a more up-to-date system of control of this vital and developing service. Honorable members have little, if any, cause for complaint against the operations of the original act, and this bill should receive their unanimous support. The second bill amends the Australian National Airlines Act 1945. I heartily agree with its provisions, and with the view of the Government that Australian airlines should be nationalized. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), in his concluding words, made a more realistic statement about Australian nationally operated airlines than has characterized his recent speeches. The Australian community, he rightly said, are shareholders in this great and valuable national undertaking, and the honorable member, on this occasion, departed from the practice, which I have regretted, of criticizing governmental activities as socialist ventures designed to enslave the people.
The trend throughout the world is to ensure that, airlines shall be nationally owned, or if that is not done, as in some countries like the United States of America, that selected operators shall take over particular routes. This trend will continue, because the cost of operating air services will preclude competition on certain routes. In addition, the overhead expenditure which is involved in competing airlines tends, unless strict control is exercised, to reduce the profits of competing organizations and lead to the introduction of unsafe practices in air navigation. That tendency is bad for the development of this comparatively new and most valuable means of transport, and a great danger to the travelling public who use air services. For those two reasons, namely, the future of air travel and the safety of people who use air services, airlines must be nationally owned by the public, or selected operators must control certain routes under strict governmental supervision.
It is idle to claim that this is a socialist venture introduced by a government which has no regard for the welfare of the people. On a previous occasion, I pointed out that the Government of Canada - a Liberal Government - provided, just as the Australian Government has done, for a nationally owned and operated system of air navigation. The Government of the United Kingdom has also provided for publicly owned airlines. As I stated earlier, the trend in the United States of America is to have selected operators on prescribed routes, thus preventing competition which would be ruinous to their business and a great deterrent to the organized and proper development of American airlines. In the early stages of the development of American airlines, crashes became so frequent that President Hoover was obliged to appoint a virtual dictator of air travel and air navigation. This official was later a distinguished general in air operations in World War II. In the position to which President Hoover appointed him, he had far-reaching powers to ensure that air travel was conducted with due regard for safety, and that the force of competition, which then existed, did not ruin operators and, before ruining them, compel them to resort to unsafe practices to make profits or safeguard their capital. Had that action not been taken, the whole future of civilaviation in the United States of America might have been jeopardized.
That policy has been extended in an endeavour to provide selected operators for .the main air routes. Even better than that system is a nationally owned system. A service in which real competition cannot exist should be owned as a public instrumentality. As such, its operations will be open to public scrutiny at regular intervals. It should have a single purpose, namely, that of providing a real service to the people without a duplication of overhead costs, and conducting its affairs at the lowest possible charge to the general public. It is not always the best tiling when, as in the recent controversy, one operator has sought to reduce fares payable by the public. In general practice, it is desirable; but if a reduction of charges tends to lower the standard of the service and finally pushes a competitor out of the business, the ultimate result may be an increase of charges to the public. The practice is generally adopted in an endeavour to gain the bulk of the business offering. When that has been achieved, the invariable result, as history shows, has been not a continual lowering of charges, but actually an increase of charges to cover essential costs. So it may well be in this case. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) has ably explained the position in the recent controversy, and the blame does not lie on him in the way in which it has been attributed to him.
The balance-sheet of Trans-Australia Airlines has been trenchantly criticized because of the loss that it discloses. Before I deal with that aspect, I shall refer to two matters which the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), and the honorable member for Fawkner raised. Like many other honorable members, I believe that competition should not exist among operators of air services. This competition leads to duplication of ground staff, and a variety of facilities, including telephones as the Leader of the Australian Country party stated. As the result of this competition and duplication, overhead charges are vastly increased. In my opinion, that indicates that this is a type of service which can give maximum efficiency only when operated by a monopoly over specified routes. The honorable member for Fawkner endeavoured to show that the figures in the balancesheet of Trans-Australia Airlines must be incorrect, because the cost of the Manchester Unity Building in Melbourne - the head-quarters of the TransAustralia Airlines - does not appear to be reflected in the total figure in the balancesheet provided for buildings. I presume that the Manchester Unity Building was purchased by the Government, that TransAustralia Airlines pays rent to the Government, or that a contra-charge is entered against Trans-Australia Airlines on a rental basis.
– What rent does TransAustralia Airlines pay?
– I do not pretend to know.
– Is it a fair rent?
– One thing is true, that if an asset were entered in the books of Trans-Australia Airlines representing the building which is said to have been purchased by the organization, a corresponding charge must be made against the commission. So, it is clear from the balance-sheet that the building has not been purchased by the Australian National Airlines Com.mission, but is rented from the Government, which purchased it. That is sound procedure. If buildings have to be purchased for use by government instrumentalities, they should be purchased by the Government and not by the various instrumentalities which have need of the accommodation in the buildings. Secondly, the balance-sheet discloses a loss of more than £500,000. We have to realize, when looking at the figures, that TransAustralia Airlines is a new venture, and, as the report of the Australian National Airlines Commission itself states, a big percentage of the charges shown are not operational charges, but charges necessarily incurred in setting up an organization of this kind.
– Then why are they not shown as capital charges for setting up the organization ?
– The report of the Australian National Airlines Commission shows that they are capital charges. They are not operating charges, which is the normal result shown by a balance-sheet and accounts of a trading corporation. The capital charges, as the Leader of the Australian Country party well knows, not only for actual physical assets, but for all types of expenditure which will only once he incurred, and the preliminary administrative charges incurred in the setting up of a basic organization, are normally regarded in a private undertaking as temporary assets. The amount would be entered as a charge against operating costs - against the current transactions of the corporation - but would be written off gradually over a period of years. That does not appear to have been done in the accounts of the Australian National Airlines Commission, although the result would be the same in the end. Under normal private business practice, the amount would be written off over a period of years, with the result that in later years operations of the company would show a lower profit, whereas the current deficit would he reduced fairly substantially.
– We have not been speaking about profits.
– A number of the charges which have been discussed are necessary to the establishment of such an organization. As I have said, they will be incurred only once in its lifetime. They are exceptional administrative charges which normally would be capitalized by a private undertaking and written off over a period of years. Under one system, such charges are written off immediately against operating costs. Under the other system, annual profits are reduced by an amount sufficient to write off the initial costs over a period of years.
Having in mind the tremendous expenditure that is necessary to establish an organization such as Trans-Australia Airlines, the amount of loss incurred to date has not been very great. Very high charges are involved in creating the initial organization.
– But the overhead expenses are too great.
– That would be difficult to prove. The honorable member has certainly given no indication that that is the case.
– The additional service provided by Trans-Australia Airlines could have been provided merely by placing a few more aircraft in operation with the private companies.
– Competition between airlines not only increases their overhead costs hut also increases the hazard ‘ of air travel, and, therefore, the trend throughout the world has been to ensure that only one airline shall operate >“i certain routes. It is not correct to say that the desired result could have been achieved by adding a few more aircraft to existing private airline services. It is true that, at certain periods, one airline could cope with the volume of traffic between the eastern States and Western Australia, for instance.
The Government sought to achieve the effect of uncompetitive operation by creating a single nationally owned system of airlines. That will eventually be done. It has been done in Great Britain, in Canada, and, I believe, in New Zealand. The system certainly will be adopted in every country within a reasonably short space of time. As the honorable member for Balaclava has said, air transport services could have been increased by placing more aircraft in commission. That could have been done, at a much lower cost than has been incurred, simply by allowing Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to absorb other companies, a process that was taking place in any case. No good can be done by talking about pioneers in aviation and their rights. The fact is that the costs of airline operation are so high that the pioneers could not remain in business without securing substantial capital backing. They were being pushed out, either rapidly or gradually, by more powerful companies. Lower operating costs could have been achieved by allowing Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to take over all airlines in Australia. In fact, that company was already gradually acquiring control of the major airlines. This merely bears out the point of mv argument, namely, that competition between airline services causes higher costs and additional overhead expenses, not only for accommodation, but also for the provision of spare crews, aircraft and equipment.
The Australian National Airlines Commission has established a very high standard of service throughout Australia, and its activities have amply justified the action of the Government in creating it. I believe that, even if that organization had not been established, there would still have been a demand for increased air transport charges because of rising costs. This would have happened whether Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited had been the sole airline operator or whether there had been, competition between a number of companies. TransAustralia Airlines has been wrongly accused of reducing the charges in a price war. The simple fact is that formerly Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited gave the benefit of reduced charges only in special circumstances to selected individuals or groups of people. Trans-Australia. Airlines, therefore, decided that the special lower charges made by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in such circumstances should be available to all passengers over the full range of its own services.
– The railways services do what Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was doing.
– They do not. The railways services, like Trans-Australia Airlines, and unlike Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, arc common carriers and cannot vary their charges for the benefit of particular persons or groups of persons. They can vary, their charges only by providing season tickets at reduced fares which must be available to everybody who wishes to take advantage of them. Under common law. they cannot do otherwise.
– The railways authorities in Victoria enter into special personal contracts.
– Any contracts for reduced charges must be freely available to every member of the community.
– No, they make special contracts.
– They cannot do so under the law. They may make special concessions available by means of issuing season tickets for travel within defined areas, but such concessions cannot be made available to some persons but noi to others.
Trans-Australia Airlines did not engage in a price war. It has made special rates available, but they are available all members of the community. I conclude by saying that Trans-Australia Airlines has provided a splendid service, its operating costs, plus its capital charges, have not been excessive, having regard to the heavy essential initial cost* of creating such a large organization. The increased charges which have been authorized would have been introduced whether Trans-Australia Airlines bad been operating or not. Generally, overthe whole field of air transport, TransAustralia Airlines has made a valuable contribution to the development of Australian aviation, and I believe that its results will improve as the years pass.
Mr. TURNBULL (Wimmera) 12:6.* - In this debate there has been no criticism of the services supplied’ by TrailsAustralia. Airlines and by other airlines. The main trend of argument, has been that the operations of Trans-Australia Airlines are unnecessary in Australia at this stage of our history, that the overhead costs are excessively high, and that the volume of materials and man-power diverted by this organization from our post-war reconstruction effort i.= too great That also is what I had in mind -.before iiic debate commenced. There are good reasons in support of those arguments.
The importation of other classes of agricultural machinery, comprising a relatively small quantity of tractors of a very heavy type, will have to he reviewed.
This is due to the shortage of dollars, which has been aggravated by the fact, that a. large sum of dollar currency was expended on the purchase of Convair aircraft, which are soon to be placed in service for Trans-Australia Airlines. The heavy tractors mentioned by the Prime Minister are necessary in Australia, because they are used for timber haulage.
– Order! The honorable member’s remarks are not related to the bill.
– The large amount of money that has been expended on the purchase of Convair aircraft-
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to refer to the bill.
– I am. referring to tractors in connexion with the dollar situation.
– The subject has nothing to do with the bill.
– The purchase of these aircraft means that we are able to huy fewer tractors from the United States of America.
– The honorable member will be talking about perambulators next, !
– On reading a copy of the bill just now, I noticed that one provision referred to powers to make provision for - [a) the establishment, maintenance, operation and use of aerodromes and air route and airway facilities, including the imposition of charges and conditions for their use.
It is easy to understand, that conditions could be made so difficult that private airlines would not be able to use the aerodromes at all. This House, some months ago, passed the Federal Aid Roads and
Works Bill. It was then pointed out-
– When will the honorable member start talking about perambulators?
– The subject is roads now.
– The Minister will understand my point soon. He cannot see far ahead, but if he will listen he will understand.
Revenue obtained by the Government from airline operators ‘by means of the petrol tax has been set aside for the construction of aerodromes and other facilities nhat are mentioned in the bill now before the House. That tax is collected from all companies operating aircraft in Australia and, of course, large sums have been contributed by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited, and other aviation firms. These sums have beer used for the construction of aerodromes. Now. the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) seeks power which would enable him, if he wished, to prevent those companies from using the aerodromes. Why should not the taxpayers, who supplied the money, be allowed free access to the aerodromes? The creation of the powers sought by the Minister in tills bill is likely to cause a great injustice, and the Minister should give an explanation of his proposals. It seems that Trans-Australia Airlines, having sustained a. financial loss of over £500,000 in its first nine months of operation, has decided that this loss must not be allowed to continue and that it must be allowed to make a .profit. Of course, if I were in business against, strong competition and found that 1 could eliminate my competitors, I should immediately do so in order to improve my business position.
The Government proposes to impose restriction.”-, on private airline companies so they will not be able to use aerodromes, thus leaving Trans-Australia. Airlines free of competition. Having cleared the field of opposition, Trans- Australia Airlines will be able to fix whatever charges for air travel it wishes. In those circumstances, anybody wishing to travel by air will be obliged to pay the charges fixed by the only air transport organization in operation. Those charges will be dictated by the Minister or his henchmen.
Sitting suspended from l2.J$ to 2.15 p.m.
– I question the logic of the statement of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke), that if a company reduced fares now we should probably have to pay higher fares later. I always understood that competition was the lifeblood of trade, and that genuine competition meant reasonable charges. If Trans-Australia Airlines rids itself of competition, it will be able to dictate what the public shall pay for air travel. In order to convert the loss of more than £500,000 last year into a trading profit in other years, the commission will have to do something. I believe that this bill represents a part of its plan to recover its position financially, although, from the viewpoint of the nation, not economically. The honorable member for Perth also said that one airline operating on certain routes would overcome the hazards of air travel. Australia has a record equal to, if not superior to, that of any other country in the safety of civil flying. There is not the slightest justification for saying that Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited will increase the hazards of flying if it reduces its fares, because it will curtail expenditure on safety measures. That company’s safety record is equal to that of any other airline company in the world. Earlier, when I said that the money expended on the purchase of aircraft in the United States of America would have been better expended on the purchase of tractors, the Minister said, “What about perambulators?” I do not propose to say anything about perambulators in this debate, because I realize that, when the Government has a monopoly in air travel, there will be no perambulators and that the taxpayers will have to “carry the baby”.
– The interest aroused in this measure ought to convince the Government that its passage should be delayed until honorable members have a full opportunity of considering all its aspects. To introduce and pass it in the dying hours of the sessional period is reprehensible. In common with other honorable members, I have watched with great interest the development of Trans-Australia Airlines. The Government has made it clear from the inception of its interest in airways that it ultimately proposes to monopolize them. Its first step in that direction was to ask the people at a referendum for power over civil aviation. The people refused that power. Then it tried, by means of legislation, to establish a monopoly in air travel. It was defeated in the High Court. Now it has decided to put a stranglehold on private companies that pioneered airways in Australia. The Banking Act is its first step towards that end. I have no doubt that if and when the government bank has a monopoly in hanking the private airlines will be refused financial accommodation. If honorable members opposite say that that contemplation is ridiculous, I can prove that the Government is already restricting the development of private airline companies by various subterfuges under its existing powers. That ought to convince people that it will not hesitate to use the powers it has under the Banking Act to crush opposition.
– Order 1 The Banking Act is before the High Court.
– I do not propose to say anything further about that. I merely illustrated my point. The huge loss of more than £550,000 made by the government airline in its first year of operation does not surprise me in the least. It surprises no one who has acquaintance with governmental control of industries and essential services. The taxpayer has to pay for every costly socialistic experiment of the Government, which is playing with the people’s money. The Government is prepared not only to waste the people’s money on its airline ventures, hut also to foster the development of that venture by restricting the development of its competitors. Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited at almost the same time applied to the Department of Civil Aviation for permission to operate an air service between Melbourne and Wynyard. Ordinarily, two competing companies applying to operate similar services would both be granted licences, hut when it is a matter of competition between a governmental instrumentality and private enterprise, the private company is shut out on the excuse that the Government had decided to limit the consumption of aviation spirit. The Government could not say openly, “ We do not propose to let you compete with us”. That would not suit its ‘ hook, because it is trying to lull private airline operators into a false sense of security. Moreover, if the Government did that, it would lay itself open to a challenge at law. So it relied on a pretext. The excuse cannot be justified, however, because, at the very time it was offered, Trans- Australia Airlines advertised three extra services between Sydney and Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane and Sydney and Adelaide, which would use considerably more petrol weekly than would be used by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in conducting a service between Melbourne and Wynyard. So we have one law for the Government and another for private enterprise. When the Department of Civil Aviation was tackled about the matter, the reply was, “ We had granted Trans- Australia Airlines permission to operate the service between Melbourne and Wynyard before we received instructions about the conservation of petrol “. The department said that permission had been given to TransAustralia Airlines at the beginning of September, before the Government had decided to conserve aviation fuel. That was a convenient excuse, because who is in a better position to know the Government’s plans to restrict the use of aviation fuel than is a government department? It is easy for a department that knows what the Government plans to do about saving fuel to grant permission to a governmental instrumentality to operate a service before the restrictions are imposed.- We are all aware of what happens. A few days before the Government decided to issue no further licences for the importation of certain articles a licence to import them was granted to a member of this House. We know that governments have used information in their possession to grant privileges to favoured persons. That is what happened in this instance. It said, “We gave permission to TransAustralia Airlines to operate an extended service from the beginning of September”; but after the beginning of September restrictions were imposed in order to conserve petrol. When I draw attention to the fact that at that same time Trans-Australia Airlines was advertising an increase of its inter-capital services honorable members will see how hollow was such an excuse. The Government is not only restricting the private airline companies by every possible means, but it is also using the petrol position to break down their competition with the Government instrumentality. Here is the complete pattern of monopolistic socialist control. The Government’s proposals regarding the airlines were rejected by the people at a referendum; its legislation was declared ultra vires the ‘ Constitution by the High Court ; and now it is imposing restrictions upon them allegedly because of the petrol position. Trans-Australia Airlines will not be embarrassed by the petrol position. Notwithstanding the restrictions on the use of petrol it was able to extend its inter-capital services from the 3rd November. Here honorable members can see the complete pattern of the policy of this socialist monopolist Government in regard to airlines. The Government is acting like a vampire, lulling its victims into a false sense of security, and at the same time planning to sit astride them and drain from them their very life-blood. Prom time to time honorable members have illustrated the way in which the big monopolies operate in this country. The case of the gold-mining industry has been frequently cited. They often tell of the old desert rat who makes his “ strike “, but reaps no reward for his pioneering efforts because the big monopoly companies take over his find and ultimately squeeze him out. Here we have a classic example of government monopolistic control. The airways companies which have pioneered aviation in Australia, built up extensive organizations, and provided valuable services for the people, paid petrol tax on the petrol they used. It is claimed that by expending a proportion of the tax on the construction of aerodromes the taxcollected in that way has been repaid. The airline companies have never been paid back in full. Considerably more than the amount expended by the Government on aerodrome construction has been provided in tax by the airline companies. If the airline operators dare to cut thoi r prices lower than the Government desires it now proposes to impose prohibitive charges which will prevent them from using government-controlled aerodromes, ls there anything virtuous in such a policy? Is it not designed solely to establish monopolistic control over all air services, to strangle, bash or belt out of existence, one way or another, any private airline company that dares to oppose the Government?
This bill is too important to the people of this country to bo brought before us in the dying hours of the sessional period. lt pin-points the Government’s policy to secure, complete monopolistic control of the air. With but a few hours of the sessional period left a bill with farreaching implications should never have been placed before us. The Government has long since ceased to approach anything in the interests of the people. How can we consider adequately such an important bill as this within the short time allotted to us? This Government is recreant to its trust to the people. I ask the Minister either to withdraw the bill or to extend the sittings of the Parliament so that we may be given an opportunity to debate it clause by clause. Only by that means may wu gain a complete understanding of the Government’s policy in respect of civil aviation. I appeal to the Minister to withdraw the bill or to give us adequate opportunity to ascertain whether it be possible to build something substantial from it.
.- During this debate we have heard a lot about air personnel, accountants, tractors, and even timber.
– And “ prams “.
– That is so; but no mention has been made of the control staff. I do 110 t intend to deal with the whole of the staff, but with one particular section, namely, those concerned with airways supervision and aeradio. Among these sections of the staff there is growing discontent at the manner in which persons appointed to temporary positions are being promoted to very high posts on a permanent basis. It appears that the .Director-General of Civil Aviation is able to appoint men to the service under section 47 of f,he Commonwealth
Public Service Act which, in effect, states that if the Governor-General deems it expedient a person may be appointed temporarily to a position and. within a period of six months, if no other person with the necessary qualifications is available for appointment, that person may be appointed permanently. In some instances permanent appointments of outsiders have been made without calling for applications from persons already in the service. I find it difficult to understand how the Director-General can certify that no person with the necessary qualifications is available if a position be not advertised. When the airway supervisors and aeradio employees have appealed against such appointments, they have been told that the positions required the services of officers with aviation experience. To say that those who carried heavy responsibilities in the department during the war, who were not permitted to enlist in the fighting forces because of the nature of their employment, lacked aviation experience, is an insult to them. The Director-General of Civil Aviation is stretching his authority a little too far when he says that such men do not possess aviation experience. On the form which applicants for appointment have to fill in, the first question is, “ How many decorations do you possess”? I agree entirely that ex-servicemen should be given preference in employment; but, in consonance with the views of the exservicemen’s organizations, I believe that preference should apply only when all other qualifications are equal. Let us consider the case of the district superintendent at Darwin. Notwithstanding that his war experience extended only from Melbourne to Learmonth, in Western Australia, he was appointed permanently to that position over the heads of many men who have supervised airway services for many years. Administrative ability is the principal qualification required of a district superintendent. The position is largely a clerical appointment. In the clerical section of the Civil Aviation Department are many men who have had traffic, communication, aerodrome and aerodrome control experience; but they were not given an opportunity to secure the appointment. When they complained i hu i they were overlooked, they were told that aviation experience was a necessary qualification for appointment to the post. It would appear that the practice of the department is to promote a junior direct to a position of high responsibility, whereas in private enterprise such an employee graduates gradually to the higher posts. The dissatisfaction among public servants in regard to this matter has been freely expressed in the Public Service Gazette. V ask the Minister to ascertain what qualifications are possessed by the district superintendent at Darwin. If this practice, about which such bitter complaints have been made, is to be followed in future, those who served Australia faithfully and well in the department during the war, and who were not permitted to enlist in the fighting forces, should be so notified so that they will know where they stand.
– I desire to address myself very briefly to the second of these two bills, namely, the bill to amend the Australian National Airlines Act 1945. That bill concerns itself with a variety of matters. Perhaps the principal of them is to be found in clause 4, which proposes to insert, a provision in the principal act dealing with cases where the Parliament of a State refers, or has referred, powers to the Commonwealth, and, in particular, where the Parliament of Queensland has referred powers to the Commonwealth. In substance, the Australian National Airlines Bill provides that the Australian National Airlines Commission shall be able to conduct intrastate air services in Queensland. What may be done in Queensland may, of course, under suitable political conditions, be done in any other State, and, consequently, the principle which is being established by this bill is one which may lead to a complete monopoly of air services all over Australia in the hands of Trans-Australia Airlines. Therefore, the hill is a very important one. The first comment I desire to make upon it, is that such an important, and far-reaching measure should not, in my view, be presented to the Parliament during the closing hours of the sessional period. A measure of this kind should be introduced in time to give honorable members an opportunity to study it and to consider its implications. That, of course, has not happened on this occasion. The second reading of the bill was moved only yesterday. The bill will be disposed of by us to-day and no doubt will be disposed of throughout the Parliament before the day has gone. The reason for the introduction of this bill divides itself, in my mind, into two parts. In the first place I have no doubt whatever that the bill has been introduced with a view to bolstering up the position of Trans-Australia Airlines, which the recently presented accounts show to be very rocky indeed. I do not, desire to reiterate what has been said on that point, but it is a very remarkable achievement for a corporation established by this Government which has concluded nine months of trading operations to succeed in losing, in that time, on its profit and loss account, an amount equal roughly to one-quarter of its capital. If that goes on for much longer the drain upon the Commonwealth taxpayers will be very much greater than any one anticipated. This remark becomes all the more pertinent when one recalls that it has not. been at any time suggested that the existing airline companies wore incapable of dealing with the whole of the traffic available. In fact they were capable of dealing with it, and this was a gratuitous intervention on the part of the Government into the field of air transport. The loss on operations so far sustained is a clear indication that, in competition with the major airline companies, TransAustralia Airlines has not yet been able to establish itself on a really firm footing.
I do not propose to reiterate the references that have been made to the financial aspects of this subject, but I notice, with some interest, from the report of the operations of TransAustralia Airlines that the number of paying passengers, which was 257 in the quarter ended the 30th ‘September, 1946, which ordinarily represented a very brief operation on the part of the company, had risen to 2S,000 in the quarter ended the 31st December, 1946, to 58,000 in the quarter ended 31st March, 1947, and to 59,000 in the second quarter of this year. In other words, the business remained substantially static during the first two operational quarters of this year.
I wish to draw attention to a curious anomaly in the present civil aviation situation in Australia. We have, on the one hand, the Department of Civil Aviation, of which Mr. E. C. Johnston is the permanent administrator, and we have, on the other hand, the Australian National Airlines Commission, of which the same gentleman is a director. The Department of Civil Aviation is charged with the responsibility of dealing with licences, permits to duplicate services, the introduction of fresh services and the like. It consequently occupies a kind of judicial position in that it determines certain functions. If an application is made for a new service or for the duplication of a service - as, in fact, was recently done in connexion with a service between Melbourne and Wynyard, Tasmania - the Department of Civil Aviation determines whether the application shall succeed. How can it be expected that an unbiased attitude will be preserved when one of the persons required to make the judgment is a director of an airline which is also an applicant to the department? I do not make that remark by way of personal criticism; but it seems to me that Mr. Johnston has been put in a false position, because he is at once a competitor for an application and the person who has to determine whether certain applications shall succeed. We have seen the result of this situation. It is well known, for example, that TransAustralia Airlines, whose aeroplanes were by no means fully occupied, applied for a licence for this additional service between Melbourne and Wynyard and its application was granted, whereas the application of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to provide a duplicate service to Wynyard was refused. The refusal was’ based on the ground that there must be some conservation of petrol supplies. It is very difficult, in these circumstances, to understand why the conservation of petrol required the refusal of one application and allowed the granting of another. Such circumstances must inevitably arise when, to put it figuratively, the same person is both the advocate and the judge. I sug- gest very strongly to the Government that in order to obviate criticism that must arise in relation to these matters, such duplication of functions should cease. Either the officer to whom I have referred should devote all his time to the work of the Department of Civil Aviation and sever his personal connexion with Trans-Australia Airlines, or he should devote his time to Trans-Australia Airlines and break his connexion with the Department of Civil Aviation. There have been several instances of this kind of thing, some of which have been brought specially to my notice, hut I do not need to refer to them, for the illustration that I have given adequately illustrates the principle to which I have referred.
The next comment I make on the bill brings into view a situation in Queensland. It will be remembered that the Queensland Parliament and, indeed, those of one or two other States, referred certain powers to the Australian Parliament in 1943. Though I have not had a full opportunity to check the terms of the Queensland legislation, my understanding of the matter is that the powers were referred to the Commonwealth by the Queensland Parliament for a limited period, which the Minister for Civil Aviation, in his second-reading speech, rightly said extended only until the 2nd September, 1950. The Queensland act, which carries the title “ Commonwealth Powers Act 1943 “, refers to the Commonwealth, in general terms, the powers which were subsequently the subject of a referendum in 1944. I direct attention to section 4 of the measure, which reads, in part -
This Act, and the reference made by this Act, shall commence on the date upon which it is assented to, and shall continue in force for a period ending at the expiration of five years after Australia ceases to be …
The powers, therefore, have been referred to the Commonwealth on only a temporary basis. Yet the proposed new section 19a, which, in the terms of this bill, it is desired to incorporate in the Australian National Airlines Act provides - (1.) Where the Parliament of any State has, prior to the commencement of this section, by any State Act, referred to the Parliament of the Commonwealth the matter of air transport, or the matter of the regulation of air transport, the Commission may, subject to this section, during the period of operation of that. State Act, or during any extension of that period- [ emphasize the words “during the period of operation of that State Act “. The Minister, in his second-reading speech on the bill, said -
The Government considers that it will be of direct benefit, not only to Queensland but to the Commonwealth as a whole, if the commission develops intra-state services within Queensland and other States, even though it is possible that these services, in view of their developmental nature, may be unprofitable in the beginning.
This all adds up to a certain consideration. The only period within which the referred powers will operate will expire in less than three years’ time. It is conceded that the establishment of air services will involve losses in the early stages. Yet Trans-Australia Airlines is to be authorized to establish intra-state services and to operate them in what must prove to be a loss-making period, and unless the Queensland Parliament extends its reference of .power for a longer period, Trans-Australia Airlines will not be able to operate its new services in the profit-making period. That is sufficiently curious in itself; but another feature worthy of comment is that the bill provides a splendid illustration, which should be marked by the people of Australia, of the way in which an Australian Parliament which believes in socialist enterprises may co-operate with a State Parliament which also believes in them in what would otherwise be a Commonwealth instrumentality. Trans- Australia Airlines was established, according to its original charter from this Parliament, to conduct interstate services. Whether very many people believed it or not, the company was expected to confine its intention to such services, and it was said that what we described as private enterprise would have ample scope to maintain intra-state services. In other words, it was said that there would be ample room for both activities. But we now see the pattern emerging under which Trans-Australia Airlines, with the co-operation of a State parliament which believes in socialist enterprises, is to operate, under referred powers, an intrastate service. No doubt, if a government which did not believe in socialist enter prises were to succeed the present Government in Queensland, and it desired to terminate this arrangement, a view would be expressed in words something like these : “ That means that TransAustralia Airlines will have to ‘shorten its sails ‘ and abandon its intra-state services, which would mean unemployment and serious dislocation “. A plea would be made to the State Parliament along those lines to induce it to continue the grant of power to enable Trans-Australia Airlines to proceed with its activities within the State. That emphasizes a view which I have often stated in this Parliament and on the platforms of this, country that, although a good deal of talk is heard at times about the inability of the Commonwealth Parliament to nationalize industries, such talk is meaningless because, by means of cooperation between a socialist Australian parliament and a socialist State parliament, industries could be socialized to the full 100 per cent. That is what could happen under this bill.
The only other matter to which I shall refer is not completely covered by ‘ any clause of the bill, but is nevertheless germane to it. A good deal of discussion has occurred in this chamber in the last few days about whether power may be referred to the Commonwealth on a temporary basis. The question arose when the Constitution Alteration (Bents and Prices) Bill was under consideration. It was said that it would not he wise to refer power to the Commonwealth for two years, three years, or five years, because there was some doubt whether such a limit of time could be placed on a reference of power. If those doubts arc well founded, what becomes of the power which the Queensland Parliament has referred to the Commonwealth for a period which will expire in September. 1950? Will the argument be that the time limit on the reference is invalid, and that the Queensland Parliament, therefore, has referred these powers in perpetuity? That is one aspect to which I invite the attention of honorable members.
– This is not a proposed alteration of the Constitution.
– The Minister has anticipated my observations. I believe that different arguments apply in the case of a reference of power by a State from those which apply in the case of an alteration of the Constitution by referendum. I have always been able to understand the argument that a time limit to a power referred to the Common wealth by a State is of dangerous validity, but I do not understand the force of the argument that a time limit cannot apply in the case of a power granted to the Parliament by the people in a referendum. If honorable members will consult the Constitution itself, they will see that it is full of provisions containing time limits. For instance, section 87 says -
During a period of ten years after the establishment of the Commonwealth and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides, of the net revenue of the Common wealth from duties of customs and of excise not more than one-fourth shall be applied annually by the Commonwealth towards its expenditure.
– That is in the original Constitution. It is not an alteration of the Constitution.
– I am coming to that. Section 93 of the Constitution contains these words -
During the first five years after the imposition of uniform duties of customs, and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides…
There is almost an abundance of provisions of that kind in the Commonwealth Constitution. By what argument can it be claimed that the people who created the Constitution, and put time limits in it, cannot change the Constitution by putting time limits in it? How does any question of validity arise? In what we call arguments in the High Court about constitutional validity, about whether an act is within the powers of the Australian Parliament, the standard by which legislation is judged is the Constitution itself; and if in the Constitution there is provision that the Commonwealth may control air transport for five years, or until such and such a date or that the Commonwealth may control prices until such and such a date, it cannot be said that such provisions of the Constitution are ultra vires, because the power by which legislation is judged is the power conferred in the Constitution itself. In other words, the Constitution itself cannot be unconstitutional. For those reasons I have never been able to believe that we in this Parliament, supported by a referendum of the Australian people, cannot, alter the Constitution by granting powers to the Parliament for five years or 50 years or 500 years.
– That is what the average layman would think.
– And that is what the average constitutional lawyer would think; and, as the Minister is aware,I am not altogether a layman where these matters are concerned. While argument may or may not arise about the time limit in the provision before us, there could never be ground for argument about a time limit introduced into the Constitution, the terms of which control all other laws. I repeat that nothing in the Constitution can be unconstitutional, because that would be a contradiction in terms. There has been an interesting and intense discussion on the activities of TransAustralia Airlines, and on the position of the Commonwealth in regard to air services. I do not, want to repeat what has been said, but to supplement it by my own observations.
.- I protest against the short notice we have had of this bill. It is a far-reaching measure, find more time should have been allowed to consider it. In his secondreading speech on the Australian National Airlines Bill, the Minister (Mr. Drakeford) said -
Another clause amends section 48, which provides that the commission must give 30 days’ notice of intention to establish a service. It is proposed that this requirement should in future be limited to territorial airline licences applied for by Trans-Australia Airlines in circumstances which will bring into operation section 40 of the act, and thereby render inoperative any airline licence held by any other person by reason of the fact that the commission is providing an adequate service.
That amendment clearly foreshadowed the end of private intra-state airlines. For its own good, Trans- Australia Airlines should have competition. Among other things, competition tends to protect the employees of Trans-Australia Airlines. In private conversation with wartime acquaintances now employed by Trans-Australia Airlines, I have learned that, in their opinion, while there is active competition, ‘between TransAustralia Airlines and private airlines, their own interests will be protected. That is an aspect of the matter which we should not overlook.
There ha vo been frequent references to the .Welbourne-Wynyard air service. Trans-Australia Airlines has been given a licence to conduct this service on the score of petrol economy. I point out, however, that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was the pioneer of the service, and yet preference is to bt: given to a concern which began operalions only recently. The people in Australia, want to see Trans-Australia Airlines do some pioneering. So far, it has allowed private companies to pioneer ihe routes, and has then taken over tho.;e which have proved profitable.
Recently. [ asked in the House why Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited had been forbidden to use D.C.+’« on the Me I bon nic- Hobart run during the Christinas rush period. Permission was refused by the .Department of Civil Aviation without any reason being stated, despite the fact that Australian National Airways ‘Proprietary Limited holds a licence to operate D.C.4’s on the Mellum rue- Hobart run. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has operated these aircraft on the run previously, and I should like the Minister to say why permission has now bee,i refused. t support the. principle that a governmentowned airline should operate in competition with private companies, and 1 think’ most honorable members of thiHouse support it, also. T do not, however, believe in destroying competition because, without competition, the government airlines will not improve, and the status of the employees will tend to deteriorate.
Mr. ADERMANN (Maranoa) [3.10 1. - Then! is only one redeeming feature about this bill, namely, that it opens the way for government-owned airlines to do some pioneering work in Queensland, at any rate. I agree with the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) that if government-owned airlines are to be. of any use they should accept some responsibility for pioneering new routes. Hitherto, the government organization has contented itself with taking over routes after others have blazed the trail. According to press reports, TransAustralia Airlines proposes to take over a few new routes in Queensland. There are great distances in that State which make it very desirable that passenger and freight services should be established by airline operators, so that the isolation of the people may be broken down. Only in this way can the people be encouraged to remain in the outback areas. I notice, however, that Trans-Australia Airlines seems reluctant to institute a service to towns along the proposed routes, where aerodromes already exist, or where they could be easily made. Trans-Australia Airlines is taking the easy way, and merely instituting through services from terminal to terminal. The people of Quilpie and Augathella have persistently asked for air services, ‘but without success. Such towns as Mitchell, Miles and Dalby a re rich centres of primary production ; yet they lack air connexion, and there -seems to be no possibility of their getting it unless the government-owned airline does the pioneering work. They have no hope for this reason : Et is now evident why the Civil Aviation Department has consistently refused to grant operating licences to those who had enterprise enough to want to open up these routes. It appears evident that the licences were refused so as to keep the way clear for the government-owned service to operate. Thus, we cannot get inter-town connexion by private airlines because” the department will not grant licences, and now Trans-Australia Airlines refuses to give the service which is needed. So I am pressing the point, and that, is the only comment which I desire to make on this bill, because all other aspects have beer thoroughly discussed. I entered this debate for the purpose- of pressing the claims of private enterprise to preserve its right to obtain licences to open up air routes, or for government-owned airlines to accept the responsibility and bear the cost involved in implementing these inland inter- town services.
.- My observations will be mainly on principles which are involved in the establishment and conduct of a government-owned airline. Except in the closed minds of those who are completely committed to the idea that there is no justification on this earth for private enterprise, it is beyond argument that the grounds upon which the Government defends the establishment of government enterprises are few and identifiable. They are, first, that private enterprise has failed to give necessary and desirable services; secondly, that government enterprises can give better services than those provided by private enterprise; thirdly, that the Government can give cheaper services than those .provided by private enterprise ; and, fourthly, that the government organization is established to protect the people against exploitation by private enterprise. Those grounds embrace all the arguments which can reasonably be advanced by any persons who admit the existence of government enterprise side by side with private enterprise. I shall examine whether any justification exists for the establishment of a governmentowned airline.
The first question that I ask is: Is this enterprise established for the purpose of providing a service where private enterprise has failed to provide one? That cannot be the justification, because Trans-Australia Airlines has confined its operations almost exclusively to duplicating the existing services provided by private enterprise, and to reducing efficiency by making more acute the competition for business on the same routes. So the government airline is not justified on the ground of providing a service which private enterprise has failed to provide.
Secondly, is the establishment justified on the ground that the government airline is providing a cheaper service than the private companies? Immediately we see that it is not, because the government airlines charge the same fares as the private companies. In fact, the Government has collaborated with certain powerful private airlines in an endeavour to force up charges.
– We have also been charged with price-cutting.
– On the second count, there is no justification for the creation of Trans-Australia Airlines. It certainly cannot be claimed that TransAustralia Airlines provides a better service than that which is provided by Aus tralian National Airways Proprietary Limited, Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited or any other important air company. I do not say that the service provided by the governmentowned airline is any worse than that of the private operators. I believe that it is fairly comparable, and on that count there cannot be any justification for expending millions of pounds of public money on providing a service which at the best can be described as only comparable with existing servicesconducted by private companies.
Thirdly, can it be justified on the ground that it is established to provide services where private enterprise has failed or remained out of the field because of the lack of the profit motive? Of course, it cannot because this great government enterprise, with all the resources of the Commonwealth behind it, has studiously avoided providing a single pioneering service, and has confined itself to operating air services side .by side with the great privately owned airlines.
Fourthly, can it be said that the government enterprise is established and conducted to protect the people of Australia against exploitation by avaricious private enterprise? If it could be established, that would be the best ground of all; but, of course, Trans- Australia Airlines, far from protecting the people against exploitation, is the great exploiter in air transport to-day. Private enterprise is operated on a scale of charges which the government-owned airline has not been able to undercut, and no evidence has been adduced that those charges yielded excessive profits to the private companies. On the contrary, the Australian Government entered into collusion with the only great air company in this country which is not entirely owned here, for the purpose of trying to cut the throat of the purely Australianowned company. That is undeniable. The Labour, party has spoken of exploitation by monopolies and cartels. A thousand speeches have been made on the subject. I ask: What has the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) been doing during the last few weeks? He has been trying to force the Australian-owned airline, Ansett
Airways Proprietary Limited, into a cartel by the threat that Trans-Australia Airlines, acting in collusion with the great Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, would take away business from it. What use is it for members of the Labour party to talk qf monopolies, exploitation, profiteering and racketeering when the Government itself cannot do better than act in collusion with one private company to try to force an Australian company into a cartel ! What justification can there be for any government to try to impose higher fares upon the travelling public by the threat of taking business away from a company and forbidding it the use of publicly owned aerodromes? Through the .petrol tax, the company has paid a substantial part of the cost of aerodromes. It is a blot upon the record of this Government that it should have established TransAustralia Airlines in these circumstances.
I am not one who has ever said, nor do I desire now to say, that there is no place in our public life for governmentowned enterprise; nor am I one ever to say that there is no place in our public life for government-owned monopolies. The test is the service which can be given to the people, and when that test fails, the case for government ownership and government monopolies fails. The best that the Government has been able to offer to the Australian public with this great enterprise, which has no capital liability reflected in interest obligations, and which has all the machinery and technical resources of the Government behind it, is the loss of approximately £500,000 on its first year’s operations. I can only describe the balance-sheet as improper, because I cannot discover in it any provision for depreciation. If I am wrong, the Minister will correct me. He does not. Can a correct balancesheet be produced by a company which uses such a depreciating asset as modern aircraft, and which makes no provision for depreciation? Of course, it is fantastic. Having regard to the fact that a substantial number of the aircraft of Trans-Australia Airlines are old Douglas machines which have been modernized, a fair amount for depreciation would be a substantial figure. To say that, over all, the figure should be 20 per cent, would still be an under-estimate.
– For depreciation, £126,000 is shown.
– The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has corrected me, so I withdraw my earlier remarks about the failure to provide for depreciation.
– The honorable member has been corrected by his leader.
– Apparently my leader knew more about the Minister’s balance-sheet than he did.
– The time for me to answer the honorable member’s remarks is when I reply to the second-reading debate. That is further evidence of the honorable member’s ignorance.
– Depreciation, if my memory serves me correctly, and the Minister may correct me now, is less than 10 per cent, of the capital value of the aircraft. Will the Minister attempt to justify that allowance in respect of obsolescent, refurbished aircraft? Of course, he will not. No private company could justify it. This is not a proper balance-sheet which would satisfy any business-like board of directors. If this is a “ cooked “ balance-sheet in one respect, I suspect it of being a “ cooked “ balance-sheet in other respects. It reveals, openly, a trading loss of more than £500,000 in the first year’s operations. I am sure that it fails to make proper provision for depreciation. To obtain a reasonable figure, we should add at least £200,000. We should take into account the fact that no interest is charged to the accounts of TransAustralia Airlines for its capital. The interest is, in fact, paid by the Australian taxpayer. The commission’s capital is provided by a government which sustains itself largely upon loan money, upon which it pays interest. If we add interest, for which Trans-Australia Airlines is not charged, and reasonable depreciation, the true cost of TransAustralia Airlines to Australian taxpayers for one year is more than £1,000,000.
What did the Australian taxpayers receive for an expenditure in one year of more than £1,000,000? They get only a duplication of a service which was adequate and good before the government airline was established. TransAustralia Airlines has not given any evidence of its intention to provide air services to outback centres or to establish pioneering services. Trans-Australia Airlines is not operating at reduced fares compared with the private airlines. Indeed, the public for a week or two paid higher fares,- which would never nave been imposed if this government instrumentality had not been created. Then a threat was made against free enterprise in Australia by the promulgation of regulations designed to make it possible for the Government to forbid aircraft owned by a private company to land on a public aerodrome unless it charged the same fares that the government instrumentality charged. By seeking additional powers in relation to “charges” in the referendum next year, the. Government confesses that it had no constitutional authority to take this action. This is shameful. What is the record of this Government, with regard to its treatment, of Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited? That company has been granted licences to operate between Melbourne and Canberra and between Melbourne and Adelaide only on condition that its aircraft land at the intermediate points of Wagga and Mount Gambier. That means that the service provided by the company on those routes must inevitably be inferior to other services, because the special conditions involve longer travelling times between the terminals, lower flying and. therefore, more bumpy flying. Those are ; lie conditions imposed on the only purely Australian aviation company in operation. I hope I will not be misunderstood’ when I say that the company’s nif vice must be inferior to the services of other companies. That is the inevitable result of the conditions imposed by the Government. Having restricted the company in this way, the Government also sought to force it to charge the same fares as those charged by the governmentowned service, which is allowed to give superior service over a direct route between terminals, without intermediate landings, and with consequent shorter flying time. No government can justify such action. It is inevitable that, if
Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited is to be allowed to operate-
– Order! There is a motion on the notice-paper dealing with this subject, and therefore the honorable member is not entitled to discuss it now.
– I bow to your ruling, sir. Of course, I understand that it will completely muzzle the Minister on the same subject.
It has teen clearly shown that TransAustralia Airlines, instead of being a government: instrumentality protecting the people of Australia from exploitation, L*, in fact, one of the principal exploiters of the taxpayers.
– That Ls why the T.A.A. line is known as “ Tax all Australia “.
– “A.N.A.” stands for Annihilate all Adversaries”.
– If I. were the Minister, I should, be the last; to talk about annihilating adversaries, having regard to a certain matter which .1. arn not permitted to mention in this debate. Unless the Government can provide a better air transport, service- than is provided by Trans-Australia Airlines, and unless it can relieve the taxpayers of this charge of £1,000,000 a year, the sooner it winds up the service the better.
– in reply - The debate has covered such a wide range - though, to my disappointment, it has become somewhat limited in the lust, two or three minutes - that it will probably take mc a considerable time to traverse many of the arguments that have been raised. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) referred to constitutional aspects of this measure, and I gather that he considers that some of its provisions are of doubtful validity, particularly those relating to the time limitation on the powers which have been referred to this Government by the Queensland Government. In this connexion, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) referred to something which was said in a debate in the Queensland Parliament yesterday. I have not had the opportunity to read the report of that discussion, but I venture to say that, if it were available, my interpretation of it would differ from that of the right honorable gentleman. In any ease, I point out that a number of honorable members opposite, including the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Indi’ (Mr. McEwen), have advocated the granting of full civil aviation rights to this ‘Parliament. When the Leader of the Opposition held the portfolio of Attorney-Genera! some years ago, he sought leave to introduce a bill for an act, “ to alter the Constitution with regard i:o air navigation and aircraft”. At that; time, all political parties wanted this Parliament to have full civil aviation rights throughout Australia.
– Our Government wanted control, not ownership.
– .Yow, when it is evident that the Government is willing vo allow its own airline to pioneer civil aviation in isolated parts of Australia, some of which have been mentioned by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) and others, honorable members opposite raise doubts as to the legal soundness of such proposals. L do not pretend to bc qualified to discuss the legal aspects, but I point out that the Government has been advised by experts regarding the course of action that it can take and is prepared to abide by their decision. Having accepted that advice, it proposes to do something that will bc nf value to the people, particularly those ulm live in isolated communities such as were mentioned by the honorable member for Maranoa. To those honorable members who said the Government had not, attempted to do any pioneering work in civil aviation, I point, out, that the Government has not, had the right to undertake in tra -si atc air services. I do not know how it could do any pioneering work now except by establishing intrastate, services, because interstate services are already well-established.
I believe that there is a growing tendency tor the States to give this Government permission to enter the field of intra-state aviation.
– The .Minister is an optimist.
Mr. DRAKEFORD. The honorable member is a pessimist. There was a time, when he was a member of the Senate and a Minister, when he advocated the granting to the Government of full rights f.o engage in aviation activities anywhere in- Australia. The attempt that was made to secure those rights at, that time failed. Y. have always favoured the extension of these powers, though years ago there was a division of opinion on this subject amongst members of the present Opposition, parties and even amongst members of the Labour party. This Government wants to pioneer aviation services in areas where they are needed, yet honorable members opposite criticize it for attempting to do so. The Queensland Government has been liberal in its outlook on this matter. There are areas in Queensland where air transport services could be established with great benefit to residents, and the Government proposes to make such services available.
Honorable members opposite have criticized the Government for introducing this measure just before the end of the sessional period. The time allowed for its consideration is sufficient for bills of this character. It involves certain important principles, such as the one mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition, but, those principles have been discussed in this House time after time. This Government believes that, people in outback areas should be provided with transport services and other facilities which will enable them to enjoy, as much as possible, the amenities which are available to city residents. It believes in decentralization. Lt does not just talk: it acts, and it has brought about decentralization in many instances already by encouraging the establishment of industries outside closely populated areas.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to the fact that Mr. Johnston is a member of the Australian National Airlines Commission as well as being Assistant, Director-General of Civil Aviation. As Minister for Civil Aviation, I consider that it is of great, advantage to ha ve somebody who is thoroughly familiar with the requirements of civil aviation to help in formulating the decisions of the commission. I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition suggested that, any undue influence would be exercised in favour of Trans-Australia Airlines by
Mr. Johnston as Assistant DirectorGeneral of Civil Aviation. However, he implied that there might he some unconscious bias on Mr. Johnston’s part as the result of being a member of the Australian National Airlines Commission.
– I said that I made no personal suggestions. I would not dream of doing so. I said that Mr. Johnston was in a false position.
– I agree that the right honorable member did not cast any reflection on Mr. Johnston. His membership of the Australian National Airlines Commission has been of great value to the Government. The fact is that decisions in relation to licences are not made by. him as Assistant DirectorGeneral of Civil Aviation, although that implication seems to have been conveyed. Such decisions are made by the DirectorGeneral of Civil Aviation and by myself. As Minister I take full responsibility for all of those decisions.
The honorable member for Indi suggested that there was some form of collaboration for the purpose of keeping up air transport charges. There is no truth whatever in any such assertions. I give them a flat denial. Surely the honorable member recalls that, when TransAustralia Airlines was established, the Australian National Airlines Commission decided that there should he one fare for all - the lowest fare. That policy was strictly adhered to. Regarding the company which the honorable member described as the only purely Australian company engaged in civil aviation, I have evidence that it definitely agreed to an increase of fares, but afterwards made some reservations. That company wants to bring about a state of affairs in which competition between airlines in Australia might have the effect of reducing the margin of safety now in force.
– That is ridiculous.
– That company wants to have 28 seats in aircraft which were built only to provide for 21 passengers.
– Is there not a motion on the notice-paper dealing with this subject?
-The Minister is dealing with the subject of a motion on the notice-paper.
– I shall try to keep off that subject. The honorable member for Indi, who is a former Minister for Civil Aviation, knows that aircraft must provide for safety so that, in the event of an emergency landing, such as occurs when landing-gear fails, passengers can get out of the machine quickly. These safety provisions apply mainly when there are 21 passengers, not 28, in aircraft of the type concerned.
– Why are they licensed to carry 28 passengers?
– There may be no reason for prohibition in this matter. It would be more difficult for 28 people to get out of an aircraft than for 21 to do so. I was told recently that two very stout members of this Parliament travelled in one of these 28-seater aircraft and that, when other passengers tried to pass along the aisle, they could not do so because of the girths of the two honorable gentlemen.
– Are these aircraft licensed to carry 28 passengers? Mr. DRAKEFORD.- Yes.
– Does the Minister regard them as safe?
– I say frankly that I regard them as being very uncomfortable.
– But does he regard them as safe?
– Airlines in other countries have tried seating 28 passengers in this type of aircraft, but nearly all, if not all, of them have reverted to the 21-seat arrangement.
– Why does not the Government de-licence them if it considers them to be unsafe?
– All I say is that competition of the kind advocated by the honorable member, with aeroplanes carrying more passengers than they were originally intended to accommodate, though complying with the weight limitations imposed by the regulations, would make the provision of a proper margin of safety more difficult than would be the case with 21-seater aeroplanes of the same type. The Opposition apparently stands for a lower standard of service, hut I am not willing to encourage that. The standard of air services in Australia is equal to that of any other country. It should be maintained, and not brought down because of the desire of one operator to lower the standard in order to earn more profits than the operator providing a reasonable standard of comfort.
– The standard is being brought down for honorable members.
– Honorable members opposite are quite prepared to accept free air travel from the Government, but prefer to use the aircraft of private companies instead of government aircraft.
– That is not right.
– It is a matter of timetables.
– Honorable members would not be able to travel free on a privately owned railway.
– Order ! The Minister must connect his remarks with the bill.
– I say to the honorable member for Indi and other honorable members who have alleged collusion between Trans- Australia Airlines and private airline companies to keep fares above the proper level, that fares in Australia, notwithstanding the 20 per cent, increase on the previously reduced rates, are still lower than they are in any other English-speaking country and, I think, any other country. It is the general practice for governmental control of air transport fares. Maximum and minimum fares are fixed. That is the practice in leading aviation countries, including the United States of America and Canada. The United States of America is the “home” of competitive private enterprise. Most, if not all, international agreements on air transport provide for the fixing of fares. All Australian operators represented at the operators’ conference in Melbourne expressed themselves in favour of governmental control. This was re-affirmed by all operators, except Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited, at the second conference. Its views were quoted in lay statement on the controversy with Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited. The dangers of a price war must be emphasized. Safety of air transport depends upon meticulous attention to detail, and it is impracticable for any authority to completely enforce detailed precautions unless operators are imbued with and organized for that objective. Unprofitable operations that affect shareholders’ dividends are conducive to skimping of safety precautions and to the overworking of staff. That has always influenced the Government’s policy of giving comparatively liberal subsidies. Australia’s record of air safety is good. Probably this has been influenced by the fact that operations have been as a rule profitable, largely because of the subsidies paid by the Government. Examination of the statistics of the United States of America appears to indicate a connexion between the accident rate and the financial success of operations.
On the matter of differential fares, I say that general acceptance of the principle of lower fares for lower standards of service must result in a general lowering of the standard of service. If one company lowered fares and standards of service competitors would feel compelled to follow suit. The objection to this is fully realized in the United States of America, where operators of 55 or 60- seater Skymasters are required to charge the same fares as do operators of standard 44-seater Skymasters. Adoption of increased seating capacity tends to lower the standard of safety provisions, though perhaps not below the minimum standards laid down. That particularly applies to safety exits and such aspects as are affected by overcrowding. The comfort of passengers is also affected. A general reduction of the standard of service that must result from the adoption of differential fares for increased seating would bring the Australian standard below the world standard. All operators, except Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited-
– Order ! The Minister is getting off the beam.
– What I have said applies to fierce competition. Those objections do not necessarily apply where there is no competition or where differential standards may be adopted in. special circumstances by mutual agreement between the operators concerned, for example, the provision of sleeper accommodation on aircraft on long international services.
I have great respect for the views of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) because he has rendered a distinguished service as an aviator. He referred to an alleged attempt by the Civil Aviation Department to prevent Skymasters controlled by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited from landing on the Cambridge aerodrome.
– I said that the department refused to give a reason.
– The reason is plain. AVo are endeavouring to obtain a new location for an airport to serve Hobart. We have examined a site and it, is hoped that we shall be able to use it. The flying of D.C.4 aircraft into Cambridge aerodrome is not a comfortable (ask for any pilot. The policy laid down by the Civil Aviation Department will equally apply to Trans-Australia Airlines, which also desires Skymasters to use the Cambridge aerodrome. So no distinction is being made between Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Trans-Australia Airlines.
– The Minister knows that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited D.C.4’s have used the Pa in,bridge aerodrome.
– So have Lancastrians. Both are big four-engined aircraft requiring long runways. The Lancastrian was delayed at Cambridge until its engines were brought into perfect condition in order that it should have the power required to clear the nearby obstacles. On the advice that I have received, I doubt whether it would be safe to allow Skymaster aircraft to fly to and from the Cambridge aerodrome in all weathers.
– It was desired to operate them to cope with the holiday season tra file.
– I will not risk human lives to gratify the desires of any air transport company to take large air craft into airports not built to cope with them. I assure honorable members that no distinction is being made. I did not have the necessary information when the honorable gentleman raised the subject yesterday, but later he received a letter showing clearly that, no distinction is to be made.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) made a rambling speech embracing all sorts of things. It was so rambling that it was hard to understand what he was aiming at. It was one of the most pettifogging speeches I have ever heard. He mentioned that I travel in an aeroplane. Men occupying positions similar to mine all over the world travel by air. Surely it would be regretted - I would regret it - if I were not able to provide for visitors from overseas facilities that have been accorded to me abroad.
– Why cannot the Minister patronize the airlines like every one else?
M r. SPEAKER. - Order !
– Continuing hU pettifoggery, the honorable member referred to the buildings used by TransAustralia. Airlines. The hangar occupied at Essendon is rented from the Government. It also occupies the basement, ground floor and three other floors of the Manchester Unity building in Melbourne, for which it pays rent. So it gains no advantage in that respect, lt also has to ,pa.y rent for the space it occupies in Phillip House, Sydney, and Terrick House, Brisbane. That effectively answers the honorable gentleman’s suggestion that Trans-Australia Airlines receives favorable treatment in respect of its occupancy of buildings.
Obviously, Guinea Airways Limited was satisfied with the compensation paid to it. The amount was agreed upon between the Government and the company. It has not lodged a complaint. The transaction, however, has been seized upon by the honorable member for political propaganda. I do nOt think any one takes it seriously.
Statements have been made that are calculated to damage Trans- Australia Airlines. I propose to deal with the financial position later. The mistake often made by the honorable member for
Indi in debate is that be mistakes vehemence for truth. He asserted that no provision was made in Trans-Australia Airlines’ account.? for depreciation. That is not true.
– The Minister did not know that it was not true at the time.
– I did. Merely because I did not. make a contradictory interjection at the time does not show that I did not know the facts. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) saved the honorable mem her from embarrassment. The accounts of Trans-Australia Airlines have been certified to by the Auditor-General, who is under oath to see that nothing shall escape criticism that warrants criticism.
The Leader of the Australian Country party made fantastic statements to the effect that Trans-Australia Airlines employed untrained and unsuitable staff. Its staff is as well trained and as suitable as that of any other airline operator. As for the statement that the members of its staff receive extraordinary salaries, I may say that, the salaries are comparable with those paid by private airline companies. Men in the lower grades are paid according to Arbitration Court, awards. So there is no substance in that claim. The honorable member merely threw another brickbat at this organization, which has done so well.’ No special inducements were offered by the Australian National Airlines Commission to people to leave the employ of the competitors of Trans-Australia Airlines. There was a. rush of applicants for jobs with it. The chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission, Mr. Coles, told me that no inducements had been offered, and I believe him. What happened is that people recognized that a government airline offered them good opportunities. The honorable member for Franklin was good enough to concede that Trans-Australia Airlines offered a good service, but said that he thought competition was necessary to maintain its level.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) referred to the new service from Melbourne to Wynyard. The position about that is clear. Australian National Airways Proprietary
Limited refused to operate a service to Wynyard after the Stinson crash until it was made evident, that a service was needed. The people there claimed, and rightly, that they should be given a service; but apparently the private company thought, there was not as much profit in that service as in others, and declined to provide it. That, sort of thing always happens when important communications are controlled by private enterprise. The company continued to neglect Wynyard, and the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons), the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) and his predecessor. Mr. Guy, and Senator Aylett continued to press for a service to be operated there to cater for the needs of the Burnie district. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, however, would not provide a service until it was made clear that the aerodrome was not unsafe. When the service was started, it: was found to be very profitable, with very high lifts. When, before petrol restrictions were announced. TransAustralia Airlines applied for permission to supplement that service, it, was granted a licence to do so, as the service provided by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was not sufficient to meet requirements. Instead of developing its own service, however, the company then complained that injustice had been done to it. There was no discrimination in this matter. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was operating one daily service with a high lift. TransAustralia Airlines applied to establish a daily service to Wynyard and the application was approved. The company later stated that an increased frequency of service would have involved the provision of two additional services, which were not warranted by the traffic either before or after the commencement of the TransAustralia Airlines service. It is clear that honorable members opposite who have taken part in this debate have not had an open mind on the subject.
Reference was also made to the alleged increase in the cost of meteorological services. It is common knowledge that meteorological and other safety services have greatly improved in Australia, as in other parts of the world, during the last few years. It is only natural to expect that the improved efficiency of these services must increase costs. Obviously, one cannot expect to get improved services for the same annual cost as had been incurred before the services were properly developed.
Some criticism has been levelled against the Civil Aviation Department because of the increase in its staff. It is true that the staff of the department has been greatly increased. It is also true that during the war the department was cribbed and confined in such a way as to prevent it from rendering the services it desired to provide. Immediately after the war, when the services of men who had had experience in the Air Force became available, the activities of the department began to increase rapidly.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) referred to the amount of £24,388 appearing in the balance-sheet for superannuation.
– That amount covered a nine-months’ period?
– Yes. The scheme is a contributory one. The amount of £24,388 represents the combined contributions for the flying staff and for the commission for the year. The retiring age for pilots is fixed for 45.
– What retiring allowance do they receive?
– It depends largely on the amount paid into the fund by the officer concerned. The allowance would depend to some degree upon the salary received by the officer prior to retirement. A detailed examination of the records would have to be made to supply the information sought.
– I had heard that the superannuation pension was a very considerable amount and that it was used as an enticement to get officers away from the other services.
– I assure the honorable member that there is no truth in that. No attempt has been made to entice people from the other services.
– Will the Minister say that the superannuation pension is not out of line with that payable in other branches of the Commonwealth Service?
– .Superannuation payments made to men retired from flying operations are necessarily much more liberal than those paid to retired officers of the ordinary Public Service. A higher rate is fixed in recognition of the hazards of the occupation and the early age of retirement of pilots.
I propose now to deal briefly with some aspects of the balance-sheet of the Australian National Airlines Commission, about which the honorable member for Indi said I knew nothing. The honorable member referred to the amount of £126,000 shown in the balance-sheet for depreciation.
– The Minister was told about that.
– There is not much the honorable member would tell unless he thought he would get some political advantage from its telling.
– The Minister should not squeal.
– There is no greater squealer than the honorable member for Balaclava. References have beer made to the losses which have been incurred. The general manager of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, Mr. Ivan Holyman, is reported in the Melbourne Herald of the 2nd December last to have referred to these losses as follows : -
No airline company in Australia would break even if it had to operate at the fares contemplated by the Government. Airlines could not afford to be cheeseparing.
On the one hand, honorable members accuse the Government of forcing up fares, and on the other hand a well known and competent operator says that the Government is reducing them. Do honorable members opposite know any airline company which, in the first year of operation, succeeded in showing a profit?
– Yes. The airline company operating the service between Tamworth and Sydney.
– Can the honorable member state what profit the company made?
– No; but I shall be glad to furnish the Minister with the figures.
– The honorable member is merely guessing.
– Not at all. I have been told by a representative of the company that a profit was made in the first year.
– That is purely hearsay evidence. No company of the magnitude of Trans-Australia Airlines has shown a profit in the first year of its operations.
– The Minister is now qualifying his statement. That is not what he said before.
– I shall read what a great supporter of the honorable member for Wentworth said on this matter. I refer to the Sydney Daily Telegraph, which, in a leading article in to-day’s issue, had this to say -
Taking into account the heavy, inescapable expenses involved in promoting a new transport service, the loss is not surprising or excessive.
– The writer was merely quoting from the balance-sheet of the Australian National Airlines Commission.
– He was quoting from the report which was made available to the newspaper just as it has been to the honorable member. Let us consider what an expert authority on aviation matters has to say in regard to TransAustralia Airlines. In the May-June issue of the journal Aeronautics appears the following: -
Trans-Australia Airlines is certainly making a favorable name for itself.
Honorable members should let that sink in -
Even the capitalistic press, which probably would like to be offensive about “ typical government inefficiency and extravagance “, has no complaint about the quality of its service. What it has cost to get the show going we do not know.
Honorable members know now.
– We certainly do.
– The article continues -
But the expenditure of capital 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.
Let us look at what happened in the initial year of operations of a well-known private company. In the Melbourne Herald of the 1st December, under the heading “ Overseas Corporation Hit by Strikes ; Some Profit in Subsidiaries “, appear the following paragraphs: -
First consolidated accounts of Overseas Corporation (Australia) Limited and its subsidiaries show a loss of £26,954 for the year ended June 30.
Aggregate net loss from trading was £26,773, but net profits of subsidiaries amounted to £3,045. Depreciation amounted to £3,151 and directors fees £75.
The point I wish to make is that on the directorate of that company are many well known people including Mr. L. J. Hartnett, formerly general manager of General-Motors Holdens Limited ; Mr. M. C. Lloyd, managing director of Eliza Tinsley Proprietary Limited; Mr. Norman Myer, governing director of Myer Emporium Limited; Mr. H. F. Richardson, managing director of Cox Brothers (Australia) Limited; and Mr. J. S’. Storey, as managing director. These are men who are supposed to be first-class business men. Private enterprise frequently loses money in the first year of its operations. I believe that TransAustralia Airlines has done a magnificent joh for Australia, and that the Australian National Airlines Commission has presented to the Parliament and to the people a very creditable balance-sheet for the first nine months of its operation. The balance-sheet includes revenue for only a little over nine months, but the expenditure, shown in it is for the full period of twelve months. Costs associated with the inauguration of Trans-Australia Airlines are inseparable from the establishment of such an organization. When I was overseas representing Australia at the Civil Aviation Conference, I discussed the activities of Trans-Australia Airlines with people who understand aviation problems. They were surprised at the number of passengers which the service carried in such a brief period. They said that they did not know of any other airline which had progressed so satisfactorily or developed so speedily as had Trans-Australia Airlines.
Let us examine the history of other airlines in Australia in the first year of their operation. Airlines of Australia, the shares of which were held hy Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, and which was later absorbed by the latter company, commenced operations in 1936. At the end of the first year’s operations, the company had made a profit of £2,000. For the first half of 1937, it incurred a loss of £8,600. For the year ended the 30th June, 1938, the loss was £9,000. For the year ended the 30th June, 1939, the loss amounted to £19,000. The capital of the company was £115,000. That is merely one of the airline companies that was swallowed up by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which is a great airline operator but which was gradually becoming an airline monopoly. The Government is not prepared to allow private enterprise to gain a monopoly in the air.
It is worthy of note that the chief critic of Trans-Australia Airlines is its principal competitor, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited.
– That is understandable.
– But that criticism can be answered in a very effective way. While Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited presumably claims to voice current public opinion, there are grave doubts as to whether criticism emanating from a business competitor can possibly be classed as disinterested. The only conclusion to draw is that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited comes into the field to further its own publicity and deliberately to disparage its competitor. Had Trans-Australia Airlines been fortunate enough to be a going concern at the outbreak of World War I.I., as. was Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, with the opportunity of reaping the benefits of the enormous war-time traffic, largely composed of government passengers and government mail, as did Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, it also would have emerged from the war years with substantial reserves and other advantages, such as aircraft written down far below their real value. When it *s realized that the present favorable position of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is largely due to the proceeds of government contracts starting with substantial subsidy payments in its early days, and including over £2,500,000 in’ payment for the carriage of mails during the war years, it is indeed strange to have Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited now coming forward as the chief critic of the Government-owned airline, which is now in open competition with it. No doubt the profits, and hence the dividends, of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited will be much lower than in the pre-war years. It is also conceivable (hat the advent of TransAustralia Airlines has had its effect in that connexion. Is it then possible that this might be the main factor influencing the steady stream of scathing criticism directed at Trans-Australia Airlines on every possible occasion? Is it possible that the campaign is being waged in the vain hope that its ultimate effect will be the withdrawal of Trans-Australia Airlines thus paving the way to a complete private monopoly of civil air transport in Australia ?
– That is nonsense.
– The honorable member had his opportunity to discuss this matter when the original Australian National Airlines Bill was before the Parliament. At that time there was a probability of the smaller airline companies being swallowed by the large companies, and of a monopoly developing in Australia in air transport.
I desire to refer to the provision made in the balance-sheet of Trans-Australia Airlines for depreciation, a matter that was referred to by the honorable member for Indi. The total amount allowed under this heading is £126,017 4s. 2d., the details being -
Those figures indicate clearly that all reasonable requirements in regard to depreciation are being met. TransAustralia Airlines is making the same provision as would be made by any public company. The accounts have been audited by the Auditor-General and I am thoroughly satisfied with them.
I would like to discuss other aspects of the subject, but I do not desire to enter into a protracted debate. Possibly certain issues will be raised at the committee stage. Having had considerable experience with Trans-Australia Airlines I wish to say that as Minister for Civil Aviation, I am satisfied that TransAustralia Airlines is doing a splendid job for Australia. That is also the view of the Government and of the large number of people who patronize TransAustralia Airlines aircraft. The company is maintaining a high standard of service which is the envy of operators in many other parts of the world. I believe that the bill is in the best interests of Australia and that its passage will permit Trans-Australia. Airlines to continue to extend its services info country areas and to operate in the widest possible sphere. I have always been favorable to the provision of services for the people in outback areas, and I believe, as does the honorable member for Indi, that the people who live in the outback should he given every possible encouragement.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- As this bill contains a provision authorizing the Governor-General to make regulations, 1 desire to refer to a subject which, in my opinion, is relevant to that power. I ask a direction from the Chair as to whether I may discuss this subject at this stage or whether the discussion should occur on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
– I shall hear the honorable member for a few moments and then give him my ruling.
– I understand that it is intended that a regulation shall be issued compelling members of the Parliament who travel by air to use Trans-Australia Airlines aircraft exclusively. I do not know whether this is being done for the purpose of increasing the revenues of
Trans-Australia Airlines, but the matter is one which should be discussed without delay. It is intended that honorable members shall use Trans- Australia Airlines aircraft when they are available. I do not know whether the word “ available “ is to be interpreted to mean available reasonably near the time when the service is required by honorable members or available during the day on which honorable members desire to travel. The matter should be clarified.
I am primarily concerned with the rights and privileges of honorable members and for that reason I desire to elicit the reasons which have caused the Government to make this decision. Honorable members are aware that when, earlier in this year, travelling arrangements of members came under consideration, a committee representative of all parties in the Parliament was appointed to deal with the subject. The committee sat under the chairmanship of Mr. Speaker and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) was present at its deliberations. I am not sure whether the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) was present, but I believe that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) attended. At any rate, representatives of the departmnts concerned attended the meeting. The committee made certain decisions with which the Prime Minister was in accord. A general understanding was reached that, while members were not to be limited to any one service if Trans-Australia Airlines aeroplanes were available to meet the convenience of honorable members, they should be used in preference to the aircraft of other airlines. In practice, honorable members have endeavoured to adhere to that provision, but there have been times when Trans-Australia Airlines aircraft have not been reasonably convenient. Speaking for the Victorian members - and I do so because I am best informed of the details that apply in their case - the aircraft of Trans-Australia Airlines leave Melbourne at 7.40 a.m., whereas the aircraft of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited service are scheduled to leave at 11.15 a.m. Honorable members who have to come to Melbourne from country districts or from some of the outlying suburbs found it extremely inconvenient to travel by the Trans-Australia Airlines’ Service, and consequently they used that provided by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. The practice, hitherto, has -been to permit members to travel to Canberra by the aeroplanes most suitable to them. We are now told that that situation is to be altered, not as the result of a decision by the all-party committee, but by a decision of the Government. The decision has been made without the concurrence of the members of the committee. I consider that a decision of that kind should not have been made without consulting the committee. It should certainly not be brought into effect by government edict. Yet it appears that an edict has been issued. I protest against this method of dealing with the position. Private members of the Parliament have rights which should be respected. When an all-party committee has been constituted to deal with a certain matter, and it has reached decisions which have been accepted by the Government, those decisions should not be varied without further reference to the committee; yet in this instance the committee have been ignored. The convenience of all honorable ‘ members is involved. Certain wider considerations should also be brought to notice. During the regime of the Menzies Government, an instruction was issued that not more than three Ministers should travel together on any one aircraft.
– Order ! I have allowed the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) considerable latitude. He has made much more than a passing reference to a subject which, in fact, has nothing to do with the bill.
– I only wish to bring this further additional point to the attention of honorable members. During the membership of some of us in this Parliament three serious aircraft crashes have occurred involving the deaths of Ministers and members. Many honorable members prefer air transport to rail transport. Some others, I understand, consider that air transport is still somewhat hazardous. It was because it was considered that there were hazards still to be encountered that the Government, of which I was a member, issued an instruction that not more than three Ministers should travel in the same aeroplane at the same time, and that instruction has been continued-
– Order! The Chair has been tolerant to the honorable member, but I must now ask him not to proceed further along these lines.
– A situation may arise in which 21 members of the Parliament may be travelling in an aircraft at the same time. It will be agreed, I believe, that that would be a circumstance of which the Parliament would not approve.
– Order ! This has nothing to do with the bill.
– I hope that I shall not be precluded from discussing this subject later on the motion for the adjournment, because it is of considerable importance to all honorable members. I believe that the rights of private members have been infringed. The subject should not be discussed on party lines. It affects all honorable gentlemen.
.- I wish to make only a brief passing reference to the subject raised by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), and I do so as a representative of a country electorate. To insist, under the provisions of this new edict, that members representing country districts shall be in Melbourne to travel to Canberra by the 7.40 a.m.. Trans-Australia Airlines aeroplane would be most satisfactory.
– Order ! I do not wish to appear to be unreasonable, but this subject cannot be discussed at greater length on this bill.
– I would like to have ten minutes on ‘this subject, and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) would show up pretty badly in it.
– Order !
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has said that he would like to have ten minutes on this subject, and that I would show up pretty badly in it. I invite the honorable gentleman to say, here and now, anything that he wants to say, and to make his accusation against me and give me the opportunity to reply to it.
– Order ! The subject is one that may properly be raised on the motion for the adjournment of the House. It comes within the administration of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), and is not related to this bill. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) spoke for ten minutes on the matter, but I cannot allow it to be debated at any great length.
– The bill provides power for the Governor-General to make regulations on certain subjects. It has been stated by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) that, under existing regulations, certain DC3 aircraft may operate carrying 28 passengers. They can fly only on a government licence. The issuing of a licence is tantamount to a declaration by the Civil Aviation Department that the installation of 28 seats in a DC3 aircraft is safe and prudent. Now, the Minister has said that, in his opinion, it is not safe, and he offered some reasons.
– I did not say so. I said that it was less safe than other aircraft.
– It is either safe or not safe.
– As the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) says, it is either safe or not safe. It is highly improper, after a licence has been issued by the Department of Civil Aviation for the operation of aircraft, for the Minister in charge of the department to come here and smear the reputation of the company concerned by suggesting that its aircraft have only a limited degree of safety. I can think of nothing worse than that the Minister should, after his department has licensed the aircraft, and after he has been in personal controversy with the company concerned, come into this Parliament, and in circumstances where his words are readily disseminated-
– The honorable member must get back to the bill.
-EWEN. - 1 am on the subject of air navigation, and I cannot think of anything more pertinent to the discussion than the issue of licences for the operation of aircraft.
– The honorable member is referring to the issue of a licence to a company. The Minister has made a very full statement on the subject, which is item 20 on the notice-paper. There can be no further reference to it.
– I was not attempting to anticipate a debate on an item On the notice-paper, which will probably never be debated, anyway; but I was trying to answer the Minister’s statement. I have made my point. I regard the Minister’s remarks as highly improper.
.- Clause 3 confers power to make regulations regarding air services in the Northern Territory. The Minister resents criticism, either from honorable members of Parliament or from representatives of air companies, particularly if it is directed against the wild extravagance of the Australian National Airlines Commission. The Minister misrepresented me in connexion with Guinea Airways Limited. He professed to misunderstand what I had said. He pretended that an amicable arrangement had been reached between the Government and Guinea Airways Limited for the selling of the assets of that company to the Government. The plain fact is that the Government service tried to run Guinea Airways Limited off the route, and it was only some time later that the company went out of business, and sold its assets to the Government. I criticized the Government’s intention to buy Convair aircraft now on order from the United States of America, upon which a deposit of £112,000 has been lodged in dollars. The Minister told me, in answer to a question, that British aircraft were not available, but when he was pressed he had to admit that Viking aircraft could have been obtained from Britain. He has admitted that it is proposed to expend 1,000,000 dollars on the purchase of Convair aircraft. Twenty-five engineers have been sent to the United States of America to learn to service these aircraft, but the machines themselves have not yet received a certificate of airworthiness in their own country. The Minister tried to brush aside the fact that he uses 360 gallons of petrol a week in an aircraft to carry him to Canberra, and he becomes insulting when the matter is referred to. I say that the order for Convair aircraft should be cancelled, and that the Chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission should be dismissed, if he was responsible for giving the order. Perhaps he only saw a model of the aircraft, because I do not think it was in operation when he was in the United States of America. Possibly, the idea of 40-passenger aircraft with two engines, and a pressurized cabin, appealed to him, but it is strange that no other firm here has ordered these aircraft.
A royal commission should be appointed to inquire into the operations and activities of this octopus, which has sought to obtain absolute control over the air services of Australia. It was defeated only by a judgment of the High Court, which told it that it could operate airlines, but could not have a monopoly. Only a royal commission could bring out what the Minister has instructed his officials to do in order to achieve by other methods what he found it impossible to do by constitutional means. The present wild extravagance, as revealed by the balance-sheet of Trans-Australia Airlines, must stop. Already, £500,000 of the taxpayers’ money has been lost. I again urge the Minister to say what he proposes to do about the Convair aircraft which have been ordered, and whether the person who ordered them is to be brought to book, if it is found that the aircraft are not up to standard, and British aircraft were available at the time.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 3rd Decem ber (vide page 3088), on motion by Mr. Drakeford -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 3rd December(vide page 3075), on motion by Mr. Holloway -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This is a bill for an act to approve the amended constitution of the International Labour Organization. Instruments of amendment of the constitution of the International Labour Organization were adopted by general conferences of that organization in November, 1922, in November, 1945, and in October, 1946. The only question before us is whether this Parliament shall adopt the constitution which it cannot amend, and which has been itself the subject of discussion and approval at a conference of the International Labour Organization. In those circumstances, to discuss the measure at any length would be of merely academic interest. The Minister (Mr. Holloway), in introducingthe bill, pointed out that many of the changes were merely drafting changes, some of them made necessary because of the cessation of the League of Nations, and the coming into existence of the United Nations. Some of the amendments, particularly those which relate to federal states as members are calculated to make it a little easier to extend the legislative orbit of this Parliament under the external affairs power, but beyond mentioning that fact - which has probably not escaped the attention of the Government - I do not propose to discuss the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Holloway) read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend and strengthen the Quarantine Act. Recent experience has shown that air travel has gravely increased the danger to which Australia is exposed by the introduction of quarantinable diseases. The additional risk rests largely on two factors, namely, the speed of air travel and the fact that aircraft cross the seaboard and traverse the interior of the country. This bill has, in the main, been drafted to provide power to deal with these problems.
So long as overseas traffic arriving in this country was comparatively slow and confined to the seaboard, the existing powers were sufficient; but, with the increasing volume and speed of air travel, a new concept of quarantine has emerged. It is no longer sufficient to watch for the appearance or the suspicion of disease in people arriving in this country, but measures must be adopted to ensure, as far as possible, that those who use international air travel are themselves unlikely to contract certain diseases and disseminate them in Australia. For this purpose, stringent requirements, in respect of prophylactic measures, are imposed on people travelling to Australia by air. Certain difficulties have arisen in implementing these requirements, and these difficulties were emphasized during the recent quarantine at Darwin of a flying boat, which arrived with a passenger who was suspected of suffering from cholera. The bill is designed to make the provisions of the act explicit in these matters, and to place beyond doubt the legality of the restrictions it is desired to impose.
At this stage, I shall outline briefly the problem which is facing our quarantine service. A person travelling by air arrives in Australia a few days or even hours after leaving places in Asia, which are known foci of diseases non-existent here. Within the past three weeks, an aircraft from Shanghai landed at Biak next day, and 25 hours later was in Sydney. This aircraft carried nearly 40 people, who had spent varying periods in China. These people could conceiv ably be infected with small-pox, and remain apparently well until nearly two weeks after they had disembarked in Sydney and dispersed to various parts of Australia. No words of mine are needed to draw the attention of honorable members to the dire possibilities inherent in such a situation. This particular aircraft crossed the Australian coastline somewhere in North Australia, and, for several hours, was travelling over the interior of the country. There was risk of a forced landing, or deviation from the set course through conditions beyond control. On occasions, aircraft have been unable, on account of the weather, to make a landing at Darwin, and have been diverted to inland centres such as Katherine or Cloncurry. Consideration of these factors indicates that past conceptions of quarantine must be modified. No longer may quarantine be limited in application to first ports of entry on the seaboard. It must be made applicable to any part of Australia, and an organization to enforce it must be set up in various inland centres. It is considered that the amendments contained in this bill will provide the power necessary for this purpose.
A further factor of great importance in this problem is the necessity for speed in applying the essential measures whenever and wherever they are needed. To achieve this, it is proposed to endow the Minister with emergency powers so that immediate steps may be taken to handle such a situation in any part of the country. It is possible that odd cases of quarantinable disease may penetrate even the most efficient defences. Such cases may appear in an isolated area, where there might be no properly developed control. The provisions of the bill would enable such a locality to be declared a quarantine area, and would permit the imposition of the. necessary measures. It may become necessary to make use of, or to take over the local hospital ; to take over or establish a laboratory; to impose isolation or quarantine on the area; and to prohibit ingress to or egress from such an area.
The general disease picture throughout the world at the present time is somewhat alarming. This situation is a common sequel to and corollary of war, and of the disturbed conditions which now exist in so many countries in Asia and Europe. Cholera is rife in Egypt, Pakistan and India, and these countries are traversed by much of the air-traffic coming to Australia. Many countries in Europe and along the Mediterranean littoral are constantly reporting diseases, which were previously rare or non-existent within their borders. Typhus, cholera, smallpox and plague now regularly appear on the epidemiological maps of countries, which have been free of them for generations. It is proposed that, before embarkation for Australia, persons leaving certain areas, which would have been proclaimed as infected with a specific disease, shall be ‘ properly protected by the appropriate vaccination or inoculation, and that they shall carry a valid certificate to this effect. To achieve this object, the bill proposes to place the responsibility, under heavy penalty, on the master and owner not to permit the transport to Australia, on their aircraft, of any person not in possession of the required certificate.
The possibility must be borne in mind that other diseases, which do not present an immediate threat to this country, may, at some future date, do so. In this regard yellow fever and pandemic influenza come to mind. It may become desirable to prohibit entirely the entry into Australia by air of people from certain places. The bill proposes to give power to enforce this action by imposing a heavy penalty on the master or owner of an aircraft which transported such people to Australia.
With the exception of the minor amendments agreed to by the Parliament in last May, the Quarantine Act has not been amended since 1924. This opportunity has been taken to include several minor amendments to meet modern conditions. I summarize the provisions of the bill as follows : - (i) To confer on the Minister power to meet an emergency arising through the outbreak of disease in a remote part of Australia; (ii) to provide that persons leaving proclaimed areas outside Australia shall have certificates of inoculation or vaccination before embarking for Australia; (iii) to prohibit the embarkation of persons from proclaimed areas for transport to Aus- tralia ; (iv) to effect minor alterations to the Quarantine Act to confirm existing practices and to meet modern conditions.
It is the earnest desire of the Government that this country shall continue to be preserved from the appalling epidemics which are prevalent in many lands, and the Minister for Health and Social Services (Senator McKenna) will give his full support to all measures which will assist in achieving this purpose. I commend the bill to the House.
.- On behalf of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), I state that these proposed amendments of the Quarantine Act are necessary, and the Opposition will support them. Air travel has reduced world dimensions to ridiculously small distances, and it is essential that, for the protection of our own people, we should bring our quarantine laws up-to-date. That is the purpose of the bill, and when it becomes law, the precautions which Australia takes to prevent the introduction of diseases will he similar to those taken by other countries. I am sure that all honorable members hope that the new precautions will be carried out without crudity, and will not impose unnecessary delay upon people who travel to Australia by air.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) stated in his second-reading speech that with the exception of a minor amendment last May, the Quarantine Act had not beer amended since 1924. I desire to submit a proposal, which, I believe, will have the support of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser). Some time ago, he raised in thi9 House the matter of an Australian Imperial Force unit returning from the East and bringing with it a pet dog which had accompanied its members through their campaign. The animal was taken into quarantine and shot. The honorable member described that as a crude and barbarous way of dealing with the dog. While we should not take any unnecessary risks in regard to the introduction of rabies, I believe that the proper procedure, which was followed when I wa9 Minister for Trade and Customs, is to place an animal in quarantine for, say, six months at the owner’s expense. If, at the expiration of that period, the animal has not developed any disease, it should be returned to the owner. A few weeks ago, the Australian Government brought to this country, under its immigration scheme, a number of Polish soldiers, who had with them a dog which they valued and which had been with them through their campaigns. These immigrants had an understandable affection for the animal, but they were instructed to hand it over to the quarantine authorities, and, apparently without ceremony, it was destroyed. That practice should be abandoned, and we should return to the system which I have described. If an owner values an animal and is prepared to bear the expense, it should be kept in quarantine for a period, and released when all danger of disease and infection has passed.
– After a long period, the changed conditions of travel throughout the world have rendered it necessary to alter the quarantine laws of the Commonwealth. I was interested in the remarks of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) regarding the entry of travellers into Australia through the Northern Territory. He explained that often, aircraft from overseas landed, not at Darwin, but at Katherine or Cloncurry, and, consequently, that created an entirely new problem in regard to quarantine. I direct attention to proposed new section 20c, which provides -
If any vessel engaged in navigation by air and subject to quarantine makes a landing at any part of Australia which is not a landing place, the vessel and any person, goods, animal or plant on board shall, for the purposes of this Act, be deemed, to be ordered into quarantine and shall be dealt with as prescribed.
I assume that, in that event, the area becomes a quarantine area for the purposes of this act, because I cannot believe that the Minister would allow an aircraft from overseas to land on a country aerodrome and then depart to a specified quarantine area. Proposed new section 12b provides that “ the Minister may establish and use laboratories and facilities for the diagnosis of disease for purposes of or incidental to quarantine “. I suggest to the Minister that if any suitable State facilities are available, the Commonwealth should not duplicate them. I hope that he will carefully examine this aspect.
– The honorable member can be sure that the Commonwealth health officers co-operate with the States,
– I am grateful for that assurance. I also urge the Minister to examine the regulations governing the quarantining of animals which enter Australia. According to my information, an animal from a country other than the United Kingdom or the United States of America must he quarantined, first, for a period in the United Kingdom, and. then for a long period on arrival in Australia. I agree with the Minister thatwe must take every possible precaution, against the introduction of diseases intothe Commonwealth, but we should not. impose unnecessary restrictions on the; owners of animals who desire to bring them here. I ask the Minister to ascertain whether the period of quarantine in the United Kingdom could be dispensed with, and. if necessary, the period of quarantine in Australia could be extended.
– I shall ask the department to examine the honorable member’s suggestion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Holloway) read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
On the 22nd July, 1946, the Australian delegate to the International Health Conference signed, subject to approval and acceptance by the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, the constitution of the World Health Organization and the arrangement establishing an interim commission of that body. The object of this bill is to approve of Australia becoming a member of the World Health Organization and the acceptance by Australia of the arrangement establishing the interim commission. In order to appreciate the significance of this bill, it is appropriate to briefly review the steps leading te the formation of the World Health Organization.
At the United Nations Conference on International Organization at San Francisco on the 25 th April, 1945, at the instigation of Brazil, the word “ health “ was introduced in the Charter of the United Nations. The conference also recognized the importance of health problems and their solution by approving unanimously a joint declaration proposed by Brazil and China for the purpose of establishing an international health organization.
On the 15th February, 1946, the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations adopted a resolution calling for a Technical Preparatory Committee on Health, and for an international health conference to be convened. The Technical Preparatory Committee met in Paris on the 18th March, 1946, and prepared agenda for an international health conference. The proposals agreed upon were, circulated among all’ members of the United Nations, and a resolution recommending participation, as observers, of nations not members of the United Nations at the International Health Conference was adopted. The international health conference met in New York from the 19th June, 1946, to the 22nd July, 1946. Delegations from all of the 51 United Nations took part in the deliberations, and representatives from thirteen non-member nations attended the meetings as observers.
Concerning the role of existing international organizations dealing in the field of public health, it had been decided in Paris that the Office Internationale d’Hygiene Publique should be absorbed by the World Health Organization, and, the same action was agreed upon regarding the fate of the health section of the League of Nations and of the epidemiologic intelligence of the health section- of th United Nations Relief and Rehabili- tation Administration. The conference decided that the Pan-American Sanitary Bureau should be integrated with the organization through “ common action based on mutual consent
The following instruments were established at the conference : -
Representatives of all the United Nations signed the charter at the end of the meeting, China and the United Kingdom without reservation and the remainder of the nations ad referendum. Ten nations not members of the United Nations also affixed their signatures to the constitution. Nations which did not attend the conference will be admitted as members when their applications have been approved by a simple majority vote of the Health Assembly.
The World Health Organization will come into being when 26 members of the United Nations ratify the signatures of their delegates. For the period between this international health conference and the first meeting of the World Health Organization, the conference set up an interim commission to conduct the essential business of the organization and to work out details of the agreements between the World Health Organization and other international agencies. The Interim Commission consists of eighteen nations, of which Australia is one. The representatives are all persons technically qualified in the field of health and they are charged with doing all the preparatory work for the World Health Organization. The World Health Organization is to be brought into relationship with the United Nations as a specialized agency.
The Interim Commission has been established under the arrangement concluded for that purpose and is now functioning within the limits of the specific functions allotted by the International Health Conference pending the final establishment of the World Health Organization. This bill provides for the approval of the deposit of acceptance by Australia of membership of the World Health Organization and for the acceptance of the arrangement establishing the Interim Commission.
The more important aspects of the constitution of the organization are set out in the following parts of the first schedule of the bill: - The preamble states inter alia that health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, and that governments have a responsibility for the health of their peoples which can be fulfilled only by the provisions of adequate health and social measures.
Article 1 sets out the objective. Article 2 sets out the functions. Articles 3-8 relate to membership and associate membership. Articles 9-42 deal with the organs of the organization. Article 43 deals with the head-quarters of the organization. Articles 44-54 and Article 71 deal with regional arrangements.
It may be noted that the status of the South Pacific Commission will not be affected, since it was not in existence at the time of signature of the constitution. On the other hand, article 70 provides that “ the organization shall establish effective relations and co-operate closely with such other inter-governmental organizations as may be desirable “, and this will permit of suitable liaison to prevent overlapping between the two bodies.
Articles 55-60 deal with budget and expenses. The membership of the organization is very wide, and it is not expected that Australia will be called upon to bear more than 1.79 per cent, of the cost. Estimates of the probable annual running expenses must at present be based on probabilities and analogy with other such organizations. The figure of 4,000,000 dollars has been suggested by the secretariat of the Interim Commission. This would mean, as a future maximum for the organization’s budget, an annual contribution from Australia of 71,600 dollars.
Articles 61-65 deal with reports submitted by member States. Articles 78-82 deal with entry into force.
The foundation of the World Health Organization thus has been laid. It is appropriate that the first conference to be called by the United Nations was the International Health Conference which established the World Health Organization. This honour went to the field of public health and medicine and emphasized its role in the development of international peace. The. past emphasis on defensive measures is giving way to a new concept, a more positive attitude which seeks to broaden the knowledge and usefulness o.’ health efforts. When nations enjoy good health in the broadest possible sense, the prospects of world peace will be greatly enhanced. It is on this premise that the World Health Organization was founded.
One of the first tasks of the new organization will concern the scourges of man accentuated by the devastation of war. To-day, there is a new realization that the accomplishments of medical science, in the more technically advanced countries, must be shared with all nations. Beyond the immediate needs, the World Health Organization looks forward, by the pooling of such resources of all nations, to protecting the people of all nations from the ravages of disease, and to ensuring to every individual a standard of health compatible with the technical achievements of the medical sciences and the adjustment of his environment in combination with education. In short, it looks forward to “ the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health “ and well-being.
It is becoming increasingly clear that medical science can contribute to man’s ability to live harmoniously in a changing environment. Improved health enhances standards of living, promotes economic prosperity and contributes to the fundamental freedoms. Whilst the responsibility for health within its own borders is of .primary concern to each nation, the measure of success can be greatly increased through international team-work. The World Health Organization should be the co-ordinating agency to provide information, leadership and assistance in every phase of health work. Not only will it aid in disseminating and applying all of the known scientific knowledge to preventing disease and promoting health, -but also it will encourage and conduct scientific research to control disease. Cancer, heart disease, mental illness, malaria, tuberculosis, syphilis and degenerative diseases are obvious conditions for such international scientific endeavour.
During the -past 40 years, nations have acquired some experience in international health action through efforts to prevent pestilential disease from spreading between nations. During the years between the two world wars, those efforts were broadened to include mutual help in disease control, in training of health personnel, and in obtaining valuable statistics, and during World War II. the “United Nations pooled fully their military efforts to prevent disease. Such experience will not be wasted. The prevailing epidemic of cholera in Egypt and in “the newly created dominions of India and Pakistan strain to the limit the quarantine barrier of this country to prevent the introduction of disease.
Because of Australia’s geographical position in proximity to countries where epidemics of disease are so frequent and enhanced by movements of displaced persons, and because of the increasing speed of aircraft and the consequent greater risk to the people of this country of exposure to these diseases, it is imperative that quarantine practices should be standardized and supervised by an international agency.
Australia played a considerable part in the setting up of the World Health Organization and has been a member of the Interim Commission since its inception. The World Health Organization is a collective instrument to promote physical and mental well-being, to control disease, to expand scientific knowledge and to contribute to harmonious relationships between the peoples of all nations. It is a powerful instrument in the interests of peace, and Australia cannot afford to do other than play its part in contributing to the accomplishment of the tasks that lie ahead.
Twenty-one nations have ratified the deposit of acceptance of the instruments of the constitution of the World Health Organization and the arrangement establishing the Interim Commission and it is urgently required that Australia should ratify its acceptance of these instruments in order to ensure becoming a foundation member of this organization.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
Motion by Mr. Chifley - by leave - proposed -
That Mr. Hutchinson be discharged from attendance on the Committee of Privileges and that, in his place, Mr. Spender be appointed a member of the committee.
– It having been indicated that the committee will meet in Sydney at a time that would be inconvenient to the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), it was desired to substitute an honorable member representing a Sydney constituency.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed (vide page 3214).
. - by leave - I appreciate the courtesy of the House in allowing me to speak on the motion for the printing of the statement tabled this morning by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) on the dollar situation. The subject-matter of the paper concerns one of the gravest issues that have faced Australia for some time. Opposition members have been attempting for a long time to obtain from the right honorable gentleman details of the dollar position in the world to-day, particularly as it affects Australia as a partner in the British Empire, but it has been shrouded in the greatest possible secrecy. The long document presented to us gives certain particulars about the spending by Great
Britain of the dollars that were lent to it .by the United States of America. It contains a lot of padding but very little comfort for Australia. A good many aspects affecting Australia are not mentioned. I trust that in his speech in reply the Prime Minister will enlighten us much more than he has. One of the first things that strike any one who looks into the position is that it is impossible to dissect from the Statistical Bulletin of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia the position of loans, dollars, and London funds, because they are lumped together under the heading of “ Gold and Balances Held Abroad “. In May, 1946, after I had asked the Prime Minister many questions, we ascertained from him that the gold holdings of the Australian Government then amounted to £17.000.000. Doubtless, if we took into calculation exports and imports of gold since then, we could ascertain the Australian Government’s gold holdings today. I cannot understand why the Government has not frankly stated the whole gold and dollar position as it affects Australia. The picture given to us by the right honorable gentleman is not at all clear. All we are told is that the position is getting worse and worse and this country must face continued rationing and the curtailment of imports from dollar countries. I lay particular stress on the point that whereas Australia is one of the countries that could help more than many other countries to-day to rectify the dollar position, the very action taken by the Government will bring about a state of affairs that will prevent its rectification. This Government and the Government of the United Kingdom seem to think that the position will be remedied almost solely by restricting imports from the United States of America into Australia and the other countries in the British Commonwealth of Nations.
– That is true of Canada, too.
– The other countries of the British Commonwealth of Nations include Canada. The way in which to rectify the position is not merely to restrict the importation of American goods. Many goods, particularly capital goods, that we could get from America would if they were imported and used quickly tend to rectify the position. There are many commodities that could be exported from Australia that countries in the dollar area would not have the slightest hesitation in accepting. That applies particularly to the United States of America, which is the greatest manufacturing country in the world, and the country that above all others is capable of supplying the goods needed by the countries that are deficient because of the war. We could considerably increase the production in Australia of gold, coal, lead, zinc, copper and wool. Those are commodities that would be taken by those countries, particularly the United States, of America. A couple of days ago the chairman of directors of the Lake View and Star Mine Limited reported that, although the Lake View and Star gold mine had considerably increased production of gold in the last twelve months, it could increase producttion a great deal more. Gold is as valuable as dollars. It is the international currency. Despite our abandonment of the gold standard, the words of Virgil, “ The cursed lust of gold “, still hold good. The lust for gold is shared by people and governments alike all over the world. No government would refuse to take gold. With the importation of machinery from the United States of America and the application of a much more sympathetic policy by the Australian Government, the gold-mining industry could increase its output and, according to the chairman of directors of the Lake View and Star Mine Limited, which is in Western Australia, there is a possibility of greatly increasing gold production.
Coal is a headache to the Government. It always has been. The schedule of commodities and articles in respect of which import permits will be issued, which is contained as an appendix to the statement presented to us to-day, contains no mention of provision for the importation of the machinery necessary to work vast coal deposits in Queensland by the open-cut method. I understand that in the Blair Athol deposits there are reserves of coal amounting to 200,000,000 tons. No coal-field in the world has such a small overburden of soil, varying from 70 to 90 feet. According to the report on the coal-mining industry made by Mr. Justice Davidson, coal deposits that can be worked by the open-cut method are not limited to one field. Others, like the Callide deposits, are capable of great development. British thermal unit tests of those deposits show high results. I admit that there may be a high moisture content in. the Blair Athol coal, but that is not incapable of being coped with. I understand that the company that is to work the field under an agreement with the Queensland Government has undertaken to produce 3,000,000 tons of coal annually. The other fields in Queensland could be similarly exploited. There is no great difficulty in open-cut propositions. As 1 know from my experience of the open-cut operations at Muswellbrook, they can be quickly developed. The company that is to operate at Blair Athol counts on placing coal in bunkers at Queensland ports at a cost lower than anywhere else in the world. The cost would be about one-eighth of the landed cost of the coal. The coal would be welcomed in Argentina and other South American countries, and even in a coal-producing country like Great Britain. Essential to the production of the coal, I understand, is earthmoving and coal-winning machinery, which has to be imported from the United States of America. It looks as if some one has badly blundered by omitting from the list of goods for the importation of which licences will be issued the machinery needed to win the coal that would alleviate the dollar shortage.
– When has any application been made for it.
– All I am saying is that no provision is made in the list for the importation of such machinery.
– No application has been made for the importation of such machinery.
– Would I be right in assuming that an application would be sympathetically received?
– All capital equipment necessary for essential production is imported without restriction.
– Good ! No doubt the production of lead, zinc and copper could be similarly expanded.
The doleful, gloomy document presented by the Prime Minister says that the United States of America has bought less wool from Australia this year than it did last year, and that, presumably, it will buy less in subsequent years. So this year Australian wool has not earned so many dollars as it did last year. I say that in reply to the statement that the United States of America wants highquality wool tops for spinning. Only yesterday, according to newspaper reports, an American- buyer paid the record price of 110½d. per lb. for 5 bales of greasy wool at the Newcastle sales. The wool was the leading line of the well-known A.S.N. Marani from Walcha. An average of 70d. per lb. was paid for all but two lots of the total clip, which was described as probably the best clip ever offered at auction in New South Wales. America will pay for high-class wools. Unfortunately, this year a large part of the Australian clip is in a faulty condition owing to the drought that prevailed in eastern Australia. Consequently, our wool is not so suitable for American uses as it otherwise would have been. But there is no need for the despairing terms of the Prime Minister’s statement. I believe that we can do a great deal to alleviate the dollar shortage. The dollar loan by the United States of America to Great Britain, which was supposed to last for three years, lasted, according to documents presented to the House of Commons and the economic survey made this year, less than twelve months. But a large part of it was spent buying food, tobacco and other things from the dollar area that could have been supplied by British countries. If the Empire countries supply these goods in quantity to the sterling area so that the people in that area would not have to turn to South America and North America to procure them, an enormous strain would be taken off the dollar pool. Consequently, there would he a much more rapid approach to the day when there would be free convertibility of sterling throughout the world. We should do everything possible to increase our exports to the sterling areas.
We are now reaping one of the largest wheat harvests that Australia has ever produced. The season has been most bountiful and the crop is exceedingly heavy. It is estimated that the yield will be well in excess of 200,000,000 bushels. India is now negotiating with the Australian Government for the purchase of approximately 40,000,000 bushels of wheat. The export price of wheat, f.o.b. Australian ports, is approximately 19s. 6d. or £1 a bushel. If this transaction is completed it will mean that Australia will be given credit to the value of approximately £40,000,000 by India for the purchase of that wheat. India already has frozen balances in the United Kingdom amounting to £1,200,000,000 sterling. We would be foolish if we simply said to India, “ We shall sell you 40,000,000 bushels of wheat and you can pay us in sterling in the United Kingdom which is inconvertible into dollars “. For many hundreds of years India has absorbed the gold and silver production of the world for the hordes of the East. It was disclosed in a paper published by the Indian Congress party, prior to the granting of self-government to India and Pakistan, that the hoards of jewellery held by the princes and maharajas of India represented one of the greatest accumulations of wealth the world has ever seen. The time has come for plain speaking. We should say to India, “ If you want our wheat, you must pay for it in dollars, in gold, or in jewels’”.
– We could not interfere with private property in that way.
– The Prime Minister says, “We could not interfere with private property in that way “. Yet, every day in this Parliament the right honorable gentleman gives a concrete example of how untrue is that remark by being busily engaged in socializing Australia and interfering with the rights, liberties and privileges of private citizens. I always knew that the right honorable gentleman was a humourist. It is obvious that he is already feeling the happy spirit of Christmas when he makes such a jocose remark.
We cannot produce the goods with which to obtain dollars to offset the dollar position unless we bring more immigrants to this country and provide housing accommodation, first for our own people and then for the new arrivals. I was astounded at the lack of thought given by the Prime Minister to the subject of import licences for the im portation of capital goods into Australia. Earlier this afternoon the right honorable gentleman said that there would be no curtailment of the importation of capital goods into Australia. I am afraid that the right honorable gentleman’s memory is not as good as it was when he sat with me as a member of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems. Only yesterday, in answer to a question by me in relation to the importation of tractors, the right honorable gentleman asked whether I was referring to heavy tractors or agricultural tractors. I informed him that I was referring to tractors of both types. He then said that heavy caterpillar tractors would not be admitted. He must know that the supply of timber for the housing programme of the Australian and State Governments is dependent to a degree upon heavy type caterpillar tractors, fitted with winding gears which haul the logs up the slopes in the forest areas to the roads along which they can he transported to the mills. Conditions to-day are vastly different from what they were in the old days when timber stands adjacent to the roads had not been cut out and haulage was done by bullocks. To-day, most of the timber lies in places inaccessible to anything but tractors of the caterpillar type. The right honorable gentleman demonstrates a lack of understanding of the interests of the nation when he shows hostility towards the importation of tractors of that type. Open cut work to-day is done by means of tournapels. Caterpillar tractors are used to pull them when filling. They are also used to drag the rippers through the overburden above the coal seams. Yet we are told that heavy tractors of the caterpillar type may not be imported. Some of these restrictions are too ridiculous for words.
On page 9 of his statement, the right honorable gentleman states that the United Kingdom authorities requested that Australia should undertake to live within its current dollar income, and to make no net claim on the United Kingdom for dollars. That adjuration is all very well in theory, but I remind the right honorable gentleman that many Australian primary products are sent overseas to the United Kingdom and Ireland to be manufactured into goods which are subsequently exported to the United States of America. That applies particularly to the raw materials for the woollen textile industry. Great Britain is doing everything possible to improve its dollar position by an export drive to the United States of America and other dollar markets. Every piece of woollen cloth that is shipped into the United States of America has a raw wool content which is taxed by the American authorities, which also impose customs duy on to the added value of manufacture. There is no difficulty in ascertaining the value of the raw wool content of any woollen piece goods. I believe that the United Kingdom would be prepared to make some portion of the value of that raw wool content available to us in dollars - say, 50 per cent, of it. The more capital goods we are able to produce in Australia the better we will be able to assist the United Kingdom to right its desperate position.
On page 12 of his statement, under the heading “ Conclusion “ the right honorable gentleman says -
Thu Government regrets the inconvenience and hardship which the cancellation of import licences and other dollar conservation measures have caused in .the field of industry and commerce. lt feels confident, however, that the Australian people as a whole will support the action taken, since failure on our part to reduce dollar expenditure would, inevitably increase the much greater hardships which arc at present being endured by the people of the United Kingdom.
I am convinced that the action being taken by the Government will bring about a worse state of affairs, not only in the United Kingdom, but also in Australia. We should increase our exports to dollar and sterling areas, adopting a somewhat similar course as is taken in connexion with payment for our petrol imports. Petrol imported to Australia from sterling areas is paid for in dollar currency collectible in the United States of America. When we sell our wheat to India and otter parts of the Empire, and to Prance, all of which have assets in America, we should stipulate that payment be made by making an appropriate portion of those assets available to us for the financing of our urgent requirements. The time has come for Australia to raise a dollar loan in the United States of America and to use the proceeds purely for the importation of capital goods required for the rapid development of our industries. The action taken by the Government to meet the dollar crisis i9 extremely unlikely to bring about the golden age about which the Prime Minister spoke so glibly last year ; rather will it bring about a depression. If a depression overtakes us, the guilty men will sit on the other side of the House.
.- The Government’s economic policy in relation to imports from dollar areas has become a matter of great and grave urgency. Full consideration of this subject by the Parliament cannot be deferred any longer. Parliament should discuss it now. The Government is bungling and hesitant. It has no positive approach to the dollar question. Yet it is prepared to allow the Parliament to go into recess, neither the Parliament nor the country knowing what the future may hold. We have a very grave responsibility to the nation. I would be lacking in my duty to the country, to the Parliament and to my constituents if I did not express my views on this subject. The responsibility is, of course, the Government’s; hut the Parliament should see that the Government does not shove this country headlong into a crisis that will mean industrial stagnation, the destruction of overseas trade and unemployment in many of our key industries. If necessary, the Parliament should remain in session until the Government has produced its plans to meet the crisis, and until the Parliament has approved or otherwise of such plans. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has told the Parliament and the country that the position is serious. We might call it a crisis. The present policy of the Government can end only in an artificial dollar depression. It will wreck our trade with the United States of America and deprive many of our industries of critical supplies, leading to complete dislocation and a progressive breakdown in our Australian economy. Yet the only explanation we have before us is the paper tabled by the Prime Minister, and it is only a confusing hotch-potch of tangled figures which does not touch on our actual dollar position. Typical, indeed, was the Prime Minister’9 attempt to define the petrol position. He admitted that most of our supplies come from countries in the sterling Hoc Yet, because other parts of the British Commonwealth draw from dollar sources, Australia’s supplies are apparently charged against the dollar pool. Have other calculations been made on the same basis?
Every balance-sheet of our trading relations with dollar countries must, according to that standard, be based on theoretical calculations. No one, I do not care who he is, can tell how much the United States and Canada will buy from this country during the coming year. No one is in a position to foretell the trend of prices, either of exports or imports. Those are the real determining factors in arriving at the future trade balance. But the Government is acting on the assumption that the past is a rigid index of future exports. It has no elasticity in its assessment of the position. It appears to me that the Prime Minister and the Government assume the worst.
The Government is plainly attempting the impossible. It is trying to balance the budget of international trade, not only on a year by year basis, but also on a country by country basis. That has never been done by any country. It is contrary to all accepted principles governing international trade.
In the past, any country has been well satisfied if it showed a favorable balance in all its external dealings. On that basis, this country has never been in a more favorable position. For the first time in our history, we have huge accumulated balances abroad, in a liquid condition, representing the excess of exports over imports. Normally, we could expect much greater imports from sterling countries to reduce those balances. But apparently there are reasons why such imports will be diverted to dollar countries. Yet this Government persists in approaching the entire problem as though Australia was a bankrupt nation. “We have never been in a more favorable position to meet the demands of external creditors. There is only one gap to bridge. That is the dollar gap. This Government mulishly persists in acting as if there is only one way to deal with the dollar position. That is to destroy our growing trade with the United States.
Our trade with North America has never been more buoyant. We are obtaining record prices for our exports. The existing exchange rate operates in our favour. According to the Government’s own supporters, the purchasing value of the dollar has depreciated much more than the purchasing power of the Australian £1. The truth, of course, is that wage levels are much higher in the United States, with the American typist averaging £15 a week, rail employee from £15 to £20 a week, and other workers on a corresponding level, when considered in relation to the Australian £1. If the American worker is getting twice as much as the Australian worker, and he pays twice as much for what he needs, then the relative position of the American should be the same at home as that of the Australian. But it should also mean that this country should be able to sell in the American market, and obtain all the benefits of the ruling high price levels there. It should mean that our industries are now in a position to compete with American industries, not only in the outside market, but also on the home market. That is the realistic approach to this problem. It is the one approach that this Government refuses to make.
When we impose quantitative restrictions against American imports into Australia, we only invite trade reprisals. If that is the Government’s considered attitude, it should immediately recall its representatives from the Havana International Trade Conference. For the Government representatives to sit in the conference, knowing all the time that the Government proposes to take action that will curtail trade, would make them party to an act of humbug. This Government’s representatives have been parties to the drawing up of the draft agreement. That is an agreement, the terms of which this Parliament has been kept almost totally in the dark ; but its essence is that of non-discrimination, especially in relation -to quantitative restrictions.
I invite the Prime Minister to tell the House and the country how he proposes to enter into the commitments of articles 20, 21 and 22 of the proposed charter of the International Trade Organization and whether he also intends to apply even more rigid import restrictions against imports from dollar countries. Neither this Government nor any other government can have it both ways. The Government either believes that it is in the interests of this country to enter into commitments imposed by the charter of the International Trade Organization, or it must announce its intention to adhere to unilateral action. Its present policy is incompatible with the .policy announced by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) and his participation in the Havana Conference. If the Government intends to go on with the proposed increase of restrictions on trade, then it should face up to the Havana position. It should recall the Minister immediately.
Under the draft charter, there is an obligation to consult with other members before applying restrictions to trade to ascertain whether alternative corrective measures are available. Has the Government had any conversations with the United States Government? Has any attempt been made to explore the possibility of alternative measures? What the Parliament and the country are entitled to know is whether the United States of America has insisted on an annual settlement of dollar balances as between the two countries? Is this country being given no consideration whatsoever for its gold exports in terms of dollars? Before any action is taken to jeopardize this country’s economy, surely all alternative steps should be fully investigated. This Government appears to be obsessed with a fetish - the fetish of a prevailing world scarcity of dollar exchange. To surrender to that fetish is economic defeatism. It is time for a little realism in the conduct of our affairs abroad.
First, the United States needs our trade just as much as we need American exports. Unless the United States can maintain an export market for its surplus production, it will quickly reach the danger point of having surplus production on its hands. Australia is a logical market. Our economic interests with the
United States are just as complementary as were our defence interests. To suggest that the American Government will not co-operate on this problem is just as absurd as would have been the failure of that Government to use this country as a base during the war. Even if the United States has all the gold and all the dollars, it is still not in a sound position. Like the little boy who won all the marbles, it must provide a stake to others, otherwise there will be no further play. That would mean a quick breakdown in American economy. Surely, trade with Australia, which has so much that the United States needs, is one of the attractive propositions offering. Why should a country, thinking in terms of the Marshall plan, hesitate about doing a deal with Australia on the basis of deferred payments?
Secondly, there is the even more urgent problem of positive Australian trade action to exploit the American market. The United Kingdom is making dollars available to trade emissaries to sell British goods on the American market. What is this Government doing? If necessary, it would pay ns to subsidize Australian exports to the United States.
Silting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– It is not necessary to-day to subsidize Australian exports, owing to the prevailing high prices operating in America. The building up of an export trade with dollar countries does not mean depriving Britain of essential supplies. Australian w orkmen are capable of turning out goods that, can be sold in the United States at competitive prices. Instead of waiting for dollar hand-outs, let us earn dollars by developing our trade with America.
The Government’s policy is frightening American buyers away. They should be encouraged. We badly need a new trade policy. It is not a job for public servants. We should send a trade mission consisting of our smartest business men, and our best salesmen, to increase sales in the American market.
During the war, there was unlimited credit. Now we have entered once again into the vicious circle of a scarcity economy. The Government, itself, refused to take any positive action to meet the crisis. London financial writers say they are mystified by the government’s policy on dollars. They cannot understand the sudden panic. If those at the very centre are mystified, how much more mystified are the Australian people, who are on the outer fringe, vainly seeking some explanation of all the mumbo-jumbo about dollars. If the. Government fails, or if it surrenders to dollar pressure, then this country is headed- for a depression far worse than that of the early ‘thirties.
If is the responsibility of this Parliament to see that it does not happen again. No honorable member can shirk his personal responsibility. No honorable member can afford to “’ pass the buck “ to a Treasurer, who is plainly bewildered and befuddled by the onset, of the crisis. What is needed is bolder thinking and more aggressive action. The Government must not, be allowed to abdicate to the ‘socalled financial experts, and the monetary theorists, twice in one generation. It is a job for this Parliament, and it should be tackled immediately. The Parliament should not go into recess until the position has been clarified, and a considered plan to meet the crisis has been approved.
– in reply - The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) put up a few bogies, and then attempted to destroy them. He spoke of the development of the coal resources of Queensland by a British company. That is a matter for negotiation between the company and the Queensland Government. He suggested that development was being held up because of the lack of equipment which could be obtained only from the United States of America. I understand that, so far, proposals have not gone beyond the stage of negotiation, and that, before production can begin, railways must be built and wharfs constructed. Considerable plant would have to be provided if the Blair Athol field is to be developed, but, so far as I know, no application has been made for capital
In order to understand the Government’s attitude towards the dollar shortage, it. is necessary to go back to the time when Sir Kingsley Wood was Chancellor of the Exchequer in Great Britain. For a long time, the United Kingdom had been selling foreign securities in order to finance the war, and was thus losing its in-come from foreign investments. This income had formerly come to Britain in the form of food and raw materials, and, no doubt, in the form of luxury items, also. It did not require any one of great sagacity to forecast that if this process was continued much longer, economic difficulties must inevitably arise. During the war, and afterwards, the Australian Government maintained restrictions on the use of dollars. I realized that the Government of the United Kingdom, operating under the Anglo-American Loan Agreement, was bound by certain obligations which did not apply rigidly to Australia. We have guarded, so far as we thought reasonable, against the undue expenditure of American dollars for goods and equipment. There is nothing very mystifying about the position. It is true that the situation has deteriorated very rapidly during the last eighteen months. The loan that Lord Keynes negotiated on behalf of the British Government with the Government of the United States of America was not as large as the British Government wanted. The terms of the loan were generous enough, but some of the conditions attaching to it I regard as very onerous. It was hoped, however, that the loan would be sufficient to maintain the Empire pool of dollars long enough to allow certain things to happen. The first was the rehabilitation of British industry, and the development of the British export trade; the second was the rehabilitation of Europe, which would have provided a market for British goods, and would have supplied other goods in return. This hope was defeated by the disastrous inflation of prices in the United States of America, which meant that the quantity of goods which could be bought out of the loan was much smaller than had been expected. Moreover, the price of goods bought from Argentina, and other hard currency countries, rose in some instances by 150 per cent., and prices generally increased by 40 per cent. The second factor which helped to defeat the original plan was that the rehabilitation of Europe has not proceeded as was expected. I do not intend to survey the appalling conditions which prevail in Europe, particularly in Germany and France and, in only a lesser degree, in Italy. In such countries as Belgium, Sweden and Holland conditions are somewhat better, but rehabilitation in the major countries of Europe has not been carried to the point that we had hoped for. Far from France being able to produce many of the articles that Great Britain expected to receive, that country has not been able to produce even enough food for itself, and is trying to import food, including wheat from Australia. For some time, climatic conditions in Great Britain were disastrous, a fact which added to that country’s troubles. For a considerable time, more than 2,000,000 of Britain’s mien were overseas on military duty in various parts of the world, and it was not possible to withdraw them immediately, although that is now being done as quickly as possible. Those men were not producing, and some of them - those in Germany, Palestine and Egypt - were drawing upon dollars from the American loan for their upkeep. The honorable member for New England told us what we ought to do in the way of exporting commodities in order to earn dollars. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) discussed the same topic, and then spoke of “ the mumbojumbo about dollars “. Earlier in his speech, he spoke of being realistic. That is exactly what the Government is trying to be. It is true that we could export to dollar, or hard currency, areas a quantity of goods and commodities that we are now either using ourselves, or are sending to the United Kingdom, where they are sorely needed. I have discussed this matter with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), and I know something about it of my own knowledge. I have gone into it very fully, and if I do not understand the subject, it is not for lack of study. We could, no doubt, export more goods for hard currency to areas such as the Philippines, China, Panama, South America and to Switzerland. But we must never lose sight of the fact that, for a number of reasons, we owe a great responsibility and duty to our ally, the United Kingdom. One reason is that the British are a great nation with wonderful traditions. During the last seven or eight years they have shown a magnificent spirit. They bore the brunt of the catastrophic war from 1939 until 1945. To-day, they are in most difficult circumstances. A second, and very material, reason is that the United Kingdom has been Australia’s greatest customer. Therefore, we cannot lightly brush aside our duty to the United Kingdom. Australia is one of the countries which made the least economic sacrifice, and suffered least in World War IT. Are we to deny to the United Kingdom wheat, butter and other goods which our kinsfolk urgently need because they can offer us payment only in sterling? If we decided to withhold those goods so that we should not make any sacrifices, we should increase intensely the economic difficulties of the United Kingdom. The Australian Government is not prepared to do that. Unlike some people, we do not go through the country waving the flag and mouthing platitudes about kinship and the silken bonds of Empire. We like to demonstrate our alliance with our greatest friend, and with the other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, by taking practical measures to help them.
Two problems arise. One is whether we should export to the dollar area certain materials and commodities in short supply here, which the United Kingdom does not particularly require but which we ourselves badly need for our own industries. In the hard currency countries we could sell cement, steel, constructional steel, steel rods and timber. But if we did so we should accentuate the scarcity of these materials. One of the great problems now confronting the people of the United States of America arises because America has exported such enormous quantities of goods as to produce a shortage in the domestic market. That has accentuated the inflationary spiral. Because of the enormous volume of exports, many goods are in short supply, and, with the abolition of prices control, the American people are obliged to pay excessive prices for them. Many factors are related to this situation, but I do not propose to deal with them at length in this discussion. We must examine the problem as realists. We desire to extend to the United Kingdom all possible assistance, while striking a fair balance in order to ensure that our own people do not make undue sacrifices. This course is to be preferred to seizing every opportunity to sell our exports in the hard currency and dollar area. The United Kingdom, which urgently needs these goods, has been, and will be, our greatest customer for decades. Are we to ignore the plight of the United Kingdom because some temporary customer requires these goods and is prepared to pay dollars for them ? Are we to deprive our greatest customer, friend and ally of those goods? We must weigh all these factors realistically.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) is deluged with requests from other countries for Australian goods. Most of these goods happen to be urgently required on the Australian market. The International Emergency Food Council considers that Australia’s exports of food should be allocated in a fair proportion to the needs of the people who require them. The United Kingdom is a party* to the International Food Council. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture could readily find markets for our wheat in China, for which we would receive payment in American dollars, or in Switzerland, for which we would b.-> paid in Swiss francs, and for other goods in the Philippines or Panama. But would we be giving our British allies a “ fair go “ if we withheld these goods from them, because other countries arc now prepared to pay high prices for them? If we sold these goods and commodities in .China, Switzerland, the Philippines and Panama, the people of the United Kingdom and Australia would not have adequate supplies. Therefore, we must strike a balance. The Minister has been examining the subject very closely for the purpose of ascertaining whether we can export goods without doing an injustice to the United Kingdom and disrupting our own economy.
Let me tell honorable members that there is no mumbo-jum’bo about the dollar shortage. Again, they must be realists. What is the real source of the trouble?
The value of the goods which the United States of America has exported is approximately three times as much in dollars as> the value of the goods which it has imported. To that situation, there can be only one answer. We do not have to be economists, theorists or politicians to reach the conclusion. For this calculation, one needs only an ordinary knowledge of arithmetic. This form of trade must have violent repercussions. I do not condemn the United States of America. Some people in Australia would like to tell the Americans how to conduct their own affairs, but I have always believed, as a politician, that we should leave to the people of another country the determination of their own policy. We have enough troubles of our own to occupy us without preaching to people in other countries as to how best they can govern themselves. Had it not been for the assistance of the United States of America, in. World War II., Australia might have been conquered by the Japanese. When we begin to examine this problem we discover there are many matters which must be studied. If the value of the exports of a country are three times the value of its imports, there can be only one result.
The United States of America has made great contributions in order to assist other countries, and the maintenance of Japan to-day is costing an enormous sum. America has poured out billions of. dollars, and perhaps some doubt may be expressed as to the wisdom of the way in which the money was expended.. However, this granting of assistance is a tribute to the American Government, the Department of State and people who have some appreciation of the enormous problems now confronting the world.
It would be easy for me to say, as one standing on the side-line, that the only course which will remedy the situation is for the American people to make the most magnificent gesture that the world has ever seen. That idea is not easy to sell to all the American people. When we are situated so far away from America, it is easy for us to preach about lofty ideals, and what the United States of America should do. Personally, I have a somewhat scanty knowledge of the United
States of America. It is a great nation, and embraces people of all classes. Some live great distances from others, and have totally different outlooks on many international problems. For example, the people in the middle west have a strong isolationist outlook. We recall the great difficulties which American statesmen experienced in bringing the United States of America into World War I. During World War II., President Roosevelt inaugurated lend-lease for the purpose of assisting the allies. Lend-lease, in my opinion, was one of the greatest acts of statesmanship that the world has ever known. I doubt whether President Roosevelt when he inaugurated lend-lease had the wholehearted support of one-half of the American people. However, he believed that he was doing something for the preservation of liberty and the salvation of mankind and, perhaps, was saving civilization; and, therefore, he was prepared to stake his political future and reputation on time and events justifying that magnificent gesture of lend-lease. It is not always easy to convince a majority of the people of the right policy to adopt in relation to other countries. That is one of the great difficulties which American statesmen are facing to-day. I make no criticism of that. It is for the Americans, as people living in a democracy, to choose the course which they think fit.
I doubt whether the honorable member for Reid was sincere this evening in making some of the statements that he did. I have a knowledge of his ability to understand these problems, and [ know that he is not so unintelligent as not to be able to appreciate the difficulties that confront the United Kingdom and other countries which require goods from the dollar area, but which have not got sufficient dollars to pay for them. I believe that the honorable member’s speech this evening was unworthy of him, and was made for the purpose of political propaganda. It would not matter whether the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) or any one else was in office at the present time. He would have to face the reality that Australia could not get goods from the dollar area without paying for them. The great industrial barons are not philanthropists. They donot manufacture motor vehicles, cotton textiles and tractors with the idea of presenting them to us free of charge.
The conditions attached to the AngloAmerican loan contained a provision for convertibility of sterling balances, a. subject to which the honorable member for Reid referred. India, Egypt, Australia, Southern Ireland, New Zealand., and South Africa had all accumulated enormous sterling balances in London.. They were all in a position, given good seasons such as we are now experiencing,, to earn a great amount of current, sterling. That is also true of Argentina,, a country which was exporting goods toGreat Britain and charging very high prices for them. As a matter of fact,, some of the South American countries were charging bush-rangers’ prices for their goods and thereby accumulating huge sum3 of current sterling. When the convertibility provision of the AngloAmerican loan commenced to operato those countries immediately rushed in to obtain dollars. Between the time when this rush began and the time when the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the United Kingdom had to announce that dollar conversions must end there was an enormous flow of dollars from the British pool. The drain was so severe that it had to be stopped, despite the provision in the terms of the Anglo-American loan.
Ready convertibility of current sterling earnings into dollars was one of the ideals mentioned by the honorable member for Reid. The attempt to give effect to that ideal was made in bad circumstances. I admit that there could have been no more inauspicious time to attempt it. However, the experiment was tried and, from the point of view of the United Kingdom, it proved to be very disastrous. Since then, the prices of goods in hard currency areas have continued to rise so that British countries are now unable to obtain, for a given amount of dollar currency, the same quantity of goods as they could obtain previously.
Now I come down to the hard, cold facts. This is where one must be realistic. The United Kingdom Government has used almost all of the American loan.
An amount of 400,000,000 dollars was held in the pool when the convertibility provision ceased to operate, and it remains frozen. That reserve may be released as the result of negotiations associated with the Marshall plan. I have had no official advice to that effect, but 1 am hopeful that it will be released. The British Government had about £600,000,000 sterling in gold reserves when the crisis occurred. It has had to draw extensively on those reserves. In addition, it has had to borrow from the International Bank and the International Monetary Fund. It has had to deprive its own people of vital goods, including the capital equipment that was mentioned by the honorable member for Reid and the honorable member for New England in order that it might export those goods to earn dollars for the purchase of, not luxuries, but necessaries of life for the British people.
It would not be pleasant for any government or any treasurer to be forced to impose restrictions upon the importation of goods which the people of Australia need. In many instances, goods which have been banned are semi-essential, and others, though not luxuries, represent desirable commodities for the community. Anybody who thinks that a government or a treasurer would undertake a task such as that merely because of some ca price is very foolish. This Government tackled the job of restricting imports only with the utmost reluctance.
I have mentioned the drain on British gold reserves. This Government has agreed to sell Australia’s current gold output: to the United Kingdom.. The gold will be sold for sterling and will represent a contribution to the United Kingdom’s gold reserves. It is true that the Government of the United Kingdom requested that we should live within our dollar earnings, but that is an impossible task. T could talk for hours about the things mentioned by the honorable member for Reid without covering all aspects of them. For instance, I could discuss how we are sending certain goods to Great Britain so that the British people will not he forced to expend dollars in purchasing similar goods in other countries. That means that we are sending to the United Kingdom metals, other raw materials and foodstuffs which we could sell elsewhere. The wisdom of this policy ought to be appreciated.
Last year, despite the restrictions that this Government had imposed, the net deficit in Australia’s balance of payments with North America was about 3 00,000,000 dollars. This year, even though we have imposed further restrictions upon the use of dollars, we find that the situation is still rapidly deteriorating. Very reasonable supervision has been maintained over the issuing of import licenses for goods that involve dollar expenditure, but, owing to increased prices and other reasons, we are still importing far larger quantities of dollar goods than we could expect a country which is starved of dollars to sell to us. Those are the hard, cold facts.
Despite all the talk by the honorable member for Reid and the honorable member for New England about restriction of imports from dollar areas, I cannot at this moment say whether even the suggested restrictions that will be considered by Cabinet on Monday will be sufficient to meet the demands of the situation. I noticed a statement in the British press last week in which a very high tribute was paid to the co-operation of the Australian Government in saving dollars. That statement declared that if other countries had done a? the United Kingdom and Australia had done the United Kingdom would by now have been much nearer than it is to the top of the very steep hill to complete economic rehabilitation which it is climbing.
The Government has examined all of the suggestions that have been made to it to-night. We have spent many weary days on this task, but our efforts have been as nothing in comparison with those of the magnificent staff of public servants associated with this work. They have been asked to perform a tremendous volume of work. .Sometimes public servants are condemned in this House, but the Minister.? who were associated with the Geneva trade negotiations for month after month did only one- twentieth of the work that was done by the public servants who assisted them. Our examination of dollar imports required only one-twentieth of the work that public servants had to do, working through week-ends and at night.
The Government is discussing the problems associated with dollar shortages with the various industries affected in order that it may have the considered views of everybody on the subject. We are anxious to cushion the impact of restrictions so that industries may be kept operating as much as possible and so that people employed in them shall suffer as little as possible. It is easy to talk about disemploying persons engaged in the journalistic profession or in the printing trade, but such disemployment would mean tearing men away from the callings which they have selected for their lifetime vocations. It is very easy to say that jobs could be found elsewhere for these people. But to remove a man from his chosen profession or industry to another job involves disrupting his family life and taking him away from his accustomed’ surroundings. There is no shortage of work in this country. There are not nearly enough people to do all the work required to be done. However, disemployment of some of us in this Parliament, for instance, would not help very much to expedite, I say, the laying of steel rails at Bourke, where men have to work in a temperature of 100 degrees. To tell the truth, I do not think that many of us would be much good at that joh.
I have tried to give, as accurately as is possible, information that will enable honorable members and those with whom they come in contact to appreciate the dollar situation. It is no good talking nonsense about this matter. If there is nothing in the purse with which to buy things, we must just “knock off” buying. That sums up the position. All of the suggestions made by the honorable member for New England and the honorable member for Reid regarding exports to dollar countries and to hard currency areas have been examined by the Government. Implementation of their suggestions in some instances would involve depriving our people of things which they badly need. For example, Australia could sell any given quantity of worsteds to other countries. However, Australians cannot obtain enough of these materials and, if the Government tried to earn dollars by selling them abroad, a great “ squeal “ would be raised.
My final word in relation to this matter is that we must guard against the exhaustion of the British Empire dollar pool. Should the pool reach such a low ebb that dollars cannot be released to us, then we must sharply cut off imports of all things that we now hope to purchase with dollars. That would mean a sudden disruption of the national economy. We want to avoid doing that and to continue to do justice to our own people and to our great allies, the people of the United Kingdom.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 8.kU to 9.-57 p.m.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Egg Export Control Bill 1947. Egg Export Charges Bill 1947. Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill 1947. Treaty of Peace (Italy) Bill 1947. Treaty of Peace (Roumania) Bill 1947. Treaty of Peace (Hungary) Bill 1947. Treaty of Peace (Finland) Bill 1947. Treaty of Peace (Bulgaria) Bill 1947. Commonwealth Public Service Bill (No. 2) 1947.
Beer Excise Bill (No. 2) 1947. Distillation Bill 1947. Spirits Bill 1947. Excise Bill 1947.’
Air Navigation Bill (No. 2) 1947. Australian National Airlines Bill 1947. International Labour Organization Bill 1947.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting.
Mr. CHIFLEY (Macquarie - Prime
Minister and Treasurer) [9.39]. - I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I take this opportunity to wish honorable members, and all those associated with the work of the Parliament, a pleasant festive season and a happy new year. I extend my personal thanks to all those who have helped in the work of the Parliament. I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the way in which you have conducted the proceedings of the House, the Chairman of Committees, the Temporary Chairmen of Committees, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) for their co-operation. May I also express my appreciation of the work of the members of the Hansard staff, for whom I have at times felt very sorry because of the great strain under which they work? I have always entertained great admiration for the excellent speeches they contrive to make. I never check my own speeches, because they always seem to me to be so much better than anything I ever hoped to make. Let me also add my good wishes to the members of the press gallery, who have been assigned the task of reporting the proceedings of the Parliament - not always to my liking, I must admit - but they must do their work according to the dictates of their own minds, and the policy of the newspapers which they represent. I am indebted to honorable members on both sides of the House for the tolerance and courtesy extended to me personally, and to the Ministers who have had the task of answering the very curly questions which have been bowled up to them at times. My colleagues have been loyal and sympathetic towards me and my shortcomings.
We have had a long and strenuous sessional period. I am disappointed that the Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Australian Country party have not been able to approve in full of the measures which the Government has brought before the Parliament. I hope that time will mellow their attitude towards those measures, and that they will be able to see the wisdom of the legislation which the Government has initiated, but I am not hopeful.
– I have learned that in life one must take the good with the bad, and not complain of fate when it is temporarily unkind. I have had the privilege - undeserved, I think - of being leader of the House. I express the hope that, whatever differences of opinion we may have had, we shall not leave here entertaining personal grudges. As for the two independents, I do not know to what class they belong.
– First class.
– However, I extend to them my felicitations. For one thing, at any rate, I have to thank them - they have not been prolific interjectors. I offer my best wishes to honorable members and to their families, and to the staff of the Parliament. We appreciate the many little attentions which we have received from those who have served us ungrudgingly in the Parliament. I also thank those who have presented their grievances to the Government for their courtesy and understanding of the difficulties which the Government has to face.
– This has been a long sessional period. It seems, indeed, to have been very much longer than it, apparently, has been in fact. Speaking for myself, I am very glad that it has ended, and that this very strenuous parliamentary period has drawn to a close. In common with all honorable members, I am very relieved at the prospect of a break. I concur in the expressions of goodwill uttered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). I offer my own appreciation of those who, both inside and outside of this chamber, have improved our efficiency and, in our less efficient moments, have ministered to our comfort. I particularly appreciate the personal relationship which has existed between the Prime Minister and myself. That is important in a parliament,because, as honorable members know, the Leader of the Opposition is fated, while he occupies that position, to he in a chronic minority. He is one of the elements of the parliamentary machine. The existence of a good personal relationship between the leaders of opposing parties is of vital importance. In saying that, I am conscious of the profound political differences which exist between the Prime Minister and myself; they are, of necessity, numerous, and, of necessity, they are deep, because I think I may say that both of us hold our political views strongly. At the same time, I appreciate the nature of the relationship which has existed between us in the conduct of the business of the House, insofar as I have been a participant.
I should like to add a word of appreciation of the members on my side of the House. We are an Opposition which is substantially outnumbered. However. 1 do not think that any honorable member could say that at any time after the last two elections, when we sustained heavy defeats, we exhibited any ill spirit. We returned to this House, recognizing the will of the people, and we have had a difficult task to perform, because of the mass of very important legislation which has been introduced. No honorable gentleman who occupied the position of Leader of the Opposition could have discharged his duties without the degree of co-operation and friendly assistance which I have received from those who sit behind me, and I want to make an acknowledgment to the members of my own party, and to the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and his supporters, of the very friendly and helpful co-operation which I! have received from them. Without that co-operation I could not have carried on.
– I desire to associate myself with the sentiments expressed so aptly by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). Notwithstanding all the pressure which has been brought to bear upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), inside and outside the House, he, like the Rock of Gibraltar, remains firm, and leads the Parliament and the Parliamentary Labour party. Nothing seems to move him, he still comes up and “ look9 for more “ ; although I believe that he has underestimated tho real feeling of the people of Australia to-day. However, the time will come when the people will have an opportunity of expressing, in no uncertain manner, their opinion, through the ballot-box, which is the only constitutional means left to us. Nevertheless, I appreciate all that the right honorable gentleman has said. Obviously, the duty of honorable members on this side of the House is to oppose - and I trust that we oppose constructively - the measures which his Government brings down.
– Not necessarily.
– Yes, necessarily, because the Government has always been wrong. However, I join with the Leader of the Opposition in his expressions of goodwill and good fellowship to members and supporters of the Government. The present sessional period has undoubtedly been a strenuous one : indeed, it has been so trying that even friends have looked askance at one another and have disagreed. That, of course, was inevitable because of the nature of the measures introduced by the Government, measures which have reacted strongly on the minds of the people of Australia. The people realize that those measures are major ones, and the nature and magnitude of the Government’s proposals have, unfortunately, divided the Australian people.
Members of the Opposition, which includes both the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, will continue to exert the greatest possible vigilance, because we conscientiously believe that the measures which this Government has introduced are not in the best interests of Australia.
I extend goodwill and seasonal greetings to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the officers of the House. A democratic team cannot consist solely of “ spin bowlers “, and the people of Australia and their representatives in this House must, in the nature of things, profess differing views. Indeed, that is one of the qualities which go to make up democracy. As a member of this House for some years, I realize how well we have been served by the members of the staff of the Parliament, and, on behalf of the Australian Country party and myself, I extend to them the compliments of the season.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Air Navigation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 162.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations’ by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1947 -
No. 101 - Commonwealth Temporary Clerks’ Association and Federated Clerks’ Union of Australia.
No. 102 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia.
Nos. 103 and 104 - -Hospital Employees’ Federation of Australasia.
No. 105 - Commonwealth Legal Professional Officers’ Association.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Appointment - J. Dyer.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of the Interior -
Gr. H. N. Smith, N. L. G. Williams.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Rationing) Regulations - Order - No. 151.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, Maternity Allowance Act, Child Endowment Act, Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act, Widows’ Pensions Act - Fifth and Sixth Annual Reports of the Director-General of Social Services for years 1945-46 and 1946-47. respectively.
Papua-New Guinea Provisional Administration Act - Ordinance - 1947 - No. 12 - Australian Lutheran Mission Property.
Postmaster-General’s Department - Thirtysixth Annual Report, for year 1945-46.
House adjourned at 9.50 p.m. to a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The Commonwealth Government has already selected and procured from the United States authorities surplus earth-moving equipment to the value of several million dollars. This equipment has been made available to government and essential private industries for postwar reconstruction purposes. Inquiries are at present being made in Manila as to whether any further surplus equipment suitable for use in Australia is available.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Answers are being prepared and will be forwarded to the honorable member as soon as practicable.
Common wealth Superannuation Act.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr.Chifley. - Answers are being prepared and will be forwarded to the honorable member within the next few days.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1, 2 and 3. The Australian representative on the Council of World Food and Agriculture Organization pointed out to the council that Australia was rationing wheat for stockfeeding, in order to make maximum amounts of wheat available for export to needy countries for human consumption, in accordance with Government policy. The Australian representative also pointed out that Australia had made substantial cutsin wheat for stock-feeding, and asked that this be recognized by both importing and exporting countries. The question, however, is wider than the utilization of imported grain by needy countries, as owing to domestic difficulties of collection and distribution it may be possible to use home-grown grain for stock-feeding, and to use imported grain for human needs.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) Great Britain, 31; (b) India, 6;. (c) elsewhere, 32.
t asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Is this the Government’s way of preventing growers receiving full export value and compelling them to subsidize other stock feeders with fodder at less than its saleable value ?
d. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows : -
Medical Services: Negotiations with British Medical Association ; Flying Doctor Service.
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has supplied the following information : -
Health. The matters discussed have not been considered by the Government. Accordingly, it is regarded as premature to publish the report.
n asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Papua and New Guinea: Housing at Port Moresby; Copra.
e asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Externa] Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
on asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
British Postmaster-General regarding the respective amounts received by the Australian and British postal authorities on food parcels for Great Britain?
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following information : -
Communism: Issue of Passports.
y. - On the 27th November, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) asked questions concerning the issue of a passport to Mrs. Laura Gapp The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following information:-
In her application for a passport, Mrs. Gap declared that she desired to proceed to the United Kingdom for the purpose of “seeing relations and holiday “, and that she expected to be absent from Australia for a period of six months. She also declared that during the next five years it is likely that she will travel to or through the following countries: - “ France, Czechoslovakia, Russia, Singapore, India, Malta, China, South Africa”.
It is not the rule to withhold passport facilities because of a person’s political beliefs ana as Mrs. Gapp complied with all require ments the issue of a passport in her favour was approved.
Armed Forces: Deferred Pay.
y. - On the 21st November, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) brought under my notice a letter from a member of the forces embodying a complaint as to delay having occurred in making payments in respect of leave due to members of the forces. I promised to ascertain whether payment could be expedited. The service departments which were charged with the responsibility for effecting, as soon as possible after the 30th June, 1947, payment to members of the forces for leave, have supplied the following information : -
The delay referred to has been due, in the main, to the work involved in obtaininng decisions and assessing leave credits which were spread over a period of approximately six years of war, and in many cases carried forward, in whole or in part, from year to year, and ensuring that members received uniformly the benefit of the taxation concessions approved by the Government. Whilst every endeavour is being made to effect early payment, some time must necessarily elapse before all payments are completed.
y. - On the 27th November, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) raised the question of South Africa’s position in relation to the dollar scarcity and asked what the arrangements were for pooling the available gold and dollar resources of the sterling area. I now inform the honorable member as follows: -
The net dollar receipts of members of thesterling area are pooled and the members concerned are credited with sterling. Members of the sterling area are entitled to convert their sterling balances into dollars to pay for imports from the dollar area as requiredIn order, however, to conserve the limited dollar resources of the sterling area,, members generally (including Australia) have restricted imports from the dollar area togoods needed to meet essentia] requirements. South Africa is in a special position insofar as arrangements have for some time been madebetween that Dominion and the United Kingdom whereby South Africa sold gold, (which is equivalent to dollars) to the United Kingdom and in return pursued an independent policy in relation to imports from dollarareas.
In the most recent financial agreement between the Governments of the United Kingdom and the Union of South Africa which was announced on the 9th October, 1947, the latter country agreed to lend the United Kingdom £stg. 80,000,000 in gold for three years, interest being payable at the rate of one-half of one per cent, per annum. In addition, South Africa will continue to sell gold to the Bank of England equivalent in amount to the net non-sterling , obligations incurred by South Africa.
Thus South Africa not only meets .’ill her own current expenditure in the non-sterling area by providing gold to an equivalent value, but, in addition, has made a substantial loan of gold to assist in meeting the immediate dollar difficulties of the other members of the British Commonwealth.
In these circumstances, South Africa has not felt it necessary to restrict her dollar imports and, in fact, has removed quantitative control of imports from all sources.
Civil Aviation : Department op Air Public Relations Office; Country Aerodromes.
asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
d. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows :-
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation,- upon notice -
d. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 December 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19471204_reps_18_195/>.