18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Eosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I lay on the tahle the following paper: -
International Monetary Agreements Act - Annual Report on operations of the Act, and on the operations, insofar as they relate to Australia, of the International Monetary Fund Agreement and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development Agreement, for year 1947-48.
A copy of the report will be made available this afternoon to any honorable member who desires to peruse it. I move -
That the paper he printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
IMMIGRATION. non-e urofea ns - activities through Ex-servicemen’s Organizations - Australian Citizens Abroad - Employment in Rural Industries. Mr. LANG.- Will the Minister for Immigration say how many AngloIndians have been given facilities to come to Australia? What is their average age? How many of their wives are Eurasians? In the allocation of berths on ships, were they given priority of British-born citizens who desire to emigrate to Australia? Has the Minister received a report from a member of the Immigration Advisory Council who travelled on one of the ships which brought these immigrants to Australia on whether they can be regarded as suitable types? If not, will he obtain such a report?
– No Indians are given preference over British subjects in the matter of shipping. I have net received a report from a member of the Immigration Advisory Committee on the recent arrival of some Eurasians in Aus tralia. I have discussed the matter with Mr. P. R. Wilkins, the secretary of the Associated Chambers of Commerce, and also with Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for Lang and the honorable member for Fawkner. I have had a complete investigation made. There were either 69 or 7.3 Indians on Stratheden, but they all were bound for New Zealand. There were 69 Eurasians on the vessel, three of whom, it was considered by the Commonwealth Immigration Officer at Perth, should not have been permitted to sail, and they will probably be sent back. I propose to write a letter giving the full facts to the honorable gentlemen who have raised the matter with me. The general policy regarding the admission of persons of non-European origin or descent has been for many years that a person who is more than 53 per cent, cf European origin or descent shall be admitted. I stated recently that one has to go back seven or eight generations sometimes in order to reach such a fine point of distinction as that between European descent and non-European descent. In practice, persons who are 75 per cent. European origin are generally admitted. Those persons must also be preponderantly European in habits and appearance. Occasionally, of course, officers with delegated authority do not always interpret their duties as strictly as they might and in those instances we must send people whom they have passed back again to their uaiive lands.
– Is it correct that the Minister for Immigration, has promised special shipping facilities to the Australian Legion of Ex-service Men and Women in order to bring British ex-service personnel to Australia? If so, can the Minister give to the House any information about the number of British migrants who, it is expected, will come here under that scheme? Is it intended that they shall engage in rural occupations ?
– I have had discussions wilh the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and I have informed the Australian Legion of Ex-service Men and Women that I. 3hall be glad to do for it anything that I am prepared to do for the league in connexion with migration. The British Government has promised us that it will allot 47,000 free berths next year for persons who wish to come to Australia under the free and assisted passage schemes. Up to date we have received 41,000 nominations from Australian relatives or friends who are prepared to accommodate that number of people in their homes. It would be an awful commentary upon us if, after being allotted 47,000 berths, we could fill only 41,000 of them. I spoke at the Returned Servicemen’s League congress in Brisbane recently and asked the federal body of that organization to adopt the plan which had already been approved by its Victorian congress, under which each sub-branch of the State branch is asked to nominate one British ex-service migrant. I said that if every sub-branch of the league could obtain sufficient nominations, I should be very happy to allot ;i ship to each one to bring to this country SOO or 1,000 people at a time. I said that we would even call any ship that could be filled with British ex-servicemen and their dependants an “R.S.L. ship”.
– Most of them are being called hell ships.
– I do not think that the ships which are. now operating on the United Kingdom-Australia route can be so described. They are all very good ships which have been reconditioned since the war. Unfortunately, many men who wanted to come here under troopship conditions were not allowed to do so by the British authorities because it was thought that there would be complaints. However, we are giving all the support that we can give to any organization of ex-servicemen or others which is disposed to help us to find accommodation for British immigrants.
– Will the Minister for Immigration say whether his department in London, or any other Commonwealth department, has a reserve of berths on ships coming to Australia ? My question is prompted by the fact that many Australian citizens in Great Britain are experiencing great difficulty in securing passages back to this country.
– The Department of Immigration has no reserve of berths.
We own no ships, and are dependent on the goodwill of the shipping companies and the British Government for the provision of all berths. A number of migrant ships have been provided by the British Ministry of Transport. In all, eight of such ships are in operation. The number will be increased to ten, early in the New year, and later to twelve. Georgie will be sailing for Australia early in January with 2,000 migrants, which will be the biggest shipload of people that has ever come to this country under any immigration scheme. There is an arrangement between the Australian High Commissioner and the Conference line of steamers, by which a number of berths are provided for returning Australians on the ships owned by the Conference line, such as the Orient line, the Peninsular and Orient line, the Blue Funnel line and other well known lines. The number of berths allotted is relatively small. Next year 70,000 berths will be allotted for British migrants, of which, as I have already indicated, 47,000 will come to this country under the free and assisted passage scheme. The remaining 23,000 berths will be for the people who will pay their fares. Most of them will not be Australians. I am unable to do anything for the long list of Australians at present waiting in London for passages to this country, and I understand that the Australian High Commissioner cannot do much for them either. A lot of people who go abroad have the mistaken belief that they will be able to get a return berth to Australia within from three to six months. We go to very great pains to emphasize to people contemplating visits overseas that they will be very fortunate if they can get a berth to return to this country within twelve months of the time of their departure. Some people are able to get back sooner than twelve months because they occupy official positions or have influence, or have some other reason to support their applications. The advice that I give to people who tell me of their impending visit to England is that, if their work is not important, they should wait for a while, but that if they must go, they run the risk of not being able to get back to Australia for twelve or eighteen months.
– by Leave- On the 23rd November, the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) asked a question, without notice, regarding the proportion of immigrants . brought to Australia from Great Britain and displaced persons’ camps in Europe since the introduction of the present migration schemes who have accepted employment in rural industries. On the 3rd December, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked a similar question, without notice, relating to the absorption of migrants in rural areas of Australia. He wished to know what action the Government was taking to help rural areas with manpower and population from the migration stream, and what procedure people in country districts should follow to avail themselves of the services of migrants.
Australia’s immigration programme has been designed to provide the manpower most needed in the nation’s evergrowing economy. Already rural areas have been helped considerably by the provision of man-power from the migration stream. Much greater use of our new settlers could be made by farmers and rural employers, and the Government has been working for some time on plans to provide the services of additional migrants in rural areas. Honorable members know that the two greatest sources of new settlers for Australia are the United Kingdom, and the displaced persons’ camps of Europe. Migrants reaching Australia from the United Kingdom under the free and assisted passage schemes must first be nominated by a resident here who can guarantee them accommodation. Any adult person who <-an guarantee accommodation may nominate a British migrant or migrants. Personal nominations may be made for relatives or friends and group nominations for parties of workers.
As I told the honorable member for Darline last week, officers of the Department of Immigration have conferred with representatives of the graziers’ associations farmers and settlers associations, and other rural interests with a view to having them encourage their members to nominate migrants for placement on farms. At a conference be tween Commonwealth and State Ministers for Immigration held in Canberra last October, the Commonwealth put forward plans for the formation of district committees in all States to canvass rural areas for nominators. This scheme was adopted.
Through its departmental bulletin,. To-morrow’s Australians, and the country press in all States, the Department of Immigration is seeking more and more nominators for British migrants who are anxious to settle in rural areas. If any farmer or rural employer wishes to obtain the services of a British migrant, he should get in touch with his State immigration authority which receives all nominations under the free and assisted passage schemes and will be glad to explain the simple nomination procedure. I repeat that the only proviso is that the nominator must guarantee to provide accommodation for the migrant. I emphasize that it is not necessary for a nominator to know his nominee personally. If an employer needs labour, all he has to do is to approach his State migration authority to obtain a migrant qualified to fill the position. By every mail from the United Kingdom, dozens of letters arrive from people seeking nominators. Those letters are filed so that when an intending nominator writes to a State immigration authority, he can be quickly put in touch with prospective migrants of the type he requires.
Most honorable members are familiar with the contribution which has been made to rural industry by migrants from the displaced persons’ camps of Europe. They know how European migrants helped to harvest the Queensland and northern New South Wales sugar-cane crop. Leaders of various State governments and rural organizations have expressed appreciation of the services of these new settlers for their work in saving- the stone fruit crop in South Australia, in dairying and pig farming, in wheat harvesting, in pastoral pursuits, in the growing of fruit and vegetables, in the raising of poultry, and in the felling and processing of timber in country areas. To date, cf the 8,155 displaced persons placed in employment. 2,963, or approximately 36 per cent.. have been allocated to rural industries in the following categories : -
So far, the Commonwealth has confined its allocation of displaced person labour to essential industries for which sufficient Australian labour is not offering and in areas where accommodation can be provided on the job in barracks, huts or tents. During the next eighteen months, Australia will be welcoming 100,000 or more of these fine new settlers from Europe, and will be able to make more of them available for work in rural areas where accommodation can be provided without detriment to the accommodation of Australians. The Commonwealth Employment Service acts as agent for the Department of Immigration in placing European migrants in employment, and any employer in rural industry needing the services of European migrants should communicate with the District Employment Officer of the Commonwealth Employment Service in bis area.
Those are the main sources from which rural labour can be expected. In addition, the Commonwealth has encouraged the migration to Australia of skilled Dutch farmers. Last May, 40 of them reached Australia in the vessel Talisse, and next month 100 more of these fine types will reach Australia in Volendam. There, in brief, is an indication of what the Government has already done to help rural industry with man-power from the migration streams. Already much has been done, but the Government is anxious that more should be dene. Next year, we have assured migrant shipping for 45,000 assisted new settlers from Britain. Next year we shall receive a large number of the 100,000 displaced persons who will be coming here. The Government seeks the support and active co-operation of all rural organizations in helping to provide the accommodation and employment which will enable more and more of these newcomers to find theii way into Australian .rural areas.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether he has had an opportunity tostudy a report by the trade delegation of the Associated Chambers of Commercf which surveyed the trade possibilities in south-east and central Africa. In view of its value and interest,, will he consider the advisability of having it printed in compact form and madp available to Australian exporters?
– I have received a copy of the report of the delegation that visited South Africa but I have not yet had the time to read it, although I havehad sufficient time to glance at it and discover that it contains glowing and complimentary references to the services rendered by the Australian trade commissioner and his staff in South Africa. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture and the Government made the services of those officers available to accompany the delegation during its tour. I shall consider whether the report should be published and made available to the people of the Commonwealth.
Reconstruction Training Scheme
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has recently made available to honorable members some details of the progress of the reconstruction training scheme and I should like to know whether he can now acquaint the House with the position in respect of assistance to students attending universities under the Government’s civilian assistance scheme and also whether therr would be instances where such assistance is made available to the sons and daughters of pensioners and widows. Can a comparison be made of the results achieved by these assisted students and those achieved by non-assisted students?
– I can give some information in relation to the civilian assistance scheme, which was started in 1943 as a war-time measure. At that time it was necessary to limit the number of young people attending universities because of the nation’s need for their services in the war effort. Since the inception of the scheme, 5,300 students have benefited by it and the total cost u,p to the present has been nearly £1,500,000. Just on 2,000 persons are, at the moment, in receipt of assistance. This number includes approximately 600 who commenced receiving benefits this year. With regard to the results achieved by assisted students, I am happy to say that for tho last university year approximately 80 per cent, of those in receipt of financial assistance passed their examinations as against 65 per cent, of those who are not in receipt of assistance. The scheme provides assistance for sons and daughters of people from many walks of life, including widows, pensioners, skilled and unskilled tradesmen, primary producers. &c. T>r instance, at the universities last year nearly 300 sons and daughters of widows and about 100 whose parents are retired or are invalid pensioners were in receipt of assistance.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether the production of butter, and exports of that commodity to the United Kingdom, have yet reached a level at which, without prejudice to supplies to the United Kingdom, the Government could consider removing the ban on the sale of cream to the Australian public?
– The quantity of butter which is being exported to the United Kingdom is increasing substantially. The retention of the ban on the sale of cream to the Australian public does not depend so much upon increased production in this country as on the total supplies of butter available to the United Kingdom from all sources. Such supplies are not yet sufficient to satisfy ine .needs of the United Kingdom, and, in the circumstances, the Government does jiot propose to remove the ban on the sale of cream.
– I address to the Minister for the Interior a question relative to the use by the Commonwealth during the war of certain blocks of privately owned land for the storage of petrol. The experience of one of my constituents will illustrate the point. Petrol storage tanks were erected on the land, unknown to the owner, and the only compensation which he received was in the form of the payment of the .rates at a later date. Will the Minister inform me -whether the Government intends to acquire all land that it has used for such purposes? If so, will my constituent be paid at an early date? If the Government does not propose to buy the land, may my constituent expect to receive rent for it covering the war years, and the release of the area for home building purposes? My constituent is an exserviceman with a family who desires to erect a house on the land.
– It is difficult for me to give an accurate answer to the honorable member’s question without having the details of the case to which she has referred. However, I assure her that adequate compensation will be paid in respect of the period durinsr which the Commonwealth has used the land. If she will give me the details of the case, I shall have the matter investi gated and supply a definite answer as early as possible.
Qantas Empire Airways Limited - Loss of Aircraft “Lutana”.: Report ot
Air Court of Inquiry
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation supply any information relative to the operation of Qantas Empire Airways Limited since it has been taken over by the Government? Is it true, as has been suggested in some quarters, that the company has sustained losses over the last year? If so, what is the amount of such losses? When does the Minister expect to be able to make a statement to the House on this matter ?
– I can give some information on this subject now, but it is not complete. Qantas Empire Airways Limited was taken over by the Government in July last year, and it completed its financial year in March this year. The company has not suffered financial losses since it was taken over by the Government. In fact, I hope to be able to make a statement in the near future which will make it clear that the company is making a profit. It was permitted to purchase Constellation aircraft and is conducting a service parallel with that which is operated by the British Overseas Airways Corporation. I am given to understand by the Qantas management, the directors of which, including the managing director, have been appointed by this Government, that it expects to be able to report a profit of between £50,000 and £100,000 on the year’s operations. A meeting of the company will be held on Friday, the 17th December, when the directors propose to declare a dividend to the shareholders, now the Australian Government. After that date I hope to be able to make a statement that will remove any delusions that may have been created by suggestions published in the press that all government airlines operate at a loss.
– In the light of the statement of the Prime Minister that he is prepared to make a movable feast of Christmas and to take the appropriate action in connexion with the adjournment of the House, will he now assure the House that the report of the Air Court of Enquiry on the loss of the aircraft Lutana will be debated before the House rises ?
– The only assurance that I can give the Acting Leader of the Opposition is that the Lutana inquiry report will not be debated before the House rises. The House will meet early next year and honorable members will have the opportunity to refresh their minds on the facts during the recess.
– Some honorable members desire to refresh their minds at home.
– Some honorable members are not here all the time to do the work of the Parliament. Some of us sticks to the job of attending the House. Some of us have been here for fifteen weeks. Others have found it possible to take breaks away and the business of the Parliament can still go on without them. The Lutana inquiry report will be put on the notice-paper for debate, if necessary, as either the first or second item, when the Parliament re-assembles in the New Year.
– Some concern has heen felt by flax-growers and employees in the flax industry since the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture stated last week that the Commonwealth intends to dispose of its assets in the industry. 1 now ask the Minister whether any finality has been reached with the States in connexion with the offer made by the Commonwealth to dispose of its assets to them?
– It is true that the Commonwealth intends to vacate the field of flax production and we have indicated to the State governments concerned that we are prepared to receive offers for the mills. We have not yet had any response from any of the State governments. However, a date-line must soon be drawn, and if no response has been received from the States by that time, the Commonwealth will make the mills available to whoever desires to purchase them.
– Has the Minister for Immigration seen in the Sydney Daily Telegraph to-day, the report of the Minister’s reply to the honorable member for Henty, who yesterday alleged that a pro-Fascist statement had been made recently by an Italian in Sydney? Is the accompanying statement by the editor of the Daily Telegraph in accordance with the truth?
– I saw the report in the Daily Telegraph this morning. 1 had a discussion with a reporter of the Daily Telegraph last evening about some comment that the editorial board or the editor of the Daily Telegraph himself had felt impelled to make about my reply to the honorable member for Henty yesterday. The honorable member for Henty asked me whether a certain Italian resident in Sydney had made a speech pro-Fascist in content at a reception to the Italian Opera Company and suggested that he should be deported. I said that I had made inquiries in Sydney over the week-end and had been told that whilst this emotional Latin gentleman had made a speech that was a little political in character the report of what he had said was grossly exaggerated. I said that I had spoken to a person, not of Italian nationality, who spoke Italian and had heard the speech, and that he had said that the report was grossly exaggerated. This morning the Daily Telegraph claims that a translation of the speech in a condensed form had been shown to an American Jesuit priest who had been at the function. There is no American Jesuit priest in Sydney. There is ari American Capuchin priest there and he is the man to whom I talked. So both the Daily Telegraph and f got our reports from the same source. I told the truth to the Parliament. The reverend gentleman, told me that he had read the report in the Daily Telegraph and that it was grossly exaggerated. I leave it to the editor of the Daily Telegraph to square the issue with the reverend gentleman. I am quite certain that he told me the truth of what happened.
General Assembly - Economic Commission for Asia and the Par East.
– I ask the Prime Minister who was the Australian representative at the meeting of the United Nations in Paris who opposed a Canadian proposal that the so-called Big Five should appoint a Palestine conciliation commission. Is it a fact that the Canadian proposal was supported by the United States of America and Britain? Is it a fact also, as reported in the Montreal Star, that the Australian delegate attacked Canada, the United States of America and Great Britain? Who instructed our representative to take the line that he took on the Canadian proposal? Will the Prime Minister obtain a full report of his address and table it in the House? Who instructed Dr. Coombs at the meeting of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East to move for the admission of the Indonesian Republic as an associate member against the strongest expressed views of the delegates of the United States of America and the Netherlands, and apparently against the views of the United Kingdom, but in full support of the views of Soviet Russia? Was Dr.
Coombs given full authority to vote ashe thought fit, or did he merely carry out the instructions of the Government?
– In reply to the first part of the honorable member’s question concerning the decisions made at Paris,. I point out that the Minister for External Affairs has been abroad for some time and’ has spent a lot of time in Paris. Subject to observance of the general policy of the Government, the matters which arise at. international conferences are left to hisdiscretion. The mere fact that the Government of the United Kingdom or the United States of America or some other nation holds certain views on particular subjects is no reason why we should simply fall in with those views. On other occasions in this House I have made it perfectly clear that this Government has its own independent views, and that although our objective is to co-operate with the- United Kingdom and theUnited States of America in all matters that fundamentally concern world peace,, and to co-operate particularly with theUnited Kingdom in economic matters,, with which I have also dealt at considerable length in the House from time totime, members of the present Government do not simply go around to find out what the governments of other nations arethinking and adopt their ideas. What would be the use of that procedure? I shall never lead or be a member of a. government that subscribes to such a policy. We are entitled to our point of view on all subjects of discussion that arise. The particular matters referred toby the honorable member are not of worldshaking importance. There are, however,, certain fundamental matters such as theeconomic position of the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth of Nations that vitally concern the peace of the world, in which Australia must pull together with the other members of theCommonwealth. When disputes arise concerning such matters it is necessary for members of the British Commonwealth toreconcile their differences. The honorable member asked a number of questions concerning the recent international conference in Paris, and, at his request, 3 shall have a statement prepared to cover the questions which he has raised. The- honorable member referred to the Conference of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Ear East which is at present being held at Lapstone. I assure him that, on behalf of the Government, I accept full responsibility for the actions of Dr. Coombs at the conference. The particular matter mentioned by the honorable member was discussed by the Government. Some most complex considerations arise from the particular issue, and I must confess that the honorable member gave me certain information. I was not previously aware that Dr. Coombs had moved the motion-
– I said nothing of the sort.
– I gathered that the honorable gentleman said that Dr. Coombs had moved the motion.
– I said nothing of the sort. I said that Dr. Coombs had voted for the admission of the Indonesian Republic.
– The honorable gentleman said that Dr. Coombs had moved the motion.
– I shall not quarrel with the honorable gentleman; I can only say that my hearing must be very much impaired if he did not use the word “ move “.
– I read my question and the script does not contain the word “ move “.
– Then the honorable gentleman must have read rightly from something that was written wrongly. The admission of the Indonesian Republic as an associate member of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East was discussed by the Government early in the week. I took the opportunity of explaining the matter to Ministers in its minutest details. I have kept closely in touch with Dr. Coombs, through the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs, and I can inform the honorable member that it was extremely difficult in the earlier stages of the conference to ascertain what attitude the delegates of the Government of the United Kingdom, the United States of America, or any other nation was going to adopt, and we made up our minds, as we always do in these matters, on the policy that our delegation should follow. What happened at the conference is that the motion referred to by the honorable member was carried, and the Netherlands and the United States delegates were the only ones who voted against it. Concerning the abstentions from voting, I have not seen a report this morning of the voting. The last information I have had on the matter I obtained by telephone from the Australian delegation yesterday afternoon. As honorable members are aware, the meeting of the Parliament prevented me from attending .the conference as I would normally have done. I have, however, kept in touch with developments, and some days ago I was informed of the attitude that would probably be adopted by the Dutch delegation if a certain resolution were adopted. As J said previously, the delegates of some nations did not know what attitude they would adopt. Our sister dominion had certain discussions about the matter, and finally the New Zealand delegation moved a motion along a particular line. That motion had the support of the Australian delegation. The only nations which opposed it were the United States of America and the Netherlands.
– No European nation supported it except Russia. France abstained.
– The honorable member will have to abstain from certain activities if he keeps on interrupting.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Dominions of India and Pakistan did not give some thought to it? Although the peoples of those dominions are of a colour different from ours, they form part of the British Commonwealth of Nations. I think it may be said that of all the dominions New Zealand had the truest British outlook. The United Kingdom representatives abstained from voting on thi1 resoluticn.
– The Australian representatives should have done likewise.
– The United Kingdom did not vote against the motion. There is nothing more that I can add ‘ except to say that this matter was given full consideration by the Australian Government before the vote was taken. I was in telephonic communication with the leader of the Australian delegation and I understood precisely what was happening. I knew fouror five days ago what was likely to happen. Some of the European nations were unable to make up their minds what to do about the matter.
– I present the first reportof the Printing Committee.
Report read by the Clerk, and - by leave - adopted.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of the bill is two-fold, namely : -
The Coal Production (War-time) Act 1944, which was assented to on the 8th March, 1944, established a Commonwealth Coal Commissioner and subordinate authorities for the war-time control of the coal industry throughout Australia. Honorable members will recall that, in 1946, joint legislation - the coal industry acts of 1946 - was passed by this Parliament and by the New South Wales Parliament to give effect to an agreement reached between the Governments of the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales for the joint control of the coal industry in New South Wales in peace-time.
One of the effectsof that joint legislation was that on its complete proclamation which operated from the 1st March, 1947, the Commonwealth Coal Commissioner ceased to have any duty or any powers or functions in respect of the coal industry or of coal mines or of coal produced in the State of New South Wales. This was subject to the exception that the commissioner retained his powers and functions in respect of coal which, having been produced in New South Wales, went outside the boundary of that State, and was not the subject of any continuing order, direction or requirement of the Joint Coal Board established under the Coal Industry Act 1946. In addition, of course, the commissioner retained his powers and functions in respect of the coal industry and of coal mines, and of coal produced in each of the States other than New South Wales.
It has been the Government’s policy that the Coal Production (War-time) Act 1944, which was, of course, enacted under the defence power of the Constitution, should be repealed at the earliest possible moment consistent with ensuring that adequate provision is made for orderly transition to peace-time control of the industry in States where control is necessary. The only State that has formally notified the Australian Government of its intentions is the Queensland Government, which has rejected the idea of joint legislation for that State, and has secured the passage of Queensland legislation for the establishment of a State Coal Board to control the coal industry in that State. The Queensland Government has publicly announced that the State Coal Board will commence to function in the new year, and the Commonwealth desires to ensure that the Coal Production (War-time) Act 1944 shall cease to apply to that State by the end of this year.
With regard to other States, the Government proposes that, where necessary, State governments shall be given a further opportunity to inform the Commonwealth of their intention with regard to control of those aspects of the coal industry in their respective States which appear to require at least temporary control. The main aspect with which this Government is concerned is the distribution of native coal, and of coal imported from New South “Wales. With the demand for coal still exceeding supplies throughout Australia, it is obviously necessary that distribution in all States be controlled. The Commonwealth has a real interest in this matter, apart from the Government’s general concern for the welfare of the people of all States. All States import coal from New South Wales, where the Commonwealth is spending large amounts of money for the organization of the industry, and it is clear that the distribution of New South Wales coal imported into other States cannot at the present stage be left uncontrolled in those States. That matter has been attended to up to date by the various State Coal Committees, operating under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Coal Commissioner, and exercising powers and functions under the Coal Production (War-time) Act 1944.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Holt) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 1st December (vide page 3741), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of the bill is to provide for retiring allowances for members of both Houses of the Parliament who cease to be members of the Parliament after the 30th November, 1948. Therefore, it is applicable to all present members of the Parliament, and its provisions will apply in one form or another to any member of the Parliament who may be defeated at the next general election or who voluntarily retires from the service of the Parliament. It is proposed that members shall contribute 40 per cent, of the cost of the pension benefit which will amount to £8 a week; that is, members shall contribute to the fund at the rate of £3 a week, or £156 per annum, and that the Government will contribute the balance of 60 per cent, of the fund.
I agree in principle with the provision of retiring allowances for members of the Parliament, just as I agree in principle with all pension schemes which are of a contributory nature, and for much the same reasons as those set out by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in his second-reading speech. I firmly believe that if we had an adequate pensions scheme operating in respect of all phases of salaried employment on a contributory basis as security, for example, against old age, we should have a far happier people and a more honest productive effort in the community; and the people would be better equipped to meet the seemingly endless spiral of inflation that is frustrating all efforts to put something aside for the future. I emphasize that point because it appears to me that it is only through pensions schemes on a contributory basis that employees will receive the benefits for which they pay. This is in marked contrast to the Government’s compulsory social service contribution of which it can be said that never have so many contributed so much for benefits which will ultimately be received by so few. It is difficult to compare this scheme with existing superannuation schemes, because there is no retiring age in the case of members of the Parliament whilst their average age upon entry is higher, for instance, than in the Public Service. The Government’s contributions to the Public Service and Defence Forces superannuation schemes, are, however, broadly in line with the contribution which it will make under the scheme now before the House. The Government finances the Public Service Superannuation Fund from Consolidated Revenue and from contributions made by officers of the Public Service who participate in the scheme. That is proposed to be done under this measure. The Government contributes approximately three-fifths of the Public Service Superannuation Fund, and it proposes to contribute a like proportion to the fund to be set up under the bill. The uncertainty of the age of retirement of members of Parliament is common to this and to the defence retirement benefits scheme.
Under the latter scheme, the assumption is that members will retire after twenty years’ service, but if they serve for a longer period than that the benefits that they receive are increased for each additional year of service. That provision does not apply to the scheme that the House is now considering. Superannuation schemes in general relate contributions that are paid by participants to their salaries and wages. Each participant is required to take out a number of pension units, in respect of which contributions are made. This measure makes no such provision. It will be seen, therefore, that the proposal which is contained in this bill represents a vital departure from customary superannuation policy in that it provides for flat rate contributions and not for contributions which increase according to the age of entry into the scheme.
Let us examine the reasons for the presentation of this measure to the Parliament. It provides that a member’s service in the Parliament prior to the 1st December. 1948, shall qualify him for benefits, but no contributions will be required to be paid in respect of that period of service. The effect. of that provision will be that present members of the Parliament who are defeated at the next general election will, at very little cost to themselves, receive benefits for which all members of the Parliament will, in subsequent years, have to contribute. The bill tends to favour existing members of the Parliament. That is, in my opinion, a very bad principle. A member who is defeated at the next general election will have contributed less than £156 to the fund. The provision relating to past service, and which we may perhaps call the gift provision of this measure, is in clause 16 (2), which reads as follows : -
For the purpose of ascertaining the Commonwealth supplement in relation to a person who is a member at the date of commencement of this Act, he shall be deemed to have paid (in addition to the contributions which he has paid) the contributions which would have been payable by him before the date of commencement of this Act if this Act had commenced at the beginning of his period of service.
The effect of that provision will be to extend to present members who are defeated at the next general election a degree of favoritism which will not be extended to other members of the Parliament in future. Defeated members will receive benefits for which they have not contributed in the past, while those who are re-elected and new members will have to contribute fully for any benefits that they may receive. After the next general election, there will be 72 more members of the Parliament than there are now. In addition, there will be newcomers to fill the places of the present members who are not re-elected. Actuarial figures show that there is a 30 per cent, retirement of members of the Parliament every three years. Therefore, those in the second of the categories to which I have referred will number approximately 28. There will, therefore, be approximately 100 new members of the Parliament after the next general election, all of whom will contribute fully for any benefits that they may receive as well as contributing to meet part of the cost of the benefits that will be paid to the favoured ones who receive benefits for which they have not contributed. It is obvious that the Government has adopted the principle of pooling retirement risks, whereby continuing and new members will contribute to the benefits that will be paid to those whose parliamentary careers have been terminated abruptly.
– There is nothing wrong with that.
– In my opinion, there is something vitally wrong with it. In order to make provision for the large number of its supporters who expect to be defeated at the forthcoming general election, the Government has adopted a principle for which there is no precedent in any superannuation scheme of which I have knowledge, and certainly not in any superannuation scheme that is under government supervision.
The effect of another provision is that present members of the Parliament who retire voluntarily after 12 years’ service, will be entitled to a pension of £8 a week for life, if they are 45 years of age or over at the time of their retirement, in return for contributions of less than £156. Let us analyse the contributions that will be paid and the benefits that will be received under this bill, taking as the basis for our calculations the actuarial estimate that the average age of entry to the Parliament is 45 years, which is, incidentally, also the age at which pension payments may commence. If a member who enters the Parliament at the age of 45 years is compulsorily retired at the age of 54 years, he will, if he lives to the age of 70 years, which is the normal expectation of life, receive a pension of £8 a week during that period, or a total sum of £6,656. He will have paid £1,404 into the scheme. If he lives to the age of 80 years, he will receive £10,816 for the modest outlay of £1,404.
– What about a member who remains in Parliament for many years and pays his contributions during the whole of that time?
– A member who is elected to the Parliament for the first time at the next general election and who remains in the Parliament for a long period will pay more into the fund than he will receive from it. There is no doubt about that. I am not, however, as much concerned with that aspect of the matter as I am with its retrospective effect, which I consider to be wrong. Let us take the conditions that will apply to an existing member aged 45 who is defeated at the next general election. Let us assume that he has served, for a period of eight years and that he lives to the age of 70 years. For a payment of less than £156 he will receive the sum of £10,400 between his defeat and death. He will receive the same rate of pension as will be received by a new member who will have to contribute over the full period of his parliamentary service. That is a very important point.
Mr. Scully interjecting,
– The Minister for “ gags “ considers that this is something that may strike at him personally.
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to call the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) the “ Minister for gags “. That honorable member has a correct title.
– I apologize to the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
– The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) often thinks that I am handy to him.
– New members elected to this Parliament will be called upon to pay for the favoured members who have introduced the bill. Is it a pay-off? Does the Prime Minister consider that the favoured members should receive some consideration for the services that they have rendered to the new members by introducing this scheme for parliamentary pensions, because, for the sum of less than £156, those favoured members will receive, if they live to the age of 70, which is normal and common, a total sum of £10,400?
– How would they receive as much as that?
– I have already explained how. A member who has already served eight years and is defeated at the next general election, is 45 years of age and lives until he is 70 years old, which is the normal expectation of life in these days, will receive a sum totalling £10,400 for a payment into the fund of something less than £156. Let us pursue this line of argument further. An existing member who is defeated at the next election, after less than eight years’ service will receive, irrespective of his age, a lump sum comprising his contributions to the fund, plus one and a half times the contribution which he would have paid had the scheme been in operation when he entered Parliament, say, six years before. Let us assume that he was elected during the 1943 elections. At the time of the next general election he would have served for six years only, and if defeated would have returned to him his contributions of something less than £156, plus a Government subsidy of one and a half times the contribution he would have made had the scheme been in force when he was elected - that is, £234 a year, or a total of £1,560. I am so concerned about this, that words to express my opinion of it fail me.
– It is not as bad as all that.
– I cannot reconcile my conscience with the fact that the investment of that amount should return, in any circumstances, the various total sums that I have indicated. Let us go further, because it seems to me that the scheme will start off with an initial deficit of an amount that is rather staggering, and that it is important to draw attention to the initial deficit. It seems obvious that the retrospective application of this bill is completely unjustified and without precedent in any Public Service pensions scheme. Let us look at an instance of the voluntary retirement of an existing member after twelve years’ service. He pays £156 a year and if he retires after he reaches the age of 45 years he will receive a pension of £8 a week. The scheme is extraordinarily generous to those who are at present in Parliament, but not so generous to those who subsequently enter Parliament. I must make a comparison between this proposed pension and other pensions authorized by this Parliament, because as the elected representatives of the people we can legislate for a pension scheme for ourselves as well as for others who have served the country. Take the case of a returned soldier who has fought for his country and made a sacrifice for it, and on whose behalf we are entitled to legislate. Let us compare how we legislate for this man who has suffered or for the dependants of a soldier who may have lost their bread-winner. An exserviceman who is classified as 100 per cent, incapacitated receives a pension not of £8 a week as is provided under this scheme for members of Parliament, but of £2 15s. a week plus an allowance of £1 4s. a week for his wife. If he dies his widow will receive £3 a week pension, whereas the widow of a member of Parliament who had contributed to this fund would receive a pension of £5 a week. I repeat, we legislate for the returned soldiers differently from the way in which we legislate for ourselves. Honorable members could not help but compare the difference ‘between the legislation affecting themselves and that affecting ex-servicemen or their dependants. A man who is a single amputee receives a pension of £2 15s. a week for six months and then 75 per cent, of the rate. If his leg has been amputated above the knee be receives £2 lis. 3d., and if below the knee, £2 5s. 9d. a week. Again, I say that we legislate for ourselves differently from the way in which we legislate for ex-servicemen. A totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman receives a pension of £5 6s. a week plus an allowance of £1 4s. for his wife. The comparisons are completely odious, and cannot reflect credit upon this Government. The Government is prepared to start a scheme with an initial deficiency which will increase unless interest is paid on it from year to year. The Prime Minister has made it clear that the Government has decided to defer any definite estimate of that initial deficiency until the completion of the first actuarial investigation to be made after the scheme has been operating, as he said, for a period of seven years. I am in possession of a report made on the scheme by a prominent Sydney actuary who estimates that the initial deficit on account of the contributions that would have been paid in the past had the fund been in operation at about £500,000.
– What is the actuary’s name?
- Mr. GastineauHills. His report continues -
This is a broad estimate based on what past contributions and government subsidy would have accumulated to had the scheme been in force since the beginning of the present members’ service. It is no more than an approximation to the true actuarial reserve, but it gives a good idea of the magnitude of the liability. At 3) per cent, compound, interest the £500,000 will accumulate to approximately £636,000, which is the deficiency that may, in my opinion, be expected at the end of seven years. Therefore, in order to provide pensions benefits for its members who are defeated at the next election, the Government has devised a pension benefit scheme whose solvency will not be known for seven years.
I do not believe that we should foist upon the taxpayers such a scheme to benefit members of the Parliament. The report of the actuary continues -
If service prior to the commencement of the act was not to count for benefits a Commonwealth subsidy of only 56 per cent, as against the proposed subsidy of 60 per cent, would be sufficient to keep the fund solvent.
The Prime Minister has stated that the margin of 4 per cent, will be available towards meeting the anticipated initial deficiency. According to my information, the payment of the extra 4 per cent, by the Commonwealth on claims arising during the next seven years will not reduce the liability in respect of non-contributory services. The actuary’s report continues -
If the £500,000 is not to increase, then interest at the assumed rate must be provided upon it from year to year. That is, £15,000 per annum at 3 per cent. It is obvious that if for the first few years the Commonwealth is paying an excess of 4 per cent, in its subsidy payments of 60 per cent., this 4 per cent, will not even meet the interest required to prevent the initial deficiency increasing.
Supposing for example 30 members retired on a pension of £8 a week at the next election. This would mean an annual pension bill of £12,480 towards which the Government would pay 60 per cent, or £7,488 and 4 per cent., or only £499, would be available towards the steadily accumulating initial deficiency. At 3 per cent, interest, £499 would not be sufficient to meet the interest on an initial deficiency of even £17,500 which is one year’s interest on £500,000 at 31/2 per cent. It cannot be too strongly stressed that the initial deficiency existing at the inception of the fund will increase unless interest is paid on it from year to year.
Therefore, whilst I support the principle of a retiring allowance for members of the Parliament upon a contributory basis, I regret that the Government has seen fit to introduce into the scheme a provision that negatives its general purpose. I cannot understand how the Government reconciles the two matters. The scheme, which is supposed to be contributory, has many features of a non-contributory scheme. It begins with a deficiency of £630,000.
– For what period?
– A period of seven years. The bill will definitely favour present members of the Parliament, compared with new members. Therefore. I move -
That all words after “ That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ the bill be withdrawn and referred to an allparty parliamentary committee to investigate and make recommendations to provide for an equitable scheme of retiring allowances for persons who have served as members of parliament. Such committee shall take into consideration the desirability of re-adjusting the benefits payable to a member where such benefits wholly or partly depend on periods of non-contributory service by either -
suitably reducing the benefits; or
allowing full benefits but subject to payment of suitable amounts of arrears of contributions”.
– The parliamentary retiring allowances scheme, for which the Government makes provision in this bill, is actuarily sound and right in principle. It should have been introduced many years ago. Of the various superannuation or provident fund schemes that other Parliaments have adopted for their members, this is the first to be supported by a certificate of actuaries. The Government referred the actuarial aspect of the scheme to a commission consisting of Judge Kirby, as chairman, and two assessors, Mr. W. C. Balmford, the Commonwealth Actuary, and Mr. L. B. Oxby, an officer of the Australian Mutual Provident Society. If they are not the two most notable actuaries in this country, they are at any rate two of the most notable actuaries in Australia. The Lyons Government brought Mr. Balmford to Australia in connexion with the introduction of its proposed national health and pensions insurance scheme. Mr. Oxby was lent to the Government by the Australian Mutual Provident Society, which has allowed his very valuable services to be used with connexion with various schemes of national importance. The parliamentary retiring allowances scheme cannot be faulted on actuarial grounds.
– Because it is made actuarily sound by the amount of the contribution.
– Precisely. The contribution rate is fixed so that the scheme cannot fail if we accept the principle that the Commonwealth should make a contribution of 60 per cent.
– A contribution of 60 per cent, plus the deficit.
– There may not be a deficit. The Government will contribute 60 per cent, and members of the Parliament will contribute 40 per cent, to the total cost. That principle is embodies in the superannuation acts of the Commonwealth and the States. The Government believes that members of the Parliament serve the country just as faithfully as do public servants. They endanger, their businesses and professions and their earning power by their service in the Parliament. Many of them make considerable sacrifices in order to serve the nation. The Acting Leader of the Opposition has stated that the Commonwealth may have to make up the deficit which, possibly, will exist at the end of seven years after the introduction of the scheme. But it is also possible that there will not be a deficit at the end of that period. I do not know the Sydney actuary whose opinion the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) has quoted, but 1 accept him as an authority. However, in my view, he has wrongly based his estimates upon retirements, which in the light of all known evidence, will not occur within the next few years. The Acting Leader of the Opposition has stated that 30 per cent, of the members of the Eighteenth Parliament will retire after the next election either voluntarily or through defeat. I differ entirely from that view. I shall put to the honorable gentleman an argument which I believe to be conclusive. The Parliament has passed legislation to increase the number of senators and members of the House of Representatives after the next election. All sitting members will certainly arrange that they shall stand for safe seats under the redistribution proposals, and the chances of retirements, even in the event of a swing against one political party or another will not be so great as it would be if the Nineteenth Parliament were to have the same membership as the Eighteenth Parliament hae. Under the system of proportional representation, the three retiring senators for each State will be re-elected. It is merely a matter of whether four Government senators and three Opposition senators, or three Government senators and four Opposition senators, will be elected for each State. Consequently there will not be any senator:) who will make a claim on the fund after the next election. Only death will remove the sitting senators. In my view, under the system of proportional representation, senators will be in the Parliament for life so long as they secure pre-selection within their respective parties. The contributions that will be made by senators will be very considerable. Very few of them will ever become a charge upon the fund, and, therefore, the risk assumed by the Sydney actuary is not a valid one. The only charges that will be made upon the fund in the years ahead in respect of senators will be the widows of members of the Senate. That prospect entirely alters payments to the situation compared with that which existed after the election of the 18th Commonwealth Parliament. I am certain in my own mind, notwithstanding that 1 am not an actuary or a qualified accountant, even though I have some knowledge of accountancy, that after the expiration of seven years there will be no deficit. If we make an examination after ten years or twelve years, we shall probably find that there is a surplus. This scheme, therefore, is better than any State scheme that has been introduced. First, it is backed by an actuarial certificate, and, secondly, the risks involved are not so great as they are in State Parliaments or as they were in previous Commonwealth Parliaments. An additional fact is that, in some of the States, a benefit amounting to the basic wage, which today is about £6 a week, is given to defeated members after they have paid only £1 a week1 in contributions. We propose to give defeated members of this Parliament a benefit of £8 a week in return for a contribution of £3 a week.
I have a strong suspicion that a great deal of the opposition to the scheme by honorable members opposite has been engendered by those with safe seats who do not want to pay £3 a week to help their less fortunate brethren. The Government has brought down this plan because it believes in sharing the risks. A public servant does not have to contribute to his superannuation scheme after he reaches the age of 64 years. Members of this Parliament will continue to pay even if they remain in politics until they are 80 years of age. Moreover, members of the Senate will be paying, not for a benefit for themselves, but for a contingent benefit for their widows. We talk about “ safe seats “ and “ swinging seats “ in this Parliament. There are occasions, of course, when even the safest seat is not too safe. I remember the 1943 election campaign when even the electorate of Wentworth was not too safe for the present occupant. He was not many “ streets “ ahead when the final figures were announced. There have also been occasions when seats represented by honorable members on this side of the chamber have not been very safe. However, I believe that very few members of this Parliament will be missing after the next general election. There will be more members here, of course, but the newcomers will be elected from the doubtful electorates. They will have to contribute for the full three years of their service in the next Parliament, whereas present members will pay for only one year of the life of this Parliament.
It would be unfair to ask members to pay for more than one year of their present parliamentary term. We could not ask them to pay lump sums for arrears in order that they might, as it were, put themselves on an actuarially equivalent basis with candidates who will be returned for the first time at the next election. Members of this Parliament have made very considerable sacrifices, and they have a right to lock for some protection for their families. That is the most important consideration of all - the protection of their families while they have the opportunity to do so. There is nothing wrong with members of this Parliament deciding that, should they die in the service of the Parliament, provision should be made for their widows. The Acting Leader of the Opposition made only one reference to widows. The wives of members of Parliament will be the chief beneficiaries of this legislation, I think. I cannot imagine any member of the Parliament wanting to retire merely to get a pension of £8 a week when could he remain here he would continue to draw his present allowances and enjoy whatever benefits there are in public life, including the fierce limelight and all the ferocity cf the contest.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition said that the Government proposed to give a pension of £5 a week to widows of members of Parliament but allowed a pension of only £3 a week to soldiers’ widows. That is true. But the honorable gentleman was a member of a government which enacted a measure that established the principle that a Prime Minister’s widow is entitled to a pension of £10 a week. That principle having been placed upon the statute-book, I can see no objection to establishing the principle that an ordinary member of
Parliament should feel happy in mind that, in the event of his death, his widow shall receive a pension of £5 a week. Many widows of men who have been removed from the parliamentary life of this country by death have been left in necessitous circumstances. Every government has made provision in its budget each year for ex gratia payments. If we make ex gratia payments in necessitous circumstances, it would be hypocritical to say that we would not make provision for the payment to widows of pensions 40 per cent, of which had been contributed by their husbands while they were alive. I do not think that the argument of the Acting Leader of the Opposition in that connexion is valid, and it was rather unfortunate that he should attempt to misrepresent the scheme by comparing the pension proposed for widows of members of Parliament with that paid to widows of servicemen.
Contributions to the scheme will ncc be based on the rate-for-age principle. In the Public Service scheme, contributions begin at a low rate for officers of the age cf sixteen years and increase as the risk increases because of advancing age. The Government has decided against asking members to contribute on an age basis because it considers that young and old should he treated alike. It has not devised this scheme, a9 might have been alleged at one time, as an old man’s scheme prepared by old men for the benefit of old men. It has looked after both the young and the old. It has looked after the young so that they will not get an unreasonable advantage from the scheme, but at least provision is made for them and for their wives. Whether a man dies in the service of the Parliament at the age of 25 years or 75 years, his widow will still get the same rate of pension. There is nothing unfair or morally wrong about that.
This Government does not expect many defeats at the next election, either from its own ranks or from the ranks of the Opposition. It has been heartened very considerably by the events of the last week-end in Victoria, by what happened at the Sydney municipal election, and by the Labour victory in the by-electicn for the State Parliament of Western Australia. We can contemplate the future with equanimity, and as long as tho Victorian situation continues, we intend
– Order! I ask the Minister to keep to the bill before the House.
– I am answering points raised by the Acting Leader of the Opposition.
– He did not raise that point.
– -He said a great deal about-
– About the Victorian position ?
– No, he merely adumbrated the subject. The Acting Leader of the Opposition said that words failed him in dealing with this measure. I can not believe that, although words certainly failed him when he tried te find arguments to advance against it. Honorable members opposite are sorry that this, like other legislation, was left unregistered when they were in office. They could have passed this legislation, and are feeling a little sorry for themselves in respect of other legislation also. The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) said that we will start off with a deficit. If provision is made over seven years for the worst possible happenings, there may be a deficit, but if only normal risks are provided for, I believe that there will not be a deficit. We will make contributions at the rate of £3 a week from the 1st December. I do not expect that the next general election will be held under twelve months from now ; it may be held in January, 1950. Therefore honorable members may make a greater contribution than was anticipated in. the proposal when it was first advanced. I point out that each of 110 members of the Parliament will make a contribution of £156 between now and the 1st December, 1949, so that there will be in the fund £17,160 at the date of the general election, provided that no member shall die in the meantime leaving a widow to be provided for from that fund. Consequent on the enlargement of the Parliament to 183 members, the fund will he very much bigger at the end of the Nineteenth Parliament. The Government will not, therefore, have to make any substantial payment out of the fund between now and 1952 to members who will be defeated, or will retire voluntarily. In that basis, and in view of the new system under which the Senate will be elected and the likelihood that most members of the Parliament will choose very strong and safe seats, there is not likely to be any difficulty in relation to the solvency of the fund. It will be managed by five trustees - two from the House of Representatives and two from the Senate - one from the Government party and one from the Opposition parties: in each chamber and the Treasurer in* office will be chairman. I am sure that-, the funds will be well and properlyadministered. The funds will be invested and it is expected that they will earn about 3 per cent, interest. It is on that basis that the actuaries have said that the fund will be safe. We have not introduced a scheme based on big interest earnings. The money will be invested in government stocks, which will probably yield 3 per cent, interest for some years to come. The Acting Leader of the Opposition has said that a member who retires at 45 years of age and draws a pension until he is 70 will draw £10,000. If he stayed in this Parliament until he was 70 he would draw many times £10,000, because he would receive approximately £1,500 a year for 25 years while serving his country. Let us consider the case of a member who is now 45, and will retire at the age of 54 after nine years’ service. His own contributions will be sufficient to meet about 22.2 per cent, of the cost of his pension and the Commonwealth will have to pay 77.8 per cent, of his pen- sion. The average period of service in the Commonwealth Parliament has been about ten years. However, if he retired in 27 years’ time, at the age of 72, no Commonwealth subsidy would be necessary, and the member would receive less than half of the pension that his own contributions had provided. I do not think that that is too much of a contribution for him to be required to make. I hope that I shall be in that category, having secured a majority of 28,000 at the last election, in the Melbourne electorate. I do not mind making contributions in order to help the less fortunate members of the Parliament. It is far better that we should do so in this manner than that the Treasurer should have to hear distressing appeals by the widows of former members, and that there should have to be an examination of bank books and. family possessions before the Treasurer can determine how much should be given to help those widows to live reasonably well provided for.
– How much do we pay in that way now?
– I cannot say offhand, lut the provision is included in the budget papers, which are available to honorable members. It is already quite a considerable sum, and the amount may he increased because of the death of a former leader of the Opposition in this Parliament yesterday.
I do not think that it is fair to compare the soldiers’ pension scheme with the pensions scheme that we propose to pr<vide for members of Parliament, any more than it would be to compare parliamentary salaries with the basic wage or other salaries. Members of the Parliament are given allowances to enable them to live reasonably well whilst discharging their obligations to the people that they represent. The same principle is in operation to a greater degree in respect of judges, who are paid a much higher salary that that of members of Parliament. Judges’ widows receive a pension equal to half of the deceased judge’s salary. No honorable member opposite has ever questioned the >rate that should be paid to the widows of judges. Furthermore judges make no contributions for their pensions. In all the ciicumstances I can see nothing wrong with the provisions of this bill. I think that it is eminently fair and reasonable, and I repeat that it has the great virtue of being backed by a commission that was presided over by a judge of the Arbitration Court, assisted by two distinguished actuaries, who have certified to their belief that in all the circumstances the scheme is one that can be defended against any critics, if we accept the principle that members of Parliament ought to receive from the Commonwealth Treasury the same contri bution of 60 per cent, towards their pensions fund ot retiring allowances fund, as is paid in respect of public servants who come under the Commonwealth superannuation scheme.
[12.13]. - The general principle of parliamentary pensions is sound and has the full and wholehearted support of the Australian Country party. It has been recognized in most of the Australian States, as well as in New Zealand and Great Britain. The systems that have been adopted by the various parliaments vary considerably as to detail. We are not considering principles. The measure before us contains a specific scheme, and it is with the details of that scheme that I quarrel. I object most strongly to some of the details in the scheme that this bill seeks to institute. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) stated that the scheme is actuarially sound. I point out that it has only been made actuarially sound by virtue of a contribution of 60 per cent, by the Government - or the taxpayers - plus an undefined deficit that the Government will have to meet if called upon to do so. I have received an actuarial report in connexion with this scheme from a friend of mine and I shall point out various weaknesses of the scheme that he has brought to my notice. The Minister stated that this scheme should be contributed to by those in safe seats in order to assist their less fortunate brethren. The whole basis of insurance is that the good risks contribute to the bad ones. That is the very best insurance, but the Government has given no consideration at all to our unfortunate brethren who will enter the enlarged Parliament after the next general election. The Minister said that the general election would not be held until the end of next year. After that the numerical strength of the Parliament including the Senate will have increased from 110 to 183. In other words there will be 73 new members in the next Parliament. A number of the oresent 110 members will have lost their seats or retired, or, for some other reason, will not be members of the new Parliament. The Commonwealth Actuary has established on the basis of experience, which is the only basis that he can work on, that, only seven out of ten members of past parliaments have returned to a subsequent parliament. It is, therefore, quite likely that the 110 who will vote upon this scheme will have dwindled to a minority when the enlarged Parliament of 183 is elected. Yet, they are the people who are to vote upon a scheme that gives them far more benefits, under certain conditions, and which confer upon them greater advantages in particular cases than new members will have.
– All honorable members will benefit.
– The honorable member for “Watson has a pecuniary interest in this measure.
– So has the right honorable gentleman.
– My interest is not so pecuniary as is that of the honorable member far Watson. Those new members will be compelled to take part in a compulsory scheme under which they will contribute in part for benefits that will not be equivalent to those that will be enjoyed by some present members of the Parliament. In other words, 73 new members will be compelled to contribute to the scheme for the whole term of their parliamentary existence. They will be at a disadvantage compared with the present, members. We are the constructive trustees for those future members, and, consequently, we should not vote for a scheme that will give us a greater advantage than they will receive. For that reason alone this scheme is bad. I repeat that we should contribute to our incoming brethren’s benefit. Yet, the Government proposes a scheme that will place them at a disadvantage compared with us. That damns the scheme entirely. There should be no differentiation between present members and incoming members. The scheme’s weakness is entirely within its retrospective provisions. It goes back for eight years. The whole scheme should be withdrawn and reconsidered on the basis of equality of contributions and benefit. It is all very well for the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) to say that we have made sacrifices and all the rest of it. Not one of us has failed to fight strenuously for his seat in the Parliament at successive general elections. All, or nearly all of us, have been strongly opposed. Yet we come back to the Parliament knowing the circumstances and conditions of parliamentary life. So it is all very well to talk about personal sacrifices to become a member of the Parliament.
– Some people do make sacrifices to enter the Parliament.
Mi-. FADDEN. - Yes, but the fact remains that they are prepared to continue to make sacrifices in order to remain members of the Parliament. I suppose that I have made as great a monetary sacrifice as has any one to continue my membership. But there have been advantages of being a member. I could get out if I wished to do so. At general elections, I have had four or five opponents, but, sacrifice and all, I have fought for my return to the Parliament, and won. So the scheme must be considered on the basis of equity. I repeat that we are constructive trustees for the 73 new men who will enter the Parliament after the next general election. We have no moral right to advantage ourselves to their disadvantage. On that basis, I consider the scheme is bad. Under clause 16 of the bill, a present member can be deemed to have paid contributions for approximately eight years although, in fact, he may have paid only one year’s contribution. Under that clause, for the payment of a mere £156, or less, in the event of an early election next year, he may receive a Commonwealth supplement of £234 a year, amounting in all to £1,872 in cash. That is the reason why the scheme will commence with a deficit. That shows its unsoundness. One has only to multiply the amount of £1,872 by the number of members of this House who will be defeated, or will die or retire before the new Parliament opens to calculate the total deficit and realize the unfairness of the scheme. No future member may participate in the Commonwealth supplement to anything like the degree that present members may. Naturally they will have no retrospective period of service up to eight years to draw upon. Whilst present members, in some cases, will get the benefit of clause 16, because they will be deemed to have paid £3 a week for five, six or more years, new members will have to pay that amount in actual cash before deriving comparable benefits. For instance, a present member defeated at the next elections with just under eight years’ back service, having contributed for the final year only, will receive £156, his own contribution, plus a government subsidy of £1,872, totalling £2,028 in cash. A future member in similar circumstances would have to contribute £1,248 for the eight years and then he would get the subsidy of £1,872 on defeat. Considering the small amount of contribution the present member will have paid, he is very favorably treated in such cases as compared with a future member.
This Government supplement is, of course, additional to, and superimposed upon, the Government subsidy of 60 per cent. That section of the scheme is undoubtedly unsound, actuarially, as it enables participants to obtain large cash benefits in respect of long periods of noncontributory service.
– That does not make the scheme actuarially unsound.
– If the honorable member will listen to the criticism of the actuaries he will understand to what I am referring. The Prime Minister himself tacitly admitted that the scheme is unsound when he dealt with the actuarial report on the scheme. As he said in his second-reading speech, the actuaries point out that an initial deficiency would arise in the fund unless the benefits of members with noncontributory past service were suitably reduced. The right honorable gentleman stated -
In the first place the actuarial calculations are affected by the fact that many of the existing members, although their past service qualifies them for immediate benefit, have not yet paid any contributions.
It stands to reason and common sense that if only £156 is to be paid into the fund by a member who subsequently retires, and £2,000 is to be taken out of the fund by him, the excess payment must be met from some fund. Money does not grow on trees, and it is obvious that the taxpayers will have to make that contribution. Ordinary elementary principles of accountancy apply. For every debit there must be a credit, and if the amount of contributions to the fund does not equal the amount of drawings the difference must be supplied from some source. From where will it come? Obviously it will come from the taxpayers, because the Government will have to subsidize the fund. One does not need to be a Euclid or a clairvoyant to realize that. The extent of the deficiency will not be known for seven years, when an actuarial investigation of the scheme will be made. In view of the benefits receivable in respect of the non-contributory period, it is quite likely that such deficiency will approximate £500,000. In such circumstances, future taxpayers will be called upon by this bill to pay a heavy double subsidy and, under clause 12, they will have to find the amount of the initial deficit, certified by the Commonwealth Actuary as necessary to be paid into the fund after the first seven years. The actuaries say that, neglecting deficits due to non-contributory past service, the Commonwealth subsidy will need to be only 56 per cent. As it is 60 per cent., they conclude that the extra 4 per cent, will provide a margin towards meeting the added liability for past service. That is not the case, for the following reason. Although the actuaries preferred not to estimate the initial deficit, it will approximate £500,000.
– Nonsense !
– The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) apparently knows more than any actuary, yet he could not get himself out of trouble.
– If the right honorable member is referring to a matter in which I was concerned, I am quite willing-
– Order! If the honorable member for Watson does not cease interjecting I shall deal with him.
– If the amount to which I have referred is not increased, interest must he paid on it at the rate of 3 per cent., which will amount to £1,500 per annum. It is obvious, therefore, that the excess subsidy of 4 per cent, on members’ contributions will not even meet the interest required to prevent an increase of the initial deficiency.
Suppose we take for the purposes of an estimate, that 30 members retire at the next election. That is not unreasonable, as the official actuarial estimate for the Parliament is that three out of every ten members of one Parliament do not return to the next succeeding Parliament. As there are 110 members, my estimate of 30 is conservative. If the 30 members retired on a pension of £8 per week, it would mean an annual pensions bill of £12,480, towards which the Government would pay 60 per cent, or £7,488. Four per cent., or only £499, will be available towards meeting the steadilyaccumulating initial deficit. At 3 per cent, interest, £499 would not be sufficient to meet the interest on an initial deficit of £17,000, let alone £500,000. Yet the initial deficiency at the inception of the fund will increase, unless interest is paid on it from year to year.
According to paragraph 15 of the actuaries’ report, contributions will be sufficient to meet 44 per cent, of the cost of pensions, and the remaining 56 per cent, will have to be paid by the Government. As members’ contributions will amount to only £156 a year, the f ull liability will be £355 per annum. In other words, if the Commonwealth paid in contributions during members’ service, instead of paying 60 per cent, of each claim as it falls due, it would pay £355 on a basis of £156 or £199 per annum per member during service. By deferring payment of its share of the cost until claims arise, the Government will incur an added liability on account of the loss of interest on contributions which should be paid during service. In respect of the Government subsidy no fund will exist, but only a liability to be met by future payments as they fall due. Assuming that interest at the rate of 3 per cent, is paid, a payment of £199 which should be paid now will increase to £359 if deferred for 20 years, to £483 if deferred for 30 years, and to £649 if deferred for 40 years. Posterity will therefore have a much heavier burden to bear if the Government’s payments are deferred.
The Prime Minister mentioned, in passing, that this bill had been based to some degree on the Commonwealth Superannuation Act under which pensions are provided for public servants, particularly in respect of its financial provisions. Let us consider how this scheme measures up to the Commonwealth superannuation scheme. For a payment of £3 a week, a Commonwealth public servant is entitled to receive a pension of £8 a week on retirement at age 60, provided he has contributed for a minimum period of twelve years. In other words he would have to be aged approximately 48 years when his superannuation contributions commenced. The conditions of the parliamentary scheme are far more liberal. A member of Parliament over 45 years of age is to be entitled to receive a pension of £8 a week after twelve years’ service, but not necessarily after twelve years’ payment of contribution, even if he retires voluntarily. If he does not retire voluntarily he will also be entitled to that amount of pension if he has served for from eight to twelve years, even though he may not have paid contributions for the whole of that period. With less than eight years’ service, if he does not retire voluntarily, a member of Parliament is to- be entitled to a free government subsidy of up to £1,872, at the rate of £234 per annum, or £4 10s. a week, just because he is to be deemed to have made contributions retrospectively for up to a period of eight years. The parliamentary scheme is much more beneficial to the contributor than is the Commonwealth superannuation scheme. The widow of a public servant who received or was entitled to a pension of £8 a week prior to his death is paid a pension of only £4 a week, but the widow of a member pensioner is to receive £5 a week. In spite of these differences we are asked to believe that this scheme was based to some degree on the Commonwealth superannuation scheme. The Prime Minister also referred to parliamentary schemes in Great Britain and most of the Australian States. The British scheme provides for compulsory contributions, as does the one now before us, but payment of pension is subject to a means test. For a contribution of £12 per annum a pension of £150 per annum is payable, or such sum as will bring the contributor’s income up to £225 per annum, whichever is the less. In other words, any former member earning £4 5s. a week or more receives no pension, even though he may have made compulsory contributions from the inception of the scheme in 1939.
– Does the right honorable gentleman desire that provision be made in this scheme for a means test?
– I would not object to such a provision provided it operated fairly and equitably. Under the British scheme the means test is also applied to the widow of a member who is not entitled to a pension if her annual income amounts to £125 or more. I have examined the schemes in operation in New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland, and also the New Zealand scheme. None is as beneficial as the scheme now before us, and none provides for a supplement to cover past noncontributory service. Because of that weakness in this scheme, I object to the bill. I also object to it on the ground that new members of the Parliament will become entitled to benefits based cnly on their contributions. Apparently the Government has ignored the fact that the membership of the Parliament is to be almost doubled. The Queensland scheme, which has not yet come into operation, is to be subsidized by the Government te the extent of 50 per cent. The Commonwealth scheme is to be subsidized to the extent of 60 per cent., plus the unknown benefit represented by the Commonwealth supplement. Under the New Zealand scheme a member must have served for not less than nine years, and he must have contributed for five years, before be is entitled to a pension. If his service and contributions do ‘not comply with those conditions he is required to pay the amount of the deficiency into the consolidated fund. Before he is entitled to a pension he must also be 50 years of age or more. The rate of contribution is £50 per annum, and the pension varies according to the length of service, and commences at a rate of £250 a year. The South Australian scheme, which is subsidized on a fiftyfifty basis, requires at least twelve years’ service, the attainment of an age of 50 years, and payment into the fund of the equivalent of not less than six years’ contributions. In Western Australia a lump sum is payable to a member who has contributed for a period of at least seven years after the commencement of the Members of Parliament Fund Act; otherwise he is entitled to receive double the amount of his contributions. Contributions are at the rate of £24 per annum, and the lump sum payment is £600. In New South Wales a full pension of £6 a week is payable after fifteen years’ service with a reduction of £1 a week for members who have served in any three parliaments. Contributors not eligible for a pension are entitled only to a refund cf contributions. The Victorian scheme provides for a pension equivalent to the basic wage to a member who has been defeated after having served for fifteen years or more in at least three consecutive parliaments. None of these schemes approaches in liberality the scheme now befcTe us, especially in the retrospective operation of the supplement as applied to present members. A non-parliamentarian in receipt of a taxable income of £1,500 a year, which is equivalent to the allowance paid to the members of this Parliament, is required to pay £112 10s. per annum in social service contribution. Although he may have paid that amount for many years, on his retirement he may not be entitled to the age pension because of the operation of the means test. Under the proposal now before us a member of the Parliament with a comparable income will pay £112 10s. in social services contribution, plus £156 pension contribution, or a total of £268 10s. For that outlay, subject to the conditions laid down in clauses 18 and 19 of the bill, he will be entitled to receive a pension of £8 a week for life, and on his death his widow will be entitled to receive £5 a week during her lifetime. No means test is to be imposed in respect of such pensions. Having regard to the differentiation between existing members and incoming members, the absence of a means test, and the continued imposition of the social service contribution, this scheme should be withdrawn and submitted to an all-party parliamentary committee for consideration. It should have been referred to such a committee in the first instance so that the whole subject of pensions for members of Parliament could have been placed beyond the realms of party politics or government responsibility. This measure concerns, not only the Parliament as it is at present constituted, but also the enlarged Parliament which will follow it. I regard this proposal as highly improper. We all favour the institution of a pensions scheme for members of the Parliament, but honorable members on this side of the House do not favour a scheme which differentiates so unfairly between members of the Parliament and members of the Commonwealth Public Service. I wholeheartedly support the amendment submitted by the Acting leader of the Opposition.
Sitting suspended from 12.^7 to 2.15 p.m.
– It is not my intention to make a general second-reading speech on this matter, because the issues have been dealt with broadly by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) who introduced the measure, and the right honorable gentleman’s remarks have been supplemented by those of my colleague, the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). T intend, therefore, to direct my attention to some of the points that were raised by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). In spite of what appears to be opposition to this measure, by those two honorable gentlemen, each of them made a clear statement upon which I believe some emphasis should be placed. The Acting Leader of the Opposition said that he approved in principle of retiring allowances for members of Parliament, and, indeed, that approval was implicit in the remarks of the Leader of the Australian Country party. There is considerable significance also, I suggest, in the following words of the Leader of the Australian Country party: -
Of course, the scheme is actuarially sound. Tt has been made so.
T intend to devote some time to those two statements. The Acting Leader of the Opposition said that he approved of the principle of retiring allowances for members of Parliament. He could not very well do otherwise, because it is well known that many members of the Opposition support this measure in principle at least. Also, schemes under which retiring allowances are provided for members of Parliament are already in operation iri certain States of the Commonwealth, in New Zealand, and in the United Kingdom itself, showing that the principle has been accepted in many parts of the world. However, in approving of the principle of retiring allowances, the Acting Leader of the Opposition made certain reservations. He said that if the proposed scheme had been worked out on a different basis it might have had his complete approval. This measure has received very deep consideration by the Government. Assuming that one agrees in principle with the provision of retiring allowances for members of Parliament, the most that any government can be expected to do is to examine all such schemes as closely as possible, and finally to present a particular scheme to the Parliament for approval. That has been done. A sub-committee of the Cabinet was directed to investigate the matter. It consisted of the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), the Acting Attorney-General (Senator McKenna) and myself. We devoted a considerable time to examination not only of schemes already in existence in certain States of the Commonwealth, in New Zealand, and elsewhere, but also to other schemes which were submitted to. us for our information. In fact, we examined more than twenty schemes upon which retiring allowances to members of this Parliament could be based. In addition, the sub-committee considered whether this was the most propitious time for the introduction of a scheme of this kind into the Commonwealth Parliament, and on that matter I have to say that if the Commonwealth Parliament is ever to approve of retiring allowances for its members, there could not be a more propitious time for such approval than the present, because, next year, membership of the Parliament is to be increased substantially. That matter has some bearing on the remarks by the Leader of the Australian Country party on the relationship between the contribution to to made by members who will enter the Parliament for the first time after the next election, and that of members who have been in the Parliament for some time. As I have said, the sub-committee examined more than twenty schemes before deciding finally to recommend the one contained in this measure. The Leader of the Australian Country party claimed that this scheme was much too liberal. In fact, he said that it was on a more liberal basis than any other scheme at present in operation. That statement is completely without foundation. In each of the twenty-odd schemes that the sub-committee examined, the proportion of the benefit borne by the Treasury exceeded that provided for this scheme. One scheme that we examined placed the Treasury contribution as high as 82 per cent. whereas the scheme provided for in this measure follows the Commonwealth Public Service superannuation scheme, under which 60 per cent. of the benefit is paid by the Commonwealth and 40 per cent. by the public servants. The point that the Leader of the Australian Country party wrongly emphasized was that the Commonwealth contribution under this scheme would be greater than the government contribution under any existing scheme. I point out that in the New South Wales scheme, the proportion of the benefit that has to be met by the State Treasury is 66.7 per cent. compared with 60 per cent. in this scheme. In New Zealand, the Treasury contribution is 80 per cent. and in South Australia it is 67.5 per cent. That clearly proves that the statement by the Leader of the Australian Country party is untrue.
– Under this scheme the Government has to meet 60 per cent. of the benefit plus whatever deficit may exist.
– I agree with the Leader of the Australian Country party that there will be an actuarial deficit under this scheme because members of this Parliament have not contributed to any scheme during their term of membership. The Acting Leader of the Opposition said that he approved in principle of retiring allowances for mem bers of Parliament. Presumably, he believes that the proper thing would be for the Government to examine possible schemes in order to select the best possible, and to recommend one of them to the Parliament. That has been done.. The matter has been the subject of very deep consideration by the Government.. Therefore, I believe that the scheme ought to have the support of the Acting Leader of the Opposition if he really supports the principle of retiring allowances.
– I do, but I do not believe in this scheme. If the Minister accepts the amendment he will get a proper scheme.
– Acceptance of the amendment would involve acceptance of the proposition that a further investigation, in conjunction with members of the Opposition, would result in the evolution of a better scheme.
– A more equitable scheme.
– It depends upon what significance is given to the word “ equitable “. If the honorable member had in mind equity from the point of view of the taxpayers who would contribute towards the benefits received, I have already pointed out that other schemes in Australia and New Zealand rely upon contributions from the public treasury to a much greater extent than does this scheme. Therefore, from that point of view, this scheme is, indeed, equitable. It is well known that many members of the Opposition are in favour of the scheme now under consideration. In fact, I make bold to say that very few members of the Opposition, whether they belong to the Australian Country party or to the Liberal party, are not in favour of retiring allowances to members of Parliament.
– They favour the principle only.
– Well, starting from that point, let me say that the information which I have gleaned from many sources leads me to the belief that a number of members of the Opposition are of opinion that this particular scheme is a very good one, indeed. I believe that if they spoke what is in their hearts they would say that this is an excellent scheme. I think that some of them will have sufficient faith in their own judgment, and be sufficiently independent in their outlook, to say outright during this debate that, in all the circumstances, this is the best scheme that could be evolved. Of course, we know that there are other members of the Opposition who, while really believing in their hearts that it is a good scheme, will oppose it in the belief that they may thereby gain some slight political advantage. Their attitude is that the bill will be passed anyway, and that if there is any political advantage to be obtained by appearing to oppose it, they may as well try to obtain it knowing all the time that eventually they will receive the benefits for which the scheme provides.
The Leader of the Australian Country party made the significant statement that the scheme was actuarially sound and lie added that it was made so. He also said that it would be unfair to the 73 additional new members who would enter the Parliament after the next election. The first point to be considered is that it is entirely within the choice of those who may be thinking of standing for Parliament whether they accept the scheme or not. Those of them who do not think! the scheme to be fair need not stand for the Parliament. They will know that, if elected to the Parliament, they will be required to contribute to the trust fund out of which retiring allowances are to be paid. If they do not like the conditions, they need not stand for election.
– Is it a compulsory scheme?
– Of course it is, and so is the Commonwealth superannuation scheme to which public servants contribute, but does anyone suggest that the superannuation scheme is unfair to those who may enter the Public Service in the future? The Leader of the Australian Country party said that the scheme was bad and inequitable because benefits receivable by members entering the Parliament after the bill became law would be less advantageous than those receivable by a sitting member. That is true, but the same situation develops upon the inauguration of any superannuation scheme, whether by a private firm or by a government. Always there arises the question of the comparative benefits receivable by those who are employed at the time the scheme is inaugurated, and the benefits to be received by those who will be employed subsequently. The Leader of the Australian Country party said that there will be a deficit under the scheme because of the fact that those who are now members of the Parliament will be entitled to benefit to which they have not contributed during the years they have been members of the Parliament. That difficulty always arises upon the introduction of a superannuation scheme whether it be with respect to members of a parliament, members of the Public Service of any State, or employees in any industry or of any industrial concern. There are precedents in this matter in relation to what should be done about meeting the deficit brought about by the fact that some of the members who will obtain benefit from the scheme have not, up to the time it will come into operation, made any contribution towards the benefit. In recent years, a number of superannuation schemes have been introduced in Australia by large industrial firms. Under some of those schemes the firm itself, that is the employer, undertakes to bear the entire cost of any deficit arising in the fund because of the fact that certain employees who will obtain’ lienefit have not, up to the time of the inauguration of the scheme, made any contribution whatsoever. If we accept that basis it would be taken as the normal thing that the Government, being in thisinstance the employer of members of theParliament if one can put it in that way,, should accept that responsibility.
The Leader of the Australian Country party said that the scheme would start with the fund in deficit to the amount of £500,000, while the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) estimated that deficit at £636,000. Of course, each of them cited the opinion of an actuary* whom, they have consulted on the matter. I do not accept either of those figures. However, I make it clear that there is a difference between an actuarial and an? actual deficit. A fund may be actuarially in deficit but it may be sufficiently- strong to pay benefit to those who subscribe to it. At one end it is difficult to know what to do about the back contributions of present members’ of the Parliament who will become eligible for benefit as soon as this measure becomes law, and at the other end another difficulty arises as to whether there will he sufficient money left in the fund to pay benefit to those who are left in the scheme at any time it may be decided not to continue it. These are theoretical problems. All actuarial calculations are based largely on theory. However, they are two difficulties. I do not d jsire in any way to lead honorable members to confuse my own comments with the recommendations made by the committee of experts which advised the Government in this matter. That committee consisted of Mr. Justice Kirby, the Commonwealth Actuary, Mr. W. C. Balmford, and a private accountant, Mr. L. G. Oxby. The Government is grateful to those gentlemen for the assistance they have given to it in this matter. I do not want to give the impression when I am expressing my own opinion that it bears the imprimatur of those gentlemen. Paragraph 15 of the memorandum submitted by those gentlemen states -
We consider that the Commonwealth subsidy calculated as for an entrant at age 45, subjected to retirement rates averaging 30 per cent, for three years, might reasonably be taken as an indication of the cost of pensions if contributions were payable for the whole period of service- of each member. On this basis, the figures in Table C indicate that contributions will be sufficient to meet 44 per cent, of the cost of pensions and that the remaining 56 per cent, will have to be provided by the Commonwealth.
I take that to mean that if one accepts the assumptions on which these calculations are based, and leaves out of account the question of payment of contributions for back service of members of the Parliament regarding which it has been suggested an actuarial deficit will arise in the fund, the scheme would be actuarially sound on the basis that the Government contributed not 60 per cent., as provided under the bill, but only 56 per cent, of the total fund, and members contributed not 44 per cent., as provided under the bill, but only 40 per cent, of the fund. The point is that even if an actuarial deficit arises in the fund as the result of the fact that present members of the Parliament have made no contribution to the fund up to date, that deficit will be compensated for by the fact that the fund will be more than actuarially sound to the degree of 4 per cent. It would be actuarially sound if the Government were to contribute only 56 per cent, of the actual cost of the scheme whereas, of course, under the bill, the Government will provide 60 per cent, of the cost of benefits generally. Thus, there is a margin of safety of 4 per cent. The point made by the Prime Minister was that even if there is an actuarial though not an actual deficit in the fund as the result of present members of the Parliament having made no contribution for back service, that will be compensated for by the difference of 4 per cent, between the actuarial assessment of the liability of the Government and the Government’s actual liability as set out under the bill. I am prepared to go even further than that. I want to make it quite clear that I am about to express my own opinion and not that of the actuaries or others who have advised the Government on this matter. If there is an actuarial deficit of a certain amount arising from the matter that has been referred to by the Leader of the Australian Country party and which is acknowledged by the Government, and if in fact the Government is contributing 60 per cent, towards the benefits accruing from the fund whereas it need actuarially only pay 56 per cent, to meet the commitments, the difference of 4 per cent, would, in time, lead to the accumulation of a sum of money that would wipe the deficit out entirely. I was fairly good at mathematics in my younger days. Mathematically speaking, it is correct to say that, over the years, -and it may be a long term of years, the difference of 4 per cent, would lead to the accumulation of so large a sum of money that, finally, not only would the deficit be wiped out, but also, over an even longer term of years, the fund would be self-supporting and would not require contributions from members at all. That could only occur over a very, very long period of years. I am dealing with the matter only on a mathematical basis.
– That would be handing something down to posterity.
– That is true. Not only is this scheme actuarially sound; it is more than actuarially sound. It would be actuarially sound if the bill provided for a smaller contribution by the Commonwealth. The deficit which it has been suggested will arise during the early years of the operation of the scheme because no contributions will have been made by members in respect of past services is entirely an actuarial deficit. There is no question of there being an actual deficit. I have already explained why it is possible to have an actuarial deficit when in fact the fund itself is in credit. There is no possibility, under the provisions of the bill, that at any time there will be insufficient money in the fund to pay the benefits to which members will be entitled.
The amount of the deficit that it has been suggested will occur will depend entirely upon the number of present members of the House of Representatives and Senators who will retire otherwise than voluntarily within the next few years. I have already pointed out that, because of the enlargement of the Parliament, the risk that a sitting member of either House of the Parliament will fail to secure reelection at the forthcoming general election is less than would normally be the case. Consequently, I do not believe that the actuarial deficit will be anything like either of the amounts that were suggested by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) and the Leader of the Australian Country party. They each mentioned a different sum, having consulted outside actuaries. It is purely a matter of opinion. The Leader of the Australian Country party suggested that the actuarial deficit would be £500,000, but I suggest that that is not a correct figure. It includes the 60 per cent, contribution of the Commonwealth. Even on the right honorable gentleman’s argument, the actual actuarial deficit would be £200,000 and not £500,000. However, T do not accept even that latter figure as being correct, because the risk of members of the Parliament requiring to receive payments from the fund because they have failed to secure, re-election at the next general election is less than would normally be the case.
There is one other point that is of considerable importance. No mention has been made of the fact that, by acts of Parliament or by ex gratia payments by the Treasury which must be set out in the Estimates and approved by the Parliament, large sums of money have been paid to ex-members of the Parliament who were in indigent circumstances or to the widows and dependants of deceased members. Such payments will not require to be made in the future if this bill becomes law. It is true that payments under existing statutes and under arrangements that have been made by the Treasury must continue to be paid, but, if this bill is passed, it will not again be necessary for the Parliament to pass special acts providing for payments to be made to retired members who are in indigent circumstances or to the widows and dependants of deceased members, or for the Treasury to make ex gratia payments to assist the widows and dependants of men who were at one time members of the Parliament. There are four acts of Parliament on the statute-book which provide for the payment of pensions to the widows of individuals who were at one time members of the Parliament. Last year, the payments made under those statutory provisions cost the Commonwealth £1,312. That is not the largest sum that has been paid in a year for that purpose. I do not want to mention names, but honorable members will agree with me that larger sums have been paid under these statutory provisions than have been paid in the last two or three years. In addition to payments under statutory provisions, ex gratia payments are being made by the Treasury to fourteen widows of members and to one ex-member who would otherwise be in indigent circumstances. The total of those ex gratia payments is £2,450. The total amount which was paid by the Treasury last year in what may be termed retiring allowances or pensions for ex-members of the Parliament and their widows was £3,762. None of those payments need be made in respect of any present members or any future members of the Parliament, if this bill becomes law. In the circumstances, I believe that the bill should have the support of all honorable members. We all agree with the principle of providing retiring allowances for members of the Parliament, or for their widows or dependants. Therefore, I suggest that the bill merits the support of all right thinking members.
Mr. beale (Parramatta) [2.57]. - I rise with some reluctance, hut I consider that it is my duty to the Parliament and the people to state my attitude to the bill. I resist the suggestion that has been made by some people that the bill must be anathema because it is against their consciences. Several of us with different views also have consciences, and we think that we should be permitted frankly to express our views about the bill. I approve of the principle of the measure. Indeed, I believe that every honorable member on this side of the House approves of the principle. We disagree on some details and the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) has submitted an amendment to the motion for the second-reading of the bill which appears to have substance. Certain anomalies in the bill should be carefully examined, but subject to that, I say for my part, that a proposal to give some compensation to members of the Parliament when they are turned out of office by their constituents or are forced to retire through ill health or for any other reason, is long overdue. I, myself, do not expect to benefit under this bill, though perhaps I shall do so. I do not desire to cause any other honorable member who may have particular aspirations about any electorate in which I may be interested to suffer heart failure, but I am prepared to tell the House that I hope to be a member of the chamber for some time to come.
– In what electorate is the honorable member interested?
– I am interested in several electorates, but that matter rests in the lap of the gods, or, more particularly, in the hands of the electors.
– Or the pre-selection committees.
– That is better still. There is another reason why I may not benefit as much as others. Like many honorable members on both sides of the House, I carry life assurance to such a degree that it will be unprofitable for me to pay the substantial sum of £3 a week and not be able to claim a rebate of income tax in respect of it. But this matter should not be decided on the footing of whether any of us expects to derive any benefit from the scheme. I believe that some brick-bats will be thrown at me and other honorable members on this side of the chamber who speak in favour of the bill, but that does not matter, either. There comes a time when a man should be prepared to say honestly what he thinks about a bill, and quite frankly, I am not prepared to embark upon any general condemnation of the Government for having introduced a measure when I agree with the principles of it.
I have no objection to sharing the burden of the cost of the scheme. Some people have offered criticism because those who become members of the Parliament in future will be asked to share the burden in respect of those who will get a certain benefit because they have been members of the Parliament for six or eight years in the past. If they fall by the wayside, they will receive a rather abnormal benefit, compared with those who become members of the Parliament in future. I do not mind that. In this kind of scheme, we all must share the burden. If it is justifiable to have a pension scheme, it is futile to say that it must be placed on the basis of the Public Service Superannuation Fund. There is no possible point of comparison between the position of members of the Parliament and public servants. It is sheer nonsense to suggest that there is a comparison between the two positions. It is encouraging though unusual to hear the “ hear, hears “ from honorable members opposite. There is no comparison between conventional superannuation schemes, and the position of members of the Parliament.
The reasons which induce me to support the principle of this bill are that, in my view, public life involves great sacrifices. I do not deny that it is also most interesting. Any one with any degree of intelligence must find that public life is extraordinarily interesting. There are great compensations to be derived from the work which we do here, the things which we hear, and the fact that we are at the centre of events in Australia. Those are encouraging features of public life. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who sits at my side, makes a very pertinent comment that my remark applies equally to those honorable members without any intelligence. Those of us who perhaps wrongly claim to have some intelligence think that for that reason, we can appreciate to an even greater degree the advantages of public life. There are irritations and interferences with our private lives, because of the attention which we must give to our constituents, but an enormous degree of gratification is to be derived from being able to help people in trouble. All honorable members must find that the assistance which they can render in that respect is one of the most satisfying parts of political life. Members of the Opposition frequently become irritated when they cannot get their own way, but so also do the back-benchers on the other side of the chamber. I note with pleasure that my words strike a responsive chord in the hearts of Government supporters. Even some Ministers are unable to get the majority of members of Cabinet to agree with their views. But all those frustrations, inseparable from public life, are compensated for by the fact that, in our own electorates, we can help humble people; Speaking with very warm sincerity, I state that that, for me, is a feature of public life which encourages me to continue as a member of Parliament. Nevertheless, the life is very exhausting.
– Hear, hear!
– I am sure that the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) finds that my speech is exhausting. However, the point which I desire to make is that public life is a hard life. In the physical sense, I have found it very hard. Why should we not do something for members who fall by the wayside? There are two kinds of case. A young man, who has not had an opportunity to establish himself in trade, com merce or a profession, may enter the Parliament, and having been here for a comparatively short time, cease to be a member. Surely something ought to be done about him. At attempt to do so is being made in this measure. Often he has not had time prior to entering Parliament to build up forms of insurance, or to establish a business or profession, and is quite suddenly, without warning, thrown out into the world and has to struggle and scratch for his living. In the past there have been many instances of that having occurred. Politicians who have fallen by the wayside at the election have been given jobs by the incoming Government because of their impoverished circumstances. It has been said time and time again that younger men should be attracted to parliamentary service. If young men enter this form of public life, provision should be made for their welfare if, after serving for a short period, they have to go out into the world again and start off well behind scratch. On the other hand, the older men must also be considered. I speak with some sympathy in this connexion. Of course a man who has established himself in business before entering Parliament can fairly readily take up the threads again should he not be reelected. But a man who has been the sole proprietor of a business, or who has engaged in professional pursuits before entering Parliament, may be faced with considerable difficulty. It is well known that the frequent journeying to Canberra throughout the year to attend to parliamentary business is utterly ruinous to professional men. If such a man is then rejected by the electors after parliamentary service for some years, a hardship is imposed upon him because, during his period in the Parliament, he has attained a certain standard of living, and as time goes on there is always a tendency to increase one’s personal expenditure and consequently there is great difficulty in reducing it. It is not unreasonable to expect that when, as a result of the political accident of being rejected by the electors, a man who has reached middle life, and whose business or profession has been destroyed or nearly destroyed as a result of his devotion to public duties, should be in some measure provided for. That is why we on this side of the House support the principles of this bill. I point out that parliaments in nearly every .State of the Commonwealth have adopted measures of this kind. Although I have not examined all those schemes, I have been told that the contributions of such schemes by the various State treasuries are in all cases greater than the contribution that the Commonwealth Treasury will be called upon to make in connexion with this scheme. That disproves entirely the suggestion that has been made that, by this measure, we politicians are grasping to dip their hands into the Commonwealth Treasury unless it is to be assumed that all other politicians in all other State parliaments have burgled their treasuries by introducing their schemes. The merits of the respective schemes could be argued until the cows come home. Likewise, the “ actuarial soundness “ of this scheme could be talked about until the end of the world. Those words are merely thrown up to mesmerize people. The point is that we should introduce a measure that will operate fairly as between the Treasury and the members. It is generally acknowledged that some provision should be made for members who fall by the wayside, in order that suitable men will be attracted to parliamentary service. I believe that this scheme is long overdue. In the past, I understand that such a scheme was discussed by members of the then United Australia party. Although I am not aware of the details, the principle was accepted some years ago that a measure of this nature should be brought down. Another of my reasons for supporting this measure is that it will avoid ex gratia payments to the widows of deceased members, which constitutes a drain on the Treasury each year. When honorable members speak about the actuarial soundness of the scheme it must be remembered that £3,000 to £4,000 is paid out in this way each year. Surely that must be taken into consideration. Another important reason for supporting this bill is the desirability of maintaining the standard of the Public Service. If provision is made as envisaged in this measure, Governments will no longer have any justification for continuing along the course that they have been driven to follow for many years of appointing ex-members of Parliament to Public Service jobs, because they have difficulty in securing positions after being defeated at an election. From time to time honorable members on this side of the House have criticized that sort of thing, but sometimes, it has been the fair thing to do, and it has been done by all political parties. If hereafter in the course of time a member becomes entitled to a pension, to which he has himself contributed, no government will be justified in finding him a job in the Public Service. That is an aspect which should be taken into account in determining whether this scheme is justifiable. I have been somewhat anxious about the retrospective provisions in this measure. That concerns members who have served in this Parliament in previous years for more than eight years, or who, when this Parliament is dissolved, will have served for more than eight years. Although they may contribute only a few hundred pounds at most, they will, if defeated, be entitled to a pension of £8 a week for the rest of their lives. This is something, which must cause all of us to think seriously about the measure. My first thought was that that could not be justified. I thought that this scheme should start from now and not apply retrospectively.
– Hear, hear!
– Although the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) has said “ Hear, hear ! “, I shall not allow that to distract me, because this is a matter on which I have clear views and strong feelings. I approach this matter of retrospectivity with diffidence. Since I am not in that class, who am I to make criticism of it as against people who have been in the Parliament for a long time? The longer that men have served in the Parliament the harder it is for them to catch up in their civil vocations. Having thought about this aspect carefully, I consider that we must make a start somewhere and, after all, I suppose now is as good a time as any other to start. There is no certainty that at the end of the seven year period, when an actuarial balance is to be struck, there will be a deficit. In my opinion there may well be no substantial deficit as there are not likely to be many recipients. This, however,” is a matter which may well be looked at again. I would prefer that provision should be made in such cases for a lump sum payment, rather than that they should receive a pension for the rest of their lives. That would enable them to get going again. That is a matter on which there might be various opinions. It is one of the matters to which the amendment is directed. That is one reason why I am prepared to support the amendment. There is value in the idea of having another look at the scheme, but I do not condemn the proposal out of hand. Something of the kind is long overdue. If the scheme is re-examined and the anomalies are ironed out, it is likely to be beneficial to the people of Australia in the long run.
.- I am opposed to this measure. I am not opposed to the idea of retiring allowances for members of the Parliament if some fair and reasonable plan could be devised, but I am opposed to placing retiring members in a privileged position. I think the bill is unsound because it is designed to confer a privilege on retiring members. I do not ask or wish for privileges. Since the election of this Parliament we have taken for ourselves larger salaries because of the large amount of work involved in large electorates. We have also cut our electorates in half in order to reduce the work. Now it is proposed that we should pay to retiring members special pensions that will be out of all proportion to the position. Some honorable members have been here for many years and they deserve and should receive retiring allowances, but I see no need to pay £8 a week for life to” members who serve the short term of eight years and who should be well able to obtain other employment, should they lose their seats at the next general election. It has been said that many members have made sacrifices to enter the Parliament, but every one makes sacrifices as they go through life, and it does not seem necessary to protect people against sacrifices. Sacrifices are not all evil or unhealthy. Many men have given up some other employment to enter the Parliament and they may not easily obtain congenial employment should they lose their seats. Some of them have young families. Probably all have dependants. But honorable members no doubt considered their position carefully before they gave up that other employment and submitted themselves for election to the Parliament. They took the risk as men have taken risks over the years. In fact, some almost fall over themselves to obtain seats in the Parliament. In some electorates there is almost a cup field of candidates for pre-selection. To enter Parliament was a greater risk some years ago than it is to-day, because to-day is the time of full employment and it is not likely that any persons here except those over 65 years of age would be out of work if they lost their seats at the next general election, because this Government has made special efforts to ensure that there shall be full employment. I am sure that retiring members will be not lost sight of if they lose their seats. I look round and I think my surmise is correct. I am one who may be affected. I could obtain employment should I lose my seat and I am quite sure that other members could do so. This plan does not seem to compare favorably with the Commonwealth Public Service superannuation scheme. The parliamentary retiring allowance is to be more generous. It has been said that the British scheme is subject to a means test. I am opposed to means tests wherever they are applied. I am opposed to passing legislation in favour of a group of privileged persons without a means test when a means test is imposed to other persons whose age or invalidity would entitle them to pensions but for their means. Most persons who should be entitled to pensions without hindrance have made sacrifices and served their country well.
– But they did not contribute three “quid” a week.
– The honorable gentleman says that they do not pay three “ quid “ a week. Granted. Even granting that we shall have to pay three “ quid “ a week, I consider the proposal too generous. Some honorable members have young children. If they have more than one child they draw child endowment. They are entitled to all benefits that this generous Government has made available through its social service measures. It is only fair to use in debating this measure the arguments used when we discuss pensions for people on lower incomes.When we discuss age and invalid pensions, widows’ pensions and war pensions we have to consider other social services granted to the people. So we should consider them when we are debating pensions or retiring allowances for ourselves. We have had put before us a contributory plan. The age pensions system is not a contributory system. Therefore age and invalid pensions and parliamentary retiring allowances are not comparable. But I have a sympathetic feeling for age and invalid pensioners who have a struggle in life these days. I resent this move to secure for a small group of more fortunate people with a good income a pension for life after 45 years of age if they are defeated. Then we also say that other pensioners may earn only 30s. a week in addition to the pension. Is there to be no limit on the extra earnings that ex-members may have above the £8 a week retiring allowance? If not, why should one group of persons have the privilege of earning without limit above the £8 a week if they wish and have the ability to do so, when the larger group of unprivileged persons are denied that privilege? The bill may or may notbe actuarially sound. I do not know, but I do not like it. Sixty per cent. of the money will have to be made up out of Consolidated Revenue in the first years at least. That is too high, as£8 a week is too high. I am opposed to the bill and must express my opposition to it. I do not know whether the amendment proposed by the Opposition will interest me. I may not be able to vote for it either. A member’s life is exacting and the work is heavy if conscientiously done. It makes for a broken home life, much discomfort and inconvenience and little personal freedom. Members of the public do not realize that members of Parliament do work. After many years of experience of the subject - I speak in recognition of the work that has been done in this country by some of the representatives of the people - I wish to have it clearly understood that I believe that the salary of a conscientious member is well earned. Much of the salary is passed on to the people, who expect it to be passed on, because this has become a custom. I believe that the people do not realize just what that amounts to and I believe that they do not realize that many members retirein old age with very little to live on. The older men, on retirement, are often more or less penniless and they and their wives, and, after their death, their widows, must suffer. Something must be done, I believe, but I cannot accept this measure. I must vote against it. I believe that it is over-generous and I ask that it be re-examined.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) on the speech which she has made. The honorable member, who covered ground which I proposed to traverse briefly, presented her argument in an extremely sensible way. I am sorry that I am unable to support this bill. Like other honorable members, I realize the necessity at an early date for the introduction of a pensions scheme for members of the Parliament. During my eight years’ membership of this Parliament, I, like other honorable members, have known members ofboth Houses of the Parliament who, after having rendered long and honorable service to their country, have retired and found themselves in a condition of great financial hardship and at an age and in state of health which almost entirely prevented them from earning a livelihood. Consequently, I approve of this bill in principle; but, because I approve of it in principle, that does not necessarily mean that I approve of the proposals contained in it. It is with respect to those proposals that I join issue with honorable members opposite. I regard the benefits proposed to be granted under this bill as unduly generous. During the time I have been a member of this Parliament many additional privileges have been’ granted to honorable members and senators. We have been provided with secretarial assistance, which I admit to be necessary; we have been granted living away from home allowances; and we have received a 50 per cent. increase in our parliamentary allowance. Now, in addition to those privileges-
– What is worrying the honorable member is the prospect of having to pay an extra three “ quid “ a week.
– I shall have something to say about that later. ‘In addition to the privileges which I have outlined, members of the Parliament are to be granted the additional privilege of a pensions scheme. I regard the basis of this scheme as too generous. Of the funds necessary to finance this scheme, members of the Parliament are to contribute 40 per cent., and the Government is to contribute 60 per cent. In my view, the percentages should be reversed. My second season for characterizing this bill as unfair and inequitable is that at one end of the age scale it proposes to give too much for too little to youth, and at the other end of the scale it proposes to give too little for too much to age.
– A most selfish viewpoint !
– Younger members of the Parliament who become entitled to pensions will receive rewards out of all proportion to the amount of money they will contribute to this scheme. Likewise, the more mature members of this Parliament, like myself, who may have to retire at the wish of their electors, will receive far more than their contributions would entitle them to receive. At the other end of the scale are those members of the Parliament who have given long service to their country in the political sphere. My criticism of the bill on their account applies more to parliaments as they were constituted in the past than to this Parliament. Members of the Parliament who serve for long periods and make substantial contributions to the fund will receive inadequate returns for their investment. For those two reasons I oppose the bill.
A good deal has been said about the sacrifices made by men who enter public life. Any man who enters public life must be prepared to make many sacrifices. It is a very poor outlook for this country if people enter political life solely to gain privileges. The standard of public life is raised far higher by the idea that pub lic life means sacrifice than by the hope that it means personal gain. Even in these days of comparative prosperity, many sections of the people are suffering financial losses as the result of anomalies. Before we consider ourselves, we should think of them. At this moment, our thoughts should be concentrated on their problems rather than on a proposal such as the one now before us. For those reasons, I support the amendment proposed by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison).
Mr. falstein (Watson) [3.30].- It is more than passing strange that this legislation, which may be said to be complementary to amending legislation introduced into the Parliament some time ago to increase the parliamentary allowance, has been opposed by the very people who also opposed the earlier legislation to which I have referred. They told us at that time that they would not accept the increase of the parliamentary allowance. Indeed, they protested almost heroically against the proposal.
– If the honorable member wants to make this a personal matter, he will regret it.
– While some honorable members opposite oppose this legislation, they say at the same time that they approve of it in principle. I propose to be very brief. I merely intend to answer some criticism of the bill made by honorable members opposite. They object to the retrospectivity of this legislation. Whenever a superannuation scheme or provident fund is established its founders determine whether it shall commence immediately or at some time in the future. Few pensions schemes for members of Parliament, certainly none of the schemes at present in force in the Commonwealth or in British countries, have not commenced to operate immediately after the passing of the legislation required to give effect to them. This question, of retrospectivity is bound up with the decision whether such a scheme should commence immediately or at some future time. The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) have said that they have consulted actuaries in order to obtain certain information about this bill, and tbat the actuaries have stated that this scheme mayinvolve the country in a debit of as much as £500,000. If the actuaries believed that to be the situation, I can only say that their computations should be regarded as so much “poppy cock”. The basis of the reserve to be provided by the Government which, according to. the actuaries’ report is stated to be 4 per cent., will be available to offset any deficit which might result from the retrospective effect of this legislation. Of course, if every member of the House of Representatives and of the Senate were to retire, or be defeated at the next election, it might be claimed that the whole scheme would break down at its inception because of the extraordinary drain on the fund. Actuarial calculations are based on a particular situation. For instance, when an actuary is given figures relating to XYZ, he arrives at a certain conclusion, but if he is required to consider, in addition, figures relating to ABC, then obviously his findings must be loaded to take care of the contingencies that may arise from the introduction of new, and perhaps important, considerations. Therefore, the suggestion that the solvency of the scheme is in danger because of its retrospectivity must be tested in relation to the factors which the actuaries have properly taken into consideration. The Government must decide whether the scheme is to commence now or later, and I believe that the only possible conclusion to come to is that it should commence now. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has stressed the propitiousness of tha time, and has pointed out that, after the next election, the Parliament will be bigger. That brings me to the assertion of some members of the Opposition that, of every Parliament, three out of ten, on an average, retired or were defeated. Even if that be true of all Parliaments up to, and including this, the 18th Parliament, it will not be true of the next, because there will be more members in the next Parliament than there have been in the others. Thus, if the average number of members of the House of Representatives who retired or were defeated every term has been 22, that must be related to the total number of 75 mem- bers. However, if 22 members of the: present Parliament retire or are defeated, at the next election, that number will have to be related to the total number of 122 members in the new Parliament..
The payment of retiring allowances of £8 a week provided under this scheme is to be subject to taxation. Much has been made of the fact that the Treasury is to* contribute 60 per cent, of the benefits in order to keep the scheme actuarially sound. It should be remembered, however, that a proportion of the money contributed by the Treasury will, in duecourse, return to the Treasury in the form of taxation on pensions.
– That is true of any government superannuation scheme.
– Was it brought into thecalculation when the present scheme was being drawn up?
– Some honorablemembers opposite have evinced a disposition to write themselves down. I commend the American principle that people put the same value on a man as he putson himself. I believe that the scheme is a good one. It compares more than favorably with similar schemes in New Zealand, New South Wales, Victoria,. South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland, Canada and the United Kingdom, and for that reason is to be commended.
.- 1 support the bill on principle, not as a plan. Pensions in special cases are now being paid to ex-members of Parliament, as honorable members may see by studying the Estimates. After an election, jobs are found for defeated candidates as trade commissioners and members of boards appointed by the Government. A properly devised scheme for retiring allowances would put an end to that. We could all support a soundly based scheme. I press the Government to accept the amendment so that a better scheme may be devised. The present one is overgenerous, as the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) have shown. Comparisonsare necessary and inevitable. I stress the fact that a war widow receives only £3 5s. a week, and a civil widow even less, whereas the widows of politicians are to receive £5 a week. A totally incapacitated ex-serviceman receives £6 5s. a week; an incapacitated man who can work receives £3 5s. There should be in this case a properly conducted inquiry to gather information upon which could be based a scheme of which we could all approve. I agree, therefore, that the bill should be withdrawn and referred to an all-party committee to investigate and make recommendations for an equitable scheme of retiring allowances for persons who have served as members of Parliament.
– in reply - It is, of course, possible to go into involved mathematical calculations when considering a scheme of this kind. The Government has endeavoured to present a true picture to the public. As Treasurer, I do not wish that there should be any deception. For that reason, Cabinet, at the instance of the Labour party, decided to get two qualified persons to consider the scheme mathematically. We secured the services of two very eminent actuaries, the Commonwealth Actuary, Mr. Balmford, and the actuary of the Australian Mutual Provident Society, Mr. Oxby. There is no question of the ability of those two gentlemen. Owing to the uncertainties, all that an actuary can do is to examine previous happenings and make a guess about what may occur in the future. It is probable that, under the proportional representation system, most of the sitting senators will be returned to the Parliament after the next general election and will, therefore, continue to contribute to the scheme. I should imagine that some of the senators, if they secured their party pre-selection, could remain in the Parliament for as long as they wished to do so. Despite what has been said by the Acting Leader of the Opposition, I daresay that we shall see quite a number of the old faces in this House when the new Parliament assembles. I know that honorable members on both sides of the House would regret losing sight of some of their opponents. If a scheme such as this is to be established, this seems to me to be a suitable time to establish it.
I do not support this measure because I fear that if I fail to secure re-election to the Parliament I shall not be able to keep off the dole. The members of the Parliament are drawn from all parts of Australia and from all sections of the community. Whilst they are serving the Parliament, they tend to lose touch with their businesses and trades. If, for instance, a toolmaker was elected to the Parliament five or six years ago, becausp of his parliamentary activities he would not be conversant with all the developments that had occurred in his trade in that time. 1 am prepared to take whatever kicks may be aimed at me for advocating the introduction of a pensions scheme for parliamentarians. I do not support this measure with the object of making something out of it for myself in the form of a pension if I am unfortunate enough to be rejected by the electors in future. I have always advocated some form of parliamentary pensions system, but I have always insisted that members should be required to make substantial contributions to the fund. One difficulty that has always existed is that, at whatever time a pensions scheme may be established, there will be in the Parliament a number of members who would, because of their past services, become eligible almost immediately to receive a pension, although they had contributed very little to the fund. When I examined this problem recently, I realized that there were approximately 59 members of this House who would, having regard to their length of service in the Parliament, be eligible almost immediately for pensions. A Cabinet sub-committee considered the matter very carefully with the actuaries. So that an examination might be made by a completely impartial authority, the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration was good enough to allow Mr. Justice Kirby to examine the principles of the scheme. I do not say that Mr. Justice Kirby or the actuaries made any recommendations. All that they were asked to do was to examine the question as thoroughly as they could, having regard to the uncertainties. They were asked to prepare a scheme, based on the principle of the present Commonwealth Public Service superannuation scheme, on the assumption that the Government would be responsible for 60 per cent, of the contributions and that members would be responsible for 40 per cent. I suggest that the contribution of £3 a week that members will be required to make is a fairly substantial one. A number of schemes were prepared and I examined all of them very closely. The Cabinet subcommittee, which consisted of the Acting Attorney-General (Senator McKenna), who is an accountant and a lawyer, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) and the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell), also spent a great deal of time in examining them.
To return to the principle underlying this measure, I have always believed in a system of parliamentary pensions. I am not actuated by any personal motives. I have been out of Parliament before, but I have managed to sustain myself and to secure re-election. During my period of office as Treasurer, some very sad cases have been brought to my notice concerning ex-members of the Parliament. When I came into the Parliament in 1928, I forfeited my superannuation rights. I could never return to my old job as a first-class engine driver. I should have to start at the bottom of the ladder again. My case is typical of that of others. Each year I have had to review the ex gratia payments that are made to the widows of ex-members. It has not been a very pleasant task. From time to time I have had to instruct special officers of my department to investigate the financial position of those ladies. I have had to do that within the last twelve months or two years in regard to the widows of men who had rendered great service to the Parliament. One of the men occupied distinguished positions in a State parliament and the Commonwealth Parliament. He had rendered great service to his country and had served in- public life with distinction. He was a member of one of the Opposition .parties, and not of the Labour party. When he died, his wife found herself to be in very straitened circumstances. I have had to review her case from time to time, and it has not been a very pleasant task. It is easy to say that men who have been in the Parliament for 20 or 25 years should have made some provision for their wives by means of insurance policies or savings, but, after all, we are all very human. Many men have no money sense, and that sometimes applies to their wives as well. A wife often compels her husband to make some provision for their support in their old age. If a man has not a thrifty wife, he does not leave much money when he dies. The ability to make money is not the most commendable trait in a man’s make-up. There may be men who have rendered magnificent service to the public, but who have not been able to save money because they do not possess the money sense. I like to see people being thrifty. Having a Treasurer’s instinct, I like to see money saved. It was once said that if we want to know what God thinks about money, we should look at the people who have got it. I am sure that there are many honorable members in this House who would echo that sentiment. It is not hard to make money it a person makes up his mind to do so. If a man is anxious to obtain money, hecan always do so. I am sure that if many honorable members left the Parliament to-morrow, they would encounter no difficulty in finding enough people who want to spend money to enable them to make money. I am concerned with the human aspect of this matter as it affects men who have served their country for a long time in the Parliament. It is all very well to say that they were lucky to be elected and that the people put them into the Parliament, but, after all, the people put them there as their servants. Those men left their former avocations when they entered the Parliament. We are all human. There is such a thing as human dignity, although it is perhaps a false dignity sometimes. Men who have served for a number of years in the Parliament and have occupied prominent positions in the life of the country do not care very much about going back to their old jobs or going round looking for new ones. They find it rather humiliating. I know that that is a deplorable attitude, but, after all, we are not dealing with perfect human beings.
I do not propose to go into the mathematics of the scheme in detail. The Acting Leader of the Opposition referred to a statement that was made by an actuary. Let me put the case simply to the House. When this scheme has been in operation for eight or nine years and the first review is made, it will then be, as far as can be ascertained by mathematical calculations, on the same basis as the Commonwealth Public Service superannuation scheme. It is true that until then, because of the necessity to provide for existing members who may draw pensions without having contributed much to the scheme, there may be a deficiency. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) said that the deficiency would be £500,000. Having examined the figures, I am satisfied that whoever made that statement did not know what he was talking about. The estimate of £500,000 is based on the total liability, as if the Government were making no contribution. The amount of the deficiency will depend to a great degree upon how many members of this Parliament will serve in the new Parliament and contribute to the scheme. I wish to be perfectly frank with the House. The deficiency could be £100,000 or even £150,000, but that is only a guess. Substantial pensions were paid to the widows of two ex-Prime Ministers of this country who were in financial difficulties when their husbands died. No contributions were paid by the husbands at all. Prime Ministers are not so much more important in this Parliament than the ordinary rank and file member who serves his constituents. Very often Prime Ministers are not quite as worthy as those who go out into the hurly-burly of the electorates. I know of private members who work just as hard as I do though they may not work quite as long. Why should we give special consideration to the widows of Prime Ministers and no consideration to the widows of rank and file members of the Parliament?
It was suggested first that the member’s contribution should be 30s. a week. I rejected that proposal. Perhaps it would be correct to say that I opposed it, because it was not for me to reject it. I said that if a pensions scheme was required, the member’s contribution should be a substantial one and that if it were the Parliament could justify its actions. The pensions that will be paid under this scheme will be subject to taxa tion. If the widow of an ex-member is of the appropriate age, she can now draw an age pension of £2 2s. 6d. a week, but she would not be entitled to draw it if she were receiving a pension under this scheme. She would not be entitled to both. Some men are not able to accumulate personal wealth. The ability to accumulate wealth is not such a marvellous quality. The Scrooges of this world are not remembered for their great public service. If this scheme comes into operation, a man who takes the risk of entering public life will know that his widow will have something if he dies and that he will have something if he leaves the Parliament, having given up his normal avocation to enter it. There are members of the Parliament, such as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), who could earn five times as much outside of it as they can inside it. I am quite sure that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has lost a great deal of money by being a member of the Parliament. The honorable gentleman will pardon my reference to him, but I know his ability in his own profession, although I disagree with him violently sometimes in this House. Men such as those and others have made great sacrifices by entering the Parliament. Somebody has to serve in our democraticinstitutions, and it is gratifying to know that men are prepared to do so. I am sure that the Leader of the Australian Country party would have a considerably larger income if he were to devote the whole of his energies to his accountancy business instead of poking around this House for many months of the year. Some sceptics state that members of the Parliament derive many advantages from their public position. I have been a Minister for more than eight years, but nobody has ever offered me a bribe. I have never been subject to temptation in that respect. Let me refer in passing to a specific instance in order to illustratemy arguments in favour of introducingthe retiring allowances scheme. A gentleman, the late Colonel Collett, who was a member of the Senate for many years,, lost his seat. He had rendered magnificent service to this country. I appreciated the assistance that he gave to the-
Parliament as a member of various committees. He was defeated, not becausehe lacked ability or personal qualities, but because the political pendulum swung against the party which he supported. The Opposition has been in the unfortunate position of being the victim of the swing of the pendulum in the last two elections. Earlier, the Australian Labour party was in a similar situation. Members of the Labour party are probably not so well endowed with worldly goods as are members of the Opposition, in the aggregate.
– Some members of the Labour party are wealthy.
– I was careful to use the words “ in the aggregate “. I feel that it is pitiable when men who have served their country in this Parliament for years are defeated and have no means, and I, as Treasurer, have to probe into their intimate affairs, and ask Ministers to find employment for them. The mere fact that they have not been able to amass wealth to give them independence does not lower them in my estimation. Some people have a flair for making money, but many others have not. I have expressed the view to the Parliamentary Labour party, and I have certainly convinced myself, even if I have not succeeded in convincing anybody else, that the Parliament and the public have a responsibility to ensure that former members, who have rendered valuable service to their country, shall not be left almost destitute after their constituents have endorsed the policy of a political party to which they do not belong. If I may introduce a jocular note, 1 point out that casual labourers receive higher rates of pay than do permanent employees in many industries. According to the views of some people, the public have picked up a good deal of casual labour and transferred it to this Parliament to represent their views. Some honorable members havebeen in the Parliament for three, six or eight years, and have then been rejected, not because of lack of ability or personal qualities, but because the particular policy which their party has advocated has happened to be unpopular with the public. The fact that they were defeated was not a reflection on their ability. From time to time, state ments have been made about the necessity for providing retiring allowances for Prime Ministers. In my opinion, a Prime Minister is not entitled to any more consideration than is a private member in that respect. I have always advocated the payment of retiring allowances to former members of Parliament, provided they have made a very substantial contribution in return for such benefits. I should not regard a weekly payment of 30s. as a substantial contribution, but if members will accept a basis for contributions similar to thebasis of the Public Service superannuation scheme, as this bill provides, I am prepared to justify the scheme on any platform or elsewhere.
It is an honour to be a member of the Parliament, and to engage in legislating for the development of this young nation, which, one day, will be a great nation. When a man ceases to be a member, he should not need to beg for some mean little job, and his widow should not have to approach the Treasurer for assistance. As I have already stated, I regard it as pitiable when I have to send an officer to investigate a widow’s financial position as I must do before I may approve of the payment of a pension to her. It is far better to introduce such a pensions scheme as the bill proposes. I myself am a comparatively new member of the Parliament, and I do not fulfil the requirements of the twelve years’ qualification. But the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has been a member of the Parliament since federation. If he were to make a contribution of£3 a week it is not likely that he would ever get his money back. The Parliamentary Labour party believes that members should pool the risk. Some of the younger members of the Parliament will always retain their seats, provided they win the pre-selection ballots. This scheme does not offer much advantage to them, although, in the event of their death, their widows will benefit. The view of the Parliamentary Labour party is that the more fortunate members should make a contribution, even though, in the final analysis, they will lose substantially, for the sake of the less fortunate members who serve their country for a comparatively brief period and who are defeated, not because of the lack of personal ability, but because the public lacks faith in the policy of the political party which they support. Whilst I have always favoured a parliamentary pension scheme, I have always battled for the payment of a very substantial contribution by members. Perhaps I should not describe the benefit as a “ pension “ “ Retiring allowance “ is a more aristocratic name for it. As Treasurer, I must accept a large measure of responsibility for the scheme, but I have no ulterior motives in advocating it. I readily agree that those honorable members who oppose the scheme also have no ulterior motives in doing so. But I consider that the scheme should be established, and if any political odium is associated with it, my colleagues and I are prepared to bear it. Despite criticisms, I believe that the scheme will finally be recognized as an excellent move in order to ensure that men, who have served their country in this Parliament, shall not be on the breadline or the dole when they are defeated.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. Harrison’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to make provision for contributory retiring allowances for persons who have served as members of the Parliament.
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed. Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ protected person “ means a person under the protection of the Government of any part of His Majesty’s dominions;
Senate’s amendment. - After “ person “ (second occurring), insert “who is included in such prescribed classes of . persons as are “.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
When the bill was before this chamber, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) asked a question relating to the meaning of “ protected person “. The argument involved the meaning of British protectorates. The legal advisers of the Government thought that as a result of the discussion the definition should be made clearer. If the Senate’s amendment be agreed to the definition will read - “ protected person “ means a person who is included in such prescribed classes of persons as are under the protection of the Government of any part of His Majesty’s dominions;
.- I should be glad if the Minister would take this opportunity to clarify the position which I think this clause opens up, relating to the matter of nationality that we discussed recently. The next part of the clause refers to British nationality. The Minister did not state clearly whether we possess an Australian nationality.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Clark).When an amendment by the Senate is being considered, that is all that the committee is entitled to discuss.
– I thought that the Minister might welcome the opportunity to make an explanation.
– This amendment deals with a protected person and relates to persons who lived in the mandated territory of New Guinea. Under British law, those who live in the mandated territories are not subjects of His Majesty and are not eligible for naturalization. The question of Australian nationality is & matter which the Government will consider further during the forthcoming recess.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Clause 3 -
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ alien “ means a person who is not a British subject, an Irish citizen or a person under the protection of the Government of any part of His Majesty’s dominions;
Senate’s amendment. - Leave out the definition of “ alien “, insert the following definition : - “‘alien’ means a person who is an alien within the meaning of the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948; “.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
The definition proposed by the amendment was in the bill when it came before this committee originally. We amended the bill to provide that an “ alien “ means a person who is not a British subject, an Irish citizen or a person under the protection of the government of any part of’ His Majesty’s dominions. The legal advisers of the Government suggest that that amendment narrows the definition somewhat. They consider that we should restore the original definition. Accordingly, an amendment was made in the Senate. “ Alien “ under this amendment will mean a person who is an alien within the meaning of the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948.
– One should be coextensive with the other.
– Precisely. Definitions are not ordinarily included in such an act. The definitions should be in the Nationality and Citizenship Act. They should be in one act, not in both acts. In addition, the Government’s legal advisers consider that it would be better to amend the Nationality and’ Citizenship Act than to have one definition in the Nationality and Citizenship Act and another in this act.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Debate resumed from the 7th December (vide page 4031), on motion by Mr. Lemmon -
That the hill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is the result of a conference between the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Premiers of the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. It has been brought forward for the purpose of enabling the Hume Weir to be completed. As honorable members know, this country is not blessed with many waterways and rivers of any appreciable size, and it devolves upon us to make the best use we can of those we have. I understand that the weir was originally designed to impound 2,000,000 acre-feet of water, but, at the present time, it holds only approximately 1,250,000 acre-feet of water. It has been decided, owing to the irrigation areas along the Murray being extended, that the completion of the weir is a matter of importance. Consequently, an agreement was made to complete the weir at a cost of approximately £1,000,000. This bill seeks to implement that agreement. The most important part of the bill is the schedule, under which,’ apparently, certain new agreements have been entered into. It is well known that one of the problems with which we are faced in this country is soil erosion, both by water and by wind. Apparently this catchment area has been somewhat adversely affected by water erosion. The schedule imposes an obligation on the States of Victoria and New South Wales to take such action as will protect the catchment of the Hume Weir in each of those States. It also places upon them an obligation to make an annual report on the condition of the catchment area in their States, and to arrange for inspections of the areas. If, as a result of any inspection, it is considered that some action should be taken to remedy erosion that has occurred, they will also have to arrange for the necessary remedial action to be taken. The schedule also sets out in detail the manner in which the cost of the work done to protect the area shall be apportioned. It specifies, also, the share of the water that shall be made available to the several States. Mention is made, particularly, of the water that shall be made available to South Australia. Whilst I assume that this decision was arrived at by the conference, I point out that the people of South Australia are becoming increasingly fearful that, with the huge expansion or irrigation in New South Wales and Victoria, the water that South Australia is entitled to receive under this and previous agreements, will not be available to them. However, I imagine that the increase in the capacity of the Hume Weir will secure the supply of water to South Australia. For that reason, as well as the others that I have mentioned, I have very much pleasure in supporting the second reading of this bill.
Mr. turnbull (Wimmera) [4.29]. - As I represent part of the area through which the Murray River flows, I have been very interested in this measure, because I realize the great importance of increasing the capacity of the Hume Weir. However, other matters in this measure are also of great importance. A new clause empowers the commission to initiate proposals for better conservation and regulation of the river Murray waters and flows, and for investigations and surveys to be made respecting additional storage works which may be carried out by the several governments, subject to the control of the commission. There is also a new clause empowering the commission to approve, with or without amendment, any proposed works affecting the use, control, flow, or storage of water in the river Murray, and to stipulate conditions of operation or control, insofar as the regulation of the flow of the river Murray may be affected. There is also a clearer statement of the method of distribution of the waters of the Murray, to ensure a more definite working basis of the commission, should it become necessary to impose restrictions in times of drought.
We know that there has been a vast amount of settlement all along the Murray and the success of those farms depends on the supply of water being maintained.
The Murray River Resources Survey Commission has reported -
The average annual flow of the Murray is 12,000,000 acre-feet, and the total water diverted for irrigation is less than 2,500,000 acre-feet. Thus, four-fifths of the water available is wasted.
The raising of the Hume Weir is not the only problem that the commission has to deal with, as the Minister said in his second-reading speech. The same report states -
Irrigation has been the greatest single factor in the economic development of the Murray Valley at the present time.
We all agree. We all know that the extension of that great productive area is dependent entirely on the water made available along the river. The report also says -
In order to make reasonable provision for meeting irrigation requirements during low flow periods it is considered that the maximum quantity of water which could be made available regularly for irrigation in Murray Valley regions, ‘provided that the total storage capacity in these regions was considerably increased, would be two-thirds of the average flow, viz., 8,000,000 acre-feet.
The comparison of 8,000,000 acre feet with the present allocation of 2,500,000 acre feet shows what vast expansion is possible and, I should say, is very probable in the area. I am indebted to the Mildura District Development League for information that is helpful to our consideration of the bill, especially the clauses empowering the commission to search for greater storages along the whole stretch of the Murray River. A largely attended meeting at Mildura unanimously carried the following resolution: -
This conference of Sunraysia water and land users, recommends the construction of weirs and locks 12, 13 and 14 between Mildura and Euston, for the purpose of protection against water storage in dry years, and for future development of the Murray Valley region of North-west Victoria and the equivalent area in New South Wales as a part of the Murray Valley development scheme.
The information supplied to me states -
The original scheme in the River Murray Waters Act was to construct twenty-six locks and weirs, but in 1934 this was amended because of cost and there were only fourteen locks and weirs built.
The weirs and locks that the Mildura District Development League wants to have built now are Nos. 12, 13 and 14. Their position has been fixed and all that the commission needs to do is make the investigations that it is empowered to make by this bill. It is also necessary for Victoria and New South Wales independently or the two States jointly with the Commonwealth to go ahead with the building of the weirs and locks. It is estimated that they will cost £500,000 each, but, when one takes into account the great productivity that will result from the greater conservation of water and the irrigation that would result from their construction, the cost is small. The Mildura District Development League further states -
It is pointed out that in 1934 Victoria was utilizing sufficient water for 400,000 acres of irrigation land, whilst both New South Wales and South Australia were not using their share of water. However, by 1940, when Yarrawonga and Euston Wiers were functioning, Victoria’s irrigable areas had reached 590,000 acres. Thus it will be seen that whilst Victoria’s share of increased storages has risen by only 63,000 acre feet, the area under irrigation had increased by nearly 200,000 acres.
So it is clear that right along the river, weirs and locks should be constructed wherever practicable to conserve more and more water, because, as has been pointed out, even with the maximum at present practicable with the locks and weirs and general storage along the river, a vast amount of water will still run to waste in the sea because it cannot be diverted to irrigation purposes. As we intend to increase our population, the Murray Valley area is without doubt suitable for developmental projects. I emphasize the need for the commission to look into the building of not only locks 12, 13 and 14 but also other locks along the river. There is need for water conservation to serve not only Sunraysia but also Swan Hill, Kerang and all other places in the Murray Valley where land is admirably suited for irrigation. The Mildura District Development League further states - From 1940 water users in Sunraysia were becoming alarmed at the likelihood of a poor supply of water in dry years. These fears were not unfounded and culminated in the 1944-45 drought. During these drought years the situation became so critical that Euston and Mildura lock pools, already depleted, were reserved to supply Sunraysia districts. Even then notice had been given to supply restricted irrigation. Only 40,000 acre feet of water was available to carry 30,000 acres of vines through the critical stages. Hume Weir was practically empty and Sunraysia was lucky to have the full use of Mildura and Euston Weir pools.
A few years hence it may he possible that along the river in the dry season people will not be so fortunate. The position will be considerably improved by the greater storage that there will be in the Hume Weir, but Australia is a strange country. Sometimes we get any amount of rain and snow, and water comes in to the rivers from the mountains, but it is possible that we could get a lot less. We have a marvellous asset in the Murray River and one of the first duties of the Government is to protect it.” The information I received from the league proceeds -
A few years hence Sunraysia will not be so fortunate, us in 1944-45 there was very little land development and Robinvale had not commenced. Land is being opened up the whole length of the river. Mass migration too is the accepted policy of all parties and governments and is necessary if “ White “ Australia is to continue to exist. Some of thu»e migrants must be settled in the Murray Valley, and water must be made available the length of the river. The completion of the Hume Weir is not the full answer to the problem. When the River Murray Agreeinent was amended in 1934 and the extension to the Hume Weir mooted, it was stated that the 750,000 extra acre feet was for an assurance for the present irrigation settlement in dry years. It was fully realized that evaporation would decrease the storage by at least 120,000 acre feet, leaving only 000,000 acre feet to be distributed between three States. This amount is totally insufficient now as a safeguard, and certainly will not allow a reserve to aid large development schemes under way. Furthermore, the Hume Weir is not completed and it will be many years before the extra storage will be available ns a safeguard against water shortage.
This conference requires these locks and weirs constructed for the following reasons: -
As an insurance for present blocks.
Development of very suitable land on both sides of the river.
To reduce salinity.
Land-owners have been told that their blocks can be kept from ruination with two_ waterings per year. However, block-owners desire not merely to save their blocks but to have them producing to their limits. In other words, an assured water supply is necessary, even in drought years. It seems illogical that such a large area as Sunraysia, with its important industries and businesses, with a capital value of £10,000,000, sustaining 32,000 people, should be subjected to such a grave risk. When it is considered that the annual revenue from the district is just on £4,000,000, the estimated cost of each lock and weir, £500,000, is a very small amount to pay to safeguard a vital part of the Australian economy.
So far as salinity is concerned, if the water can be kept high enough in the pools, there is no saline content, but, if the level of the pools becomes low, salt gets into the water, and when saline water is pumped from the pools and used to irrigate vineyards and orchards, heavy destruction is caused. That is something that must be overcome. The information proceeds -
The Conference accepts the wisdom and necessity of storage reservoirs on the upper regions, but it strongly contends that weirs and locks as subsidiary protective storages are essential at nearby points to large settlements situated hundreds of miles downstream from the head supply.
Everyone will agree with that. I know that the raising of the Hume Weir will supply water for places right down the river, but there is no reason why that should stop the provision of additional water storages at places adjacent to settlements that will eventually get the water from the Hume Weir and the reaches of the upper Murray. The information points out further -
The original River Murray Agreement made provision for 26 locks and weirs, and this agreement was only amended because of cost and not because the original act was in any way impracticable or unnecessary. The Conference, therefore, urges that the River Murray Agreement be again amended, so that 26 locks and weirs may be constructed in accordance with the act passed in 1915. The Conference was unanimous in its support for the construction of locks, 12, 13 and 14 without delay.
I ask that this matter be considered at an early date, even though work may then be proceeding on extending the storage at the Hume Weir. A drought may happen at any time and the people at Sunraysia and along the Murray River know what happens in a time of drought. They realize that the next drought may be even wprse than the last. They seek the co-operation of the Government in developing this commendable project. The Murray Valley is an amazing area. On the Victorian side it produces primary products valued at £30,000,000 a year. That represents one-third of Victoria’s annual primary production. That is something to save and something to develop. I commend the bill as an excellent one. I hope that the work of extending the storage capacity of the Hume Weir will start immediately. Its early completion is looked for with hopeful anticipation by residents of the Murray Valley. Every means of advancing irrigation, I believe, will hold the attention of the Minister for Works and Housing. At a later stage, perhaps next year, other bills could be introduced to deal with this subject which is of vital importance, not only to the migration policy of this country, but also to its future progress.
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 7th December (vide page 4086), on motion by Mr. Ward -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The days of “ Dad and Dave “ are long gone past, but the mentality of those days seems still to linger in the minds of members of the Government. If any one has any doubt about that he should examine the bill now before us. Government spokesmen have pointed out with a great deal of satisfaction that the Government is now providing an additional £1,000,000 for road purposes. In his second-reading speech, the Minister, contrasting the amount of money now allocated for roads with that provided in pre-war years, said -
During the present financial year the amount is estimated at £7,300,000, which may be compared with an average payment of £3,800,000 in the three years immediately preceding the war.
The fact that the allocation has been almost doubled does not mean very much. The Government must surely be aware that in these days money allocated for road construction and repair will not cover very much more than one-half of the work which the same amount would finance in pre-war years. The cost of road construction and maintenance, as of everything else, has risen steeply. In addition, the situation regarding roads has changed since pre-war days. During the war no appreciable road maintenance work was undertaken and, as the result, roads have greatly deteriorated. Sand and gravel pavements suffered serious reduction of thickness. Many unsealed roads will have to be almost entirely reconstructed. Such resealing as was undertaken during the war was only of a very light nature. Many roads that were resealed during the war have been completely worn out. In addition, the volume and overall weight of road traffic has increased greatly since pre-war years. The transport of goods by road has increased by a very high percentage because of the inability of the railways to function normally owing to the shortage of coal, industrial disturbances and the shortage of man-power and materials. As the Minister in charge of this bill is probably aware, approximately only 50 per cent. of the rail services previously provided in Victoria are now in operation. As the result of the cutting down of rail services an increasing volume of goods has to be transported by road with consequent heavier wear and tear on road surfaces. The process of deterioration is accelerated by the ever-increasing weight of goods carried by road transport. On numerous occasions honorable members on this side of the House have asked the Prime Minister to increase the allocations to the States for the construction and maintenance of roads. The right honorable gentleman has invariably replied that the principal objective of the petrol tax is to provide money not for roads but for general revenue. He apparently forgets that when the petrol tax was first introduced in 1926 it was intended that the proceeds of the tax should be applied to the specific purpose of constructing and maintaining roads. It was not until a Labour Government came into office under the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) that the proceeds of the petrol tax were paid into Consolidated Revenue. That practice has been continued by succeeding governments. The Prime Minister has said that as most of the tax is collected from industrial and . commercial users it is paid by the public generally in increased delivery charges. To some degree that statement may be true. It is truer to-day than it was in earlier years because of the vast increase in the number of road transport vehicles engaged in the carriage of goods. The increased cost of transport is reflected in the manufacture of goods at many points from the raw material stage to the finished article. In the manufacture of a man’s hat I understand that throughout the various processes of manufacture of the raw material to the finished product road transport is involved on no fewer than 32 occasions. A good deal of that transport is by road and the higher cost of transport is reflected in the retail price of the hat. The third important point raised by the Prime Minister was that even if the States were given additional allocations they could not expend the money because of the shortage of labour and materials. That statement is completely inaccurate. I quote the experiences of three shires in my electorate. In the Shire of Frankston-Hastings roads on the Mornington Peninsular area were greatly damaged by heavy military vehicles attached to American and Australian Army installations located there during the war. Insufficient money was made available to the shire - council to enable it to utilize all the material and labour it could command to carry out the necessary reconstruction and maintenance work. In the Shire of Buln Buln a road 22 miles in length serves a large area of timber country from which is produced a large quantity of timber for use in the metropolitan area of Melbourne. The council has informed me that between 150 and 200 heavy timber trucks are used on that road every day, and that the surface is deteriorating so rapidly that maintenance work is impossible. The Shire Council fears that unless the road is reconstructed it will become untraffickable and that the supply of much-needed timber will be held up. The council asked for an allocation of £10,000 for the reconstruction of 3 miles of the road, but was informed by the Country Eoads Board that no funds were available. The Shire of Berwick in which I live is in a similar position. Under the present scheme funds for road purposes are allocated under three headings, main road maintenance, Commonwealth aid grants and Commonwealth maintenance. In 1947-48 all the money made available to the shire for main roads was utilized and good progress was made. In 1948-49 the amount provided is sufficient to cover only 44.3 per cent, of requirements. The Shire Council cites two examples of the result of this policy. Two sections of one of its most-used roads were reconstructed in crushed rock in 1947-48 at a cost of £2,800. The road was to be sealed later at a cost of £1,350, but no funds were made available for that purpose. If that road had been sealed no further maintenance work would have been necessary for six years. In order to maintain the road in a traffickable condition the council now has to expend £40 a week when sufficient supplies of rock are available. That expenditure is incurred solely in maintenance work. Had the requisite funds been made available to enable the road to be sealed, no additional work would have been necessary and the road would have been in first-class order. Under the heading of Commonwealth aid grants, funds are allocated to the shire for urgent construction work on bridges on other than main roads. In 1948-49 the shire applied for an allocation of £38,000 for that purpose, but no funds were provided. The shire desires to undertake the replacement of seven bridges. Two of the bridges failed, one on an important road which has been closed; one was a temporary structure; two of them were structures in respect of which 2-ton load limits had been imposed, and they are in such bad condition that they may not last a year; and the other two were structures in respect of which 5-ton and 6-ton load limits had been imposed, and both are in a dangerous condition. Next year it is intended that work will be carried out, not only on those seven bridges, but also on a number of others. Bridges are of paramount importance in maintaining road communications. If a bridge becomes unusable the road is closed. Under the third heading of Commonwealth maintenance, grants are made to assist the shire to maintain certain roads on which the traffic is heavy. Normally the shire obtains £1,000 for that purpose, but this year it has received nothing. It has a fleet of nine trucks, an end loader, three power graders and other equipment. It has an efficient outdoor staff. It does not desire to disperse the equipment and staff because of the difficulty of reassembling them. In keeping the staff intact while it has insufficient funds on hand to keep them employed the shire is involved in greatly increased overhead costs. The shire itself, in order to raise money for this purpose, has increased property valuations by 58 per cent., and rates by 9d. in the £1, but revenue is still less than what is necessary. The situation, has been described to the Minister for Transport in Victoria, who replied -
Owing to the restricted funds available in the present year, the Country Roads Board is not in a financial position to provide for other than essential work. . . . No money at all is available.
The result is that roads are everywhere deteriorating, as I know because I drive over them continually. Unless immediate action is taken, the roads will be too far gone for repair, and will have to be reconstructed at very heavy cost. There is an old saying that a stitch in time saves nine, and that can be applied to our roads. Heavy resealing of the roads would save a great deal of maintenance, but it is necessary that more money should be forthcoming from the Commonwealth.
.- I do not hope to add anything worthwhile to what has been said by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) and the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) on this subject. I rise principally to draw attention to the state of the roads in New South Wales, and to the desperate financial position of many of the shire councils. I bring the matter forward now at the request of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse), who is still abroad as a representative of the Opposition with the Empire parliamentary delegation. On his behalf, I desire to bring to the notice of the House, and of the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon), certain information which he received from the local governing authorities in his electorate. I propose to hand to the
Minister a file which contains precise details of the financial position of the various shires concerned. The information contained in the files may be summarized as follows: - First, many of the roads, perhaps a majority of them, have fallen into disrepair, because, during the war, there was such an urgent demand elsewhere for men and material ; secondly, the cost of repairing and maintaining roads has increased tremendously; thirdly, wooden bridges are, in many instances, in a very bad state of repair; fourthly, the fact that traffic is much heavier now than before the war is causing heavy wear and tear on bridges and roads; fifthly, the areas through which roads have to be maintained create^ special problems with which city dwellers are imacquainted ; sixthly, heavy road traffic has increased because the railways are no longer able to carry all the primary produce, such as wool and wheat, that must, be conveyed to the coast. The shire councils have not enough money to do what must be done, and unless some solution of the problem is found quickly the condition of the roads will soon -be a great deal worse than it is now.
.- I believe that from the immense revenue of £15,000,000 raised from the petrol tax, the Government could do much more than it is doing to help municipal and shire authorities. It is estimated that the proceeds of the petrol tax will be £15,000,000 this year, but the actual return will be more like £17,000,000 ; yet the Government is making much of the fact that it .proposes to increase the special grant to municipalities by £1,000,000. The money is to be allocated on a population-cum-area basis, se that New South Wales and Victoria are, in effect, making roads for the whole of the Commonwealth. A majority of the motorists live in those two States, and much of the road work in Western Australia and Queensland, for instance, has been done out of money raised and distributed under the system inaugurated in 1926 by the Bruce-Page Government. The petrol tax then was 3^d. a gallon, and it is now 10^d., but the Government, is putting into Consolidated Revenue no less than £10,000,000 a year of the money raised by the tax. That is not fair to either motorists or to shire councils. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) has explained how shire councils are being starved, but some metropolitan municipalities are also feeling the pinch. I have forwarded to the Government letters from the St. Kilda City Council, which finds that it cannot maintain roads in its area because it has not enough revenue. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) must be aware that the Queenscliff Shire Council has made representations about the bad state of the roads in its area. In the absence of a more liberal Commonwealth grant, the shire councils are faced with the necessity for increasing rates. As rents are pegged, any increase of rates can only tend to make building unprofitable as an investment, and this will tend to hamper the process of decentralization. The municipalities must be helped. The Government could very well add another £1,000,000, or even £2,000,000, to the grant. The money could be taken from the amount of £10,000,000 which, in my opinion, it is now illicitly paying into Consolidated Revenue from the proceeds of the petrol tax. The tax was imposed to finance the making and maintenance of roads. El was not originally intended to be a revenue tax.
With the progress of air transport, and the development of airports, the Government should look ahead and arrange for the construction of suitable arterial roads to the main airports. In Melbourne and Sydney, the routes from the airports to the centre of the city are congested, with many bottlenecks, and are in many places hampered by the presence of tramlines. The result is that the time spent in ground travel before and after an air journey is sometimes longer than the time taken for the air journey itself. In Holland and Germany, the authorities have managed things better, but in Great Britain there is the same road congestion as here on routes leading to airports. The route from London to Croydon is slow and tortuous. Before it is too late, the Government should make money available for the reconstruction of the road approaches to the principal airports, avoiding shopping areas. .Such recon struction is necessary on the route between Essendon and Melbourne. I am not so familiar with the geography of Sydney, but I know that the route from Mascot to the city is tortuous and congested. Even in Canberra, the route from the aerodrome passes through the village of Duntroon. Apart from the loss of time resulting from congested approaches to aerodromes, there is the danger of accidents. The Commonwealth expends £100,000 a year on road safety campaigns. We must realize that if traffic to airports goes through congested areas the risk of accident is increased. Let the Government press on with a programme of road improvement. That would be better than spending money on the standardization of railway gauges, because railways are becoming a thing of the past.
.- Honorable members on this side of the House are prepared to support a proposal to grant more money to States and municipalities for road construction and maintenance. We have always argued that a larger proportion of the proceeds of the petrol tax should be used for general road construction and maintenance, as well as for the particular purposes mentioned in the bill. When the petrol tax was imposed during the term of office of the Bruce-Page Government, it was never thought that it would be gradually converted into a revenue tax, and that only a small proportion of the money raised would be expended on roads. I do not claim that every penny raised by the petrol tax should be spent on roads, but sufficient of it should be devoted to that purpose to enable roads to be properly maintained and developed. Because of the huge area of Australia, and the sparsity of our population, roads are more important to the people of Australia than to those of most other countries with a similar standard of civilization. In the more settled countries, a large proportion of the population lives near towns, within easy reach of all the facilities there provided. In Australia, a considerable part of our population, and a large part of our productive activity, is situated at a distance from the large cities and towns. The Government has estimated that the petrol tax will yield £15,000,000 this financial year. It was planned to spend £6,300,000 on road construction. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) reminds me that the Government’s estimate of the revenue from the petrol tax, in common with most of its other estimates of revenue, was less than the amount that was actually collected. Last year the actual receipts exceeded the estimate by £2,000,000 and the Government found itself in possession of £17,000,000 of revenue from that source. Now, as a tardy and belated gesture, it proposes to make available an additional £1,000,000 a year for a limited period, although £2,000,000 more than it expected to receive has fallen into its lap. Does the Government not realize that the money that is extracted from road users by means of the petrol tax should not be regarded as money derived from a luxury tax such as the entertainment tax? The petrol tax is, to a great degree, a tax that is levied upon production. Every farmer in Australia has to use a motor vehicle to perform his ordinary functions. I do not think that the Australian people realize fully the burden that the cost of petrol and motor transport generally imposes upon farmers. We live in a country which has a fairly hot climate. Thousands of farmers have ice chests. The city dweller can have a block of ice put into his ice chest for 6d. The farmer, on the other hand, probably pays 2s. for a block of ice in the nearest town. If his farm is 5 miles from the town, he must travel 10 miles to buy his ice and take it to his farm. Quite often the ice is half melted by the time it reaches the farmer’s ice chest. The petrol tax is a tax upon shipping, marketing and production activities. Honorable members on this side of the House have frequently pointed out that it is imposed upon petrol that is used in many activities that were not foreseen when the tax was first imposed, and no one has ever been able to justify the imposition of a tax upon petrol that is used for those purposes. The petrol tax is imposed upon petrol that is used in farm tractors, stationary farm engines and in a multitude of stationary engines that are used in industrial processes throughout the Commonwealth. We should like the petrol that is used in machines such as those to be exempted from tax, but neither this Government nor any other government has been able to solve the administrative problems that would be involved in granting such an exemption. I do not contend that this Government should exempt from tax petrol that is used for the purposes to which I have referred, because I realize the administrative problem that would be involved, but I say that the fact that the petrol tax is imposed not only upon petrol that is used in motor vehicles but also in stationary farm engines should lead the Government to be more liberal in its allocation of the revenue that it derives from the tax.
There is not the slightest doubt that the State governments, particularly under the uniform taxation system, have not sufficient money to build roads that should be built or to maintain those that have already been constructed. Comparatively recently, in Victoria, many men and subcontractors were discharged by the Country Roads Board because the board had run out of money. As the Government has received £2,000,000 more from the petrol tax than it expected to receive it seems to me to be a ridiculous and completely unjustifiable state of affairs that men who are available to work on road construction and to repair roads that have fallen into a state of disrepair should be discharged, and that expensive imported equipment for use on road construction should be idle, because there is not sufficient money to pay the men or the sub-contractors. Steps should be taken substantially to increase the amount of money that is made available by the Australian Government to the State governments under the provisions of the Federal Aid Roads and Works Agreement, not merely for use in the construction of roads in sparsely populated areas, but also for the construction and maintenance of arterial roads. It is not necessary to travel very far in Australia to discover many roads and bridges that have been allowed to fall into disrepair. The States are competent to do the job if they are provided with sufficient funds, and the Australian Government should make the funds available from the revenue that it derives from the petrol tax.
Mr. MoLEOD (Wannon.) [5.22]. - I am concerned mostly with the Victorian roads. I live in an outback area, and I know something about bad roads. Honorable members opposite have suggested that the Australian Government is to blame because insufficient money has been made available for road construction and maintenance. I am alarmed to hear that the Victorian Country Eoads Board has discharged workmen and subcontractors because it has insufficient funds. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) suggested that that was the fault of the Australian Government, which had not supplied the board with the necessary money. Let us examine the position to see whether the Australian Government or some other instrumentality is responsible for that state of affairs. In common with other honorable members, I have received representations from shire councils that a greater proportion of the revenue from the petrol tax should be devoted to road construction and maintenance. I have in my hand a copy of a circular that was issued by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations. That organization lays the blame entirely on the Australian Government. I have thought a great deal about this matter. Last year, the Australian Government made an additional £1,000,000 a year available to the States from the petrol tax revenue, and it is proposed to do the same this year. There is something strange about this matter. Before the allocations are made, the shires submit to the Country Roads Board, which is a State instrumentality details of their proposed expenditure and schedules of the work that they want to do during the year. In spite of the fact that the Australian Government has increased the allocation to the States by £1,000,000 a year, the allocations to the shires are being reduced by a State instrumentality, and I should like to know why that is being done.
Any one who listened to this debate and who did not know the facts, would come to the conclusion that the only source of revenue for road construction and maintenance is the money derived from the petrol tax, but in fact the State governments receive a considerable sum each year from motor vehicle registrations and licence-fees. Every one knows what the Australian Government receives from the petrol tax, but no one is willing to say wnat revenue the States derive from motor vehicle registrations and licence-fees.
– In Victoria the whole of that money goes to the Country Roads Board.
– Why is the Victorian Country Roads Board reducing the amount of its grants to the shires ? There is some mystery about this. If the income of the Australian Government from the petrol tax has increased because more petrol is being consumed, it is fair to say that the revenue that the Stategovernments derive from motor vehicleregistrations and licence-fees has alsoincreased. The Australian Council of Local Government Associations has estimated that last year Victoria received £180,000 of the £1,000,000 that was made available for country roads. An additional £1,000,000 is to be made available this year, and Victoria will probably receive £180,000 of that sum. Thus, this year it will receive £360,000 for the specific purpose of the maintenance and construction of secondary roads for the benefit of the inhabitants of outlying districts. The revenue from the tax on petrol that is used in country areas is not great, and certainly would not be sufficient for the construction and maintenance of necessary roads in those areas.
In his second-reading speech, the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) said -
The grant will take effect from the 1st July this year and will apply until the 30th June, 1050, at which date the term of the present Commonwealth Aid Road and Works grant expires. The full position as to Commonwealth assistance for roads purposes is then to be reviewed.
That review is essential, because this matter will become more important as time goes on. Traffic on the roads is steadily increasing. Twenty years ago we depended for our road transport on slow-moving horse-drawn wagons and carts. At that time an inexpensive gravel road was sufficient to meet the needs of road transport, and such a road lasted for a considerable time. Now, however, almost every farmer has a motor truck, and those trucks tear gravel roads up so quickly that it is merely a waste of time to attempt to maintain them. The solution is to seal the roads. The Commonwealth and the States must reach a satisfactory agreement, and the sooner that is done the better it will be.
Mr. francis (Moreton) [5.30].- The purpose of this bill is to amend the Commonwealth Aid Road and Works Act 1947, and to obtain the approval of the Parliament to the payment to the States of an additional £1,000,000 a year for the construction and maintenance of roads through sparsely populated areas, timber country and rural districts. For years, my colleagues and I on this side of the chamber have strenuously pressed the Government to increase the grant for this purpose, and whilst I appreciate the provision of the additional £1,000,000, I still consider that the amount is inadequate. Australia is a country of vast open spaces, with a scattered population. Therefore, it requires a very liberal policy of main-road construction, and the work should be undertaken more vigorously than it is at present. In 1926, the Bruce-Page Government saw fit to impose a small tax on petrol to provide for the construction of roads in order to meet the changing methods of transport. That tax encountered intense opposition from the oil companies and almost every section of the transport industry. An amount of between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000 was as much as the Bruce-Page Government hoped to collect from the tax, but the extraordinary development of motor transport and substantial increases of the tax in the intervening years have increased the receipts to approximately £17,500,000 per annum. Of that amount, only £7,500,000 is allocated to the States and local governing authorities for the construction of main roads, arterial roads, secondary roads, and roads in sparsely settled areas. The remaining £10,000,000 is paid into general revenue.
The State authorities urgently require substantially greater financial assistance than they are receiving, and the time has arrived when the Parliament should insist that the Government grant a large part of the amount of £10,000,000 for road construction and maintenance. The
Government must either provide more money for the construction of new roads and the repair of existing roads, or reduce the petrol tax. Vehicles are heavier than they were years ago, and the number on the roads has greatly increased since 1926. During the war, man-power, materials and money were not available for the maintenance of roads, and many of them have seriously deteriorated. The only way in which to prevent further deterioration, and thus to save millions of pounds, is to immediately provide a substantial part of the £10,000,000 for the maintenance of roads. The bad condition of our roads is causing serious economic loss. For instance, vehicles break down on poor roads, and bad surfaces cause extra wear and tear on vehicles, particularly tyres, thus adding to the cost of transport. That factor, in turn, increases the cost of goods delivered by road to consumers. The introduction of the 40-hour working week has also added to the cost of transport. The higher cost of materials >and labour has substantially increased the expense of maintaining and constructing roads. The main roads boards of the various States, and the local governing authorities, which are responsible for the construction of new roads and the maintenance of existing ones, are entitled to a greater share of the receipts from the petrol tax than they are receiving.
At present, a person who buys a gallon of petrol pays tax of 10£d. Of that amount, the Government retains 7d. and only 3&d. is allocated for the construction and repair of roads. In recent months, I have travelled extensively in my electorate, and other parts of Queensland, and I have been amazed to see the deterioration of roads and bridges. During the war, Queensland was virtually a garrison State. Great convoys of heavy army transport vehicles and tanks passed along Queensland roads, and it will take a long time to restore the damaged surfaces. An attempt to obtain money from the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) for the repair and construction of roads is as difficult as the extraction of an impacted wisdom tooth. The State authorities, who are responsible for repairing roads, have a better knowledge of the problems than has the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward). It is imperative that the Commonwealth shall pay substantial sums to enable the States to proceed with the long and difficult job of restoring their roads. If the money is not forthcoming immediately, additional grants will need to be made later, because road surfaces will continue to deteriorate. Roads in sparsely populated areas and country shires are in a poor condition, not because of damage done by local transport, but primarily because of heavy transport vehicles which travel hundreds of miles intra-state and even interstate. Almost the whole of the receipts of the petrol tax should be earmarked for expenditure on the construction and repair of roads. Roads in bad condition delay transport, and thereby increase the cost of goods delivered by road. The cost of materials, labour and roadmaking equipment has doubled. For the reasons which I have given, the Government should not hesitate to accede to the unanimous appeal by members of the Opposition to assist local governing authorities in the States, particularly Queensland, to restore the condition of their roads. The tax at present is inordinately high, but only a small percentage of it is allocated for expenditure on roads. As I have stated, the Government must adopt one of two courses. It must either grant increased assistance to the State authorities, or reduce the petrol tax and thus enable a substantial reduction in the cost of transport and production to be effected.
– The purpose of this bill is to approve of the payment to the States of an additional £1,000,000 a year for the construction and maintenance of roads in sparsely populated areas, but that amount will not be nearly adequate to overcome the financial difficulties of the local governing authorities which are endeavouring to restore the condition of their roads. The Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Act 1947 provided for the payment to the States of a part of the collections from the petrol tax, and, in addition, an amount of £1,000,000 for expenditure on secondary roads. The object of the special grant was to assist State governments and local governing authorities to improve the general standard of roads which lie off the principal thoroughfares but which, nevertheless, have great importance in opening up new country and serving settlers in outback areas. Members of the Opposition understood that that grant wouldbe expended on so-called isolated roads, but I find that it is not being expended on roads in isolated districts and remote parts of the country. The electorate of Wide Bay, which I represent, has not received one penny of the amount of £1,000,000 allocated under the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Act 1947, and I do not expect that it will receive an amount from the £1,000,000, which this bill provides.
– Is not that the fault of the Queensland Government?
– No. The position has arisen as the result of the interpretation of the provisions of the original act. I directed attention to such a possibility when the House was considering that legislation. Is no consideration to be given to unfortunate taxpayers who live in areas that are isolated from the main highways? In some of those areas, the so-called roads which they use wind over hills and through creeks, gullies and black soil. In the wet season, such roads are almost impassable. Those settlers do not derive any benefit from allocations of receipts from the petrol tax for constructing and maintaining roads, because a ‘big percentage of that money is expended on main roads, arterial roads and defence roads, which lead to Commonwealth property, including air-fields. The sealing of roads, which the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) advocated, would be wonderful if it were only possible. I am not so ambitious as to ask for the sealing of roads in isolated areas. All I ask is for the allocation of money to form roads and construct small bridges, so that settlers in isolated areas may be able to take their children to school, and transport their primary products, including cream, to the nearest township in wet weather. The settlers are now suffering under severe disabilities. I point out that due to the almost prohibitive cost of road-making machinery, and the increased wages now payable to road workers, little progress is .being made in the provision of roads in many of the outer areas in my electorate. Unless the Government devises a method of extending greater assistance to local governing bodies, I fear that they will be unable to carry out the road work that is so urgently needed. I do not favour the present method of providing assistance to local governing authorities through State governments. I should prefer that those bodies be subsidized direct by this Government, on the basis of road work to be undertaken in any given period. Although in Victoria the total amount of the grant received from the Commonwealth for this purpose is allocated to the Country Roads Board, for distribution among the local governing authorities, that is not done in Queensland. The position should be re-examined with a view to ensuring that adequate funds are made available to the local authorities. During the period that I was a member of the Queensland Parliament, a large proportion of the .proceeds of motor taxes was paid into the general revenue account of that State. If country roads, other than highways, are to be properly developed and maintained, the .present system of payments to local bodies on the basis of local rates levied must be reviewed, because the roads of a particular area are not used only by the residents in that area. They are used by haulage contractors and in connexion with other commercial activities, and were used by defence vehicles during war-time. It must not be forgotten, also, that considerable use is made of the roads by vehicles carrying out the transportation activities associated with the Postmaster-General’s Department. Subsidies to local governing bodies should ibe allocated on the fairest possible basis. The £10,000,000 from the proceeds of the petrol tax which the Commonwealth is withholding should be allocated to the local governing bodies of Australia on a pro rata basis, in order to ensure that adequate assistance will be given, by the provision of good roads, to people who are carving out an existence in the outback areas. Although in many instances roads are neglected, provision has been made by the Government for the construction of aerodromes, and the pro- vision of wharfs in connexion with the fishing industry. Good roads should he constructed as a natural adjunct to those facilities. I point out that under the existing agreement, one-sixth of the total allocations to the State governments may be made available for such purposes.
I sincerely trust that the long awaited assistance to the local authorities will soon be forth-coming, so that country roads may be improved. The local governing authorities cannot be expected to continue to carry the burden of meeting higher costs as a result of the shorter working week, and otherwise.
– Although from time to time claims are made that the whole of the proceeds of the petrol tax should be devoted to roadmaking and maintenance, I do not consider that any government in this country will ever agree to that being done. It is customary for the Government to retain the benefit of the excise duty on petrol. Whether the rate of the tax on petrol is excessive, is, of course, open to argument. I am convinced that there should be some re-organization amongst the local governing bodies. There should be amalgamation and co-ordination, in order to make the best use of the funds available to them. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain), who is an engineer, can appreciate the point that I am making. If a shire or municipality is called upon solely to maintain a one or two horse grader, the expense is out of proportion to its revenue. By a co-ordination of effort a first-class grader could be purchased for use by several local-governing .bodies.
Prior to 1930, the Commonwealth Minister in charge of public works decided how money allocated for these purposes was to be spent. The Scullin Government, however, amended the relevant legislation to provide that the States should determine how their allocations from the petrol tax should be spent. In some States, main roads boards and similar bodies were established, and it is well known that the bulk of the allocations was spent on highways, and main and trunk roads. There was very little expenditure on outer country roads. The result is that in many instances vehicles cannot, in wet weather, proceed very far from the main roads without getting bogged. There was never a proper allocation of the money by the State authorities. .Shire clerks to whom I have spoken in Victoria have expressed their gratitude for the introduction of the new system, whereby specific amounts are set aside to be distributed to the local bodies. The Goulburn Municipal Council, in New South “Wales, for instance, now receives several thousands of pounds a year for expenditure on roads.
There have been complaints that the Tasmanian Government is not distributing its allocation fairly amongst the local bodies. It is proposed to examine the position in that State when the returns respecting the three-year programme in Tasmania are received.
The Opposition, from time to time, has agreed that it is bad in principle to impose a special tax for a specific purpose. Some members of the Opposition who are well versed in financial matters have agreed that the correct method is to pay the tax proceeds into Consolidated Revenue, from which direct payments can be made. The allocation of the £276,000 supplied to New South Wales has been handled very well. Specific amounts were set aside for developmental roads to open up new areas. Under this measure, that State will be granted an extra £1,000,000. The method adopted in New South Wales was that each shire and municipality was asked to submit a written application, accompanied by details of the proposed expenditure, and rate receipts. No less than £176,000 was distributed to the local-governing authorities in that State, based on their rate receipts. In some instances the councils and shires received as much as £4,000, which was equivalent to their total rate revenue. There have also been complaints from Victoria. Investigations will be made about what has been done in that State when the returns are received.
It is intended that the £2,000,000 which it is proposed to distribute for the development of roads in outer areas shall not be used for the purpose of making speedways, or merely carrying out work to increase visibility so that drivers may have a view of the road for a mile ahead.
Steps will be taken to ensure that outer roads are developed so that primary producers and others living in those areas will be able to use their vehicles in all weathers. In addition, £500,000 will be spent on making roads to provide access to Commonwealth properties, and to construct strategic roads. Work of this type has previously been the responsibility of local governing bodies. Methods of distribution by the States will be examined by the Minister to ensure that the intentions of the Commonwealth are implemented and that the money shall be supplied to bodies that really need it. When I have visited various shires, it has been apparent to me that in many instances the administrative expenditure in maintaining an engineer, a shire clerk and an office has accounted for as much as half of the revenue of the shire.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Better roads in Australia depend on re-organization of local governing bodies controlling roads. I do not disparage in any way the magnificent work that has been done by the Country Roads Board of Victoria and the Main Roads Board of New South Wales. However, we feel that much of the expenditure on highways, which are, in reality, nowadays, speedways, ought to be diverted, owing to development of transport from the horse to the internal combustion engine, to provision of better roads in the more sparsely populated areas. Last year we experimented by providing £1,000,000 for the provision of better roads in the outback. In the old days unsealed dirt roads were good enough for the horse-drawn vehicles of primary producers, but to-day most of them depend on motor vehicles. Havoc is played with unsealed dirt roads by vehicles of the type in use to-day. Similarly bridges that were adequate for the horse-and-buggy days are totally inadequate for modern transport. Here we strike a problem. The small local governing bodies whose responsibility it is to provide and maintain roads within their areas, have not the means of doing so. I do not decry the splendid work that they have done, but they cannot cope with modern conditions. Unhappily, parochialism persists. They do not like their areas to be amalgamated. When Mr. E. S. Spooner, who later became a member of this Parliament, was Minister for local Government in the Stevens Ministry in New ‘South “Wales, he amalgamated some shires in that State in order to achieve a more efficient organization, and an outcry was raised by the city fathers. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) will, however, because of his deeper knowledge of the outback, more than agree with me that the provision and maintenance of good all-weather roads depend on proper equipment. Some shires within 60 miles of Sydney try to maintain their roads with a couple of horse-drawn graders and a tip-lorry and, in some instances, a couple of horses and drays. Modern roads cannot be maintained in that “way. How shall the problem be met? City fathers are jealous of their own domain. Intrusion is resented. I say that with authority, having been a city father myself. Local members of Parliament would often, for obvious reasons, rather preserve political harmony than have good roads. So it is not easy for governments, regardless of their political colour, to organize local governing bodies in the interests of the provision and maintenance of roads equal to the demands of modern transport. Suggested amalgamation of shires and municipalities for the creation of one road-making authority to serve a wide district causes rows. City fathers and prominent citizens are up in arms. When it was decided on one occasion to amalgamate three shires, so bitter was the opposition that a ballot was taken, yet only 2 per cent, of the ratepayers voted, showing that the people in general are not concerned about local organizations. Give them service and they are satisfied. When each shire or municipality maintains its own organization, administrative costs become almost unsupportable. Some local governing bodies employ a clerk-engineer and others both a clerk and an engineer. If only one man is employed either clerical or engineering duties must be neglected. When both are employed a considerable part of the local revenue is absorbed in their salaries. Even with the assistance of subsidies, local governing bodies with small revenues and necessarily high administrative costs are in difficulties in the matter of the construction and maintenance of adequate roads. The agreement provides for the payment of money to the State government to assist local governing bodies in the purchase of roadmaking and maintenance machinery. The supply of equipment does not end the .problem. Again I defer to the deeper knowledge of the honorable member for the Northern Territory of the problem of providing suitable road-making material in the outback. In the back districts of Queensland, particularly, and of New South Wales, suitable material for the construction of adequate roads is hundreds of miles from where the roads are needed-
– Does that apply only to those two States?
– No; but they are the two States with which I am most acquainted. Wherever one may be in Australia in blacksoil or redsoil districts one must stay at home after rain until the sun has shone again for some time because of the absence of all-weather roads. At the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers the States presented us with the best figures setting out their expenditure on roads and their financial needs that we have ever received from them. The Australian Government realizes the imperative need for the development of this country. I have neither the time nor the opportunity to touch on all the things that need to be done and I must confine myself to roads. The figures that we were presented with showed that the money that the States will have available to them for road work from the 1st July, 1948, to the 30th June, 1950, from their own resources, such as motor registration fees and driving licence-fees, and the Commonwealth grant will amount to £40,000,000. The Premiers sought a ten-year agreement. The amount of £40,000,000 is certainly not sufficient for all the road work that will need to be done in the two years, but shortages of men and materials will prevent the States from expending the whole of it. Some shires and municipalities equipped with up-to-date roadmaking machinery will, of course, he ahle to expend the money that is allocated to them. The others will not. Developmental roads have been sadly neglected. Some people with a pioneering spirit hack out farms in the bush. Sometimes projected roads have been surveyed, but more often they have not. Those settlers take up with the local governing bodies the provision of roads which are regarded in the minds of some people as one-man roads. But Australia’s prosperity depends on its development. The pioneering spirit is to be commended, not discouraged. We thought the matter over. We realized the rapidity with which we had advanced from the horse-and-buggy days and we foresaw the prospect of a further advance. We said, “ We will make the agreement for three years and examine any new proposals. Apart from your allocation of money for highways and subsidies for the construction and maintenance of other roads that are more heavily used, we must consider the construction and maintenance of roads in the less-populated areas “. We added £1,000,000 to our grant for those roads. I have met in ray travels many members of local governing bodies and I know that they are extremely grateful for the revenue that they have received from the Commonwealth for road-making and maintenance purposes. Sometimes it amounts to one-half of the shire or municipal revenue. It has helped them to do a great deal of work. But Rome was not built in a day. Neither will our roads be made what they ought to be in a day nor even in ten years. Three years seems to be a sufficient term for the new agreement to last in view of prospects and probabilities, as well as of the needs in the directions to which I have referred. Honorable members from Tasmania and Victoria have complained that local governing bodies have put men off because of lack of funds for road work, but that is no fault of ours. I concede that the extra £1,000,000 is not yet available to the States. It cannot be until this legislation, which appropriates the money, has been passed and proclaimed. The money thus appropriated will double the amount available to the States for this purpose. We have promised the States that we shall look at the matter again when the Minis ter for Transport (Mr. Ward) receives the reports that he has asked for. In the Minister’s absence, I have interested myself particularly in the matter. Indeed, I have received deputations on it. The whole position will be thoroughly examined. While I continue in office as Treasurer of the Commonwealth it is of no use for any one to hope that the whole of the proceeds of the petrol tax will be devoted to the maintenance and construction of roads.
– We do not ask for that to be done. All we ask is that the allocation for road purposes be increased.
– I give the honorable member credit for his courtesy and modesty. Others, however, are not so modest. They ask fpr too much, probably acting on the principle that by doing so they may get a little more than the donor originally intended to give to them. I realize that this bill is of particular interest to honorable members who represent country electorates. If the additional money to be provided under this bill is wisely expended - and the Government proposes to obtain reports from the States on its expenditure - much good should result in country areas. The position is being constantly reviewed. It may be possible at a later stage to make some long-term arrangement with the States so that the shire councils and other road authorities may plan their programmes well ahead. If petrol were available to-day in the quantity desired by many people the receipts from the petrol tax would be very much greater than they are now, but so also would be the wear and tear on our road surfaces. Members of the Government, and of the sub-committee appointed to deal with this matter, are fully alive to the increasing strain imposed on our road systems by the vastly increased motor traffic and the heavier commercial vehicles now in use. Despite the setback of the war, the number of commercial vehicles in use has more than doubled since 1938. Modern road transport vehicles have increased greatly in capacity and weight. Drivers of 5-ton and 6-ton lorries, who overload their vehicles far beyond the maximum safety margin, are responsible for a great deal of the additional wear and tear on road surfaces. I have participated in this debate, not because I claim to have a vast knowledge of this subject-^indeed, it does not Come within my particular province- but because the Minister for Transport is temporarily absent from the House. The members of farmers unions in the Ministry- the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) and the ViGe-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) - know a good deal more about it ‘than I do. I rose merely to give to honorable members an assurance that none of the problems to which they have referred has been lost sight of, and that the relation of the petrol tax to road construction and maintenance i9 being constantly reviewed. All representations for the improvement of country roads are given the most careful consideration. I am not at all interested in improving speedways. At one time road-users were of the opinion that a road gradient should not exceed one in twelve-. In those days visibility was not taken into consideration to any great degree in planning new roads. With the introduction of more powerful motor vehicles, roads were constructed with a gradient of one in nine. With increasing speeds, made possible by improved technical design of motor engines, came a demand for greater visibility and the roads were so constructed as to ensure clear visibility for 450 yards ahead. As many of our country roads are only 18 feet wide, there would be something seriously wrong with a driver if he collided with another vehicle because of poor visibility. On many of our bush roads, in some places visibility would not extend beyond 10 yards. I assure honorable members that none of the matters they have mentioned will be overlooked and that the relation of the petrol tax to allocations to the States for road purposes is being constantly reviewed.
. -I agree with the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) that our local shire and municipal councils should be re-organized. Many small local governing bodies cannot achieve very much on their own initiative, but if they amalgamated with neighbouring local governing bodies and established common pools of machinery and equipment they would be able to achieve Very much more. The Prime Minister had a great deal to say about what he termed the “ speedways “ of the Commonwealth. His statement that the Victorian Country Roads Board is mainly responsible for the construction and maintenance of main roads in that State was not correct. The board has responsibility for the construction and maintenance of developmental roads and its operations are financed from the fees collected from motor registrations. In 1945-46, an amount of £12,000,000 was collected in petrol tax imposed by the Australian Government. Of that amount, only 27 per cent, was allocated to the States, the remaining 73 per cent, going into that great “ kitty “, the Consolidated Revenue Fund. In 1946-47, it was estimated that receipts from the tax would yield £15,000,000; but actual receipts amounted to £17,000,000. Under this bill provision is made for the payment to the States of an additional £l,000,00a for the development of roads in sparsely populated areas, but that amount represents only one-half of the surplus above the estimated yield from the petrol tax. For that reason the Government cannot claim that it has been exceedingly generous. Of the total amount of the tax collected last year, 40 per cent, was allocated to the States, the remaining 60 per cent, going to that great coffer, the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The problems which concern municipal and shire councils to-day are many, varied and real. All those associated with road construction and maintenance work are fully alive to them. Wear and tear on country roads is very great. The Prime Minister has referred to the damage caused to main road surfaces, especially in wet weather, by heavy motor lorries which leave the main road and go into bush tracks to pick up timber and return to the main roads. That is one of the many problems which municipal and shire councils have to face. Loadings on motor vehicles of all types have increased tremendously by comparison with prewar years. Motor trucks in use to-<lay are capable of carrying loads varying from 10 to 20 tons. The difficulties confronting the road authorities are added to because of the increased cost of surfacing materials. Bitumen now costs approximately £20 a ton by comparison witb £7 a ton in pre-war years. The shire and municipal councils are also restricted in their operations because to a great degree their revenue is static. As the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) has said, in the not distant future in many instances it will be a matter not of maintaining but of reconstructing country roads. As a Tasmanian, I claim that my State should be given a much greater allocation from the petrol tax than it receives at present. Tasmania has only a very limited railway system, and although it will contribute in some measure towards the cost of the standardization of railway gauges in the mainland States, it will derive no benefit from that scheme. As a State primarily dependent on motor transport, it should be granted a larger share of the petrol tax. Although I am not the wizard of finance which the Prime Minister claims to be, I shall never agree that the whole of the petrol tax collections should not be allocated to the States. I hold very firm views on that point. When the petrol tax was first imposed in 1926 it was intended that the whole of the collections should be allocated to the States to enable them to improve and enlarge their road systems. As a private member of this Parliament, and as a member of the Liberal party, I shall not rest content until the proceeds of the petrol tax are wholly returned to the States.
. -. - In an endeavour to bring this debate into some kind of order, I want to deal-
– Who does the honorable member think he is?
– As the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) has taken exception to my opening remarks, may I remind him that had he listened to the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), he would not have known what the right honorable gentleman was driving at.
– I was present and heard the Prime Minister’s speech.
– The Prime Minister spoke of speedways and the days of the horse and buggy. Honorable members did not know where he started and where he finished. Some order should be insisted upon in a debate of this kind.
Mr. Fuller interjecting,
– If the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) will keep quiet-
– Order T I ask the honorable member to deal witb the bill.
– What is the purpose of this measure? It is to make available an additional £1,000,000 for road purposes. Is that additional £1,000,000 sufficient .for the purposes intended? I hope to prove that it is absolutely inadequate. What evidence is there of its inadequacy? I have the evidence in my possession from members of shire councils and other people experienced in road construction problems to prove how inadequate it is. Has the Government sufficient funds to make a satisfactory allocation? It has ample funds. Indeed, its coffers are swelling with money and it could easily increase the allocation if it so desired. What are the Government’s excuses for not making a satisfactory allocation? I have addressed questions to the Prime Minister on that subject and he has answered merely by making excuses, and very feeble ones at that. Finally, what justification is there for the Government holding at least 6$d. of the petrol tax in the Consolidated Revenue Fund? The Prime Minister claims to be something of a financial wizard.
– A financial blizzard !
– The right honorable gentleman is certainly not a financial wizard in this matter. By withholding this money from road users he is doing a disservice to this country. I propose now to refer to a statement published in the journal of the Australian Automobile Association setting out the views of a road authority in the United States of America on this subject. The article was published two years ago, but the .statements ‘contained in it are, perhaps, more true to-day than they were then. It reads -
Bad roads cost more than good roads and we pay less for good roads if we have them than if we have them not. [t has been conservatively estimated by the Australian Automobile Association that the cost of operating a motor vehicle is approximately 1-^d. a mile greater on a bad road than on a good road. There are approximately 500,000 miles of roads in Australia, one-third of which are bad. On the assumption that every second motor vehicle in the Commonwealth travels on an average 7,000 miles a year, the aggregate addition to running costs is approximately £11,000,000. A great deal more money should be expended on roads, especially at a time like this when replacement and upkeep costs generally are very high. All honorable members are well aware of how difficult it is to obtain spare parts for motor vehicles. If the total additional cost of operating motor vehicles on bad roads two years ago was £11,000,000, it is safe to assume that it would be at least £14,000,000 now. Last week, the Prime Minister went to Melbourne to launch the new Holden motor car on the market. I remind him that, unless the roads are improved, the new cars will soon shake themselves to pieces. In its last report, the Country Boards Board of Victoria cited the following figures : -
– What about licencefees?
– I thought the honorable member would know that licence-fees are included in the amount which is allocated to the Country Roads Board by the States. This Govern ment thinks it is doing something wonderful in granting £1,000,000 to shire councils, but the amount is inadequate. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) said that the States should receive a greater share of the proceeds of the petrol tax. Let me point out to him the proportions in which the .States contribute to petrol tax revenue, and the proportions which they receive from it. The figures are as follows: -
I have here letters from every shire council in my constituency, including Walpeup, Birchip, Stawell, Gordon, Dimboola. Wycheproof, Donald, Kara Kara, Karkarooc, Mildura, Kerang, Swan Hill, Warracknabeal and Dunmunkle. Here is a passage from a letter from the Walpeup Shire Council -
X have to advise that the total of grants for roads received through the Country Roads Boards for 1948-49 in this shire amounts to £2,900 as against a total of £13,000 for last year.
This is an alarming state of affairs and road contractors in the shire will be faced with unemployment before the year has advanced very far. In addition, many farmers will again be faced with high cartage costs to the railway siding on account of their usual outlet being impassable and the council, through limited finance, unable to do anything about it.
The Birchip Shire Council has written as follows : -
This council lias 97 miles of main roads to maintain and the total funds allotted for this work for the present year is £5,400. The average cost of re-sheeting one mile of road with limestone 4 inches thick is approximately £900, therefore, it will be possible to re-sheet 6 miles of main roads this year and, at the same rate, would take sixteen years to treat all main roads in the shire.
It is anticipated that the road surface is lowered by approximately inch per year by traffic and wind erosion, so that, at the presentrate of maintenance, the roads will gradually disappear, and, at the end of sixteen years, large sections, which have cost thousands of pounds to construct, will have vanished.
The letters from which I have quoted were written by men on the spot who know what is needed. The Prime Minister said that he realized that some shire councils were able to do maintenance work, but others did not have the necessary labour or equipment. From this he argued that maintenance work should be held up all over Australia. I maintain that those councils which have the labour and equipment should be given money to get on with the job. We realize that air traffic is increasing, but it is still impracticable to carry heavy goods by air, or to run air services to outback areas where men are opening up the land. The Stawell Shire Council has written as follows : -
During the past two years my Council has purchased two power graders, two mechanical loaders, two trucks and has ordered two more trucks, with a view to trying to make up some nf the leeway in road work.
The alternative will he worse and still worse roads with maledictions by their users upon the authorities who tax the fuel used in the vehicles which create the demand for roads and then destroy them, but who do not make available the necessary proportion of that tax to make and maintain the roads necessary for the operation of those vehicles.
On the 3rd October, 1948, the Prime Minister made the following statement in Canberra: -
The petrol tax is not imposed solely for t.liis purpose and although for many years substantial roads grantR have been made to the States, the major portion of this tax has been required to meet the expenditure of the Commonwealth for general purposes and in particular, the heavy commitments for war and post-war purposes. The tax is therefore primarily a revenue impost, in common with those imposed on many other items, such as beer, tobacco, matches, &c.
There is a close relation between good roads and speedy and satisfactory delivery of goods, which is vital to producers and consumers alike. The Prime Minister compared the tax on beer with the tax on petrol. What does beer contribute to the progress of the nation? He also referred to the revenue derived from tobacco; but tobacco, although pleasant to use, is not necessary to the progress of the country, as is the speedy transportation of goods.
Moreover, road safety is dependent upon the roads being kept in good condition. When the Prime Minister compares the duty on petrol with the duty on beer and tobacco he shows that he is out of touch with the thought of progressive people. Towards the end of his statement, the Prime Minister said -
The question of restoration and improvement is not however solely one of finance. As a result of the suspension of many forms of ordinary economic activity during the war, the resources of materials and man-power in Australia to-day are insufficient to meet all requirements. If a greater sum were to be spent on roads, it is obvious that there would be a reduction in the allocation of labour and materials to other types of economic activity and apart from purely financial considerations, the expenditure of moneys on roads must be viewed in that light.
The Shire of Stawell owns graders and other road-making machinery. It is situated near the Grampians, where there is plenty of stone suitable for roadmaking. Apparently, the Prime Minister is unwilling to make sufficient money available to shire councils for road work. The Prime Minister does not seem to realize that the petrol tax was imposed primarily to provide revenue for the maintenance and development of roads in Australia. When the tax was first imposed, the rate was, I think, 3d. a gallon, and the whole of the revenue from it was devoted to roads. The Commonwealth Parliament passed the first Federal Aid Roads Act in 1926. To provide the money for the grant, a tax of approximately 3d. a gallon was imposed upon petrol consumed in Australia. In the statement of case which it submitted to the Prime Minister on the 15th January, 1947, the Australian Automobile Association said -
Thus the principle was established of a special levy on a particular class (petrol users) to be used for the extension and improvement of the nation’s roads.
Mr. Fuller interjecting,
– The honorable member for Hume is one of the most consistent interjectors in this chamber. It seems that the honorable gentleman does not wish to see good roads in Australia. I am putting forward a case for better roads. If the honorable member for Hume wishes to bump along in that new Chevrolet car of his, he can do so.
-I could tell the honorable gentleman a few facts.
– I challenge the honorable member for Hume to participate in the debate, but I know that he is not game enough to do so. He is content to sit in a corner and to interject. It is astounding that an honorable member who represents a rural constituency should try to prevent mo from putting forward a case for better roads. In 1926, the principle was established of a special levy on road users. Many things have happened since then. Let us see what amounts have been allocated to the States from revenue derived from the petrol tax. Some people say that a proportion of the money that is collected by means of the petrol tax is paid into Consolidated Revenue and that the rest is paid to the States. The Government, however, pays the whole of the revenue from the petrol tax into Consolidated Revenue and makes grants to the States. It then tries to dissociate the two processes, but that is only a technical point. According to the statement of case that was submitted by the Australian Automobile Association, the following payments were made to the States under the federal aid roads and works legislation: -
Between 1942 and 1946, the war wasin progress and the roads were being used by heavy military traffic. That fact, together with the fact that the grant was £8,000,000 less for that period than it had been for the previous five-year period, led to a great deterioration of our roads, and an extra large grant is now needed. It does not need a financial wizard to work that out. What the Government should do at least for two or three years, if it cannot do it indefinitely, is to make the whole of the revenue from the petrol tax available for the construction and maintenance of roads. The shire councils which are in a position tobuild roads should be allowed to do so. However, nothing is being done along those lines, and our roads are falling into disrepair.
I have in my hand a booklet entitled Massacre on our Roads. Who is toblame?
It contains the report of a discussion that was broadcast on the 1st September, 1948. It has been re-printed by the Australian Road Safety Council, with the permission of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It was handed to me when I attended the showing of a road safety film in Parliament House recently. Mr. Ewing, one of the speakers in the discussion, is reported to have said -
It’s simple; a stupid taxation system. A gallon of petrol costs 2s. 7½d., and10½d. is taken by the Government in tax. The Government, however, keeps 6½d. of this10½d. per gallon and puts it into consolidated revenue instead of giving it back to the States for road maintenance. You may say that 6½d. is not much, but when it is multiplied by the number of gallons consumed per year, it amounts to a very great deal.
Mr. Ewing went on to say that his recommendations for road safety were, among others, that a large squad of police mounted on motor cycles should patrol the roads and that drunken drivers should be more harshly punished. His final recommendation was as follows -
Return to the States of the total road tax for repair and improvement of present roads and the construction of bigger and better highways. With all or some of these improvements, we could confidently expect the fatality rate to experience an immediate sharp decline.
More Americans are killed in a year on the roads of the United States of America than were killed during World War II. That state of affairs will soon exist in Australia if the standards of roads do not keep pace with the increases of speed and population. We cannot afford to lose Australian lives in road accidents. As the posters issued by the Australian Road Safety Council tell us, death is so permanent. An additional £1,000,000 a year is to be allocated to the States for the construction and maintenance of roads in isolated areas, but that does not affect the normal allocation to the States of 3d. of the tax on each gallon of petrol. It was from that money that, before prices began to sky-rocket, the Victorian Country Roads Board was able to make a liberal allocation to the shire councils for the construction of roads in the areas for which they were responsible. Now, because costs have risen considerably, the board’s payments to the shire councils have been considerably reduced and the shire councils are almost entirely dependent upon the £2,000,000, which includes the £1,000,000 made available previously, that is to be provided for building roads in isolated areas. One honorable member has asked how the Americans built their roads. It is hardly fair to make a comparison between Australia and the United States of America in this connexion, because there are many more cars on the roads in America than there are here. In 1947 the average tax on petrol in America was 4d. a gallon, 2£d. a gallon of which was allocated for the maintenance and construction of roads. The remainder was diverted to other uses. In Australia, however, the petrol tax is 10^d. a gallon, 6^d. of which goes into Consolidated Revenue. A large proportion of the American petrol tax is used for road purposes, and that is one reason why America leads the world in regard to roads.
The Prime Minister has suggested that the shire councils should amalgamate so that they can do their work more efficiently. I challenge any honorable member in this House to say that the Victorian Country Roads Board is inefficient or to provide me with conclusive evidence that the amalgamation of the shires would help in any way to improve our roads. The shires in Tasmania may be smaller than are those in Victoria, but those of which I am speaking cover vast areas. Their amalgamation would do no good. Indeed, it would only lead to chaos.
The main purpose of this bill is to provide an extra £1,000,000 a year for use on roads in sparsely populated areas, and to that degree I support it, but I maintain that £1,000,000 is inadequate for this purpose. One has only to travel round the countryside by road and to talk with people who know what our roads are like to realize that it is inadequate. When the subject of roads was debated in this chamber approximately two years ago, almost every honorable member opposite agreed that our roads were in a state of disrepair. If they were in a state of disrepair two years ago, what are they like now? They are worse than they ever were. What I am concerned about is what they will be like next year and the following year. We cannot neglect our roads for a . few years and then quickly overcome the lag in maintenance. If a road begins to fall into a state of disrepair through wind erosion or because it has been used by heavy traffic, and if it is only patched up occasionally, it will eventually become unserviceable. Millions of pounds have been expended upon the construction of roads in Australia and, now that they have been constructed, millions of pounds should be devoted to their maintenance. Our roads are an asset, and every prudent man knows that he must not only maintain but also try to extend an asset. He knows that he should never allow it to deteriorate. That is true of our roads. In speaking to the motion for the second reading of this bill, I cannot debate the manner in which the Australian Government is expending the money that it extracts from the taxpayers of this country, but the Australian public has sufficient imagination to know how it is being expended and to realize that some of it could be used with better advantage upon our roads. I leave the matter there, because it is where Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Clark) wishes me to leave it.
Not one of the excuses that have been made by the Prime Minister is logical. The right honorable gentleman has said that the petrol tax is a tax on the community and that the whole of the proceeds from it should not be put back into the roads. If it is a tax upon the community, are not the interests of the community bound up with the existence of good roads in this country? The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) has said that the amount of revenue that is derived from petrol used in country areas is not great, and that is so, but it must be remembered that the food for the people of the great cities of the Commonwealth is produced in those areas, and that it cannot be transported quickly and cheaply to the cities unless there are good roads from those areas to the cities. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) is tapping his head. I do not know whether the honorable gentleman has a headache or whether he is trying to indicate that, in his opinion, I am not putting forward a sane argument.
– The honorable gentleman must confine his remarks to the bill.
– I do not want to engage in a controversy with any Ministers, but I do want them to act rationally. I appeal to the Government to make a further allocation. At the appropriate time, I propose to move an amendment to clause 3 of the bill. I do not expect that the Government will accept the amendment. It makes a point of rejecting amendments submitted by members of the Opposition. However, I hope that logic and sanity will rule in this country before long. If my hope is not fulfilled, roads will continue to deteriorate, providing conclusive evidence that the Government and the Prime Minister are not progressive.
.- The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) has submitted a strong case on behalf of local-governing authorities, and members of the Australian Country party endorse, in the main, his remarks, because most of us are fully aware of the difficulties of those bodies. The purpose of the bill is to grant an additional £1,000,000 this year for the construction and maintenance of roads through sparsely populated areas, and, therefore, it will not assist local authorities to finance normal maintenance work or to construct trunk roads or feeder roads. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), in his speech, wandered aimlessly through the whole business of local government in the Northern Territory, Queensland and South Australia, but I did not hear him mention Western Australia, which comprises approximately one-third of the area of this continent. The roads in that State are long, and the population is small and scattered, and local-governing authorities experience great difficulty in constructing and maintaining roads. I was wondering whether the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) who represents the electorate of Forrest, was feeling sour when the Prime Minister omitted to mention Western Australia.
This bill will not assist local-governing authorities to purchase road-making machinery and materials, or to employ labour on the construction and maintenance of roads. Last year, the Government received approximately £15,000,000 from the petrol tax but disbursed only £6,000,000 to the State authorities for the construction and repair of roads. This year, the Treasurer has budgeted to collect £17,000,000 from the petrol tax, but only £7,000,000 has been allocated for expenditure on roads. I emphasize that although collections from the petrol tax this year will be £2,000,000 more than they were last year, the expenditure from that source will be increased by only £1,000,000. A big percentage of the increase of receipts from the petrol tax will be due to the utilization of road transport to cart wheat from country districts to ports in an endeavour to satisfy Australia’s contracts with the United Kingdom and India, but the local-governing authorities, at any rate those in Western Australia, will not receive any compensation for the damage that the vehicles so used will do to their roads. The majority of the roads have seriously deteriorated as the result of wheat carting last year, and, unfortunately, a further deterioration may be expected this season. Contracts are now being made for the removal by means of road transport of a large part of Western Australia’s wheat harvest to the ports. The additional £1,000,000 which the Government will grant to local authorities under this bill must be spent on roads in sparsely populated areas. That condition may be waived only with the express approval of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward). But a local-governing authority which desires to obtain such approval will experience the greatest difficulty in having its application transmitted by the State organization, which manages the distribution of the money, to the Minister. I often wonder whether the Government fully realizes the great work that localgoverning authorities have done in maintaining thpir roads.
I propose to trace briefly the history of the petrol tax. The Federal Aid Roads Agreement is a monument to the wisdom of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who formulated it in 1926. The original petrol tax was 2$d. a gallon, and the whole of the receipts -from it, were returned to the local governing authorities for the construction and maintenance of roads. During the financial and economic depression, and later during “World War II., the Federal Aid Roads Agreement passed through various vicissitudes. The tax was gradually increased, and to-day, it is lO^d. a gallon. The Prime Minister has stated that the petrol tax is not intended primarily for expenditure on roads. Let us consider the assistance which the local-governing authorities gave to the war effort. Approximately 90 per cent, of them had their road-making machinery impressed, and rightly so, because it was required for the war effort, and was the only machinery available at that time for the purpose. Their engineers enlisted in the armed forces, and the office boy or office girl, or the junior clerk employed by a localgoverning authority, did considerable work at the request of the Commonwealth, including the issuing of ration books, and of petrol coupons to farmers to meet their seasonal requirements. They also took particulars in respect of applications for spare parts for agricultural implements, which were subject to control. The staffs of local-governing authorities performed a good deal of work for the Commonwealth without any return, and rendered valuable aid to the war effort. Convoys of heavy army trucks and even tanks passed over the roads and bridges, many of which seriously deteriorated as the result of constant use by such vehicles. Following the cessation of hostilities, the local-governing authorities desired to begin work for the purpose of overtaking the lag in road construction and maintenance. Increasing numbers of heavy vehicles were using their roads, causing further deterioration. To the astonishment of the local-governing authorities, the Government did not renew the Federal Aid Roads Agreement for a further ten years, as was provided for in the original agreement, but insisted upon a period of three years, and refused to increase the allocation for the construction and maintenance of roads, apart from a grant of £1,000,000 for building roads through sparsely populated areas and £500,000 for the road safety campaign. Whilst I commend those grants, I point out that the local-governing authorities need substantial assistance in order to overtake the seven or eight years’ lag in maintenance work. Incidently, the Government does not pay rates to the local-governing authorities in respect of its instrumentalities, such as post offices, within their areas. The local-governing authorities have virtually petitioned the Government for an additional grant to enable them to meet the rising costs of labour and materials for new works and maintenance work but I notice that the Prime Minister has made the following announcement in the Digest of Decisions and Announcements, No. 137 -
The petrol tax is not imposed solely for this purpose, and although for many years, substantial road grants have been made to the States, the major portion of this tax has been required to meet expenditure for genera) purposes, and, in particular, the heavy commitments for war and post-war purposes.
Did the right honorable gentleman mean that the petrol tax is a sectional tax? The Prime Minister will not contradict me when I say that a big percentage of the petrol tax is paid by farmers and graziers and the large transport services. In order to function efficiently, primary producers and road transport services must have good roads. Bad roads mean delays, and increased wear and tear on the vehicles that use them, and those factors, in turn, increase the cost of transport. However, local-governing authorities are unable to improve their roads, becanso of insufficient funds. That statement applies particularly to Western Australia, which is a land of vast open spaces and » small, scattered population. The Minister for Works and Housing and I have been chairmen of local-governing authorities, and we have a knowledge cf their difficulties. Some people claim, in their ignorance, that farmers have a good deal of spare time. Such an assertion makes me smile. Farmers build roads in their so-called spare time, and, in return, the local-governing authorities write off their rates, regardless of whether the Government likes it or not. I myself have built miles of roads in order to pay my rates. One of the principal objectives of settlers is to have means of access to the nearest township. The farmers must have proper roads from railway sidings to their farms. Although many local-governing authorities are financially embarrassed, the Government this year will pay into general revenue £10,000,000 of the £17,000,000 which it will collect from the petrol tax. The local-governing authorities would not object so strenuously to such parsimony if the Commonwealth were experimenting with methods for improving roads such as sealing the surfaces, so that once a strip of gravel road had been sealed, it would not require maintenance for some years. I have yet to learn that the Government is undertaking such experiments. It is more practicable to build one mile of road and seal it, than to build ten miles of read and have to repair the strip year after year.
The local-governing authorities urgently require new road-making machinery and earth-moving equipment. The Prime Minister has stated that several local authorities should amalgamate, and use big machines. There is no need for local authorities in Western Australia to amalgamate, because each of them already administers a large area. Unfortunately, they are unable to obtain machinery. The Government impressed their machinery during the war, and the price of new machinery to replace it is substantially higher than the price that they paid for it. Twelve months ago, the Prices Commissioner allowed an increase of the price of a power grader by 40 per cent. Some local-governing authorities are still awaiting machinery which they ordered years ago. I have a file almost a foot thick dealing with their complaints. When some of their machinery has arrived, the State government, in conjunction with the Commonwealth, has impressed it and utilized it to construct a strategic road. Four localgoverning authorities in my electorate planned to get machinery from the eastern States, and raised loans te cover the cost. Subsequently the Prices Commissioner allowed a substantial increase of price, to their embarrassment. I suspect that the Government is using some of the receipts from the petrol tax to bolster up its social services schemes and other costly schemes favoured by the Labour party. During the war period a severe strain was placed on the railway systems of this country. Many men who would normally have been engaged in repairing railway rolling stock in the workshops either enlisted in the fighting forces or were called up for service. Honorable members will remember that many dilutees, who were really no more than improvers, replaced skilled men. As a result, there was a rapid deterioration of the rolling stock. Transportation by road was also increased enormously.. As a result, many roads cracked up.. Therefore I contend that this Government should make every effort possibleto assist the local-governing authorities to catch up on the increased maintenancenecessitated as the result of the abnormal use of the highways and hywaysduring the war period. I expect that in his reply the Minister will claim that the local-governing bodies are unable, because of shortages of material and labour, to expend the money that they are now receiving for this purpose. I recall! that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said something to that effect recently. Unfortunately, the right honorable gentleman is like many battalion commander? who, during the war, punished the whole battalion because of a mistake that had! been made by a platoon. I point out that many local-governing bodies have not only expended the money that has been allocated to them, but also have asked, and are still asking, for more. Unquestionably they should get more money.
– They will always ask for more money.
– The honorable member who has interjected hails from Queensland and therefore has had firsthand experience of what happened to the roads during the war period. I do not for a moment think that he would suggest that the local-governing bodies are not entitled to as much money as possible, because they are doing a magnificient job in this country. Their ratepayers contribute large sums to the national revenue by way of the petrol tax. I contend that it is but right and proper, in view of the buoyant state of the finances of this country, that a goodly proportion of the proceeds of that tax should be made available to the localgovernment bodies to enable them to provide additional roads, and to maintain the roads that are already in existence, for the benefit of not only people living in those areas, but also everybody having occasion to use the roads. The Government should devise means for the sealing of roads when constructed, so as to obviate subsequent continual and wasteful expenditure on maintenance year after year. Admittedly the initial cost of construction would be greater, but in the long run we should be on the right side of the ledger. The Government has available in its services experts who could carry out experiments in this connexion, so that roads could be constructed in a more or less permanent form. If that were done it would not be long before there would exist throughout this country a network of good roads that would serve the people well for a long time to come.
, - The bill under discussion relates to the amendment of the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Act 1947. Honorable members will recall that the first honorable member to speak on that measure, following the Minister’s secondreading speech, was the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn). That was on the 21st May, 1947.
I congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) on his excellent speech. I believe that, except in one respect, the words used by Matsuoka when discussing the Manchukuo situation are apt. Matsuoka said, “I could not state the case better myself “. The point on which I differ is that the Prime Minister said that he regarded this petrol tax as an excise duty. It is not an excise duty, but purely a. tax. Before I further eulogize the Prime Minister, I give the meed of praise that is due to the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) who was responsible for the passage of the Federal Aid Roads Act in 1926. Unfortunately, the 1926 legislation has been debased. The Prime Minister said that speedways, rather than developmental roads, have been built. That is in line with what I said years ago, and 1 am glad that the Prime Minister supports my thoughts on the matter. His sentiments now are the same as mine have always been, which are that we should concentrate on developmental roads rather than on the building of speedways to connect various towns.
– Then why does the right honorable gentleman not do it?
– The Prime Minister indicated that he favours the construction of developmental or side-roads from arterial roads. Such contiguous roads would be of assistance to the farmers when travelling to various towns. That is far better than constructing speedways merely to enable hare-brained people to speed from one town to another.
– Then why is not the money provided for that purpose?
– The position in that regard has been stated very well by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull).
– But where is the money ?
– As honorable members know, a further £1,000,000 is to be allocated to the States. If the States are not able to produce a formula to this Government, which is supplying the money, then it will be the fault of the States if additional money is not made available to them. It is interesting to note that although this measure was brought down by the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), it has been left to the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) to see it through.
At this stage I think it may be of interest to honorable members to trace briefly what has happened in connexion with the development of roads and transport in this country. It will be recalled that shortly after our ancestors arrived in Australia from England, Lieutenant Lawson, accompanied by Mr. Blaxland and Mr. Wentworth, blazed a trail through the ranges. That track was the forerunner of the present road to Bathurst. If any honorable member is interested in that part of the early history of Australia, he may view the original notes of the expedition made :by Lieutenant Lawson, which are preserved in the Mitchell Library in Sydney. From that small beginning the road transport and sea transport systems of this country have developed. I consider that we should concentrate more on sea transport
– Order ! Whilst it has heen most interesting to hear about the good work that was performed by Lieutenant Lawson and others, neither that nor sea transport has anything to do with this bill.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker. However, that was the basis of the transportation systems that now exist in this country. The engineers and surveyors who went out in those days cannot be blamed for their location of various roads, because they did not have much money available to expend in that direction. Furthermore, in those days the connecting links between various roads were built on the spurs of the ranges, because it was necessary to provide a foothold for the old spring carts and four-in-hand wagons. At that time the steepest gradient which the horsedrawn vehicle could negotiate was one in fourteen. Since then engineers and surveyors have been able, by the application of their skill to construct roads of different grades, as honorable members will have noticed when travelling through the various shires. Many of the old roads have been re-located, and in many instances re-graded. The shires are not now so concerned with longitudinal grades, because of the advent of motor vehicles of increased power and the great difficulty now experienced by drivers in keeping them on the road. Attention must be paid to the camber. In addition, it must be remembered that we have to contend with not only motor cars travelling at fast rates of speed, but also heavy vehicles, weighing between 10 and 15 tons. In order that the roads may withstand the severe strain imposed on them by those vehicles, care must be taken to ensure that they shall have a rock base. That involves shire and other councils in heavy expenditure. Other work is involved by the necessity to make deviations from the spurs and ridges, and to reduce the slopes. I have already said that I agree with the Prime Minister’s remarks concerning the speedways that have been built. In many instances they have enabled big trading concerns, such as chain stores, to establish branches in various country towns, with the result that the local tradespeople have been undermined in their businesses, and those towns have become merely whistling stations. I reiterate, that I am pleased that the Prime Minister looks askance on this trend. That is why I cannot sponsor speedways any more than has the Prime Minister. I think that members of the Australian Country party must regard arterial roads as being as important to the settlers in outback areas as is a backbone to a fish. I contend that as much money as possible should be expended on side roads, to enable the farmers to transport their produce to arterial roads with ease. I am astonished that the members of the Australian Country party have allowed the Prime Minister to steal their thunder in connexion with this developmental roads system, which I have advocated for the last ten years. They could have followed my advice ten years ago, but left it to the Prime Minister to do so.
– We have had that policy in Victoria for twenty years.
– That is rather astonishing. I have travelled very little in southern areas, but, when travelling from Canberra to Sydney we find ourselves on a speedway. Once we go off to the side, however, we find roads that are hardly formed.
– Such roads are not found in Victoria.
– That may be so, because Victoria is a small State and may have a system under which every road, whether an arterial or a side road, is made a sealed road. Perhaps I may be permitted to move a little further north and, skipping Queensland for the moment, ask what is the policy in the far north. I am very disturbed to note what is happening to the far north with regard to transport. We have our main road there which should be our principal arterial means of transport, yet the Government is sponsoring a Commonwealth shipping service. I shall support its shipbuilding plan if it will confine it to the construction of small ships for the transfer of petrol from the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and supplies to northern ports. I shall support the building of small ships with a shallow draft like the L.T.C.s that were used in the war, but not a general shipping scheme to provide services between Townsville and Fremantle. The Government will be on the right track if it provides ships to carry petrol cheaply as far north as Darwin to serve the ports at the mouths of the rivers that are silted up with mud and require the services of shallow draft ships.
We built railways parallel-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman has dealt with sea transport, and has now turned to rail transport. The bill before the House concerns the expenditure of £1,000,000 out of the petrol tax on road work.
– Whereas Victoria has collected 32 per cent. by way of a tax - and not excise - on petrol and has expended
– Thirty-one per cent. is collected and 17 per cent. is paid back as an allocation for road work.
– I thank the honorable member for his precise figures. I see that the Minister for the Interior is now on the ministerial bench with the Minister for Housing, who will be responsible for the construction of the roads after the requisitions have been approved by the Minister for the Interior. I point out that the Northern Territory subscribes only . 16 per cent. of the fund and that the allocation paid back is nil. I quite realize that, because of grantsinaid, the Northern Territory is in a totally different position from that of any State, and I congratulate the Government for the way in which it has built and maintained the road from Alice Springs to Darwin, which is the main bitumen arterial defence road. A decision about road-building in the Northern Territory must be made soon. I understand that the road from MountIsa to the overland route cost £1,500,000, and I should be astonished if that one did not cost between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000. What action is the Government taking to ensure that, through improved transport facilities, more people will be attracted to the Northern Territory, and so assist in the subdivision of land for occupation in economic units? Two years ago we were told by the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) that the Government intended to build more railways in the Northern Territory, and to continue the line from Bourke up through the Channel country, by-passing Mount Isa and going through Dajarra and over the Barkly Tableland. But what has happened? A decision must be made soon on whether we are going to build bitumen roads and seal them in the Northern Territory or put light railways there. I am in agreement with the construction of light railways. A 3-ft. 6-in. gauge railway could be built through that country. It would not matter if it had to be pulled up again in 50 years’ time. It would serve a great purpose in the immediate future.
– Order ! A 3-ft. 6-in. gauge railway has nothing to do with this bill.
– It is a matter of high policy-
– Order ! The honorable member must return to the low level of the bill.
– I shall conclude my remarks by asking the Minister for Works and Housing, who is responsible for roads being built after his colleague, the Minister for the Interior, has recommended them, whether the Government is going to build more bitumen roads in the Northern Territory and entrench pastoralists there, or build railways and put more people into the Northern Territory ? I trust that the ideas of the Minister for Transport will be adopted and that we shall build a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge railway there, even if it has to be pulled up in 50 years’ time.
.-The first point raised by honorable members opposite was that this Government had expended money raised by a tax on petrol on activities other than road works. It is perfectly true that the’ full amount of the collections from that tax has not been made available for road works, but after all that policy is not new. It was followed for at least eight years by the Opposition parties when they were in office. If it was the correct policy then why do honorable members opposite object to it now?
– Even if that policy was followed in the past, why not put the matter right now?
– For eight years the tax was used as a revenue producer by honorable members opposite when they were in office. The second point on which the Government was criticized was that the bill introduced in 1947 was to operate for a period of three years. That bill was brought in to augment the 3d. a gallon of the petrol tax which was allocated for road construction by the respective States. At the time, the Prime Minister pointed out that for the first time in the history of this ocuntry an additional £1,000,000 was being given to the States, with the express stipulation that it must be used for outback roads. Previously, as I know as a past president of a roads board in “Western Australia, on many occasions 100 per cent, of the tax was retained by the State government for work on main roads with the result that the people in the farming and outback areas had no roads at all on which to cart their produce.
– They built speedways.
– That is perfectly true. Much of the money was used for the building of speedways. I remember an occasion on which one State Premier at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers that was held in this chamber, said that we had to give consideration to tourists. This Government’s main consideration is to endeavour to ensure that the primary producing areas shall be given some form of road construction so that the great wealth that they produce can effectively be carried to railheads. Therefore, in 1947, this Government endeavoured to propound a new policy in regard to road construction. It believed that there should be a co-ordination of roads policy not only between but also within the States. I say frankly that throughout Australia there are hundreds of local authorities that should be completely abolished. I know many local authorities which, in fact, expend every penny of their revenue for the purpose of paying their office staffs. I know that in Western Aus tralia during the depression some local authorities could not even collect enough to pay their office staffs and had no money left for the maintenance of roads, let alone their construction. This Government considered it was time to endeavour to get some form of coordination and to see that money raised by a Commonwealth tax on petrol should be effectively and properly expended, and endeavoured to establish a new policy. It was not prepared and did not desire to try to force that new policy on to the States but it endeavoured over a period of three years to get some form of co-ordination, and therefore, it asked the States to show it, in respect of the expending of these special grants, where and how the money had been expended, and whether on maintenance or the construction of roads or bridges. The knowledge that will be gained over this period of three years will enable the Government to know what is required for road construction in the various States. We believe that after a trial period of three years we shall be able to say to the States, “ From what we and you have learned, we know that in the future such and such should be the proper co-ordinated road policy throughout Australia “. That is what we are endeavouring to do and that is why the measure provides that it shall operate for a period of three years. When it was introduced the Minister for Transport, who administers it, said that if it were found after the first year’s trial that this extra amount was being efficiently expended and that more was required, he would place the position before the Treasurer and ask for consideration of an increase. He did that, and this bill is the result. It seeks to add £1,000,000 to the special grant. I believe that the bill is a very reasonable approach to the matter. We have heard many members here to-night, particularly from Victoria, say that the States are getting no money for work by local authorities. The fact is that local authorities have had, in the aggregate, more than £3,000,000 to expend, and all that I can say to the members who represent the State of Victoria is that if they were telling the truth when they made that statement in the Parliament, then the trouble lies at the door of their own State Government, to whom this money has been made available. Complaints have been made about the shortening of the duration of the agreement to three years, but a threeyear agreement is necessary if a properly co-ordinated road policy, which will pay great dividends, is to come into being. In the prosperous years before the war, the grant amounted to £3,800,000. It is now £7,300,000. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) talked about the great open spaces of Western Australia. I, as a Western Australian, know how wide open they are. Our policy has been criticized as favoring the wealthy and more densely populated States, but, on the evidence of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), Western Australia and Queensland, two of the States that contribute least in petrol tax, have the most generous grant. That indicates the Government’s realization of the need to help the States that are less able than others to build roads through their great open spaces. As a countryman myself, I tell other countrymen that most of the petrol tax is collected in Sydney and Melbourne and is expended in country areas.
– This is a good Government.
– It is indeed! That shows the Labour party’s realization of the peed to help country people with a properly co-ordinated and effective road policy. Consider the special grant of £1.000,000. The grant to New South Wales of £280,000 is to be doubled to £560,000, which, plus the £160,000 allocated from the 3d. a gallon of the petrol tax, will give it £1,876,000. Queensland’s £191,000 is to become £382,000, which, plus £898,000, will make its allocation £1,280,000.
– That is laid down in the act.
– And who passed it?
– We passed the original act.
– The Labour Government added the £1,000,000. That was not done when the Opposition parties were in office.
– That does not matter.
– Nor did the same principle of allocation operate. The honorable member does not know what he is talking about. Tasmania’s allocation of £50,000 is to become £100,000, which, added to the £230,000 from the petrol tax, will give it £330,000. Western Australia’s £192,000 will become £384,000, and its total will be £1,286,000. South Australia’s £110000 will become £220,000, which will give it a total of £339,000. In addition we have made a special allocation of £500,000 for roads of approach to Commonwealth properties.
I now propose to deal with harbours for small craft. The States have the power to allocate money from that part of the grants made to them from the petrol tax to assist in the provision of such harbours. The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) said that she had been told by the Tasmanian Government that that was not so. The fact is that the Tasmanian Government has made grants amounting to £411,000 for harbours for fishing craft. At the expiration of the agreement on the 30th June, 1950, the Minister for Transport and his officers will have gathered sufficient evidence to enable the Commonwealth, in conjunction with the States, to develop and apply a road transport policy that will be of lasting benefit to Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section six of the Principal Act is amended -
by adding at the end of paragraph (c) of sub-section (5.) the following proviso: - “ Provided that, in respect of the year which commenced on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and forty-eight, a statement of the proposed expenditure by the State for that year on road construction and maintenance out of any amount payable to the State under paragraph (b) of sub-section (4.) of this section shall be submitted by the State to the Minister prior to the thirtieth day of November in that year.”
– I move -
That the words “ thirtieth day of November” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ thirty-first day of December “.
The amendment is necessary because the bill will not have been passed as soon as was anticipated.
Amendment agreed to.
– In my second-reading speech, I forecast an amendment of this clause because I regard the additional amount of £1,000,000 as insufficient. Evidence of its insufficiency is provided in a report on the Stawell-Warracknabeal-road to the president and councillors of the Shire of Dunmunkle. According to that report, traffic counts indicate that traffic has been growing steadily and show the following increases: -
Census - 19th February, 1941 - 52 vehicles per day. 13th March, 1946 - 58 vehicles per day. Check- 4th August, 1948 - 102 vehicles per day. Station½ mile north of Rupanyup. Showing an increase of 95 per cent. in seven years.
The counts show that heavy traffic has increased most. The Prime Minister confirmed that generally in his speech to-night. He also confirmed it recently, in answering a question that I asked, when he said -
The number of heavy commercial vehicles now on the road is almost double the pre-war figure.
It may be said that if the bill were amended in the way that I propose, the payment of the money would be delayed, but the Parliament, as the Prime Minister has said twice to-day, will meet early in the new year and a month’s delay would not matter. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) cannot use delay as an excuse, because he, himself, has already had to amend the bill to delay its operation for a month, because it was not brought down early enough. I move -
That the clause be postponed as an instruction to the Government that action should be taken to provide for a more equitable allocation in line with the representations and requirements of local governing authorities.
-The amendment is out of order because the Standing Orders provide that a clause already amended may not be postponed.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
New clause 4.
. -I move -
That, after clause 3, the following new clause be inserted: - “ 4. Section seven of the Principal Act is amended by omitting, the proviso thereto and inserting in its stead the following proviso: -
Provided that no amount shall be expended under this section on any road, not being a road of access to Commonwealth property, unless -
the Minister approves of that road as a strategic road; or
b ) the Minister is satisfied that the road forms part of the general road system of a State and that the standard of maintenance required by the Commonwealth is higher than that justified by the normal volume of traffic.’.”.
The amendment is needed because the act prescribes for the gazettal of proposed work on strategic roads. For security reasons such proposals should not be advertised. The amendment will enable the work to be done without gazettal.
New clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment : -
Wool Realization (Distribution of Profits) Bill 1948.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill 1948.
River Murray Waters Bill 1948.
Debate resumed from the8th December (videpage 4133), on motion by Mr.
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill arises from a decision made at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers last August to increase the rate of benefit payable in respect of patients in public and non-public wards of public hospitals from6s. a day to 8s. a day. In respect of public wards, the full amount of the benefit rate will be available to the States for expenditure on hospital maintenance. The estimated annual cost is £1,067,000 per annum. The cost for the current year will be about £1,000,000. All of this is very commendable, but the Opposition believes that, for every£1 of public money that is expended, £1 worth of service or materials should be provided. I make that observation because of information supplied to me by letter which indicates that there appears to be an overlapping, of Commonwealth and State functions in connexion with hospital services, particularly in respect of rehabilitation patients. The letter was written by a highly responsible person at one of the largest public hospitals in Sydney. I propose to read it because of the seriousness of the charges made in it, and I hope that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) will investigate them without delay. I had a telephone discussion with the writer of the letter, and his remarks concerned me so greatly that I considered that I should obtain documentary evidence on the subject to present to this House. This is the first opportunity that I have had to deal with the subject. The writer stated -
Further to our telephone conversation of yesterday re hospitalization of rehabilitation cases: Until recently these were handled by Department of Social Services but have been taken over by the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. Any ex-serviceman, not necessarily a returned soldier, whose disability is not due to war service and does not come under the provisions of the Repatriation Act may apply to this section for help although he automatically becomes eligible as a qualified person for free treatment under the Commonwealth Government’s Hospital Subsidy Act and also for assistance under the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act. If admitted to hospital in the normal way, the Commonwealth Governmentpays 6s. a day for him. If his application for assistance is accepted by the department, the hospital is advised not to apply for the 6s. a day but to send an account direct and 18s. per day will be paid by that department. (See copy of form attached.) But this is only a start.
Illustration: A man was admitted to this hospital on the 26th September, 1946, having fallen from his motor cycle and fractured his femur - treated as a qualified patient and discharged on the 28th February, 1948 (490 days). On the 27th September, 1948, he fell and fractured the leg in the sameplace and was re-admitted to the same ward (public). One of the attached forms was received by me from the department. Two weeks later I was advised that the department was agreeable to pay for his accommodation in - in a twobed ward, £9 9s. a week, plus extras, plus the doctor’s account. He was transferred on the 30th October, 1948, and will probably be in there for some months. He is a single man aged 23 years, ex-R.A.A.F.
Many similar cases have been admitted to the hospital in the past twelve months or more. I rang the department and queried this position and was first told that the urgency of the admission in many cases caused them to accept a bed anywhere, and when I explained that the patients are often in the hospital some weeks before liability is accepted by them I was told that was a matter of Government policy and that was all they were concerned about.
When I queried the transfer from a public ward to an intermediate one I was told it was sometimes hard to get a report on the progress of patients in public wards and it was much easier to contact the doctor direct in Macquariestreet (for a fee of. say, £22s. of course).
A similar case is at present in a public ward here and he intends to apply this week for transfer also. It is hard to understand why these people are entitled to this privilege when they are actually civilians who are cared for under the two acts mentioned earlier and shows a duplication of work in these two departments.
Compare this with a returned man with a war injury who has to go to the Repatriation Hospital and be treated in a ward similar to a public ward in a public hospital, or a civilian who wishes to go into a private or intermediate ward and has to pay the full charge, less 6s. per day (now 8s. from the 1st November, 1948), and meet the doctor’s account also.
I am fed up with these ridiculous cases of maladministration and waste of taxpayers’ money.
I think that the Minister will agree that overlapping of departmental activities is clearly indicated by that letter. Apparently, if certain ex-servicemen enter a public ward, 8s. a day is paid to the hospital for their treatment under the Hospital Benefits Act. However, they may be transferred to a private ward at a cost to the Government of £9 9s. a week, plus doctors’ fees and other extra charges associated with treatment. Yet repatriation patients and ordinary civilians are forced to go into public wards and to pay their own doctors’ fees and other charges. There is something wrong there.
– I am not aware that the Commonwealth pays anything like £9 9s. a week for any repatriation patient.
– The letter referred to ex-servicemen not classified as returned soldiers. I want the Minister to take particular notice of the statements made in that letter. The writer said that he could produce evidence in support of his assertions but thought that it would be unwise to have his name published. I shall communicate with him again and ask for his permission to show the letter to the Minister so that he may study it. I ask the Minister to investigate the situation very carefully. The cases referred to in the letter are authentic, and the Government should do something to remove the anomalies that obviously exist.
– I do not wish to make a speech, but I want to elicit some information for the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), and, if I can, to focus his attention upon what I consider to be a very serious aspect of the hospital benefits system. It is no secret that many hospitals are financially embarrassed. Many persons who are responsible for the maintenance of hospitals believe that acceptance of the allowance of 6s. a day for all patients under the hospital benefits scheme has, in fact, worsened the situation. I have no doubt that the original intention of the Government was good, but it is an unfortunate fact that the legislation is not producing the effect that was intended. When the Hospital Benefits Act was proclaimed, the payment of 6s. a day for each patient represented at least 45 per cent, of the daily cost of maintaining a patient. However, I think it will be generally agreed to-day that the proposed subsidy of 8s. for each patient under this bill represents not more than 25 per cent., or 33 per cent, at the very most, of the cost of maintaining a hospital patient. Acceptance by a hospital of the subsidy denies to it the right to charge extra fees to those patients who could afford to pay them. Honorable members can readily appreciate the seriousness of the problem of obtaining the balance of the daily cost of maintaining patients after accepting the Commonwealth subsidy. As I understand this bill, it will make the position worse instead of better. Under the original Hospital Benefits Act, hospital managements were permitted to impose an extra charge above the subsidy of 6s. a day upon patients in intermediate wards who could afford to pay. This bill will grant a benefit of 8s. a day covering patients in intermediate wards as well as those in public wards. Therefore, hospital managements that accept the new rate of 8s. a day for intermediate patients will be prevented from levying extra charges upon them. Obviously, the financial difficulties of hospital authorities will be greatly increased, particularly in view of the fact that the proposed new rate of 8s. a day will represent a smaller proportion of the actual cost of maintaining a patient under existing conditions than the 6s. a day represented in 1945 when the original scheme was introduced I want the Minister to understand that the people take the view that the effect of this legislation, coupled with that of the social services legislation, is that people who formerly freely donated to the maintenance of hospitals are disinclined to continue to do so. Those who, in the past, cheerfully gave from £10 to £50 a year to hospitals, now probably only give them £1, £2, or £3, because they say, with some justification, that the Government is contributing one-third of the hospital bed maintenance costs, and at the same time is mulcting them in heavy social services payments. They believe that they are paying twice and, as the result of the withdrawal of their support, hospital finances have gone to pieces. This is not a fairy story. The authorities of several district hospitals have asked me to do what I can to influence the Government to intervene in order to solve their problems. I have told them that hospital administration is the responsibility of the States, and that the Commonwealth merely makes the grants available and leaves it to theStates to handle the administration of the grants. By imposing conditions contingent upon the acceptance of the increase in the daily bed rate of from 6s. to 8s., the Commonwealth is making the position of the hospitals much worse. I ask the Minister to investigate that aspect of the problem and to give some consideration to the need for easing the conditions under which the grant is made. I assure him that the hospitals are facing a very real problem. The conditions under which the increased grant is made make it almost impossible for hospitals to carry on. I am familiar with a very large district hospital, which is well known to the Minister, the authorities of which are at their wit’s end in providing the necessary money to pay the wages and salaries of the staff. The conditions laid down by the Government with respect to the additional grant is causing those difficulties. Will the grant of 8s. a day be applicable to patients in intermediate wards? Will it prevent the hospitals from charging fees to those persons who prefer to seek treatment in intermediate and private wards? If it has that effect, I ask the Minister to give consideration to the need for easing the conditions imposed.
. -I support the statement by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) that because of the heavy social services contributions that many people have to make they are not giving as freely to hospitals as they were accustomed to do in thepast. Many people still contribute magnificently to country hospitals. It is unfair that while the people have to make heavy social services contributions hospitals should find it necessary to continue making appeals for assistance. Appeals are made over the air, sports meetings are held and various other methods are devised in order to enable hospitals to meet steeply rising costs. The daily bed rate of8s. represents only about one-third of the cost of maintaining a hospital bed. I should like the Minister to give a clear answer to the points’ raised by the honorable member for Gippsland. I am sure that the honorable gentleman realizes that the proposed increase will not be nearly sufficient to compensate the hospitals for additional expenditure incurred by them as the result of rapidly rising costs. The Government should either reduce the social services contributions taken from the people or make a more adequate grant to the hospitals.
– in reply - It is obvious that the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) does not understand the basis of this legislation. The Hospital Benefits Act was never intended to provide for grants to hospitals to meet the cost of maintenance and all that goes with it. Last night, we spent a good deal of time in discussing a national health scheme. If such a scheme were already in operation it would provide the requisite funds to enable the hospitals to carry on. This legislation is intended solely to enable people who cannot afford to pay for hospital treatment to obtain free hospital attention. The Government desired to provide free hospitalization for the poorest people in the community. Several conferences were held on the subject with representatives of the States.
I direct attention, Mr. Speaker, to the audible conversation among many members, which is making it almost impossible for me to be heard.
– Order ! The Minister for Labour and National Service has complained of the noise in the House. I ask honorable members generally, and in particular the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, who is still offending, to desist from engaging in audible conversation.
– I express my regret to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the Minister if I have interrupted the debate.
Mr.HOLLOWAY.- Several conferences were held on the subject with representatives of the States. The States were informed that the Government wished to provide free hospital treatment for the poorest people in public wards and that it proposed to grant the daily bed rate in respect of all patients whether accommodated in the public, intermediate or private wards.
– Such a provision was included in the principal act.
– That is so. It was agreed between the hospital authorities and the Commonwealth that a payment of 6s. a day would meet any loss sustained by hospitals by giving treatment in public wards free of cost. As the honorable member for Gippsland has pointed out. experience showed that that rate was not sufficient. The honorable gentleman’s statement that hospitals are worse off under this scheme than they were previously is, generally speaking, not true.I am well aware that some hospitals have experienced losses. I discussed this matter with the authorities of the Royal Prince Henry Hospital in Melbourne, who had expressed some fear that that institution would be penalized as the result of this legislation. As the result of several conferences, they have changed that view. The increase of 2s. a day will be paid retrospectively from the 1st November last. The rate may be varied from time to time as agreed upon between the Commonwealth and the States. I wish it to be clearly understood that the rate was fixed, not by the Commonwealth alone, but by agreement with the States. It will be paid in respect of every occupied bed whether the bed be in a public, intermediate or private ward.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) quoted some correspondence to indicate that some overlapping had occurred with respect to accident cases. Had the honorable gentleman read the bill carefully he would have seen that the possibility of overlapping is guarded against by a special clause in the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I wish the Minister to make it quite clear that the provisions of this bill cover patients accommodated in intermediate and private wards as well as those in public wards. Will it be possible for the hospital authorities to continue to charge patients being treated in intermediate and private wards?
– The hospital authorities may make charges in respect of such patients in excess of the daily bed rate of 8s. a day granted to them.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 4 -
Section three of the Principal Act is amended -
by adding at the end of paragraph (gd) the words “An intending migrant shall be required to sign a declaration in the prescribed form that he is not a person as described in this paragraph;”;
Senate’s amendment No. 1. - Leave out paragraph (a).
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Paragraph a was inserted in the bill on the motion by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). If the motion now before the Chair is carried I shall move that another amendment be agreed to which will express the same idea as the honorable member for Balaclava had in mind, but in more precise legal language. It will be made in what the draftsmen regard as a more appropriate place in the bill.
.- The purpose of my amendment was to ensure that a migrant shall sign a declaration stating that he is opposed to the overthrow of civil government by revolution and that he is opposed to assassination. Such a declaration has been required in the United States of
America for many years. My amendment did not specify the Commonwealth in particular. That deficiency has been remedied in the Senate, and my amendment has been adopted in a slightly different form. I have no abjection to the amendment now proposed by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate’s amendmentNo. 2. - After paragraph (d) add the following paragraph: - “ and (e) by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section: - (2.) An intending immigrant shall be required to make, in the prescribed form, a declaration as to whether he is such a person as is described in paragraph(gd) of the last preceding subsection, and, unless he makes a declaration that he is not such a person, his immigration into the Commonwealth shallbe prohibited and he shall be a prohibited immigrant within the meaning of this Act.’.”.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
As the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) pointed out when he moved his proposed amendment, all entrants to the United States of America have to sign a document of the kind now proposed. Accordingly, I recommend that the amendment made by the Senate be accepted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
In committee: (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Clause 7 (Temporary trustees).
Senate’s amendment. - Add the following sub-clause: - “ (2.) The Governor-General may appoint two senators and two members of the House of Representatives to hold office as trustees until the first appointment as trustees of two senators and two members of the House of Representatives, respectively, under the last preceding section.”.
Mr. DEDMAN (Corio - Minister for Defence, Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and Minister in charge of the
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) [10.32]. - I move-
That the amendment be agreed to.
The bill provides for the appointment of trustees, but it will not be possible for the Parliament to appoint trustees before the bill is proclaimed. The amendment is intended to provide for the GovernorGeneral in Council to appoint temporary trustees until the trustees referred to in the bill are appointed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 8th September (vide page 266), on motion by Mr. Pollard -
That the schedule to the Customs Tariff 1933-1948 be amended . . .(vide page 261 ) .
.- The proposed amendment to the Customs Tariff Schedule was introduced by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) on the8th September last. The proposals relate to certain new protective tariffs and some administrative changes. Changes in duties of excise were also introduced at the same time. The alterations of tariff and import protective duties relate to gloves and carpenters’ hand and breast drills and braces. The Tariff Board investigated the proposed changes, and recommended an alteration of the schedule. The procedure followed in these instances is commendable, and I trust that the Government will adhere to it in the future. Unfortunately, the establishment of the International Trade Organization will prevent that procedure from being adopted in any further proposed alterations. The Opposition approves of the proposals because they have been examined at a public inquiry where evidence was taken from all parties concerned, and as the result of which the Tariff Board submitted certain recommendations which, in our opinion, are sound.
It is proposed to insert a new by-law, No. 449. The adoption of that suggestion will simplify customs procedure.
Unfortunately the Government has not made sufficient use of the procedure for altering the tariff schedules by by-law. The Government should request the Tariff Board to investigate what items can be introduced into Australia at reduced rates of duty so as to cheapen the cost of production in this country. I have mentioned this matter on a number of previous occasions, and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) knows what I mean. Heavy duties are imposed onoregon timber imported into this country which is used extensively in mining operations and in home building. The reduction of that duty would greatly assist home builders and would reduce the cost of house construction. The Tariff Board has performed a very useful function for many years, and it should be asked to recommend what bylaw entries can be made in respect of a number of items. Although we can manufacture almost all our present requirements in Australia, insufficient quantities are being produced to supply the local market. It is necessary that goods that are in short supply, and particularly those required for house construction and for the development of industry, should be imported under by-law, for a limited time to make up the deficiency.
Other alterations in the schedules were made last year, but must be validated within six months after they are laid on the table. That procedure enables any honorable member who desires to criticize them to do so now. However, the Opposition does not consider that criticism of the alterations now proposed to be validated is necessary. The Opposition also approves of the proposal to reduce the excise duty on matches.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Pollard and Mr. Lemmon do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Pollard, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the8th September (vide page 266), on motion by Mr. Pollard -
That the schedule to the Excise Tariff 1921- 1948 be amended …. (vide page 265)
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Pollard and Mr. Lemmon do pre pare and bring in a bill to carry out thiforegoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Pollard, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 2nd December (vide page 3906), on motion by Mr. Johnson -
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of Tasmania into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs. A. B. Smith, C. M. Pitt and C. A. Blakney. the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of distributing the said State into Divisions, in their report laid before the House of Representatives on the13th day of October, 1948, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the map referred to therein, be adopted.
.-I propose to say something concerning the redistribution of electoral boundaries in Tasmania, particularly in regard to the division ofWilmot. I desire to make it clear that the Electoral Commissioners in Tasmania have done a very reasonable job. Although no new electorates have been created, minor alterations have been affected in the boundaries of the five electorates to make them coincide with the boundaries of the State electorates The electoral division of Wilmot has suffered most in the redistribution. The commissioners endeavoured to strike an average of approximately 31,000 voters in each of the five constituencies
Adoption of the report of the commissioners will result in the electors of Tasmania being distributed as follows: -
Prior to the redistribution of electoral boundaries, Franklin had the largest number of voters, and Darwin had only slightly less. The commissioners decided to recommend that the number of voters in Darwin and Franklin should be reduced, and those electorates will now have the least number of voters. This is what the commissioners said -
As the Divisions of Darwin and Franklin definitely will continue to grow, the only course open to your Commissioners is to suggest a reduction in the area of each. So far as the Darwin Division is concerned, the most logical i-ourse to pursue appears to he to transfer the Subdivision of Kentish - which Subdivision formed part of the original Division of Wilmot li lit. was detached therefrom at the last redistribution - to the Division of Wilmot. The situation respecting the Franklin Division should, it is suggested, be met by the transfer nl the New Norfolk Subdivision from the Division of Franklin to the Division of Wilmot.
The electorate of Wilmot has been increased by two subdivisions, one from Darwin and one from Franklin, while Wilmot has yielded to Bass 2,562 electors, reducing the number in Wilmot to 32,016. The reasons offered by the commissioners for reducing the size of Darwin and Franklin are sound. Those divisions are becoming industrialized, but I cannot understand why the commissioners did not believe that Bass was also about to be industrialized. It is obvious that, in a few years’ time, Bass will have more electors than Wilmot, and probably more than either Franklin or Darwin. The aluminium industry and other important industries are to be established in Bass, and a big housing project is under way in the electorate. I believe that the commissioners overlooked those very important factors and by so doing they affected my interests adversely. In spite of that, however, I support the proposal because it has the support of the Taamanian Government. The majority by which I won my seat will probably be reduced from 800 to just over 100. Like the honorable member for
Gwydir (Mr. Scully), and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin). I have been hard hit.
– Order ! The honorable member rose to discuss the redistribution of Tasmania, and Tasmania only.
– The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) has yielded the subdivision of Kentish to Wilmot, and from the electorate of Franklin the subdivision of New Norfolk has been added. So far as community of interest is concerned, the commissioners have done a good job, because Wilmot is now an almost entirely rural division, having lost its association with Launceston. I do not believe it to be just that any member of this Parliament, no matter to what party he belongs, should lose his seat because of the drawing of a line on a map. We like to win our seats on our merits, or to lose them for reasons which the electors think sound.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 2nd December (vide page 3906), on motion by Mr. Johnson -
That the House of Representatives, approves of the distribution -of the State of So”uth Australia into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs. A. G-. Davisj C. M. Hambidge and K. V. McEntee, the Conmiissioners appointed for the purpose of distributing the said State into Divisione, in their report laid before the House of Representatives on the 7th day of October, 194S, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on thr maps referred to therein, be adopted, except that the name “Sturt” be substituted for the name “ Bonython “.
.- I support the motion, because I believe that the commissioners did a good job in the circumstances. It was unfortunate that the Government decided that the numerical margin previously allowed to exist between country and metropolitan electorates should be abolished. The Electoral Act provides that the ascertained average may be departed from by 20 per cent., under or over. That was designed, not to effect differentiation in the value of votes, but to give representation to large but sparsely populated rural areas. Before the present redistribution, the quota in country electorates in South Australia varied from 53,000 to 58,000, whilst in the city it varied from 60,000 and80,000. After the redistribution, the average for all parts of the State will be 40,000.
I regret very much that the Government, whilst accepting the recommendations of the commissioners regarding the boundaries, did not accept the commissioners’ recommendation regarding names of divisions. For instance, the Government has decided to alter the name of “ Bonython “, as recommended by the commissioners, to “ Sturt “. The name “ Bonython “ is held in high regard in South Australia-
– There is nothing wrong with “ Sturt “ either.
– I am speaking of “ Bonython “, which is the name of a man who served his State well.
– He made money out of the people of South Australia.
– He made a success of his business, if that is what the Minister means, but it is disgusting that that should be held against him. He represented an electorate in this Parliament for two terms during the early years of federation. Whilst he made money, he used it for the benefit of the people of South Australia. He made generous gifts to the School of Mines and Industry in South Australia, and also to the University of South Australia, where he is commemorated by the Bonython Hall. He also made a generous gift to the Government which enabled it to complete the State House of Parliament. His record compares more than favorably with that of most of those whose names have been given to electoral divisions in other States. I have no objection to the name “ Sturt “, which is that of a man who rendered splendid service to South Australia in the early days; but, after all, he was an Englishman who served in Australia and then returned to his own land. Moreover, his name is commemorated in a number of places in South Australia and in other States. I believe that the Government would have met the wishes of a large number of people in South Australia if it had adopted the recommendation of the commissioners, and retained the name of “ Bonython “.
When fixing the boundaries of the new divisions the commissioners did not take into account the boundaries of State electorates, nor even consider, apparently, the boundaries of existing divisions and sub-divisions. Hitherto, the same electoral roll could be usedfor Commonwealth and State purposes, but that will no longer be possible. Two separate rolls will now have to be prepared, and this will involve added expense.
.-I remind honorable members that, while the redistribution of electorates was being considered, I was overseas, and had no opportunity to make suggestions. I have the honour to represent at the present time what may be termed the cream of the electoral divisions of South Australia. I have been selected by the Labour party to contest at the next general election a division that will be known as “ Kingston “. The electoral commissioners have decided that Glenelg, which is the most popular seaside resort in South Australia, shall be included in that division. In the present Boothby division, there is a part of Glenelg known as Plympton. The commissioners, in their wisdom, have brought Glenelg into the new Kingston division, but, although the Hindmarsh division had over 700 more electors than the Boothby division at the last general election, they have seen fit to put 1,600 electors in Plympton into the Hindmarsh division. I protest against that. The commissioners have decided to put the rest of Glenelg into the Kingston division and to push approximately 1,600 Labour voters into the already overcrowded Labour division of Hindmarsh. Hindmarsh is to divided into two divisions, while the division that I now have the honour to represent is to be divided into four. I have no option but to accept the Government’s decision, but I think that the commissioners should have included Plympton in the “ Kingston “ division.
– in reply - Protests against the proposed redistribution of the electoral divisions of South Australia have been made by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) and the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy).
When both sides challenge the umpire’s decision, it suggests that the umpires have been almost fair. With regard to quotas, the commissioners were governed by the provisions of the act. The honorable member for Wakefield has protested at the proposed substitution of the name “ Sturt “ for the name “Bonython”. Although the Cabinet sub-committee, which considered this matter, had every respect for the great work thatSir Langdon Bonython did for South Australia, they selected the name Sturt because they thought it had a Commonwealthwide significance. There is nothing to prevent the South Australian Parliament from recognizing the work of Sir Langdon Bonython in whatever form it desires. The redistribution of the electoral divisions of South Australia was left in the hands of three electoral commissioners. Two of them were appointed by an act of Parliament and the third was nominated. The act provides that when the commissioners have made their report it shall be advertised for 30 days to permit of protests, suggestions and recommendations being lodged. The report of the South Australian electoral commissioners was accepted by all parties without protest, and it is now submitted to the Parliament for adoption, with the exception that it is suggested that the name “ Sturt “ should be substituted for the name “ Bonython “.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 2nd December (vide page 3906), on motion by Mr. Johnson -
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of Victoria into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs. R. C. Nance andO. G. Pearson, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of distributing the said State into Divisions, in their report laid before the House of Representatives on the14th day of October, 1948, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the maps referred to therein, be adopted, except that the name “ Balaclava “ be substituted for “ Gordon “, the name “ Burke “ for “ Bourke “, the name “ Chisholm “ for “ Lonsdale “,. the name “ Higinbotham “ for “ Bridges “, the name “ Higgins “ for “ Hotham “, the name “ Isaacs “ for “ Balaclava “, the name “ Lalor “ for “ Phillip”, and the name “ Murray “ for “ Barkly “.
.- I do not intend to allow this report to be adopted without voicing a protest at the alterations that were made by the electoral commissioners after the period of 30 days to which the Minister has referred. The only representations to which the commissioners paid attention were representations which led to a change of the political complexion of two of the proposed divisions. It is common knowledge that the Wannon division that was first proposed by the commissioners put the present honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) into political jeopardy. Upon representations being made to the commissioners, the boundaries of the proposed Wannon division were so altered that it is now claimed that it is a safe Labourseat. That statement brings a responsive” Hear, hear ! “ from the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan), who is the secretary to the Federal Parliamentary Labour party.
I direct attention to the fact that the first proposal of the Victorian electoral commissioners in respect of the Bendigo division transformed it from one that could safely be held by the Australian Country party to one which was a borderline seat. A number of representations were then made to the electoral commissioners. I make no secret of the fact that representations were made by the Australian Country party and that petitions from various areas were lodged in support of those representations. It is rare to find party politics entering into Victorian local government, but in the municipality of Maryborough there are Labour and non-Labour members of the council.
– What have municipalities to do with this redistribution?
– It was suggested by a Labour member of the Maryborough Municipal Council that a predominantly Labour area should be transferred from the proposed Wimmera division to the proposed Bendigo division. That was apparently the only representation that was heeded by the electoral commissioners. It was acted upon, with the result that 5,000 electors from the predominantly Labour sub-division of Maryborough were transferred to the new Bendigo division. That was done by the commissioners, acting upon the suggestion of a Labour member of the Maryborough council. There is no secret about that.
It is curious that the only representations that appeared to reach the hearts of the Victorian electoral commissioners were representations which transferred Wannon from a borderline seat into what is believed to be a safe Labour seat and which transformed Bendigo from what was, at the very best, a borderline seat into what the Labour party now claims to be a safe Labour seat. That statement evokes cheers from honorable members opposite. Actions of that kind will not satisfy the Australian Country party. They are not actions which fairminded Australians will regard as reasonable. It is more than a coincidence that this kind of thing has occurred elsewhere. Members of the Labour party in New South Wales and Queensland - -
– The honorable gentleman may refer only to Victoria.
– I am directing attention to the fact that the same thing has occurred in other States. Neither in Victoria nor, to my knowledge, in any other State, has the second view of the electoral commissioners resulted in a decision which in any way worsens the electoral prospects of the Labour party. Upon the initiative of a Labour member of the Maryborough Municipal Council, the commissioners have revised their original proposals and transformed the electorate of Bendigo into what the Labour party claims to be a safe Labour seat, and the division of Wannon from a “ chancey “ seat into what the Labour party claims to be a safe Labour seat. If that is not gerrymandering, the results are identical with those which would follow unabashed gerrymandering, and, for my part, I shall not allow the matter to pass without directing attention to it. The factors that the electoral commissioners were to take into consideration when making the proposed boundaries were published. Members of the Parliament, political parties, organizations, and private citizens were entitled to make reports to the commissioners protesting against the proposed boundaries. I made no representations, but I know that the Australian Country party made representations in general terms, but not in particular terms, about the proposed boundaries. I also know that representations were made by private individuals, municipalities and organized bodies. I am probably not entitled to describe the matter as any more than a coincidence, but I shall turn the searchlight upon it in order to reveal that the results of the revision of the electoral commissioners’ proposals in Victoria, as in other States, are to the advantage of the Labour party. The people must draw their own conclusions from that fact.
– Victoria is the only State in which all three electoral commissioners did not survive after making their first recommendation. Mr. Carl Gabel, who was Public Service Inspector for Victoria and the third commissioner died after he had signed the report, but before that document had been presented to the Parliament. When members of the Parliament and members of the public generally objected to the proposed redistribution for Victoria, the two remaining commissioners considered the representations. The Electoral Act provides that if a member of the commission dies, the remaining commissioners may proceed to hear objections, consider suggestions and make recommendations to the Parliament. I do not make that statement because I want to suggest that the original report, which Mr. Gabel signed, was altered because of his death. Far from it. But the fact remains that the two remaining commissioners were those who were appointed by statute, the Chief Electoral Officer for the State of Victoria and the Surveyor-General for Victoria. The Chief Electoral Officer is a permanent Commonwealth public servant, and the Surveyor-General is a permanent State public servant. I do not know their political views. I think that both of them would keep their opinions to themselves. I have not the slightest reason to believe that either of them has ever supported the Labour party. As far as I know. neither of them has ever indicated his political views. I should not want to know the political views of those two gentlemen, or, for that matter, the political views of any electoral commissioner.
When the first report was published, Warrnambool, which had been a part of rhe Wannon electorate ever since federation, was removed. The commission is bound by the Electoral Act to give consideration to such factors as community of interest and geographical boundaries. In this instance, the commissioners removed Warrnambool from the Wannon electorate and included in that electorate territory from the electorate of Corangamite. The reason why Warrnambool was taken out of Wannon was that the commission did not desire to split State boundaries. Unfortunately, the commission was obliged to have regard to existing State boundaries and State subdivisional boundaries. As the commissioners were considering not merely a redistribution of existing boundaries, but also a scheme for the enlargement of the Parliament, we, perhaps, should have told it to disregard State boundaries and existing subdivisional boundaries. That would have entailed a good deal of work for the Electoral Office subsequently, but the commissioners, in their judgment, decided that Warrnambool should be excluded from Wannon. Many protests were made against that decision. People in Warrnambool and members of the Parliament protested. I made my own protest to the commission. I said that the whole plan should be re-cast because I did not consider that the principle of one vote one value had been observed in the redistribution. The average number of voters in country electorates is approximately ?>S,000, whereas the average number of electors in metropolitan constituencies is about 43,000. That difference does not arise in other States and I considered that the whole plan should be re-cast. More than 60 per cent, of the people of Victoria now live in the metropolitan area of Melbourne, and if we are to have electoral justice and observe the principle of one vote one value, electorates should be more nearly equal than they were when the matter first came before the fommissioners in Victoria.
– That principle is not applied at the Trades Hall.
– We are discussing not the Trades Hall but the workings of democracy. If democracy is to survive in this country, it must be based upon majority rule. In order to have majority rule, we must give everybody an equal say. Every person doe3 not have an equal say when great differentiations are allowed between country and metropolitan electorates. I considered that the scheme presented by the commissioners in Victoria, was not so good as were the schemes presented in other States. The commissioners rejected my opposition, and the protests advanced by other members of the Parliament, but they did recognize the wisdom of restoring Warrnambool to Wannon. They had to make consequential adjustments, and, therefore, restored to Corangamite a part of that electorate which had been included in Wannon- That might have been the only alteration that the commissioners would have made, but an objection was raised by the Maryborough Municipal Council about the Bendigo electorate. I point out that Labour party members are in a minority on the Maryborough Municipal Council, but that body unanimously recommended to the commission that Maryborough should be included in the Bendigo electorate. There is an auriferous belt from beyond Maryborough in the west to beyond Castlemaine in the east, and there was, at least, a community of interest between Maryborough, Bendigo and Castlemaine. Having accepted that recommendation, the commission had to place in the new electorate of Barkly some of the country north of Bendigo, which has no real community of interest with the industrial areas in the rest of that electorate. Wimmera was also affected. But not one alteration was made to a city electorate. No alteration was made to the proposed new electorates of Gippsland, McMillan, Latrobe, Ballarat and others. I considered that the metropolitan area of Victoria should have received an additional scat if we were to maintain the principle of one vote one value, and that the country districts should have had one le9s seat than the commissioners decided. If honorable members will examine the figures, they will realize the justice of the claim.
When the matter of the redistribution of seats in Victoria came before the Parliament in 1934, the government of the day moved that the recommendation of the commission, which was for eleven metropolitan seats and nine country seats be adopted. But a member of the Australian Country party successfully moved, as an amendment, that the scheme be referred back to the commissioners with an instruction that they allocate ten seats to the metropolitan area and ten seats to the country districts. If charges of gerrymandering are to be made, I cite that case as an instance in which it can legitimately be said that political party interests predominated. The electoral commissioners reconsidered the matter, and recommended ten seats for country districts and ten seats for the metropolitan area. The commissioners, whom the government appointed at that time, considered that eleven metropolitan seats to nine country seats was fair representation, having regard to all the requirements of the Electoral Act. The present Government has not amended the Electoral Act, or changed any of the factors that the commissioners must take into consideration. We did not tell them to vary the percentage between metropolitan and country electorates up or down. We told them to carry out the redistribution in 1947 in exactly the same way as it was carried out in 1934. The two commissioners, who made the recommendations, would feel very hurt, and justifiably so, at any suggestion that they had either gerrymandered the electorates or yielded to pressure. They received a number of objections from people, and after considering them, made their recommendations. It was competent for the Government to ask the Parliament to reject the plan submitted and refer the Commissioners proposals back to them for redrafting but we have accepted those proposals with their advantages and their disadvantages. We accept what the commissioners have done, and we recommend it to the House. This is the first time that the recommendation of the commissioners regarding a redistribution of seats in Victoria has not been referred back to them.
I now desire to refer briefly to the names of the electorates. The commissioners have made certain suggestions. They are not recommendations. Perhaps we should introduce legislation to amend the act in order to provide that, the commissioners may not make suggestions in regard to names of electorates but that the government of the day should have the responsibility of determining names. At present, however, the commissioners make suggestions. We propose to vary some of them. We suggest that “ Balaclava “ be substituted for “Gordon”. We suggest that “Burke”, which refers to Robert O’Hara Burke, an Irishman and a great explorer, should be substituted for “ Bourke “ named after Richard Bourke, who was Governor when Melbourne became a part of the Port Phillip district of New South Wales. We propose that the name of Caroline Chisholm, a. great woman who did excellent work in New South Wales and Victoria, shall be substituted for “ Lonsdale “. Lonsdale was the inconsequential second occupant of the post of superintendent of the Port Phillip district, and the predecessor of the first Governor, Sir Charles Hotham. Lonsdalestreet was named after Superintendent Lonsdale. ‘ Caroline Chisholm did great work for the immigrant girls and the people generally. This Government can claim great credit for being the first Government to name an electorate after a woman. The name “ Chisholm “ may well have been adopted as the name for a Commonwealth electorate at federation.
We have suggested the substitution of “Higinbotham” for “Bridges”. There can be no objection to the name “ Higinbotham “ being given to a Commonwealth electorate, because that is the name of one of the greatest pre-federation statesmen in this country. There are people in this country who are prepared to pursue a vendetta against Higinbotham even to this day. When he was Chief Justice of the State of Victoria he was so sympathetic to the strike of the dockers at that period that he sent them from the judge’s chambers a cheque for £50 towards the strike fund, because he believed that they were justified in what they were doing. He offered them £10 a week while the strike lasted. His painting in oils hangs in the Melbourne Trades Hall to-day. He was a great man, but the tories of the time refused to make him LieutenantGovernor, or to give him a title. “We have immortalized him.
Silting suspended from 11. S3 p.m. to 1.2.5 a.m. (Friday).
Friday, 10 December 1948
– When the sitting was suspended I was talking about the proposal to substitute the name “ Higinbotham “ for “ Bridges “.
– There is already a Higinbotham constituency in Victoria.
– Yes, a Legislative Council electoral division. There is also a Ballarat electorate in the Victorian Parliament, and a Bendigo as well. NTames of electoral divisions are duplicated in every State, as they apply to State and Commonwealth spheres. It is proposed that the name “ Higgins “ be substituted for the name “ Hotham “. Higgins was Attorney-General in the first Labour Government, which was led by Mr. Watson, and afterwards he became ;i justice of the High Court of Australia. He was the first president of the ‘Commonwealth Arbitration Court. “’ Isaacs “, we suggest, should be substituted for “Balaclava” and “Lalor” for “ Phillip “-
– It would be appropriate for me to represent that constituency.
– Yes; I hope there will be a long succession of good men representing it, inspired by Lalor’s spirit. Reverting to the substitution of “ Isaacs “ for “ Balaclava “, I need not, I hope, tell honorable members that the man after whom the electorate is proposed to be named was an Attorney-General of Victoria and a member of the first Australian Parliament. He was a member of the convention that drew up the Constitution and, when he died, he was the last surviving founder of the Constitution. He was Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia and our first Australian-born Governor-General. The name “Phillip” more appropriately belongs to an electorate in New South Wales to immortalize the arrival of the first fleet. Lalor’s name is one of the most remarkable in history. Beginning as a rebel, he became a strict constitutionist. He was a Cabinet Minister and then Speaker in the Victorian Legislative Assembly. When he retired he was given a cash grant. Had he been taken in ‘54, the Governor of the Melbourne Gaol would have presided at his funeral. As it was, when he died, many years later, his funeral was attended by the Governor of Victoria. The last proposed substitution is that of “ Murray “ for “ Barkly “. Barkly was an inconsequential Governor of Victoria. The Murray River is the northern boundary of the new electorate. It seems that “Murray” is better than “Barkly” as a name for it.
The redistribution is fair but I believe that it will not satisfy every one. It did not satisfy me. But it is as good as can be got. The electoral commissioners may be accused of bad judgment, but they certainly cannot be accused of malfeasance or of having yielded improperly in any way to any one. Whatever may be suggested against them, they did their job as they thought they should do it.
– I consider that 100 seats in the House of Representatives would have been more appropriate than 122, having regard to our population compared with that of Great Britain and the number of seats in the House of Commons, but we are presented with a fait accompli, and the electoral commissioners had to partition the States in accordance with the number prescribed by the law. I cannot speak with authority about the countryside, but I believe that the commissioners in the metropolitan area of Victoria did their job sincerely and conscientiously. The boundaries of the proposed new metropolitan electorates that I know are drawn generally on the lines that they should be drawn on, in accordance with the boundaries of State electoral divisions and municipalities.
It is proposed to alter the name of part of my electorate to “ Isaacs “. The St.
Kilda City Council objects to this. They do not object to “ Isaacs “ as the name of an electorate but they believe, as I do, that the name should be applied elsewhere. The council, which has made representations to the Government on the subject has .sent to me the following letter : -
The Council considers that the merit of commemorating great Australians by applying their names to electorates, is beyond question, but respectfully suggests that it would be more appropriate to give such names to those electorates that have some close association with the persons whose memories are to be perpetuated, such as the place of their birth or the locality where their lives may have been substantially spent. My Council feels that it would not be right to take away the name “ Balaclava “ and bestow it upon an electorate no part of which is within the area or district known by that name.
The letter points out that many street names in St. Kilda are derived from the Crimea War. There is the Balaclava post office and a Balaclava-road. The town clerk, who wrote the letter, by direction of the council, says -
I was directed by resolution to respectfully ask that the Federal electorate which is (with the exception of a small part of the Caulfield City’s territory) wholly within this municipality and contains the whole of the “ district “ of Balaclava be permitted to retain that name and that new names be considered for application to other areas where existing names do not denote specific localities. If for no other reason, it is suggested there could be quite a deal of confusion if the name “Balaclava” be applied to an electorate outside that “distict” particularly from the point of view of absentee voting at elections.
The Council sincerely hopes that favorable consideration will be given to these representations.
In my reply, I pointed out that the name “ Balaclava “ had a wider meaning than the district of Balaclava. I said -
I agree that in commemorating great Australians their names should, as far as possible, be given to districts where the person concerned has been long associated, or was horn. In that connexion I approve of the perpetuation of Sir Isaac Isaacs’ name, but think that it might more appropriately have replaced Indi, in which district Sir Isaac was born, than where it is now proposed.
A suggestion has been made that the St. Kilda end of the present Balaclava electorate be called Jacka, which appeals to me if the above change could be made, as being an enduring tribute to an outstandingly gallant. Australian, who at one time was Mavor of St. Kilda.
Ab to the location of the name “ Balaclava ‘”, I admit there is some merit in keeping the name at the St. Kilda end. But it should be remembered that as a Federal electorate. Balaclava has a wider designation than the local boundary, in that it has also represented Caulfield, Elsternwick, Gardenvale and Brighton federally for many years. In retaining existent electorate names, the procedure has been to allow them to remain with the largest portion, and with this principle I agree. It will be seen then, that this has been adhered to in Balaclava, in that in the governmental paper dealing with the subject, the existing St. Kilda subdivision of Balaclava is shown as having 22,420 electors, whereas Elsternwick and Brighton alone have 38,070. Under the circumstances, therefore, it is unlikely that your proposal would be approved. It would be appreciated if you would advise me as to the substitution of Jacka for Isaacs, in case this may be considered.
The town clerk replied -
The council’s principal objection is to the proposal to give the name “ Balaclava “ to an electorate which does not embrace within its boundaries any part of the district bear, ing that name. The council appreciates the desire on the part of the Commonwealth Government to permit the existing name to follow the largest section of an electorate to be severed by an adjustment of boundaries, particularly where the name bears no special relationship to a “district”, but respectfully suggests that, in the instance above quoted, it is most inappropriate to designate an electorate containing Elsternwick, Gardenvale. Brighton and part of Caulfield as “Balaclava “, when the Balaclava district is within the boundaries of an adjoining electorate.
The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) proposed that “ Jacka “ might well be used as the name of a constituency embracing St. Kilda. Captain Jacka, Australia’s first winner of the Victoria Cross in World War I., who also won the Military Cross with Bar, was mayor of St. Kilda. Sir Isaac Isaacs rose without privilege to be a member of the Parliament of Victoria, a member of the first Australian Parliament, later becoming Attorney-General, Chief Justice of the High Court and our first Australianborn Governor-General. His career was most distinguished. But hp was born in Beechworth, a town in the electorate of Indi. Therefore, I suggest that the electorate of Indi he named “ Isaacs “ and that the name “ Isaacs “ be replaced by “ Jacka “ in the electoral division proposed to be called “Isaacs”. The Brighton City Council has proposed the name “ Dendy “ for the constituency proposed to be called “ Balaclava “. Dendy founded Brighton. A friend of Cannings, he was one of the earliest settlers in Melbourne and brought families to settlein the Brighton district. The City of Brighton was named after the city of that name in Sussex, from which county the earliest settlers came. It would have been a graceful tribute to the pioneering work of Mr. Dendy had the new electorate been named after him. That suggestion has been made not to me but direct to the Government. Another seat to which I wish to make special reference was to have been named “ Bridges “, but the name now proposed is “ Higinbotham “. The name “ Bridges “ was selected to commemorate the memory of General Bridges, the General Officer Commanding the 1st Division of the Australian Imperial Force in World “War I. General Bridges, who was a distinguished soldier, died from wounds received on Gallipoli and is buried at Canberra. We all know the great esteem in which Judge Higinbotham was held. He was an eminent Victorian and a great democrat. There is, however, a Victorian seat of that name which includes part of the territory which will fall within the new Commonwealth electorate. I fear that great confusion will arise if the name be duplicated.
– No confusion has arisen over the duplication of the names of Ballarat and Bendigo.
– I suggest that as the Stateseat of Higinbotham is an upper house seat, and covers a large area which will be included in the new Commonwealth electorate, confusion may arise. For that reason the name should be changed. Special representations were made to me and to my colleague, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), on the matter. I approve of the sentiment which prompted the Government in not accepting the original name proposed by the commissioners, but I fear that a mistake has been made in duplicating the name of a State seat. The honorable member for Fawkner proposes to submit an amendment that “ Higinbotham “ be changed to “ Bridges “. Portion of my own electorate has been taken away to form another electorate to be named Higgins “. It was to have been named “ Hotham “. It embraces a part of my electorate and a part of the electorate represented by the honorable member for Fawkner. “ Hotham “ was quite a suitable name which might have been allowed to remain. As the name “ Lalor “ is to be put on the electoral map there seems to be no reason why “ Hotham “ should be altered. Governor Hotham was the Governor responsible for sending troops to Eureka; but there is no reason why any bitterness should exist against him on that account to-day for doing his duty. I move-
That the name” Isaacs “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the name “ Jacka “.
– It gives me considerable satisfaction to see these proposals before the House. It will be remembered that when, in 1938, the then Minister for the Interior proposed to make certain amendments in the Electoral Act, I was given the task on behalf of the Opposition of making proposals in connexion with those amendments. As the result of the increase of the Australian population the number of members of Parliament is now to be more than I then suggested. I believe that the proposals I then made for increasing the representation in the Parliament of the main land States were absolutely essential to the legislative progress of Australia. The redistribution of electoral boundaries in Victoria has been carried out by the commissioners on a very fair basis. Even though we are not often in accord I support the statement by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) that the commissioners carried out their task with sincerity and great capacity. Suggestions have been made that the new electoral boundaries have been so fixed as to confer benefits on one side as against another. There is not the slightest justification for such suggestions. The redistribution was carried out fairly and strictly in accordance with the changes in the population. A variation of the existing electoral boundaries was absolutely essential to the progress of Australia.No member of this House can adequately represent almost 60,000 people. which was about the average quota. This reform should have been effected long ago. The commissioners applied themselves to their task with diligence and the result of their work is a credit to them. Their recommendations favoured neither one side nor the other. I have no desire to go into the history of these proposals. It is evident that if the new seats had been allocated prior to the repeal of the section of the Electoral Act which provided that an estimate of the population should be made at intercensal periods an injustice might have been done. For instance during the centenary celebrations in Melbourne the population of Victoria was so greatly increased as to have justified the creation of many more electorates. That is also true of the period of the ?esqui-centenary celebrations in Sydney and, to a lesser extent, of the centenary celebrations in South Australia. At that time the average number of people in each electorate averaged 59,000 whereas originally they numbered approximately 26,000. It was not contemplated by the framers of the Constitution that the average number of electors should remain nt such a low figure; but it is likewise true that it was not then thought that the number would be practically doubled within the space of approximately 50 years. I am pleased at this proposal to provide more equitably for the political representation of the people. I regard the name3 chosen for the new electorates as excellent. The honorable member for Balaclava has moved an amendment to provide that the names of certain new electorates be changed. I suggest to honorable members that it is not possible to select names all of which will find favour among all the people. I do not regard the names proposed by the honoriible member as more appropriate than those indicated in the motion, and I wholeheartedly support the principle and the plan because I believe that the enlargement of the Parliament marks another great step forward in the development of this young Australian Com monwealth.
– Certain proposals have been made with respect to the electoral redistribution of Victoria which no government can justify. I do not believe that the Government can justify the abandonment of the name “ Bridges “ and its replacement by “ Higinbotham “. Higinbotham was a lawyer. We have several lawyers in this House and we know what some of them are like. I do not know many who have ever followed a lawyer into battle, but I know many young men who followed Bridges into battle. His remains now lie in a tomb on top of a hill overlooking Duntroon. He did a wonderful job training young Australians at Duntroon, as he had previously trained young Englishmen at Sandhurst. He went up into Shrapnel Valley, as I believe the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) also did. I went up there, too, but I was not too keen about it. General Bridges was wounded, and subsequently died of the wounds which he suffered because he believed in freedom. I strongly object to the proposal to take his name off the map and substitute for it the name of a man called Higinbotham, who was just a lawyer and a judge of absolutely no consequence. The Government should reconsider its decision.
I come now to my own electorate, and I want to give you some news, Mr. Speaker. There is a man named Connelly in Victoria. In 1943, he said of me before the election, “We have got him this time. We will defeat him. He is not in the race.” However, I won the seat with a majority of 2,180 votes. Two or three of the young fellows who hold State seats in my district, including Colonel Hipworth and Mr. Brose, used to argue the point with him. Just before the last election, he repeated, “Well, we have got him this time “. But he had not. I more than doubled my majority. Those other fellows chucked a bit of muck at him, and he replied : Don’t forget that there will be a redistribution before the next election, and we will cut off the northern part of the electorate. If we cannot beat him fairly, we will beat him anyway.” That is the attitude of this Government towards redistribution. It was not satisfied with the first attempt. There were three commissioners, but one of them died and the matter was reviewed by the other two. An attempt was made by people up in the north to attach Rochester to the Bendigo electorate, which was its natural outlet. but in. due course the commissioners decided against it. They took three subdivisions from the Bendigo electorate and put them on to “ Barkly “, as it is to be called. Then, believing, perhaps, that Bendigo was still doubtful, they decided to add Maryborough to it, and to remove three more of the northern subdivisions from Bendigo. I believe that members of the Labour party - and they are tough ! - are ashamed of the gerrymandering that has taken place in that electorate. They are very anxious to know what electorate I shall stand for. I do not say that the anxiety is all on their side, but in due course I shall announce what I propose to do, and wherever I go I will leave a few clawmarks on the fellow I stand against. I object most strongly to this rotten attempt to change the electorate which I now represent.
– I had not intended to discuss redistribution in my district, as it seems to me to be very fair. The commissioners have done an excellent job, and I could not have suggested any improvement. My electorate was cut fairly in half, and I am satisfied with the division as it stands. However, since the date set for the making of representations to the commissioners has passed, I have received letters from mem-bers of the “Victorian Historical Society, and it is because of representations they made to me that I am now speaking on the motion. They are concerned that a misunderstanding has occurred over the name “ Bourke “, which is that of the present division. Apparently, the commissioners confused this name with the name “ Burke “. It was obvious that confusion was in their minds when they proposed to name two new divisions respectively “ Bourke “ and “ “Wills “. I wrote to the commissioners pointing out that if those names were to stand, the letter “ o “ should be left out of “Bourke”, otherwise the association of names would be historically inaccurate. The name “ Bourke “ was used to commemorate Sir Richard Bourke, the eighth Governor of New South Wales, who is remembered in Victoria for his part in the establishment of the Port Phillip settlement. He it was who, in association with a Mr. Hoddle, was responsible for laying out the City of Melbourne. In one letter which I have received from a member of the Victorian Historical Society, the following passage occurs : -
In David Blair’s Cyclopaedia of Australia (pages 57-58) a glowing tribute is paid to him for his work in the establishment of the Port Phillip Settlement. I think for that work alone his name should remain.
In another letter, it was pointed out that, at a recent meeting of the society, the consensus of opinion was that it would be wrong to take the honour away from the Governor who had done so much for the colony of Victoria, in its infancy. The name “Burke”’ belonged to Robert O’Hara Burke, the explorer, whose name is associated with that of William John Wills. As the result of the confusion of the two names, and the exclusion of the “ o “, which I suggested for the sake of historical accuracy, a certain amount of feeling has been engendered. [ find that the proposed arrangement is not acceptable to some persons, including members of the Victorian Historical Society, who wish the original name to remain in use. A member of the Brunswick council, in the electorate which I now represent, has written to me objecting to the change. But, if the name “ Bourke “ is to be retained, obviously the name “ Wills “ would be out of place, and therefore should not be used. I should like to know whether the proposed titles can be altered at this late date. If so, I suggest that the name “ Anstey “ should be given to the new division in the southern portion of the present electorate of Bourke. That name would commemorate a fine and honorable former member of this Parliament. A railway station in my electorate bears the name Anstey, and the late Mr. Frank Anstey had his home in the southern portion of the electorate. No better name could be given to one of the new divisions. I hope that the Government will agree to my suggestion, even at this late stage, and decide to name the two electorates to be formed from the present division of Bourke as “ Anstey “ and “ Bourke “.
.I suppose that every honorable member from Victoria entertains some regrets as the result of the division of existing electorates which has been made by the commissioners appointed for that purpose. There has been some alteration of the boundaries of every division, and even if the changes have strengthened the political prospects of some honorable members, I am certain that none of them are insensitive to the associations that they have established over the years with good friends, workers and supporters in the territories which they will no longer represent. The electorate which I represent will be virtually cut in two, and, being only human, I cannot offer myself as a candidate in both portions of it. I hope that the electors of the area for which I do offer myself will respond enthusiastically.
My prime purpose in speaking at this stage is to support the plea which was voiced first in this House to-night by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) and later by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), that the name “ Bridges “ be reinstated as the title of one of the new Commonwealth electorates. I do not wish necessarily to displace the name “Higinbotham”, yet I consider that the name “ Bridges “ has strong claims for consideration. This Parliament would acknowledge a very real debt to a distinguished servant of the nation if it gave the name “Bridges” to a Commonwealth electorate. The honorable member for Bendigo partially spoiled his excellent argument, not merely by reflecting upon the legal profession of which I am proud to be a member, but also by dismissing somewhat airily the claims of the late Chief Justice Higinbotham. I do not choose to do that. The late Chief Justice Higinbotham was a distinguished Australian whose memory has already been honored very properly, in his own State. There is an electorate in Victoria named after the late Chief Justice, and in that way his memory has already been honoured by the people of that State. The argument that some confusion will arise if we have a State electorate and a Federal electorate both bearing the same name has not been statisfactorily answered by the statement of the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) and the Minister for Commerce and Agri culture (Mr. Pollard) that similar situations have arisen elsewhere in Victoria.
– That applies to alt States.
– Their arguments, if carried into effect, would make confusion worse confounded, and therefore should not be acceptable to the Parliament.
However, stronger reasons than that actuate my request to the Parliament on this occasion. The late Chief Justice Higinbotham was distinguished primarily as a Victorian. His fame was largely confined to that State, and that is where honour has been done to him by giving his name to a State electorate. But the name “ Bridges “ has truly national fame. Sir William Bridges earned his fame in the national field as a great servant of the Commonwealth of Australia. As the honorable member for Bendigo has said, Sir William Bridges wasnot an Australian by birth. He was a Scot, but none the worse on that account as we can appreciate from our knowledge of the very fine service given in this Parliament and in other spheres of public service in Australia by citizens who have come from Scotland. Sir William Bridges joined the service of the Australian armed forces at an early age. He enlisted in the New South Wales permanent artillery forces in1885 and served as a major during the South African war. He was present at the relief of Kimberley and engaged in many other military actions. Upon his return to Australia in 1903, he joined the federal head-quarters staff, became Chief of the Intelligence Staff in 1905 and later Chief of the General Staff and Australian representative on the Imperial Staff in London. He returned to Australia in 1910 to establish the military college at Duntroon. That is a direct link with the development of the Commonwealth and with the seat of the Parliament. The following reference was made to him in the Royal Military College Journal of August, 1915:-
Duntroon is his Masterpiece, less than five years ago there was but a large station homestead surrounded by wide pastures, now a great group of buildings, built with judgment and foresight, to cope with the needs of a great military academy stands as a monument to his energy and tenacity of purpose.
Being of dogged determination, and unselfish in devotion to duty, he achieved, in the sliort space of four years, what may be regarded as the greatest educational feat yet accomplished in Australia.
At the outbreak of World War I. the Australian Government entrusted him with the organization of a force for service overseas. He commanded the 1st Division of the Australian Imperial Force. Et was apparently due to his foresight that the 1st Australian Division was in truth and in fact an Australian division and that the Australian troops were not incorporated with units from other parts of the Empire in a division under the’ command of a British commander. When war broke out Sir William Bridges was inspecting troops in Queensland. He returned to Melbourne on the 5th August, 1.914, when he was informed that Australia had offered to raise a force of 20,000 men and had asked the War Office in London whether the force should be organized as a division or otherwise. The reply that was sent by the War Office suggested that the force might consist of two infantry brigades, one light-horse brigade and one field artillery brigade, aggregating about 12,000 men. To Bridges and his staff it was quite clear that any such force would be dismembered and incorporated with units from other parts of the Empire in such a way as to lose its national character. He was determined that Australia should send one complete division, and drafted for the Minister for Defence a reply to the request from Great Britain which led to an Australian divison being formed subsequently. The stand that was then taken by the foresight of Bridges settled the future character of a national Australian force. He had no idea at that time of being appointed to command it, although he was in fact so appointed. As the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) has told us in moving terms to-night, Bridges went to Gallipoli. He was ashore before 8 a.m. on the 25th April, 1915, being for that day in charge of the two divisions employed at Anzac, the first Australian and New Zealand division and the Australian division. He was mortally wounded on the 15th May, 1915, and died in a hospital ship on the 18th May, 1915. On his tomb at Duntroon there is inscribed -
A gallant and erudite soldier.
The Dictionary of National Biography states -
In the foundation of the Koyal Military College, Duntroon, Bridges played a very prominent part, and it is in this connexion that his name will chiefly be remembered, for under his able leadership Duntroon ranked as one of the finest military colleges in the world.
The Australian Encyclopaedia contains the following passage : -
Bridges . . . was a great organizer and administrator in peace and in war, and hitremarkable driving power was directed by a no less remarkable intellect, fed with constant study both of books and of men.
I suggest that the facts that I have placed before the Parliament indicate that this was a man whose name should be remembered with gratitude by the Australian people as the founder of our great military academy at Duntroon and as the first leader of the 1st Australian Division. I do not desire to detract from the regard in which the men whose names are referred to in this motion should be held, but surely it is not beyond the capacity of the Government to find a place for the name of that very great Anstralian the late General Sir William Bridges.
– I wish to support the remarks which have been made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) concerning the late General Sir William Bridges. The transfer of Maryborough into the new Bendigo division has had repercussions on other divisions. When the maps of the proposed new divisions were first published, they appeared to be satisfactory to every one. It was then decided to transfer Maryborough to the reconstructed Bendigo division, but when that was done the Wimmera division was found to be too small. Warracknabeal and Rainbow were then transferred from the new Mallee division to the Wimmera division, but the reconstructed Mallee division was still too small and Kerang was transferred to it. It was then found that the new Bendigo division was too large, so the northern part of that division was transferred to what will now’ be known as the Murray division, and so the circle was completed. In my opinion, those transfers were absolutely unnecessary. If the original proposals had been allowed to remain unaltered, everybody except the members of the Labour party would have been satisfied.
Although some honorable members have bad the names of their electorates changed, their constituents will be almost the same as before. The new Mallee division will have approximately 38,000 electors, every one of whom is now in the present Wimmera division. The new division is to be called “Mallee”, but it will not have one elector or one acre of land that is not in the present Wimmera division. The altered Wimmera division will have electors from the present Wannon, Corangamite and Bendigo divisions, but it will have only 8,000 of the electors of the present Wimmera division. All but 8,000 of the electors of the present Wimmera division will be in the new Mallee division, and the altered Wimmera division will have only 8,000 of the electors of the present Wimmera division. When Maryborough was put into the altered Bendigo division, it became necessary to transfer -some of the Mallee country to the Wimmera division. The names of some of the divisions have been changed, but there has been no substantial change of their boundaries or electors.
– As a representative of a New South Wales constituency, it is with the utmost diffidence that I intrude into a debate on the redistribution of the electoral divisions of Victoria. Notwithstanding my natural diffidence in the circumstances, I am nevertheless constrained to comment on the choice of names proposed for certain of the new electorates. One of the new electorates is to be known as “ Lalor “. Some shuffling around has gone on, because, I understand, that at one time it was proposed to call the electorate “ Higinbotham “, or “ Hotham “, and that later “ Phillip “ was chosen. However, that choice was abandoned in favour of “ Lalor “. I desire to know what great distinction the bearer of the name “ Lalor “ had to justify his name being attached to the new electorate.
– I wrote a play about him.
– I bought a copy of the play, which was entitled “Blood on the Wattle “, and, what is more, I read it. However, it is not my purpose at present to make any comment upon that play. Some critics of the proposal to name the electorate “ Lalor “ have suggested that, the name “ Ned Kelly “ might be more appropriate. I am not unacquainted with Australian history, and I know something of the circumstances of the Eureka Stockade, and of the part played in it by Peter Lalor. In the light of that knowledge, I repeat that nothing in thfhistory of that event, as distinct from the propaganda that has been written about it, could justify the attachment of the name “ Lalor “ to a Commonwealth electorate. I point out to honorable members of all parties that to-night we are in the process of passing legislation which will endure possibly for the next 50 or 100 years. The names which we bestow on the various constituencies should confer some kind of enduring prestige on the great Australians who bore those names. With all respect to the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), whose erudition and dramatic ability are not now under discussion, I say that the choice of the name “ Phillip “, which was formerly proposed to be given to the constituency, would have been much more appropriate.
– That name is already attached to a Sydney electorate.
– That is correct, and 1 mention that the constituency referred to formerly bore the name of “ Nelson “ which ought to have been good enough for any one. To revert for a moment to the proposed choice of the name “ Lalor “, I take leave to remind honorable members that his only claim to fame is that he was the leader of a militant movement on the Australian gold-fields in the ‘fifties of the last century. That movement, and the event in which it culminated, reflects no credit on anybody. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to contend as the Communists do that the Eureka Stockade represents the beginnings of Australian nationhood. They endeavour to capitalize that episode by distorting the facts of history and working themselves up into a drooling sentimentality about a stupid, petty, semi-rebellion which did not amount in national importance to a snap of the fingers. Both sides were in the wrong in that squalid and disreputable dispute which reflected no credit on any of the parties concerned. What Hotham did on the governnent side, or what Lalor did on the other side is neither here nor there; it had nothing to do with the greatness of Australia as a nation. If honorable members opposite will read the accounts by Professor Ernest Scott and other historians who have written objectively about the matter, they must agree that the Eureka Stockade has had nothing ii.i do with Australia’s development and greatness.
Vtr. SPEAKER. - Order ! I ask the honorable member to discuss the proposed i-lf-etoral redistribution.
– If I am permitted to do so-
– Order! If the honorable member does not keep to the subject, I shall ask him to resume hi3 seat, I consider that he is obstructing the business of the House.
– The commissioners have made their recommendations to the Parliament, and I am prepared to concede that they approached their problem with a detached view and did their best in a difficult situation. They attached to the electorate names which they considered suitable. “ Lalor “ was not one of these names. Then the Labour Government took a hand. Misled by Communist clap-trap and propaganda it has fallen in love with the Eureka Stockade incident, which is only a minor episode in Australian history, and has nothing to do with the birth of Australia as a nation. However, the Government proposes to reject the name “ Phillip “, which means a great deal in Australian history and substitute the name “ Lalor “. The subsequent history of Mr. Lalor after the so-called rebellion had been crushed was not notable. He was either granted a pardon or served a prison sentence, and subsequently found his way into the State House where he occupied a completely undistinguished position, and lived out his years.
– He became Mr. Speaker.
– I still say that he occupied a completely undistinguished position. He died, and that was the last that Australia heard of him until he was resurrected by a couple of dramatists and the Labour party, which desires to attach to him a prominence which he does not deserve. He was a. respectable person. I do not suppose that he ate his children. 1 expect that he was a good father and probably paid his taxes. But does the Government propose to name an electorate after a man who was a good father, paid his taxes and did not eat his children? Mr. Lalor does not deserve the honour which the Government is bestowing on his name.
– I rise briefly to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) that “Indi”, which is a meaningless term, should be changed to “ Isaacs “ and his further suggestion that the eltcorate which the Government proposes to call “ Isaacs “ should be called “ Jacka “. Without labouring the point, I remind the House that Jacka was a famous Australian. He was, in a sense, a humble man, yet he rose to a position of esteem in this community to which everybody can aspire. We cannot commemorate a greater Australian name than that of Jacka. I do not desire to detract from the fame of Higinbotham, but, frankly, I had never previously heard of him, and I think that it is fair to say that people of my generation have never heard of him, have no idea of what he did, and cannot think why an electorate should be called after him. But Jacka is a famous and most honorable name. It reminds people in a certain generation of a very great man. We have already scrapped the name of Bridges. I hope that the Government will adopt the name of another famous native-born Australian, Jacka, for one of the Commonwealth electorates.
Mr.JOHNSON (Kalgoorlie- -Minister for the Interior) [1.11 a.m.]. - in reply - With few exceptions, honorable members have criticized, not the recommendations of the electoral commissioners, but the names suggested for new constituencies. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) and the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) have offered certain suggestions. The subcommittee of Cabinet gave careful consideration to the selection of names for the various electorates. We appreciate the fact that many years have passed since the last redistribution covering the whole of the Commonwealth was made, and we expect that many; years will elapse before the Parliament will again be asked to consider a general redistribution of seats. The Government does not see fit to vary the present proposals. I consider that it is hardly worth while replying to the criticisms which the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) directed at the name of Peter Lalor. He suggested that the name of Lalor is not worthy of recognition in Australian history. The Eureka Stockade marked the beginning of real democracy in Australia, as I know it, and as men who battled for their livelihood and the rights of man understood it then, and understand it to-day-
– I hurl back that insult into the honorable member’s teeth.
-Order! If the honorable member for Parramatta does not refrain from interjecting, he will has an opportunity outside the chamber to study all the history that he desires to study. If he interjects again, I shall name him.
-I shall not invite that action. The criticism which the honorable member levelled at the name of Lalor was cheap and paltry.
The criticism which other honorable members have offered of the redistribution proposals for the State of Victoria has been fair. With the exception of the honorable member forIndi (Mr. McEwen) and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) they did not attack the electoral commissioners, but recognized that, when new boundaries are being drawn, it is not always possible to suit every one. The members of the commission are men of integrity and honesty. Their aim has been to render a service not to any particular political party, but to Australia generally They were not appointed by this Government. They were appointed under a statute which was not the creature of a Labour administration. They have done a splendid job for this country and I am sure that their work is recognized by members of the Opposition, with few exceptions.
– What about “ Jacka “
– I have made it clear that the sub-committee of Cabinet gave every consideration to the selection of names, and that the Government is not prepared to accept any amendments.
Amendment (by Mr. White) negatived.
That the following words he added: - “and the name’ Isaacs ‘ for ‘ Indi ‘ “.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 2nd December (vide page 3906), on motionby Mr. Johnson -
That the House of Representatives approve.of the distribution of the State of Queensland into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs. J. E. Stewart, J. P. Harvey and J. C. Stewart. the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of distributing the said State into Divisions in their report laid before the House of Representatives on the26th day of October, 1948, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the maps referred to therein, be adopted, except that the name “Bowman” be substituted for “Mowbray”, the name “Leichhardt” for “Dal rymple “, the name “ Oxley “ for “ Somerset ‘’. and the name “ Ryan “ for “ Wilson “.
. -The three commissioners who were responsible for the redistribution of Queensland into electoral divisions, Messrs. J. E. Stewart, J. P. Harvey and J. C. Stewart, are known to me personally. They are highly reputable and conscientious public servants, and I am sure that they have done their best. The redistribution of Queensland was a most difficult task and the commissioners havedone a surprisingly good job, iiut there are many features of the redistribution that are wholly unsatisfactory. That is not only my own personal opinion. It is the opinion of both the Australian Country party and the Queensland People’s party, which is the agent in that State for the Liberal party. Carefully prepared protests against the redistribution were presented to the commissioners by both those parties, and also by the Labour party. I regret, however, that the proposals advanced by the antiLabour parties were rejected by the commissioners, and that the only change made in the Queensland distribution has been in the Labour electorate of Lilley. The alteration of the electorate of Lilley involved a consequential change in the electorate of Fisher.
I wish now to make some reference to the proposed changes of the names recommended by the commissioners. The name “ Bowman “ is to be substituted for “Mowbray”, the name “Leichhardt” for “Dalrymple “ the name “ Oxley “ for “ Somerset “, and the name “ Ryan “ for “ Wilson “. I should like to make it clear at. the outset that I realize that it is of not much use discussing the names of the Queensland electorates in view of what has happened in connexion with the redistribution of Victoria and Tasmania. However, I ask the Government to give consideration to the proposals that I shall make. It is regrettable that the names of men like Mcilraith and Macrossan, both of whom were prominent men in the public life of Queensland, should not have been given recognition in this manner. Any one who has read the history or the legislative records of Queensland will know of the splendid work of those two men. I have no objection to the substitution of the name “ Bowman “ for “ Mowbray “, because I believe that Bowman, who was one of the first members of the Labour party in Queensland, rendered valuable service in the interests of the whole community. Some of the planks of the policy that he enunciated when he led the Labour party in Queensland were outstanding. In fact, many of the proposals that he advanced were more in keeping -with the policy of the Liberal party to-day than with that of the Labour party. I do not think that Mr. Bowman was ever guilty of making socialistic or communistic utterance.such as those we hear from Government supporters in this Parliament to-day. As I said, I have no objection to that change.
Both Leichhardt and Dalrymple were early explorers. Dalrymple was associated with Captain Cook in the exploration of the Australian coast, and did some excellent work on the Queensland coastline. I agree that Leichhardt was more definitely associated with purely Queensland history than was Dalrymple. J come now to the substitution of “ Oxley “ for “ Somerset “. I have no objection to that change, but I believe that either Mcilraith or Macrossan should have been used instead of Oxley. In Queensland there is already a State electorate of Oxley. Formerly there was also a federal electorate of Oxley, but to ayoid confusion, the name was changed to Griffith. The new electorate of Oxley is far beyond the area over which Oxley travelled in Queensland. He did most of his exploration in the country adjacent to the Brisbane River, and the use of his name in the new electorate is an unfortunate suggestion. Obviously it could only have been made by someone who had very little knowledge of the history of Queensland. I do not object to the change from “Wilson” to “Ryan”. I still believe., however, that the other names that J have suggested should have been given preference. I do not propose to occupy the time of the House by submitting an amendment because it is obvious that this Government will not accept amendments.
.. - I was very pleased to hear the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) stress the desirability of perpetuating the names of twc men whom every Queenslander recognizes should be honoured in our day. I cannot for the life of me understand why those who were associated with the selection of names for the new electorates did not name an electorate after John Murtagh Macrossan. It is beyond my comprehension, from whatever aspect the matter is approached. He is the only one of the founders of federation whose name has not been so honoured.
He was born in 1832 in County Donegal. That is no crime. He was i’llncated at local scliools, and after -pending two years in Scotland, which should have helped him, he went to Victoria in 1S53 to pursue his fortunes as a working miner. That should appeal to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), who is in charge of this bill. After working on the diggings in that colony, in New Zealand, and in New South Wales for twelve years, with varying luck - which should also appeal to the Minister - but very little substantial success, he was attracted to northern Queensland. That should appeal to the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan). He was attracted there by the reported richness of the Peak Down . diggings. Strange as it may seem, that is the very place where to-day is being brought into existence a very big sorghum scheme in connexion with the increase of the supply of food to Great Britain. His ready eloquence and knowledge of miners’ wants soon made him a public character, and he was elected in 1873 by the miners of Charters Towers to represent the Kennedy district in the Lower House. Of course he was not the only prominent man to be elected to represent that district; I was returned from that district. He was at first a very advanced Liberal, but he grew out of that. His convictions became modified, and he joined the first Mcllwraith Ministry, as Secretary for Public Works and Mines on the 21st January, 1S79, retiring from the Government on the 13th March, 1883, six months before its fall. He occupied a congenial seat as memiber for the great mining district of Townsville, and on the formation of Sir Thomas Mcllwraith’s second ‘Cabinet on the 13th June, 1888, he rejoined his old chief, in his former capacity. On the 30th November of the same year, when Mr. Morehead reconstructed the Cabinet under his own premiership, Mr. Macrossan remained in the Ministry, and accepted the additional office of Colonial Secretary in January, 1 890. In August of that year he retired with his colleagues. He was a prominent advocate of the subdivision of Queensland, and the constitution of the northern portion into a separate colony.
– He also favoured the use of kanaka labour.
– That is not so. Hewas one of the strongest advocates of deportation of kanakas from this country, and retired over the very issue that the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell)had raised. Although the Minister is ai great historian, he is wrong on this occasion. If there was one man whostood out for the deportation of kanakas from Queensland back to their natural habitat, it was John Murtagh Macrossan.
– He was a member of Mcllwraith’s Government, which wanted to form an independent republic on that issue.
– The Minister is inimplying that Mr. Macrossan was associated with that desire. He was not. However, he’ was one of the representatives of Queensland at the session of the Federal Council of Australasia, which was held in Hobart in JanuaryFebruary, 1S89. He was one of the delegates to the Federal Convention in Sydney, and died in that city on the 30th March, 1891, as a result of pneumonia contracted at that convention. I am surprised that this Government has overlooked perpetuating his name.
– Did the right honorable member make any representations to the commission or to the Government?
– I did.
– I did not hear of them.
– I cannot help that. I go further and say that not only was John Murtagh Macrossan one of the founders of federation, who died as a result of an illness which overtook him at the convention held in Sydney in connexion with federation, but he was also the father of two sons who have graced the legal profession in Australia. His eldest son, John Hugh Macrossan, was Chief Justice of Queensland, whilst hi? youngest son, Neill Macrossan, is to-day the Chief Justice of that State.
– And a Rhodes Scholar.
– That is so. Another son, Vincent Macrossan, was the mayor of Mackay when I was town clerk of that city. He served that administration with great distinction. To-day he is a practising lawyer in Queensland, and is looked upon as one of the most eminent solicitors in that State. I repeat, that I am surprised and disgusted that a man of the calibre, the record, and the achievements of John Murtagh Macrossan should not have been honoured by a Queensland electorate being named after him. In order to give the Government an opportunity to do honour to such a distinguished man, [ shall, before resuming my seat, move an amendment. I emphasize, with the greatest sincerity and emotion, that John Murtagh Macrossan is the only man who took a prominent part in connexion with federation in this country who has not been honoured by a federal electorate being named after him. I move -
That the name “ Leichhardt “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the name “ Macrossan “.
Amendment (by Mr. Fadden) negatived -
That the following words be added : - “ arid the name ‘ Leichhardt ‘ for ‘ Dawson ‘ “.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
New South “Wales.
Debate resumed from the 2nd December (vide page 3907), on motion by Mr. Johnson -
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of New South Wales into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs. V. F. Turner, D. S. Mulley and R. W. Evans, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of distributing the said State into Divisions, in their report laid before the House of Representatives on the 20th day of October, 1948, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the maps referred to therein, be adopted, except that the name “ Bennelong “ be substituted for “ Lime Cove “, the name “ Cook “ for “ McGowen “, the name “ Cunningham “ for “ Werriwa “, the name “ Evans “ for “ Parkes “. the name “ Farrer “ for “ Hume “, the name “Grayndler” for “Cook”, the name “Hume” for “Farrer”, the name “Kingsford-Smith” for “ Watson “, the name “ Lawson “ for “ BTigh “, the name “ Lowe “ for “ Strathfield “, the name “Lyne” for “Kendall”, the name “ Mackellar “ for “ Warringah “, the name “ Parkes “ for “ Evans “, the name “Phillip” for “Nelson”, the name “Warringah “ for “ Rawson “, the name “ Watson “ for “Kingsford”, the nane “Werriwa” for “ Cunningham “. and the name “ West Sydney” for “Sydney”.
In the redistribution of electoral boundaries in New South Wales problems arise which are not associated with the redistribution of electoral boundaries in the other States. I draw the attention of honorable members to the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act dealing with the redistribution of electoral boundaries. Section 16 of that act provides for the appointment by the Governor-General of three commissioners who shall be the Chief Electoral Officer and the Surveyor-General in the respective States and one other person. Three commissioners were so appointed to redistribute electoral boundaries in New South Wales. Section 19 “of the Commonwealth Electoral Act gives certain directions which the commissioners must follow in carrying out the duties assigned to them. They must give consideration to the following factors in the areas affected: - community, or diversity, of interest, means of communication, physical features, the existing boundaries of divisions and sub-divisions, and State electoral boundaries. The act also provides machinery for the making of objections, or suggestions, in writing not later than 30 days after the boundaries have been redrawn; and the commissioners are obliged to report to the Minister for the Interior and also to the Parliament. If the Parliament approves the boundaries recommended ‘by the commissioners such boundaries may be proclaimed by the Governor-General, but if the Parliament disapproves the Minister may direct the commissioners to prepare new plans. The commissioners may make two proposals of which the first can be the subject of objection within 30 days, but in respect of the second proposal no effective action can be taken except by the Parliament.
We must examine the boundaries proposed in order to see whether community of interest has been maintained, and whether the commissioners have carried out their directions under the act. Should we find that there is a definite leaning in any new electorate in favour of any particular political party, we naturally want to know the reason why. I am not suggesting that the commissioners are likely to play at party politics in carrying out their . duties, but it is possible that in some instances they may he influenced to favour a particular political party. Examining the redistrihution proposed for New South Wales on the basis of the electoral voting at the general elections in 1946, we And that under the first plan recommended by the commissioners 24 seats could be regarded as Labour and 23 seats could be regarded as non-Labour. On the 2nd September the maps of the new boundaries first recommended by the commissioners were made available to the public, the number of divisions in New South Wales being increased from 28 to 47. The general opinion expressed with respect to that plan, in view of the equal distribution of seats it effected on the basis of the voting at the 1946 general elections, was that the commissioners had done their job exceptionally well and had observed the principle of community of interest. The redistribution recommended under that plan did not increase, or decrease, the election prospects of any political party. However, after objections had been lodged within the prescribed period of 30 days, the commissioners produced an amended plan to which, as I have already said, only the Parliament can take effective objection, f shall examine that plan. It involved nine minor alterations in respect of country electorates and eleven alterations in respect of metropolitan divisions, and of the latter, ten represented very important amendments because they were complete alterations of the original proposal. Indeed, if honorable members refer to the relevant maps they will find that the second proposal bears very little resemblance to the first proposal made by the commissioners. I shall not deal with all of the ten important alterations. It will suffice if I examine three pf them in order to enable the House and the country to realize just what those^changes involve. Under the commissioners’ first proposal, twenty of the new divisions could be regarded as safe Labour seats with a majority of over 6,000 and six as non-Labour seats with a majority of over 6,000 votes. Looked at from a party point of view that result was bad enough for the non-Labour parties, but under that proposal community of interest was preserved. Under that proposal, Strath- field was made a blue riband Liberal seat and Parkes was made a Liberal seat, whilst Martin could be regarded as a swing seat which the Liberal party could possibly win in the event of a swing. Under the first proposal the seat of Martin reflected a Liberal majority of 694 votes on the basis of the voting at the 1946 general elections, but under the second proposal that seat on the same basis reflected an absolute majority of 8,468 votes in favour of Labour. Under the first proposal, Strathfield showed a Liberal majority of 7,018 votes on the basis of the 1946 elections figures, but under the second proposal, on the same basis, that majority was reduced to 4,137. Later, I shall have something to say with respect to the switch of names of those electorates. The amended plan made Martin absolutely safe for Labour. The subdivisions of Abbotsford, Concord, Drummoyne, Five Dock and Mortlake were included in the Martin electorate under the first proposal, but under the second proposal the subdivisions of Concord and Mortlake were excluded and those of Balmain, Balmain East and Rozelle were added. The subdivisions which were added embrace the area known as Iron Cove, including a wide stretch of water crossed by the Iron Cove Bridge. In including in the one electorate the areas separated by that stretch of water, the commissioners failed to observe the principle of community of interest. There is no community of interest between Balmain, Balmain East, Rozelle and Drummoyne.
– All the electors in those areas are Australians.
– They are certainly all Australians but if that was the only qualification for the alteration of electoral boundaries, why are certain requirements specifically set out in detail in section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act under which the commissioners are given certain directions to see that community of interests, and-
– The act says they must give “ due consideration “ to those aspects.
– The commissioners must give due consideration to them and it is certain that they exercised that consideration in their first proposal. The act states that they mnst give consideration to community or diversity of interest, means of communication, physical features, existing boundaries, and the like. That was done in the first proposal, but in their later proposal that requirement has been thrown to the four winds. With regard to the Martin electorate, under the second proposal-
– Second thoughts are best.
– The Prime Minister says that second thoughts are best, but let us examine those second thoughts closely and we shall see how they have been twisted to become the best. The Drummoyne side of the electorate for example, is purely residential. It has separate recreational areas, separate transport facilities, separate local government interests, a separate rating system, and a separate electric supply system from the other portions of the area. The Balmain side is a semi-industrial area and has separate recreational facilities, separate shopping centres, separate local government interests, and the like. The electorate of Martin, under the original proposal, had community of interest. That has now completely disappeared. I desire to say nothing more at this moment with regard to Martin. I could hold forth at some length upon the subject but not at 1.45 a.m., as the clock now reads.
I turn now to the Parkes electorate. The Dulwich Hill, Hurlstone Park and Summer Hill area has been, for some mysterious reason that I think will become very apparent to the House subsequently, transferred to the Evans electorate. Why? It is quite obvious that it has been done to give the present member for Parkes some claim to stand for the seat of Evans. The transfer of names of electorates has nothing to do with the commissioners, but it has something to do with the Government and the Labour party caucus. We find that the commissioners have stepped aside from their assignment, and in one particular case, and in that particular case only have straddled a wide waterway, the areas on the two sides of which have no community interest with each other, and that is another instance, where it would be almost impossible for the present member to retain his seat at a general election, they have deliberately subtracted certain areas from an electorate so as to include them in a new electorate. Then the name of the new electorate has been transferred to the old electorate so as to give the member at present representing Parkes some pre-emptive right to stand for that area. Those manoeuvres must cause grave concern to the people, and I should like to know what hand the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) had in them. It is perfectly true that the honorable member for Martin has organized himself completely out of the Martin seat. I know that, as Balmain, Balmain East and Rozelle have been transferred to Martin there will be other Rolands in the field, and that the honorable member for Martin is casting his net much wider and possibly we shall find him flirting with the Grayndler seat in the very near future. The industry of the honorable gentleman has resulted in his completely losing the number of his mess. That is rather unfortunate for him, but it is the sort of thing that can happen in the best-regulated families. Goodness only knows, the commissioners and the Government have both tried to help him as much as they could. I do not desire to cast any reflections on the commissioners, who are working within the provisions of the act, but, to my mind, they have, either wittingly or unwittingly, stepped aside from their assignment and have mutilated the first proposal for some reason best known to themselves. I do not know what the reason is, but let us have a look at the act. In my opinion, the act, as it stands, lends itself to gerrymandering, and some amendment ought to be made to it. A first map may be produced by the commissioners, who may be very honest men, although it may not always be possible to get honest men to act as commissioners. I do not mean that they may be dishonest in the ordinary sense, but they may have a political bias. It may not be always possible to get commissioners who do not show some political bias, and the first map need not be a genuine map. When the first map for Martin appeared, public fears were allayed. Previously, it was generally said that something was likely to happen with regard to the alteration of the boundaries of that electorate. When the first maps were produced, and community of interest was observed, public fears were allayed. That can happen under the act as it stands, and after public fears have been allayed objections may be lodged and the whole position altered. I do not think objections were lodged to make these ten major alterations. There were eleven alterations in the metropolitan area and nine in the country. Ten of the eleven metropolitan alterations were major. After public fears have been allayed by the presentation of the first map, the true map can be produced; and that, strangely enough, is just what has happened in this particular instance. Public fears were allayed because the maps seemed to be genuine, and then, out of the blue, came ten major and nine minor alterations. One of them was one that cannot be justified by the gi-eatest stretch of imagination, because I doubt whether such an alteration has occurred at any other time. I shall direct attention to that particular matter, and I think that the people will naturally form their own opinions.
I want to say something regarding the switching of names that appears in the Government’s resolution. I shall deal with two of them first - Hume and Farrer. I have already said that there is a switch of names with regard to Parkes, and I think that that was done to convenience the honorable member who at present holds that seat and now lays claim to the new seat of Parkes because of the subtraction of certain areas from the original proposal. Now we find the same thing happening in Hume and Farrer. In. the first proposal, the commissioners quite rightly preserved the name of !< Hume “ for the electorate which embraces “Wagga and Albury, and “ Farrer “ for the area, embracing Temora, Cootamundra and Gundagai. In the Albury and Wagga district lie the Hume shire, the Hume weir, and the famous Flume memorial tree. Historically, the area is tied strongly to the explorer- pioneer Hume, and, indeed, it will be remembered that the Murray River was formerly the Hume River. So everything associated with the original area is redolent with the name of Hume. But, because the present honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) could not expect to hold his seat unless it were called “ Hume “, the name “ Hume “, which should be applied to the area in which it has historical significance, has been taken from it and replaced by the name “ Farrer “. The Administration is getting down to a pretty low level when historical associations are ignored and names are switched to accommodate honorable members.
Just as the name of the late John Curtin has been applied to one electorate so the Government should have honoured the name of that great Australian, the late Joseph Lyons, a former Prime Minister. The name “ Lyons “ is glorious. Who’s Who sets out his record. He rendered conspicuous service and was three times Prime Minister. He held executive office in the Parliament of his own State, Tasmania. His name is one to be conjured with in Australian politics but it has been ignored. Yet the Government has chosen the name “ Grayndler “ for an electorate. I turn to Who’s Who to find the historical associations of that name. But what do I find except that Grayndler had a record as a shearer and bushworker? He was a foundation memiber of the shearers’ union, and organizer for the Australian Workers Union in New South Wales in 1S95 and secretary of the Australian Workers Union in Victoria in 1909. He rose to the position of travelling secretary of the Australian Workers Union in 1912. It reflects shame and discredit upon us when we ignore the tradition and history of Australia and choose the name of a. union boss in preference to that of a great man like Lyons.
– A union leader.
– Put it that way, then.
– Mr. Grayndler was a member of the Legislative Council of New South Wales.
– That is true, but his first claim to fame lies in his union leadership. I hate political controversy to eJiter into these matters, but, to its great shame, the Government has ignored the name of a famous Australian. I do not know whether it did so because Mr. Lyons was once a member of the Australian Labour party and fell out of favour with that party when he left it. If that should be the reason, it is an attitude unworthy nf the great Australian Labour party. In naming an electorate “ Curtin the Government has paid proper tribute to a great Australian whom I have often honoured. The Government is to be condemned for its failure similarly to honour the name of Lyons.
My concluding comments are that the Commonwealth Electoral Act, as it applies to the redistribution of seats, is long overdue for amendment. As it stands, electoral commissioners with political bias can gerrymander electorates. The breakaway from the first proposal relating to the Martin seat cannot be justified in any circumstances. The unsavoury switching of names and subtraction of areas to accommodate members ought not to be tolerated.
– It is the invariable custom of this Parliament to attach the names of former Prime Ministers to constituencies in .States that they represented. There is no instance of the name of a Prime Minister having been attached to . a constituency in any other State than the one he represented. Had there been an increase of the number of Tasmanian electorates, the name “ Lyons “ would have been attached to one of them, but Tasmania is the one State that will get no increased representation under the enlargement of Parliament. Had we given the name “ Lyons “ to a Tasmanian electorate, we should have had to substitute it for one of the existing names. It may be argued that that should have been done, but such a thing has never been done in previous similar circumstances. The name “ Deakin “ was given to a Victorian electorate only in 1937 after Deakin had been dead for some years, and that was after a redistribution and a new electorate had been created. There was a proposal to call it “ Mernda ‘: I think. Grayndler was a great man in his own right. He stood for industrial development and industrial peace. Heserved his country well. He was a member of the Legislative Council of New South Wales for a number of years. That was not mentioned by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison). The Acting Leader of the Opposition steps on dangerous ground when he talks about “ shame “ and “ disgrace “. There was a redistribution of seats in Queensland in 1922. The name “Fisher” could have been attached to a Queensland seat, but it was not. We can say justifiably that in 1922 and again in 1933 Fisher’s name could have been applied to a Queensland constituency. He was a Labour man, and was a great Prime Minister of Australia. But he belonged to a different political faith from that of those who were in power when the redistributions were made. The name “ Oxley “ was changed to “ Griffith “. Oxley was an explorer and Griffith a chief justice and former Premier of Queensland. Fisher was ignored and Griffith preferred. It is wrong to say that “ Lyons “ should have been attached to a seat in New South Wales. That would not honour Lyons. He was a native of Tasmania and a former Premier of Tasmania and he represented a Tasmanian electorate in this Parliament. By every criterion his name should be attached to a Tasmanian electorate. I hope that we shall soon amend the Constitution to increase the minimum number of seats that a State may have in the House of Representatives from five to eight, particularly as we have decided to increase the size of the parliamentary representation of the mainland by 66 jj per cent. When that day comes the name “ Lyons “ should be attached to a Tasmanian electorate. Showing that we have exhibited no political bias, we attached the name “Lyne” to an electorate in New South Wales because Lyne wns the first member of the Australian Parliament to be offered a commission to form a government. Had he received support, he. instead of Barton, would have been Australia’s first Prime Minister. We showed no bias there and we show no bias when we propose to attach the name Grayndler, who started life as a humble shearer, to an Australian electorate.
– Although the hour is late, certain replies must be made to the accusations of the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) relative to gerrymandering and the changing of names of electorates and to his general criticism of the redistribution of New South Wales. As usual, the honorable member was not very sincere about this matter. He was actually chortling with delight about it. In the electorate of Wentworth, as redistributed, he will be very much better off than he was in 1946. Only within the last couple of hours I have extracted -ome figures which may be of interest to honorable members. In 1946, in the electorate of Wentworth, there were 76.621 voters and the honorable member secured an absolute majority of 6,460 votes, or 54 per cent. In 1948, under this socalled dreadful gerrymander that shocked the honorable member to the core, the number of voters in his electorate will be 41,639. On the basis of the 1946 figures, he should secure an absolute majority of 1.1,920, or 63 per cent. As everything was all right on the eastern seaboard, the honorable member took the opportunity to go into the western suburbs and to make allegations about the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) and his seat. He humorously stated that the honorable member for Martin might be shopping for g> seat. If the honorable gentleman is himself not shopping for a seat, at least we have done him proud. Let us look at some other figures. In the whole of this redistribution the commission has given 25 seats to the city for 1,030,000 votes, and 22 seats to the country for S49,000 votes - 25 seats as against 22. On the principle of one vote one value, so that Australians, whatever their circumstauces and wherever they live, shall have an equal opportunity to send a member here, this allotment of seats as between city and country should have the effect of strangling what is alleged to bc the solid metropolitan hold that we have in the general electorate of New South Wales. In the alteration of seats the commission paid no attention to that which might be properly called a strong community of interest, and provided for 25 city seats and 22 country seats,, a very much better distribution than hitherto has been accomplished. During this debate we listened to a good deal of loose talk about the honorable member for Martin having leapt a great swathe of water. I invite the Acting Leader of the Opposition to take another look at Iron Cove, which, he says, is a great swathe of water. He will find that it is merely an arm of the harbour. The honorable member himself leapt across to Lord Howe Island, over hundreds of miles of tumbling ocean. Let us examine the electorate of the honorable member for Warringah. (Mr. Spender). He crosses the water to get to Manly - a highly desirable fact as far as he is concerned. In his new seat he crosses Middle Harbour over the Spit Bridge, and takes in areas including Middle Harbour, linking Seaforth anc other suburbs with Mosman, Neutral Bay, Cammeray and Balmoral. The electorate of Martin extends over the Parramatta River and Iron Cove. This terrific gerrymandering of which the honorable member complains is already an accomplished fact. The honorable member might have done better to talk about infringement on the land than on the water. The new electorate of Sydney embraces Lord Howe Island, Sydney Harbour to North Head, across Sydney Heads and includes the foreshores of Milson’s Point, Kurraba Point, and Bradley’s Head, Mosman and Manly. This story of “ crossing the water “ is just so much built up publicity because these adjustments were made. The Martin electorate has always been subject to violent changes. In the re-distribution of 1934 and in prior redistributions the most serious complaints came from the Liberals about the manner in which the commission appointed by their government, had gerrymandered the electorates. The then honorable member for Martin, the late Mr. H. E. Pratten, led a deputation to Canberra complaining that Turramurra, which belonged to the Parramatta electorate, had been included in the Martin seat. Under the original proposals made in 1934 the” commissioners recommended that the Martin division should consist of the subdivisions of the then existing division less the subdivisions of Gordon Ryde and Turramurra, with the addition of a small part of the subdivision of Ashfield to the west of Parkes division. However, as the result of objections and suggestions lodged with them the commissioners altered their original proposals by taking out of the proposed Martin division the subdivision of Burwood and part of the subdivision of Croydon and including, in lieu, the subdivision of Haberfield from the division of Parkes. There has always been an interchange of subdivisions between the electorates of Martin and Parkes. Mr. Pratten, speaking in the House of Representatives on the 27th J uly, 1922, said-
The electorate of Martin has been formed i >ut of one of the extra quotas for the metropolitan division, and carried across the Parramatta River, which at the point mentioned is practically an arm of the sea. [f history repeats itself, and it may do so, and the sea is again crossed to ensure a community of interest, I cannot see that very much wrong will be done. Mr. Pratten said that at least seven of the electoral subdivisions had been shattered by that gerrymander. He said that a deputation waited on the commissioners urging that the Parramatta River be the dividing line between the electorates of Martin and Parramatta. He continued -
The commissioners say they have received and noted the objections, but have not seen fit to make any alterations in regard to the scheme. Apart from the objections I have expressed to-night, the proposal divides the municipalities of Ryde, Eastwood, and, I think, Hunter’s Hill.
That is away in the hinterland -
It affects also Ashfield, Burwood, Strathfield, Homebush and the shires of Hornsby and Kuringai. T.t also shatters the present federal subdivisions of Burwood, Gordon, Hunter’s Hill, Ryde and the State subdivisions of Roseville, Burwood and Croydon.
Honorable members can see how wide were the changes made in those days -
In all, the scheme, so far as it concerns these two electorates, shatters seven Commonwealth mtd State subdivisions.
In the past there has been great warrant for alterations when seats were being redistributed. Another reference which I have obtained from the files bears out the fact that no redistribution has been car ried out in the past without an outcry. The criticisms made of the’ redistribution proposals of 1922 and in 1934 have been repeated again to-day. In July, 1922, the present right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) submitted an amendment to a motion confirming the redistribution of New South “Wales. Speaking to the amendment, the then Minister for Defence Mr. Massy Greene, said -
Needless to say, the Country party re pudiated any suggestion of so blatant an attempt to gerrymander the redistribution on so colossal a scale.
Mr. A. Green, who was a member of the Labour party had something to say about the 1934 redistribution proposals and moved an amendment that the electoral commissioners be directed to propose a fresh redistribution. Mr. Penton, a member of the United Australia party said -
All this twaddle about community of interest is sickening. We all have mixed electorates. There are members here who are evidently determined, for selfish and narrow reasons, to set aside the work of independent commissions. You might as well have the redistribution done by the House of Representatives. You are showing contempt for commissions.
Then, to add the necessary humour, an honorable member interjected -
I ask that the words “ stigma “ and “ gerrymander “ be withdrawn.
I could do the same. There has been no gerrymandering in the electorate of Martin. It is scandalous and libellous to refer to the work of the commission as gerrymandering. The Liberal party was so complacent, so supine, so selfsatisfied and so smug that it did not lodge a protest. It did not wake up until it realized that the Labour party had acted. I remember that the Liberal party’s official organ, even towards the close of the period of 30 days within which protests might be lodged was not discussing the electorates, but it was discussing the candidates that should be nominated for them. Mr. Spooner was depicted in a glamorous picture in one issue, and was reported as saying -
We must send progressive people. We want no more lawyers.
Then, when sensible adjustments were made, they cried to high heaven. They had been thinking of the blue-ribbon seat of Strathfield. Of course, I could not live in the electorate without leaving my mark there, and I am glad that it will now be a harder seat for the Liberals to win. According to the Acting Leader of the Opposition, Lowe can still be won by the Liberal party. It seems to me that the redistribution has been equitably done. When the Liberals woke up to what had happened, there was a conscript call-up of members to attend a meeting of protest. It was attended by the Acting Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale), the honorable member for Warringah and any one else they could drag along. The meeting protested against what was described as the scandalous gerrymandering that had taken place in Martin. The Liberal leaders were so afraid that their supporters would blame them for not having protested before that, when attention was drawn to the position in the press, they arranged a “phoney” meeting at Five Dock, at which the honorable member for Warringah described the Government as powerful and unscrupulous. The honorable member for Parramatta said that there was in the new electorate a majority of 12,000 against the Liberal party. One dear old gentleman cried out, “We will win”, and the honorable member for Parramatta said, “ Yes, we will win “. Then every one went home satisfied.
Nothing has been done in connexion with Parkes that is not sensible. In the altered electorate, there are 30,000 of the electors which I have now the honour to represent. The new areas have the same community of interest, as even the Acting Leader of the Opposition had to admit. The boundary has not been shifted more than one and a half miles, and the division is more compact, and has been less altered, than many others in the metropolitan area.
The Cabinet sub-committee which chose names for divisions has done an excellent job, and I thank it for its imagination and its Australianism. Many a time I have wearily turned the pages of Hansard, wondering who were the old guys who had given their names to electoral divisions in Victoria and New South
Wales. I wondered when I might expect to come across a touch of Australianism, and now I find it is here. Naturally, the sub-committee received hundreds of suggestions. Once the people accept the idea of change, they want everything changed at once. We have perpetuated the names of explorers, and removed the names of old governors which are musty with history. Some vitality ha? been put into the naming of divisions. I am proud to see that Henry Lawson is commemorated, as well as some of our women poets. As a matter of fact, women writers are among the best of Australian writers, and I have in mind such women as KatharineSuzannah Prichard and Dorothea Mackellar. Since the Labour party stands for equality of treatment of the sexes, it is not surprising that it should have recognized the worth of Australia’s women writers. There was some comment about the name “ Mackellar “ being used instead of “Warringah”. Mr. R. W. Askin, president of the Liberal party Warringah conference, does not like the name of “ Mackellar “ for that division. In a letter to the press, he wrote -
No one could possibly cavil at the name of Mackellar being commemorated, but surely it would he more fitting that the poetess who wrote -
I love a sunburned country,
A land of sweeping plains, should have her name linked with a country electorate, particularly as no confusion or loss to business people would be involved.
A party of shopkeepers! Now we come to criticism of the name “ Lowe “. The original name of “ Strathfield “ had too local a significance, and there was wisdom in the decision to change the name to “ Lowe “. Robert Lowe was campaign director for Parkes, and was active in the Anti-Transportation League, along with Parkes and Wentworth. He was closely associated with Parkes, who became known as the “ Father of Federation “. I never heard anything so snobbish and un-Australian as the attack on Grayndler. He was a patriot, and the right place to honour him is in his native State. It is appropriate that we should remember a man who was a hero in the days of Labour’s martyrdom. The Labour party has a greater community of interest with such a man than with some Lord or
Liberal who represented an electorate in which he did not live, and who disdained the electors whom he represented. [ suggest that the changing of names of electorates contains more significance tban is immediately apparent. I regret that certain requests that I made could not be adopted, although I approached tbe commissioners, as did the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), who made the excellent suggestion that the name of Albert Jacka, the first Australian Victoria Cross winner of World War I., should be commemorated. It is unfortunate that all suggestions of that kind could not be accepted on this occasion, but I arn sure that they will be considered in the future. A new spirit has been infused into the naming of electorates, a spirit of living, breathing Australianism, and I congratulate the commissioners and the Government, upon that fact. Distinguished public servants engaged upon essential work for this Parlarnent are liable to become involved in the criss-cross cf political controversy. Therefore, I am happy to be able to say that the commissioners who planned the redistribution of electorates in New South Wales in preparation for the historic occasion of the enlargement of this Parliament have done a. splendid job. They gave careful consideration to any errors that were brought to their attention. The Acting Leader of the Opposition should realize that each alteration involved nine or ten consequential alterations. Although the honorable gentleman complained bitterly of gerrymandering, not one Liberal electorate was affected. The only areas in which substantial alterations were made are already represented by members of the Labour party, who were justified in making certain recommendations to the commissioners.
The comments of the press upon the redistribution have been very interesting. The Daily Telegraph, which is not usually favorable to the Government, made this comment -
The test is not whether some politician is likely to lose his scat, but whether the redistributed electorates are likely to give the elector lietter representation in Parliament.
The commissioners, working with exemplary detachment, have divided that country to favour no party and to give the people a better voice in Parliament than they could hope to have when their members each represented vast areas and seventy or eighty thousand constituents.
When the wailing dies down we will probably find that most of it comes from, two or three panic-stricken individuals who fear for their soft jobs.
No doubt these men would be quite prepared to throw the plan for an enlarged Parliament out the window to preserve their parliamentary salaries.
But one cannot imagine that Mr. Chifley and the Labour party would be foolish enough to do that.
I agree with that proposition.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed (vide page 4258).
This bill was introduced a few hours ago by the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who told us that it is a small measure that will have the effect of repealing certain provisions of the Coal Production (War-time) Act and will make provision for the taking of certain statistics in relation to coal. Normally, the introduction of such a measure would give the Parliament an opportunity to review recent developments in what is one of Australia’s basic industries. I do not propose to make a general review of the coal industry at this time. We all realize that the industry is basic to our economy and that the volume of industrial production in Australia depends upon the production of coal. 1 make specific reference to one phase of the coal problem, which stands out strikingly from the recently presented first report of the J oint Coal Board. This bill does not deal directly with the Joint Coal Board. It deals instead with the coal authority which was established under the Coal Production (War-time) Act 1944. That legislation was enacted during the war in order to provide authority for the control of certain coal mines. Only in 1946 did an arrangement between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Government of New South Wales lead to the enactment of other legislation dealing specifically with coal production in New South Wales, which State produces the bulk of Australia’s coal. The Coal Production (War-time) Act 1944 gave authority for control of the production of coal in other States and the distribution of coal between the States. I refer to that aspect of the industry now because the first report of the Joint Coal Board reveals that there has been grossly partisan distribution of coal, which no government could justify in the light of the competitive requirements of industries in all States.
The facts are not plainly stated in the report, and the revelation will not be welcomed by the Government. Howpver, Victorians have long suspected that such a state of affairs existed. The rate of production of coal has been consistently below the level required by the Australian economy. The authorities dealt with in this bill were established in the first place to ensure equitable distribution of our limited stocks amongst the various States. The figures contained in the first report of the Joint Coal Board, show that New South Wales has been favoured by this Government and the New South Wales Minister who administers the distribution of coal. Other States have been unjustly deprived of their fair share of a commodity which is absolutely essential to the efficient conduct of their industries. The total annual production of coal in New South Wales has not since 1942 reached the level of 12,000,000 tons which was achieved in that year.
– What has this to do with the bill?
– The bill deals with the distribution of coal. Has the Minister read it? One of the most important aspects of the Coal - Production (Wartime) Act was that it created an authority to deal with the equitable distribution of coal. To the degree that production has not again approached the 1942 figures, these authorities have so far failed to discharge the responsibilities that have been entrusted to them. I believe that the Joint Coal Board is a soundly constituted body, and that it is doing its best. I do not criticize the Joint Coal Board so much as I criticize the Australian Government and the Government of New South Wales for what T regard as their shamefully partisan treatment of this matter. In August, 1947, quotas were fixed for the various States. The Victorian quota of cargo exports of black coal from New South Wales was 35,000 tons a week. The South Australian weekly quota was 19,500 tons. I mention only those two States because, for practical purposes, they are the two largest consumers of coal exported from New South Wales. It is significant that only in the last quarter of 1947 did the Aveekly exports to Victoria come within measurable distance of the quota. In that quarter the weekly exports were a little in excess of 34,000 tons. In the first quarter of 194S. the average weekly exports to Victoria were 26,300 tons, and in the second quarter of 194S, they were 27,740 tons. During those two quarters, Victoria received approximately 200,000 tons of coal less than the quota. The story with regard to South Australia runs along parallel lines, and I shall not weary the House with the figures. When exports to Victoria and South Australia were very much lower than the quota that was fixed in August, 1947, it might be expected that New South Wales distributions would have decreased proportionately, but reverse was the case. In the fourth quarter of 1947 the weekly distribution in New South Wales was 177,000 tons. In the first quarter of 1948 the figure dropped to 165,000 tons a week, but it was still very much in excess of the allocations for -the fir.st quarter of 1947. In the second quarter of 1948 the weekly distribution in New South Wales was 181,000 tons. That was more than was distributed in the fourth quarter of 1947.
– The honorable gentleman’s remarks are outside the scope of the bill, which does not deal with distribution.
– The main purpose of the principal act is to deal with distribution.
– Not the distribution of New South Wales coal.
– Yes. I can understand why the Government does not want this matter to he discussed. In his speech, the Minister said -
All States import coal from New Soutb Wales, where the Commonwealth is spending large amounts of money for the organization of the industry, and it is clear that the distribution of New South Wales coal imported into other States cannot at the present stage be left uncontrolled in those States.
That is the reason why the Government is not yet giving the other States the right to have this legislation repealed. It is making provision that, in due course, the legislation, insofar as it applies to those other States, can be repealed by proclamation. The Minister apparently does not remember what he said in his own speech. Although there was a serious reduction of the weekly exports of coal from New South Wales to the other States, the distribution of coal in New South Wales rose from 177,000 tons a week in the fourth quarter of 1947 to 181,000 tons a week in the second quarter of 1948.
– I rise to order. There is nothing in this bill about the distribution of coal coming from New South Wales. It is true that the Joint Coal Board in New South Wales is the only authority that can distribute coal from New .South Wales. The authority under the principal act, which this bill makes provision for repealing so far as Queensland is concerned, is confined to the distribution of coal outside New South Wales that is not the subject of any continuing order, direction or requirement of the Joint Coal Board established under the Coal Industry Act 1946. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) is talking of coal that is the subject of continuing orders, directions or requirements of the Joint Coal Board.
– The remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner are outside the scope of the bill.
– May I direct your attention, sir, to a passage in the Minister’s speech in order to show how extensively he dealt with this matter. The Minister said -
The main aspect with which this Government is concerned is the distribution of native coal, and of coal imported from New South Wales. With the demand for coal still exceeding supplies throughout Australia, it is obviously necessary that distribution in all States be controlled.
The Minister then made the remarks that I have already read. As the honorable gentleman was allowed to open up this matter honorable members on this side of the House should be permitted to refer to it, or the debate will be a mockery. I do not want to elaborate this matter further. I think my point is abundantly clear. I only desire, to say that for months past Victoria has had to ration coal to its industries. In fact, there have been periods when no coal has been made available at all to general industry inVictoria. Throughout this period, when supplies to Victoria were thousands of tons short of the quota, the metal trades group alone in New South Wales was supplied with over 40,000 tons of coal a. week. That applied to every quarter of last year and to the first two quarters of this year. Forty-three thousand tons of coal were made available weekly in the first two quarters of the year to the metal trades in New South Wales alone. At that time, Victorian industry was not only rationed but it also had to do without any coal whatever for long periods. The Government should not imagine for one moment that the people of Australia will tolerate the continuation of a system of government control - that is bad enough in itself - which is poisoned by the political partisan considerations of the government of New South Wales- conspiring with the Australian Government.
– I welcome the introduction of the bill, because its passage will enable the Government and the coal-mining industry of Queensland to free itself of the shackles imposed upon it by a national Labour government. In the course of his secondreading speech, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) stated -
In addition, of course, the commissioner retains his powers and functions in respect of the coal industry and of coal-mines and of coal produced in each of the States other than New South Wales. It has been the Commonwealth Government’s policy that the Coal Production (War-time) Act 1944, which was, of course, enacted under the defence power of the Constitution should be repealed. . . . The only State that has formally informed the Australian Government of its intention is Queensland. That Government has rejected the idea of joint legislation for that State, and has secured the passage of Queensland legislation for the establishment of a State Coal Board to control the coal industry in that State.
The very bad handling of the coal industry by this Government caused the
Queensland Government to refuse to continue its association in the distribution of coal with the Commonwealth or tha Joint Coal Board. I am pleased, that the bill has been introduced because it is’ an admission by the Government that Queensland has refused to be associated any longer with instrumentalities that are dominated by the Communistcontrolled miners’ federation in New South Wales. In Queensland we have found that we can produce coal more efficiently without interference from Canberra. In spite of all the pressure tbat h.as been brought to bear on the Queensland Government by the present Australian Government, the Government of thatState has decided to pursue uii independent course. Of course, the principal reason why Queensland has declined to participate in any agreement for the future sharing of coal is t.ie conduct of the members of the Communist-dominated coalminers’ federation in New South Wales, and the complacent attitude displayed towards that organization by the Government of New South Wales and the present Australian Government. A comparison of the history of the industry in Queensland with its history in other States proves that we can produce coal more efficiently and with less interruption than can any other State. I congratulate the Government of Queensland on having rejected the invitation of this Governnent to join in sharing in the production and distribution of coal produced by the various States. I also congratulate the coal-miners of Queensland, who, throughout the recent war, and since, have set an example of industry and loyalty to arbitration. They have produced coal almost without interruption. As I have said, the passage of the measure will enable Queensland to step out of the organization jointly created by the Commonwealth and New South Wales, and the coal-mining industry can then ‘be carried on in Queensland free from interference. For those reasons I support the bill.
– in reply - I rise to deny the allegations made by the hon orable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) concerning the allocation of coal to Victoria. Those allegations are entirely without foundation. Had it not been for the existence of the Joint Coal Board, coal would have been much scarcer in Victoria than it is to-day. Before the bill was introduced, the distribution of coal throughout Australia was controlled by the Coal Production Act 1944. That measure was enacted because the defence power enjoyed by the Australian Government enabled it to legislate for the control of the production and distribution c i coal during the war. Although honorable members opposite are constantly complaining of the present Government’s use of the defence power to continue various controls, it is significant that at no time since the recent war have any of the State governments challenged the validity of the act. Had they done so successfully, the control of the distribution of coal would have reverted to New South Wales, and it would have been quite possible, at least theoretically, for that State to have declined to sell coal to any other State. In any event, Victoria would certainly have received much less coal if the Joint Coal Board had not been established.
Concerning the statistics of the allocation of coal quoted by the honorable member, I regret that I am unable to correct him because I have not brought the relevant statistics with me. I did not bring them because they have no relevance to the subject of the measure. However, I have had occasion to examine those statistics from time to time because of similar criticisms to that made by the honorable member for Fawkner. My examination of those statistics has convinced me that any one who has any regard for the truth must admit that Victoria has received its fair share of the coal produced in New South Wales. The honorable member complained that some industries in Victoria were deprived of coal for a considerable period, but I remind him that during periods when electric lights were blazing thro,,!,hout the length and breadth of Victoria there was not a single electric light to be seen in New South Wales. One must be fair and reasonable in these matters. New South
Wales has its own difficulties, but it must be obvious to any one who knows anything of the subject that had our representations not resulted in the establishment of the Joint Coal Board the State of Victoria would have received much less coal than it has received.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate : -
Without amendment -
Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Bill 1948.
Without requests -
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 5) 1948.
Excise Tariff Bill (No. 4) 1948.
Debate resumed from 2nd December, (vide page 3905), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the following paper be printed: -
International Affairs - Statement by the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs, 2nd December, 1948.
– I direct attention to the time at which the House is resuming this debate. For months, members of the Opposition have been asking the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to allow us an opportunity to debate the Government’s policy on international affairs, and after great pressure the right honorable gentleman furnished a statement. Following questions which I directed to him, he said that the House would not be allowed an opportunity for unrestricted debate on international affairs. I register my protest at having to resume the debate at this hour of the morning when the House is about to rise for the Christmas recess. I believe that the Government has deliberately delayed this debate because it fears the result of allowing the Opposition to make a searching examination of government policy on international affairs. I also protest against the kind of statement that the Prime Minister has made available. It is not informative and does not contain any new matter. It is simply a verbose rehash of reports about overseas events, which has been culled from the daily newspapers. The statement, which covers 28 pages of typescript begins with a review of the Prime Ministers’ conference held in London last October. Although that conference was worthy of comment, any extensive reference to it has been conveniently avoided. The final communique issued by the conference omitted the word “British” from “British Commonwealth of Nations” no fewer than sixteen times, and the words “His Majesty’s “ from the reference to the Government of Ceylon. The omission of the word “ British “ from “ British Commonwealth of Nations “ aroused sharp criticism at the time. It was reported in the press that the conference had clearly given the seal of approval to the new usage as a contribution to the task of consolidating the new Asiatic dominions within the changing fabric of the Empire. When questioned in the House about the matter, the Prime Minister said that, later, he might be able to furnish a summary of the matters discussed at the conference. The statement which we are now discussing does not contain any reference to that subject. But no less a person than Mr. Winston Churchill, speaking in the House of Commons, protested against the dropping of “British” from “British Commonwealth of Nations”. Speaking on the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply on the 28th October last, he is reported as having said -
The Statute of Westminster swept away constitutional safeguards which seemed to cramp the freedom and independence of great self-governing dominions.
The Empire then relied solely on the link of the Crown for its unity and cohesion.
Now we are being asked to consider the abandonment of that sole remaining symbol.
The words “ Dominion “, “ Empire “ and “ British “, which hitherto have claimed many loyalties, have associated with them many well-known conceptions.
Apparently the socialist Government wishes to direct us into channels in which those words will be heard no more, or as little as possible. Indeed, I wonder that the word “ Commonwealth “ satisfies the requirements of socialist statesmen.
The Prime Minister touched very lightly upon the decisions of that conference. The statement which he has submitted to the House is not even an accurate re-hash of items culled from the daily press, but is a selected re-hash of that news. The right honorable gentleman skipped over the background of various international events, and concluded on a happy note that everything possible had been done to place adequate facilities at the disposal of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East. He skipped from London to Berlin, and through Greece and Indonesia, and finally landed at Lapstone in New South Wales, where the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East is meeting. He has stated that everything possible has been done to make the delegates to that conference comfortable. Although the right honorable gentleman may have had the best possible motives, he has not succeeded, because conditions are most uncomfortable at Lapstone. A purely political matter has been imported into the conference which was convened to deal with economic matters, and that political importation has succeeded in disrupting the conference.
The right honorable gentleman has presented the statement to the House as an authoritative survey of international affairs, and we are expected to base our criticisms on the Government’s foreign policy upon it. That policy now appears to be the sole province of Australia’s roving Minister at large, Dr. Evatt. This “ paper “ that we are supposed to discuss is an insult to the Parliament.
– How would the honorable gentleman like to have the brains of the Minister for External Affairs ?
– How would the honorable member for Hume like to have some brains? What do we know of the Government’s policy on international affairs? From time to time, we read in the press news of the doings of the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) and long afterwards, those accounts are recapitulated in the verbose tone which the Prime Minister has submitted to the House.
– Does not the Acting Leader of the Opposition want all the facts?
– Unfortunately, the Prime Minister has not given all the facts to the House. We read them in the newspapers. Weeks after the actual happenings, some bright boy in the Department of External Affairs pulls out a file of press cuttings, extracts the necessary information, and gives it to the Prime Minister for presentation to this House. It is understandable that the Government is not anxious for a debate on international affairs because newspaper reports - the only information that keeps us abreast of happenings overseas - portray the Minister for External Affairs in his true role as a meddler in the affairs of other nations. Let me give a classic example of that. In the statement now before the House, there is a reference to the Berlin dispute. In July last, our own Prime Minister went to Berlin with the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr. Peter Fraser. In a statement those gentlemen backed the strong stand that had been taken by the Western Powers against Russia over the Soviet blockade of Berlin. The Australian Prime Minister said -
We must hold on. The Australian Government fully approves the stand that the Allies have taken. It is the only one which can he taken. That is what I shall tell Australia.
– Where did the honorable member get that from?
– That is an extract from the report made by the Prime Minister, and it has never been denied by the right honorable gentleman. Less than six months later, we find the Australian Prime Minister not only defending the action of the Minister for External Affairs on the Berlin situation, but also going to great lengths to give it the backing of the Australian Government. The statement now under discussion devotes nine pages to the Berlin dispute, and the circumstances in which the Australian Minister for External Affairs as President of the United Nations General Assembly, and Mr. Lie, the Secretary-General of the United Nations organization appealed to the Four Powers to continue their efforts to reach an agreement. The statement has done nothing to temper the realization that the Minister’s action in this matter constituted an unwarranted intrusion. unci that the Evatt-Lie move has not only accomplished precisely nothing, hut also may even have prejudiced the negotiations by the Western Powers. The Prime Minister explained that conciliation had been resumed; but he also made the important point that three of the four powers to whom the Evatt-Lie letter had been addressed namely, the United Kingdom, Prance, and the United States of America, had indicated that the Berlin question was still before the Security Council, and that before negotiations could be resumed the Berlin blockade would have to be lifted. The letter, which urged immediate conversations with a view to solving the Berlin problem, was issued whilst the dispute was before the Security Council. Article 12 of the United Nations Charter specifically provides that while the Security Council is exercising in respect of any dispute or situation the functions assigned to it in the charter, the General Assembly shall not make any recommendations with regard to that dispute or situation unless the Security Council so recmests. That is clear. Therefore, it seems to me questionable, to say the least of it, whether the action taken by the Minister for External Affairs jointly with Mr. Lie does not violate the United Nations Charter. That will take some explaining away. Why was this extraordinary action taken by the Minister? Honorable members will recall that the President of the Security Council, Dr. Bramuglia, whose efforts the Evatt-Lie action superseded, had a plan to resolve the Berlin dispute. Had that plan succeeded, of course Dr. Bramuglia would have stolen Dr. Evatt’s thunder. Dr. Bramuglia had already had conversations with Mr. Vishinsky, in the course of which he was reported to have said that he would not recommend that the Western Powers should adopt the Russian currency proposals in the Berlin area while the blockade persisted. This action, which might have been a worthwhile contribution to the deadlock, has now been negatived by the action of the Australian Minister for External Affairs and Mr. Lie. The Western Powers had already refused four-power talks while the Russian blockade continued, but by cutting the ground from under their feet.
Dr. Evatt has placed the Western Powers in the light of being war-mongers should they reiterate their former decision. It is interesting to note that the Moscow correspondent of the HeraldTribune described the Evatt-Lie appeal as just the sort of thing that fitted in with the Soviet line. The Tribune, the organ of the Australian Communist party, had this to say about the Evatt-Lie proposals on the 20th November -
Rejection by the United States of America, Britain and France of Dr. Evatt’s proposals for a Pour Power conference to settle the Berlin conflict . . . exposes the war aims of the Anglo-American Imperialists. The Soviet Union, in individual contrast to the attitude of the countries, once more demonstrated its consistent peace policy by responding sympathetically to Dr. Evatt’s approach.
The only real purpose served by the Evatt-Lie letter, therefore, has been to provide the Russians with the greatest piece of good fortune for propaganda purposes that they have received fca- ronie time, because the inference from the action was that the Western Powers had not been doing their best to aolve a situation, the outcome of which might easily be a third world war.
It is unfortunate that the Minister for External Affairs should have linked his name and the name of Australia with that of the Russiannominated Secretary-General of the United Nations organization. Mr. Lie. who, in April, 1947, was the subject of a British and American accusation that he had a pro-Russian bias. The Berlin situation is the focal point in world affairs to-day. Russia has made no attempt to disguise its intention to take over control of that city, and it appears that what the Soviet cannot accomplish by subtle planning it is prepared to achieve by violence. In the face of those facts, it is difficult to reach any conclusion other than that the action of the Minister for External Affairs was a. bid for the role of the peace-maker of Europe. It is rather significant that the Evatt-Lie letter was distributed to the press before it had been received by the governments to which it was addressed. This can only be regarded as a presumptuous action on the part of the Minister, and as further evidence of his desire for notoriety in the field of international affairs. Even at the time of espousing the cause of Soviet Russia he sought notoriety as he did previously with relation to Indonesia, the admission of Spain to the United Nations, and in the matter of the reprieve from execution of certain Greek revolutionaries. .Such actions can only result in the widening of the breach between Australia and the United Kingdom on major issues relating to foreign policy.
In his statement, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) referred to the Greek situation. He said that Australia had not sought to interfere with the domestic affairs of Greece, but he added that the Minister for External Affairs had sent messages to the King and the Prime Minister of Greece, requesting them to review the death sentences that had been imposed on several Greek trade union leaders. That action and other actions of Dr. Evatt are causing growing irritation in Greece. In fact, the more we read about the Greek situation, the more we discover reports of instances and actions that indicate that the Minister for External Affairs appears to have assigned to himself the role of unofficial arbitrator in this and that affair.
When it was reported from Paris last month that the Western Powers and the Little Six nations were firmly resisting the efforts of the Australian Minister for External Affairs to negotiate a settlement of the Berlin problem in the United Nations General Assembly, instead of in the Security Council, it was stated the Minister for External Affairs had, in conjunction with the Turkish representative, commenced private preliminary talks towards settlement of the dispute between Greece and its neighbours. Last month, also, the Yugoslav delegate told the United Nations meeting in Paris that Australia and France had suggested a secret meeting to settle the Greek dispute. The meeting was to have been held in Dr. Evatt’s private office. The same day, the Greek Foreign Minister complained that Australia’s intervention in seeking a reprieve for trade union leaders who had been sentenced to death had furnished propaganda for unfriendly countries. Members of the Greek National Parliament attacked the Australian Minister for External Affairs for interfering in the internal affairs of Greece, and criticized his efforts in Paris as President of the United Nations General Assembly to solve the Greek dispute. The Greek Foreign Minister said that his country could not accept mediation by Dr. Evatt in the Balkan dispute because Dr. Evatt had disqualified himself by interference in Greek domestic matters. The Greek situation ranks next in importance to the Berlin dispute as a danger point in Europe to-day, for it is obvious that control of Greece would enable the Soviet arms to reach out to the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
The actions of the Minister for External Affairs in the two main European theatres are a part of a series of acts of interference which can only cause concern to the Allied powers in their efforts to preserve democracy against the pressure of Soviet influence. Apparently blind to the fact that Australia needs to retain all of its friends, and the confidence of members of the British Commonwealth, the Minister, all too frequently, appears in opposition to those who have stood by us in the past. In the case of South Africa, he sided with the Indians against the whites. His policy in Japan coincided with that of Soviet Russia. In Indonesia he caused a breach between Australia and the Dutch, who were attacked by Communist-inspired native rebels. The Prime Minister has a responsibility to the people of this country, to account for the actions in world affairs of his overseas ministerial representative. That responsibility can be discharged by subjecting those actions to debate by the elected representatives of the people in this Parliament. It must be apparent to the Prime Minister that this cannot be achieved merely by the presentation of such an anaemic statement as the one that we have been called upon to discuss. I urge the Prime Minister to make more provision for debates on international affairs, and, as a basis for discussion, to bring before the House an up-to-date statement on current world events.
– Is that all?
– The story of the meddlesome interference of this roving
Minister of ours has only been partially told. We know that in Paris he opposed a Canadian proposal that the Big Five should combine on the Palestinian Commission. Although the proposal of Canada was supported by the United States and Great Britain, Australia’s representative in Paris, as reported by the Montreal Star, attacked Canada, the United States of America, and Great Britain. When the Prime Minister was asked a question with regard to this matter yesterday, he said that the Minister for External Affairs was in Paris, and he was allowed, within the general policy of the Government, to take what individual action he thought desirable and possible on world events. We find, however, that the Minister for External Affairs has permitted or encouraged or advised or regulated, that Australia’s delegate should not only oppose the resolution of the dominion of Canada, but he also attacked Canada, Great Britain and the United States of America. Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they surely do at first make mad.
– Who made that statement about an attack on Canada?
– The Montreal Star reported it. When the Prime Minister chooses to bring us up to date occasionally by re-hashes from newspaper cuttings, we also must resort to newspaper cuttings to secure our information. However, we get it months ahead of the statements prepared by the Department of External Affairs for our consumption in this House.
I refer now to Indonesia, and the Prime Minister’s statement that everything was right at the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East, because arrangements had been made for the comfort of the delegates there. He was asked a question yesterday morning by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) who wanted to know who instructed Dr. Coombs, at the meeting of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East to vote for the admission of the Indonesian Republic as an associate member against the strongly expressed views of the delegates of the United States of America, the natives, and the United Kingdom, and with the full support of Soviet Russia. It seems to be inescapable that every action taken by this Minister on behalf of this Government is in support of the Soviet against the people of the United Kingdom and the United States of America and our other allies in the recent war.
– I remind the honorable member that the motion was submitted by New Zealand.
– I admit that. But Dr. Coombs voted for it. Let us have a look at the newspaper reports. They show how comfortable the delegates are at Lapstone. I suggest that the Prime Minister would not have concluded his report by a reference to the comfort of the delegates at the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East if he could have foreseen what was likely to happen because, quite obviously, some of them are not comfortable. The report reads -
The Netherlands delegation to the Economic Commission for Asia and the Par East walked out of the conference to-day after the Indonesian Republic and the Netherlands East Indies had been admitted as non-voting associate members.
The delegation leader, Dr. Gelissen, announced after he left the conference room that he would leave the hotel immediately.
Dr. Gelissen was not very comfortable at all at the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East. Why? Because a highly important political problem had been imported into an economic conference as the result of Soviet influence and support. The report continues -
A New Zealand resolution to admit both Indonesian groups was carried by eight votes to two.
Voting was - For: New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Australia, Burma, India, and China. Against: Netherlands and United States. Abstained: France, Britain and Siam.
Immediately the result of the vote - by show of hands - was announced, Dr. Gelissen (delegation leader) said - “ The Netherlands Government cannot accept the consequences of this decision either direct or by implication. Therefore, it is impossible for the Netherlands delegation to participate further in the work of this session of the Commission. That means that 47,000,000 Indonesians leave this conference and 23,000,000 come in. The most important part of Indonesia will not any more be represented “.
That is because at an economic conference in Australia at the Lapstone Hotel under the chairmanship of Dr. Coombs, a resolution was allowed which the delegate of
Soviet Russia took great steps to see went to a vote. He wanted the Indonesian Republic to be admitted as a member of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Ear East. He could not vote to exclude the Netherlands East Indies, so both the Indonesian Republic and the Netherlands East Indies were tied in the resolution in such a way as to make it difficult for other countries to record their vote. It was a very nice political resolution which was moved by the New Zealand representative and supported by the Australian representative. So, our foreign policy is not decided, as the Prime Minister says from day to day. The Government’s roving Minister for External Affairs is allowed to determine a policy that is attacked by other dominions, the United States and the Netherlands East Indies at every international conference. The Government’s foreign policy is simply a chaotic mess of mumbo-jumbo. While Australia’s name is being dragged in the mire, the Parliament is asked to remain silent. I refuse to be silent on such a matter. The pressure of the Opposition upon the Prime Minister to bring the subject out in the open has not been entirely successful. Our efforts have merely resulted in the Parliament being given the opportunity to debate international affairs at 3 o’clock in the morning. We have not been given a proper opportunity to debate the subject as the Prime Minister promised. In view of the hour I shall not detain the House further. I have made my protest. I have shown that the Government’s meddlesome Minister for External Affairs, whose forte seems to be meddling in other nations’ affairs, has brought down on our heads the criticism of every democratic country, including the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Greece and all- the nations that stand for something in this world.
– I remind the honorable gentleman that those countries supported the election of the Minister for External Affairs as President of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
– I remind the Prime Minister that those countries have very drastically criticized the Minister for External Affairs. I say to the Prime
Minister that the sooner he brings his roving Minister back to this country so that the Parliament may know something of what he is doing, the better it will be for this country.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I do not think that the House will pay any attention to the violent attack which the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) has made upon the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), who is a very distinguished representative of Australia. The fact that the Minister has been elected President of the General Assembly of the United Nations by the unanimous vote of the 58 member countries of the United Nations, shows that the peoples of the world recognize his ability and capacity. Of course, this attack was to be expected, because when the Minister was elected to that position, which is probably the most responsible position that could be occupied by any individual in the world to-day, not one member of the Opposition parties had the decency to congratulate the Government upon the honour thus conferred upon Australia. In view of the hour, I shall not deal with the great qualities of the Minister for which he has been acclaimed one of the world’s leaders and foremost protagonists of peace. However, I propose to place certain observations upon record. The press of this country, in conjunction with the Opposition parties, has always endeavoured to write down the activities of the Minister for External Affairs and to ignore his achievements at international conferences. The latest example of this bias on the part of the press has just come to my notice. The meeting of the United Nations in Paris was attended by a number of distinguished Australians, including Bishop O’Brien, Auxiliary to Cardinal Gilroy. Recently His Lordship issued a factual statement dealing with the work of not only the Minister for External Affairs but also that of the members of the Australian delegation at the General Assembly of the United Nations.
That was given to the press in London. Not one word of it was published in the Australian press. I do not propose to weary the House by reading the statement by Bishop O’Brien, but, with the concurrence of honorable members, I shall incorporate it in Hansard. It is as follows : -
A major significance of TJ.N.O. is that it is an efficient school of international education. lt is good for nations to be able to state their own problems in common council and for each to hear itself criticized by others.
In this Third General Assembly, there have been evident among nations, a growing impatience with long enduring condition of world insecurity and an inclination to take a more realistic view of existing international situations. These attitudes have been manifested in proposals to re-open negotiations that had come to bc regarded as hopeless, or to set up new commissions to investigate possible bases for future attempts at conciliation.
The Australian delegation has not infrequently manifested this direct, sometimes provocative, but generally refreshing attitude to international problems at TJ.N.O. Nevertheless, it has never been precipitate.
My close association with this delegation has allowed me to observe sincerity, impartiality and wide knowledge of its members. They were a hard-working group, painstaking in their research, devoid of undesirable partisanships and their statements were always well prepared and refreshingly succinct.
It is no exaggeration to say that this delegation won a deep respect from other delegations, who, while not always agreeing with Australian point of view, listened attentively to what Australia had to say and almost invariably paid compliment of quoting Australian statements.
This was evident in all committees. In committee on human rights, in which I was constantly interested, I was always impressed by meticulously conscientious and judicious Australian attitude. Here was field in which an unsound philosophy could play havoc, but Australia was generally dependable. It was a compliment to Australia that when articles of that charter were finally approved and were submitted to a revising committee for clarity of expression and proper classification, Australia should have been selected as a member of that group. Australia was then made Rapporteur, and I feel sure would lim: become Chairman if the group had not included also a senior diplomat of international reputation.
One could feel proud in association with our delegation and not a little surprised that our nation, which is comparatively youthful in diplomatic experience and international training, should be able to function competently and comfortably among peers of long experience and established reputation.
Outside U.N.O., but also in the international field, I met only a few hours ago another instance of this high respect for Australia.
This was in Ireland, where Mr. Costello, Prime Minister, and Mr. McBride, Minister for Foreign Affairs, referred in highest and most grateful terms to personal intervention of Dr. Evatt in inviting Irish representatives to Paris to reconsider with English and other representatives implications of impending Irish Bill severing Irish ties with British Commonwealth. That meeting, inspired by Australian directness, had no small share in eliciting from these Irish leaders certain official statements relative to future attitude of Eire to the British Commonwealth, which, in ultimate interpretation of that Act, will possibly prove happily significant to us.
The reputation of Australia stands very high in Ireland to-day, and Irish leaders have publicly acknowledged this. We’ of British Commonwealth can feci some gratification in knowing that such links of friendship have been publicly attested in these times when unity among democratic nations is so desirable.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition then went on to mention three matters in connexion with which, he said, Dr. Evatt’s activities had been of a baneful character. He mentioned the intervention by Dr. Evatt and Mr. Trygve Lie, the Secretary-General of the United Nations organization in the Berlin dispute. The Acting Leader of the Opposition made a point of designating Mr. Lie as the nominee of Russia.
– He was speaking nonsense.
– Mr. Trygve Lie was elected by the unanimous vote of the United Nations.
– He was nominated by Bussia.
– What does that matter? The plain fact is that he was elected unanimously as Secretary-General of the United Nations.
– With Soviet bias.
– So the honorable gentleman’s definition of Mr. Trygve Lie as a nominee of Bussia means nothing at all. There was certain criticism of
Iiic Minister for External Affairs because of his efforts to sdttle the conflict among the Big Powers on the Berlin issue, but an impartial examination of the fact relating to the Minister’s actions will clearly demonstrate that the Minister had a responsibility to take such action as President of the General Assembly, and his action has had some effective results. His action arose from the unanimous adoption by the General Assembly of a resolution calling upon the major powers to compose their differences, and renew their efforts to establish a lasting peace. The Australian Minister for External Affairs was doing only his plain duty as President of the Assembly when he, in conjunction with Mr. Trygve Lie, addressed the letter to the four powers concerned. The resolution obviously reflected the opinions of all the peoples in all the countries represented on the General Assembly. The unanimous adoption of the resolution by the Assembly is testimony to that fact. The resolution did not contain any specific recommendation to the four powers as to the lines on which they were to pursue their discussions, but merely asked that the discussions be re-opened in an endeavour to bring about peace. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has already spoken on this matter, and on the manner in which the work of the Assembly is being hampered by the continued differences over Berlin and other matters about which the five great powers have not agreed. The responsibility of the President of the General Assembly is such that it was quite clearly his duty to send that communication to the members concerned. It is a fact, however, that the action taken by Dr. Evatt has had some good effects. The letter sent by Dr. Evatt and Mr. Trygve Lie to the four powers concerned in the Berlin dispute stated, inter alia -
We also believe the Great Powers should lend their full and active support to the efforts at mediation of the Berlin dispute by the President of the Security Council. For ourselves, we stand ready to lend all further assistance such as the currency study now being made by the Secretary-General, as may seem most helpful to the Great Powers in the solution of the problem.
This letter should be carefully noted. It suggested not only that immediate talks be held but also that the powers should operate fully with the Security Council itself. Whilst the talks did not have any effective results, efforts to settle the matter in the Security Council continued. At the time this appeal was made, efforts in the Security Council to settle the dispute had come to a standstill, and the issuance of this letter resuscitated the matter in the council as the result of which an opportunity has been provided to re-open the matter in the council. It is now being dealt with there. Apparently the only crime that the Minister for External Affairs has committed, in the eyes of the Opposition, is that he made a strong appeal to ensure the continuance of peace throughout the world.
Passing from the Berlin dispute to the subject of the situation in Greece, the Acting Leader of the Opposition said that the Minister for External Affairs had interfered in Greece. The Minister was selected to be a member of the Balkans Commission, and it is evident that the countries represented in the United Nations do not have the same opinion of him as the Acting Leader of the Opposition has. They have expressed their confidence in him by making him chairman of the committee established to deal with the Greek problem. That is all I want to say about the situation in Greece.
I turn now to the questions that have been raised at the conference of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East, which is now sitting at Lapstone. As the Minister pointed out, the resolution carried at the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East recently was moved by the representatives of New Zealand. The Acting Leader of the Opposition blames the leader of the Australian delegation, Dr. Coombs, for the fact that the Dutch delegation walked out of that conference. That is just stupid, because, in the first place, Dr. Coombs was not chairman of the conference. The Acting Leader of the Opposition does not appear at the moment to be even taking the trouble to listen to what is being said in reply to the accusations that he made. Dr. Coombs was not chairman of the conference as the Acting Leader of the Opposition said-
– That is quite true. I was in error in making that statement.
– The plain fact is that Australia cannot be held responsible for the Dutch walking out, because, if Australia had abstained from voting, as the United Kingdom did, the vote would have been very much the same. The hour is late, and I do not wish to take up too much of the time of the House. However, I shall touch on certain matters that occurred at Lapstone. I ask leave to have incorporated in Hansard the text of the resolution that was moved by New Zealand at the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East conference.
Leave not granted.
– As honorable members opposite appear to object to the incorporation of the resolution in Hansard, I shall read it -
The Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East.
Taking note of the applications for associate membership submitted -
by the Netherlands on behalf of Indonesia (Netherlands East Indies) ; and
by the Republic of Indonesia on its ownbehalf.
Noting further that negotiations have been proceeding for a general settlement in Indonesia.
Noting further that the Indonesian question is on the agenda of the Security Council.
Recognizing that although the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East is not competent to determine the juridical issues involved in the present situation in Indonesia, it has authority to deal with applications for associate membership from territories within i ts geographical scope.
Noting that the continued absence from the Commission of associate members from Indonesia adversely affects the work of the Commission.
Resolves that, without prejudice to the political settlement in Indonesia and without expressing an opinion on any aspects of the Indonesian question under consideration in the Security Council or elsewhere, the Republic of Indonesia and the rest of Indonesia (N.E.I.) be admitted as associate members of E.C.A.F.E.
Those were the terms of the resolution moved by New Zealand at the conference. I make it quite clear that the resolution was to admit two parties, that is the Republic of Indonesia and the representatives of that portion of Indonesia that the Dutch authorities said was not represented at the conference. The Acting Leader of the Opposition said that the Republician Government in Indonesia was Communist-inspired. It is a curious fact, then, that the Republican Government in Indonesia has actually been fighting against a Communist uprising in Indonesia.
-I said nothing about the Indonesian Republican Government being Communist-inspired.
– It is obvious that it cannot be when it is fighting a Com munist rebellion. I place on record the terms in which Dr. Coombs addressed the conference on the resolution, because those terms make it clear that the commission definitely had the authority to deal with the admission of associate members to the conference, and, secondly, that, in supporting the admission of both the Indonesian Republic and the rest of Indonesia, Dr. Coombs made it clear that the Australian delegation was not prejudging the issue whether the Indonesian Republic should become a permanent member of the organization. This is what Dr. Coombs said -
Delegates will recall that it was the Australian Delegation which, on the first day of this session, moved for the postponement of this application. We make no apology for having done so. We did it because we believed that postponement might have facilitated an early settlement of this problem or at least not interfered with delicate negotiations which we knew to be in progress. That action was strictly in line with the attitude the Australian Government has taken throughout this dispute. We have an intense, indeed I may say passionate, interest in the solution of this problem by friendly direct negotiations between the parties and to that end the efforts of the Australian Government have been directed from the first day on which we became aware of this dispute. But we must recognize that, so far as this Commission is concerned, there comes a time when a further postponement of a decision amounts to a rejection or a decision against the application of the Republic.
We feel, therefore, that this Commission must now make a judgment on this application in the light of the functions of the Commission. I want to emphasize that we, like the New Zealand Delegation, are not concerned in our attitude on this question before the Commission with the political rights and wrongs of the dispute between the Netherlands Government and the Indonesian Republic; we want to make our decision in the light of the work and the functions of this Commission which is, as you know, an economic commission.
It is essential, we consider, to the work of this Commission that all the constituent peoples within the area should be active participants in its work and should therefore be represented at meetings of the Commission in a way which makes such active participation possible. In the present state of the political dispute in Indonesia it is impossible for all the sections of the Indonesianpeoples to be represented as a whole. They have no common government acceptable to all sections of the Indonesian peoples which could represent thorn here, therefore acceptance of the proposal of the Netherlands admission alone would leave a section of the Indonesian people unrepresented at this Commission. The only way by which we can ensure that all sections of the
Indonesian people participate in the work of this Commission is to admit the areas which are under the control of governments asso ciated with the Government of the Nether lands on the one hand, and on the other hand admit the Republican area under the Republican Government by their own application.
Now, it has been argued that by such a decision we would, in fact, be expressing an opinion and implying a judgment as to the merits of the political question; that, in fact, we cannot make such an admission legally without appearing to pre-judge one of those issues. Well, Mr. Chairman, I am not a lawyer, and my Government is not prejudging this question in any legalistic sense. What we want to do is to make the work of this Commission fully effective and if, for it to be fully effective, this is the only way in which we can have full representation, then we believe that a legalistic point should not be a bar to a decision. At the same time every care should be taken to make it clear that it is not the intention of this Commission to make a political decision which it is not within its power or capacity to make and that we are not pre-judging any issues which are before the Security Council or in any other way involved in this dispute.
We wish to emphasize and draw the attention again of the Commission therefore to these facts. First, that the Economic and Social Council has decided that this Commission has authority to deal with applications for Associate Membership in territories within this area. The responsibility has been placed upon us and when it was placed upon us the political circumstances in which we would have to exercise that authority were fully and adequately known to the Economic and Social Council. Secondly, I wish to draw the attention of delegates to the fact that this resolution insists that we make this admission, firstly, without prejudice to the political settlement in Indonesia; that means that if a settlement is reached which makes the double admission of these two sections of Indonesia unnecessary it can be and will be automatically corrected. Secondly, that we are doing this without expressing an opinion on any aspects of the Indonesian question under consideration in the Security Council or elsewhere. Now, it may be that that is not “ legal “, but it seems to me to be fundamentally and amply clear to any intelligent, understanding person who approaches it with the intention of discovering what is the intention and meaning of this Commission.
We are clearly, by this resolution, admitting the two parts of Indonesia separately, because we cannot admit them together and because without them we are incomplete. On the other hand it is equally clear that we deliberately and positively and. by specific mention abstain from judgment on the political issues involved. Now if that is not clear then I do not know what could make it clear. Therefore, Mr. Chairman, I have gone some length into that question because I believe it is the only objection which has been raised to the action which is proposed here because it does involve, or appears to involve, political judgment.
Before I conclude, Mr. Chairman, I want to refer to one point raised by the delegate for the Netherlands in which he indicated that if this decision were made it would result in part of Indonesia, perhaps a different part, becoming unrepresented on this Commission. I would just like to point out thatthere is nothing in this resolution which produces that result, there is nothing in any favorable decision of this Commission which would produce such a result. It is not in any way a necessary consequence, and I believe, therefore, that that possibility, if it is a possibility, which I would very much regret, does not arise from the action which is proposed here and, therefore, we should not take it into account.
If honorable members opposite had their way in regard to the attitude of Australian representatives at these conferences, they would leave Australia in an untenable position. What they suggest is that on any question Australia should take care to vote on the other side from Russia. That is their only argument as to why Australia should not have voted in the way it did. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Opposition members interjecting.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Sheehy).- Order !
– I rise to order. The Minister has asked for leave to continue his speech at a later date.I submit that the question that leave be granted should be put from the Chair.
– Order ! Is leave granted ?
Motion (by Mr. Calwell) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. j. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
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.
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.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I take this opportunity to express my thanks, and those of the Government and of honorable members generally, to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), who acted in your place during your absence, and to the Chairman and the Temporary Chairmen of Committees who have carried out their task admirably over very long sittings. It is not usual for the Parliament to sit continuously for fifteen weeks. The long sitting has imposed a great strain upon all of us. I also thank the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr.
Harrison) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) for the courtesy that they have extendedto me in the conduct of the business of the House. During the long sitting of fifteen weeks, in which the House sat on four days a week with one long day on all except two weeks honorable members may well have become irritable because of the arduous nature of their labours. I congratulate them upon their forbearance, and express my appreciation for the courtesy that they have invariably extended to me. I also take this opportunity to thank the members of the Hansard staff and those associated with it in the work of the reporting of the Parliament. Their task is the heaviest of all among the staffs of the Parliament and those associated with the work of the legislature. I offer my thanks, too, to the staff of the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms. They finished up the session by providing a very pleasant evening meal for honorable members. I take this opportunity to bid farewell to one who has been a good servant to the Commonwealth. I refer to Mr. Boniwell, the Parliamentary Draftsman. It is impossible to speak too highly of the work he has done. I wish him the greatest happiness and good health in his retirement, which will occur soon.
I express my best wishes, and those of the Government, to honorable members and their families for the Christmas season. I hope that next year at this time the prospects of peace for the world will be brighter than they are now. Despite political differences, which sometimes run deep, I am sure that all honorable members will join with me in the hope I have just expressed. To you, Mr. Speaker, and to your staff, as well as to those who have deputized for you in the chair, I offer my good wishes, as I offer them to the Acting Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the Australian Country party, and to my colleagues on this side of the House. My position as leader of the House has been made much easier by the courtesy that I have received from every one.
– On behalf of the Opposition, I associate myself with the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), who paid tribute to the work done by officers of the Parliament. I express my appreciation of the co-operation and courtesy I have received from the right honorable gentleman in his capacity as Prime Minister, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and his supporters. My colleagues in the Liberal party I most warmly thank in similar terms. The difficult position I have filled during this sessional period has been made much easier because of the co-operation that I have received from all honorable members on this side of the House.
Let me also express appreciation on behalf of the Opposition of your work, Mr. Speaker, and that of your deputy the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) while you were overseas. We have not always seen eye to eye with the Chair, and we realize that at times we may have been trying to you and to your deputy.
I appreciate the work of the Clerk of the House and his staff. I express appreciation of the work of those associated with the conduct of the refreshment room. 1 desire to pay particular tribute to the members of the Hansard staff, and to express appreciation for their efficient services. In these days, it is a melancholy fact that service to the community sometimes lacks dignity and courtesy. It is therefore, a matter for favorable comment that the services rendered by the officers of the Parliament have always been marked by a singular dignity and courtesy. I endorse the remarks of the Prime Minister, who wished all honorable members of this House a happy Christmas season and a prosperous New Year.
– I join with the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) in expressing appreciation of the work of the staff of the Parliament. This has been a strenuous session. It has not been made any easier by the way in which the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has worked us round, the clock. Had he been able to get the coal-miners and the waterside workers to work in the same way the country would have been the better for it. I join with the Prime Minister in expressing appreciation of the services of Mr. Bon! well, the Parliamentary Draftsman, who is retiring after years of service to the country. I hope that he will be long spared to enjoy a well-earned leisure in his retirement. Let me convey my good wishes for the coming year to everybody associated with the work of the Parliament. You, Mr. Speaker, have been absent for much of this sessional period, but the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) has acted in your place. We on this side of the House did not always agree with him, as the noticepaper clearly indicates. However, I have yet to learn that the losing side has ever really agreed with the referee. I compliment the officers of the Parliament upon their work. I particularly compliment the Prime Minister himself, who has had a very strenuous time. Obviously, I have not agreed with him, and he has not agreed with me. That is not what politics are for. It would be absurd to have all spin bowlers in a cricket team, and so it would be impracticable to have every one in the Parliament in agreement. The Prime Minister has had a most strenuous job to do, and he has given of his best, as he understood it. I hope that he will allow himself to enjoy a few days of rest, of peace and of quietness away from telephones, away from the press, and away from party antagonists.
In conclusion, I wish everybody associated with this House, including the Clerk and his officers and the Hansard staff, the compliments of the season. I hope that we shall all shake hands with each other, resolved to maintain in the future the true traditions of democracy.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. J. S. Rosevear). It is, of course, impossible for the staffs of the House to express their appreciation of what honorable members have said this morning concerning their services. Therefore, I take this opportunity to speak on their behalf. It has been one of the greatest pleasures of my life to work with the officers of this Parliament during the last six years. Not only are they intensely loyal to those who have the supervision of their services, but they are also intensely loyal and impartial in their relations with all members of all parties who require their assistance and advice. I could add much to what has already been said, but my function this morning is to thank those who have expressed their appreciation of the work of all members of the staffs without discrimination. I also thank Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Clark) who acted in my position during my absence from Australia. I have not the least doubt that, in my absence, he showed the great ability that he has shown during my presence. I thank him for carrying on the work of the House and for acting for me until my return. I wish all honorable members the compliments of the Christmas season.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Air Force Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1948, No. 152.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Deter minations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1948 -
No. 87 - Federated Clerks’ Union of Australia.
No. 88 - Fourth Division Officers’ Association of the Department of Trade and Customs and Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 89 - Federated Clerks’ Union of Australia and Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia.
No. 90 - Amalgamated Engineering Union.
No. 91 - Federated Clerks’ Union of Australia.
Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act - First Annual Reports by Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and the Chief Conciliation Commissioner for 1947-48.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Shipping and Fuel - J. C. Needham.
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1948, No. 153.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Maritime Industry) Regulations - Order - No. 66.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Department of Labour and National Service purposes - Stafford, Queensland.
Overseas Telecommunications Commission purposes - Broome, Western Australia.
Postal purposes - Bald Hills, Queensland.
Stevedoring Industry Act - Orders - 1948, Nos. 37, 39.
House adjourned at 4.18 a.m. (Friday) to a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
y. - On the 1st December, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) asked questions concerning a statement in the Daily Mirror reported to have been made by Mr. J. Goldberg. I have received a letter from Mr. Goldberg in which he has informed me that the statement, “ I wish I could talk”, attributed to him was not in fact made by him at any time. He added, that denial of his alleged statement was given to Herald and Sun representatives. Mr. Goldberg also pointed out, with regard to my own reply to the honorable member in which I stated that Mr. Goldberg, whilst in America, “ did too much talking”, that he has never had occasion to make any statements, either in Australia or outside, which have a political nature. In this respect, I have probably confused the gentleman mentioned with another of the same name. I am looking into the other matters raised by the honorable member.
Secret Information: Alleged Leakages from Official Quarters.
asked the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, upon notice -
n. - In view of the fact that the Commonwealth Investigation Service has not completed its inquiries into this matter it is not in the public interest to divulge any information thereon.
Song “Advance Australia Fair”.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
l. - The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following information : -
n asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, upon notice -
Will any statement be made this year on behalf of the Government intimating that private liquid fuel consumers may pool their petrol allowance for the purpose of joint travel during the holiday period whilst using a motor vehicle not operating contrary to State transport laws?
– The Minister for Shipping and Fuel has supplied the following answer to the honorable member’s question: -
In view of the drive which is being made to eliminate irregularities in connexion with petrol rationing, it is not practicable to do as tbe honorable the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party suggests. Placards are at present in course of distribution to service stations impressing on consumers that the Liquid Fuel Regulations provide they must endorse their petrol tickets as soon as they receive them and service stations are required to compare the registration number on the ticket with that of the vehicle. Although for a period during the war sellers could supply petrol into the tank of the registered vehicle named on the ticket only, the privilege was reinstated some time ago of allowing the consumer to obtain petrol in receptacles. This concession will probably meet the cases covered by the question.
l. - On the 26th November, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General -
Will the Minister make investigations about the serious delays in air-mail deliveries of letters posted from Brisbane to Canberra? I have an air-mail letter for special delivery which was posted in Brisbane on Monday but was not delivered to me until this morning. Another air-mail letter posted in Brisbane on Monday night was delivered to me here on Wednesday night. Will the honorable gentleman ask the Postmaster-General to investigate the position in order to ascertain the cause of the delay and whether it is due to a breakdown in the delivery of air-mail matter by Trans-Australia Airlines.
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information: -
The honorable member was good enough to make available the covering envelope of the letter received by him on Friday, the 28th November, and I am advised by my colleague, the Postmaster-General, that an examination of the envelope discloses that, unfortunately, the letter received surface instead of air-mail transmission. The mistreatment was to some extent, however, contributed to by the fact that the honorable member’s correspondent had not complied with the regulations in that the envelope did not bear the blue air-mail label supplied by the department, or, alternatively, the words “ By air-mail “ in prominent characters. The words “ Special Delivery “, which appeared on the envelope would not ensure that the letter would be delivered under the express delivery system, as it would not be practicable for the department to guarantee with certainty the interception of articles so endorsed. To obtain delivery under this facility the regulations provide that the article should bear the word “Express” in bold characters close to the address and, in addition, a thick perpendicular blue line should be drawn from top to bottom on both the front and back of the article. As the envelope of the letter received by the honorable member on Wednesday, the 24th November, has not been made available for examination, it is not possible to determine the cause of the delay in delivery. From the dates quoted by the honorable member in his question, it would seem, however, that the letter may have been transmitted also by surface means instead of by air.
n asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y. - On the 2nd December, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr.
Falkinder) asked questions concerning certain particulars required by the Deputy Commonwealth Statistician in Hobart from business people in Tasmania who import goods from the mainland by air. In accordance with my promise to the honorable member I hare had this matter examined and am informed by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician as follows : -
By agreement made with the Tasmanian Government in 1924 (ratified by the Statistical Bureau (Tasmania) Act) the Commonwealth undertook to continue to collect monthly statistics of interstate trade of Tasmania for the Tasmanian Government. As interstate air transport of goods has now become appreciable it is necessary to require consignors and consignees of air freight goods to supply particulars similar to those which have been supplied by shippers of goods carried by sea for the past 24 years. This information is collected under the Statistical Returns Act 1877 of Tasmania by the Deputy Commonwealth Statistician, Hobart, who is also Government Statistician of Tasmania. Section 3 of that act provides a penalty of £10 for failure to supply returns. Bills of lading and manifests prepared by airways companies do not give all of the required particulars and one company considered them confidential to the company. For this reason it is necessary to obtain returns from consignors and consignees.
Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East.
– On the 1st December, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) asked a question regarding the Lapstone Hotel, which is being used for the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East conference. It was found necessary to erect temporary buildings in the grounds of the Lapstone Hotel to provide additional living accommodation, space for a postal and telegraph office and extra telephone facilities for the use of the conference delegates, together with offices for the secretariat. In addition, certain alterations were necessary in the hotel itself to equip one room as a conference hall. The cost of these alterations is in the vicinity of £8,000, a large part of which is expected to be recovered after the conference ends. The Government has done this work as part of its effort to provide a satisfactory meeting place for the conference. Officers of several Commonwealth departments have been fully engaged for several months on preparations for this conference. In the course of that time they considered carefully possible alternative sites, including hotels situated in the capital cities. It was quite clear, however, that, with the accommodation position as it is in Australia, there is no large hotel or other suitable building available anywhere at this time of year which could accommodate the delegations and staff of a conference of this size. It has therefore been necessary to use the Lapstone Hotel as conference head-quarters and to house some of the delegations at other hotels elsewhere in the Blue Mountains area. This, of course, involved a certain amount of inconvenience to delegates, but the Government has done its best to lessen this by placing adequate transport at the disposal of the conference. It has also arranged for all delegations from abroad to be officially met on their arrival in Australia and looked after throughout the conference. According to the records of the New South Wales Licensing Board, the hotel is owned by Lapstone Hill Hotel Limited, of 72 Pitt-street, Sydney.
y. - On the 17th November, the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) asked a question concerning the search for missing servicemen. A,= promised in my oral reply to the honorable member, I furnish the following information : -
Following the cessation of hostilities with Japan, an organized search for missing servicemen was conducted by units specially selected for this purpose throughout the whole of the northern, central and south-west Pacific areas and in South-East Asia. Some indication of the comprehensive nature of these inquiries may be gathered from the fact that the search embraced such widely scattered regions as Manila, Japan, Korea, Malaya, Rangoon, Burma, Siam, French Indo-China, Java, Sumatra, Borneo, The Celebes, Amboina, Timor and island groups situated in the Flores, Bande and Arafura Seas, New Ireland, New Britain, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. These contact and inquiry units, as they were known, consisted of detachments of specially trained interrogators from the Navy, Army and Air Force, who operated in conjunction with war graves and other forward units. Their duties were primarily associated with the interrogation of released Australian prisoners of war and internees and in searching and inquiring for missing and unaccounted personnel. Similar investigations’ were carried out by British searcher units in western Europe and by an Allied Screening Commission in Greece, and any information concerning missing Australian servicemen was promptly transmitted to Australia. Notwithstanding that the search parties formerly engaged in this task have now been disbanded and the war cemeteries handed over to the Imperial War Graves Commission, arrangements have been made with the local civil authorities for the re-burial of any deceased missing servicemen whose remains may bc subsequently recovered. In the South-East Asia area, in particular, where it is possible additional recoveries will be effected, the responsibility for this work is being undertaken by the British authorities.
y. - On the 2nd December, the right honorable the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) asked questions concerning the Queensland Government Statistician’s figures on retail prices for the twelve months ended the 30th September, 1948. The figures quoted by the right honorable gentleman correctly show the percentage increase in prices for Brisbane, as measured by the “ C “ series retail price index. The figures for June quarter, 1948, and September quarter, 1948, however, ‘both relate to periods in which responsibility for price control remained with the Commonwealth. Price control was transferred to the States on the 20th September, 1948, and the prices used in the index for the September quarter, 1948, were those ruling on the 15th July, 15th August, and 15th September, 1948.
Communism : Junior Cominform.
y. - On the 17th November, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) asked questions regarding the overseas activities of Mr. Bernard Williams. Further to my oral reply to the honorable member, I am informed that Mr. Williams was granted an Australian passport in March, 1947, to enable him, together with a number of other young men, to attend the World Youth Festival held in Prague, Czechoslovakia, under the auspices of the World Federation of Democratic Youth, and that as Williams complied with all requirements he was granted a passport valid for travel between Australia, the United Kingdom and the countries of
Europe. The usual British Empire endorsement was omitted in view of the Indian Government’s objection to the issue of travel facilities for India to Communists. As has been .previously explained in answer to questions in Parliament, it is considered that the issue of passport facilities should be not refused solely because of an applicant’s political beliefs.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice - _ 1. Is it a fact that special types of continental cheese made by the Macleay River Cooperative Dairy Company Limited, at its Frederickton factory, near Kempsey, New South Wales, command a better price than ordinary cheese in Hong Kong, Singapore and other eastern places?
– The answers to the right honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
As indicated in No. 3, action has been taken to arrange trial shipments to the United Kingdom. The company’s request that the United Kingdom purchase its entire output will be dependent upon the outturn of these shipments. by authority
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 December 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19481209_reps_18_200/>.